SnakeMomMelissa

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

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Pull it Together

"... Right, Firmia." Against her better judgement, Hannah let the Alkaev run off, looking over towards Vera and the other group. Don't warn Jess? That felt like a mistake. Much as Firmia was suspicious of the captain-- and with Louise mentioning her so directly, that suspicion was warranted --she'd still been beyond helpful in almost every engagement against Apotheosis forces they'd had. That, and if she were truly a mole, why wait so long to act? It wasn't like she had great relationships with the group, especially not with Firmia, so she wouldn't be able to get more than her captain's access, and not everything was written down in an ANF log. It just didn't seem logical to her... There were much better candidates, even herself--

Hannah took another moment to think about that. Louise had mentioned her being a prototype. Did that mean she was a part of this? No, that was impossible, Galatea and the Riese's standard AI had scanned her thoroughly, there were no rogue elements, nothing even hidden waiting to activate. Galatea had been it... And she hadn't fought being scanned either, so why would Louise mention her being a prototype? For what? How confusing... Not much time to think further, they had to get everyone out, and fast. Hannah started over towards the enemy lieutenant, hoping things were still calm enough.

Between Brant's hug, reassurance, and Firmia's mention of Christina, Chris was trying her best to rein it all in. She was still shaking a bit, but the young CEO was right, if she wanted to be able to help her sister at all, she couldn't be this frozen fountain of hatred. Brant was making her anger slowly turn back to neutral, whatever effect he had on her was a powerful one. It brought some hope, that maybe one day she'd be able to experience whatever was flooding her mind to replace the anger. She couldn't feel whatever it was, but it had to be strong. She was already done crying, how unfair it was that she couldn't feel this hypothetical elation.

"We... We should get changed. Get back, to base. Let everyone know what happened, and... And get to getting me accustomed to the Regalia. It sounds like we're going to need every moment we can get... B-Brant?" Chris sniffled a moment, before hugging him back, sighing quietly against him. "Thank you. Again. Every time. For all of this... You have to know how easy it would be to say 'fuck this', drop me with the next hopeful individual, and move back to everyone else. But you aren't. Still don't get why, but you aren't. I know I have other people that care, but it's different when it isn't... Family." She let go of him, trying to calm her shaking. It wasn't really working, but she wasn't frozen up anymore, mad as she was.

"I'm gonna go get changed. You should too... I don't get Firmia's deal with Jess, I haven't really been here long enough, but... You should head over there and tell her what's up. If you have it in you. Someone has to... And if I get any closer to Vera, I'm gonna take a swing. So... So, yeah. Good luck." Hopefully it wasn't too hard a thing for Brant to do, especially considering Abby was over there, but this situation was a lot more important than his romance issues. "Okay... C-Clothes." Chris turned and started walking off to where Firmia had bolted, taking some deep breaths along the way to hold herself together. She didn't dare look towards the court.

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Whilst Elaine and Thorvald were happy to play along with Vera's game, and Astin was offering their own scepticism, Tarquin simply couldn't agree to accept the request. Apotheosis had constantly opposed them, facing them in battle posed a constant threat to all their lives. He'd lost his home, his creator and nearly his best friend to the villainous group, Tarquin wasn't quite altruistic enough to provide any favours. Not only had they claimed his professor, even Makoto's father had been taken away by Apotheosis, there seemed to be no limits to the aspects of his life they were involved in. No matter how Vera tried to frame it, she was the enemy. She wasn't a tragic noble figure caught up in a complex mess, she was a foe that stood in the way of his future. She'd ruined more than one family's lives and Tarquin didn't feel like helping her change that habit.

Of course, the beach was certainly not the place to confront her, especially with her overwhelming advantage in combat. That being said, he was thoroughly done with the beach. He hadn't chosen to be there to begin with and any recreation to be had was over. He didn't have anything to say to Vera, but a sour expression got his message across. Tarquin made his way off the volleyball court, his mind starting to focus again on Nikolai's defeat - and his revenge agains the sniper.

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Astin's suspicions were voiced, and upon quick reflection, Elaine began to reconsider her choices. Thorvald had yet to make a decision, or even respond, and Tarquin was simply walking away from the conversation entirely. Elaine looked back to Vera, visibly concerned. Vera was standing here, giving out several bits of information to the group at the court, and Elaine wondered how much they...rather, how much she could press her for. Louise was gone from the beach, and Vera seemed willing to discuss some matters about Louise's agenda. This was an opportune time for Elaine, for she could easily ask her several questions pertaining to Louise, how much she knew about her, and how much she talked about her to the rest of Apotheosis. She desperately wanted to ask her. But, she was surrounded by people who didn't know anything about Louise, or, more specifically, about her calls to Elaine. She was already considered one of the least trustworthy members on board the entire Riese, and people were already aware that moles were part of the crew. On the other hand, would she ever get a better chance than this to figure out why Louise, why this broken, insane woman, was interested in her. Why she was the 'Snake Toy'. But how could she ever ask? ...Could she even ask?

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C to the O to the N?

As Vera warned of not threatening the girl, Esther shrugged, and moved away to give the vendor some space. While the girl wasn't as keen with staying there with their identity revealed, she knew she was safer around Vera than otherwise. Up to a point. "What? WHAT?! Wait--what are you saying, Vera?" Esther's mood changed almost immediately as Vera tried to plead for her custody with the Riese crew. Esther could think of several reasons why this was wrong. "That's messed up! You never told me anything about this, and I didn't sign up for that! How do you know what they're going to do to me? They could like, I don't know..." This was so beyond any of her plans for that day, Esther was breathing quicker, her gaze shifting from Vera to the crew members then quickly to Vera again --she couldn't stand them--. "I already... already have a machine, I already took down a machine, a-and all the medicine I need... you can't just hand me down to them like that after all of this!"

The Reason

"That doesn't make sense... the reason you're fighting us is them?" Makoto was trying to wrap his brain around all of what Vera tried to say, with fleeting success. Could his father truly build something as horrible as that snake monstrosity? This fast? What about all these earth-like weapons the aliens had? "If they're a threat... shouldn't we just fight them together, how does this..." It wasn't much information to wrap his head around, and the issue with his father was still gnawing at the back of his consciousness. I'll reach out to him, I'm sure something's up. I've got to wait until I can talk to him. It wouldn't be easy, with people like Vera wanting his father wherever he was..

