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Imminent Dawn: Callisto


mcd900
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The year is 2174. The late 2000s and early 2100s were a time of tumultuous international conflict; only after almost fifty consecutive years of war, dotted with the barest of tentative peaces, did the governments of Earth come together to form the Council of Earth Nations - CEN. With a permanent core formed of one representative from each of Earth's twelve most powerful governments - frequently referred to as the Illustrious Twelve for their leading roles in unifying the Earth - to lead the organization, CEN has guided humanity towards prosperity since its founding in 2134. Humanity has prospered in this era of newfound peace. Resource conflicts on Earth are a distant memory; human ills - biological ills, at least - are fading away with advances in medical and cybernetic technology, with only the inexorable passage of time left to claim most lives; a firm overseeing hand balances the power of the world's individual governments. CEN has made it clear to its people. There are whispers of future achievements - dreams of genetic manipulation, nanomolecular implants to one day lift every life of its shackles - only whispers, in the minds of most. Were they to exist, they would be accessible only to the most privileged; those whose hands control corporate conglomerates whose names are indivisible from daily life, or the highest echelons of government.

Most if not all on Earth live comfortable lives; and those who do live unaware of those who do not. Resource extraction from asteroid mining stations at L4 and L5, as well as planetary extraction on Mars, have enabled those on Earth to live each day believing their society has surpassed the notion of scarcity. However, for those whose lives are spent on Earth's colonies, life is often more scant. To find oneself afoul of the whims of local authorities - whether planetary government or a space station's corporate hierarchy - can quickly mean ostracization, especially in an environment where people are vastly interdependent. Unless one knows the... right people, of course.

Discontent is far from a forgotten feeling for humanity, even if so-called homeworlders on Earth see fit to believe otherwise. The 40th anniversary of the founding of CEN rapidly approaches. Only a few months remain until Unification Day, and all seems in order; celebration preparations on a newfound scale are underway. However, with just those few months to go, a dingy transport vessel arrives late from its origin of the terraformed moon, Callisto. The ship's passengers look rather harrowed, and not from the month-long journey; no, it is the news they bear that worries them. They fled to Earth in fear of growing civil unrest; word begins to spread of the moon's government overstepping its authority one too many a time, and too harshly at that. Those with the funds to leave did so, along with a small detachment of Callistan politicians, who are conversely petitioning CEN for aid in stopping what they state is an anti-Earth movement. Eager to prove itself once more as humanity's peacekeeper but lacking in the full details of the situation, a task force comprised both of civilian diplomats and a small protective force is dispatched to restore peace, having been issued authority superseding that of the Callistan government. The 40th Unification Day will be one of success for humanity...

The ship Imminent Dawn sets off for its one-month journey towards Jupiter, and its moon; Callisto. Its orders: dock at the capital; contact Governor Arielle Avyndor, assess the situation, and resolve it as necessary, with peaceful means preferred. The crew - a diverse lot, homeworlders, colonists, officers trained on Luna's vaunted Hubble Naval Academy,  test pilots and veteran pilots both - will find their abilities and beliefs tested...

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June 23rd, 2174. Aboard the Imminent Dawn, Pilot Briefing Room, First Day Underway.

"...and as such, I've taken the initiative to organize a simulated battle for our new complement of pilots. You've all had a couple days to settle in before we left Earth, so now's the time. The crew of the Dawn is preparing the simulators at present, and they will be ready by 1100 - one hour from now - when the battle will begin. To give you some brief details, the battle will be taking place in space amongst the rubble of a destroyed colony near L7. Your enemies will be a mixed force." The dry voice of the XO, Lt. Cmdr. Alrenne floated across the room, falling upon the ears of the Imminent Dawn's captain and its newly assigned pilots, a rather colorful assortment of skilled pilots both old and new. The light of the holographic briefing table lit the room a pale blue.

"That's all I have for you. I know it's a short briefing, but I will be clear with you. This exercise is intended to test your reactions under duress, your abilities to cooperate and fight alongside one another, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of our group so as to best plan for the future. Captain Silverwind - if you have any words for our new pilots, now would be an excellent time. Afterwards, you are all dismissed. Use your best judgment to decide when to report to the hangars; I will be personally taking note of any latecomers." He stepped back, making room at the head of the briefing table.

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"Thank you for that, XO." A youthful, lavender haired woman stepped forward after taking a deep breath. Her attire was different from the older man's full uniform; a dress with the skirt ending right above the knees, and pants, all in a similar set of colors to the Lieutenant commander. She glanced around the table at the pilots; she had gotten to speak with most of them before this moment so she had a fairly decent grasp of how things might go. This wasn't exactly her first option for an icebreaker, but it was certainly going to be an effective one. 

"I've already spoken with most of you, but I believe formal introductions are in order." Deep breaths, this isn't all that different from being XO... Just takes some getting used to. "My name is Selensia Silverwind, and I will be your captain for this mission." She saluted to the group, before continuing, "The lieutenant commander said most of what I would have wanted to say. This exercise is designed for us to figure out how to form the most cohesive unit that we can possibly draft from our pilots. No matter how good any one of you is, if we can't come together, the entire operation will fall apart. Which is why it will be best to see how you all excel, and interact in a situation that will not endanger lives if something were to go wrong." She paused and then smiled, "Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. I would also like to thank all of you for accepting this mission, and joining the Imminent Dawn's ranks. We have an important duty to undertake, and with all of you, I hope it will come as easily as these words did. Do any of you have any questions for me, or the XO? If not, as the XO has said, you are dismissed and will be expected to be in the hangers an hour from now."

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Introductions were in order, were they? Louise smiled, right leg crossed over the left, hands held together on her lap, back perfectly straight even while seated. She was wearing her uniform: white and black patterned along the front, gold trim, white gloves, a skirt part to the dress coat and black tights to cover her legs, along with military dress shoes, all perfectly kept without a single out of place wrinkle. In front of both the XO and the Captain, she had to remain perfect. "If introductions are in order, then allow me to present myself, Captain Silverwind. My name is Louise Park, Hubble Naval Academy graduate, Lieutenant Junior Grade. I specialize in long range engagements. If we're meant to work together, then I offer this: If you keep me safe, I'll watch your back. I'm confident in my shot." She tilted her head slightly and smiled widely, turning to the captain. "No questions from me, though. We've spoken already, Sia." 

Superior

Spoiler

The clack of heeled shoes sounded through the hall of the Imminent Dawn, Louise adjusting the gloves of her perfectly ironed uniform, making sure that everything was immaculate. This was her first meeting with the ship’s captain and she had to make a good impression. Nothing’s out of place, no hair sticking out, no bags under my eyes, nothing wrong with my uniform, tights have no holes in them… Perfect. As things should be. I’m Louise Park, after all~ I AM perfect. Surely the captain will see this when we speak.

Confidence on her face and a smirk resting there along with it, Louise requested permission to enter the captain’s office from the room’s outside intercom. “Lieutenant Junior Grade Louise Park, requesting permission to enter, Captain.” Just as practiced.

Soft scribbling took place inside. A lavender haired woman looked up at a log, and then back down at the notebook as she quickly wrote something down. There was so much to keep in mind now. It wasn’t so much different from being an executive officer, but now this information was something that she was directly responsible for. She looked up once more, before noticing that she’d finished this particular module, and went to close it, but her intercom lit up before she could. 

‘Lieutenant Junior Grade Louise Park, requesting permission to enter, Captain.’ 

She paused a little upon hearing the last part. It felt so strange for her to be addressed as such, but she’d made her way here through her efforts. Just would take some getting used to, probably a lot of getting used to. She closed the notebook, “Permission granted, Lieutenant Park.”

Mhmm~ Louise let herself smile wider for just a moment, slowly opening the door and letting it slide closed behind her. She took steps forward and quickly saluted the captain, relaxing slightly afterwards. “Thank you for the impromptu meeting… Would it be right of me to expect you to have already gone over our dossiers?” This Selensia should have had access to all of their military records, hopefully acquainting herself with them before this trip commenced. “If you haven’t yet, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself beyond name and answer any questions about my record you may have. As well, I have a few myself, about the details of the mission… I have been made aware of our course and destination, but anything specific, I assume, has only been told to you. If it’s not above my need to know, I would appreciate it.” Selensia was definitely… Impressive. Louise didn’t look her over, focusing on her face, but her peripherals told her all she needed to know about this woman’s physique. Hopefully she doesn’t have a staunch, ‘no relationships between colleagues’, stance…

“Aha… I haven’t gotten through all of them, but I have seen a fair amount of yours, Lieutenant. It’s rather remarkably impressive. And if we’re introducing ourselves, I should do the same. I am Selensia Silverwind, named captain for the Imminent Dawn and this mission.” She reached out her hand, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Louise was impressively well dressed; not a single thing was out of place on her, and she carried herself with a high level of professionalism. It lined up fairly well with what she’d read. Certainly a good looking woman, but there were more important things on the table at the moment. “I don’t think I had too many questions about your record immediately, unless there were things not detailed in the dossier that you’d like to mention. You’re not too far removed from Hubble, so I should probably ask you about your time there as well. And in regards to the mission, I can inform you of a reasonable amount.” Sia had a simple smile on her face, it was always better to see how one was going to react to her usual disposition and then shift accordingly. 

