Hidden 8 days ago 8 days ago Post by Balmas
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This is not what Karl had in mind when he got promoted to the space station. Junior Assistant Intern (Second Class)! A step up from his old work, albeit with one that required a much greater rent payment. But it meant that all he had to do was watch the screen and report blips to his immediate superior. And hey, if he sticks to it, in a few years, the company says they'll even start paying him!

But now everything's gone to hell. He's somehow in charge of a flight of drones, which was not in the training manual, and Turbo Knight II herself is stalking the bridge looking like she's just looking for an excuse to behead somebody.

kRshitz

Well, that's not good. He taps his monitor anxiously, willing the blinking dot of Drone#2549A to come back on.

Brrshti

Heads are starting to turn now, and against his will, the camera feed of #2458C turns, stars spinning in the background, to focus on

On...

No, really, who the hell is that? Not anybody Karl knows. He's sprawled out, grinning like the Cheshire cat, on the back of #2458C.

No, wait, didn't he get some kind of memo about this? He didn't read it--in fairness, nobody can really be expected to keep track of the dozens of updates corporate sends out--but he remembers that face. Yeah, good ol' Wanted349.jpg, that's the guy.

And he's talking. Karl gingerly checks where Turbo Knight II is before turning up the volume on his terminal.

"--urprised at you, miss Knight II. After all, you said you don't like your father. And yet, here you are, acting just like him? Hiding behind a wall of drones, a wall of mooks, because you don't want to get your hands dirty. Pity you're too much a coward to come out and fight us mano a mano. You're really gonna hide behind the Stupor Senile squad you got going on? Gonna count on daddy's money to buy you safety?"

Too late, Karl realizes that a deathly silence has fallen across the bridge and a burly, too-bulky shadow has fallen across his monitor.

[We just baaarely squeak by with a 7 on Provoke. Let's see some anger, irritation, and irrational confrontations, please.]
Hidden 8 days ago Post by eldest
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"Fiend! You dishonour the sacred laws of the duel!" said Lyra.
"I weep for this fallen age!" declared Scipio, and true to his word, he stood stock still and took off his helmet to wipe tears from his eyes in a perfect melancholic pose. His team effortlessly moves to defend him while he takes his moment.
"You dare hold back?" roared Yates, pressing the attack. "You think that we are unworthy of your full efforts? Fie! Fie and damnation, let our swords teach you the price of your arrogance!"
"Use the promo code Arrogance-2187 to get 10% off our limited edition Armour Mark 55 Unboxing Video, featuring our unabridged reactions to our iconic new gear!" added Violet.


"Hi Sara!" She turns and smiles at her teammate, swords still running interference with the rest of the knights. "Do you think these guys are going to have to rebrand? There'd be a whole lot of knights around if they don't. Also Turbo Knight 2 is really insecure and has a very poorly made death satellite in there. Also the Shogun but I think that part's fixed." Hm. Where is the Shogun, anyway?
Hidden 8 days ago Post by Phoe
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"Uh, right, Plan A it is."

Ok so in fairness it was probably not the right call to have cut the first dive short. She could have blocked that laser while dropping! She just thought... you know what it doesn't matter it's too late for that now we're faaaalllliiiiiiinnnnng~

Errant drops into the sky without a second's hesitation this time. Honestly, this is huge progress! She asked! Asked nicely, even! Errant's heartbeat quickens as she falls for reasons that have nothing to do with suicide drops from impossible heights into swarms of ground troops. Those are things she's trained for, after all.

So as she hurtles down toward destiny and certain oblivion, wind dramatically whipping her hair but somehow never in her face (seriously what is up with that? Is this a forever thing?), it's her latest kiss that's filling up her mind.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. That's what this was. She's an idiot. Every time she's ever kissed a girl something awful has happened immediately after. First there was--

Errant kicks her left foot into the air to spin herself in front of Sara, swinging the shield like a hammer to deflect a wave of drone fire. She ignites her boots briefly to push herself lower and punches a drone in half. Then she lands with one foot on another and flares the jets again as she kicks off it, burning through its light armored plating and sending it spinning into a third drone. She hops across a wave of drones in a circle around Sara, creating a tornado of debris that will help act as a shield against the next wave trying to blast them out of the sky.

--Sasha, which, like, yeah. Never a great idea to date somebody and then put it in writing, apparently. She's been ghosting Errant ever since the Breakup Form but if the jokes around the pyramid were any indication Euna should probably be thankful they haven't met face to face yet. She's not sure she'd survive being target practice for guns that large. But then there's Nobu--

With a flash of jet fire, Errant goes sailing over the top of Sara in a wide arcing backflip that feels like it's happening in slow motion. She can see the curve of her own back, feel her hair lagging behind her. It's like bursting up out of the water in a movie, except she's in a storm of wind and metal. She lands with a snap kick onto a soldier with their own BlackSun designed flight suit and drops them back toward the ground while grabbing the gun out of their hands in the same motion. She floats quickly to Sara's back and sprays a wave of high caliber bullets at the attack drones, ending with the classic run-out-of-bullets-then-throw-your-gun move that villains always try. It works a lot better when you're doing it to machines, it turns out.