Edited by Xinnidy

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Common knowledge, was it? Maybe it was. And maybe it was the answer to a few of the questions floating around here and there. But that didn't take away from the shock Abigail felt finding out. Espers on the ship, no secrets safe. And she'd always had a lot of secrets. How ridiculous things were getting though: first murder machines and genetically engineered super-children, now clones and mind readers. Was no one normal?

Jessica was already on the move, missing a bit of gravity, still caught up in the fun the situation really ought to have been. And with Tristan moving to meet her, there really wasn't the time to process everything before she had to react. So it was a somewhat panicky, almost visceral, unthinking rejection. Barely hearing Kim's whispered worries, Abby pushed out with her arms. There was no finesse to her movement, no art of the game, not like she trying to slip past a guard or to evade a block. Just raw instinct, an unthinking thrust, trying to hold the unknown at bay. At least, for long enough for her mind to catch up. Did she even make contact? Who knew; it didn't matter. Going through the motion was what was important.

When it did, it was--surprisingly--guilt that she felt at first. The lieutenant had been decent to her, and fun to be around. It probably wasn't her fault she was a freak, and well, when compared to the broken Chris, they were leagues apart in how they handled it. But, then again, good intentions or no, could she ever be comfortable around her, trust her--really trust her?

"I... don't know." The wrong words, probably, and almost certainly too late. The damage was likely already done, especially to someone who could tune in on your thoughts, and Abigail had probably lost yet another person who maybe could have been a friend. She wasn't sure she could bring herself to look the other girl in the eyes for a bit, which would make the rest of their game rather difficult--if they even continued.

 


 

Astin seemed to disagree with the decision to try to keep the Apotheosis occupied alone, and if the shoes were on the other feet, Thorvald was sure he'd be the same way. But it looked like that was becoming a null issue regardless. Makoto was handling things better than expected, but he still wished there was some better way to insulate the lad.

What Vera had to say on other subjects though, well that definitely raised an eyebrow. Good info on this Louise, but then even more... the situation with her little sister. It sounded as if she'd already lost a brother, and now reluctant to suffer that again, was willing to even trade the girl's freedom to keep her safe. It was an appeal that was very hard to refuse.

Case in point, Elaine seemed immediately on board, though others had their own opinions, and Astin raised a few decent counters. None of that really mattered though, no, nor even the girl in question's own misgivings. The true heart of the issue was the will to protect. How genuine was Vera? Taking a slight step backward, returning to a more conversational use of personal space than the confrontational one he'd taken earlier, Thorvald narrowed his eyes and tried to weigh the purple-haired warrior's sincerity.

If the roles were reversed--ignoring all the disparities in information or actual circumstance that existed in reality--how would he have made the case, if he was aiming to save Holly, or Anya? It seemed to him it might have gone down just the same path, or one similar enough so as the differences didn't matter.

Nodding slightly and pressing his lips into a thin line, he signaled willingness. Letting the volleyball drop to the sand by their feet, he then circled over closer to the protesting teen in her hoodie. Looking over his shoulder to Vera, he said, "It seems she doesn't want to go, though," then crouched down bringing his face to the level of the much smaller statured teal-haired gamer. "Even if we've quite the record for treating our captives very well, far beyond the ordinary standard of decency," he disarmed her first half-baked scramble to come up with an objection.

"Probably the real reason is because she'll miss you. Is frustrated she won't be able to be with you, make you proud, and all," Thorvald turned again in Vera's direction. "But you're okay with that, can live with her being unhappy, so long as she's safe? So long as she doesn't grow cold-hearted and cruel?"

Edited by Balcerzak

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It seemed neither Jessica nor Tristan had taken notice of anything, at least not before impact. Abby's feelings seemed to be rather clouded and stormy... she had likely caught it, but not before the shove had come. Her worries had stopped her from bracing, so she easily toppled off from Jessica's shoulders, dunked into the drink by Abigail's instinctual shot. The blonde said something... a direct response, but it was cut from the Lieutenant's ears by the water as she was engulfed by it. Still, that feeling emanating from Abigail was obvious... one that she had felt before, time and again. 

All it took was a simple realization to crush what good rapport they had managed to build in an instant. Because she was different... because who in their right mind would trust a filthy mind worm? No matter what she did, it was something she could never escape. A truth that would always surface eventually, because it was too valuable to keep hidden. For everything she had managed to accomplish and excel at, that look, that distinct feeling... it always hurt more than a bullet or a blade. Made her want to disappear. At the very least not come up out of the water... it must had been a good few moments since she had been knocked in by now? A minute? Two? Was hard to say.

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That Will be a Problem

"Wait what-- Wah!" Jess almost fall over when Kim did, nearly taken down by the sudden shift of weight and the girl dropping off. The round was already over? What? That easy!? But... What had Kim said? That won't be a problem? She looked up at Abby--

"... Really, Abby?" It only took Jess a moment to piece this little scuffle together, folding her arms and half scowling at the blonde. "I expected better of you... But I guess after how you've been treating Hannah, people that are different aren't your cup of tea, are they?" It was so frustrating... Seeing Abby react this was just by hearing that Kim was a TK... It was no wonder the Lieutenant had frozen up like that. Jess did her best to shake it off, reaching an arm down to grab hold of Kim, pulling her out of the water.

"Come on, Kim. Let's go do something else." Ugh... What is this, highschool? Just because Kim knows if you're happy or sad, what the hell? What is her problem... It wasn't that upsetting, just... Disappointing. It had gotten better in pilot school, but Jess knew what it felt like to be the outcast back in school, so this..

She didn't want to dwell on it anymore, hoisting Kim's arm over her shoulder and heading back towards the beach.

Tristan gulped heavily, this had gotten quite serious, hadn't it? "I... I uh, you should probably get off. I think..." He let go of her rather quickly, hoping she could hop off without issue. He knew where he sat with TKs, they weren't a problem to him as long as they weren't butting in needlessly... But this sudden tension between the captain and Abby, no, he wasn't going near that.

