2012-04-23: Tactical Error


Echo_icon.jpg Taskmaster_icon.jpg

Summary: Taskmaster does not like robots. Echo gets FUBAR.

Date: April 23, 2012

Log Title: Tactical Error

Rating: R

NYC - Master's School of Martial Arts

This dojo looks to be like just about every other dojo known to man, save for the fact that the walls are lined from floor to ceiling with every weapon known to man. Theoretically these are just decorations, but anybody who's aware of whose dojo this is knows better.

Master's School of Martial Arts is one of those places in the Bronx where it's always kind of been there, but if you were to ask any of the locals, nobody would be able to remember the last time anybody went in there, much less when a class was held. It's common knowledge that classes all the time, it's just a little fuzzy as to when. Taskmaster can be found here, his holoprojector set to Tony Masters, his alter ego, sitting at a fold out table, with a long array knives and swords arranged in front of him, sorted by length. He's been busy sharpening them with a whetstone, and seems to be about half way through.

There is someone at the door, which is quite odd, all things considered. Perhaps more odd is that it doesn't seem to be someone here to buy, sell, preach, proselytize, or even assassinate. It's just some woman, mid or late twenties, in jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, and a fake leather jacket. Either unaware or uncaring at what she might be interrupting, she simply pushes her way in and stands about idly for a moment, hands in pockets, looking all around like she's waiting for the maitre d' to show her to a table.

Taskmaster's eyes flick up at the sound of somebody coming into his dojo, which is odd, since he doesn't have an appointment today. The scraping sounds of the whetstone as it drags across the blade of an Indian Tulwar stutters for a second, before continuing it's progress. "Can I help you?" he asks, his voice neutral with emotion.

"Yes, you can," replies the woman, equally blasé. She comes closer, hands still in pockets but politely avoiding stepping on any of the padded floormats with her dirty shoes. Points for that, at least. "I'm looking for work," says Echo, her eyes lingering casually over the display of martial weaponry. "I was told to come here and that you would help me."

Okay. This was not the answer he was expecting. Taskmaster narrows his eyes suspiciously, and lays the tulwar down on the table, neatly in row with the other blades. "Really," he says, keeping his hands flat on the table. "And who told you that?"

"They asked to remain anonymous," the bold and apparently in-over-her-head woman replies calmly. Her eyes drift away from the racks of decorative (and not so decorative) weapons on the walls and onto the only other person in the room. Echo blinks once, eyes narrowing, studying him. Slowly her hands untuck from her pockets to hang loosely at her side, fingers curling to a point precisely halfway between a fist and an open hand. "Have I come at a bad time?"

"I bet they did," mumbles Taskmaster, his eyes tracking Echo's every movement. "Look," he says patiently. "It ain't like McDonalds where you can just waltz in and ask for a job. Especially if ya ain't givin' me any references. That goes double for toasters."

"You're being unhelpful. This is what I was told to do," the woman protests, deadpan. Her mouth is a thin line and her steel grey eyes are fixed on the man's, conspicuously unblinking now. "I have no references." A pause. "I'm not a toaster."

"Why would I help you?" asks the mercenary. "What could I possibly get out of hiring a robot?" Taskmaster's lips pull into a frown. "Look. I don't know what this guy told you, but you better go back and tell him that I don't take stray AIBOs off the streets, and if he wants to continue breathing then he better not do it again."

The woman is silent for a moment, hands first tightening into fists then relaxing again. Her head cocks very slightly to one side, eyes still fixed on the man disguised as Tony Masters. "Is this a test?" she finally asks, her tone making it plain that if it is, she doesn't like it very much.

"No," says Taskmaster, losing his patience. "This is not a test. I don't have sidekicks and I don't train robots." There's a slight shift in his body posture that Echo's sensors would pick up. "Now, get outta here before I turn you into scrap."

"Seems I was misinformed," Echo laments, shaking her head sadly. She turns, perhaps to go, but stops the motion before it's completed, leaving her side-on to the man at the table. The nearer hand raises, slowly, non-threateningly, two fingers extended. "Before I go, I have two questions. Indulge me," she entreats with a half-smile. "The first: how did you know?"

"Because I can't read you," says Taskmaster. "Any idiot who did their homework on me knows that." Echo may have seemed to relaxed, but Taskmaster clearly hasn't.

"I have no idea who you are, and I'm becoming increasingly glad of that fact," the android shoots back, the smile turning into a brief smirk. "You seem like a good person not to know." One of the two extended fingers bends down, leaving her index finger extended. "The second question," she prefaces, turning the hand to point at him. Not directly at him, strangely, but more to a specific location on him. "What is that device?"

Taskmaster smirks, and with a gesture, he deactivates the holoemitter, showing him in his full Taskmaster garb, skull mask, white hood, and everything. "This thing lets me look like what I want to look like to people. We done now?"