Mmmm… Bad memories, right away. I expected this line of questions, but perhaps not immediately. Louise’s smirk faded the most minute amount, nodding to the captain’s question. “My records as a student there should speak for themselves, for the most part. I was well respected by the instructors and those in my year. As you likely read, I did experience an… Accident. In my later years, there. I shall be brief with the details so as to not cause discomfort; the student I was paired with for repairs and maintenance on our group machine did not take too well to my success… They were moderately neglectful of keeping it in top shape, so… During a practice… it took a direct shot.”

Louise cleared her throat quietly. “My right leg was lost and my eye required heavy augmentation to save it, but neither have impacted my ability to pilot. If anything, the eye has improved my aim, so I suppose I should thank them if I ever meet them again… If I’m not speaking out of turn to request it, I shall ask you to refrain from speaking about or asking any more of my eye. I would cover it up completely if I could, but colored contacts interfere with the optics of its functioning. I’m just a little bit sensitive about it…” A little bit, feh. You hate this thing, Louise… What a powerful lie~

The recounting of the tale was… offputting just a bit. Having been an alumni of Hubble herself, Sia knew that its attendees could be rather cutthroat when they wanted to be, and sensed that there was someone well beyond them. While surely not the intent; such neglect would have been grounds for expulsion, and what happened to a top candidate because of it likely would have seen them barred from service. At least, I can hope that was the case. Disgusting. Sia sighed, “I did read this, but was unaware that the accident occurred as you’ve detailed. That was left out of the dossier. As you request, I’ll not push more on information about your eye, or this situation as a whole; It’s, uh, quite apparent in your demeanor that it's an event even best left be. Glad to hear that it hadn’t impacted your ability to pilot, at least.”

Sia mentally sighed about the augmentations. Sia had gotten this far without them, but there was always that sense of longing, wondering what might have been if she wasn’t the way she was. Hopefully she didn’t start feeling under the weather until preparations were done. “Right… moving along them, your dossier also said that you’re a markswoman by trade, yes?”

“I am~ Or, I prefer long range combat, if it can be helped. I know my way around the CEN’s standard equipment for HEX models of all ranges, but I excel at a distance, so if we’ve anything suited for high power, far off engagements, I would request they be equipped to my machine. My eye assists with aiming and predicting enemy movements to adjust for drop and distance… I should be very effective.” Her smirk returned in full at that comment, looking quite pleased with herself. She’d never tell anyone, but Louise was hoping for conflict on this venture. She had a lot of emotions to work out that she’d never gotten the chance to at the academy.

“Are you that good at reading people, Captain?” Dangerous… But an attractive quality~ “That’s very considerate of you, though; I appreciate it greatly. A full disclosure, then; I do not have any live fire records after the accident. The academy’s psychiatrists deemed me too… Unfit, for further live testing. I only have simulation results from that point onward, but they should be as high as my other marks.” For the most part… Her scores for aiming and piloting likely hadn’t fallen, but her regard for safety had surely taken a hit. That had been a rough year…

“Well, I suppose that there is something that we have, or, had, in common. I had been trained as a markswoman as well, but ended up tracking into leadership because of my inability to keep up with the fitness exams.” Sia sighed before continuing, “I can put in that request; I do believe that I read about a new rifle that they’ve been testing which was on our equipment list, but the rest of that can wait for our tests to see where our pilots currently stand.” That smirk was something to keep in mind. Louise sure was a confident one, and her dossier had everything to back up that confidence. Something did feel off about it, but there was not enough to go off. 

Sia blinked as Louise pointed to her ability to read a situation, “Aha… I guess that’s something that’s come with my station, amongst other things. I’ve had to get quite good at it.” She then tilted her head, “Unfit for live fire exercises?” That’s… rare. I would have understood why the doctors might have deemed her unfit, but the psychiatrists? Sia turned away for a second as she pulled up Louise’s file, “I hadn’t gotten to the point of reading all of your Hubble exams; I’ve been called into meetings constantly recently…” 

Sure enough, there wasn’t a single live fire exercise after the incident. Her scores in all of them were top of class levels, and that carried into her simulations, if not more so. All except one. Strange… you’d think after something like that safety would increase… “These are rather remarkable scores… you’d almost think that you were a professional for this kind of consistency.”

Louise’s smile remained as intact as ever. “I appreciate the praise. I was raised for this position, and I like to think my performance showcases that.” If Selensia wasn’t going to comment on her fallen scores, she wasn’t going to mention them again. “Perhaps the psychiatrists were concerned I would develop some sort of trauma were I to face down the end of a real barrel again, but… I believe myself stronger than that, so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, Captain.” She tilted her head ever so slightly, eyes growing centimeters more narrow. Louise was very controlled with her expressions.

“Unable to handle fitness exams… mmmm, pardon this assumption, but are you also unfit for augmentations, Captain? Someone in your position would surely have been offered them, and proper augmentations would clear the need to worry about fitness exams…” Louise caught herself, shrinking ever so slightly. “My apologies if I’ve dug too deeply. That was out of line… Perhaps, I can make it up to you, if I’ve offended?” The captain was impressive; to think that was all natural… I’m growing more and more interested in you~

“Possibly… but it seems like it only strengthened your resolve.” Then Louise asked the most obvious question. In this day and age, augmentations have shrunk the field for fitness exams. Most exams were just to see where a person excelled, and less to preclude them from service. The human body was now able to be enhanced, both medically and mechanically in a variety of ways, both practical and entirely cosmetic. The availability of such enhancements were incredibly wide spread, and fairly cheap all things considered. 

Sia just sighed, “Don’t apologize, it's a very important question to ask, especially given what augments have done for us. Someone failing fitness exams is rather rare nowadays. I would have had to explain this to the crew anyway.” She leaned forward on the desk, resting her head on her knitted hands. “I have been offered proper augments, both as a child through my parents, and now through the military… but I am, and have been unfit for augmentations. It may not look like it, but I’m of rather frail constitution; I tend to get sick constantly, and that propensity for illness has… made the augmentation process for my body much more difficult and dangerous to the point that it will be in the twilight of my years before augments that would work for me would be available. So, I am forced to make do as they would have hundreds of years ago. I do well enough. You haven’t offended me; you’re asking an important question that necessitated an important answer, that’s all.” 

“Mmm… If you say so, Captain. I shall try and watch my words more carefully going forward, either way.” A frail woman for a captain made enough sense. She couldn’t pilot a suit, but unless the ship was going to go down, the bridge was likely an incredibly safe place for someone with a lesser constitution. “Hmmm… Perhaps I shouldn’t offer this, then… Well, simulations with the physics turned down couldn’t hurt. If you’d like to accompany me for training and perhaps, eventual live piloting, to provide your insight as a trained ranged specialist, I’d love to have you aboard. If that’s too forward, I once again apologize… The large number of civilians on board has me forgetting this is a military vessel, just a bit.” That there were so many was a bit concerning, but the ship was state of the art. It was safe. “I may be a stellar shot, but everyone has room to improve, so any hands on advice you can provide me would be wonderful, Captain Selensia.” Louise considered winking… But, not for a first meeting.

“You don’t have to use my full name, nor title; this ship is considerably more lax on protocol, so if you prefer, Selen or Sia is fine. But if you must use captain, then Captain Sia or Selen is perfectly alright as well.” Sia was never big on honorifics for herself, and she didn’t plan on starting now. “Perhaps another time; I have too many things to both learn and confirm, and I won’t have time for a while. I wouldn’t mind assisting but you will have to bear with me as I tire fairly easily.” Louise’s tune was a little sweeter all the sudden. Possibly because of her now knowing of Sia’s shortcomings, but the other option was always on the table. “It’s hardly too forward, I genuinely don’t mind. Giving out the advice I can is part of my job, so I’ll strive to help where I can.” A quip crossed her mind, but that was not a quip for the moment. 

