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

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Death Becomes Them

 

"Sooo, what's our n-n-next move, now that we're 'dead'. This is a g-good thing, right?" Sena asked, after flicking a switch, stopping playback of the video she'd discovered yesterday. It had been linked to her by one of her hacker friends, questioning its authenticity in the course of their research into Apotheosis, and she'd prided herself on a restrained response to the footage. It had been hard work scrubbing her presence from most of the surface net over the past few days, but a necessary task, and she'd been hoping to relax and just enjoy herself, a wish doomed to oblivion when faced by the distraction of a revelation like that. Now it was time to hear the others' thoughts: what Hilling's take was interested her, but perhaps more important to her was studying the reaction of the primary victim herself, Calina.

That had ruined a perfectly good drink. Can crushed in her hand, she'd have to get a towel to clean that mess. "What kind of rank amateur dies from something like that? Stupid, fuckin' ANF... And now we're terrorists! Ugh... I guess we fell pretty well into that description, though. Go after the colony and then take a Bismarck facility." She sighed and threw out her broken tin, taking hefty steps towards a drawer. One small towel later and the drink was cleaned up, but she didn't feel any better about the situation.

"The only thing that's good about it is that we won't be facing down any direct action from the ANF. We might get dogged by patrols, but they want this hush hush. They can't deal with Apotheosis and rebel factions clamoring for their unprotected spots... Ugh." Calina wasn't worried about her reputation. She was worried about Abigail.

"As long as Abby doesn't catch wind of this, it's fine. She's probably still locked in some jail cell..." the thought made Calina grit her teeth, "but as long as she doesn't think we're dead, that's fine. Got no way of contacting her... Sena, on the off chance she isn't rotting in prison, are any of your accounts still open, online? Could you send a message to hers'? Or is that too dangerous, now that we're... Y'know." The ANF wouldn't do anything to them unless they knew they could corner them. With what they'd stole, and what Calina had to work with now, they were a legitimate small force in this warscape. If they got a lock on any suspicious email or account being used, though... That could tip the balance in their favour.

"You're right," Hilling chimed in dryly at Calina's outburst. "An amateur would die from that. It takes a pro to escape with only third degree burns. How're those feeling, by the way?" That light ribbing out of the way, he had to agree with much of her assessment.

"If this is the official stance they're taking, then yes. It would be highly probable that we're more or less off the hook. They realized they couldn't afford to acknowledge such chinks in their armor exist: if one facility got taken to the cleaners, what would stop every Tom, Dick, and Harry from doing the same to others? And they're certainly too busy trying to hold down the fort to send any elite, off-the-records unit to try to hunt us down either. No black ops expeditions in the forecast this week, boys. They've surely just written this off as an acceptable, though regretable, loss and are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Any patrols we do run into will be our own fault, due to insufficient intelligence. That's my read on this."

As for Sena, she'd flinched a little, as some stray fountaining beverage sprayed her in the face, its home crushed under the fist of an angry god. While it hadn't been entirely unexpected, she hadn't much time to prepare herself, and even if she had there's only so much one can fight involuntary bodily reactions. Even knowing one's about to get splashed, when it actually happens... Wiping a drop up with her finger, Sena licked it off before transitioning to chewing on what little nub of her nail remained, as she fell deep into thought. She'd even forgotten to pretend to scowl about it.

"A-All indications were she was still incarcerated," Sena spoke up, after removing her finger from her mouth, brushing some stray strands of hair back behind her ear with it instead. "M-Most importantly, alive and in g-good health, b-before my link to her Heracles finally w-went offline. They must've j-junked it for parts or something. It was too m-much to hope to have a p-permanent window into their b-battleship, but part of me had been r-r-relishing the possibility. A sh-shame, really." She sighed, clearly disappointed.

"I h-had to erase m-most of my presence on the net. F-For our own good, b-but I still have a f-few avenues that sh-should be safe. U-Unfortunately, n-none with any direct link to her, n-no. N-Not like the f-feddies would let her s-surf the web anyway..." A bright ray of sunshine flickered across the stormclouds of her face though, as she continued. "Examining wh-what I could find out of that ship's r-roster, though, including the c-civilians they'd b-brought on board, th-there might be something, but it's r-risky."

"Feels great. I love having charcoal for skin." Snide reply aside, the burn had gotten better... As better as burns got. It would take some professional laser surgery and skin grafting to remove the scars... Until then, she'd have to deal, and was doing so with a nice, long, fingerless glove. Maybe it looked a bit weird, but it was better than hanging that out there. She'd tried it for a day, and almost every one of their men had stared at it at some point. Not something worth dealing with...

"Oh, sorry, Sena..." She hadn't noticed how she'd spritzed the poor girl with her can, taking the towel gently to her face after that. She was one of the few people Sena didn't freak out from being touched by, so hopefully this time things didn't change. "There... As for the ANF, let's do what we can to keep tracks on that ship. The ANF can send whatever patrols after us that they want, if they think they can afford it... We'll smash them and show them we aren't worth chasing. That just leaves..." She sighed again, placing her gloved hand on her face and rubbing her eyes.

It was good to know Sena had some avenue, and she said it might be risky, but what exactly was risky about it? That they might tip off the Riese? Sending that ship their way would be exactly what they needed... So if it came to that, she didn't care. "Sena, do it. Look into whatever you have. Just... God, fucking dammit... I'm losing my mind, you two." She laughed dryly at herself, sinking against the nearby wall. "I think about her in prison and I get angry, I think about her dead and I get sad, I think about her working with them and I feel sick, and I think about the inevitable, and... I just... I can't take this anymore. I can't..." How weak she had to sound...

"I need to know she's okay. At the very least, just that much. I don't know how much longer I can go on being the leader like this. So... So please, either of you, just anything. Even a listing from the fucking ship that says 'Alive'... I'm sorry..."

Sena was a little surprised when Calina leaned in and toweled off the remaining few drops she hadn't bothered handling herself. It was a little embarrassing, but she let herself be mothered a bit without complaint, instead casting her gaze to the side and searching for something to fidget with until it was over. As her usual suspects fell through one-by-one--either for lack of availability, or because her leader's current position made doing so unfeasible--she resigned herself to just waiting it out, closing her eyes and wrinkling her nose a little.

What came next was carte blanche permission to try anything she thought might help. Sena was reassured by that and nodded, though when Calina started slumping and discussing the dark paths her mind couldn't help going down, she frowned, and had to bite her lip to keep from shouting out at her like she had that time before, when she'd misunderstood things. Don't just kill her off like that, you can't. Not if she means to you what she should...

"Abigail would n-never sell us out," she managed eventually, in a flat sullen tone of voice. "S-She won't have to. I'll m-make sure of it. P-Pull yourself together."

"Sena, that's enough," Hilling stopped her with a squeeze on the shoulder, but in truth she'd already finished what she'd planned to say.

"If you really do need a break," he continued, this time speaking to Calina, "Just for a while... Would it help if I stepped in as deputy? Strictly on a temporary basis, of course?"

This was something that had been brought up during the op, and at the time he thought it had just been the panic and the wound talking. Now that they were out of the thick of things though, and relatively secure, perhaps it was the right time for this conversation. Hilling had no intention of wresting control of their band from where it belonged, but on the flip side the group needed a stable commander in its time of crisis. If Calina was having this much self doubt, maybe it would actually be the right choice?

"I know that, you don't have to tell me... S, Sorry... Just..." 'Pull yourself together' was the worst thing Sena could have said. Did she think that wasn't the obvious solution? If only Calina could manage to do so. She'd never been without Abby, not like this. There had been overnight missions, but the woman had managed to make contact, in some way, just to keep worries to a minimum. But now, now! She was in the hands of the enemy, having who knows what done to her, said to her, told to her. "Fucking ANF's probably showing her these clips right now to try and crack her..." She nearly slapped herself for spitting that out, just creating another worry in her head to swim around and fester.

Hilling's suggestion was sensible. She didn't oppose it, in fact, it was the option that made the most sense. Sure, she'd have to work to get some respect back if she stepped down over this-- most of the boys didn't care about this relationship melodrama... But it would keep the unit together, until Calina could get herself back in one piece. But... "Give it one more day." That was fair, wasn't it? Just... Just, one more day. "If Sena can't get in contact with her after one more day, then you can take over. I can hold the facade until then. Probably..." Just don't think up anything else stupid, Calina. She's fine. She'll be fine. She... She has to be fine...

Sena was more or less oblivious to the extra hurt her words had inflicted, and she found herself losing a bit of patience. The rebel hacker was certainly a fan of what Hilling had proposed, she would have jumped to second it, but Calina had offered a compromise. While some might have been tempted to drag their heels in a situation like this, Sena was not one of those people. Retrieving Abigail meant too much to her, to the point where postponing the search for her or even keeping any uncovered details secret long enough to effect a change was not a line of thought that even surfaced for consideration and an immediate summary rejection. Not even though it might have resulted in sidelining Calina's occasional bungles for Hilling's steady leadership. Instead she went straight to the meat of the other matter. Could the ANF use this to some material advantage over Abby? Would they? As far as she was concerned, there was no doubt.

"N-Not 'probably'. Unless the c-captain of that ship is a m-moron, o-or unless they're being j-jammed and not getting the r-reports, I practically guarantee Abigail has s-seen this or a-another like it, quite l-likely well before I f-found out about it. It's c-certainly not the only thing they'll be t-trying on her either but--"

"But the worse they treat her, the firmer her resistance to them will harden," Hilling interrupted, intending to cut Sena off before she elaborated on whatever other torture techniques she seemed to be expecting their leader was being subjected to. He felt Calina should be spared that, at least. "You know Abigail. And put yourself in her shoes, you're shown this video. It's not going to make you want to cooperate with them in any way, is it?"

The argument was actually a good one... if the ANF in question had been treating Abigail poorly. The one thing none of them could have predicted though, was the opposite. What result would such news produce after she'd been treated... kindly?

"One day," Sena agreed, coming back around, steel entering her voice for a moment. "I'll have something for you, for all of us, by then. I'll stake everything on it."

If there was one thing Sena lacked as a person, it was tact, and were Hilling not there to play mediator, Calina would've been snapping at her faster than a twig under a heavy boot. Luckily he was. As she tried to keep herself together and not form any new worries over torture, Hilling proposed something she could use to keep herself calm for this last day. Abigail was too hard of a nut to crack. If she thought she'd lost everything, she wouldn't give anyone a piece of her mind. It as painful to think of, but she was more likely to shut down and become unresponsive were that to happen... But it did mean she wasn't going to be swayed by things.

"If they were treating her badly, she wouldn't give them a thing. You're right... Just, breathe..." Sena was still being rather callous, all things considered. Did she not see how big a problem this was for their temporary leader? Or did she not care? Maybe she just couldn't understand it. Either way... "You do that then... I only hope you can. I doubt it'll be hard for our best hacker to find out, at least, her condition... Sorry, you two. I can make it through today. And if she is still alive... I can make it through the next day, too. I promise." Hopefully that was enough resolve to convince the younger member, Hilling seemed entirely sympathetic to her distress.

"Hilling, do you mind coming with me to the rec room? I need to work some of this out."

There it was, Calina was finally starting to be herself again, and in return, Sena softened, a smile cracking her lips as a welcome promise was exchanged for hers. Bowing slightly, she then turned and wandered off to her room to get to work, toying with her braid as she went."I don't mind a bit," Hilling grinned, then added wryly. "Just don't go too rough on me. I'm no longer quite so young as I used to be. While I should be more than able to keep up while we're at it, I'd just... rather not regret things in the morning, you know?"

 

Strike Suit Online

"Welcome to Strike Suit Madnug Online", the loading splash screen read.

Idly fiddling with the end of her braid, Sena's other hand's fingers impatiently drummed against the desk. Then, as soon as the login screen appeared, with practiced motion, she entered her IGN, Macha de Danann, and password.

Her character spawned in where she'd last logged out, must've been over a week ago now? Sena had been pushing some buttons, riling up tension between a couple other guilds, instigating a trade war--mostly just because she could, curious to see what would happen--but as circumstances in real life had geared up, she hadn't gotten to stick around to watch the fallout, if there had even been any.

Sena was just a member of a small guild herself, and from time to time her leader got exasperated at the hacker's proclivity to punch above their weight class. Correction, had been a member. As her avatar began checking through the logged mail messages, she discovered she'd been expelled as a result of her latest shenanigans. "Fair enough," she murmured to the glowing screen, then paused to deal with some business on one of her secondary monitors, letting her character enter its idle animation loop.

