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

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It was paradoxically both surprising, yet entirely expected, how easily Abby found herself appreciating the Vergloria's cockpit as intimately familiar. On the one hand, it was a completely new robot: she'd never stepped foot inside of a Mark III, or even Kim's prototype. On the other hand, she was well acquainted with Calina's idiosyncrasies and personal touches. It didn't her take long at all to run down the various armaments and select the right tool for the job. Or maybe not the 'right' one, but at least one that perfectly expressed how she was feeling at the moment.

Part of her wished the fleabag could see her face right now, witness the snarl of rage and realize it meant his doom. But the thought of a secret window into the cockpit, some way for the enemy to spy on her, well... that also hit uncomfortably close to home for completely other reasons. Imaging that only amped her emotions, and furthered the will to fight, to win.

"Alright, bring us in close," Abigail instructed Calina, "Time to dance swords with this motherfucker."

The Praxis Alpha was actually surprisingly nimble, for a bot crazy enough to wear a pair cannons on its back, behind its shoulders, like awkwardly placed pauldrons, and the alien met blade with blade several times, rebuffing her attacks. Then Abby had a brilliant idea. Or maybe an idea so stupid it wrapped back around into brilliance. It was a very her idea to have, though, and brought a smirk to her face.

She raised the beam claymore high overhead, with both hands, readying for a devastating downward swing. Then when the enemy brought their blade up to block... she disengaged the beam. Just for a few seconds, but the sword switched off, winking out, and--

"W-Wait, Abby what're you doing--!?"

--after the swing had plowed through the plane of the opponent's blade, she re-engaged. The full fury and momentum of the swing carried through, and without anything to block its path or dull its edge, it bit deeply into the Alpha's shoulder, showering sparks before it came to a stop, unable to be wedged any deeper.

Abigail uses Sense, Fury, Valor, moves to 21,14 and attacks Praxis Alpha with Beam Claymore

Edited by Balcerzak

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Not Your Friends

"They were never going to help us," Vera bit out, sighing and trying to compose herself. "The Sacarians just wanted us to get things started, weaken the mold, give the ANF some hard hits so they could toss what was left of us away, and take over themselves. I just wish I'd been able to do something... I was an idiot to accept their offer. Dammit..." What was done was done, but it still hurt. Hurt that Helena's dream, her wishes, her actual want to help the world was going to be overthrown by aliens fascinated by fighting and war. "Idiots, the lot of them. I'd wring their necks myself, if I had the chance to get a hand on them."

Kazue wasn't sure what to do, staring at the both of them, before backing up and resting against the wall opposite the cells. "I'll, uhm... Be here. Until the captain, can come see you, V-Vera. Er... I'm, sorry."

"Sorry? What?" Vera snapped over to look at Kazue, confused, and a bit upset. "You won. Don't apologize. I've done too much to deserve it, at this point."

"S-Still! You... There are no winners, in war. I fight for justice, but I know... I-I know that, both sides. Both sides get hurt. I do not think you a-are right... But I am sorry for what you have lost, all the same."

Vera looked away, biting her lip again. "Just... Keep your pity."

Feint

"I said that I was finished with-- Grrr!" Soor'Kan hadn't been expecting such an explosive volley of swings, parrying them with almost relative ease, but unable to get a definite counter attack in. Interest returned, a smile forming through his snarl, as he started to chuckle to himself again. "Alright, alright! We dance, then! You seem a good partner!"

Blow for blow, neither could land a solid hit, as Abby brought her sword up to swing! "And what do you hope to accomplish with this!? Don't disappoint me now, not after begging for my attention again! Idiots, the lot of--" Soor'Kan's beam saber slipped through the back of the claymore as the beam disappeared, shock forming on his eyes. The brilliant pink reignited and tore a swath into his Praxis, the machine shaking violently. "Grahhh!"

Thrashing his saber out and disengaging from the Vergloria, he snarled anew, scowling daggers and hate towards Abigail and Calina. "A trick is nothing but a trick! It won't work twice, and when I'm through with you--"

"Taurus. Reply."

The Praxis froze in the air, Soor'Kan's rage dwindling in an instant. "M-My liege, I--"

"Return to the Halbathyn. You've played enough. These humans require a heavier hand, yours alone will not suffice."

"I-- Please! I beg of you, allow me--" Soor'Kan's body became heavy, a piercing pain entering his head.

"You will not question me, Taurus. Return."

"... Yes, sire."

Without another moment of fighting, the Praxis began to glow, and disappeared from sight, the same as the Ceres had. The battlefield was empty... Only the charred remains of the other machines, the damaged suits, and the crashed Riese remained.

Abby gains +300 EXP!

Map Over!

Eye of The Storm

Jess slowly sat up in her seat. The battle had ended, the fighting was over. The Riese hadn't sunk, no one had died... They have even managed to, somehow, capture Vera. Vera, of all people... And that ominous call was about to make itself reality.

"Hello? Hellllooooo? Captain Gefalscht~?"

The voice... So this was actually happening. Jess groaned, picking herself up out of the captain's chair. She could focus on keeping the ship afloat, now that she didn't even have to consider the guns, but this... "... Louise..."

"That's right! Can I land? As I said, I'm giving myself up. I just need your permission~" She sounded ever so confident in that...

"I really... I really can't deal with this right now--"

"Captain, we've another target coming in on the long range scanners." Tristan spoke up this time, he'd picked up on the incoming plane. "A Prioxis model... I'm not, picking up life signs. Do you think it's a suicide attack?"

"No. It isn't... Just, let it land. If it doesn't slow its trajectory to do so, shoot it down, but otherwise... I'll go and deal with her." Jess sighed her way into the elevator, Tristan blankly staring and then following after her.

"Deal with her? Who's on that plane? And... Permission to head to the hangar. I need to check on someone once they land."

"Permission granted... You'll see who soon enough." That was the start of some of this... Next was...

Clean Up

"Firmia," Jess radioed over to the Avalon, hoping the captain would be willing to pick up. "We'll transport the Luna back over to you once everyone's back on board, and I'll be sending out recovery teams for the shot down enemy craft. I'd like the cockpit of that leader model I shot down, if possible. I want to get a good look at what we're dealing with, if there's anything left... Otherwise, try to keep the scrap shared between the both of us, for now. Everyone fought harder than needed today." Hopefully she would agree to that, Jess was still feeling the drain on her batteries.

"I need some sunlight..."

Mission Accomplished

Hannah leaned back in her seat. The Reign had been damaged, but was still functional enough. "Fi-- Captain. Do I need to come back in for repairs, first? Or shall I assist in wreckage pickup, beforehand?" Hannah made sure to check out the Reign's damage to make sure the sensors were telling the truth. Arms moved, legs were still attached. The chassis had a warning flashing, but without combat threats, it wouldn't matter right now.

"Awaiting orders."

While Hannah waited, Chris melted into her seat eyes closed... Before she started to cry, taking her helmet off and rubbing her palms against her eyes. "Christina's okay... God. I'm so... I could barely focus, Brant, I'm so sorry. I was just an angry mess... But I'm so glad! Uhnnn... If... If she'd, hic, if she'd died... I don't..."

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Abby slapped an open palm against her thigh as the Praxis Alpha glowed, then faded away. It curled into a fist and she squeezed her eyes tight for a moment, before unexpectedly laughing. Things had gone poorly, yes, but not everything was lost. Some things had been found, regained. Swiveling the pilot seat around, to get a good long look at someone she'd given up for dead, she couldn't help the awkward, crooked smile that slowly broke out across her face.

"I uh, might've broke the sword a little. Just a tad! We can fix it, don't worry."

Edited by Balcerzak

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Was it over? It appeared to be... as the last of his men fell, and after trading a few blows with Abigail, Soor'Kan had warped away, seemingly retreating for the day. They had killed his Lieutenant and captured Vera, but... the man himself had escaped with seemingly minor damage, and they had failed to take down Avery. Even now, emotions were floating in Seung-Min's head, attacking her from every angle to a degree she had never had to deal with before... just what had Avery done to the t-link before leaving? At least with the threats dealt with, she could unplug a bit earlier than usual. Disengaging the T-link, Seung-Min found her relief-

-didn't come. The strong emotional responses had dampened, of course, but they were still far and away more sharp and direct than she was used to. It was normal for telekinetic abilities to increase over time, but it felt like she was experiencing a sudden intense spike with no explanation, and her head was not dealing with it well in the slightest. Perhaps Avery had tampered with the ARES system specifically? It had left her effected even after she had unplugged before...