“Yes, another time. We’ll have plenty of time with how long the trip to the moon’s going to take. I’d be happy to bear with you, worry not, Sia~” If nicknames were on the table, then they would be used. “Though, if you are so busy, then I don’t want to take up all your time. I just wanted to introduce myself; it wouldn’t do for you to not know your own pilots personally… Would you have any final questions for me then, Sia? And, you can mail me the information you’re able to share later. Or we can talk again. Whatever works best for you~” Louise was letting her perfection slip perhaps too much with Sia’s invitation of lax protocol.

“I can most certainly do that. I expect that I’ll be meeting with all of you in the not-too distant future, but having information out there already will make it easier on me.” Things certainly seemed to be leaning towards the second option, but it was rude to make assumptions so soon, and perhaps a little full of herself at that. “I expect that things will be less hectic in the future, so I should have more time to chat. And perhaps make use of that swimming pool–that’s going to be my best method of exercise.” She’d have to keep herself in as best shape as she could, the less she got sick, the better for everyone. 

“Final questions, hmm?” Sia paused a moment before smiling. “I have just the one. At first I was getting the feeling that you were a person for protocol, but it seems like you know how to relax yourself some. I was just wondering what exactly brought that change on?” 

"Ah, haha… Protocol exists to impress the higher ups. If you're fine with things being more casual, then so be it~ Mm, most of my put on perfection is old habits from before, this," she punctuated her words by pointing at her eye, smiling gleefully. "I had my own perfection taken away from me, so I… Stopped caring, as much. I'm very happy to know that you're not a stickler for all the rules, Sia. I hope that continues, going forward…"

Louise giggled just for a moment, looking away to think about something. "The pool does sound wonderful. I'll make sure to join you, sometimes. Surely you won't be against having some company, yes?" Louise gave a half-hearted salute, turning to leave. "It was a pleasure then, Captain Sia. See you around– and don't be a stranger." The door to her office slid open again, Louise leaving with more sway in her hips and something of a spring to her step. She stretched in the halfway, arms up, uniform wrinkling ever so slightly. "Mmmn… This trip's going to be fun..."

“I prefer things more casual; it makes it easier for me to figure out how best someone might work. Protocol has its time and place. As long as there aren't any problems, I don’t see a reason to be a stickler.” Sia returned the half-hearted salute, “Well, perhaps I’ll see you there, Louise. Have a good rest of your day.” The door slid shut, and Sia chuckled to herself. It wasn’t exactly hidden that Louise had been lightly flirting with her. “Well… this mission might be a lot more interesting than I’d expected…” 

She looked back at Louise’s records, looking at the drop in safety scores post accident. ‘I had my own perfection taken away from me, so I… Stopped caring as much.’ “...Those might be related. We’ll have to see what comes of that. Fortunately, this is just a mission to the moon, so there shouldn’t be much to worry about…” She started flipping through the rest of Louise’s dossier, scribbling down notes of importance. 

This time, she winked.

Kazue was was present and dressed in her best casual clothing; a button up shirt, ironed dress pants, a throw over jacket, some dress shoes. She didn't actually have military duds or anything truly formal, aside from her gi, but that felt embarrassing to wear at a meeting like this. As Louise finished, she tried to speak up, but found her voice lacking. Deep breaths... We're all allies. You can do this... She stayed near the back of the room, arms folded, eyes hidden by her hair.

Edited by Nanami Touko
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Iskra sat on the side of the group, coat pulled tightly around herself, hands twisting the sleeves as she listened to the introductions and orders. A combat simulation to see how the group worked together wasn't unexpected, but it still was enough to spike her already high anxiety a little higher. There were too many emotions in the room to really isolate any to a specific person, and she could already feel a headache coming on. The idea of speaking in front of this whole group was nauseating, but the idea of waiting until last, having everyone focus on her and then having no one to pull that attention away was somehow worse. She swallowed, eyes closed for a brief second as Louise finished her introduction (that woman was a whole other can of worms Iskra didn't want to think too hard about), and then spoke up, voice cracking slightly. "I-Iskra Dusen, Hubbel graduate. Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Newtype pilot, with a focus on ranged weaponry. N-no further questions, ma'am." She tucked a hand under her coat, feeling the artificially warm presence of Ion hidden under there, the cat providing a reassurance as age settled back into her seat, trying to calm her breathing. This was the worst case scenario really. She would take a robot's cockpit with just her and Ion, facing down fire any day over something like this...

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The young blonde sat as he listened to the members of this current council introduce themselves. It gave him a moment, to collect himself. He had a plain look to him. His face didn't seem to portray anything but maybe sternness. Not that it was to the fault of anyone in the room, it was how he looked normally. He stood up, to him that was the norm for presentation.

"Lieutenant Junior Grade Markus Stewart, at your command ma'am. I come from Hanover and graduated from Dresden Academy. I excelled best in fighter combat and HEX combat second." And probably fist fights third, but the Captain didn't need to know that unless it came up in his record, which probably will eventually. "If you need someone to advance quickly, I am who to go to." He gave a light nod, sitting back down. There was a hint of sweat on his forehead. He wasn't the best public speaker.

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Edson awaited for the captain and whoever was eager enough to go first. He was certainly the most standout officer in the meeting, both in age and appearance, wearing his military suit and distinctions with reverence. "First of all, I'd like to congratulate our captain, Miss Silverwind, on captaining a ship at such a young age. That makes you the youngest captain to be in service of the CEN." He'd done his research on that, it was quite a feat. Offering a soft smile, Edson continued. "Back to introductions, I am Edson Bonner, Lieutenant Commander. Like most of you, I will be piloting a HEXs, it'll be a pleasure to join you in the battlefield." This group was... peculiar, but he was sure he could handle it. He took his seat once more, waiting for the next person.

...

Ah... of course, there wouldn't be some time out in the machine before introductions. Esther had taken the time to read through the basics regarding her crewmates, but didn't mind digging much besides the most prominent info. All it mattered is they were good enough to keep up with her, which was still to be seen.

She put her comms down, standing up to get her turn done quick. For now, she was as formal as she could muster in quick notice, her jacket zipped down and skinny pants she'd hardly used before. The excuse of a pilot suit the researchers made for her was hardly appropriate for social settings.

"Esther. Esther Taylor. Specialist. Newtype pilot from then Ascension program. Top marks, can fill most roles." She wasn't lacking in confidence, at all. "Just make sure I'm not dragged down." Satisfied, she took her seat again.

Edited by Xinnidy
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It had been a long road for the red head in the bright coat. He was captured by the CEN for his stunt and spent a few months in prison to do some hard time. Eventually, he was approached by the right superiors with an offer he was...very mixed on.

"In regards to your...real identity, there aren't many who know. But those of us who do know will make you an offer. The CEN will silently sweep that under the rug, if you're willing to put your experience behind a new project."

'Well I should've known they'd figure me out eventually, didn't think it'd be so fast...ah well. Better than being executed I guess.'

The Crimson Gale

Spoiler

It was about twenty minutes to high noon in Europe, the scene was a fairly small questioning room with two chairs and a table. A red haired man sat in one of the chairs, he was in a black shirt that clung onto his toned upper body and cargo pants. That was about all he had on him since the CEN soldiers completely disarmed him. Earlier in the morning he let loose on a small European town, explosives and gunfire filled the day out and the civilians were terrified. It escalated to the point where a CEN unit had to get involved, so they rushed to town and found to their surprise it was all done by one man. Even more surprising, the man surrendered himself as soon as they found him. No struggle at all, despite looking like he wanted to keep fighting. 

They also found that he didn’t harm a single person, almost like it was all planned to the letter. It was incredibly suspicious, so they had to question him. Sadly, he wouldn’t take any random soldier or officer’s questions, he simply stonewalled them all and said “I want the biggest officer you got then I’ll talk”. They eventually relented and left him alone for some time. “...mm!” He stretched out and sighed. “Wish they got me some coffee or somethin’ while I’m waiting…my ass is falling asleep…” He yawned out.

The situation was… odd to say the least. The Celestial Ocean was completing a routine patrol when they were forwarded a distress call from a nearby town. Guns, explosions, and enough to the point that they were directly called in. So far, so good, but then the situation delved into implausibility and confusion. First, the attack harmed absolutely no one aside from property. Second, the act was carried out by a single man; a man that was now in their custody. Third, and most confusing, was that the man gave up the moment that CEN forces engaged. Every sign pointed to the attack being staged in some manner. Did he want to be here? It was plausible, and that was why at first, Sia and Captain Erichtonius were kept at arm’s length from the situation. The pair were gaining some notoriety as rising stars in CEN’s forces, and both would have an impressive price on their heads.