Returning her attention to the world of SSMO, Sena finished flipping through the piled up backlog, dismissing nearly all of it as unimportant. She had a mission here, and everything else was secondary. She'd never been especially invested, like some people got, it was simply an amusing diversion, so when things collapsed like a house of cards around her, she'd just push the rubble aside and work on her next project--maybe abandoning it halfway through, maybe not.

The order of the day, was tracking down one Empress Elle. Rolling her eyes at the folly of using something even remotely close to one's actual name for their representation in a game world, or really in any online environment at all, she just whispered thanks to the woman for making her job all that much easier. Sena's guild... former guild, and Elle's had butted heads once or twice, which might make this difficult, but then again, she didn't care if she lost all her in-game resources over this or not. It would be simple enough to start from scratch again in the future if she needed to, or she could drop this diversion for the next shiny offering by some other company.

Not all of her assets had been tied up in the guild bank, but those that had been had already been confiscated. Luckily, she had some offshore accounts for credits, and a functional mech stationed in a private garage. It didn't have all the bells and whistles, but it was enough. Character model about to clamber into the suit, Sena paused, and pulled her hands back from the keyboard.

Pursing her lips in thought, she unconsciously brought a finger to her mouth and began to nibble. She didn't actually have to meet this Elle "in person". Would that even be the most effective? Was she even online? Too eager to get information out of her, Sena was trying to jump to the top rung of the ladder without having even stepped onto the bottom one. Close your eyes, calm down, she told herself. Even after making contact, getting her to agree... she'll still have legwork to do on her end. You can't expect this to be instant... no matter how much you want it to be.

A quick check of the serverlist, and... yes, she'd have to rezone but the player behind Elle was logged in. Easy enough. While the MMO took care of its things, Sena turned her attention to her other screens and worked on more of hers. A typical evening, no moments wasted. When the game was ready for her once again, Sena fired off a quick in-game mail as she piloted her character's mech over to the part of the city where the Elle's guild had claimed some territory and exerted its influence. Just in case.

Hi. I'm not sure if you know who I am, but can we talk?
I have a proposition for you. 

Well. More like I need your help, but will make it worth your while.
--Macha

 

 

Olympus was the largest city on Mars, easily dwarfing Earth's Tokyo, and the red planet itself was the most heavily contested planet in the game. Many settlements like these served as 'soft' battlegrounds for the tougher and more cunning guilds. Neither overwhelming force nor ingenuity alone would secure a guild's influence over a sector for very long. Alliances, and faction based 'duty' missions were a key part of maintaining control. It ... wasn't the most interesting aspect of SSMO, and certainly not something Ellen liked spending the majority of her time with. The benefits were simply worth putting the work in from time to time.

When she received a message originating on the Red Planet, Ellen, aka Empress Elle, immediately thought back to her small slice of Olympus. Her very next thought was the hope that another guild join request hadn't found its way to her. Her guild was small, but it was small for a reason ...

"They need my help?" Ellen's eyes narrowed at the message on her center monitor. Macha ... Macha ... who could that be?

This sounds interesting, so I'll hear you out. What are you proposing?

Just barely cordial but that wasn't really Ellen's style. Until she knew exactly who she was dealing with, she felt more comfortable being short and to the point.

 

Sena froze a moment, as doubt reared up that after starting things off so well she'd make a crucial misstep and ruin everything. Deep breath, keep it simple.

Sorry if this is too weird or personal. RL stuff. X<

My sister was on Colony 1. Haven't heard from her since the attacks. Asked around if anyone knew any doctors at the colony, or just... anything I could use to check up on, see if she's okay.

One of my contacts said you might have an in.

If they weren't pulling my leg and you reach out and get an answer, good news or bad, I can be a free agent for you. Unaffiliated and plausibly deniable.

After she hit 'Enter', there was immediate sender's remorse. She shouldn't have said that, she should have said this, just. All the usual wracking of nervous anticipation surrounding communication. Even if there was no need for all those negative feelings. Even if it would have been better, more professional to stay detached.

Casting her gaze to the side, she saw the mug on her desk. It was something to do, and maybe it would help calm her down. Lifting it up to her lips, she took a sip, then turned back to her screens. Waiting. And trying to find something else to work on while she did so.

 

Ellen squinted at the message, and then that sense of suspicion got hold of her for a moment. This Macha person supposedly knew people that knew about Megumi. Ellen wasn't trying to conceal her presence online a a whole, since people always figured out who she was, eventually. She had bigger concerns with this sort of thing, like what people wanted from her or Sarah specifically. Strangely, this time it was Megumi they were trying to get something from, albeit indirectly.

"This seems like a wild goose chase to me," Ellen mused aloud, figuring that even if she pestered her sister about this, she wouldn't get back any useful information. Maybe if Megumi had been stationed on Colony One specifically, and hadn't just spent a good day there. Then again, ANF personnel on her level could probably check the medical records of people on the colonies. Maybe ... "It's at least worth a shot if I have extra help for our big op ..." She got to typing up another reply.

Okay, I'm interested. I may have a way to look into this for you, but I'll need more information, first. What's your sister's name, for starters?

Ellen doubted her little sister would appreciate getting asked to look into something like this, but ... well, trades were being made, already. Perhaps she could come to a separate arrangement with Megumi. The news didn't have to be good, according to Macha, just news. If Megumi could do a quick search through the ANF's records, they might find an answer.

 

A broad grin broke out on Sena's face, and she had to stop herself from celebrating too early, when the message came back. First the findings from the other avenue she was pursuing--ones she still needed to finish following through on, but definitely a good start--and now the fact that this was proceeding as smoothly as it possibly could? Hopefully the rebel hacker wasn't using up all of her luck in one broad stroke, she still needed a copious helping when it came to the actual rescue op.

Of course, of course. Abigail Casson. 

There was no way around giving the actual name, not and make this work. The fact that Abby probably wasn't registered in government databases as having any siblings might be a hump down the road, but she would just have to cross that bridge when they came to it. Shouldn't be hard. Because really, blood or not, the woman was family to her. There was no lie there.

It's... maybe asking too much, really I'd be fine just finding out... but...

Haha, no I'm being stupid. Telling you to tell her 'Little Sena is worried,' won't change anything, will it. If you even could... I'm just...

What else do you need? I'll do anything, whatever I can. Tell you whatever you need to know.

It was funny, she thought to herself after hitting 'Send' and delivering the next message, only a slight pause between it and her former one, not really having given time for the other party to react. Sena had tried preparing for this investigation, but as she was going through with it, the 'role' she was supposed to be playing, and her real feelings were getting harder and harder to separate. If only it was this easy to communicate with people in person. Why could she only feel this comfortable spilling out over text, to someone who might as well be an anonymous stranger?

Ah well. It was still early in their exchange too, there were still plenty of chances that she'd fall into her usual routine of missing or misinterpreting cues from the other, but hopefully nothing so dire as to destroy the opportunity entirely.

 

'Little Sena is worried?' Well, there was no way in hell Ellen couldn't at least subconsciously swap out Macha for Sena. There was a decent chance Masha was actually a proxy for this Sena person, but even then a proxy was just an extension of someone else. Ellen couldn't help but feel amused with the hints of information she was getting.

Now then ...

Abigail Casson. Got it. I have enough to get started, but if something else comes up, or I need more info, I'll contact you. 

On that note, what I need to know right now is that I'll be able to contact you on this account in the future, or if it's just a one-off.

Either way, I'll put one of my people on this right away. If things turn out really well, 
I'll even be able to pass along your message for you, Sena~

Despite her borderline celebrity status here in Los Angeles, Ellen didn't actually have 'people' at her beck and call. Not for things like this, anyway. She just wanted to sound busy and generous at the same time. Hopefully the fact they were communicating through an MMO wouldn't take anything away from that.

 

There was something about the last reply that irked her. If Sena had to put a finger on it, it was probably the tilde. This woman was laughing at her, wasn't she? Compounding on the rebel hacker's mistake, of slipping and using her own real name... Giving Abby's had been unavoidable, but then she'd just had to go and take it that one extra step too far. Well, she'd never be able to use the Macha de Danann account again for anything else going forward, that was for certain. Fingers curling into a vicegrip on the mouse, as she sat and reread the message another time, Sena drug the cursor across the screen, etching counterclockwise circles--no, more of a spiral--around the screen as she chewed her lip in thought.

Sena cast another glance to her other monitor again, then back. This was probably just a redundancy check at this point, but she'd made contact, established the deal. She'd see it out to the end at this point, unless some real-life op got in the way. It wasn't a case where she could afford to grow bored and forget about it. Not until Abigail was back on this ship where she belonged.

This is my only SSMO account. 
While I haven't always been the most regular logging in at times--work, life, you know--until I hear from my sister, I'll check in daily. 
Maybe I'll even try to rig a passalong function, forwarding your messages outside the game.
Looking forward to your good news.

Edited by Balcerzak

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Seeing the Luna go down surprised Tarquin, he had fully expected Vera to be one of the final hurdles they faced. Perhaps it was a sign that they were closer to the climax of the Sacarian forces, or the alien race had simply decided Vera was now expendable. Nobody had made much effort to explain their new allies on the battlefield, but  any forces against the Sacarians would likely be appreciated.

"Kommen süßer Tod, Vera? Ich glaube nicht, dass Sie nicht die Art sind zu sterben." Tarquin pondered, slipping back into his language of choice. It was a habit that he'd gotten into recently, there was something comforting in knowing his words would only be understood by Nikolai. 

"Jess, we should focus on the Ceres. We possess a significant advantage in terms of range. It's a shame, its current pilot was someone I could have almost considered a friend." Tarquin continued, his expression remaining neutral during his speech. It would be easily to cast doubts on whether his rifle had actually been miscalibrated unintentionally or Avery's agenda when repairing Hannah, but there was no way to analyse the past or change what had happened. "To lose someone is tragic enough, but for a friend to become an enemy... it remains difficult no matter how many times it occurs. Jess, there may be data that you can relay to our allies, I shall trust your judgement in what you "

Having his own creator ally himself with Apotheosis was still at the back of his mind, the one adult he thought he was able to trust. The lesson he'd learned was that trust was both variable and transient - nobody could be trusted with everything all of the time. Adults were selfish, they would always act in a way that would benefit themselves best. Rather than broadcasting his dissatisfaction to every channel in the area, Tarquin decided to send his own private message to Avery.

"You have your own orders and objectives, I cannot fault you for adhering to them for whatever reasons that you have. Perhaps under different circumstances this would be a less hostile confrontation. " Tarquin remarked, tapping away at his console with one hand. The Aria's targeting systems began to whirr, Tarquin making several decisive inputs. "However, I have my own goals and I do not intend to show leniency."

Tarquin casts both Sense and Incite! 

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Jess swallowed, steadied her breathing, and nodded, acknowledging Tarquin's systems transfers. "Generators and thrusters, in my control. A good choice for division," she added in, old habit of dishing out positive reinforcement to her squad kicking in.

It wasn't false praise either. This was perhaps the best natural choice to make, given their circumstances. Leaving the boy in full command of weapons targeting--the area where his record showed he clearly took a shine, and where her new disability would be the most hampering--was clearly for the best. Furthermore this way, if needed, she could engage the Aria's hover systems without that somewhat more complicated mode of movement causing any burden or distraction.

Getting into a rhythm of activity, having something clearly defined to do and setting about making sure it was done well, was a stabilizing experience for her. It was perhaps the only thing that kept her from freezing up entirely at the sight of the alien craft firing its distinctive weaponry, incinerating one of the newly arrived ANF machines. Being needed, having someone relying on her, and a menial task just crying out for attention was just enough to keep her from slipping into a traumatic stupor. Her copilot's voice also helped, as his breaking the bit of silence was a positive trigger to force her to focus.

"A-Agreed," Jess shook slightly as she settled back down from the shock. "The escaping machine is a good priority and cleaning that up without having to wade through a defensive line keeping us at bay would be ideal." It would also hopefully keep them far from those deadly violet beams. No, don't think about that, something else, anything else. Tightly clasping her clammy hands, she struggled to drown out the sound of her heart beating in her ears. Oh, right, what about that? Jess still hadn't quite gotten used to hearing the German the boy seemed to have a habit of lapsing into, and there was something inexplicably embarrassing about that. Wasting some time wondering whether the uncomfortable feeling that accompanied these utterances was because she was expected to understand what he was saying and didn't, or whether she was feeling flustered because Tarquin was counting on her not to know proved a decent enough distraction. But she couldn't afford to get caught up in that forever, she had a craft to help control, and maybe a little more as well.

