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Phoenix

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  1. "Tch," Firmia wasn't buying into Trel'Vaar's unique spin on events. "They wouldn't need defending in the first place if people like you weren't always starting wars." While her hatred of Sacarians in general was beginning to waver slightly, the Alkaev wasn't about to show one ounce of mercy to the architect of this war, and by extension, so much of their suffering. She didn't have an actual plan for addressing the knights and their king just yet, but maybe once they had a better idea of what they were capable of. Avalon moves to 17,24! Regalia moves to 18,25! Anarchy moves to 16,29!
  2. Avalon moves to 20,21! (To the past's future!) Regalia moves to 19,26! Anarchy moves to 20,27!
  3. Once the Regalia launched, Brant took in the surroundings. Snow, rocks, frozen trees and still more snow. The one thing he hadn't checked before the mission started was the mission area. Fortunately the weather was clear and the area wasn't quite frigid enough to affect MS performance, not even high speed transformations. Of course, decent weather for them was also decent weather for the enemy, so they still had that to contend with. Brant was also still concerned with Firmia and Rex working together. They had bother agreed for the sake of survival, but was Rex really going to take orders if it came down to it? "Lancelot, it's Merlin," Brant contacted his brother when he noticed the Anarchy moving into position a little ahead and a few dozen meters above the Regalia, "Are you going to be able to keep up with us?" He tried to phrase the real question a bit differently, but realized he might have veiled it a little too much. "Vivian's going to have us pulling all kinds of maneuvers. That's what I meant." "Yeah, I figured," Rex said, "Again, I'll take any good suggestions under advisement." "I guess that'll have to do," Brant conceded. With that, it was time to activate the T-link and muscle through the Sacarian malice already washing over them. Regalia deploys at 19,19! (Plane Mode) Anarchy deploys at 20,20! (Airborne) EndWar Parts One (R.R.) & Two
  4. Was this new fangled Jessica being serious? Firmia wasn't sure she wanted to know. What she did know was that these battles rarely topped twelve minutes, and that meant their reinforcements were officially out of the equation. Maybe they could catch up in time, but the Alkaev wouldn't count on it. They'd had a similar problem with the Athena and it was clear that they would have to just deal with this themselves. On the plus side, if they lost, there was at least help on the way. Unfortunately, ten to twenty minutes was a long time in a battle, especially having to deal with a manic high school girl piloting Jessica's body, Rex existing within ten kilometers of the Avalon, the Deliverance crowd, and a homicidal, extremely powerful Sacarian with strong allies challenging them. "Acknowledged," Firmia said warily, not wanting to get any more distracted than she already was. "Will the battle last that long?" Tonya asked, having overheard the transmission. "No," Firmia shook her head at her helmsman, "not unless we royally screw this up." To be fair, Brant mused, they had already--and quite thoroughly--mangled the Arthurian legends as far as name assignments went. At some point Hannah and Chris should be at each other's throats over something crown related, but thankfully that wasn't going to happen. Though, wasn't Lancelot raised by the Lady of the Lake? Wasn't Vivian one of her names, the same one Firmia had taken? He definitely picked the name at random. The odd assignments would only get sillier the longer he thought about them, so Brant put the amusing thoughts and his resulting smile away and prepared to launch. "Well at least it's just for this one mission. This is Merlin and Mordred in the Regalia. We're taking off."
  5. Firmia had been hoping to link up with the Athena before they finally reached Apotheosis, and by extension, the Sacarian's main base in North America, but the ship had come a long way and wasn't exactly moving through friendly territory. More over, there was a small tactical opportunity offered by them showing up a bit late to the party. With the Armadura and Merrygate providing fire support, the Athena's eventual arrival would make for a good pincer maneuver. All in all it was a good way to close the net on the enemy and close the book on this violent chapter of their lives. Firmia just hoped that the timing would work out in their favor. They still had another operation running right alongside this one, and the conditions on the ground when all was said and done were going to have an enormous impact on it. Firmia checked the MS readouts on her console when pilots started reporting in. She was aware that the Riese was already beginning launches, but she wasn't a fan of playing her hand this early. On the other hand, the sooner Rex was off the ship, the better she'd feel. He seemed to feel the same way, since he'd moved the Anarchy into one of the sublaunch bays rather than waiting in line behind the catapults. "I guess there's no point in waiting if they're taking the initiative. All mobile suits are cleared to launch. Eidolon, same as last time. You're the Avalon's first line of defense while we move up." Kind of like a really big funnel, the Alkaev mused. "Everyone else, wait until we have a read on the situation before attacking." "Lancelot in the Anarchy. Launching." "W-what?!" Firmia was beside herself having heard that. No one in the Avalon was using that callsign, and that almost sounded like Brant. It was obvious who it really was given the name of the mobile suit he'd called out. 'Rex.' What kind of game was he playing at, anyway? "... tch, Lancelot ..." Tonya sighed. "I kind of wish we could just convince him to stay with us. Aside from the whole trying to kill you thing, he's not so bad." "Focus on the mission!" Brant had briefly considered launching the Regalia from the sub launch bay opposite the one Rex was using, but unlike his older brother, he wasn't in a rush to get into the battle. It was a scramble, but not a mad scramble. They still had a smidgen of momentum left. He waited for the launch lift to come back down for them while the Reign launched up above. After a moment, Firmia gave the go ahead to launch. The elevator was already coming back down for them when Brant overheard Rex's takeoff confirmation and had a brief chuckle over it. "So that's the one he picked, huh? That's funny." He didn't know how fitting it may or may not have been but there was one thing he was certain of, and that was Firmia's irritation. It wasn't so much him picking a callsign she wouldn't like, but that he'd even try. Best not to activate the T-Link just yet, as he could already feel the anger building overhead from the bridge, and he'd appreciate a lighter dose of that. "Are we ready, T-Link aside?" Brant glanced back at his copilot, having left some of the setup work for her while he fiddled with the hyper beam rifle in particular. A small part of Brant regretted having to bring his pregnant fiancee into yet another battle, but at least she wasn't that far along yet. Furthermore, this ought to be the last battle for quite some time. Firmia was going to find all sorts of problems that required mobile suit levels of violence to solve, but without a war going on, she wasn't going to be able to manage it nearly this often. There was a much needed vacation from this madness already lined up for them. They just had to get through this one last fight. "I'm ready to be done with these insane murderers once and for all." "Everyone else, wait until we have a read on the situation before attacking," Firmia instructed her pilots over the comms. Rex wasn't following Firmia's orders. He was just hitching a ride to the final fight ... but he'd still take any sound ideas under advisement, even if the Alkaev twerp was the one that came up with them. This particular battle was a little too important to be petty. That was why Rex wasn't only playing nice, but even donning the SKIN suit Firmia had left him. Finally, the sub launch bay door was beginning to open up. There were no catapults since the sub launch bays were meant for underwater use, meaning Rex would have to take the Anarchy out of the ship under its own power. Thankfully, the suit was quite nimble with its flight pack installed. Time to head out. "Lancelot in the Anarchy. Launching." While not caring much for Arthurian legends, Rex figured out all too quickly that some of the names associated with them had been taken up as callsigns by the Avalon's pilots, Merlin and Mordred for Brant and Chris, Arthur for Hannah, and Vivian for Firmia. They weren't all using them, but Rex figured he'd have some fun with it before they parted ways. Of course, he would have to return to the ship one more time to pick up his son. He wasn't sure what else would happen between now and then, but as long as he kept himself alive, and Firmia did the same for Vasiliy, things ought to work out. They would be on their way to bigger and better things soon enough.