However, it was clear after repeated attempts, and different interrogators that the man would not budge on his one and only demand. After a long back and forth with the captain, he finally relented, and gave Sia the okay to speak with him. On the condition that if she felt something was off, she was to leave immediately. So she took a deep breath, made sure everything was in place before she prepared to open the door to the interrogation room. Alright… just keep your wits about you, and keep focused on the main points. He might not even speak with you either. Sia pulled tight her gloves before opening the door and walking inside, nodding at both guards inside. 

“Hello there. I apologize about the lack of food, or drink since you’ve been here. It’s a matter of procedure; can’t give up anything without first establishing some manner of give and take.” She sat down across from him, placing a file on the table. “You’ve stonewalled everyone else to my understanding… well, we couldn’t grant you an interrogation with the captain, so… I’ll have to do. My name is Selensia Silverwind, Executive Officer to Captain Erichtonius, and the Celestial Ocean.” Good start. Keep your nerves down… You’ve done stuff like this before.

The man simply sat and waited as time had gone by, and eventually someone else did come in the room. Someone…he wasn’t entirely ready for. He was in mid stretch when she entered, and just blinked at the sight before him. ’Oh…boy. Well, he did ask for the biggest officer they could find. ’Behave yourself, man. Don’t wanna spook her off before you make your pitch…behaaaaave~’ So when she approached he lowered his arms and gave the most friendly grin he could. “Buongiorno!” He greeted as best as he could in Italian, though he didn’t have an accent. In fact he sounded more Western than one would expect. “I did ask for the biggest officer possible, you certainly fit my request, miss Silverwind!” He put his hands on the desk. “The name’s Leonardo Silvavolke. I know you haven’t heard of me, and that’s fine. Nice to meet ya!” It was almost like he was treating this like a job interview. “And it’s fine, don’t worry about the lack of food or drink. I had a big breakfast before I went to work today.”

Sia just blinked as it seemed like her presence was all that was required for the man to finally open up. “...Nice to meet you as well, Silvavolke.” This immediately sounded less like an interrogation and more like he was introducing himself. Further proven by what he said last. “Before you went to work today, hmm? I’m assuming that you mean your attack on the town, right? I’ve got plenty of questions about that, but I think I’m starting to pick up a little on what might be going on here. Perhaps we can start with that?”

Leon did his best to keep eye contact, despite how pleasing all of her features were. He kept on his best behavior. “That’s right, that’s right.” He nodded. “Full disclosure here. I’ve had my eyes on that town for a little over a month now, matter of fact I lived not too far from it. This was all honestly a uh…way to get the CEN’s attention.” He leaned back a bit. “I studied places that would have the least amount of public trafficking during the day on a normal week and waited for the stars to align more or less, kinda had to keep my ear open for a ship patrol too. That was tough lemme tell ya!” He raised his hands a bit almost like he was trying to illustrate his points through motion. “Anyway, when the time was right I pulled off my stunt. I made sure not to hit anyone though, that would’ve soured things eheh…”

Sia found her confusion with the whole scenario cleared up in a matter of moments. This operation really was just a setup, and with that in mind, suddenly all of his actions made sense. All except one. Sia wiggled her nose as she took in the possibilities that she was now left with if the man was telling her the truth–and if the shift in demeanor at her presence was any indication, he likely was–there were just two possibilities. Either his goal was to get CEN’s attention to cover for someone, or his goal was to get captured like this for some other purpose. 

Sia crossed her arms, “So let me get this straight. You planned this attack for a month, and made sure that it didn’t harm anyone almost entirely to get our attention? You couldn’t have… I don’t know, visited a military base or something? I appreciate that you kept civilians out of it as best you could, but the fact remains that you very really could have hamed civilians despite your goodwill. Moreover… that doesn’t explain what the point of all of this is.” The fact that he did all of this, and that it succeeded without a hitch meant one of those things, perhaps both even, that this man was experienced, and incredibly lucky. 

“...oh right, I guess I could have huh?” He dumbfoundedly responded to the military base quip. “Aha, nah. Actually the thought did cross my mind but…” In truth, the man had a reputation about him. Something he would’ve kept to himself, but visiting a military base would have been way too risky without his foot in the door. ’A Blackwell isn’t well liked among the CEN staff, I think they’d rather shoot me first and ask questions later…’ The redhead cleared his voice. “I thought an on site demonstration would be better for my pitch, y’know? I wanna join the military!” He spoke out and gasped. “Ooh crap, made that pitch a bit too early. I wanted to ease into that one…ah well, it’s out there now.” He raised a hand. “But seriously, that was all I wanted. I want to be a soldier of the CEN. I’ve been a merc for five years, and I wanted to try something new. I know this is an…abnormal way of going about it, but that’s about the size of it miss Silverwind.”

Sia just stared at Leonardo. She looked at both guards to make sure that she wasn’t dreaming after passing out from anxiety on her way here. She turned back to Leonardo with the longest sigh, “...Do you realize how nonsensical this all sounds? Okay, sure, a live demonstration is certainly a good way to show your skills… except for the fact that you could have done this in an environment that had no chance of civilians being harmed. You do realize that if someone had gotten harmed there would be no chance of joining the military.” Sia almost couldn’t believe what she was hearing. 

“Oh goodness… if this is just abnormal to you, then I can only imagine what normal is like…” She sighed, leaning back into her chair. “Gosh, the captain heard all of that. I can only imagine what his reaction was like…” I can’t tell if he’s just like this, or if there’s more to this… you don’t survive five years as a mercenary and just… act like this. 

“...Why? Why exactly are you interested in joining the military? Surely, you would have other prospects lined up after five years of mercenary work. What’s the benefit for you in losing all this freedom that you currently have?”

Leon couldn’t help but flinch at Silverwind’s prodding, she made some good points for sure. “Aaah I’m sorry miss Silverwind. But honest, I wasn’t aiming to hurt anyone. I did my best to make sure that didn’t happen.” Not again. The couple was bad enough, it really hit him how fragile people could be. He lost a lot of sleep over it. It was clear acting like a fool was only stressing the poor woman out, Leon only knew how to live his life loosely, but recent years have started to angle his line of thinking a little so he could understand that much if nothing else. “Mm…” Then came the question of why he wanted to join. He leaned back in his chair with his own sigh. “Yeah well…” He folded his hands together. 

“I can tell you and I are cut from different cloths, I’ll bet you haven’t really seen things I have. When you’re in the business for as long as me you see things that…shake you.” He turned his eyes to the side. “Makes you question what you’re really doing with your life, it happened to me. All I want to do is…make sure this worthless life can bring some positive change in other lives. That’s it.” He looked back at Silverwind. “I realize dealing with me isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but you have my respect for at least hearing me out.”

His whole tune changed. One question seemed to let out an entirely different person. A person that felt a bit more… real to the man that was sitting across from her. Sia only really had a glimpse into mercenary life, but that glimpse was enough to know that it was hell. Whatever Leonardo had seen was bad enough that he couldn’t look it in the eyes. “So… you think that the place where you can make the most difference is on the battlefield?” Sia paused for a moment to think. His desire, at least the stated one, wasn’t too far from her own really. At the core of Leon’s desire was to help others, or now it was. 

Sia sighed, “I think if you’d led with this, I wouldn’t have had so many questions. You’re not as secretive as you think you are, Leonardo. You’re very intentionally confusing, and that makes it a little easier to figure out when you’ve got more to say. Like when I walked in.” She shook her head, “...The captain will have to put in a report about this, but… if I know him he’s weighed what you said and what you’ve proven that you can do. I can’t say that your plan is going to work, but… I guess you found a way to get it started. Also, you chose to protect those civilians from your plan, which means that your life isn’t worthless. The only worthless people are those willing to forsake other people with no regard for their well being because at that point, they’re no longer human.”

“...huh?” The past minute had caught Leon completely off guard. He thought this woman was just another pretty face, but she’s way sharper than he expected. ’She caught me glancing huh? I’m not just dealing with a random officer…’ “...ahaha, oops! Guess I showed a bit too much of my hand huh?” He withdrew his Ace card and went back to playing a Joker, he didn’t want to let himself slip too hard. “Mm, I appreciate the thought miss Silverwind. I at least care about other lives than my own if nothing else. Call me Leon by the way. That said, it’s not like I’m afraid of killing if I have to. As long as my target is someone armed and dangerous. Not civs, they don’t deserve that.” The mentality he had was that as long as someone was armed that meant they had accepted the risks the battlefield comes with. It’s not always that clear, but it was a good enough base to go off of. “Anyway, I’m not expecting to be an officer just like that. I still broke a ton of laws I’m sure. At least I get free meals in prison though, right?”

