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Super Robot Wars ∀: Deep Space IC Thread - Part 3: Crisis Point

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As the Ceres left the hangar Vvi simply let out a small "Tch," before placing her hands against her hips.  "Next time I won't be so kind," she simply said to no one in particular, before listening to the orders coming from the XO.  Knowing that her robot was intact by the mole's slimy hands was a relief to her, sighing before saluting to the voice with a smile.  "Affirmative!" she exclaimed, before going over to get herself into a suit.  

Once done Vvi wasted no time in making her way towards her machine, giddy and excited that she'd be using it again.  Humming a cute tune to herself she took the lift up to the cockpit of her robot, easily slipping in once up there.  "Fury Arachnid launching ~❤," she called out, actually leaving the hangar in pursue of the enemy.  There was no time to lose, her lance aimed straight at the Ceres as she opened communication towards the others.

"Isn't 4 against 1 a bit too much guys?  Then again, they are pieces of traitorous trash," she couldn't help but say in a peppy tone, going after the Ceres with a newfound gleam in her eyes.

Edited by sweet podado

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As Alriana stepped out of the elevator Roxanna ordered her and her fellow alien to launch; it seemed she needn't have asked about the Almydis after all. It was a relief to know she wouldn't be receiving a crash course on piloting the human machines just yet. She wasted no time, racing over to her machine and riding the lift up until she level with the Almydis' chest. "Mgahnnn," she ordered the machine. In response to her command, the chest opened and revealed her unusual cockpit, a smallish oval-shaped room with a single cord dangling from the center of the ceiling and no other furniture. There was room for her to move and maybe enough room for a passenger to sit out of her way.

As she plugged the cord into her suit, so that the machine could read her movements, she gave the machine more orders. "Ahnnn. Uaaah." Once again the machine reacted to her commands, closing the chest and beginning its startup procedure. She couldn't deny that it felt good to be back in her machine, even after everything that had happened. "Shark. Launching," she announced over the comms as she was launched out of the hanger. Unlike most of the other already sortied machines, hers was not capable of flight and she plunged beneath the waves. But that was fine. Aside from the initial splash, there was no detectable trace of her and her machine. She kept silent as she readied her sniper rifle and waited for her shot.

Edited by Ursali

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Elaine could only stare with her mouth wide open as the Ceres and Crescent started to fight in the hangar itself. What on earth was happening, had Avery hijacked the Ceres for her own nefarious purposes. Her first instinct would have been to run to the Oberon, but Ignatius' warning about possible sabotage was enough to cool even her jets. She was still fuming, clenching her fists and gritting her teeth. Elaine had trusted Avery so much, they were both into mechanics and she felt that Avery really could have been relied on - yet another mistake in the list she'd made.

"Gonna check the Oberon myself, ain't got time to wait about." Elaine fumed, storming over to her machine and slipping in alongside the engineering team to help make the checks. She furiously tapped a message into her communicator, Astin wasn't going to be happy knowing their robot had been stolen. Elaine would have been furious if the Oberon had been taken, but Astin would be less likely to freak out about it than her.

"Yo, Astin. That traitorous bitch Avery jacked your bot, gonna deck her right in the face for you when I can."

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There was the unlucky patient Megumi had been waiting for. Christina was going to wind up in a SIEG tank however this first phase turned out, but the doctor needed to stabilize her, first. Remove the projectiles too, if they hadn't passed clean through. Thankfully, they were ready to go, the doctor even having gotten out of her coat and donning a mask and gloves for these 'damage control' surgeries she was about to perform. "Over here," Megumi indicated the closest bed available and tried to get a good look at the wounds while they brought her over. What the doctor noticed first was that Christina was at least partially awake, still. This should be 'fun' ...

"We have to stop running into each other like this," Megumi groaned at Christina. "I need you two," she eyed Makoto and Caroline, "to tell me everything you can. How much blood has she lost, has she been conscious this whole time, how's her breathing, etcetera."


"Dammit, destroy the Ceres! Hurry!" Firmia couldn't stand the fact that the Riese's oldest machine was enduring all of this. Apparently they had been upgrading their escape vehicle in secret. Firmia couldn't help but imagine how much more annoying it would be if something like an assault tank equipped with oversized floaties was pulling the same stunt. The Alkaev did feel completely vindicated now, however. The way she'd conducted herself aboard the Riese had been harsh at times, but hindsight was her friend, and she was definitely going to take advantage of this disastrous learning experience. Despite being right not to trust Avery, FIrmia couldn't shake the feeling that they were running out of time to take down the traitor(s), and that had her on the edge of her seat, right now.

"Should we try the main guns?" Tonya asked, shrugging from the helm.

Oh so tempting, but ... "The mobile suits have to bring the Ceres down," Firmia sighed, "There's too much risk of friendly fire if we start shooting from over here ... and no, I'm not having everyone get clear for us--" not that they would-- "That's just the kind of opening the Ceres needs to break away. We just have to hope they can handle this ..."

"I'll keep us at this range until the Riese lands then."


Once the Regalia was off the catapult and able to take in the surrounding battlefield, it became clear that at least one of the moles was already escaping. "Whoa ..." From a single glance it seemed like whatever damage done to the Riese crew had been severe. "Christina ..." Between the fact that the Artemis was going completely berserk and Brant not being able to sense Seung-Min's copilot, it was obvious that Christina was incapacitated ... or worse.

Something else that was bothering him was the fact that the Ceres was the machine Avery had chosen to use to escape from the ANF in. Had Astin really not noticed what was going on? Maybe, but it felt more likely to Brant that Astin was the other mole. Everything they had ever done and said in front of him suddenly had to be reframed, and it was really disappointing to think about.

"See if you can get a hold of your sisters, but be ready with the funnels. We're going to help them out," Brant said, arming the Regalia's hyper beam rifle. The Ceres was shrugging off way more than usual, so Brant doubted they would accomplish much, but until the situation changed, their primary objective was the capture or destruction of the Ceres. Well, according to Firmia, it was strictly a destruction target, but the situation could still change at the drop of a hat.

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Aliza had finally made it to the scene in time to see Vvi's machine take off. "Ah, Vvi?!" She gasped out as she saw the alien take off, but of course who could hear her over the loud mech taking off? Before she could ponder on the quick take off yet another alien mech flew by, dunking itself straight into the water. Didn't take long to realize there was a chase going on.

With that in mind the Italian rushed over to her machine, seems like Elaine had the engineering team with her. An order did go out to inspect the machines to make sure there was no sabotage, and thankfully Aliza did see a mechanic come down from the lift. But if she didn't have time to put on her pilot suit she barely had time to give off a thanks. So she jolted by him, took the lift up, and jumped in the cockpit. "Aliza Silvavolke, Sagittae...off I go!" With that the archer bot took off as fast as it could, as soon as it left the hanger it changed to its bird form and approached the scene.

The first thing she saw was Fury Arachnid aiming its lance toward the Ceres along side the Regalia, which was preparing it's hyper beam rifle. "!" Oh, the mole was inside. Avery. She had to be, who else would be there? "Oh...is this really happening?" She grit her teeth. "Can't just talk this out can we...?"

Edited by TheRoon

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Fanatic 1cc? None of the games he'd purchased had had that title, to Thorvald's recollection. He'd clearly have to do a little more digging if he intended to have any sort of meaningful conversation in the future, but that was certainly a matter for another time.

Especially considering Esther had rightly put her finger on the bigger issue. A bit of a frown slipped across his face, as it settled into a worried expression. "Seems like that's the case. If Vera was the one giving them the orders then... hmm, that's a bit of a relief in some respects." It certainly meant worrying about her little sister getting caught up in some inter-agency cross-fire was off-base, and also ought to rule out attempted rescue too, unless the cyborg warrior was working things at a much deeper level than suspected. Perhaps he was being outplayed, but Thorvald felt better about her being on the level than if she were several other Apotheosis he could name.

"Guess I don't have to worry anyone'll sneak up here to either kill or make off with you," he nodded, a weak smile gracing his face. There was no reason not to voice his thoughts, really. "Then... you're gonna have to forgive me for cutting this a little short. Knowing you're taken care of, that I won't be failing in the promise I made, I ought to be going. We can chat more later, though."