"Muhghgrr... just... deal with it, Seung-Min. Need to... make sure Chrissy is okay." Kim noted to herself, clapping her palms against her cheeks a few times. Whatever the issue was, it would have to remain on the backburner for the time being. She had proven it didn't inhibit her ability to fight, so it could be postponed for more urgent matters. The first of which would be checking in on Christina, Seung-Min being among... actually it appeared she was simply the first to return to the hangar of the Heion Riese, Fujiwara's mid-battle escort mission aside. As she came down from the Artemis, the cogs of the maintenance crew were already beginning to whir into motion. Her machine in particular hadn't sustained any damage, but it would have to be thoroughly vetted for further tampering regardless. Probably once the more serious cases were dealt with... 

As Kim began to move towards the elevators, she was immediately stopped in her tracks as an overwhelming feeling of sadness washed over her. It was easy to pinpoint the source, easier than it should have been in such a hectic environment, even discounting earlier goings on. Even if she didn't know that Buck had been the one to witness Avery's betrayal firsthand, her brain was screaming at her that he was the catalyst for that particular emotional assault. Shaking it off and trying to continue to her destination was proving difficult, likely due in no small part to Buck currently being directly between Seung-Min and the exit to the elevators.

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And just like that, the survivors were gone.

She didn't feel relief, nor a sense of victory.  Being able to think clearly now, she took hold of those stray emotions from earlier and bottled them up.  Quite the easy task when your powers revolve around manipulating emotions.

"Aliza, Alriana, are you two alright?" 

Rather than worry about herself, she reached out for the next best thing out there.  She just got into amiable terms with them both, it would be a shame if they just up and died on her.

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Still Alive

The fight ended, and Calina's rage disappeared with it... No outlet for her sadness, no outlet for her anger. Abby turned around, apologizing about the weapon... What did she care about some sword? Calina slowly took her helmet off, letting it clatter against the cockpit's floor, as black hair draped her face and tears slid down past old scars. With timid hands she reached over to take off Abby's helmet, the gentle hiss as it popped off almost startling her...

But there was Abby. Blonde hair, slight tan, that subtle and almost ever present frown... She couldn't help her hands, finger brushing against her cheek, as a breath left her in the shape of a cry. With no fight to focus on, it really was starting to sink in. "You're alive," she choked, smiling, and slipping onto her knees. She collapsed against Abigail in a hug, starting to sob. She wasn't proud of it, but with everything that had happened, to have her back, alive and well, no matter what came next... It was a miracle. "You're, fucking alive... Abby... My Abby, I love you, I'm so... I'm so, glad...!" She was starting to shake, Hilling's death was... Was creeping back up on her.

"Sorry... I'll... Just, gimme a minute. I'll, pick myself back up. I can't just, cry against you. What kind of weakling am I? I'm supposed to help you... Lead everyone... But... Hill... Robert...!"

Crawling in Her Skin

Buck wandered his way into the hangar, heading over to one of the 3D printers... No one else had come in yet-- no, wait. There was Kim. She'd landed and... Was, frozen? Interest piqued, Buck waved over at her, taking a few steps to shorten their distance. "What's up, Lieutenant? You doin' alright? I know the fight was tough, but... Figured you'd wanna go see your co-pilot, yeah? She's alive... That's the good news." Hopefully it was news that Kim wanted to hear. Buck didn't know if there was any bad news... Maybe there'd be a scar, or she'd be out for a while, but... "Go and see her if you can manage, alright? I gotta get started on some limbs." Oh, wait, uh-- "N-Not for her! For... Vera. She offered up her alien ware."

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"Oh, Buck. I just..." As the mechanic grew closer, Seung-Min rested her temple against her palm as the feedback she was receiving grew along with the shrinking distance between them. Another clap on the cheeks, and an exasperated sigh, Kim managing a small smile as Buck delivered his news. No complications from the ship struggling to stay afloat, that was good.

"Just some... unusual feedback. Avery must have tampered with the T-link, with the ARES system... probably both. It'll need to be fully scrubbed and re-calibrated but... I didn't take any hits. We can worry about that when the other machines are back in shape." The Lieutenant began, figuring that was the most important explanation to get out of the way. And Vera had offered them her oddly robust limbs? Had it been simply to lower her perceived threat level? Seung-Min would need to find time to speak with the Apotheosis Lieutenant after checking on Christina... she had won an explanation after all, but that was just another thing to add to the pile.

"I was planning to head straight to the infirmary to see her, yes. I'll have to make sure to find time to speak with Vera as well... that woman is too much of an enigma to simply leave alone."

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There was... a slight tension in the air, real or imagined. Abigail didn't want to rush things, to push into a possible fight, god forbid, so she just let Calina go at her own pace, removing both their helmets. Then, her first flame started caressing her face, confirming she really was real; finally falling up against her, as strength seemingly drained from her legs. Almost mirroring the other's actions, Abby pushed aside some of the hair that had fallen down, covering Calina's face, and leaned in to gently kiss her forehead.

It was hard, not to burst into waterworks when the crying started. It was damn hard. Snorting back a sniffle helped keep the dam from bursting, but she couldn't help answering in kind. "Even after Sena's message, it was hard to really believe. I sank real low when the news hit that I'd lost you, lost all of you, and finding out it was just bullshit propaganda..." Abigail choked up a moment, then shook her head and decided to go nonverbal.

Bringing her hands to Calina's waist she hoisted her up a little higher from her slump, then, properly positioned, brought their lips together. Timid at first, but then quickly becoming hungry. Surely it was a bad idea. Undoubtedly there was going to be a lot of yelling and fighting and complications getting everything worked out. But right now, the other woman clearly needed this. Hell, she herself needed this. Abby had to reassure them both the strength of her feelings, her convictions, and she was too stupid to know of any better way.

Edited by Balcerzak

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It's over.

Finally.

Aliza took a breath as soon as the Praxis left the battlefield. Just from their brief exchange she didn't want to face Sor'Kaan, at least not right this moment. Not when the situation was just as frustrating as it was. The Riese, the crew, the betrayal. "....mmm..." She quietly laid her head on the console and let out groan. Which wasn't her response to Vvi. Instead her response was... "...physically..." She had so much to write when this was cleared up.

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With the threats gone Alriana slowly felt the rush from battle begin to leave her system. It was soon replaced by equally familiar emotions: frustration, and a bit of anger in there somewhere too. She'd nearly made it through entirely unscathed, physically at least. But at the end, she'd slipped up and gotten a little too cocky. It reminded her of her oh so recent defeat. She kicked at nothing, the Almydis mimicking her pointless action. She'd underestimated just how dangerous the non-Soor'kaan sacarians could be, especially for her and her machine. And speaking of the big bad cat...

Soor'kaan had just... left. It was anticlimactic in the worst way possible; he was still out there, alive and (probably) well. It'd only be a matter of time before their paths crossed again. Would she, would they, be ready for the next time he reared his smug mug? They would not be, going off of today. Would they manage against him? It was possible. Today was terrible, but also... good. She'd learned that, for some reason, these humans could fight back against the Sacarians. More than that, even. Maybe these humans could win against the Sacarians; that's what today was for her, a victory.

"I'm... not sure," Alriana answered Vvi. Had she been alright earlier? Definitely not. Was she alright now that Soor'kaan was gone? Not necessarily. In the back of her mind, she somehow knew their final battle was approaching sooner than later. Loath as she was to admit it, she was still terrified of the space cat; that wouldn't just go away with a simple pep talk, as much as she wanted it to. "What, about you, Vvi? Are you, alright?"

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Megumi had already tuned out everything else going on, and was well into the most difficult part of the surgery, mending and replacing everything Avery's bullet had ruined on its way through Christina's chest. The bleeding was intermittent, with the doctor reconnecting everything from severed muscle to bone, starting from the center and working her way out from both ends in fixed stages. It was laborious, but Megumi wasn't keeping track of time anymore, either. Once Christina's chest wound had been closed up, the doctor applied two patches, one to each of the areas. That would keep things nice and contained while they healed fully, and discourage any pointless poking by the patient.

Onto the leg wound. And what a pointless injury that was. Megumi didn't know what order these wounds occurred in, but she hoped this one had happened first. Otherwise Avery was just ... well, she was a filthy traitor at the very least. Not much point dwelling on it beyond that. "We're about two thirds of the way there," Megumi said, mostly for the sake of her assistants and Nina. She hadn't spoken a word to any of them since she got started restoring her patient's chest. "Let me know when the fight's over," she threw in a second later. She couldn't help but wonder about that since the infirmary was almost completely isolated from the battlefield, now. The doctor wouldn't complain about that, though. It was nice working on something this intricate without being under fire, with very little equipment, and fighting the elements all the while.


Firmia's target when down in flames, and more and more she was beginning to think the distraction of a phone call would be a bit much. She needed this information in full before the debriefing, however, so once the Sacarian was dealt with, the Alkaev turned her attention to her tablet and tried to connect directly to Commander Vance. Just as she was about to pat herself on the back for thinking ahead and getting a direct line to the man, she was ... transferred?