"I can pull up some vectors to maintain range... should the initial volleys not be sufficient, and..." she paused and quickly manipulated some inputs on her console, "Can certainly pass along some assistance to other allies sharing our same clear line of fire. Hailing one now."

"Phalanx Fighter," Jess didn't actually know all the pilots' callsigns, so had to improvise. "I'll be forwarding some trajectory data on that Ceres unit. I've started running predictive algorithms, and if we add in some coordination to force the enemy's reactions, they should be considerably hard-pressed to evade our assaults. Hope you're willing and able to play along."

Jezebel Attune Makoto

Edited by Balcerzak

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The response that Tarquin got from Jess was reassuring, there was something resembling coordination between the two of them. It was still an alien concept for him to have someone in the cockpit with him, he was still finding himself looking back to prove that Jess was actually there. She had accepted her role to play aboard the Aria, and now it was time for Tarquin to perform his own.

"That is a suitable suggestion, Jess." Tarquin replied, locking directly onto the Ceres. "One that I would be happy to partake in."

Tarquin attacks Marianne with his Full Output Railgun!

-

"Taking a shot at Avery ain't a bad idea, even if it's comin' from the pipsweak. Makoto, come and lend a hand, we're gonna give that traitor a healthy dose." Elaine chuckled, urging the Oberon forwards. "Nobody gets to hurt people I care about without hearing from me!"

Elaine casts Strike, moves to 10,16 and attacks Marianne with her Dual Beam Rifle with support from Makoto's Hybrid Chamber Rifle!

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Take Her on Board

Jess nodded to no one. "Alright, Sergeant, you heard her. Get on board with the Luna, we'll have Tiffany, Elizabeth and Rachel meet you in the hangar." Jess clued those three in on what was happening as she ordered Kazue back on board, the security droids quickly heading for the hangar without a moment's hesitation.

"Yes, Captain." Kazue didn't wait either, boosting out of the water once more and onto the Riese... Making it there in time to take the lift back into the hangar with the drones carrying the Luna. "I will do my utmost. Thank you for your belief in me."

"Sure thing... Just make sure my belief is worth it."

"Yes, ma'am!"

Funnel Functioning

"You can WHAT!?" Feel the wind hitting the funnels like it was hitting her? Felt it when it dipped into the water, what, just, "Kim, turn your fucking T-Link off, what the fuck!? None of that sounds like anything I've ever heard, or can even begin to remember, that... What the fuck!?" That sounded incredibly worrying, had the systems backfired on her or, were they improperly calibrated? That sounded like way too strong a reaction, she couldn't think of a time where anyone had ever had something like that happen, even in Christina's testing memories.

Back to the Battle!

"Vera's down... Astin, this is getting bad, we have to leave-- what the--!?"

Tarquin thinks sniping is a good job!
(100!,19)
(48,58)
Hit!
193 damage!
"God, DAMN, that's a strong rifle!"
Tarquin gains +20 EXP, +3 will!

Elaine takes a dip to take out a dip!
(100!,7)
(20,20)
Hit!
113 damage!

"Ghh... If only any of them cared about you back! How does it feel being the most useless person on the Riese!?"

Fist!
(41,18)
(60,94)
Miss!

Makoto! He comes!
(100!,21)
(29,98)
97 damage!

"Shit! Goddamn... Ugh, Vera, I'm sorry!"

Battle Mastery Achieved!
Elaine gains +30 EXP, +28 PP, +3 will!
Makoto gains +25 EXP, +28 PP, +2 will!

Battle Mastery Success!

"Taking too much damage... These blueprints have to make it back to the Chelone, Vera, I'm sorry!" Whether or not the lieutenant could hear Marianne anymore, they couldn't wait... The Riese's crew had done a ridiculous number on one of the strongest people Apotheosis had to offer. "This is ridiculous..." Glowing green as had been seen before, the Ceres blinked out of sight, having warped a considerable distance away. The spies had made their escape... But the crew had won another victory, all its own.

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"I'm okay, just need to get used to it... we're not in a situation where we can afford to... drop any combat effectiveness." Seung-Min replied, as she took a few moments to center herself. She just had to remain calm, keep herself steady... even with over-tuned output, as long as she didn't take any heavy hits, everything would be fine... the Luna had been taken care of, the Ceres was getting beaten down and would be soon be ripe for the picking-

"Now let's get over there and take Avery-" It was gone. No no no no no. It couldn't leave, not now. Since when did it have warping capabilities?! How could that bitch have slipped out of their grasp, they had been so close! So much for calm and centered, the Artemis' funnels returned to zooming about in an enraged flurry as Seung-Min checked maps, radar, anything... it couldn't have gotten that far, why wasn't it picking up on any of her systems?

"WHERE THE HELL IS SHE?! Gruuuuuh... the Ceres isn't coming up on my scanners, can anyone else locate it? What's the range on those goddamn warps...?"

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Elaine slammed her fist down on one of her control panels, the glass screen cracking slightly upon impact. They'd come so close to stopping Avery, but she'd vanished before they could land a finishing blow. It was a kick in teeth, like a cheap boss in a videogame that disappeared during a cutscene. It had bee a fantastic effort though, the group had taken down two major threats in quick succession - the Sacarian forces were no match for them.

"Shit, slipped away like a fuckin' eel. I'm sure this ain't the last we'll see of her." Elaine complained, moving her hand away from the cracked screen sheepishly. Kim wasn't pleased either, no doubt that her motives for revenge went beyond Elaine's own anger at Avery's lies. "Can't see nothing from here, looks like she's done a runner, Kim. We'll get another shot at her, already lookin' forward to taking her down. Let's get through the rest of these punks."

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'Come in, Jess the girlfriend stealer!' being broadcast over ANF open channels brought a very weird mix of emotions to the forefront for Abigail. Foremost among them was relief. Even after having found out her old crew was alive, and trying to coordinate along a meetup, there was always some level of uncertainty. Would anything else crop up somehow that might get in the way? This, that, and other worries competed for a place at the table.

Then of course, there was also embarrassment. Even for fairly forward person like Abby, just, having a relationship pipebomb like that one tossed out into the open, with no cover available, well that was a little much. Guilt, hope, greed, pride, determination, and giddy glee also swirled around in a wild cocktail. Had Calina and the others been watching her last exchange there, where she dunked on that cat mech without even taking return fire? It sounded like a big 'maybe', given the grumbling about her still using the Heracles, but who knew for sure?

Then, of course, aside from the theatrical public presentation, there was indeed a private line raised to her as well, utilizing the familiar band of frequencies they'd always chosen in the past. Abby sniffled, and would have wiped her nose, had a silly little thing like her helmet not been in the way.

"My god, Calina. If you ever scare me like that again... I thought you were dead, you don't know..." she started, but quickly  changed tune a little. "Heh, actually I bet you know exactly how that feels. I'm so sorry, there's so much discuss. Come and help us mop this up in a hot minute, and then getcher ass on board. Fuck," she shook her head a little in strange disbelief. "I can't wait."

But she would have to for a little longer at least, like it or not. Hilling had begun broadcasting his own words, reining folk in from too much early celebrating and beginning to pull the group back to calculated coordination, when suddenly the situation changed. Cutting himself off and swearing, his new craft kicked into action, responding to a sudden warp and threat from what was apparently the enemy commander.

And then he was gone.

Abigail's jaw dropped, and time stopped.

When it finally started up again, some dozens of seconds later or so, the Luna was in custody, and the Ceres was gone, green afterglow of its warp field hanging in the air.

"Dammit, dammit, dammit! Punching a hole in their formation here, help me or not, and then I'm gone, don't even try to stop me," she radioed to Thorvald and the Riese team, rasping through her tears.

Abigail Focus, Attack Sacarian 8 with Sniper supported by Thorvald Rocket Barrels

 

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Val had been waiting for orders, yet none seemed to come her way. Olivia was more confident, louder. That was probably why. She drew the attention to herself. But still, she was there to help, right? Moving closer to the SIEG tank, she nodded to the Doctor. "Ready and waiting. Just tell me what to do, I'm here for it." It didn't matter why Olivia got more tasks. At the end of the day they were both here to help save Christina and that was what was going to happen. She could figure out how to improve on herself later.

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Aliza was still under the waves, but she could catch a lot of action happening above her. She tried to keep her eyes on the Ceres, but the chaos above made it hard to keep track of it. Frustrating considering she was firing at it moments ago. But her focus was broken when she noticed the Luna drop off in another part of the water, being pursued by Kim and several drones. "Vera's down...whoa..." Considering how intimidating she was back at the beach, not to mention all the stories she heard about her, Aliza was convinced she would've needed more than just their squad to bring her down. Really was eye opening. She heard some banter on the comms over getting Kim back on the field, and it seemed like Kim was a little distressed as she went back above to fight once more. "...hm..." She wanted to say something, but now wasn't the time. She had to get back to work. 'I'll talk to her later if I can...'

She turned her gaze back above. Sadly it seemed the Ceres was gone, but at the very least she could still contribute by thinning the ranks. So she turned her crossbow toward a Sacarian above and fired.

 

Aliza casts Focus, Moves to 6,14 and fires her beam crossbow at Sacarian 8

Edited by TheRoon

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With fury in mind!
Abby shoots!
(38,12)
(57,83)
Miss!
The cat doesn't return fire, water OP!
Dad tries his best as well!
(78,9)
(71,12)
Hit!
54 damage!
Abby gains +50 EXP, -2 will!
Thorvald gains +25 exp, +2 will!

Aliza goes for the finishing blow!
(82,10)
(78,83)
Hit!
94 damage!
"M-My liege, the humans--!"
One cat down!
Aliza gains +300 EXP, +15 PP, +6 will!

Landing Zone

"Clear a space!" Kazue had stationed the Crescent in its holding dock immediately, jumped out, and then rushed over to where the Luna had been set. Buck and a few other mechanics were nearby, apprehensive, as most would be. This was the devil of Apoth's forces, a machine that hadn't known equal, and likely still didn't. They'd had to gang up on it to win, and it was still in such good condition... Whatever made it short out must have been internal, the outer plating was scarred and damaged, but nothing had been blown off or gone through it.

Buck was the first one to take a cautious step forward, Kazue rushing up ahead of him. "Do not take this lightly, young Matthews. Vera could still be alive... And I do not know if I can--"

"[Sergeant Fujiwara]," a regulated voice spoke out, appearing behind them with a salute. Kazue breathed a sigh of relief, the Riese's three androids had managed to make it in time. "[We are here to assist in the apprehension of the criminal known as Vera Maxwell. Please give us your orders.]"

Being in charge... Feels weird. "Just... Uhm, be, on your guard. If she tries to make any sudden movements, then assist me in holding her down."

"[Affirmative.]" Tiffany, in the lead, saluted again, standing at the ready.

"We got 'er open!" One of the mechanics had started using a nearby repair crane to try and pry the Luna open... Finally managing, Kazue steeling herself and slowly approaching the cockpit.

" ... Don't worry," a tired voice spoke from inside the dark cavity, almost chuckling. "They've already deemed me useless. I can't move, let alone try to escape all of you. If you think your androids can carry me, by all means... And little mechanic. Buck, right?"

Buck tensed up, as they shined a light in there, the face of Apotheosis' most powerful lieutenant staring right at him. "Wh-What? How do you know my-- what do you want?"

"I have a favor to ask. I'll tell you about it, once you're all comfortable with me in a cell."

"A... Favor? What?" Buck didn't... What could she possibly want from him?

"Let's get you there, then. If you could, girls." Kazue stepped aside, Vera hadn't made any sudden movements, or any movements at all, really...

"[Affirmative. Vera Maxwell, you are to come with us.]" As she was being compliant, Tiffany climbed into the cockpit and retrieved her alone, hoisting the rather limp woman out and down onto the hangar floor.

"... You really can't move, can you?" Kazue was confused, what was going on? She wasn't tied to her machine, was she? Deemed useless? By who? The Sacarians? But why... This is confusing. Can they do something like this? I read the reports on her, she has fantastical cybernetic limb enhancements... So why would they... "Bring her along, please. I am sure we can figure out explanations for this, later."

"I-I'm coming too," Buck spouted, following after the android.

"Brave, are we?" Vera scoffed, though she was impressed by Buck's willingness to follow along.

"I just wanna know what some crazy from Apoth wants with me... Before I start taking your machine apart."

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Guns out

There was a lot happening at once for Makoto to follow, so he chose to focus only on the immediate danger --while Vera was a real threat rearing her ugly head in another front, the swarm of aliens and escaping traitor was just as heavy an impact. Those that didn't take it to the sea were getting pelted heavily, and the result was daunting enough that first order of business was finding his ground underwater. A good position where he'd have range on most of the Aliens.

