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

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Being on the battlefield was better, at least now everyone was focused on their goal rather than what Elaine had done. The heat of battle, the adrenaline rushing through her veins, it was enough to dampen down her nerves and anxiety. The odds were against them, no doubt their enemy were going to gun for the Heion Riese and take out command. There were more than a few familiar machines on the field, Elaine swore that she could see two versions of the Luna, one on their side and... the enemy? It didn't make sense, didn't each Apotheosis ace have their own unique machine like a video game boss? Her curiosity was getting the better of her, were there Vera clones too? If Apotheosis had figured out a way to clone their best pilots... well, they had bigger problems on their hands.

"Hey, you, Luna pilot. You ain't another one of those clones are you?" Elaine asked, anxious to find out their fate. "I ain't likin' the look of your machine, but it ain't gonna scare me off any time soon."

She also had the battle to focus on, getting distracted by one unit wasn't going to help anyone. Hopefully her questions would be answered soon.

Elaine moves to 12,17 and attacks Cressida #1 with her rifle!

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It seemed to be about time to put that plan into motion. Seeing a few of their allies moving somewhat closer was a good opportunity to regroup, after all.

"I'm going to harass them a bit with the funnels, Chrissy. Focus on keeping us out of trouble." Seung-Min noted, as the Artemis dipped low into tree cover, funnels flying out across the water towards one of the lead Cressidas.

Kim casts Focus, lands, attacks Cress 1 with Funnels, and uses Hit/Away to move to 14,10

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Elaine takes point!

Final Stats: 70,15
Roll: 51,100
Hit!
Final Damage: 82!

The Cressida returns fire!
Final Stats: 46,0
Roll: 85,47
Miss!

Elaine gains +10 EXP, +3 Will!

"Of course! I've got the controls, Kim!"

Kim tries to take out the damaged enemy!

Final Stats: 100, 23
Roll: 10,23
Hit
Crit!
Final Damage: 185!
The Cressida is toasted!

Kim gains +1 EXP, +8 PP, +7 Will!


"Another clone? Far from it, Elaine... Hope you're doing alright. Sorry, but today I have to kill you." Astin made their reply short and simple... Elaine hadn't been the best person, but they'd gotten to know her just a bit. Did she deserve to die today, one of the ANF's dogs? ... Probably not. Still, Astin didn't care. All of them had to be stopped.


Hannah did her best to circumvent the rubble that was the bridge, slipping herself over to where Jess was supposed to be... Under a slab of titanium and steel. "Fucking hell... Heave... Ho...!" Even for Hannah, lifting what appeared to be an entire wall, was rather difficult. At least prying open a cockpit had hinges to work with... And at the same time as she'd done that--

"[Hello, Hannah. Megumi, please come in. We have found the remains of the captain. Please prepare a charging station, and a SIEG chamber, as well as contact Ignatius.]" Hannah had run into Tiffany, having cut her way to this location. The Riese hadn't come under severe fire, so the tunnel she'd made ran no chance of collapsing, not yet at least.

"Okay... hey, Tiff. Christ, Jess..." It was hard to look at her like this, mangled and torn apart, stained with, whatever her blood was. "Take her... Get Megumi to help her, go. I'll hold this up."

"[Affirmative. Elizabeth, I have the Captain. Please ensure the elevator does not shift upon my return. Hannah, please try and help any other crew that you can find still alive.]" Tiffany took Jess from Hannah, helping what was left of her back the way she'd came, taking careful steps not to disturb her finely crafted escape route.

"Right... A1, A2, back me up here. We've got some more rescuing to attempt. Firmia, you there?" Hannah called over to the Avalon. "We... We found Jess. She doesn't, look great... It's all in Megumi and the engineers' hands, now."

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"T-the remains ...?" Megumi had gone pale, hoping against hope that Tiffany was simply being too specific. If Jessica was actually dead ... well if she was actually dead, the doctor ought to brace for impact. Seeing how the ship was still airborne and on the same heading, she opted not to panic. "We're already getting things ready on our end. What's the damage, and how long until you can get her to the infirmary? Are there any other survivors on the bridge that you can bring back with you?" Asking a bit much, but maybe ...

...

Another call from Hannah. That was sooner than Firmia expected, so hopefully ... hopefully, whatever Hannah had to say, it wouldn't be on par with that heart rending exchange in the Riese's hangar, after her outing at the mall ... "What's the situation?" Firmia asked reluctantly. The answer she received wasn't great, but it seemed like ... "I-is she still alive? I thought ... well ... never mind. Hopefully Doctor Amparo and the others can still save her." With that kind of blood loss ... she's seen medical miracles before, but nothing quite like this.

"... Firmia." Brant, again, though he didn't sound particularly worried. "You calmed down ... that good news for Jess or ...?"

"Don't get your hopes up," Firmia cautioned him. She wanted to remind him that in the event Jessica did recover somehow, nothing would change. She didn't want him around her in particular, but after the war, she planned to also keep the rebels at least as far away as the maximum range of the Avalon's main cannons. "They found her, but she hasn't made it to the infirmary yet. Just keep the Riese from taking any more hits."

What's Mine is Mine (Chapter IV)

...

As it turned out, the Sacarians could not only isolate a small area with their signal blockers, but the entire facility. To save a bit of time, as well as make absolutely certain Dima would be completely unaware of what was going on, Gabriel took advantage of the technology. Because Vladimir had already started the lockdown, only a few people out of the whole staff seemed to notice the 'higher level' blackout. Whether these individuals were trying to send information to Kalten, or simply running tests post-lockdown, was something that still needed sorting out.

When it was time to reveal the big project, an hour and a half after sundown, Gabriel made sure Vladimir and his people all had front row seats. A few hundred people, the vast majority of the facility's staff, had been gathered inside an open hangar. Only Jack and a handful of Gabriel's people were present. The rest were busy with preparations. The Archangel was positioned kneeling in front of the hangar doors and was vaguely reminiscent of a child observing their dolls in a playhouse. Gabriel stood on top of the hatch of an open cockpit with Haal'Sen and Raay'Xel, where everyone could see them. He used the AMS prototype's speakers to broadcast his and his bodyguards' voices to the crowd below.

"You've all heard by now that I've been given the reins to this facility and all of its assets. It's time you all learn why." Gabriel tolerated the fresh murmurs briefly, which was enough time for the senior staff to grow impatient and quiet them down for him. "Some of you may have caught a glimpse of the damaged mobile suits my people unloaded from the Gambit, earlier. Those machines are not of this world. They were neither designed nor constructed by humans. That's about to change."

"I see, now ..." Vladimir mused, the reason for total secrecy being abundantly clear now. Alien technology. That's what Gabriel had brought here, alien technology. This could put Russia back on the map, even in its sorry state. This was big. Huge.

The first part of Gabriel's big reveal had been the cue for his people to move two of the Praxis Gammas into view beside the Archangel, though they were carried by large trucks. The trucks pulled up on either side of the Archangel, and then began to slowly raise the two machines up until they were propped up in front of the crowd at a 60 degree angle. If they could move, they would have easily been able to step off of the trucks, but for the moment they were still damaged, powered down, and empty. At least now, everyone had a clear view of them, unlike back on the airstrip when they were first being offloaded.

"Be grateful ... you're going to be breathing new life into these mobile suits, as well as adapting some of the technology into future models." Gabriel had barely gotten that declaration into the air before a good portion of the crowd began cheering. It seemed to have slipped their minds that alien machines were highly likely to have aliens operating them, though many in the crowd were still focused on Gabriel, and it seemed at least a few of them were starting to catch on to the fact that Gabriel had two completely hidden figures with him. With two damaged mobile suits, one to his left and to his right, and two bodyguards, one to his left and to his right, the curious were on the cusp of figuring out the real reason Statlas had gone dark ...

Look at all of them down there, excited and cheering, so happy about all of this. It seems as though some of them have figured it out, though... Haal'Sen sneered, how would the oblivious masses react when they knew the pilots of these machines survived? No time like the present, hand reaching for the clasp holding her helmet against her armor, and releasing the lock. One swift motion removed it, scowling down at the crowd that began to slowly grow silent. Those that had already had suspicions were beginning to turn to fear, realizing their worries were true.

"Rejoice, humans!" she boomed, "for your work shall raise my King to the heights that he deserves! We shall be working closely with what you prepare to make sure that it is suitable for our piloting. Be proud that we few are recognizing your technology as beneficial!" There. A confident smirk matching her scowl, Haal'Sen held her head high. What a wonderful proclamation, surely Gabriel would be pleased.

Whether Gabriel would have wanted them to hold off a bit longer seemed irrelevant at this point, as with Haal'Sen removing her helmet and making her proclamation to the gathered crowd of Statlas, the cat was out of the bag... or the helmet, as it were. Removing her own helmet soon afterwards, Raay'Xel looked down at the gathered humans, watching them for any sudden, idiotic moves towards their King. You never could be sure with emotions running high.

"Your AMS units have proven themselves versatile. Combined with the raw combat power of the Praxis Gamma, that versatility should allow even greater heights."

Gabriel didn't need TK senses to know exactly what was going on with some of the Statlas personnel. He was particularly interested in Vladimir's reaction. Thankfully, the man didn't look outwardly betrayed. He was definitely shocked by the final revelation--or at least what he thought would be the final revelation. It seemed that Gabriel's warning about absolute secrecy had gone a long way.

There was a lot of chatter going on in the crowd, with more than a few people trying to take pictures of the Sacarians while they had the chance. Since there was little more they could do with the pictures and recordings than hold onto them for now, Gabriel didn't much care. By the time the lockdown was over, the Sacarian secret wouldn't be especially important, anymore. Haal'Sen and Raay'Xel were of course free to exercise their right to hunt down the offenders later and remove the media, but for now, there was a large group of people to get straightened out.

"It's true," Gabriel nodded after his companions, "You have only this evening to prepare yourselves. Come morning, I'll have you working on restoring these machines, among others. And that is only the start." They wouldn't find out about the Vaska today, but that was another revelation that was coming down the pike.

"We're with you, Gabriel," Vladimir called up, "Just tell us what you need."

"But they're aliens," someone near Vladimir said, his voice trembling.

"What if they're trying to take over?" Another chimed in, this one a young woman.

Gabriel chuckled. In all fairness, these two were in the conquering business proper not too long ago ... and not much had changed, really. Gabriel wasn't planning to take over the world, but he was by no means just living and letting live.

"I don't think you know what you're saying," Vladimir scowled at the first man to speak up, "This is for the good of Russia, our chance to rise, again. Don't you understand what's happening here? This project is going to put us ahead of the ANF."

Ah. Gabriel understood fully now, the reason Vladimir was being so cooperative. He was under the impression that Gabriel's project was being conducted on behalf of the Russian government ... that this would put Russia back on the map as a dominant military power. Addressing the issue with Dima might be even more important than he realized. Hopefully Ziva would find something ...

Gabriel's realization came at about the same time as Raay'Xel's, all but confirming it. This Vladimir was giving such thorough cooperation because he was under the belief that Gabriel was to serve his homeland. Well, in a sense he was not incorrect... removing Dima could do nothing but good for the Russian people, and putting the Vaska under proper leadership with proper soldiers backing it would increase the ship's fighting potential. Gabriel's short-term plans indeed served Russia, best simply allow the man to continue believing that aim would remain long-term.

"The only taking over we will be doing is in the name of Our Liege. Remain respectful in his good graces, and you have nothing to fear of us. Instead rejoice! You shall bring about a strength that Russia has never witnessed before, men and women of Statlas! Hold your heads high, as your efforts will be written into the pages of history!"

Humans and their senses of trust... "It is as Raay'Xel says. I realize your race seems to have quite the issue when it comes to trust, betrayal and lies, but know this! Trust is the most important facet of the Sacarian race. I will die before I betray Gabriel, so long as you work for him, you will see the same respect. Challenge his authority, and the story will be different." If anyone wished to question this, they were free to, though her answer would remain the same, no matter what.

All that was left was for Gabriel to do as Vladimir had said. Likely, what he needed them to do, was fix these machines first. Haal'Sen stepped a foot back, awaiting his instructions. There were a few pictures being taken, but so what? Let them. If they wished to circulate just how powerful Gabriel was becoming, once the lockdown was lifted, and he had no issue with it, why should they? It was quite amusing, really... Their fascination and fear would only lead to Gabriel's becoming more famous and strong.

"They'll need some time," Gabriel noted, making sure not to let his voice escape via loudspeaker, "Fortunately, they're more professional than my people on the whole. The shock should wear off by morning."

"Pulls yourselves together," Vladimir addressed the people around him, "We are clearly all on the same side."

"Indeed," Gabriel addressed the crowd, again, "I understand that this is well beyond what you were expecting, however, you're going to have to adjust quickly. We can't afford any delays. Russia is already on the brink, and if we don't complete this project in time ... well, Russia will simply be absorbed into the EU ... and willingly so if the alternative is more wanton destruction." Somehow, people were finally starting to quiet down, again. It wasn't a surprising warning to most of them, but it was a sobering one to actually have to consider. "Russia can rise again ... or become the single largest vassal state in the history of mankind. It comes down to us, and this moment."

The quiet was ended again by half a dozen affirmations all coming from different parts of the crowd. "К черту Союз! За отечество!"

"Let's show them all!"

"Мы сделаем это вместе!"

Vladimir sighed in relief. The doubters were hilariously outnumbered now, and he couldn't hear any complaints over the rising enthusiasm. The most he saw as he looked around, rewarding his subordinates with his approving smile, were the odd nervous glance or two. Nothing to worry about, really ...

Gabriel meanwhile couldn't help but think about the implications of all of this. The Rise of Russia wasn't anywhere in his agenda, and yet, keeping up that appearance could only help in the short to mid-term. What was really nagging him wasn't the fact that he was only here to strengthen his own forces, but whether or not he should go above and beyond that goal.

"Hmph." A satisfied smile, now, Gabriel had taken care of the majority of this facility. All that was left was to hammer the final nails into the coffin, whenever Ziva could return the information he wanted. Until then... 'Do you think it would be possible for us to ditch these suits of armor? Much as I appreciated the protection, they are... Less comfortable than our pilot suits, and beyond that, far less comfortable than casual wear. If you still require us to be so armored, then so be it, but if not...'

And with that, the facility was theirs. The zealous nationalism of the Russian staff had been used as a fulcrum to secure their loyalty, and now they would work with an intense fervor to accomplish Gabriel's goals. It was difficult to imagine any way things could have gone better.

'And with that, the takeover is complete. And without any resistance to speak of... excellently done, My Liege.'

'You shouldn't need that gear again until we board the Vaska. For now, feel free to wear whatever you find comfortable ... and good work, both of you. It's much easier to work with you supporting me ... even if parts like this are a bit boring~'

"Vladimir," Gabriel called down to the Statlas Director, "We'll meet in my suite in one hour to put together an outline and begin work first thing in the morning. Bring the heads of each department with you so we can address any serious questions before we get started."

"Understood."

'Hah. Boring is safe, until you are inside of a mobile suit. Perhaps if you humans have some way of becoming telekinetics, I can worry less about your safety. Until then, strong a pilot as you are, outside of that, you are fragile... Please pardon my words, I mean no insult, I just, do not wish to see your life lost for the sake of making things less 'boring'.' Haal'Sen's worries voiced, she nodded, and awaited Gabriel's moving to follow. Hopefully they had some clothes she could borrow around here... The human women weren't, that much smaller than her...

'Things will be exciting soon enough, my Liege. There shall be action enough to sate us both, when the time comes to tackle the Vaska.' Raay'Xel noted, now all that was left was to see just what the production capabilities of Statlas truly were.

... ... ...

Ziva really didn't want to go this route. To her, it felt like giving up too soon, settling for the quick and relatively easy way of getting the information Gabriel needed. Moreover, she'd had to drag poor Wade into this ...

"Keeper, was it?" Dima stared back at the scarred brunette through the monitor, "Is there a reason you are contacting me and not Gabriel himself?"

Ziva scowled at Dima, trying her best to look pissed without ruining her makeup. "I'm asking the questions here, Dima." To her shock and horror the man motioned toward the monitor. It looked like he was going to disconnect right then and there! "Wait! Don't run away from me! This is about Gabriel!"

"Answer my question," Dima said, letting his arm come back to rest with the other.

"Tch ... I'm sick of this," Ziva dove headfirst back into her character, "I'm sick of people trying to manipulate Gabriel into doing whatever they want. When I heard about his aunt confessing, I smelled a rat. Gabriel is busy, but I have all the time in the world ... so I'm going to find out what's really going on."

"So then ..." Dima clasped his hands together and leaned forward, a faint smirk forming, "you are indeed his keeper."

Ziva turned away and huffed, "I'd be more than that if we weren't constantly dealing with trash like you." Swiftly, she propped herself up on her hands and leaned in close to the monitor, "You lied to him! There's no way you'd let her run her mouth like that and endanger your company's reputation like that!"

"Why would I lie?" Dima asked, his smirk fading in an instant, "As for the company's reputation ... it no longer matters. Rosa understands this, too. I passed the information onto Gabriel so that he would be able to act on it if he so chose."

"Prick ... Gabriel doesn't need your handicaps, your horny daughter, or your worthless pilots. I've hated you from the moment I learned you've got him competing against some teen you bred. Don't insult him more by trying to give him a leg up against her. There's nothing Gabriel can't do without me at his side, period."

"Well, well," Dima's smirk was back with a vengeance, "You seem to care a great deal about Gabriel ... as well as your idea of him as a man."

Ziva groaned inwardly. This was the part where she had to shift over to fangirl mode. She took a cue from the Sacarians, sighing longly and coming back with, "He's my king ... and I'll do anything for him, kill anyone for him ... especially you and that little bitch you're propping up."

"Are you absolutely certain Gabriel would approve of so much violence?" Looking genuinely curious, Dima continued, "Is he willing to let you burn everything around him until there is nothing left but the two of you?"

"He understands me," Ziva pulled back, feigning defense, "He's forgiven me for worse than offing family ... besides ..." she fell back in her seat and glanced down and to her right. There was Wade, seemingly dead, though Dima couldn't see him, yet. "I'm already racking up quite a few kills here and he only ever smiles at me."