"ANF headquarters, state your name and how you have this line." An impatient sounding woman had replied to Firmia, the sounds of shouting and clamoring sounding off in the background. The woman in question seemed to be moving herself, and hurriedly, with how all the voices around her were changing in volume, and her breathing was slightly taxed. "Hurry up!"

What was going on here? Was this one of Vance's secretaries? "Er-This is Captain Firmia Alkaev. I'm with the Heion Riese group. There's a situation Commander Vance needs to know about." It wasn't her first idea, but if she had the time, Firmia definitely thought it would be a good idea to let Vance know what had just happened out here. Abigail's group was trouble, but the Sacarians were a much bigger problem.

The voices suddenly cut off, a door shut and sounded off. A hefty sigh and grumbling followed, a lengthy pause... "Commander Vance is dead. Admiral Alphonse has currently assumed leadership of Central while we try and get things sorted from the attack. Firmia Alkaev, right? I'm second lieutenant Haley Jefferson. Whatever's happened, please relay it to me, so that I may let Alphonse know."

... dead? For a brief moment, Firmia couldn't speak. She couldn't even breathe. Vance was gone? How? Who could have ... Try as she did, Firmia could barely rein herself in to reply to the lieutenant. It had been bad enough, what Firmia was planning for and what she had to be prepared to deal with ... but not this. "I-..." It was only when she managed to speak again that Firmia realized there were tears running down her face. The lieutenant probably wouldn't understand. Even Tonya looked confused, and her attitude probably wouldn't change once she knew what was going on. Alphonse definitely ought to know what was going on, though. He was in Vance's position now, apparently, so Firmia had a duty to respond accordingly.

Pushing down her feelings as best she could, for as long as she could, the fledgling captain said, "We've been ambushed on our way to the next mission target. We're holding out, but the Riese has been damaged. The moles we were looking for made their move and escaped in the fighting. Also ... there's another group that showed up. They were piloting Velite Mark IIIs. One was just destroyed by the enemy but the rest are falling back. I was hoping to get more information on where those suits came from ..." So much more to add, but Firmia's thoughts were racing, her eyes were almost burning, and the danger outside was entering her mind more and more.

"... I see. Thank you for letting us know. I'll make sure to relay all of this to Admiral Alphonse, and get him to contact Captain Gefalscht about those suits. He would be the only one to have access to something specific like that... As for being ambushed, I'll relay that directly to the squadron of ships you were all meant to rendezvous with, and they'll adjust their travel speed accordingly." The lieutenant paused again to sigh, sniffling some herself. "This is hitting all of us, Firmia," she began, choking back a sob. 

"Commander Vance was a wonderful person, an effective leader, and someone you could rightly trust in this organization. It's devastating that he's gone... But we have to keep going, until this war is over. You understand, right?" Another pause followed, Haley composed herself. "My apologies for speaking out of line. You already know what to do. Thank you for contacting us, Captain Alkaev. Over and out." The call ended, leaving Firmia to her thoughts.

"What happened?" Tonya finally asked, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.

Firmia stayed put and stayed quiet for a long moment. Fresh tears came down, in no small part due to the lieutenant's affirmation of everything Firmia already knew. It was unbearable, especially now, here in the final stretch of the war. The Alkaev barely cared about getting more details on the Mark IIIs, and with communications momentarily cut, there wasn't much chance of that until after the battle. Just briefly, Firmia looked over to her helmsman and said, "Commander Vance is gone. I didn't get the details but ... he's ... dead."

"Oh dear ..."

Tonya still looked a little confused. Why would Firmia be crying over the loss of the ANF's commander? She hadn't known him that long.

"Are you going to be alright?"

"I have to be," Firmia retorted, swiftly wiping her face and looking out the view port. There was still a battle to win. Things were turning in their favor, or seemed to be. That was right up until Abigail's machine was destroyed by the lead Sacarian. The feeling that washed over her wasn't something the Alkaev could describe, but it was so strong it had her leaning forward in her seat as her eyes searched the radar display for answers. What just happened? Had Abigail ejected or just died? There was no clue over the radio, and soon Firmia's feelings began to resolve into emotions she could actually recognize. One of those emotions was the sort she couldn't share with most people. It was hope.

"Whoa, did we actually lose someone?"

That was what Firmia wanted to know. Reaching out with the T-Link, she was quickly able to tell that there were now two people in one of the customized Mark IIIs. That hope she was feeling vanished, leaving behind a mix of frustration and grief. This was the kind of situation she hated the most. Commander Vance was dead, probably dying with his bodyguards to a foe above and beyond them ... but Abigail could charge one of the strongest opponents they had ever faced and survive even as her Heracles was destroyed. Frustration became fury as Firmia slammed her fist down on an armrest. "You stupid worthless house cats!" Jessica got off with everything. No decision was ever going to come back to bite her, but every connection Firmia made felt like another tragedy in the making ...

Yelling at the cats probably wasn't helping anyone on the bridge figure out what was going on with their young captain, but Firmia couldn't care less, and she hadn't even shouted at the lead Sacarian over the radio. The thought of everything happening right now was just too much for her to handle. "Just die already! All of you die!" The Avalon's funnels were out of position for an attack on the target Seung-Min requested, so the Alkaev let her fury be expressed through a missile strike. Not long afterward, the ship's funnels began firing relentlessly on another Sacarian alongside the Regalia. The Sacarian managed to fire back, and there was no evading it in this situation, but the Sacarian died regardless.

As for the damage, they would live. If only ... Firmia shook her head violently to try and stay focused as the fighting continued. The Sacarians were getting blasted to pieces now, and her own people were spending ammo and energy to chip in as much as they could. It was quickly becoming a slaughter, no longer a struggle to protect the Riese. It looked a lot more like their usual battles, a race to wipe out the enemy so they wouldn't have to face them again. They came awfully close too, but the last of the 'stupid worthless house cats' made his escape, and in a way that was almost confusing to Firmia. Since he was the last enemy, she'd taken a moment to try and read him. It didn't work, but the Alkaev doubted him fleeing had anything to do with being damaged. The other Sacarians hadn't lost their nerve even when while they were being whittle down to nothing ... so it must have been something else ...

Someone with more tactical sense might have ordered their sole survivor home. That made more sense than their survival instincts kicking in this late in the fight. The battle was over, then. No ANF casualties ... well, not on this battlefield. By the time Firmia was standing, her vision was overwhelmed by fresh tears. All she could do was disengage the T-Link and remove her headpiece. Doing so shrunk her view of the world back to her immediate surroundings and some parts of the Avalon. She almost needed that, but even unplugging from the battle wouldn't get rid of this heartache. It was so ... unfair.

"I'm ... going to the hangar."

"Firmia, about Vance ..."

"What about him?" Firmia said curtly. She was ready to head out.

"I didn't know he meant that much to you, so I'm sorry about what happened."

"... heh." Firmia didn't wipe her face this time. Her tears started falling freely as she tried to keep some sort of composure. "It's so unfair. Someone like Vance, putting his life and his sanity on the line to keep an organization like the ANF running in the middle of an alien invasion ... and now he's gone."

Tonya was silent, but Firmia could read her expression and her emotions well enough.

"The next time ... it seems like I'm being overprotective ... t-try to keep this in mind. Great Lake, too. Okay? I'm ... so tired of this." Firmia left the bridge after that.

"... wilco."


Firmia was only a few feet off the bridge, fiddling with her tablet in preparation to send out orders to her MS teams, when she got a call from Jessica. Firmia didn't know if the android had reached her limit before the battle had ended, and was just now coming back up, or if she'd managed to hold out the entire time. She didn't care all that much, but the curiosity was still there. What Jessica was calling about was one of the last things Firmia wanted to talk about right now. The Luna. Salvage. Sharing resources. Acting like she needed a reminder of everyone's hard work. The Alkaev gritted her teeth as she passed the processor suites and continued down the hall.

The only good news seemed to be Jessica's promise to send the Luna back soon. In that case, Firmia didn't need her drones puppy guarding the wreck. She took a moment to send a command to them over the network. The sooner they were back to work, the better. "We have a lot to talk about after the debriefing," Firmia said, her voice just a tad shaky as she tried to stay composed, "If you need to work out something salvage related, talk to Sasha. I can't deal with any of this right now." She paused, trying to decide how to elaborate, and soon enough she settled for simply being blunt and straightforward. "Look, I don't know when or how it happened, but Commander Vance is dead- ... and Alphonse is in charge now." Just saying it aloud again had her choking up. "I need to get my people on their next assignments, so I'll talk to you again in a little while ..."

Easier said than done.


