Ramos strode through the deserted streets of Malifaux, the hand-picked M&SU men and women around him having to jog to keep up. Only Toni could match his pace, striding alongside him. The streets were deserted at this time of night, and the first warning signs of winter were beginning to creep in, coating the buildings in a light frost that set them sparkling in the light of the gas lamps.
Turning a corner, they came upon a Guild checkpoint, and Ramos heard a couple of the men behind him catch their breath at the sight. The usually well-fortified encampment was in ruins, a mess of broken wood and steel. Small fires burned here and there, and scattered around were the remains of the unfortunate Guardsmen who had been manning the post. The red flag, emblazoned with a leering ram’s head and usually flying so proud, was shredded on the floor next to the dismembered body of a Guild officer. Blood pooled around the outpost, not yet congealed.
Stupid, Ramos mused to himself without breaking stride. They shouldn’t have armed it so quickly. Typical brash Guild behaviour. Turning his head to the Arcanists behind him, his breath plumed in the cold air. ‘We’re catching up!’
By now they were in the Quarantine zone, outside of the relative safety of Malifaux’s walls and barricades. The Guild-issued penalty for entering the Quarantine zone was death, though more often than not it was folly to enter anyway. Filled with the scum of Malifaux, the Quarantine zone was home to criminals, Resurrectionists and – if rumours were to be believed – far, far worse. Under normal circumstances Ramos would have taken more care when entering this forsaken place, but time was of the essence tonight.
The small group rounded a derelict clocktower leaning at a tortured angle, and Ramos suddenly held up his clockwork fist for them to stop. Next to him, Toni swore softly under her breath.
Ahead of them, their target stood in the centre of a ruined courtyard. Seven feet tall and made from gleaming steel and brass, the Lazarus construct was still impressive despite the damage it had suffered during its escape. Dents and scratches from bullets pitted the armour plating, and smoke gently drifted from the cooling vents of the multi-barrelled grenade launcher affixed to one arm. The under-slung bayonet – large enough to be used as a sword by a normal man – was crimson with fresh blood.
Unfortunately for Ramos, the construct wasn’t alone. Across from it stood a large group of men and women, dressed in distinctive full-body armour and goggled helmets. At the head of the group stood a giant of a man, dressed in the same armour but without a helmet. His muscled body was evident even through the padding of his suit, and he bore a thick white moustache. Ramos recognized him instantly as Von Schill, leader of the infamous Freikorps mercenary army. He couldn’t hear what Von Schill was saying, but the Lazarus construct seemed to be listening with interest, head tilted to one side in a very human way.
‘I don’t think we can take them, Viktor’, Toni whispered by his side. ‘There’s not enough of us, even with the element of surprise.’ Inwardly, Ramos was forced to agree. The Freikorpsmen outnumbered them over two to one, and the open plaza offered next to no cover for them to advance through.
Ramos had known about the Lazarus project from the start, and had been following the progress with interest. As soon as he’d received word from his informants inside the Guild that Lazarus had rebelled and escaped, Ramos had immediately gathered the nearest, most loyal Arcanists and set out to try and intercept the construct and bring it into the M&SU. What with the betrayal it had suffered at the hands of the Guild, Ramos had thought it would be easy to convince the construct to join the Arcanists. He chastised himself for not anticipating that someone else could have found it first. Still, he mused to himself, the Freikorps are notoriously mercenary about who they work for. There may still be some promise in this. Turning, he nodded to the assembled Arcanists.
‘Let’s head back to Malifaux.’