"Oh?"

Ziva smirked at him and moved the chair back a step. Then she knelt down from it and hauled up Wade. At a glance, it looked like he'd been executed with a single headshot. His skin was pale, his eyes were half open, his face frozen. "I don't know this guy's name, but he had a problem with Gabriel's leadership. Say hi to your old boss." Ziva grabbed Wade's hand by the wrist and waved it back and forth at the monitor until she was sure Dima's amusement had been quashed for good. Then she chucked him back to the floor and scooted forward in her chair again.

"He's getting cold, but I really need to deal with this before I get rid of him. So you see, Gabriel understands me completely ... he won't be too upset if I kill you for lying to him. I'm absolutely positive."

"Interesting ..."

"I could grab my mobile suit, head over to your base, and blow it to smithereens. None of your 3rd rate pilots could stop me ... but don't worry, Dima. I'm not crazy. I'm actually pretty damn reasonable. All I want is proof you're not lying, that this is mutual gain and not just you trying to screw him over. If I get that, you get to live ... for now. If you don't start being more cooperative with him though ... I'll bury you with the rest of them." Ziva could only hope that Dima was more preoccupied with how Gabriel could tolerate such a homicidal maniac and less on the actual information she was asking for.

"Proof of Rosa's confession ... very well. Can I assume Gabriel didn't put you up to this?"

"He's busy. I'll show your proof to him later." Ziva tried to look distraught and conflicted as she continued, "He's too trusting, so I'm taking care of this for him. Hopefully he changes his mind about recruiting them. I'd rather use them all for target practice, personally."

"I see."

Hopefully the wrong thing, Ziva mused. "Hurry up, I haven't got all night."

Dima set her with a scowl of his own that almost broke her composure. She didn't know which of them had the higher body count in reality, but for that brief instant, Ziva realized that killing meant absolutely nothing to Dima. She would at least feel bad if she took out an innocent person, but the look in that man's eyes was terrifying. She felt like the cries of a lifetime of victims were radiating from him. She could almost see the suffering reflected in his eyes ...

"W-well ...?"

The demonic scowl finally ended, and Dima glanced away from the monitor. "Patience, Keeper. You will have your proof soon."

Ziva opted to stay silent while Dima prepared the proof. It took a few minutes to prepare, and she had to go through several stages of impatient fidgeting while watching Dima work on the monitor. She had to keep her attention off of Wade to keep this whole ruse going, and the relief that struck her when he finally said, "There we are," nearly broke her mask completely.

"You got it?"

"I'm sending you a file containing several surveillance recordings. There is even a bonus in it that should satisfy Gabriel in particular."

"Really?" Ziva glared at him, not actually dubious but definitely trying to sell it. "Alright, send it all over ... oh and Dima?"

"Yes, Keeper?" Dima paused from uploading the file.

"If any of this is a forgery ... I'm going to level Kalten to the ground with you in it ... just so we're clear~"

"Heh," Dima sent the file, "If you are not satisfied, then by all means, seek retribution. Always be mindful of your king and his ambitions."

Ziva was about to snap at him, feigning offense again, but Dima managed to get the last word in, disconnecting before she could lay into him. That left her genuinely upset for a moment. At least the file arrived intact. Ziva made sure there was no lingering connect between Statlas and Kalten, and then she leaned back in her chair, tore off the brown wig with one hand, and loosened the knot holding her own raven black hair with the other. Without thinking, she dropped the wig onto Wade's back.

"Erm ...?"

"Oh, Wade ..." Ziva grimaced as she started peeling away the fake scars from her cheek and forehead, "We've got it. Good job."

"Erm ... Zibpha?"

"What is it?"

Wade slowly hauled himself up and dabbed at the back of his head with his fingers. The fake blood had soaked in thoroughly, but it was still getting all over the place with alarming ease ... "How long is this nubphing going to last, again?" Just about the only thing he could do was move his jaw, tongue, and eyes. Otherwise, Wade's face was going for the Oscar.

It was only supposed to last an hour, but that was at the regular dosage ... and Ziva had taken some liberties to make sure he looked convincing. "I'm hoping it's an hour like I said, but ..."

"Habph to be sure," Wade finished for her, and even though he couldn't wince, Ziva could tell he was trying. "I'm gonna go wash ubph ..."

"Good idea ... and thank you."

"No ... bphrobphlem ..."

As Wade started off toward the bathroom, Ziva turned her attention toward the file Dima had sent. Time to make an external copy and then examine its contents. Just a minor precaution in case Dima threw in a little something extra that might compromise whatever device was used to review the information.

... ... ...

"Truly, Ziva," Gabriel was trying not to burst into another fit of laughter, "I'm far more interested in seeing a recording of you in character than anything Dima sent us ..."

Ziva frowned. She somewhat regretted informing him that she'd gone out of her way to be and look like a different person just to confront Dima. Playing the degenerate murder queen felt so over the top, but necessary to distract the man. She still wasn't sure if using Wade as a fake corpse had helped or hindered her, but Gabriel found the whole story hilarious. "This whole place is bugged," Ziva muttered, "I'm sure you could find fifteen different angles on the 'Keeper of Corpses' if you poke Vladimir hard enough." She handed off a data drive with the file on it, "You might want to wait until after your meeting with him to look at it, but based on what I saw ... Dima's telling the truth. Some bad things are about to happen at the Kalten Facility ... maybe even before our mission to steal the Vaska."

"I'll keep that in mind," Gabriel nodded. "Stay for the meeting, would you?"

She'd been just about to leave the suite to go and take a nap, too ... "... am I needed?"

"You'll be keeping an eye on the logistics involved. We may still have some time, but some items need to remain on the wishlist until after the mission," Gabriel smiled. They both knew that was more or less her primary job outside of battle. Balancing everyone's expectations with time and budget constraints. As far as the situation at Statlas, there didn't seem to be a budget, only time constraints. "For now, all of our resources are going toward securing the ship. Once that's done, we can move on to broader ideas."

"I'm going to make some coffee, then ..." Ziva started for the kitchen instead of the exit. She would have offered to make some for everyone, but the Sacarians were still a mystery to her, and Gabriel wasn't one to throw off his schedule just to buy himself a couple of extra hours. Ziva, on the other hand, would likely be up all morning, and it was already close to sunrise. If she couldn't get her nap in, she'd have to replace it with a lot of caffeine.

All of this espionage when a moment of mind reading would have solved their issues. How taxing, these humans... At least Gabriel had what he wished for now, and things were going to continue as planned. Haal'Sen had been monitoring the minds of Ziva and Gabriel whilst taking her shower and putting on what she'd been provided for clothing... Almost nothing felt right, no one wore anything loose fitting... None of the women anyway. In an odd twist, these 'shorts', despite being form fitting, were the most comfortable because of the breathing room they provided her legs. Fur did not appreciate being hugged so tightly... The T-shirt as well was a welcome addition. The previous one from their sparring session had provided quite bearable, so this would do.

Equipped with much more casual wear, having managed to sneak her tail out the back of the shorts, Haal'Sen stepped out of the washroom and gave the curious new scent a whiff. "What is that...?" Something from the kitchen area... Ziva was there. Curiosity got the cat, approaching the woman and peeking over her shoulder. "What are you making?"

"I must agree with My Liege, it should be quite entertaining to witness such a show. When you procure a recording, do let me know." Raay'Xel chimed in, a gentle chuckle escaping her as Ziva recounted her dealings with Dima. Most of the human clothing was uncomfortably tight on her fur, but the Sacarian had managed to acquire something the humans had called a 'sun dress'. It was flowy and loose-fitting, reminding her of the casual robes they typically wore. It would more than suffice for day-to-day wear.

And there was Haal'Sen, finishing her shower and almost immediately being drawn towards the scent of Ziva's beverage. Raay'Xel recalled the scent from the human scientists on the ship... some sort of stimulant-laden beverage, as she recalled. It certainly was a unique smell, one she couldn't fault Haal'Sen's curiousity of. After all, she too had been curious of it on first whiff.

While it wasn't at the forefront of her thoughts, Ziva quite liked the look and feel of the kitchens in these suites. It was a nice change from what she was used to, makeshift kitchens a fifth the size, campfires, and the Gambit's cafeteria. None of them should even be compared to a preparatory space like this. It even had a nice big island and a bar style counter with a few stools lined up. As for the coffee ... Columbian.

When Haal'Sen approached, Ziva didn't bother to turn around at first. "Coffee. It's a popular drink here on Earth," Ziva answered. She wondered if the Sacarians or other civilizations they might have stepped on didn't have anything similar. "I'm going to need some caffeine if I'm going to keep working, or even be mostly awake when Vladimir gets here."

"Speak of the helper," Gabriel joined the conversation, taking a seat on one of the stools at the counter, "I just received a message from him. He's on his way here now. He's in the lobby so we have a couple of minutes. Haal'Sen. Raay'Xel. They're going to need as much information as you can give them about the Praxis units, as well as what you'd like to have done with them."

"Hello, Gabriel," Haal'Sen began with a smile, stepping away from Ziva to join him at the counter, fitting herself onto one of the stools. She stole a jealous glance at Raay'Xel's clothing, but the quickest scan of her mind told her all she needed to know. "How disappointing... You could only manage to find that one, then. Uuuugghh... These 'shorts' will make do for now, but how I wish I could have found that first..." A moment of pouting and she tried to chipper up. Their help was on the way, and they had to tell him what they could about their machines. Certainly doable, though specifications were likely best left to Raay'Xel.

"We shall tell them all that they need. As for this... 'Coffee'..." She had never heard of such a drink, though a liquid infused with caffeine sounded quite like a stimulant. Did humans just drink it daily, to keep their mornings running? Did it last throughout their days? "If you are drinking it, I'm sure it is fine. I will try some."

"It was called a 'sundress', I'm certain that more could be procured, Haal'Sen. However, I could only find the one directly in the area, yes. And of course, I shall give Vladimir the necessary specifications..." Raay'Xel noted, pausing for a moment.

"My Liege, do you have proper specifications for the various AMS units? I am certain that we will be able to scope out the proper production capabilities of Statlas, but knowing what is or isn't potentially available would give me a better beginning foothold."

"Strange seeing you in that," Ziva said, more than a little surprised by just how casual Haal'Sen looked. The t-shirt was one thing, but the shorts made her look like someone's girlfriend and their cat got fused together. Raay'Xel's sundress was only slightly less jarring since no matter what these two alien conquerers wore, they themselves were covered in fur from head to toe.

"I wonder what Vladimir will think," Gabriel put a hand on his chin, examining both Sacarians for a moment. "Well, in either case, I approve, especially if you're both comfortable."

"Wardrobe conquered," Ziva quietly teased them both. Not letting her amusement slow her down, she added more water to the machine and fetched a second mug from the cabinet. Around that time, Raay'Xel's question about the AMS specs struck her as something she should probably address ... or try to, at least. "I was trying to write down that information myself, but we already have access to the LAN here. Just about any access point should let you in." As far as she could tell, their group had full access. She hadn't tested that thoroughly, but she knew they could at least look up everything the Sacarians needed.

"Not much time for review," Gabriel noted, "Vladimir is bringing the heads of each department with him; I'm certain they'll be able to fill in the blanks for us."

"Strange wearing it," Haal'Sen retorted. Only days ago was she swearing death upon humans... Now, enjoying their presence, in casual comfort? Certainly weird, but definitely fine, now. Gabriel approved, causing Haal'Sen to fidget just a bit, unsure of what to say in response.

"I... If you are fine with it, then, I do not take issue. It is better than those sweat pants. I simply hope that I do not cause issue, I found, quite a lot of your staff casting glances at me walking about the transport. Is there something that I should know, that I do not? From what I could tell, they were rather fixated on my legs. I know that I am tall, but..." Perhaps a discussion for another time, but the question was posed, either way.

"That is fine, Gabriel. We can assist them with whatever they need to know, and they will tell us what makes your AMS units so special, aside from supreme mobility. It shall be a fun discussion, I am sure." Haal'Sen stretched herself, arms raised, yawned, and settled her limbs behind her head to stretch them a bit further. "I suppose it is greedy of me, but a nice, long, warm bath would be wonderful..."

"Hmm... very well, I shall allow Vladimir's men to properly lay out the technical limitations of the AMS units. It will be important to understand in what ways our technology can complement one another, for this fusion to truly take shape and work properly." Raay'Xel nodded... it was unfortunate that they were out of time to properly review them herself... the development team was always a bit biased after all... a permanent sell-mode, as it were.

"You just exited the shower, Haal'Sen. Has being on a planet with such abundant supplies of water turned you aquatic?"

A low grumble, she finished stretching and sighed. "No, but there is a difference between standing in a shower and soaking in a bath, one that I am familiar with and would like to make use of if I have the chance. Honestly... You don't need to act like a meathead, I know you would appreciate one too."

"It does sound appealing, I do admit. Perhaps once our business is concluded, we'll have more free time on our hands. I simply found it amusing that you would immediately crave such a thing so soon after leaving the shower." Raay'Xel replied, a hearty chuckle escaping her at Haal'Sen's plight.

People were looking at her legs? That made perfect sense to Ziva. That was the same reason she preferred short skirts, and form-fitting pants. Making sure most people had their guard down around her was something Ziva relied on, both in dangerous situations, and in general. "Exposed legs make people think about sex. I doubt the fur is going to turn some of them off when the shape is still there. Sorry to be blunt ... ... a bath does sound nice, though."

And it looked like the coffee was done, so Ziva got to filling the mugs.

"A shame there's no sauna here," Gabriel chimed in, clearly amused.

"Gh--" Haal'Sen jumped at the assertion, nearly falling off the stool, a scowl resting at Ziva, though she was very clearly more embarrassed. "That... Is, impossible. Surely no one, would... No, nonsense. Do not say things like that... I agree, Gabriel, a sauna would, be nice, as well..." Damned humans, there was no way...

"Is there anything that does not make humans think about sex? This seems to be a common theme." Raay'Xel added, somewhat amused by it all. It would certainly explain why they were so numerous.

Ziva slid Haal'Sen's mug over to her and grinned pityingly. "I'm not sure if there is, actually. You had best both stay off of the net. It wasn't invented for weird porn, but ..." ... not that she would know one way or the other. That was centuries ago.

"I'll ask if there's anything similar here on the base," Gabriel mused aloud, still thinking about the sauna situation. With that, he stood up from the counter and made his way toward the door, his mental clock warning him that Vladimir and his entourage ought to be closing in by now.

"I will avoid those websites with great haste. Sex with humans... Pffeehh, the only one, I..." Thoughts best left unsaid. Gabriel was busy enough, and it was not a want of hers, simply what human she would allow. Best to focus on this, Coffee... "Oh... Mmm. This is delightfully bitter. I am surprised... I will try not to get addicted to it, as you have mentioned this caffeine, but I am glad you humans have such... Mature tastes." That was the best way to put it.

Gabriel quickly got up, Haal'Sen glancing his way. "Is Vladimir here?"

"Typical. Very well, once Vladimir arrives we can move on to a more worthwhile subject." Raay'Xel noted. Based on Gabriel's movements, that would be any moment now.

"I'd say it's about time, yes," Gabriel replied, continuing to the door. He paused for a moment, and in about the space of two breaths, the doorbell rang. Not the exact timing, but ... "Close enough." A quick check through the peephole confirmed that it was Vladimir, though he couldn't see all of the man's head due to his height and proximity to the peephole. Gabriel could see to either side of him, though, and there were a lot of suits with him. He wondered if they had enough seats in the living room, or if some people would be standing ...

...

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"Still gotta keep on the crazy lady..."

Terry moves to 3,5, repairs the Luna! Gains +60 EXP!


"[Apologies, Doctor Amparo. My wording was poor. I meant to say, 'what is left of the Captain'. Please brace yourself.]" Tiffany had wasted no time in escaping the shaft, sprinting towards the infirmary. Bill and the cleaning robots would have their hands full, later.

Heading into the doors, Olivia nearly fell over, jumping in surprise at the sight of what was left of Jess. "Jesus Christ!"

"[No, just Captain Gefalscht. Megumi, please instruct me. She will need the ready SIEG chamber and a powering cord, she cannot sustain herself currently.]" Jess was still leaking onto the floor, the quicker the better. "[As well, Hannah is attempting to find any crew left alive, but I do not believe she will be successful... No one else could have survived this as the Captain did.]"


Hannah couldn't quite find anyone alive... Which was, incredibly depressing. Aside from the sound of battle around her, no one was calling out for help, she couldn't spot anyone between the metal and debris... It was, just Jess. "She's alive, Firmia. I think... Depends on how quickly Megumi can get her to stop leaking, and start charging. I'm gonna get A1 to bring me back to the Reign... There's no one else here." Hannah sighed. "Fucking Sacarians..."

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"That's not much better, Tiffany," Megumi winced, "Anyway, we'll be ready for you." She took a moment to radio the hangar just before they arrived. "This is Doctor Amparo to the hangar, Ignatius, I need you in the infirmary, stat. This is a top priority." She couldn't get into further details without letting the whole ship in on just how crappy the situation was. For morale's sake, she didn't want to risk that right now ...

With Jessica having arrived--ow ... Megumi silently directed Tiffany toward the SIEG tank they'd prepared while Valerie got the power cable 'threaded' and covered so it could connect while the patient was inside. This was a real mess, trying to treat such an extensive cyborg with this kind of damage. Megumi was hoping against hope that Ignatius would be able to work in spite of this. Speaking of ... "What are we expecting Ignatius to do, exactly?" she asked the android. Her job was to keep Jessica 'alive,' but she wasn't certain she and the veteran mechanic could each do their jobs at the same time ... not without getting in each other's way. Nevertheless, they didn't have time to get into the exact details. The purpose of the SIEG tank was to help stabilize Jessica and prevent any blood loss related complications, but its instruments weren't up to a cyborg repair job, per se. Even if they were, Ignatius probably didn't know how to use them properly.

...