“You’ll learn very quickly that I’m very well known for my attention to detail. I have to make up for my shortcomings by being overqualified in other areas.” She smiled at Leon’s surprise. She’d never say it out loud, but she enjoyed proving expectations wrong and surprising the people around her. “And if I’m calling you Leon, then you can at least use Selensia; Silverwind feels strange without the rank attached, and that’s always felt strange.”

Sia stood up from her chair, “I don’t exactly know what will happen from here, but you will likely be kept in prison until the report from the town is combed through. I imagine your protection of the civilians and ceasing of hostilities the moment our forces arrived would count for something, and if your skill is as apparent as it seems like… they might just take you up on your request–psychotic as your method of delivering this request was. Is there anything else you would like to say before we conclude this? I think this is a rather cut and dry situation, so I’d rather not take up more of your time.”

Very professional. She seemed to have more experience than Leon thought, it certainly had his attention. “..nah, I think that’s about it.” He watched her stand up. “Thank you for taking up my request, miss Sil-Selensia…” He looked aside. “Hmm, maybe a little too long for my liking…how’s Sia sound?” He gave her another grin. “Aha, it probably doesn’t matter anyway. I doubt you’ll ever see me again. Still, it was good to meet you.” He waved a little. “So ciao, Sia~”

Sia stifled a laugh at Leon having difficulty with her name. It wasn’t super common, and it was a little long; Leon wasn’t the first to have trouble with it. “Sia is perfectly fine with me. That is generally what friends call me, and who knows? Perhaps in the future we’ll come across each other again. Work takes you all over.” Sia sighed, and turned to the door with maybe a little more flourish than was necessary. “It was nice to meet the real you for a moment, Leon. Don’t make things too difficult for the guards.” She signaled to both guards, and then made her way out the door. 

Once outside, Sia released a deep breath. “That was… hard. Ugh… I don’t think I’m cut out for interrogation… at least… I think I kept my composure on the surface. What a strange fellow…” Kind of cute too… but there’s something… unnerving about him. She started to make her way back to the captain’s quarters so she could debrief, and probably find a drink to calm down some more.

“You have my word, Sia.” He waved once more before she left. He kind of hated watching her leave, even if he enjoyed it at the same time. “...hm.” He leaned back in his chair and kept quiet. ’Feels like…it’s a little past high noon now. Maybe I’m losing some sense of time, there’s no clock in here.’ He put his hands behind his head. ’Ah well, doesn’t matter. I got a small foot in the door, I just gotta make sure I keep on the good side of specific people. I just hope I don’t get recognized or this is all for nothing.’ Leon-or rather, Aran Blackwell, had his plan. He wanted to make sure it stayed on course. At that point he just tried to entertain himself in his own brain to pass the time, so he thought on the poker games he’s won in the past. ’I wonder if Sia’s good at Poker…’

Leon was one of the more experienced soldiers on the Dawn, whether he liked it or not. That being said, the current circumstances didn't bother him that much, if anything he was ok with the outcome. Especially considering he had a second chance to see the young Silverwind again, and as his captain no less. "Yeah, I'm with the Lieutenant Commander. Three cheers for the milestone, Captain!" He couldn't help but clap a few times. "The name's Leonardo Silvavolke, call me Leon...oh crap right, I got a rank now. I'm a Lieutenant Junior Grade too!" He rubbed his arm a little. "Sorry, not used to carrying a rank. Used to be a merc before all this, now I'm part of the CEN just like all of you. Got a ton of experience under my belt, so if you need pointers just say so!" He gave Sia a quick wink before he turned back to everyone else with a goofy grin.

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Shit, she thought she’d have more time.

The more attentive of the group may have seen a tiny, purple-haired young woman hiding in the corner, fiddling with an old music player. Really, Scylla thought she’d have gotten it working by now, but… no, everyone else was just too quick. Way too many folks on this boat… bah. Just her luck to get stuck dealing with this many people.

”Scylla. Lieutenant, Junior Grade, like the rest of ya.” She shuffled back into the corner and said nothing more. If anyone wanted to see what she could do, they could put a sword in her hands while she got in a HEXs and figure out for themselves whether they wanted to deal with a freak like her.

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Daeran sat straight up in his seat in practiced rigidness, his hands folded on the table while his elbows were carefully positioned off it, his uniform and posture as immaculate as his long, nearly golden, locks. The woman across from him, Louise Park, as well as their Lieutenant Commander, seemed to share in his sentiment that a first impression was everything; though a fair few others of this colorful cast were far looser, both in appearance and in attitude. Not that he was one to judge, of course. People aught to be allowed to present however they wanted to as long as they could perform their duties competently. This really is quite the colorful cast, though. We're comprised almost entirely of high performing graduates or similarly inexperienced test pilots. The only people with real experience are the Lieutenant Commander, Leon, and the Captain... He had done his research before the meeting.

As everyone began to take their turns at introducing themselves Daeran sat and watched, until all that were left were the martial artist civilian and himself. With practiced grace he rose from his seat, though he did not bow. "Daeran Vhane, Olympus Mons MTS graduate and similarly Lieutenant Junior Grade. I specialize in close quarters ranged combat, changing in and creating openings." He took his seat, sitting down and resuming his pristine position in one fluid motion. "No questions from me either, ma'am."

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Louise had been watching everyone introduce themselves. Some of them were practiced and military in their introductions, exactly what she liked to see... Then there was this, Leon. Every act has their clown, I suppose. She did catch him wink at the captain as well, narrowing her eyes ever so slightly. Competition... Well. As long as Sia is happy in the end, I suppose I won't complain, but if he tries anything untoward... She withheld any audible judgement, glancing around, before settling her gaze on the only person that had yet to speak.

Everyone else had gone, Kazue finally calm enough to try. Some of them had even been ridiculously open about stuff, especially that Leon fellow, but some had been as reserved as she was. It helped her feel more at home. She took another deep breath and opened her mouth to speak. "私はかずえです--" Hands clapped over her mouth in embarrassment; in her attempts to find her centre, she'd gone back to Japanese... She paused again, eyes hard hiding behind her hair, hopefully hiding most of her blush.

"... I-I, my name is, Kazue Fujiwaru. Erm... I'm, an ensign? I suppose. I was only given a, a military rank because. Mm..." The more she spoke, the easier it was to flow into it, taking another deep breath. "The, the CEN took me on as a civilian hire, of sorts. They, want test data from my piloting... They said that I, er, I um... My melee motions with machines are, unlike any they've ever seen before... I'm not really sure about all the details, but, that's why I'm here. I hope t-to get along with all of you, going forward. My apologies, for being so r-reserved... Mm..." She'd wanted to introduce her background as a martial artist as well, but that was available in her public file, and with her stumble, she didn't have the courage to try again.

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Sia had met with almost half of the pilots, with the other halves being unknowns aside from their dossiers. Louise, Leon(It was still surprising to see him here), and Kazue she had interacted with directly, but the others were new to her. Right off the bat, it seemed as if Iskra and Scylla were just going to keep to themselves, not overly interested in the rest of the group, or actively repulsed for reasons outside of their control. Esther was... interesting. Few words, but what was said dripped with confidence. Perhaps too much confidence. She'd have to see how she gelled with the rest of the unit; a single ace pilot was invaluable, but a unit was irreplaceable. It was by the time that they'd gotten to Markus that Sia really gathered the scope of the unit that she had been entrusted with. With the exception of Kazue, all of the unit were top students from their respective academies, Hubble included, and Kazue was selected for proficiency in melee combat to a level unheard of. Anyone would be blessed to end up with a unit like this... but why for a mission like this? Mmm... things continue to deepen more and more... 

As if to capstone the introductions, Lieutenant Commander Bonner congratulated her on becoming the youngest captain in CEN's short history followed in short order by Leon, not to mention the winks from both Louise and Leon. I expected this later, not during our first meeting... Sia flushed ever so slightly, "I, uh, thank you, Sir, Leon and Louise. It was a... shocking decision, I'll admit, but I, err, will serve according to the trust placed in me by the higher-ups." She tripped over her words a little, she had prepared for everything, except for the winks from both Louise and Leon, and having her own accolades mentioned. She cleared her throat, "A-anyway. As you all can hear, you've all come from different directions, places, and mindsets, but on this ship, and mission, we will have to act as a single unit. To that end, it will be good for us to attempt to get to know one another. Given the specifics of our mission, I don't expect we will be together for long, but every precaution we can take is a step closer to a smoother mission." This upcoming exercise is going to be interesting... and a lot of notes. 