As the team came to counterattack the Alien's heavy storm of plasma, it was uplifting to know such coordination was prepared that Makoto was on his way to receive some predictive data. It was time to show this traitor his salt. "Understood, I'm firing." Elaine's namecalling of 'pipsweak' was bizarre and put a frown at the boy for once --it was weird for her to call him out like this, he thought them better friends--, but that was a second too long spent worrying over pointless drivel. He had his gun trained at the Ceres, following up the Oberon's fire, and by goodness was he firing.

"Out of the skies! 当たれ !!" It had been impactful enough to shock the Ceres' flight considerably. The machine would be losing altitude quickly --if it weren't for the warping ability it had been keeping a secret all this time. "Ah..." That took the sails right out of Makoto, blinking and moving back to the reality of the situation again. The Ceres was lost to the radar, but the alien mechs flying over the water's surface was still very real. It was no time to be slowing down.

The Phalanx moved upwards, closer to the surface as it readied another round. Its weapon had done a good job piercing through the Ceres' armor, so he had no reservations on his next target. One of the alien mechs stood from the rest, and, in fact, was a face Makoto was familiar with. "You again!" Once, the beam rifle equipped by that unit had nearly scorched him underwater. Who knows what it could to to the Riese.

Only best to challenge its attention out of the behemoth ship hosting all the people he was fighting for, especially his mother. Makoto had to do it. No, he could do it.

"Fire!"

Makoto attacks the Praxis (Gaal'Bathy) with the Hybrid Chamber Rifle!

Quote

Makoto attacks!
Target: Praxis (Gaal'Bathy)
Weapon: Hybrid Chamber Rifle
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 97, 41
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 96

Gaal'Bathy cannot counterattack with an efficient weapon and chooses to not!

Makoto gains +110 EXP, +2 Will!
Makoto levels up!
+1 defense, skill, avoid! +2 SP!

"That hit... good." The boy was still shaking, all things considered.

---

"Should we intercept that Alien machine, Major?" Lynx had to ask, hand ready on the trigger.

"No. Not yet. Let's not break formation, the rest of the Avalon crew --our crew for now, spent their fire on the Luna. We can reposition to the front, between the aliens and those irregular ANF machines." Quick to voice his concerns, Bonner kept the Mantle on its MA mode while drifting carefully close to the center of the area of operations.

"Brevity seems like an important asset, Major. These machines could warp out of here in an instant." Lynx objected.

"Hitting a potshot against that alien machine would be fortunate, but we would give it a forewarning to react. Let it get preoccupied with those unnameds, we'll pincer with the rest of the Avalon crew if they move forward. A stronger flurry of decisive blows."

"Mrr. Alright." And that was settled.

Major Edson moves to (17,19)!

Edited by Xinnidy

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She was, in all sense of the word, surrounded.

This of course wouldn't deter her from the objective, placing a hand against her chin as she started to count.  "One, two, three, four... So there's four of you and one of me.  What's a girl like me going to do in this situation," she says, not helping the fake wobble in her voice before grinning sadistically at her targets.  

The first cat attacks, but Vvi effortlessly dodges before countering with a Lance Rush.  "Oh you poor thing, thinking it'd be so easy to deal with me.  HOW FOOLISH YOU ARE," she exclaims, easily evading the next cat as she moved about in the air.  That's two, can she go three for three?  Yes, apparently she can, countering the third one and attacking with a Turbo Smasher PUNCH.  The fourth one though was a bit trickier, earning a sudden grunt from the alien but not letting this attack phase her as she does one more Turbo Smasher PUNCH THIS CAT IN THE FACE.

"And that, my friends, is how you keep these manges in check," she calls out to the open frequency before directing her next words towards Soor'Kan.  "You have to do much better than that dear, if you want to bring me down," she says in a very sweet voice, before taking note of what was happening in her surroundings.

Over at Kim she noticed the Luna go down, a sudden whoop leaving her as she grinned in excitement.  "You go Kim!  Good Goddess, we should definitely celebrate once all this kerfuffle is over hun, my treat!" she exclaims, but as one is captured the other disappears, the Luqari huffing with a pout as the Ceres warps out of their range and out of existence in the battlefield.  

"Well that won't do.  I really wanted to play some more with A-ver-y~," she sighed and whined, only thinking of what she would do once they had her in their grasps once more.  Oh the terrible things she could do~...

That thought alone made Vvi stop and rethink her intentions, brows furrowing as she tried to steer her thoughts to something else.  Right, surrounded.  She was still surrounded, by three cats this time, but that wasn't a problem for her.  Her face turned serious, taking her situation seriously now as she started to move, one less cat being enough wiggle space to maneuver and aim for another.

"One by one you will all go down, if not by my hands then by the hands of my comrades."

Vvi focus, move to 9,17 and Guan Genocider Cat 6

 

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"Systems stabilizing... ah, geez. I'm glad they stopped focusing me." Caroline murmured under her breath, leaning against the Legionary's controls. She'd stick out like a sore thumb out there atop the Riese, especially lacking the experience of other pilots. "G-going to take cover underwater! Take care!" It felt wrong to leave the Riese so exposed, but... well, Caroline wasn't exactly at the best condition to protect the ship either. Hopefully one of the bulkier machines could do it.

Caroline moves to (7,18)!

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Well, so much for Thorvald's plan of swooping in and neutralizing the Ceres with surgical precision after it had been softened up a bit more, a feat he'd been finding necessary with more and more frequency. As the afterimages of the green warp-glow faded from camera, a sinking feeling settled in. He'd failed them. Astin had been counting on him, and he couldn't deliver.

On the brink of sharing the news with the rest of the squad, his finger paused above Transmit. No. Better not. Imagine what that might do to morale. Sure, folk were probably already wondering, unsure or curious. But knowing for certain wouldn't help any in this circumstance.

At any rate, they'd freed up their unit that had been surrounded, and were making good progress as things proceeded, all things considered. The unlucky rebels... had made their own bed, and were far enough away nothing they could do would interfere. The Riese was priority. Rumbling the lumbering Odin backwards and up into a prominent position would hopefully draw a larger portion of the fire, if the recent data were any indication. It was settled then.

Thorvald to 9,18, Rocket Barrel Cat 1

 

Edited by Balcerzak

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Thorvald sets out to bomb one of the mass-produced Praxis!

Quote

Thorvald attacks!
Target: Praxis Gamma #1
Weapon: Rocket Barrels
Final Hit: 61
Final Crit: 9
Roll: 99, 71
Miss!

Praxis Gamma #1 counters!
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 1
Roll: 69, 7
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 37

Thorvald gains +2 Will!

The Odin was truly robust. Even the Praxis' powerful weapon had little hope but to chunk it slowly.

----

"Terry, Jones, Frederick, charge this fucker! I'm backing you up! Sena, rifle detail!" The Vergloria's engines revved to burning, as the others flew ahead of her. A massive sword was unstrapped from the back of the machine, beam bladed edge whirring to life, clearing being overclocked, and flashing a bright crimson. "You're gonna pay! YOU HEAR ME!?"

"Ahahahaha! Come and entertain me then, humans! Fools though you are, I applaud your courage!"

Terry moves first, to 21,14, and tries a stab at Soor'kan!

Quote

Terry attacks!
Weapon: Xiphos
Target: Praxis Alpha (Soor'Kan)
Final Hit: 0
Final Crit: 11
Miss!

Soor'Kan counters!
Weapon: Adamantium Claw
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 54
Roll: 8, 81
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 124

"...Dull. Is this what humans consider a fast machine?"

His pal flies to 20,13, and attempts to blast Soor'kan with the palm of his unit!

Quote

Velite Mk.III-M #1 attacks!
Weapon: Pulse Palm Cannon
Final Hit: 0
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 79, 19
Miss!

Soor'Kan counters!
Weapon: Adamantium Claw
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 54
Roll: 44, 70
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 124

"To spend energy fighting this rabble is an insult. So, I won't."

How hopeless! Still, the last of the rebel goons doesn't relent!

Quote

Velite Mk.III-M #2 attacks!
Weapon: Pulse Palm Cannon
Final Hit: 0
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 94, 3
Miss!

Soor'Kan counters!
Weapon: Adamantium Claw
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 54
Roll: 33, 31
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 198!

"I expected so little, and yet... come. Surely you're more of a challenge."

Calina activates Fury and Sense!
"DIE!"
Calina moves to 22,13!

Quote

Calina attacks!
Weapon: Beam Claymore
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 20
Roll: 52, 95
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 136!

Soor'Kan counters!
Weapon: Adamantium Claw
Final Hit: 0!
Final Crit: 50
Roll: 35, 4
Miss!

"Ho..."

Calina's cry barely registered with Sena, as she stared dumbstruck at the monitor. She repeated his name again. "R-Robert...?" His real first name, not the 'Hilling' that everyone always called him. A name for only her to use.

Unreal. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Unfair.

Unforgivable.

As the inevitable truth of the matter fully sank in, her eyes widened uncomfortably, as her face warped with rage and despair. If she could have seen herself in a mirror, the ordinarily unassuming hacker would never have recognized the ugly visage that was reflected back.

After an awkward delay which honestly somewhat belied her reply, Sena's cold, monotone voice came back over Calina's comms. "You don't have to tell me. I know what needs to be done." It was almost eerie, how dead she sounded. And nary a trace of her stutter.

Sena activates Fury and Sense!

Quote

Sena attacks!
Weapon: Laser Sniper Rifle
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 30
Roll: 17, 14
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 153!

Soor'Kan counters!
Weapon: G-B.R. Prototype 1
Final Hit: 0!
Final Crit: 15
Roll:
Miss!

---
(Enemy Phase next)

Edited by Xinnidy

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Enemy Phase/Turn 2!

"It seems you're a step above your allies. Show me how far you can go then! Hahaha~!"

Soor'Kan, enjoying himself with a moderate challenge, rushes Calina, claws out!
(100,50)
(58,85)
Hit!
102 damage!

"Ghhh... Shut your fucking mouth, before I slice it off!"

"Good, good! I've been waiting for someone to provide entertainment!"

Calina swings back!
(100!,20)
(63,98)
Hit!
Beam Absorb activates!
"Wh-What!?"
Soor'Kan's machine is healed for 148 damage!
"B-But that's... What did you...!?"
"It seems my systems have acclimated to your overuse of energy. Now then, shall we continue this dance?"

Gaal'Bathy continues to target Alriana!
"Cease your skittering and die!"
(14,13)
(47,9)
Miss!
Alriana fires back, continuing to dodge!
(77,27)
(10,24)
Hit
Crit!
148 damage!
Alriana gains +90 EXP, +4 will!
Predict, Foresight, and Attacker activate!

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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The mass-produced Praxis units follow their commander's order and continue to rain harm on the Riese and its pilots

Praxis #1 fires at Riese with LB Beam Rifle. (range 2)

Quote

Praxis Gamma #1 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 3
Roll: 37, 83
Hit!
No Crit.
Thorvald chooses to support defend! Damage: 25

Jessica counters!
Weapon: AA Missiles
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 12
Roll: 62, 13
Hit!
No Crit. So close!
Damage: 95

Jessica gains +50 EXP, +1 Will!
Jessica levels up! + 3 SP!

Thorvald gain +2 Will!


Praxis #2 swings at Vvi!

Quote

Praxis Gamma #2 attacks!
Target: Fury Arachnid (Vvi)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 0
Final Crit: 17
Roll: 26, 14
Miss!

Vvi counters!
Weapon: Gaun Genocider
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 38
Roll: 97, 75
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 96

Vvi gains +40 EXP, +4 Will!


Praxis #3 goes to (8,16) and rains beam against the Aria!

Quote

Praxis Gamma #3 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 0!
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 12, 38
Miss!

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: High Precision Rifle
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 36
Roll: 38, 64
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 154

Tarquin gains +30 EXP, + 4 Will!


Praxis #4 decides the Riese wasn't getting focused enough!

Quote

Praxis Gamma #4 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 3
Roll: 14, 22
Hit!
No Crit.
Thorvald chooses to support defend! Damage: 25

Jessica counters!
Weapon: Dual B. Cannons
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 22
Roll: 58, 7
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 239!

Jessica gains +40 EXP, + 1 Will!

Thorvald gains +2 Will!


Praxis #5 decides it ain't gonna pick a fight with a top dog and fires at Tarquin instead. Let's see how that goes for him.

