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About Phoenix

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    Preener, Percher, Purchaser
  • Birthday 12/31/1988

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    Personal Growth, writing, fighter jets, women, philosophy, explosions, anime, etc.
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    Las Vegas, Nevada

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  1. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    Magic It seemed like things would only get worse without some kind of answer, and with no time to come up with a decent cover story, Amon was about ready to throw up his hands and explain that ridiculous situation with the Basilisk. The trouble was, it wouldn't exactly ring true, them using a magical artifact to steal an entire ship, warping it out of existence, and then just as spectacularly, bringing it right back into the world. It made even less sense that they could do this in spite of the ship's crew. For a moment, Amon was also worried about having to prove that story if Daichi asked them to. The Regalia 'Raquel' had given him was gone ... or rather, Ra had it. Joanna had the emblem, like usual, so all they really had was the story itself, and the tattered remains of their credibility. That, and maybe the very fact that the Ursians and Neviskotians both had chased them all the way down here. Amon had just noticed that Joanna had returned; he had a vague sense of the emblem now that he was actually thinking about the artifact, and it was quite close, likely right inside the building with them. That could be good or bad depending on what Daichi thought of them after all of this. "Daichi," Amon began cautiously, "the ship she's talking about-" "Is now irrelevant." Amon was cut off by a voice almost indistinguishable from his own. The realization that came with the interruption sent chills down the sancturan's spine. This was not the time or the place for Ra to be butting in. Daichi had enough questions they could barely answer! At the far end of the meeting table, away from the rest of the group, the golden heralding lights appeared and began to converge. Ra's disembodied voice at first seemed to come from nowhere. "You tried your best," Ra said pityingly, just before he manifested fully, "but now this whole charade ... is pathetic."
  2. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    For the Best Daichi's suggestion of involving himself to save time was sound, given the gravity of their mission. That didn't stop Amon from feeling bad about it, but before he and his guilty conscience could weigh in on the matter, Thales chimed in from just outside, apparently looking for him. Having noticed that there was a serious discussion going on, he quickly quieted down, leaving the floor open for Jamilla. ... Unfortunately, she let slip just enough to raise even more questions, and Malik couldn't hide how irritated that made him. Fortunately ... using the broadest possible definition of the word, the Regalia was gone. No amount of interrogation would produce a giant magical ship. But unfortunately, everyone but Daichi knew about it, and they didn't have the time or the privacy to come up with a cover story. Malik remained silent, giving Amon the chance to decide how they would proceed, and waiting to see how much interest, if any, Daichi had in Jamilla's quip. Having no idea what else to do, Amon tried to push ahead. "I don't like dragging you into this, but if you think if we can avoid a fight that way, then it's probably for the best ..."
  3. Apotheosis definitely took the trophy on pretentious names; that term really shouldn't have such a negative connotation, but here they were, these arrogant revolutionaries claiming deification or something akin to it. Camelot probably wouldn't work for the actual company name, even though Firmia had wanted to use said name somewhere. Thankfully Avalon was a perfect fit for the ship ... and at least one apple tree was getting put in there just for good measure. The name fit, but what to call the company itself? That would require some more consideration. Maybe some light reading, too. Make it her own thing ... "I'll figure something out," Firmia nodded, her brain having already set aside some energy for it. The rest of her attention was on the here and now, and what she should do now that they were more or less finished speaking with Roxanna. Relaxing all day just felt ... weird. Maybe some music? She ... hadn't brought any headphones with her to the beach. ... she didn't own any headphones. Brant was sure that taking advantage of the situation wouldn't help him get over Jessica, though it would almost certainly ruin his attempt to win her back and make him feel even worse about himself. That wasn't worth thinking about though. Absolutely none of it was worth thinking about right now, so instead he tried to focus on the Regalia and the arrangement coming together there. As far as the TK transceivers were concerned, they definitely had the potential to help control the hyper beam rifle and the shield, though neither the rifle nor the shield had a propulsion system. Using them exactly like funnels was likely out of the question, but just having them fire when prompted via the T-Link? That was a much more realistic prospect, and probably a part of the initial design concept. Really, they just had to make sure the interface was set up, properly. The Regalia had been combat ready when it was shipped out, but not all of its weapons were set up for use with the T-Link; all that was in place right now were the transceivers for relaying commands and outputting that feedback signal. "I think it could work," Brant nodded in amusement, "but I don't think we'll have it figured out before Firmia catches on. They need some minor upgrades, first. The rifle's just a beamstick-" see 'boomstick'-"right now and the Regalia's flight mode needs the shield to work." As long as they didn't need to be in flight mode for some reason, using the shield to defend the suit in all directions--and possibly as an independent missile turret--was definitely something to look into. "I guess that's why my callsign is Merlin. Everything the Regalia's designed to do, from flying to throwing around funnels, it all looks pretty 'magical.'"