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The blonde carefully examined as he watched the rest of their squad announce themselves. As they explained their specialties in roles, and the captain even acknowledging it, it was apparent they all have some form of accolade. It made Markus curious. And it meant (at least to him) if everyone was so adequate in HEX combat, it meant he had to make sure he was in top form. Especially with his request to pilot a fighter as opposed to a robot. However, it didn't seem like he was the least confident person in the room. 

He turned his head to the woman who had started in Japanese before collecting herself. From what it seemed, she was the least military person there. There was the clown, but Markus knew plenty of people like that. Then the purple haired-woman; Scylla as she announced herself, Markus had seen people like her too. He wasn't going to judge, not yet anyway. Anyone can be from anywhere and still perform. In fact, there was a tinge of excitement in him. Though, he'd keep his composure. He didn't give any indication in his face, not yet. He just nodded as he centered himself.

"I am exi- looking forward to working with all of you," Markus said, answering his own observation "I'm very curious to see how several of us perform during our exercise." It was the only way he was gonna get that fire to burn out some inside him. He can fire up when they're in the sims.

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"Thank you, Sia. I think we should all be thankful to have such a bright Captain for a mission like this." Louise laid it on a little more before carefully picking herself up, then saluting both the Captain and the XO with precision and grace. She turned to her fellow pilots after that, hands held behind her back. "Shall we all make for the hangar, then? It should provide us ample space to get to know each other a little more cleanly while allowing us the chance to make sure all of our settings are ready for the simulations... I shall be making my way there, either way, so I hope to see the rest of you there." Louise smiled and made for the conference room's door, heading into the hallway first. The hangar would be a few minutes and an elevator ride away, but she intended to be prompt and ready. I won't let anyone out do me without serious effort... So long as I'm under the watch of people I want to impress, I am perfect. Nothing less.

Kazue stumbled over words a bit as Louise took charge of them all, wanting to agree, but not managing to speak before the woman left. "I... Er... I-It, is nice to meet you all!" She saluted, swiftly and panicked, trying to smile a little. "I will, be, inside my HEX if I am n-needed, Captain, Sia, ma'am, Silverwind." Kazue was fully panicked, speeding out of the conference like the wind. She ended up dashing right past Louise, the woman losing her composure for a moment.

"H-Hey! Ensign! Goodness...!" Louise picked up her pace, adjusted her hair, huffed, and went about fixing her gloves once again...

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Iskra watched quietly as everyone else introduced themselves, shrinking slightly further back into her seat as Esther, the other Newtype introduced herself. A direct comparison like that wasn't a good sign for her, especially not in a situation that was basically her last chance. She knew she could handle the fighting, but everything else... 

Her thoughts were interrupted by the Captain giving them what others clearly took as a dismissal. As Louise and Kazue left, Iskra slid her headphones on, watching Louise leave from under her eyelashes. She wanted to get out of here, but not because she wanted to check on her HEX. She had done that just yesterday, and then been... ambushed was a way to describe it. The memory was strong enough to make her hesitate following directly after Louise.

Emotional Impact

Spoiler

Louise had met with some of the pilots on board already, but one remained elusive. Iskra Dusan. For whatever reason, Louise hadn’t been able to lay eyes on them for more than a few seconds… Until today. Going into the hangar to check on her machine, they spied the missing pilot coming down the wire to their HEX’s cockpit. Louise smiled.
“Hello~” Louise waved up at them as they descended, sporting her casuals now that introductions with the captain were done. “I’ve been meaning to speak with you, Iskra… I just haven’t been able to get my hands on you~ It’s nice to finally meet you.”


Iskra had been having a rough time since she had been unceremoniously dumped into a mission. Logically she had known that this was coming, but that didn’t make the actual doing of things easier. She had been lucky so far. No one had really questioned how much time she was spending in her room, and what time she was forced to spend outside of it, her headphones had been enough to keep people away. Most of the people on the ship weren’t the core group of pilots and seemingly had little interest in her anyways, which was exactly how she preferred it. This uneasy peace had lasted well until she had finally made her way to the hanger to check out her assigned robot.
Nothing had happened on her way there, and she’d been safely hidden in the robot for a good hour, checking out the weapon loadout, and making sure that everything was reasonably comfortable. She’d even had Ion check the computer load out, making sure that the little robot would be able to interface with it if necessary. Eventually, she ran out of things to do, and with a quick check out the cockpit window to see if there was anyone around, she made her way down the wire to the ground, only to have someone call out to her as she descended. She flinched slightly, the wave of emotions hitting her, and she turned, seeing one of the other pilots, L... something, waving at her. As she landed, Ion draped around her neck, she did her best to gather enough energy for the conversation and waved back. “A-ah, hello... I didn’t realize, people were looking... It seemed like people were fine with me staying in my room.” She braced herself for the incoming emotions, waiting for the judgment that almost always came.


“How am I supposed to get to know you if you’re staying in there? Should I come knock next time~?” Louise smirked and walked up to Iskra, arms folded in front of her. She gave the woman a once over, smiling a little bit wider. “From the piloting dossiers… I take it, you’re one of our two Newtypes?” Iskra seemed… Reserved. Rather odd, in my opinion… You’d think someone like this would be talking it up with everyone, given their status. This whole Newtype nonsense… I’m not sure I understand it, but I suppose, it’s something I’ll have to learn.
“You’re cute. Mind if I take some time getting to know you, Miss Dusan~?” Louise idly spun a strand of her hair, tilting her head a bit.


You aren’t supposed to get to know me, that’s the whole point of staying in my room... She took a hesitant step back from the woman as she approached, unsure of what this was all about. The emotions she was sensing confused her. The confusion was expected, most people felt that when they first met her, but that was... excitement? There was something else in there too, something she didn’t quite understand. Either way, it wasn’t what she was used to feeling when people met her. “Piloting dossiers... R-right, yes. I’m a Newtype, I guess. It’s, why I’m here, I guess.” Hopefully that was all she needed, putting a name to a face, and she could leave.
“W-well, I sh--” Her attempt to escape was quickly blocked as the other pilot maneuvered around her defenses, first calling her cute and then asking if she would spend time with her. The emotions were remaining the same, no amusement or anything that would indicate she was getting teased, something she was well used to sensing. Still, she shrunk back a little, glancing around before finally responding, “C-cute, I, mmm, if that’s a joke, it’s not... I suppose, if we’re to be pilots together, it would make sense. To get to know each other, I mean. Uhm. You seem to know my name. I’m afraid, uhm, I don’t know yours... I’m afraid I’m not very interesting, though. Your time is probably better spent elsewhere.” I just want to go back and listen to my music, away from all the noise of emotions...


“It’s not a joke… I’m one to tease, but not to lie. Louise Park. No one as interesting as you, just your average graduate and aficionado with ranged weaponry. So… What does a Newtype get up to when they’re waiting for the announcement for battle? I see you’ve a lovely little pet, too… Tell me. Surely you must have some hobbies… I’d love it if we shared a few~”
It was tough to get a grasp on these reserved types. They didn’t like getting involved, not normally, so getting into their shells always proved to be a task. A task worth undertaking, at least… I’d really like to see what’s under that jacket. Mmmm, in due time…


“Mmm...” Teasing, that made sense. She was used to that. Louise. She had been right with the L, that was good at least. “I don’t think I’m as interesting as you seem to think, Miss Park. I’m just, a normal person, really, at the core of it. S-so, I’m sure you’re more interesting.” She could feel Ion gently nudge her shoulder, knowing that meant the cat could feel her stress rising. She gently reached up to pet it, delaying any further actions from it for now. “I, listen to music mostly. Read. Work on building little robots... Like Ion here. U-unfortunately,” for you at least, “I mostly keep to myself. It’s, uhm, the emotions. They’re, a lot. It means I can tell what people really think about me. S-so, easier to stay away and find hobbies I can do by myself.” It’s safer too... You may just be curious, but that will change soon enough. It always does...