She thought? Hannah wasn't sure? Firmia supposed with Jessica's unique situation, only Megumi could confirm whether that gray matter in Jessica's skull was still viable. Otherwise, they just had a very strangely designed android on their hands. The thought of that was painful for the Alkaev, surprisingly so ... A brief flash of an uncertain future gripped her, the sight of herself trying to get some kind of human reaction out of Jessica, but being met again and again with hollow greetings and ... the obvious questions a nonsentient would have. It took a moment to shake off the mental image. "That's all I can do on that front, then. Let's finish off the rest of them so we can end this war once and for all."

What's Mine is Mine (Chapter V)

...

Sure enough, there weren't enough seats, however, Gabriel opted to stand. It wasn't much, but it gave him a better vantage point, and while it wasn't that important to him, the height advantage he had over the seated men gave him a certain authority. Not the authority of a king, unfortunately--that would have to come later, but rather, the authority of a well dressed warrior.

"I'll introduce everyone," Vladimir kicked things off after taking a seat in one of the chairs, "To my right here is Dragomir Sobol, the head of Research and Development. Most of the others here actually take their orders from him."

Dragomir nodded a greeting to Gabriel, who returned the gesture. Dragomir himself seemed above average in just about all superficial areas, a man in his early fifties with a slick, dark haircut, and a clean-shaven face. His suit was black like Vladimir's.

"Beside him is Paul Antonov," Vladimir continued with the introductions, "He heads up Statlas' security detail."

"I apologize for the inordinate number of listening devices on the premises," Paul inclined his head at Gabriel. Paul had a burgundy colored outfit, which made him stand out in a subtle way, but otherwise, he had the kind of short brunette hair and full beard that was common in this part of the world. "Our Lead Engineer, Vasile Funar," Vladimir gestured toward a scruffier looking blond man in a navy blue suit. "You'll be working closely with his people, I imagine."

"Looking forward to it," Vasile grinned professionally. He spared the nearby Sacarians a glance, wondering what sorts of advances their technology held.

"Across from Paul is Statlas' Lead Weapons Developer, Victor Kuznetzov. Any concerns of that nature should be brought up with him and his people."

"On that note," Victor chimed in, straightening up, a bit, "I also have some concerns to bring to your attention while we're here. For now, it's a pleasure to be working with you, Gabriel."

"Likewise," Gabriel smiled, already pondering the weapon guy's possible concerns.

"Beside Victor is Stelian Orlov," Vladimir continued, "He's the researcher that developed the AMS frame we currently use. He's not from Statlas originally, but ... a lot of people were divided between Kalten and Statlas after the attack. We're quite fortunate to have him here, especially if you plan to integrate these technologies."

"You designed the AMS frame?" Gabriel eyed the man carefully. He was probably the shortest of the suits present, maybe around 5'8". His hair was very dark, but kept short in a butch cut that contrasted his pale skin and worked well with his thin beard. In terms of hair length, his eyebrows reigned. "Did the rest of your team make it here?"

Stelian nodded, suddenly brightening up a little. "We're ready to assist you however you need."

"Excellent."

"Next is Robert Utkin," Vladimir indicated a tall, slightly tanned man in a black suit. Another clean-shaven face complimented by dark brown hair, the man appeared to be in his late thirties or possibly early forties. He smiled at Gabriel even as Vladimir introduced him. "He's our Lead Software and Firmware Developer, and you should consult him for anything concerning that."

Gabriel imagined the Sacarians and his people would have an interesting time making things compatible across design infrastructures.

"I trust you're all familiar with Isaac Markov's work, as well as Luca Zima's," Vladimir pointed out the last two men. Isaac was probably the only man in the room that could look Vladimir in the eye without craning his neck more than a few degrees, and had wavy, medium length black hair kept over a gray suit. He was definitely in his thirties. Luca meanwhile, was of average height, and sported the fullest beard of anyone present, along with brunette hair that was nearly as long as Isaac's. All this over a beige suit. Luca was likely in his forties.

"I don't believe you met in person," Vladimir continued, "but Isaac's people designed the MKI fliers. From what I've heard, the MKIIs are out of the design phase thanks to your combat data."

"It's a shame we lost Brant Abrams and Dima Alkaev's granddaughter," Luca grimaced, "Thanks to that, we've had to look into alternatives to TK weaponry. Hence the increased need for these fliers."

Vladimir tried not to laugh for Luca's sake. "Luca's the one that developed the Regalia prototype from one of the Thrones. Without any TKs though ... he doesn't have much to do, these days. Fortunately, he's been working closely with the Weapons Department and Stelian to develop the Archangel in his spare time."

"How is it, by the way?" Stelian leaned toward Gabriel, too curious not to ask then and there. "Data is one thing, but actual feedback from the pilot is quite valuable."

"For now," Gabriel grinned confidently, "it's the most powerful 'AMS' there is, bar none."

That put a smile on Stelian's face.

"That should do it for introductions," Vladimir concluded, "We've got their names," he gestured toward Haal'Sen and Raay'Xel, "and Ms. ZIva already made the rounds ... so I think we're ready to begin discussing the agenda."

Haal'Sen sat next to where Gabriel was standing, arms and legs crossed, far too underdressed for the meeting, but not quite realizing it or caring. All these men in suits... So many names... It would take time to remember them all. Humans preferred two names instead of a much simpler split to denote their station. All of these 'last names' meant nothing and told Haal'Sen little about the person. So confusing... Still, I must try.

She remained quiet as Vladimir introduced a lot of them. Two people stuck out in particular. Stelian Orlov and Luca Zima. The former because he was apparently the brains behind what made Gabriel's machine tick. He would be quite necessary to incorporating their technology into their Praxis models, then...

And Luca, a rather pitiful seeming man. No TKs to work with, meaning he had no way to research weaponry? No wonder Russia is having so many issues against our funnels...

"Vladimir," she spoke up, eyeing Stelian first, then settling on Luca, "you say he has no TKs to work with, but now, that is fine. He has better. I am quite curious about the state of your human telekinetic research, I wish to see if any of your weaponry or machinery will adapt itself to my own ESP. If so, I would not mind providing a subject for your tests, so long as Gabriel approves, and does not need me for anything at the time. I should provide more than capable of giving you whatever you need in regards to this, hmhmhm." She was stronger than pretty much any human TK, she could definitely manage any testing that was required.

"And you, Orlov. You shall tell the both of us," Haal'Sen motioned towards Raay'Xel, "what exactly goes into an AMS unit. In turn, we shall share our own machines and their systems, and we shall produce a truly spectacular mobile suit." Smirking and leaning back a bit more, Haal'Sen was getting rather excited.

"Wonderful news," Vladimir smiled, "I don't know if our equipment is up to the task, but that is what research and development are for."

"Very well," Stelian nodded, standing up from the couch, "Allow me to go over the fundamentals with you." He took a moment to get between the seating and the monitor on the wall so he would have room to walk as he explained. "The Alkaev Mobile Suit's key feature is its transformation mechanism, which makes up most of the inner frame. The suit has to be built around this configuration, so matters of power distribution and control are key to making it all come together. Equally important is the transformation process and its efficiency. Turning a mobile suit into a fighter or anything else is completely useless if it can't be done quickly and in the middle of the battle."

Gabriel recalled his fight with Raay'Xel and how, in about the space of a second, the Archangel shed is cruising armor and transformed back into a mobile suit. He couldn't imagine the engagement having gone nearly as well if it took much longer than that to switch from one mode to another ...

"You might as well decide in advance whether to use a heavy fighter or a mobile suit equipped for aerial combat. Of course, that's been the very problem our nation's faced for quite a few years, now. The armed forces have to make room for both mobile suits and air power despite the latter being less resilient by comparison. The true purpose of the AMS platform is to merge both of these machines into one and eliminate any need for the latter in the future. To that end, the transformation mechanism has to be perfect. Even if it's significantly damaged, an AMS unit must be able to transform midbattle."

"I take it the current iteration of this mechanism has already been perfected?" Gabriel inquired, figuring if there was some fundamental problem with the Archangel or the mass-produced AMS models, someone would have gotten indirectly killed by it at some point.

Stelian smiled apologetically. "There is always room for improvement, particularly with the torso, but we met the requirements for the program. Finding a resting position for torso components that made room for the cockpit, the unit's head, and its generator in different configurations was one of the greatest challenges. The more moving parts the torso has, the less durable it can be. The inner frame of every AMS has to be constructed via automation, and they require special alloys to reduce wear and friction during transformation, as well as reinforcing slats to support the unit in MS mode. Maintenance costs run quite high, currently."

That was no surprise to Gabriel. A machine on the order of 18 meters tall taking on a different shape in about one second, typically while experiencing aerodynamic drag, and all without damaging itself, would definitely require some careful construction and high maintenance. As much as his people loved the Archangel, they didn't seem to appreciate just how much Gabriel cut loose with the thing.

"So the AMS units transform as a means to serve as both a heavy infantry unit, as well as air support. That design decision makes sense enough if your flight capabilities are otherwise limited. However, for the purposes of combining our technology, you should find that the Regulus Drive equipped within the damaged Praxis units should far outpace the V-drives you are used to working with." Raay'Xel chimed in, nodding along at the explanation of the AMS unit's function and the finer details of it's engineering and maintenance.

"I do not know if you will have the production capabilities to reverse engineer further Regulus Drives, however the ones that remain should certainly be used for the flagship units. I can also assist with telekinetic testing, however Haal'Sen's ESP is more potent than my own."

To keep up with air power... What? "Why do you not simply have your machines fly, then?" That felt like the most simple solution. Raay'Xel brought up their power drives, she was right, did the humans simply not have the capabilities to mass produce such?

"Unless you can't. Hah." They probably couldn't. She had definitely found it odd that Ziva's Volkov wasn't equipped with something, or even a look alike. So they're this far behind... "So, as has been stated, the Regulus drives that survived our defeat should definitely be used in the lead units we create together. I also question the necessity of transformation in our models in particular, as such I would like to ask it not be included... In, mine at least. Raay'Xel may see things differently."

Hopefully they wouldn't be offended by such a request. As for the rest... Hmm... "Our suits also have receptors for our powers, in case manual controls are not quick enough to reply to incoming attacks. We try not to pilot entirely with our minds, though, as it would be far too taxing to keep up for an entire battle."

"That's actually the real feat we managed with this line of mobile suits," Stelian came back at the flight critique, "V-drive technology in its current state isn't compatible with the AMS units. We made them fly without it, though an engineer from the main facility managed to design a pseudo drive to lighten the suits somewhat. It's only been applied to the Crowns and the Archangel, as far as I know."

"If there are four of these 'Regulus Drives' ..." Dragomir interjected, far more interested in that topic, apparently, "then we already have three units accounted for. Yours, hers, and the Archangel, naturally. What about the fourth?"

Vasile was quick to raise his hand with a suggestion. "How about we keep the forth here and try to reverse engineer it the old fashioned way? With three other working models, we're not risking much."

"So make it compatible... I do not understand why this is an impressive feat, but that is fine, I suppose." Haal'Sen gently shrugged her shoulders, she didn't quite know what to say. Machines that could fly on their own was simply the norm for her race, it always had been for as long as she was alive, so humans being excited over getting machines to fly by, turning into planes...

"If you wish to reverse engineer them, and Gabriel okays things, then I have no complaints. Experiment away, humans." She simply wished for her suit to be repaired.

"Presumably, in order to accommodate their version of the drive, they would need to scrap the ability of the AMS units to transform. The V-drive is a more primitive technology, so it is likely bulkier and more unwieldy compared to the Regulus. While transformation may not be strictly necessary with the drive, the AMS units have proven themselves effective on the field, and starting from scratch with a new form factor would not be ideal in the middle of a war." Raay'Xel interjected, thinking it over a bit. When they had some downtime, perhaps the general use suits would shift away from AMS units into more rounded flight-capable suits, but logistically it didn't make sense to adapt them aside from a few select prototypes.

"As for the fourth Regulus, it is as Haal'Sen says. Gabriel shall decide it's use, be that research, within a fourth suit, or otherwise."

"Our manufacturing capabilities are suitable for a small order," Luca noted, "but we can't make massive changes to the inner frames without coming up with whole new designs. That would take weeks."

Gabriel grinned when Haal'Sen and Raay'Xel both passed the issue of the fourth drive onto him. The first thing that came to mind was trying to install the drive in Ziva's Volkov. Glancing in her direction, he said, "The Volkov Regulus. Worth it?"

It took all of Ziva's willpower not to spit out the coffee she'd just sipped, having been caught off guard. She took a moment to swallow, wipe her lips, and regain her composure. "I think installing it on the transport would be a better investment, but so would being able to make more of them. Even inferior copies are better than just four good ones, right?"

"I believe so," Vasile nodded, "Remember, we managed to get the AMS units functioning without any field assist, and the pseudo drives are giving the Crowns an edge in atmospheric combat. Even something half as potent as what we've heard from Gabriel's people would be a vast improvement for us, and I'm sure my people can do better than half."

"Mrrr, I suppose... How can you all be so far behind in technology...?" It was confusing, but the question wasn't meant to be answered, Haal'Sen moving quickly onto the next topic... One of which was rather amusing, considering Ziva's reaction. "Hahaha~ You cannot accept such an offer from our King?" While the fluster had been worth chuckling at, Ziva's point made sense.

"Then, it seems we are in agreement that the forth shall be reverse engineered to produce further versions. I see no issue with this. Gabriel?" He had seemed interested in Ziva's machine, but perhaps it could house the first prototype of whatever these humans could produce.

"If not for the Japanese and their anime," Vladimir smirked at Haal'Sen, "I doubt we would have put in enough effort to make mobile suits a reality."

Having been asked for his final approval, Gabriel set his gaze on the head engineer. "If Vasile is confident his people can get positive results, then by all means. The results had better be positive, though," he warned, "We have three others, however, you're only going to get one shot at this personally, Vasile."

"I understand completely," Vasile nodded hard, hopefully ready to make it happen and not simply gamble with the tech.

"Hm? What's 'anime'?" Another weird human product, probably... They wouldn't have created suits without it, though? What nonsense was that? They were fantastic combat machines, more versatile and mobile than any tank or aircraft. Nonsense, entirely.

"And if you break it, do not ask us for advice. We are warriors, not engineers. I cannot fix the fine details of Regulus drives, I simply know how they work." Hopefully this Vasile was trustworthy enough to manage things with their technology, but it has functioned with Apotheosis tech so far... So maybe.

"That settles it, then. Another thing of note is the Praxis is equipped with a potent I-field. As most Praxis units also heavily specialize in beam weaponry, this I-field is a must to maintain if we are to come into contact with other Sacarian forces in the field. In that regard, standardized Praxis units are ill-equipped to combat one another in general. Ballistic or physical options would be a major boon in that area." Raay'Xel chimed in, with the issue of the drives put to rest for the time being.

"As far as beam weaponry itself goes, our Hyper Beam Sabres and Rifles are far and away superior to what your machines are using. Attempting to adapt your own technology with them could be beneficial, but I am interested in seeing what sorts of non-beam weapons technology you have to contribute."

"Those machines have I-fields, too?" Stelian was beside himself. Aside from some fairly powerful concepts, I-fields tended to be warship grade equipment.

"My guys will want to have a close look at one of those," Vasile noted, "but I guess that goes for most of the equipment we'll be working with."

Stelian took a moment to consider that point. "We'll need to put one on the Archangel, too."

Victor had opted to answer Raay'Xel's question about physical weaponry, as opposed to beam weaponry, but Ziva beat him to the punch, and in a rather deadpan fashion. "Cannons, gatling guns, railguns, maces, chain blades, long blades, grenades, rockets, missiles, and flier kamikazes if the situation calls for them," Ziva gave a general list, with some special emphasis on the last two items.

"Mrm ... yes," Victor had to settle for the all but pointless affirmation ...

Ballistics, how barbarian. Still, it would be best to use them against other Sacarians, the i-Fields did nothing against them. "Alongside i-Fields, our machines are equipped with a technology called the 'Sacarian Sphere'. As our machines are at the bottom rung, they are not quite as impressive, but the idea is the same. It is another barrier employed by the machine to reduce the damage of incoming fire, no matter the type, as well as fry the targeting signals on missiles, to aid in them missing. So, just pure ballistics, would be advised. Ballistics and physical weaponry... That... Mmm, that gives me an idea, but it will have to wait until you can give me access to your TK equipment." If it worked, though...

Would there be a blade strong enough to handle the load of something like that? Maybe. It would be difficult, but worth exploring. Something to consider when they were done here.

"It is as Haal'Sen says. Missiles will decrease in effectiveness against higher ranking Praxis units, and are never an optimal choice against them. Of the options you listed as readily available, the railgun and a proper blade seem the most practical." Raay'Xel noted, thinking over other potential options for a moment.

"Hmm... our Praxis units also come equipped with funnels. We have four sets available to us and only two users... I am aware of a concept for a funnel equipped with a blade rather than a beam launcher. I believe your human telekinetics also regularly employ... rippers, I believe they were called? We could perhaps convert a portion of the spares to serve as field-piercing remote weaponry."

"So," Victor leaned forward in his seat, "We should be focusing on railguns for our ranged options ..."

"And physical blades for up-close spats," Ziva winced. She wasn't a fan of going in close to attack a Sacarian. Even if they knew their way around a scuffle, there was no defense against bit weapons that close to the host unit. The funnels would shred them easily unless they had protection on par with an I-field ... and most of them wouldn't unless Vasile's people pulled off something major.

"Are there any special characteristics your funnels have compared to our technology?" Luca asked Raay'Xel, "My concern is, like with the Regulus drives, we won't be able to make perfect copies. If we can produce serviceable 'blade' funnels, either from scratch or from our own stockpile, that may be the better option."

"We also have two hybrid rifles here at the base," Victor put in after Luca, "I don't expect they'll do much against this Sacarian sphere you mentioned, but anti-beam coatings are useless against them, and they have respectable bleed through against I-fields. That was the purpose behind their design, giving AMS units like the Mantle better anti-ship capabilities."

"The lava guns~" Vasile smirked, using the hybrid rifles' nickname.

'I'd be very interested to know what this idea of yours is, Haal'Sen,' Gabriel glanced in the Sacarian's direction.

