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BRP Ramon Alcaraz - 10/11/2022, 18:40 UTC+8

Being moved as data and reconstructed at the destination was a different experience, as if for what felt like a moment you ceased to exist, and ended up teleported somewhere completely different.

However, at the moment, this did not matter.

Even with minimal information regarding the ongoing battle, Nil still knew the Ramon was just a floating coffing waiting for a flying shot or missile to hit it, and then sink along with everyone on board.

Unlike Lingayen now she couldn’t simply wait in a trench and bring down the airplanes that passed over her head, now the best option was to proactively defend the vessel or jump to another if possible, both were best achieved by staying on the top deck.

A couple looks around showed the crew busying themselves on their combat roles, making sure the ship would hopefully be working at maximum efficiency, at first she didn’t see other Arms Masters, were they in the command room or maybe already in action?

Nil found out where the PLA targets were coming from, the direction of the 76mm fire being an obvious indication, Nil looked for targets in that direction and moved to the back of the ship, just in case the gun in the bow was going to open fire.

There it is.

The PLA warships were uncomfortably close for the Alvarez, a slightly larger one was hurling a missile towards them, a couple kilometers away could have been very difficult to land, if the target wasn’t as large as a warship.

The crew probably didn’t expect the equivalent of a 127mm to aid them from the stern, but it was probably welcome.
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Mission Two: Siege of Mischief Reef

Municipality of Lingayen - 10/11/2022, 18:57 UTC+8

At the reports of a flying ship aiding the Chinese, Myron would begin to speak, "The flying ship is a Noble Arm controlled by one Mei Yuanyuan, a member of the Disablers who awakened after a hunt by the Paragons of Science and the Seven Virtues. Most dangerously, she still believes in their ideology, that Noble Arms is a dangerous, unnatural power and those who hold them are 'monsters'. It's just that she's embraced that role, believes that the world is as good as dead now that Noble Arms are more common than ever, and is just enjoying life however she wants - Even if it means befriending other Arms Masters from the 'other side' - while waiting for the apocalypse."

He then continued, "Make no mistake, she is still very dangerous, especially when riled, and there is reason to believe that she is partnered with another Arms Master, Doctor Denial, who is called that because he denies that he has a Noble Arm despite carrying a syringe that can produce serums that regenerate, strengthen, cure poison and disease, and also act as neurotoxins. There is also reason to believe that they might have other Arms Masters with them, not just former Disablers but also members of the Hammer of Masters and their 'Malikate'; the Chinese had a bunch of them in prison but are now unleashing them on us..."

BRP Ramon Alcaraz - 10/11/2022, 19:00 UTC+8

The moon was shining, and Noel thus had access to La Luna's Power of Enchantment, which stored temporary duplicates of every Noble Arm power he had seen used, all except those themed after the power of The Sun. Lifting his scythe, he went through his memories, and from the ground emerged a chess piece shaped like a Queen in royal robes and a tiara.

One of Regil's 'Chess Pieces' that had proven to be a true asset in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf, The Queen was able to boost the power of all Arms Masters on the deck she sat on to a vague, but strong extent, as well as fire energy beams and shots at the enemy from long range. Of course, Noel can only use this once, but it seemed a good way to show that though 'incompetent' (he can guess others' thoughts about his admittedly dismal performance), he was by no means ignorable.

He was still pissed off at himself and at others for how poorly Myron's introduction had gone, but in hindsight, he had been spending people's respect for him like water anyway. Noel wanted to win back their goodwill or at least neutrality, but not in a way that would cause the group to fail current or future missions. And by that, he was going to be cautious about how he worked to regain the others' trust.

As Nil found her Noble Arm's power boosted, the (imitation) Queen began providing additional fire support from the deck, firing laser beams from her eyes and her scepter and her left hand, firing lasers at the sky to shoot down enemy aircraft while luring enemy forces with an obvious target. Now to wait for the enemy to take the bait with jaws of steel, and still be lacking.

In the meantime, he sent a message to Callie, saying, "Once we've all organized, send us to the nearest PLA Corvette!"

PLA 'Foreign Volunteers' Division - 10/11/2022, 19:00 UTC+8

That bullet hurt, but Sohrab and Dr. Denial managed to get themselves and the members of the Volunteers' Division below deck as that witch Qingshe launched pepper bombs at her ship after bombarding its hull with regular artillery. Such power repulsed Mei Yuanyuan, enough for her to push on despite her head wound. Her Sloop-of-War kept firing magically-propelled cannon shots from both sides as it pushed forward, its frame shaking as it dipped in the air, reaching ramming speed as it hurtled towards the ship Qingshe was guarding; that Snake was about to find herself drowned soon unless she pulled something out from that shadow of hers'!

@SkyHresvelg@Aisede@Lewascan2@Sniblet@Conscripts@Gerlando@Creative Chaos@Nimbus@KaiserElectric@Landaus Five-One@QJT
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War at Sea, Blockade Runners, HMAS Stalwart - 10/11/2022, 19:00 UTC+8

As the radar returns from above changed to something... interesting, Qingshe's brow rose in amusement.

"Oh, you're approaching me?" she murmured. "Even after witnessing my deterrence measures, you wish to continue?" Snorting, her shadow writhed across the deck of the Stalwart, the naval guns retracting back into its depths.

Broadcasting to the supply ships and distraction fleet, she said, "The enemy Arms Master is currently attempting to ram the supply ships. Requesting distraction." Honestly, she hadn't thought it would be necessary, because what sort of moron just charges someone unloading that much firepower into them? They should have retreated. But clearly, this "Mei" figure was both nihilistic and stupid, judging by Myron's description of her. Not that the latter wasn't inherent in the former. Whatever, Qingshe could handle this, even if that Noble Arm in the shape of a ship was more resilient than expected.

Broadcasting to the supply ships, she issued her best advice. "Ram is rapidly imminent. All supply ships, hard turn to port. Kill the lights and go dark. The flying ship most likely doesn't have radar, so we can duck them in the night." In the meanwhile, her shadow began to spill forth from the deck and down onto the water's surface, shakily managing to manifest atop the surface tension of the waves.

From her shadow, Qingshe began to deploy unmanned vessels, a dozen copies of the supply ships with their engines on full blast and their rudders locked and fully turned to port. Each of the ships was armed with remotely detonatable explosives, so if Mei mistakenly rammed one of the decoys, Qingshe was prepared to light it up in a fireball. Qingshe wasn't certain how Mei was actually targeting them in this lighting, but with these red herrings, if it was receiving directions from its allies or someone aboard, this should scramble both radar and eyesight of the actual supply ships.

Qingshe launched another broadcast to the distraction fleet. "Yuanyuan's opening barrage targeted the supply ships as much as the distraction fleet. Somehow, despite her ship being too archaic to carry radar, they can see us, could see us from the start. They must be receiving communications from spotters. We need to target the enemy radar." And unspoken was that if that didn't work, then it meant Mei's ship must have an Arms Master aboard that could parse the darkness.

"Now then..." she turned her attention back to Mei's ship. "If you're going to make yourself such an easy target... why not try this on for size." Her shadow sprouted naval guns again, only six this time. She altered her ammunition a third time, loading it with a chemical compound.

Thioacetone, considered to perhaps be the worst smelling substance on the planet. With a stench serious enough to cause nausea, vomiting and outright unconsciousness. An unstable red oil that stunk relentlessly and unbearably, a smell offensive enough to send people fleeing in terror and panic evacuate an entire town. A reek of such putrid indescribability that it could make someone suspect evil supernatural forces were at work.

For a moment, Qingshe hesitated to deploy such a measure, as the stench would be... truly something unpleasant to behold, to put it lightly. If even this didn't dissuade Mei, then that mad dog would carry the colossal stink with her right up to the supply ships. This, of course, would be a bad thing, such was the sheer strength of the chemical, the nausea it would induce from even the proximity of a missed ram would be potentially disabling. In short, if she used this and it didn't take Mei down, it would probably backfire on her own allies. Not a great look.