Brant was on the verge of a headache, though he couldn't be sure whether it was due to that strange presence the enemy was giving off, or due to the twists and turns emotions seemed to be taking all around him, and how insanely difficult it was to keep up with it all. Chris felt bad about how out of control things had gotten on her end, but he wasn't going to blame her for being human. She did her job and did it well, despite her sister being a possible casualty and then just barely being upgraded to 'still alive.' That was remarkable self control for someone behind the barrels of six guns.

Brant ditched his helmet too, putting more trust than usual in their early warning systems. He couldn't quite get all the way back to her without abandoning control of the suit completely, but Brant made sure they could see each other face to face, with nothing but Chris' tears obscuring the view. "You did great, don't worry. Look who we were fighting and how we made out at the end?" There was still that oncoming headache and fatigue from such complicated flying, but again, not Chris' fault by any means. Brant tried to reach over and wipe away a tear or two, flashing the most reassuring smile he could manage. "I'm sure Firmia will be annoyed, but want to see if she'll let us go check on-"

"AMS teams," Firmia's voice came in over the channel dedicated to the ship's communications, and all the AMS units opened that channel automatically if it wasn't already in use. "It's the Captain. Mantle Team, you're on perimeter duty. Protect the drones and salvage teams from the Riese. Reign Team, you can help with the salvage operation or return for repairs. Regalia Team. You can dock with the Riese, back up the Mantle, or help with the salvage operation. It's your choice. We'll talk later ..."

Brant immediately regretted taking off his helmet, being too far away to sense what was going on with Firmia. She seemed upset before, but her voice over the radio was depressed beyond belief. It took so much away from the fact that she'd anticipated their desire to go check on Christina aboard the Riese. Had something happened? The Avalon did take a noticeable hit, but nothing that would endanger anyone on board; Brant would be the first to react to something that put his daughters in danger--he couldn't even help that. So what was wrong? Honestly, if not for the promise to talk later, Brant would have been extremely worried ...


Firmia made it halfway to the hangar before finally collapsing against the wall. She slid to the cold and lifeless floor as hot tears fell from her face, hitting her coat and the suit beneath it. Visions of the commander, her and Hannah touring this very hallway haunted the captain as reality began to crush down on her. "... I came to that man asking for flying garbage and a few perks ..." Firmia easily recalled the mental image she held of what her first ship ought to look like. She pictured it being too small to carry mobile suits, so naturally she would need MS containers to hold them and their supplies. She expected a ship with few military grade weapons, and so she would need to upgrade it as the war progressed, and well beyond. She imagined a ship that was scrawny, and almost small enough for her to crew with just the people she had. The Avalon wasn't to be compared to what Firmia was willing to settle for in her weak bargaining position.

Commander Vance then offered her a fully functional warship. "Not just a warship," Firmia shook her head at the thought. It's my base of operations. My stronghold. My ... home. Everything that matters to me is safe inside these walls ..." If only that were true, she thought. Firmia glanced down at her tablet, trying to decide whether to visit her personal K.I.A. list ... or wait and update it later. The man had shown so much faith in her, even more than she felt she deserved at the time ... and now she'd never get to show him that his faith was well placed. As soon as she saw the list of all the names already etched into the memorial wall, her composure was gone for good. "... just another name on a wall," hissed, shoving her tablet away and slamming her other hand against the wall, "I'll never forgive them ... never ..."

Turning to face the opposite wall, Firmia rested with her back against it, her legs hardly moving at all as she turned. "... it's not fair ..." Slowly, and painfully, Firmia lifted up her right hand. "I'm sorry, Commander." And just barely, she managed a salute. "... rest in peace ... I'll ... we'll take care of the rest."

Edited by Phoenix

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Landing Mess

"Unusual feedback, huh... I'm gonna have to do a lot of reading up on T-Links. Av..." Buck stopped, looked down, and then shook his head rapidly. "That woman didn't let me touch the ones on the Artemis, so I didn't get much hands on experience... But I promise I'll do way better than she ever could, just gimme one evening with them!" Buck nodded and pumped his fist, he was going to leave her in the dust!

"I'll make sure to give the Artemis a look, so when you're done with Christina, make sure to... Hey, did we have a plane out there?" Buck was interrupted by the sight of a plane coming down one of the lifts, slowly wheeling itself into an empty space. No one could've gotten into the ship without the captain's permission, so-- "Wh-Who's that?"

The cockpit of the aircraft opened, a full head of bright, nearly shining teal hair shaking itself free of a helmet. "So stuffy... Alright, who am I surrendering to~?"

"Hey! Who are you? What's goin' on?" Buck's attention had been gotten, heading his way over, along with some concerned, and now armed, engineers to back him up. The pilot put her hands up and jumped out of the cockpit, standing up with a smile. "A-An android?"

"That's me~ Now... Oh, oh my, Kimmy? You're the Riese's wonderful little Lieutenant, aren't you~? Oh, this is wonderful... I never got to say hi before I died~"

"Before you... Wh-Who... Who are..."

A sinister grin, a small cackle, the cocking of an eyebrow... "It's me. Louise. I've been aching to meet you all in person."

Loss

"You didn't lose, anyone, we're... We're still here, Abby... H-Hey, what... W-Wait-- Mmnh..." Calina wasn't sure if she was ready for this, after everything she'd heard, and Abby's want to stick around to help this Jess, did she care about her like that anymore? The kiss had been timid, it didn't stay that way for long... So she did care, still? Either way, crying or not, Calina was going to take this comfort without a second thought. Hilling had just been killed, Sena was likely going to need more than a shoulder to cry on, and if she could find strength somewhere, strength to be there for the girl and those left...

"Mmmm... Hahh, Abby... Abby I'm not going anywhere ever again, I promise." Still... Jess. Jessica? Probably. A scowl flashed over Calina's face, then softened in surprise, Abby would probably take that the wrong way, so, quickly-- "I... You, still want to go back to that ship. Don't you? To that... Jessica. I'm going to have to meet her, aren't I?" Teeth were grit to stop another sob from rocking her face, she was already a teary mess. Calina stop... Stop, you're both upset, you can't start yelling at her, she thought you were dead... But how... "How could you give up on me so easily?" The question came out anyway, Calina gripping the woman with balled fists. "I get... I get it. I went through the same thing. My world felt like it was falling apart, when I didn't know if you were alive, or dead... But I didn't turn to anyone. I didn't drown my sorrows in someone else's bed! So why, Abby!? What was so good about her that you could forget me so quickly!?" The tears were back, and her anger had found an outlet, even if it wasn't one she'd wanted to go to... She couldn't stop herself. It made her feel powerless, and oh so worthless. "Was anyone good enough for you?"

Battle Finish

"Uh, yeah, gimme a sec..." Olivia looked away from the doc's almost mesmerizing work to call up the bridge, and get a status check.

Nina kept watching, a worry in her eyes that just couldn't be quelled. "Please be okay, Christina..."

Commander no More

"Of course. Just give me a time, and we can talk." Firmia sounded... Down. Had something else happened? Jess didn't really know what could deflate her so much after--

"Look, I don't know when or how it happened, but Commander Vance is dead- ... and Alphonse is in charge now."

Jess staggered out of the elevator from the bridge, holding herself up against the opposing wall. "What? What!?" Firmia didn't say much else, leaving Jess alone with a bewildered Tristan staring at her.

"Captain, what happened--"

Jess turned to stare at him, tears in her eyes. "Commander Vance is dead." Saying it out loud, it didn't sound real. It sounded so... Fictional! It was impossible! How? How!? Central had been attacked after they'd left, then? Who? Who did it?

"Comman... What? No. No, that can't be! He wouldn't, just... Firmia can't have been told that!"

"And why would she lie, at a time like this!?" Jess was barely picking herself up, trying to keep walking towards the other elevators. She still had things she needed to do, obligations she had to fill out as Captain, and this... This...! "God, dammit!" Her fist met the wall, denting the structure, as the tears began to run. "Dammit! Dammit, dammit, damn... It, all...!" Down on her knees, weakly rapping her fist against the wall. "The one person I can trust in this fucking military, and he croaks. The one person at Central, with his head on straight... The one, person... That had a chance of making the ANF worth anything! And they... uuuuuuAAAHHHH!"

Tristan wasn't sure what to do. If this was true, it was hitting him almost as hard. Hands balled into fists, he scowled and stared down the wall in front of him. "Damn you, Apotheosis. When does this end? When does... Ugh..." There wasn't much that Tristan could do for Jess... He steeled what he could, and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I can't be what you need, right now. So please, Cap... Please, Jessica. Just make it downstairs. Wait, for the one who can. We can't let them beat us like this. We can't..." Tristan wasn't one to cry, but even he was tearing up, running his sleeve against his eyes to keep them dry.