The hybrid rifles were an interesting idea... Strong enough to pierce earthling i-Fields, but would they be strong enough for Praxis models? Time would tell. For now, Ziva was worried about close combat, and Gabriel wished to hear her idea... "Ziva, if you are concerned about close combat, you can leave it to us. We can wrestle control of enemy funnels, or shoot them down with our own, to prevent issues engaging. Your lot can remain back and engage in a firefight, that should be safer." Hopefully that would address her concerns.... And, Gabriel...

'It is, odd, to have you address me mentally first, but I will try to get used to it. I am thankful for your interest, really, it isn't that good of an idea... I am, curious as to the possibility of wrapping a physical weapon in ESP energy and using it to cut through the Sacarian Spheres attached to other machines.' Hopefully the idea didn't sound crazy to him, how much understanding of this phenomenon did humans have, really?

'It would have to be a rather sturdy blade to handle being coated and controlled by such energies, though. I fear that something brittle or even thin would crumble or snap from the pressure of trying to shape the energy into a sharp edge around it. It isn't something someone of my level should be attempting, either, but... Perhaps my ego has been a bit inflated, from all of the praise these last few days. I feel it would be worth trying, at least.'

"Compared to the funnels I've seen human machines use... ours carry a more compact form factor, granting them greater maneuverability. They are also more receptive to direct command, being built with our heightened ESP abilities in mind." Raay'Xel replied, intrigued by the idea of these hybrid rifles.

"Hmm... we shall have to see a demonstration of these hybrids of yours, then."

"That was the plan," Ziva nodded at Haal'Sen, having no interest in fighting a Praxis or anything like it up close. Her Volkov needed distance to make its arsenal truly shine, particularly the railgun.

The silent exchange between Gabriel and Haal'Sen continued unnoticed by most of the room, with the latter proposing what sounded like an 'ESP augmented' weapon to pierce Sacarian spheres in combat. Since Gabriel didn't fully comprehend the nature of either ESP energy, nor the driving force behind the Sacarian sphere, he could only see the idea as a case of outside the box thinking that should be tested and not accepted on faith or rejected out of hand. 'Let's pursue this, then ... at least until we prove whether or not it's useful. If nothing else, it should give you the opportunity to flex those ESP muscles~'

Luca seemed more or less satisfied with Raay'Xel's response. "Then I suggest we see if our people can put together a working model. If you aren't satisfied with it, then converting your spare funnels would still be an option. We have an assembly line for certain types of weapons, so they simply need new data and processed material to begin. We can know within the next eight hours which path to take."

"About the hybrid rifle ..." Paul raised a hand at the taller Sacarian, "We have actual combat data from several recent engagements, though I may not be able to share all of it." He couldn't say it aloud, but the rifle had been used in what the Russian government would consider severe criminal activities within its own borders, particularly an attack on one of the Sukhoi company's facilities, as well as the assassination of their CEO as he made his way to said facility. Paul himself only acquired the data from one of his friends in Kalten, a technician looking to help him secure Statlas against attacks by Apotheosis. Just the same, Gabriel might not appreciate what the company had been doing, particularly in the last few months ...

"What's the problem?" Vladimir frowned at Antonov, "We don't have any company secrets left to keep. Gabriel's superiors are going to find out about everything once they get our servers. Gabriel himself already has full access. No point in holding back. This isn't going to become a federal case."

"True," Gabriel nodded, a bit curious himself, now. He did care about the company's crimes, but not as a Russian representative. Moreover, he was primarily focused on Dima, who helped maintain this culture of violence and secrecy.

"Also," Ziva smirked pityingly at Paul, "those two probably already figured out what you're hiding, anyway."

Gabriel seemed on board with at least testing the idea in question, which left her smiling, nodding a bit before some issue came up with another of their group. "Hmmm? Oh, something about a CEO assassination, the... Sookoy, company? I can read this word but I do not know quite how to say it out loud. Suckhoy? Sook-oi? Mrrrrehh, no matter. That is all he is worried about." Haal'Sen waved her hand and shrugged.

"Either way, we should test all that we have brought up here today. The faster we can start, the quicker the Vaska will be in our hands." Alas, Haal'Sen may have forgotten that the plan was not privy to everyone else in the room.

An assassination? Paul looked a little frustrated having inadvertently opened up that can of worms. Even TKs couldn't yank out such precise information from someone, so that had to be a complete blindsiding for him.

"Soo-coy, you have it," Vladimir helped Haal'Sen out, "An assassination, though ... I hadn't heard anything about that. You wouldn't mind going over the details with me later, would you, Paul?"

"You can elaborate," Gabriel chimed in, coming off the wall for a moment, "while showing us that combat data. You already have my interest."

Ziva tried not to flinch at the mention of the Vaska. Haal'Sen had definitely implied acquiring it through foul play. She not only had to stop herself from reacting physically, but also from trying to cover that up before she knew what the actual damage was. One glance at Gabriel was enough to tell her that she'd made the right call in keeping quiet.

"Haal'Sen, was it?" Isaac spoke up, trying to be polite, "Just what do you mean by the Vaska being in our hands?"

Having already come off the wall, Gabriel approached the seated men, which exaggerated his height advantage and opened up their ears a bit more. Without any nervousness or hesitation, he said, "She meant what she said. In our possession. The underground drydock was obviously designed to house the Vaska, and as part of this project, the machines we design will also be tied to that ship. We'll be going to rendezvous with the Vaska once the new units are complete. Then we'll return here."

"Ah," Vladimir bought the explanation easily.

"I see." Isaac reluctantly so.

"However," Gabriel fixed the latter with a very serious, very deadly gaze, one that made him freeze, "the Vaska's crew doesn't get a say in the matter. The provisional government is a fractured one at best, and many different groups are conspiring for power in the new regime we're building. Many of them are military officers and company executives. We will be escorting the Vaska back here to Statlas for repairs, upgrades, and MS integration. Haal'Sen is expecting resistance from them, and so am I. That's why we're going to finish as much as we can before the rendezvous. As you all know, not all interests in Russia are aligned right now ... or I doubt Sukhoi's CEO would have met such an untimely demise. I will not allow usurpers to acquire that ship, even if I have to use overwhelming force. You understand."

They understood ... and Ziva was silently snickering at the maneuver Gabriel had just pulled.

"Agreed. There is no use in attempting to hide the means in which it was acquired, what is more important now is the data itself." Raay'Xel affirmed, before Haal'Sen had managed to tip their hand. Such a thing could have been disastrous, were it not for Gabriel's swift interjection... he truly did seem to have a knack for turning around dire circumstances. As expected of the King. For the Sacarian's part, she merely nodded along with his explanation, as though such a thing had been a given from the start.

With how well Gabriel had saved her blunder, she didn't quite realize it had been one... Until she thought on it a moment, and realized the rest of the room didn't know yet. Trying to keep the look on her face calm, she gulped. 'Gabriel, I'm... Please forgive my transgressions, I had thought this a Sacarian meeting for but a moment, and got too comfortable with information... The humans here cannot read what I am thinking and yet I acted as such. Whatever punishment you deem fitting I shall accept. My most sincere apologies...'

That addressed, there was one other fact to be made known, one that would be necessary to share. "As you may not be aware, humans, the most powerful tenet of Sacarian society is trust. We do not lie, we do not betray, we follow orders and die with honor on the battlefield... To that end, part of the reason lying is pointless among our race is because we can read minds. I have not looked into your telekinetics in depth, but they can feel emotions and intents, yes? Our ESP is the full gambit. Emotion, intent, reading minds, exerting force over other living creatures... So be aware of that going forward... Lie to Gabriel at your own risk. We will know." The most sincere smile followed, though happy was not the feeling emanating from the rest of the men present after that explanation.

Gabriel made sure not to smile at the mental message he received from Haal'Sen only moments after addressing the group ... but he was thoroughly amused. 'That you feel you deserve punishment is ... punishment enough, I think. Focus on the way we humans deal with each other. It isn't glamorous, but it's important.'

Haal'Sen nodded. 'I will do my best, Gabriel. It is... Odd, but, you are right. It is important.' That they kept secrets from each other, even when working together. How duplicitous were humans going to get? Haal'Sen was beginning to realize just how lucky she was that Gabriel had defeated them, or anyone else.

"To think there were feats beyond Bismark's findings," Victor winced. He wasn't so much upset with the fact that he was essentially an open book. No, he was annoyed that humanity hadn't discovered or attained such on its own, at least not to his knowledge.

"Hmph," Vladimir nodded at a thought he had, "Well hopefully that should put everyone's worries to rest. Nothing to hide and nothing that can be hidden. On that note, show us the combat data on the hybrid rifles. If Gabriel has a use for them, then best to get that out in the open."

Paul sighed in resignation and pulled a small tablet out from his coat. It took him a moment to pull up the contents he was looking for, which gave him the opportunity to get in a brief summary of what they hybrid rifles actually were. "We call these hybrid rifles because they mix carbon shards and liquid metal into the beam corridor."

"Lava guns," Vasile chimed in with the nickname and a smirk.

"They function as standard albeit specialized hyper beam rifles when the hybrid function isn't in use. As for why this mixture is important ..." He turned the tablet screen to face Gabriel and the men seated in front of him. Rather than a data readout, Paul had some footage of a battle up, with an AMS unit's main cameras as the point of view. The hybrid rifle it was carrying was aimed up at the sky, with three distant specks flying in harm's way. The picture suddenly zoomed in on the three specks, resolving into a private jet, and two escort fighters, SU-3200s. When the rifle fired, an almost dark, crimson beam erupted from the gun and raced up to incinerate the escort on the right. The one on the left immediately broke off.

Gabriel's eyes narrowed at the footage, and he wondered why this assassin hadn't gone for the CEO's plane first. Any AMS unit could outrun conventional fighters if getting in and out were the issue. He suspected that this wasn't just an assassination, but a test of the rifle's usability ... that is, how well it performed when used over and over again. It was obvious that the jet was going to at least last until both its escorts were down.

"This combination of material," Paul continued as the AMS unit began to line up a shot on the other escort fighter, "causes microfractures in anti-beam coatings, which allows heat to reach the armor beneath, as well as burn the coating from both sides. Anti-beam coatings can typically withstand a few shots, but one hybrid burst will burn right through it with only a split second delay due to the accumulating microfractures."

The second escort was downed with a bit more effort, but only one shot taken. That left the CEO's plane, which was making useless maneuvers to evade the AMS unit's fire. Gabriel pitied the pilot, copilot, and passengers post-mortem. These maneuvers weren't fast enough, and they were too consistent, easily anticipated ...

"Why is the beam red?" Ziva asked.

"An unintended side effect of trying to fix a condenser problem in the design. Higher frequencies of light are more tightly focused by the time the beam emerges. It only appears red from two degrees outside of the beam's flight path. Anyone on the receiving end will be seeing white or possibly blue."

Everyone on the jet died as the third shot lanced it with ease. That was when the attack on the nearby Sukhoi facility began. Apparently, they had been on final approach. So whatever model of AMS unit this was ... it had parked in the wilds within a few miles of the base without being detected and waited. Gabriel was both impressed and annoyed. The performance itself wasn't impressive. The fact that this unit had gotten this close and managed three kills without having to move, however, was. Other than the range the solid and liquid components of the beam could be projected, the targets weren't tough enough to make a meaningful distinction between the hybrid rifles and a hyper beam rifle or beam smartgun. They needed to see specs, or a mobile suit fight. But what was the primary purpose behind this particular attack? It couldn't just be about testing weapons. Apotheosis was more than willing to help them with that ... in a manner of speaking.

"Is the mobile suit a Mantle?" Vladimir threw in a question of his own, "These hybrid rifles were meant for them, right?"

"This is the other Regalia unit, the 'Regalia Nyx,'" Paul answered, "The company was fresh out of TKs, and so this one was modified for raiding missions and outfitted with one of the hybrid rifles. The test pilot was Clara Kozel, but Rosa Alkaev is the current pilot. That said, you may find the combat footage against another mobile suit more interesting than a turret shooting gallery ..." Paul turned the tablet back to face him and tried to switch over to an even more recent scuffle, one that occurred at Kalten.

Gabriel took note of the details. Rosa was the current pilot, so she may not have been the one murdering Sukhoi's CEO and support staff in that footage. That was more likely this Clara woman. Either way, if Dima was telling the truth about the situation at Kalten, then the Regalia Nyx would be at the head of whatever coup Rosa pulled.

"Hmmm... I cannot give you false hope, Victor. I do not think your race will ever reach this level of power, but... Rest assured, as long as you work for Gabriel, my abilities will be on your side. Hopefully that is reassuring." If it wasn't, that was not her problem. That left focusing on this rifle... It sounded quite interesting. "Is that why the beams change color? Ours come out violet, I've never thought to ask the science behind such a phenomenon. I simply thought color denoted strength..." Amusing, to be sure.

There was that woman's name again, Rosa. Not the pilot in this clip, perhaps, but currently... It would do to acquire such a weapon, and it seemed like Gabriel wanted to go through with it, considering his far earlier conversation with Dima. Better to have everything in his hands than in the hands of the Russian government, let alone Dima.

"I must say, for once, I am impressed. Even we did not consider such technology against barriers. This will be incredibly useful against other Sacarians, so if it is possible to equip both of our machines with such a rifle, do not hesitate to do so." Haal'Sen sat up just a bit, crossing her legs the other way and smirked. "We are too prideful and confident in our machines, I can see the look on a Pawn's face as the beam they expect to bounce completely off of their i-Field rips through it and melts their cockpit. Hahaha~ What a wonderful thought!"

"Quite the graphic thought," Isaac smiled nervously.

"How does it get through I-fields, exactly?" Ziva continued with the technical questions, "You explained the anti-beam coating ... microfractures, but what about the I-fields? Is the liquid metal demagnetized or something?"

"It's simply too 'heavy' to be deflected more than a few degrees at muzzle velocity," Paul explained, "We only needed to find a condenser and accelerator strong enough to handle the material. The beam expands as it contacts I-fields, yes, but there isn't enough time or energy to deflect the beam more than a few degrees. Expanding the beam actually makes things worse in the long run since a hit to any moving parts can potentially seal them. The liquid metal in the beam has a tendency to fill in any crevices it contacts as it accumulates, so functionality will be impacted even if the components aren't damaged."

Vasile smiled, though in mild embarrassment this time around. "Unsurprising, but AMS units are even more vulnerable to this kind of weapon since they have more moving parts than other machines."

Nasty, Ziva thought, some poor sap getting hit a couple of times with one of those things and finding out later that his cockpit hatch is sealed shut ... or worse, the MS overheating due to its exhausts being clogged up in the middle of the action. She supposed using magnetized goop would make it easier to propel alongside the plasma. Otherwise, these would just be oversized squirt guns.

"As for the hybrid rifles we have here," Paul continued, "I'm sure Victor wouldn't mind letting you use them." The footage he had for them this time was brief, featuring a blue mobile suit taking on multiple Thrones by itself. The Regalia Nyx approached the battle without giving itself away, getting closer and closer in preparation to end things with a single surgical strike ...

"That should be fine," Victor nodded, coming around from his initial frustration. He figured Luca would be more excited about the prospects of these super TKs than he would or ought to be.

"Hmm... an interesting concept indeed. It is certainly a unique functionality... worth carrying by the look of this combat data. It may be possible to improve the design using our Hyper beam rifles, as they certainly carry a more potent beam component in comparison." Raay'Xel noted, intently watching the presentation as she listened to the explanation. It was most curious how the humans had chosen to get around the problem of anti-beam defenses, but like the AMS units themselves, it seemed quite effective. Good to know the humans did have a handful of useful innovations.

'Haal'Sen, for now it is best to focus on correcting your conduct for the future, rather than concerning yourself with punishment. Our Liege has proven himself lenient in such things, so long as we can produce results.'

'Mrrrr, I know that. I will do my best. While it is easy to swear myself to another due to our customs, it is... Not as easy to change how I am meant to act. I shall better myself.' Hopefully it was as easily done as it was said. "The more you speak of these rifles, the more dangerous they sound. I am of the same mind as Raay'Xel, by using our machines' rifles in combination with the technology you've put together, I wonder if we can create an even more powerful version. This sealing of joints also seems quite useful... Powerful and intelligent. What a wonderful weapon~" Well and truly impressed with the humans at this juncture, Haal'Sen smiled widely and nodded, chuckling to herself.

"I am glad to know there are those among you with worth, other than my Liege. Now then, shall we get to weapons testing? Or is there something else to discuss?" It didn't seem like it, but nudging things towards the next topic couldn't hurt.

Paul looked over the top of the tablet just in time to see the second Regalia cleave the blue intruder in half with a single well placed shot. The Thrones were all over the bisected mobile suit after that, and the engagement was over. With that, Paul, stopped the playback and pulled up a full list of specs for the current iteration of the weapon, as well as some reference numbers for other, similar weapons, and handed the tablet up and over to Gabriel.

"We will need to run some extensive tests on your weapons if we plan to hybridize them," Victor noted, "I'm sure combining the technology is feasible, but our understanding is limited and our methods are 'rugged' by Western standards."

Gabriel almost nodded at that remark, getting a good grasp of Victor's point from the stat comparison he was running. The hybrid functionality really was just an 'add-on' feature at heart; a container or magazine filled with the processed material was attached to the rifle. It required a bit of time to prepare a 'hybrid shot,' but after that, it functioned as one would hope and expect. The real limiting factor seemed to be the carrying capacity of the container. The current iteration couldn't support more than ten practical shots no matter what settings were used.

"I don't suppose you have any Sacarian mechanics with you," Vasile glanced at the two bodyguards, "a knowledgeable friend to lead us by the hand? Anything like that?"

"Test away. So long as you do not break them, I see no issue with this. Make sure to not break them, though. If I am forced to use your human equivalents, I shall, but I would like to remain at full effectiveness in combat." Haal'Sen made eyes with Victor, only letting up as Vasile asked about mechanics.

"We do not bring mechanics on scouting missions, and the group Gabriel defeated was just that, a scouting squadron unaccompanied by any battleship... Meaning, no, we do not. You are on your own, unless we are about to storm an Apotheosis vessel and hope they had one on board." It wouldn't be that out of the ordinary, considering how they were consuming the organization from the inside, but it wasn't guaranteed.

