Phoenix

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About Phoenix

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  • Birthday 12/31/1988

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    Personal Growth, writing, fighter jets, women, philosophy, explosions, anime, etc.
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  1. Firmia was actually quite confident the ship would survive the war with Apotheosis. What she wasn't sure of was which faction's symbol it would bear by the end of it, the ANF's, or Apotheosis'. Or perhaps whatever image the Sacarians preferred. Anything was possible. At least it wasn't her problem, anymore ... in a manner of speaking. Firmia still had a lot of things to do, and depending on how events played out at Central ... well it was going to be a rough couple of weeks no matter what happened. The Captain's retort about trust rubbed off easily with Brant gawking at her down there. She trusted him, Tonya and Sasha, though in Brant's case, it was something born of both guilt and gratitude. Brant didn't stay seated past Jessica dismissing the room. He still clearly wanted to discuss this, but had no idea where to even start. Firmia meanwhile, managed to smile at Jessica when she promised to make things a bit easier for her at Central. "I appreciate that. Thank you." To Thorvald she added, "This is fine. The plan was to destroy Apotheosis and then leave. I had no intention of being friends with anyone here. That's too complicated, and it's why I only spoke to the captain when I could get away with it. Russia's not really the place for reliable allies right now, Thorvald, but ... но спасибо ..." She smiled again, though it was weaker, more somber this time around ... and it quickly faded to a dead serious expression as she eyed the door. "Hannah, I need to talk with you," Firmia said without looking back at the android, "but it stays between us ... and Galatea, I guess," she rolled her eyes and started for the door. Given where they needed to go to speak in total privacy, she didn't have much choice in the matter. Brant still hadn't found his voice by the time Firmia started off, so he smiled an apology at Jessica and then started after her.
  2. Was Nikolai fully conscious, again? Ohhh dear. Megumi slipped off her headphones, letting them rest on her coat collar as she gave his vitals a fresh look. Still not ideal, but when were they, ever? He was definitely awake, though. There was no telling how long that would last. Between whatever pain was cutting through the medication, and the medication itself, the boy had plenty of incentive to let the darkness take him, again. "Nikolai," Megumi spoke as softly as she could without having her voice muddied beyond recognition, "You're in the infirmary, it's alright." People tended to want to know where the hell they were after a good stint of unconsciousness, so the doctor began with that. "If you can understand me, I want you to nod your head. Gently ... No sudden movements." Firmia didn't recall Tarquin or anyone else being dismissed from the debriefing, but she agreed with what he'd said up to that point. That was the Captain's lax leadership for you. Makoto spoke up afterward, wanting to know if Chris could tell them anything else about the moles. Firmia had mixed feelings about that question, but was just slightly in favor of it. More information was almost always a good thing, but according to Chris, one of the moles was right there in the room with them. They had to be careful about what they said, or even implied. That was one reason Firmia had stopped giving her input when and where she had. The rest of it was for the captain's ears, like always. Perhaps the XO's as well, since they seemed to come as a pair during those post-debrief talks. When Firmia glanced over to check in on Brant, she found herself making eye contact with him. She nearly glared on reflex; he had that look that just begged to know what she was thinking. Annoying, but Firmia knew she'd been in all sorts of moods, today, and he could scarcely ignore them. Now they had both just learned that someone in this very room, along with at least two others on the ship, were trying to undermine them. Firmia just hoped her friend wasn't getting too attached to these people, because even if they weren't leaving right away, they were still going to have to kill whichever ones were feeding Apotheosis information. Well, they didn't have to kill them, necessarily. Knowing Jessica, they would somehow be reabsorbed into the crew in a similar manner to the prisoners if she got her way. Still, if it could be justified in the moment, the Alkaev had every intention of putting all three of them in the ground. Let the the traitorous pilot help out with the fighting for now, and then once they revealed themselves, try and survive the betrayal. That was the tricky part, but if they could get that far, then all that would be left was getting what information they could out of them before killing them. With next to no information, it wasn't a plan Firmia really liked, but seeking out the mole was a useless distraction at best. Furthermore, the enemies among them might have some 'insurance' in place, and fighting one of the people Firmia most suspected aboard the ship itself would incredibly difficult. A whole fireteam would likely be stopped cold. The Captain had picked a very interesting time to put an end to the post-debrief discussions, but that wasn't what really bothered Firmia in the moment. It was that stupid, pointless notion of making certain everyone heard what she did. To what bloody end? Firmia decided to brush past that part of it and focus on the thrust of her point. Of course, once she did, Brant's day would be thoroughly ruined. She waited until after Chris' last bit of information before addressing Jessica, again. "I don't know why you would keep every last person in the loop when you know that information is going straight to Apotheosis, but it doesn't matter, anymore. At least not for me. If I can't trust you with confidential information, now of all times ... then I can't trust you at all." Firmia stood up from her chair and held her bulky tablet at her side. "Here's what was for your ears only, 'Captain,'" Firmia began, enough contempt in her tone to make Brant wince, "You. Are. Weird. So weird, and with such a backwards style of leading that I thought you might be one of these moles Chris warned us about. You keep recruiting people from Apotheosis instead of executing them, and I've got no doubt you'd try to spare the other moles if we found ever them. Maybe you'd even do something