The Situation

Vera narrowed eyes at Astin, not appreciating how they were reacting to this. It wasn't surprising, but it still hit harder than she'd been expecting. "There is no ulterior motive. I am not Louise. Apotheosis will face you with everything we have available... So if it comes to it, I will take her back, when you're all defeated. Until then--"

And there was Esther's protest. It was even less surprising, and Vera met it with a smile, instead of annoyance. She understood how the girl felt, really... But seeing another her happen, this time without blackmail driving the force, she couldn't do it. "I understand how you feel, Esther. But this... This is war. This isn't a game, this... I know you know all of that, but I really need to make it clear that this isn't going to end well, for either side. I need you to be where its safest."

Thorvald seemed to understand, despite their differences, how she felt. She hoped it was all it would take. "That's fine. If she comes to hate me, that's fine. The Riese is likely the single safest place for any person, so... Even if you end up winning the war, she's safe. And if you lose... I break into the Riese and take her back, myself. Until then, I can't have her becoming me... She looks up to me too much already. I'm... I'm not a good role model, if that wasn't obvious." She seemed almost ashamed to have to admit that, but that was the situation.

"So, please. Take her. If I ever ask anything of the Riese crew, it's this."

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Astin glared at Thorvald. "This is a stupid idea, and you should know it. But sure. Imprison the girl against her wishes or bring a brand new spy on board when we were already dealing with three of them. Hey, at least we'll know who this one is." Shaking their head, they shot one final look at Vera, a confused, frustrated, annoyed? look before adding, "Even though we all know what her answer will be, I'll do the correct thing here and go find the captain so she can support your decision." Bringing Avery with them, since she was still clinging to their arm, they moved away from the volleyball court. Once they were a distance away, they did their best to disengage from her. "Here, you get out now, ok? She's distracted by this stupidity, you can get out while they talk about it. I'll go find the captain." They thought they'd seen her and some others headed towards the water earlier. She was probably still that way, right?

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More and more people were leaving the court. Now, all that remained were her, Thorvald, Aliza, Makoto, Christina, and Bill, plus Vera, Esther, and the third spectator. That was still a number of people that weren’t privy to Elaine’s situation, but...this was, by and large, the best chance she had. So, like always, Elaine was going to do something rash and stupid.

”If you’re gonna ask this of us, then lemme ask something of you, right back.” Elaine said to Vera, stepping forward. “I have questions, and right now, you’re the one who can answer them.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself more for the probable suspicion and ridicule than anything else. And in that split second moment, she thought of a possible way to phrase this question. “Recently, I was speaking to Chris, and she told me...she told me that...” Oh boy. “She told me that Louise has been talking about me. Told me that she would come back from missions, get drunk, and talk alot about me. Why? What the hell does she want with me? How much has she said about me? How much does everyone know about me? ...How much does everyone know about all of us?” In hindsight, her phrasing would do absolutely nothing to take suspicion off her, but it was too late to take anything back now. And Elaine had spent far too long being quiet, and needed to get these questions heard. She only hoped she wouldn’t break down from the accusations.

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The splash of a body hitting water jolted Abby out of the jumble her thoughts were stuck in. What? How? There was no way round one could have ended with just that. Her 'attack' hadn't even risen to the level of weaksauce, so... something else was clearly at play. Unable to do anything but sit atop Tristan's shoulders and stare dumbfounded, she couldn't help but wonder.

That didn't last long, however, with Jess quickly condemning her. Come the fuck on, really? What was she supposed to have said. Hesitation, confusion, fear: all perfectly natural responses to a bombshell like that. And Abigail hadn't even actually rejected the lieutenant. Frustrated at having to take a grilling she didn't deserve, she scowled, especially when the subject of Hannah was brought up. She'd even made an honest effort, after the ultimatum, so what right did she have rubbing her nose in it like this? Nice positive reinforcement there, Jess.

"Oh for fucks sake," she grumbled, neither trying to make sure anyone heard, nor to make sure she wasn't heard, just using her normal casual tone and volume. As the pair turned to leave the water for other, Abby-free pursuits, she took Tristan's advice and pushed herself up off of his shoulders, sliding down his back into the water. Hoping to vent a little bit of her negative energy, she slapped the surface angrily with one hand, sending up a nice spray of droplets, which sparkled rainbow colors beneath the rays of the summer sun.

"I can't believe this," she grumbled once again, more to herself this time. "Expected more, huh? Wager I didn't do or say anything worse than any Jane Doe would've. Hell, reckon I even handled it better than a fair sight of them would've too. But no, now I'm the villain. Argh," she smacked the water once again then took a bit of a diving flop to submerge herself below the surface. What a shitty way for what should have been a good day to be turning out.

 

 

"Abby, Abby wait!" The woman hadn't stopped until she'd gotten to the cafeteria, which didn't shock Hannah in the least, but she still wished to speak with her. The entire issue of her being hated was still eating at her, and it needed addressed, whether it ended poorly or not. "Please tell me why you hate me," she bluntly started, coming into the empty room after her. "I understand what I have done to you and your men... But I am not the only one, and there are people here that you have even begun to get along with despite that. You're sleeping with Jessica, despite that... And yet I am the one who remains hated. Why?"


If it had been any other person ordering her to 'treat the robot like a human' she would have flipped them the bird and glared daggers, no hesitation. But this was Jess calling after her, and while Abigail chalked it up to that naive, goodhearted side of her a mile wide--the one that reminded her of a younger version of herself in some ways--it couldn't be entirely ignored. Especially not with the attached threat. That didn't make her any happier at the captain sharing things she'd said that she really didn't think had any business being shared, even in the briefest hints, but she could kind of understand why at the same time. Combined with the frustration of movie night getting postponed because of all this bullshit, and yeah. It was pretty tempting to snap, at least a little. But she didn't. Well, as long as you don't count stalking off without a backward look, and never slowing down, even when the tin can called after her to do so. If that was snapping, then Abby was guilty as charged.

