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Phoenix

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  1. Xalrei was at least beginning to comprehend the situation, but Requiem had little to say about the lizard woman's preferences in combat. The cursed blade didn't really care about--nor truly grasp--the advantages or disadvantages of one weapon versus another. Combat wasn't a matter of strategy and tactics or disciplines, it was a feast for power. Requiem was only able to take the form of a weapon most suited to its wielder. Were Xalrei to suddenly become most proficient striking and whipping enemies with her tail, Requiem would transform and extend her reach when held. It was a simple and effective arrangement. It probably couldn't hurt to entice her a bit more, though. 'As this power grows, so does the potential of all forms. Keep fighting, Xalrei ...'
  2. Megumi didn't know what else to say, really. This Jessica was a completely different person, with seemingly no personal connections to speak of. Even the tragedy surrounding her didn't seem to be registering. Ignorance may hold a measure of bliss, but it was certainly disturbing for those in the know to see in action. "You're not being coddled," Firmia countered, "This situation is even more chaotic than usual." Not willing to be any more specific than that, she turned her attention to Catapult B's elevator as it lowered a mobile suit down into the hangar space. Firmia recognized it from the schematics she downloaded from the Athena's database, but it was a new machine to virtually everyone else. The unit was clearly designed for aerial combat, and carried a RM model beam rifle, a shield, six funnels, several beam sabers, and two large containers on its hips. Firmia had nearly forgotten that the containers each housed wired melee weapons. "Well, here he is ..." Firmia grumbled, staying right where she was as the Anarchy began walking toward the center of the hangar. As uncomfortable as she was standing in clear view of the man that tried to kill her recently, she didn't show any fear. Instead, the bitterness she felt from that event boiled to the surface. There was no telling what would happen once they were face to face ... Stopping a fair distance away, the Anarchy knelt down on one knee. No systems powered down, but the hatch leading to the cockpit opened, allowing Rex to haul himself out of the suit. For a brief moment, Firmia was confused. Rex was wearing a flight suit ... not a SKIN suit. His machine clearly made use of multiple TK weapons, though. The Alkaev could only cock her head at Rex as he descended to the hangar floor. "Had no idea the inside of this ship would be such a damn circus ... Alkaev and Apotheosis suits just parked side by side ..." If only he'd gotten here while there was a Velite sitting on the hull. "Okay ... I've got questions," Rex continued, casually pointing a finger at Hannah. They had almost reached their room when Tonya intercepted them in the hall. "Hang on, guys." "What's wrong?" Brant asked. He hoped it wasn't serious, but Tonya looked like she was barely composed. The anxiety was thick enough to start rubbing off soon, as well. "It's Rex. He raced here during the battle and he's definitely going to try and grab Vasiliy on his way out. I need you to help me stop him." So that's what he sensed. Taking Vasiliy with him right now didn't make sense though. All Rex had was a mobile suit, and the war wasn't over yet anyway. Where would he keep his son, on his lap? It was far better to just keep him on the Avalon until he had some better accommodations. Firmia probably wouldn't like it, but Brant was sure he could convince her to give them a small shuttle or something to travel in, especially after they finished raiding Apotheosis' equipment. Brant would have preferred it if Rex just stayed with them post-war, but he and Firmia had some unresolved issues ... and they weren't getting resolved while tensions were this high. Tonya was also being a little overprotective of Vasiliy, which wouldn't make the situation any easier for those two. "Can we have like ten minutes? There's no way he's getting out of here any sooner than that." "Mrmph."
  3. Megumi thought they'd gotten all the injured crew to the infirmary, but that didn't include the pilots yet. Usually there were no major injuries, but she hadn't been monitoring the situation like usual. "First check around the hangar. The pilots are returning, so if you see anyone who's hurt, bring them up here with you." Jessica sounded bored; she didn't actually need to be out of that tank just yet, though. "Please just be patient, Captain. That was our hardest fight yet and I don't think we have time to patch everything up before we move on to the next one. We were supposed to be ending this war today ..." Firmia could only sigh as Ayyl'Vern left for his machine and Hannah brought the Alkaev's attention back to the sortie situation. Did she have something more important to be doing outside, right now? "What's bothering you? Did you really want to stand around on guard duty during the salvage operation? Did you want to help pick up the pieces?" Or did she want to pull a Brant and race over to the Riese to see how things were going with a certain captain ...? Ugh ... "Carlos can handle things for now, and if something does come up, it's not going to take long to launch the Reign again." "Captain, we have an emergency," Tonya's voice came out of Firmia's tablet, "Rex is here and he's going to take my student away. Please help." "How ...?" It wasn't outright impossible for Rex to have reached them this quickly, but it would have required him launching from and racing off ahead of the Athena almost as soon as the battle started. ... what a waste of propellant. Firmia sighed again, more irritated than before. She didn't know why Rex was here, exactly. Moving Vasiliy wouldn't make him safer than he was now--quite the opposite, in fact. Maybe he just wanted to meet his son as soon as possible, though a video call should have sufficed given the situation. Tonya did say Rex was going to take Vasiliy away, but that didn't make sense unless he was intending to grab Vasiliy and leave the rest of the fighting to them. Honestly, Firmia had her doubts but she couldn't put the idea past him. He'd been more than happy to let Carlos and Apotheosis do his dirty work all too recently. "Well, that's a good rationalization for calling you back," she addressed Hannah, "I need you to beat the stuffing out of Rex if he tries anything." Brant sensed something, a presence he'd not felt since ... Oh, they were showering before visiting the girls? Brant supposed that was the better order, even if his paternal instincts said otherwise. "I really hope nothing crazy happens while we're gone." They had plenty of chaos bullets lined up and ready to fire, too: The sorry state of the Riese, the Sacarians, that growing frustration wafting from Firmia like a smokescreen.