stupid like 'forgive and forget.' You're just going to keep making us more and more vulnerable. I had no intention of spouting off conspiracy theories and making people even more nervous about a problem we can't properly address, right now. I just wanted to speak with you in private and see how you would refute a theory like that. I thought if I kept talking with you, maybe I could start to trust you, but this is a complete waste of time. You're far more dangerous than any mole, whether you are one or not, and worse still, you're my only tie to this damn ship and the ANF. These people here? Most of them are your subordinates. Not my allies. Your subordinates. There is a difference. If there's any fighting at Central, I'll help you one more time, but after that, I'm leaving. This arrangement of ours has to end." "Wait, leaving?!" There it was ... Brant's inevitable shock. "How is you leaving going to help anything, especially now?!" "You can stay if you want," Firmia tried to shrug but couldn't quite manage it, "but don't even think about trying to talk me out of it. The Kremlin already contacted me yesterday. They gave me two weeks to return to Russia with the AMS units. If I don't make their deadline, my assets will be frozen, they'll take the suits anyway, and I'll be imprisoned for the rest of my life ... if I'm lucky. No one here can help me, and now is as good a time as any to cut my losses and try to find some other way to survive this damn war. At least I won't have to be around when this pleasure cruise of hers finally runs aground." Brant froze, wondering why the Russian government would try to get back just three suits. Were they losing that badly ...? Just how much more important was the Riese's crew, then? It was just bombshell after bombshell today, and Firmia was definitely serious about this. Beneath the bitterness she held for the captain, there was a deep sadness. Chances were she'd never let it to the surface. Brant wasn't sure what to say or do now, and Firmia looked like she was just waiting for the chance to leave the meeting room, likely for the last time ...
  3. Great. Paranoia was just what they needed, right now. Megumi sighed as the yelling started, figuring that was how at least some of the reactions would go. Everyone knew the crew just barely got along during these meetings ... including Apotheosis, apparently. As for these moles, Megumi wasn't ready to place any bets, just yet, not until she understood the pilots a little better. She might want to be more careful about taking DNA samples in the future, though. That could be misconstrued very easily, what with this cloning business. The doctor wondered what she should say if suspicion ever fell on her. She had a lot of guns locked up here in the infirmary, and Megumi herself was a clone, one who's origins became more and more convoluted the further back people looked. Just the same, she was none too eager to go digging up her past, especially since doing so wouldn't necessarily vindicate her. Thanks, Nicholas. You bastard. "... oh well," Megumi shrugged. She would cross that bridge if she took a wrong turn and actually wound up there. They were beginning to slowly ease themselves into the reality of these hostile Sacarians when Abigail inquired about Chris' knowledge of the crew. Brant, who wasn't all there at first, absently chalked it up to the fact that the lieutenant was a well known idol working aboard the Riese. She couldn't possibly be that hard for Apotheosis to look up. Also, if Firmia's suspicion that their outbound and inbound communications were all being intercepted by Apotheosis, then they had likely built up an extensive profile on the team. They really ought to know who was who, and what they were each piloting. Chris' admission that there were multiple moles on the ship was unexpected salt in the wound, though. It had obviously been meant as such, some very important information thrown at them to both prove her sincerity in hurting Apotheosis, while also scaring the tar out of the people she didn't like here. That was a dangerous game to be playing, right now ... Brant glanced at Firmia around the time Elaine called for one of the moles to out themselves. The Alkaev looked exactly the same as before, though his sense of her was making an eerily subtle shift. She was going deeper and deeper into contemplation. She ... wasn't all there either, it seemed. Brant supposed she'd want to tune out the others to try and piece together the most likely spies for herself. There was no telling what she'd do once she was sure of her choices, though. In fact, Brant couldn't help but gawk briefly when he caught the faintest of grins from her. It was so brief, he wasn't sure it'd actually happened. He wouldn't have even seen it at all if he hadn't already been completely focused on her. Maybe she'd just put together her own list of suspects. "Well, now I'm glad I took matters into my own hands," Firmia said, her eyes initially on Chris, but soon shifting to the captain. She definitely had that look about her. For better or worse, Firmia's stance on the crew had changed. "I think it's too late to change your routine much and get good results, Captain, so I would just shelf this information for now. I'm not saying keep being lax with your security and pretend nothing's wrong ..." God forbid she keep things up exactly the way she had been ... "but the best we can do right now is start monitoring everything and lock up the most suspicious people we can find. That would lower your manpower even more. I do need to have a word with you after the debriefing if you have time ... especially since this just came up." Brant couldn't figure out Firmia's suspects based just on what she'd said, though it made sense that he wouldn't be able to. She probably wanted to talk to Jessica in private about that, just like everything else. Brant didn't have any suspects in mind, himself. Thinking back to the situation with Chris reminded him that he was just a gun in all of this. All he could do was shoot whichever teammate had been in league with Apotheosis when the time came, assuming he had the opportunity. He hoped he wouldn't be in the area for that, and that the burden would fall on someone else. Granted, a mole on the ship could probably be captured with a little effort. They might not have to kill any of them, but Brant was convinced he wasn't the person to convince someone in league with Apotheosis to stand down, not while they were the underdogs in this war. He would have to try and take them out like Firmia would have him do ... that or, again, just not be in the area.
