Killer Instinct - [KI:Round 3] ANNIHILATE.

Description: With Hayabusa creating a series of distractions externally, Baiken's previous matchup has been modified. She is still under watch by Ultratech's standing guard, but they seem mostly convinced that she is just there to fight strong monsters, as she had at the Red Expo. If Baiken pays close attention and finds her way into just the right places, she'll overhear certain things about her battle, and why it was altered. Something about Cinder being dispatched to the field to address several problems. That there is a saboteur in the rebel warzone, and that the sorcerer has gone rogue. Even as she is given relative leave to ponder over these issues, Ultratech has spun up one of its strongest achievements in the field of cybernetics to face her: the robotic Fulgore. Looks like she's found a monster. Baiken can sense the soul struggling inside the soulless, but this isn't the Red Expo anymore. This close to Ultratech's heart, the battles will get progressively harder from here on out.

It turns out working with Hayabusa /does/ have advantages.

Baiken hasn't spoken to him since the plane, so it's not like they're actually planning anything together, but his chaos on the outside is leading to chaos on the inside. Confusion on the inside means that she can learn more than she otherwise would. It's win-win, especially because she doesn't really care how awkward or difficult it is for Ultratech.

For instance, she's learned that there's some kind of saboteur out there. Possibly a sorcerer - or maybe they're unrelated. Somehow it didn't surprise Baiken as much as it should have that Ultratech had sorcerers on staff. They seem to be willing to do anything. Summoning an actual demon would not be beyond them if they thought they could turn a profit on it. Wealth and power, the two axes on which their world turns. It's so... banal.

But this doesn't mean the tournament is over. Even though Baiken doesn't really care if she wins it, staying in it is essential - it's the only thing that keeps her here, as opposed to being sent home - or, if some of her suspicions are correct, stops them from trying to put her in a grave.

Which means she has to win, anyway. That's fine. She's handled everything they've thrown at her so far.

Baiken arrives early to the facility, but almost late to the match itself. She took a moment to prowl around and see if she could pick up any intel on her new opponent, who she does not know very much about. She makes it just barely in time, though.

She strides into the actual exhibition arena floor, those strange sandles scuffing against the flooring, and her nose wrinkles. Is this the future of fighting? She doesn't like it. It's cold. Sterile. Not what it should be - and when she finally sees her opponent, he's not likely to dispel that impression.

There is a great mechanical crate dominating one end of the arena. It is roughly twice the size of a man and lined with blue glowing seams in a network running across its shell, which is made of a sort of veined metal that blends in with the granite flooring. At first, it could easily be mistaken for a part of the arena architecture, as both have about the same design aesthetic. The only telltale sign that it's not actually furniture of any permanence is the fact that it seems to be energized.

The promotional feed overhead blares Ultratech's praises, crowing the future of warfare and sport fighting alike, to which there is a great roar of approval. Faces of all colors line the stadium seats above--many travelled very far to see this. After all, while there is great interest in the skills of up and comings like Terry Bogard or the nigh infamous skills of famous names like Takuma Sakazaki, only one company advertises the types of battles seen and rumored about only on the news, in the hands of distant terrorist groups and high end military applications.

Ultratech promises results that are only on the edge of plausible, of the sort that movies made years ago when they thought of the years '201X.'

The lining hisses as the mechanical casket ejects pressurized gas into its environment. It's a kind of drop-case, for long-range shipment of war assets. As it cracks open, a dark form emerges from the dim blue light inside. As it strides, ratcheting mechanisms and smooth drivers click away from a metal frame, affixing leg parts and armor plating in seamless synchronization with the unit's movements as it steps down the walkway that the forward hatch of the casket created. Assembly is complete by the time the machine strides into the light.

Red optics reach full power just as Ultratech announces it to the crowd.
"Coming to a battlefield near you in 2016! The Fulgore... MARK II!"

The machine powers on ominously, plasma blades flaring to life at its wrists. It regards the latecomer with a cold and deeply chaotic machine gaze. It is easy to anthropomorphize its aggressive stylings as derisive, as it comments to itself. "System bootstrap complete," it rumbles.
"Acquiring target."

COMBATSYS: Fulgore brings his battle systems online.

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Fulgore          0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0          Fulgore

It is rare that Baiken actually feels out of her element. Normally she's either in it or just doesn't care.

In a place like this, she feels a little out of it. It's more than the sterile mechanisms and mechanobrutalist designs; it's more than just being watched by a live audience while also under the harsh lighting of overhead advertising. It's the whole thing together; it makes her feel out of time if not in place.