  4. The race was on! It was no mad dash toward an ordinary goal, but rather, Requiem's intense desire to absorb as many hostiles as possible before they were felled by other weapons. This was a rare opportunity and the cursed blade wouldn't waste it. That did make the sword's role in this battle an oddly passive one. These odd people were surprisingly conscientious about their actions. Spurring them to kill their enemies might have the opposite effect on some, for whatever reason. These enemies were truly hostile, but Requiem was still feeling cautious; this feast was too important to risk distracting and unnerving the 'help.' ... and so Requiem waited in utter silence. For some insane reason, the battle still found a way to get off to a bad start, as Xalrei chose her pathetic lance over Requiem for her initial foray into the enemy. Was the lizard truly a coward or simply mocking it? She wasn't even able to secure a kill with that measly stick. Others in the group were much faster and more prepared than Xalrei was, and Requiem longed to leap over to one of them even briefly. Surely someone would understand how much easier these encounters would become if they continued to rely on Requiem's power ... Suddenly, Xalrei took up Requiem in the place of her lance and began to focus on a single enemy. The demonic weapon pondered their chances given the seconds that were racing by. Surely someone else would swoop in and steal this meal from Requiem just like before. Or perhaps Xalrei wouldn't have the stamina to outlast the fiend and would fall herself, leaving Requiem to observe the battle from the agonizing discomfort of the ground. The eye, to the surprise of no one and nothing, attacked them first--as you do--but thankfully Xalrei evaded the attack. Enough was enough, already! 'Kill it!' Requiem demanded. And Xalrei killed the monstrous optic, filling the cursed blade with its life force and an all too brief feeling of relief. Requiem could sense Xalrei overcoming her own weakness, as well. Maybe that would make things easier for the both of them going forward. Otherwise, Requiem wouldn't have much hope for its own future. It was difficult to conserve its energy while fighting, and the less it was relied on, the longer that situation would linger on. 'Do not be afraid, Xalrei. Use this power. Your weapon of iron will not become stronger; it will only grow dull and frail. This power will only grow stronger. Use it. Rely upon it.' For a moment, Requiem thought Xalrei was taking those words to heart. Another creature attacked her, and without taking up that useless rod of iron, she cut it down with the cursed sword, granting it even more power. Requiem even rewarded her with what it thought was some much desired silence, instead opting to bask in the new energy pouring into it. The situation didn't last long, however. The energy was absorbed near instantaneously, and Xalrei pulled up her lance once she had taken in some sort of liquid comfort. Even a deep ethereal groan couldn't convey Requiem's frustration, now. The silence continued. Soon, the swift one appeared ... and quite literally at that, as Requiem's external senses changed with the wielder, Xalrei suddenly becoming an indistinct blob of energy as Agni came into sharp focus, another wielder. The cursed blade was taken aback, but not at all disappointed with the familiar maneuver. No one would suddenly come up and take Requiem unless they intended to use it. This was a good sign. It was straight into the chaos from there, with an undead monster attempting to take Agni down. Its attack missed and Requiem's current wielder shot back with magic. Requiem could afford to use magic attacks, but would certainly have preferred not to at such an early stage in the battle. More over, Agni wasn't strong enough to kill his enemy outright this way. Swift, but weak, even compared to the lizard. A comparison wasn't something the soul devouring sword was used to making, but it seemed important now, as there were clearly costs as well as benefits depending on who was using Requiem. Noting all of that, Agni had a more important benefit than his speed, an appreciation for the power on offer. The cheeky commentary certainly wasn't welcome--Requiem couldn't fail, only its wielders could do something that heinous--but Agni's follow up attack was most certainly welcome. The wight was food now, nothing more. Despite the obvious danger, the enemies continued to attack. For that reason alone, Requiem actually felt a certain fondness toward its approaching victims. The normal and the living would flee and and make this more difficult, if not outright impossible. Agni continued to fight, and try as it did, Requiem couldn't handle the burden of repeatedly casting on its own. The wielder was quickly running out of stamina, just like the last wielder ... Requiem feared that with Agni in this state, the fighting couldn't continue, and the buffet it had lined up would be reduced to a cruel appetizer. That was when another life form, a very familiar one, came rushing in, and took Requiem for herself. Xalrei? This time, it was Agni who became indistinct, and rejoined the clusters of souls and magic in the din of the battle. Wasting no time at all, Xalrei impaled their next victim through its skull, feeding Requiem even more power. That was oddly refreshing, and not simply because of the energy flowing into the cursed blade. Xalrei had taken the initiative this time. Her grip on Requiem grew even tighter, more possessive. Good. Excellent. Requiem was tempted not to say anything at all and simply observe what she did next. When Xalrei acted next, Requiem was not disappointed. Another simple, easy, and well deserved kill. Another life absorbed in an instant. Another step ... 'What ...?' The surface of the cursed weapon's metal began to shimmer, and the damage to its center began to shrink. Cracks on the outer fringes began to recede and vanish, until only the main breach remained. Requiem knew that it could heal itself over time if it obtained a certain amount of energy, but it had no idea the process would be automatic, nor did it realize that it had been so close to such an important threshold. Requiem wasn't completely healed, but progress was immense, and with less damage came more control. The energy at the cursed blade's disposal flowed more easily, more quickly. True to its word, Requiem's wielder wouldn't carry as much of a burden going forward. Hopefully now they would see. Hopefully now they would truly understand and take full advantage of what this nexus of power had to offer. 'Behold, Xalrei! This power has increased! Do not hesitate! Bask in this new power! Unleash it upon your enemies!'
