Three of Zero-Dawn's soldiers walked through the empty, dusty street. The street was almost anachronistic in its resemblance to the setting of an old Western. The soldiers, on the other hand, were dangerously modern. Each was in a black exosuit head to toe; even the helmet, which came with a breath mask to protect against poisonous-gas-based attacks, and infrared goggles for detection of Shadowmen. The scopes on the assault rifles projected precise red lasers where they were pointed. The two flanking the leader had their rifle at their shoulders; the lead held his rifle's butt to the custom-shaped depression in the goggles that practically locked in with the rifle, a modified version of a Base Rifle. It was probably stolen from an Imperial barracks… the rest of their equipment seemed to be. If it wasn't stolen directly from the Empire, it was certainly inspired by it; its nature and coloration both looked as though they were grabbed straight from the Murder of Crows.

Gaius watched silently from the rooftop of an abandoned barber shop as they stalked along the street, the metal of their boots clanking against the metal road… at least, when the metal road's coating of dust and dirt was thin enough. With a smile, Gaius crouched slightly, then shot upwards. His metallic boots made no sound as he launched into the air. A small depression formed in the roof where his feet had been.

The first warning the guards received was the crushing of the leader into a blast of blood and gibs. As the two other soldiers began to react, Gaius dropped to the ground. He swung his feet into the air and performed a handstand. The rebels almost had enough time to fire.


Gaius' legs slammed down on both of them simultaneously, practically driving their skulls through to their lungs from the sheer force with which his legs impacted them, stretching his black pants as his legs went to full 180-degree splits. The soldiers crumpled into heaps. The death alerts on their exosuits began to beep obnoxiously as his legs returned to the ground. There was no one around presently, so he hid himself in a building; some shop or another, with random items on the shelves that were marked with little price tags in the Tyrgani script, a hybrid of crude symbolism and the Imperial alphabet. He spent several minutes looking at the items; they were mostly manufactured goods, the kind Tyrg could pump out a thousand of in mere seconds with their factories.

Gaius was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of a loud clanging.

"Bang, bang, bang, here comes the militia," he muttered as he peered out the door towards the source of the sound. His eyes widened.

Most people's eyes did widen the first time they saw a Tyrgani bi-mech. As it was, Gaius saw three bi-mechs stomping towards the bodies. The mech's cockpits swiveled about atop the two legs. They were all a dull reddish tint, with boxy cockpits and independently moving turrets atop those. Their legs were single jointed; they seemed to walk by falling towards a leg that was taken away, then falling towards the other as the first was returned to the ground and the other lifted, creating an unsteady waddling sort of movement. Chain guns under the camera points of the cockpit pointed wherever it looked.

Gaius shot out of the building with such force that the entire wall he left through was demolished, collapsing the building. He hurtled into the leg of the mech at the rear, which was walking towards him but looking away from him. He twisted at the last moment, smashing into the cockpit so hard that even after having his legs embedded to halfway up the thighs in its armor, he still had sufficient momentum to knock it over. The second mech in the line spun its turret around and fired a single shot. Three electromagnetic coils down the length of the gun activated, one at a time, pulling the shell along the barrel.

The shot flew just past Gaius, leaving a wake where it had passed.

"Shit, a Gauss cannon? They've implemented a Gauss cannon?" Gaius gaped in disbelief for a moment at the shell that was embedded in the metal road; the dirt around it had been blown away from the force. Gaius shook off his awe and tried to free himself. It was no good, for his legs were too deeply buried to give him any momentum and he could not, for all his power, muscle through several feet of Tyrgani metal. The other mech's first shot grazed Gaius' shoulders, despite his attempt to dodge by leaning back. As he stared straight at them in dismay, resigning himself to his fate – being ripped apart by the strongest single-target, non-biological weapon he had ever seen – the mech he was embedded in tried to walk. It was lying on its back more or less. The right leg was blown apart by the first mech's Gauss shot. The other one was beginning to take a specific aim at his torso.

