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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:27 pm
  

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Location: Taylor, MI, United States
3rd Unleashed VERIFIED ACCOUNT
Written by the Phenom, Guy Ledouche

Quote:
Entry 2D: “It Sure Wasn’t Nessie.”
Headquarters: Storm Crest Tribunal Report.
Report of Incident - Sherman Outpost, Sherman Waterways - Bunker Burster.
Report Originator – Packmaster Aeris Valise, Tristan Dogsoldiers.
NOTE: Despite the clarity of the report, it must be noted that the report is a Summary of Packmaster Aeris Valise and collected data bio comms recovered from the restricted site. The lakes are currently a NO FLY zone area and the chilling echoes of the demon whales continue to haunt the lake’s waters for miles, continuing to suffice as a dark reminder that a deadly pod of the Violet Wave hunts the Waterways.

The boy was exhausted. His arms and legs were heavy, his chin lolled against his slender chest. His breathing was ragged and every step was agony. The cords binding his hands dug into his skin. His head throbbed in time to his heartbeat and his entire body ached. It took what little willpower remained for him to put one foot in front of another, yet still he shuffled on. He did not know how long he had walked, but he knew it felt like an eternity. The boy was the first in a line of four more children. Each had their hands bound, the cords around their wrists wrapped around the neck of the child in front of them. Formed into a human chain, the children wearily trudged on.
The boy slowly lifted his head for a moment; a simple effort that sent dull throbs of pain across his shoulders and back. As the first in line, his cord did not end at another child, but in the hands of the being that led them forward; one of many who had raided his village. The beings were not human, but beyond that, the boy wasn’t sure what kind of creatures they were. The creature leading them held his cord loosely in one of the many tentacles that grew from its torso. If the boy thought escape was possible, he might have tried it. But he knew those tentacles were deceptively strong, and the being itself was inhumanly fast. Still, if he was lucky and the right opportunity presented itself…
With a start, the boy shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He was young, but he was no fool. Thoughts such as those were dangerous. If they took hold, they could lead him to try something foolish or rash. Instinctively, the boy knew his hopes for survival rested in silence and obedience. On he marched and the others with him; as they had yesterday, and the day before. They continued on, well into the night. When their inhuman taskmaster finally allowed them to stop, the boy simply dropped. Completely exhausted, he was asleep before he hit the ground.

The following are excerpts from testimony given by Packmaster Aeris Valise. The testimony was given at a special House Tribunal formed to deal with the continuing occupation of the Sherman Waterway: “It was a simple scouting mission, so there were only four of us: myself, the Skinjob Gaston, and two Dreadguards; Di Nardo and Harrigan. The raids hadn’t started yet and no one had heard of the “Violet Wave”. When I spotted the tracks, the only thing we knew was that children were involved. We figured them for Waste Crawlers at first. As for the tracks, I don’t know if the target was sloppy or if it just didn’t care. Between the four of us and my hounds, taking down one target shouldn’t have been too hard. Harrigan gave me orders to follow, assess the situation, and wait for an opportunity.”

Unknown to both the boy and his inhuman overseer, they were being watched. The observer continued to gaze at the boy, even as he fell to the ground in exhausted slumber. The watcher remained motionless for a few moments more, examining the child and his captor. Then, it began to silently move away, making no more noise than a passing breeze.
Had either the boy or his overseer noticed, they would have seen that the watchful eyes belonged to a woman: a woman who had tenaciously tracked the children and their captor for the last two days. She had stumbled upon their trail quite by accident. To her experienced eyes however, the signs of the trail may as well been words in a book. And it was a book that horrified and outraged her. Even now, the thought of children being herded like livestock sent a chill coursing through her body.
Having reached a safe distance from her quarry, she melted into the foliage and simply waited. Nearly an hour passed before her patience was rewarded. Senses sharpened by both her Living Body Armor and her years in the wild, she sensed the Skinjob a few seconds before he suddenly seemed to appear, mere feet in front of her.
“Hello Aeris. Have you and your hounds been waiting long?” Gaston purred. His voice, not much louder than a whisper, was a great deal like his appearance; there was a strange and otherworldly sound to it.
As always with Skinjobs, Aeris had to make a conscious effort not to stare too hard. She had worked with Gaston on several occasions and both liked and respected the Skinjob. Yet, despite her feelings, it was hard not to be disturbed by a Skinjob’ s appearance. When not cloaked in shadow and stealth, a Skinjob’ s hide resembled that of a diseased elephant: loose and wrinkled, grey in color dotted with repulsive white spots. Despite the discomfort, Aeris had a great deal of respect for all Skinjobs. They were masters of stealth and subterfuge. She knew how not to be seen if she didn’t wish, but hers was a skill learned through long hours of diligent practice. Skinjobs could vanish right before someone’s eyes and walk through a platoon of robots without being noticed. But Aeris also knew that power came with a steep price. Skinjob volunteers literally had their skin peeled off their bodies in order to bond with their special new “chameleon” skin. Aeris knew little about the particulars of the process, known as “The Becoming”. While the details were unknown (Skinjobs were notoriously tight lipped) she did know the ritual was said to be one of unimaginable and excruciating pain.
“Long enough,” she replied with a genuine smile. “Didn’t you know it’s not nice to keep a woman waiting?”
Gaston smiled, though it appeared more as a grimace. “In that case, I am sorry. I would have thought your Gorehounds would be here for company. Where is your pack anyway? I didn’t see any of them around.”
“About a half a mile that way, keeping an eye on the children,” Aeris jerked her head in the direction of the bound children. “I don’t know what it is. It doesn’t have any markings or bear a resemblance to anything from the Houses I know. I’m not even sure it’s human. And then there’s the matter of the children.”
Gaston spit loudly and his voice dripped with disgust; “Not even the damn Shivs traffic in children. I do not know of any House that does. The rest of us should be here shortly. Harrigan has given orders. The children are the priority. If we can take the thing alive, good. If not;” he simply let the sentence trail off.
Aeris nodded, her thoughts going to the captured children. With any good fortune, once Harrigan and the others arrived, the children would be free once more.

“The rest of the team showed up an hour or so later. My hounds would keep the creature busy; the team would go for the children. Four on one, not including the hounds. Taking the creature out would be easy.”

The boy jerked awake, his fitful slumber split by a harrowing uproar. Eyes still blurry from sleep and his brain as exhausted as his body, he found it near impossible to focus on anything. Staggering to his feet, the boy started to became more aware of what was going on around him. And it both terrified and exhilarated him.
The strange, tentacled creature was locked in savage combat with what appeared to be a pair of monstrous armored hounds: one sleek and sculpted, the other a stout beast with a massive, tusk lined jaw. Each hound stood about 6 feet tall at the head on all fours and had to weigh nearly 400-500 pounds. As the boy looked on, the creature used its tentacles to hurl the smaller of the two away. Before it could press the advantage, the larger hound sank its saber teeth deep into the creature’s leg and began to savagely pull and shake. Crying out, the creature landed several blows to the hound’s head, but the great dog easily shrugged them off.
One of the other children screamed behind him, and the boy whirled around. A slim, lithe form erupted from the underbrush and was headed straight at him. Several other shadowy figures, including two more of the large armored hounds, emerged behind it and began to fan out. The hounds immediately headed towards their pack mates, while each figure seemed to be headed directly towards the captive children. The figure headed toward him was especially horrifying; its head was capped with large viper like tentacles that ended in bulbous eyes and its helmet adorned bat-like ears. It had a pronounced vented muzzle and some sort of iridescent Cyclops optic visor in place of human eyes. Before the boy could take any action, the thing was upon him. As he stared, horrified, a deep seam appeared in the figure’s head. Like something from a nightmare, the seam spread across the entire head. Layers of skin and muscle opened and peeled back, like some grotesque blooming flower. Even more shocking was what the peeled layers revealed: the face of a smiling beautiful woman.
The boy was dumbstruck, unable to move or even cry out. The figure slowed a bit as she approached him, her brown eyes peaceful and serene. The boy saw freckles on her cheeks, and a few wisps of red hair could be seen on either side of her face. Though it would seem impossible, the fear and panic began to leave the boy. She smiled a gentle smile at him, and spoke in a soothing voice.
“Don’t worry. My name is Aeris, I’m a friend. We’re going to get you out of here,” she whispered to him, her voice soothing despite her frightening appearance. Though the boy should be frightened, for some reason, this woman calmed him.
A blade suddenly appeared in her hand, and with a quick flick of her wrist, the cords binding the boy were severed. A sudden rush of warmth and a tingling sensation flooded his hands. The boy flexed his fingers and wrists and throbbing pain shot up his arms. The joints were stiff and aching; each movement sent a bolt of agony through the child. But the pain was tempered by the wonderful elation the boy felt. Craning his neck, he saw the others being freed, each by one of the shadowy figures that had appeared with the woman. He looked at her, and for the first time in days, he formed a smile.