  5. Getting out of here? Did Jessica mean the SIEG tank or the infirmary? If the former, not likely. If the latter, not today. She didn't realize just how serious the situation was; she'd lost pretty much all relevant memories and had been at ground zero of that horrific assault. Megumi wasn't sure what to do about her lower half, but she wasn't going to allow Jessica to leave the infirmary until they figured out exactly why the captain had lost her memories and what, if anything, they could do about it. The infirmary may not have been an ideal place to command and control the ship from, but as of right now, it had a better track record than the bridge. Megumi simply shook her head at Jessica as her console notified her of a call coming in. It was from the Avalon, and their medic of all people. Apparently he didn't have anything to do; Megumi's hands were full so she couldn't relate. Monty's offer to come over and help out was a welcome one, though Megumi wasn't sure how he'd feel about helping with what was essentially tending to a cyborg, tending to some miraculously light injuries, and tending to the dead. "I'll take all the help I can get, Doctor. A word of warning though, we do have casualties over here." With that sorted, Megumi took a moment to reconsider Jessica's situation. She didn't really mind her getting out of the SIEG tank if her own 'systems' could continue acting as life support. She just didn't want her to leave the infirmary. It wasn't as if she had anywhere she needed to be right now, anyway. She wasn't going to be handling the debriefing in her state, and there was no bridge to go back to. As for Jessica's legs ... Megumi didn't have any ideas there. Actually, one did come to mind. Nikolai's prosthetics were more or less completed and ready to go. Using those would cut out half the work. She was quick to reject that idea, though. Those were for Nikolai, and if one could argue that it wasn't essential for him to be up and about right now, one could make the same argument for Jessica. She had such a degree of control over the Riese at this point, that it was almost counterproductive to move her anywhere, or keep her anywhere but in the deepest, most structurally secure part of the ship. Now was the time for patience. Ignatius could handle fabricating something temporary for Jessica if she really needed to walk around. So that's how Ayyl'Vern justified his pride in such an expendable position? Firmia could understand where he was coming from, but she still disagreed with the notion. Important or not, they were sacrificial pieces in both theory and practice, and that was the one 'strategy' Firmia hated most. It couldn't be helped when one's playing pieces were priceless. "This isn't a game, and there are no pawns on my ship, so drop it. You're just Ayyl'Vern now." Louise hadn't taken long to get her fun in before she was off again, which had Firmia wondering if the two would ever talk much in the future. It felt like there were some fundamental incompatibilities there .... Regardless, the Alkaev had to find some way to get Ayyl'Vern integrated here, and fast. There wasn't much time to figure out how best to employ the Sacarians, and Firmia hadn't forgotten that there were three of them. If she got a head start on this, she could pass along the information to the Riese and help them that way. With Hannah's arrival, Ayyl'Vern seemed to now realize just how difficult things could be for him going forward. Yes, the Avalon's crew was mostly made up of humans, but more AI and drones were being added all the time, and not just in anticipation of replacing any crew that decided to return to the ANF once the war was over. Firmia had a vested interest in AI in particular and wasn't about to let up. "She's right, but I'm not too worried," Firmia weighed in, "If you can handle being an expendable pawn, then you can handle this." "And touchdown~" Tonya's voice came over the comms. Firmia hadn't felt the landing itself, just a minor shift in her own body as they stopped moving. The crew and drones knew the drill, so she didn't have to do anything other than focus on their ornery new recruit. "There isn't really time for my questions, right now. I need to get you situated here, first. To start, since you're an MS pilot, that's your primary duty. If you aren't currently deployed or on standby, then you're free to do whatever you want. Just be smart about it. That said, if you have any other skills that are useful around the ship, like mechanical, medical, or things like that, you can help out in those areas. This isn't a military ship, so I don't care what people do when we're not fighting." Firmia couldn't help but look at the Praxis unit now parked in her ship's hangar. She'd never seen an intact one this close up before. Naturally, she wondered if their other machines could be improved in various ways by referencing this one machine. Unfortunately, it was a problem for after the war. They were out of time for meaningful upgrades. This was going to be over, today. Tomorrow at the latest. "Naturally," Brant sighed. Louise was kind of a wildcard, and not being able to sense her intentions always left Brant a little guarded around her, but at least for now everything seemed to be alright. Not under control, but 'alright.' As for Ayyl'Vern, that situation seemed to be so under control as to be uncomfortable. Brant couldn't hear what Firmia and the Sacarian were saying to each other, nor Hannah when she arrived, but from what he could sense, all of that frustration was accompanied by resignation, on both sides. "I'm sure Firmia's going to want to debrief us once the salvage operation's done, so we should definitely freshen up first." Brant wanted to see the girls, too, and thankfully that was a quick visit they could make on the way. Another call came to the Avalon's bridge as soon as they landed. Tonya had nothing better to do, so she opened the channel. "Avalon here. If this is Apotheosis or the Sacarians, please direct your complaints to the Heion Riese." "So the battle's over already." Tonya squinted at her console. "Rex, why are you calling?" Judging by the signal strength and estimated source, Rex was fairly close by. The Athena couldn't be here that quickly, so Tonya suspected Rex had launched on his own in something very fast. "What happened to the Athena?" Rex's face appeared on Tonya's monitor in short order. Rex had his flight suit on but no helmet. Thankfully he looked cool and collected. He probably wasn't up to anything rash. "The ship's fine. That ambush sounded bad, so I went ahead to try and help, but everything looks fine, now." "Not really. The Riese took a real beating this time. So you're just coming to say hello?" Tonya suddenly had a bad feeling in her gut, and she didn't know why ... "Not to you people, no. How's Vasiliy? I came all this way, so I should meet him before the fleet moves on to the target." Tonya cringed in her seat; her instincts were on point again. He was coming to meet his son. She wouldn't have her new student around much longer. "... alright, what's the problem, Tonya?" "Nothing," she looked away, scowling.