The fact that her opponent is coming out of what amounts to a mechanical box drives it home. Especially with it being a... that a robot? Baiken had assumed, when the casket opened, that it was covering an underground entrance to give a bit of a show. As she sees Fulgore come out, and hears the voice proclaim its model, she reconsiders that. It was actually in the box. They're going to make her fight a machine.

Which is fine. She knows a little bit about mechanics, even if hers tend to be much, much simpler.

Baiken does not draw her sword. She usually doesn't, at first, finding that it's more useful in its scabbard until she actually needs it; having only one hand means that she can't do anything else with that hand while she's holding it. Instead, she strides confidently further into the large arena, taking up a position roughly across from Fulgore as it finishes its bootstrapping.

And then she gives a little mocking bow, standing up straight afterwards, clearly ready to fight. She expects a 'surprise' attack right off the bat. It's what's 'logical', after all... if you're trying to show off and not analyze your opponent, which is what she's doing to start.

"Fighter profile loaded. Data compiling."

It's not quite the same as one might expect from a generic sentry. As it strides onto the battlefield, it lacks the distinct jangled stylings of other machines, the thoughtful and premeditated computational nature of every movement. It is not something that's exactly human, but not something that's exactly a robot either. It less approaches and more stalks Baiken, with the same sort of human-but-not personality exhibited by great beasts in the wilderness. The edge of intelligence.

That gaze.. is not entirely logical.

Right now, it's loading every profile of every fight Baiken has ever conducted in Ultratech's arenas. And it's determining exactly what her limitations are, and how best to eliminate her. It seems almost thoughtful for a moment, as if it might be distracted. But most importantly, it's not actually stopping, striding directly towards her with all of the authority a metal goliath such as this machine might be able to manage. With the nigh insensible hiss-click of small booster jets accelerating its every movement, it is striding into strike range of Baiken..

...And trying to snatch her out of her guard stance by her remaining arm.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Fulgore's Quick Throw.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0          Fulgore

Baiken has seen things that looked at her like that before. She's /fought/ things that looked at her like that before - the most recent one, in fact, also through Ultratech, when she battled Riptor at the Red Expo.

Of course, Riptor couldn't speak, which makes it slightly different.

Still, she's thinking 'robot'. Advanced robot, maybe, but definitely mechanical. Or at least primarily mechanical, she corrects herself, thinking back to Riptor again. But that exterior is all steel.

Baiken is used to having people try to grab her by her single remaining arm. It's a weakness, and not just a percieved one; having only one arm is a drawback. But it's one she's been dealing with for as long as she's learned to fight, not something that came afterwards and forced her to adapt.

Baiken breaks her original guard stance and weaves in a way that Fulgore almost manages to snag her sleeve on those plasma claws, though she manages to keep it (just barely) free. Having already broken her stance, she sees no reason to drop right back into it; she does straighten but that's more so she can jump, up and forward, launching herself over the close-range Fulgore. "Ooooura - !"

Somewhere along the way, her sword flicked out. As Baiken flips, she strikes, an upward-curving strike that pushes her further past him, getting additional distance instead of just height. It ends up with her facing away from him; she spins, blade still in her hand. It gives her reach equal to those claws despite her (lack of) height; she might need it.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore blocks Baiken's Ouren.

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Baiken           0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0          Fulgore

A grab becomes an impotent swipe. The crackling energy of those plasma blades trail smoke from the very fringes of Baiken's sleeve. The length of Fulgore's reach is a little beyond Baiken's, but her skillful evasion does not provoke the machine to overextend by pursuing her. Calculations performed at length in an instant are enough to tell it that Baiken is beyond its reach, and it aborts its attack abruptly, only just enough to menace her with those blades.

One is forced to wonder exactly how much even that menacing smoke was a precalculation made by some cold algorithm deep in the machine's skull. As her body twirls over the dark knight, it cranes its head to follow and predict her motion, placing the attack against its running profile. Instantly, a response forms--Fulgore steps back quickly, raising its blades to intersect the space between them, and causing a fantastic clash of energy as the steel runs into the charged plasma. Interestingly, it's not like clashing with a direct blade--the containment fields that form the machine's plasma blades tend to stick metal objects closer to them, and channel them out and away from the machine's body against the plasma field, while lightning crawls up the length of Baiken's blade. It's a bizarre sensation, but not one that overtly poses a threat. The distraction in and of itself is more so than anything else.

