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Thread: Armored Core (PG-13)

  1. #26
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    OOC: Derp, forgot to post this last night.
    Here we go!
    -------------------------------------------

    Careful use of one or two grenades and alternating between long-range and close-range use of his railgun allowed the Jupiter to easily dispatch most enemies he targeted in less than two shots, at most. Davis was beginning to settle down, no longer irate at the shoddy intel or peculiar mission he was given, and frankly beginning to enjoy this assignment as he verified he had been able to re-do almost all of the customizations that damnable mechanic had carelessly erased from his property. From his Jupiter.

    He could tell he was having an effect, as well. Most speedsters stopped attempting to engage him altogether, completely failing to damage the proud armor and being taken out in a second. The Jupiter was now more frequently under target by long range explosive ordinance, but either a precise shot blew it up before impact, he quick-dashed away from the immediate blast radius, or he absorbed most of the blow rather comfortably.

    He had to hand it to Claire. She was commanding this bunch of random soldiers she’d never even met before with complete precision, and she appeared to be keeping a constant supervision on the whole battlefield despite being heavily involved in high-speed combat herself. Her mental agility was certainly impressive. Davis, accustomed to long-winded data packages in programming, knew how difficult it was to account for and remember something in a static environment. To do the same in this kind of dynamic environment was nothing short of extraordinary.

    Mariette, though one would never have guessed from her calm and mellow composure, was anything but that. Her eyes jumped from window to window on her screen and she kept close track of all radio-chat and all positions. She’d taken close supervision of Ezekiel and Kotomi, personally pinging the best sniping positions she wished them to take, directing their scopes from target to target. She primarily focused on taking out priority targets with Ezekiel and providing cover-fire with Orphan’s systems, though sometimes she did have to advice for them to fall back before a dangerous Normal got too close.

    She, too, was impressed with Claire’s leadership. Even surrounded by screens and endless data-feeds, she was barely more in the loop than Claire was.

    Davis’ radar detected two enemy IFF signals just around the corner. From their positioning, they seemed to be preparing a scissor strike on Jupiter, most likely while relying on some sort of primitive stealth jammer to hope to catch the big guy off his guard. Bad move. Davis read the building that separated them for any thermal readings and, after safely verifying it as empty, shot three holes slightly too much to the left of one of the cores, piercing the walls of the house. The enemy core jumped to the right, right next to his partner. Perfect. The Jupiter shot a grenade right over the building, landing right between the two Normals – now right next to each other and both in the epicenter of the blast radius – and blowing them up with one shot.

    “Boom, motherf-”
    The street seemed to erupt. Consecutive explosions from unknown sources came down all around Davis and, apparently, all of Team 3. The Jupiter itself was lifted off the air and thrown onto its back when three or four artillery missiles landed right next to it. The heavy impact of his machine crashing forcefully on the ground after being thrown back from the sheer impact of explosions was something completely alien to the heavy AC’s pilot. He was completely out of his comfort zone and disoriented.

    It was Mariette’s distant voice as she tried to communicate and re-assemble Team 3 into a collective force that, eventually, allowed him to regain his composure. Davis clumsily pushed the Jupiter off his back as his operator briefed the team on just what had happened and prepared them for a change of plans. Apparently, not only were they badly damaged, the complete destruction of their deployment zone and the smoke and debris in the air very well disabled their team.

    Blue Africa 1 – Collared 0

    "Does anyone have ordinance that can take those out?" Cynthia asked
    “If we weren’t under the very real threat of imminent death by ‘splosions, I’d be wounded. I’m kinda packing enough to blow this sh-… it all up. I just need a target, these missiles don’t come cheap.”

    "This is Scarlet broadcasting to everyone," she said. "Titan and Orphan: switch teams. Then Teams 1 and 2, follow me. I'm gonna need some cover." She flared her engine and shot forward in bursts of quick-boosts. "Team 3, move into range for Titan's heavy missiles. Archer: cover him. Titan, stand by for further instructions."
    “Copy that, moving in at top speed.”

    Feeling glad that the close explosions didn’t seem to damage the Titan’s propulsion systems, Davis regrouped and advanced, waiting for the signal to let it rip. As soon as he was in sufficient range, the team broke off, with Titan seeking cover and the remainders looking for the best sniper-positions available. Soon, the order came.

    But it was one he did not at all expect.

    "Then have him lock on to me," Claire said. “Tarot, Seer, transmit my coordinates to Titan and have him fire all ordinance at me," she ordered. "Titan, I want every one of those bunker-busters aimed right at my forehead."
    “Are you OUT OF YOUR GOD DAMN MIND? If you’re caught in the blast you’re dead! Dead! I’ve seen your performance, Claire, and while it has been nothing short of extraordinary it’s also been depleting your Valkyria’s power. Let me go in close and fire the missiles at the bloody thing.”

    “I wouldn’t recommend that, Titan,” cued in Seer. “You are not fast enough and you stick out like a sore thumb. That building is a complete fortress and you do not possess the evasive and infiltrating skill of Scarlet. If she volunteers for this… I advise we go forward with it.”

    “Tsk.”
    Davis wasn’t one for unnecessary risks or showy heroics, especially when the plan was clearly flawed and when he was sure he could come up with better alternatives. However, when two more missile blasts nearly tore his left leg to pieces, causing him to abandon cover and seek another hiding spot, he felt the pressure of time and had no choice but to comply.

    “Adjusting targeting parameters… Done. Now someone remind me to realign this after I’ve fired my missiles or I’ll be shooting at Scarlet even after we bring that damn thing down.”

    He confirmed the parameters, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. He felt the missiles being ejected from his back and knew how they were tracking that rash, impressive woman. For a moment, he stopped giving an absolute damn about the enemies around him and waited for that brute sound of his missiles exploding. When it came, he opened his eyes and looked at the collapsing building. Then at his map. Then at the building again and he cringed when he realized Claire hadn’t yet emerged. His fists tightened around the controls and his heartbeat quickened. Mariette noticed the warning signs of anxiety the core’s Life-Support had picked up and felt a bit of sympathy for Davis. She could comprehend how the death of a comrade through his hands, even in a situation such as this and to a trained killer, would be hard to cope with. Perhaps this was why she failed to track the overkill of ammunition fired before the building’s collapse. Perhaps it was due to the tense situation itself.

    The fact of the matter was the relief of seeing Scarlet emerge from the fire and dust seemingly fine was short lived. One woman fooled death, but an entire ship’s worth of crew became the grim reaper’s next target as all the ordinance Blue Africa could muster attempted to tore the USS Tungsten to shreds and ended all communication between pilots and operators.

    “They got the Tungsten?!” shouted Davis, still quite shaken from what he just went through. He crunched his teeth with too much force and began reviewing all the info he needed to pilot alone.
    “We need to regroup and gather our thoughts while we still have some time. This isn’t over yet. I advise us long range types take a semi-Operator role, since we can afford longer reaction times and have better frame of vision either way.”

    "Got something!" Cynthia said. "Two! Moving fast!"
    “Irregulars?" Claire gasped. "Are they retreating?" Or were they headed for the Tungsten, too? More blips appeared on her radar, moving more slowly this time, in a set formation. "We've got more...Six signatures!"
    “Everyone listen to Beatrice, the big one is all mine!”