If Vera shows up herself, maybe there'll even be something worthwhile to report back to the girl. It was a bit weighing on him that she still seemed so disheartened, but there were a lot of factors at play, and of course she hadn't yet revised her opinion that the ANF, him included, were her 'enemy'. But, time to put that aside and finally find out who else had been dealing with him as an 'enemy' all along. A quick wave, and he ducked back into the hallway, striding purposefully to the elevators.

 


 

Cowgirl? Really? Abigail shot the mouthy assistant a dark look, before turning her attention back to Megumi. Hearing it from the doctor herself, it was a lot more reassuring that she felt things were under control, even if they were to be targeted. Given what the woman had shared with her of her past, knowing that they'd been properly warned in advance and not already taken down with the rest of the ship unawares, there was very little cause to argue or complain.

"If you say you're good, you're good," Abby nodded and shrugged slightly. "I'm just glad I didn't have to walk in here and find you all dead. Got no problem rushing off to where I'm 'supposed to be', now that that's out of the way," the rebel worked in a bit of spice at Olivia's expense as she turned to make an exit. Thankfully Valerie had been more personable, wishing her an incident-free battle, which earned the girl a smile back before she left.

Or would have left, had the injured patient not shown up just at that moment. Seeing Ice Cream Lady's back approaching the door she'd opened, holding the legs of a victim, Abigail scooched aside and yielded the right of way. Ah shit, that boy from the colony who had too good an opinion of her, despite what she'd been responsible for, was here too. Dealing with Makoto and his mother still wasn't the easiest thing for her, but maybe she could escape while his attention was understandably else--

Oh shit! That was Christina they were carrying, and it didn't look good. Yeah, the girl had taken a serious turn toward Bitch Boulevard and had floored the accelerator, but even still she didn't deserve to end up like this. Abby bit her lip, uncomfortable but not sure how to deal with the situation. For a moment, the stupid idea of trying to help by pushing the bed closer to the people doing the carrying had crossed her mind, but it worked out better on the whole just making sure she didn't get in anybody's way. Megumi then was fully in her element, and there wasn't anything Abigail could do, so fighting back the slow building feeling of anger at her general impotency, she finally managed to secure an exit. "Fuck! Somebody just bought themselves a thrashing," she growled as she made her way to the hangar.

Edited by Balcerzak

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Diagnosis

Christina simply groaned and squirmed in pain as she was set down on one of the beds, not responding to Megumi's quip, though it was a good quip.

"She was shot in the back... And the back of the leg. I... I think the first shot went all the way through, she was bleeding pretty hard from her chest..." Buck had stepped into the doorway and picked up Megumi's question, trying his best to answer without falling apart. "She wasn't talking when I picked her up... But she managed some words when the lieutenant came by. And... Sh-She's been breathing, but... I don't think it's really, stable. Sorry. I'm... Don't let her die, okay?" On the verge of tears again, Buck fled towards the elevators, throwing himself into the first open one.

"Geez... His arms were covered in blood. Sounds like he was the first to find her. Gonna have to get Cheryl to talk to him later, this can't be good for someone his age." Olivia sighed and stood on standby for whatever Megumi's orders were. "You two, off to the machines." Whether or not the Riese needed these two deployed, they were still pilots. No time to dawdle when Buck had given them about everything needed.

Incoming, High Speeds

"Of course XO. I suggested Firmia first because when I go down, you're all going to have your hands full with keeping the ship afloat. Don't spread yourself too thin." It looked like people were starting to take off... They couldn't target the Ceres like this, else people would get hit, even with Jess' impressive aim. Just packed too close... I'll have to focus on-- Wh-What? No, it's coming in too fast, it can't!

"Firmia, the Luna is inbound! Less than sixty seconds!" It must've picked up because of the Ceres' departure. Jess tracked guns towards its incoming location, fired... Nothing, the suit's shields absorbed the blast. It was heading straight for... Jess opened a channel to the Artemis, "Lieutenant, look out!"

Christina

"Christina? Wha... Why... Why is, there only Kim in the Artemis... Wh-What..." Chris didn't want to believe it. She didn't want to think about it, consider it, but it was too late, and the thought was causing her to shake in her seat. "Wh... What, the fuck did you do to my sister? WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY SISTER AVERY!?" Her speakers were on without a second thought, flaring the funnels to life. "I'll kill you! I'm gonna smash you to FUCKING PIECES!"

The End is Now

"Well this is a losing fight." It wasn't possible for Marianne to dislodge herself from this barrage of attacks. The Artemis' incoming fire, Hannah hammering at the Ceres, despite it not doing a lot of being blocked by shields, it was still going to add up eventually. The Android was an insane combatant, her machine barely had any armor, but it was moving... Like she could. "Stupid test model. You weren't made for humans, so you put a robot in it, huh, Firmia? Tch..." And with Kim charging them... Great, and the other clone was screaming. What a mess... "Oh, thank God. Cavalry's here." The aliens had launched, but it was too late.

"Get away from my SISTER!" The Luna barreled into the Artemis, taking the brunt of the attack meant for Marianne, but dragging Kim away from the scene with it. Despite the damage to the Luna's head from rushing right into the Artemis' fist, at least Kim was away from the action for the moment, Vera drawing her sword. "You fight with me, or I strike you down, Seung-min!"

Vera wasn't alone. Jess looked on in horror as her scanner started to fill up with signatures, she didn't quite know which to address first. "A-All pilots... Just... Watch out!" They were warping in, and there were the... The two machines from before.

The Praxis and the Praxis Alpha were the first to appear behind the Ceres. Said machine had given Hannah a heavy shove and warped back behind their allies, Hannah stopping her approach on another charge.

"Orders, Captain?" The android was stunned, those two machines, and an entourage of allies behind them, had all appeared from thin air. More warping nonsense. Their weapons weren't raised yet, but...

"Hello, humans," a voice slid out into the minds of everyone present, and out of the Praxis Alpha's speakers, for those more robotically inclined. "I'm going to give the lot of you one chance to surrender, and return my pet to me. Any resistance will be met with your swift, and unpleasant death. Do I make myself clear?" If the voice wasn't enough, the sudden pressure on the minds of anyone not telekinetically adapt would have been rather heavy, hard to ignore, maybe even hard to deal with."

Jess was entering full firing mode, guns were trained on all the new hostiles. She'd be ready to open fire at a moment's notice... She just needed people to not be in the way... This was quite the painful stalemate. Still... "My name is Captain Jessica Gefalscht. We have no intentions of surrendering to you, so I suggest you leave while you still can."

Soor'Kan grinned in his seat, arming his weapons. "Prepare to die then, foolish humans."

Ho God. "All units, prepare for combat!" Things were going too fast, too fast for everyone else, at least. Jess had to take the shot, dangerous as it was. A blast of energy was aimed and fired at the Praxis, its shields coming up before it warped away, units following it to make a bit of space.

"Kill the humans, men! Kill all of them! And Gaal'Bathy... Retrieve my pet. Alive."

Gaal'Bathy snarled, but made no complaint. "Of course, sire..."

And when things couldn't get any worse... They did. "Shit!" The Riese hit the water, shaking the bridge, Jess nearly falling out of her seat. "Ugh... Firmia, you're in charge! Re-routing shields! Main guns up!"

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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As the Luna arrived and things froze for a few seconds, Astin glanced down at their communicator and grinned. "Elaine called you a bitch. Might wanna punch her an extra time or two for that one. Everyone keeps messaging me of all people. I didn't think people cared that much. Well, to be fair, all Elaine knows is that you stole 'my' robot and I doubt Thorvald even knows that."

They settled down in their seat and looked at the scene in front of them as the Riese hit the water. "Time for a fight. They're going to fight of course. Too stubborn to do anything else, even if it would be easier to just turn the alien over." Glancing over at the Luna, they shook their head. "She seems mad though. More than I would have expected. Vera, I mean. Kim I get. You did shoot her girlfriend after all. Either way, hope she can hold her off long enough to give you some breathing room here." It was odd just sitting while others were fighting, but it was all they could do for now. Hopefully that would change sooner rather than later. They didn't want to miss all the action...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Right, ok. Two gunshot wound... Poor boy. From the sounds of it, he saw it, if he knew all that about her wounds. You're right, Olivia. He's going to need some help after all of this..." Still, there wasn't time to worry about him just now. They had more pressing matters in front of them. Grabbing the tools the doctor would need to extract bullet wounds from the supplies Olivia had grabbed already, Val moved them over to the bed where Christina had been settled. "Just tell us what you need, Doctor."