As Baiken curtains over the machine's head, it moves quickly to pursue her, rotating quickly as jets fire. It's trying to lower her ability to gain balance, as it jets into her landing position. One massive arm thrusts out. It's a disemboweling motion, executed with full force and the chaotic authority of that machine's eyes. It seems a little bit more violent than a cold, rational machine might be. A little less controlled. A little more .. ambitious, than one would afford something with no soul.

More than one person has met their end by stopping to think on it.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore successfully hits Baiken with Axis Slash.

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Baiken           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0          Fulgore

The sensation of plasma-claw on sword /is/ unusual. It mostly affects Baiken in that it is difficult for her to lever herself off of; it's not solid enough, it doesn't have the right kind of resistance.

She manages her landing anyhow, but she lands slightly off-balance instead of quite as lightly as she'd hoped. Baiken's agile, but when things don't work as you expect them to, the plans of any fighter can go astray. The trick - and where skill comes in - is dealing with the problems, rolling with the whims of chance and skill, and handling the unexpected.

This time, Baiken handles it... acceptably. She isn't gutted by Fulgore, at least, and she can consider that a plus if not a major one. This isn't to say she's unharmed. Rather the opposite, in fact. Fulgore drives his claws into her side even if he can't quite manage to rip her gut open, and Baiken snarls. She's tough, though; blood or not (and there's not a lot of it), it will take more than that to put her down.

Taking advantage of the proximity, Baiken goes low. She ducks; Fulgore's movement is unusual, it's like he's jetting, and she is not entirely sure how you can interfere with that sort of movement. But it seems logical that if the jets ended up pointed the wrong way it would end up travelling the wrong way too, right?

So Baiken snaps out with her leg, trying to hook it around one of Fulgore's. It won't send him flying in and of itself, but the pummel to the back of his head with the blunt hilt of her sword might speed him along; Baiken tries to bludgeon him and - well, if he was human she'd say a hit to the head might disorient him. He's not, so probably not.

Still, there's something about him... Baiken snarls. She doesn't like it, whatever it is.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore fails to interrupt Armed Combo from Baiken with Plasmaslice.

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Baiken           0/-------/=======|===----\-------\0          Fulgore

The target is performing within acceptable parameters.

The swordswoman finds herself plunged into by the plasma blades levelled by the machine. It's true that there's not a lot of blood--though the crackling energy cuts like the world's sharpest knife, the intense heat involved is more painful than it is debilitating--most of the injury will seal due to the barrage of white hot heat that fuses together flesh as trivially as it might iron. The machine balls fists as it leans into the motion, plunging the blade in as far as it will go before Baiken rips free. It's part of its programming. Exsanguination is rare against these talons--the blades that the unit employs are far more likely to dispatch via massive internal trauma to internal organs than anything else.

Fulgore's blond mane whips about as she moves past him. Scanning algorithms catalogue the exact motion index of the pink-haired samurai's body, calculating her aim, as well as engaging its jets to twist around and into her, coming low for another plunge of its blade, this time across her middle. The risk index is 44%, whereas the potential armor damage will stay underneath the one quarter range. However, the attack might be crippling for her. It's enough to pursue.

But she is just a touch faster, able to see and respond to him by millimeters.

Knocked off-balance by the kick, Fulgore takes the hilt of the blade not to the back of the head, but the side of the jugular, the blow severing several coolant lines running to its facemask, causing an evil growl to rake viscerally from the machine's body as it falls back. A lighter opponent might have fallen over entirely, but as far as the damage of others is concerned, the machine's jet stabilizers are enough to keep it off the ground. The interruption of its attack subroutine is the trophy here.

Even as it inexorably queues up another.

It's fast. Baiken can't really think of Fulgore as 'he', in her deepest heart. Fulgore is mechanical, inhuman - or at least appears to be: a combatant, if not a fighter as she understands it, created by Ultratech as an expression of their skill and power and wealth.

Damn, Baiken thinks, her lips curling up into something halfway between a snarl and a feral grin. If she wasn't investigating Ultratech, she'd enjoy this battle. It - and they - need to be shown that what they've built can't stand up to someone like her, who gave blood and sweat to get where she is today.

The jet stabilizers stabilize Fulgore better than she'd expected. So much for the initial plan to disable it by interfering with mobility. It's taking damage, and Baiken doesn't doubt her ability to cut through that armour, given time, but it's tough and her sword only is so sharp.