"Good luck~"

"They'll figure it out," Vladimir assured Haal'Sen, glancing at Vasile expectantly and getting a playful shrug in response. "That seems more or less settled, then. Now what about these repairs to your Praxis suits? That's what they're called, isn't it? What more can you tell us about them going into this?"

"The Praxis Gamma is primarily comprised of a titanium carbon alloy, which should not be too dissimilar to what your human machines are made of... repairs shouldn't be particularly unfamiliar to you. The main hurdle would be the joints, they are reinforced with a material known as Xonorkite, which is incapable of being produced on Earth. You should be able to process and use what remains in the Gamma units, as well as any other machines we're able to salvage in the future, but any work with it should be delicate... we do not have access to enough of the mineral to be messing about with it, and in the event that we are unable to retrieve lost pieces, any reserve Xonorkite is extremely valuable." Raay'Xel answered, fielding that particular question.

"Raay'Xel has the right of it. The joints should not be damaged, so you need not worry for the mostly intact models. Your human weapons could not hope to crack the material, it would take far, far more than is necessary to disable a machine to damage such a metal." Truly, Xonorkite was incredibly durable and hard to fracture. It took several successive concussive barrages in testing to leave dents and cracks, the insides becoming a rather broken mess, but that was why they used it for the joints. No beam saber was going to catch a limb unawares.

"Specially reinforced joints," Stelian seemed to be visualizing the components in question, "A shame we don't have easy access to something like that. With a reinforced frame, we wouldn't need to make so many concessions with the AMS frames."

"Patience," Vladimir soothed. He didn't know if they would ever be able to get their hands on much Xonorkite, but he wasn't going to assume they couldn't, not with the Archangel himself leading their operations.

"And Gabriel," Vasile waved a hand to get the man's attention, "Make sure you get us that combat data. Between the Archangel and those fliers Isaac's people designed, we should be able to put together some beautiful upgrades."

"Actually ..." Isaac gently interjected, "We're almost ready to roll out the MKIIs. The flier data is certainly welcome, but the MKIIs are more than twice the size and won't benefit from the same tactics."

"Are your people going to build them this time?" Ziva scowled at him. Having to build all of the originals themselves had been a serious chore. More importantly, it required a facility on the ground ... and that required an armed takeover. Despite how little time they were stuck on that spot of land, those kinds of maneuvers were extremely dangerous for them.

"Of course," Vasile answered for Isaac.

"Apologies ..."

"Wonderful," Ziva grinned. Not having Jack rant about the MKIIs being his children too would be wonderful, indeed.

"More of those annoying planes... Enough chatter, shall we move to practical testing? I haven't been able to run simulations for several days now, I wish to exercise my skills, and I'm sure you lot need your TK systems tested." Haal'Sen hoped there would be something for her at the end of this.

"That sounds like a wonderful idea. The scientists can examine the remains of the Praxis units... seeing their workings in person should put a nail in many uncertainties... any new ones that arise can be addressed as they come." Raay'Xel nodded in solidarity with Haal'Sen's suggestion. The time for talk had run out it's welcome, now it was time for action.

"I'm not sure on Raay'Xel," Ziva squinted briefly at the spring dress the taller Sacarian was wearing, "but you should definitely put on more layers before heading down to do simulations. You're going to make some people fairly uncomfortable wearing just that." Ziva herself preferred to let her legs breathe when she could, but for the sake of her compatriots, she usually wore coveralls with the upper half folded up, or baggy pants. Whatever helped them stay relatively focused when she was around. Her rules were soundly inverted in hostile territory, though ...

"Oh, pfft. I am not putting on something stuffier because the people here cannot control where they're looking. So long as their hands stay where they are, there shall be no problems. I trust that your people can manage that much, Vladimir?" Haal'Sen cocked an eyebrow at him, expecting confirmation. It wasn't as if they could do anything to her if they got a bit touchy, but the question wasn't for her own safety.

"I do not see what there is to be unsure about. I am more than adequately covered. If human libido is going to be a problem for your men, it is one that they will need to correct. If any of them are foolish enough to attempt to act on such a thing, they can expect to learn incredibly quickly just how inadvisable such a maneuver truly is." Raay'Xel affirmed, nodding to herself as she did so. If there had been any doubt before, the training exercises she had undergone had removed it entirely. Human fighters simply didn't stand a chance, and she would prove it again if need be.

Ziva wasn't surprised that both Sacarians had more or less the same opinion on the wardrobe issue. To be fair, it wasn't that far off from how some human females would view the situation--though why the prospect of them being felt up unwillingly had come up was another matter. It seemed especially unlikely with word of their mind reading abilities sure to be widespread news by noon. At this rate, most would be too distracted trying to rein in their own thoughts to try anything ... or get much work done for that matter.

"We have some very strict policies regarding sexual harassment," Vladimir assured Haal'sen.

Fortunately for Vladimir and his staff, the Alkaevs weren't around to bend those rules. Gabriel could still hardly believe Rosa had actually confessed to her crimes to the staff at Kalten. He supposed that he could look into Ziva's findings now that the meeting was wrapping up.

"Since everyone's itching to get going," Vasile stood up, "why don't we adjourn for now and see how much we can accomplish on Day One, hm?"

Gabriel nodded. "One shot, Vasile. Don't forget," he smiled apologetically.

"It's well in hand," Vasile promised, "We'll have our own versions of those Regulus drives in due time."

"Alright then," Vladimir stood up, and the other suits in short order. "Meeting adjourned. It's been a pleasure, everyone. Let's get to work."

...

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Pressing On

Following the suicide run was a pincer attack... the air was tense enough that Makoto didn't know what to say. He couldn't get a target from his position, that was sure one way or another...

People seemed to be splitting somewhat, there was a rearguard of sorts dealing with the ambush, but a few people were still caught bracing the main brunt of enemy forces. The ship was retreating as well...

Well, he couldn't let the vanguard stay in a more hopeless position.

Makoto moves to (11,16)!

Wings that Remain

"A pincer, of course..."

"Upset, Lieutenant?" Bonner continued maneuvering the Mantle, following close to the Regalia. "They've realized how dangerous we are, but it's late. As long as we weather this one, the war should be decided. It's something to look forward."

"I hope you're right, Major... Their numbers seem infinite." Lynx dreaded a potential scenario, a mass of black mobile suits hovering around the Apotheosis base.

"I'm sure their resources aren't."

Bonner moves to (12,15)!

A... Friendly Call

How amusing... Tarquin had called Carlos all of his own to speak his feelings, but let him know that they were still working together. Sort of. I'd expect everyone from the Riese to ignore me, honestly. "Noted. I'll try not to bother you." The line was a bit more flair than Carlos rolled with, but he didn't want to end the conversation quick with a single word.

And... Firmia was listening in, right? Well, it was her right, considering his predicament. "I can still go, but if the situation turns critical, I'll retreat the first chance I get." Seemed... about appropriate.

Emergency Call

"Huh?" Ignatius wasn't expecting to be called, still gathering reports on the damage as far as the lower decks were concerned. He was aware the bridge was hit, but with the androids already on it, he decided not to split his focus. "To the infirmary? Goodness gracious." This... was probably about the Captain, it just hit him. "Alright, Buck, I'll need you to take full charge here." Ignatius offered an apologetic look, he had to be quick, one feet already turning to make a dash for the elevator. "If any of the suits come back, get back to your work --long as we're floating, they're more important--, see ya!" And with a dash, off he went.

What would Ignatius see once he got there... what a dreadful thought.

Stirring Awake

"Mmph..." Roxanna's eyes were slowly opening up... unfocused. Her vision was still blurry, and that painful headache... "What's happening?"

Rearguard Help

There wasn't much that Caroline could keep doing to help the Riese. A better job could only be done with finer manipulators and better material, but she managed to fortify the hull in some vulnerable parts. She could only back away and land now...

The bridge was totally silent, but somebody had to be managing the ship, it was so confusing... then one of the avalon transformables decided to check on the ship. If they didn't call Caroline, they probably didn't need her. Good luck...

There was the pressing matter of more enemies showing up to deal with... and one of their pilots who decided to deal with the unique suit got rather blasted... did, did they stop moving altogether?

"Are you okay?" The first concern that hit Caroline was if the generator had failed or something of the sort, "Y-you can't sit around there. If you can hear me, please respond!" She had to help fix something up if the generator was compromised.

Caroline to (5,6), repairs Vera's Velite Mk.III-M.

Repaired for 62HP! +200 EXP gained!

Edited by Xinnidy

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"Cally, please," Abby chuckled and shook her head. She almost added in 'she's straight,' but she had to stop and pause. She was just assuming, and her radar had misfired before. Probably wouldn't be good to invite more teasing than she already had. This level was fine--honestly expected, given what she'd put Calina through--but if she had to deal with an 'Oh, so you asked and she rejected you,' during the middle of combat, well, she didn't want to end up fighting while she was fighting. "Honestly just a friend."

After they dispatched with the pilot in the Ganymede, there was a little boost in comfort. Sure, they were still surrounded by a bunch of decently buff enemy models, but they'd taken out the leader, and sent a strong message. They just had to keep holding the line. The fact that Megumi hadn't shared anything dire concerning Jess when they'd spoke was also a weight off her mind. The doctor would definitely have let her know if something was badly wrong, so whatever hiccups there were, she could have faith they'd get ironed out. Just gotta... not worry about it and focus on the foes in front of her.

Easier said than done. She still felt guilty about not being able to handle the captain's panic in the immediate wake of Alriana's kamikaze assassination attempt. Her not being fully available caused Jess a lot of self-doubt that took quite some effort to ease and erase. But that was then, a different situation. This was now. No frantic calls she was forced to minimally answer, or put off for a minute or two while fighting for her life. Things would be fine.

 


The Deliverance was an old military transport that had been decommissioned before being sold to a civilian shipping company. And all that had happened a few years before Calina managed to get her hands on it. Most of the heavy armaments had been understandably removed, but the airframe still supported their presence, and well, as it was now possessed by natural tinkers enjoying their new toy, a few replacements had been jimmied together. A lot of it was your bog standard (vulcans, wing-mounted missiles, etc.) what the rebels were really proud of was some outside the box thinking that actually ended up being pretty effective. Of the suits they were hauling around, a few were dedicated to aid in the freighter's defense (or offense). There were two ports that opened up behind the wings, one on each side, and a standing platform rigged up underneath a hatch in the ceiling allowed for a third mech to fire from above: front and center. Other than that though, it was pretty much your standard freighter: Large hold for cargo complete with rear opening doors and ramps, and a very few small rooms up front for the intended crew of around 10 to 12 (originally pilot, copilot, navigator, loadmaster, engineers, gunners, medics, and whatever flex slots the mission might require).

Abby had taken Jess for a very brief tour of the rooms up front before leading her back to the hold and gathering everyone else. They'd taken up a circle around a folding table set up in the center, and flanked by the two rows of four stolen Bismarck suits they'd acquired. The captain of the Riese had already been introduced to Calina, of course, but most of the other faces would be new to her, so Abigail went through some quick introduction, giving names to faces as she pointed them out, before turning to address her crew properly.

"First of all, I can't stress enough how good it is to see all your faces again, and how glad I am to be back, but unfortunately, things really have kind of gone to shit. The last op I headed, up on Colony 1 was a disaster, and we were played for fools. I take full responsibility for that, but it's really landed us in a lot more trouble than ever before and with no profit to speak of, either monetary or progress toward the goal. Topping it all off, as you tried to rescue me, a devastating loss," Abigail stopped, a bit of a warble in her voice. Part of her felt she ought to turn and look to Sena specifically, but another part was concerned that would just amplify the problem and make things worse, so she simply stared stone-faced at the top of the table. When she was sure she was in control again, she continued.

"While Calina was leading you to a bit more success, I had some adventures of my own, first as prisoner, then as... well, hmm, not really 'soldier for hire', but more like, 'soldier for pardon'? There's a few more loops to the story, but that boils down the basic gist, and I've brought along the captain of the Riese, who might very well be the only decent human in the ANF, who has a proposition for the rest of us. I think it's a good one, but you all deserve to hear it out and get a chance to talk it over. Argue with me against it if you think you need to 'n all that. Unless there's anything urgent before that, I'll turn it over to her?"


What a nice little ship! Sure, the Riese was a technological marvel, but to Jess, nothing could compare to the actual hard work people did with their blood sweat and tears. The Riese would be mass produced in the next decade, factory made, shipped out to 'deserving' captains... This little beauty was going to get better and better, as Calina and Abby put more of their heart into it. Seeing it all really brought a hefty smile to her face, one she didn't realize was still there when it was finally time to address Abigail's small crew.

"Uhm. Hi." She waved, awkwardly, not really sure how to deal with... She was used to being so professional, was it still fine here? She'd at least left her captain's hat back on the Riese for this, but otherwise she was still all dolled up in her military attire. With everyone here wearing casual clothes, jumpsuits or what, some would consider even rags... She stuck out like a blisteringly sore thumb.

"Right... So... I don't particularly care that you've stolen from the ANF. I also don't care if that makes me a bad captain, in the long run, but, the ANF will care. So to avoid having you all dogged by whatever scouting parties they can afford to send after you for as long as it matters to them, I've offered to speak on your behalf to them, to try and get a pardon... So long as you aid us in our final assault of Apotheosis' main base." There were immediate murmurs, no one really speaking up.

Terry was first, though he definitely didn't look entirely comfy doing so. "And uh... What's the chances of us living, doing this? Final assault sounds like a lot of guns firing, and while I love this little plane, it's not military grade material."

"Right... It'll... There's a moderately high chance we all die. But we either do this, or the world dies... The Riese is the last thing the ANF has to toss at Apotheosis. If it can't do it... Nothing can."

"Okay... Suicidal, then... Better than being ruled over by terrorists, I guess..." Terry shrugged, sighing. "Also hey, what's the deal with you and Abby--"

"That's our business, Terry," Calina cut in, scowling him down. Her relationship problems weren't going to be made into the ship's newest gossip that easily.

"Ahah, haha... Y-Yeah..." Jess gulped. That was going to be a topic of discussion for a while, wasn't it?


Unfortunately, Abby couldn't control the bit of burn that rose to her ears as Terry fired off a bit of a pointed question. How exactly that news had been acquired, or how far it had spread... no, actually neither of those were really questions that needed to be asked. While it hadn't been outright stated in their email exchange with Sena--as far as Abigail remembered anyway, which given the general state of shock she'd been in was somewhat suspect--it wouldn't have been too much of a leap to get to that conclusion... maybe if it had just been the awkward, withdrawn hacker herself reading, but the second that exchange was shown to Calina... And well, "Jess, the girlfriend stealer" had been broadcast on an open channel, so. Yeah. There was that. The whole crew knew. Knew at least somewhat of the basic gist. That was certain.

Calina did clamp down on that line of inquiry from her end, thankfully. Almost certainly less about making the task of answering questions any easier for Jess, but at this point motivation was irrelevant. Any olive branch extended was a welcome one. It also meant Abby didn't have to really explain that angle either, so for now they could focus on trying to get her family on board with the amnesty agreement. Thankfully, Jess was a bit endearingly awkward. Both in appearance, and in how she'd gone about her introduction and explanation. So despite being a little overdressed, Abigail had a good feeling about things overall.

"What were your chances of taking on that Bismarck facility without me? What were our chances disrupting Colony One and getting the ANF to give a fuck about colonists' rights? C'mon Terry, we take risks every day. And like I've always said, if it's life or pointless death, you run the fuck away, okay? We just gotta try, seriously try, but if shit isn't working out, there's no blame on cutting it lose. That goes for everybody, not just Terry. I don't wanna lose any of you."

Sometimes running wasn't possible, and honestly, this coming fight was very likely to be just one such engagement. Abigail knew it, everyone knew it. But she still wanted to reiterate the creed she'd always held dear. Let everyone know that she, at least, wouldn't judge them on their choices if shit went south in a hard way. No matter what that choice may be.

Also, something about hearing it called 'suicidal' just rubbed her the wrong way. "Look, we're learning more about the enemy every day, and it's not like we haven't had successes along the way. A lot of them," Abby paused to look at Jess, a little miffed she'd so quickly capitulated with 'moderately high risk of death'. It's not that the assessment was wrong, but just...

"W-We weren't exactly l-law-abiding before," a sullen voice cut in past its stammers. "N-Not class A fugitives, on the ANF's most w-wanted list, but c-c-certainly not unknown to them as t-trouble either. S-Surviving on the r-r-run is another option."

Abigail swivelled to face Sena, sounding and looking more tired and drained than the rebel ever remembered seeing the poor girl. But, that was only natural, wasn't it? She pursed her lips slightly as she thought how to respond. The sniper wasn't all wrong, but she wasn't exactly right either. There was a great deal she was overlooking.


At least Abby was taking this well... Seemed to be taking this well. Jess didn't interrupt her stance on running, even she would try to retreat the Riese if the situation turned from do to die. While the losses required to get to that point would be astronomical, if the ship could survive, they still had a chance. A slim one, but a chance... Hopefully said hypothetical would involve saving as many people as they could, too.

Still, they had faced risks before, Abby was right. This wasn't their first ball game, and it wasn't about to be their last, so long as Jess had a say in things. Then, there was Sena... Oh no no. Jess had to outline just how clearly that would not fly.

"The... The problem with that, is that you've all gone above and beyond, this time. These machines you stole, they were part of the prototype line for the latest mass produced suit being put into action... This is a seriously big deal. Assuming the ANF wins the war, once repairs to damage are in order, they'll have nothing left to do but attempt to tie up loose ends... This is a big loose end."

"What she's saying," Calina jumped in, sighing, "is that unless we go through hell now, we're going through hell later. This hell has a definite end, we do or die, later hell might be indefinite. You get it?"

"Yeah, yeah... So I guess we're doin' it?" Terry sighed, shaking his head. "Well, Boss' right... Not the first time we've bitten off way more than we could chew. Guess I'm used to having my mouth full... Sena? E'eryone else?"

"Please do speak up," Calina reinforced, "because we're a family. All of your opinions matter... Yes, I want to do this, because I don't want trouble coming after us later, but if most of you don't, we cut and run, no complaints." Hopefully that was understood well enough. The room had gotten painfully quiet, thinking was in full force.