Pouting, Qingshe altered the ammunition again. "Fine then. We'll do this the boring way."

Her naval guns barked again, their muzzles giving off no flash to indicate her position, as she hurled exploding shells filled with napalm at Mei's ship, one final parting shot before she went dark as well. Since the ship was diving at her, Mei was now presenting her new targets to fire at, so she angled her shots over the hull to impact the main deck of the ship outright. While the ship was a Noble Arm and therefore wouldn't catch fire conventionally, napalm could still set everything ablaze just by sticking and burning.

And as a bonus, with the ship on fire, they should be plainly visible and targetable to all allied firepower.

"Let's see them crave fighting after that."
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“Once we've all organized, send us to the nearest PLA Corvette!”

“Yessir!” Now to figure out when that’ll be while falling many metres per second through the air! Callie thought, falling many metres per second through the air. She tore Charter away from the flying ship and her gaze with it, abandoning the last portal (two circles, one for the muzzle of her rifle, one for Charter, connected by a minutely thin length along the barrel) of the half-dozen she’d made to pick off as many targets as she could from a hundred kilometres away. Instead, she refocused her Arm towards the ship directly below, speaking all the while into her radio: “Antique is diving Snapper – repeat, diving Snapper!” Why would – doesn’t matter – can’t let it.

She hoped that the muffler on her radio was doing its job and that they could hear her down below, not just a torrent of rushing wind. For now, she took note of Qingshe’s requests (Okay, give me a second!) while she scanned the deck below. The flashes of heat at the stern she recognised as Nil’s staves, the air rippling with heat from their passing as they soared towards one of the nearer PLA craft in the group; the construct standing above her, echoing her shots, she recalled from a visual sweep across the battlefield at Lingayen. As for the others… Now she saw them – Noel, Nico and Indra gathering on the deck.

Then she redirected her vision across the water, to the nearest ship.

No. Bad.

“Negative on near corvette, sir – thing’s going down in flames!” Callie scanned the waters again (constantly adjusting as they rushed up towards her). Not Nil’s target – other craft in the group moving to cut them off – need dealing with – doable. “Diverting conveyance against multiple threats approaching Milkfish vanguard!”

Now – don’t push your luck, a voice in the back of head sounded. Setting her jaw, Callie brought her arms and legs together and fell into a dive, accelerating, accelerating, accelerating… Intuition built on practice told her the right moment to form first one portal, the vertigo of gravity suddenly inverting familiar and thrilling, then another to send her back up to the height of her original vantage point, flanking the lead ship of the attack group. Now another, connecting her own position to a point angled as far back as possible relative to its side bridge window, so she could use Charter to peer in...

“Looks like just officers – unarmed. Possibility of antiques but no confirmation.” She turned off night vision, then grimaced – even at this angle, interposed bodies and the reflectivity of the screens made it hard to tell their contents. “Got a wheel – could crash it into the others. Unsure on weapons control. Maybe point defence? Likely most is deeper inside.”

She breathed. Cut off the portal. Looked again through the same window from so far up above, vision projected through Charter. Closer, closer… Gotcha. Eyes on a lower corner of the back wall, where few if any would be looking. It was enough.

“Prepare to engage!”

Zooming out – holding that now tiny sliver in view – recalling their position on the Ramon’s deck – adjusting for the geometry of her fall – both locations now visible…

Energy harnessed.

One. Two. Three.

Callie felt the familiar wave of tiredness. She swivelled Charter to the Ramon’s deck, saw the last foot of one of her allies stepping through. A brief flash of light shone through the portal before she let it close.

Alright, night vision and heat vision on, let’s see what’s happ- CHRISSAKES, GIVE A GIRL WARNING!

The sloop’s deck was ablaze, her eyes struggling to adjust even after turning off the vision enhancement. The crew had remained below deck, leaving…

Huh. She wasn’t a decoy. Already wounded – good sign, with Myron’s intel. Well, if you’re going to dress for a costume party rather than the battlefield…

Callie fiddled with the settings on her radio, reaching Qingshe. “Targeting the antiquarian – get ready to catch!” If that shadow of yours is half as versatile as I’ve been told… A new portal a few metres behind Mei, positionally anchored to her undershirt, stretched once more between Arm and muzzle. Callie checked the shot through the flickers of fire – not that there would be too much need, given her effective lock on the target.

Then, deciding to make sure of overwhelming the foe’s natural resilience and whatever enhancement she may have been provided rather than risking overcautious burst fire, Callie laid her finger on the trigger of her rifle and squeezed, confident that by the time she released it the enemy Arms Master would no longer be standing – and lacking a deck to stand on.

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Right now I'm minutes away from realizing that this, what I’m doing, right now, is my first ever actual CQC engagement. Oh - what am I listening to? Well, probably not my first pick for this moment, but it’ll pass.
Jumping through the portal is easy. Indra has drilled all kinds of breaches, and her particular equipment means they all work about the same. Run through, overlap wings in front of her upper body, throw the spear at the biggest rank patch in sight, and…
”STAND THE FUCK DOWN.”
This voice is not the voice her teammates might have noticed in briefing. It’s - layered. The dominant part of it sounds like her, speaking something odd and north-Germanic-ish, something even Nil probably wouldn’t even recognize. Another part of the voice, on some - higher? Lower? Parallel level? - is completely crystal clear meaning without need for sound, something that skips the ear and makes room for itself right in the brain.
The “the fuck” in particular comes through very plain. It’s a riveting, vividly visceral threat of violence like words themselves should never be able to convey.
Here, stepping through a wall into the bridge and pulling Dís to fly back to her hand, whether impaled through someone’s torso or not; covered from waist to face by fluffy golden shining wings; coupled with a further two aggressive Arms Masters; is a Valkyrie, and a furiously imminent threat of violence.


Hannie is slice-of-lifing in a war zone, as depicted in an upcoming collab post.
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Jackson Atoll - 10/11/2022, 18:53 UTC +8

Field Officer Pan's impatience was infectious. He spread it by pacing back and forth across the bridge of the Zunyi, brushing past his subordinates, occasionally rechecking his binoculars and muttering to himself. It put the entire staff at near constant unease, not that confrontation would assuage tensions. Finally, the officer broke the silence. "What the hell is that? I demand to know! A skyward naval vessel?"

"It's not ours, sir," assured the ship's captain. He'd readied that information ever since his superior asked but only recently had the opportunity to report. "Ours," of course, meant an asset of the People's Liberation Army Navy. Whether its allegiances were broadly to China was anyone's guess.

Pan grunted. "Someone get me the Air Force."

While an aide contacted Pan's peer, a junior officer announced, "The Baise has taken severe damage, sir. The captain makes plans to scuttle the ship."

"And they still aren't asking for our aid?"

"Field Officer Luo says he has the situation under control."

At that point, two massive lasers pierced the night sky. The ship was just south of east; the lasers were just north of east. Pan's attention was momentarily distracted when his underling piped up, "Field Officer Gao on the line for you, sir!"

Pan spent a few seconds inspecting the light show before sauntering over to the comms. "Gao! Your aircraft are messing about in our waters!"

"Which aircraft? What waters? We have no exercises in that area currently."

Pan looked out through his binoculars. The floating ship and an unseen mystery surface combatant were exchanging salvos. He muted himself and asked his captain. "We have no vessels out there, right?"

The captain was about to reply with a hearty "Yessir," but he stopped just before responding. "It could be Luo's fleet, if our equipment is not properly calibrated." It was a long shot, but stranger circumstances had happened. He wasn't about to retrieve his sextant to confirm.

"You'd think Luo would mention a spectacle like that." Pan took Gao off hold. "Well, something's out there, and it's shooting at something else. I know the enemy is prowling around these waters, and wars have only two sides. It's a big, bright aircraft. Are you sure you have no presence in the area? Perhaps your inventory missed something?"

"Our inventory missed something? Qù cāo nǐ zìjǐ, you navy swine!" responded Field Officer Gao.

The aide inspected his dial board. "He hung up, sir."