Quote

Praxis Gamma #5 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 76
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 4, 10
Buckler Roll: 9
Hit!
No Crit.
Tarquin raises the Aria's shield to block some of the impact!
Damage: 50

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: Full Output Railgun
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 21
Roll: 28, 86
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 171

Tarquin gains +30 EXP, +2 Will!
Predict activates!


Praxis #6 joins the Riese fusillade!

Quote

Praxis Gamma #6 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 3
Roll: 10, 29
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 73

Jessica counters!
Weapon: Dual B. Cannons
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 22
Roll: 38, 62
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 149

Jessica gains +40 EXP, +2 Will!


Praxis #7 decides, in such proximity to the ship, that perhaps a hands-on approach was more ideal!

Quote

Praxis Gamma #7 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: Plasma Cutter
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 18
Roll: 11, 82
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 81

Jessica counters!
Weapon: AA Missiles
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 12
Roll: 26, 14
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 106

Jessica gains +40 EXP, +2 Will!


Praxis #9 is tired of all these kamikazis pointed at the Riese, and fires at Vvi for... good measures?

Quote

Praxis Gamma #9 attacks!
Target: Fury Arachnid (Vvi)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 9
Final Crit: 2
Roll: 35, 31
Miss!

Vvi counters!
Weapon: Gaun Genocider
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 38
Roll: 54, 84
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 96

Vvi gains +40 EXP, +4 Will!


Praxis #10 finalizes the assault by shooting up at the Riese as well.

Quote

Praxis Gamma #10 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 3
Roll: 75, 44
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 73

Jessica counters!
Weapon: Dual B. Cannons
Final Hit: 100!
Final Crit: 22
Roll: 35, 13
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 239!

Jessica gains +40 EXP, +2 Will.


 

PLAYER PHASE/TURN 2

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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!

Jess interfacing: Turn 3 of 3.

Stats!

Edited by Xinnidy

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Messaging

"Ugh, they're still fighting? At least my destination isn't sunk... Better send a message so they don't shoot this dinky little thing out of the sky." Metallic fingers tapped the controls of the Prioxis, the plane quietly speeding along the skyline. "And better steer clear until the cats are gone. They'd probably shoot me down just as soon as the Riese crew would~ Hmm... Now, what was... There we are." Typing away with her other hand, a message was quickly laid out and sent to Jessica, still trying to concentrate, on the Riese's situation.

"A message, now? From who-- Another unknown, ugh, getting real tired of unknown contacts..." Jess sighed to herself and tried to get the message parsed alongside-- "what?" What is this?

Hello my dear Captain Gefalscht. I'll be surrendering as soon as I enter airspace, so please try to avoid blowing
my Prioxis out of the air. I've plenty of information that I'm sure you'd enjoy, and I can't quite give it to you
if I'm in pieces~ Thank you very much. See you soon <3

"Who the, fuck..."

Who is this?

Jess didn't have time to send much else, the soldiers Soor'Kan had brought with him were bearing down hard on the Riese. It didn't take much else.

Louise. Remember not to shoot me down!

"What!?"

"Captain?" Tristan had spun around, concern on his face. Jess had been quietly dealing with the ship mostly by herself, so a sudden outburst...

"N-Nothing, Ensign, just... Trying to divert things, hitting roadblocks."

"Alright... Let us known if there's anything more we can do for the Riese."

"Maybe if we were in the air..." Louise? What the fuck? No, no no no, that's not... And her surrender? I'm too busy for this right now!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Spamming The Inbox

Sena was frustrated. It had been easy enough to track down her email address and fire off a message, but waiting for a response that never came? Her poor nails had rarely been so chewed upon... or, well... actually not. That was pretty much their default state. But this time one of the nubs had been gnawed so far back it had begun to bleed. She'd promised Calina an answer, and being unable to deliver was simply not something she could forgive herself for. Sure, she'd found footage of the Heracles deploying from the Riese, which--to an overeager amateur--might have been evidence enough, but one look at its piloting patterns and everything was off. Hell, in the recording she'd found, even that tiny police bot's moves looked more like something their leader might've pulled, than the clumsy maneuvers of whoever it was that was attempting to pilot her pride and joy.

With a sigh, Sena found herself preparing to send yet another inquiring missive to the TCI address belonging to someone whom she'd learned was another living captive, taken by the Heion Riese, and in fact one she'd had some minor contact with. As she pulled open her email client, the contents of her outbox (the location she'd last been visiting, to confirm there hadn't been any transmission issues client-side) caught her eye.

Is this Christina Troy?
I need your confirmation, please reply
Stop receiving these emails by answering one simple question

Suddenly it dawned on her. How could she have been so stupid. Those subject lines reeked of classic spam, pathetic bids for attention. Grinding her teeth, she slammed a fist on the desk, hitting her mouse and causing it to skitter to the far length of its cord. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

She had to try again. Better this time. At least when communicating with text Sena didn't have to worry about that damned stutter. But it seemed that wasn't the only thing holding her back. She just had to try to catch Christina's attention a different way.

RE: Apotheosis she typed, fingers flying across the keyboard. And gone was the formal tone, and businesslike demeanor of her previous efforts as well. Caught up in the clarity of a cold, white rage, that even surprised herself, looking back on it afterwards, the words flowed with unusual ease.

It doesn't matter to me, anymore. Why you worked for them, why they fucked us over. Hell, I couldn't care less about the ANF now either. I just want one thing from you. Tell me what we have to do, what I have to offer, to get you to help us get her back.

That should work, right? It should at least get a reply, any reply. A refusal would be just as promising as acceptance, for the sake of gleaning information. If she was dead, it'd be obvious in the response. Same way if, as surely was the case, she was still alive. Hitting SEND, Sena swiped the mail client over to a secondary screen, ready and waiting if anything came back, then booted up another, entirely different program on her main.

It had taken a good deal more time and effort to track down another potential avenue, when the Troy one had seemed to dry up. It was ironic, almost hilariously so, that a route existed, circuitous though it was, through the means of this mindless, everyday pastime. One she dabbled in herself, even without having a greater purpose.

Welcome to Strike Suit Madnug Online, the loading splash screen read.

Letting Kim teach her things was pretty difficult... She'd asked for her to, so she wasn't upset, but it was certainly tough to follow along. Yet, as much as she wanted to sleep, her phone lit up. Again. She looked at the address, that same spam email? Ugh. About to hit junk... This time, she noticed the different title. RE: Apotheosis. What was that... Why would they suddenly send something like this? Christina bit her lip, tempted to wake Kim, but she was tired too... "Ugh..." A quiet groan felt its way out, as Christina opened the email. "Who's her...?" That was what confused her the most, out of all of this. Fucked who over? What?

Almost afraid to reply, Christina sighed and did so anyway... Maybe she could figure out who was trying to send these, and get them to stop. Typing with tired fingers, she managed, who are you and whos her. Send... Hopefully this would be dealt with quickly.

Oh, that was quick. The custom sound Sena's selected for incoming email pinged off before she had barely touched SSMO. Had the change in tactic really worked? This quickly? Shifting her attention to screen she'd shunted it off to, she felt her heart race as she clicked open the reply.

For fucks sake. Sena sighed. No, this made sense. All that information had been in the previous emails, the ones she'd never bothered to read. To be honest, the hacker would have preferred if she could have been contacting Nikolai instead, but she wasn't sure the scrambled soldier could find his way around email, and he certainly didn't have an account at TCI, which might be less heavily monitored by ANF proper.

Calina had said to fuck the risks, and Sena had agreed with her judgement, in this matter at least. If it ended up provoking the ANF to send the only ship capable of stopping them, to try to stamp them out--assuming they were able to locate the signal behind her layers of obfuscation--that would just be saving the crew some transit time. So she'd not bothered with any fancy cover story, and just dealt Christina the straight dope. Time to repeat it, once again.

This is Sena Leson, if you remember me. If you don't, perhaps the names Robert Hilling or Calina Rydelle would ring a bell. I want Abigail Casson, she's more important to me than the cause ever was. My sources have placed her on the Heion Riese, same as yourself. Can I count on your support? You're my final strand of hope.

Straight to the point, no minced words. A little bit of buttering up at the end, but nothing that should trip any flags.

Sena...? Robert, Calina... None of the names made sense to the tired blonde until Abigail's name came up. Christina didn't really get what they wanted, things weren't exactly piecing themselves together in her tired state. "Can you count on my support? For what... This is so weird, ugh..." Christina didn't exactly have the right idea of what to send, so she just quick typed back, what do you want with abigail shes probbly sleeping with the captain right now. It was too late for her to care about typos or proper punctuation. She just wanted to get these emails over with, maybe they'd leave her alone. If they were some weird spam emails, some off chain, then probably not, but...

"It's worth a shot... Mmnn, should be quieter, don't wanna wake Kim..." Christina yawned and shut herself up, sending another quick email, im rly tired can i go back to sleep. heres jess email go contact her yourself. Christina was making a rather bad move, but in her state, she didn't think about it, tossing Jessica's contact email into the message and hitting send. Time to close that phone... And face down. No more bothers. They had things to do, and sleep was necessary.

The syntax of Christina's reply messages was rough and unrefined, underscoring her claim of exhaustion and that she didn't really want to take the time to bother with Sena any more than she had to. Tilting her head slightly, it wasn't that late was it? ...Oh, maybe. As she spied the actual hour and factored a few things in, she had to confess that perhaps it was. Today had been a light one for the rebels, so while she was still doing fine, well... The hacker had enough consideration not to send another thank you, as the ping or buzz or whatever of yet another incoming mail might erase whatever good will she had finally lucked into. Although... taking a small break from the other avenue she was investigating, and chewing on the tip of her braid a little as she did, Sena typed up a reply that she queued up to have sent in the morning instead.

You have been most helpful. I can't think of how to properly reward you for this, but rest assured, I will try somehow.

It was due to arrive shortly after 8am California time, and the least she could do for the windfall she'd been provided. Of course, she was still going to see through her other avenue for information all the way through to the end, she'd already begun negotiation with the possible point of access after all, but perhaps going forward it would only prove to be a redundancy check. Even so, Sena couldn't think of it as wasting time.

However, hmm. Some bits of Christina's message were hard to digest. 'Sleeping with the captain', and what was purportedly the private address of the Riese's commanding officer. She... really should follow up on that too. Frowning a bit, she could see no other way around it. The TSI civilian's story was explosive enough and she wasn't so lacking in social graces (at least she hoped she wasn't, she knew she wasn't especially strong in that regard, but to miss something like this...) as to not see the problems it might pose for Calina. She had to get it verified before making her report. If she couldn't... well, she'd have to get Hilling's opinion on what to do then, Sena didn't fully trust herself about delivering that news otherwise.

Maybe she should just, check in with him now? Padding out into the hall and poking her head into his room. "Robert," Sena began softly, then stopped as she saw the lay of the land. It was just further validation of Christina's condition. The lights were off, and man was already out cold in his bed. Well, it wasn't yet time to curl up at the foot of it for her, she needed to get back to her station and finish these things up. On her own. Without any sage advice.

A slight sigh, and she gently closed the door, then returned to her workstation. She had to focus on the mmo for awhile now, the other party had gotten back to her, and she couldn't keep them waiting, but after a bit of negotiation she had the time she needed to work up a new message. Subject simply titled Abigail, it began:

Captain Jessica Gefalscht,
What's the story with her?

Sena had to stop a moment. She was angry, and her hands were shaking. She was tempted to add the ultimatum, to throw out the challenge and name the meeting place, right now. But she also needed answers for Calina and didn't want to compromise that.

You haven't been mistreating her, have you? The information my sources provided is so suspect, so opposite, I'm not sure what to believe. If your warship wasn't so frustratingly hard to hack into, I wouldn't have to go to these lengths to ask, but so far it has been, so for now I do.

Looking it over before sending it, Sena felt sure at least it wouldn't get ignored like her first ones to Christina had been. The tone was... aggressive, but not overly so. Her identity should be sufficiently ambiguous, but there were only so many people who might be inquiring after the rebel leader. Would the captain be able to make that leap or not? Did it matter? Biting first her lip, and then what nubs of nails were left, Sena only stopped as the familiar tang of blood snapped her out of trance.

It was good enough. SEND

'Message received', a voice pinged in Jessica's head... She'd been trying to sleep, much as she didn't actually need to anymore, but... Giving it a peek, the title 'Abigail', certainly woke her up. Sitting up in bed, a glance to the woman at her side, Jess opened it up... What the hell? "What's the story with... Abby. Abby, hun, wake up." A mildly hefty nudge to the rebel, Jess went about fetching her tablet. Projecting the email from her eyes onto the bed sheets would probably give Abby a bit of a start, given she'd only just come to terms with the mechanical nature of the captain.