  4. Chris' reasons for being so forthcoming weren't especially important. Wanting revenge on Apotheosis or wanting to help the Riese crew seemed like a distinction without a difference, right now. Megumi kept her questions brief and specific, wanting to know what their prisoner's estimate of the clones' numbers were, and what if anything she knew about the early and latter stages of the cloning process. She tested Chris' eyesight during the questioning before picking out a pair of prefabricated lenses that ought to match the girl's test results. They weren't fancy, but they ought to at least correct Chris' nearsightedness. Not long before Nikolai was hauled in, Megumi snuck up on Chris with a small cylinder. The most noteworthy thing about it was the syringe housed inside it. It was quick, but not exactly painless. The doctor wasn't taking chances this time, nor was she being nice about it. She needed samples from these engineered humans for a whole host of reasons, and this might be her only opportunity to do so with Chris without making a scene. After that, though, Nikolai arrived, and it wasn't pretty. Megumi hadn't gotten nearly far enough into her cybernetics studies to even make an attempt at replacing the boy's missing limbs. He wasn't going to be piloting again anytime soon, regardless. Thankfully, he was still breathing. As long as she had advanced enough notice, she could save anyone that was still alive when they reached the infirmary. That didn't mean it would be easy, or that Nikolai would ever be the same again, but at least he would live ... ((Note for Shin: If you wanted to retro any of this, let me know.)) Once Tonya arrived in Brant's room, she cleared up the misunderstanding about A1 to Bill, explaining that the Mini-Throne was built just last night. In a sense, it was a model kit that could run around on its own. After that had all been sorted out, she put A1 back in the gift box and stayed with the little AI, making sure it didn't try to wander off, again. With nothing else to do, and no interest in attending the debriefing, she fired up SSMO and tried to get in touch with Ellen. Pestering Firmia about the Reign could wait, she supposed. Sasha slept. Brant supposed there was no point in leaving the banged up cockpit out here. Once Hannah and Jezebel were safely inside the Mantle, Brant put the Regalia down on the ground to pick up the remains. It took them considerably longer to get back to the ship, but they weren't intercepted anywhere along the way. Apotheosis really was gone, it seemed. So was Firmia's aura of malice. That had been replaced by something different, a sense of uncertainty. It wasn't confusion or fear, but more like she was trying to puzzle something out. The lack of energy, or what Brant would normally interpret as urgency, didn't accompany his sense of her. Whatever she was thinking about, she didn't think she could address it right this minute. When they arrived back on the ship, Brant carefully dropped off his cargo and maneuvered the Regalia to its own dock. They made it in place shortly after the Mantle, and at that moment, Firmia put Galatea's access to the Mantle's systems on suspension. It wasn't quite the same as taking her off of the registered users list altogether, but the result was the same, and easier to undo. As far as the Alkaev was concerned, Galatea only needed full access during a mission. The rest of the time, it wasn't helpful or needful. After that, she disconnected her tablet from its docking arm, moved the larger monitor out of the way, and grabbed her coat. "You did really good out there," Brant smiled, though the situation still weighed heavily on him, "We lost some funnels but the Regalia's just fine." "You just wish Nikolai had that kind of help ... right?" "... yeah." Brant glanced at the damage to the other suits in the hangar, wondering if Firmia's inclusion as his copilot had been especially good timing. "I know you don't trust Galatea just yet, but for Hannah's sake-" "Don't worry so much," Firmia scowled, "She can keep helping Hannah with the Mantle. Until I know what to expect from her, though, no full time free access." "Fair enough," Brant sighed. As long as Galatea could help out when it really mattered, he didn't have much to complain about. "Oh ..." There was one thing that came to mind. "What about the Reign? It's still completely locked down." Firmia looked at the time. "It hasn't been long enough, yet. Maybe sometime after dinner." "Man, that's messed up," Brant winced. Jezebel's eye injury was no quick fix. Restoring her sight proper would take weeks, and she could need constant monitoring in that time to ensure her eyesight was restored to what it had originally been, which meant keeping her off active duty the entire time. For the moment, Megumi and her minions had managed to remove the branch and address the injuries. The woman's forearm wound up in a bulky SIEG filled brace to help heal her broken wrist. Her hand wouldn't be of much use to her for the time being. Naturally, Jezebel was also down to a single eye, the other completely bandaged up and hidden away. She'd definitely seen better days. By this point, Nikolai had been both stabilized and heavily medicated. The debriefing began without much delay, as expected, and Megumi came back over to Nikolai to continue compiling her list of injuries and suggested fixes for the further ruined child soldier. Meanwhile, Olivia and Valerie were assigned to Jess. Rebuilding Nikolai was going to take time. Watching him groan through his breathing mask in that SIEG tank was like looking into the heart of war itself, and the doctor knew there were just some things she wouldn't be able to address here at all. Megumi listened in on the post-mission debrief. She already had Chris' information, so she didn't learn anything new or interesting from the opening bits. In fact, the first pass seemed entirely unproductive, with things getting a little too personal with Lieutenant Kim. Thankfully the subject quickly changed to something useful, the two most advanced machines they had encountered to date. The lieutenant's revelation about them held drastic implications