  6. "I'm pretty sure she wants all suits except the Gunner back inside," Tonya responded to the Mantle from the Avalon's bridge, "... otherwise you can just hang out and help the drones pick up the pieces. They're coming out soon." It wasn't a serious offer, but it also wasn't a bad idea. In the meantime, Tonya was steadily guiding the Avalon to the flattest stretch of land she could find, hoping to land the ship and keep it level. Firmia hoped that someday she would be so used to 'commentary' from both ends of the spectrum that neither Louise nor Ayyl'Vern could frustrate her this easily. For now, she focused on mentally preparing herself for whatever back and forth could happen when she and Louise met the Sacarian in person. It may not have been Louise's first time meeting one of the Sacarians, but it was definitely Firmia's, and it wasn't going to be easy. She really didn't like them after all they had done, and this talk of honor and loyalty stood in stark contrast to their actions in the war, in the Alkaev's view. They reminded her of a certain nation in the Far East and their shenanigans during the Second World War. Firmia caught up to Louise and Ayyl'Vern both after taking the stairs down to the hangar floor and making her way over to the Luna and the Praxis Gamma. Ayyl'Vern's introduction was concise, but one thing the Alkaev didn't like was what he called himself. A pawn. That was the same wording Gabriel had used. He wasn't being needlessly dramatic; the Sacarian pilots really did view themselves that way. What an awful 'rank' to hold in a so called honorable society. What an awful thing to have any pride in whatsoever. Firmia let Louise get in her prodding before she weighed in and introduced herself, though ... "I'm Captain Firmia Alkaev ... and don't call yourself a pawn anymore. Those days are over." The Regalia arrived soon after the Luna and Praxis, and made its way over to its own dock. Rather than hopping down to the ground floor, Brant opted to step out onto the upper level walkway once the Regalia's hatch opened, even offering Chris a hand out of the machine. He didn't even realize just how tired he was getting until he was back on his own two feet. After those showers, it would probably be a good idea to get whatever rest they could. No matter what the situation on the Riese was, it was unlikely that the Regalia's TKs would be out of combat for long. They had hours now, not days like they were accustomed to. The thought of welcoming the new pilot did cross Brant's mind, but he didn't really know what to say. Neither Firmia nor Ayyl'Vern looked or felt particularly happy about the arrangement, which was understandable, but also unusual. His usual shtick of welcoming anyone and everyone to the 'team' didn't sit right with him this time. "I honestly didn't think she could top Louise, but now we've got one of the Sacarians on board and standing at attention like a soldier" Come to think of it, maybe this wouldn't be all awkward. "... Aki did want a cat though, didn't she? Problem solved?" Jokes aside, Brant did wonder how their daughters would handle the news; there was no hiding a tall orange alien, especially not from Akilina.
  7. Right on cue Louise had chimed in with no interest in staying on guard duty while all of this new and interesting was going on inside the ship. At first, Firmia was just annoyed. After all, Hannah may not be made of the same stuff, but she was more trustworthy. In the situation Louise was describing, Hannah was Firmia's go-to. That said, Louise had her strengths as well, and the Alkaev wondered if she couldn't take advantage of that here ... get back at that mouthy Ayyl'Vern for insulting her. It certainly wasn't a hard decision. "No need to apologize, just come back and wait for me in the hangar," Firmia said. Hopefully she could annoy the Sacarian as much as anyone. Getting up from her seat, Firmia grabbed her tablet, took off her TK headset, and made for the door. "You two have the bridge. Don't wait for me if fighting suddenly picks up again." With that, she left the bridge and started down the port side corridor. Along the way, she remembered the message she'd received during the battle. She turned her tablet's screen on and opened the message, more curious about its exact sender than the contents. She was expecting a message from her grandfather, Dima. Instead, it was 'Gabriel Katz.' By now, she knew who he was thanks to her access to the Alkaev Journal, but she didn't know why he was contacting her specifically. The first paragraph of Gabriel's message read: [Cousin, this is later than I planned on writing to you, however, I wanted to wish you well in your final battle with the Sacarian King, Trel'Vaar. I can only hope this message reaches you before then. In that vein, there is something you should know about the Sacarians. From what I've been able to gather, your side has been fighting a very uphill battle, but you needn't. The rank and file Sacarians are known as 'pawns' and are treated as such. Defeating their specific leaders can lead to an immediate surrender of the pawns, provided they have no other options available. This information is somewhat sensitive, however, I'm entrusting it to you in the hopes that you and your allies will use it to bring this war to an end more swiftly, and spare at least some of the Sacarian fighters you'll be facing. Their way of life is foreign to us, but their loyalty is beyond question.] Firmia grimaced at the timing of that. She also wondered why Gabriel was sympathetic to the Sacarians. Had he encountered them and survived? How was that even possible? It took everything they had to keep these battles from snowballing in the enemy's favor. A lack of serious casualties denoted strong, sound tactics, not weak opponents. Still wondering how Gabriel knew about anything Sacarian or Riese related, she read the second paragraph. [One more thing I'd like you to keep to yourself, at least for now, is the conflict in Russia. I can't spare many details, but you should know that our own final battle will be underway, soon. By no means can we end things before you reach and confront Trel'Vaar, however, my people will take back Russia within a month's time at the absolute latest. Perhaps we'll get lucky and Trel'Vaar's death will have a negative impact on the morale of the Knight Shia'Naar and his men. Even if it doesn't, we're still going to fight. We have everything we need to end this war, and I hope your side does as well. With that, please remember what I said, earlier. The Sacarian way of life is foreign to us, but their loyalty is beyond question. Should you find one in your service, please treat them well. They are not your enemy, the Sacarian King himself is your true enemy. I hope we'll have the chance to speak in person at some point, Firmia. Gabriel Katz] Firmia scowled at the message, figuring Gabriel must have some Sacarian oddball fawning over him day and night, biasing his views on them little by little. That said, the Alkaev could sense from nearly the get-go that Ayyl'Vern was more or less resigned to his fate. He wasn't plotting anything truly harmful, though that was all. It seemed the orange furball wouldn't spare her any unnecessary commentary unless ordered to do so. As for Gabriel, they definitely had time to talk now. She was considering calling him directly once the salvage operation was underway. The Riese crew was still recovering from the battle, and so they wouldn't be setting up a debriefing just yet. First, Firmia wanted to set things straight between her and Ayyl'Vern, and having just made it to the hangar, it was simply a matter of heading over to whichever vacant MS dock he chose for his Praxis.