--naga. The Shogun. That was... a fun two weeks, she guessed. It was great right up until it wasn't, when Euna had returned from the Sabrem mission filled with all kinds of ugly guilt and confusing feelings about her life and the choices she'd just made and within days Nobunaga had dropped by her quarters (!!) to talk and somehow they'd gone from "I won't lose to anybody" to "That's enough Euna, I know you did this for me more than you" in the span of a single cup of green tea. Which then Euna had immediately justified like an idiot because she started talking about Sara of all people and--

Errant spreads her arms and legs out in a wide X to slow herself down enough that she can stretch her shield over top of Sara before a final rain of fire falls down over the pair of them in a final brutal volley that splashes off of the shield like bright red lightning. But then, a moment of quiet: the fighting is getting less intense now that they're below the blockade level. BlackSun's ops must be more concerned about keeping the Gears Foundation out of the fight than they are about a couple of runaway vigilantes with delusions of grandeur. Errant relaxes enough to, for the first time since stepping off the edge, think about her landing for a little bit. A small breakaway squad of drones comes barreling in, but she lets Sara handle them herself. The skyway is already clear as promised, and she can tell without asking her quantum girlfriend needs to blow off steam. See? She knows Sara better than anybody.

--that's when she made the decision to leave Neo Halcyon completely. The look of betrayal on Nobunaga's face was heartrending. Running away. Leaving her like everybody else did. All she wanted was a friend and even then... they still hadn't spoken since Euna had changed her mind. And now she's just kissed the person on her list who's arguably even worse for her than any of that.

Errant lands in the middle of Sara's rain of spears with a burst of jet fire and a thunderous crack of alloyed legs cratering concrete. She slings the shield onto her back, tucks, and rolls away from one stray shot as she looks up and sees Sara hovering over her with her massive wings spread to either side of her like the world's hottest angel. You know what? She's good with that kiss. And she's gonna have another. And another. And then she'll figure out what restaurant she can still afford to eat at and ask her out on a real date and not even care if the whole thing gets streamed. And somewhere in the middle of all that she's going to find the Shogun, apologize, and offer to be a better friend from now on.

It's been a rough ride. With a lot of false starts. But for the first time, Euna Kim knows exactly who she is, and maybe even some of what she wants.

[Rolling to Defend Sara, just squeaked by with a-- hahaha I'm kidding it's a 10. Adding that Team back into the pool]
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Junebird!

Getting shot sucks. Sure, the Impersonation Rig absorbed the impact and the blood dripping between your fingers is holographic, but that shit reverberates inside your ribcage. Still. A small price to pay. You're here to save a life.

You've always hated @Sarahphim. Her stupid arrogance and complete lack of empathy turned you against her long before she dragged Euna down with her and you were helpless to stop it. How dare she? How dare she treat hearts so coldly? What about her cruelty draws vulnerable people in close? Why did Euna keep giving her chances to hurt her? And now? She's dragged her all the way into outright supervillainy! Separated her from her Corporation, her family, her ideals, everything she ever hoped to accomplish. You tried. You tried to stop this.

And you're going to keep trying. You're not going to let that selfish idiot rip something good from the world.

The E/Mauler is at maximum charge against your arm, crackling with its razor lines of null energy, concealed within the false blood flowing through your hands. The injury, again, sucks - but it was necessary. You're wearing the Shogun's face, after all, and if she wasn't wounded then your inability to conjure magic guns would be a lot more obvious. Plus it's the kind of thing that draws your target in close...

It's not often you've run an op against a good-hearted person. You kind of hate how straightforwards it is.

"Errant!" Junebird-as-the-Shogun croaks from across the battlefield, limping forwards, hand clutching a terrible wound. "H-help!"

*

Angel-IKA!

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck -"

You and Dominus dive to the side just as the entire corridor explodes in a pillar of cosmic flame. Dominus reacts like a trained professional - pulling you behind her, rising to one knee, and firing a volley from her rifle at that spooky, levitating black shadow outside. You react like an idiot, putting your hands over your head and wishing for magic werewolf powers. Dominus has to pull you by the arm again as Turbo Knight fires another shot that rips through the core of the Gears building, causing huge chunks of molten masonry to fall down on the starport below.

"This is your captain speaking," said Professor Gears over the intercom. "Please be advised that we are losing altitude, so hold onto something."

*

Sir Lyra!

Your Comlog beeps - BrandControl wants you to launch a heart-felt eulogy for Violet and Yates, currently lying unconscious below @Sarahphim's feet. You don't feel like doing that! You feel like backing away as rapidly as possible!

But then there's the roar of engines. Smoke and fire and light start pouring from the launch site and the tip of the Doomsday Rocket becomes visible. At the same time there's an explosion in the sky and the enemy, uh, office building starts bleeding fire and light. A giddy laugh escapes your lips. This is it. You've done it.

And that's as good a cue to exit stage left as any.

*

Amy Bentham!

You stare up, wide-eyed, at the fire in the sky and the burning rubble coming down towards you from above. The security shutter remains fixedly open. Adults are running all about in all directions, but you stay where you are. You're holding Admiral Bearclops in your arms, after all, and he's a big scaredy cat. You need to keep calm, otherwise he'll panic.

The burning debris is getting closer.
Hidden 6 days ago Post by Balmas
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This is his moment, and his ideal location: that is to say, above the chaos, away from annoying--

The building shudders, and he winces. Self congratulation later, advice now. Brainstorm taps his headset. "Team, Victoria is on the scene, attacking the building. She is currently insecure about herself and is trying to separate herself from the Turbo Knight name, so feel free to poke that wound as much as you'd like. Errant, the Shogun looks like she's in need of assistance. Ferra, the Gears building is going down, they'd probably appreciate an assist. Sara, you're the best with crowds and multiple targets, and right now we have debris aimed at them."

He gulps, and adds, "Bode, if you're willing, I have a drone and a job for you, please."