Jessica nodded... Not that she could say anything. Vance had been her one shining hope that the ANF would be more than some corrupt military menace when this was all over. She couldn't trust Alphonse, after all she'd learned of him through her own revelations. So now... "I'll do what I can..." Struggling to stand, she buried her face against her sleeve, heading towards the elevators once again. "This isn't fair... Out of everyone that could've died..."

"It isn't... I'm..." Tristan tried to focus on Aly being alright, and what they had to do to get the ship moving again. This was too much.

Visiting Hours

"I... I guess... So, but I can't, keep doing this. I have to get this under control. This stupid anger of mine... I know this time it was justified, it was Christina, for fuck's sake! But, when it isn't her... And I just..." Firmia's message cut her off, Chris listening to what she had for orders... They were odd. They didn't at all sound like her normal ones. "Is she... Okay?" Whatever was happening, they'd been given permission to land on the Riese. "Should we, Brant?"

Problems

Hannah listened in close to Firmia's message... And something was wrong. "I'm docking for repairs, Captain. I'll see you in a few minutes." The Reign transformed and dashed back to the Avalon as quickly as Hannah could without crashing against the launch platform... It was still a rather rough landing, transforming in mid fall like that, but it got her to the lift faster than normal, taking it down into the hangar. "Sasha, do you read? It's Hannah. Pardon my voice, start repairs on the Reign. And where's Firmia?"

Solvers

"Firmia...?" A tiny voice spoke up, staring at the poor girl on the floor. Still scared, still worried, but not enough to keep her away. "What's wrong?" It was Akilina, having felt the distress so openly and painfully, coming to see what was causing it. And to see Firmia like this... So horribly distraught, what had gone wrong? "Uhm... I can, talk, or try to help... You were really mad, today, b-but I can't ignore this, right?" Sitting down next to her half sister, and scooching a bit closer, Aki tried to get a good look at her face. "It'll... I-It'll be okay."

"Aki! Aki where are... Firmia?" Liliana came around the corner, looking for her sister, only to find her other one. "What's wrong?" The same question, with less fear, and more distress. "Firmia? Are you hurt?"

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"She'll be fine," Megumi assured Nina. At last the doctor was at a point where she felt completely comfortable saying that. Even with the occasional bleeding from her patient's leg, there was no longer a risk of severe hemorrhaging or similar complications. The only thing that could screw this up now were the instruments, or more accurately, Megumi herself. In an environment like this, though ... not likely.


That was some voice, somewhat androgynous. Was Hannah in the middle of another makeover? Either way, if the Reign was here for repairs, it was best to get his people on that right away. As for the captain's whereabouts ... "Let's see ..." Sasha hopped over from what he was doing to a map of the ship and found Firmia's signature in the port side hallway near the bridge. She wasn't moving, which was weird. That girl was always headed somewhere ... "She's in the hallway ... near the 'Garden of Avalon.'" He still found the nickname for the processor suites funny. This situation, less so. Things had been quite tense, and for some reason it didn't seem to be letting up just yet.


Firmia definitely wasn't okay, and Chris' question was a good one. As much as he wanted to make sure Christina was okay, as well as make sure Chris was there in person, there was clearly something going on in their camp, too. Hannah all but answered the question by racing back to the Avalon ahead of them. Kind of a no brainer at that point. Brant could just see Chris and himself standing there while Hannah did all of the consoling. They probably weren't going to be much more 'useful' on the Riese, but at least Chris could see her sister in person and know for certain that everything was alright.

"Hannah, Galatea, keep us updated ... with whatever's going on over there. We're going to go check on Christina and then we'll be back."

It probably wouldn't hurt to make sure Kim made it out of the fight without any lasting damage, too. There was also that random Prioxis ... There was a lot to look into after their visit to the infirmary.


Firmia could hardly move her body at all after her hand came down. She glanced up and over at Akilina, briefly wondering how much her younger sibling had heard. By the time Aki had taken a spot beside her, the elder sibling had resigned herself to at least trying to explain, though what to say and how were still beyond her for the moment. Liliana came as well, and she had similar questions. Naturally.

"I ..." ... still nothing. On instinct, Firmia glanced at her tablet ... it was still just barely in arm's reach, but only just barely. She leaned over and pulled it back into her lap. Then she took a moment to add a new entry to her personal K.I.A. list. It was no easy feat with tears continuously getting in her way. Rote memorization of the keys was enough, though. Although Lily and Aki had plenty of time to figure out what was going on, Firmia still handed her tablet off to the latter once she was finished. As far Firmia knew, the list was up to date, again ... and she hated it.

"I-I'm ... tired of this pain ..."

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Left in Charge, of Sorts

"You're going to meet--" What a predicament, Roxanna ended up being the highest ranking officer left on the bridge again. "It's still going to be some time until the ship is able to fly again, I imagine." With the damage dealt by Avery, the mechanics would have a lot to deal with... and the bridge would have little unless Apotheosis tried to be smart again, but that couldn't be helped. They couldn't leave the bridge unmanned, should the worst of situations happen. "I'll just, stay here, I guess." Roxanna leaned over her command desk, staring the vast sea outside. You... could still tell there was a skirmish there recently, but she'd wager that wouldn't last long.

That Prioxis had already arrived and landed by now. I wonder who that might be...

Check Up

"Everyone get ready to patch up the machines." Ignatius had to beat some coordination onto the ground crew, it was simply terrible. With the ship struggling to stay afloat, their work was two-fold, but the old man decided to split the load in a more hierarchical spread.

In fact, he was relaying his orders through radio from the engine room. The heat there was something unbearable, alright. The old man wiped his brow. "A machine comes in, a group moves to make check ups." He'd already primed a small squad to deal with the Artemis as Kim left the unit. The video feed at least helped him coordinate. "Buck. Are you going to be busy for long. Engine room is uh, a bit of a mess." It would stay that way for a while, without an extra hand, but at least Ignatius wasn't in much danger aside from dehydration. As he removed a pipe compromised by Avery's sabotaged and dragged a new one across the floor, another peculiar person showed up on the feed. "Another android? Uh, what's going on over there?" That plane was definitely unfamiliar too. Mysteries were bound to happen with the Riese working as multiple autonomous cells, but something about this unknown felt very off.

Stuck Here

"So they were... I really wish I'd been there to help you, Vera." Esther sighed, still wishing she had any agency at all. "We could have dealt with them if we had more people, I'm sure..." As usual, the girl's frustration was apparent, even as she knew Vera wanted to avoid her involvement as much as possible --it only exacerbated the feeling, truly. "..." But after that, there wasn't much else she wanted to say. Her enmity towards the Sacarians meant nothing from behind a glass cell.

"...Stupid Kim, she had to go and take the last hit." She could at least whine about circumstance.

Feeling Competent

Even while piloting the Phalanx, Makoto had made some waves this time, and not just on the figurative sense. "We fended off the aliens... wow." It was a rare sense of accomplishment, but an welcome one. I did a lot this time, I guess I'm improving. It put a smile to his face, he could speak to his mom about it without that air of reluctance. Onto more results next fight! They'd need it.

Entering the Riese's hangar quickly, Makoto was quite surprised to see a plane landing. He didn't recall any pilots being as suicid--brave as him in the Riese. "Who is--" An android, completely foreign to him. Makoto was perplexed by the visitor, until a not-unfamiliar name was uttered. "Louise... the same name of the lady in the weird snake bot?" Makoto remember that from how close to getting crushed he was, but that couldn't be her, right?

Stick to landing

"No more hostile signals in the vicinity... We'll be returning to the Avalon now." After confirming safety, Bonner followed suit and changed the Mantle to its mobile armor mode, flying through the sky over the Riese in the direction of its proper ship.

"Hrm..." Gordon was busy in his thoughts, personally. "I think we should contact that unidentified suit. I haven't seen anything like it, but it kept pace with the alien alone."

"I think Firmia or Captain Gefalscht will get to it quickly. I imagine it's in their best interest." Bonner had understood his position as more rank-and-file within the Avalon, evidently. "...I suppose we could reach out to Firmia and see her plans, if you want." Surprisingly, he seemed to cede room for his partner's concern.

"That would be for the best, I think."

"Alright then." Bonner focused communications towards the Avalon bridge. "This is Major Edson. I'll be landing shortly, please keep the gate open for a moment."

Edited by Xinnidy

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"Yeah... Nina could probably help you with that, she should retain Christina's memories from TCI... Chris did, anyway. I have enough working knowledge for basic maintenance and repair, but it's probably not enough for you to build a working base from. And no, we didn't-" Seung-Min replied, as her attention followed Buck's to their sudden new arrival. The first thing that... she, their guest was clearly an android, but was at least female-presenting, so she would do for the time being, did as she stepped out of the Prioxis was ask to whom she would be surrendering. Everything about this was strange, from her demeanor to her actions to her choice of words... Kimmy? The last person to use that particular permutation had been Chris...