  8. "Urgh! Are you trying to piss me off?! You could have just ignored that!" It wasn't even her suggestion, so Ayyl'Vern's reply really irked Firmia. "... well, we're off to a great start," Tonya smiled uncomfortably. "First order! Dock with the Avalon. A controller will guide you in. Once the ship touches down we're starting our salvage operation. You can meet me in the hangar. Regalia Team, you come back, too. The Luna and the Eidolon can handle guard duty." Assuming Louise would stay put with the new arrival on board was a gamble, but even if she wouldn't, the Eidolon alone should be enough. They weren't expecting another attack after that embarrassing smack down. Like everything else, it was just due diligence. "Alright, heading back," Brant acknowledged. This was definitely weird, but at least they could freshen up when they got back. He still wondered about the situation on the Riese, but until they had things together enough for a full exchange of info, they might as well be on another continent for all Brant could do to affect the situation.
  9. It was the Reign they were talking about. Even if there was no notable battle damage, the machine was still a hassle maintenance-wise. The sooner it was back, the better. That said, Firmia did prefer Hannah be on the ship, right now. Brant and Chris could handle the lone Sacarian, and if something happened on the ship itself, Hannah was a better fit for that sort of problem. For now though, it seemed like their only problem was figuring out why on Earth a Sacarian would surrender in the first place. Ayyl'Vern was the name given by the surrendering Sacarian pilot, and his explanation for surrender turned out to be quite baffling indeed. He'd done nothing to contradict himself or hint at some ulterior motive, though. He even partially disembarked when Chris asked him to. "I'm not sure," Brant shrugged. He was less worried about Ayyl'Vern's motives now and mostly just grateful they wouldn't have to kill him; no matter how angry she got, Firmia wouldn't attack someone in this situation. In all likelihood, the Sacarian's fate would be the same as Carlos'. "The space cats get weirder the more we learn about them," Tonya said, glancing back at Firmia. Deciding not to comment directly, Firmia focused on Ayyl'Vern. "What kind of code is that, where you could end up fighting for the other side on a bad day?!" The Alkaev was really struggling with the new information. There was no doubt that at least some small part of her was almost giddy about having acquired both an otherworldly pilot and machine ... but there was also her grudge against the Sacarians and her general distrust of outsiders in this post-mole era they were now living in. "How long does this last? Are you just going to go back to fighting for the Sacarians when they show up again, or are you fighting for us from now on, come hell or your warmonger king?" "Oo, what if he starts calling you queen?~" Tonya teased.
  10. Megumi didn't get it either, but it wasn't as if there was no precedent for this. "You said surrender signals, right?" Louise came to mind and so far that had been working out. There was also Alriana; it was easy to forget that the Sacarians weren't the only aliens on the planet right now. "I feel like I'm going to lose IQ just suggesting this, but what if they want to join us ... for whatever reason? Maybe their situation is like Alriana's, or they've been hoping for a chance to break away?" It also wasn't clear exactly how this war with humanity served the rank and file, especially with so many of them dying along the way. ... And it seemed just like that, Vera was off, heading back to the Riese without a word. Firmia supposed she didn't have anything in particular she wanted to say to the woman, but still, this battle had likely been harder on her than anyone else. What was she fighting for, now? The Alkaev decided to let the Riese staff figure that out and focus on her own problems. Interestingly, she had a message addressed to her. It was essentially an email that had arrived in the middle of the fighting. It came from somewhere in Russia, so it was clearly unrelated to this or the Sacarian outside. The battle was only technically over, so Firmia decided to look at the message after tending to more pressing issues. A transmission from the Regalia came through, Chris asking about the Sacarian surrendering to the Avalon specifically. Hannah called next, as soon as the Reign made it back to the ship, ready to reengage if necessary. Leaning back in the captain's chair and sighing at the lone machine, Firmia asked, "Thoughts?" The Avalon wasn't the flagship, and the other two fighters seemed to realize that, setting their sights on the Riese, instead. So why this one? Maybe they were surrendering to specific groups, though that implied deep knowledge about their fleet's internal workings ... which they almost certainly had thanks in no small part to the various traitors. Still, it was difficult to take anything at face value, otherwise Firmia would have just concluded that this Sacarian was surrendering to them due to the enemies they killed and the others to the Riese due to their own special body count. It was just better to be sure. "Think they want to get inside just to self destruct?" Tonya offered, doubtful herself, but figuring that was the absolute worst case scenario. She had no doubt Firmia already came up with the idea before asking the others to weigh in. Tonya wasn't feeling particularly on edge, though. If there was a danger here, it was either too distant or nebulous to set off those battle senses. "Two bombs in the Riese and one in the Avalon sounds about right," Firmia noted, merely humoring the idea, "but I don't think that's what's going on here. We're going to land either way so the drones can salvage parts faster. Hannah, come inside so we can start repairs on the Reign. Regalia Team, I want you to stay close to that machine. We're not taking anything in tact on board until we know exactly what's going on or we get an all clear from the Riese." She figured the TKs would at least sense treachery before it actually happened and would be able to respond first, but in terms of safety measures, it was quickly becoming old hat. "Copy that," Brant said. With fresh orders sent, it was time to make contact. "Hey. Captain Alkaev to the lone Praxis. Why aren't you running away?"