Just then, the entire boat rocked, sending Val stumbling back into the bed next to Christina. "Augh!" She managed to not get hurt, but still ended up in a heap on the bed. "W-what? What was that? Are... Are we going to be ok?"

Edited by scorri

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Her plasma barrage had landed, though it didn't appear to do much discernible damage... just what had Avery done to the armour on the Ceres? If beams wouldn't work, she'd just need to break through the old fashioned way, the Artemis' plasma gauntlet flying true to deliver a decisive blow-

Until the Luna, careening in at blistering speeds, took the blow to the head in exchange for a shoulder check against her. The Captain's warning had come too late to make much of a notable difference in that regard, and both machines stopped their descent mere feet above the water. Vera had said something about her sister, challenged her to a duel... as the cyborg samurai had a tendency towards doing, and somewhere in the background and out of her field of giving a care about at the moment, the Sacarians had arrived. Lovely.

"Your sister? Unless that's Avery, I couldn't care less about them. She... she shot Christina, twice. I won't forgive her..." Seung-Min shook, staring down Vera. She seemed intent to play goalkeeper... normally that would be a terrifying sentence, but today? She was just a road block, one that needed to be dealt with. Losing was not an option. Not this time.

"Now either give her to me, get out of my way, or die!" Kim roared, thrusters on the Artemis flaring to life as the machine charged straight at the Luna, both Xiphos drawn. It's optics had to be damaged, but it didn't appear to favour either side particularly. Head on would have to do. Moving one sabre proactively to meet the Luna's blade, the second darted forwards in a lunge towards it's centre of mass.

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Alriana had begun to line up her shot --waiting for all of her new allies to be out of the way was annoying-- when all hell broke loose. First, the Luna had appeared, crashing into Kim. There'd be no point in fighting that machine, or it's pilot; she and her machine were simply at too severe a disadvantage. Thankfully that problem seemed to be on Kim's shoulders rather than her own; however, the Luna was the least of her worries. It was about to get worse. Much worse. Very quickly at that.

Before they had even appeared she felt a sudden wave of anxiety wash over her and a sinking feeling begin to well up in her chest. Then, as if straight out of her nightmares, they- He appeared, his personal mech unmistakable even amongst the throng of Sacarian mechs. Any desperate hope that it somehow wasn't him was quickly dashed as the familiar overbearing mental presence imposed itself on her mind. Why... is he here? For... me? Her heart rate spiked at the realization and she began to feel something she hadn't felt for a while. Something that, as the strongest, should be beneath her: fear.

Even as fear began to overtake her she hunkered down and steadied her aim, the Praxis' cockpit her new target. It wasn't out of courage, inner strength, or anything admirable like that; but rather because fighting was all that she knew. Retreat wasn't an option- It had never been one; the only thing she could do was eliminate the new obstacles before her. Eliminate him. Maybe then she wouldn't be afraid anymore. Hesitantly, she pulled the trigger and sent her first act of defiance straight at Gaal'Bathy.

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Back in The Infirmary

"What-- Augh!" The room shook heavily, Olivia making a jump for the table of items Valerie had set out. She'd almost knocked it over, but, why had the ship rocked so violently? "I-Is everything fine out there? What's... W-We'd better work fast..."

Fight Incoming

"Did she? I suppose that I am~ And... Vera being all the way over there is going to make this awkward. I'll have to see if I can get us over there... As for why she's angry?" Marianne glanced over at Astin, not sure how they'd handle the truth, but... "Because you're related, and she's keeping her younger sibling safe. Spoilerrrrr..." Hopefully that didn't hit Astin too hard... Marianne wasn't about to dump 'by the way, you're a clone', onto that, that would actually hinder Astin's performance. Still, this much was enough to take, right? If they even believed her at her word. Hopefully.

"And she's here to deliver you the Luna. So being over there... Ehhh... It's a bit difficult, but we'll manage. Probably. Now that the Riese crew isn't trying to dogpile us~" The Ceres was fully setup now... It was time to show them what she could actually do. Not just a pretty mechanic, idiots.

Raging

Vera sighed as Kim charged at her with nothing but anger on her mind... She couldn't blame her, anyone could understand the situation she was in... Vera was sighing simply because she was disappointed. "Attacking me like that is nothing but an insult, Seung-Min!" The Luna dipped past the lunge, one hand snatching the Artemis', as Vera's katana met the other xiphos, locking them in the air. The Luna charged its head forward, bashing into the Artemis'. "What have you been fighting for, Seung-Min? To throw yourself away in a fit of rage, because I got in your way? Your opponent right now is me! So whatever you're feeling, fuel yourself with it if you must, but use your brain!" With a hefty thrust, the Luna shoved the Artemis a good bit away from their engagement, the purple machine's sword held out at the angry telekinetic.

"Face me like your life depends on it... Because I'll make this plain, Seung-Min. We are not here to grab our men and leave. This is the day the Riese dies, or we die trying." That was Vera's plan, anyway... The cats were in command, though. If things went sour, would they flee? It was time to see if their grandstanding was just that.

Play Time

Gaal'Bathy was scanning for Soor'Kan's favorite little alien, when a bullet rocketed out of the ocean, and slammed into her hull. "Ghh... I think I found your pet, sire." Paltry damage, but still damage. Gaal'Bathy locked onto the Almydis as its stealth began to wear off, smiling to herself. "You might be his favorite little toy, but it doesn't matter what I do to you, as long as you live!" Her Praxis immediately charged towards the water, claws at the ready.

"Ah, very good. Let's see... Hmmm, does this code still... So it does. Alriana, you can hear me, yes?" He'd punched in the code that Apotheosis had provided for the Almydis' communications, it seemed to have connected. Hopefully it did, he wanted to continue pressuring these humans rather than bother with cumbersome English telepathy to a single target. "I'm going to give you one chance to give yourself up, and come back with me. Else Gaal'Bathy is going to have to drag you back, kicking and screaming. If you give up now, I promise that I won't punish you... And if my Rook has to pull you out of there, I promise you that whatever she does will not come close to what you will receive at my hand. So be a good girl, and do not further test my patience with this foolish stunt. Running off with the humans, honestly..." Soor'Kan shook his head, what could they possibly have provided her? All he asked for was success, even if Trel'Vaar was much more blunt with her, sometimes. And if she succeeded, she got whatever she wanted. Ridiculous. I've never had a more troublesome pet.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Right, this was still Vera, that was still the Luna. Of course a charge like that wasn't going to work. Blood still boiling, Seung-Min took a moment to temper herself. She could never get to Avery if she let herself be killed by Vera. It wasn't an option.

"I suppose I should be honoured, huh? Out of every pilot out here, I'm the one you wanted to pull aside..." Kim replied, still seething, but with a bit more clarity of mind, as she let out a sigh. At the same time, the Artemis' funnels finally deployed, the four remote guns moving into position at Vera's flanks. One Xiphos powered down, replaced with the Artemis' signature MARS rifle, barrel already aglow with energy. The Luna had gone from an inconceivable menace to something tangible. Something one could visualize as real... it was ludicrously fast, and it's I-field was impressive, but... bypass those things, pin it down and get a hit in on the body, it's armour wasn't anything particularly impressive. Pinning it down, especially with Vera at the helm, was no easy feat, but she was no ordinary pilot. Last time she had held Vera at a stalemate until interference has occurred, this time she would just need to win.

"Our styles are fairly incompatible, so I've no idea why you're so interested in me particularly. I hope this doesn't all stem back to that foolish incident at the colony." Seung-Min added, before unleashing the Artemis' ranged arsenal at the Luna. A volley of railgun shots, missiles, funnel harrying from every direction and finally, several blasts from the beam magnum. Her telekinesis focused in on Vera, pre-reading her every consideration and movement, it should be far too much for her to feasibly evade. Shots would get through, and they would either force pressure on her I-Field and begin to whittle her defenses away, or they would land on the body of the Luna and begin to tear it apart. 

This wasn't like before. The Luna was a target that she was more than capable of destroying with her current firepower, given time. She needed only survive the inevitable charge.

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"Heh, hardly the best time for making jokes, but that's a pretty good one. I guess it's the hair, right?" Astin chuckled, taking stock of the battlefield. It was nonsense of course. Vera being their sister. Av-Marianne was clearly just trying to keep the mood light. "I think I would know if I had a sibling though. Unless Vera was stolen as an infant or some such nonsense but I'm pretty sure my parents would have told me at some point."