Pan threw back his shoulders and asked no one in particular. "What's the update with Luo?"

The junior officer relays what he hears. "Luo is currently engaging the enemy... wait, I'm hearing background noise." He looks up. "It's language, but it's not Chinese."

Field Officer Pan resumed his unwelcome pacing. Despite his assurances, Luo was clearly insufficient for the task. Pan would have to intervene. His superiors would be displeased, though. His orders from high command were to not engage any forces until after they had crossed 116 degrees east, and only then if they traveled westward towards Mischief Reef or another installation.

Of course, a third factor was the reputation that an engagement could provide. Victory at sea at such a dire moment would yield quite the amount of political capital for Pan's own career. No one promotes the officer who follows orders and stands idly by. Glory awaited.

"We will engage our adversary," Pan resolved.

"Excellent," the captain reassured. "Shall we approach the light beams? The floating ship?"

Pan held up his chin. Just at that moment, the ghost vessel blinked out of existence. ASEAN could very well take either position. Then again, he didn't have to choose immediately. "Plot a course for due east, on the dot," the field officer announced. "I suppose we shall return the fire of whoever hits us."

Audience Hall, Sison Auditorium, Municipality of Lingayen - 10/11/2022, 18:53 UTC+8

Having arrived earlier than strictly necessary- of course, with Hannie in tow- Kaitlyn was content to spend her meager free time stressing herself out over how horrifyingly wrong this next mission could go, especially with leadership like Noel's in effect... Granted the admiral was a factor to consider now, and one she was privately thankful for.

When the briefing did start, her stress levels decided that was the perfect moment to turn that dial from 'This won't be good' to 'Jesus Christ this will be really bad.' And then crazy shit happened; apparently a flying battleship played now, the Supply and Stalwart were already under attack, and Miss Lei cloned herself. She'd felt uneasy at that casual gesture of hers, but she didn't even know what to feel when she saw the already overpowered Arms Master Ditto herself.

She stared for perhaps too long at the copy. Does she wear anything under that goop, or is it procedurally generated when she emerged? Entirely appropriate thoughts for a private about to be tossed to the sharks. Or, who knows, maybe krakens really did exist? She wouldn't be surprised if giant tentacles emerged from the deep to start dragging down battleships. She'd probably flip out, though.

After she stewed in these thoughts for a good while- and, more importantly, stopped staring at Qingshe- she stood up and approached the admiral. The situation was rapidly escalating, and she'd rather be aware of her functions sooner rather than as she's being thrust into battle.

"Admiral..." She cleared her throat, glancing sidelong at Myron, then back to the man before her. "Private Kaitlyn Price. I was wondering what, specifically, my function in this mission will be should I be deployed." Or, rather, when she's deployed. All hands on deck, right?

Adrián Abasolo held up his index finger. The situation was too tense for multitasking, but he sensed a brief window on the horizon. At a certain point, the Arms Masters would be too preoccupied with combat to give him an effective report. A reasonable checkpoint reached, he dismounted a muffler on his headphones and looked out to Kaitlyn.

Military experience was on occasion as valuable as supernatural powers. Abasolo didn't usually improvise but nonetheless had a general vision. "Eyes and ears. You have permission to coordinate the team, and to assist the captains on deck as necessary. Report back any issues your team might have."

Of course, if Kaitlyn had better ideas, he bore no attachment to this impromptu task assignment. "Subject to your discretion. Is that satisfactory?" Did she have a communications device, like a radio? She'd bring it up if she didn't, he supposed. Worst came to worst, she'd wrestle the comms device from the captain of her ship. The admiral needed to return to monitoring his operation.

Her team? She's not a team leader, she's a private! He should get a corporal to do this, or a lieutenant. She fidgeted in place, considering the order. "Y-yes sir," she stuttered, not the least bit confident in her own abilities. She still had to ask, though. "To be clear, sir, you're putting me in charge of all of Team B?" Certainly someone is more qualified than her? Miss Lei, maybe.

The admiral's current alternatives for leadership were a civilian, a PLA turncoat, and a child. It was clear from her demeanor, though, a justification wasn't what this private required. She needed assurance and calm. "Correct." He double checked his monitor for precisely five seconds before returning to the conversation. Hopefully that gave Private Price time to reach the "acceptance" stage of grief. "At least its coordination. Each member in the team has an ample amount of autonomy." Certainly for the military. "Report to me if you encounter difficulties."

Iker had patiently waited in his assigned team's seating arrangement. Still, he figured that, so long as he was readily available to... touch Myron's shield? he could be anywhere in the facility. In the meantime, the current conversation piqued his interest. He arose and approached the two. "Any developments I should be made aware of?"

Kaitlyn started, turning wide eyes on the... Actually, she wasn't sure who he was, but yet he was oddly familiar... She should probably be more aware of who is on 'her' team, so she turned to face him properly. "Private Kaitlyn Price, acting team leader for Team B," she said, channeling her inner Corporal Castro.

She sized him up, switching gears. Average height and build. Intelligent gaze. A Support role, more than likely. A Rogue. Maybe a Paladin? Hmm... No, probably not the Paladin type. "I'm sorry, can I get your name and rank, sir?"

Iker blinked. "Oh, so I report to you, then! Pleased to make your acquaintance." He stuck out a hand for a handshake. "Iker Orozco. I'm a 'Mister,' if that qualifies as a rank. Volunteer. I suppose that would make me a private?"

The admiral had returned to his other duties but still afforded a slight diversion. "We're in the military, Mr. Orozco. Please salute your superior."

Iker thought about it, then provided a weak but passable hand salute. "Yes'm!"

The admiral continued, "If you require temporary ranks to reflect your current statuses, Ensign Zabala can arrange for that." He nodded to a distant female officer. "Any other questions, Private Price?"

'Mister' Orozco. That's fantastic. Iker's salute discomforted Kaitlyn, but she chose not to comment. "N-no, sir." She had so many questions. Why her? What if she failed? What were the consequences for retreating, If that was even an option?

What if someone died under her command?

Kaitlyn paled as she heard the sound of crunching glass but quickly returned to reality. "Mister Orozco, do you have any special talents?" Proper management required knowledge of his field abilities. "Also, I assume you have been provided a radio? I'll need to be able to keep in contact with you in order to coordinate."

She glanced aside at Myron and Miss Lei, but even if she technically commanded them... They were practically beyond her control. At least, she didn't expect Miss Lei to follow her instructions.

... Come to think of it, this was a pretty unique position she'd been put in. In this moment, she actually outranked her, didn't she?

Iker scratched the back of his head. "I must've forgotten to obtain one. I doubt my cellular phone will have much benefit."

"Ensign Mendoza, Requisitions," Abasolo commented. His eyes glued to his screen and he muffled his ears again as Myron explained to him the nature of his newest enemy asset.

"As for my 'special talents,' I have in my possession an ethereal battleaxe, which can manipulate something of whatever material it hacks into." He nodded. "I would provide a demonstration, but I fear it wouldn't assuage any tensions in headquarters currently. I'll be striking a number of hulls on deck, I surmise." He smiled at the half excuse for comedy.

Right. An Arms Master. "Let's head towards Requisitions while we talk, Mister Orozco," she said, taking lead and hoping that her patchwork aura of authority was enough to keep his attention. "So you're able to manipulate physical objects so long as you strike it with your... Battleaxe?"

He really didn't look like the axe type. "What's the range of this ability, and to what extent can you manipulate these objects? Can you only change the properties of materials? Add properties?"

"Certainly," Iker concurred. He walked with Kaitlyn out of the admiral's field of view. "Roughly a kilometer or so. I have to envision before I can manipulate, so either I must see it or a helpful ally must describe it to me. I can't change its properties, just physically shift and shape-"

He surveyed the number of side stations. "Say, do you know which one's Ensign Mendoza?"

Nope. "I'm sure we can find them through some trial and error," she guessed. She'd been anxious to get out of the admiral's hair. He seemed really busy. She approached the nearest station. "Excuse me, do you know where I can find Ensign Mendoza? We're looking for Requisitions."