that could change the face of the war, as well as the Riese's place in it. The doctor's initial thought was 'aliens,' but she stopped to consider that they might be advanced engineered beings. That still left plenty of room for a superiority complex. Quickly though, Megumi found her way back to the aliens version of events, seeing as Apotheosis' technology was a lot easier to explain this way. If it was true though, figuring out the total strength of the enemy was going to be a major pain for the ANF. With this one battle, so much seemed to fall neatly into place. Expendable clones. Technology borrowed from a more advanced alien race. It seemed Apotheosis had made First Contact, and now, with backing from interstellar travelers, they were trying to take over the world. As far as Firmia was concerned though, they were just repeating the same grand mistakes of the past, and would eventually suffer the same grand failure. Her uncertainty from earlier was gone now, though Brant couldn't have noticed. The whole atmosphere was different from before. In one direction, there was Seung-Min and her oddly tangible hostility toward the Christina clone. Right next to Firmia, there was Brant, and a depth of dread she had never felt from him before. So that's how it is ... Brant could only maintain eye contact with Chris for so long before his energy left him and he hung his head, using his hand for support as he languished there. When I first thought about it, I was worried we were shooting down hostages, people like Christina. People who fought for Apotheosis because they didn't have a choice, that's who I was thinking of. This is ... this is so much worse. Brant managed a brief glance toward Chris, again, then returned to the pit of sorrow he'd dug for himself. He wasn't sure he wanted to know how many of them they had killed so far ... how many he had killed. The exact number was irrelevant. Apotheosis was using people like tools, growing them to be killing machines, all for their New World Order. It was beyond disgusting. What might have sparked anger in Brant at another time and place only led to an even deeper sadness. Knowing that his only possible role in all of this was that of a gun, Brant didn't have any room left for wrath. All he could do to address this threat, all he could ever hope to do to address it, was put down Apotheosis' pilots, the loyalists, and the clones alike. All of them. It was an overwhelming sense of impotence, one matched only by his training under the Alkaevs. Not sure what the exact source of Brant's temporary depression was, Firmia decided to ignore it and focus on the meeting. Like usual, she didn't think much of the crew and wanted to limit her post-mission discussions to just the Captain and whoever else needed to be there for the exchange. People seemed to be asking the right questions, anyway. At least so far. With some clear and concise communication, they could probably get to the bottom of some things, this time. Probably.
  5. Megumi nearly let a frown slip when Mai volunteered to help out. A mental image of the woman playing nurse in full health briefly floated across Megumi's vision. Maybe she'd been looking in the wrong place for minion number three. Even if that were the case, Mai's lap and hands were all Megumi could come up with uses for right that moment. "I suppose ... if you've got steady hands, it might beat moving around a regular tray." She shrugged, somewhat doubtfully. "Maybe ..." The calm before the storm gave the wary prisoner plenty of time to notice just how screwed she ... wasn't. For some reason that didn't sit well with her, and she confronted the lot of them on the issue, wondering why she wasn't getting harsher treatment. One of the mechanics laid out a fairly decent explanation; she wasn't much of a threat anymore, and the crew--not just the mechanics--really did have more important things to worry about. Granted, there were probably one or two people that would just be dying to give her a hard time once the fires all got put out, but for now, lives were hanging in the balance. Megumi was about to make a witty remark when Mai recognized Chris. Mistaking her for Christina was probably inevitable for the time being. "This is 'Chris,' Mrs. Watanabe. You're thinking of Christina, the one that joined us before we made it back to Earth," Megumi explained, glancing at Chris as dubiously as she had upon first seeing her. "I'm not sure which one of them is the clone and which is the original, or if either of them is the original." They had picked up both girls in more or less the same fashion, so it was definitely possible that they were both based on a template and simply came out differently. Megumi and her sisters, despite being clones, were also quite different from their template, and each other. "I'm sure we'll sort that all out soon enough." "The pilot's alive and responsive," Firmia replied, opening a relay so Hannah and Galatea could both catch the rest of the exchange. "The Regalia will remain up here and cover you ... just in case." Firmia casts Alert (10sp)! A bitter smile formed as Brant thought back on the battle. The pilot they were retrieving hadn't gotten off easy, and neither had they ... "Don't worry, Jess ..." Brant paused, the name only registering after he'd actually said it. It was weird running into another Jessica. Or maybe it was just Jess? There was no way that was her whole given name. She hadn't mentioned her rank, either, but with the serial code she'd given, Firmia probably already had the answers to both those questions. Realizing he had about half a second before Firmia took over, Brant pressed on. "We've waited long enough, I think. Had to secure the whole area before we could even attempt a rescue. The enemy's fallen back, including whichever suit attacked your squad, so now's definitely the time. Can you pop the hatch, or do you need some outside help?" Brant wasn't one hundred percent certain they had the whole area perfectly secure now, but Apotheosis did tend to actually leave when they left. The team might still be eating fire from them again on the morrow ... probably before lunchtime, too.