  11. "Hmm, Monty?" Firmia was surprised to hear from the doctor ... until she wasn't. The Avalon crew rarely had injuries of their own to deal with for a variety of reasons. Monty wasn't going to have anything to do just sticking around on the Avalon, not unless some of the Riese's injured were moved over, but that was probably unnecessary. The Riese's infirmary was larger. Better to send over doctors and nurses than try to divvy up the patients. Still, it was rather annoying that someone always needed to go over to that ship for one reason or another. "Sure, Monty. Go ahead ..." Firmia glared over at the Heion Riese. The relationship was mutually beneficial, incredibly annoying but mutually beneficial; the Riese would provide them with protection through its sheer size and presence on the field ... and the Avalon would be there to help the crew pick up the pieces. Every single time. "You owe us, Jessica ..." Firmia irritably muttered.
  12. What a magnificent finish ... Firmia sank deep into the captain's chair, heaving one big sigh of relief. It was over ... and somehow, they had survived. "Thank you ..." It wasn't like the usual rough battle. This time they had critical considerations, and a fairly small window in which to do so. This attack had been meant to head them off and prevent them from reaching Apotheosis' main base, and in that regard, they had nearly succeeded. If nothing else, they had bought their King time to rally for one final battle. It would likely be harder, not easier, going forward. "Is that it?" Brant contacted them on the bridge, "Remaining hostiles aren't moving." "They'll leave after the shock wears off. All MS teams return to the Avalon immediately. Luna, stand guard in case something changes, please." Hopefully Brant would get the hint that he wasn't excused to fly off to the Riese, right now. In truth, Firmia had been planning to head over there as well. She ... had her reasons, but the reality of the situation was crashing down on them and they didn't have time for the Jessica ... stuff, just yet. Glancing at her display, Firmia noticed they had a visitor atop the Avalon. She'd ignored it before due to the chaos, but now it was impossible to overlook the Velite idling on top of the ship. "Vera, do you read me? Are you ..." Of course she wasn't okay, but what other questions could Firmia ask that wouldn't be alluding to a rude, 'get inside or get off the hull' demand?
  13. "Well, I've done all I can to keep her stable," Megumi sighed in frustration, "but I'm still not sure what I'm dealing with." Where exactly, particularly in Jessica's head, did the organic parts end and the android parts begin? Having Ignatius around to help with the latter was good, but the doctor was still feeling a little overwhelmed. The closest she'd ever dealt with were patients involving prosthetic limbs. Nothing approaching this or even a cyborg. Part of the issue was actually minimizing the impact of her work on Jessica's consciousness. After all, if she did anything to reduce it or inadvertently knocked the captain out, they would be sitting ducks again. And as if she wasn't feeling anxious enough, Jessica began interfacing more fully with the Riese and involving herself more and more with the battle raging outside. "Hurry and take them out so I can focus," Megumi grumbled. ... One quick followup from Tycho and the second Chaldene was sent back to the Earth in flames. Good teamwork, though as Brant confirmed the ship sunk on the Regalia's sensors, he realized just how much of an absolute mess they were making. Between Firmia's salvaging shenanigans and the desperate repairs needed for the Riese--and her captain no less--they might be stuck here for a little while. Sure, they could patch up the ship along the way, leave the various wrecks untouched for later and simply push ahead to Apotheosis' base, but was that really the wisest course of action? They might face even stiffer resistance there. At the very least they had the Sacarian leadership to deal with. That alone was a tall order. "What a mess ..." Brant shook his head as he glanced in the Riese's direction and saw a Phobos disappear, overtaken by violet justice. ... "I read you," Firmia replied having briefly forgotten Thorvald's callsign in the chaos, "We'll handle it, just be ready if we can't quite punch through it." Firmia wasn't sure if the Avalon had enough firepower to finish off the Hexis, if only because the machines of Sacarian knights were difficult to gauge in general, but the pissed off Alkaev was certainly willing to pour her ship's remaining stores into it. If nothing else, it would hurt. It would hurt like hell. "Get ready, Marcia. I'm shutting off any system limiters that won't compromise the reactor and giving you the guns. Take him out!" Firmia casts Dreams: Fury (Calina's) and attacks the Hexis with Excalibur!
  14. It looked like the Avalon crew's focus was getting divided, which left Brant a little hesitant to focus on the Chaldene. He wouldn't say they were no threat, but the final Sacarian Knight they had to deal with certainly warranted the whole team's full attention. As if sensing that rationale about to be put into action, Firmia sent what was more or less an attack order. The second Chaldene was marked on their IFF as the Regalia's primary target, while the Sacarian Knight's signature remained unchanged. "Alright, fair enough," Brant conceded, his hyper beam rifle already primed to fire. "Let's hurry and take this thing down so we can deal with the main problem. Brant attacks Chaldene #2 with Full Burst! EndWar (Prospective: Chapter 1)
  15. So Xalrei would fight? With Requiem and not her lesser weapons, yes? The cursed blade supposed that even if Xalrei's weakness became an issue again, the others had benefited enough to take up Requiem in her place, even if temporarily. At least in theory, there shouldn't be any issues. 'Very well ...' Requiem began to glow faintly as it reached out as far as it could to sense what it could, all the while trying to ignore the fact that it was surrounded by precious magic. Once its senses reached far enough, however ... 'What's this ...?' Souls and unclaimed power, a field of dozens of victims ripe for harvest! 'Heheheheh ... hahahahahah! I will kill you all!'