The fear of death possessed Gaius, and he tore his right leg free from the hold of the strongest known substance in the world with a force he did not know he could manage. As the next shot flew at him, as that next shot hurtled at him with force enough to tear him apart, time seemed to slow. He brought his leg across at the shot and deflected it with clockwork precision, blasting it into another building (which promptly collapsed with a massive cloud of dust). He planted his right foot on one of the outer panels and tore his other leg free; his foot sort-of caught, then blew the outer panels to shrapnel with its last burst of force. Gaius sprung into the air, and before the mechs' aims could readjust he had landed on the turret of the further mech, destroying it instantly. He jumped off and sprung into the blind spot under the other mech. He swung a roundhouse kick into the bi-mech's leg, impacting it with the top of his foot. The mech's leg was thrown out, dropping the pathetic machine. As the last mech aimed at him, he was aware of a whole new threat.

In addition to the Gauss cannon shot he dodged, he heard the roar of a jet. He turned around and corrected himself.

He heard five aerocopter's giant rear engines, and probably a little sound from their maneuvering jets, the four perpendicular maneuvering engines; one was between any given two of the cardinal directions on a compass, with north as the cockpit and south as the large, finned tail that stabilized the copter. The ovoid cockpits with their ominous lack of any viewing apparatuses stared ominously at him, tilted slightly forward in a shallow dive, chain guns blazing away. The two accompanying, sphere-mounted missile launchers fired in a wall pattern at him. An immeasurably short moment behind the sound came the roaring missiles. He jumped and aligned his body with the missiles, passing himself through one of the few weak points where putting the missiles any closer would cause a collision, then falling and rolling into a ready position. The Gauss gun fired again.

Again, time slowed to a crawl. Gaius threw himself backwards as the shot flew towards him. His foot shot upwards from under the shell, deflecting it into the lead aerocopter in a feat of godlike luck. His next move was to shove his foot under a fallen bi-mech. He followed up on that by kicking it a little into the air and sticking his feet deeper under it. Occasionally, a painful chain gun bullet would bounce off his skin. He pushed forward off his back foot, forcing his entire body under the bi-mech; next, he rotated slightly back, balancing the cockpit of the bi-mech on his feet.

In a demonstration of the awesome strength of his legs (if no other part of his body) Gaius thrust his legs forth and threw the mech the height of a building upward. He sprung to where it was going to land and rolled under it; he caught it on his legs, rolling with it and blasting it into the final mech, which collapsed under the awesome weight of another of its kind. As the aerocopters began to circle around him, guns still blasting away, Gaius returned to a standing position. He closed his eyes and hunched his neck, standing tall otherwise.

Gaius allowed the bullets to ricochet off of him for five seconds before he began the aerocopters' destruction. The first one was a little closer than the rest. He jumped well over it; as he had predicted and hoped, it tilted back to move away from him – placing him right where he wanted to be, which was "crashing through the cockpit." It was, predictably, remotely controlled, meaning no pilot was in the actual aircraft. Gaius reached into the hole his impact had made and scrambled a few wires up. As the engines failed Gaius leapt at the next aerocopter. He grabbed the stabilizer as he was falling past it, spinning up and balancing in a low crouch on the stabilizer as the 'copter spun, trying to get him off. When he was facing the next copter, he allowed himself to fall forward, jumping with as much force as he could off the stabilizer; the force bent it to a thirty-degree angle from where it was supposed to be. The next aerocopter, he missed, falling past it as it dodged and returning to the ground in a crater of dust that had been blown away, making another small spot where the metal road beneath the dirt was revealed.

Two left? Gaius looked. No, three, he corrected himself as he looked over his shoulder. He ran back to one of the fallen titans, a bi-mech that looked like it had been deactivated. Gaius' kick to the turret promptly disconnected it. He rolled in along with some effort – the gun was roughly the size of his torso. His foot dug under it, propelling it into the air. As it came back down, Gaius blasted it at an aerocopter like a rocket with a side kick. It clipped a missile launcher off the 'copter in spite of its attempt to dodge.

Gaius felt a moment of deep satisfaction as the 'copters abruptly turned and flew away, most likely in an attempt to cut their losses and in acknowledgement that Gaius could obliterate anything they sent against him. This was confirmed by the aerocopters' escorting a few dropships away from the city. With the forces of the city more or less defeated, he could now do what he had come for.