Unfortunately, Abigail didn't really have a gameplan for anything to actually do, once she'd gotten to the kitchen, and of course, like a cat latching on to the only person in the room who was allergic to it, HAN4 had followed her, eager to pry its nose into things it didn't deserve to know. Abby ground her teeth and forced herself to mentally correct the record. 'Pry her nose into things she didn't deserve.' If she didn't start practicing now, even in her own head, she knew she'd slip up when Jess was in earshot, and she'd rather avoid a fight over the robot. Of all things to fight over, something so completely not worth it? Yeah, no, best to just suck it up. After all, the request had only been 'treat Hannah like a person.' So, she could still hate her. Easy. She just had to stop treating her like a 'thing', and just like despised scum. Hardly an upgrade, but if the distinction was important to Jess...

Abigail opened the fridge and stared around at the shelves aimlessly, for lack of anything better to do, and isn't that what one always does in the kitchen when finding themself without any pressing actual business? It was a perfectly good way to waste a bit of time, and pretend that you were actually accomplishing something. If only the electric hum had been loud enough to drone out the question calling out from behind her. Or if only the ice maker in the freezer had kicked in and started churning away loudly. But in the relative silence of the kitchen, Abby couldn't exactly pretend not to have heard.

...Oh, a beer. This'll do. Snagging the beverage from where it had been stored, Abigail swung shut the refrigerator door, bordering on a slam, and headed across to the drawer where the bottle openers were kept. Hmm, how to answer... After cracking open the cold one and taking a first swig, she decided on deliberately obtuse.

"What. So you're jealous of Jess? Rather than me hating you, you wanted me to hit on you, to sleep with you?"


"What? No. I am not emotionally invested in you in that way. I simply wish to know why I am so hated. Jessica is captain of the ship that took part in shooting at and shooting down your men... Yet, you are sleeping with her now. For all intents and purposes, she has been forgiven, or you have managed to put the ordeal behind you for the time being. So why not me? What else have I done, more than anyone else? Help me understand. I don't feel like I deserve all of this extra aggression, unless I'm simply being used as the tool to hold all of your hate so that it doesn't spill out to the rest of the crew." Whatever the reason was, Hannah didn't want Abby going around in circles with her. "Please."


"Jessica had reasons behind her actions. When I was in the brig we had a good old shouting match, letting each other know just what we thought of each other and why. And then we started to understand and move on. What were your reasons? Hmm? Were they even your reasons, or were they somebody else's?" Abigail crossed her arms and stared chillingly across the way at Hannah.


"I..." They were orders. Defend the colony. " I wasn't... I wasn't even 'me', back then. I just... I was actually, a machine. That just listened to whatever orders were programmed into it. But I'm not, now. And I..." Hannah sighed, folding her arms. This had become difficult. "I probably would have done the same... To keep the colony safe. Not because I was ordered to. But because I didn't want anyone there to get hurt. I don't know if you know, or care, but I was holding the hall to keep a group of scientists safe. One of them was still taken... So in the end I failed. Guess it was all pointless, wasn't it?"


"Well there you go," Abby took a long pull from beer, before setting it on the counter beside her and wiping her lips on the back of her hand. Sparing it a glance, she saw it was already a quarter empty; damn, she'd need to pace herself better. "Why would I treat a mindless murder machine the same as someone who weighed the choices and choose, willingly, to live with the consequences. How do I know you're actually 'you' now? Is there any reason I should believe you?"

Shrugging, she had a bit of a fun idea. Following up on Hannah's most recent words, she almost playfully prodded at what seemed like an emotion from her. "Ah, failure, yes. I'm very familiar with that, and as far as accomplishing what I'd hoped, not only was everything I did at the colony pointless, but dare I say it, even counterproductive. But do go on, tell me, what emotions--if any--does thinking back on your failure bring? How does knowing that nothing you did even meant a damn make you feel? Describe in detail, please."


Hannah bit her lip. "It makes me mad! What else would it make me? I'm not mindless anymore, I don't care if you don't believe me! Everyone on the ship treats you well, even if they aren't happy about things, everyone here looked past what you did and is trying to work with you, so why me!?" Hannah could feel her hands tensing up, trying to calm her servos. Her only experiences with real anger had been targeted at Vera. If she put the same feelings on Abby, she might end up hurting her far more than necessary.

"Is it just because I'm a machine? So I can't be real and feel what it's like to be hated like this? Of course I can! So tell me. What do I have to do? To at least get us on neutral ground. I just... I don't deserve this!"


That was barely an answer. Hardly convincing. And what was worse, this sense of entitlement she was getting swept up in instead. Abby found her line of argument almost laughable.

"Everyone on the ship treats me well. Right. How did I forget. I was so well received they let me pilot my preferred machine since day one... wait, that's not right is it? So well liked that that engineer girl nearly throttled me as soon as she looked at me. Must be how friends greet friends on the colonies, hmm?" The sarcasm dripping from Abigail was palpable. "Sure, maybe some things have gotten a little better recently. Yes, maybe some people have begun to apologize and move on, but let's be real, you've still got it far better. You've always had it far better. Literally everyone but me treats you like some princess. Look who's flying a top-of-the line prototype? Look who's gotten the mechanics to cater to her every silly whim? 'Abby has a nice tan, get me skin like hers.' 'You know what, her blonde hair is rather pretty too, fix me up with some of that, too.'"

Abby sighed in frustration and swept her arms out in front of her. "I'm not sure if you're trying to win me over through some kind of twisted flattery or what, but just... don't. Seeing you try is painful. Makes me cringe. Just where do you get off? Why is getting validation from me so important to you? Not everybody gets everything they deserve, why do you think you should be special and different? So what if I hate you? Does it even matter my reasons? The end result's the same whether they're good ones or petty ones, innit?"


Wait, her skin and hair? That wasn't... "I didn't get these changes done to look like you... I got them done to appeal more to Brant. I apologize if you thought it was something else, but the skin was simply because the internet says it is a color more appreciated than pale skin, and Brant prefers blondes. Tonya and Firmia? I don't know how you thought this was because of you..." Maybe her ego was that big? Or she was that worried about the android?