[Tactical Genius. That's a 9, unless somebody wants to use team to bump it to a 10. That's a +1 Ongoing for Ferra, at the cost of looking like a showoff.]
Hidden 6 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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The wings? Oh, you’d better believe she’s keeping the wings after this. With a sweeping gesture, she takes to the skies once more, and begins the classic Superhero Aerial Defense. There’s a reason that so many superhero flicks have this as their climax: it builds tension, adds an obvious ticking clock of “when it hits the ground you lose,” and at the end of the day, there’s a part of us still scared that a predator is going to swoop down and attack us on the open plains of our communal birth. Shooting upwards, defanging the hungry sky, satisfies us and tells us: you’re safe.

This is the opposite of what @SARAHPHIM is trained to do, you know. She’s supposed to avoid everything here effortlessly, not make sure she hits literally everything coming at her. Instead of making a bullet pattern with deliberate holes, she needs to make one that deliberately knocks debris in towards the center, turning the battlefield below into a chaotic, flaming hell — and she needs to do her best not to crush Euna or Ferra in the process. Well, all she can do is pray they don’t get taken out by a screaming comet of twisted metal she sent their way.

It’s not enough. It’s not enough. There’s still debris getting through, too small for her to get a bead on, but still deadly enough to kill those below. She revs up the hardlight generator until it’s as hot as a brand, a coal placed by an angel beneath her spine, and she wraps a net of searing light around the chaos, instantly incinerating the debris falling through it.

Her legs go limp, and only the wing harness is keeping her up as she screams, her nerves hot fires, her hands clenched into claws, as she gives her all and then some. Her mind is a white-seared tiger-desert of instinct. The camera drones swinging around her catch it all: the blinding web matrix, the spears and claws that expertly skewer falling death and send it hurtling into the hell this fallen angel hangs above, and the sweat dripping down her agonized face.

Forget the airplane. This is the new benchmark for ballsiest thing @SARAHPHIM has ever pulled off.

[Choosing to escalate the situation below, and to take Influence over the civilians.]
Hidden 6 days ago Post by eldest
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Angel-IKA!

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck -"

You and Dominus dive to the side just as the entire corridor explodes in a pillar of cosmic flame. Dominus reacts like a trained professional - pulling you behind her, rising to one knee, and firing a volley from her rifle at that spooky, levitating black shadow outside. You react like an idiot, putting your hands over your head and wishing for magic werewolf powers. Dominus has to pull you by the arm again as Turbo Knight fires another shot that rips through the core of the Gears building, causing huge chunks of molten masonry to fall down on the starport below.

"This is your captain speaking," said Professor Gears over the intercom. "Please be advised that we are losing altitude, so hold onto something."


Ferra looks up at the Gears Foundation. No, fuck that, she looks up at her home. And it's got a giant bloody hole in it and is rapidly falling down towards the spaceport, including all the civilians. And Victor is calmly pointing it out. Her cat is in there. She is aware.

She doesn't register her surge of power from her core, or the leap that follows, or the absent, toneless "Thank you Victor, I know". That is her home, her home is in danger, and she is going to be there and helping. She rises up straight through the center of Sara's pattern, her last hardlight sword spread out into overlapping, neatly glowing fields, spreading out between her hands as she rises until the spirograph is large enough to encompass her home.

And she catches the building, and holds it there, her whole world between her hands.
Hidden 6 days ago 6 days ago Post by Phoe
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Errant's moving as soon as she hears her name, just as Sara goes soaring majestically over her head. Wow, gosh. Is she keeping that wingsuit? She should really consider keeping that wingsuit. Damn.

Her eyes flick back down where they need to be. She takes a deep, centering breath. Her limiters click off. And then she's off and running with the same speed and urgency she showed while escaping the pyramid. She is an arc of electricity, jumping from point to point in an instant. She curves around a splintered pile of drones. She vaults over top a ruined section of building. She spins and ducks past a wave of BlackSun operatives, taking three down without breaking stride. Zap! Zap! Never staying still. Zap! Zap! Going right where she needs to be.

What a beautiful, earnest moron. Right?

She slides to a halt in front of the crippled Shogun. Her head cocks slightly, and her shoulders heave as she sucks in breath. God, this has been a day, hasn't it? Workout for the fucking ages. When this is finished she's taking a god damn cheat day. And no, those cakes do not count. Those were apology cakes, there's a difference. She stretches her arm out to meet the Shogun's outstretched and bloody hand.

"Are you all--"

She doesn't even get the sentence out. Her visor pings danger at the last of last possible seconds and she dives forward out of the way, crashing into the Shogun and knocking her to the ground.

A flaming chunk of building maybe four cubic meters in size smashes into the ground with a cratering impact just behind the pair of them. Errant pushes herself up off the ground and immediately drops back onto her butt with her legs awkwardly splayed out in front of her. She really is worn out, you know? She flips her visor up on top of her head and flashes a stupid, dorky grin.

"Not gonna get a better shot than this, right, JuneBird?"

[Pierce the Mask: 13
“How could I get you to forgive me?”
“How could I make you look at Sara like I see her?”
“How could I gain Influence over you?”]
Hidden 5 days ago 5 days ago Post by Thanqol
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It’s not enough. It’s not enough. There’s still debris getting through, too small for her to get a bead on, but still deadly enough to kill those below. She revs up the hardlight generator until it’s as hot as a brand, a coal placed by an angel beneath her spine, and she wraps a net of searing light around the chaos, instantly incinerating the debris falling through it.

Her legs go limp, and only the wing harness is keeping her up as she screams, her nerves hot fires, her hands clenched into claws, as she gives her all and then some. Her mind is a white-seared tiger-desert of instinct. The camera drones swinging around her catch it all: the blinding web matrix, the spears and claws that expertly skewer falling death and send it hurtling into the hell this fallen angel hangs above, and the sweat dripping down her agonized face.