Sheathing the sword, Baiken reads that Fulgore is preparing to attack again and attempts to preempt it. She swings up her... empty sleeve? This probably will not confuse Fulgore, because Ultratech has seen her pull gimmicks out of it before. The chain hand, the spinning saw knives, the folding metal weight; they've all been used before by her.

What hasn't been used is what appears to be a dragon-headed cannon barrel. It pokes out of her sleeve, just barely visible for a moment before it fires in a gout of flame and foul-smelling smoke. Even Baiken's gunpowder is primitive.

There doesn't appear to be a single projectile. The weapon is shorter range than that, meant to project a shockwave and spray of fire about ten feet before dispersing. But it does that excellently.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Fulgore with Huge Thrown Object.

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Baiken           1/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0          Fulgore

The machine tilts its faceplate downward, a nominally sterile and inexpressive appearance slowly growing to take on a more nightmarish, aggressive bent. The red optics of that thing are incomprehensible, not merely just red lights in the dark, but an impression of something that is thinking, something that is calculating beneath the numbers, beneath the statistics. There is an agenda there.

Ultratech creates not just monsters, but things that scrape the very bottom of the cognizance birthright of all humans. Even their dead are borderline living.

As the cybernetic knight stabilizes itself against its interruption by Baiken's attack, it begins to reroute power to its outer shell, energy crawling across its armor. Scanning sensors take notice of Baiken's immediate approach and attempt to cut off further response with the production of a large cannon from underneath the rags of her kimono. The machine darts low, but soon the gunpowder blast eclipses its armor, and a cascade of sparks rain across the battlefield.

The problem with the antiquated weaponry of the early ages is that it is not only noisy, but it is messy. By the time the smoke clears, the machine is gone. Not a trace of it remains, save the crackling, steaming shard of an armored plate at Baiken's feet, blown off in the altercation. Still charged with remnant energy, the metal flickers in and out of existence, as if trying to warp reality around it. The fragment shorts out within seconds, hexagonal patterns dripping liquid light from its fringes until it is fully visible.

... It is utterly silent.

There is no warning from the attack from behind. No sound that has not been silenced by audio suppressors. Even if Baiken were directly facing it, she might not even pick up on the single gap in what is otherwise a completely operational cloaking device--the single piece of armor that's missing from its lower torso, leaving the barest glimpse of a hip mechanism shimmering in the air. The only thing she will feel is the livid energy on her skin from the machine's plasma blades as it breaks its optical camouflage to try and plunge its blades into her back in one long thrust, and lift the samurai off of her feet, suspended by those blades.

That rush of energy, just an instant before it lands. It's her only chance to respond to the machine's ambush.

COMBATSYS: Baiken fails to interrupt Crushing Strike from Fulgore with Sakura.
- Power fail! -

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Baiken           1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0          Fulgore

Baiken meets Fulgore's gaze without flinching back. She's gone through a lot in her relatively short life. She hunts monsters by choice as much as necessity. She's a woman obsessed with revenge and violence. It is almost impossible to intimidate her, and Fulgore doesn't manage it.

There is, instead, a connection. If a brief one, cut short by the thundrous blast from her primitive cannon.

Baiken lowers the firearm after she's fired it, hitching it back up her sleeve. She expects Fulgore to be fighting mad after that blast, and she fans away some of the smoke with that now-loose sleeve, expecting to see something.

She sees nothing. Nothing, except a plate, flickering and rippling - a sense of danger, behind her -

Baiken has one chance. She takes it, drawing the sword just barely out of its sheath and stabbing backwards. She does it picture-perfect, chi building along the blade, down to the point, and exploding out in a shower of pink sparks that drift and take several long moments to disperse.

But Baiken only has one arm and one sword. She had to make a decision which of her sides to stab past - and she picked the wrong one.

The blade passes by Fulgore without making contact as she is picked up on those claws. Baiken does yell then, more anger than anything else; she twists, trying to free herself from the blades and drop back to the ground, though she can do little more than that for the moment, held up as she is.

The machine hauls Baiken off of her feet. While she was perceptive enough to react based not on what she could see and observe, but by her own warrior's senses, something in the machine reacts too quickly to it. It's not enough--that gap that separates a man from a machine, the dominating valley that ensures a machine will always lose out to a fighter is simply not present in .. whatever this machine is. It sees, and it understands, moreso than calculations would determine. When it lifts Baiken off of the ground, it is not for any particular combat algorithm or calculation. It is from some deep seated enmity. Anger stirs that machine to a chaotic roil.

It hoists her in the air for no other reason other than to set her squirming.
Now, the lines are blurred, and there's much less of the conflict between woman and machine to be made.