“We’re not safe just yet. But we soon will be,” she stated, and bent to lift the boy. As he was being picked up, he caught a last glimpse glance of his tentacled captor, desperately struggling against the hounds.

“It was Harrigan’s idea to head to Sherman Outpost, and one we all agreed with. The outpost was only a few miles away. A stop at a secure location would give all of us a chance to rest and rearm. The children especially needed food and water. Harrigan planned to have a Draco fly the children to the House, once they were fit enough to travel. Then we would complete the patrol. That was the plan, at least. It all changed the first night we were there.”

Bordered on three sides by water, the Sherman Outpost sat on a peninsula wedge of land situated firmly between an immense lake and two great rivers. The waterways and lake served as the main water supply for no less than three nearby Great Houses and countless members of the Resistance. To the casual observer, the Outpost appeared to be a collection of ruins, now overgrown with vegetation, sitting atop a large, rounded hill. The ruins and the hill itself were little more than camouflage; the true Outpost lay far beneath the surface. The hill sat atop a massive natural cave system, riddled with underground tunnels and chambers. While the Outpost was called home by a few hundred various members of the Resistance, its true purpose was to serve as both a supply location and a watch point for the waterways. Considered neutral ground, no one House claimed the Sherman Outpost; it was open to any and all who fought the Machine.
As his group made their way to one of the many hidden entrances, Harrigan’s mind refused to quiet down and his thoughts raced. His primary concern was the tentacled thing that had taken the children captive. The creature had survived the attack from Aeris’s hounds; no small feat that. Even worse, it had somehow managed to elude pursuit and escape; and this bothered Harrigan more than he cared to admit. Aeris was an expert tracker and her Gorehounds were as smart as they were vicious. That meant the creature was not only powerful in its own right, but also more clever and intelligent then he would have believed. Harrigan feared it was not the last they would see of the creature. And even worse, he feared it would not return alone.
He took comfort however, in knowing that the children would soon be safe. At the Outpost, they could get food, water, and most importantly, rest. And children or not, Harrigan was not willing to pass on any of those luxuries. One of the first things Harrigan learned about life as a Dreadguard: Rest when you can and eat when you can. He had been a Dreadguard almost his entire life. And it was a life he would have no other way.
The taking of the children bothered him still. Harrigan lived a life of war, but he had never seen war deliberately waged against children. Though he had seen children killed, they were usually unfortunate casualties of war. He had never known a Great House that practiced the deliberate capture of children. It was something that nagged at him, even now. With some effort, he focused his thoughts on the here and now: Get the children some place safe. A quick bio-comm call and the children should be at a Great House within the next day or two.

[b]“Harrigan called in the request for the children to be evaced as soon as possible. We received word that the children would be airlifted in the next day or two. We were given free time, on the condition that we all get some chow and some sleep.” [/b]

Aeris sat up, her deep, dreamless sleep interrupted. It took her a few seconds to realize she was at the Outpost, dozing in one of the many small rooms. Outside of her room, it sounded like pandemonium in the hallways. Above her, she heard what sounded like a great clap of thunder, and the floor beneath her shook. Dirt and rubble fell from the ceiling overhead, covering her in a fine layer of dust. It took her sleep-addled brain only a few seconds to realize the Outpost was under attack. She scrambled into her Living Armor as fast as possible, and bolted into the hallway.
Outside, it was chaos. Explosions continued to impact the surface of the hill, raining rock and dust on everyone. Aeris fought her way against the people in the hallway, desperately looking for any familiar face. Aeris found Gaston and Harrigan in a nearby chamber. Behind them, Di Nardo easily forced his way through the crowd. Di Nardo was a hulking giant of a man, almost as large as a suit of Host Armor himself. As Aeris finally got close enough, she heard Harrigan barking orders:
“Gaston, topside, find out who’s attacking. I want to know what they are and from where. Keep your head down, eyes only. Di Nardo, you and Aeris are with me. We secure the civilians, then assist with defense. All of you, be careful. If this place starts to go down or if I give the word, make your way out. No questions, no arguments. We rendezvous at Mint Hill if that happens.”


“The shelling continued for hours. It was intense; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was like they were trying to level the place. Casualties were surprisingly light, though, and the Outpost held together better than I would have thought. Gaston worked his way outside, and told us the attack was coming from the lake and waterways. He said he saw things in the water; great whale-like things. The Outpost had sent out a general distress message. We were told to hold the Outpost, that reinforcements were on the way.”


Gaston remained hidden, not far from the hill and the Outpost. He had been on lookout the last several hours, watching the whale creatures sporadically surface to fire a volley, and then retreat into the depths of the lake. Gaston continued to watch and observe, trying to discern a pattern to their movements and attacks. Periodically, he would bio-comm Harrigan with his observations, however, for the most part, the Skinjob remained silent and still. Whoever the attackers were, they were not Machine forces. Though Gaston could not identify them, he knew they were from no House he was familiar with. And the reason for their attack remained a mystery. Nevertheless, the great creatures continued to bombard the Outpost with rocket and casting cannon fire nearly non-stop. Then, as suddenly as the attack had begun, it stopped.
After hours of shelling, the silence that followed was deafening. Gaston cautiously emerged from his hiding, the Skinjob near invisible to detection. His eyes caught no movement, and he heard nothing. Moving at a snail’s pace, Gaston worked his way around the perimeter of the hill, eyes and ears alert. After hours of bombardment, the earth was a mangled mess of craters, devastated vegetation, and shattered ruins. Nothing moved or stirred, and even the water’s surface appeared smooth and placid. The forces of the Outpost had retreated deeper into the earth, content to simply wait the attackers out. Without warning, Gaston’s bio-comm buzzed and Harrigan’s voice echoed in the Skinjob’s ear: “Gaston, stay where you are. Take an overwatch position and let us know if any ground forces are on the way. I think this is only the beginning. Air support is on its way.”
Gaston tapped the bio-comm rapidly, sending Harrigan a two-beep affirmative. Though his bio-skin made him nearly invisible, Gaston still looked for an adequate vantage point. One that would both keep him hidden and offer some amount of protection if the bombardment should start again. He found such a spot, near the top of the hill. A perfect crater, one that was now surrounded and partially covered by shattered ruins. Gaston un-shouldered his Light Cell rifle, and slowly crawled into position.
Gaston had been in place for a only a few moments when the lake waters began to roll and swirl. In the distance, several of the whale creatures surfaced, and gradually began swimming towards the shore and the outpost. As if heeding some silent signal, each took up a position off shore and slowly began to circle. With a sinking feeling, Gaston realized they were making a perimeter.
As he continued watching, several creatures emerged from the waters, advancing up the shore. Gaston had never seen creatures like this; immense and covered with spikes, the creatures looked like massive, otherworldly tortoises. Once free of the water, the great beasts stopped momentarily. With growing dread, Gaston watched as each creature stopped and somehow disgorged a number of vaguely humanoid shapes. His heart sank further when Gaston realized that several of these beings were identical to the tentacled creature they had encountered earlier. Once released, the tentacled beings and their great armored carriers headed straight towards the Outpost, the carriers launching a volley of organic rockets to cover their ground troops.
“Harrigan, we’ve got BIG… problems”, Gaston whispered in his bio-comm.
Harrigan’s reply was almost immediate; “Understood; we saw it in the command center. Air support is on its way, ETA 16 minutes. We have to hold them off for that long. You know what to do.”
As if in response to Harrigan’s command, the hill Outpost erupted with defenders, like ants swarming to protect a hive. Sighting a target, Gaston fired a searing blast from his rifle.
“16 minutes”; he mumbled.