  4. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    Details Are Important Amon sighed, figuring with that revelation, he'd have to address Daichi's question of why they couldn't just try to slip away from their northern pursuers in more detail than he'd initially planned on ... though maybe he could take this one step at a time until the Hikibain was satisfied. "As much as I want to just get going and not bother with them, they're definitely going to come after us if we do that. If they sent that messenger, then they already know where we are and probably have other people keeping an eye on this building. I want to handle this peacefully if we can ..." Show Them The receptionist nodded. "He just returned, actually. You can find him in the meeting room just down the hall. The same one your group has been using. The common speaking guard looked almost surprised that this bunch had been telling the truth. "Show us," he said, though he was looking at Angelica and not the receptionist. Joanna wasn't sure what to expect when they reached the meeting room? Who all was there, and what would come out of the exchange? It seemed like the best they could hope for was Daichi assuring the guards that he had the situation handled and politely order them elsewhere, but she wasn't certain how things worked in Kigen, or who could order whom around. Then there was the matter of leaving Arugai altogether. Greta's wagon wasn't back yet, which meant Greta herself was also still out somewhere in the marketplace. At this rate, they would be held up until sometime this evening, and it was usually a bad idea to travel at night ...
  5. Interruptions It was just Jethro's luck that as soon as they got their drinks, Tatiana's aide stepped into the tavern and made a beeline straight for him. "Someone you know?" Hero asked, noting Jethro's frustration. "That is really bad timing," the elder Valcyn mumbled to himself, "Yeah, she's here to make sure everyone gets back in time for lunch. I guess we'll have to do this another time." "Mister Valcyn?" the aide politely interjected, "The meeting is over. I can't discuss the details here, but the expedition may be on hold for the time being." Great. More bad news. Jethro shook his head, then glanced at Hero, who seemed to be taking a sip from her cup. "Did Cygnus give you anymore instructions?" He got a smooth negative from Hero as she took another sip and turned his eyes back on the young aide. "Alright, message received. I'll pass it along, but I think I'm going to stay here for a bit and finish my drink if it's all the same to you." Raquel probably wasn't done with whatever she was doing yet, either. And naturally, this would give Jethro a little more time to look into Hero and where she fit within Cygnus' world reforming organization. She looked harmless, so he was genuinely curious, and there was no way for him to hide that, right now. The aide nodded and turned to leave, glancing around the tavern for any familiar faces as she made for the exit. She didn't immediately notice anyone, and so continued on her way, leaving Jethro and Hero to their drinks.
  6. "Sounds like optimism," Sasha noted, his eyebrows leaping up at the thought of a cast of friendly gorgons. "Dangerous thinking," he smirked, "but alright. Let's hope. Either going to be pleasantly surprised or ... not at all." With the popcorn acquired, it was time to track down some suitable seats. Sasha had a strong preference for the front three rows in particular, mainly because the fewer people there were in front of him, the easier it was to pay attention to what was happening onscreen. Depending on how empty the theater was though, he wouldn't mind a few heads in front of him. Stupendously bright phone displays, though ... ugh. That was what got him into his first three rows comfort zone to begin with. Some people wouldn't know courtesy if it ran ahead and opened the door for them, which it so often did. Sasha was glad Cheryl was enjoying herself and this golden opportunity all the same. They would have to get creative going forward. "I still can't believe how much time you spend in there. And without me around, too." This poor woman. "This may be our last chance to get off the ship, too-" 'Ships,' Sasha quietly and irritably reminded himself, "Guess we're milking it." Firmia nodded her head assuredly. The combat drones wouldn't be viable if they were easy to take out. "We're making sure they're tough enough to fight lighter mobile suits and smart enough to win with large numbers or other kinds of support." Definitely no classic drones, useful as those would theoretically be in overwhelming numbers. "They will be small for now ... a bit smaller than the Phalanx, but I'm going to be compensating for that with enhanced mobility, so it shouldn't be a problem." "Anyway, I'll think on the company name," Firmia smiled almost sheepishly, "and you can come up with those suggestions for later." Brant shrugged weakly. "Probably a bit of everything. I want you to feel happy when you're around me, not worried. That's reason enough to try and rein this all in, isn't it?" Either way, Chris had enough on her own plate to deal with. Would a smaller ship really be cozy, Brant wondered? People would be bumping into each other more often at the very least, but in Brant's case, that wouldn't have been a good thing, necessarily. The Riese was absolutely gigantic, and that was starting to feel like a blessing ... strangely enough. A smaller ship with Firmia in command sounded more like a fancy cage with a big hangar attached at the aft. Plus, as much as Brant wanted to talk to her, the mere thought of Jessica made him feel awful. For an extrovert like him, that was like torture. There wasn't much hope of saying what he needed to say to her until he got those feelings sorted out. Maybe it was more than just the physical distance, after all. Thankfully, Chris rescued him again, about half a second into his downward spiral. His brain couldn't focus on two things at once, so instead of his former captain, his mind reached for an image of the Regalia. "Just six funnels, though there are transceivers in the shield and the hyper beam rifle too for some reason," Brant explained, "I think Firmia's also going to convert the grappling hook into a wired funnel for ... her shenanigans. I guess if you're going to be my copilot then they'd be our shenanigans, now." Six was Brant's current limit, but he never really felt comfortable with more than two, mainly because he learned how to control funnels using his own arms as proxies. Getting beyond that number hadn't been as challenging