The rest of what Avery had been saying suddenly clicked in. "Wait, hang on. I'm getting the Luna? But that's her bot. I'm not... There's no way I could pilot it even half as well as she can! I mean..." They couldn't deny that they'd admired the Luna. It was an amazing machine after all... "I... I don't know what to say. Guess we uh... Better get over there, huh? Make the odds a little less fair for the Artemis. I'd rather gang up on them over them ganging up on us."

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"You did a good job getting her to us as quickly as you did," Megumi offered what praise she could before Buck bolted. She doubted anyone would be feeling better about all of this until Christina was up and walking around, again. Even then, they still had some traitorous moles to deal with.

On close examination, it looked like Christina may have been lungshot; she never would have woken up again if she'd been hit anywhere worse. Since she was the only patient to worry about right now, the doctor decided to focus on prepping her patient for the waiting SIEG tank. One of the advantages of not having to do any triage was that she could perform a more advanced surgery to completely erase those gunshot wounds instead of just closing them up.

There was something quite sinister about all of this. Megumi couldn't help but frown as she mentally assembled a picture of what had happened to Christina. A gunshot wound to the back that would leave her in this condition? Another shot to the leg? If Avery had been in a position to kill Christina, why didn't she just do it? It wasn't a question of poor aim if she'd gotten the jump on this perpetual damsel in distress. Did she want her victim to suffer and die like this? The Avery they knew was definitely a ruse, and she was definitely gone, replaced by someone downright despicable.

"This is going to be pretty uncomfortable, so brace yourself," Megumi warned, preparing to apply that fast acting hemostatic foam to the chest wound, first in the front, and then in the back. That was when the Riese made a hard landing in the water, though it felt more like they'd been parked over a large bomb that just went off. The doctor didn't know if they'd collided with something or been hit with a powerful attack, at first. She also couldn't focus on it, right now. First, the foam. Fortunately for Christina, the type Megumi was using would partially numb the wounds as well, providing some minor relief. After that, she would check the leg wound more closely and repeat the procedure. First she made sure there weren't any obvious fragments or the like inside the chest wound. "Captain, please get a handle on things up there ... alright, Bennet, help me get her onto her good side. Tambre, keep an eye on her vitals and let me know if she needs a transfusion." They weren't that slow, but the patient had already lost quite a lot of blood, so it might prove necessary.


They were out of time. Firmia could feel it, and judging by Jessica's transmission, the Luna was going to have a good deal to do with it. When Hannah requested orders, Firmia quickly replied, "We're back on defense. Keep them from attacking the Riese and look for an opening to force them back." Their only chance of turning this around was to wait for the enemy to make a mistake. All of these attacks they were throwing out just weren't amounting to much ...

As if that wasn't bad enough, Firmia's calm was completely eradicated by what happened next. "Hello, humans," Firmia heard the voice not from the comms but from much closer to home, "I'm going to give the lot of you one chance to surrender, and return my pet to me. Any resistance will be met with your swift, and unpleasant death. Do I make myself clear?"

Fury. That was the emotion that began to well up in Firmia as the Sacarians made their demands. Between the sudden but inevitable betrayals aboard the Riese and this foreign feline forcing his way into her mind, she was at wit's end. She couldn't see beyond the next three minutes anymore, and her one thought was on the killing stroke. How to do it, how to finally skin one of these animals and string up their carcass for the rest of their kind to tremble at. How?

Jessica spoke for the group and rejected the offer to surrender, naturally.

"Prepare to die then, foolish humans."

Fury ... Because the Avalon's T-Link was still active, the six drones that were operational were thoroughly confused, aiming their compact beam rifles toward the enemy group and then quickly lowering them, again, and again, and again. They received combined 'attack' and 'standby' commands continuously as Firmia furiously pondered their options with her full and murderous intent behind each and every thought. A couple of them even transformed to try and fly over to battle and then just as quickly changed back and landed. It was a confused mess of AIs all trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. All of the Avalon's active funnels were similarly affected, and being directly controlled by the Alkaev's intentions, they rattled violently in their docks on the outer hull of the ship. The situation in the hangar was even worse, with all of the standby funnels starting to shake themselves loose from their racks. A few of them flew through the hangar like projectiles and crashed into equipment and bulkheads, forcing Sasha and the mechanics to find cover.

The shaking from the funnels docked near the bridge sent small tremors throughout the front of the ship. That, along with a very uncomfortable feeling in her own head caused Tonya to scan the bridge. At first, she thought the Sacarians were shaking the ship up as a warning, but she quickly realized that all the T-Linked equipment on board was reacting to Firmia, at least everything they had bothered to leave turned on. It probably wouldn't work, but Tonya tried to help Firmia calm down. "Captain, we need you coordinating the Riese's defense. Try to stay focused, alright?" If Firmia was suffering from the same headache she was, Tonya couldn't blame her for being in such a bad mood. Pretty much nothing was going right at the moment, and she had to pilot the ship like this on top of that? These space cats could go straight to hell.

"Show me how ..." Firmia murmured to herself, her eyes wild and taking in everything around her, "... how to break them."

"Breaking them is fine but let's try to survive too, alright?" Tonya forced a smile.

"Captain, what's going on up there?" That was Sasha's voice on the ship's main channel, "The funnels were going crazy. I had to use an override command to shut them all down."

"Don't worry about it, Sasha," Tonya answered him, "We're sorting things out on our end. Shutting them off was the right call so you should be fine, now."

"Still a pretty big mess," Sasha noted bitterly, "They were loose when I sent the command so now we've got a couple dozen of them just rolling around the hangar."

"I'll keep the maneuvers gentle," Tonya promised, and closed the channel. "The Riese just touched down, Captain. That's one way to put it ..."

"Have to focus ..."


Brant couldn't decide what was worse, having the Sacarians showing up, seeing the Artemis get taken off the front lines yet again, or watching helplessly as the Riese crash landed in the ocean just seconds later. There were plenty of other terrible things happening right now, of course. The probability that Christina had been murdered by Avery was just too high for any kind of optimism, and Brant could feel the shifts in both Firmia's and Chris' auras. Their respective berserk buttons had been pressed and pressed hard. There was also some panic inside the Avalon that Brant thought might be due to hearing the Sacarians' demands, but it felt even more urgent than that. Even the Avalon's drones were acting strange, like they couldn't make up their minds on whether or not to join the battle. Was Firmia losing control of the T-Link on top of everything else going on?

"I guess our target's still the Ceres, but we can't let the reinforcements surround us," Brant said, mostly to himself as the Regalia's funnels sprang to life. Toolkit, not a coffin. Time to see if they could take out enough enemies to force a retreat. While it would be better from a strategic perspective to wipe them out here, Brant didn't feel they were in a position to commit to that kind of attrition battle. If they lost the Riese, the ANF wouldn't be able to press forward to land the finishing blow on Apotheosis. The Avalon couldn't carry all of the mobile suits that would be left behind even if they did survive the battle ... and if they lost the Avalon ... well, someone had to keep their rage at bay, so best not to dwell on that. For now, the Avalon wasn't likely to take much concentrated fire, so they had a chance to turn this situation around if they protected the Riese.

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Tarquin steadied himself against the wall as the ship shook, no doubt that some sort of combat was occurring outside the Heion Riese. With Avery's betrayal, he'd have to wait until the Aria was checked before embarking for himself - even a miscalibrated rifle would prove fatal in a bad situation. Some of the others were likely already out there, he would be able to join them once preparations were ready. He continued his journey towards the elevators, pausing at the cafeteria. It was an unusual area for him to be nostalgic about, but he'd bonded with the likes of Nikolai, Nina, Cheryl and Jess there. Back at the base, it had always been a place that reminded him how isolated he was. 

"Jess?" Tarquin asked, spotting Jess slumped in one of the chairs. Something didn't seem quite right, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "I'm heading to the hangar to deploy... are you planning to remain here?"

The cafeteria was an unusual choice to be at the beginning of a battle, although she currently was't a combatant. Admittedly, being anywhere in the Heion Riese wouldn't guarantee safety during a battle, perhaps he was overthinking things?