Armor crackling as it steps from between worlds, the hunter-killer holds Baiken aloft. In that moment, there is a terse struggle to free herself, and in that moment, Fulgore's chest plating splits open to reveal the glowing mouth of a cannon mounted to the front of its reactor. Small units rotate around the mouth quickly as every point on the machine's armor lights up with glowing strands of light. Small magnetic anomalies cause small bits of metal --the fragment of armor, a dislodged bolt--to float in the air near it. If Baiken isn't detached from Fulgore's claws by then, she'll feel the deep thrum of the machine's reactor in her bones.

It is gathering power. Fast.
Exactly what kind of power output can this machine level?

COMBATSYS: Fulgore overclocks his reactor.

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Baiken           1/----===/=======|=======\=======\1          Fulgore

Baiken feels Fulgore doing /something/ behind her. She can't see what it is from her position, and that's why she has to get off it as quickly as she can. Little fragments of metal shift around Baiken as she slides, changing her weight; she can feel it not only in her bones but in the tiny disturbances it's causing to the tools hidden up her sleeve, against her missing arm.

She pulls herself off. It hurts a lot more than staying on would, but it lets her move again; Baiken drops to the ground with a grunt, rolling to her feet. Her back is agony, but agony can be ignored. It's not like it matters, she tells herself. You heal. Or you don't, depending. But pain is temporary; it's not something to be afraid of.

Fulgore is charging. And it - he? - has shown a little more ingenuity than Baiken would have expected. What if it is something like Riptor? Baiken stares into the gathering power, and only one thing occurs to her. She has no idea if this will work.

But it might.

Baiken stomps her foot, which causes another surge of pain; she hisses through her teeth but pushes onward through it. She does something with her fingers, putting them through specific motions, hoping she can get this right before Fulgore finishes - and then she drives her hand forward, chi flickering around it. "BAKU!"

Baku - the seal.

More than just a way to bind monsters, which is why she learned it, Baiken has found it works well on fighters of all types. She wouldn't have tried it on a machine. But on something more than a machine - well, it's worth a shot.

She doesn't stick around to get shot, though, in case it /doesn't/ work. She darts... forward. She's little; Baiken tries to squeeze past Fulgore and toward one of those blocks littering the room, hoping she can sprint there for cover before her disruption ends and he fires. If it works at all, of course.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore blocks Baiken's Baku.

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Baiken           0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2          Fulgore

As the pulse-pounding thrum of the machine's internal reactor containment grows slowly louder, a sound like an anvil being drug across a slaughterhouse floor rakes from the machine. It recognizes, perhaps in a way never before encountered, what Baiken is trying to do, what sutra she is trying to knit with her only good hand, and what the intentions may be. Perhaps it has more to do with its comprehensive profiling of Baiken as a fighter. Perhaps it is something more primal. But whatever the source of that recognition may be, it is enough warning.

As the machine knight's armor twists with networks of bright coronal power, the machine steps into Baiken's attack. It cannot move with anywhere near its usual level of speed, not with this level of rerouting. But it meets Baiken, fist-for-hand, with that power, blocking her before she can reach its core. Energy crackles as the seal meets an energy disruption of the machine's own, lightning crawling between the two. There's something different here. The power that the machine is routing -- despite the soul inside it, there is no 'root' of spirit for it. There is something inside, and Baiken can recognize it, in the center of that massive force being channelled. There is a living thing, somewhere in the heart of that machine.

But the only thing that surrounds it is pure science.

Baiken has mere moments to get clear, get away. As quickly as she scampers, it may not be enough. Reorienting itself to track her, spikes unfurl from the machine's lower legs as its armor reconfigures to root it to the ground. Finally, the machine spreads its arms, and lets loose an eruption of pure power from its chest-mounted core. The lancelike beam is staggering, a white hot thrust from an Earthborn sun. Anything the blast hits is destroyed. The casket it was in is cut in half by the beam. Blocks erode to nothingness. The projecting walls shatter, refracting lenses atomizing, melting and bubbling all along the distant periphery of the heat blade's passage. Destructive force bales out from that beam like a lance thrown by Ra.

The beam sweeps the area, seeking out its target--the samurai. Red optics and advanced scanners will locate her exact position. And then the beam will cut through whatever place she's assumed was safe. She has only a spare instant of time to relocate before the beam breaks through her hideaways.
Truthfully, the catastrophic blast lasts for only a few seconds.
But in the conflagration, a second can be an eternity.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Fulgore's #Devastation Beam#.