“How about that~ I love music too. I’ve taken to singing while I’m piloting… What sort of music do you enjoy, Iskra? Maybe I can sing for you some time… Just the two of us. Especially if you have trouble with too many emotions, I’m sure we can find a nice, secluded part of the ship… I’m not going to think anything else but the truth, after all. Surely that won’t overwhelm you~?” Louise cocked an eyebrow, still smiling, very amused by this girl’s anxious little display. 
“Mmmm… So you really can feel those sorts of things? Tell me, what am I feeling right now? Towards you… And this conversation. Let me know how honest I’m being, would you?” It would be an interesting test of her abilities. Louise didn’t completely buy into the concept of Newtypes, but there were enough people beginning to come forward that it couldn’t have been some odd fad. Still… Tell me how much you’re interesting me right now, Iskra~


“I...” It seemed like whatever she said, Louise was able to turn back on her. “I-it’s mostly, uh, symphonies and, other similar... Songs with no lyrics, but are still meant to, stir emotions. I can drown everything else out, with th-that.” Louise’s emotions were growing slightly as she suggested going somewhere alone, singing for her, with even more implied with the expression and emotions behind them. She shrunk back again, fiddling with the ends of her coat sleeves. “I don’t think, even one person can be, a lot, especially if there are strong emotions.” 
The conversation turned to a questioning of her abilities, something that was safer territory, as well as more familiar. She was used to this, many people still didn’t believe in Newtype’s existence. It was tempting to just lie, maybe that would make Louise lose interest, but that could potentially do more harm than good in the long run. The thought of Louise going to the captain and telling her that Iskra’s abilities were fake was enough to make her blood run cold. “Y-you’re curious. T-that was stronger at the start than it is now. It’s still there though. Y-you’re excited. I don’t know what about, it’s not, uhm, I can’t read your mind. T-there’s something else... Intrigue? S-something like that. It’s not something people feel as often as other emotions, s-so I’m not used to sensing it... Is that, enough?”


Louise’s eyes grew a bit wider, watching Iskra with quite the surprised expression. “Well I’ll be… You all really do work like that~ How interesting… Then, allow me to elucidate on why I’m so excited and intrigued. I walked into the hangar and came upon a beautiful woman that can read my emotions, that’s playing really hard to get, but the more you pull back, the more I want to find out about… You must not be used to this. Someone finding you attractive, but, you’ve got it all. So far, at least~ A lovely face and gorgeous hair… Just need to find out what’s hiding underneath this coat– But~! That can wait. No one worth figuring out is ever figured out that quickly…”


Iskra’s eyes grew wider, and she shrunk back further and further until she bumped into the leg of her mech, as Ion quickly started nudging against her cheek, trying to help her calm down. She swallowed, hard, her breathing slightly faster than normal, hands twisting her sleeves almost into knots. “I, I don’t...” She pulled her coat around herself, trying to get control as Louise pushed further. “I’m not, I’m just. Me. All of that you said, I think you’re, reading more than there is. You’ll realize, soon enough, j-just like everyone else... I’m not worth, mmm... T-there are probably people that are more interesting, for you to spend time with.” She reached up and pulled Ion into her arms, holding the cat close to her chest. The robot started to imitate a purr, trying to help her to the limit of its limited AI abilities. She’s going to get bored of me, get annoyed with me. It will happen soon enough.


“Just like everyone else? Is that why you were brought here? To the most illustrious ship in the CEN’s legacy for one of their most important missions? Just so you could be ‘not much’ and ‘not interesting’-- hah~ Next you’ll tell me that it’s just because of your funny abilities… No, no, Iskra. Tut tut~” Louise took steps forward as they fell backwards against their robot’s leg. “We’re here because we’re special. All of us. Even you~ They wouldn’t trust just anyone with a mission of this magnitude… And I wouldn’t flirt with just anyone unless I thought they were worth my time. So~ What do you say, to some alone time in the future? Once you’ve had time to acclimate further… Maybe leave your room a few more times. We can listen to your symphonies… Maybe watch a movie. Cuddle… I’m more soft than I look. Promise~”


“It... It was come here or flunk me out. I’m not, I can fight, but beyond that, I’m not exactly, a model soldier. They don’t want to lose, that is, Newtypes can fight, differently... Not that I can, not really. I mean, I can use the basic weapons, but anything more than that, I don’t have the same battle sense that others do...” She was rambling and she knew it, but it was either that or fully succumb to the threatening panic attack, so she didn’t try and stop it too much. “I just, was available. Mmm. I should, go. Back to my room. My head is starting to hurt...” It was just too many emotions, it always was. Even if the emotions weren’t negative this time, they were still strong. They were getting stronger too, as Louise moved closer, trying to get her to agree to the alone time. “I... I can’t. I’m not, what you’re looking for. Promise.”


“Mmm… We’ll see about that. I’ll leave you alone for now, Iskra… I can see I’m upsetting you, but you’re just too cute~ I can’t ignore that. Once we’re in the simulations, and then real battle… I’m sure you’ll see you’re not just here on a whim, either. Hmhmhm~ I can’t wait for some confidence to sneak its way into you… You’ll be one amazing woman.” Louise winked at her and then turned around, waving as she walked off. “Take care of yourself~” I do love pumping up the more weak willed ones… But this one shows promise, too~ That makes it extra worth it.


Iskra sunk down to the ground as Louise walked away, clinging tightly to Ion as she tried to calm herself enough to make it back to her room. This stupid power... I don’t want to know what everyone thinks of me, what I make them feel. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. She slid her headphones on, pressing play as she did, allowing the music to wash over her, replacing the crowded emotions in her brain with the light dancing tune of a violin. Louise Park... She was going to have to be careful around her. That much was clear. With all of those emotions already built up, it would be bad when they eventually turned sour. She stood up, draping Ion back over her shoulders. Back to my room, where I’ll be safe. Piloting a robot is nowhere near as scary as being out here is...
 

Still, even if Louise was terrifying, staying in the room full of strangers and higher ups was worse. She flicked her music on, violin music filling her ears and stood up, saluting the Captain. "Ma'am." The formalities completed enough to stand up to basic scrutiny, she didn't quite flee, but left quickly, staying far enough behind Louise to hopefully not draw attention once she was out. All she wanted at this point was to get to her HEX and have some time to relax before the simulation.

Edited by scorri
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While Leon was putting on his act, he did it to catch reactions from his fellow crewmates. Sadly, a lot of them didn't really clap with him. There were still some individuals that caught his eye however. Louise seemed like the type to take charge, she gave off a vibe that felt a little uppity. 'Well, not like I'm one to judge. I got no reason to dislike her.' Almost reminds me of Selena actually.' Another pilot he noticed was Kazue, who was quite withdrawn. Which was surprising given he read she was a martial arts champion. 'Takes all kinds, I guess. Wonder if she really backs up her punch.' Esther was another standout, she openly asked everyone not to drag her down. Leon had to keep his laugh in his head. Then there's Bonner, probably the oldest soldier here. He was thankful he wasn't someone he crossed paths with on the battlefield, otherwise this would have been a very awkward meeting.

Leon couldn't help but notice Louise complimenting Sia a little too hard, he just watched the two with a sly grin. 'Oh of course I'm not the only one with eyes on the captain. Game on. "We'll be sure to make you proud, my dear Captain." He stepped up and gave a salute too. "Trust me, I'll be on my best behavior. Promise." He whispered that last part slightly. "Anywho, off to the hanger we go. Can't wait to get this party started!" He turned around and marched onward with a hum.

Edited by TheRoon
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And everyone began to make their way to the hangar. Markus nodded. "I think I will join them." He stood from his seat, making sure the chair was tucked in. He gave a salute to Sia, "I suppose we shall see you once the experiment is over, Captain." He lowered his salute, turning and leaving the conference room. He took his time, there was time, he was sure the machine he was piloting would work fine. The Phalanx was a good machine, he wouldn't--

The was a sound of laughter down a hall he passed, towards the medical bay. He turned and noticed... a big flock of blond hair go into the bay. It was a woman, who... sounded quite familiar to him.

"There's no goddamn way..." He shook his head and continued down through the hall to the hangar. He wasn't sure he could deal with that at the moment.


The woman took a good look as she basked in the work she'd done. She did her best to make the med bay as home-y as she could. Some inspirational posters scattered the walls, she had her destressing tools in her drawers, her computer was finally set up so she could get her work done, it was her quarters away from her quarters. The last piece was a nametag on the desk.

Doctor Delarossa (CIV)

Some would say Doctor Delarossa would've never been caught on a military cruiser five years ago, but as she'd say, duty called. She'd been at it for a few hours already, setting up how she wanted the med bay to be presented. "Now... I guess I'm free for a bit." She opened her one of her desk drawers and pulled out a smoking pipe. She was off to take her first fifteen, but then she checked the clock. That simulation test for their pilots was going to take place. The smoke could be later. She went back to her desk, and took out a notepad, and began writing on it.

Doctor is away. If needed, please use the pager number listed.

She set her pager, made sure it was working. She took herself down the hallway, and brought herself to the meeting room. She stood by the doorway, waiting patiently for both the pilots to leave, and for the captain to address her.