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There isn't quite a word in Aliza's vocabulary that could really do justice in describing the shock she was feeling right now. Just when they thought they had the Ceres cornered the last thing she wanted happened: Reinforcements. Worse yet, reinforcements lead by Vera. Good gracious. As if that weren't enough her companions seemed to be aliens, judging from the whole "humans" call out. Seeing as her mind was not very TK friendly she did indeed feel the pressure, it didn't help her case at all. She started some slow breathing to steady herself. "Keep calm...keep calm..." Oh and the Riese making it's splashdown didn't help either. "Keep calm keep calm keep calm keep calm..." In between Kim having her showdown with Vera Aliza took her time to steady herself, doing the best she could to bring herself back to reality.

Well thankfully she did manage to get back to her normal self, just in time to spot Gaal'Bathy diving straight at a now exposed Alriana. Pet...they must have meant her. Aliza thought about her time with Hicks and Sledge, and realized she almost lost someone because of her inaction. But this time was different. With a slight gulp to herself she aimed her mounted crossbow toward the alien and fired before she reached the water. "...over here!" She called out. "There's no pet here, but you're attacking my friend. So back off!"

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Why had she done that? Even if she had been ready to completely commit to fighting the Sacarians, that had been an extremely stupid thing to do. They may have known that she was here, but they didn't know where she was. And she knew that a single shot from her rifle wouldn't be enough to down one of their machines, especially not a lead model. There was no way they hadn't taken measures against that risk. She had revealed herself for what? An insignificant act of defiance? She had only made things worse for herself. Gaal'Bathy was charging at her now, more than eager to spill her blood.

But even as the Praxis barreled towards her, Alriana didn't back down. If it was just Gaal'Bathy, then she could manage. She would just... ignore Soor'kan. Ignore his unshakable presence in her mind that constantly reminded her that he was here. She shook her head as if that would somehow help her. "Haiagl... Aly." She needed to focus; there was no reason for her to fear the less important Sacarian. However, as she tried to aim at the machine speeding towards her, she couldn't get a lock; not because the Praxis was taking evasive measures, but because she was shaking. Shaking with fear. As the Praxis got closer and closer she was running out of time. She would just have to hope her shot would hit its mark. 

"Fm- Fm'lat-" her comms sparked to life, the last person in the universe she wanted to hear on the other end; as Soor'kan began to address her, her order to fire died in her throat. She had been shaking before, but now she was stiff as a board. It was almost as if she'd been instantly frozen in place; it didn't help that she'd broken out in a cold sweat, her heart(s) beating even faster and her skin lines achieving maximum speed. Against Soor'kan there was no fight or flight. There was only fear. She knew better than to test him; he didn't threaten, only promise. What should she do? Even if she escaped punishment, she would just be where she was before. Nothing would change. 

...Could she even handle going back? Back to that detestable room where she waited. Waited for orders. Waited for missions. Waited for those... horrible tests. The humans had been good to her, healed her, knew her... accepted her. She didn't want to lose that. Them. But Soor'kan was here. If he really wanted to, he could destroy them all with little trouble. If Vera was a mountain, he was the highest peak. What should she do. What could she do? She didn't know. All she could do was sit in silence as Soor'kan awaited her answer.

Edited by Ursali

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Well...taking down the Ceres would be easier said than done.

Vvi, even with all intents and purposes, had to stop in her tracks when the enemy cavalry arrived.  There was the Luna, then...her grip tightened as she noticed the Sacarians, all four eyes narrowed at Praxis and Praxis Alpha.  Then more signatures warped into existence, and she couldn't help the shuddering laugh that escaped her lips.  The Artemis and the Luna were having a showdown, then the cats were graciously offering them a chance to surrender...

Ha!  As if that was going to be easy.

Taking a deep breath, she steadied her nerves before directing words at the enemy.

"You kittens don't know when to quit, hmm~?" she calls out, her tone playful and condescending towards their enemy.  Maneuvering her robot she changed target to Gaal'Bathy, joining Aliza in keeping Alriana away from the pesky manges.  "Aliza, ready to assist you in any way possible," she calls out in a calm yet serious tone.  Immediately she tried to comfort Alriana and Aliza with her own powers, trying to keep all of them level headed as they faced the alien threat.

"It would be best if you left.  Alriana isn't going anywhere with you two," she said with a smile in her tone, so sure and confident of herself.  "We have a movie to catch after this!"

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Jess had been in the middle of a small bit of daydream feeling sorry for herself when a voice called out her name, forcing her to raise her head and face reality again. Straightening back up from her slouch, and sitting forward in the chair, the troubled soldier turned to find that Tarquin had stopped on his way to the hanger and was giving her a curious look. It hadn't stopped there, but he was worried enough about her to actually ask.

On the one hand, it felt a bit embarrassing, awkward and ashamed to be worried after by someone so young. On the other hand, hearing kind words was a balm for the soul that made one want to try a little harder. Her mouth twisted a little as she prepared to speak, body lagging behind her emotions, which to be honest were still not really all that collected and put together themselves.

"Oh... sorry about that, I just..." A bit of a sigh after the preliminary apology, and her lowered her gaze to his feet. Maybe it would be easier to speak that way. "I don't really know what I'm doing. I was supposed to pull myself back together, to get prepared to help out, join in with somebody maybe, to like, sit in the backseat and ease the burden, or even to just be a backup if somebody in one of the already assigned set of pairs got hurt or something and needed to switch out. But even after that week of downtime, I still... the thought of heading to the hangar, climbing into some machine, going back out into battle. For just a moment, I locked up a bit and had to sit down." 

Her expression softened and a self-effacing smile spread across her face. "Not very inspiring behavior from me is it? But thank you, I think it's passed now, and, huff," pushing herself up out of her seat, Jess walked over to stand beside him. "I think I am ready at least to head on down. If nothing else, I can maybe help out the mechanics as I wait on standby. Before we arrive at the enemy base though, I really have to try to find something better, more defined. A purpose. But for now, just... do what I can, right?"

Edited by Balcerzak

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Call it a Grudge

"You're one of the most promising pilots the ANF has to offer. Fighting style has nothing to do with it, I simply want to face off against someone strong!" Now Kim was using her head, melee wasn't something she was meant for, and that was fine. Kim's machine was meant to do this-- and what a barrage it was. The missiles were easy enough to take down with the Luna's wrist mounted gun, and her i-Field shrugged off the funnels, but the railgun shots required dodging, and by the time she'd processed everything else, the magnum's beam came in. Her i-Field was barely strong enough to take it-- no, not barely, it wasn't enough for the full brunt of it and the funnels. The searing energy beam ran itself across the the Luna's arm, frying some of its outer armor.

"Good. Good! That's what I want! Fight with everything you've got!"

Jokes

"I'm not joking, but whatever. Vera will explain things once you're on board. Let's see about getting ourselves over there without getting shot at more." At least the cats were making themselves useful and engaging the Riese crew. Better than boasting and standing there. Speaking of... Wow, was it really going to take on two machines at once?

It was. Gaal'Bathy shrugged off the crossbow shot but was forced to pause her charge to intercept Vvi's, sword at the ready. "You stupid little traitor, we treated you as an equal, and you spurn us!? This is why other races are worthless! I'll kill you without a second thought!"

While she was engaged, Soor'Kan sighed. "Always an interloper or two. Hmm. I'd rather not dirty my machine, but..." His Praxis warped, appearing in front of Aliza, hand grabbing tight onto her crossbow. "If you would be so kind as to stay out of this." Compliance, was it truly something so weird to ask of these humans? They were inferior, in technology, mentality, strength. What propelled their desire to resist so stubbornly? "I do not think I will ever understand you."

Surgery!

Christina was clearly in pain as Megumi went about applying her foam, but she was too in and out to react more than her face scrunching up. Olivia nodded, helping Megumi to move the girl now that the ship wasn't rocking anymore. "She's... She'll be okay, right?" Megumi was a great doctor, they had the latest and most fantastic medicine at their beck and call, but would it be enough? She'd been shot clean through, lost all that blood... Wait... Transfusion--

"Doctor, that clone. The, not the one on the Avalon, the one they picked up last week, could she work? She should have the same blood type, right?" They had to, they were clones, it didn't make sense if she didn't... "Should I go try and find her?"

Toolkits

"Yeah... Just... I'm gonna tear her to pieces... Christina, you better be okay." After everything she'd yelled at Kim for, to keep Christina safe, something like this happening... It was too much to keep herself in check, the Regalia's funnels were spinning around it like crazy. "Point us at something. Give me something to shoot!"