    Davis checked his status. Indeed, the artillery had taken quite an impressive chunk of his armor away, but the Jupiter was anything but vulnerable right now. It was still more than combat operable, even against a superheavyweight. Those walking juggernauts were certainly impressive, but they were sluggish and served for nothing more but to dump away big cannon-fire and explosions. Impressive and dangerous, really. But that also meant they carried large amounts of ammo. All Jupiter had to do was wail it with some missiles, pick apart key points of armor, then grenade blasts his ammo-cache away and blow him from the inside.

    ‘Been there, done that,’ he thought.

    “Deploying second missile salvo! Don’t let them spread out just yet, try to get the others in the blast as well!”

  2. #27
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    Stage 1, Episode 2: "The Yacht Club"

    Mediterranean Sea
    North American Alliance
    USS Tungsten
    10:54 AM (GMT +2)
    Mission Time 00:24

    The Tungsten crew was still struggling to deal with the fallout from the bombardment when another explosion rocked the bridge. Two pale objects flashed past; the first fired a pair of laser rifles while the other cut into the side of the carrier with a pair of laser blades.

    "Can you get your Irregulars back here!?" Ford roared as another blast struck the deck. But he already knew the answer; with long-range communications out there was no way to contact them. "See if you can hail anything with the short-range or the old long-range military channel. Another blast jarred the ship. "And hurry!"

    The bridge was rocked as the two Armored Cores tore into the Tungsten super-carrier. Luckily the ship was massive enough to withstand the vicious assault, and the Armored Cores weren't equipped with heavy weaponry. Laser rifles and blades were very effective in Core-based combat, but against larger, heavier craft the energy weapons didn't pack the same punch as high-yield explosives or heavy-caliber ammunition.

    Still, the Tungsten wouldn't last long.

    "What the hell is going on with the comms!" Ford snarled. "Damnit! Broadcast an all-channel SOS. Divert power from the engines to the short-range communications to see if we can boost range and signal strength. See if we can bounce the signal off any low-atmospheric objects or phenomena." They wouldn't be able to reach their Irregulars with the signal-bouncing; too much interference on either end. His crew and even the three Operators went frantically to work. "Open up all channels! Military, civilian, Collared--hell, anything! I am not ending up on the bottom of the ocean, people."

    But the way things were going, he feared that's exactly where they were ending up. The Tungsten's weapons weren't meant for AC combat; the machines were too quick (especially these two), and the Tungsten had been heavily damaged by the artillery bombardment. The command crew and three Collared Operators were working feverishly to establish communications with...anyone. If they were under such heavy attack, he could only imagine what the eight Irregulars were up against.

    "Hulls breached!" "Taking water in block 5!"

    "Anything on the channels yet?" Ford shouted as the Tungsten was rocked by another blast.

    "No, Sir," responded one sailor, who looked far too young to be in such a situation. "We're broadcasting with all power to the short-range, but we've still-. Wait. Sir! We're picking up-"

    A soft voice broke over the silence. "This is Collared Operator Serra Bradley transmitting from Collared Standard Transport DS-04 en-route to Barcelona. We've received your SOS. Do you copy?"

    "Collared?" Ford wondered. "This is Commander Ford of the USS Tungsten. We're under heavy assault by two unknown Irregulars. Requesting immediate assistance!"

    "My pilot's wondering what you're offering for pay," the woman said.

    "What?" Ford was stunned, and even amidst the fear and chaos of the attack his eyebrow raised. "Ma'am, we're under attack! We can iron out details later!" There was silence on the other end for a few seconds.

    "We'll have a deal if you compensate our damage and ammunition costs," she said.

    "I-I don't have those kinds of funds," Ford stuttered, struggling to believe his life and the lives of his crew depended solely on the amount of money he could-

    "This is Collared Operator Theodore Faulkner," Theo announced. "If you get your pilot over here I can guarantee you'll get paid."

    Ford turned to the Operators on-board. "What's her location?" The computer sputtered and Serra's location: more than 90 miles away. "DAMN!" Ford snarled, they'd never make it in time, though at least their signal-bouncing idea worked.

    "Understood," Serra said after a brief silence. "ETA is 3.2 minutes. Hang tight, ladies and gentlemen. White Glint is en route."

    "Three minutes? How in the world?" Ford wondered. How could they possibly get an Armored Core there so fast? Either way, he had a crew to save. He announced over the ship's system, "Help's on the way."

    =====

    Mediterranean Sea (exact location: undisclosed)
    Collared Standard Transport DS-04
    10:56 AM (GMT +2)

    "Was that all really necessary?" Serra asked, sliding back into her chair. Lance was leaning over her seat, one hand resting on the back while the other rested against the flight console and supported his weight. Serra was distinctly aware of how close he was; she could feel the heat of his body across that small space between them. She could see the pulse in his neck, the tightness of his arms; muscles coiled and ready. So powerful and alive, and so thoroughly terrifying.

    He had that look; just the barest hit of a smirk, the faintest curling-up of one corner of his mouth. Barely noticeable to; but to Serra, he might as well have been sneering.

    "Asking for pay? Of course it was," Lance almost-scoffed. He peeled himself away from her, and Serra was struck by how not-unusual it was to feel that sudden distance and separation. Lance from up-close and Lance from afar weren't so different.

    "What kind of horrifying creature just offers up his slayer-services for the fun of it? Free of charge?" Lance chuckled, with a voice Serra had come to recognize as not-quite his and his alone.

    "Some kind of monster," Serra deadpanned, watching as the smirk spread further over Lance's face. She chuckled despite herself. Lance was, as always, absolutely fascinating.

    "And we wouldn't want them thinking that now, would we?" Lance mused, his voice low.

    "Not yet, at least," Serra whipped back.

    Lance laughed. "Of course." He pulled back, disappearing into the back of the transport. "Prep for air-drop."

    "You're flying on ahead without me?" Serra teased, deadpan. She strapped herself tighter into the seat.

    "You promised them three minutes." Lance spoke through the gloom of the dimly-lit hold. "I'd hate to leave them waiting dead in the water."

    Serra heard the telltale clangs of the White Glint opening and the mechanical whirl of Lance locking himself in the Core. She keyed in the command to open the cargo bay and drop the Glint. The door opened and the sky whipped in.

    "And to think I just brushed my hair," she sighed, shaking her head.

    "I always preferred you looking a bit more...flustered," Lance's voice cut over the comm. system.

    Serra smiled to herself. Always the charmer; he'd never let her get the last word in. Still...it didn't mean she had to give up every time.

    "Releasing the White Glint," she said suddenly. The AC released suddenly and dropped from the transport's belly. Serra savored the half-surprised gasp and rush of Lance's breath over the comm. And she could hear the smile on his face as he hummed his amusement, flared the overboost, and ripped towards the horizon. Hers joined it.

    And then she was alone again. And feeling all-together the same.

    =====

    Libya
    Mission Time 00:29

    It was insanity. Her team was stumbling all over one another just trying to avoid the sudden onslaught of hostile firepower. The six enemy Cores let loose with a dizzying wall of incoming artillery; grenades, missiles, solid and energy rounds, and heavy cannons. Each projectile was timed and placed perfectly, dodging anything would send them either straight into the path of something else or crashing into each other.

    They were being herded!

