Armored Core (Part 13)


Part 13 – Things that go ‘Bump’ in the Night (REDUX)


Thirteen had been running for a while now. The alleys were too narrow to fly, and the… Thing behind her hadn’t stopped its pursuit. She wondered where the flying light had gone, but was glad that it wasn’t chasing her too. At least, until she burst out into a courtyard of sorts, in back of several buildings, only to be blinded by that accursed light once more.



All I want is for you to LEAVE ME ALONE! Thirteen roared in her mind, as she let out another strangled scream, and lashed out with her tentacles.

The light barked, and the pain was familiar. She backed against a wall, and spotted a pile of bricks sitting nearby. Looking around, it was clear this area was under construction, or demolition, more like. Whatever, she now could fight back, thanks to the available ammunition. Suiting action to thoughts, Thirteen lashed out, grabbing up a brick in each handicle, and getting ready for what was coming.




“So, what exactly makes you think Zombies have it worse than us Ghouls? At least you don’t get told to “Focus” constantly whenever you space out.” Deana groused. The ghoul had reluctantly tolerated Beth’s joining their little squad, and had explained that the Baphomet in charge of training her cadre on the other side had insisted on keeping her and her fellow ghouls “focused”, often by forcing them to stand in ranks for long periods. It hadn’t given her a positive impression of the goatlike mamono.

“Um, if I may, she was likely trying to get you to realize that in order to fight well, you had to work together, and act as one…” Their own baphomet put in.

“Look, I realize that, but you gotta understand us ghouls, we don’t do “rigid command structures” very well,” Deana retorted, “We’ll work together, sure, but only if there’s a point to it. By comparison, it must have been cake to get the zombies to cooperate.”

“I would take offense to that… but you’re correct,” Carrie said. “Back there, I know I didn’t think too much, just did what I was told.”

“And I’m sure your commander was grateful,” Beth replied.

“Heh, “grateful”, good one. Thinking back, she tended to look closer to “vaguely creeped out” whenever we’d follow her instructions.” Linda said slowly.

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad…” the Baphomet trailed off as they drew closer to the human buildings.

They’d exited the treeline a few minutes back, and were making their way to a row of human structures. The massive edifices were only sporadically lit, and clearly uninhabited. As they drew close, they’d discovered the hard-packed roadway the buildings were adjacent to, and decided to stick close to the walls as they approached the corner of a cross-street. The moon was full, and almost made up for their lack of lanterns or torches. As they walked, Linda continued to argue her point.

“Look, I’m telling you, us undeads get the short end of the stick. So what if we can sleep for years on a trickle of mana, that’s no excuse to get treated like some sort of creepy-“

Whatever else the zombie had been planning to say faded into silence, as she and the others rounded the corner, and came face to face with… A human? Had to be, under all that armor, and two mamono, a living armor, and a wurm.

Deana was the first to break the silence “Well, this is awkward.”

“All right,” the human began, revealing themselves to be female, raising the arms of her armor, “before we all reach for our weapons, let’s try the diplomatic approach.”

“Um… Corporal?” the wurm said. “I don’t have a weapon.”

“Kinda hard to be talking about not having a weapon when you *are* the weapon.” The ghoul snarked.

And just like that, the tension was broken.

With an audible effort, the human worked to get their awkward encounter back on a stable footing. “I assume you’re from the group that just arrived, yes? My name is Corporal Tomkins, US Army, Team 7. These are my… assistants, Maria and Selena,” she continued, gesturing to the mamono flanking her. “And you are?”

“We zombies are part of Ash battalion, group two. I am the leader of this group, Carrie, and this is my second, Linda.”

“Deana, ghoul, Cinder team four.”

“Hello, I’m Beth’ver’sheth, Command section of the Chimera Division.”

“At the risk of asking the obvious, what are you all doing out here?”

Here the Baphomet jumped into the exchange, shooting an apologetic look to Carrie. “Corporal, I am sorry, but I know that in a few sentences, you’ll be asking for our surrender, and I’m afraid we cannot do that right now.”