as one might think, but Brant was at his best with two, and knew a trick or two for handling more 'accurately' if the need arose. If Chris could handle eight of them, then having her use four at a time while Brant used two would hopefully allow for some efficiency during a multi directional attack. Chris didn't seem sure she wouldn't be a burden, though. This was in stark contrast to how she felt when it came to contests of strength and endurance, funnily enough. Then again ... it might have been something else. "When I started out, I preferred to pilot by myself. I make a mistake and I'm the only one that has to pay for it, directly. It felt right, but ... I'm over it. Besides, if you're going to fight Apotheosis you need weapons, and the Regalia has them." Brant didn't see his own gesture coming, and it took him a second to process it, so he just sat there staring blankly for a moment as Chris settled in. Apparently she didn't mind being stared at so much since it was just him. But of course; he was a professional ogler now, not some amateur with no training or credentials ... Brant started laughing at the thought, though he quickly came up with a more likely reason. "You mean since I won't make a move or anything like that, right?"
  7. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    Delays Concern was one way to put it. Amon wondered how Malik was going to handle Daichi's question. The Sancturan was fairly certain the Hikibain, burdened by the urgent news he had for the Emperor of Kigen, wouldn't appreciate yet another hold up. There was a slim chance they could handle this before Joanna and Greta returned, but at the rate they were going, it was a slim chance, indeed. "Yeah, she brought us a message from a group that's trying to meet with us," Malik explained, "She's waiting out there for our response. We need to deal with that somehow before we head out, too." Amon couldn't help but wince at the last part. The honesty was good, but bringing attention to the delay itself didn't feel necessary. The implication was already there. Sanction "Go," the common speaking guard nodded. Then he motioned for the original two guards to close up their formation a little. It may have been due to the fact that they were about to head indoors. The rearguard that had grouped up to follow them at the halfway point in their trip stayed put and took note of their surroundings. "He can catch up. Take us inside," the guard demanded of the rest of them, leaving Norbert for the rearguard to deal with.
  8. A quiet chuckle escaped Sasha as he took a spot beside Cheryl. "Oh yeah, there's going to be at least one ... probably dozens," Sasha mused, "Every time Medusa shows up in something there's a whole area filled with people she's taken down. You know, it'd be nice to see more material where she's still got the stone gaze but isn't the antagonist or part of a plot device." This might actually be one such movie, given the title. Medusa had something very close to her classical look, and that was making it a bit difficult for Sasha to judge. She wasn't ugly though, so ... "Come on, Disney, don't let me down. Make an evil twin if you have to. Hell, use Stheno and Euryale, even." There she went again, underestimating Tonya ... though Brant could understand why. It was one thing to hear about something and another to see or even experience it firsthand. He hadn't been keeping on top of his old routines since joining the ANF. Brant had been too distracted by ... things. So in truth he was slowly getting out of shape. It didn't really matter, though. Tonya always pushed him to whatever his limits happened to be whenever they had one of those special workouts. If he could endure twice as much, they would have gone twice as hard or twice as long until he was sprawled out on the gym floor. Tonya probably wouldn't mind doing the same to Chris once she was healed up; just because Tonya was playing passenger half the time didn't mean she wasn't doing her own routine ... And Chris apparently felt she could handle the weight of someone heavier than her if she went through the same routine, Brant's specifically. She was even offering to be his rival. That was interesting, and pretty fitting for her. "Anything to stay close, right?" he teased, though the accompanying smile had just barely made it over the receding flames. It could have been much stronger. "Well, I'm sure she wouldn't mind bringing you in on it, especially if you're going to be working on the new ship." Sasha's days of mild routines were nearly over, too. Brant knew it was only a matter of time before Tonya dragged him into this. "... sorry to say, though ... I don't know anything about the ship. I only caught a glance of it when we left the Riese. Best guess is we're all getting our own rooms. We probably have priority over anyone else coming aboard." It was a little sad in Brant's view that he knew next to nothing about the ship considering he would be holed up in there for ... the foreseeable future. There was just no way Firmia wouldn't take advantage of the situation now that she could and outright ban him from setting foot on the Riese, again. Quickly, Brant turned his eyes back on Chris, before his mind had time to drag him back down to that dark place in his heart. He took a second to look her over once. Chris really was in a very good place physically. Her muscles were on display, but she didn't look like she was on steroids or starved for food and validation. Like Tonya, her breasts absolutely refused to yield, even as much of the rest of her body's fat stores gave way for a more ideal ratio. Whether she was facing toward or away from him, her thighs were as charming as ever and her wavy locks looked longer than Apotheosis' future. While she didn't remind him of Christina all that much due to her personality and mild Kim aversion, in terms of pure aesthetics, a good way to describe her was 'Christina Perfected.' Almost on reflex, he gave her a double thumbs up. "Overdue, but ... today's been rough." He still needed something better than that. Best to act as if she hadn't earned anything higher, yet ... "But yeah. The TK thing ... as far as I know the only suit with a T-Link we've got right now is the Regalia, so ...?" So where did that leave Chris, exactly? She would probably be starting off as Brant's own copilot, wouldn't she? He'd need one if Firmia was going to be commanding her ship directly. Trying that from the Regalia just ... just wouldn't work very well. "I guess if you wind up as my copilot you'll have to get used to the Regalia's funnels and that annoying transceiver signal."