Host Armor almost always grows into a reflection of its wearer. However, no Dreadguard personified this more than Di Nardo. Outside of his Armor, Di Nardo was intimidating. Suited up, he was terrifying. His Host Armor, “Tempest,” looked like some monstrous, tusked alpha male Olive baboon, his hide and mantle of a mane bristling with diamond hard quills. Di Nardo was a brawler born; a barrel chested brute of man who thrived on combat and competition. To him, war was the ultimate competition, and in any fight, Di Nardo could usually be found where combat was the thickest. And this fight was no exception.
Di Nardo was one of the first defenders out of the Outpost, rushing headlong into combat. He charged directly into one of the tentacled things, sending the creature flying. Leaping on top of it, Di Nardo hammered at the thing, reducing its head to a bloody pulp in a matter of seconds. He hoisted its lifeless body and heaved the corpse into a nearby group of attackers. Before the group could gather its wits, Di Nardo hurled himself into the wave and unleashed a devastating barrage of quills and rockets. Pausing only for a few seconds, he was soon joined by a wave of Outpost Roughnecks. With a deafening roar, Di Nardo and the Roughnecks charged into the attackers.
Without warning, Di Nardo was blinded by an intense flash and rocked by a deafening explosion. The Dreadguard was slammed to the ground and searing waves of heat and pain traveled across his body. Gasping for breath, head spinning and vision clouded by swirling stars, Di Nardo struggled to his feet. As he tried to regain his footing, his left leg collapsed underneath him, sending a spear of agony through his body. With an equal mix of anger and dread swelling inside him, the Dreadguard clenched his teeth and forced himself to stand. Di Nardo felt blood pouring down his face, his left arm hung limply by his side, and his leg screamed in protest. Through a haze of pain, Di Nardo saw one of the great armored terrapin beasts bearing straight down on him. With a howl of defiance, Di Nardo launched a volley of rockets at the great creature, and tried to avoid its thunderous charge. The world spun, as the Dreadguard was hit by a massive blow from the beast; it sent Di Nardo flying, his limbs flailing in every direction. Di Nardo hit the ground with a bone shattering impact. His consciousness swam and he felt himself slip into welcome darkness.
Bruised and bleeding, Harrigan fired several bio blasts to finish off an attacker. Whatever they were, these things were tough and they fought like demons. All around him, the fighting was fierce and savage. To provide some level of protection from the tremendous firepower the whale creatures possessed, the Outpost forces had been ordered into close combat with the attackers. The ploy had worked; the whale creatures had held off any further bombardment. The defenders fought hard, but did not waste their lives carelessly. They sought only to hold the attackers until the promised air support arrives. By contrast, the attackers seemed almost suicidal and struck with a ferocity that bordered on insanity. And they seemed to be without number as they poured out of the turtle carriers and the lake’s shorelines.
Carnage and combat was all around Harrigan. From the hill behind him came the booming fire of Mantis Cannons. As he looked on, a Behemoth War Mount and its Rider charged a wave of attackers, scattering some and trampling the rest underfoot. It, in turn, was savagely attacked by one of the armored turtle creatures. The defenders were slowly giving ground, the ravaging armored turtles often the wedge that broke through the ranks. Harrigan was astonished and a little frightened by these beasts. Their thick shells could absorb tremendous punishment and their weaponry was as powerful as their armor. They pushed back all who stood before them, and trampled everything underfoot. Sometimes biting huge gouges and plugs out of nearby armored Defenders who were unlucky to be in their range.
The attackers seemed without number, and they continued to charge, despite the heavy losses they sustained. If this kept up, the Outpost would fall, no matter what sacrifices were made. Harrigan fired a few more blasts into the oncoming rush and began to pull back to the hill. Suddenly, his bio-comm crackled in his ear, the noise briefly surprising him.
“Sherman Outpost, Dragonfly Two-Five; inbound and hot. Requesting a situation report from the ground”; the message said.
Despite the grim situation, Harrigan nearly leapt for joy. A touch of the bio-comm and Harrigan replied; “Dragonfly Two-Five, Sherman Outpost. Situation is bad, you’re timing is perfect. Outpost is under attack; hostiles between the hill and the waterways. Friendlies will be in retreat, fire at will.”
The Outrider’s voice came back almost immediately; “Understood, Outpost. Get your people out of there. The Dracos are right behind us.”
With a smile, Harrigan relayed the strategic retreat order. He had a feeling this battle would turn around shortly.
A low, droning buzz announced the arrival of the promised support. A quartet of Zephyrs were the first to appear in the skies, followed closely behind by a squad of Archangels. Further distant, little more than dark spots on the horizon, the Dracos followed. First to appear, the Zephyrs launched their attack. The scorpion dragonfly-like war mounts buzzed about the attackers like angry hornets, strafing them relentlessly. Behind them, the daring Archangels followed; some dropping explosives on the attackers, others using their grapples to deadly effect. The impact of the air assault was immediate. The attacking waves slowed, and then stopped as they looked skyward. The Outpost defenders seized the opportunity; grabbing injured and wounded comrades, they retreated back to the hill. Harrigan lingered behind. He wanted to see what the attackers would do next.
The Dracos came screaming from the sky, belching flame like mythical dragons. Every direction they faced became an inferno, the flames consuming all before them. The Dracos covered the retreat, blocking any advancement with walls of flame and burning napalm.
After the initial shock, the attackers quickly recovered and many began to strike out at the flyers; especially the Dracos. At first, the response was clumsy and uncoordinated, then Harrigan noticed something disturbing. The great whales had surfaced again, and were launching counter attacks at the air support. Instead of fighting with the unbridled frenzy seen before, these attacks were different, calculated. With a start, Harrigan realized the attacks were leveled at the wings. Instead of fighting to destroy, the invaders were fighting to cripple. Harrigan’s spirits sank as he saw a pair of Archangels tumble to the ground, their wings mangled and useless. The attackers swarmed over the fallen warriors, and the Archangels disappeared in the crush of bodies and were drug off to the lake as the waves thrashed violently.
One of the Dracos flew in low and close; Harrigan guessed in an attempt to rescue the fallen Archangels. Hanging in mid-air, it crushed several attackers in its great claws while its wings and thrashing tail hurled others into the air. Heads snapping furiously, the Dracos was like some primal force of nature, driving away or destroying anything in its path.
Moving with a speed that belied their bulk, a pair of the armored carriers seized the aerial War Mount in their massive jaws. Clamping shut, they wrestled the Dracos to the ground and began dragging it toward the water. The great dragon roared in pain and fury, and its heads and claws struck out against its attackers. The sight of this titanic struggle was primal and horrific; the entire battlefield stopped to watch the clash of these great beasts. The roars were deafening as the creatures tore at each with teeth, claws, and horns. The Dracos fought valiantly, inflicting horrible gashes and wounds on its attackers. Despite its fury, it was clearly outmatched, and was pulled ever closer to the lake.
Without warning, the Dracos was seized by a pair of monstrous tentacles that exploded from the water. Wrapping around the war mount, the tentacles inexorably drew the Dracos into the lake. Despite its size and ferocity, the war mount was dragged beneath the lake’s surface. The waters churned and boiled momentarily, then the lake was still once more.

“It was a hell of a day. The air support was totally wiped out. For what its worth, they really were the only reason we survived. We lost too many people that day. Many of the ones not killed outright were too injured to be of any real help. Even Di Nardo, one of the toughest men I’ve ever met, was out of action. He had been caught in the blast from some kind of cannon, took a charge from a Turtle, and somehow was still alive. He was a mess, but he was alive. We wouldn’t have survived another direct assault, especially not in the numbers they seemed to posses.
We started calling their armored creatures “Turtles”. Once air support arrived, everything changed. The invaders went to great lengths to capture anything that flew, not kill them. Even the Archangels. If they flew too close to the water, the whale things managed to grab them with those tentacles. If they stayed in the air, the Squiddies and Muscleheads did what they could to shoot them down and capture them. Zephyrs, Archangels, didn’t matter.
What are Squiddies? After the first day, its what we started calling them. See, there seems to be two types of ground troops. The ones with the tentacles we called “Squiddies”. They were fast and treacherous, and the tentacles made them a nightmare to fight. At this point, we didn’t know they could blend, like Skinjobs. If we had…
The other type we called “Muscleheads”. These things are big; they look almost like red headed feral Scarecrows but with far too many muscles. And strong; stronger than Host Armor, stronger even than Scarecrows I’ll bet.
We didn’t know about the other raids happening up and down the coast. We knew only that we received word that the area was too hot for any kind of air support or pick up. We wouldn’t survive another direct assault like that. Lucky for us, the enemy didn’t know that. After that first day, and the losses they suffered, they seemed content to simply wait and starve us out. Or whittle us down. And we received word we were on our own for the time being. The raids up and down the coast had everyone, even N.E.X.U.S., against the ropes. We were stuck; no help coming and surrounded on all sides.”