Geez, I hope I'm not pushing these people into making a mistake... Jess gulped. Abby had nearly torn herself apart losing them once, if some more of them actually died, if they lost... A cold bead of sweat slipped down her face, the worry had become incredibly real for a moment. She swallowed it just as quickly, but it existed now, and if things turned south, it would come back...


Terry coming on board pretty quick was definitely reassuring, and with Jess and Calina coming in and backing her up, Abigail felt better and better about winning over the rest. Maybe all it needed was another small push or two?

"Look, nobody's gonna be asking you to go on board and have to deal with ANF regs, propaganda, or other bullshit, so don't worry about that. But even if we didn't have the Deliverance here to rely on, the Riese crew is kind of a hodge-podge of irregulars anyway. Not your typical feddies by any stretch. I'm not keen on all of them, but... some of them ain't half bad."

Some nods and murmurs from the crowd. Sena, however, wasn't finding herself particularly swayed. But she didn't have the energy to get invested in resisting either. There was the chance of revenge possibly waiting down this path, after all. But after taking that hollow victory, what then? A part of her just wanted to close her eyes and never open them again.

"W-Whatever majority decides. I'm... g-going to sleep," she lied, and woodenly pushed back her seat, rising to her feet, intending to cloister herself in her room. She wasn't sure if she'd end up bashing her head against the brick wall she'd come upon in coding the next iteration of her favorite virus, or if she'd have a better time venting her rage in the online world of SSMO, but she highly doubted she could sleep even if she gave it a chance. No matter how dead inside she felt.


"O-Oh, yeah, none of that. We just want you to help... No other obligations, no contract signing, no--"

"We get it, little spokeslady. You just want us to shoot at the bad guys... Easy enough." Most of the people around were nodding and agreeing, even if Sena wasn't sold. Considering her stake in their recent losses, it made sense. He wasn't about to speak up and make her the center of attention, either... Her focus on Hilling had bordered on unhealthy, but he was the only one who had gotten her to step at least a foot out of that shell. It'd take a miracle to repeat that.

"Y... Yes... Just, shoot the bad guys. I've... Sorry. Too used to formal meetings." Jess sighed, she couldn't have been any more out of her element here if she'd tried. Given how she was acting, maybe she was trying.

"You'll get used to it, rookie," Calina jabbed, shaking her head a bit as Sena walked off. We all lost him today, not just you. We simply don't have time to sob and sulk about it. If we don't do something, it'll be more than him. I don't want to lose anyone else. "If we're in agreement, then... Ship's here to help, Jess. Make sure we can have access to your weapons, yeah? Just because we have the suits doesn't mean they're all perfectly stocked. Maybe we can fish somma them alien guns outta the ocean long as we're around here~"

"As long as it isnt too much trouble, you can fish whatever you want. Just, uh, try not to step on Fir-- C-Captain Alkaev's toes while doing it."

"The blonde midget? Yeah, yeah. We'll play nice. Not like we have a lot of suits to outfit... And... Come along, yeah?" With things settled, for now, Calina jerked her neck towards quarters, glancing between Abby and Jess, heading off and expecting them to follow.

"Huh, wha?" Jess went after her, tossing Abby a confused glance. What's this about...?

 
Ah, there it was, everything had just about neatly folded up. Except for Sena. Abigail was worried, but not sure the right approach to take. Part of her wanted to follow after, as the gathering broke up and dispersed--everybody indicating general agreement to the notion of 'shoot bad guys, get pardons', nodding and returning to whatever tasks they'd been up to prior. But... it was probably too soon, too raw. Maybe after a few hours. Some kind of something checking in, just making sure the girl knew people cared would be good.

Until then, Calina had something else on her mind. Something involving her, and Jess, and hopefully no yelling. Things had seemed to be promising so far, but there was more to be done, yeah. Tongues may wag, with Terry and the crew watching them file into private quarters together, but hell, let them wag.

"Right," Abby nodded, and began to pad along after Calina, turning back briefly when Jess seemed startled and confused, giving her a smile and a bit of a beckoning wave, curling her fingers to her palm a couple times quickly. "You should still have some time before you have to get back to other things, no?"


"I should... But..." Was there something they'd missed? Maybe...? Jess wasn't getting answers, Calina staying quiet as they headed out of the hangar and back towards the crew quarters. Was she going to get hazed? She was a bit worried... Calina had been very upset and violent, she wouldn't be surprised by something like hazing, but...

As they came up on the small rooms that housed the people of their ship, Calina stopped in front of one, leaning her fist against it as she turned to face Jess. "This room is mine and Abby's. The room across is empty, meaning you can have it. Abby can... Sleep where she wants. I don't know how these are supposed to work... But I'm not sleeping with you, so--"

"Th-That's fine, you really... Really don't have to worry about that. It's nice to know I'll have a room, though. Won't have a lot to bring along, but that's probably for the best, since, these seem pretty small."

"Is that a problem?"

"No. It's cozy. I can probably turn everything into something to lay down on, heh... A nice little hollow." Jess was enjoying the thought. After having to be responsible for an entire battleship, her list of worries was dwindling down to: Keep Abby happy, and make sure her room was clean. "Thank you. Really."

"Yeah... Yeah, sure... Abby, unless you've got somethin' else for her, you can take the good captain back to her ship... I need a drink, an' maybe some other things..." Calina sighed and opened the door to her room, disappearing into it and flopping onto the bed, not bothering to close the door. A hand idly reached for the minifridge, trying to get it open for said drink.

"Ahh... Ahaha... W-Well, at least this was... Mostly painless?" Jess awkwardly looked at Abby, hoping she didn't feel too awkward.


Jess still had her queen-sized captain's lodgings on the Riese, so Abigail was pretty sure she wouldn't be spending her nights in the room Calina offered her until after quitting the ANF and joining them on the run--well, actually if they were pardoned it wouldn't really still be on the run anymore would it...--but even so, it was a welcome gesture, even if the delivery was somewhat stiff. Abby couldn't help but smile warmly. At that moment, she felt truly blessed, and she wasn't gonna let worrying or waiting for another shoe to drop do anything to put her down.

When Calina retreated into the room and collapsed, Abby gave Jess a slightly apologetic look and said, "I'll be just a second," then followed her in. Kneeling beside the bed, she gave the weary woman a silent squeeze on the shoulder with one hand, and at the same time she solved the beverage problem with the second.

"Just one for now, okay?" Abigail cautioned, as she delivered a beer from the fridge to the grasping hand that'd been seeking it. Not normally one to worry about policing behavior or anything but, "We might need to win over some hearts and minds still coming up for a bit."

Pushing herself back up off the floor, before she turned back to Jess and the doorway she added, in normal voice, easily heard, nothing to hide, "Was gonna sleep here tonight, if you were worrying 'bout that. Probably tomorrow too, then... well, will have to work on figuring something out so nobody has to be constantly guessing. And I'll give you a buzz before the meeting starts up, Terry too, I guess. Was gonna bring Sena along, but that doesn't seem a good idea after thinking it through."

When Abby made it back to the hall, she asked Jess, "Anything else you wanted to see or do here before I take you back? I guess there's no rush, you can visit whenever you like, and even have your own place, but, as long as we were here..."


"Sure thing." Poor Calina. So much had to be running through her head, right now. Keeping her people safe, making Abby happy, dealing with this ginger invader. She'd done a stellar job of the last thing, considering circumstances. It was definitely cute to see Abby handing her the drink, the affectionate grunt from the spent woman, as she tried to roll over enough to actually drink it without making a mess.

"Fine... Just one... Getting hammered after tho'." Calina grumbled and sipped at her beer, determined to make the thing last if she was only getting one. "Don't make her sad now," she barked, half in jest, "don't want her thinking I'm the villain, you coming over here all of a sudden." Calina stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry, dealing with things in her own way.

"That's fine, Abby. If I didn't have to watch over the ship, I'd join you here, but... I'm the eyes and ears of it so long as the war's going on. Soon." Hopefully that would help, Jess not sure if Abby was feeling a little bad about jumping over here or not... It would be suddenly lonely for a few nights, but Jess could manage.

"See something else? Eheh... Abby, hun." Jess leaned in and gave her a small kiss on the cheek. "I just wanted to see you happy... So I guess my tour is over." Maybe a bit cheesy... She couldn't help herself, though. Abby was the happiest she'd been. It was breathtaking.

 
It was hard not to snort when Calina had launched into her exaggerated grumbles, topped with a raspberry like some sort of sundae, but somehow Abigail managed. Definitely wouldn't begrudge the girl getting good and hammered later in the evening, even had half a mind to join in herself. But, well, they'd just have to see how things played out when they did. For now...

It was trying not to blush furiously as Jess turned up the charm, catching her off guard. "Well if that's," Abby began to reply though she couldn't finish the thought and ended up just mumbling soft wordshapes with no form or substance after. But a few moments more and she finally recovered enough to pull together a little wit of her own.

"Yeah, I guess tour over, vacation spent, time to get back to work, huh? Man, the hours your job makes you work..." she tried cracking a weak joke as she lightly brought her forehead to rest up against Jess's for a moment. "Well, with a little luck you'll be able to see that every day going forward. I wouldn't mind a happy me either. Please tell me you were using a genie's lamp when you made that wish, and not some monkey's paw, though."

 


 

Too many fronts. Thorvald liked to imagine he was on decent terms with Firmia, which might be overstating things, but at least he wasn't on poor terms with the Russian. With the Riese bridge impacted, and its command possibly fractured--though given the flagship was still moving somewhat tactically, and appeared to be priming its weapons--at best its lines of communication seemed to be down. Whether it was TK training, or something else, the Avalon's captain seemed confident that Jessica was still alive, which would have to do for now, given what they had to work with.

"Papa Bear here, Vivian. If you need me to double-back to help deal with the mess the pincer is making, just say the word. Until then, I'll be making myself useful keeping the other half of our squad in good order." It was a simple message, nothing special coming out of the specialist today. Simply by virtue of size and staff, the capital ships would always be able to better juggle the whole theatre of the engagement, rather than the mobile suits--even the super robots--doing the best they could with just bits and pieces. Telling Firmia that he trusted her to make the big judgement calls was just Thorvald's way of trying to give her confidence that people would respect her being at the top of the chain of command, even if it were only temporary.

Unfortunately, his own task wasn't so easy. Kim was splitting off from the bulk of the rest of the unit. While safety in numbers was by no means absolute, 'safety alone and surrounded' just wasn't a thing period.

"Idol, coming up behind you. I've got your six, that'll be one less thing you need to worry about." No need for judgements or theatrics in his message. It was more important to focus on keeping people safe.

Thorvald moves to 13,10

Edited by Balcerzak

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"You'll have to introduce me to 'just a friend' when we're done kicking ass out here." Calina scoffed a bit, trusting Abby enough to have not turned the Riese into her personal crutch harem. Probably... The girl did have a magnetism for women, it was... Rather weird.


"[Ignatius is the head mechanic on board the Riese... After Buck. But, due to Buck's recent trauma involving our previous ally, Avery Wright, I believe he would be unable to handle the Captain's current state. Thus is falls to Ignatius to be able to repair her. Having him assess the damage she has taken and seeing if there is a way to fix her swiftly is paramount.]" Tiffany got Jess into the SIEG container, attached her to the charging station-- And the Captain suddenly flinched, like she was... Turning back on?

"Where...?"

"[Megumi, the Captain appears conscious. Please assume command of the situation.]" Tiff then turned to Roxanna, who also appeared to be waking up. "[XO, the bridge was attacked. You are in the infirmary... Captain Gefalscht managed to save you from an untimely end.]"


Enemy Phase/Turn 2!

"San'Xuur... Yaan'Tul. You will cease your movements, and hold your group at bay. This human defeated a Knight, I shall face her myself. Only if I fall, are the two of you to engage with the rest of these forces." Iln'Teer huffed, he wouldn't be able to stomach fighting such a worthy opponent with the others getting in his way, or worse, stealing his success. He was the leader, right now... He would face this human and gauge their worth against a true Knight, not some runt like Soor'Kan.

"Human! Prepare yourself!"

Iln'Teer moves to 15,10! He engages Kim!

Final Stats: 44,16
Roll: 57,100
Miss!

Kim counters with Mode A!
Final Stats: 80,24
Roll: 83,89
Miss!

Kim gains +2 will!

"We dance, human!"

Charging in, Astin found their first opponent to be... Kim. "I always did hate how good you were. Time to test it for myself!"

Astin moves to 14,9, attacking Kim!

Final Stats: 5,39
Roll: 8,94
Barely missed!

Kim counters, Mode A!

Final Stats: 89,16
Roll: 73,56
Hit!
Final Damage: 94

Kim gain +1 EXP, +4 Will!

"You! What are you doing!? This is my fight! Stay out of it! The rest of you, ignore this one, and charge the others!" Iln'Teer's voice boomed, Astin barely able to handle the sudden mental assault. The Apotheosis pilots weren't about to question him.

Marianne moves to 10,17!
"Hey, Aliza! Nice machine you have there!"
Knives out!
Final Stats: 99,52
Roll: 67,17
Hit
Crit!
Aliza Defends!
Final Damage: 21!

Cressida #6 pulls up to 16,10, and fires at Thorvald!
Final Stats: 100,0
Roll: 15,27
Hit
Final Damage: 1!

Thorvald fires back!
Final Stats: 91,26
Roll: 80,75
Hit!
Final Damage: More than 1! 17!

Thorvald gains +20 EXP, +4 will!

Cressida #7 moves to 17,11, and tries again!
Second verse same as the first!
1 damage!

Thorvald counters with missiles!
Final Stats: 62,16
Roll: 28,35
Hit
Final Damage: 50

Thorvald gains +20 EXP, +4 will!

Hyperion #1 moves to 10,18 and fires at Makoto!
Final Stats: 66,0
Roll: 88,35
Miss!

Makoto counters with HEAVY MACHINE GUN!
Final Stats: 100,27
Roll: 62,3
Hit
Crit!
Final Damage: 61

Makoto gains +40 EXP, +2 will!

Hyperion #3 tries the same trick!
Final Stats: 76,0
Roll: 12,95
Hit!
Final Damage: 35

Makoto counters with his rocket pods!
Final Stats: 93,22
Roll: 86,13
Hit
Crit!
Final Damage: 139!

Makoto gains +40 EXP, +4 will!

Praxis #5 swings at Brant... And misses because he chose to evade!
Brant gains +1 will!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Phobos squad aims to cause a dent!

Phobos #6 fires at the Riese!

Phobos #6 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: Plasma Cannon
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 34, 72
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 55

Heion Riese counters!
Weapon: Dual Beam Cannons
Final Hit: 52
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 48, 11
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 230! Wowie!

Jess gains +20 EXP,+2 Will!

Phobos #7 follows suit!

Phobos #7 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: Plasma Cannon
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 40, 5
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 64

Heion Riese counters!
Weapon: Dual Beam Cannons
Final Hit: 52
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 52 (really), 86
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 144!
A goner!

Jess gains +170 EXP,+7 Will, +12 PP and +5500 credits!

Phobos #8 as well!

Phobos #8 attacks!
Target: Heion Riese (Jessica)
Weapon: Plasma Cannon
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 42, 77
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 55

Heion Riese counters!
Weapon: Dual Beam Cannons
Final Hit: 52
Final Crit: 26
Roll: 17, 59
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 157.

Jess gains +20 EXP,+2 Will!

The Riese sure put up a fight!

Phobos #9 diverts his attention towards the Eidolon!

Phobos #9 attacks!
Target: Eidolon (Carlos)
Weapon: Plasma Cannon
Final Hit: 49
Final Crit: 7
Roll: 85, 13
Miss!

Eidolon counters!
Weapon: Dual Shoulder Cannons
Final Hit: 80
Final Crit: 18
Roll: 71, 25
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 69

Carlos gains +10 EXP,+5 Will!

The last one decides to mess with Caroline!

Phobos #10 attacks!
Target: Legionary Mk.IV-M (Caroline)
Weapon: Plasma Cannon
Caroline's Lucky Roll: 3. Lucky rate increased to 2%. 
Final Hit: 61
Final Crit: 14
Roll: 94, 35
Miss!

"Ah, Dodged it!"
Legionary Mk.IV-M counters!
Weapon: R. Sniper Rifle
Final Hit: 65
Final Crit: 4
Roll: 57, 47
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 54.

Caroline gains +50 EXP,+2 Will!

With that volley weathered, the Riese will live another minute! But until when...

Cressida #2, #4, and #5 close the gap towards Elaine and draw their KNIVES.

Cressida #2 attacks!
Target: Oberon (Elaine)
Weapon: Heat Carving Knife
(Elaine counter roll: 12)

Elaine goes first! Elaine counters!
Weapon: Revolver stake
Final Hit: 89
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 44, 12
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 128

Cressida #2 finally attacks!
Final Hit: 70
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 6, 39
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 28

Elaine gains +10 EXP, +4 Will!

2/3

Cressida #4 attacks!
Target: Oberon (Elaine)
Weapon: Heat Carving Knife
(Elaine counter roll: 57)
Final Hit: 75
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 76, 18
Miss!

Elaine counters!
Weapon: Revolver stake
Final Hit: 89
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 33, 45
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 88

Elaine gains +10 EXP, +3 Will!

3/3

Cressida #5 attacks!
Target: Oberon (Elaine)
Weapon: Heat Carving Knife
(Elaine counter roll: 52)
Final Hit: 75
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 64, 85
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 29

Elaine counters!
Weapon: Revolver stake
Final Hit: 89
Final Crit: 35
Roll: 49, 35
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 141!

Elaine gains +10 EXP, +4 Will!

A volley of beams is fired at Tarquin!

Cressida #8 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 63
Final Crit: 0
Roll: 38, 67
(Buckler roll: 94)
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 37

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: High Precision Rifle
Final Hit: 85
Final Crit: 43
Roll: 58, 54
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 127

Tarquin gains +5 EXP, +2 Will!

One more!

Cressida #9 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: LB Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 63
Final Crit: 0
Roll: 76, 96
Miss!

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: High Precision Rifle
Final Hit: 85
Final Crit: 43
Roll: 63, 68
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 127

Tarquin gains +5 EXP, +4 Will!

Not just Cressidas!