And then everything clicked. Before she died? Louise? Seung-Min had been about to ask how in the hell the Apotheosis Lieutenant could be back after being so thoroughly killed, but stranger things had happened in the not-too distant past. Was this a machine designed to act like Louise, or had they actually transferred her consciousness into a robotic body? Jessica and Hannah proved that such a thing should be viable, and Apotheosis did have their joint-creator... way too much to consider. First things first.

"Captain, we have a situation in the hangar. Please make your way here as soon as possible." Seung-Min quickly shot off to Jessica, before turning back towards this 'Louise'.

"Hello, and yes, the one and only, Louise. Well... assuming you're the same Louise I'm thinking of... would you care to explain how you got here? You seem more mobile, and less deceased than I recall." Kim replied calmly, watching the newcomer. There were already enough armed crew around, one more gun likely wouldn't make a difference.

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The battle had ended, Tarquin had been left with an unsettling lack of closure. It didn't feel like the last of their conflicts by any means, there were likely more to come before the war could end. Despite the alien technology and numbers advantage, the Heion Riese had pulled through and succeeded. Tarquin himself hadn't been particularly high profile in the mission, but he was satisfied with his contributions nonetheless. The only criticism the young boy had for himself was how much damage that the Aria had sustained - especially since he now had a co-pilot.

"My apologies for my recklessness, Jess. We have sustained more damage than I had intended." Tarquin admitted, feeling that his co-pilot deserved at least some sort of explanation. If they were to continue working together he'd need to keep including her in his decision making. It wasn't only his own decisions that he pondered. Looking out across the sea, he could see the remnants of the Sacarian machines. Was their cause really worth the deaths of so many? Even from an objective perspective, they would have to be desperate to throw away their resources so readily. "We judge each other with fire... to die for their cause, either they cannot see their future or they refuse to believe it."

His ponderings aside, it was time for them to return to the Heion Riese. Not only did the Aria require repairs but Tarquin needed some time to think things over for himself. Guiding the Aria towards the hangar, he took one last glance at the ocean. Maybe one day he'd live by the coast, with Nikolai once he had recovered.

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Calina reciprocated, a good sign, but shortly after promising not to lose each other again, the other shoe did drop. Abigail blinked a couple times and silently nodded in response to the question of whether they really were going to land on the Riese, and the upset that caused was self-evident. As the accusations came quickly forth, they stung, like the slap to the face she expected would follow along soon enough, and she couldn't help but avert her gaze and look to the side.

"Look, I, the evidence was... and, well, you guys, I mean at least you had to know..." Had to know I was alive? How? Abby caught herself. It was wishful thinking at best, to try to claim their situations were actually that different. What did her crew actually really know. Her heart stopped beating for a moment, and she mumbled barely audibly. "You were still looking at least, Sena was... the email... so you hadn't found anything conclus--" Oh god no. Weak. What an unbelievably cowardly way to try to hide from responsibility. Ashamed at herself for even trying, Abigail cut herself off mid-excuse, grit her teeth, and turned back to look Calina in the eye.

A deep breath, gotta just own up to it. "I guess I'm just kind of an idiot? I was weak, alone, nobody to help me. I caved to a crazy captain showing more kindness than I ever expected. Certainly not from feddies. I'm, just... the worst, aren't I?" Abby went in for another hug, leaning her head over the other woman's shoulder, and lowered her voice, speaking softly. "I fucked up bad, and it's gotta hurt like hell, doesn't it? I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." She choked, then paused. Abigail knew she couldn't stop there, though, she had to finish. "But... it's, not just something I can snap my fingers and undo. I've gotta... we've gotta try to live with this, work something out. Find an answer, hopefully one that hurts everybody the least."

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Just Fine

"She... She feels fine... I am still worried though. Christina didn't deserve this." Nina sat herself down on one of the nearby beds, trying not to think too hard about this.

"Right... Okay. Got in contact with one of the bridge hands. Looks like all the enemies are down, or retreated. So we're in the clear... Hoof. Hopefully no one else is hurt as bad as Christina is. What a mess..." Olivia sighed and sat in Megumi's chair, spinning around a bit. "When do you think this all finally gets to be over, doc?"

Flowers

"Affirmative, Brant. And thank you, Sasha. Can you park the Reign properly, for me?" Hannah had taken it off the lift, just enough to let it go back up, and poked her head out of the cockpit. Shoulder length brown hair, now... Just like Brant's? Whatever Hannah was deciding to change, she wasn't going to be sticking around to explain to to Sasha. She backed up just a bit, and leapt out of the Reign's cockpit, onto the upper walkway, running her way out of the hangar.

Aki could feel what Firmia was going through... It was making the girl start to cry herself. This seemingly bottomless pit of sadness that was welling up in Firmia, where was it coming from? Firmia was typing something into her tablet... A name? Someone she cared about...? "Firmia... I-It's okay. I don't... I don't know how to fix things, but, it'll... It'll be okay. Really." The maids had always told her things would be okay when she'd cried... It was all she knew to say in a situation like this.

"Firmia, Aki, really, what's going on... Hannah?" The android hadn't stopped for a moment, turning the corner and dashing to Firmia's side, arms wrapping around the Alkaev, a hand to brace against her head.

"Firmia, I'm here. Tell me what happened... Akilina, Liliana, do you two think you can go and open the door to her room? I'll put the access code in."

"Uh, sure!" Liliana nodded, dashing off towards their destination.

"Hannah? I-Is, is Firmia... I-Is sis gonna be okay?"

Hannah smiled down at Aki as she gently pulled Firmia off of the floor, moving her arms to support the captain properly. "Of course. Firmia's strong. She has all of us here to help her... We'll get through this."

Galatea, what happened?

She made a call to Central... I guess she heard some bad news. Let me check the ship's logs.

This is a gross breach of privacy, but check her tablet as well. I need to know what's going on, and I can't force her to talk if it's too much.

Alright, just let me-- Oh. Oh, no, that's... Galatea had spotted the change Firmia had made to her memorial logs, and it made the AI clam up. Couldn't just make it until the end of the war, you old sack...

Galatea? Hannah started to talk, Aki trailing behind her, as Galatea send an image of what she was talking about... Vance... No! How could... Tch! A scowl met Hannah's face, biting her lip. "Dammit..."

Useful

"So... You're fine with going to check on Christina with me?" Chris was pretty happy about that, but if Brant wanted to go and see Firmia... Then the Prioxis flew in, landed, and started going into the Riese. "B-Brant, that's, that's not an ANF model. Brant!" Chris was starting to panic anew, wasn't this battle done with? "Why is a rebel fighter landing on the Riese?"

Stupid Kim

"Hahaha... I was actually hoping the two of you would get along. It would do for you to meet a natural, and get over this hate you have. There's plenty of good ones, despite what you might think." So Kim had been up to see Esther? "Who else has come to speak with you?"

"Uhm, I... Well, I-I gave her, a phone. To play games, on."

"Did you, Fujiwara? That's awfully kind of you. My thanks."

"I wasn't, u-using it, and, she seemed so bored in there, s-so..."

Hangar Situation

"I know, Kim," Jess replied, trying to collect herself enough to deal with... Louise. "I'm on my way down. Tell the engineering crew to fill her full of lead if something happens."

"What's going on now, Captain?" Tristan was back to at least looking professional, as the both of them hit the elevators to go down.

"Louise is here. The person on the plane is claiming to be Louise Park... The woman we killed at Central."

Tristan nearly collapsed against the elevator wall, catching himself on the arm rail. "Wh-What!?"

"I know. It sounds insane, but she, sounds just like her... She said she was here to surrender. I hope that's all."

"What a mess... Ugh..." Tristan still had to deal with his own worries, so... Contacting the Almydis, "Alriana, come in. It's Tristan... Are you alright?"

At least this brought a small amount of levity. "The lizard, huh?" Jess gave Tristan a knowing glance, unable to bring herself to smirk.

"Captain, please..."

Yes, Louise

"Would you like the whole truth, or a summary? Oh, don't scowl at me now, Kim... I said I was here to surrender. Or do you always look like that? Hmhmhmhm."

"Uh, I-Ignatius, I'll be right down... Just gotta deal with some printing. Kim, you've got this, right?" Buck turned back towards the printers, racing off finish what he'd been asked.

"Oh no, come back, little audience member~ Anyway, Kim, as you can plainly see, I'm no longer a part of this mortal coil. Unless you count androids as living? Rather strange bunch of people here... I've no intentions of putting up a fight, if I wanted to your pea shooters wouldn't be doing much to stop me..." One of the more panicked engineers couldn't handle the pressure and pulled their trigger, a bullet bouncing off of Louise's cheek and ricocheting into the floor of the hangar.

"Wh-What's goin' on!?" Buck called back over, startled, but everyone else stayed quiet.