Going through the rest of the email in her head as she picked up the handheld device, she sent back something, trying to only be a little bit defensive.

Abigail is right here with me, and she's just fine. She was sleeping soundly a few seconds ago. Who is this? You can tell me now or I can back trace your hacking attempts. At least I know what that fly was, trying to smack itself against my mainframe. I also have an email address to trace, so... Your call.

Jess would've written it off as spam, but having Abby up in the title so blatantly made her worry. Was this one of her old allies? Maybe a few had survived their planned assault on the ANF's factories? Maybe... But then, how did they get her email, directly? They had mentioned they'd been trying to hack in, maybe it had popped out at some point during the process. I'll have to re-address the Riese's firewalls if that's the case.

Either way, sitting back against the bed, all Jess could do was wait for Abby to wake up, and wait for a reply from, whoever this was... And maybe start tracing now. Better to try and get a lead before they start changing addresses.

Good luck, I'm behind seven proxies.

Without conscious thought, the memetic defensive comeback had already made its way from Sena's fingertips to the the keyboard, without even passing through her head for approval. While the rebel hacker did take cybersecurity seriously, hubris and boasting only invited more trouble than it was worth.

...Except. Except in this case, she actually wanted to be found. Provoking the Riese into chasing them, luring the vessel into an advantageous position where they could strike with the spoils from Bismark and reclaim what had been taken from them. Calina had given her that green light, hadn't she?

Hovering a finger over backspace, her other hand absently drummed the desk to the side of the keyboard.

...But what was really going on with Abby?

Sleeping soundly beside this enemy captain? Now stated by two sources? Was this like how things were with her and Robert? Was it something further? A light flush crept across Sena's face, her imagination in the process of taking a slight vacation. Then she shook her head and swallowed hard, almost feeling like a lump was caught in her throat.

The taunt stayed. What else, if anything, should she add? Rhythmic drumming intensified.

No good, she'd need advice, real advice, for anything else. If there'd been a way to communicate with Abigail directly, it would have been so much easier. But with a mediator in the way... Could she try breadcrumbing?

Somebody who cares about her.
E-Fields won't keep you safe forever.
Never forgiving the ANF for what they've done.
Abigail, your family is coming.

Too easy? Too obscure? Sena wished she could judge how it might read to others. Both to a random, this Jessica for instance, as well as how Abby herself would see it. It was a struggle. This was worse, way worse, than her troubles dealing with that woman in the online game. Sena sighed, and brought her hands up to massage her temples, wincing a bit as her long-abused fingertips complained at the sudden unexpected contact: protesting the extra pressure they were being subjected to, long after they'd been deprived of adequate protection. Not only did scant remain of the nails that should have been there to defend themselves with, but the rough edges of where they'd been gnawed off actually bit into the soft flesh instead. Grimacing and pulling back, Sena curled her fingers inward, then drove her knuckles into the side of her head instead, staring at the monitor, hoping for some flash of insight.

But nothing new came, she had to work with what she'd got. It was better than nothing, and she really couldn't lose. Off the email went.

"A fly? Seriously," Sena groused quietly to herself after it had gone, leaning back in her chair. It stung a little, moreso because it was an apt description.

 


 

"Mmrphgl," Abigail groaned as the warm, pleasant, comfortable body she'd been snuggled up next to gently displaced itself and shifted positions. The more forceful nudging wasn't exactly appreciated either, but certainly accomplished its job of rousing her, especially when combined with having her name called out.

"Jess?" Abby mumbled back, rubbing bleary eyes for a moment before worming herself up into a sitting position, back against the headboard. Oh, cold. Not fully registering much besides her lover fooling around with a tablet, she settled for pulling the covers up to her chest for some extra warmth. Closing her eyes again, and snorting a bit, Abigail whined slightly. "If you're bringing electronics to bed, at least make them the fun ones..."

A new message... Your family is coming? Abigail only had one family, as far as Jess knew, and they'd been killed... She'd even dug into it to make sure, but she couldn't find anything past official statements, a rebel group had been wiped out during an assault on a Bismarck factory. Who was this, then? There was no point in replying, whoever it was, they were here for Abby. And she was at least waking up... With, commentary.

"Ahh... I... Ahem, th-this is serious. If you're even in any mood after this, I'll make sure to remember that. But..." She had a feeling that Abby was going to read these messages, and lose any interest in anything past worry. Clearing her throat again, Jess slid back into bed, leaning gently against Abby. "Just... Please, brace yourself." Turning the tablet-- with brightness turned down, Abby had just woken up-- towards the woman, Jess tried to add to what was going on.

"I just received these... But... I don't know what to make of them. We both... S-Saw the news. Unless this is anyone who might've gotten away, then... I..." She didn't want to get Abby's hopes up, it wouldn't do to crush the girl twice, but this couldn't be ignored. "They managed to find my email, so I have to take this seriously, as a breach of security, but... You, had to see this." Whatever it meant, whoever was sending it, she didn't know...

"I wanted to ask what we should reply with... Or if you wanted to reply, yourself. I already told whoever it is that you're here, so..."

Oh no! Abigail had just been joking around, and not really seriously considering anything beyond simply getting Jess back under the covers so they could get back to sleep. But if the captain was going to blush and get embarrassed like that... she smirked and sleepily shook her head. Maybe, maybe...

The stammer and averted gaze quickly disappeared, though, to be replaced by a steady solemnity whose unspoken meaning compounded onto the vague warning to brace herself. An uncomfortable chill of ice took root in Abigail's spine, its freezing fingers of frost slowly spidering outward from her core to every extremity. What could it possibly be? She was afraid to even try pondering.

Now wide awake, Abigail swung her legs back and to the side, tucking them under herself a little as she leaned closer to Jess, who'd slid back into bed by this point. Resting shoulder to shoulder, she started to crane for a better view at the tablet just as it was being turned to make things easier on her. Jess was still speaking, and the words were, well, they were certainly English, it's just... impossible, incredible... uncredible?

Abby couldn't believe the written words either. Her hands stopped, having halfway reached out to grab the tablet, one falling to rest on her lovers' thigh, now serving an important role in supporting herself, keeping her from collapsing. As Abigail's eyes finished making their way to the bottom, she shuddered involuntarily, then snapped them all the way back up, trying to start over from the beginning again in hopes that that would help.

"Ha, hah... oh my god," she laughed, she gasped, she breathed. "Sena? It has to be her if it's anyone. Hahaha, she lived?" Abigail's voice was everywhere, one moment confident, the next questioning, and it was hard to tell if she was laughing or crying, probably because it was both. "I can't... aaaaaaaahahaha."

Of course if anyone had survived, it would have been her, their long-range specialist. If anyone had been able to hack the Riese or dig up its captain's email, it would have had to been her. Competing desires to leap for joy or to grab hold of tablet and immediately begin composing a reply, ended up in her body getting mixed signals from her brain. Lifting the hand that Abby had been supporting herself with, at the same time as she was pushing herself forward ultimately resulted in a sprawling collapse instead of anything productive. An awkward faceplant into Jess's lap.

But that was fine too. After a few more moments of crying laughter from that position, she turned her head so she was facing upward and managed a mostly coherent thought, "That... amnesty thing I'd asked you about... before the... well, you know... Still good?" The dopey smile on her face contrasted with its glistening wetness, hopefulness having won out over hopelessness, at least for the moment.

It was delightful to see Abby overjoyed like this. There was a pang of worry surrounding some of it, but, the smile, the laughter, even the crying, it was more than Jess could've hoped for considering how doom and gloom Abby had been about these people when the news hit. "Of course," she replied, gently shifting Abby's hair out of her face, running a hand through her locks. "I had something to discuss with you about that, actually... I'll let you try and cool off, first, but, it's important."

As for their fly on the wall... Jess wirelessly typed a quick:

'Sena, give me a second, Abby's in happy shock. I'll get her typing to you soon.'

And let it travel its way towards whoever was waiting at the other end, Sena or no. If Abigail believed it was her, then there was no point in disbelieving her, Jess didn't know these people. "So, uhm... It's... About what we're going to do, after the war. And if, if they're still alive, any of them... I..." Probably shouldn't be saying this as a captain of the ANF vessel, but...

"Can I come with you? And be a part of that family... I don't want to help the ANF with all of this, anymore... And I don't think, especially now, that you want to find a cozy little home and settle down. So... Do you think, it's possible? That I can..." Jess would've been more confident, but, this was a part of Abby's life she knew little to nothing about. And she'd been the captain of a crew that had shot at these people... Them welcoming her in with open arms, it didn't seem feasible. So she was tip toeing, likely more than needed.

"It's fine, if you don't think... I mean, I want, to be with you... A lot, but... I mean, you... They were dead, a-and..."

Mmm, gentle fingers combing through her hair felt good, as always, and was a pleasant grounding from the dangerous high she was riding. Closing her eyes, Abby twisted her head back and forth a little, grinding into--no that was too harsh for it--nuzzling against Jess's thighs as she listened. It was almost funny, the 'this is serious' disclaimer, and how unsure, how worried the captain seemed while broaching the topic, especially considering what the things she had to actually say ended up being. Or maybe it was just that everything was funny to the rebel right now?

Reaching up, and pulling herself just far enough forward and out of her lover's lap to get her arms wrapped tightly around her waist, Abigail opened her eyes again, and beamed a crooked grin. "I don't see why not, silly. It might be just her, probably is, in fact; it could be more, but I'm afraid to hope for too much. So it might be just inviting you to a very small family, but I don't see any reason why I'd turn that down, can you? I mean, yes, I have special bonds there, but they're different than what I have with you. Even... even the tightest one, my tie to Calina was different."

Abby choked up a little, mentioning the name of the one person who had surely died, trying to shunt aside the memory of the bloody cockpit she'd seen in that video. "Different circumstances paint things with different hues. I loved her, still do... love her, still miss her. But," a soft sigh as Abigail tightened the circle of her arms, squeezing, "You pulled me up out of darkness. You remind me of things I thought I'd lost, you make me a better person. She pulled me forward, changed me, influenced me in different ways than you. And she's gone..."

The strength in her arms laxed, and Abby let gravity's pull sink her slightly downward. "At least one survived. At least I didn't lose them all. That's the best news I've had in, god, I don't even know."

She was so happy... So why couldn't Jess just, be as happy with her? The mention of that Calina again, that was... That was definitely why. Jess gulped, still petting the half smiling half crying woman's hair, hugging her as best as she could at this angle. "Can I ask a mean hypothetical?" she began, biting her lip, but shaking her head to soldier on through it.

"I love you. You're more dear to me than anyone else I've ever met, and you even accepted all of what I am... Am I still, a part of everything, on the slimmest chance that Calina survived as well? I've looked back at the footage. There was no body, no trace of one... Even, even a beam saber would leave a mess, but all the official reports say, that... That they all died. Yet here's, here's Sena, emailing you..."

Jess squeezed a bit tighter, this was to hard to bring up, it felt like betraying Abigail's trust, but she couldn't help herself. "Am I still going to be here, if she's still alive...?" Something wet hit her hand... Oh, no, now I'm crying too...? That's not going to help anything...

It seems things couldn't all be daisies and roses. Even this windfall of good news had apparently brought with it some snags and snarls. Jess's first question had been answered, but that hadn't cleared up her discomfort. Despite reassurances, the captain had quickly swung back around to a worry she'd voiced once before.

And just like it had then, a bit of a twisting knot formed in Abigail's stomach, considering the possibility. It was doubly terrifying, because by all rights if Calina had survived, she should be feeling the same joy and gratefulness as this news about Sena had brought. Not... whatever this was. Fear, trepidation... guilt mostly. A extra-large helping of that particular emotion.

"Jess, look. I get being worried, but it's the same answer as last time you asked. If she's alive..." Abby closed her eyes and breathed deep to keep herself composed, "If she survived, and I leapt to a bad conclusion... that's my mistake. I'll have wronged her deeply. Of course, I'll want to try and fix that... but I can't do that and at the same time just turn right around and wrong you in her place, now can I? I don't know if there's an answer that would make everybody happy in such a circumstance, but I do know I wouldn't give up without even looking for it."

Abigail paused, an ugly thought stewing unbidden. "...Is that why you asked me before, back at the mall? How long have you suspected there were survivors? What else aren't you telling me?"