Back on the bridge, Jess wasn't fairing much better in the shooting department. Too many targets, which one needed the main cannons first, who did she need to aim at-- "There," she mumbled to herself, eyes flying across the displays, as the cannons targeted Soor'Kan's mech to remove him from the Sagittae's face. He easily dodged the blast, but it made a bit of space, and that was the point. Cannons turned to fire at the main group of them next, the enemy squadron looked just as imposing at the other Sacarians... Was this their battle standard? How frustratingly powerful.

As Jess aimed guns, Tristan was watching vitals, and Alriana's were all over the place. "Aly, come in. It's Tristan... What's wrong? If something's happened you can return to the hangar, have one of the medical staff address you." Her machine hadn't taken any damage, Aliza and Vvi had interrupted any assault, from what he'd seen... Had the Sacarians sent her some message? She wasn't... Was she scared? Too many things he didn't know right now, and all he could do was sit there and wait. Maybe some more pilot training wouldn't be a bad idea...

Waking Up

It was... Cold. A bit drafty. She slowly opened her eyes... A blank room? This wasn't the Regina's cockpit... Had she survived? The ANF crew, having beaten her, took her off to some detainment center? She put a hand to her head to try and... "What..." What, happened to her arm? It was, r-robotic... Had she lost it in the fight? Why would they replace it for her? "This doesn't make any sense... What's going on?" She looked around again, at least she was dressed... In, casual clothing, some sweatpants, what, looked to be a T-shirt, and a blouse over that. "What is all this? Come out! Laugh! What's going on!?" Swinging her legs--

Louise froze. Her legs worked. What? What!? Was this Hell, then? Had she woken up in some perverted ring of the devil's design? She stood up... Things felt fine. Too fine. "What's going on!?" And as her senses came to, she realized the most important thing... Her mind was quiet. She wasn't, reliving what had happened to her... She could remember it if she tried to, quite clearly... Painfully clearly. But there were no screams ringing out, no urges yelling at her to kill Alphonse. Something was wrong, but she felt fine. She could breathe, see-- from both eyes! Feel, everything... "Don't panic... Just... There has to be an explanation for this. There has to be. This is, ridiculous..."

"Ah... finally a result, hmm? It was about time." A self-satisfied male voice resounded throughout the room. It wouldn't be wholly unfamiliar to Louise, provided she paid attention to the few who directly interacted with Helena. Watanabe, the doctor, didn't bother to introduce himself, treating Louise like the experiment she rightly was, at that moment. "It's been a while, Louise. I see the memory transfer was successful, though I still have to guarantee a low dissociation level before I report back." He continued, with little pause. "Are you enjoying your new legs?"

A voice, Watanabe... The nut they'd brought in from Colony One... Their little weapons tester. Memory transfer? A result? "Tell me what's going on, right now, or so help me I'm going to load you into one of your weapons and see what's left after I press fire." Am I enjoying the new legs... Louise looked down again... She had legs. She was standing, it was almost like riding a bike... Which, shouldn't be how it was, even if they'd somehow fixed her body, it would take months to manage to stand again. Nerves and muscles would need time to get used to the feeling again, so... So how... "Be clear. And concise. Right now."

A huff, though mostly an amused one, came out from the speaker. "I see. I'm going to call this a success." Watanabe's tone was perhaps a bit self-congratulatory, "Welcome back, Louise. As you can see, you're not in your usual body... for all intents and purposes, you are dead. A simple explanation for your questions, would be to call you the same as Tabitha Gaertner's late daughter, the Riese's captain." There was a pause, probably to let Louise --quite literally, now-- process that information. "Though you'll find yourself a bit different from her situation. The idea was to copy your 'ego' seamlessly, so to speak. Louise would simply 'pause' her existence for a few days."

A door, previously undiscernable from the rest of the white room, moved itself open to give way to a greater room. It was the research & development hangar for Apotheosis, expansive and honestly a bit in need for better lighting. A scientist slowly descended through an escalator and stepped out right in front of the white room's entrance, Watanabe himself, observing Louise with his usual analytic stare. "A digitalized copy of your mind was extracted from the Regina before the ANF picked it apart. You have the Luna's systems to thank for that." The doctor adjusted his glasses, "The only alteration, at Helena's request, was to remove your feelings towards the ANF, to remove that which most damaged your mental stability. That was Liebenwalde's doing."

Tension was palpable from outside as the doctor walked into the room. It was certainly less safe in the case Louise turned to be violent and unstable, though the doctor seemed to be a bit too fascinated with the results to mind. "I'd like you to tell me whether that is correct, and whether you still see yourself as 'Louise'. Either answer is fine."

Existing felt like a weight, for a moment, as everything was dropped on her. So then, it wasn't just her arm, it was all of her. She was a robot, now. "So... I died." It was a bit disappointing... But she'd gone there that day to die. She could even feel like Helena was sending her off to her death, with how nice the woman had been being... And they'd altered her, had they? "That's why..." Was it nice? There was no question, this peace, this feeling of ease was something she'd completely forgotten. To be able to experience it again... Even after everything she'd done, it was a miracle.

Was she happy about it, though? She looked down at her hand again, flexing her fingers a moment, before she snatched the doctor by the neck and forced him up against the wall. "Where's Helena? Louise wants to chat."

"Ghk!" A guttural sound escaped the doctor, glasses dropping to the floor. His eyes closed, the doctor half-gasped as he let out his next sentence. "She is where she usually is--hhh." The doctor no doubt meant the command room, where Helena often communicated with those outside the base --especially the aliens--. "I have yet to report..." Louise had a rather uncomfortable stranglehold of the doctor's neck. She still needed adjusting to her robotic body's strength, with the force of the slam nearly putting the doctor unconscious... or perhaps that was fully intentional from Louise's part. The doctor knew struggling was pointless, he needed to focus on breathing.

Curious and wary fellows were starting to walk down.

That was all she needed... And if she did kill him, Helena would likely have her shut down... What an uncomfortable thought, not have her killed, but shut her down. She let Watanabe go, and fall to the floor, heading her way out of the room. "HELENA!" she boomed, making her way towards the woman's command center. Likely she was watching some video feed, hopefully she'd heard. Either way, she was about to get a visitor.

At least the ship was the same as it had always been... She got scared looks from some of the initiates, and nearly shocked some intermediates to death. She'd been killed, after all, and a robot bearing her resemblance, aside from some bolts and weld lines? Who wouldn't be shocked?

No knocking, Helena didn't get that now. Louise shoved the door aside and, of course, there she was. "Helena..." A heavy huff, Louise tried to contain herself, fists shaking. "So you couldn't simply let me die, could you? Not only did you have to bring me back, you had to let the doctors have their way with doing it, didn't you!? WHY!?"

Watanabe dropped to the floor, a hand quickly grasping his own neck, almost relieved to breath easy again. No lasting damage. Louise expectedly went off in a hurry, and none of the researchers were daring enough to stop that... perhaps that was fine.

"I was anticipating an 80/20 chance... perhaps the removal of those feelings did make her more rational. Impressive, Liebenwalde." Watanabe slowly retrieved his glasses from the floor --tch, chipped on the side, not enough reason to get a new one, but still aesthetically displeasing--. Watanabe wore his glasses again, though his body was still hurting from the slam, he continued laying against the wall. "I suppose I don't need to join them that soon, anyways." The white room's lighting dimmed, engines whirring. A few researchers came in to pick up the doctor.

"...Good luck to her."

---

Helena was already standing up at the moment Louise forced herself in, leaning against the desk as she watched a feed. It was perhaps the first time Louise saw her expressing surprise. "...It's really you, down to the way you act." She seemed cautious, slowly standing to attention from her previously lax posture, but all the same fascinated, staring down Louise from head to toe. 

"I didn't send you to die, Louise. The way you died was a disgrace to yourself. I couldn't bear it. It wasn't meant to be like that." A touch of sadness, perhaps regret, tinged Helena as she walked around the table. "But the truth is, I was ready to accept it, until Watanabe challenged me with the notion that we could bring you back, completely." She still seemed perplexed, looking at this Louise. The same, but completely different in appearance. "I don't know what to say... do you still feel anything towards the Federation?"