  6. Megumi made her way over to the nearest of the SIEG tanks, and got the thing fired up. It would only take about a minute to completely fill with its special fluid once a patient was prepped for it. After that, assuming the intended patient was even still alive, Megumi would have to stabilize him and decide how best to treat the injuries. The only thing she was sure of right now was head trauma and lots of broken bones, but it could be a lot worse if the cockpit caught on fire or something ... "Hm?" It hadn't taken Olivia long to figure out what was bothering Chris, and with her treatment being rather low on their list of priorities, she asked if she could go search for Valerie. Better now than when the search and rescue made it back. "Yes, go," Megumi nodded, "and be quick about it." With that, she stepped away from the open SIEG tank and sighed. Hopefully Nikolai was going in here sometime in the next few minutes. Hopefully ... Not quite forming up but it would do, Firmia supposed. The approach to the distress signal's location wasn't going to be the relatively quiet trip the Alkaev had been hoping, though. She needed time to think about everything that had happened, but she was beginning to realize she wouldn't be getting it until she hit the changing rooms. "They might be dead," Firmia admitted, "but we should still check. Speaking of which, depending on the situation, I might need you to put them in the Mantle's spare seat. Their escape pod might not be in any condition to carry back. We don't know, yet ..." Galatea's input was a little helpful, but Firmia was quietly siding with Hannah in terms of how the situation felt. At best they were slowing the enemy down and upping their maintenance costs. Why wasn't Apotheosis coming down on them like a tidal wave, right now? They had the tech, the numbers, and more reasons than they really needed to do so. It seemed more and more that her theory of a ship takeover being in the works could be correct. "This is Lieutenant Brant Abrams of the ANF vessel Heion Riese. Serial code HR-3234. Downed pilot, do you copy?" "Downed pilot?" Firmia tilted her head. Brant made a face at that, but like usual, Firmia couldn't see it. "What else am I going to call them ...? ... Ahem, we've picked up your distress signal and are currently inbound to your location. If you can hear this, please respond."
  7. Well ... that worked out in the end, though there was still the burning question of Nikolai ... "Come on," Firmia grabbed Brant's attention, "let's find that missing pilot. The others can deal with the Umbra." Brant glanced back at Firmia, though he didn't move far enough to actually see her behind him. "You really want to move past that, don't you ...?" Firmia shook her head. "There are enough people worried about him. There's no point in us doing the same, especially since nothing we do will change anything. Let's just get back to what we were doing." She opened a line to the Mantle. "Terminator. It's Vivian. We're heading back for the missing ANF pilot. We're not splitting into singles so form up and come with us." Firmia sighed after that. "I just hope Captain Gefalscht finally gets it, now ..." This was the lesson she'd anticipated, though it'd come a bit sooner than she expected.
  8. Things with Avery had gone quickly and smoothly. Thankfully. Things on Bennet's end were quite the opposite, and this really wasn't the time for Tambre to be sleeping in. How was she even managing that with the ship occasionally rocking from enemy fire? Alcohol? Definitely not the most pressing detail, right now. "Okay change of plans," Megumi said, straightening up from the console, "I may need more hands than I've normally got available." That admission out of the way, the doctor tried to plan as efficiently as she could for when Nikolai's meat and tubes were hauled into the infirmary. Alive or dead, she really wasn't looking forward to seeing the scrawny gremlin in such a sorry state. "Okay ... Bennet, I need you up here for now. I'll prep the SIEG tank, myself, and you get Chris' checked for any injuries. After that, you can look for Tambre, but if I page you, double back here. Ignatius, if you could do me one more favor when you go, I'd like you to find anyone else on the ship with any medical training and send them back here too. If you know where to find Tambre, you could also save us some time there. If the Umbra was taken out this quickly then there are probably more injured we don't know about yet, and I don't want to get swamped with only three people here." Chris was also a minor security risk, so she might have to keep the two mechanics with her, as well. The Artemis Team's feed was no longer active when she'd checked the console, but unlike Nikolai's, it was just a regular disconnect, not the blood red overlay that spelled doom most of the time. It was also expected, given the hit they'd taken earlier. Those two were probably on their way up to the infirmary, again.