The woman turned around and studied Kaitlyn Price over as if wondering why she'd been interrupted. The quiet condescension was palpable, though not overstated. “Three stations, that way." She pointed to a male who, squat and muscular, much better fit the archetype of "axe man." Included in his station were several unlabeled boxes of equipment. They were open, though their contents were indiscernible from this distance.

"Well, there we are!" Iker quipped. He continued, "Anyways, I can only change shape and physical location, for the most part. If the target changes state or chemical properties, I can't control it anymore. I have experimented with humans on occasion." He concluded as if no further explanation was necessary.

Kaitlyn looked him over, her expression blank. "... And what were the results of this human experimentation?" she asked, much more calm than she felt. Were all Arms Masters freaks? Well, sans Hannie or... Actually, Hannie was her only normal Arms Master contact.

She carried their conversation along towards Requisitions, pondering the morality of her partner. "Also, and I'm sorry I have to say this, but there will be no 'manipulation' of humans today, Mister Orozco." Now she remembered him. Hannie mentioned him the other day.

"Well, certainly. I don't think the situation would call for it, unless we somehow draw danger-close to an enemy vessel. Apology accepted nonetheless," Iker commented matter-of-factly.

Upon seeing the two Arms Masters approach, Ensign Gonzalez rose to his feet. "Welcome! What do you require?"

"Radio communications, please," Iker ordered. In case Kaitlyn planned to order the device on Iker's behalf, he paid due respect to his superior. "Apologies if I spoke out of line; it was not my intention."

As Ensign Gonzalez picked up a military grade walkie talkie from the box and calibrated it for combat use, a thought surfaced in Iker's head. "If it assuages your concerns, Kaitlyn, no harm is done to living creatures as a direct result of my powers." He held up a finger. "And, and I tested it on smaller things first, like rodents and whatnot. And the humans were voluntary. There was quite a line of participants, actually; the curiosity of lumberjacks would surprise you."

Gonzalez slammed the butt of the comms onto the table beside Iker. "Alright, there you go! Need anything else?"

"I'm sure..." Kaitlyn said, uneasy. She waited for Iker to retrieve the device, then took him back to their waiting room. Perhaps striking up conversation with the man was a mistake. "Alright... Mister Orozco, you may take a seat. I need to properly assess the situation before I make any decisions." Without waiting to hear his people-pleasing response, she turned her back on him, hands on her hips, and returned to the admiral.

"Yes'm!" Iker seated on command, an express endorsement of Kaitlyn's leadership. Still, he surveyed the admiral's update.

Aaaand that's about when that power trip ended and Kaitlyn returned to being the useless private Price she was. She cleared her throat. "S-sir, do you have an update for me on the current situation? I need to be aware of what's going on before we take any action."

The admiral nodded in acknowledgment but didn't yet turn to face his subordinate. "Outside what we've currently engaged, the PLA fleets don't yet appear to be attracted to either our diversion or our main fleet. We have spotted a couple- excuse me."

The admiral returned to his headphones. A flash of confusion shot across his face before being drowned in discipline. He chose to accept the absurdity he heard at face value, relaying the information accordingly. Why not? Arms Masters were involved. "Supply, Stalwart, follow recommendations. Other vessels, make way."

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:01 UTC+8

Captain Kennedy heard the instructions loud and clear. She muttered briefly, "This is going to kill our navigation," then barked loudly, "Lockwood! Kill all secondary power!" She manned the comms personally. "This is the Supply. Be advised, we are taking evasive actions to port." Her final utterance: "Port, full rudder!"

The big hulking ship tilted slightly to the side; the ships beside and behind it struggled to make way for the shadow that blocked out the stars above them. Nonetheless, the evasive maneuvers were successful, if stressful.

Captain Kennedy restored her demeanor on deck and pulled out her binoculars, curious if such a juke succeeded. The floating ship was a mesmerizing sight indeed in night waters like these. "Prepare to return starboard to original heading, on my mark."

Audience Hall, Sison Auditorium, Municipality of Lingayen - 10/11/2022, 19:01 UTC+8

The admiral looked up to Kaitlyn. "An Arms Master in a floating sloop-of-war is trying to ram the auxiliaries." Ramming tactics hadn't been relevant for millennia, but he chose to trust that his enemy was rational in her tactics. "Are you ready to deploy, Private Price?"

What the fuck? They just get crazier. "Yes, sir." They had their radios, functioning eyeballs, and little else. Well, asides from super powers, but only Iker was likely to use those actively. "Mister Orozco, Hannie, ready yourselves. We're about to deploy."

Readdressing the admiral, she focused on the upcoming situation. "Which ships require our immediate attention?"

Iker stood up promptly. "At the ready."

Depending on the speed of this magical sloop, Team B would either arrive far too late or have time aplenty. Little possibility existed in between. "Supply and Stalwart, coordinates 10.26943, 116.27825 and 10.26774, 116.28004."

Iker raised his hand before the admiral could say "Go." "If it's not too much bother, might I take a vanguard ship? My abilities have limited range, a kilometer or so."

Last-minute requests were a bother but momentarily not too much bother. He locked eyes with Orozco. "Only with approval from Private Price. She coordinates your activity." He researched his screen. "If she so chooses to grant approval, the Conrado Yap is two ships ahead of the Stalwart at 10.26304, 116.271157." He looked at Kaitlyn. "I trust your judgment."

Iker nodded. "Thanks; I didn't want to push anything." He saluted. "Awaiting orders."

Kaitlyn wasn't sure she trusted her own judgement, but she didn't really have room to complain. "Request granted," she said, trying to sort out those nautical numbers. For some reason, she was reminded of Minecraft. I wonder if Orozco could turn an enemy ship into a water creeper? Tsk... Banishing thoughts of ships exploding with particle effects, she fetched Hannie, then headed towards Myron, already having mostly dismissed Iker.

She told them what radio frequency they'd use, then picked the Supply. Maybe she didn't have amazing super powers, but her extra gun would safeguard the fleet.

Also... She was told some crazy motherfucker was trying to ram them. She did not want to be on the ship that received that kind of attention.

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:03 UTC+8

Rhiannon Kennedy's binoculars were fixated on Mei Yuanyuan's craft. Rapid dots of light streamed upward as they attempted to damage the old ghost ship. Typhoon Weapon Systems weren't meant to target aircraft. Then again, sloops were never meant to fly.

"Launch the helicopters, captain?" announced a shipman.

"And alert even more to our presence? Not yet." Were this a common aircraft from the PLAN or the PLAAF, her position would already be compromised. This, however, offered more leniency and required more tact.

A few stories above them, atop a small metal tower, Kaitlyn and Hannie zapped into existence. The radar systems operated within reach. They stood together on a balcony, protected by metal rails. They saw the bridge beneath them, well, at least its roof. To reach the roof they'd have to descend a ladder for a few stories, and from there they'd need to take a few steep stairs to enter the bridge itself.

A couple sailors beneath them noticed the newcomers. One squinted his eyes, unsure whether to believe them or not. "Uh…"

Faintly nauseous and deeply disoriented by the complete shift in her environment - somehow she hadn't expected the instant change in humidity - Hannie stumbled straight into the railing with a yip. Her first time on a boat was... well, a lot of things she hadn't hoped for already. Casting around her surroundings, she met a sailor's eyes, and they looked at each other equally surprised. She waved. He waved back. It was uncomfortable. She looked to Kaitlyn instead.

'Uh' was right.

From shifting earth to celestial objects spontaneously generating in the sky, Kaitlyn had thought she'd experienced the worst of it. But no, Myron's method of translocation was nothing like teleportation. Not the teleportation that began and ended with a classic 'pop.' Luckily, she suffered enough disorientation on the daily from her 'condition', so she didn't get it as badly as Hannie did. Focusing on her surroundings, she gently took Hannie's hand- squeezed it, and gave her a reassuring smile- before peeking over the railings-

And oh, wow, ships are tall. Building tall. Fatal falling height tall. "... Hello." She blinked, focusing on the man below her. Don't think about it. "Private Kaitlyn Price of Task Force Obsidian, acting leader of Team B. C-can I see the captain of this vessel?"