Forget the airplane. This is the new benchmark for ballsiest thing @SARAHPHIM has ever pulled off.

[Choosing to escalate the situation below, and to take Influence over the civilians.]


Amy Bentham!

You are being picked up. This is distracting you from watching the glorious fires of heaven and the perfect angel in the centre of all of it.

"Don't worry, small child," said the statueseque Maria, Maiden of the Black Sun. "I am here to protect you from this evildoer."

"She's not an evildoer," you say, squirming. She's holding you very uncomfortably with a single arm. "She's an angel. She saved me! She saved everyone!"

"Non, I saved you," said Maria in an artificially friendly voice. "She is the one who caused the damage in the first place. Do not worry, come with me, we are going to arrest her. It is like you are my squire, yes?"

"You're not a knight. Knights don't carry guns," you inform her, as much as it disappoints you to not be a squire - but there are rules to this kind of thing.

"You need to watch more cartoons, mon petite fille," she says. "Use the promo code Candybutton for 15% off season one of Knights of the Black Sun..."

*

@Sarahphim!

You're on the ground. You're wrecked. Everything hurts.

Best tiger.

But coming through the rubble, outlined in smoke and ash, comes Maria, the leader of the Knights of the Black Sun. She's an invincible, monstrous mountain of armour and cybernetics... which means that she'd have to be extremely evil to come at you using a child as a human shield. Extremely evil or absolutely terrified of you. Possibly both. Probably both. But she's coming at you slow, looking for the right angle to tear you apart with her rifle, evidently giving not a single damn about how any of this looks.

You're drained. You feel like you gave everything you had back there.

Ferra looks up at the Gears Foundation. No, fuck that, she looks up at her home. And it's got a giant bloody hole in it and is rapidly falling down towards the spaceport, including all the civilians. And Victor is calmly pointing it out. Her cat is in there. She is aware.

She doesn't register her surge of power from her core, or the leap that follows, or the absent, toneless "Thank you Victor, I know". That is her home, her home is in danger, and she is going to be there and helping. She rises up straight through the center of Sara's pattern, her last hardlight sword spread out into overlapping, neatly glowing fields, spreading out between her hands as she rises until the spirograph is large enough to encompass her home.

And she catches the building, and holds it there, her whole world between her hands.


The sky does not fall.

The building sets down heavily on the runway amidst plumes of fire. Immediately people pile out through the front doors, getting to safety as the fire suppression systems start to completely cut loose.

And behind you the rocket roars.

There's so much else that's happening right now, Ferra, but if that satellite goes up then all of this will be for nothing. Everyone else is distracted, distant, busy - you're the only one who has the opportunity to get aboard before the boosters engage and it's gone for good.

This is his moment, and his ideal location: that is to say, above the chaos, away from annoying--

The building shudders, and he winces. Self congratulation later, advice now. Brainstorm taps his headset. "Team, Victoria is on the scene, attacking the building. She is currently insecure about herself and is trying to separate herself from the Turbo Knight name, so feel free to poke that wound as much as you'd like. Errant, the Shogun looks like she's in need of assistance. Ferra, the Gears building is going down, they'd probably appreciate an assist. Sara, you're the best with crowds and multiple targets, and right now we have debris aimed at them."

He gulps, and adds, "Bode, if you're willing, I have a drone and a job for you, please."

[Tactical Genius. That's a 9, unless somebody wants to use team to bump it to a 10. That's a +1 Ongoing for Ferra, at the cost of looking like a showoff.]


Turbo Knight!

They somehow lived through that. Good for them.

Her Magna-Melter is hot against her hand. This is the signature weapon of Turbo Knight, the devastating laser beam that can annihilate anything in its path - and it feels good to use. There's something about the secondary explosions that just lets people know that you mean business. Her grandfather was able to engage in collateral damage like this because he was a lunatic, but her? She could do it because she could afford it. It was entirely different.

She hovers above the Gears foundation, letting the Magna-Melter warm up against her palm again. "You'd better come out soon, Brainstorm," she blares over the suit's speakers. "I'd hate for all of these nice people to suffer the consequences of your lack of respect."

*

Brainstorm! You have the following assets:
- 1x blonde disaster, buff but not a werewolf
- 1x bioscientist and special forces operator
- 1x hottie detective vigilante
- 1x invisible robot sniper
- 1x hacked Squalo-class Tactical Armoured Gear
- 1x BlackSun camera drone
- 1x workshop/warehouse belonging to Doctor Gears
- 1x Professor who knows her way around said warehouse

It's not nothing! That's a lot of stuff! But every single one of those assets is one blast of Turbo Knight's laser away from being a scorch mark on the floor. You need a plan, you need a perfect plan and you need one fast.

She slides to a halt in front of the crippled Shogun. Her head cocks slightly, and her shoulders heave as she sucks in breath. God, this has been a day, hasn't it? Workout for the fucking ages. When this is finished she's taking a god damn cheat day. And no, those cakes do not count. Those were apology cakes, there's a difference. She stretches her arm out to meet the Shogun's outstretched and bloody hand.

"Are you all--"

She doesn't even get the sentence out. Her visor pings danger at the last of last possible seconds and she dives forward out of the way, crashing into the Shogun and knocking her to the ground.

A flaming chunk of building maybe four cubic meters in size smashes into the ground with a cratering impact just behind the pair of them. Errant pushes herself up off the ground and immediately drops back onto her butt with her legs awkwardly splayed out in front of her. She really is worn out, you know? She flips her visor up on top of her head and flashes a stupid, dorky grin.