  9. Interesting. This lookalike was nothing like the Christina Megumi was used to. In a way it was refreshing, though it seemed to stem just as much from the awful situation she was in as it did from her own nature, leaving the doctor with somewhat mixed feelings. If nothing else, she wasn't a much better pilot than Troy was, having been overwhelmed so quickly. There wasn't a rush, right now, so Megumi wasn't going to be speeding the girl off to the brig as soon as she'd like. After all, she still needed to get things set up in the infirmary so she could keep an eye on the battle outside. Stepping into the infirmary after Ignatius and the others, Megumi made for the nearby console and with a few swift keystrokes, brought up the pilot feeds she'd normally be watching from her console on the bridge. And then something unsettling caught her eye, Nikolai's vitals. What should have been the boy's ridiculously unstable readings were all flatlines. Nikolai's entire stat column was bathed in red, like the doctor would expect from the destruction of the system on the pilot's end. A regular disconnect would look completely different, which meant the Umbra had likely taken catastrophic damage in the cockpit. Had Nikolai been taken out ...? "Keep an eye on her for a moment," Megumi instructed the mechanics, "We've got an emergency here. Bennet, get a hold of Tambre and then bring a SIEG tank online." Megumi doubted Nikolai was still alive, but if he was, they still had time to save him. "As soon as I leave the bridge ... Avery, do you read me? This is Doctor Amparo. I need you to put together a search and rescue team. The Umbra was just destroyed, but Nikolai might still be alive." Hopefully the pilots could cover them if Avery went for this; Apotheosis had been nearly in full retreat when she left the bridge. Either way, there was no time to wait for them to wrap things up. "I know it's dangerous but if he's not dead yet, he will be if we don't get him back here as soon as possible." Brant winced as the Umbra seemed to wink out of existence on his radar. Looking behind him, as the Regalia entered a wide turn to return to the main battle, Brant could make out the destruction, though just barely until he focused on the wrecked machine and zoomed in on it. "Dammit ... ... Merlin to Goblin, do you r-" "Don't bother," Firmia had switched the comms back off before Brant could even say anything, "Let the Captain figure that one out. We've got to get back there and help them out before someone else goes down." Brant could at least somewhat agree with that. Thorvald already wanted Hannah back for a coordinated assault. They might as well chip in. With the battle nearly over, the ANF pilot was in far less danger, and Brant was starting to doubt Apotheosis had any people on foot searching for them. The Riese team needed all the firepower they could get, now, so it was time to head back and finish this. Brant turned the comms back on. "Alright, Mantle Team, we're coming in with you. Hasn't failed yet, so let's see if we can't squeeze in a couple more of those maneuvers to help soften them up for the others." Great, Firmia mused, more melee attacks. For the upteenth time today, she reminded herself to make some needful adjustments to the Mantle. Hopefully they would actually have the time to make an attempt. It would have been a little better if Hannah was piloting a Throne. It was a general purpose mobile suit, better suited to her up close style of fighting. Firmia still didn't have one, though. It was somewhat debatable, but they were better off with the Mantle and its superior range. While it wasn't a dedicated sniping unit, a skilled enough pilot could make it one in practice. Until they optimized the machine for Hannah, it was always going to feel like a bit of a mismatch to her. Not that finding the suit's ideal pilot was the goal. The real goal here was Firmia's drone program. ... and speaking of odd snipers, there was that Apotheosis sniper that had been hitting them from absurd ranges. They hadn't even been able to fight back against that one until they'd gotten this close. It reminded her of her narrow escape from the Black Swan with Tonya and Sasha. They couldn't fight back against that one either, not until Tonya raced off to face them at close range. History was always repeating itself, but with the Umbra in ruins, this all felt eerily familiar to Firmia ... "Hey, Brant ... how many units like that do you think Apotheosis has?" "No idea," Brant winced, "Maybe a dozen? Maybe more if they're trying to take over the whole world. Why?" "I just ... had a thought. <Don't worry about it."> Brant moves to 13,15 and initiates the Twinbird maneuver against Saturn #2!