    "Split up!" Claire shouted. "Move! They're trying to get us together, make us easier to hit." She shot the Valkyria straight into the air and opened fire with her chain and machine guns. "Scatter. Use our numbers." She tried to bring up a few still-shots of the enemy that her camera recorded, but before she could analyze them a high-intensity energy bolt slammed into her. Then a heavy mass jarred the Valkyria and knocked it from the air.

    Claire managed to regain her bearings as her systems screamed out a proximity warning. A wall of missiles streaked towards her. She managed to avoid the majority, but several proximity-activated ones exploded next to her. The lightweight AC was thrown through the air again, but Clair caught herself and skidded to a stop. She glanced up as her enemy aligned a shot with his laser rifle and fired.

    But Claire was faster, and flared around its path. She let loose with a volley of missiles and streaked past the heavy AC. She spun around behind him and opened fire with her buckshot weapons, but something slammed into her from the side and carried her to the ground, sending her shot wide. Another black heavyweight, almost identical to the first, stood over her, two rifles pointing straight at the core of her AC. She could almost feel the pilot smirking.

    Then suddenly something cracked the air and struck the AC, knocking it to the side and forcing it into a backpedal as it looked for cover.

    "Thanks, Archer," Claire said, breathing a sigh of relief as she maneuvered the Valkyria upright again and launched back into evasive maneuvers.

    "No problem, pretty lady," Ezekiel said cockily. She could hear him smirking as well. "Glad to hel-WOAH!" Two more high-level cracks echoed through the valley. "Sh*t! One of them has a couple'a sniper rifles. I'm gonna try and take that thing down-"

    CRACK! CRACK!

    CRACK!

    "Damn!" she heard him swear again. "I can't get a bead! F*cker's fast."

    She tried to run through everything she'd seen of the enemy; to formulate some sort of plan for the team to follow. The enemy was obviously used to working as a unit, cooperating. There was no way they could compete with that. She found herself swinging sideways as a massive, four-legged behemoth opened fire with a volley of grenades. She managed to escape the blast radius and let loose with a hail of missiles, but even her direct hits didn't seem to faze the massive unit and it opened fire again. Claire leapt into the air and engaged her overboost, shooting high into the sky and hopefully out of range. She needed room and time to think, to plan.

    This was a lot harder without an Operator. But with time and room to think, Claire finally had a chance to get things in order.

    "Orphan, take down that flying sniper. Archer, your rate of fire can't compete with that. Disengage and provide sniper support for our guys. Target that weird green-and-white lightweight," Claire ordered, broadcasting to the entire team. "Thanatos, the big one with the laser rifle! Speartip, take the other, its twin. Titan, there's a big guy here that's trying to steal your heavyweight gig. I'd have a few words with him if I were you." Good, throw in some humor; let the team know you have this under control. "Vega, you're with me. We're gonna go take down the huge one." She swerved around. "He's a quad, so he'll be quick, but he's still a heavyweight. We're faster."

    Claire dropped from the sky and sent a barrage of missiles and bullets slamming into the massive quad-leg AC. It turned and let loose with a pair of grenades, but in the air they were easily dodged, and another missile volley slammed into the huge beast.

    "I'll keep him distracted," Claire said to Beatrice. "Other than my railgun I don't have much that'll penetrate that armor, and I've only got a few shots left; but his grenades can't hit worth a damn if I'm flying around. So watch out, and hit him with all you've got."

    She shot low and close, swerving out of the big AC's targeting line and blasting its side with a buckshot load. The quad pivoted and lined her up, faster than she'd expected, but she launched the Valkyria into the air and smirked as the two grenades flew beneath her. She let loose with a barrage of gunfire, peppering the behemoth so Beatrice could move in at her leisure.

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  3. #28
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    "Acknowledged." Kotomi said.

    The Zashiki-warashi took to the air, tearing after the flying sniper. Kotomi thought it was a similar machine to hers. Black, reverse-legged, sniper specialized, but there were many differences. The design was different, and the head was totally different. Not to mention the pilot. He certainly liked to fly around in the open, for a sniper.

    He raised one of his sniper rifles to attack, and Kotomi quick boosted downwards to dodge. Most pilots would quick boost side to side, but Kotomi liked to be unpredictable. Take the unexpected routes and strike when not expected, that was one of the rules of warfare.

    The shot went high, as did the second. The third went low, as Kotomi rapidly changed to an upwards boost. She didn't give her target a moment's respite, and opened fire with her sub-machine gun. The enemy AC quick boosted to the side, taking nothing but a few stray hits that did little damage, if any.

    The sniper started to fall back, putting distance between himself and the Zashiki-warashi. With a flash, two missiles burst from the pod on its back and tore through the air towards Kotomi. Her missile defenses whirled to life, blowing both missiles out of the sky before they could close the distance. The endeavor had cost her energy and momentum though, and she began losing altitude. The sniper took his chance.

    The first shot struck the Zashiki's leg, sending a vibration throughout the AC. The second hit a little closer to home, in the lower torso, causing her AC to jerk to the side. Kotomi could have dodged, but doing so would put her on the defensive. She didn't want that. You couldn't win if you were on the defensive.

    The Zashiki-warashi landed hard, but it landed on its feet. Kotomi instantly turned her SMG skyward and began spraying bullets at the sniper. He boosted to the side again, and the longer range was having an effect on the gun's accuracy. He didn't have that problem, and he fired off a few more shots with his snipers. Kotomi took to the air again, charging straight at him with a series of forward quick-boosts.

    He raised his rifle again and with one last boost, Kotomi shot forward and sliced the rifle in half with the tip of her energy blade.

    The enemy ac actually tossed the ruined rifle at the Zashiki-warashi to buy time to dodge. Kotomi didn't even bother to dodge it, simply bringing her laser around again to slice through it. The sniper raised his rifle again, but instead launched several missile blasts into the air. Kotomi barely had time to activate her missile defenses before the missiles closed the distance. When the smoke cleared, the Zashiki was falling from the sky out of a large cloud of smoke. It landed hard, but upright, and Kotomi hastily raised her sniper rifle to fire off a few shots. The sniper came flying in, but before he could send out another shot, the Zashiki tore backwards into the thick tree line with the bright flash of a shoulder-booster powered quick boost.

    The enemy AC landed in the clearing, ready to snipe the Zashiki. Kotomi had nowhere to dodge, and the enemy sniper raised his weapon to deal the finishing shot... and promptly exploded as Kotomi's proximity mines latched onto his AC, detonating in a blast of shrapnel and fire. Kotomi eased forward out of the trees to find her enemy disabled and missing a leg and an arm. He still tried to raise his rifle, and Kotomi finished him off with a short burst of her SMG, her own AC looking no worse for wear.

    She had not been hit by the missiles earlier, not badly enough to send her plummeting anyway. It was a trap, designed to lure the sniper back to the ground where she had placed her mines. Warfare was based on deception. Though competent, appear incompetent. Though able, appear unable. Such were the rules of warfare.

    "Enemy eliminated." Kotomi said. "Switching to support role."

    ---

    "I'm on it." Beatrice said, ignoring Claire's overriding of her own hastily given options earlier. Now was really not the time to second guess their little squad leader. Instead, she focused all of her anger on the heavyweight. In her minds eye, it was the only thing standing between her, and the safety of Theo and the others on the Tungsten.