Rather than take offense, the zombie gestured for the Baphomet to continue.

“You see, we’re tracking a… fellow mamono. She’s probably badly injured, although that will clear soon. The bigger danger is that she’s not in her right mind, and is likely extremely aggressive. I have tools that can be used to pacify her, but if we don’t find her soon, she’ll be a threat to anyone unfortunate enough to wander into her sight.”

The Corporal took a moment to think over what Beth had said, before holding up one metal finger. “One moment.”

Inside her armor, Red contacted the Sergeant. “Sir, we’ve got a situation.”

“Go ahead.”

“Ran into an ad-hoc squad of mamono, two zombies, a ghoul, and a Baphomet.”

“Something tells me the zombies weren’t like the ones we ran into at the start of the mission.”

“No Sir, they are not.”


“Not currently, my charges are keeping an eye on them, but here’s the kicker: the Baphomet says they’re tracking a Chimera?”

“What does your passenger think?”

“Sergeant, I believe them.” Aggrandize responded. “The baphomet’s an odd one, and seems sincere.”

“Odd in what way?”

“She’s big.”


“She’s not like the ones from Red’s memory, or my own. Looks like a grown woman, not a small child, for starters. And she’s not trying to order us around, one of the zombies is leading their squad.”

“Good enough, I was headed your way anyways, my GunDog’s tracking something that could be your chimera. Recall your ‘bots, and escort them to these coordinates.”

A waypoint popped up Red’s map display, and the Sergeant terminated the call.

While the human had fallen silent within her armor, the two groups of mamono had stared awkwardly at each other for a minute or so, until Selena broke the ice.

“So, what’s a group of undead and a Baphomet doing working together? I can see Beth’s not giving the orders.”

“Like the goat said, we’re tracking a chimera.” Deana responded. “Speaking of which, how exactly were you planning on distracting her long enough for Beth to get close, Boss? I know you and Linda are hard to kill, but if she breathes fire…”

“I had been working that out… but now that we may have the help of some fellow mamono, and one of the local human military, we will stand a much better chance.”

“Now hold on,” Maria interjected, the living armor’s previously unheard voice grabbing everyone’s attention. “What’s this about a fire-breathing chimera?”

“Oh, that’s not the worst of it… Tell ‘em, Beth.”

“Well… You see, this chimera’s a bit… special. Thirteen was created from the remaining components used in the creation of the other main division chimeras, so she’s got a little bit of everything.”

“Can you give us a bit more to go on?” the human – Corporal Tomkins asked, her call concluded.

“Perfect timing, Red,” ‘Lena commented, “we’re gonna need every scrap of info you’ve got,” The wurm finished.

Taking a breath, Beth summoned a plane of faintly glowing light into one upraised palm. Everyone looked on intently as the Baphomet created a faintly glowing figure, and caused it to rotate. As she described its features, the figure’s various parts would glow.

“As I was saying, Thirteen was created from remaining parts, so she’s not geared for any particular task, such as scouting, or shieldbreaking. Her head and chest are from a manticore, while her wings, and some of her internal organs are from a base dragon, as are her horns. She’s almost pure minotaur from the waist down, but her hooves have been modified, and are closer to my own. Instead of a manticore tail, she has one from a girtablu, and from the elbows down, she has the arms of a tentacle. She’s also got a modified version of a parasite slime, nonsentient, more versatile, and crossed with elements of a roper. Her bone structure’s undergone runic reinforcement, but her ligaments are extra elastic. Between the slime and her joints, she can fit through any opening roughly the size of her head. I’m not certain, as I had no hand in her creation, but her throat may have been modified as well, possibly to allow her to breathe fire more efficiently.”

“So between the flight, venom, tentacles, slime, and fire, how tough do you think it will be to subdue her?” Maria asked.