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Baiken           0/-------/---====|-------\-------\0          Fulgore

Baiken was not sure it would work at all. To have her seal do anything to Fulgore is as much as she really expected; all she wanted to do was blunt the worst of the energy.

She was not expecting to reach him deeply - and she wasn't expecting that the reason she failed to do so was because he chose to resist it. There's something in there, behind the machinery, buried in layer after layer of technological development - but Baiken can't get to it. Not like this. She snarls, leaping backwards, scrambling over a block just as the beam fires.

The beam practically destroys the block in the first second. Baiken is no longer behind it by the time it does; she has gone high, using the fact that (she believes) nobody can see into that blinding light to vault off it, landing on top of a /second/ block and dropping behind it. Fulgore can carve through that one, too, but he has to drag the beam over to it, and by the time he does, it's starting to fade.

Even so, that block is cut almost in half. Smoking, sizzling, there is no way anybody in the crowd has any idea where Baiken is. Only Fulgore's advanced sensors make it clear where she is, a split second later:

She is charging back through the shattered remnants of the block.

The beam never contacted her solidly. If it had she wouldn't be fighting. But shrapnel from the exploding cover and ambient heat have affected her; her arm is peppered with tiny wounds, her face is red as if burned. And of all things except monsters, Baiken likes fire the least; it was her earliest memory of combat, where she lost an eye and a hand even before she was old enough to do anything more than struggle uselessly, before she'd trained herself into the killing machine she is today.

And so it's with fury that she throws herself back through the smoke and flame, stepping lightly off a white-hot piece of metal as her sandal chars; she launches herself at Fulgore, touching down and running the rest of the way, blade in hand and aimed to deliver a sudden slash, more jarring than anything else.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore interrupts Suzuran from Baiken with Tri Laser Storm.

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Baiken           1/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0          Fulgore

An ominous groan slowly breaks over the scream of the all-consuming energy blast.

The machine's energy blast leaves the distinct scent of charred ozone in its wake. Even as the light dissipates, it is easily enough to leave an afterimage of its stabbing length on the eyes long after. The reactor still churning as it completes the discharge of the majority of its marshalled power reserve, Fulgore's chest cavity re-seals. The process is disarming to watch, armor plating sliding smoothly back over the exposed core. Tendrils of steam curl from the seams in the machine knight's chest, the deep pulse of the reactor being muffled by the plating once more. But Fulgore's reactor is not out of power yet.

And Baiken is rushing in to take advantage of Fulgore's largely missed attack.

The machine reacts without surprise or conceit, rotating to face the charge head on. The machine's heart churns deeply as energy crawls across the seams in its arms, the flagging reactor delivering another outburst of power, more than enough to charge up Fulgore's peripheral weapons systems. In the end, the knight steps into Baiken's slash, the blade reverberating as it rings against the machine's metal plating, the edge dragging across the armor surface with a hollow ring and a cascade of sparks. It moves just so--minimizing the amount of damage she can do to it without bothering even to raise a reasonable defense.

Because all four of its wrist blades are now levelling on her as Fulgore acquires a target lock, and releases three seperate bladed plasma blasts at point blank range directly into the samurai's middle.

Baiken believes she has an opportunity. She tries to seize it, slashing multiple times at the hopefully exposed midsection - it just fired a cannon, and though it looks closed to Baiken, she know nows it /can/ move. The ability to move means that it's somewhat less than the solid block of metal she believed it to be.

But it's tough, and it's very well-formed. Baiken's savage assault is cut short before she cuts through it by the triple shot directly at her stomach. And unlike Fulgore, Baiken does not have armour.

The plasma blasts into Baiken's body. It is an open question whether it launches her away or she wildly leaps backwards to avoid a follow-up; either way she goes airborne in a largely uncontrolled fashion. She manages to shift her flight sufficiently to land on her feet about ten feet backwards - but she's touching down, lightly, on the broken block that Fulgore cut partially through, now a C-shaped piece of wreckage. Even though Baiken is not very heavy, it bends under her weight, tilting her slightly to the side.

But it's not a bad position, the more she thinks about it, even if she got there completely on instinct. She holds it, crouching slightly to cover her injuries, both to make it difficult to see how badly injured she is and to avoid stretching them. "<Come on, you block of iron,>" Baiken says, lapsing into Japanese. "<Or is there something more to you than gears and wire?>"

Baiken straightens only slightly. She twists her body, and a weapon Fulgore has seen before (but not personally) flies out toward him - the chain arm. It only reaches about fifteen feet and that only if she tilts her entire body into the movement, which means she's at the very end of her effective reach.