    Beatrice activated her missiles and let several of them fly. They were the vertical launch style, so they were going to come down on top of the heavy quad in a moment, each missile really a cluster of missiles waiting to burst. However, with increased spread came less force. They likely weren't going to crack that armor anytime soon. That left the grenade launcher. But Beatrice wasn't the only one with a grenade launcher. The heavy quad had three of them.

    Beatrice took Claire's initial assault as a window, dashing in to get within range of her grenades. Even with all of Claire's ordinance raining down on the behemoth of a mech, the enemy AC still turned its arms to lock onto the Aurea and they both fired simultaneously. One flew past the Aurea as Beatrice quick boosted to the side, but the second dealt a glancing blow, nearly taking the pile-bunker off the Aurea's arm. The burst missiles picked that moment to impact, covering the quad in a sheet of explosions. When the smoke cleared however, it was actually in the process of aiming its back mounted grenades, as if it hadn't even been phased by the hits.

    "You have got to be kidding me." Beatrice said as she went to pull back.

    "I'll keep him distracted," Claire said to Beatrice. "Other than my railgun I don't have much that'll penetrate that armor, and I've only got a few shots left; but his grenades can't hit worth a damn if I'm flying around. So watch out, and hit him with all you've got."

    Beatrice smiled. "That's what I do best." Maybe their squad leader wasn't so bad after all.

    Claire moved in for another round, annoying the quad enough for it to focus on her rather than the retreating Aurea. Beatrice locked her own grenade launcher and charged back in from the side, blasting several grenades towards the enemy, who was still firing at Claire. The first two hit the quad dead on, but it came tearing out of the second explosion, its own weapon arms raised and locked. That thing really was fast for something so big, almost as fast as the Aurea. Almost.

    Beatrice quickly side boosted and dodged the incoming fire. The quad stopped again to steady its aim, and Beatrice shot forward, pestering the quad with blasts from her shotgun. The Incendiary ammo would make it a bit more effective on the things armor, but she was trying to aim more at the arms than the core. The quad was quick to react, shooting backwards before firing its own cannons yet again. Beatrice once again dodged, but took another glancing blow that tore a nice bit of armor off of her hover platform. She couldn't keep this up forever.

    Someone said something over the comm, but Beatrice didn't catch it. She was too focused on the enemy, on making sure she didn't take another hit.

    The quad suddenly stopped, and fired off a curtain of missiles. Beatrice tore to the side, trying to dodge as best she could. A cluster of missiles came in close, but suddenly exploded doing only minor damage. Beatrice was confused until a familiar but somehow unnerving voice came over her comm.

    "I will provide anti-missile support." Kotomi said. "My offensive capability is insufficient to effectively pierce the enemy's armor, so this is the extent of my assistance."

    "Orphan? Thanks, that the second time you've saved me this fight."

    "Thanks are unnecessary." Kotomi said. A slight pause. "but you are welcome."

    Beatrice focused back on the enemy quad. "Now, this is a missile barrage you savage." Beatrice locked her missiles again and fired them. All of them. A continuous rain of missiles would impact the enemy quad in a matter of seconds, but he wasn't an idiot. He attempted to pull back, trying to get away from the missiles. He met with mild success, but soon vanished into the carpet of explosions.

    Beatrice prepared her grenade launcher. Like her missiles, they were burst explosives. Unlike her missiles, they burst on impact, scattering shrapnel and mini explosives around the impact. "Scarlet, get your rail-gun ready. Once he reappears, we'll him him from both sides."
    Last edited by TheSequelReturns; 1st August 2013 at 10:24 AM.
    ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
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  4. #29
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    Mariette Colette

    The world was spinning, alarms were ringing and her body seemed to ache with a mysteriously distant pain. Her vision was tunneled and, in a way, so seemed to be her other senses. The chaos of soldiers and all sorts of personal rushing everywhere, unfazed by the sirens and destruction, capable of using the state of panic as motivation were mere shadows sprinting on a distant screen.

    Slowly, one by one, she got hold of her senses. She felt the cold steel floor she was pressed against, the alarms became louder and closer. She was finally able to distinguish what she saw and, finally, her mind began to form coherent thought.

    After the initial bombardment, Colette was thrown off her chair and most likely hit her head on something hard. She’d blacked out, though hopefully not for too long. Her colleagues didn’t help her up, most likely because they thought she just fell over and reckoned she could help herself up rather than waste time tacking their eyes off the screen and stop their attempts at re-establishing communication.

    She got off the floor and on her chair, visibly shaken. She’d… never been the target of a direct attack before. Ever. It… Terrified her. She saw herself as this Seer sat atop Mount Olympus, unreachable and all knowing, weaving webs of influence and pulling the strings of fate, Nothing could reach her, she felt. Nothing.

    Until now.

    And she felt so fragile and weak for it. A stark reminder of her mortality delivered with all the subtlety of a slap to the face. She got to her console, completely pale in the face, and buried her fears and insecurities trying to resolve the situation.
    She’d work this out. She knew she would.

    ///////
    Davis Alenko


    It was all on him. The stakes were high and this mission finally became as dangerous as he’d been expecting. No cover, no back-up and no coordination left him and everyone in his team to fight an opposing team alone. Said opposing team consisting of fresh, fully-repaired AC’s, pilots without any of his own team’s fatigue and boasting full stocks of ammo. Not to mention most likely familiar with each other and being coordinated by some sort of operators, giving them the great advantage of teamwork.

    They were completely and royally ****ed. All the odds against them. It was their turn on the Russian roulette and they got a fully loaded revolver.

    But Davis still felt superior. He still intrinsically KNEW his machine was better, stronger and much more powerful than anything on this battlefield and on this Earth. His pride had swollen to compensate for his fear, and this defense let him muster up enough courage to take on the heavyweight packing enough explosive ordinance to level three cities, two towns and a Toronto shopping mall. Overcompensating bastard.

    But this is no time to be sassy. Life or death situation and all, Davis quickly grew serious and focused on analyzing his opponent. He was packing missiles on every orifice and external limb, and Davis’ armor had already been put under the ropes during the earlier bombardment. Distance wouldn’t help him in this situation. Deciding to circle his opponent at medium distance, Davis tested his enemies reaction time, reflexes and the strength of his armor with the railgun’s long-barrel mode and a couple of grenade shots.
    As expected, the ugly, bulky, unstylish behemoth didn’t even flinch. He managed to keep up with Davis’ unimpressive speed and his armor had absorbed the rifle shots quite well. The grenade blasts were another matter entirely, having evaded one but taken the other two head on the enemy AC was now bearing two very satisfying circular burn marks denting his chest.

    Titan hoped to keep this tactic to avoid being pinged by his opponent’s missiles, but the succession of quick boosts coupled with the prolonged usage of the regular boosters overheated the mechanisms in a matter of minutes. The power drainage had been too much for such a clumsy heavy mech. The enemy took notice of this and quickly fired off a barrage of missiles at the Jupiter, who had no other means of avoiding them other than the locomotion from his legs. Immediately, alarms sounded inside the Jupiter’s cockpit and its shoulder-mounted laser defense systems picked apart as many of the missiles as they could. However, that had not been enough, and Davis was still hit by two or three direct strikes.

    The heavy mech was thrown in the air for the umpteenth time this battle, and chunks of his characteristic external plating were completely blown off. The primary layer of armor was still in great condition, but losing the external plating made Davis uneasy. And embarrassed. And furious.