A sailor kept staring in disbelief, but the other descended stairs and made his way into the bridge. It took half a minute, but eventually a gentleman in a sailor's cap came out with a bullhorn. His thick Australian accent was readily apparent. "The captain can't leave the bridge right now. Let's get you planted." He smacked the stunned sailor on the shoulder. When the sailor asked for orders, the man simply pointed up the ladder.

The floating ghost ship was still careening towards the Stalwart, and the spectacle of glowing hot ammunition lighting the sky shone around them. The sailor reached the top and scratched the back of his head. "Hey, hello, um, I'm Seaman Murray. You need to descend, yes?"

"Y-yes…" She always hated ladders. What if you fell? They have what amounts to magic now, that Occult Programming thing. Why can't they build portals arrays nowadays? "Hannie, maybe you should go first? Mr. Murray can probably help you towards the bottom." While she forestalled the inevitable, she pulled out a pair of binoculars to get a better look at that flying antique. What the hell... ?

Hannie made the common mistake of looking down but didn’t see why everyone said she shouldn't. It was more comfortable than the waving. She shrugged her shoulders and eased herself down the ladder, the scarf of her combat winter wear flapping in the wind and occasionally going for her face, as she took one step after another on the compelling journey to the deck.

Seaman Murray shrugged. "She descends fine, and I doubt that you need any help. Follow me, alright?" He followed Hannie towards the roof of the bridge.

The gentleman, the bullhorn by his side, looked Hannie over once she fully descended, a confused expression on his face. "Hello, Missy. Shall we get you situated in quarters?" While he gave his best impression of a caretaker, it was readily apparent that children weren't his forte. He nodded to his subordinate. "Murray, take her to galley, would you? Give her something sweet."

"Huh?" Turn around and everybody's moving on without you! Kaitlyn was quick to follow after the two, briefly forgetting her fear of ladders and replacing it with a broader fear for Hannie. Even though they're at sea, they were on a warship, and if Battleship taught her anything, it was that you could never predict when the next torpedo was gonna blast a hunk of metal to Davy Jones's.

Again, she wondered where the kraken was supposed to be. Realistically speaking, none would appear out here. But there had to be sea monsters if magic was real. "S-sorry for the delay... Sir."

Hannie stood briefly frozen, looking among three different people to listen to. It had been Kaitlyn for the past week. Then a big military countryman said she should follow... the other guy. Umm... okay, the math worked out to attaching to Murray. Unless Kaitlyn said no. Her eyes darted, and then she took a careful step to Murray. She saluted; it seemed appropriate.

The gentleman chuckled as he returned Hannie's salute. "Good girl!" A proper salute was too advanced for him to criticize her hand posture, but he showed Hannie by example.

Realizing Hannie's internal struggle, Kaitlyn knelt before her, offering a smile and mussing up her hair. "It's okay, Hannie. I'm sure Mr. Murray will take good care of you." Her eyes briefly flicked up towards the seaman, and her expression told him there was only one correct answer to that assertion. She returned to Hannie. "Get yourself a snack and help out around the ship if you can. There's gotta be something a smart young girl can do here ~"

Cue doting and playful cheek pinching… God, she's so cute. "Remember, if you need help, call me... Or Mr. Orozco if I'm otherwise occupied."

She shrugged then rose to her feet, nodding respectfully towards Murray. He didn't give off the impression of an irresponsible adult.

One could hear inside the bridge the captain barking orders. "Starboard, full rudder. Steady as she goes. Status on the Typhoon."

The ship turned dramatically. Ships behind and starboard side began to decelerate and make way. Nearby sailors grabbed the railing. It took Murray a moment to remember Hannie's safety rather than merely his own, and he stabilized her after a few seconds of gripping the rails. "Don't want you to fall off the side there, now!" he quipped.

The gentleman regained his composure as the ship righted. "Murray, take her downstairs." Murray collected Hannie like a sack of potatoes and headed off to accomplish his duty.

Murray dodged past his fellow crew in his special mission. "So, Hannie, what's your favorite thing to eat? We've got a lot of options!"

Managing a wave as she passed out of sight in Murray's grip, the misfortunate child asked herself why everyone wanted to feed her all the time. Out loud, she loosely emitted, "Iuhno."

Murray took the null data at face value and entered the kitchen. Simple, quick, and, most importantly, sweet. "How about marmalade on toast, lass?" The blast of autocannons roared above him, which he forcefully ignored as he pulled out a toaster and sliced bread. If the threat was this apparent, the tot's fright must have been unfathomable. Distractions were called for. "Say, Hannie, do you know of any good songs?"

Hannie didn't quite ignore the cannons as Murray had, evidenced by a short jump and the appearance of a weapon in her hand. Today's style was a dark iron blade with a worn leather grip, looking like a pre-industrial hunter's knife. She was drawn back, wide-eyed, by his second question.

"S... songs?" Her Noble Arm hissed and crackled, starting to emit its usual mist. Hannie stared at the source of the blasts, the question forgotten.

"Yea, songs." Upon hearing hissing and crackling, Murray reinspected the toaster. "Damn navy equipment," he muttered to himself, then realizing that a minor was present. He turned around. "Please don't tell Miss Kaitlyn I said that."

He set the toaster aside and resumed his work, foregoing the toast, instead spreading marmalade on regular bread. He arranged them on a large plate, set them on a table, sat Hannie on a chair, and positioned himself across from her. He felt hunger just looking at it but resolved to let Hannie have the first bite. "Alright, there it is; eat up. If you know no songs, I do."

Hannie shifted her weight, coming to the understanding that she probably wasn't safe here. As Murray talked and she barely listened, she eventually realized what was in her hand, and shook it away like a bug. She allowed herself to be walked and sat, looking very lost and very uncomfortable. She took the bread but didn’t eat. If she knew a song, she didn’t name it.

Murray couldn’t exactly return to his superior officer and inform him that the kid won't eat. The blame would fall on Murray; Sir would only assume that Murray fell short in his duties, either due to incompetence or willful disobedience. Besides, the small desserts looked quite delectable, promising, tempting... Perhaps he would lead by example.

"See? It's, it's good, yeah?" He took a bite of his own selection. Normally it was no bother to talk with his mouth full, but in the presence of a lady, a young lady, he swallowed completely before continuing. "It's not poison, luv. Go on, try some!" He quickly finished his dessert.

A voice piped up on Kaitlyn's radio. "Iker Orozco. I've been rematerialized on the Conrado Yap's pinnacle. I've descended a nearby ladder and am now safely on the bridge. We've spotted Mei's vessel and are attempting to neutralize it. Do you presently have particular orders, or dealer's choice?"

Kaitlyn clung to those rails like her life depended on it- because it probably did. You're a coward. How could the admiral have ever put you in charge? Kaitlyn grimaced as she righted herself, calmly taking out her radio. "Continue at your discretion until further notice. I still need to get a lay of the land... Or sea, as it were."

The gentleman saluted the mid-twenties arrival. "Private Price, I'm told. Please, follow me into the bridge."

Your orders, captain? Oh! That's right, now that you're the leader, it's your fault if somebody dies. Kaitlyn's heart beat faster, and she turned to the seaman near her. "Yes, sir." Get ahold of yourself, Price. Miss Lei and the others can take care of the serious stuff. You have to be the lookout. She sighed, then followed the man. Focus on the mission.

The captain offered a hand as he descended the stairs. "Captain Kennedy, I present Private Kaitlyn Price, acting leader of Task Force Obsidian's Team B. Arms Masters, I believe."

Rhiannon's eyes, once inserted into her binoculars, disconnected themselves and fixated on Kaitlyn. "Private? No matter. Where are your Arms Masters presently? Do you have personal orders?" All eyes that were currently unoccupied now fixed on the private. In the quiet, the defense systems rat-a-tat-tatted.