  6. Rex started off back toward the hangar, only glancing to make sure Vasiliy was following him. "See you later," he waved back to the others. "Later," Brant returned a smaller, listless wave. For an in person reunion, that had been quite underwhelming. He imagined seeing his parents face to face again would be a similar experience, especially after having already spoken to them or video. Ready to head back to their room, Brant said, "You can still make the waffles. He may be fine with military rations but I'm not. Hell, I'll chip in if you want." "They're waffles not a wedding cake," Tonya sighed, seemingly still on edge over Rex's investigation ... among other things. "Why's that blue hound so certain, anyway?" she began murmuring to herself, "I should introduce him to Louise. I'm sure that recruitment recap would shut him up." It wasn't a long walk back to the hangar, but Rex didn't plan on waiting until they arrived to try to find some common ground with his son. The ride over had been quiet enough for the most part, and Rex was acutely aware that he still had to actually sell Vasiliy on the idea of leaving to who knows where with his old man. As far as he knew, Rex was the only one that truly believed that. Everyone else seemed focused on recruiting him to Team Avalon or simply making sure he had the final say with his own child. There was no reason to expect them to have strong opinions one way or the other when even he didn't know where they were going. Maybe Europe, but if travel there wasn't too heavily restricted post-war. "I hate to ask, but how do you like it here?" "Everyone's nice," Vasiliy said, not sure what to say about the ship itself. "Things were more strict at the estate where we grew up." Rex cocked an eyebrow. "Oh? How strict?" "Karla wanted us to focus on our studies, and the servants were always keeping an eye on us. We couldn't leave and we couldn't go to most places on the internet." Studies? Rex suddenly felt really uncomfortable, the realization of something troublesome catching him completely off guard. "Studies ..." He and Brant had also been put through some rather focused education while coming up at Voronin, but the place hadn't gone up in flames until long after they finished. Vasiliy was only twelve years old, so he had a ways to go. He was probably only at the middle-school level. Unfortunately, until they were well established somewhere, the best Rex could really offer were some online courses courtesy of the Anarchy's computer. That was far from ideal. "Yeah," Vasiliy nodded, "I was going to be starting tenth grade next year, but then Casey and Zeus caused a huge fire and Firmia and Hannah brought us back here. I don't know if the building is still there." "Sounds about right. So you're what ... two years ahead? Almost in high-school? That old harpy had you kids skipping grades? If they were just hiding you there, I don't see the point." Of course, if there was a bigger purpose behind their accelerated learning, it was probably too late to find out what it was; Karla was long dead. Vasiliy frowned and looked away. "Not skipping," he corrected his father, "we started early and we study longer and harder. There wasn't much else to do in that place." Rex was about to shift focus back to Vasiliy himself, wanting to compliment his son on his advanced progress, but he noticed a figure coming from the direction of the hangar. He sensed her first, so even before getting a good look, Rex could tell it was Firmia coming their way. She seemed to be actively avoiding eye contact. "Hi, Firmia," Vasiliy waved at her. He was genuinely surprised to see her briefly wave back considering how annoyed she looked. What was that briefcase she was carrying with her? He wanted to ask her about it, but that would mean striking up a conversation, one it looked like neither she nor Rex wanted to have. The three were just about to pass each other when Firmia, glaring at the ground, stopped and stepped sidestepped in front of Rex and Vasiliy. "What is it?" Rex said, resigned to whatever spite was coming his way, "We're not heading out yet. I'm just talking with my son for a bit." "I was going to wait," Firmia mumbled to herself, "but it just wouldn't make sense, now." She held up the briefcase and offered it to Rex. "Take this." "What's in it?" "That's what I was wondering," Vasiliy said. "It's for Vasiliy, but it's also your responsibility," Firmia gave the most cryptic answer she could come up with, then urged the case toward Rex, "Take it." "That did not answer my question," Rex said, a little amused. Before he knew it, Firmia had shoved the briefcase into his arms and chest and brushed past him. That prompted another sigh from Rex. Well, at least it hadn't been a whole lot of spite. "Are you okay?" Vasiliy asked, watching Firmia head in the direction they'd come from. "She pushed you pretty hard." "I'm fine," Rex said, inspecting the case from the outside. "What is this, your course work?" That was the only thing that came to mind. He knelt down to open the case and sate both of their curiosity. What they found inside wasn't anything directly related to Vasiliy, but Rex got the idea behind it. The briefcase was holding little more than a SKIN suit designed for a male of about his height. It might have been a spare belonging to Brant, but Rex couldn't be sure. The message was clear, though. It was silly that Firmia wouldn't just come out and say it, but Rex decided he was grateful, both for the free gear and for not having to actually have a lengthy exchange with her. "Responsibility, huh? Whatever. Alright, let's get a move on," Rex said, shutting up the briefcase and standing back up.