Hyperion #2 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: Beam Rifle
Final Hit: 74
Final Crit: 0
Roll: 73, 82
(Buckler roll: 1)
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 22

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: High Precision Rifle
Final Hit: 85
Final Crit: 43
Roll: 43, 100
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 120

Tarquin gains +10 EXP, +2 Will!

And a praxis swoops in to try to take a piece of the Aria!

Praxis Gamma #6 attacks!
Target: Aria (Tarquin)
Weapon: Plasma Cutter
Final Hit: 83
Final Crit: 18
Roll: 35, 3
(Buckler roll: 2)
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 90!

Tarquin counters!
Weapon: Seeker Missiles
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 27
Roll: 60, 11
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 143!

Tarquin gains +20 EXP, +2 Will!

And that is... not all.

Deimos #7 fires at the Deliverance!

Deimos #7 attacks!
Target: Deliverance (Terry)
Weapon: Pulse Kunai
Final Hit: 96
Final Crit: 7
Roll: 12, 58
Hit!
No Crit.
Terry chooses to defend!
Damage: 39
EN Damage: 20

Terry gains +1 Will!

Deimos #8 also decides to attack the Deliverance!

Deimos #8 attacks!
Target: Deliverance (Terry)
Weapon: Pulse Kunai
Final Hit: 96
Final Crit: 7
Roll: 1, 4
Hit!
Crit!
Terry chooses to defend!
Damage: 58
EN Damage: 30

Terry gains +1 Will!

Deimos #9 continues the assault on the Deliverance!

Deimos #9 attacks!
Target: Deliverance (Terry)
Weapon: Pulse Kunai
Final Hit: 96
Final Crit: 7
Roll: 36, 26
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 65

Terry counters!
Weapon: AA Missiles
Final Hit: 63
Final Crit: 13
Roll: 20, 67
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 64
EN Damage: 20

Terry gains +40 EXP, +2 Will!

Deimos #10 moves to (3,7), swings at the Cressida Kai with its buster sword!

Deimos #10 attacks!
Target: Crescent Moon Kai (Kazue)
Weapon: Buster Sword
Final Hit: 28
Final Crit: 24
Roll: 89, 96
Miss!

Kazue counters!
Weapon: Liquid Metal Blade
Final Hit: 87
Final Crit: 46
Roll: 48, 22
Hit!
Crit!
Damage: 245!

Kazue gains +40 EXP, +4 Will!

Aaaand that's it.

Player Phase/Turn 3!

25cd36ae15.png

Victory Conditions:
Defeat all enemies!

Loss Conditions:
The Riese is destroyed!

Battle Mastery:
Defeat Marianne and Astin in the same turn!

Doc

Edited by Xinnidy

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Elaine watched as Kim finished off her target, deriving a great deal of satisfaction from watching it go down. Even if people didn't like her that much on a personal level, she could at least contribute on the field. She was looking at a cell when this was all over, but taking down genocidal cat aliens was enough to keep her going.

"Ain't no point worryin' about jail if there ain't a jail to go to." Elaine muttered, her hotheaded confidence slowly rising from her chest as she gripped her controls. She was bad at making smalltalk and keeping her temper, but she wasn't going to let herself be known for fighting like a wimp. "Looks like we took some chunks out of those fleabags. If they think they can face another wave they got another thing comin-... shit."

Was that Astin in the other Luna? Elaine was wracking her brains for an explanation. Maybe they had been tricked or brainwashed into fighting against them, there was no way that Astin was actually with Apotheosis.

"Astin, is that you? You ain't thinkin' straight! Whatever lies Apotheosis have fed you are bullshit!" Elaine protested, slamming her fist down on a monitor. "You fought with us so many times, don't that mean something? You can't just switch sides like that, there's gotta be something they ain't tellin' you!"

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The lead unit of the ambushing force was down, but not without causing its fair share of both physical and emotional damage to Alriana's allies. While she did remember a human by the name of Duane during her visit to Apothesis, and she had certainly changed since those days, she'd be lying if she said his demise had any meaningful impact on her. Casualties happened in battle, that was just how these things went. Admittedly Vera's situation was a bit different than someone simply getting shot down, but it was the same at its core: the loss of someone irreplaceable. She'd felt that pain, if only for a moment, and didn't blame Vera for shutting down. Now just wasn't the time for it.

"Vera! Think later, fight now! If you die now, what happens to people who need you!?" Honestly, she doubted her words would have an effect, lacking confidence, and experience, in communicating with others. Especially on matters as serious as this. Still, it would have felt wrong to not have tried at all. All that she could do now was take out the rest of the enemies before they realized that Vera was an easy target.

Alriana Tail Smashes Deimos 9, Hannah supports with AA Missiles!

Edited by Ursali

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Saved by the Android

An untimely end? Roxanna could barely remember what was happening at the bridge back then, some warning on her screen, then Jessica jumped at her... "We've got to go back, then, I should-- O-oh?" It took a moment to realise who the person on the nearby SIEG tank was. There was so... little of the captain that it didn't process it could've been... her. "Jessica, are you... oh god." It was probably the first time in... ever that Roxanna was legitimately concerned with Jessica, especially since learning she was some sort of super advanced android. "Captain... are, are you feeling okay?" Dumb question, absolutely not, but Roxanna wanted to know how bad it was. For the first time ever showing concern for the girl, Roxanna moved right in front of the tank, looking at what was... left of her.

Repair Crew

The door to the infirmary opened automatically shortly after. It didn't take much for Ignatius to get there with how the elevators were empty. Nobody really dared leave their posts after that attack, especially in the middle of battle. Ignatius was prepared for something... no matter what he predicted, the reality of it was something hard to stomach.

"Sweet christmas! It's a murder!" Viewing Captain Gefalscht in a jar was rather repulsive, even moreso when her mechanical parts kind of floundered in the goop. "I see why I'm needed... what's the plan, doc?"

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"Yeah, it's me. Don't bother, Elaine. Not even Vera could stop me now... I dunno what you fed her, but you're all going down. This is the end of the line!" Elaine sure liked to think she was worth something, didn't she? She was just a hick from the colonies in the wrong robot, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It'd be her funeral.


Captain... Captain, captain... Who was the captain? They were looking at her as they said it. I'm the captain, then? Alright... Stored in my memory banks. "I'm alright. I'm... Gimme a second... Jessica Gaertner? Huh... Weird last name. Uh..." Jess looked around the room, taking in faces, glancing down at what she was missing. "Alright... Just a second..." Searching for an access port... And... Okay. This is the... Heion Riese... Captain, Jessica Gefalscht? But they're calling me Captain... I have access, so this must be an error. Lemme fix that... As she went about changing the registry, she looked into the names of everyone else in the infirmary. Megumi, Roxanna, Ignatius, Tiffany, Olivia, and Valerie.

"Okay! I've got all your names down... I seem to be an android, in a real sticky situation. Don't supposed you know how long repairs are gonna take?"

Tiffany suddenly looked incredibly alarmed. "[Captain, requesting permission to access your systems.]"

"Er... Granted? I don't see why not..."

"[Accessing... Error... Error... Megumi.]" Tiffany turned to the doctor, as grim a look as her emotional capacity could produce. "[To ensure that Jessica, the personality, remained in tact, her processing core... Has deleted all memories of being Jessica Gefalscht, as a means to make emergency space, as systems went offline.]"

"That sounds pretty heavy..." So, she'd been this, Gefalscht person?

"[As she still retains access to all of the Riese's systems, it is advised she be brought up to speed on the situation, and begin captaining as soon as possible.]"

"Oh, right, I'm the captain... Seems we're, uh, in a battle? I'll do what I can! I can still access the main guns and cameras."


Who still need you... There was... Esther and Astin, they were still... "I... I know, that..." But, my brother... Vera finally moved, her machine swaying slightly in its hovering. "You're right, but, just... He didn't deserve... He didn't deserve this...!" Finding her rage, the Velite came back to life, though Vera wasn't interested in doing anything calmly. "You bastards took my brother away from me! You made him do this! I'll kill you AAAAAAALL!"

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"Tch... it's fast..." Seung-Min noted, as she barely managed to evade the incoming tail swing from the Hexis, swinging her zanbar in response, though it didn't manage to connect either. For something that large, it being that maneuverable was absurd... but absurdity was the name of the game when it came to Sacarian machines. If nothing else, she was probably the best equipped to try and keep up with the monster... just keep his focus in check.

Of course, that wasn't all that had come for her. A familiar machine, with a familiar pilot, though for all the wrong reasons. Astin... gritting her teeth, Seung-Min brought her blade to meet the traitor's, parrying it and landing a reasonable riposte with her zanbar, the blade coated with her tk-field to bolster it's ability to clash and deal damage. Parting ways with the Luna by delivering it a harsh kick to send it backwards, it seemed that Astin was being assailed mentally by the Sacarian Knight... if the feelings in the air were anything to go by. Opening a channel to Astin and Vera, so that the latter could perhaps kick some sense into the former.

"Astin. Now that you've gotten your taste... you didn't do any of the sabotaging, you didn't pull the trigger, you didn't even pilot on the way out... out of a hope that those facts represent... something, and out of respect for Vera's wishes..." Seung-Min paused... there was no easy way to say this, if Astin had chosen to still defect this late in the game, their conviction had to be something else... but she had to try.

"Walk away, Astin. I'm not even going to ask you to turn your blade. Vera doesn't want to have to watch you die, and I can only hope there's something left to hope for in that head of yours. I don't know what your reasons are, what your grudge with the ANF or with anyone else is... I don't know why you clung to Apotheosis Astin, but... you have to understand that this? The Sacarians, lording over you with absolute authority? That is what lies ahead of Apotheosis... of the entire world, if they win. You've seen how they operate, you have to understand this by now, Astin! We all have our issues with how the ANF handles things, but what grudge is worth signing a death warrant for the entire human race for?!" Seung-Min paused for a moment... she had never been close to Astin, and was probably not the best choice for this, but what other option did she have?

"That's the only warning I can give you. If you intend to keep swinging at me, you leave me little choice. I hope you'll make the right choice... not just for yourself, but for Vera too."

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Alriana sends a tell-tail response towards Deimos 9!

Alriana attacks!
Target: Deimos #9
Weapon: Tail Slam
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 39
Roll: 50, 70
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 135

Deimos #9 counters!
Weapon: Pulse Kunai
Final Hit: 0
Final Crit: 1
Roll: 24, 72
Miss!

Hannah provides backup!
Weapon: AA Missiles
Final Hit: 77
Final Crit: 15
Roll: 16, 18
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 53

Alriana gains +5 EXP!
Hannah gains +15 EXP, +0 Will!

An effective response at that.


Back to Square... Zero

"Her memories were..." Roxanna was staggered, an incredulous look towards Tiffany as she explained the situation. "There's no way-- if she lost her memories, doesn't that defeat the point of preserving her personality?" This pretty much meant Jessica was... never going to be herself again. Why did her systems make such a drastic decision? Was there really no other way?

"Captai-- Uh, Jessica... do you really not remember anything about being out there, right now? About any of us?" There was no way... this was Jessica! Sounded like her, acted like her... only difference was the missing most of her body, r-really. "Remember, uh, when I lost my temper and slapped you, and... you punched my teeth right out? Hah..." It felt wrong, Roxanna had to admit she wasn't Jessica's biggest fan, but after sort-of making up, she had to say goodbye? Pipsqueak was gone? "O-or... oh god." The XO's voice wavered for a moment, "What do you remember about, Abigail Casson?" She'd remembered the two were in a relationship as the shock dispersed.

Edited by Xinnidy

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Oh, not good. Thankfully, Ignatius arrived in good time, but the Jessica they knew had been more or less deleted, apparently. Since Jessica didn't yet appreciate the gravity of the situation, it would definitely be best to get her up to speed and acting tactically, again. Roxanna asked about herself and Abigail, specifically what Jessica remembered about those relationships, but now wasn't the time for that.

"Captain, please just focus on fighting the enemy outside for now and leave the repairs to us," Megumi began quickly, "Tiffany, find out anything you can about Jessica's organic parts from her own systems and what the damage to those is. Ignatius, I need you to seal the bleeding first-" an odd term for an android but it was what it was- "while I figure out the best way to get a life support system setup. Whatever tools you need for the job, my assistants can bring them."

"Whatever you need, Valerie nodded, a tad nervous, but ready and willing to do her part.

...

Considering the situation, they needed Thorvald with the other half of their forces farther north. "Keep them alive, Papa Bear-" What a strange callsign to actually say out loud ... "This is the weaker side, so hold them off until we finish, then we'll rendezvous and take down the rest." A simple plan, but that seemed to be the direction things were heading, already. The strongest enemies were in Thorvald's area. More importantly, they needed someone over there with enough experience coordinating to keep them all alive until this small fleet regrouped.

"Hannah," Firmia tried contacting her again, "get back to the Reign as fast as you can. We have to go on full offense right now. If we smash the reinforcements that just came in we should be able to meet up with the others and plow straight through the main force." The lead units and the Chaldenes were still major concerns, as was the severe damage the Riese had suffered, but if they were fast enough, they could still deal with all of that, too. If only they had been able to rendezvous with their own reinforcements, this would have been much easier ...

Firmia activates Focus (Edson ver.)!

Probe Your Mind (Chapter I)

 

...

Being able to actually run simulations had been wonderful, even if the human systems and machines were a bit archaic. It was a nice test of her skills to keep up with multiple targets in an unknown and inferior machine. Now that she had sufficiently entertained herself, and they had dealt with helping the humans understand their machines, it was finally time for a small break. There were... A few things on her mind. Most importantly, it was things she wished to ask Gabriel. Whether it had been on purpose, or simply subconsciously, she had been peering into his memories on occasion during discussions, having to stop herself when she caught the action. It was a breach of privacy that Gabriel did not deserve, so as to prevent anything ridiculous happening in the future, it would be prudent to ask.

Gently pressing a towel against her face as she re-entered the suite, she peered over at Gabriel, looking over a tablet... Perhaps checking files on the facility, machines, plans, something. "Hello, Gabriel," she greeted, sitting next to him and pausing, before leaning in to see what he was looking over. "Files on the facility? Anything important or interesting?" Legs crossed again, Haal'Sen hadn't bothered to heed Ziva's warning. Despite the stares at her attire, no one dared to approach either of the aliens, leaving Haal'Sen glad that they knew their place. "If not, I did have something I wished to ask of you."

"Oh?" Gabriel could only guess at what she wanted to ask him. What he'd been going over earlier was interesting enough to start up a conversation with, but now he was simply perusing Statlas' inventory and member profiles, trying to get a feel for the place and its capabilities. It was important to know what to reasonably expect from these people prior to bringing the Vaska back, lest they wind up in a similar situation to the Alkaev main facility. The drydock was something of a gamechanger, even without the Vaska here to fill it, but Statlas could not suffer the same fate as Voronin, or anything similar.

"Alright then, tell me what's on your mind," Gabriel said, letting the tablet rest on his lap.

"Nothing to share then? Mrrr... Well, hmm..." Best to address things head on. "This is a nasty habit-- I suppose only to you humans-- of, almost all of our species, but I have been occasionally taking looks into your memories... Seeing as you are my King, when I catch myself, I stop, but it is not something I do consciously at times. I figured that, to avoid this in the future, it would simply be best to ask if discussing your past would be alright. If not, I will attempt to be more vigilant in stopping myself without your permission." Haal'Sen shifted a moment, legs crossing the other way again. It was clear she felt a bit uncomfortable, asking to pry so deeply into his life, but it was for a good reason, so she thought, at least.

Gabriel supposed curiosity was only natural, and all the more so for Sacarians if they could so easily satisfy that curiosity. Reading minds seemed tame enough, but delving into memories without a word would absolutely terrify most people. Politicians and high ranking military officers would both love and utterly despise it.

"Ask me whatever you like ... though," a thought suddenly occurred to him, "for Ziva's sake, it may be best if we avoid the finer details of how we met." At the risk of stoking Haal'Sen's curiosity even further, it had to be said. If the Sacarian could look into his memories, then she could also have a secondhand 'experience' of some very intimate moments between Gabriel and Ziva, and though Gabriel didn't mind, he knew with absolute certainty Ziva would ... and fair enough. She might have thought twice about that night, as well as all of her other 'jobs,' if she'd known the Sacarians existed.

"Mmmmrrr... I suppose it must be something... Private, if you wish to avoid it. You two certainly seemed close, but not quite that close... If I was wrong, my apologies. Then, I would like you to share whatever you feel you are most comfortable in doing so. Anything particular that I might run into, or, see if I venture into your mind, that you're fine with sharing. I am very curious about you, not simply because you managed to defeat us in combat, but also your very nature... It is... So calm, collected, taking the world as you see it, rather than getting surprised or upset."

She nodded, smiling a bit. "You are not, for one, scared at all about working with a species from outside your solar system. A bit of shock, a little awe, but no fear, excitement, terror, hefty curiosity... Maybe I am not prying deep enough, but you seem quite... Comfortable, with all of this. No one else around here feels this way. It's vexing and intriguing. So, please, if you would, just... Share yourself with me."

It wasn't hard for Gabriel to admit that he had almost unique and comparably subtle reactions in intense or abnormal situations. After all, here he was, chatting with a feline-esque alien from who knows where, and it had been this way from the beginning. Gabriel wasn't sure if Haal'Sen would find the ultimate reason for it in his memories. There was no single defining moment that turned him from that upbeat young infantryman into a true stoic ... none he could think of, at least.

"Much of what you'll find is me with a gun," Gabriel reminisced, "My father's unit was always embedded somewhere. It was a cheaper and more effective means of countering the more violent EU detractors. They stayed with the locals, shopped at the same stores, ate at the same restaurants, and so on. They were a kind of 'embedded light infantry.' That's the world I was born into."

Skipping ahead a little, Gabriel continued, "I couldn't help my father and comrades in any official capacity until I was sixteen, however, he made certain I knew how to fight and keep pace with the unit well before that. When the mission took them away from the urban areas, I would almost always accompany them ... and not everyone agreed with the idea. Still, my father led the unit, so he usually had the final say. The older and more capable I became, the more duties I was given, and the more new faces I saw as the older fighters were killed, transferred, or retired, and younger fighters were brought in or recruited locally.