But she still tries to hook Fulgore - by the shoulder, the arm, the back of the neck - and yank him toward her. She expects him to be heavy enough that he doesn't move much, but she can dream - and it stops him from getting far enough away to use the particularly big guns, to say nothing of what else Baiken intends to do with this trick.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Fulgore with Kabari.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Baiken           1/-----==/=======|======-\-------\0          Fulgore

Regarding Baiken with the sort of authority that could only be coded into a hunting machine by Ultratech engineers, Fulgore's optics trail after Baiken as she recovers, insensate to her demands in foreign tongue. Admittedly, the language might not actually matter--Baiken does not have code authority in any language, and so the only response to her is chilling silence as the machine recovers from its exertions.

Or so, the thought goes.

An arcane mechanical growl rumbles deep from within the machine's armor, and something about those chaotic red optics focusing keenly on Baiken make it easy to read a response into its behavior, something beyond the normal English diagnostics it was delivering earlier. Framing things in that sort of fashion, the primal answer of that machine is something wholly different and beneath the intelligent and witty discourse afforded to an otherwise soulless automaton. If it is talking, if it is responding, there is nothing calm about it.

That raking growl and those erratic, stormy optics.

There is something deeply angry inside that machine.

When Baiken latches onto Fulgore, the unit jerks violently against the spooling chain, armor stressing and ripping against the reeling motion. It does keep Baiken within a certain distance of him, but it doesn't actually -- move -- towards her, engaging its jets as it attempts to retreat, being pulled at with all of the swordswoman's force. In truth, things devolve into a tug of war rather fast, as the machine attempts to tractor away from the wounded samurai for a time, strafing quickly to one side. However, for all of its weight, its forward thrusters are of limited utility--the damage its taken already has limited its mobility and options. Instead, it sets itself to task and purpose, redirecting its power towards its rear thrusters, feet planting as it suddenly reverses direction, this time coming straight at Baiken with freshly powered claws, forcing slack into the chain as it bears down on her with murderous speed.

COMBATSYS: Baiken interrupts Cyberdash from Fulgore with Tate Shunmaku.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >                                ]
Baiken           0/-------/-----<<|=======\==-----\1          Fulgore

Baiken doesn't speak often to her opponents in battle unless they have something she wants to hear from them. Fulgore actually falls into that position. She doesn't, ultimately, care /what/ he says. She just wanted to see if she could draw any response out that wasn't as robotic as he looks.

She may have forgotten about the language barrier. She thinks in Japanese.

But, ultimately, she gets the response she wants. Twice over; Fulgore rumbles something that could be anger, and he starts to move. Baiken hangs on for dear life, words forgotten or preempted, digging her feet - well, there's not a lot to dig her feet into up there, but she manages to hold her position for several seconds against the forward-mounted thrusters trying to pull Fulgore back.

Abruptly, though, he stops trying to pull away and moves forward, instead, and that's when she knows she has him. It's when she acts. Baiken lets the chain slacken as he stops trying to pull away, then start to move toward her.

And that's when she vanishes in a blur.

Baiken does not literally vanish. But to the cameras, she might - because she is moving forward so very, very quickly, that almost-instantaneous blur the only real sign she gives. She propels herself forward at speeds far beyond what any human should be able to - but she's not 'any human'. She's a fighter, a trained swordswoman, a master of her chosen style. She can do things thought impossible.

Fulgore feels his claws hit something for a bare fraction of a second as Baiken passes past him, leaving a tattered bit of cloth appearing on them as if by magic until it burns away on the plasma. She doesn't slow down until she's several paces past Fulgore, and her sword is out of its scabbard halfway then even though she had had it completely in when she launched herself forward. She slides it the rest of the way home with a click. The whole process was so fast that it tends to leave people wondering what the hell just happened.

It's only then that Fulgore might realize he's been wounded at all - slashed just once by a blade moving so fast it was almost undetectable. His sensors might have been able to pick it up; a human eye cannot.

The machine does not have the same resolution of imagery that a human being might. There is a certain vagary of perception upon which those who move in the spaces between seconds rely. Against a human being, it is the sudden and crushing realization that they've lost the battle before they even had a chance to react.

There is something more than a machine inside Fulgore. Something deep, elemental and angry.
But even a normal machine sees things much better than a human.