  7. Megumi almost chuckled when Monty spoke to Bennet. She supposed she couldn't expect him to know exactly who did and didn't originally belong to the bridge staff. Speaking of which, not everyone who survived was still in the infirmary to be counted among the living. Tristan left to do something and some were doing more harm than good being so panicked and had been quietly ushered out a bit earlier. Not naming any names. The doctor made a mental note to double check the list once Monty got that to her, to fill in any people he'd inevitably miss. Next for Firmia should have been handing off the briefcase she was carrying to Rex, but beside it feeling too soon to talk to him again, it was more of a going away gesture. Hopefully he would be going away as soon as she gave it to him. Deciding to keep the briefcase with her for now, the Alkaev pondered going to the cafeteria for a much needed drink. A small part of her wanted to make a brief trip over to the Heion Riese instead, to see the situation for herself, but with Rex loitering over here that was next to impossible for Firmia to seriously consider. It was off to the cafeteria then. "Thanks, but I knew it was going to be a long day and filled up on rations on the way here," Rex explained. "Besides, some of you aren't exactly dressed for lunch," he noted, eyeing Brant and Chris in particular. A fair point, Brant bitterly mused. They should probably shower first and then try to encourage Rex to hang out during what little downtime was left. "Yeah, we'll deal with that but you can at least talk with us for a bit," Brant said, not expecting a whole lot of good to come of it, but feeling it was at least something normal he and his brother could do for once in their lives. The 'Alkaev' situation seemed to put a minimum distance between Rex and 'Firmia's people.' Even him. Rex sighed. "Alright, fine. I'm gonna have a chat with Vasiliy first, though. We'll meet you there later." "Don't forget!" Tonya grabbed Rex's attention by raising her voice. He found a finger pointing straight at him when he glanced back at her. "Ilya's alive. Believe it." "For once I'll trust my own eyes over your gut feelings," Rex shook his head, some unsettling memories coming to mind. It'd be different if they hadn't recovered the man's body, but ... they recovered the man's body. Even if he'd been secretly revived with some far flung space wizardry, he wouldn't be in any condition to settle down with Tonya, much less breathe unassisted.
  8. Aside from the video recording, Firmia hadn't found anything particularly noteworthy in the Anarchy's systems. With that, she made a few calls to the Avalon's mechanics. There were some improvements to be made, but very little of it she could manage alone. For now it was time to disembark and wait for the crew to bring what she asked. "Well, I'm done here for now, so it's time to find something else to do," she muttered, glancing down at the blue Haro, now safely back in its bowl terminal, "and less annoying company." "Alkaev is bad company! Alkaev is bad company!" "... please die in the next battle somehow," Firmia scowled, climbing out of the cockpit and grabbing onto the lift. "Hey, he said we can talk about it," Tonya noted bitterly. As far as she could tell, there were only two options, Rex and Vasiliy both staying or both leaving ... "I'll think about it," Rex gave Chris a noncommittal answer. "I've got a lot of other things on my mind right now." While he planned to head back to the Athena at least once before finally blasting off over the horizon, he didn't have the order of events or the timing all worked out yet. In theory, he ought to be just fine loitering on the Avalon for a while, deploying from the same for the final bout, and then settling matters on the Athena before leaving. That would be the fewest number of trips ... but possibly the most stressful route to fatherhood and freedom. "And yeah, we can sort that out first since things are tense enough already," Rex continued, "I've got a question for you specifically, Tonya. I don't really mind you having Vasiliy as a student if he doesn't, so why don't you come with us? I know Firmia has Brant anchored on the spot, but there's not much keeping you here. You get your student and no one has to worry about whether Vasiliy's safe." Brant winced, not because of what Rex had said about him, but rather his recent conversation with Tonya. While it was vaguely true that she had no strong ties to the Avalon itself, the situation was more complicated than his brother knew. "I-" Tonya froze, suddenly realizing precisely why she had such a bad feeling when Rex arrived. The realization left her dumbstruck and embarrassed, staring at nothing. Rex waited a few seconds, not quite sure what had stopped her from answering, though he figured it was some attachment to the group rather than a serious obligation. What was really going on was that Tonya's instincts were warning her about Rex the same as they had with Brant. She'd been fighting herself in order to put Brant and Chris' relationship to the test; going with Rex put her own relationship with Ilya at even greater risk than before because she wasn't being pushed away by another woman or held back by anything other than a feeling. It was the same instinct that kept her from getting too familiar with Monty or Carlos and the same one that screamed at her constantly to stay faithful to her fiance--her fiance whom most reasonably believed was dead. How to explain this? Rex came to his own conclusion after the few seconds he'd given Tonya to come back with an answer and decided to take a shot at it. "New boyfriend?" "Old," Brant murmured, trying not to actually join the exchange but wanting to at least chime in. That one word caused everything to fall into place for Rex. "What? Ilya's dead," the older Abrams noted with a hint of frustration. Tonya was about to argue, but he was having none of it. "And before you say something like 'I know he's alive! I can feel it,' remember I compiled as much information about the Alkaevs as I could before this war started. I was thorough researching the murders because of how important they were. Dima had Ilya killed." "Uh huh, just like he had Vasiliy, Lily and Aki all killed," Tonya fired back, pointing to one of the miracle children standing beside Rex. While that was a devastating riposte, Rex probably had enough hard evidence on hand if she wanted to keep making excuses. He'd already lost May over this Alkaev situation. Being shot down by Tonya over a decade old charred corpse, even with her precious student on offer, would be heaps of salt in the wound. Firmia wasn't waiting long before some of the mechanics had shown up. One of them had a briefcase. "Captain," the tech at the head of the pack greeted her, "you wanted us to update the T-Link to our version and assess the funnels, right? Can we actually get system access?" Word traveled fast onboard the Avalon and more or less everyone knew now that Firmia and Rex weren't on good enough terms for something like this. "I did," Firmia shrugged, "I just can't update it by myself. I honestly thought they would have taken care of that on the Athena, but everything related to the T-link was ignored for some reason." She accepted the briefcase from the man carrying it and nodded to him. "I'll hand this off myself, though. Thanks. If that 'sub-computer' in there gives you any trouble, ask Galatea to help you with the system. You can also smash the little bastard to pieces. That works, too." "Err-right ... Captain."