    He didn’t have the upper hand fighting a war of attrition. All of his rationality commanded him to end this fight with one move, something that would finish this with minimal loss of resources and as quickly as possible. Under these conditions, Davis knew it was time to think outside the box… And he instantly knew just what to do.

    A second salvo of missiles roared the alarms systems back into life just as the boosters became operational. With his AC ready for a counterattack, Davis dove in, picking apart most of the missiles with his laser turrets and the Railgun’s short-barrel mode and quick boosting away from the few there were left. In the midst of the chaos and missile explosions, Davis fired off four of his vertical missiles – leaving him with only four more in stock – and threw his arm weapons away as far as he could.

    Davis ignored all the system warnings and the AC’s computer attempts to dissuade him from a head-on attack – this tactic was not what the Jupiter was designed to do. But he went in anyway. The Jupiter crashed into the other heavy and immediately bear-hugged him. As he’d calculated from analyzing the arm structure of his enemy, the Jupiter’s hydraulics generated MUCH more force and were able to subdue his opponent. The other weapons – the back and shoulder missiles, were useless at this range as they would hit them both.

    He had him just where he wanted.

    More alarms beeped as the Jupiter’s vertical missiles made their descent. Unable to do more than failed attempts at squirming away from the Jupiter, the enemy heavy seemed to visibly despair as he flailed his arms and legs around, trying in vain to shake off the big black AC off him.

    And then, they came. Just two seconds before impack, the Jupiter flared his overboost into overdrive and flew away, just as his four missiles crashed right over his enemy, detonating every other missile inside him and creating a several yard wide explosion. When the dust settled, absolutely nothing was left of the enemy.

    “Target vaporized. Proceeding to retrieve weapons and provide assistance.”

  5. #30
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    Mediterranean Sea
    North American Alliance
    USS Tungsten
    11:00 AM (GMT +2)
    Mission Time 00:30

    The two Irregulars continued their attack. Minutes seemed to be crawling by like hours. Ford wondered just where this promised Irregular was, and how the Operator thought she'd get him here in 3 minutes. All the while he continued getting reports of intensifying damage to the ship's structure. They wouldn't last long at all; the Tungsten was designed to take abuse, but if they couldn't fight off the two ACs...He looked out from the control bridge with wide eyes as the blade-wielding AC whipped around and shot towards them, aimed right at the bridge.

    "Hang on!" he shouted, leaping to the floor.

    A series of explosions shook the Tungsten, though he could tell they weren't energy-based, but solid-ammo. Missiles. He glanced up, trying to push his vision through the smoke and shower of fire that filled air. He caught sight of two blue streaks as the enemy ACs backed away, and a glint of whiteness flashed across the flight deck, chasing after them. Heavy rounds cracked from the white AC's rifles and tore into the lighter Cores, they faltered in their flight, and the white AC sent a pair of missiles screaming after them. The two spread-missiles split apart and each set eight smaller slamming into the enemy machines.

    Ford allowed a satisfied smirk to cross his face; it was good to see them on the run, on the defensive, after they caused so much damage to his beloved ship.

    One of the blue ACs, the one equipped with a pair of laser blades, streaked towards the white AC. It slashed dangerously close to their new ally's core, but the white AC showed remarkable maneuverability, and avoided the strike with only minor burn damage. But he was left open to the second blue Core's laser rifle; a red-hot bolt slammed into him from behind and sent him spiraling towards the water. The two ACs tore after it.

    The white AC managed to catch himself and fired back, forcing them to break formation. Its overboost flared and it flashed forward, slamming into the rifle-wielding Core. There was an awful screech of metal-against-metal as the white AC's bayonet raked against the smaller AC's frame. The blade-AC charged the white one, but he shot to the side and avoided the slash. The blade kept the white AC away from its comrade, allowing the rifle-wielder the chance to recover.

    The rifle-AC shot towards the Tungsten and whirled around, hovering in front of the control bridge as it launched long-range shots at the white one. The blade-wielder danced back from its last flourish with the white AC and shot to its partner's side as it continued to fire.

    "Damn!" Ford hissed in realization of their strategy. "They've got the Tungsten at their backs! He can't risk firing or he might hit us when they dodge!" It meant the white AC would be forced to go in close, where the bladed blue AC had a serious advantage.

    The white AC launched a pair of spread missiles.

    "Or not. Brace yourselves!" Again, he couldn't help but think.

    But as the missiles closed in, two rifle shots cracked the air, and they exploded prematurely, swathing the two ACs with fire and knocking them through the air. A white glint streaked over the water and burst through the smoke. The AC slammed into the rifle-wielder, driving it into the Tungsten's flight-deck. They struggled against each other briefly, but then the white AC drew back its bayoneted assault rifle and thrust it through the lighter AC's core. A spray of hydrolic fluid, oil, and something too red to be either erupted from the blue AC, and it stopped moving.

    The other blue AC streaked from the sky, boosting wildly, changing directions at breakneck speed to keep the white one from getting a lock on it. Their new friend tried to move its assault rifle to a more defensive posture, but it was still well-lodged in the smoking husk of the other AC. The blader saw this and dropped low, racing along the Tungsten's deck. Its laser blades engaged.

    Then the white AC dropped its assault rifle and something sprang out from its leg hangar and attached to its arm. It engaged the overboost and in a flash of white metal it closed the distance between it and the blue blader. The device on its arm emitted a brief flash as they met: a blade of its own. The sheer force and speed at which the white AC moved surprised the blue one, and its blade missed its mark. The white AC ducked the blade, and slashed its own up and across the core of the blue, severing its right arm and cutting a gash across the head and torso.

    The blue machine stumbled and sputtered, and then, as if the pilot thought more of his own life over revenge for his comrade, it flared its overboost and shot headlong off into the Indian Ocean.

    The white AC watched it for a moment, as if weighing whether or not to chase after it or whether it would double back. But when the pilot decided the threat had ended, he calmly stored his laser blade in his leg hangar and wrenched his assault rifle from the fallen husk of the other AC.

    "My Operator will be landing shortly," the pilot announced over the shot-range as he kicked the downed AC into the ocean. His voice was strong, calm, completely at ease with the situation. Ford recognized the soldier in him. "I expect you to not fire on her."

    "Not like we could in our condition," Ford answered. "But you have my word. Listen...we've got our Irregulars engaging some unknowns about three miles inland. We'd be much obliged if you could lend a hand and use your machine to reestablish communications. All we've got is a single satellite-phone between us." The pilot was silent for a few moments. "I'm sure they'll agree to pay you for your time."

    "Twist my arm," he said, and Ford could practically hear his smirk. "Got coordinates?"

    "Yeah." Ford had Theo send over the last known coordinates for the team, when Claire asked them to fire on her. "They're a couple minutes old, but I can't image they'd have gone too far."

    "Understood," the pilot answered. "Call them. Let them know I'm a friendly. They're paying for my repairs, after all. We wouldn't want a mix-up costing you guys more than it should." The white AC turned and lifted slowly into the air before shooting towards the shore. "This is Stranger," he said, broadcasting on all channels. "White Glint en route."

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  6. #31
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    OOC: Big and messy post is big and messy, but done. Also, Nie, say hi to some operator interaction.