. . .
. . . .
. . . . .

Oh God. Kaitlyn froze like a deer in headlights. She'd be sick. Or faint. Or something. Say something! "Uh... I-I'm sorry…"

I'm sorry I'm all you've got. I'm not even qualified for this. Clearing her throat, she injected some confidence into her voice, focusing on the dull roar of fire and looking at each crew member. She couldn't fail them. "I'm not an Arms Master myself, but the rest are. Miss Lei Qingshe is currently aboard the Stalwart. Myron, as far as I understand, has remained on-base," although she supposed... She could summon him to the battlefield now, couldn't she? Miss Lei had her shadows in two places. Or is that how this worked? She'd need to ask.

"Iker Orozco is aboard the Conrado Yap, attempting to neutralize the enemy Arms Master. And Hannie Cavalet... Will be providing support, outside of combat." That seemed as good a report as any. Was there anything else she needed to say? "As for personal orders? I'm monitoring the battle." She had no idea what anything in this room did. "Can your special tools or personnel assist me with this?"

The captain nodded, confused as to why Kaitlyn specified her lack of superpowers. It was perfectly natural for management to lack the skills of subordinates. "I don't have powers, either!" she smiled. "Excellent. I presume you're here about the sail ship." She selected a subordinate. "Contact the Yap and the Stalwart; tell them to expect company."

Kennedy then rattled off her ensigns, pointing to each of them as she addressed them. "Tomlinson, restore secondary power sources. Private Price, I introduce Maynard on Radar, Tomlinson on Sonar, and Lockwood on Electronics. Herberts!" A tall, tattooed woman stood at attention. She appeared as if she could kill with a mere glance. "Ensign Herberts will be your personal attendant."

Meanwhile, the comms ensign hailed his corvette counterpart. "Yes, Conrado Yap, be advised you have an allied Arms Master onboard. Do not engage."

"We know," replied a dejected Filipino. The bridge heard Iker conversing with the captain in the background. It wasn't a heated argument but nonetheless loquacious and fast talking. "A moment." More talking, then: "Can you identify the material of the enemy sloop?"

The Australian communique looked at Kennedy, who shook her head. "Wood, perhaps?"

The communique relayed. "Negative... possibly wood?"

Kennedy returned to her guest. "Regardless, does that suffice, Private Price?"

"... Yes, it does. Thank you, captain." It was only then Kaitlyn realized how many women operated on this vessel. She was used to terms such as 'seaman', and up until now, she'd only seen men aboard. It was... Refreshing to know that the fairer sex had not been entirely sidelined for entitled muscle heads.

Turning to Herberts, she offered her a hand and a smile. "Pleasure to be working with you, Miss Herberts." She paused, wondering if that greeting came off a bit too enthusiastic or weird.

"Yeh," muttered Ensign Herberts, the Australian twang sounding even in her monosyllabic response. She returned the hand gesture. Whether her lips formed a genuine smile or a slight smirk was indiscernible. Otherwise, her face was a stone.

Regardless, Kaitlyn would check Sonar and Radar next. She needed to know who was where, and if there was anything pressing that needed to be conveyed. Miss Lei, at least, benefitted from some extra input.

Tomlinson pointed out a few objects on the screen's perimeter. "I'm currently following three bogeys underwater. They're moving slowly and not giving off extreme readings. They're either biologics or enemy submarines at extremely low power. I doubt that the PLA tolerates aquatic life in these waters, but they're not an immediate threat either way."

Maynard was on his headset. Noticing that Private Price was over his shoulder alongside Herberts, he preemptively spoke in a rather loud voice, clutching his mufflers to raise them. "You want a listen?"

Three unknowns? This couldn’t be good. She relayed this news over the radio, then considered the implications. That is, she was considering the implications before she was handed the mufflers.

"... Sure."
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Mission Two: Siege of Mischief Reef

PLA 'Foreign Volunteers' Division - 10/11/2022, 19:11 UTC+8

The ship's decks were lit on fire for one second, but the vessel vanished just before Callie can take her shot, with everyone who had been inside falling down to the sea for one second... two seconds... And on the third, Mei Yuanyuan's ship blinked back into existence again, but this time it was turned sideways, presenting a full broadside towards Qingshe's position, or where she had reckoned that was. At the same time, Qingshe herself might notice that a giant eagle made up of shadows was fleeing northwards, carrying on it everyone who had been part of Mei's crew except for Sohrab, who had vanished.

Either way, Mei's ship was firing once more, able to present a full bank of magical cannons at the decoys, hitting two of them in one volley and lighting them up into fireballs, even as she realized that Qingshe did outmatch her. If she stayed, especially now that she only had Sohrab, she'd lose, and one of the few things she hated enough to care to avoid was losing. So the female captain turned her ship around, presenting its rear to her foe as one last show of spite, then moved northwards to join the rest of her battalion, finally sending a signal to the PLA Navy and Air Force using a portable radio that had been belted on her waist.

"Mei Yuanyuan here, from the Chinese Foreign Volunteers Battalion," she spoke with a bit of sarcasm. "We were sent by High Command to save your asses. We're circling up north to join up with your ships; be ready."

She didn't add that she had been doing their jobs and attacking the supply ships they were supposed to be keeping out. In fact, if they didn't care enough to know that she was there to help them, and if no one informed them, then it'd only make them angrier to tell them they had been falling for, well, a diversion.

As for her crew, which were now flying towards that ASEAN diversion fleet, one can now see how many people Mei had been transporting; 35 folks, 5 - 15 which had a visible Noble Arm, all cramped together on a giant bird that seemed made of shadows, a bird conjured up by a dark-haired man whose curved sword materialized wisps of darkness that shaped themselves into a flock of smaller shadow birds.



Sorhab then reappeared, stabbing his sword through a spot just behind her, plunging it through a... Portal? Dangit, it seems that she had almost been outsmarted, she, Mei Yuanyuan, former Disabler!

Oh, well, such is life; there were advantages to the belief that nothing mattered anyway.

Municipality of Lingayen - 10/11/2022, 19:12 UTC+8

Myron visibly froze as visual data about that man was fed, and his next words were, "That's Anui-El, the Priest of Birds. He was part of the old 'Malikate''s last holdouts in Syria and Northern Iraq; when I was 18 and caught trying to infiltrate the last Malik's palace, the Malik gave him to me to be..."

Desecrated. That's the best you can say about what he did. But why should you say it? To get sympathy?, his own guilt spelled the words in his head. It'd be cheap if you got it. Besides, Sorhab rescued you before it got too bad, didn't it? Threw away his years of loyal service to the Malik and his position as second-in-command to save you -

Myron changed the subject and said, "And one of the people on that bird is Sorhab; he's the former second-in-command of the Malikate. He has been serving the Hammer of Masters since he was fourteen - Now he's twenty-six. His Noble Arm is a sword whose power is to render himself invisible and intangible, but he cannot physically interact with the world in that state so he has to deactivate it to attack others."

Then the Ex-Disabler added, "He can be kept out with Noble Arms or barriers made from Occult Programming Language, though..."

BRP Ramon Alcaraz - 10/11/2022, 19:13 UTC+8

Callie's portal had been stabbed with a sword, a middle eastern blade that would hold open the miniature portal her "Charter" had made, before a voice said, in English accented with a little Farsi, "The Malik's power functioned in much the same way. How strange that you have a Noble Arm similar, yet different, to what his' was?"

This voice, clearly male, echoed through the portal, "How strange that Myron is working with the daughter of his enemy..."

Unnamed Chinese Corvette - 10/11/2022, 19:13 UTC+8

Noel and Indra made quick work of the Chinese marines and officers inside the PLA Navy's Corvette; if Nico was there as well, the work would be even quicker, with the bridge being easily taken and hijacked. Then... The doors of the captain's cabin closed on their own, as the sprinklers turned on despite there being no fire, splashing the three with water. Then, several of the circuit boards snapped off on their own, and electricity sparked.

The pain would follow unless they had some countermeasure against it; some way to heal fast or just dampen the suffering.