Whatever the case, it had been explained. As for why it mattered... "It matters because if I can, I do want to be your friend. Nothing comes from us hating each other. What do you get out of it other than a frown when I walk by? I understand that you can't flip a switch and turn it off, but you can't tell me that hating me is productive. I don't hate you, either... And no. Not everyone treats me like some wonderful space princess. Brant, Firmia, maybe Makoto..."

Hannah sighed. "Elaine thought I was broken, when I asked for a coating of skin. So did Buck. Jessica thought I was crazy, and I thought she still did. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her calling after us like she did. Most of the engineers still look at me with worried glances. I only have the Mantle because I offered, nothing more. I'm not special."


"The internet told you? And you just, believed it?" Abigail almost scoffed. "Not only is that kind of thing entirely relative, much like Brant and blondes, but you do know people can just go on the internet and lie, don't you?"

Hmm, actually... that gave her an idea. "Tell you what. I'll tell why I hate androids. But maybe I'll be lying? How would you know?" Stop, think about how to phrase this, the wording is important. "Naw, because Jess asked me to treat you nice, I'll do you one better. After this sentence, at least until I finish my beer, I won't say a single false word." Abby paused here and took an illustrative swallow, shaking the bottle to make it clear there was still plenty in the tank.

"You don't believe me, do you?"


Hannah almost sighed. Of course she knew people could lie. She didn't just look at one website and consider that an accurate estimate of the internet, she polled over thousands while she was searching. Maybe Abby just couldn't comprehend that, there was no point arguing about that. What was interesting was the reason she hated androids. So it wasn't because of her, but because she was artificial. Of course.

"I will believe you. I have no reason to doubt you. Yes, you could just be messing with me, but if that is the case, then I'll just have to take it.


Abigail narrowed her eyes slightly. With that reply, the paradox should have already kicked in. Maybe Hannah was disregarding her statement as conjecture? She'd have to go on a bit longer, it seemed. Drop a big hammer at the end instead, that would be the real deciding factor.

"I believe I've already told you a bit about Sebastian, you and Brant both. You don't need me to refresh your memory, I'm sure?"

Ugh, this was really a terrible idea, the more she thought about it, but Abby was committed now. Far be it from her to pull out halfway through. She did find herself looking longingly at the bottle, gauging how much she had left before the game would be up. Sadly too soon to go back for more, it looked like.


"I think so... He was your butler, right?" What did he have to do with any of this? Was he also an android? Or did he get hurt by one? There were too many unknowns to pry further, so she'd have to wait until Abby clarified going forward.


"Yes, my robot butler. State of the art, for the time anyways. Parents just had to show off how advanced they were," Abigail rolled her eyes. "They had their social circles to worry about and all that."

That was worth allowing herself a drink. "Absolute stick in the mud, the very definition of unbending and unforgiving." Time for another test, Abby decided. "Good for the Casson family, not so good for little Abigail, though."


"I see... So your dislike of me is stemming from that. I remember you didn't like my comment on how I couldn't see that being a bad thing, but I guess I was shortsighted. There must be something he did that set you on this path of prejudice... Do you mind telling me?" Things were getting too interesting now.


Abigail's eyes flicked up to meet Hannah's, reading her reaction, or lack thereof to the lie, the falsehood, the fake family name. Nothing, not even a blink. No spinning gears, no frenzied meltdown, no... wait a minute. Abby frowned. She couldn't expect a trigger off of just telling a lie. She had to trap Hannah into making what she said a lie. Which she'd done with that baited first question (and gambling on the right response), but now? Fuck, how could she get that to happen again? Could she even, at this point? This was the worst idea. Maybe if she'd actually planned it out in advance, but going by the seat of her pants like this. Absolute trainwreck. She should have picked a different paradox, something, anything, dammit.

Sigh. Nothing to do but carry on, at this point. "Well, that's only logical, right? Trauma in the formative years of life and all. Also wow, assumptions much? I mean, you're right, there was a bit of a watershed moment, but even just a long history of little things here and there would've done enough to sour me for life. Everyone would have to agree that some sets of circumstances justify prejudice. Take a guess, any guess, you'll likely find some issue or other in his behavior that torqued me off, royal. ...Well, maybe you couldn't, not having had a childhood, but most people could."


"Whatever he did to you, that doesn't mean that I'm the same... Even the latest model of android wouldn't have been an actual person. He was just following orders..." Ohhhh... The light bulb went off, and Hannah felt her shoulders fall some. "I see... I'm still sorry. But, I have to claim that I'm not the same. Not anymore... If that's not enough, then please, tell me what I can do to help make things better." Hannah wasn't sure what the lack of a childhood comment was for. Maybe it was meant to be some jab at her, for the sake of it? Maybe.


Was that it? That was an almost humanlike response just now, as Hannah seemed to have put the pieces together. At least she stopped asking after specifics, although now that she had, Abigail kind of found herself wishing the robot had continued to pry so she could've mockingly told her to just go search things up on the internet if she wanted the details. The internet has everything after all.

"Better?!" The android's utter naivety wasn't even cute like Jess's. It was deeply offensive. "Right, let me just point you to the time machine you can use to go back and rewrite his programming," another deep swig followed, and realizing there was dangerously little left, Abby just threw subtly to the wind and went for a last ditch hail mary. "Or better yet, teach younger me something fun to say to try to break him. Something like 'This sentence is false.' ...Though of course, even back then they probably had that safeguarded. Still, I'm sure you know of something that would slip through the cracks."


"No, not that, I meant between us. No, I can't create a time machine, as sound as the theories are, there's no practical way to put them into work, so it would be impossible to do. I just..." Hannah sighed, looking at a chair and deciding sitting down was a good idea. "I just want to get along. Even if you think it's impossible, I want to try. I have to..." Why did she actually have to try? She'd started thinking about it after saying that... Some part of it was just pride, but the rest... She just wanted Abby to be happy. Being on this ship must've been difficult, and it really seemed like she only had Jess on her team sometimes. Giving her more people to even feel decent around would be a good thing.


"What the fuck is it with you people? First Elaine, wanting to be friends, now you?" Abigail was rather baffled. And to her dismay, she realized the android was probably going to be a good deal more persistent about it. "People who've either been treating me like shit, or who've I've done everything possible to scare off. And each of you, now doing your damnedest to find some common ground, to hope to 'get along'. I just can't believe it?!"