Frustration and rage washed over Louise as Helena got up to walk closer, she charged the woman, almost about to put her hands to her neck and squeeze until it snapped... But a part of her stopped herself, digits inches away from ending Apotheosis' plans, their entire conquest. Maybe it was the thought of leaving everyone here to the whims of those infuriating aliens... More likely was any lingering feelings she held for Helena.

They'd been... Intimate, the night before her attack on ANF's central. Whether that was something Helena had allowed herself, given to Louise as a parting gift, or simply a spur of the moment attraction, it had happened, and Louise couldn't bring herself to off the woman. Instead, she fell into a hug, pulling Helena close to herself, burying her face in shame. "I don't feel anything for them anymore... It's terrifying. I'm finally at peace. And I didn't have any part in it! No revenge, no coming to terms, no burying it... It's just gone."

What was more... Helena was right. "I'm sorry," Louise muttered, clinging just a bit tighter. "I failed you."

"Good..." Helena was mostly relieved at hearing Louise wasn't holding her grudges any longer, returning the embrace there and then. "I apologize. I didn't expect removing these emotions to shake you up that badly, but I don't want you to fight them anymore. I want you to survive." It was a hopeless tone, from someone that was meant to bring hope to so many humans. "I've lost control... perhaps I never had any. It's hard to say anymore. The aliens want efficiency, and to command, not to walk side by side." Helena couldn't return a grip as strong as Louise, so she raised a hand to the back of her head instead, carressing lovingly. "It's difficult to accept she misjudged them... but it is like it is. I can't guarantee our safety anymore."

"You... You don't want..." Louise let her go, staring at her like she'd said something crazy. "What?" She was dumbstruck. This was... This couldn't... "You can't, be serious?" Another blow came immediately, the cats had taken over... So Helena was already... Louise fell to her knees, hands on her face. She almost laughed, but it was just too serious to be funny. "What was it all for, then?" Ridiculous, completely ridiculous. "I know... I know I was just here for petty revenge, but I believed in your ideals. And now they're all gone? Some alien in an armchair decides that you're not allowed to lead, anymore...?"

"..." It was hard for even Helena to speak about that topic, "Apotheosis is not just us, but I don't see any intervention happening. No, rather, it would be a death sentence. We're already at war with the world. We have no other option but to acquiesce, let the Sacarians take control." They've relied too much on their technology, for starters. When it came to war, the Sacarians withheld informatiob on their war slaves, but that wasn't all. They were far more war-like than Helena had been led on, it didn't make sense. They would perhaps be prepared otherwise. "I can't drag you through this mistake with me. The ANF might actually turn the tides. If that happens, I don't want you throwing your life away again."

"Then what am I supposed to do!? I don't... I don't have anything left! I had my revenge, I had the will to fight for you, but if I don't have that, and you won't... You won't let me fight, what am I supposed to do...?" Louise felt frighteningly empty, thinking about it. She really had no reason to keep living, did she?

"You've spent far too long on that grudge, Louise. Devoted your entire life to it." It was stating the obvious, but sometimes it was best to reinforce points. Helena walked towards former-killing-machine-turned-real, dropping to her knees in front of Louise. "It's time to start anew. Anything." Helena embraced Louise once more, although still getting accostumed to her new mettalic parts --especially her legs--. "I've always wanted to give you something more than your revenge to fight for. I thought, 'if she were to fight for my sake, it'd be great for both of us'. But..." That wasn't promising anymore. No better than her revenge on the ANF, a suicidal cause. "I'd rather you live to find a new meaning."

So Helena felt guilty for using her... Ironic, and a bit disappointing, Louise had joined this of her own volition. "Start anew..." Where would she start? Not here. Her whole purpose in being here had been to fight. If she couldn't fight, this place, these people... The small bonds she had with Vera and Helena, they wouldn't last as Apotheosis fell apart.

"... H..." Louise could only think of one thing to progress forwards with her life... And it wasn't here. "Hand me over to the Riese crew. Or the Avalon. I don't care which... I can't do anything here but pity myself and wallow."

"...Understood." That would be an option, huh... Helena hadn't expected anything so bold to be Louise's first choice.

Though that was more like Louise's nature than anything else, in quick retrospect.

"It will be a matter of time until the Riese gets here, it was chosen as the special forces team to confront us, predictably." She almost hesitated to speak the rest, "The Sacarians wanted to hasten our plan and try to sabotage the Riese now, instead of during our fight. They're confident their troops will do the job." It was clear there was some bite in Helena's tone at that remark. What a waste of a perfect setup. "If the Riese somehow stops them, I'll make sure you're transported to them. Otherwise, I'll find another destination. Perhaps the colobies would warm up to you faster." Maybe Mars was a good place... Helena hadn't heard news from there in a while.

"I'm surprised you agreed..." That moment of attraction must have been faint after all. "You know that I'll tell them everything I know, don't you? Or... Do you not care now, that the Sacarians have taken over? Rather see this all burn than give it up to those power hungry monsters...?" A part of Louise hoped Helena would stop her, but if she agreed to even all this... And she wouldn't ever go to the colonies... Those were where old fools went to waste away. No, if she was going to start anew, it had to be with those crews. Those fools who had killed her... The ones who won, no matter what. Somehow...

"I've made a mistake with the Sacarians, but if I lose to the Riese, I'm entrusting you to their care, Just like you're requesting. Unless you'd rather die with me, and asked a loaded question. It's not like you to play these games, though..." Helena ran a hand over Louise's hair, "Why should you fight for the Sacarians, die the same miserable death? I'll only not grant this wish if the Riese doesn't show they can stop us." It was because she cared, though that was not the romantic way Louise envisioned it, probably. "Will you go as soon as you can, or will you wait for them to come here?"

"I'm not all me, right now... Someone saw to that." Louise was still bitter about having her mind played with, even if it was for her benefit... She didn't know if it was for the best. Was she still really 'Louise', or just the shadow of the woman, a form that Helena thought was best? It was eating at her a bit, though she did have to admit, this body was incredible... The fact that her mind was functioning uninhibited, was that because of the good doctor, or because of the alien's technology?

And... Would she leave? "... I'll think about it... But if a ship leave the hangar tonight... Don't be too surprised. I..." Louise collected herself enough to stand, looking away from Helena. "The longer I stay here, the more I'm going to turn to doing something stupid. Especially once Vera gets back... She's out right now, isn't she? Off fighting the Riese. It would be better..." Louise bit her synthetic lip, sighing. "It would be better if I wasn't here, when she got back. Her family... And Duane, are enough of a burden. She doesn't need me, again." That was her answer then...

"Thank you... I'm sorry. For a lot of things. And not for others... If this turns into a fight between the Sacarians, and the ANF... If they toss Apotheosis aside, and turn this into their war... Try to survive, Helena? You don't have to die for something that isn't your fight..." Louise turned to leave, but paused a moment, if the woman had anything else to add.

"...Alright." And that was Louise's answer, not much Helena could expect or ask of her really, having broight her back to life so selfishly.

"I'm not in the position to prioritize my safety. Not unless I can guarantee the same for my subordinates, otherwise, I'm no better than the men I promised to topple." This much, she wouldn't budge. Without purpose, her sacrifices were no less cowardly than the ANF's at supposed peace times. "We'll see what the Sacarians will do. I've got a few loose ends to deal with first." She didn't elaborate, but it was probably related, given her stress.

"...Don't go throwing yourself on danger again, Louise. Maybe we'll meet again."

"Maybe... I..." No, that was better left unsaid... Louise turned away from the woman and walked out of her office... Towards the hangar. The longer she stayed here, the more enticing the thought of giving up her life and just living in the comfort of Helena's arms was becoming. Those feelings were only her own, though... Helena had acted out of guilt, not out of any feelings she had. She was here with a purpose, and playing around with such childish emotions would amount to nothing.

If I want a life, I have to give what I have to someone who can use it better. Don't go throwing myself into danger again, huh... Unfortunately, you've given me a body suited for just that.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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It seemed that Tarquin had caught Jess by surprise, her expression and both posture were that of someone not expecting to be approached. Tarquin stood a couple of feet away from Jess, uncertain whether he needed to get closer or move away from her. Something was definitely bothering her, Tarquin could feel an uncomfortable aura coming from Jess. He didn't know her terribly well, but from what he did know, she had plenty to be disheartened about. Tarquin took a few steps forward, sitting down next to Jess.