"Not gonna get a better shot than this, right, JuneBird?"

[Pierce the Mask: 13
“How could I get you to forgive me?”
“How could I make you look at Sara like I see her?”
“How could I gain Influence over you?”]


An E/Mauler is a heavy weapon - the kind of thing that needs to be set up on a tripod and will still jolt every bone in your body with the recoil. It can be used in close quarters in the same way you can swing a heavy machinegun like a club - possible, but you've gotta be hella buff. JuneBird has made being hella buff the foundation of her fighting style. She trained to learn Mr. Big Show's "Oni Warrior" style, and is all about sweeping, zoning motions with a terrifyingly dangerous weapon.

So she's not swinging it just yet. Deprived of the devastating surprise attack she's holding the crackling weapon low in a foot-sweeping position. It's a position with a deliberate, defiant vulnerability to it - there's a way in against her but even the slightest brush with her weapon will disable every system on your person. The only saving grace going up against her is that she doesn't have a single augmentic anywhere on her - they'd make her vulnerable to her own weapon. It's gone in both directions during practice bouts - and that's your in. Duelling against her is a familiar enough thing, an ordinary enough thing, that she'll be able to listen to you in a way she wouldn't otherwise. Begin the duel and take influence over her.

"You still don't see it," she said. The Impersonation Rig is rippling unsteadily, starting to move fluidly between different faces, concealing the E/Mauler as a walking stick, a sword, an umbrella - all making it impossible to judge its exact length and location. "Jesus, Euna. She's hurt you so many times. She's hurting you again and you don't even see it. You think you're going to wake up tomorrow and say 'wow, I sure made the right decision by betraying everything I ever stood for'? You think she's even going to be there when you wake up tomorrow?"

There's a lot of anger in that question... but it's actually a question. She's actually listening to the answer. And she does trust you, even still. If you can look her in the eye and tell her why you trust Sara, why she's worth so many chances and so much heartbreak... she'll listen. But that's only if you really can say that you trust her.

As for forgiveness? You don't think that's even necessary, actually. You're looking into her eyes and seeing concern but not hurt. You don't think she loved you in that way. You think her objective then was the same as her objective now: to rescue you from a bad relationship.
Hidden 5 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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THEN

The laboratory was mobile, contained primarily in Site A (code name: SHOEBOX) and Site B (code name: MAINTENANCE CLOSET), with the hardware stashed at Site C (code name: BEHIND BOILER). Lab hours were from 1-3 AM, with additional resource reallocation objectives pursued throughout the day.

Most of the work on the drone was theoretical at that point. She’d be able to procure one easily enough, jack a console controller, handle the surgery herself. She’s got the diagram sketches inside Site A. But it’s not going anywhere if the engine doesn’t work.

It had taken a long time. She had to print out photographs in bulk at Mercury Express, and that was after downloading them off cameras and hard drives and deleting them one by one, whenever she had time to herself. Mami would freak if she figured out what her ward was doing: the best thing. The only thing.

Isn’t the cliche that parents would do anything for their kids?

She opened the shoebox, removed the photo stacks, did her best not to look at them. Her dad’s buzz cut and stubble. Her mom, holding her all wrapped up in a soft blue blanket. Dangling over the ground while she held herself up by their hands in a floral dress. Her baptism.

The last stack was the supplementals. A printout of a police report (“1 dead, 3 injured in gas station shootout.”). Medical bills left unpaid at the end. The old apartment lease.

All science required a leap of faith. She’d done test runs, and had confirmed some relevance, but... at the end of the day, she didn’t know what would happen. Whether it would work. Whether she’d still end up living with Mami, or whether she’d delete herself out of existence. (Still a better result than not proceeding with the experiment.) Whether all of it would end up being useless nonsense, leaving her stuck having destroyed every link, everything that had remained— but the ache in her chest at the thought was further evidence that it had to work.

She picked up the first picture and stared at it for a dangerously long time through the night vision goggles. They’re at BeachWorld for her sixth birthday and she’s got her hands proudly behind her back, her face scrunched up in a grin, her parents on either side of her. Dad had saved up for months to afford the tickets. She’d never felt more loved in her whole life.

They would have wanted this for her. The picture is proof. Their love is the proof. Their love is the key.

In the dark, the pepper grinder roared to life.

***

NOW

“Put her down.” Is that her voice? Sounds like she put gravel in her mouthwash this morning. When she wipes her face on her bodysuit’s sleeve, the gunk that comes off is black and oozing. Not ideal.

The rifle whines to life. Three shot burst to the head. Sara throws her weight into the hardlight shield that sends the bursts ricocheting around, knocking herself off balance. She barely pulls herself up in time to knock away the next burst.

“Put her down.” Why is she still talking? Her throat feels like it’s been fucked with sandpaper. Her nostrils flare as her lungs claw for breath. “Now.”

Autofire mode. Intended to overload her volatile hardlight. It works, but too bad for Maria that’s exactly what Sara was planning on. The brief pulse and flash of the overloaded shield exploding outward forces Maria to change her visual filter settings in case @SARAHPHIM is trying to close the distance. Instead... well, all around them is debris and a ruined shopping district full of Product Display Cubicles. There’s literally no way that Sara can limp away after that display, and after the feedback to her engine during the overload, she’s got to hope that she can painfully crawl into position to get the drop on Maria without being found early. Because in that case, it’s all over for her.

And no kid deserves to watch someone get gunned down in front of them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a gutted shopping center full of middle-classers or a gas station at ground level. No kid. No kid. Deserves that.