What Abby couldn't believe even more was that she was starting to have second thoughts on shooting down the other pilot's request. If there was any other pilot with a bigger attachment to the colonies, someone she might have swayed around to see her point of view on the matter of their liberation, they were extremely good at hiding it. Yet she'd clung to her hurt, and her petty, and shoved the girl away. And now here she was again, still hurt and still petty about issues over a decade old, things Hannah had no direct hand in, and about to do the same thing again.

"What can you do?" She echoed, sounding deflated. "I guess start by getting me another beer. This one's dead," Abigail drained the last drops and set it down on the counter, hard.


"Why is this so confusing?" Another beer, sure... Hopefully it didn't affect her time with Jessica later. Hannah went over to the fridge and got another one out for Abby, opening it with zero effort and holding it out, while giving her a rather quizzical stare. "What good comes from us being at odds? What's the benefit? Is there something productive that happens that I'm missing?" Hopefully she understood where this was going, even if she didn't agree to it.

"I don't need you to flip a switch, and suddenly be all smiles around me, but hating me does nothing but make you uncomfortable and make us function less as a squadron. Would it not be better to start working towards, at best, standing my presence, so we could work together better?" Elaine too, but that was her hurdle to get over. Hannah couldn't fix things for everyone.


Reaching out, Abigail almost snatched the proffered beer from Hannah's grasp before quickly turning her face away. "But it does," she rebutted, unsure why she even bothered. "Hating you isn't uncomfortable, and it does have its upsides. People like to rag on hate as a negative emotion, but it certainly has its place at the table."

Abby paused a while longer, debating whether to explain, trying to figure out if she even could explain. What words were there that she could use to describe the way that setting up androids as a bogeyman, something to be responsible for all of her life's problems, how that helped to make the painful hand she'd been dealt time after time just a little bit easier to bear? The way that shunning and stigmatizing someone as part of an out group helped to lift one's self esteem in comparison? She didn't have the vocabulary for that, the skillful wordplay necessary to illustrate her points without seeming like an irredeemable, piece-of-shit bigot.

With a sigh, she gave up. Maybe if it was somebody else asking, but for this audience? Why bother. "Nobody's going to be liked by everybody. I take what I can get, where I can get it, and try to happy with that. You should try and do the same."

As soon as she spoke the words, she knew they weren't true, though. She was greedy enough to try for more sometimes. She took risks and gambled. Abby was many things, but she wasn't a settler. Her fingers curled unhappily around the bottle of beer. Abigail was growing vexed. Enough with this android and her itchy uncomfortable questions. She was supposed to be enjoying a quaint, old-timey cartoon, laughing with her girlfriend, and munching popcorn. Not this hellish torment.

"Don't you have more rewarding friendships to try to be making anyway? Why me, what do I have to offer you?" It couldn't all just be about battlefield unity.


"Hmm..." What did she get out of it? Well, it was easy enough to turn what Abigail had said on its head. "The same as you say I should try to take what I can get and be happy with it... I could just the same use that energy to try and get more, and be happier. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that. I don't expect to be able to 'fix'," she said, making sure to lift her fingers up and produce a fitting set of air quotes, "your aversion to me, or other androids, but... Maybe I can at least help you see me as a person. Your earlier paradoxes not working should really show that I'm a bit more than your average machine... Some of them would have probably worked on your old butler, though." Maybe she would've been able to use that when she was younger... How unfortunate.

A funny thought crossed her mind, maybe she should try to be more casual about being human? Abby was drinking, and much as it would do nothing for Hannah, it wasn't like she couldn't ingest foods. It would be a waste, but... Doing it every so often couldn't be a problem, right? And it wouldn't make her drunk. She could get drunk, but not through alcohol, and hopefully she never would. Nearly shrugging and reaching into the fridge or another can, she popped it open and decided to have some... The cold sensation was foreign to her sensors, but it was fine. "Besides... You're a really nice person. I can see that with the captain." She wasn't about to get into Abby leaving Jess, that would break this entire conversation. "She seems a lot happier now, so you must be worth having around as a friend."


Oh my god, would this bitch never shut up. And it turns out Hannah really didn't have any particular reason for bothering Abigail specifically, just a sense of boundless optimism and robotic stubbornness--on top of having completely missed her point. And then came the 'If Jess can be friends with you, so can I', nonsense. No further proof was needed she was a machine than that gross misunderstanding of human relationships. The paradoxes...? If Abby was smart enough to think of them, a programmer had to be smart enough to prevent them. She'd been a fool for trying.

...Whatever, Abby just had to tough it out a little longer, until that aspiring Russian dictator got what she wanted, or got shot down. Turning back to face Hannah, the pilot found the robot had cracked open a cold one of her own. Where would it stop? No longer content with aping her physical appearance, it was... she was moving on to mannerisms next? While Abigail had been annoyed at the former, this latter development for some reason struck her as amusing instead. Thankfully she didn't snicker audibly, but the corners of her lips had probably twitched up to almost a smile. So much for 'just trying to please Brant' excuse, huh.

"Jess wasn't that happy before?" Perhaps the sole bit of conversation that was both interesting and inoffensive enough to be worth pursuing. "I guess you might've seen a bit more than I did, since I was out cold, then in the slammer, but... You're not just imagining things, are you?


"I don't think I am... I was able to see Jess for a day or so before you two started to be around each other and... She was a lot more withheld. A lot more stressed. Her body language was all sorts of telling, she seemed ready to flinch at the next call of attention... Now, whether it be through some combined effort of you and other, she seems much more open to being herself. She's no longer stuttering, she's smiling more... Happy, even. It doesn't look like a touch will send her recoiling. Maybe still make her flinch, but you can't change everything in a few days. So I would say you are worth having around as a friend..." Whether or not that made sense to Abby, it was all Hannah could see of the situation.


"Hmmm, is that so," Abby listened curiously. It wasn't bad, hearing about how she'd apparently already been improving her girlfriend. Not bad at all. If only every bit of conversation with this broken robot could be so pleasant. But alas, this was assuredly just an outlier.