  9. "Yeah, I'll take care of the tickets," Sasha nodded, "Don't forget the extra napkins," he added teasingly as they parted. ... and so it turned out that this Disney movie was called 'Medusa.' That put all sorts of thoughts in Sasha's head. What was this movie going to be like? Neither the promo poster nor the title card behind the clerk indicated a comedy. It might be one of the darker ones, probably not on par with the true classics from the twentieth century, but maybe somewhere in that neighborhood? Now the theater was quietly laughing at him triumphantly or ... something. Sasha's mental image of the 'mischievous theater' was starting to become lost on him, too. He paid for their tickets and then took a closer look at the promo poster. "... hmm, well someone's definitely getting turned to stone, I'll wager that much," he chuckled. With that, he made his way over to the theater's snack bar to catch up with Cheryl. Firmia definitely would have been forced to pour all her energy into her mobile suits if not for the processor suites. They would only take up a single room aboard the Avalon, but they were almost as important as the ship itself. Hannah had a point that they should probably handle the finer details later, once they weren't on this little vacation and could address any lingering concerns. The introverted Alkaev was glad that her friend was saying 'we' the way she was, asserting herself as a member of the company. Firmia hoped Hannah wouldn't be too shy about doing that sort of thing, and thankfully she wasn't. At least until Firmia was comfortable and fully acclimated to the business world, she wanted that kind of help in steering conversations and earning trust. Roxanna was curious about what else the Alkaev was planning on working on, though. Maybe it would help ease the pressure she was under if she knew a little more going in? It wasn't even a secret at this point that Firmia's drone program was chief among her projects. If Apotheosis didn't know about it, then the mole problem wasn't even half as bad as she feared ... that or Jessica really wasn't one of them. Thinking back on her program, Firmia supposed it was essentially the company's flagship. And for good reason. "I think you're going to love our drone program," Firmia beamed with enthusiasm as she imagined her drones hard at work. The mental scenes she was putting together were a little too fantastic at the moment, but someday ... "I thought of it for the war but it goes far beyond that: Search and rescue, conservation, prospecting, machine repair, recon and surveillance, personal transports, mobile turrets, cargo loading, security like you said, probes, cartographers, decoys groups, countermeasure systems, remote terminals, and so on. There are a lot of different markets we can hit with them within and without the military." They just had to get that pesky drive system working along with Golden Eyes. Those were the keys, both to the program itself, and to humiliating any knockoffs that popped up down the line. "As for the post-war market ..." Firmia paused, going over two of her three mental lists. The second of the three, the rejected list, wasn't worth going over. After all, those were ideas she concluded on her own had risks or long term problems that outweighed the potential benefits. That left her personally approved list, with ideas she was going to work on but refine as necessary, and her pending list, which were ideas she couldn't bring herself to commit to without running them by a few people, first. "We may just have to hold an official meeting on that when there's time. There are a lot of options and I'm open to suggestions either way." Chris brought him over to the beach chairs. Thankfully there were plenty of them, so they weren't too close to Jessica or even Firmia and Hannah. With the latter two, Brant ran the risk of drawing their attention away from whatever they were doing with Roxanna. Firmia and the Riese's second in command seemed to be on good terms, so interrupting their discussion wasn't something Brant wanted to risk. Firmia needed all the allies she could get. Being faced completely away from Jessica was a little weird at first. In its own way it left Brant needing to make a more conscious effort not to think about her. Chris assured him the way he was feeling wasn't pathetic, but it was a hard sell. He could just imagine the sort of reactions that would come if the whole ship knew what was going on. Maybe there was a better way to describe it, but ... yes, pathetic just felt spot on when he said it. Just because he had feelings didn't mean they were right, or even that they mattered in the grand scope of things. Don't go down that road, she said? It must have been more bad memories. Brant followed Chris' glance toward the volleyball court, then focused back on her in silence. He couldn't inquire about Christina without winding up right back at square one. Fortunately, Chris broke the silence, aiming for a subject that had absolutely nothing to do with Jessica. It was just far enough to left field, and just relevant enough to get Brant really pondering the question and not just slapping down a quick premise. It might take some actual thought to explain. While he was mulling that over, Chris asked about Tonya and their workout routine. This one wouldn't take much thought to explain at all. "Heh," Brant rubbed the side of his head, recalling how much worse the soreness had been before he downed those painkillers. "Normally it's just 'enhanced' training, but apparently I've been letting my form slip. A lot ... so, she fixed that. It's a fun thought, doing reps with a woman on your back or riding your shoulders ... but actually doing that, all the while keeping that perfect form? I'm hurting in places that don't even exist," he explained, grinning in pain and embarrassment. Brant thought he should segue back to the TK issue at some point, as well. Firmia could explain just about anything better than he could, but there was no stopping Chris from getting more details out of the Alkaev later. Right now they were trying to keep him from ruining this outing for everyone. Chris wouldn't have put it that way, but it was just as accurate in his view. At least it was working? That fire inside him was dying down by the second, and Brant wasn't even intoxicated this time ...