"Once I officially joined my father's unit, there was more he could do with me in a fight, and my youth and stamina finally came into play. Instead of carrying extra supplies, I was nearly always leading ambushes and diverting enemy attention for the main group. Not much has changed," Gabriel grinned in amusement at the recent battle. "I think in some ways, that kind of life helped me to cope with the unexpected. If I ever hesitated or tried to process what was happening in the moment, I was a dead man. I'm certain I would have been shocked beyond belief by you and Raay'Xel back then, but those were the years that taught me to face reality, regardless of my personal feelings."

Fascinating... Haal'Sen had already learned plenty about Gabriel and life in the EU sphere with this small starting bit. "I find it quite interesting he had you waiting so long to fight. Sixteen is, quite the late age to be joining battle. I suppose our years work differently, but... It definitely does sound odd. Is all of the EU like this? Perhaps that is why your recruits around here are so very, inadequate. Comparatively." She nodded, that made sense in her head at least. Why the humans couldn't manage against them without their veterans or ace pilots.

"That does fit along with your reactions to the both of us... Still, it is rather impressive that such training and fighting would be all it would take for you to accept extra terrestrial life. Harping on it will do me no good, I will leave it with, I find that side of you quite impressive. It will suite you going forward, with what we have to accomplish. My Liege is wonderful~" Haal'Sen chuckled to herself, further impressed with Gabriel, now understanding where this stoicism was coming from.

"Mmm, what else? Where is your father now, and the people you fought with?"

"Retired or dead," Gabriel said plainly, "Sometimes we had to assist other units that were engaged nearby ... and one day we got particularly unlucky. My father lost his life for it." He could only sigh as the memories of that fateful day came, vivid and foreboding even back then. "We were nervous. All of us. We had taken down isolated mobile suits before. It's not as difficult as most people think. The challenge this time was a small group of them, fast and deadly, perfectly suited for hunting down tanks and low flying aircraft ... and easily too much for regular infantry ...

"My father was certain we could win in spite of that, and he was right. The right strategy would have seen all four of those machines destroyed ... unfortunately, they were on our side ... mercenaries. That crucial bit of intelligence hadn't reached our allies, and so when they called us for help, we were in the dark as well." A bit of pride struck Gabriel as he recalled his father's last heroic feat. "My father struck the killing blow to one of those mercenaries. Two ARPGs was enough ... one to weaken the armor protecting the cockpit, the other to bore through and incinerate the pilot ..." ... and then the nightmare began, and Gabriel's memories of that caused his gaze to fall between his boots. "Once we realized these were EU mercenaries, the radiomen from both of our squads contacted them. We stopped attacking them, expecting the fighting to end right then and there ... but the leader wasn't having any of that. My father tried to get away once he realized the mobile suits were still hostile, but he was caught out in the open... hoisted off of the ground like a doll.

"I snatched the radio from Chase and pleaded ... and pleaded ... it was the longest, most humiliating moment of my life ... and of my father's, I imagine. It was also meaningless. Gregor was a vicious mercenary, but he had close friends. Comrades ... and my father had just killed one of them. He wanted to revenge ... so he crushed my father to death right in front of me ... in front of all of us. We couldn't prove to our superiors that the mercenaries were at fault for my father's death, and all of the casualties in that exchange were written off as unintended friendly fire. My father's men ... we all vowed revenge."

Gabriel wasn't sure if Haal'Sen would relate Gregor's situation with her own, but personally, Gabriel was grateful that they were allies now, that Haal'Sen and Raay'Xel hadn't simply gone out of their way to kill him and the others in revenge. This wasn't the ideal outcome necessarily; Syyn'Zay and Keel'Ran had both died, but this was far better than Gabriel could have hoped for at the time.

"Oh... I... My apologies, for asking." Haal'Sen relived the memories with Gabriel, her expression falling almost in sync with his own. What a horrible experience, for him to have to go through. Loss in combat was expected, and while she wouldn't have felt the same, she was reading his emotions, and could understand how he had felt at the time. How painful... I had never considered the loss of a family to be this painful, and yet... Gabriel, I am so sorry. By the time he had finished talking, Haal'Sen was reaching for him, pulling his head close and resting it against her chest, hugging him as she did.

"I am so sorry, Gabriel. I have heard a saying from Raay'Xel, that you humans use... 'Time heals all wounds?' My people have a similar saying, that, 'all things pass with time', but it appears... Some things do not close, simply because ten years have gone by. While family is not an important thing to us, when it comes to war, fighting and death, it is certainly something special to you humans. By feeling what you are... I can tell how important this was to you. And I am, sorry. I pray you will not have to go through something similar, ever again. I will not allow it." She'd ended up hugging him tighter, not intending to do so, but this foreign feeling was a strong one, feeling it for the first time. Sorrow over a family member, how strange, how, painful and cutting.

Gabriel couldn't help but smile guiltily and shut his eyes as he was embraced. He hadn't expected such empathy, but thinking back on Sacarian ESP, they likely had a greater capacity for it than humans. Only their culture could really get in the way. "Thank you, Haal'Sen. I'll be relying on you going forward, so I'm glad you understand what I've endured in order to reach this point." ... that said, he was somewhat more hesitant to get into the other half of the story. Things didn't really get any better until after Ziva tried to kill him ...

"I'm ... optimistic. More so than usual."

"As you should be, my Liege. You have powerful solders under your command, a place to rest and plan, and ideas for how to become even stronger. You are far more impressive than any human I have seen before... Perhaps all this suffering builds a stronger character. I would not wish it upon you again, as even we break at a point, but... Having gone through this at least once, knowing the pain of loss, and how it can shape you... It is... Mmm. Important. I suppose..." Maybe important was the wrong word, but she felt it fit.

Sitting there and cradling his head against herself, gently patting his hair, she wondered aloud, "If you wish not to speak of anything further, that is fine. I have learned plenty about you and your race through this. I am not greedy."

"I certainly wouldn't be the same if not for that tragedy. Or what followed. There is one more important part of this, though ... one that will hopefully clarify most of my actions for me. For your sake, I'll try not to relive the worst parts ..." Gabriel decided to delve into the other half of the story. That would cover his upbringing all the way up to his run-in with Ziva.

"We had the option to wait ... to try and avenge my father once their contract with the EU expired ... but between the likelihood of contract renewals and being on our own assignment ... we realized vengeance was going to come at a cost. We assumed that cost would be our membership in the EU armed forces ... but as we hunted them down, I realized it was far worse than that.

"We ... managed to bring all three of them down in the end. Gregor was the last to go ... and I killed him with my own hands ... but I was also the only survivor." Gabriel sighed, fighting to keep his feelings from venturing too deep into the tragedy, again. "I left the EU to bury three men ... figuratively speaking ... yet I had to bury fourteen in the end. I spent years wallowing from that mistake, wandering and surviving as a mercenary, myself. I didn't want to fight alongside anyone else ... the memories were too painful at that point. Eventually, I met Ziva and she helped me move past that ... and so ..." Gabriel tried to find the right words but was having trouble, now ... "I ... won't reject our history ... it's made me who I am at my core. It has to contribute to more than just a lesson learned, however. Their deaths can't be my edification and nothing else."

Gently, Gabriel placed a hand on Haal'Sen's arm. "For the sake of everyone left, and everyone who's still to come, I pledged my loyalty to the living, and to them alone."

So it was not just his father... It was everyone he had worked with before. An unknown feeling was welling up in Haal'Sen, focusing on Gabriel's memories and what he was going through... She found herself crying. It felt so odd. A comrade's death was glorious, their release in battle, yet, Gabriel's remorse, regrets, and the pain he carried, it was so... So odd, so weird, affecting her in a way she didn't quite understand. 

She found herself nearly pulling him on top of her for an even tighter hug, needing some of it for herself, now. "A strong pledge, Gabriel. Powerful and full of meaning. My apologies, I... Do not know how to deal with this feeling you are experiencing. It is foreign and overwhelming. Do not apologize for my feeling it, I feel this is a necessary step to understanding each other better... Yet..."

She sighed, tears trickling down her fur. "How sad this all is. How truly sad..."

"Sad ..." Gabriel grimaced, "... will you be alright, Haal'Sen?" Sacarian culture didn't seem to have nearly as much sway as he expected it to, at least not on Haal'Sen in particular. Not in this moment. In some ways, that was a good thing. If they ever lost anyone going forward, there might not be a moment of culture clash that could drive a wedge between the Humans and Sacarians in their group.

"Well ... at least you understand ... and-"

That was when he heard something faint, like a door opening. He wasn't sure who to expect if that was really what it was.

"Gabriel?" Ziva ... and it looked like someone else was behind her, partially hidden by the relative darkness of the hallway, "I wanted to see if you finished ..."

Gabriel assumed the pause was prompted by Haal'Sen's presence. He probably did look 'odd' like this ... Haal'Sen even more so. "Finished what?" That was when he noticed the pair of legs behind Ziva. Eva was the only female in the group prior to Haal'Sen that would wear shorts regularly, so it had to be her back there.

"Fffinished reviewing Dima's recordings ... the ones to prove he wasn't lying about Rosa. I have no comment on whatever this is ..." she gestured awkwardly at the two of them. She also inadvertently blocked Eva's view, and so the girl wound up trying to get a look into the room by hunching forward and peeking between Ziva's arm and waist.

"Whoa ..." was Eva's commentary.

"I shall be fine. These are not my emotions, the feeling will pass as soon as we move on to another topic. It is just important that I know how this feels. I cannot imagine it will be as strong as with your father, but the loss of Ziva or your other personnel would upset you greatly, yes? I shall place their lives above mine in combat, to ensure you do not have to suffer this again." She'd made it a point to leave out Raay'Xel and herself, feeling that a pair of aliens he'd known for a few days wouldn't tear at his heart quite so powerfully.

That was when the door opened, Haal'Sen shooting a glance towards the confused Ziva... And the impressed Eva. "We were discussing his past. It was painful, thus I am consoling him. Is this not the correct course of action in your culture? I could not leave him to wallow in such emotions alone, that would be preposterous, especially when I had asked about them." She felt no need to be embarrassed, but Ziva and Eva were feeling a bit themselves... Why was that? "Shall I let go, Gabriel?"

"Well ..." Ziva wasn't sure how to tackle the culture question. It really depended on what culture you were talking about, as well as a few minor details. "It depends, I guess."

Eva then slipped between Ziva and the doorway into the room for a better look, just a bit too quickly for Ziva to stop her. "Perks of the King."

"It's up to Gabriel. I can't say what is and isn't 'correct' in this situation," Ziva looked away, memories of her own attempt to console--and kill--Gabriel resurfacing. She felt wrong even speaking on a matter like this after what she'd pulled.

"It seems like things are picking up, again," Gabriel noted, nodding for Haal'Sen to let him up. He didn't mind otherwise, but they couldn't hold things up on their current schedule. "Dima was telling the truth, so I'll act on that once I find the best way to use that information. They clearly understand that the man is a villain; their reaction to the attack on Sukhoi proves that much. This is going to have to be more personal, and set on top of the 'new regime' narrative we've been building."

"Of course," she nodded back, letting him go to get up. If their information on what Dima had said about Rosa was correct, then, they had a way to move forward soon. "What shall I do to prepare, Gabriel? Are you considering making a move on this information before we charge the Vaska?" Whichever came first, there would likely be a fight coming up for either scenario. "And this Rosa that spread this information in the first place, what shall we do with her? Shall we add her to our forces? If she can pilot a Regalia model, she may be useful."

"I don't know why specifically," Gabriel winced, "but Dima informed me about Rosa so that I could act on it. I'd prefer it if she could simply escape from this succession struggle and live a more peaceful life. That's still possible, even if I decide to recruit her for a time, but I'm wary of playing directly into whatever Dima has planned."

"I'm not too worried, actually," Ziva grinned, "Dima can't plan for anything he doesn't know about, and he doesn't know about your knights here," she gestured at Haal'Sen. "My guess is he's trying to plant spies in Rosa's group and then send her to you ... but with the Sacarians around, we can ferret them out easily, right?"

"Right," Gabriel nodded, content with at least that part of it.

"Shall we go and deal with her, then? I do not suppose her facility is very far away, wherever she is being kept... And an important question, Gabriel, what level of discretion shall I use in dealing with any spies that accompany her? You do not seem entirely against removing obstacles quickly, but I shall listen to whatever orders you provide." Haal'Sen wiped at her eyes to remove what remained of her tears, stretching her arms and slowly standing up after Gabriel.

"Hmm," Gabriel thought long and hard about it, weighing the option and their potential methods against their current schedule. The pros, of course, would be a sharp increase in their own manpower and materials, as well as Rosa's 'in person' testimony vs Dima. The cons were an endless sea of variables that could negatively impact both the Vaska operation and Gabriel's efforts to pull the rug out from under the old man. Then there was what Dima said about things getting heated at the Kalten Facility all on their own. If Rosa tried to break off before they got involved, Gabriel would have to decide then and there what to do about the new splinter group. He'd rather have at least some control over the timing ...

"Well, when it comes to finding informants of Dima's or anyone else's, you only need to worry about concealing your full abilities and the fact that you're a Sacarian. At least until we're in our own territory. As for recruiting Rosa, I'd like you to contact her first, Ziva."

"Am I going to make this look like a recruiting call?"

"Yes. If it's possible, I want to take the Vaska before involving Rosa, but we need at least some control over the timing for that. For all we know she could make her move in the next few hours, so best to get a handle on this right now." 

"Are we going to charge in and rescue her with the Vaska?" Eva chimed in, curious, and clearly getting a more grandiose and heroic picture than Gabriel likely had in mind.

"I don't think Rosa needs 'rescuing,'" Ziva smiled nervously. Aside from the Sacarians and maybe Jack, Rosa was way more dangerous than any of Gabriel's pilots.

"Hmmm... Alright, then. If I must." Haal'Sen sighed a moment, arms folded. "I must admit though Gabriel, I am getting quite a bit... Antsy, I believe is the term you humans would use. I wish to fight something, execute one of your plans, put my skills to use. All of this waiting around... Mrrrrrgh, it is riling me up a bit. Surely there must be something that can be done, yes?" Maybe. Even if it was taking her energy out on Eva.

"So you're bored, basically," Ziva raised an eyebrow at the Sacarian.

"It happens," Gabriel nodded, already mulling over some distractions that might work for Haal'Sen in the meantime. They couldn't fly around raiding nearby areas ... not unless they found some Apotheosis squatters. If that were the case, Gabriel was more than willing to launch a preemptive attack on them.

"I need training," Eva offered, waving a hand at Haal'Sen.

"Training?"

"Yeah. I want to help out more and who's more helpful than Haal and Raay?"

"Caffeine," Ziva murmured in jest.

"Please teach me how to be more like a Sacarian," Eva bowed and clasped her hands together flat.

...

Edited by Phoenix

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That was odd, there was some chatter about Vera going around the open circuits, with Alriana apparently trying to comfort her over something? Her mech specs seemed fine... An outburst from the woman herself shortly after shed a little more light on the situation. She learned something happened to her brother, huh. That had to be rough. Those details must've dropped while Thorvald was busy on his end, but while he still had a few open moments here, might as well send a little support on over.

"Vera, there's a lot I don't know, but I do know you're strong and can pull through this. Make sure to tell me all about him after we've cleaned things up here," a gentle, thoughtful message. Then he got the okay back from Firmia to keep the pressure on for the enemies in his current sector. Reise and the Avalon were handling things all right down there. Which meant...

"Idol, let's try to draw them out of the trees, where we'll have some better shots at them. Maybe a little hit and run as we pull them up to the rest of the squad there? What do you think?"



Abigail laughed a bit at Cally's continued teasing, as it had cleared itself up to be mostly just that, and not any real deep-seated distrust. A nod and flashed smile, then it was back to focusing on navigating the dogfight.

Abby to 2,7
Unloads with the Gunlance vs Deimos 10

Swinging around a wide flank on one of the enemies, she pulled out an old favorite, one of the modular weapons that she'd carried from machine to machine. This was her first time using it with the Vergloria, wasn't it? Better make sure it's a good showing!

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Abby loops and charges the Deimos!

Abigail attacks!
Target: Deimos #10
Weapon: Impact Gunlance
Final Hit: 100
Final Crit: 19
Roll: 21, 84
Hit!
No Crit.
Damage: 89

Deimos #10 is a goner!

Abigail gains +250 EXP, +12 PP, +7 Will, +5500 credits!
Abigail levels up!

Good job!

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Thorvald's words were appreciated, but they didn't garner much of a response... Vera was far and away from being too gone to understand, but she couldn't let go of this rage, this blame she'd managed to place. She'd take him up on his offer... But if she did now, she'd revert to a sobbing mess, and be useless out here. She needed to stay mad. Stay angry! They'd led her brother to his death! No one tried to stop him! It was all their fault!


"Already here, Firmia... Engaging, let's get them off the Riese!"

Hannah to 1,6 Zeus vs Deimos #9!


"Er... Did I do that? I'm sorry... I don't... If I did, I'm sorry. If you're the XO, then, we shouldn't be fighting, right? Whatever fight's going on, we should be working together to see it through!" Jess smiled at Roxanna, whatever their history was, if she couldn't remember it, there was no point in fussing over it. "I don't know that name either... Sorry. If they're important, I'm sure we can get this all figured out, but... Megumi's right." Jess' eyes lit up, for just a moment, returning to their normal hue. "Geez, we're really surrounded here... Time to put my skills to work. I can fully integrate with this ship, that's pretty cool. Cannons hot!"

Jess Strikes, Dual Beam Cannons into Phobos #10! Supported by Firmia assuming she focuses!


Astin smirked, and sighed. "If Vera's out here fighting with you idiots, then we've already lost touch with each other. You don't seem to get it Kim! The only reason I didn't pull that trigger was because Marianne got there first! Kill me if you can, but I don't think you have the guts!" The Luna's engines flared, if this was how Kim wanted to play things... "Show me how powerful the ANF's best pilot is, eh!? I'll let the aliens use me all they want, so long as you people die! Get that into your naive little HEAD!"

Astin mad! +20 will!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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