  16. The cursed blade didn't like being mentally prodded, though admittedly, it had been the very definition of dormant. Doing anything other than quietly observing its surroundings exacted a toll on Requiem, and observing these peaceable arena goers was a special kind of torture. Having opened its spiritual eyes just long enough to take in its new surroundings, it was clear that something was off. There was also something extremely unpleasant about this place. Requiem had an extremely difficult time acquiring energy through nonviolent means, which made extracting magic from this area impossible in its current state. The cursed blade tried anyway and failed. Maybe the source of this area's magic was physical, something that could be struck and properly drained. 'This place resists.' Feeling conservative with its scarce energy and information, Requiem answered Xalrei with questions of its own. 'What do you intend? Will you fight or flee?' If she admitted her intention was to fight whatever came their way, then perhaps the cursed sword could be bothered to reach out farther with its senses and try to be more helpful. If the plan was to avoid a fight, Requiem had other plans, and enough stored energy to facilitate them, albeit with some minor risk. On top of leaving the group perturbed, potentially dead or worse, calling out a challenge into the mist to try and draw the danger to them was an investment of precious energy that might not pay off.
  17. Well, at least the Gamma was gone. At this point it was easy to tell where everyone was and what they were doing, and seeing the Regalia attacking one of the Chaldenes made Firmia a little nervous. They ought to be fine, but 'ought' and 'would' were two different things. "Missiles," Brant instructed as he moved the Regalia just close enough for a good angle on the enemy warship. "Be careful, you two," Firmia warned over the comms, "You're too far away for the Avalon to support you." Bris autoshifts to Flight Mode, moves to 11,6 and attacks Chaldene #1 with TK Missiles!
  18. Astin had definitely chosen the wrong side, just like so many others. It was way too late for regrets now, and with the battle not letting up, there was no time to even speculate about other possible outcomes. Their allies had to weather a coordinated counterattack for a time, but the weaker enemies had put themselves in bad straits by committing to the fight. One by one they were being taken out, and then ... "Alright... We're cleaning them out." Brant glanced back at his copilot wondering what she had in mind. "Earth to shit for brains, come in, shit for brains ..." Classic. A scathing, fur ruffling rebuke followed and Brant knew once and for all that Chris' psych game was strong. Brant took a moment to slow the Regalia's speed and transform into MS mode. They needed to decide where to go and what to attack soon, and that would be easier if they weren't zipping around as much. Meanwhile, the others wasting no time in ganging up on the Theoria. To Brant's surprise, Thorvald scored the finishing blow. It looked like it was going to be Hannah, but all things considered, the outcome was about the same. No point in kill counting today. It wasn't a good day. ... With Astin and Marianne dealt with, they could focus on the remaining enemies, none of whom would be spared if Firmia had anything to say about it. If they didn't flee, then the fleet wouldn't have to worry about them showing up later when they hit Apotheosis' main base. Thinking on that for a moment had been a mistake, actually ... Firmia didn't know what kind of threats were waiting for them, but the Riese had suffered near irreparable damage this time around. It would be one thing if they could delay the final attack until the ship was fully repaired, but that was more time for their enemies to regroup. If the Athena and ANF escorts weren't enough to make up the difference, they might actually lose the next one. Walking back that awful train of thought, Firmia was just in time to see the Theoria destroyed. Making a mental note to pick over the wreckage if and when they secured their victory, she searched the field for vulnerable targets. It was good timing, given the support request that followed. "That's Gamma number nine ... Let'em have it!" Firmia waited, carefully gauging the hits the Gamma was taking from the combined volley of missiles and heavy beam fire. It was certainly damaged by the attack, but by no means finished. Just one attempt wasn't going to cut it. "Marcia, full power! Blow that furball out of the sky!" Firmia attacks Gamma #9 with Excalibur! Brant Autoshifts in to MS mode (still flying) Revolutsiya (Chapter VI)
  19. The battle was over all too soon, and the cursed weapon felt no contentment. It certainly didn't help matters that the last kill was lost ... by mere inches. What a tragedy. On the other hand, the battle offered a more concerning insight, a potential setback Requiem had never before considered. This collection of arena lovers was really good at murdering people. Almost too good. It wouldn't be too long before others decided they were too dangerous to fight. As things stood, only a few kills could be expected during each slaughter, even with them taking turns using it, and eventually the threat they posed might keep them out of most fights. There had to be a better way to feed, a way to use their efficiency to its full advantage. Most likely it would have to bide its time and make due. With more power, new avenues would surely open up, but for the moment, their admittedly clever shenanigans were as good as Requiem was going to get. 'Grow stronger, Xalrei,' Requiem demanded, 'This power is far more valuable than an axe,' the cursed blade continued with obvious contempt for the earlier swap.