Her voice took on the harsh edge of accusation and demand, and she turned a scowl up in Jess's direction... but seeing the pure concern and worry writ upon her face she found herself stopped dead in her tracks. Abby couldn't believe the woman she loved to be so duplicitous as to pull off such a perfect deception. No, she believed these tears, these fears were real, and she instantly regretted the words she'd flung at her.

Visibly wincing, Abigail averted her eyes and softly offered, "...I'm sorry, that was..." How could she even apologize? "What a mess, I am right now. Ha."

Jess had expected Abby to get upset, but not go as far as to accuse her of hiding anything. The hurt was evident on her face, recoiling back at a bit at Abby's scowl. That was the last thing she'd wanted to see tonight. Abby did calm down, perhaps she'd caught her own actions, so Jess tried to form words to address everything.

"I'm not hiding anything. I... We're out here fighting for our lives, I didn't... I didn't want want to fill you up with any false hopes that could just, get dashed, and bring you down even further. You'd already..." Jess cut herself off, bringing up Abby's lowest point of depression could just make things worse.

"But now... If this really is Sena, if this really is someone you used to know, then... I had to bring it up. Because its not a false hope then, is it? It's a possibility. A real possibility. One you deserved to know... Even if it scares me." And it did. Abby was right, if Calina was still alive, then believing her dead would be a crushing action to this love between them... But, Jess was still here. And Abby didn't want to give up either of them. I understand how you feel... I just...

"Would she be okay, with me...? I don't have those years you've known her. Its only been a few weeks, between us... I wouldn't give up that time for anything in the world, and I trust you to not give up on me. I do... Would Calina be okay with that? You know her, right? Would... Would she try to make all three of us work, or would she just... Just, try and kick me out?" Jess felt like she was twisting a knife, this couldn't have been easy for Abby, but this wasn't an easy situation.

"I have, a few more questions... But... You should reply to Sena. Ask her if people are still alive. See if I should be having these worries at all... Though... It would be really nice to see how big you can smile, if they are still there. I hadn't seen you so happy since you'd come aboard. It was... It was pretty amazing."

Something nice that Jess could take away from this, at least. Abby had been happy with her, of course, but the relief Jess had witnessed moments ago, and the elation that followed, was a whole side of Abigail that she'd never been able to see. She wanted to see more... So even if it hurt down the line, even if problems arose, Jess was hoping against hope that the ANF's reports were false. Be alive, Calina. Whoever you are, just... Please.

Yeah, her outburst had hurt Jess, she'd known it would a moment after it'd left her lips, and Abby felt all the worse for it. More guilt for the guilt god. At least it hadn't propelled things into a full-on fight. The captain was being so loving and reasonable, and in a way that was almost worse. Someone so fresh and wholesome was maybe more than she deserved, if things played out like in the harrowing spectre being raised as possible. Would Calina accept Jess? Nnnnnot likely, certainly not at face value, not without a struggle. Could she say that straight to her face? Could she hide it, even if she wanted to?

"It... wouldn't be easy," Abigail confessed. But who would blame Calina? Trying to put the shoe on the other foot, Abby imagined if the situation reversed. If she had 'died' at the colony and it was Calina now spending her time with Jess. Her hands roving here and there, her mouth hungrily on the attack, leading Jess's toes to curl and the captain to call out her name between moans. Or a different scene, one where the redheaded robot was leading, doing things to Calina that Abby had only dreamed of, taking charge in ways that Abigail had lacked the courage for without a fresh, impressionable lover to start from scratch with. The rebel could feel a vein throbbing at her temple as the pictures played out inside her head, her hands tightening to fists with jealousy. How dare she! How dare she! Both of them!

So how could she expect better? If it was hard on her, imagining what she wanted from the others... could she even realistically ask it of them, if she had to? Abby could feel bile rising in her throat, threatening to spill forth like hot lava, and she choked it back. "I... can't see her thrilled about the idea of sharing, but... That's probably anyone's natural first reaction. I would hope with time..." she trailed off, trying to picture if that would change anything in her hypothetical reversed history. ...Maybe?

No. It wouldn't work if it was just two sides tugging at the center. Abigail felt pretty sure of that. The triangle would have to connect evenly on all ends. Anything lopsided would collapse, the shape would have to be more like love flowing all directions around a circle. If she were the odd one out that's the only way she could see accepting it, and it would be a stretch to imagine Calina being any different. That was a helluva high hurdle to clear. Hot liquid began to sear the corners of her eyes, and Abigail coughed and had to wipe them a little.

"I think there'd be a chance, though," she whispered hoarsely, hopefully, as she reached for the tablet, to actually speak with Sena directly, like Jess suggested. She had to draw a deep breath to compose herself. This was potentially the most important email of her life.

It was tough to see Abby like this... But this situation was tough over all. So Jess had to be strong. As strong as she could, for the woman she loved. Manhandling Abigail just a bit, Jess first pulled her up to a proper sitting height, then gently spun her around, to hug her from behind. Not to watch over her shoulder at what she wrote, just to be there, and give her a warm embrace to rely on.

"Whatever ends up happening, Abby, I won't give up on you. Not so long as you say you love me. If the words leave your lips, I'll believe them, wholeheartedly, and I'll do my utmost to making this all work. Life is hard enough without more issues... So if I have to bend over backwards to get Calina to see that I'm serious, well... I'd better get to stretching, hehe~"

Abigail let herself be hauled mostly upright from the sort of lazy draped state she'd fallen into. Jess's gentle grasp on her below her armpits was not uncomfortable, and the hug she found herself pulled up and into proved well worth the trust it had taken not to squirm nor struggle.

"I do," she affirmed, her breath faintly catching as she did, but not stopping her from speaking her mind. "At this point, it's harder to imagine not loving you. ...Even with all the hypothetical guilt," Abby laughed slightly. Maybe it really was the best medicine? She started feeling a little better because of it. Well, Jess's supportive words also no doubt played a role, but the end result had her feeling a good deal more positive as she leaned forward, and began pecking away at the tablet with her forefingers, typing out a long-form email. Well, 'long-form' may be putting too fine a point on it, but compared to her texts? Yeah, this counts.

Sena? That has to be you, I can't think of any other. I'm shocked and amazed and DELIGHTED to hear you survived. I'd thought everyone lost when I saw the news, and when Jess looked into it she couldn't uncover any signs of alteration or propaganda, so...

That's right, I have to tell you! Jess, that's the captain of this ship, she's not at all what you'd expect from an ANF. I've been bringing her around to our way of seeing them, and of course they were pretty much all too eager to help push her along with some more of their more boneheaded actions. Before the news broke, I'd got her to agree to whatever amnesty was in her power to grant, if I could could get in touch with any of you and bring you aboard to fight against Apotheosis... I wasn't sure how much sway she actually might have, and it may have only been for the wartime, but the sincerity was real, and it was better than I could've hoped for. So I was pumped to get to work but...

Hacking is way harder than it looks! I have such a new appreciation for the work you do. I was getting absolutely nowhere tracking you guys down... and then I well. I gave up when I thought...

Abby choked hard here, and cried a little before continuing.

Anyway, can we meet up somewhere? You and any other survivors? You... You're not the only one, right? There's gotta... I mean... Even if it is only... Just...

Pausing, she turned her head a bit and asked Jess, "I can tell her where we're headed, give the general route, so they can rendezvous, right?"

Jess kept a moderate hold on Abby as she wrote, making sure to look away from whatever she was typing. It was personal, Jess would leave it personal. A small squeeze hit Abby as the woman had her small moment, Jess felt a small drop hit her arm. "It's okay, Abby." Hopefully these were more happy tears, than sad.

"... Sure. That's... It's probably dangerous, I don't know... If we're going to get into any trouble, with Apotheosis, but... I have to be able to trust them. And trust you. So sure. Go ahead." A small kiss to the back of Abby's neck, Jess rested gently against her, sighing contentedly. Despite the heavy situation, hugging her like this was so nice, so warm... It was wonderful. I'm not going to let this go.

Each instance of positive reinforcement, of loving contact, from Jess helped to boost Abby higher. The reassuring squeeze, welcome and appreciated. The kiss and nuzzle, uplifting and encouraging. The unconditional trust, priceless. It was almost enough to set off fresh waterworks. But Abigail stymied that with a small snort and a quick pull of her arm across of her nose.

Smiling, even though Jess wouldn't be able to see it, the rebel sounded out a small murmur of acknowledgement. "Unmhmm. After everything, even going so far as to raid that facility, I'm sure the promise of little more danger won't really tip the scales for her... for them. Thanks. With any luck, they'll find us before we find trouble." Abigail's tone brightened as she convinced herself of those facts.

We'll actually be swinging our way up the west coast on our way north, ultimately crossing into the arctic circle, I think. I dunno where you're holed up, but maybe you could find us as we're passing by, idk, Vancouver or something? You're smart enough to figure out how to track us, whether we're miles out to sea or not, so even if I can't give you anything very exact to work with, I have faith you'll manage. But please, it'd be great if you could stay in touch. I miss you. All of you.

Abigail almost added the line, 'It's been really difficult for me,' but  it felt too foolish and insensitive, so in a rare act of revision, she deleted it immediately after typing it. She didn't bother going back and proofing the beginning portion or anything like that at all though, written communication was very much a stream of consciousness thing for her. If a sentence survived past the writing of a following one, it was pretty much as good as etched in stone.

There was some nagging concern at the back of her mind that she hadn't actually been explicit in her inquiries about who survived, having almost uncomfortably kept herself from mentioning Calina by name. Was she subconsciously trying to avoid a reckoning? Was it guilt kicking up? Not something the rebel really wanted to think about. She'd fought hard, she was still fighting hard. Getting judgemental now wasn't going to solve anything.

Email finished, Abigail set the tablet down to her side and pulled her knees to her chest, linking her hands about her ankles, hugging herself as Jess continued to hug her from behind. It was comforting, and soon her toes were wiggling themselves absently. Yes, this was fine. Sliding her feet forward along the bed again, she leaned backward, deeper into the captain's embrace.

Picking up the tablet again with one hand, as she rested the other on one of Jess's thighs, running alongside her own, Abby awkwardly passed the electronic device vaguely backward, a slightly sheepish expression on her face as she confessed, "It's your account anyway, you should have the honors of reading it over before hitting 'send'. Trusting is great and all, and don't get me wrong, I'm really tickled pink you do. But, for this, for us, well... better to just have everything in the open, no? That way there's no room for stupid worries on either of our parts."

This was certainly a treat... Jess could only imagine how happy Abby would be when they were seeing each other in person again. Probably tears. A lot of tears. Another gentle kiss met Abby's neck, Jess resting her head against her after, just leaning into her warmth as she typed away. "Hopefully... If they managed to survive taking an entire ANF facility, what's one ship, right?" A joke, Jess wouldn't dare fire on... Well, just to be sure. "Th-That was a joke. Sorry... I won't be doing anything to them but talking. Promise."

Suddenly the tablet was coming back towards her, as Abby got incredibly comfortable. Jess did blush a bit... Abby in a good mood, touching her thigh like that, even if it was just ambient motions in her little stupor... "Oh... I can? Really? I figured you'd want it to be private, but... If you're alright with me seeing things." Jess took the offered tablet, scanning the email. Nothing seemed out of place... The thought of tossing a tracker into it crossed her mind, but ultimately, if this Sena managed to figure out she'd done so, she could suspect these words as fake, or even try to leverage it against the captain.

Jess hit send and left her trackings out of it. "Off it goes," she whispered forward, setting the tablet down next to the two of them, before sneaking her arms around Abby and giving her a tight-- but not too tight --squeeze. "Ahhhhh~ It's so, so amazing to see you like this Abby... I can't wait to meet your family. Really, I'm super excited... I wonder if they have their own ship. What it's like. What the people are like... What Calina and Sena are like. And if they'll like me. But..."

Jess leaned her head onto Abby's shoulder and blew a gentle breeze against her ear, before giving it a slight nip. "Even if they don't, at least you're still head over heels~ Heheh... Mmm... I'm not really tired... And we're already so close, so... If you're in a good enough, mood...?"

Jess's 'twist' of pretending the danger to Abby's men would be from her and the Riese, rather than from Apotheosis was a bit of a silly joke, and quickly owned up to as such. It would have impossible to take it any other way, with her continued kisses and honest genuine interest, evidenced by the small flood of curious questions. 