    ------------------------

    Juliana Werberg, "Celeste"
    USS Tungsten


    "Back from the dead?" Juliana asked with just a hint off amusement spicing her tone as she saw Colette regain her position some distance from her own station. Her voice was steady and her expression calm, thin lips curling slightly upwards into a smirk despite herself. "You returned at a good time. Our fate will be decided in a few minutes."

    She might have appeared unfazed by the situation, but in reality, she was anything but. Her eyes never left the few screens that still functioned, and although it was hardly visible to anyone not standing close by, her right palm was bleeding from nails constantly being buried into the skin. The buttons were stained in that same red as well, a stark contrast to the blue figure of the woman herself.

    Three minutes was the estimated time of arrival they'd received, but... the continuous damage intake might have been just a bit too serious to last them that long. Might have been. Trying to figure out whether it was or not was what she'd been working on ever since the initial attack. She was afraid, of course she was, she was in a sinking ship with no means to defend herself, liable to die there without ever reaching the freedom so she yearned for - or getting a final drink. Such a boring, depressing way to die wasn't exactly ideal. And to just think that her death would be the result of losing to some hooligans out in the middle of nowhere... ugh, such indignity.

    And then, after what had felt like an eternity, the wait was over. They got help.

    "Oh, well look at that. Our knight in shining armor," she commented, partly to Colette, partly to nobody in particular. It was a cliche way to be saved, but at least they lived. She straightened, curling her injured hand into a fist before resting it under her chin.

    Now, if only the kid hasn't gotten himself killed meanwhile...

    -

    Benjamin Eisler, "Thanatos"
    Battlefront


    How ironic it was, that only a moment after Davis had ordered them not to let the enemy split up so they'd be easier to handle, the group had found themselves herder by the enemy and forced to split to avoid destruction instead.

    Benjamin's brow furrowed as Obsidian took to the skies in an attempt to avoid both enemies and allies alike. If only they'd been faster... he could have gathered the enemy up and let the others have a go. But no. No, they - he was too slow. All because he couldn't get his head to think straight. Worry shook his entire being, and no matter how many times he attempted to shake it off, the urge to turn towards the Tungsten lingered. He knew it would be useless, knew that even if he turned he wouldn't be able to see anything from this far away, but logic hardly bore any meaning to him when the only person that he'd ever called a friend was in danger.

    A blast sounded, and the boy quickly found himself making frantic evasive maneuvers left and right. They were under fire from a cooperated unit, able to do nothing but evade and shoot at almost random. At this rate, whatever fate befell the Tungsten crew would soon await them as well. They'd be wiped off the map, forgotten and never found. Benjamin shook at the thought, both from fear and from anger. He couldn't let that happen. He had to survive and- wasn't there something they could-

    And right in the middle of that thought, Claire's voice sounded, and Benjamin found his heart skipping a beat. Her voice didn't shake despite the situation; it was firm, determined, and although he could make out agitation in her tone, he knew he could trust that her choices were not made solely based on frantic guessing work. He held his breath and waited for her instructions, eyes focused and tears gone by now. If he could just get an order, he could move. Just like always. Just follow instructions. He was good at that. He lived for that.

    "Thanatos, the big one with the laser rifle!"
    "Roger!"

    In an instant the teen had turned his core. He didn't have to listen to what she said next. He already had everything he needed. He had a target, a goal, and a motivation to reach it. He turned on his boosts, and Obsidian became a black blur as it dashed into the middle of the quarrel. Big one with the laser rifle, huh... a good choice, if he ever saw one. Big and probably not fast, it was easy to spot and difficult not to hit even at high speeds.

    Or so he had thought.

    Benjamin's eyes widened as the slash he had targeted into the enemy core's chest failed to sink into anything solid, and instead of slowing down after a successful attack, Obsidian's altitude dropped as the swing of its arm brought its weight down to its front. A bright flash appeared in the boy's peripheral vision, and in a split second it was clear it came from a missile aimed straight at him from the side.

    The enemy... had dodged?

    The boy yelped as Obsidian was hit hard into its side, sending it propelling towards the ground from an incredibly powerful blast. The young heard a crushing sound and smelled smoke, something he had admittedly never experienced before. Something had probably broken. Something, somewhere, but he had no idea how to find out what. Was it fatal? He was still thinking, so he was alive, but for how long? What if he lost his weapons or his fuel? He needed a status report from someone able. All he could do was tell how much it hurt.

    The fall became ever faster, and Benjamin gasped and closed his eyes as he felt the insides of his stomach turn and rise to his ears for the second time that day. His thoughts were reeling. No way, it couldn't have been that fast. It was a heavyweight! He... he wasn't told of this. Celeste didn't warn him. Why didn't she-

    Benjamin froze. Oh. Oh, it was because... because she wasn't there.

    He was alone. All alone at the mercy of his enemy, in a core whose damage he couldn't even gauge himself. It was scary. He had never fought without an operator, never had to grasp the full situation himself. There was always someone helping him. But not now.

    Not ever again if he didn't win and manage to return to Tungsten.

    "G-god damn it!" The boy gasped, bringing his whole body into stopping his core's fall and tilting it back upwards. Sweat formed on his brow and he bit his lip until it almost bled. What if he couldn't ascend anymore? What had been broken? He couldn't be this pathetic. This was one enemy core in a million. He had destroyed countless of them before - did not having an operator really affect him that much? It shouldn't. Celeste - no, Juliana needed his help. She'd always been there for him, what kind of a man would he be if, the first time the roles were reversed, he let her down? All he had to do was think for himself a little. That wasn't so much to ask for.

    The black Armored Core managed to stop and change its direction if a bit awkwardly. It floated a moment before starting to fly back upwards towards the other, similarly dark Core lying in wait. Benjamin breathed heavily and audibly. He was moving. He could do this. Just... he had to think a little. Make a strategy. Okay, so, the enemy had blasted him instead of cutting, even though he had been close enough to able the latter. So then, it probably wanted to keep a distance. It knew it wasn't fast enough to dodge forever. He prepared his wire. He'd trap the... the bastard with that and then cut it into half while it was paralyzed. He had to end this fast and find out the damage done to Obsidian.

    But first, missiles. Incoming, as Juliana would say. Evasive maneuvers, as she would say. Right then. He had missiles and a laser canon which he could probably combat the missiles with, but not only would that waste ammo and time and possibly enable the enemy to fire another round, the shock wave and blast of the missiles colliding would blur his vision and mess up his ascend with irregular air currents. It was better to avoid them completely. Maybe... maybe blast right through the middle? Obsidian was already damaged by the previous blow, but its speed should still have remained the same.

    "Here... goes," Benjamin mumbled as he activated his main booster, deciding it was better to save his extra booster for later. This wasn't a big enough enemy for it. This one would die here in a minute.

    He blasted off towards the missiles, but for some reason he couldn't shake a sinking feeling somewhere in his stomach. A feeling like he'd just made a mistake. A bad decision. Was it just because this was his first time thinking completely for himself? Or had he seriously overlooked someth-

    Benjamin's heart stopped as he grew ever closer to the missiles. He felt cold sweat form and drip down his face, and as he opened his mouth, he realized his voice was gone. No. No, he could not do this. He would die if he tried to go through the middle. He had to go around them. Had to arch, even if it decreased his speed. He didn't know why, but he had to.