Di Nardo swam in a haze of pain, indistinct shapes, and strange, echoing sounds. Occasionally, the world would snap into sharp focus; he would catch glimpses of faces, or snatches of conversation. Then, inevitably, he would descend back into a world of half shapes and misery. How long he hung in this twilight world, Di Nardo had no way of knowing. He had been in this state for both an hour and a year; time held no meaning for him.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he became aware of a new sensation: weight. Slight at first, however, it was a foreign sensation in this formless limbo. More time passed and Di Nardo dimly became more aware of the weight. Simultaneously, the limbo around him slowly began to break apart, the formless shapes and blobs of color coalescing into something of form and substance. The weight that first interrupted the void gradually became feeling. He became slowly aware of his body again, of parts he had momentarily forgotten he ever had; his toes, his fingers, his hands.
He was on his back, out of his armor, he eventually realized. In a room somewhere, judging by the sounds. It seemed every part of his body was hurt and aching, and his head throbbed. With considerable effort, Di Nardo forced his eyes to open and stay open this time. At first, everything was vague and indistinct. As he slowly turned his head, he saw both Aeris and Gaston looking down on him. Their features were huge, exaggerated, almost as if he were looking at caricatures of the two of them. He blinked rapidly and forced his eyes to focus, until the two appeared somewhat normal. He made a feeble attempt to sit up, but the Skinjob gently placed a hand on his chest, forcing him back down.
“Rest easy friend. For a while, we thought you for the afterlife;” Gaston spoke, his voice low and ethereal.
Aeris spoke up next; ”You were busted up pretty bad. You got caught in the blast from a Turtle’s cannon. Then you tried to take one on single handedly. Your Armor, Tempest, was the only thing holding you together for a while. The Saints had to put in some work to keep you with us. How do you feel?”
“Like I was set on fire and put out with a brick. Help me up,” he managed to croak in response.
With their assistance, Di Nardo slowly sat up, swinging his legs off the bed and placing his feet on the hard, earthen floor. He sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, head hanging, simply taking stock of his health. Eventually, Di Nardo began to tentatively flex and stretch, his joints cracking and popping with each movement. His entire body was aching and sore, and his head was pounding, but overall he seemed sound.
Gaston gave the man a few minutes, then gripped his hand warmly. “I’m glad you are still with us. It lifts the spirits. I’ll leave Aeris to bring you up to speed when you are ready.” With that, the Skinjob quietly left.
Aeris and Di Nardo simply stared after Gaston, then both sat silently for a time. Aeris was in no hurry; she knew the big man would talk when he was ready.
“So, what’s happened? Those basterds still after us?” he asked simply.
Aeris smiled a half smile; even after sitting at death’s door, Di Nardo remained direct and to the point. Sitting across from the large man, she related events that had passed.
“The air support held them back long enough for a retreat to be made. Whatever they are, they went to some effort to capture the flyers.” At this remark, Di Nardo raised an eyebrow.
Aeris answered the unspoken question, “YES, capture. When the flyers came, they got targeted. Shot down, every one. We got away because they gave their lives for us. That kept them busy for a while. Turns out these things are raiding up and down the entire coast; human, N.E.X.U.S., doesn’t matter. Reinforcements aren’t coming anytime soon and we’ve been told the area is too hot for an aerial pick up.”
Di Nardo sat quietly, his eyes becoming more focused and intense. “Any more shelling?”
Aeris nodded. “Occasionally, though nothing as bad as before. Its been quiet now for about a day. They fire a few rounds, then silence again. But thankfully, no other attacks. The upper levels have been evacuated and sealed off. Sentries are posted at the entrances. We’ve got plenty of food and water, so we’re ok for supplies. The Houses have said they will send reinforcements when they can. But for now, we sit tight.”
Di Nardo nodded; “Understood. But I don’t like this. We’re backed into a corner and there’s no way out.”
This time it was Aeris’s turn to nod; “Yep. Its not perfect, but its what we’ve got.”

The two sat for a time longer, Di Nardo quietly gathering his strength and asking the occasional question. Eventually, the Dreadguard stood up, his legs trembling slightly. “Seems our guests could come calling at any time. Where’s my Armor?”
The next round of bombardment started a few hours after Di Nardo woke. Instead of the intense assault of before, this strike felt more measured and deliberate. The attacks struck the hill almost with a tempo, the din echoing throughout the Outpost.
Gaston frequently had trouble sleeping; a condition he knew was shared by many Skinjobs. Sleep was sometimes difficult to attain, and rarely without interruption. Like many of his kind, Gaston’s sleep was often plagued with nightmares. Though in truth, to call them nightmares was an injustice. Skinjobs often had dreams of such frightening intensity that they would sometimes haunt the sleeper even hours after waking. Many sought the aid of a Saint in order to sleep undisturbed. It was the mark of the Becoming, Gaston knew. The ritual of Becoming was beyond torturous and exacted a heavy toll on body and mind, leaving both forever changed. Despite the events of the past few days, Gaston remained unable to sleep.
To try and ease his mind, he was aimlessly pacing the corridors. The bombardment from outside continued, the dull thud of the explosions sounding like distant thunder. As Gaston prowled the hallways, he was surprised at the number of others doing the same. It seemed sleep would not come easily to anyone in the Outpost tonight. The noise outside continued, the same dull thuds as before, with an occasional sharper report. He continued his meandering; his thoughts wandering and aimless.
Gaston saw the tentacle a split second before it attacked. It seemed to suddenly appear in the air above him, moving with the speed of a striking cobra. The tentacle wrapped around his neck and tightened with horrendous ease. Gaston felt his feet leave the floor as the tentacle lifted him into the air. Normally, anything grasping a Skinjob grabbed only the abundant loose folds of skin, allotting a skilled Skinjob to twist and turn within their skin to break free from grips and holds, but this was far from the case. Gaston’s eyes flittered up, and he saw the Squiddy above him, hanging from the ceiling like some loathsome insect. Dimly, he registered that, much like a Skinjob, the Squiddy was somehow able to camouflage itself; the creature had blended in near perfectly with the ceiling until it had moved. Reflexively, one hand grasped at the tentacle, straining to loosen the terrible pressure. The other pawed at his waist, trying to reach his sidearm.
The pressure around his neck was incredible, and Gaston felt his eyes would pop and his tongue would burst. His free hand brushed across the butt of his Bio-Expulsion pistol. With speed born of desperation, Gaston jerked the pistol free. Almost as soon as the weapon cleared its holster, two more tentacles wrapped around it, snatching the weapon from Gaston’s hand almost effortlessly and flinging it away. The Skinjob continued to struggle, pulling and jerking, trying desperately to get air into his screaming lungs.
The Squiddy was simply too strong as Gaston’s struggles grew weaker and weaker, the Skinjob felt his consciousness slipping. As his vision clouded, Gaston thought he could make out a shape moving towards him. With a start, he realized it was one of the massive, muscled beings. He briefly renewed his struggles, but it was simply too much. He was too weak to put up much a fight. The Musclehead was barreling straight for him, with no signs of slowing. As he descended into blackness, Gaston had one brief moment of clarity and morbidly wondered what would kill him first: the choking from the Squiddy or the impact from the Musclehead?
The Musclehead struck first, slamming into the Skinjob like a battering ram. The impact was tremendous. Though it sent Gaston flying, it also wrenched him free of the strangling tentacle. Gaston landed hard on the floor, gasping for breath. Sucking in mouthfuls of air, he looked up and saw the Squiddy drop from the ceiling, landing beside its hulking companion. The Squiddy’s coal black, lidless eyes regarded Gaston dispassionately, as if he were little more than an insect. While the Squiddy was calm and poised, the Musclehead seemed to seethe with rage and violence.
Still panting for breath, Gaston lurched to his feet. Leaning heavily against the wall, he forced himself to stand straight. He briefly raised a hand to his ear; his bio-comm was missing. It must have been knocked loose in the earlier struggle. Quickly scanning the hall, Gaston saw the small unit on the floor, near his discarded pistol. He knew he couldn’t make the distance in time. The way ahead was blocked by his attackers. If he tried to retreat, they would simply run him down. Nor could he handle both his attackers. Skinjobs were built for stealth, not speed or strength. And each of his attackers was as strong and as swift as Host Armor; the Musclehead even more so. He was trapped.
If this was the end, Gaston thought, so be it. He was thankful that he could meet his end on his feet. He had no fear of death or certainly none of pain; no force on the planet could hurt worse than the torture of the Becoming. Now, he only wished to give a good accounting of himself to those who would take his life. A snap of each wrist and the Skinjob was armed; blade in one hand, concussive baton in the other. The weapons seemed near worthless compared to the task, yet they were the only things at hand.
As the Skinjob produced his weapons, the Squiddy gazed at him intently. For several seconds, the two simply stared at one another, each seeming to take the measure of the other. To Gaston’s surprise, the Squiddy positioned itself between him and the Musclehead, halting the great brute in its tracks. Without warning, it seemed to speak, though in no language Gaston had ever heard. The sounds coming from the Squiddy were harsh and guttural, almost like growls from an animal. Amazingly, the Musclehead dropped back slightly, then turned and lumbered off.
Gaston allowed his hopes to rise slightly. The Squiddy was strong and fast, but Gaston was confident. He didn’t need to beat the creature, merely to get past it and gain possession of the bio-comm or his sidearm. Gaston eyed the pacing creature, searching for an advantage or weakness he could exploit. The thing was humanoid, so Gaston hoped it possessed the same vital areas: the knees, the eyes, and the groin. Sinking low into a defensive stance, Gaston readied himself for the attack.
The attack came, and quickly; almost too quick for him to react. The Skinjob ducked and weaved, circling around the Squiddy, looking for an opening. Dropping under a lash from the flailing tentacles, Gaston struck out with blade and baton. The concussive blast from the baton rocked the Squiddy and Gaston seized the opportunity, charging after his bio-comm. Before he could make it far, he was tripped up by one of its many tentacles. The Squiddy pounced on him, raining blows from its fists and tentacles. Gaston stabbed the creature repeatedly, the blade biting deep and slicing into the Squiddy’s hide. The two attacked each other viciously, for several seconds, striking and stabbing one another with wild abandon. Somehow, they managed to get untangled and each sprung to their feet.
The two circled one another warily, each looking for an advantage. Gaston inched his way closer to the bio-comm, keeping his eyes locked on his adversary. Feinting an attack, Gaston hoped to catch the Squiddy off guard. The maneuver failed, and he was hit by a flurry of blows. He backpedaled, using the force of the attack to move closer to the bio-comm. Gaston needed to end this quickly; the Squiddy was strong, it hit with tremendous force. Worse, it was fast, and its tentacles seemed to be everywhere at once. Gaston was getting pummeled; his mouth and nose were pouring blood, one eye was swollen shut and he swore there was a tooth rattling around in his mouth. With a low growl, the Squiddy lunged towards him and Gaston lashed out furiously. More by luck than skill, his baton caught the Squiddy in the throat, the concussive blast knocking the creature to the ground.
Gaston sprinted for the bio-comm, snatching the small device with barely a pause in his step. Eyes fixed on his pistol, the Skinjob dashed for the discarded weapon. He felt more than heard the Squiddy behind him, rapidly gaining ground on him. Mere feet away from the pistol, Gaston dove headfirst, hands outstretched towards the weapon. His hands closed around the weapon and the Skinjob rolled over on his back, face up, pistol extended. He fired several shots as rapidly as he could; aiming in the direction of Squiddy. Gaston didn’t see if he hit it or not. The Squiddy seemed to leap and dodge out of the way, moving with amazing speed and sudden propulsion. As Gaston continued to fire, the creature dashed down the corridor, pouncing off the walls and ceilings as its skin rapidly changed color until it disappeared from sight. Gaston fired a few more shots after it for good measure, cursing under his breath. Activating his bio-comm, Gaston faded into the shadows.