  9. With Monty having just arrived, they were all set as far as the medical staff went. Megumi felt a little guilty about Monty's first 'assignment' but since she was busy logging events--as best she could--and Bennet and Tambre were busy tending to the living, that just left the casualty log. Maybe there was a more effective way to finish up here, though ... "I'm writing up a report so the ANF has a better idea of what happened here. While they handle the minor injuries, would you check the ship roster. Bridge staff, specifically. Just give me the names. If they aren't here in the infirmary then we'll list them as KIA." The only difference between tagging bodies and this was that they had no effective way of actually reaching the dead right now. That was a grim task in and of itself, one reserved for the androids. "After that ..." Megumi glanced over at Jessica, still curious about one or two things, "I'd like to see what's really going on with the Captain." Megumi wasn't confident she would learn anything, but that was no reason not to try. Ignatius would be a while getting her body fixed anyhow. Firmia continued sifting through the Anarchy's files, looking for anything that could tell her anything. Rex didn't seem to keep anything locked, not that it would do him much good while his suit was inside the Avalon anyway. Of course, it made sense that Rex wasn't hiding anything, since there were almost no personal files in the system anyway. In fact, the only thing of interest the Alkaev had found so far were the location of his and Brant's parents over in Europe, along with their contact information. Firmia suspected that was his next stop after the war. "Intruder is snooping! Intruder is snooping!" Firmia glanced over her shoulder to see the Haro clinging to the back of the pilot seat with its long wiry arms and cartoonishly round hands. "Would you be quiet? I don't know how Rex puts up with such an obnoxious toy. Note to self, no talking worker bots." "That's oppression! That's oppression!" Firmia sighed and leaned back in the seat, unwilling to keep searching with the Haro still on her case. "Why don't you do something useful and tell me more about Rex?" It was the 'sub-computer' after all. Maybe it had files and information the main system didn't. "What's he been doing all of this time?" "Rex is sad! Rex is sad," was the Haro's surprisingly quick reply. "So far so good," Firmia almost smirked, "What's he sad about?" Before the Haro could answer, Firmia reached up and grabbed it. She'd rather have it chirping up from her lap than directly into her ear with that awfully high pitched, repetitive voice it had. Suddenly, the Haro's red eyes flickered. The main monitor's interface changed, preparing a video call playback Firmia hadn't seen yet. The wireless interfacing potential it seemed to have was worrisome, but as long as that self destruct nonsense was indeed just nonsense ... "Hmm?" The resolving image suddenly took all of the Alkaev's attention. "Hey ..." A blonde woman appeared on the screen looking distressed. Firmia immediately recognized her. It was May Greenfield. The Alkaev also noticed the timestamp on the video. This call had taken place only a couple of hours ago. Curiosity piqued, Firmia watched. She also instinctively put her hand over the Haro's 'mouth' as May spoke. "Definitely," Brant smiled at Chris. The situation wasn't ideal, but given their circumstances, it was the best they could hope for, right now. And this way, at least Rex had something he could be happy about. Life wasn't all Alkaev abuse and compulsory military service. That was when 'the question' came. What was going to happen with Vasiliy? Tonya flinched at Lily's question, struggling with her desire to keep Vasiliy around and not ruining the wholesome scene unfolding right in front of them. There was no escaping Brant's notice with that near audible reaction. Rex also noticed, but ignored it for a moment. "It's all up to Rex," Brant answered Lily with a faint shrug. He hoped said answer wouldn't put Tonya into Tonya mode--that woman tended to go off the deep end when she was dealing with things she actually cared about. Brant was still a tad sore from some of those love triangle beat downs. Rex gently broke off his hug and stood back up. "... we can talk about it ... if it's really bothering you." "It's really bothering me," Tonya said, stiff as a board, "Isn't there some way to convince you to let Vasiliy stay here? Hell, you could stay here. Just talk to Firmia and-" Rex held up a hand hoping Tonya would stop right there. "I really need you people to stop making that pitch," he forced a smile. "Why did you blast out of here like that?" May asked, worry and guilt plain on her face, "We were already about to rendezvous with Firmia and the ANF." "The Anarchy's fast," Rex began, though Firmia could only see the conversation from his perspective, "I might be able to get there and reinforce them." "You're coming back, right? This isn't about us? Right?" "My son is on that sad excuse for a warship, not to mention my brother and nieces," Rex noted, "I'm not sitting this out. ... and yeah, I'll probably be back. I'd rather deal with the crap on the Athena than whatever's waiting for me on the Avalon." Firmia scowled. "Okay then ..." "Alright, why are you so down? It was your decision, wasn't it?" May curled up slightly, clearly uncomfortable with the reminder. "That doesn't mean I'm happy about it. B-besides, you keep saying you're leaving after this, but where are you going to go?" Firmia nodded at the question, the same one she'd asked. "What's wrong with staying here on the Athena? Just because we work for her doesn't mean you have to see Firmia all the time. You don't have to nope out of everything just because of that." "I will never work for an Alkaev ever again," Rex insisted, "I will never be a soldier ever again. I haven't decided where I'm going yet, but there's time to figure it out. You don't have to worry about that." "I really wish you would at least consider the first one," May sighed, "I mean ... I can't go back to Europe, and I've got a lot of guys I have to look after now, too. We can't afford not to take Firmia's offer. Things would be so much better with you around, too." Debatable, Firmia mused. "I just ... urgh, can't you two just kiss and make up, already?! This isn't fair to anyone!" "I'd rather die." Firmia recoiled at the sound of her voice and Rex's lining up perfectly. That was a little disturbing and it sent a shiver up her spine. "J-just ... bury the hatchet! Please! That's all I mean. That way everyone wins. You have your son, a steady paycheck ... m-me ... without the green hair. Just like you asked ...?" May began messing with one of her blonde locks as she reminded Rex of her prior and current looks. "There's no reason things have to end like this." Firmia could hear Rex sigh into the silence. "Maybe next time, May. This isn't something I can compromise on. You need to stay, for your and your people's sake. I need to go, for the sake of my sanity and my soul. I can't keep allowing myself to wind up in these situations. Not for anything." "I know you don't want to hear this, Rex, especially from me, but," May paused for a long moment, seemingly weighing her words carefully, "You know that as much as you hate the Alkaevs, they're part of your family too, right? Your son and your nieces? They're Alkaevs. There's no point in running away from that name or the people who have it. Doesn't what you get out of this outweigh one stupid name? Even a little? I know I'm being selfish but you're being way more unreasonable about this." "Well, I know it should," Rex eventually admitted, "I've bent or broken a lot of my principles since I went to the EU, but this is one I just can't. I absolutely can't. I'm sorry I got your hopes up, May. I was being way too overconfident. I honestly thought I could just shoot down some enemies, grab you and my son, and leave for good. I'm still trying to think of a way to convince Brant and his girls to come along