What was the reason for this phenomenon? Well... Not even Myron would know, at least not now. All the while, Mei, Sohrab, and Anui-El were flying towards the diversion fleet, having abandoned the supply ships to Qingshe...

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Nico waited a minute to follow Indra, manifesting his Noble Arm. It always felt the same when he used his blade at night. Like time slowing a bit, or a camera snapping into focus. Really, it was all of that and a bit more. He wrinkled his nose at the sudden strong smell of spent powder and the ocean breeze. God, gun smoke’s not the most pleasant smell to wake up to. Still, not awful to bear. On to more important things. He took a quick look around the seafront, trying to make out anything that might be coming where he’s headed. After taking the time to adjust to Sunsetter, he walked through Callie’s portal and onto the dock of the enemy corvette, thanking his lucky stars for him already having his sea legs.

He listened to Myron’s info feed while following the trail of carnage the strike team left behind, sprinting to catch up with them. Alright then, bird man and ghostly bastard. Might be an issue, especially if the greaser’s hype is anywhere near accurate. Still, shouldn’t be that much of a problem till it becomes one. It took a bit of backtracking, but he made it to the closed door of the captain’s quarters. However, he hesitated at feeling something from the ship. Wait, why the hell does the ship got a person’s presence? Ghosts aren’t quite real, but Arms Masters…God only knows what the PLA’s got in their back pocket. Weirder and weirder shit. May as well give this a shot. Nico tested the door, and it was what he expected: locked. He took a couple well placed slices at the door, cutting a hole big enough for him to step through and hear the crackle of electricity coming from the equipment. Nico didn’t bother with any fanfare or a look around. He simply tossed Helios Rod through the equipment, letting the superheated blade work its magic before dissipating and recalling it back to his hand.
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BRP Ramon Alcaraz - 10/11/2022, 19:08 UTC+8

The Chinese corvette had suddenly found itself target of two Noble Arms in addition to the Alcaraz itself, the combination of missiles, gunfire and a goddamn laser was more than enough to stop the vessel and put it on fire while it was visibly losing chunks, it was not a good day for its crew.

As more staves found their spot on the doomed corvette, Nil could feel they were launched with much more power than usual and Stang’s blue glow was also brighter.

Then a massive laser blast flew from the Ramon’s middle deck towards the PLA Corvette, then a second and a third.

That was useful, whatever it was.

Now for another target, Nil considered the new power surge Stang received and threw a single stave as a test, much further than it should, she thought as the stave flew over the sea curvature.

Excited to see her new range beyond-the-horizon, Nil was ready to shoot a new ship… then realized she couldn’t see beyond the horizon, much less aim at something. But someone had to be able to see further, that’s a thing ships need to be able to do, isn’t it?

Right there on the bridge was Noel, he should probably know how that works, or at least someone who does know.

She looked at the statue with a tiara shooting lasers and the other two Arms Masters, one of them having quite literal wings and a massive spear.

This is getting more fantasy by the second.

Then one of Callie’s portals appeared, Nil had seen more than a few in Lingayen, not even two days had passed. Going through the portals had already worked, mostly, and besides the other Arms Masters had already gone in.

Nil scurried to the still open portal and followed inside the enemy ship.

The other Arms Masters were already cutting doors and throwing spears… but there were no PLA men around.
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Right now I'm listening to: hey, my earbuds still work?
The - man, less than one minute - following the breach and leading up to the sparks stopping are a blur. Indra doesn't really recall how the surrender order went, or how cleanly she beat the shock trap. Something happened, something hurt for a short while, and then Nico threw his sword in and it was just her and Noel standing inside. She finds herself moving on from it smoothly. The bridge is clear, and ruined.

"Okay, okay," she says - again, the layering, as there's never been a more perfectly meaningful "okay, okay" - and she looks around as Nil, also, joins them. Lot of Ns around.

She tests her radio, shakes her head, and quickly reports the complication out loud but apparently unassisted:
"Larsdottir, Boarding team. Electronics in the bridge under remote, likely occult control. WOs got zapped, everything's inoperable, my radio's dead. Not sure whether to expect more of this, on this boat or others. Over."
Callie @Nimbus, if she's not moved far from where Indra last saw her, hears her voices clearly, as if she was shouting from somewhere close by.

She adds, to those near, "Whatever was in here is fried, but we want fire control. Callie thinks that's deeper in. Nico's entry door should be the way, let's be fast but more careful." She tamps down her frazzled hair with a huff, raising an eyebrow at Noel for the last word.
Here, standing in the ozone-smelling, wet slaughterhouse of the former bridge, holding Dís loosely in one hand; wings a touch limp, hair and BDU soaked and frazzled; grouped with three other variously disoriented Arms Masters; is a pretty tragic-looking Valkyrie. But she's still standing straight.

Hannie is doing the "this is fine" meme but with marmalade toast instead of a coffee mug, and the HMAS Supply isn't on fire. But it could be soon.
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Half a dozen elements of Callie’s mind reacted at once.

Most immediate was the self-castigation – that she had been careless, that she should have made her portal above Mei and the deck, out of reach of a close combatant.

Then came the aghast anger at the fact that the sword had, seemingly effortlessly, sliced through the barrel of her rifle – and the twinge of worry as she immediately identified the impossibly sharp weapon as a Noble Arm.

Another thought noted that she would soon crest in her altitude and, logically, begin falling immediately afterwards – and that having her primary means of mitigating falling temporarily disrupted was a significant problem.

Yet another considered the man’s… Remark. That one spiralled and spiralled through her head, warping everything it touched.

Was that why Mum – the ‘Malik’ – Myron has to know – I must not – ‘similar’, how does –

All surged up in Callie’s mind - but then another overpowered every one of them, containing them and bringing her to focused fury.

Stop this. Get him away!

A flurry of thought and motion. Callie dismissed Charter; her portal did not vanish; she winced as her body took the strain of the manifestation directly. That confirmed that it was an Arm. Just as importantly, it left a gap in her portal perfectly sized for her to raise her pistol sidearm and –

“His Noble Arm is a sword whose power is to render himself invisible and intangible –”

The sword vanished. The portal remained open.

– BANG! Callie near-growled, reholstering her pistol. Thank God he can’t – oh, God, could he force it open further? Increasingly desperate, she wracked her brain for paths out of her situation – throwing away the rifle would only put the portal out of reach and drain her; trying to interfere with the space around the portal might result in the severance of one of her limbs; calling for help might…

Might work.

It cut at her being.

“He can be kept out with Noble Arms –”

Now you say!

Callie resummoned Charter to her hand, flicked the telescope out like a nightstick to maximise her reach, stretched out the remains of her rifle to reorient the portal for the best angle to strike – then slammed her Arm down where the flat of the blade had been. If her portal was held open by a sword, let the sword become a lever and the portal a fulcrum; with them both (and hitting hard and enough times), she hoped to wrench the weapon from her assailant’s hand.
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Mission Two: Siege of Mischief Reef

BRP Ramon Alcaraz - 10/11/2022, 19:14 UTC+8

When Callie's Noble Arm, Charter, passed through where Sohrab's sword had turned intangible, sparks of electricity lit up the point of contact; enough of them flew to cause Callie to shake and recoil unless she was braced for that or some other move. The sword turned tangible again as Sohrab snarled audibly and shouted through the portal, "Are you suicidal?! By all means, throw your energy against my assault. It makes life so much easier for me. Your father was never this wasteful with his own reserves..."

Mei's voice then echoed through the portal, "Enough talk! Keep the sword inside the portal, Sohrab, I have a bargain to make while the rest of the crew is away."

She then talked further, "One of the members of the Foriegn Volunteers Battalion is Anui-El, Priest of Shadows, whose goal is to find Malik Kendrick's heir and rebuild the Hammer of Masters. In exchange for keeping him away from you, I want you to bring this message to your superiors: I am willing to defect for 20 Billion Dollars; it was originally 50 Billion but that's too high for you guys."