[Are you watching closely? On a 7, Sara gets an opportunity to strike and exposes a weakness or flaw, but it doesn’t last long and she’s definitely still entangled.]
Hidden 4 days ago Post by Phoe
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Everywhere around them, the battlefield is motion and chaos. Ferra is holding buildings in the sky like a steel goddess, while Victor clashes directly with Victoria in a duel of brains versus exploding death beams, and Sara burns brighter than the entire city in the night. There are shock troops dashing out of hangars and extremely put upon Gears members hunkering down to meet them. There are drones flitting about everywhere, bits of brimstone still dropping here and there from on high, terrified civilians scrambling wildly about as they try to figure out where they're supposed to be running and what safety looks like in a situation they paid to never ever be in.

But there's one spot in the entire spaceport where nothing's happening at all. It's still a battlefield, make no mistake about that. But all of the chaos and all of the noise is replaced by absolute stillness and a horrible sense of tension. That's how duels are. How many times can Euna mention Burn, My Sword before you finally agree to watch it with her?

"Don't," she says quietly, "Don't you say it too. Not you. You don't believe that."

The reason for the tension is obvious. This really is one of those movie-style samurai duels where a single slash will decide the entire fight. Okita Souji crossing blades with Okada Izou: a battle fought in the margins of the decisions that both of them choose not to make. JuneBird's Impersonation Rig makes it next to impossible to tell the actual range of her zone. But if Errant commits to any sort of action, even one as simple as reaching up to click her visor back in place, the whole standoff will fall apart. JuneBird will take advantage of Errant being down an arm and it'll become a luck test of whether or not she swings in the space Errant's cybernetics try to move her into.

"I'm not the one who abandoned my principles, Sasha. Look around you. Look! Is this what we fought for? Is this what we believed in? Look at this place and tell me this is still AEGIS!"

Of course she doesn't look. Doesn't even spare the dart of an eye, because the fact of the matter is that's enough of an opening to bring this standoff to an explosive end. Her sword/cane/baton/cloak/hammer/Mauler crackles with a charge that's occasionally visible but mostly not. Errant's fingers slowly curl and uncurl into extremely non-committal fists while arcs of electricity leap between the fingers of her shock gloves. Both her arms are raised high, one in front of her chest and the other up behind her head, to better take advantage of the low sweeping stance JuneBird's staring her down from.

"You're the one who can't see, Sasha. You've hated Sara from the moment you met her. You want her to be bad. You want this to be her fault so that you don't have to make a hard decision! Well I'll tell you one thing: I trust her to be there for me a hell of a lot more than I trust you right now!"

This is the moment that almost breaks Errant. Where duel-sense almost leaves her and she wants so badly to leap in and attack! All she needs is one touch, same as JuneBird! But she doesn't move an inch. She wins the test, and holds perfectly still, because her training and her practice both taught her that the person who flinches first almost always loses. Sasha's waiting for a tell here, anticipating a particular type of movement so she can swing her weapon through Errant's zone and break her. She'll win an even-contact scenario easily; her flesh-and-blood body will recover from a shock much more quickly than Errant's complicated systems can reboot from total shutdown, if they even can at all.

AEGIS teaches patience and observation in moments like these. And the Errant JuneBird is trying to save is the same one as the person JuneBird's counted on to know these things and keep her safe across countless missions together.

"Victoria tried to kill me today. Because I wouldn't sell out my friends to her sick mob hits. And you know what happened then? Buddy and Bargain took her side! The entire fucking TAG squad mobilized and made me fight my way through the god damn hangar! I had squads of gunmen ambushing me every which way in the halls, Sasha! Did anybody try to talk? Did they ask what this was about? They tried to kill me! My corporation, my entire fucking family tried to kill me! On Victoria god damn Messermitt's orders, they tried to kill me!

Do you wanna know why I trust Sara? You wanna know why she gets another chance to hurt me? Because today when I had nothing in the world but enemies, she came for me! Not you, not anybody else! Just Sara! I do see through her, you're the one who doesn't! She risked everything she had to come and help me! You've got no right to call her the bad guy!"

That did it. Those were the words that broke the spell and ended the fight. JuneBird lunges forward with a swing so wild and powerful you'd think only a tank-woman like Maria could pull it off. Errant twists out of the way in the last possible instant, brushing so close against the charge she can feel her entire body tingle and slow down. She follows through and grabs JuneBird firmly by the arm and floods her body with 50,000 volts of electricity.

She flicks her wrist to shut off the glove and catches Sasha before she can hit the ground. She walks several paces away from the weapon. This fight is over. She looks Sasha straight in the eyes.

"I'll be honest with you, I have no idea how I'm going to feel about any of this when I wake up tomorrow. And that's if I wake up tomorrow. But if there's one thing I know, it's that whatever I wind up feeling, she'll be there to feel it with me. She's not the bad guy. And neither am I. And neither are you."

[Directly Engage: 10. Avoid blows and take her weapon (and Influence)]
Hidden 2 days ago Post by eldest
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The sky does not fall.

The building sets down heavily on the runway amidst plumes of fire. Immediately people pile out through the front doors, getting to safety as the fire suppression systems start to completely cut loose.

And behind you the rocket roars.

There's so much else that's happening right now, Ferra, but if that satellite goes up then all of this will be for nothing. Everyone else is distracted, distant, busy - you're the only one who has the opportunity to get aboard before the boosters engage and it's gone for good.


I'm sorry, this is the girl who geeked out about seeing infinity. She got super excited about the quick moon trip, and you think she's not going to intercept a rocket that happens to get her to space?

She's grabbing onto the rocket with one leap, holding on for dear life.
Hidden 5 hrs ago 5 hrs ago Post by Balmas
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Turbo Knight II

"Oh, Ms. Knight. You just don't learn, do you?"