    Immediately, Obsidian braked and turned, blasting into an arch around the offending projectiles. And, as the black frame of the core swept past one of them and caused it to explode, Benjamin realized what the sinking feeling had been for; proximity missiles. He would have died.

    Trying not to yelp or think about what he almost subjected himself to, Benjamin continued up to the skies, his eyes set on the one black dot against the clear blue above. The enemy was a fast flyer, but that was alright. He'd just have to be faster. He was heading straight towards the enemy's center, and judging by the fact it didn't move to attempt to dodge yet, it had a plan. It would probably evade the last second like it did the last time and attempt another blast to his side. Well, too bad. He had a plan too.

    He just prayed it worked.

    He was almost there now, mere meters separating the two frames of the machines. Benjamin stared into the soulless exterior of the enemy core, waiting, anticipating its movement. It would move, but which way? Left? Right? No, it didn't matter. He would see. He could predict it. Just a small sign of movement, a small sound, anything. He extended his laser sword for a mock strike.

    And the enemy nudged to the left.

    Got ya!

    Benjamin turned suit, turning to the left and circling around the enemy core in an instant, wrapping the core with his wire. He was behind the core now, watching the electric shock released into the weapon course through the other core's entire frame. For a second, it couldn't move. And in that second, Benjamin pulled out his laser sword once more, drew in a shaky breath... and ran his blade clean through the enemy.

    "E-enemy..." Benjamin began, his word accompanied with a satisfied, slightly happy sigh as he turned the blade and cleaved through the enemy sideways just before the laser flickered out. "Eliminated..."
    Last edited by GoldenHouou; 9th October 2013 at 6:19 AM.
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    "I am not a bad man
    Even though I do bad things
    Very bad things
    Such horrible things"


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  7. #32
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    Libya
    Mission Time 00:32

    Explosions filled the air and even Claire, an expert in aerial combat, was having difficulty maneuvering between the bursts of fire and steel. Sometime during the blisteringly-quick skirmish, someone among their enemies had called for their Normals to come in and provide reinforcement. Grenades, missiles, and rockets detonated around them, stopping only when they got closer to the enemy Irregulars. For Claire and Beatrice it was a difficult conundrum; too close to the massive quad-leg AC and it'd overwhelm and annihilate them with dime-stop turns and pinpoint grenade blasts. This guy was good.

    "Scarlet?" It was Ezekiel. "I'm starting to run low on ammo. Sniper's just about out. I can probably take six of those Normals--maybe a few more if I time my shots right--but I can't keep covering you." His voice was overcome with static, and he cut back in with a string of curses. "Sh*t. Speartip is down!"

    Claire swerved around the huge quad and caught sight of Cynthia's Winter Eagle as the large black AC smashed her with a well-placed bazooka round. It smashed through the AC's shoulder. Cynthia raised her blade, but the big AC drove its foot onto her arm and crushed it to the ground.

    "Ezekiel! Back her up!" Claire shouted, not bothering with call-sign pretense.

    "Pinned down!" the sniper called back. Explosions tore static over their communication channel. "You want me? Come get me you b*stards!" A spattering of his machine gun sparked from up the mountain.

    "Scarlet, get your rail-gun ready. Once he reappears, we'll him from both sides." It was Beatrice--Vega--as she'd named herself. She had something planned. But with Cynthia on the ropes and no backup in sight...was there time? Could she--?

    "Damnit!" Claire hissed. No time. No time to think, to plan. Just act. "Do it!" she shouted to Beatrice, before spinning around and rocketing towards Cynthia and the big AC. She ignored Bea's protests, pelting the black giant with machine gun fire and buckshot as she raced towards it. Then she whirled around, raised her rail-gun, and fired right into the heart of the heavy quad while simultaneously ramming back-first into the black AC.

    Beatrice's grenade slammed into the quad, swathing it in burning smoke and shrapnel. The big machine stumbled, sparks flying from the hole punched in its core from Claire's rail-gun. But it turned its back-mounted grenade cannon on Beatrice and fired. Claire readied to spring back and assist, but the black AC beneath her casually lifted the Valkyria and hurled it away. It aimed its bazooka and laser rifle, and fired, blasting Claire back. Her systems wailed their warnings and her controls ceased responding. The black AC aimed again, but it was suddenly engulfed by explosions.

    The black AC turned to Cynthia, pushing steadily through the blaze. It dropped its laser rifle and grabbed the Winter Eagle's missile array; with a simple squeeze, it crushed the weapons and ripped them away. The bazooka round slammed into Cynthia's core and smashed it down.

    A heavy shot cracked against the black AC and forced it down. A second caused the head to explode; then a spattering of machine-gun fire and missiles tore into it. Claire turned, and saw Ezekiel's Silent Reaper not twenty meters away. The two nearly point-blank sniper rounds had punched clear through the black AC.

    "Go back and help Vega," Sidun said. "Speartip and I'll get this."

    Claire struggled with the controls as her systems rebooted, then she whirled back up. She spun around and fired her rail-gun back at the quad, sending her last two rounds ripping into the dark red quad's core. It stalled and sputtered, seconds away from firing a pair of grenades into Beatrice. The stalled moment was enough; Beatrice struck, slamming her dual pile-drivers into the brute's torso and firing her own grenade into the now-cracked and exposed core. The shot struck gold, and the massive AC erupted.

    "Nice shooting," Claire said, wiping sweat from her brow. She checked her systems, her buckshot, missiles and rail-gun were out of ammunition, and her two rapid-fire weapons only had a few rounds left. "Conserve ammo. These Normals are still dangerous if we're out."

    "Don't have to worry much about those Normies," Ezekiel said. He raked his laser blade against the black AC, severing its arms at the wrist. It pushed back, trying to retreat, but Cynthia lurched forward, one-armed, and sliced her blade through the cockpit of the black AC. "Damn. Hell of a way to go," Sidun said as he watched the giant AC slow and collapse.

    "Better him than us," Cynthia said grimly; she obviously took no real pleasure in the act. But her survival depended on it

    "What do you mean, we don't have to worry about the Normals?" Claire asked. Watching as Davis and Benjamin cut down the remaining ACs. The seven Irregulars gathered together and Claire could sense the others' exhaustion.

    "Someone in a speedy white Core came by and helped me out," Ezekiel said. "Looked enough like whatever a 'White Glint' is to me, so I didn't argue. Said he didn't know who else was on the team, but the Tungsten didn't say anything about Normies so he figured I was with them. Wasn't about to leap into the snake-nest down here so he said he'd take care of them and let me come by here."

    Good thing, Claire thought. She looked around for this mystery man, realizing for the first time how much damage they'd done to the area. She prayed there were no civilians nearby. A shape moved off to her right, and she turned to see the White Glint step forward from the smoke. She glanced it over; she'd never seen an Armored Core like it before. She recognized the rifle, a Bernard and Felix Foundation masterpiece 051ANNR, though she drew a blank on the rest.

    The guy barely had a scratch on him.

    "Who the hell is this guy?" Claire wondered aloud over the comm channel. "Keep on your toes. I don't trust anyone who just shows up out of nowhere. The last guys who did that tried to kill us."

    "He's hailing us," said Cynthia. "Open channel."