That was the first raid; and the worst. They managed to get in a few more times, but none as bad as that first. The first raid happened lightning quick; before we even knew it, several of them had worked their way inside. We managed to fight off a few, but these things were sneaky. They were in and out before most of us realized they were there. They were like cockroaches; somehow, they would always find their way in.
Why didn’t they just kill us all? I don’t know that. They certainly could have; as I said, most of us didn’t even know we’d been compromised. This wasn’t like the first attack. This wasn’t a full-scale assault. This was more like mass kidnapping. Sentries in Host Armor they killed; left their heads for us to find. Those not in Host Armor were just…gone. Taken. Taken to who knows where. We lost dozens in the first raid; men, women………and children.
I’m sorry, it’s just… the children are the hardest, the worst to think about. The thoughts of these things with kids.
At this point, we were pretty well screwed. The compromised entrances sealed were ordered sealed and the sentries doubled at all others. We began a rotation of patrols throughout the Outpost and strict orders were given not to travel in groups less than four. They truly could have wiped us out at any moment. I’m not sure why they didn’t.
If it hadn’t been for Hauser, this Outrider from Mountain Home, I don’t know that we would have made it. But his idea was brilliant. Suicidal, but brilliant.”[/
b]

Harrigan stared hard at Hauser, his disbelief plainly evident on his face.
“You really think you can make this work?”, he growled to the young Outrider.
Hauser flashed a smile that Harrigan thought was meant to instill confidence. And, Harrigan had to admit, in different circumstances, it might have worked. The Outrider was young and dashing, his light-hearted personality infectious. His confidence and exuberance were almost enough to make Harrigan believe his plan would be successful. Hauser may act like a fool, but he was a fool of deadly skill. He had to be, to have survived this long on a Strider.
“I do”, Hauser answered, his eyes bright with excitement. “You know how fast Striders go, and Kiwi can leave them all in the dust. If anything out there thinks it can keep up with us, it’s welcome to try.”
“How long do you need?” Harrigan asked.
“A day, tops. Maybe not even that. It will work, I know it.” Hauser insisted.
After a moment’s hesitation, he clapped the young daredevil on the back and spoke one word. It was a word that would echo through Hauser’s mind: “Hurry.”

[b]“The incursions continued, more and more of them trying to get in. The fighting was fierce. We were able to repel them, but we lost more and more people each time. We began a systematic withdrawal, pulling back slowly and collapsing the tunnels and rooms as we went.
We took up defensive positions in the deepest levels of the Outpost and really dug in; we had nowhere else to go. This was where we would make our stand. We had the remaining civilians in a chamber; one way, one way out. We collapsed all the tunnels leading to the chamber but one. And that tunnel was almost nothing but booby traps. Explosives, mines, trip wires, even sharp sticks. Anything we could think to slow them down or hurt them. And we waited. We figured one way or another; it would all be over in the next day. Either Hauser’s plan would work, or they would eventually break through.”


The eastern wall of the tunnel exploded outward, pelting the defenders with debris and rubble. Partially obscured by the thick dust, figures began pouring through the opening. Seemingly without regard for their own lives, they charged forward, heedless of the losses inflicted by traps or defenders. The tunnel became a nightmare of combat as a mob of bodies charged forward.
Scenes of carnage played out everywhere. Here, a Musclehead ripped an opponent to pieces, showering the area in blood and gore. There, a defending Roughneck skewered an attacking Squiddy on a massive bone blade. In turn, he was eviscerated with blinding speed by a Squiddy who seemingly appeared from nowhere. The noise in the tunnel was deafening and the floor was soon slick with blood, guts and fluids.
Both sides fought with a fervor that bordered on recklessness. For several long minutes, the tunnel was a seesaw battle; each side would gain ground, only to lose it moments later. Eventually, however, the endless swarms of attackers began to take their toll. Howling their defiance, the Outpost defenders grudgingly gave ground, unable to hold back the attacking waves for very long.
At the entrance to the final chamber, the remaining defenders formed into a tight wedge, blocking any entry to the cavernous chamber beyond. The battle lulled for a moment, as if each side was granting the other a brief respite. Situated at the front of the wedge, Di Nardo tried to clear his head. Still not fully healed from his earlier wounds, he had nonetheless fought like an enraged animal. And his body was suffering for it. His ammunition was depleted; both he and his Armor were mauled and bloody. He had no idea how many he had killed, only that it didn’t seem to matter; they seemed without number.
Looking at the ravenous mob in front of him, Di Nardo was forced to finally admit to something which shook him to the core: this was a fight he could not win. He wasn’t sure how he knew this, but the certainty of it was beyond compare. Though the Dreadguard did not fear death, the thought of losing normally sickened him. Yet, strangely, this time the realization brought only a peculiar calmness to the hulking man. The pain seemed to flow out from his body and a quiet peace settled over his raging mind and spirit. Almost to himself, the massive Dreadguard briefly spoke:
“Give me the strength to live the next moments well.”
As if sensing the end of the Dreadguard’ s prayer, the invaders charged forward. Sporting a grim smile, Di Nardo waited.
With a cry of despair, Aeris saw Di Nardo disappear beneath the attacking horde. The Squiddies moved with whirlwind speed, and the Muscleheads strength was terrifying. The wedge held for only a few moments, then collapsed, the chamber beyond filling rapidly with fighting bodies. Aeris caught a brief glance of both Gaston and Harrigan, then lost sight of her companions in the twisting mass of forms. She began firing wildly, taking only a split second to verify her targets. Weapons empty, Aeris let them clatter to the floor.
Everywhere she looked, shapes closed in around her. Aeris felt overcome with despair. Her only remaining weapons, a hand ax and large knife, now seemed small and useless against the creatures that closed in on her. Nearby, her great Gore hounds stood ready; resolute and determined, despite the forces arrayed against them. Their strength and steadfast loyalty gave her a small measure of comfort. With a deep breath, Aeris grit her teeth and charged into the fray, her hounds’ mere steps in front of her.
The Gorehounds ripped at the closest attackers, Aeris following close behind, slashing and tearing at any who came within arm’s reach. As a pair of her hounds tore into a Squiddy, Aeris approached from behind, low and unseen. Her blades flashed and cut deep into the Squiddy’ s legs, dropping the tentacled creature to the ground. The hounds wasted no time, eager to finish off the creature.
Driven mad with blood lust, the pack and its mistress cut a swath through their attackers. For a scant few moments, Aeris and her hounds held their ground, the small group appearing as little more than a whirlwind of teeth, claws, and blades. They fought in near perfect synchronicity, each seeming to instinctively know when to aid another. But the number of attackers was simply too much, and an oncoming rush sent the small group sprawling.
Covered nearly head to toe in gore, Aeris just barely had time to see the charging Musclehead and avoid its attack. The blow that should have decapitated her instead grazed the side of her head. Even so, the impact was tremendous, causing her ears to ring and her vision to explode with stars & tears. Aeris stumbled backwards, the Musclehead continuing its relentless assault.
Ducking under one enormous arm, Aeris slashed at the creature viciously. The Musclehead simply ignored her attacks and continued to lash out at her. One immense fist connected, and Aeris staggered, arms pin wheeling as she struggled to maintain her balance. With one hand, the Musclehead snatched one of her flailing arms; the other delivered a brutal blow to the Packmaster’ s stomach. The air exploded out of Aeris, her knees buckled and her consciousness wavered. Still clenching her arm in its powerful grip, the Musclehead jerked her upright, delivering another punishing blow. Aeris felt a sickening crunch in her head; her vision blurred and she tasted blood in the back of her throat. The Musclehead dropped her, almost disdainfully, to the floor. The enormous brute stood over her, lifting one gigantic foot. Aeris could only lay still, struggling just to stay conscious and barely able to move.
Before it could bring its foot crashing down, the creature suddenly stopped, lowering its leg. It stood stock still, its head tilted to one side, as if listening to a noise only it could hear. After several seconds, the Musclehead fixed its baneful gaze at Aeris, its eyes brimming with anger and malice. Then it suddenly turned, and hurriedly made its way out of the chamber.
Aeris simply lay on the floor, gasping for breath and trying to gather her strength and wits. As she slowly looked around, she realized that all the attackers were leaving as suddenly as the Musclehead did. With an effort, she forced herself to sit up. The chamber was in shambles and littered with the debris & casualties of combat. Here and there a few others, like her, had survived, each looking as shocked and surprised as she. Listlessly she got to her feet and took a few stumbling steps forward. She felt tears pour down her cheeks and her chest tightened as she looked at the number of bodies in the chamber. With halting, stumbling steps, she slowly began moving through the chamber.