too, but so far I'm coming up short. I've got to start thinking farther ahead." "Do you ... regret it? What we did?" May looked like only one answer wouldn't devastate her, which had Firmia tensing up, wondering what Rex had to say about the implied relationship. "No," Rex answered simply, "I never regret a good thing, no matter how it happens or how it ends up. I'm just sorry about ... well, everything. Let's just leave it at that, alright, May? We can talk more when I get back to the Athena." "... alright, Rex." May reached over to the monitor, preparing to turn it off. "Say hi to Vasiliy for me, and don't die." Firmia exhaled as the video call ended. So it turned out Rex's brief relationship with May was coming to an end because of the Alkaev name of all things. Firmia had mixed feelings about it. She did feel it was a stupid thing to be so adamant about, but not only did Firmia not want Rex around if it was possible to avoid, she also knew she had similar feelings for other people and could somewhat relate. She didn't care about names in particular, but keeping a comfortable distance from Abigail was a hill Firmia was prepared to die on, even now. Considering Jessica was some sort of deceased, her position on the Riese's captain--or what was left of her--was becoming a tad malleable. "So that's why Rex is sad, huh?" Firmia considered the situation for a moment. "He did it to himself. I almost respect that fact that he's sticking to his 'principles' on this. It's kind of refreshing, but at the end of the day, it's all on him." "Alkaev is evil! Alkaev is evil! Ruins love! Ruins life!" Firmia resisted the urge to chuck the Haro out through the open hatch this time. "They made their choices. It's not my fault. Besides, I don't want him here. He might try to kill me again. He's obviously not sorry about that. He's lucky he still has Vasiliy. If that's not enough for him then too bad."
  10. A suit that amplified Trel'Vaar's abilities. That sounded like more trouble than even the four knights together had given them. Worse still, their fighting potential was down from before. No, that wasn't right. If Ayyl'Vern and the other Sacarian captives were really willing to fight with them, then even without the reinforcements from the ANF, as well as the Athena, they would be significantly stronger in the upcoming battle. Funnily enough, Ayyl'Vern had picked Firmia of all people to warn about taking an enemy lightly. As far as the Alkaev was concerned, any tactical maneuver that didn't involve suicide or some other nonsense was always on the table. Always. "I'll keep that in mind ..." Firmia trailed off, having suddenly been reminded of her troubles with Rex. She hadn't really 'known' the people he had indirectly killed. They had simply died for the petty crime of being aboard the same transport as her. It was infuriating just thinking about it. Firmia didn't even want to reconcile the situation per se. There was nothing on the line with Rex, no friendship to restore or understanding that needed to be reached. He was simply her enemy. That made Ayyl'Vern's situation seem a lot more serious by comparison. "I'll try to keep that in mind, too," Firmia said, starting off again. "Take your time. I'm not trying to force anything. I'm just trying to keep my people alive." A short time after leaving Ayyl'Vern to his machine, Firmia approached Rex's mobile suit, the Anarchy. It looked just like the data she'd sifted through, only a little more interesting up close. Given Ayyl'Vern's warning about the Sacarian King, Trel'Vaar, she could easily justify taking a closer look at Rex's machine. Maybe there was some easily fixable problem that could significantly improve his chances of surviving the upcoming fight. Sure, Firmia wasn't his biggest fan, but no one on her crew would be happy to see Vasiliy's father murdered. The SKIN suit issue was bad enough. Firmia rode the Anarchy's lift up to the open hatch on the chest. What she found inside set her back a step. "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" A high pitched shriek caught the Alkaev off guard and nearly made her stumble back out onto the lift. It was a beady eyed blue ball, a robot with a lifeless gaze and flickering red lights for eyes. "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" Firmia blinked. "... wait, this is the sub-computer? It looks like a toy." "Not a toy! Not a toy! Haro is Haro!" Haro? That's not what it was called in the file. "No response from Rex! No response from Rex! Anarchy compromised! Anarchy compromised!" Firmia hadn't learned of any potential weapons or other nasty surprises the cockpit's systems might have in store for so called 'intruders,' so she quickly composed herself and eased into the pilot's seat, electing to ignore the protesting blue ball for now. For the moment, she didn't know what she was looking for. It wasn't necessarily a good idea to distract herself from Rex's presence on her ship by poking around in his mobile suit, but maybe ... something. Maybe she would learn more about the shady idiot this way. "Initiating self-destruct! Initiating self-destruct!" Firmia gawked at the suicidal robot. The ball tended to say everything twice, so she'd definitely heard it right. A mobile suit detonating inside the hangar would kill almost everyone and leave the Avalon in tatters. Firmia's shock gave way to determination as she swiftly grabbed the suicidal Haro and ripped it out of its bowl terminal. "Ow! Ow! Bluffing! Bluffing!" "You and your bluffs can go straight through a stone crusher!" Firmia chucked the Haro over her head and sighed in relief. After a minute of taking in the situation, Firmia focused in on the Anarchy's main interface. She still didn't know what she was looking for specifically, but there ought to be something in the system that could tell her what was going on with Rex. If not, then at least she could pass along some instructions to the ANF's loaned mechanics and address a couple of the obvious issues. "Yep, that's your uncle," Brant grinned. He was in a relatively good mood, though he couldn't ignore the fact that Rex was teetering back and forth with his own. Brant didn't know much about his brother's life in the EU armed forces, but the fact that he only had a few squadmates left on the Athena was telling. He considered broaching the topic once there was a good opportunity. Rex accepted Chris' hand almost passively while wondering how all of this had unfolded. His own people tended to die, but Brant was bringing new members into the family from all directions. An adopted sister here, a sister-in-law there, some nieces, and even his own son, whom Rex assumed had died a humble zygote. "Good seeing you all," he said, sparing Lily a nod as well. It was at that moment Rex realized that no matter what he said or did, he could never convince his younger brother to leave with him and Vasiliy after the war. Spouses and children had a way of forcing people to root themselves ... and that was something this Alkaev cage, the Avalon, was perfect for. Firmia had already asked the big question, where would he go? Brant and Chris would have similar questions and Rex couldn't answer them. The issue was settled long before he even arrived. "By the way, Hannah," Tonya quietly chimed in on the side, "Where's Firmia? Is she just letting you handle this?" If that was the case she was probably taking the long route to the cafeteria to get herself a tall drink or something like that. Deciding to worry about Firmia later, Brant nudged Vasiliy forward. "Go on. You're the one he's here to see." "R-right," Vasiliy nodded his understanding. That cued Rex too and, with a bit of hesitation, came over to him. "I'm happy to finally meet you, father," Vasiliy tried his best at a proper greeting. "... same here," Rex smiled down at his son, "I'm glad something finally went right. Just for once." Seeing how nothing else would, Rex couldn't help but kneel down and embrace his miracle child. "I don't know how it happened and I don't care, but thank you ... for surviving."