  10. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    The Woman "Some of our people are still out running errands," Amon began, his thoughts quickly settling on Joanna. She was doing more than just running a mere errand. Something was up with the emblem, and Amon doubted it was anything good. There was also the issue of that wom- "Did you see the woman outside?" Malik suddenly chimed in with a question of his own, "Is she still out there?" Yes, That Woman "Weyland Enterprises," the Common speaking guard read the signage slowly as he tried out the words, "So this where you came from? Should be interesting." He noticed the young woman near the entrance. She was obviously trying not to stand out, but it was having the opposite effect. Aside from wondering if she was instructed to wait there by someone, or was there on business of her own, the guards didn't particularly care. "You four should wait here," the Common speaking guard instructed the rearguard as they caught up to the group.
  11. "Ah right," Sasha nodded, realizing the movie might be one of Disney's genuine tearjerkers and not just a fun romp. "I'll grab some extra napkins for you on the way in just in case. Don't want to cry on the first date myself, though. I've got my pride, after all," he explained, suppressing a chuckle. He could almost hear a 'challenge accepted' from the theater, and knew it was on. That just left what they were going to do with the popcorn and grabbing their tickets. Sasha had to keep lunch in mind, as well as just how far he was going with the junk food. "Mm, going to play it relatively safe and just get a little extra butter. Should taste fine." "We both do," Firmia added, glad for a late opportunity rather than none at all. She was immediately distracted by a feeling of ... well ... pure rage. It was weak compared to her own, without the kind of killing intent one would expect, but it was also relatively close by. She only glanced in its general direction for a brief second, and her mind quickly settled on the source being Brant. She was too busy to help, so she set her sights back on Roxanna. It was strange, though. Why anger? Had he finally realized that getting romantically involved with ANF personnel was a mistake? That would be for the best, in Firmia's view ... but still, that anger didn't feel like it was being projected anywhere in particular. She hoped it wasn't self loathing, but what else could it be? If he was closer she would have a better idea, but again, she was busy, right now. "Just the synopsis for the most part," Tonya assured Chris. She was feeling a bit reluctant to get into specifics about what Brant told her. He tended to share things with her openly and in detail, including his personal feelings on matters. Tonya knew about the clothes shopping and how he had suddenly decided to make her a friend, despite his initial reservations. She also knew about the alcohol and how he'd let himself get a bit too comfortable during the drive back to the Riese. It was more interesting that Chris had let him, but again, that was why she seemed better suited for this. Tonya was such a constant in Brant's life that she couldn't really distract him from other people in the usual sense. Hopefully Chris would have better luck. It was ironic that the woman Brant trusted so openly in the beginning was causing him so much grief, while the one he was wary of came in any time something seemed off with him. Being a TK really was something else ... "I'm still interested," Tonya said, taking a moment to check her arms over. She was still sore, too. Oh well. Tonya shrugged back and smiled at Elaine when the lone pilot returned. She knew personally just how challenging helping out her student could be. "Don't worry, he'll be fine until the game's over ..." Even if he was keeping the facade up with a swell of anger, at least it was just temporary. Hopefully ... She noticed Chris was moving him even farther from the gathering. It looked like they really were leaving things as a five on five. They could check up on the two of them once things wrapped up on the volleyball court, then. "Well, I offered to take Chris' spot so I'll move to that team if no one minds." That should even things out, though the overall skill gap might still be in question. Brant was a little confused by Elaine's response as it came. She sounded like she wanted to know what was going on then and there if he was willing to tell her. Granted, there was the implication toward the end that she was willing to wait until later, though going that route wouldn't have helped him at all in the moment. Elaine didn't even get to finish what she was saying though, as Chris homed in on Brant like a missile and ... started dragging him away. Again. Chris' explanation of why she led him off was brief, but just mentioning Tonya and having come over so quickly told him a lot about the situation he was in. Brant felt a little guilty now, having set up the rough equivalent of a signal flare like that. Just focus on her for now? That sounded ... nice. Trying to improve her mood was always better than focusing on himself, but without a series of walls and the like to separate people, it would definitely be harder this time around. "I'll try ... I just ... I'm just trying to get through today without causing