"It's OK, you're allowed to feel like that. Nobody gets to decide how long feelings last, there's no rules about it." Tarquin assured, turning his head towards her. Jess was a good number of years older than him, someone that he barely even knew, but he couldn't leave her feeling so despondent.

He could feel her desire to contribute, to try and assist in any way she could, but also how painful the idea of putting herself at the front-line was.

"Come with me for this mission." Tarquin replied, looking back to the cafeteria door. "The Aria can accommodate a supporting pilot, that way you can contribute. If it becomes too difficult, I am fully capable of managing the entire system alone... you wouldn't be a burden."

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PLAYER PHASE/TURN 1

uH8WJyj.png

OBJECTIVE: Defeat All Enemies!

BATTLE MASTERY: Reduce the Ceres to below 500 HP by the end of turn 3 Enemy Phase!

DEFEAT CONDITION: The Riese is sunk, or, all player units are destroyed!

NOTE: Jess is currently interfacing with the Riese. For the first three turns of this map, she will have range +2, Automatic Strike, and Fury. On turn 4, she will lose these bonuses, and her SP will be reduced to 0.

Stats!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"She's doing surprisingly well, actually," Megumi replied, thinking to some of the other injuries she'd treated as a combat medic. When you've kept someone alive with two holes in their chest, having to deal with just one hole in that area was significantly easier. That said, time to properly address the leg situation. After that they could place her in the SIEG tank and then barring any freakish complications, she ought to be in the clear.

Megumi made a mental note to pass on the news to the bridge for a tactical morale boost when Olivia's suggested blood donor came up. They not only had the same blood type; they had the same blood in all but origin. As a clone herself, Megumi knew the theoretical benefits of that sort of arrangement, though the idea of sharing blood with Michelle as well as her own sisters was about as unappealing to her as it got. With Sarah and Ellen, though ... it was one of the little things that brought them a bit closer together. As for doing the same sort of thing here, they had some synthetic blood for emergencies like these, but transfusions were inherently risky. The clones were essentially the same person with different minds and experiences, so Olivia's suggestion of using Nina for the transfusion had the doctor's support. The chances of something going wrong were as low as they could be. Megumi wasn't certain they needed to do a transfusion yet, hence having Valerie keep an eye on the patient's vitals, but once she was stable, a hemoglobin level check would let them know.

"Alright, Tambre, get Nina up here. I don't think she was assigned to any of the mobile suits, so she should be around here somewhere." Glancing at Olivia again, the doctor said, "Hold her steady for me. This one's not a through and through so there're at least fragments inside I need to get out."

Megumi was pleasantly surprised to find the bullet in tact. It was deformed from the impact, but having to only dislodge one piece saved them a great deal of time, and Megumi was able to fill the ballistic cavity in inside a minute.

"And we're ready." 


"Should I bring us in?" Tonya asked, looking back at Firmia in the captain's chair, "We're a bit far out right now"--admittedly as intended--"... also there's a duel or something between us and the Riese."

Firmia winced at the Artemis and the Luna. The Heion Riese was staring down a bunch of Praxes and the Ceres, and the Avalon crew was far out of position. It wasn't all bad, but they had to move right now if they were going to seize any sort of advantage for their side. The Alkaev's immediate thoughts were to focus down the Luna before it had a chance to destroy or heavily damage the Artemis. They would need all the firepower they could get to force back the Sacarians, after all. No one had time for this dueling nonsense today.

"Alright move us closer to the Riese but don't put us right next to the ship or obstruct Jessica's line of fire. We need to be far enough out of the way to react if they spread out or call in more units. Marcia, charge up our cannons and target the Luna. We're going to destroy it right here and now or at least force it to retreat while we move in to help the Riese."

All the while, Firmia couldn't help but wonder if they could actually pull this off in their current situation. She realized that if they couldn't, they had no business attacking Apotheosis' main base, and she personally had no business trying to affect any meaningful change in the world.

"Riese pilots, this is Captain Alkaev. We're moving to flank the Sacarians and we're bringing the Artemis back with us. Hold on until we're close enough to help." Her bird's eye view of the battlefield on her tablet was just plain irritating. It was hard to tell what the Sacarians intended with the Ceres, if anything, but that unit was surrounded. Jessica hadn't been able to prevent them from escaping the ship itself, but they still had a chance to rectify that mistake and all the ones leading up to it. Firmia had some reservations about trying while they were still mostly on defense, but the Riese pilots had managed some reckless--and more importantly similar--maneuvers in the past. They could do it if they were quick enough. "See if you can knock out the Ceres before it escapes, but don't risk the Riese to do it. Jessica will help like always, but she's got her hands full, so hurry."

"Kim, it's Firmia. We need you fighting the Sacarians so use any opening you can to destroy the Luna and then fall in. We have to end this before they start focusing on the Riese. Avalon MS teams," Firmia switched over to her crew's main channel, "This is an order! Take out the Luna! Don't hold anything back! Marcia, fire at will!"


Brant could only hope Christina was alright ... or even alive. It just didn't seem likely unless she'd gotten very lucky. It seemed like no matter how well they performed in this battle, there was a tragedy ready and waiting for them when the dust settled. Come on, Megumi ... work your doctor magic ...

As for something to shoot ... "You wanted to rip Avery a new one, right? Then let's--" Brant paused when Firmia's transmission came through.

"Avalon MS teams, this is an order! Take out the Luna! Don't hold anything back!"

They were focusing on the Luna, first? Brant supposed with how far out they were, it would be stupid to just rush into the main event and hope the Artemis managed by itself. Seung-Min shouldn't have to fight alone, again ... "Okay, we know exactly where to aim ..." And apparently so did the Avalon's drones. They were all taking off from the Avalon's hull and flying steadily toward the Artemis in a loose formation.

Edited by Phoenix

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Vera lust for battle was... certainly something. It felt so out of place with Apotheosis ideals, it was almost as though she had an entirely different MO to the rest of them... come to think of it, Avery had been planning to simply detonate a bomb within the Artemis, so why had Vera intervened with her specifically? She said it was because she wanted a fight, but that behavior made no sense if she had been planned to be a non-factor. Did Vera not know? Or had she only done this, even forgave her earlier mistake, because she assumed that the chance of the Artemis making notable progress was a definitive zero? It was always so damn hard to tell with Vera... 

Why was Apotheosis even here? Knowing what they knew now, about the alien races under the Sacarian's thumb... how could Apotheosis still work with these extraterrestrial interlopers? What grudges could be so severe that they would pay for them with the human race itself as currency? As the ARES system flared to life within the Artemis, and Seung-Min felt a wash of clarity, it was this thought that came to her mind. It had been all combat focused before, so why... why this? Not that it was a bad question to ask, and something to think about later, but... why was the ARES system not functioning as it had before? Everything was sharper, not just her anger and malice... was it because she was alone? Because of her re-calibration of the T-link? Were it's previous ill effects merely a side-effect of Avery's tampering?

"Why are you fighting for them, Vera? You have to know that they'll do to you the same thing they did to the other alien races! Anyone they don't slaughter will be enslaved and put to work... you can't be so foolish as to think they'll spare you just for cooperating! They think of us as nothing but insects, so why?!" Seung-Min asked her opponent, as the Artemis began to strafe around the Luna's side. A mobile target was harder to hit, and the maneuver would move her closer to the Riese, and to Avery. Machine glowing red as ARES came unto full operation, a whole new volley of beams and ballistics began to rain from the Artemis, crashing into the Luna from every angle, her mind predicting and intercepting every possible angle of evasion, a million potential counterattacks in her mind and each receiving a parry and appropriate riposte.

"Affirmative, Firmia."

 

Kim casts Sense, activates ARES, moves to 16,24 and attacks Vera with The Hunt!

____________________________________________________________

"Understood, Captain. I don't know how well the main guns will fare against that I-field, but I'll try to force enough pressure for you to break through." Marcia replied, taking sight of the Luna on her console and depressing the trigger just before the point of firing

"Eat hot plasma, Apotheosis!" The gunnery officer announced, mostly to herself, as the Avalon's main cannons began to glow, ready to unload on the Luna at Firmia's final command.

Marcia casts Strike!

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Kim fires with everything she has on the Luna!

(100, 30)
(97,60)
Hit!
165 damage!
"Ghh... I fight for them, because I have to!"
Vera swings her sword, the gales sweeping past Kim.
"That system of hers..."
Kim gains +160 EXP, +4 will!
 

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