  20. Finally, battle. Unrestrained, nourishing battle. Xalrei wasted little time in felling one of their enemies, and Requiem in turn consumed their spirit completely, leaving behind a searing mess. Now this was more like it, the cursed blade's goal if not its purpose. Requiem had been on the cusp of making a tactical suggestion, or a nudge toward further carnage if you'd prefer, when it was promptly returned to Xalrei's belt. Why? Forsaken for an axe of all things. Was the strain of wielding such a powerful weapon too much for Xalrei? If that were the case, then why hold onto it? Too strong to wield, yet too alluring to part with? 'I will not spectate idly whilst blood is spilled,' Requiem protested. It wasn't long before the empty one approached, and through Xalrei, Requiem learned that there were others interested in taking advantage of the cursed blade's power in this brawl. Excellent. Better still, Xalrei proved to not be as attached as Requiem suspected. The feast would continue. For a time, at least. Things became a little strange when the cursed blade found itself changing shape, not into a melee weapon or a bow like before, but a firearm. Right away, Requiem realized it was going to be projecting a small part of itself at very high speed at an enemy, and to say that was novel would be an understatement. When the shot came, Requiem felt like a part of itself had disappeared entirely. Quickly though, it found what was missing, a small piece calling back to it, promising a now vulnerable soul ripe for devouring. The body left behind was, like all the others Requiem had feasted on, an unsightly heap of cooked meat and bone. 'Well done, strange blade ... You actually make a pretty good gun.' The empty one's words were casual enough to slightly annoy Requiem, but that was more than offset by the incoming energy. A gun hadn't been the ideal form for gathering souls or magical energy, but Requiem supposed that as long as it was used and fed, its various shapes, however strange, didn't matter, nor any praise. In fact, with enough energy built up, the nigh starving weapon could probably find a way to ease the burden on its wielders. There were no guarantees, but perhaps the promise alone would be enough to encourage them. All Requiem knew for certain was that it could kill more easily with more power. 'The greater the power gathered, the less the burden. Strike them all down.' From the look of things, the cursed firearm wouldn't need to do much in the way of encouraging them, as Jade tried to take down another enemy by shooting them. Requiem wasn't able to claim their soul this time, but it was close. One more shot would easily do it. Just as the second bullet dissolved into magical energy, Requiem was scooped up by one of the others. How vexing, and yet, this Bladen's intentions were clear enough. Transforming into a blade, Requiem prepared to bask in blood. 'More ...' the cursed blade couldn't help but call out as its power finally began to increase, 'More!'
  21. Changing Rooms Next came the part Carmen wasn't looking forward to. In truth, she could have stalled a bit longer, but she wanted the girls to know what they were in for if they were going to let the scarabs give them the full serf look. "Since Euphrosyne's busy now, I should show you the next two steps," Carmen began, grabbing one of the unused scarabs from the bag and holding it up to her cheek. The little metallic creature tried to get a foothold, but she held it just far enough from her face that it could only grab a loose strand of hair. "If you're going to be serfs for the afternoon, you'll need your skin and eyes changed, too." "Umm," Hitomi winced, trying to picture a scarab changing the color of her eyes. The procedure wasn't going well in her head. "H-how's that going to work, again? Changing eye color sounds like straight up surgery." "I'm going to show you," Carmen frowned, more concerned with the potential reactions than anything. Fortunately it wasn't surgery, just a strange experience. Front Courtyard Irvine groaned as Linus headed over to check out the commotion. He supposed it was better to finish his meal. He wasn't getting food this high quality at better prices anywhere around here. It wasn't long after Linus started off that James approached from the exhibit entrance. He looked positively pissed ... and considering he would have had to get passed Sheridan to make it over here, he was probably even more upset before. Irvine waved to him. "You're late, Sage. What took you so long?" "Shut up, Irvine," James hissed, coming straight to Irvine's table, "I never said I'd be here at a specific time. And what's going on over there?" "Relax," Irvine winced, "Like I said, you're late. They're about to start that show of theirs." "The G-frame demonstrations were supposed to be outside, not in the docks," James noted, his tone dubious. "Yeah well," Irvine shrugged and then nudged his head toward the Journeyman, slowly beginning to levitate above the crowd. The Field Euphrosyne glanced at Linus, trying to remember if she'd seen him before. She quickly pegged him as one of Carmen's friends, and his second question confirmed it. "Things could be better, but for now we can manage. That's to answer both of your questions, just so you know." "Everything's optimal," Nero's voice reached the crowd from on high. "Now to show you what real combat maneuvers look like!" Even using just its telekinesis, the Journeyman was able to take off into the artificial sky at high speed. Only the violently displaced air made any sound overhead, leaving an almost ghostly impression as the frame reached the peak of its climb. From there, Nero put his TK maneuvering to full use and propelled himself toward the mansion, aiming to just barely miss the structure, as well as wave hello to Thomas and Ninos. From there, it was probably best to circle back around and make sure the crowd could fully appreciate the high g maneuvers up close. It wasn't the safest way of doing things, and Nero didn't have as much room to maneuver as the backdrop of the exhibit suggested, but he trusted his piloting skills.
  22. Having all but given up on that deer for the evening, Requiem was 'excited' by the prospect of another battle. Not too excited, but its usual crimson glow was just a bit brighter. Still, there was so much that could go wrong, here. Requiem could only hope they weren't heading back to that incomprehensible arena. 'Do not hold back. Strike them all down. If you fall, another will take up this power for themselves. It will be too late for regrets then ... strike,' the cursed blade opted for some words of encouragement as Xalrei prepared for battle.
  23. 'You understand,' Requiem replied, glowing again in lieu of a grin, 'Then you know what you must do.' Whether or not Xalrei would opt to find that special individual or simply give the cursed blade what it wanted, Requiem wasn't sure, but the time was soon coming when she couldn't rely on other solutions. Sooner or later, the mere act of possessing the cursed blade would force her hand.
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