"That is so..." Hannah watched her, thinking about how to continue things. This was proving to be difficult, but if she gave up so easily ever time, she wouldn't get anything done. "Do you think the captain has had an effect on you?"


Well, that was an unexpected follow up. Abigail lowered her beer and blinked a few times, cocking her head in thought. Had Jessica left an impact? Not just the obvious surface level stuff, but something deep and meaningful? Actually, fuck that, even the obvious stuff was nothing to shake a stick at. Had Hannah found out, what had happened to Calina and the others? Did Brant pass along what the captain had let slip? If he hadn't, the android was the last person Abby would willingly raise the subject with. Which meant a different tack for her answer.

Shrugging her shoulders a little, Abigail breathed out a sigh as she replied, "Weeell. In a way, part of her reminds me of a younger, less jaded me. So, it's like, I'm drifting back to--no, being pulled back to happier, more optimistic points of view." A slightly bitter grin intruded and she added. "Hopefully not too far back so that I forget to keep watch for the shitty stuff I know is out there; miss seeing the warning signs and end up stepping in a big stinky pile of it. That'd be some icing on the cake." Pausing and giving Hannah an intent look, Abby finished, "If this wasn't some trick question, that oughta match up with what you've seen of me since my arrival, wouldn't you say?"


"You need to stop fishing for tricks when there aren't any. I'm just having a conversation." Hannah sighed, shook her head, and swirled the can in her hand. "It does, yeah. I'm not going to lie... I don't... I don't think Brant's obsession with Jessica is healthy." Hannah bit her lip, glancing at Abigail before meeting eyes to the floor.

"Not for my sake, but for his... And seeing how happy both you and the captain are, it isn't any of our places to step in on that. If it's meant to last, it will. If it isn't, it won't... But isn't the beauty of a relationship letting it alone to see if it'll properly grow? Giving advice is fine, but aiming to end it... It's cruel. I told Brant I'd help him, but talking to you now... I... Can't see myself doing that. I'll try and persuade him away from Jess instead. That will be a better use of my time."


Abigail wasn't buying it. 'Just making conversation', her foot. Still, maybe not all of the android's screws were loose after all. "Yeah, definitely agree there. Not healthy. She could have done a better job of turning him down, but that doesn't exactly excuse all of his behavior." Too focused on her own troubles, the rebel missed the small slip about how said worries were not for Hannah's sake, but Brant's.

A small sigh, and she continued, "I mean, I'm not sure I agree entirely, that people need to leave it bloom in peace? Like, asking for an enclosed greenhouse to grow our little lily garden away from all the ravages of the world is a bit much. Challenge is natural, expected, leads to growth. But, seriously? Know when you've been beat." Abby scowled a little. Was it hypocritical for her to think that way? Maybe. She wasn't exactly one for giving up herself. But a little bit of double standard is the sort of thing everyone engages in sometimes.

"What you do, or don't do, is your own prerogative. So long as there's no underhanded shenanigans, outright deceits, or what-have-you, you do what you think is right. I'm not gonna beg you to make things easier for me and her. But... yeah, I think it would be best if he could find some little happiness of his own--especially if it's not screwing me out of mine." A chug and a shrug. "He actually seemed a pretty decent guy."


"Brant is... Wonderful. A touch of desperation, a drop of hopelessness, but with what he's been through... That such a nice man can come out from underneath all of it, is admirable. I am in agreement that he should find his happiness without ruining yours, though. Perhaps he will. Perhaps Jessica will find it in herself to confront this, finally. Until then..."

Hannah stood up, holding her hand out. "I know you will not see me as a friend, but... Maybe we can try to get along just a little bit more? I might rub off on you once you realize this isnt an act or a phase." Really, Hannah had no way of showing that it wasn't, but she'd ride this out as long as it was happening.


Abby blinked a bit at Hannah's description of the other pilot. "If you weren't you, I'd think somebody had a crush," she giggled slightly, the beer helping things along. But even the power of alcohol wasn't yet enough to convince her to take the android's hand. Instead, all she got back was a shrug and some noncommittal words.

"I'm not making any promises, really. But since Jess wants me to stop treating you like just a thing, I guess maybe our interactions will change somewhat. Whether you count that as 'better' or not is... eh. We'll see. Might depend on how many dates you interrupt."


"I'll make sure not to interrupt any, then." Hannah did her best to keep smiling, shaking her head at Abby's thoughts on her having a crush. "I did... But, me with Brant... It's impossible. At least right now, it is... So I've shifted my focus elsewhere, on someone who likely needs the attention more. He's still my friend, and I would be a fool to ignore him were he to need help, but I can't provide it in that way."

Hannah turned to leave, giving Abby a final wave. "Take care of the captain, please. She affects all of us, driving the ship, and all. The happier you make her, the better off we'll be... The reverse is true, as well. Have a good night, Abigail." Hannah chuckled just a bit at that, leaving the woman with her beer to see if Firmia was done talking to Jess yet.


"Hoh hoooo?" Abigail couldn't help but mutter to herself as the annoyance moved off. Curious. ...But ultimately not her concern. Leaning back against the counter, swirling the bottle around and looking down at it, she tried to drive all the baggage from her mind. She couldn't make Jess happy weighed down with shitty memories of the past. There were gonna watch some silly animated show. Light-hearted fun, get back in the mood, girl.

Easier said than done. Though knowing the Russian princess, Abby likely had a little more time to get her headspace back in order.

Edited by Balcerzak

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"Это ерунда, это ерунда, это ерунда!"

Firmia was furious, now. And even that was an understatement. With the real tension from confronting Louise gone, it was easier for her to consider the situation, and things were incredibly bad. Any positive assumptions about the ANF's security or Apotheosis' limitations were no longer warranted. So much of what these lieutenants in partcular did stemmed either from disgusting levels of arrogance or some self sabotaging sense of honor--at least if Louise was to be believed. The war against Apotheosis was unwinnable. Pure and simple. That was the truth in a technical sense. These people, though ... Firmia was beginning to understand them a little better and realized while an total victory in the war was impossible with the Sacarians involved, Apotheosis itself could be defeated if the two teams started taking full advantage of the haughtiness and stupidity surrounding them.