The data from Baiken's nigh-effortless movement will likely be pored over for months to come, but in that exact instant, Fulgore is able to track her with extreme precision and effect, even as her form streaks against his forward optics, becoming a muddied blur of off-white and pink in the resultant video feed. Visual is lost, but positional relative data, figured from speed calculations and local sensors, is retained. Figuring out what happened and what is going to happen is not at all the problem.

Responding in time, is.

The machine's momentum and current thruster direction renders it helpless against the impossibly fast attack initiated by the master swordsman, its body freezing as a blade sharper than its AV cuts clean through its mobility-optimized lower subsections, resulting in a catastrophic loss of hydraulic pressure in its lower sections, as well as a crippling coolant leak. Standardized damage control subroutines cannot cope with the sudden severance of so many hoses in such a short period of time, and the only thing it can do is turn to track Baiken, the claws burning away the shreds of blood and fabric on the ends of its talons as it does so. There is only one battle program it can activate to even remain standing.

As Fulgore locks every remaining armor plate in its body and unfolds outriggers in its footbases, it appears to gain at least 100 lbs in bulk, if it were considered to be an actual human. This is only because its tertiary armor sections are unfolding, the plasmablades at its wrists depowering in favor of exposed and vented gunbarrels from the machine's underwrists, hissing out on a tilting plate mounted to double trunnions. The weapons lock into those wrists just as pneumatic suspension gimbals unfold from the crooks of the machine's arm, unlocking and stablizing it for secondary attack. Drum magazines slide down back-mounted tracks and lock into place below its elbows.

Secondary guns unfold from the machine's lower ribcage and snap into lace over its shoulders, locking the primary optics array in a forward configuration. With the lower legs locked, and the movement of the upper torso limited to a turret configuration, the operating battle lifespan of the unit will increase by beyond the 50 seconds mark. In this case, it is not a catastrophic hydraulics failure that will cause shutdown, but the overheating from the four Adjudicator 11.2mm and double Justiciar 20mm autocannons.

Typically in situations like this, the principal target does not survive longer than 28.6 seconds.

What happens next is a deafening blast of energy. Not the plasma energy or the other high-science types that Baiken has come to familiarise herself with over the course of battling Ultratech, but of the pure kinetic type. Fire roars from each of the unit's mulitple autocannons as it sprays conventional ammunition by the bucketload after her, eroding the landscape by handspans as it attempts to conventionally ventilate the samurai before its cooling system or its ammunition runs out.

By the end, it is going to be a steaming pile of overheated steel, optics dimming as its guns run dry, entering into a protective sleep status. But those optics never quite die, even as esconced as they are in the machine's unfolding armor, the machine -- never quite stops thinking. Never quite.

COMBATSYS: Fulgore has suffered catastrophic damage and fallen offline.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Baiken           0/-------/-----<<|

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Fulgore's Heavy Artillery.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Baiken           0/-------/---<<<<|

Baiken's blurring speed does not last very long. She never quite comes to a stop even when she slides her sword away, though; she keeps up a more mundane run, perhaps expecting Fulgore to have survived the experience. He is, after all, unyielding steel.

She is rewarded for this. Something shifts behind her. As Baiken moves, she makes sure her claw is coming too, pulling it after her; this leaves her in the almost comedic position of having it dragging behind, kicking up sparks from the clawtips dragging along the stone floor.

Bullets start to fly as Baiken throws herself toward the closest cover. She uses the claw to drag herself behind it, catching the corner and swinging herself around at ridiculous speeds; it seems like she's going to slam into the other side of the cube, and in fact she pretty much does, though she rotates in midair so that she hits legs-first.

The first barrage of shots is enough to have torn up Baiken's back and shoulder. She's bloody - but not beaten, as she shelters there, hearing the repeated sound of bullets hitting the other side of the cube. If it was any thinner than 'feet', she wouldn't think it could hold up. As they keep ringing and gouging chunks out of it, she reconsiders, and lies flat, so that the first bullets that penetrate zip over her head.

But eventually the sounds stop. Baiken remains down for an additional five seconds to make sure Fulgore isn't faking it - and only then does she rise, stepping around from where she was taking shelter. The block she was behind looks more like the surface of the Moon; gouges and craters all across it, some of which cracked it - or maybe Swiss cheese, judging by how many penetrated.

She's bloody. Baiken is pretty much a mess. But she is still moving, and Fulgore isn't. And that is, however technically, a victory.

Log created on 18:06:40 09/11/2015 by Baiken, and last modified on 11:15:19 09/21/2015.