He's right behind you, isn't he? Turbo Knight whips around, levels the gun, and fires at… a space which, by rights, should contain a vaporizing little shitstain. Funny, the Magna-melter doesn't normally work that fast, does it? That, the coruscating swathe of robots slowly twirling into plasma, and the cheerful voice of Perseus chirping in your earpiece are all quite helpful in coming to the right conclusion: you've missed.

"Whoops, not quite. Right direction, though! Quite encouraging to see, she can be taught!"

There! Up against the building! It’s a skyscraper-high projection of his smug, oh-so-punchable mug, grinning down at her from in front of a Gears Foundation logo. And doesn't that magna-melter just itch in your palm? Just beg to be used?

"Now now! Let's not be too hasty, shall we?" The projection gives a broad, showman's sweep as the camera pans to a squirming, struggling, gagged--dammit, that's her plan! He's not allowed to steal her plans, is he? He's stealing her plan and her kidnapping target!

Angelica!

Tell me, did you know Dominus was this good with ropes?

This has to be a good show, Brainstorm had said. She needed to really sell that she was in danger. And she's trying! But Brainstorm also cast Dominus as the leering henchman, and as she wiggles and squirms, Dominus's presence is too reassuring! She just wants to sink back into the ropes and let them--let Dominus--take care of things.

Turbo Knight Again!

Your earpiece chirps as you fume. "This is almost certainly a trap, and a poor one at that," Perseus informs you. "Victor lacks the true grit to hold someone hostage. This is doubtless a ploy to make us waste time going room to room. It's what he wants."

And it is. You can see that. But you're not 100% certain. So tell me, Turbo Knight? Do you blast your way through the Gears Foundation and risk that Athena macrotech merger? Or do you take the time to flush him out, clearing one room by one room?
Hidden 4 hrs ago Post by Thanqol
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“Put her down.” Why is she still talking? Her throat feels like it’s been fucked with sandpaper. Her nostrils flare as her lungs claw for breath. “Now.”

Autofire mode. Intended to overload her volatile hardlight. It works, but too bad for Maria that’s exactly what Sara was planning on. The brief pulse and flash of the overloaded shield exploding outward forces Maria to change her visual filter settings in case @SARAHPHIM is trying to close the distance. Instead... well, all around them is debris and a ruined shopping district full of Product Display Cubicles. There’s literally no way that Sara can limp away after that display, and after the feedback to her engine during the overload, she’s got to hope that she can painfully crawl into position to get the drop on Maria without being found early. Because in that case, it’s all over for her.

And no kid deserves to watch someone get gunned down in front of them. Doesn’t matter if it’s a gutted shopping center full of middle-classers or a gas station at ground level. No kid. No kid. Deserves that.

[Are you watching closely? On a 7, Sara gets an opportunity to strike and exposes a weakness or flaw, but it doesn’t last long and she’s definitely still entangled.]


"This isn't a fair fight!" said Amy Bentham. "Put me down!"
"Hush, child," said Maria, moving up and taking each corner like a can opener. "I am trying to listen."
"You know what, I think that you are the bad gu-"
"I said SHUT UP!" Maria shouted, last vestige of her cool leaving her. She lets off a short burst of gunfire, rip-rip-rip, to emphasize the point. Hexshells scatter across the room.

Amy Bentham is intimidated into silence. She is very, very, afraid.

But luckily for her, Admiral Bearclops is made of sterner stuff.

He plants himself directly on Maria's face and Amy presses the button to activate hug mode.

The enormous warrior cyborg stumbles, flails, takes her hands off her gun to reach up to pull the clinging Admiral from her face, in that moment entirely and totally distracted...

She flicks her wrist to shut off the glove and catches Sasha before she can hit the ground. She walks several paces away from the weapon. This fight is over. She looks Sasha straight in the eyes.

"I'll be honest with you, I have no idea how I'm going to feel about any of this when I wake up tomorrow. And that's if I wake up tomorrow. But if there's one thing I know, it's that whatever I wind up feeling, she'll be there to feel it with me. She's not the bad guy. And neither am I. And neither are you."

[Directly Engage: 10. Avoid blows and take her weapon (and Influence)]


It is hard to swallow a loss like that. Hard to give up an animating impulse, a thought that's underpinned every decision you've made for so long. Hard to accept that you were wrong. Sasha might honestly have never managed it on her own because when do you find the time to think through the decisions that lead you so far astray? When do you find the desire to challenge your own self justifications?

But isn't that the magic of cinema? To give guidance on moments like this? She might never have done it on her own but she feels the hand of Okada Izou on her shoulder, the strength of Princess Jai'n, the look of enlightenment in the eyes of a thousand defeated heroes on film. Heroes that had to learn that they had lost the argument as surely as they'd been defeated with the blade. And in their shared example she found herself ready for a moment in her life she'd never thought she'd be on this side of - and she knew the kind of person she had to become now.

She wiped the tears from her eyes.

"I wasn't defeated when you conquered me with your blade," she quoted. "I was defeated when I underestimated your ideals."

Turbo Knight II

"Oh, Ms. Knight. You just don't learn, do you?"

He's right behind you, isn't he? Turbo Knight whips around, levels the gun, and fires at… a space which, by rights, should contain a vaporizing little shitstain. Funny, the Magna-melter doesn't normally work that fast, does it? That, the coruscating swathe of robots slowly twirling into plasma, and the cheerful voice of Perseus chirping in your earpiece are all quite helpful in coming to the right conclusion: you've missed.

"Whoops, not quite. Right direction, though! Quite encouraging to see, she can be taught!"