  11. "I'm glad I asked," Megumi frowned, realizing they were a little behind on procedure. Her minions still had things well in hand, so the doctor went back to making some posterity notes, trying to keep the events in chronological order as best she could. Still, she wondered if the Riese could enter the next fight in such lousy condition. The pilots were fine, but there was no way they could complete even a quarter of the repair work needed to get the ship back up to its full potential. She supposed it didn't matter; there was an increasing sense that it was too late to turn back anyway. They just had to hope that nearly wiping out the Sacarian vanguard here would lead to a much easier final battle.
  12. With the feast over, it was time to return to a dormancy of sorts. There was no use complaining about Xalrei's willingness to rely on her inferior weapons when speaking alone carried a small toll. Things would certainly be easier going forward, but now was the time for patience. If the trend held, it wouldn't be too long before this group was at odds with someone else. Eventually there would be another battle. Eventually, Requiem would consume them as well ... ... ... heat. It was something like heat the cursed blade sensed from Xalrei. It was unclear how much time had passed, but it couldn't have been too long. Reluctantly reaching out with its senses, Requiem was able to see one side of an argument unfolding. Xalrei wanted to know what the other soul knew about her. A quest to uncover one's origins. What was the point of knowing such things? The cursed blade's interest immediately faded with the presumption that this was just another confrontation that wouldn't go anywhere. The other soul and Xalrei were allies, after all. Still, it was difficult to ignore the rage building up. Requiem would have preferred Xalrei to simply strike the other down with it. Surely that would satisfy both of them. The confrontation seemed to go on and on with Xalrei's energy flaring up in a way the cursed sword had never experienced before. A frustrated hope, that the dragon girl would unsheathe Requiem and lash out was building more and more in the blade as she grabbed hold of the fox woman. The timing had been perfect; Requiem could only make out the fox when she was in physical contact with Xalrei, and it was for that reason alone that her petrified arm could be seen. The experience seemed to snuff out much of Xalrei's fire, but Requiem could only wonder about the future ... Tundyssa Adozosi, was it? That was the origin Xalrei had been seeking, and now had found? The cursed blade considered this 'true name' and whether it held any value. That would likely depend on its wielder. More important was the implication of this ability to petrify others. It was obviously useful if it could be controlled and utilized like any other weapon, but would this address Xalrei's weakness in a way that benefited Requiem or not? Would this power discourage the use of the cursed blade, open up opportunities for less lethal means of fighting, or would it make the gathering of souls and magical energy easier, being used in conjunction with the cursed blade in its various forms? That wasn't a question that needed to be addressed right now. Perhaps at a later time, after things settled back into silence and the tears stopped. As Requiem let go of its senses, zealously conserving its hard earned energy, an unwelcome thought occurred. What was its origin?