any problems. There aren't any walls or anything in the way, though. No vodka, either. If I look that way I can see her. It's ... nothing but pure distance, and it sucks. I know it's pathetic, but that's why I'm trying not to cause a scene over it. Sorry." Brant could feel the fury inside flickering, wavering slightly. It was no surprise. How could he keep that kind of inner flame going so strongly when it was affecting them both? That had definitely been a poor move. It was a poor move because Brant was wasting Chris' leisure time on this, and Jessica might even spot them alone together. He could just imagine her reaction, and her congratulatory smile would conceal the utter relief she must have felt. Jessica might be put off by the fact that it was Chris today and not Hannah, but she would at least feel vindicated seeing that Brant was never alone. She could carry on comfortably while his friends picked up the pieces. That was the real terrible part of all of this: The time and energy mutually invested between Brant and his friends had been used against him, and that would likely continue until the end. Short of shutting them out, he had little hope of convincing Jessica to give him another chance ... and he just couldn't do that. What Brant could do for now was bite the bullet and change his focus like Chris was asking.
  12. "I'm afraid not," Megumi shook her head at the injured pilot's joke, amused but still mostly blank faced. Jezebel handled the doctor's battle assessment with some reluctance, not really liking the impersonal impression it gave. "I suppose it is detached to a degree," Megumi nodded, "but I'm playing doctor, so the reality of the situation is never lost on me." She was just glad that she had the ability to deal with it. She was used to people just dying; rarely could she actually save anyone when things got this bad. Now that Jezebel was up and about, her eye problem would need to be at least partly addressed at some point ... though that might prove tricky, if the frequency of their battles was any indication. "Try not to push yourself too hard," Megumi urged, "Now that we're at Central, there's a chance we could wind up with a surplus of pilots and other specialists. We might not have to keep fielding everyone we have in each battle." At least that's what she hoped. Having people in reserve in case of the unforeseen was just common sense, but up until this point, the Riese had been operating with a very light crew. Even worse, they were far below capacity on both pilots and mechs, which meant they had a very limited--albeit it a very reputable--operational range. While it was nice to be beating the tar out of Apotheosis' regulars with such a large handicap, they really shouldn't take any chances going forward if they could help it. It seemed like Mr. Pasternak and Ms. Hart would both be on the lookout for more issues to sort out. Once they took care of enough of them, maybe they could start seriously considering some long term entanglements. For now, there was just the issue of whether or not Cheryl could chat during the movie. "Will it be tough on you?" Sasha smirked at her question. "It's just a Disney movie first, right? It'll be fine." Firmia listened intently and carefully as Roxanna hit on each of her points. Funds: Absolutely necessary. The ANF might handle some of the bills along the way, but Firmia's endeavors had to be self sustaining by war's end. For now, the market was war profiteering. Mainly, selling special designs to the ANF in the same way the Alkaev company sold designs to the Kremlin. Firmia wouldn't have near the production capability, but she wasn't limited to mobile suits and MS exclusive weapons systems. Now that her livelihood no longer felt so thoroughly shackled to Jessica and her actions, ideas and improvements came to her faster than she could write them down. Intel: Needful. The ANF was already going to provide what they could, but it was good to have multiple sources. Even if they overlapped with each other, it was always possible to glean more each time the same information came in. If nothing else, a lack of discrepancies was good for confirmation on certain things. Unfortunately, Firmia would still have to go through her own family to figure out anything useful about what was going on back in Russia. That meant staying on good terms with her grandfather. She needed to contact him later when she got the chance, come to think of it ... Bismarck Industries: Excellent, if true. Firmia wanted to get her hands on as much of their data as possible. Captaining the Avalon personally would be a waste of her potential as a TK if she didn't incorporate a T-Link into the control scheme. Without the processor suites she requested, her commanding the vessel would also be a handicap for it, as well. With no actual experience in commanding large vessels, that unique control scheme, plus the processor suites, were her only saving grace for now. She would have to learn everything else as time went on, and upgrade the Avalon's equipment along the way, as well. Simply tacking funnels onto an area near the bridge wasn't enough. Firmia continued to listen as Roxanna moved onto Hannah's question, tilting her head slightly as the woman said she wanted Apotheosis to end. Didn't they all ... minus those three moles--and counting?