“Hauser’s plan had worked, and perfectly. He had known of a route that was regularly patrolled by the Machine. His idea was simple, but dangerous: attack the Machine patrol, antagonize it, keep it interested enough to follow him, and lead it back to the Outpost. Get the Machine and the Squiddies fighting, and we either sneak away or let them destroy themselves. Most of the time, the Machine goes after Outriders first in any confrontation. Hauser bet that same program logic would keep the patrol coming after him, as long as he stayed within eyesight and range of the bots. Sure enough, they took the bait.
The initial patrol was wiped out pretty easy. But they brought some help.”


Aeris slowly edged her way to the surface of the Outpost. The noise outside was deafening; a cacophony of explosions and weapons fire. Peering cautiously from the tunnel entrance, Aeris was momentarily enthralled by what she saw.
N.E.X.U.S. forces were everywhere, locked in a battle with the invaders every bit as savage as the one she had miraculously walked away from mere moments ago. On the ground, steel clashed with bio-armor while the sky was dotted with bots of all kinds. Missiles and energy bolts blanketed the area and Machine forces seemed everywhere. Watching the chaos unfold, Aeris was only mildly surprised to find herself hoping N.E.X.U.S. would emerge the victor.
As she continued to look on, Aeris gradually became aware of a change in the air. It was small, almost imperceptible at first; a feeling of slowly building pressure. Aeris felt as if the air itself was somehow charged and a dull throb began pulsing behind her eyes. The pressure continued to build until Aeris felt her eyes would bulge from their sockets. Just as the throbbing became almost unbearable, the air exploded in a brilliant violet burst that nearly blinded Aeris.
Aeris stumbled back a few steps and blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to clear the spots that seemed to be burned into them. The battlefield turned deathly silent. Her eyesight slowing return, Aeris stared with a mix of dread and fascination. Dozens of attacking robots stood perfectly still, several with small sparks dancing across their metal surface. As Aeris looked on, she saw another strange Violet pulse. Though not as blindingly intense as the first, she still felt an uncomfortable tingling behind her eyes. Once again, the bots caught in this strange pulse wave came to an immediate sudden halt. Aeris saw the pulse several more times; each time the attacking bots stopped completely, as if rooted to the ground.

[b]“I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it. And way beyond anything I would have thought bio-tech could do.
I made my escape at that point. The Squiddies, Turtles and Muscleheads were taking their time destroying the bots. The Outpost was demolished, the rest of my team was dead. The children we rescued? I don’t know…. Killed or captured. As bad as it sounds, dead I hope. Better that than captured by those things.
Yes, I realize the importance and significance of this weapon. But I also realize what kinds of creatures are using it: inhuman, evil, as bad as the Machine.
Yes, I do realize the potential value of a treaty with these things. But either you didn’t listen to what I just said or you don’t want to understand what these things are like. I’d sooner try to work with the Shivs then with these things. At least I know the Shivs are human.
If you want the weapon bad enough, I say kill them and take it. Or grab a few of them and make them give up their secrets. Let the Scarecrows go to work on them in a room somewhere; hell, those freaks will enjoy it. I think they deserve torture just for the sake of the children they’ve taken.
No, I didn’t know the waterways were still compromised. Go back? Depends. Why do you want me to go back? If you want me to help retake the waterways, fine, count me in. If you want to try to broker some kind of deal with them, forget it. I’ll go live with the Waste Crawlers before I do anything other than kill these things.
”[/b]



Iron Shell Warmount
Written & Created by Kevarin
Edited by NMI & Backstory Assist by 89er

Illustrated By Chazio
http://madjaguar.deviantart.com/art/SPL ... -252880041


There were few survivors of the Violet Wave, the massive hoard of unknown Biotech that destroyed everything in their path. But what was not launched from the armada of demonic Krakens, was unleashed by the large terrapin War Mounts called Iron Shells. These spike-shelled monsters are amphibious assault personnel carriers and are used to secure a beach head and defend the Krakens and other large bio-vessels as they come in to deploy troops. Each Iron Shell is loaded with two omega cannons, 30 organic rockets, and as icing on the cake, a bio-napalm launcher and carries up to a platoon of Splicer ground forces. Some might say it’s overkill, but you need that kind of firepower to take a Machine or Resistance –held beach.

Class: Amphibious Troop Transport War Mount.
Crew: One rider.
M.D.C. by Location
Armored Back Hatch (1) - 250
Armored Belly Hatch (1) - 100
Legs (4) - 260 each
Clawed Feet (4) - 110 each
Omega Rail Cannons (2) - 130 each
*Head (Heavily Reinforced) - 300
Reinforced Pilots Pod (1) - 100
**Main Body - 800

* Destroying the head will stop the War Mount in its tracks, eliminates all optics and sensory systems, reduces the speed to 10% of max, reduces the number of melee attacks to two total (including the Outrider’s) and negates all bonuses from the animal, but the Outrider can still fire the weapons systems and make the War Mount walk or swim (at a ponderous pace) for up to 24 hours after the head is gone.
** Depleting the M.D.C. of the main body will shut down the War Mount completely, rendering it totally useless and effectively destroying and killing it. All passengers inside can activate the emergency release hatch located in the back to escape the carcass.

Speed:
Running: 30 mph (48 km) maximum, but normal cruising speed is 20 mph (36 km). Due to the War Mounts massive weight it takes 10 second for the war mount to reach its maximum running speed. Running as well as combat will tire the War Mount, at one-tenth the rate of humans.
Leaping: Not possible
Digging: 10 mph (16km) through sand or dirt, but half as fast through clay, the feet of the War Mount are not designed to dig through rock and stone. To dig a hole big enough to hide the Iron Shell takes 3D6 melee rounds.
Swimming: 200 mph (320km/173 knots). The War Mount uses a water thruster system for movement and the act of swimming does not tire the War Mount or the rider. Maximum underwater depth: Two miles (3.2 km).
Flying: Not possible.

Statistical Data:
Height: 15 feet (3.6 m); 10ft (3 m) for the shell +5feet (1.5 m) from the legs.
Width: 15 feet (4.3 m).
Length: 25 feet (2.4 m) total including the head and neck of this mount. The main body itself makes up 20 feet (6.1 m) of the total length of this War Mount.
Weight: 8 tons.
Combat Bay: The Iron Shell has an internal combat bay just behind the pilot’s pod that can carry 3 Packmasters with their Gorehounds, or 8 human size soldiers, or 5 Dreadguard with their Host Armor. There is also some room for extra gear and supplies. The combat bay can also be flooded when underwater exits are needed with troops exiting thru the belly hatch The Iron Shell is able carry 3,000 lbs (900 kg) on its back or can pull 7,000 lbs (2,700 kg) at one third its normal Speed.
Physical Strength: 1D4+20 (Supernatural P.S.).
Production Cycle: 1 year gestation, plus 2 years growth time.
Operational Lifetime: 75 year life span.
Trade Value: 5 million credits for a healthy, undamaged unit.
Bio-Regeneration Rate: 5D6 M.D.C. per hour for the main body and 3D6 M.D.C. per hour for all other locations. The War Mount cannot re-grow severed limbs or destroyed weapon systems (reduced to zero or less), there must be at least two M.D.C. points remaining to regenerate lost limbs, and such extensive regeneration takes 1D6 days.
Horror Factor: 12 against humans outside the Resistance, none against the machines.
Senses & Features: Standard for War Mounts.
Feeding: The Iron Shell is an omnivore and eats from 70-100 lbs (31.5 to 45 kg) of organic matter a day.
Sleep Requirements: The War Mount requires only four hours of sleep/rest per day.
Other Data (used when the War Mount is without a rider):
An unmanned Iron Shell is able to function without a rider using its animal-like intelligence and instincts to respond to any given situation. However, the creature tends only to take action to defend itself when threatened or when obeying the commands of an Outrider or Packmaster (only), like a trained watchdog. It has no feelings about people or robots one-way or the other.
Alignment: Anarchist, the War Mount operates more like a robot than a living creature; devoid of personality.
War Mount Attributes: I.Q. lD4 (low animal intelligence), M.E. 1D6+4, M.A. 1D6, P.S. 21-24 (Supernatural), P.P. 1D6+6, P.E. 3D6+10, Spd (see Speed above).
Number of Attacks per Melee: Three.
Combat Bonuses (in addition to possible attribute bonuses): +1 on initiative, +2 to strike with ranged attacks, +1 to parry, +1 to dodge, +3 to dodge while underwater, +1 to pull punch, +4 to roll with punch, fall or impact, +4 to save vs. poison and disease, and impervious to Horror Factor and mind control (and possession).
Equivalent (instinctive) Skills of Note: Identify Plants & Fruit (i.e., stuff it can eat) 80%, Land (and Underwater) Navigation 80%, Swim 98%, Track by Scent 35% (+20% underwater) and understands languages (2) at 75%.
Combat Capabilities: The War Mount may use its long-range weapons (each use counts as one melee action/attack) or engage in hand-to-hand combat, or combine the two.
Head Butt or Stomp Attack: 5D6 M.D.
Kick Attack: 4D6 M.D.
Biting: 6D6 M.D.
Body Block/Ram: 5D6 M.D. and has a 1-75% chance of knocking an opponent off its feet and onto its back. If knocked off its feet, the target loses initiative and two melee attack/actions. A ram attack counts as two melee attacks.