  10. A1 repeated its 'Hello' message three times, but it seemed the Janitor wasn't familiar with the code. Try as it did to calculate a way to 'write' a message on some surface in the room, A1 couldn't come up with a way to do that with the equipment it had on hand ... not without causing serious damage, at least. Trying a new tactic, A1 aimed the mock rifle at the door and began to draw its message, completing one letter every couple of seconds or so. With the laser still on its lower settings, it wasn't leaving any marks. Even though that was a blessing, it seemed to put the message's odds of being understood at roughly 50/50. That was better than zero. Tonya poked at her water bottle in the cafeteria, still at a loss for why the Reign was locked down. No remote signals were working, and the docking station couldn't do anything with the suit, either. As much as she wanted to contact Firmia to see what the deal was, there was a battle going on, right now. She was likely busy proving herself to Brant in action, and he probably had his hands full, too. Now would be a very bad time to bring up something like that, especially given her reasons. Tonya smiled bitterly at the thought of pestering Firmia about the Reign, just so she could get inside and see if the suit's system could run that silly game. It wasn't irrelevant; the sense Tonya was getting of Firmia's plans would have the Reign flying all over the place, and its pilot needed ways to pass the time. With the Reign's upgrades finished, it could fight without making the mechanics nervous, and that meant she would be starting these long missions, sooner rather than later. Also she was bored as hell, right now. Standing up from the table and grabbing her water, Tonya started back for Brant's room. Maybe Ellen was online and she could do a job for the SSMO veteran in the meantime. It felt like the immediate danger had passed, so she was just torturing herself by waiting around in the cafeteria. On the elevator ride down, Megumi wondered what kind of person they'd caught this time around. Was it a rebel being used as a meat shield or a distraction, like Abigail? Maybe it was someone more like Nikolai, severely damaged and nearly unhinged. Or maybe it was someone like Christina, with no business whatsoever being in a military organization, much less a battlefield. She stepped out of the elevator as soon as it arrived and made straight down the hall toward the infirmary. She spotted Ignatius and his help along the way, along with some unusually long blonde locks. She squinted to try and commit the new face to memory, quickly finding that it was already there ... ... well, despite everything, it definitely wasn't Troy; this woman had clearly made it to the infirmary on foot. More importantly, that wasn't the SKINsuit she should have been wearing. It didn't look like ANF standard, not even a custom version like Lieutenant Kim's. The doctor was quickly becoming suspicious of Troy's original story, and was curious to hear what Number Two over there had to say about her origins. "Is this the guest?" She knew it was, but there weren't any other greeting questions coming to mind ... at least none she could be sure wouldn't cause said guest to clam up. Brant heard a sharp pang behind him after Hannah reported on the Mantle's reserves and how she planned to manage the problem. His guess? Firmia's helmet striking either her mounted monitor, or the tablet screen. One of the two. "Acknowledged, Terminator. That propellant tank's really helping us out," Brant noted, "maybe we can get the Mantle one for the next mission. Who knows." Firmia casts Alert (10 SP), and Brant moves to 15,15!
  11. Sheesh, this had been one nasty engagment, and they still hadn't found that ANF pilot, yet. It seemed like Megumi would have to check on the mission's progress from the infirmary, going forward. At least she had the option ... "POWs have turned out alright so far," Megumi replied to the mechanic as she shut down her console and made for the bridge's elevator, "Bring them to the infirmary, please. I'm on my way there, now." The Artemis Team was probably on their way too, given what they had just gone through. Things were looking up, though Brant had to look over his shoulder to be sure. According to the radio chatter, the Artemis had escaped and was on its way back to the Riese. No casualties, reported. Those advanced mobile suits also disappeared right off the radar. They were about as committed as Apotheosis was in general, it seemed. That was to say, not even remotely. On the other side of things, Astin had noted that the heavier of the remaining suits were likely covering the sniper. Unless they could warp away like the Hyperions, they would probably be the final casualties, here. The Sniper might escape because of their efforts, though. Brant and Firmia were both wondering if the two machines that had just left were leading this entire group, or if they were just strong reinforcements. If it was the latter, they hadn't accomplished much of anything in the end. It seemed more likely that this group's commander was either that pesky sniper, one of the heavies moving up the field, or already dead ... With only six enemies left, a few of which were a little too out of the way, Brant set his sights on the retreating Cressidas. Blasting them along the way wouldn't be a bad idea, so long as they took only minimal damage in return. They would have to make the most of it, though, before those two slipped into the cover of the nearby forest and escaped. ((Actual dialogue for combat post.))