  13. So that was it for the casualties, then? Good- ... good enough, Megumi mused, taking a moment to sit down at her desk. "Thank you for your help, Monty. We'll be waiting for you in the infirmary." Megumi was momentarily free until Ignatius was done getting Jessica's body repaired, so she took a moment to begin logging everything she remembered thus far, the injuries and the fatalities that resulted from the battle. A drink would have been nice, but the only alcohol going around for the time being would be for disinfecting wounds. "Has anyone sent word to the other ANF ships?" Megumi asked the infirmary in general, though she was eyeing Roxanna and Jessica in turn. She did recall the announcement, but that sounded like a ship-wide broadcast and not something the Krakens would have gotten. If they had, then at least they knew what to expect. They did have a rendezvous coming up, so it was important to keep their allies informed, at least now that morale was more easily manageable. Sure, it sounded like a fine idea on the surface, but even the advanced Sacarians wound up with a leader that sent scores of their finest to their deaths and it was only going to get worse from here. What did the Sacarian king gain--other than a headache--from all of this pointless fighting? Regardless, it wasn't a debate Firmia was fully prepared for. She was more interested in trying to find some common ground with her new pilot. "It's not like your people were strong enough in the end, were they? I know the war's not over yet, but unless your king's going to blow up whole continents next, we're going to win, divided and all. It's all logistics from here." "I just don't see the appeal ... At least with humanity divided, we've got multiple ways of dealing with problems, different points of view, different methods. Even the potential for survivors in the worst case scenario. If someone doesn't want to pick a side, they can go and do what they want." By that point, Firmia couldn't help but picture her group in the ANF vs EU situation. Siding with the Federation directly was out of the question, but an alliance gave them some breathing room, and kept them out of troublesome hierarchies. For her, it was the best they could hope for. "And no, I don't really need anything, right now." Firmia briefly imagined what having a pilot around that could read her thoughts on a whim would be like, and what steps she could take to make herself more comfortable with the situation, but things were just too uncertain right now. Despite what she'd said about the war, their own survival past the next battle was no guarantee, even if 'Earth' ultimately triumphed over the Sacarians. "I'll try to find something else to distract me from Rex being here," she said, standing up from the Praxis' foot, "I hope we can get along, Ayyl'Vern." "Yeah sure," Rex said, following along. He made sure to take in the sights as he did. Of chief interest to him was the crew. So far he'd seen almost nothing but mechanics. He quietly tried to work out their origins, whether they were survivors from Voronin or from the ANF. While Rex personally thought it was asinine to loan out men to crew a ship captained by some random teenager, he had to admit that the ship would be useless if understaffed. Pilots were one thing, but the ship itself had to be at least minimally operable. The real question was what happened once the war was over. Was the ANF taking back its loaned staff or was some other arrangement made? "It's okay," Vasiliy assured Akilina. Brant wanted Rex to meet both of his nieces, but he supposed there was still time for that. Leaving Aki here by herself was another matter, but ... at least there was no danger. "We'll be back soon." Tonya wound up trailing behind the most as they headed toward the hangar in search of Rex, and dodged Brant's glances as she put together an idea of her own. She had to shelf that plan when Hannah and Rex appeared in front of them in the hallway. She was surprised to see him wearing a--mostly--ordinary flight suit rather than a SKIN suit. Sure, the things were a bit much out in public, but the man's funnels wouldn't be nearly as responsive without one. What kind of bonehead would deliberately go into a combat zone with that kind of handicap? Her own student apparently ... Brant was glad to see his older brother alive and well, but there were definitely some surprises. He was slightly envious of the flight suit his brother was using. Rex wasn't just wearing that, though; he had an almost tangible aura of frustration around him. Brant doubted Firmia was the cause since the sense he was getting was more consistent. Regular emotions rose and fell like tides. This was a mood, something he brought with him to the ship. There wasn't much to do but greet his siblings and try to get introductions going. "We were just coming to find you," Brant waved. "Long time no see," Rex replied, noting everyone in front of him. While it had been years since he'd seen Brant and Tonya in person, this was his first time meeting the rest. He noticed Vasiliy right away, being the only one who fit the 'son' bill. He smiled weakly at the kid at first. "... hello, father," Vasiliy mimicked Brant's wave. Somehow, Vasiliy's cautious greeting broke through whatever was bothering Rex and made him laugh. 'Another Alkaev stronghold. When I said we'd be together in hell, this isn't what I meant ...'
  14. "Excuse me," Valerie moved in to run her checks. Tycho's wounds were easy to spot, but she checked for signs of a concussion first, her initial priorities shifted slightly by her patient's sudden drop unto the bed. "Just relax," she said, tending to his combat wounds next. Cleaning and disinfecting the wounds would come first, along with some local anesthetic if Tycho needed it. Then they could pick clean any debris and close things up with a bit of SIEG. That was the plan at any rate. Since Tycho had much of the infirmary's attention, Megumi decided to radio Monty again. He was still out there, so he could probably update her on anything happening with the pilots and the crew. "It's Dr. Amparo again, any updates, or is Tycho the last one?" She hoped he was, even though that meant the casualties on the Riese's bridge were final and a little depressing, but seeing as they had another extremely dangerous fight on their hands, the fewer injured the better. There was no other way to look at it. So they really could read minds, in the more literal sense. That was annoying, if potentially useful. As for the wording in all of that, Firmia wasn't keen on addressing it right now. "This is just a one time courtesy. If his son wasn't onboard, I wouldn't have even considered it." While she did want to show Rex the memorial, the names of the people he'd gotten killed via Apotheosis, Firmia wasn't sure if it was really worth having him aboard just for that. Seeing him in person had been a little weird ... probably because she could sense his feelings. There were no imaginary wicked intentions she could force onto the man himself. Firmia wound up sitting on the Praxis Gamma's right foot. "And what's the point of all humans banding together, anyway? All that can do is create a monolithic group that overpowers and crushes others. Huh ..." The ANF came to mind, even though they didn't make up the majority of mankind or anything close at the moment. Considering she was talking to a Sacarian, maybe an overwhelming, oppressive army was the whole idea. War wasn't an unfortunate necessity for them, it was a lifestyle. Bonus points if they got any slave races out of the deal. "Either way, I'd rather keep certain people at a distance." Preferably, at the maximum range of the Avalon's main cannons or even farther. "Not really. I don't know what you're expecting," Rex said irritably, "I flew out here to back you people up and see my son. I don't care about Firmia or her hangups, and I don't care what Brant's trying to pull here as long as he doesn't try to get me involved in it." Brant could call Hannah an Abrams and a sibling all he wanted, but Rex wasn't interested, especially since all of this, everything regarding the Avalon seemed to revolve around its devilish little captain. Tonya didn't reply, but she looked uncomfortable, and somehow more uncomfortable than the two battle-worn TKs she was trying to convince. There was nothing to be done until they were all gathered together anyway, so Brant simply patted Tonya on the shoulder as Chris opened the door to the bedroom. Sure enough, the kids were all there. "You're back," Vasiliy noted, though whether he was saying that to Tonya or his uncle and eventual aunt was unclear. The news about Rex left the boy with a mix of wonder and apprehension. He knew there was a possibility that he would be leaving with his father at some point, but now? Weren't there still things that needed to happen, first? The questions were already flooding in and if not for Brant's quick thinking, Vasiliy might have been staring off into space without ever responding. "It's alright, no one's leaving right now. We've still got a huge fight ahead of us and your father's not going to tuck and run now." "Hmm ..." Tonya placed a hand on her chin, apparently prompted by something Brant had said. "Let's go see him, then," Vasiliy decided. He wanted to meet his father regardless of how things turned out, he just worried that things would be similar to their rushed escape from the Alkaev Estate in Russia. They didn't have time to pack much or say goodbye to the staff. A few things were on fire back then, too.