--in their midst. Things got more interesting when her potential investor/shareholder touched on her current limitations. It wasn't simply that she wanted Apotheosis to end. No, apparently the war had afflicted her with a kind of tunnel vision. Firmia felt she had the same problem, only more centered around Jessica than Apotheosis. There was this constant sense of helplessness being on the Riese. It didn't matter that it was the most powerful ship on record at the moment; it was being captained by a woman that cared more about sex and leisure than the safety and well being of her crew. Firmia figured it was only a matter of time until Apotheosis boarded them for a good old fashioned hostile takeover, and much of what the Alkaev had done had been in anticipation and preparation for that. Now that the situation was changing, it was getting easier to think, and ideas were coming naturally. They were inspired, not desperation manifested. She couldn't help but wonder if she should try to help Roxanna branch out further ... past Apotheosis. The war was important, but Firmia couldn't afford to build her company specifically to defeat Apotheosis. She couldn't even build it for war in general. War would be just one source of revenue, and prayerfully a relatively small portion in the long run. Firmia kept reminding herself of that just to be sure she wouldn't forget. "None of us will have any future to look forward to if Apotheosis wins," Firmia noted, wincing faintly as she began to see that vague image of herself, again, the mortally wounded, half insane girl. She was staring back from beyond the grave, still surrounded by darkness, still wishing things had gone differently. At least she wasn't so vivid and real this time around ... "Alkaev Plus--that's just a provisional name, mind you--isn't about war, though. Once this giant mess is over, we'll be branching out as well and providing a greater variety of services and products." Hopefully that didn't come across as judgmental or the like. The ambitious Alkaev hoped it would provide some hope for Roxanna more than anything. Being a natural brooder herself, Tonya didn't feel particularly suited to helping Brant past simply keeping his head above water. Chris' gusto was fading too for some reason ... "That's funny. I was going to suggest you look after him and I play the game to keep the numbers even," Tonya explained, a bitter smile on her face. "You did well enough at the mall, at least from what I heard. Truth is, I can't do much for him other than just being there if he needs me." Brant's situation wasn't like hers. Ilya died. He didn't quietly sneak away from her. She didn't have to spend the last decade plagued by thoughts of him being with someone else. Her woes came from the fact that he was killed by his own employer ... and she only found out about that recently. What she thought was an old, well healed wound, was torn open again. In some ways, she was in the same boat as Brant, but their situations were still, on the whole, different. Brant had mentioned something important about that outing to the mall though, and that informed Tonya's suggestion of swapping places with Chris for a few minutes. All things considered, she doubted Brant would pass on the whole game simply because he didn't feel like it. He hadn't kicked his mental conditioning, just yet. While it was a nice thought, Brant hadn't meant it quite so literally when he told Elaine he wanted someplace cool and sterile to lie down. It was far preferable to a hot beach, but at this point, just sprawling out on the sand and tuning out the whole world would work. Of course he couldn't do that, though. Too much suspicious activity from him would just draw more and more attention before long. It wasn't much different from the mall, really. Everyone just wanted to have a good time while they still had the chance; nothing good could possibly come from even more people knowing about his situation, or from him acting unusual because of it. Your problems don't matter, right now, Brant reminded himself. "No more dragging, please ... Look, I already went over what's bothering me enough times. Hasn't helped even a little, and knowing the details is just going to make it harder for you to enjoy the game," he shook his head. As he did, he caught Jessica again out of the corner of his eye. He didn't see exactly who the two women were, but his mind quickly resolved it for him. It was what he'd expected when he first spotted her, that by the time he went over to speak with her, Abigail at the very least would have shown up. Barring that, something even worse could happen. "I'll rest when we get back to the ships ... after I figure out what the room situation is like, I guess." Endure this. Just endure it. Use your rage if you have to since the alcohol's out. Aim it all inward and keep it there where it belongs. There it was. Finally. The only strength Brant had left was returning to him. His blank expression hadn't changed; he still looked bored and disinterested, but his mind was ablaze now. Everything that riled him up about his life, going as far back as the loss of contact with his parents, it was all being turned inward directly on himself. Chris wouldn't like it, but at least he could play the game with some kind of vigor.