"Very interesting. Very useful," remarks Echo appreciatively. "I was just making sure it wasn't some sort of signaling device, or a weapon, or something like that." With her left side toward him, Echo's right hand suddenly sweeps up behind her, under the back of her coat. Her left hand pulls the coat out of the way of the gun that she's just drawn from where it was tucked into the waistband of her jeans, a black semi-automatic thing. The draw is fast, something to make an old western gunfighter proud. Hand across the small of her back, apparently aiming blind, she fires.

The table is upended just as fast as Echo is able to draw her weapon, sending all the knives and swords flying straight up, somehow still parallel to the ground. The bullets thud into the table, blowing holes in it, revealing where Taskmaster was just moments before. By the time the table thuds to the ground, Taskmaster has plucked four of the swords out of the air and has sent them on four deadly trajectories towards his would-be assassin, while grabbing a longsword and a kukri to wield. "Bad move. I let a toaster like you get the upper hand on me once….. once."

The android is fast, but this? Several hundred CPU cycles are spent re-analyzing, just to be sure there hasn't been some kind of mistake, some kind of error or anomalous reading. There has not. Echo throws up her free arm and drops to roll away, not even in time to stop the first three blades from hitting her. A short but fat-bladed cinquedea strikes the upper part of her left thigh, sticking there. A matched set of Chinese dao hit her in the stomach and ribs, both of them bouncing away but only after leaving deep punctures. The fourth blade, the tulwar still in the process of being sharpened, misses, but only just. The woman doesn't even cry out as she rolls away and the pommel of the sword stuck in her leg scrapes against the floor. She comes up, both hands on the gun, but holds her fire.

Taskmaster isn't taking any chances. Since he can't read what the damned robot is going to do next, he's going to assume the worst. He's also kicked himself into overdrive to achieve this incredible speed. He figured out that by watching tapes of heroes and martial artists doing their thing at double speed, he's actually able to move at that speeds as well. His body isn't designed for that kind of work, so he won't be able to maintain this pace for very long without seriously injuring himself. Still, he figures that should be enough time to deal with this tin can. With a flick of a wrist, he throws the kukri at the robot woman, aiming for her gun. It, however, is really a feint to buy him time to get him closer to her so she's within reach of the longsword.

The pistol fires just after the knife leaves the Taskmaster's hand. Though the bullet is much, much faster, it still meets the kukri closer to the android than the man. There are no dramatic Hollywood sparks, just a puff of disintegrating copper and lead as the knife pinwheels away to the side, a marble-sized dent in its pommel. Echo turns to the side, lifting her left leg high and tucked against her body, the sword still lodged there now like a pike set to receive a cavalry charge.

Taskmaster's longsword flashes with the precision and speed of the world's greatest swordsman, aiming to take out the pistol… by cutting off the hand. He adjusts his momentum to narrowly avoid the sword lodged in her leg, and smoothly pulls out one of the .45s holstered at his hip.

The skill of the swordsman. The speed and temper of the blade. Both are great, and as the longsword bites into the woman's wrist, the gun is knocked aside. But it does not fall, and neither does the hand, the sword meeting metallic resistance underneath the synthetic skin, a keen vibration singing all the way through to the hilt. Echo is neither idle nor passive now, the stabbed leg stomping down toward Taskmaster's kneecap with enough force to shatter it, to pulverize the bone. Her free left hand reaches behind her, drawing out a shorter, less impressive, but wholly functional blade. Matte black, it has a single edge with a shallow scoop to its top, bringing it to a wicked point. Held reversed, point toward her elbow, it is slashed upward diagonally, from the Taskmaster's right hip to left shoulder.

Well, it didn't chop her hand off, but that's okay. Taskmaster can work with this. He can use the sword as leverage to twist Echo's body so that her stomp misses him entirely. He shifts his body around, and twists with the longsword again to help maneuver Echo so that her slash isn't as powerful or as deep as it could be, cutting through the outer layers of his costume, but only grazing the body armor underneath. "Good God," he growls. "Who programmed you with this crap?" Not content to be on the defensive, he fires his .45 at Echo's head. He figures that while only an idiot would put the brain of a robot in the same place as a human, that's where the majority of her sensors are going to be.

Pushed slightly aside, the android's stomp misses, the leg jarring to a halt as a thin trickle of rust-brown fluid bubbles up around the sword blade in her thigh. "What's the matter? Not having fun?" Echo is about to bring the knife down from a slash to a deep stab as the first .45 slug impacts her forehead just above her left eye with the same dull metallic *PLINK* of a carnival shooting gallery. Her head snaps back, making the second round graze up her cheekbone. Beneath the synthetic flesh, silver-white metal almost the color of bone is revealed, streaked with dark scratches from the fragmenting hollowpoint bullet. Underneath the cheek, black bundles of synthetic muscle wrapped in a diamond pattern mesh of black fabric. She meets the third round halfway, in the throat just above the collar of her shirt, as she wheels forward to simply headbutt Taskmaster in his white skull mask. "Asshole."