Iron Shell Bio-Weapon Systems:
1. Horned Defense: The War Mounts shell is covered in horns to help protect it from any enemies that try to get to close and or climb up on the War Mounts back. Any and all hand-to-hand attacks directed against the War Mount with a strike roll of 12 or less mean the attacker will hit one of the horns and inflict damage to the attacker. The horn does 2D10 M.D. to the attacker. Unfortunately these horns are too broad and mounted in too awkward of positions to be used as effective weapons in hand-to-hand combat, but help to block and absorb attacks directed at the War Mount (represented by the additional M.D.C.). The horns are strongly anchored to the armor and each has an M.D.C. of 22 points.
Primary Purpose: Assault and Defense.
Mega-Damage: As noted above, any attacker rolling a 12 or less cuts or impales himself on one or two of the horns and takes 2D10 M.D. Meanwhile, a running ram/body block by the War Mount inflicts an extra 2D6 M.D. (in addition to the usual punch/P.S. damage for the War Mount).
2. Omega Cannons (2): The Iron Shells primary long-range weapon is a pair of powerful Omega Cannons these two powerful Cannons come out of the shell above the opening for the neck. The two cannon barrels can be raised and lowered 45 degrees and turn from side to side 60 degrees.
Primary Purpose: Assault and Bombardment.
Mega-Damage: 2D8x10 M.D., with a blast radius of 10 feet (3m) if a single Omega Cannon is used, or 4D8xl0 M.D., with blast radius of 20 feet (6.1 m), if both are fired simultaneously at the same target(s).
Maximum Effective Range: 5,000 feet (1524 m); nearly one mile.
Rate of Fire: The Omega Cannons can be fired one at a time or simultaneously at the same target. A single shot or paired volley count as two melee attack/actions.
Payload: Effectively unlimited, since these are energy based weapons.
Bonus: +2 to strike on an aimed shot,
3. Bio-Napalm Thrower: The Iron Shell can project sticky, long-lived napalm that is fired from the mouth. This concentrated Mega-Damage fire does not dissipate quickly, but lasts for a period of 2D6 melee rounds, enough time to cook most targets or to create a flaming barrier to hold foot soldiers and vehicles at bay (though not necessarily robots). During this time, a target covered in the napalm continues to take damage (3D8 M.D. per melee round), and so does anyone (or thing) that tries running through the flame (2D8 M.D.). Only by wiping the sticky flaming substance off can the target hope to survive. Water will not dowse napalm (though flame retardant chemicals will).
Primary Purpose: Combat Support.
Secondary Purpose: Assault and Defense (blocking and destroying roads, bridges, fortifications, etc., as well as direct assaults on robots/troops, vehicles, etc.).
Mega-Damage: 3D8 M.D. per fiery single blast, but the target hit with napalm continues to burn and take an additional 3D8 M.D. per melee round. If human, the character is on fire, loses half his attacks per melee, is -6 on all combat bonuses and likely to be panicked and trying to put the fire out any way he can (half these penalties if the character is clad in M.D. armor, and robots and drones only lose one melee attack and a penalty of -1 on all combat bonuses as they ignore the fire and continue to fight). Three rapid-fire blasts will easily span a 20-foot (6.1 m) width/section of road. Note: The only way to douse the napalm is to roll in dirt or sand for one entire melee round (15 seconds), rub the napalm off for one entire melee round (but takes double damage; 4D8 M.D. that melee) or to be doused with napalm retardant chemicals (at the disposal of the Resistance) which puts it out in 3 seconds/one melee action.
Rate of Fire: Each single bolt of napalm counts as one melee attack.
Maximum Effective Range: 1,000 feet (305 m).
Payload: The Iron Shell holds ten napalm attacks and can manufacture enough napalm to replace its entire payload in only 1 D4 hours, and can regenerate spent napalm bolts before the entire payload is gone. However, each napalm blast requires 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of food (organic matter) it is not uncommon to see Iron Shells stopping to eat there fallen enemies to regenerate there napalm blasts during long engagements.
Bonus: +1 to strike with napalm blast.
4. Organic Rockets (30): Mixed in with the horns on the War Mounts shell are 30 organic rocket launchers. Each of the Organic Rockets has its own independent neurological bundle (similar to tiny brain) and a single eye mounted in the nose of the rocket, allowing the rocket to see, track and target its subject independently. This provides each of the Organic Rockets with one attack per melee round, as well as a bonus of +5 to strike and dodge, until it strikes its target (and is destroyed), is shot down and destroyed, or until it dies within 2D4 melee rounds after being launched.
Primary Purpose: Assault
M.D.C. of the Rockets: 11 M.D.C. points, but the rocket is small target and -3 to hit on a “Called Shot” while still located on the Host Armor before being fired. After launching, each rocket is treated the same as a high-tech mini-missile and can be shot down as normal.
Mega-Damage: 5D10 M.D. per individual Organic Rocket fired, with a blast radius of 10 feet (3 m).
Maximum Effective Range: One mile (1.6 km).
Rate of Fire: One at a time or in volleys of 2, 4, 6 or up to the number located on that particular Host Armor. Whether a single rocket or an entire volley is fired, it counts as one melee attack/action. Roll once to strike, either all the rockets in the volley hit or they all miss.
Payload: 30 organic rockets spread across the war mounts shell. it takes 6D6 hours to re-grow its spent rockets or the war mount can speed this process up by consuming 10lbs (4.5kg) of organic matter per rocket it wishes to re-grow cutting the time needed down to1D6 hours. It is not uncommon to see Iron Shells stopping to eat their fallen enemies to help regenerate organic rockets during long engagements.
Bonus: +5 to strike and dodge, as noted above.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:40 pm
  

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SWEET :D great to finally see this up on the board

i will have to read it later as i was just about to leave for work, but knowing the 3 gentlemen involved - Kev, Guy & Premier

there is no doubt that it will be awesome :fl: :ok: :D :-D

Premier - again, brilliant artwork mate :ok: :ok:

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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:03 pm
  

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OMG :eek: this thing looks as mean as i envisioned it and i love the story thank you for some great work guys

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:56 am
  

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:eek: OMG!!!
That is too cool.......The Iron Shell WM is awesome

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:37 pm
  

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Chuck. Your awesomeness disgusts me.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:39 pm
  

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That came out FANTASTIC, mad amounts of applause! The rough draft I had while writing pales in comparison. Yet another Walton masterpiece.

You really should offer copies for sale somewhere. Extraordinary!

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:33 pm
  

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krispy wrote:
SWEET :D great to finally see this up on the board

i will have to read it later as i was just about to leave for work, but knowing the 3 gentlemen involved - Kev, Guy & Premier

there is no doubt that it will be awesome :fl: :ok: :D :-D

Premier - again, brilliant artwork mate :ok: :ok:


Thanks Krispy!! I can't wait till u read the story and write up! This one really sends the point home about the Violet Wave. There are some serious epic moments in the story that had me grnining like a chester cat. Guy Ledouche did an excellent job on the story and Kevarin's contribution & concept is delivering in a BIG BANG of a WAY and the more I review all the Entries the more ferocious the Violet Wave is becoming as a whole. It's getting hectic very quick Splice heads!! :eek:

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:40 pm
  

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kevarin wrote:
OMG :eek: this thing looks as mean as i envisioned it and i love the story thank you for some great work guys


Kevarin it was a pleasure and the Iron Shell is really stirring up the waters! just envisioning multiples of these rising out of the water storming the beach or shore line or coast is just a nightmare itself, with the arsenal and mobility they have. Let alone deploying wicked infantry adorned in Bio Aarmror & or Ragdolls and who knows what else. Just reviewing the 1st Account story and imagining these Iron Shells fighting the Evolved Leviathans paints an epic battle scene in my mind. Let alone what they did in this story. Its just DREAD , truly dread man... Prepare yourselves...