    Claire keyed a few commands and granted the White Glint access to their private channel. "This is Scarlet with the Valkyria Redta-"

    "I've got a message from the Tungsten," the pilot said. Claire tried to piece together a picture of him from his voice. Obviously on the young end, probably around her age. Confident, but not smirking. "They're sending the specialists over to survey the area and check for your mission objective. You're being called back."

    Then his end went dead. He turned his machine, lifted into the air, and shot back towards the Tungsten's location. Claire looked over to the rest of the team and motioned for them to follow, with a surprisingly human gesture from the Valkyria.

    The trip was quick, only a few minutes. Without having to worry about enemy detection they could simply fly through and over the city at top speed. They reached the Tungsten, and Claire was shocked at the damage. Massive gouges and melted holes littered the deck and hull: high-intensity laser weaponry. It was definitely those two quick little Cores they'd seen leave the zone first.

    The group touched down on the scarred deck as gently as possible and disengaged. Claire let out a calming breath and re-tied her hair as the core opened and let the sea air in. She lowered herself via the steel cable and watched as the others disembarked. The three operators came rushing out to meet them.

    "Everyone okay?" she asked. She should have checked before.

    "We're okay," said Theo.

    "Still got all my pieces," Ezekiel said with a smirk, turning to the Silent Reaper. "Though I can't exactly say the same for my core."

    "All good here," Cynthia said. She lit a cigarette and tossed the pack over to Ezekiel. "Nice shooting Mr. Arkwright. You too, Miss Yamagishi." She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I'm not usually such a slouch out there. Sorry."

    "We made it through. That's all that matters now," Claire said, eyeing the pack as Ezekiel offered it around. Quitting, quitting, quitting, quitting, quitting, quitting, she reminded herself, and declined.

    An engine hum filled the air; Claire turned and watched as a small Collared standard transport harrier landed on the deck and powered down. A blonde woman emerged from the cockpit, dressed in white dress-pants with a plain red dress shirt. She crossed the deck and stood by the White Glint, nodding at Claire and the others. Ezekiel whistled low, and even Cynthia raised an eyebrow. The woman looked up at the white machine impassively.

    "Well are you going to sit there all day?" she asked it.

    ==

    Lance let out a calming breath and closed his eyes, trying to will away the soft flutter of black wings and the sharpness of his vision. This earned him a chuckle from his Dark Passenger, and it graciously complied. He felt the emptiness of the world return. He cut the White Glint's power and slid the core door open, then slid down. He caught a bottle of water from Serra.

    "Have any trouble?" she asked, glancing quickly from the group of pilots back to the White Glint. It didn't go unnoticed by Lance. "Didn't take too much damage, I hope."

    "Hardly," Lance answered. "Most expense will come from ammo. Two Irregulars and a contingent of Normals are hardly worth my time." He chose, for the moment, to ignore Serra's curiosity with the others. At least until he could determine for himself who among them was interesting her.

    "You got to do your good deed for the month," Serra deadpanned. "It's what anyone with a soul would do."

    "People are idiots," Lance muttered, mostly to himself. Serra just shrugged, glancing quickly back to the others. Lance sighed. "Fine, let's go get paid."

    "Someone with a soul wouldn't ask for that," Serra said. This time Lance shrugged. "Baby steps, I guess."

    Lance ignored her, wondering instead what drew her to this group. He was always intrigued by other Irregulars to an extent. They were like him: killers and murderers, piloting faceless weapons of death. How was it that they managed to stuff down and ignore their dark passengers, their monsters, and fall back into normal human routines? Did they even have monsters of their own?

    Either way, it was time to get to work: time to put on the mask again. He threw on his most charmingly disarming smile as they neared.

    "Looks like you all made it through in one piece," Lance said. "I'd feel really awkward asking for money if one of you died."

    Episode 2, End
    Stage 1, Episode 3: "One Foot on the Gas, One Foot in the Grave"

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  8. #33
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    Benjamin Eisler, "Thanatos"
    USS Tungsten - Deck


    Benjamin touched down on the deck with the rest of the assorted Irregulars, his mouth agape at the damage the carrier had sustained while still, somehow, managing to float. It seemed like the help they'd received had come just in time to avoid catastrophe, and the young pilot didn't bother to try and silence the profound sigh of relief that escaped his lungs at the realization. Really, the few minutes they'd spent flying from their previous area of interest to the ship had been the absolute longest in his entire life, with horrid images of floating corpses, red water and an empty sea flashing into mind and hindering his concentration every few seconds, to the point he feared he might accidentally crash against one of his team mates mid-flight if he wasn't careful. But now, with the Tungsten in one piece and the battle having come to a long overdue end with no casualties on their side (he liked to tell himself that despite the Tungsten's horrid condition, all personnel had managed to avoid the blasts, as unlikely as that sounded from a logical point of view), his heartbeat could finally calm.

    Still, although Benjamin was glad that they were offered respite from all conflict, no matter how momentary, he couldn't be completely at ease. Truth be told, part of him had dreaded this moment ever since the enemy's numbers had started to go down some dozens of minutes ago. The team landing meant that he would have to once again emerge from within the warm, comforting confines of his Core and step into the cold outside world he was still but a stranger to. He could not let his actions speak for himself, nor could he lull himself into peace with movement and adrenaline. He would need to face humans as a human, not a faceless pilot hiding inside a machine. That was the most difficult part of the day, especially now that his operator wasn't by his side to offer her input and advice. She couldn't do the talking for him this time; he'd have to do it himself or remain silent.

    Benjamin figured he'd opt to go for the second option after all, be it however cowardly of him. Luckily, from what little he'd observed before they'd set out, the group didn't seem all too talkative or noisy in general. It shouldn't be all that difficult for him to just stay in the back and nod when needed to, at least until he could locate his guardian.

    So, the teen disengaged only a little later than the others, and walked up just in time to see one of the older pilots pass around cigarettes. Benjamin's gaze met with the man's for just a split second and so, feeling like it would be almost rude to do otherwise, the boy reached for the pack against any better judgement and pulled out a roll. Needless to say, he hadn't smoked before, but it couldn't be that bad, now could it? And if it truly helped calm one's nerves as they said, he didn't want to pass up the opportunity. He still hadn't completely recovered, and the more time passed and the more clearly he could think back on what they had just been through, the more frustrated the teen grew. He hadn't exactly been on his best performance out there. He had panicked, fumbled and even almost gotten gunned down due to lack of awareness of his surroundings, all things highly unacceptable for a pilot of his caliber. Were his father here, he would be bleeding by now, and justly so.

    Benjamin sighed, sticking the tobacco in his mouth as he followed a little behind the others in their walk towards their helper. The boy couldn't claim he was paying much attention to whatever conversation people started, however; he was far too busy looking around and praying he could catch a familiar glimpse of blue somewhere on the deck. He wanted to be certain that Celeste was alive before he could completely relax. That, and it would be nice if the other operators were still alive and kicking as well. He did not handle loss all that well.

    With that in mind, he leaned in when offered fire, and as his cigarette lit and he drew in his first breath of the stuff, Benjamin believed he understood why smoking must've helped people forget their stress so well; it made him cough and hack so much that there simply wasn't room for any other thoughts in his head except that he needed oxygen and fast.

    Crazy adults and their poisonous sticks.
    TumblrdeviantArt


    "I am not a bad man
    Even though I do bad things
    Very bad things
    Such horrible things"


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