“If I can get close enough to use a stun or suppression spell, hopefully easier than it sounds. I also discovered that the chimera’s are imprinted with instructions to see their assigned Baphomet as their Commander, but with the damage she’s sustained, that conditioning may be broken. She can regenerate extreme levels of damage, but if her brain’s been hit… there are no guarantees.”

“Then we’d better get moving,” the Corporal said, straightening up. “My Sergeant’s sent us coordinates for something his ‘bots have been tracking, and as soon as mine get here, we can get moving.”

Almost as soon as she’d finished speaking, there was a faint whirring, as a dark shape drifted overhead, while a mechanical construct legged its way up to them. Since the two mamono with the Corporal didn’t react, the four newcomers didn’t either, other than to stare in open curiosity.

“Corporal… that’s an automaton, isn’t it?” Beth asked.

“Not exactly… It’s a self-guided machine, yes, but nonsentient. I give it a set of basic tasks, and it’ll carry them out.”

“Fascinating. Truly amazing. I wonder what exactly our commanders were thinking, sending us into your world with so little preparation…”

“I’ll tell you what they were ‘thinking’: They weren’t. Think about it, we’re probably what, the last group of mamono who were left? I’d almost pity them, since there wasn’t much time left before everything went ‘poof’, but seriously, training us up to be shock troops? Prolly couldn’t find a worse group for the job, no offense Boss.”

“None taken, Deana. We would have been marginally effective at best, if we were as limited now as we were then. Still, I can’t say I dislike the greater… flexibility I have here.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to reason with Thirteen?” ‘Lena asked. “I’m not too comfortable with the idea of just charging in and pinning her down like some kind of wild animal.”

The impromptu chimera wrangling squad had started off for the coordinates relayed by the Sergeant, and were passing the time conversing, and getting to know one another.

“I hope it won’t come to that, but knowing how things have gone up to this point, I’ll keep my scythe in one hand, and try to pacify her with the other, thanks,” Beth responded. “I’m the last one to choose violence, but an out-of-control chimera is bad news for all of us.”

“You keep insisting that she’ll be a massive threat if she goes berserk, but I have to question ‘why’?” Maria inquired.

“It’s mainly because I don’t know all of the spellwork that went into her creation, and more importantly, whether or not the ones who made her included any fail-safes in her construction…”

Here Red perked up. “Fail-safes?”

“Pardon my cynicism, Corporal, but I’m speaking in the hope that the ones who made her actually cared for their creation’s wellbeing. It’s unfortunately more likely that she’s been set up to fail-deadly.”

“That doesn’t sound good…”

“It isn’t. If we’re unlucky, she could have been set up to overload her mana core if she’s incapacitated, or worse.”

With that sobering thought hanging over them, the team closed in on the location they’d been provided.




After closing the communication with his Corporal, Sergeant Rawlins wished he could pinch the bridge of his nose.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another… “So, looks like we know what the GunDog was tracking.” He commented to the empty space inside his armor.

The presence that had been growing stronger all night responded with what he could only interpret as a nod. The entire circumstance should have sent him hightailing it for the nearest repair vehicle for a full diagnostic once they’d resurfaced, but there just wasn’t time, and truthfully, she, no Gloria had been nothing but helpful. She didn’t or couldn’t communicate with words, but she seemed to be using the neural feedback control systems in his suit to get his attention, doing the mental equivalent of “tapping” him on the shoulder when the armor’s sensors spotted something he wasn’t directly paying attention to.

It was plainly obvious by now that she was the armor, or at least the control systems that interfaced him with the armor. The fact that she responded whenever Rawlins said “Gloria” seemed to definitively bear that out. As for what that meant when the mission was over… Well, that would be up to brass hats with far more authority than his own. Still, he’d make her case to them if she was in any danger of being scrapped, or worse, pulled apart for analysis.

But that was for much later.

For now, they had another (potential) battle to fight.



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One thought on “Armored Core (Part 13)

  1. Well, thankfully the encounter between Beth’s group and Tomkin’s went off without issues.

    Gloria’s gonna have a heck of a bout if they’re about to fight who I think they’ll be fighting next.

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