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:42 pm
  

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Snake Eyes wrote:
:eek: OMG!!!
That is too cool.......The Iron Shell WM is awesome


Thank You Snake Eyes!
I agree the Iron Shell "Turtle" is AWESOME and one has to begin and wonder just how well their Great House will do when facing such force?

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:47 pm
  

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The Galactus Kid wrote:
Chuck. Your awesomeness disgusts me.


Awe..GK, you have such a way with words, :D
I know this one is right... up your alley. BIG GUNS, Heavy stocky robust build, powerhouse musculature, thick plated armor hide with Horns everywhere and fierce, Oh did we say BIG GUNS. 30 organic missiles and a payload of bad@$$ troops to boot! Oh this has GK gush written all over it. I feel sorry for your campaigners when the game starts back up.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:51 pm
  

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Guy_LeDouche wrote:
That came out FANTASTIC, mad amounts of applause! The rough draft I had while writing pales in comparison. Yet another Walton masterpiece.

You really should offer copies for sale somewhere. Extraordinary!


Thanks Guy!
Between You & Kevarin, my part was easy. I thank you both for such a contribution & delivery! I can say as I review all of the Entries, the Violet Wave is really bringing some Bad Assery to the plate. This is turning out way... better than I thought.

Can't wait to hear the comments when these things hit the playing field in people's campaigns.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:10 am
  

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Finally read it..........BRILLIANT (pic of grinning man holding a cigar) :ok:

Again, great work to all & my compliments also go out to NMI for editing & 89er for the assisting in backsory

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:41 pm
  

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krispy wrote:
Finally read it..........BRILLIANT (pic of grinning man holding a cigar) :ok:

Again, great work to all & my compliments also go out to NMI for editing & 89er for the assisting in backsory


Thanks Krispy. Chuck is sitting on at least one more completed entry/write-up, I'm putting the finishing touches on another one as we speak, and there's at least one more in the works. When its all said and done, its going to be several short stories and write-ups that should paint a pretty accurate picture of the Violet Wave. With just enough mysteries to keep it interesting.

I started a new job a couple of months ago and its involved a STEEP learning curve. There's a light at the end of the tunnel in the next week or so. Then I can finally start posting or getting some Splicers stuff into the Rifter (with luck.) I have a mountain of half-finished stuff just waiting to be released on an unsuspecting fanbase.

Strangely enough, this entry was a pain in the @#$ to write. Partly because I had too many ideas to try and squeeze in and partly because the ending completely stumped me for a while. Its a pain to format on the forum, so I was trying to keep the entries somewhat short. This one got away from me. I must have rewritten it a dozen times or more before I was happy.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:13 pm
  

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Guy_LeDouche wrote:
krispy wrote:
Finally read it..........BRILLIANT (pic of grinning man holding a cigar) :ok:

Again, great work to all & my compliments also go out to NMI for editing & 89er for the assisting in backsory


Thanks Krispy. Chuck is sitting on at least one more completed entry/write-up, I'm putting the finishing touches on another one as we speak, and there's at least one more in the works. When its all said and done, its going to be several short stories and write-ups that should paint a pretty accurate picture of the Violet Wave. With just enough mysteries to keep it interesting.

I started a new job a couple of months ago and its involved a STEEP learning curve. There's a light at the end of the tunnel in the next week or so. Then I can finally start posting or getting some Splicers stuff into the Rifter (with luck.) I have a mountain of half-finished stuff just waiting to be released on an unsuspecting fanbase.

Strangely enough, this entry was a pain in the @#$ to write. Partly because I had too many ideas to try and squeeze in and partly because the ending completely stumped me for a while. Its a pain to format on the forum, so I was trying to keep the entries somewhat short. This one got away from me. I must have rewritten it a dozen times or more before I was happy.


I can't wait to see the Violet Wave fully unfold in all its violety evil goodness :demon: :D

congrats on the new job. there is nothing like being thrown in the deep end where you gotta learn fast

I can totally understand the cyclone of ideas. They fly around in your head and you can see so many possibilities and endings. Then all of sudden some collide and a form a new dynamic. It is turbulent and convoluted but then you reach the eye of the storm and all is calm and the story comes together. and when you are done with that idea, that story you get sucked back into the cyclone to weather another idea

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:50 am
  

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ok have a question you are a new outrider and have just received your iron shell what enhancements do you get first for mine it would be a bio force shield then caster guns and light cell lasers

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:00 pm
  

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i don't see these typically being assigned to specific pilots, mainly because i don't see them being very general-purpose... they seem pretty heavily specialised for beach assaults and transporting troops into said beach assaults, and that's mainly where i would expect to see them.

imo, a specialised warmount is only likely to be assigned to a person for specialised occasions... their "assigned" warmount should be more generalized. so if i was assigned one of these things, unless my expectation is that i am going to be making a beach assault soon, i would actually request a different war mount... not because these warmounts are no good, but because they were specially made to do a specific job, and i feel there are other choices which will work better for standard assignments.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 2:02 pm
  

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Shark_Force wrote:
i don't see these typically being assigned to specific pilots, mainly because i don't see them being very general-purpose... they seem pretty heavily specialised for beach assaults and transporting troops into said beach assaults, and that's mainly where i would expect to see them.

imo, a specialised warmount is only likely to be assigned to a person for specialised occasions... their "assigned" warmount should be more generalized. so if i was assigned one of these things, unless my expectation is that i am going to be making a beach assault soon, i would actually request a different war mount... not because these warmounts are no good, but because they were specially made to do a specific job, and i feel there are other choices which will work better for standard assignments.


when i designed the iron shell i thought of this more as a weapon system not only did the iron shell have an assigned pilot but it has an assigned platoon of soldiers this makes a unit that knows what the others will be doing and how they operate but i can see these guys being used for a number of operations not just storming a beach

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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:47 pm
  

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hmmm... allow me to rephrase that.

this war mount is extremely slow on land. even the lowly mega-horse can run faster for sustained periods, which is presumably an incredibly cheap "war mount" to create (not really a full war mount, but then it also costs a max of 80,000 credits as compared to the cost of other war mounts which have their cost generally measured in millions, ranging from 1 million (gorehounds, again not a full war mount with all features) up to 16 million (high end for a dracos).

another war mount such as a zephyr or a grendel might not be as tough, nor pack as much of a punch, but unless you're in a very aquatic-focused campaign, the slow speed of the iron shell is just really, really slow.

truthfully, anything less than 100 MPH means you can pretty much forget about being able to run away from any fights that start to go bad (which most fights will, in the long term, since eventually if you cause enough problems you're going to get assault slayers and the like coming after you).

it's a good war mount for what it's designed for, but ultimately, a slow-but-tough war mount is not a good choice for general use in the splicers world. i'll grant that there are likely more scenarios than only storming a beach where the iron shell will do a good job, but i wouldn't want to be out patrolling in machine territory (or another splicer's territory) with one.


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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:07 am
  

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I am glad and honored that I was allowed to assist kevarin with the edits to the original submission.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:04 pm
  

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Great intro, good cast and adds a few questions.

Amazing artwork as usual.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:37 am
  

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well started tinkering with this and thought i would post it here

http://kevarin.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d4bq60n

comments are welcome

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Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:15 pm
  

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kevarin wrote:
well started tinkering with this and thought i would post it here

http://kevarin.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d4bq60n

comments are welcome

I see you colored it, that looks cool

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Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:18 am
  

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Snake Eyes wrote:
kevarin wrote:
well started tinkering with this and thought i would post it here

http://kevarin.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d4bq60n

comments are welcome

I see you colored it, that looks cool


yea i like working on premiers splicer pics trying to get better at it time will tell

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Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:37 am
  

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ok redid the iron shell this time using a computer her is the link to it would really like to know what people think so dont be shy

http://fav.me/d4hwrey

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Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:42 pm
  

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Great story.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:44 pm
  

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kevarin wrote:
ok redid the iron shell this time using a computer her is the link to it would really like to know what people think so dont be shy

http://fav.me/d4hwrey

That new pic looks really cool too :-D

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Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:19 am
  

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Kevarin, the neutral color scheme on this painting works much better. I also like the slight outline effect made from the gray background.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:20 pm
  

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Snake Eyes wrote:
kevarin wrote:
ok redid the iron shell this time using a computer her is the link to it would really like to know what people think so dont be shy

http://fav.me/d4hwrey

That new pic looks really cool too :-D

thanks glad you liked it

Lord Z wrote:
Kevarin, the neutral color scheme on this painting works much better. I also like the slight outline effect made from the gray background.

happy you liked it and thanks for the comment on DA i dont get to many so always nice when i do . now just have to work out a soothsayer you like

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