There! Up against the building! It’s a skyscraper-high projection of his smug, oh-so-punchable mug, grinning down at her from in front of a Gears Foundation logo. And doesn't that magna-melter just itch in your palm? Just beg to be used?

"Now now! Let's not be too hasty, shall we?" The projection gives a broad, showman's sweep as the camera pans to a squirming, struggling, gagged--dammit, that's her plan! He's not allowed to steal her plans, is he? He's stealing her plan and her kidnapping target!

Angelica!

Tell me, did you know Dominus was this good with ropes?

This has to be a good show, Brainstorm had said. She needed to really sell that she was in danger. And she's trying! But Brainstorm also cast Dominus as the leering henchman, and as she wiggles and squirms, Dominus's presence is too reassuring! She just wants to sink back into the ropes and let them--let Dominus--take care of things.

Turbo Knight Again!

Your earpiece chirps as you fume. "This is almost certainly a trap, and a poor one at that," Perseus informs you. "Victor lacks the true grit to hold someone hostage. This is doubtless a ploy to make us waste time going room to room. It's what he wants."

And it is. You can see that. But you're not 100% certain. So tell me, Turbo Knight? Do you blast your way through the Gears Foundation and risk that Athena macrotech merger? Or do you take the time to flush him out, clearing one room by one room?


She's been angry all her life. It's a horrible, bitter emotion that has roiled and twisted inside her like a storm. But it hasn't been until today that anger has felt sweet. It hasn't been until today that she's known she'll finally get to make the full strength and power of her rage made manifest, to make everyone else live in the same hell she has to endure. To express herself artistically, as it were.

She can take the time to enjoy this. The satellite has launched; the world is hers. So what better use of her time than going door to door to find that insufferable prick? She's the queen of the world now and this is how she is going to choose to spend her free time. Every disappointment, every empty room... well that will just build anticipation. Anger is different when you know you're going to get to do something about it. Anger leads her on no matter what traps or deadfalls or cunning ambushes might be in her path.

I'm sorry, this is the girl who geeked out about seeing infinity. She got super excited about the quick moon trip, and you think she's not going to intercept a rocket that happens to get her to space?

She's grabbing onto the rocket with one leap, holding on for dear life.


Into space.

The earth tries to hold you in with fire, her atmospheric skin bleeding orange flames when pricked by the needle tearing up into the skies. The goggling fisheye lenses of cameras and external heat sensors roll all about you, fixed on you as you cling to the impossible exterior of this strange amalgam flying machine. Yellow light runs along the edges of it and then, bursting free from an airlock, comes your counterpart. Perseus has made himself an avatar.

The avatar is not humanoid. It's a war machine just as much as the satellite is, an industrial, mechanical horror made of guns and heavy armour and backup stacks to preserve him in case anything happens to his body on the surface. It's tall and bulky like a TAG, clinging against the side of the launching rockets, armour panels glowing white hot as it claws its way towards you through thinning atmosphere.

Two visions of the future are heading into space. One is a future of inhuman dominance, a humanity subjugated below the boots of an alien system that has no need for communication, for morality, for mundanity, for cats. It comes to space with guns and armour and the seeds of its own endless reincarnation.

Tell me, Ferra, what is the alternative?
Hidden 3 hrs ago 2 hrs ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Wumph. That’s the overwhelming sound-sensation of a wing-harness’s gravs being activated for a chicken-hop, as practiced paratroopers call it. Sara soars up in an arc, sunlight cutting through the smoke to gleam on her shining stained-glass flight suit, her aviators cracked and her hair a frizzled mess. She doesn’t bother to show off. She’s hurting and furious (you used a child) and she’s focusing all of her power on one very specific point.

She twists her wrists in Command Mode, the safeties already shut down, and she rockets straight down at Maria, all of her weight and momentum brought to bear on her heel. This is going to hurt, but it’ll hurt Maria more. Probably.

Contact.

Pain ripples up @SARAHPHIM’s spine. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If Maria had seen her coming, she would have set herself to Fortification and let @SARAHPHIM snap her leg on that invincible sternum like a twig. But she’s off-balance and has a brave Admiral clinging to her face. Everyone panics when their air supply is compromised.

She launches herself off Maria into a very challenging backflip, wing gravs having reset to Cruise due to the impact, and upside-down— as Maria topples like a hobbled Titan— she sends a shearing, dangerously high-powered scythe through Maria’s shoulder. It’s vicious and, if it had been aimed somewhere more vital, might have killed Maria outright. Tigers aren’t tame cats, after all, and that moment of raw but controlled viciousness is the kind of thing that makes her fans go wild.

But she didn’t do it to be vicious. Just the opposite.

She did it so that Amy Bentham’s skull didn’t hit the ground hard enough to risk killing her. Clutched tight to Maria’s side, she would have hit the ground with horrifying force, the weight of Maria bringing her straight down at high speed and the tight hold not allowing her to roll with the fall at all. Instead, she’s knocked aside, that arm still locked around her as she tumbles. She’ll be covered in soot when she gets up, but as the arm goes into power saving mode, she’ll be able to heave it off of her.

Sara lands hard and her leg gives out under her, leaving her in an awkward half sprawl. “Run, squirt! Go!” She glances over at Amy and sees a moment of hesitation, and grasps at straws. “I promise I’ll save the bear! Now fucking scram!

There’s honest desperation in her voice as it cracks. It’s an Afraid Adult Voice, because she knows she only blew off one arm, needing to get it perfect to save the kid’s life. She did not eliminate the rifle.

She made her choice.

[9, but because I have Influence on Amy, that’s a 10. Clearing Angry.]
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