"Well, we'd had a bit of a junker of a freighter we'd salvaged, and were basing ourselves out of, but... I don't know what happened to it," Abby began to explain. "It was colony fare through and through, not really built for regular trips to and from the planet, though it probably had at least one re-entry in it. Hard to imagine them raiding that Bismarck facility without it, ya know? Though, maybe that's where it met its end? ...Then again, maybe they nabbed a replacement there, actually... Honestly, who knows what they got their hands on!" Thinking about how that assault might have been a success, for the first time, instead of it turning out the dismal failure she'd been led to believe was infectiously exciting for Abigail, and she started growing more and more animated.

But Jess hadn't been just waiting patiently, listening to the bit of ramble she'd touched off. No, she'd also been moving in for the kill. Her puff of air in Abby's ear, and the following nibble, touched off chills and thrills throughout Abigail's body. The rebel was a winning coach being given a victory dunk from the cooler by the team captain. "Why you..." she pretended to complain, a feral grin spreading across her face as she flipped her body, straddling the redhead instead of leaning backward into her. "You weren't even listening were you," Abby teased as she leaned close and booped their noses together.

She paused, a pang of guilt popping up like some unwelcome whack-a-mole. If Calina had survived, and the first thing she did after learning it was this... How would she explain herself? A bit of a dark, pensive look swept her face as she pulled back a little. Then again, she couldn't really say 'no' either, not when they were both raring to go. Turn down Jess on the hope and the dream of another? What message would that send? That would be telling her she was really second class all along, wouldn't it?

We'll just start with a kiss, see where that leads, Abby lied to herself as she wrapped her arms around the captain, pulling her closer once again. Bringing her lips down on her lover's, she bargained, That wouldn't be so bad, right? Just another molehill on top of the mountain of things I've already got to apologize for.

"I was listening plenty~ A junker of a freighter, right? Something that we could all work on making better together, if they still have it. I know my way around a ship, I'll have you know..." Hopefully after captaining the Riese, something smaller would stand no challenge. Not that Jess wanted to be the captain, walking in and trying to steal that would be foolish. But she could help around it, try to make it better, work with the people there. Maybe I'll even end up as a pilot... I haven't had any real training, but I don't think it'd take long to learn.

As Abigail became coy, and turned to give her a kiss, Jess noticed that moment of hesitation, though didn't shy away from returning her affections as the woman got whatever demon had appeared in her mind to hush. Just for a moment, though. "Abby," Jess tried to start, giving their kiss a small part, "if you're not comfortable with this, right now, you can tell me. I said I would trust you. I also respect you. If doing this is going to upset you, after all this news, I'm fine with later."

"You know your way around a ship," Abby almost had to snort. "Putting that one rather modestly."

If you believed the kool-aid that admiral was selling, she essentially was the ship... which thinking about it, even as a joke like this, brought a strange feeling of vertigo, and almost... jealousy? Jess was human--Abigail hadn't changed her mind on that matter, had absolutely been telling her the truth when the woman was confronting her fears--but at the same time, something more. When the captain was fully plugged in, integrated, what would it feel like to have all those people running around inside of her, what would it feel like launching mechs, fighters, firing lasers, docking at base... being hit by enemy fire. So many things, a wide array of sensations on a much grander level than anything Abby could give her.

Whether it was that unease, or the worries about Calina, Jess had definitely picked up on a bit of her hesitations. Trying to be selfless, thoughtful, she offered Abby an out. It should have been comforting, reassuring, and well, in a way it was. But it also hardened Abigail's resolve. Rather than give in to a tempting urge to wilt again, to fall back to the side after the kiss and just lay her cheek on Jess's shoulder, Abby instead moved things forward. Running her right hand down the redhead's side, bringing it to a stop on her hip, she continued to hold tight to the woman's shoulder with her left, as it was wrapped up around her back.

"It won't upset me," she started out firm. The woman had invited her to air her misgivings, and she would--communication is vital to a relationship, and now, more than ever. But she didn't want to give the wrong ideas either. "Things are, complicated... weird, sure. But there's no world I don't want you, want this."

She interrupted herself by pushing forward for another, brief, kiss on the lips, then continued. "I mean, sure, at first there was a part of me that felt a little sick, hearing the news. Wanted to curl into a ball, or maybe jump up and leave, as fast as humanly possible. To run to my own room to be alone, to amplify and wallow in a sense of guilt and bury myself in regrets." 

Abby pulled a little closer at this, and emphasized, "But I didn't. I stayed and boy am I glad of it. Everyone has a little coward inside them. What's important is how they deal with it. And you know me, I'm a fighter, a survivor. I won't lose to anyone, not the ANF, not Apotheosis, not aliens. And certainly, not to myself, to my own weaknesses. So," Abby gave the hand at Jess's hip a little slide down and to the rear, ending in a slight squeeze. "Now I want to kiss, play around, get a little nasty, and be glad of that too. I want to love the fact that it's with you, this incredible woman I almost wonder if I deserve, if I can actually make happy."

Abigail smiled and leaned forward, bringing her lips to Jess's ear to whisper. "I'm not going to let worrying about whether this makes the future harder or easier for me stop me from doing what is right for me in the present. Don't feel like you have to either. Live for the now."

"It, won't?" Just a moment ago Abby's face had said differently, but Jess was listening. Things were definitely complicated... Sure as Jess was that this was something she wanted to last, could she make it last? Hopefully. Hopefully this was within her power to keep going, to help and nurture, rather than hurt... It all really depended on Calina at this point, didn't it? How she reacted to things, how she reacted to Jess, and Abby. Was Abby going to try and convince her old girlfriend that the new one was fine to stay? Jess could already hear the fire starting, sparks going off between the two, and she didn't even know the other. It was certainly... Complicated.

So when Abby voiced her concerns over wanting to curl into a ball, Jess bit her lip. See? It will make you upset. You don't need to put on a strong face for my sake... I can wait. It's just... Sex... She was about to try and play selfless mediator again, when Abby held her tighter, and rephrased her mindset. Glad she stayed, was it... Everyone has a little coward inside them. Jess felt herself smile, wryly, almost sighing. I have a lot of coward in me.

And then Abby was back entirely, her hand finding a soft place to rest. Jess jumped slightly, not expecting the brazen action, nor the words that followed. It was enough to startle her calm demeanor into a blush, shrinking against the advance. "I..." Abby pushed the gambit with her mouth ever so close. Live for the now. Jess could buy that; if Abby was afraid of a few things, yet still pressing on towards the things she wasn't scared for, so could Jess.

"Let's get... Just, a little nasty, then." Jess smirked, chuckled, and then let out a tiny sigh. "And here I thought I'd be on top, for once. I've still got a lot to learn... Teach me~?"

Abby couldn't help the wolfish grin that spread on her face at Jess's chagrin, real or pretend, about who was taking the lead this time. Still, it couldn't hurt to be a little charitable.

"Class is now in session, and there will be a test later. The exam, of course, will be on how you take charge of things next time, since it seems like you want to. But until then..."

 


 

Sena had been staring somewhat dumbfounded at the latest reply she'd received. It had all the trappings, every indication of being legit Abby. Thorough scanning had cleared it of any header spoofing, embedded trackers, or other malicious code, near as the hacker could discern. Clean. Direct.

Yet worrisome.

When something appears too good to be true, it generally is, and this promised amnesty smacked of just such. It was entirely likely Abigail was being taken for a ride. Sena was having trouble trusting Jess, especially given the bit of sparks between them earlier.

But...

The captain had passed communication over, had let her talk to Abby directly, unmolested. And that at least was something. The rest of the risk assessment though... Sena was struggling. This was going to need input from the whole 'war council', no doubt about that. And at this time of night, Calina would be asleep. And she'd already confirmed Hilling's condition earlier...

Sena shook her head, her braid bouncing from shoulder to shoulder as she did. Sighing, she powered off her displays, and made the trek from what served as her 'office' to the area of the freighter serving as the private quarters, sliding in through his door quickly after she forced it to open for her, for the second time tonight--a slight alteration to the usual routine. Part of Sena's mind briefly wondered why he still bothered to leave it on autolock, but the answer that quickly bumped up against her was that just because he'd grown used to, grown to accept, her intrusions... that didn't necessarily mean everyone else was welcomed. A momentary image of Terry trying to sneak in and getting confronted almost made her giggle.

Her blanket was folded and laying at the floor by the foot of the bed, along with her pillow; right where she'd left them in the morning. Home. A bit of soothing calm, contrasting and damping the nervous energy that had come from contact with their captured leader. "R-R..." Sena started to softly stutter, as she padded quietly over to the bedside, but stopped herself as she looked down on Hilling's sleeping face.

What was it exactly? Pent up longing on her part, to be sure, but certainly catalyzed by tonight's correspondence. The possibility that Abigail had already formed a new, intimate bond with another, while she herself was still timidly treading water... definitely a frustrating juxtaposition.

And so, consciously decided or not, rather than waking him and beginning to excitedly discuss the very important developments in the rebels' state of affairs, Sena found herself leaning over the bed, bringing her face down towards his. And everything would have worked out just fine, had her braid not slipped forward over her shoulder and whacked the sleeping man on the nose before her lips could make contact with his.

It was a bit of an uncomfortable startling awake. It didn't hurt, of course, not really, the impact smarted for maybe a second or two and then was quickly gone. But opening his eyes and finding himself nearly nose to nose with the much younger girl... Certainly not something Hilling had had to deal with before.

"Well... you're rather close tonight," he began wryly, then after the girl visibly stiffened and rightened her posture, he slid himself up to sitting. "What happened, nightmare?" He had a hunch... no, to be honest, Hilling knew, but maybe if he could just keep ignoring it...

One of these days he'd have to be strict with her about it, but he didn't want to offset all the positive progress she had made, was still making. He'd much rather keep mentoring her as long as he could, than see her crushed and hurt and maybe quickly regress back to how she'd been when the crew had first taken her in. Was it the right call? Who knew. But it was the one he was making.

"Uh... A-a-ah... n-n-no. N-Not," Sena stuttered, flushed, then sighed. Even with a generous out offered her, she couldn't. Cursing her own worthlessness, she curled her hands a little, then shook her head and ignored even answering about this failing, and moved straight to the meet of the matter.

"I... I f-found Abby."

Three words that sparked off a tempest. There was a lot of explaining, and a lot of planning, and for the first time in many days... a lot of hope. Some worries too, of course, but that was just par for the course.

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Vera was down, Hannah breathed a sigh of relief... And mild disappointment, she'd wanted to have dealt the final blow. Kim still had a connection to the woman, but even so... "Forwarding to all units, it's time to take the fight back to the aliens. Here's what information I've been able to analyze from the lead machine." Soor'Kan was currently disposed, at least... As long as he was busy fighting those newcomers. Only a few of them seemed to stand any chance of damaging him, but they wouldn't last in a drawn out fight...

Hannalyze Gaal'Bathy!

Jess was starting to run on empty... Keeping this much focus on everything was incredibly difficult, a warning had popped up that she was overheating, and she'd dismissed it to keep trying. What kind of android can't even run all its assets? Come on, stupid metal body... I have you, now keep up! Still, things weren't looking good for her. The overheating warning had sprung up again, and it wasn't going away this time. "Ensign, XO? I... Might, shut down. Keep an eye on the bridge, in the next minute."

As for the squad, fighting everything right now... "Come in, Papa Bear. Thorvald? Hey. It's Jess... Sending your machine a barrier. I'm gonna be out of the game in another minute, so try to keep everyone out there together. You're still the team leader... And you do a damn good job at it." Hopefully he could keep managing, Jess was starting to feel consciousness fading.

Jess Trusts Thorvald!

"Captain? ... Yes, Captain. Roxanna, you're at the helm in a moment. I'll take over the main guns." He could do that much, Hopefully Roxanna, while not a great pilot, could at least takeover making sure the ship didn't sink. "Puppet, Idol, I'm sending your units supplemental data on the enemies, please keep them from sinking the ship." Tarquin had squared himself up for shooting at the bow of the ship, as long as he could hold things there, he'd be able to pick the Sacarians out of the sky... And Kim had just taken out Vera. Anything to help their ace keep moving at this point, would hopefully go a long way.

Tristan Devote Tarquin, and Kim x2!

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"The Riese sure is taking a beating... can't say I'm too happy with that. Hope they can blow these aliens up quick enough."

Lynx devotes Roxanna... twice! [-40sp] [+20sp to Roxanna]

---

"A-ah, I'm on the helm. Okay. I can do that." Roxanna took a deep breath. Getting shot at by the aliens was still very daunting, but she still had some qualities. Naturally. She could do it. "Thorvald, keep the Odin close, alright? It's our best shield right now. I'll help you out with the Riese's predictive systems."

Roxanna attunes Thorvald![-25sp]

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