  13. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    Welcome Back They had to clear from the door when the receptionist arrived with Daichi in tow. Since the door was already opened, she simply stood to the side and welcomed him into the meeting room. She was being nice and formal, but the sancturans were just standing there a very short distance from entrance, not quite sure how to proceed. Amon knew he was acting leader for the moment, and would have to decide how to address whatever concerns came up. "Hello again," Amon smiled apologetically, "I hate to say this but we're not ready to head out just yet." Welcome Back? Standing just outside of Weyland Enterprises like this was starting to get really awkward for the young woman. She'd decided not to stay inside the building for safety reasons. Weyland Enterprises was a company based in Ursium. The foreigners in charge of these establishments were known to be eccentric, and had an aura of danger about them. The building was inviting enough, but just the same, she wasn't being paid enough to risk being interrogated. Staying in there too long would see her escape route cut off. Just the same, standing out here was starting to get really awkward ... The street's through traffic was normally nothing special, but after a while, the messenger woman noticed a rather strange sight. Not only was it a pegasus knight, but there were two avians, as well. They had to be avians; the guards wouldn't be fooled so easily, she thought. Did that mean this group was from Ursium? In fact, wasn't there a rumor going around about a pegasus knight blazing a trail panic through the streets earlier today? What were the Ursians thinking? Either way, this particular pegasus knight was likely on his way to his nation's embassy. The armed escort suggested as much, at least. Or perhaps not? The woman took a step back to make room for the group as they came up the road ... and then another. Were they coming here, to Weyland Enterprises? She gulped, wishing she didn't stand out so much. Only now was it dawning on her that these Ursians might be connected with the same group she was hired to speak with.
  14. Jezebel's issue--the one that wasn't affecting her vision, though one could say her mind's eye was being slightly veiled by it ... that was something that overlapped more with Cheryl's field than Megumi's. That wasn't to say the doctor hadn't done her fair share of counseling, but since it wasn't her field, she wasn't confident she could help Jezebel much in the long term. Get her to tomorrow fully functional? Simple enough. Have her still be in good shape mentally by this time next week? Maybe. By this time next month? Not a clue ... "My first recommendation is 'no substance abuse.'" Megumi wanted to throw a 'do as I say, not as I do' in there as well, in order to offset the wounded pilot's reaction should she ever notice the 190 proof bottle on the doctor's own desk. It was less substance abuse in her eyes and more ... crude compensation. "Second, look at the situation logically: The battle was an overwhelming victory for us, even if only technically." It usually was, though the margins between overwhelming victory and more conventional results, the kind of results that would see a couple of pilots in body bags and a few barely salvageable allied machines, were getting narrower. "I suppose the last two things I should point out are that as long as you're willing to help us fight Apotheosis, you can avenge your squad ... if that's something that interests you. And if you're feeling especially bad about this, you should speak with Doctor Hart when she gets back. She's the ship's psychotherapist. I'm also available if you just want to talk, but you should know we have professional help on board. Rather ... we will once everyone gets back ..." Brant hoped that getting dragged around wasn't going to become a new thing. He didn't like making big scenes, and he didn't like being a part of them, either. It was no surprise that Elaine wanted to know what was bothering him. In terms of the volleyball game, however, it really was 'nothing.' That wasn't an answer she was about to accept, apparently. She wanted to know what was going on, and boy, just going over it all quickly in his head again made Brant want to go shut down even more. Why was he even here and socializing, right now? He didn't have the spiritual strength for any of this, today. Brant was genuinely pondering the timing as he tried to put together some kind of response for Elaine. "What do I really want to do? I want to lie down somewhere," Brant eventually said, glancing over briefly at the beach chairs. He saw Firmia and Hannah speaking with the XO, and his eyes also caught Jessica ... relaxing by herself. By herself ... dammit. Just ... dammit. She was right over there, and seemingly had no interest whatsoever in speaking with him or even acknowledging him. And of course, if he went over there to see her, the situation would inevitably blow up in his face, somehow. Everything had changed, and more or less overnight. She'd gone from wanting to be around him to avoiding him like a disease, and in the moment, Brant was hard pressed to come up with anything that made him feel worse than that. Abram's gaze passed over Firmia and Hannah again as he turned back toward Elaine. He'd only wasted about two seconds on the beach chairs and their occupants. "To make a short story even shorter," Brant sighed, "Vance picked the wrong time to order me to have fun. I just want to play my part out here so no one else's day is ruined and then get back to the ship." The ship ... right, that wasn't quite how things were going to pan out, now. There were two ships in this fledgling battle group, and there was no way in hell the Regalia would remain aboard the Riese if Firmia had any say in the matter. That meant Brant wouldn't be assigned to that ship any longer, either. "Well, there's no going back to the Riese at this point, but I still just want to get someplace air conditioned and sterile ..." ... and then stop being conscious for a little while. Just stop being for a little while.
  15. Return of the Emblem Chapter Fifteen: Alliance

    Meeting Room "... kami ... what?" Dyed chi? Malik stared at Jamilla, wondering in bewilderment if she was talking about Daichi or ... someone else entirely. Reception The woman arrived back in the main lobby and approached Daichi. She smiled and placed a hand on her cheek, looking slightly embarrassed, probably on the group's behalf. <"Things are a little frantic right now, but I was instructed to bring you back to the meeting room, Kazemi-san.">