"Loads, of fun," replies Taskmaster with a smirk in his voice, as he ducks down out of the way of the headbutt, letting go of the longsword to be able to do so. Even while he's talking and ducking there's the sound of the magazine of his .45 being ejected and a new one being slapped into place. To Taskmaster, fighting is like playing chess, and he's a grandmaster of it. Usually his ability lets him know exactly what kind of moves his opponent is going to do usually even before they know themselves. With an android, he has no such advantage. That doesn't mean that he's any less of a grandmaster though, and throughout this fight he's been analyzing Echo's style, and is finding it easier to predict what she's going to do. Now that he's lowered his center of gravity he moves himself into a position that will make it harder for his opponent to reach with her blade, and with his shin he pushes on the flat of the blade embedded in her leg to help keep her off balance. "Toldja you should have done your homework on me," he taunts. "I can count the number of people who can beat me in a fight on one hand.""

The blade wrenches in Echo's thigh. More of the thin ochre fluid leaks out. Her balance is off and she is suddenly listing to one side. Over-correcting, she shifts harder to the right and widens the wound, something inside it making a twang and snap like a rubber band. The leg is giving and she is tipping over. "Fuck," she mutters, all too human irritation an undercurrent to the dispassionate tone.

Taskmaster takes advantage of the situation and crouches lower, spinning so that he can deliver a kick to the back of the knee of Echo's uninjured leg to help her along with the fall to the ground. Now that he's switched out rounds to something more appropriate to dealing with something that's primarily encased in metal, he fires three more shots from the .45 to the android's head. The first is the last remaining hollow point that was still chambered in the gun, and the last to the armor piercing bullets he loaded.

Chips of fracturing bullet dig more of the synthetic flesh from Echo's head, then sparks as the first of the of the hardened tungsten penetrators of the armor piercing rounds do what they were ordained to. The sound is less comical than the hollow points flattening, a neat hole appearing in her left temple. The second is not far off from the first, making the single hole into a figure-eight. The android makes a sound, a vibrato moan cut through with spits and static. She jerks, back arching. All of this before she can even hit the ground. Her left eye is damaged, weeping some clear fluid, broken by the ricocheting round inside her skull cavity.

Taskmaster quickly steps away from the android, gun still trained on her, and his other hand pulls the other .45 which he immediately swaps out for another clip of AP rounds, one handedly. He's reached the limit of his speed burst, so he's moving at a more normal human pace now, and once the adrenaline wears off he's going to be in a world of hurt. "Tell me the name of the guy who sent you to me and I'll let you leave. If you can. I don't take kindly to assassins."

"P-#rrrrrr," the woman on the floor says. Her fingers are clenching and unclenching, but the pistol has fallen away, too far to reach. She still seems to be reaching for it but there's no way she can now. Echo stops trying. Water is leaking from her ruined eye and from the undamaged one as well, a sick parody of tears, too much and too fast. "P-##-kin… Jaaack.."

"Pumpkin Jack?" Taskmaster asks, trying to fill in the blanks. Laughter escapes him, as he shakes his head. "He didn't send you here to kill me. He sent you here to die." There's a soft click as the mercenary uncocks his guns and holsters them. "Tell you what. I don't like being used like that less than I like robots. If you got somebody to come pick you up go and give 'em a call. Assumin' you still can. Get yourself repaired and tell the guy 'hi' for me."

The android tries to say something, but it's choked by distortion. A pause and she tries again, slower, whatever palsy had gripped her is not as strong as it initially was. "…f-fucker…" Echo says. "Kill that… fuu###-er…" She rolls awkwardly onto her stomach, snake crawling toward her fallen pistol. Her hand is outstretched to take it, but she stops. "Leaving…" she says, her hand moving to the pistol much slower. "You win."

Taskmaster folds his arms across his chest, belying the pain he's beginning to feel. "Yes. I do. Now go before I change my mind."

Handgun retrieved and restored to the slip holster in the back of her jeans, Echo struggles to stand. She wrenches the broad-bladed cinquedea from her thigh and tosses it carelessly aside, steel slick with the red orange fluid. Limping but not entirely lamed, she stops at the door to the dojo to pull dark brown hair down over the left half of her face, where the most grievous and obvious damage is. She looks back at 'Tony Masters' for a moment with her good eye, and there is something in that look. Something entirely human, base and raw and eager. It is hate. Then she's gone, the cheerful jingle of the bell over the door and the quiet hiss of the pneumatic that keeps it from slamming the final sound.

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