Still, the situation was beyond terrible. That warping tech was capable of getting personnel in and out of enclosures, which meant a strike team of Gaertner approved androids to obliterate the Riese crew and take the ship was a card Apotheosis could definitely play if they wanted to. Even just sending Vera might be enough; Hannah was the closest thing to a threat on foot and she was coming over to the Avalon. Despite knowing the Riese was Apotheosis' target, Firmia wasn't keen on the idea of walking back that decision, even if she could convince Hannah to stay on the Riese a while longer. There was a good chance that Apotheosis' transportation method could be impeded by some of the Riese's on board systems--that was the reason Firmia figured Apotheosis hadn't already tried this, but if that was the case, said systems could simply be disabled minutes or even seconds ahead of the attack by one of the three moles. As for why wait until now to do this? With Louise holding a significant rank and Vera being almost as strange, why not wait until now? Those two weren't exactly paragons of pragmatism ...

Speaking of moles, the crew probably wouldn't even suspect anything was wrong if Jessica saw to disarming the ship, herself. So she was certainly an option of theirs.

All in all, Firmia desperately wanted to gather her people and get back to the ship. Nowhere was safe at this point, but somehow she was already homesick. Forgoing a complete change, the seething Alkaev opted instead to slip back into her outer layers, leaving her swimsuit underneath. Her essentials got stuffed into her purse, the same place she was keeping her Burkov Special. She was just thankful she hadn't needed to use the little pistol up to this point. She raced back out of the changing rooms less than two minutes after heading in, carrying everything she'd brought with her.


Brant wondered both how and why he'd gotten saddled with the job of warning Jessica. The mere prospect of speaking with her was giving him a headache! That wouldn't stop him from doing what he needed to do in this situation, but fate just seemed especially cruel, today. "Alright, let's get this over with ..."

"I'll go with you," Tonya smiled faintly.

Suddenly, Brant felt a little better. It reminded him of the confrontation in the meeting room, though. "Are you sure?" he asked, already starting off toward the shore, "You said you were done fighting my battles for me."

"It's just a skirmish," Tonya teased, "and besides," she continued, her expression turning serious, "We're in serious danger and can't stay completely split up, right now. I'm sticking with you until we're out of here."

Brant nodded his understanding, and they reached the shore as the chicken fighters began to emerge from their arena. "HEY!!!" Brant called over, making damn certain he had their attention. He didn't know why, but Brant felt himself getting angry, again. Right, Abigail was here, too. These two ... 'thrill seekers' were never any the wiser, were they? Seung-Min and Tristan were here too, and the former felt ... demoralized, again. Had she lost whatever game they were playing? That seemed too minor, even for her. Brant hadn't realized he'd paused for about two and a half seconds, so when Tonya took over, he nearly flinched.

"Get out of the water and get changed! Long story short, the ANF dropped the ball again, there's a wannabe samurai named Vera chatting it up with your squadmates, and a battleship is standing by to take this place out if they just so happen to feel like it!"

Mm ... mostly naccurate, if a little confusing ... and probably incredibly alarming without a bit more context. Brant shrugged, figuring Jessica could use the wake up call. Brant kept his gaze mainly on the lieutenant as the group approached the beach, because that was leagues better than some of the alternatives that were stirring him up, right now. More importantly, Kim really did feel off ...

"If you want to know more, go see for yourselves! Alright, we did our part," Tonya turned back to Brant, "Let's get out of here."

Brant was hesitant. Sure, he wanted to get going ... put some distance between him and all his troubles, but ...

"Just come on," she insisted, grabbing his hand and starting off with him toward the changing rooms.

Once again, he was getting dragged around. This was definitely a thing, Brant realized.

Edited by Phoenix

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Overprotective

It was transparent how Esther was getting bothered by all that talk about how she needed to be protected, huffing and crossing her arms. "After all I've gone through... I don't get it. I want to stay with you, keep fighting... I don't want to be treated like a child forever." After all she'd gone through... Esther almost felt like tearing up. It was frustrating, helpless. She couldn't instill respect or anything in anyone, other than the desire to protect her. It wasn't a bad thing in most cases, but for Esther... "Muh..." She knew the fear of death wasn't something she had total control of, but to never try to overcome it felt like a cheap way out. "I... I don't want to do this, Vera, you know that, but you've been so adamant..."

Esther shook her head, biting back her tears. Why did this feel so much like a farewell. "I want to be with you, Vera... but if I can't. At least make sure to win this and get me back. I won't stay in good will, but because you're so damn stubborn."

Their tertiary observer remained there, completely confused, and a bit reluctant to make a move still, from the looks of it.

"...I don't know what's a good idea, I just see us taking prisoners and most of the time things go well, so I trust Thorvald." Makoto voiced. Thorvald was the one in charge when the captain wasn't around, so it made sense for him. Makoto had a fair deal of trust for the father figure as it were.

 

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Things had certainly escalated quickly after she had gone into the drink. Jessica spared no time in beginning to admonish Abigail, pulling Kim out from under the water in the process of doing so. As she surfaced, she instinctively took a breath... a rather sharp one, how close had she been to succumbing to her own lungs? The tension was more than visible between the pair as Jessica started to pull the stricken Lieutenant away from Abigail, the ex-mercenary clearly upset with the outcome.

"No, it's... it's okay. It's not her fault..." Kim mouthed, her voice quiet, but possibly noticeable? Abigail had been in the process of diving under the water, she might not have heard. Did she clarify? Would that make things better or worse? Would her being around just make things better or worse? Everything swirled tumultuously in her head until Brant and Tonya came along to add to the pile. It rightly didn't properly register, Tonya was saying something about samurai? Vera? What did Vera have to do with anything? It wasn't like...

Kim stopped, her body tensing on it's own, enough to halt Jessica from pulling her further. It couldn't be, no... that figure on the beach with striking purple hair, far too long to be Astin's. It couldn't actually be Vera, could it? The gears clicking in her head as her mind read back what Tonya had said, the Lieutenant's eyes widened as her mouth grew dry, and her already precarious mental state was spiced up with the addition of a heaping spoonful of dread.

"Ve...ra? Here... now? Why... how?"

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