  12. Don't falter? Firmia got a sinking feeling that Hannah was about to do something extremely ... typical of her. Brant could care less, and flew in alongside the Mantle as they began their attack on the target. Sure enough, the Mantle picked up speed and approached far too quickly to be preparing any sort of ranged attack. Firmia could only wince as the machine transformed and ignited its beam saber. If not for how impressive her attack had looked, the Alkaev might have summoned up the wrath to berate her over the comms. Brant didn't miss a beat, either, opening up with the hyper beam rifle before Hannah was even clear of the firing line. The Mantle transformed and flew off like a rocket just ahead of the flurry of violet rays. No doubt the pilot had been even more caught off guard than Firmia as their machine was brought down in flames. "Why ... why do you do that ...?" Firmia sighed in resignation. The Mantle definitely needed a refit. The novelty of the knife-happy rifleman had long worn off. "Dangerous," Brant noted with a slight grin, "but our timing's just right. Good work, Mantle Team. Let's keep up the pressure. We're close to winning this one." "This isn't a game," Firmia muttered just as the comms shut down, "We'll have to face any that get away again, later." Brant shrugged. "We're shooting them down as fast as we can. Doesn't get more efficient than this." It didn't take long for the Oberon to be overpowered by the combined efforts of the Artemis and the Aria, but unlike every other machine set against them today, the colony prototype was merely disabled. Brant was glad to see they were taking advantage of the situation, even if it would involve some serious repairs between missions. It was better than blowing up one of the few machines they could capture and add to their roster. <"What the hell is that?!"> Brant didn't quite register what Firmia was on about until he checked his radar and saw the Artemis moving away like a missile. That ... must have hurt like hell. No doubt Christina was out like a light, again ... "Artemis Team, come in!" The lack of a response wasn't surprising, but it would be a minute before Brant considered the possibility of outside interference. It seemed far more likely that the crew was simply incapacitated by the machine that careened into them. "You've got to be kidding me. Where were they hiding those two suits?" There went their momentum, it seemed. The Apotheosis Calvary had arrived, and they were some terrifyingly fast S.O.B.s. "They're too far out. Whatever's going down over there will be settled before we get there, too ..." At least with limiters on, but he wasn't talking Firmia into that kind of recklessness, today. The Regalia was already just shy of overheating thanks to the liberal use of the hyper beam rifle. Their low energy reserves also had the main gun to thank for that. Elaine contacted them not long after the Artemis was hit, unsure of how to proceed. They were so close to winning, but they still had three problems to take care of, the new enemy machine harassing the Artemis Team, the sniper harassing whoever he damn well pleased, and the downed ANF pilot. "We've got an ANF pilot to search for. The Regalia and the Mantle can handle that, though. Suggest providing cover for whoever's moving in on that sniper. We'll be covering too until it's time to break off and find the pilot." "So we're splitting up, then ..." Firmia mused aloud. "Just for a few minutes," Brant assured her. He knew she had some reservations about sticking out that much. Apotheosis had just displayed another feat of power and precision that left the ANF's best unit shaken to the core. That seemed to have her reevaluating the situation top to bottom, though in Brant's estimation, they were still winning. Unless the enemy fully committed to this engagement, there was little chance they were going to do much more than inflict some temporary damage on the team. "Merlin to Bright Eyes," Brant contacted the bridge over the team's frequency, "The Regalia and Mantle are going to keep pushing ahead to the distress signal's source while providing covering fire. We'll leave the Artemis retrieval and the sniper to you for now." He doubted things wouldn't be resolved by the time they got back, but ... just in case ... "We'll pitch in, again if we make it back in time. Over." "Mantle Team," Firmia switched to a private line for the android and her 'little sister,' her tone notably somber, "you heard him. Let's hit these Cressidas and then push north to find that pilot." They must be twiddling their thumbs by now ... Brant uses the Propellant Tank, casts Focus (15 SP), moves to 18,11, and attacks Cressida 4 with the Hyper Beam Rifle!
  13. "Not much point in callsigns if we're not going to use them," Firmia chided Hannah. She didn't stop there, going on to address the android's question, as well. "... and yes, we can take it down together. We'll be there in a moment." "'Combination attack' sounded kind of specific," Brant noted after the transmission ended. "I wonder if she has anything in mind." "Just shoot it down ..." Firmia scowled. Brant sighed, grateful that at the very least, Firmia's murderous aura had calmed somewhat. It was definitely still there, but it was far more subtle now, perhaps pacified by the Regalia's recent string of white hot victories. Not the healthiest stress reliever, but if Firmia's life had been reduced to war and trying to manage war machines, it seemed inevitable. "Looks like that combination attack's going to have to wait for a minute," Brant winced as Makoto radioed in. "Terminator, standby," Firmia instructed. "I copy, Phalanx," Brant replied, "Backing you up." Another full burst from the Regalia's main weapon, accompanied by a barrage of beam pistol fire, managed to down the enemy Cressida with little trouble. "Alright, we're coming your way ..." The Hyperion was brought down, next, though the finishing blow had been dealt by the Umbra and her pilot. With that, any hope of getting their hands on Hyperion tech were, for the moment, dashed. That just left the Oberon, the sniper, and the three unknowns advancing in the distance, though Firmia doubted they would be any easier to learn about than the Hyperions.
  14. Firmia casts Alert (10 SP)! Brant transforms the Regalia into Flight Mode, moves to 23,9, and attacks Hyperion #5 with the Hyper Beam Rifle and support from Hannah!
  15. Brant transforms the Regalia into MS mode, and casts Focus (15 SP)!