"As I was saying... To put things simply, Apotheosis thought it would be fun to do some testing and stuffed my mind into this body~ Now I'm back to how I was before all my trauma... Mostly~ Where's your pretty little captain? I told her I'd be here..."

Just an Idiot

All these excuses... Had Abby seriously thought they had any clue she was alive in luxury, and not staring down a firing line? "We didn't know anything," Calina made sure to reinforce, as Abby came out with the truth, finally. A weak idiot... That didn't sound like her at all, but faced with the 'reality' of having lost her family, maybe her becoming one made sense. That didn't make any of this feel better, though... The hug felt forced, Abby's apologies were hitting Calina and just, not... Registering. She was mad. Furious. Live with this? Find an answer, that hurts no one? "Are you kidding me?"

Calina pulled herself out of Abby's hug, sitting back in her seat. A heavy hand met her face, wiping away tears that didn't seem to want to stop coming. "So we head over to that ship, I make nice with Jess," she spat out the girl's name, fucking harpy, "and we all live happily ever after together, us three... Give me one good reason to not put a bullet in your leg, and force you back to our ship. Find an answer? The answer is you tell Jess 'it's been nice, my family's here, thanks for everything'! Did all these years mean nothing? I took you in, I trained you, I gave you people that cared... I cared. Some girl gives you a few week's worth of a good time, and now..." God did it sting. Her stomach was doing so many turns, she wanted to puke. I said I was ready for this. Why did I think I would ever be ready for this? Despite her words...

"... You can at least say goodbye in person." Calina started pushing the Vergloria along, towards the Riese. Stop. Stop, turn around. Just start flying off, you can take her, you can bring her home, you don't need to try and make this work out... Calina, come on. Come on! Why, why!? "Just can't win against you," she mumbled, looking through the monitors at the ocean.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"Oh come the fuck on," Abby grumbled, as Calina pushed her away and took the controls. "Like, just listen to yourself? Yes, I know. You saved my life, kept me from dying, homeless and alone up in the colonies, and countless other times. You helped mold me into who I am today, I absolutely get that. I appreciate it. I love you for it!" Her voice had been rising in volume and pitch, peaking at this point, then she shook her head and started again fresh, in her regular register. "And maybe if this had just been some dumb one night stand, no strings attached, just some drunken fucking... if that had been true, then what you're suggesting, just leaving without a second glance back, that might actually be a valid answer." Abigail heaved a sigh, clearly frustrated and not sure how to fix it.

"But it wasn't that, as you've realized by now, as much as it hurts. And with that in mind, can you really look me in the eye and tell me that knowing I'd just up and abandon someone I'd started having serious feelings for wouldn't just eat away at things? Soak into what we have like acid, corrode it from within until it's so brittle it collapses? Yeah, I know, the timeframe involved here doesn't hold a candle to our six years together, but can you honestly tell me it wouldn't keep you up at night, wondering if there's something somewhere out there that might make me turn on you just as coldly too? I'd have done it once before at that point, what'd stop me doing it again? Betrayal's a cancer, and yeah I fucked up and planted it, but damn... trying to just wish it away like this... that'll only make it worse, it ain't the answer."

Angrily kicking her discarded helmet, sending it skittering across the cockpit floor, she slumped back into her seat, resting her head in her hands. "Jesus, are you even hearing what you're saying right now? Shoot me and bring me back by force? That was your first choice plan to sweep everything under the rug? ...Thanks, I guess, for compromising and not going through with it, but damn..."

Bringing her arm up across her face, hiding in in her elbow, Abby whimpered, almost sobbed. "I don't know what to do. I don't! I can only see paths I can't bring myself to tread, and it's making me sick."

Edited by Balcerzak

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Listening Clearly

"I am! I'm hearing everything I'm saying! All I can see is what's right in front of me, and I hate it. I hate her! I fucking despise whoever this Jessica is for doing this to you, and you for buying into it!" Calina slammed a boot against the floor, running out of anger to spend... For the best, shouting at each other wouldn't get them anywhere, but it felt good to get it out. "So just--"

"Abby? You're okay, right?" There she was. Coming in, loud and clear. "Sorry for calling like this, not sure if it's even getting through, but... Uhm. And hi, Calina, if you're there. You're free to land on the Riese. Got something to deal with in the hangar, but I'll be there to talk, about whatever needs talked about. And, Calina?" Calina was frozen listening, it was candid, it hurt, it made her dig her fingers into the controls. "Thank you for being okay."

That hurt the most. She was hating this girl, cursing her name, being mad at Abby, being mad at just, everything! And Jess was just happy that she was okay. Wasn't she scared? Scared that they'd take Abby and leave, that Abby would tell her goodbye, tell her that things were over, it was a blast, whatever, and never come back... "Where does she get that confidence from?" It was all that was on Calina's mind after hearing her talk, sighing.

"Fine. I get it. You fucked up. I'm not helping. We can... We can talk. But I'm not happy, Abigail." Calina gave her a glance, having culled the nickname. "I'm glad... I'm glad you still love me. I'm glad whatever we had is still here. I wouldn't have been able to keep going, not knowing if you were okay or dead. So don't... Don't make me regret being soft, right now." The Vergloria touched down gently against the deck of the Riese, slowly starting to walk towards the elevators.

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It seemed like all of Christina's clones were TKs. Well that was a surefire way of mass producing TK pilots then, Megumi noted as she continued her work on her patient's leg. "She most certainly didn't. I don't know why this girl attracts so much bad luck ..." Maybe it balanced out with all the care and attention, but ... damn.

The updated from Olivia was almost a relief, but she went on to mention more potential patients. That was always a possibility, but no word from Valerie about any additional injuries, so everything was probably fine. If the doctor had been keeping an eye on the console herself and seen the offline signal from the Heracles Custom, she would have had a much more difficult time wrapping up the surgery, so at least for the moment, a bit of ignorance was efficient.

Her assistant's question about the bigger picture felt almost impossible to answer, now. Back when they were just dealing with Apotheosis, things were still iffy, and they hadn't learned where the group's headquarters was until after the big reveal, the Sacarians, and so it almost felt like things could drag on indefinitely. Unless they forced the Sacarians to surrender along with Apotheosis, what chance did they have of ending things anytime soon? The war with Apotheosis? Yes, that was just about wrapped up if the Sacarians were stepping up now, but it was bordering on irrelevant for that very reason. Megumi sighed ... "Hard to say. I just hope we can at least beat Apotheosis in one more go like we planned. After that, who knows."


Needless to say, Sasha had to do a double take when Hannah hopped out of the Reign. That one was serious about courting the captain ... and looking the part of an Abrams, apparently. "... heh." Sasha would always be comfortable piloting, but as second in command, grunt work was best left to the grunts, so he motioned for one of the nearby mechanics to hop in and get the Reign back into position. Meanwhile, he put away the ship map and started checking on the other AMS units and the drones.

That was around the time he noticed a notification, a text message addressed to him. That was ... an old turned new. It couldn't be Clara again. She was clingy but she knew when to give up and vanish. Cheryl was a bit more direct. That just left ... well, no one that came to mind, really. "Hmm ... wait, Stan? всерьез ...?" This ought to be good. And annoying.


Hannah had already made it back? Firmia was still getting used to the voice, but what she hadn't been expecting--on top of being scooped up from the floor--was the all too familiar brown locks. For a split second, she thought she was hallucinating, and a hint of guilt struck her. It felt as if her mind was playing tricks on her, trying to swap Brant for Hannah in a vain and childish attempt to restore an idea--a plan--that hadn't survived so much as a pool invitation from the enemy. When her mind caught up with her, she realized that the situation was a lot less grim than that. Hannah was simply being Hannah. Firmia could have at least chuckled at the mounting changes if not for how awful the greater situation was. All she could manage was a microscopic grin that lasted all of a second ... Firmia could almost hear Vance's commentary and laughter.

... why did he have to die? Couldn't they protect someone as important as him?

"I'm ... sorry ..." Firmia choked out as she rested her head against Hannah's shoulder. She was sorry indeed, sorry she couldn't win this war faster and save Vance in the process, sorry she couldn't handle all the stresses of said war, sorry she couldn't even articulate herself properly anymore, and sorry that at least part of her wasn't ready to let go of an old and, admittedly comforting future. As much as she wanted to embrace the change around her, Firmia knew she still needed a little more time, and obviously a few less enemies gunning for them all.


"She's my friend too, you know," ... at least Brant thought so, "... even if she is your sister. Besides, I doubt Lily and Aki are going to let us head back out, today. That and I've got a feeling Firmia's going to start another fight with Jess as soon as Hannah's got her back up to speed. I'd say it's now or way, way later ..."

