Chapter 4: Beginning a story at chapter 4 is not the best way to go about writing a book

Tessa Belle was lying on the back of Graytail listening to the new Shingle single when there was a flutter in the air. Maybe it was because she had never been this far out of the outer circle but she sat up in a panic and was suddenly on guard. If Graytail had been a real cat and not a machine, its fur would have been standing on end. She pulled off her noise-blocker headphones and heard the rumbling of crunching armored footfalls. Panic hit her and she shot to her feet.

Marauders… this far out?

However, as she got a closer look at the dust on the horizon and pulled out her binoculars, she saw she had been wrong. Those silver and red colors could only mean one thing: a battalion of Clerics. They were coming at speed, five in all, their massive mechanized bodies with their singular red eyes coming closer with every second. Tessa knew she wouldn’t be able to outrun them, their armor was far superior to Graytail’s. Still, she pushed the release to open the cockpit and jumped into the seat as the visor lowered.

She hesitated before starting the engines. They can’t be after me, can they?

Trepidation filled her. She knew if she took off that not only would they outrun her, but her very fleeing would cause them to start the chase, thinking her to be a heathen on the run from Mason’s lessons. She had to find a way to, if not make herself invisible, then at least make herself less noticeable out here in the middle of nowhere.

“Gray, activate top parachute.”

At her command, a massive gray chute exploded from between the armor’s shoulder blades and spread out over the length of its top half. She couldn’t tell if it covered all of Graytail’s long body but she didn’t have time to get out and check while sticking to her plan of not drawing attention to herself. She did the only thing she could do. She sat and she waited as the roaring armors drew closer.

This ridiculous. I’m sticking my head in the sand and hoping a predator doesn’t eat me.

The rumbling grew louder along with her heartbeat as she pulled her knees up to her chest and prayed. Not to Him, he was the reason for all of this, but to her mother, who she was sure she would meet soon if the Clerics saw her and thought she was any kind of threat. The noise continued to grow and grow until she was sure they were right on top of her and then finally it began to fade. She checked her scanner, seeing the specks of light getting further and further away.

“Thank you,” she whispered and pulled her head out from between her legs.

She waited another half an hour, still on edge as the engine noises got further and further away. When they had vanished entirely, she opened the vizor, pulled away some of the gray ‘chute to make room, grabbed the zip line and jumped down. Bending down, she grabbed the edge of the chute and pulled it up from the hardpan. All she could see was a cloud of dust in the distance where they had moved off.

Hah, must have worked after all.

She spun about, feeling pleased with the realization that her parachute could be used to camouflage her Graytail when she needed it. However, as she walked around it inspecting the material for holes, she frowned as she saw the majority of the armor’s hindquarters and tail were not covered by the tail. That being said, the majority of the front was facing the Clerics and the body was similar enough to the chute to blend with it.

There was now no doubt that they should have seen her out here. That either meant that they were not only not looking for her, but that whatever they were really after was important enough not to waste time on her.

Still, I feel sorry for whoever they are after.

Whoever that was, she didn’t want to stick around long enough to let them turn around and change their mind. She ran around to the dangling zip line, hooked her leg in the loop at the end, and tugged it down. The cord retracted and took her with, pulling her up into the cockpit. She swung into the seat and lowered the visor again.

Inside, she checked the scanner in the back again, showing her the direction they were going from the last speck of light on the monitor. Wherever they were going, she was going in the opposite direction as fast as she could go. She started her engines and placed her fingers on four of the five buttons, activating the massive, all-terrain wheels attached each leg.

Dust flew up behind them as she leaned her Graytail forward, it’s sleek puma-like for blasting off over the desert. For an armor she had made out of junk parts in the ruins of a battlefield, even Tessa was surprised how fast it could go on such rough terrain. Being one of the few junkers from the inner rim, she was an opportunist at heart. If it weren’t for the fact that the Clerics made her fear for her life, she would have been on their tail to see what she could scavenge.

Despite this, as her fear began to subside, her stupid began to build.

If I play it right, I could be the first one there. No! What am I thinking? They’re Clerics, if they spot me they’ll blow me to smitherings.

She ground her teeth, trying to fight the ideas rushing in. The risk may have been fatal, but the opportunity would be incomparable. As unlikely as it was, if the battalion lost one armor, that would make her enough credits to buy any parts she may want. She thought she recalled hearing that the village Daridin was nearby. If she did decide to tail the Clerics, the least she could do was head there and see if anyone else had heard about the raid.

I’m not following them, I’m just going in a similar direction.

She widened two fingers on the shifting buttons as the Graytail spun and then shot into the direction of the cloud of dust. It took her until evening to arrive at Daridin and she didn’t have to enter the village to see that place looked like a ghost town. Although he hadn’t been there before to make a comparison, she though a battalion of Clerics would do that to any outer rim town.

She was surprised to see a large forest of its outskirts and had no doubt that it was the reason such a place could have survived this long outside the walls. From the many wooden houses, it seemed the locals had put them to good use. What also impressed her was the size of the place. The town seemed to indeed be two towns connected by…

She then saw what she couldn’t have seen from the distance. The large bridge the once connected to two areas had been completely destroyed and there was smoke rising in the distance. She stopped and got of Graytail, using its height to see better. The battle seemed to be still going on. She had arrived too early.

Shit!

“Hey, you!” a man called from one of the homes.

Tessa looked down on him. He was a middle-aged man, but held cane and walked with a bit of limp.

“Are you with the ones who blew up the bridge.”

“No!” she yelled down.

“Then you better help them.” The man pointed. “The orphanage is over that bridge, most of the victim will be children.”

Tessa raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t know who you think I am. Just because I have an armor, doesn’t mean I’m a hero.”

“But they’re just children, youngins.”

“I know what children are! But I can’t do anything about Clerics, they outnumber me and… hell, I’m getting out of here. If you’re smart, you would do the same!”

Tessa jumped back into her cockpit and took off. Although instead of heading back into the wasteland, the smart thing to do, she circled around, narrowing the buttons on her dash so that her armor could creep between some of the trees. She looked over her shoulder, hearing the rumble of battle behind the forest. She was surprised such a place could put up a fight for this long.

It didn’t matter. She had come this far and what junker mission didn’t have a little risk?

I’ll stand out like a sore thumb in this thing. Better I go on foot, by the time I walk there, everyone would be dead anyway. The scraps will be free for the taking, I just need to be patient.

Before she took the zip-cord down again, she leaned in a deployed her parachute. The thing had come in lucky the first time and she would take any luck she could get.

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