  15. So that was the new--freshly injured--pilot. Megumi motioned at Tambre who quickly rushed over. "Are things alright in the hangar?" She asked from over by Jessica's SIEG tank, "It didn't sound like there were many injured, but I don't have the full picture." "Over here please," Valerie gestured toward the nearest available bed. She had set up there when word reached the infirmary about Tycho. Just like the doctor promised, they were ready to go. "Tonya's room?" Firmia squinted. "Not a bad place to hang out," Rex shrugged. He wasn't a fan of this 'bro' nonsense, but he had more important things to worry about right now. Slightly lower on the list of priorities was Brant. He half expected to run into him down here in the hangar, but there was no such luck. They were inevitably going to meet face to face, again. Brant probably figured as much, too. Initially, Firmia followed Hannah and Rex as they headed up, thinking back on an idea she'd had countless times since receiving the Avalon. One day, she'd hoped that by some dumb excuse, Rex would wind up aboard the Avalon so she could personally show him the memorial wall she'd designed near the aft of the ship. It wasn't much, but it had been important to her. This just wasn't the right time ... and there never would be a 'right time;' the Alkaev had no intention of ever letting Rex back on the ship once he stepped off of it again. This was far and beyond the courtesy owed to the man who tried to murder her for merely existing. Firmia stopped and let the two Abrams continue on without her. "I'll catch up later," she said, and turned to head back toward the center of the hangar. Once she was comfortably close, Firmia pulled up her tablet and tried to use it to radio the Praxis Gamma sitting nearby. It was Ayyl'Vern's unit. They had certainly gotten off on the wrong foot, but only someone as uncomfortable with this situation as she was could distract her long enough for Rex to talk to his son uninterrupted. If she was there, the temptation to put him on blast would be too much for her to handle. Besides, Firmia had a much bigger problem she had to deal with. She hated the Sacarians. They were like a race of space pirates flying around and wrecking whatever they pleased. She wanted to shoot them all, but they weren't quite the irredeemable monsters she thought, even hoped they were. Now she was facing the paradox of one of them being a part of her crew. Obviously, the genocide plan was dead on arrival, but Firmia still needed time to think and adjust. For now, there was at least one Sacarian she had to find some common ground with ... somehow. "Hey, it's Firmia. ... what are you up to in there?" Talk about a sticky reunion. It wasn't like Brant didn't want to check in with his daughters first anyway, but now they had Rex to deal with. Brant really didn't know how things were going to go down with Tonya being overprotective and Firmia clearly on edge. There was also Vasiliy himself to consider. How was he going to handle this? "Well, at least we won't miss anything," Brant said, following after. Tonya caught up quickly and got in front of them as they all headed for her room around the corner. "You're not just coming to watch are you? What if he tries to fly out of here with Vasiliy?" Brant smirked. "I was actually going to see my daughters and nephwew and say hi to my brother ... the one neither of us have seen in half a decade. Just try to relax. He's not crazy enough to put Vasiliy in danger for nothing. Things might actually go smoothly for a change if everyone just keeps calm." Having said that, Brant was starting to feel a little uneasy himself. If there was any meaningful difference between Tonya's instincts warning her about some obscure danger, and her just being paranoid, Brant didn't know what it was. Tonya stopped in front of her door and sighed, unsure of what to do. "Are you sure?" she glanced back at the TKs. "Well I was ..." Brant admitted. Good news, he was picking up on all three of the children in the room. "You're so worried we're skipping a shower for this."
  16. It was unfortunate that they didn't get through the battle without any pilot injuries, but considering what happened to the ship itself, they were extremely lucky to not have lost a single pilot. Megumi wasn't even aware that the injured pilot Monty was sending her way wasn't a Riese pilot proper, just yet. "Thank you. We'll be ready for him," she replied, giving her assistants the signal to get things ready. With Ignatius dealing with Jessica, and the other infirmary occupants having already been treated in the meantime, it was just a matter of waiting for any new patients. Firmia mentally braced herself after Hannah's reply. The Abrams were a little weird about family matters, so this likely wasn't going to go over too well. "Bro?" Rex raised an eyebrow to the comment, "And yeah I'd like to see my son, thanks," he added, glancing expectantly at Firmia. "Seriously, why does she look like this? Who are you? ... what are you?" Given that he couldn't sense a thing from her, Rex already had some vague suspicions about Hannah forming in the back of his mind. "This is Hannah Abrams," Firmia explained, "She's a Brant approved Abrams, so I would appreciate it if you saved your complaints for him." "I don't even know where to start with that one ... and I'm guessing these Apotheosis suits are here because you captured them? Fine, whatever. Where's Vasiliy?" "Why are you here right now?" Firmia asked insistently, "What are you planning to do, grab Vasiliy and fly out of here? Where are you going to go? We still have a massive battle ahead of us and the Anarchy isn't any safer than the Avalon. Entirely the opposite, actually. There's no point in taking him right now, so what's your plan, Rex?" Rex almost yawned mid rant and crossed his arms waiting for Firmia to finish. "Nothing's decided yet. I came here to help out, but you wrapped things up before I got here. Right now I just want to see my son. I'll decide what to do after that." Tonya shrugged at Chris' question. "Well where's Vasiliy?" Brant asked. "I asked him to wait in my room while I figure out what to do about Rex." Brant immediately figured that Vasiliy knew his father was here in that case. This could be interesting, but either way Brant wanted to deal with this situation in his normal clothes, and with the stress of battle washed away. "Alright, just don't overreact, okay? It's only going to make the situation worse. Just give us ten minutes and we'll come make sure the situation doesn't boil over." "Ten minutes is a long time, Brant ..." Tonya groaned in resignation. "No kidding," Brant smirked, thinking back to how the tension of the battle seemed to slow time down to a crawl for him.
  17. 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 ...'
  18. 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."
  19. 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.
  20. 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!'
  21. 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.
  22. "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.
  23. 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.
  24. "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.
  25. 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.
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