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What a colorful cast. There were some clear points of friction, overconfidence, overly playful nature at the wrong time, extreme timidness... Edson made a mental note of each pilot. At least they were for the most part communicative, and the captain showed potential with a bit more confidence of her own. "A new unit should learn which tactics it can apply best before a real mission." It was nice to see some motivation still, "Just don't get too lost in the ship. Each of you should have received a map of the ship on your devices. At the hangar, we should prioritize everyone's position for the exercise." Organization was a key for success, he figured.


"Hm..." Esther wasn't the only newtype there, which was good to know. Still... this girl lacked all sorts of confidence. It wasn't going to get them along too well.

After the last few introduced themselves, Esther stood for her seat. "Alright, I'm going." For personal interest, she'd like to switch to her pilot suit while already inside the cockpit.

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Oh, so they were actually going to do something. Fine by Scylla, as long as people left her alone until they got there. She’d already slunk towards the door, hoping to get to the hangar without being noticed by anyone, because judging from how… excessive some of them seemed, she wasn’t going to get out of an encounter with some of them without having to play nice.

If they wanted to chat, they could chat with her inside a HEX. Much comfier, that way.

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Though Daeran kept his expression professionally neutral, it was somewhat amusing at how quickly Kazue had so quickly fled the meeting room after they were dismissed. Everyone else began to file out afterwards. Daeran stood, pushed in his chair, and gave his captain a salute. "Ma'am." He followed suite after everyone else, though he noticed an unfamiliar woman waiting to enter. If her labcoat was anything to base his impression off of, she must have been some sort of medical staff. He gave her a polite nod of his head but kept walking, having no business meddling in hers.

He was fine with bringing up the rear of their little march to the hanger, more time to observe how everyone carried themselves. Proper introductions to his fellow pilots could wait until after the simulation, once they all had a feel for each other's capabilities.

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As the pilots made their way to the hangar at their respective leisures - some with more haste and enthusiasm than others - they found the ship's hangar HEXes and fighters neatly arrayed about its space. The large airlock at the far end exiting towards the ship's starboard side was locked tightly shut, the elevators to carry machines to the top and bottom side launch bays were at rest. There was, however, no calm to be found within the section, the hustle and bustle within the room being about as much was expected of a usual launch, and the maintenance crew hurried around; but in the place of armaments, armor, and tools, they carried large cables to connect each HEX (and the single spacefighter) to the ship's datalink, preparing for the simulation battle to come. The best environment for simulation was, of course, the machines themselves. The firmware of each and every one came from from their factory loaded with sufficient training programs to guide cadets from zero to combat-ready over the course of their training period, and was more than capable of handling such a battle. The sole exception would be their captain; she would be upon the bridge once the exercise began.

The closest entrance to the hangar from the briefing room exited out onto a balcony overlooking the hangar, with elevators towards the far sides. Those who found themselves taking detours had other options, though; a larger cargo door towards the ground level, and other maintenance corridors scattered all around for those who were more savvy with shipboard layouts.

One particularly eager-looking member of the maintenance crew waved and yelled from across the room as some of them began to file in. "Hey! We haven't met yet, so I figure you must be the pilots. About damn time you showed up. Look, we're not ready to start yet - we'll be ready by the end of the hour - but you can go ahead and get in your cockpits. Do whatever your pre-battle routine is, I don't know, I'm not a pilot. We'll give you the signal when it's time." She was hefting the end of one of the datacables towards the Phalanx at the far side of the hangar; the relatively diminutive fighter stood out amongst the standing HEXes; racks of its missiles were arrayed on heavy-duty shelving, while most of the rifles and other equipment for the HEXes was mounted on the walls. The large block lettering on the back of her jumpsuit read "CIA", and as she finished her explanation she quickly set back about her work with the rest of the crew, quite occupied on their immediate tasking.

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By the time Louise had made it to the hangar, despite her brisk pace, Kazue was already down one of the elevators, rushing for her robot. "Damn... Well. I should expect nothing less from an athlete. Hmph..." Louise wasn't one to rush into this, especially with the mechanics calling up at them, as the rest of the pilots began to file into the hangar. She waited near the other elevator, the one opposite Kazue's, hoping some of the other pilots wouldn't mind small talk. Getting to know Iskra and Esther couldn't hurt... And the rest, she wasn't about to get that close with, but they could end up friends... Or at least, colleagues she could hopefully trust to keep her safe on the field of battle.

Though, while she wasn't a Newtype herself, she had a sinking suspicion that Iskra was going to make a beeline for the now returning elevator on the opposite side of the balcony. You can run for now, but I'll crack that shell eventually... I might not be gunning for you right now; I don't like to play multiple women at once, but, I still want to get to know you, Iskra~ You're too cute to stay a wallflower...

Kazue, who was already rushing across the hangar floor for her HEX, didn't even pause as the mechanic went about explaining things, quickly talking to the engineers attending her machine and getting the okay to ride the tether line up into the cockpit. They were doing simulations today, but that didn't mean she would be unprepared. As soon as she got into the cockpit and could breathe a sigh of relief at being alone, she went about making use of the space as well as she could, kicking off her shoes and stripping out of her clothes. She'd worn the pilot suit underneath to the meeting to make sure she was prepare for any simulated combat after; it wasn't a requirement in the debriefing, but she wanted the experience to be authentic. There was the issue of the outer layer, but she could deal with that when they got into real combat; it wasn't going to change the simulation experience much.

"Hahhh..." Sitting in the cockpit with just the base layer of her pilot suit on felt... A bit weird. "These suits are certainly, tight..." They weren't form fitting to an uncomfortable degree, but they were still... She wouldn't walk about the ship in just the pilot suit, that was for sure. Jacket, shirt and jeans neatly packed into a pile behind her seat, she leaned back and clasped her hands together, closing her eyes and taking some deep breaths. She had time to meditate before they seriously got into things.

Edited by Nanami Touko
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Sia sighed as all of the pilots made their way out of the room, and towards for the hangar. "Yeah... that's going to take some getting used to." Sia fixed her hair, and nodded. She was going to have also live up to their standards as well. The pressure was a little different from that of being an XO. She couldn't let it get to her; it would only serve to exacerbate her issues if she was stressed the whole time, and that would only put more people in danger. 

She turned to leave the room, only to find that there was a well dressed woman with a labcoat standing against the door frame. She hadn't left with the other pilots, and eventually the lightbulb in Sia's head went off. She'd read the woman's dossier, which meant that she was almost definitely here for her. "I'm sorry, were you waiting for me, Doctor Delarosa? I should have dropped by well before this point, but there was... just too much to do. It's nice to meet you." 

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Iskra made her way into the hangar, looking around as she did. On the one side, an elevator that had just been recently used, while on the other, am elevator that was ready to go, but included Louise. Do I wait for the next elevator, risk someone else coming in and all the unknown that brings, or do I go with the danger I know? The emotions she could feel from Louise weren't that strong, muted some by the music in her ears, but they were still there. That curiosity, a desire for something, though... She was interested in the captain, that much was clear. She probably is just teasing me, trying to get a reaction. Maybe if I don't give her what she wants, she'll leave me alone. 

She took a deep breath and then made her way over to the elevator next to Louise. A small nod was the only greeting the other woman got before Iskra entered the elevator and pushed the down button. It was up to Louise now if she would join or not. Even though her plan to get Louise to become uninterested required at least some interaction, she couldn't help the small part of her hoping the other woman would decide to wait for someone more interested in conversation.

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"Aha, yes~ Good morning Captain Silverwind~" Rosa, despite being a civilian, still went into attention and gave the captain a salute. "You're looking quite fine today, actually." Her voice was chipper, and she carried a fun smile. To most people, this probably didn't seem the doctor type. "I actually had a request for you."

The woman took down her salute, and moved closer to the captain, "You see, not only you, but the whole HEX squad is in dire need to complete the horrid," She gave a dramatic pause, "in-processing examinations~" She gave a small smile, "I'd love to see how our little group handles during their little simulation I've heard, through the grapevine, and when they're done, trap them while in your debrief so they know they've gotta get done~" The doctor smiled, "Of course, you're still at the top of the list, only because of what I've seen, but I must ensure everyone's record is up to date." And bug Markus, but that's for me~


Meanwhile, Markus treaded the halls until he was out in the hangar. He got a clear look at everything, it was nice. It always seemed to put some calming force on him. That energy to relax right before giving all your energy into a flight. He took a look out to see all the different HEXes. Then of course, the Phalanx. His fighter he'll be using. Markus was ready for action. However, that action still had time to wait.

Walking over to the nearest elevator, he noticed two of the other pilots were there. Iskra, and Louise, if he remembered their names correctly. He walked over, clearing his throat so his presence was known. "Hope you both don't mind me stepping in." He said as he walked in.

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