As for why the Prioxis was landing on the Riese? Obviously Jessica had okay'd the move. It wouldn't be the first time an enemy got a free pass, not even the first time today, in fact. "You don't think another one of your sisters just landed, do you?" Brant tried to lighten the mood. Seeing another Prioxis did bring up some recent memories, and despite having fought them several times, he still associated that particular model with Christina. Without his helmet, Brant didn't have the range to sense who the pilot of the Prioxis was, or if they were even human. Now that it was docking with the Riese, and other minds would be clustering around them, there was no telling until they landed.

Brant plopped back into his seat, gripped the controls, and put the Regalia on a fast approach to the Riese. They'd been out here pondering things long enough.

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Alriana guided the Almydis towards the elevators as she waited to hear back from Vvi and maybe Aliza. The sooner she parked the Almydis the sooner she could get out of her annoyingly heavy armor. Today had turned into an unexpectedly heavy day already; the armor certainly wasn't helping with her burdens. Maybe lightening her load would help her lighten her mood, too. As the Almydis stepped onto the elevator a small alert informed Alriana of another incoming communication. It was Tristan this time. Was he worried about her? Or did he just want to know if she was doing better? After how the battle had started both were equally likely.

"I hear you, Tristan. And, I do not know, if I'm alright," she echoed the response she'd given Vvi to Tristan. With how the battle had ended she ought to have been feeling great, or at least normal. But in truth, she was leaning closer to "not alright" than anything else. While the start of the battle was definitely on her mind, Soor'kaan's mere presence had brought out a lot of unpleasant memories. She couldn't wait until she was able to forget them again. 

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So the Captain was already aware of their guest. Presumably she had communicated ahead of time in order to not get vapourized by the ships AA defenses, but the whole situation was odd. Jessica's recommendation to fill her with lead if she was out of line was also swiftly rendered moot, one of the engineers attempting just that, and their bullet harmlessly ricocheting off of Louise' robotic face.

"That isn't going to work, Captain. Luckily she doesn't seem to be looking for a fight. I doubt I could hold her off for long." Kim replied to Jessica, looking back over at Louise. She didn't seem to be taking offense to being shot at, more levity at proving what little they could do to her in practice. 

"That's... quite a story. Normally I'd be doubtful, but between the line of clones and the Sacarians, I'm willing to believe almost anything at this point. As for Jessica... she's on her way down... on that note men, stand down until she orders differently. You're more likely to hurt one another bouncing bullets off of her than do anything meaningful here, so prepare for damaged craft returning from the field." Seung-Min noted, scanning across the gathered engineers for any more happy trigger fingers. What a mess.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm going to guess you aren't particularly pleased with the arrangement they've chosen for you. I can't see much other reason for you to come all the way out here just to surrender."

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Elaine let out a frustrated grunt, their battle had come to an end but there was no time to rest. She still needed to process Avery's betrayal, slamming her fist on her controls once again in frustration. Someone she'd trusted dearly and thought she could depend on... it just hurt to think she'd been lied to all this time. Landing the Oberon in the hangar was just another reminder, she had half expected to see Avery running over to inspect the damage. It was just another cruel reminder for her of what had happened.

"Been a real shit day it has. Hopefully that bitch Avery didn't do nothing to Astin when she took their machine..." Elaine muttered, leaving the Oberon and taking the lift down to the hangar floor. She hadn't heard anything from Astin, it was starting to worry her. A crowd had gathered near one of the enemy units. Elaine hadn't noticed it slipping into the Heion Riese, had they taken another prisoner? It was only a matter of steps until Elaine recognised their guest, both their face and voice were enough to strike fear into her.

"Fuck! No! You can't be here! You are not here!" Elaine screamed, pointing a shaking finger at Louise. It was impossible, she'd defeated the Regina herself, saw the blood leak from the cockpit, it just couldn't be. Louise had come back to haunt Elaine, all those secret conversations, the desperate desire to matter to someone, it was torture for her fragile mind. Elaine's hand instinctively lowered slowly to her pistol, only to recoil at the last second. The entire hangar started to spin around her, her own heart was ready to beat out of her chest. "I killed you... you can't be here."

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Bad Luck

"She was attacked because she told your crew about Apotheosis... Chris told you all more, I assume. But she's on the Avalon, so Marianne couldn't get to her..." Nina sighed. It had just been bad luck... But all this bad luck wasn't deserved. To first be shot down, then forced to work with terrorists, then sent out once her usefulness expired... And now, getting gunned down for betraying a group she was never aligned with in the first place? "I'm so sorry, Christina..."

"Hope so too. But I don't expect the fighting to get any easier, as we go along... I'm pretty scared about the ship lasting, honestly. It gets rocked a lot, and was downed this time. What else are they gonna do to it? And we're so close to the bridge..." Olivia sighed, the infirmary was safe for now, but... Ugh, if one of those suits got close and rammed a shield or a saber into the Riese, what was metal plating going to do?

Sorry

"You have nothing to apologize for, Firmia. Nothing at all. I understand how you feel... Please, forget about the battle's aftermath, at least for a few moments. We won't be able to move until the Riese is repaired, anyway... Take this time for yourself. Please." Hannah insisted, as the girls all walked down the hall towards Firmia's room. Liliana was already there waiting, and Hannah had Galatea input the code to get in.

"Whoa! It opened... I'm still getting used to all these automatic doors. The mansion was so... Historical. For the most part. Wooden doors and knobs, locks with keys... All of this advanced stuff is so neat." Liliana hopped inside, Hannah and Aki following.

Without another word, Hannah set Firmia down to sit on the bed's edge, sitting next to her and allowing the captain to rest against her shoulder. "Things will be fine. I promise." Aki hopped up on the bed as well, gently holding onto Firmia's arm.

"Y-Your family's here for you! If there's anything we, can do..."

"Yeah! I don't really know what's going on, but if you're upset, Firmia... We'll do whatever we can!" Liliana was smiling, hands on her hips, she was confident that they could all take care of this.

Fights

"I wish she'd let the Jess stuff go, but... I guess, it won't happen any time soon." Chris was still worried about that pilot, but there was nothing they could do until they got inside of the Riese. Leaning back in her seat and twirling a finger through a bundle of her hair, she sighed and tried to focus on anything but her own anger and anxiety.

"If they did, they won't be anything like Nina. I'd expect an emotionless husk... And I don't know why Jess would okay something like that landing. They'd be actually dangerous."

Hangar Bash

The engineers weren't exactly happy about taking their guns away from what seemed to be a hostile android, but Kim was Lieutenant, and weapons seemed incredibly ineffective. With worry on their minds, they all started to disperse, back towards fixing things. Louise scoffed, lowering her arms and walking just a bit closer to Kim.

"Would you be happy, to wake up, having died, only to find out that your allies brought you back as an experiment, messed with your memories, and confined you to a life as a toaster? I can't even kill myself, you know? I have failsafes~ Watch!" Fingers pointed out like a knife, Louise attempted to ram her hand into her neck, clearly a lethal blow... Her arm freezing centimeters from landing, the woman sighing and chuckling. "It's ridiculous, isn't it?"

"That's fine, Kim. I'm here." Jessica hopped out of the elevator at the same time Elaine did, managing to catch the woman's momentary panic. "What? Elaine?" What was wrong with her? Yes, Louise was not someone that you'd be happy to see, but like this...

And it was too late for the red head. "Elaine~? Oh, my, it IS you~!" Louise turned her attention onto Elaine with a bright smile, running up to the girl and clamping arms around her in a hug. She was perhaps too realistic, despite her metal plating showing, her voice sounded authentic, she was even warm! Leaning right up to Elaine's ear, Louise delivered the sweet lines she'd been saving for this day. "I've been dying to meet you, Elaine~ You did quite the number on me."

"Louise, get away from her!" Jess was on the scene, charging over, which gave their new metal friend pause to let Elaine go and back away, hands up again.

"Don't worry about me, Captain~ I'm just saying hello to a friend... That's all. Lock me away, or do as you wish~"

"A friend, huh... I'll speak to you later, Elaine. For now, Louise, you're waiting here until the ship's androids arrive. They'll escort you to the holding cells." One of them had already arrived, Tiffany, carrying Vera's limbs over to where Buck was working, before turning to come over to the scene. "I've no idea what's possessed you to come here or surrender... Or why you're a machine, but we'll find out."

"Let's just say that I, grew a conscience~"

Tristan had followed along slower, trying to figure out how to provide Alriana some comfort. "If you don't know, that's okay," he decided to go with. "Land, and head on back inside. I'm waiting in the hangar, and we can talk about how you're feeling once you're out of your machine, alright?" Hopefully that was alright. That Soor'Kan... Tristan's face twisted into a momentary grimace, what a disgusting creature. Alriana belonged to no one... There's no point in thinking about this, ugh. We'll just have to end them all, for the world, for her, and everyone else they'd decided to put a collar on.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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