PLA 'Foriegn Volunteers' Division - 10/11/2022, 19:15 UTC+8

Anui-El's giant shadow bird, which was carrying several Arms Masters and normal folk, was soaring high, trying to reach the ASEAN Diversion Fleet. Despite the screen of lesser birds covering it, it was still a vulnerable target, and not fast enough to reach its targets in time...

Especially as he could see several squadrons of PLA Aircraft plummenting from the sky, their burning wrecks plunging into the sea. Vietnam's Lotus Squadron had a reputation for invincibility no Mortals should ever have, taking control of the skies away from the Chinese by bringing down three times their number of jet planes. For a moment, Anui-El thought of sending his shadow birds at them, but realizing this was suicide, lost his nerve and flew back to Mei Yuanyuan's flying ship, shouting so loud that Callie could hear it, "The Chinese Planes and their pilots are about to break before those Vietnamese dogs! Prime your cannons to defend against them now!"

((Written by Co-GM QJT.))

CNS Shangqiu - 10/11/2022, 19:13 UTC+8

"Yessir, I checked the pipes. I discussed this with the other engineers. None of us adjusted the pressure like this." Engineer Bai relayed to Field Officer Luo the recent anomalies onboard the boat. Luo was displeased that he needed to personally inspect it so closely after a call to battle stations, but these new vessels had strange kinks. Luo stroked his chin quietly, much slower than the urgent scene required of him. "Is there a risk of explosion?"

"It's just under its breaking point; I cannot tell for certain." Bai, mildly panicked, asked his superior. "What do you think it is, sir?"

Luo shook his head. "A ghost," he joked. "Let's hope it's benevolent." He'd exhausted his natural explanations, so the supernatural one was less farcical than Luo initially surmised. "Ring up the main line."

Bai walked over to electronics, picked up the phone, and listened in. His eyes widened. "Shouts, screams… some of them aren't Chinese."

Luo reached out his hand and received the phone. He picked it up and heard similarly:

"Larsdottir, Boarding team. Electronics in the bridge under remote, likely occult control. WOs got zapped, everything's inoperable, my radio's dead. Not sure whether to expect more of this, on this boat or others. Over."

"This is Milkfish. We read you, Boarding Team. The ship might be jerry-rigged; watch out for traps. We'll keep regular contact until you're safely back. Our closest bogey has been neutralized; we're heading to reinforce your position currently. Be advised, we notice a battle group directly southwest of your position, heading due east."


Spirits… He disconnected and reached into his coat pocket. He pulled out a set of keys and fumbled his way to the correct one. "Bai, you are relieved of your current duty. Fetch all our comrades and tell them to meet me at the armory." If there was any sane answer to an insane occurrence, he'd be certain to fulfill his duty.

CNS Shangqiu - Engine Room - 10/11/2022, 19:18 UTC+8

The captain's quarters were empty, but clearly not abandoned. The bed was carefully made, and upon the desk was a small propped-up smartphone, whose camera was faced towards the door. Beside it was the captain's cap.

Immediately, the lights on the vessel all went dark: the blackness of night without the stars. Loud clanks came from nearby pipes, and suddenly the air became intensely humid; something scalding hot leaked nearby.

Down the hall came the battlecry: "Shāngqiū wànsuì!"

The shrill shriek of whistles sounded, filling the air. The screams of dozens of Chinese sailors drowned out the whistle as they charged forward to take the bridge. Luo steadily marched behind them. Whatever spirit haunted his ship, he prayed that it was on his side.

Municipality of Lingayen - 10/11/2022, 19:14 UTC+8

[N/A for now.]

@SkyHresvelg@Aisede@Lewascan2@Sniblet@Conscripts@Gerlando@Creative Chaos@Nimbus@QJT
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Collaboration between Kaitlyn, Iker, Myron and Hannie

Part 1/2


Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:19 UTC+8

The floating ghost ship departing the premises, the deck's volume was eerily low. Some ensigns, fixated at their stations, relayed incoming reports. Others, lacking duties to perform, froze in place statuesque, starved for action. Waves murmured off the bow as ambience, punctuated by gunfire from leagues away.

Lockwood pierced the silence. "Milkfish reports that Arms Masters currently board hostile bogeys; regulars moving to intercept."

Captain Rhiannon Kennedy glanced to Private Kaitlyn Price. "Your compatriots do stellar work, it appears." She inspected her bridge's crew. "Updates on the battle group?"

"They're beyond the earth's curvature. I can't establish contact," Maynard replied.

"Ditto on sonar," Tomlinson concurred.

"They lie directly north of us. Lotus Squadron reports that it maintains a present course due east, sir," Lockwood announced. "We can pinpoint their location. Do we intend to launch missiles?"

"And disclose our position and threat level?" Kennedy retorted. "They leave us alone for now. Let's return the favor. Our objective is to reach Mischief Reef, preferably unscathed."

Kaitlyn's radio sounded. "Iker Orozco reporting. We rapidly approach the line of blockade ships Callie mentioned. Do you have particular orders?"

Kennedy overheard, then seized her ship's comms and addressed the Yap directly. "Keep dialogue across main channels, please. The Supply ought to receive new complications foremost; the Masters are secondary."

"We were about to inform you," the Philippine officer lamented. Apparently too hasty, Iker added to their grievances. "No visual confirmation of bogeys yet, but Pearl told us to anticipate lone hostiles on the horizon."

"My powers function from roughly a kilometer," Iker reminded Kaitlyn, ineffectually suppressing a yawn. "I'm limited to hull repair if it's struck by projectiles. I await instructions."

The operation wasn't a total failure, or, rather, hadn't suffered complications in excess. Kaitlyn supposed conflict with Arms Masters was inevitable, but getting the Supply and Stalwart to their destination took priority.

"Private Price here, I read you," she responded, employing the ship's comms.

"Thanks for reading me," replied Iker's voice from the Yap's comms system. "Standing by."

"Yes, awaiting orders," accompanied the Filipino seaman.

Transparency was key. Kaitlyn couldn't rely on Team B exclusively; this operation encompassed more than Masters. "You said we approached the blockade. Can you confirm that we'll encounter lone hostiles?"

Captain Kennedy's stare at her subordinate demanded an answer from Lockwood, who responded accordingly. "We've been notified of a half dozen small craft, in contrast with heavier vessel groups. That's relayed from one of you, sorry, your Arms Masters via Lingayen. If it isn't lone ships, perhaps it's a couple."

Kaitlyn addressed the commander. "Will enemy vessels detect and respond to our presence within a kilometer? Can we jam communications if spotted?"

Rhiannon continued, "This vessel isn't meant for stealth, or for electronic warfare, but for transporting supplies in hostile combat zones. Maynard?"

"We can whip up radio noise to jam communications," Maynard reported, "And the Philippine escort should have these capabilities as well. It's simple, but the Chinese would know something was up, just not what. A proper electronics warfare ship would have better equipment."

"Regardless, we'll approach that line within the half hour, if not sooner," Kennedy stated. "We'll fire back only when fired upon. Shouldn't be too hard to punch a hole in this thin perimeter; wouldn't you concur?"

Kaitlyn mulled over the information but deemed decisive action warranted in this situation. Pulling out her radio, she contacted Team B's only absent member. "Mister Myron, respond."

Myron's response was immediate: "What do you need teleported, Private Price?"

"Lifeboats, possibly. If I recall correctly, you can only teleport materials you make direct contact with?"

"Yes. Thankfully, I have a lifeboat or two converted into data - there are two minutes for each to be converted back to matter. Is that time limit too fatal?"

Why lifeboats in his inventory? Kaitlyn briefly imagined him scrolling through an RPG item list, then focused on something weightier. These waters must be freezing. If her plan worked, dozens of sailors would plunge into the drink. However, they were sailors, and military. "Captain, what's the crew capacity for the Yap and Supply? Would it be feasible for us to take POW's?"

Kennedy blinked as she attempted to calculate. The Supply maintained a complement of “122, now 124” (she informed), and she expected at minimum half that aboard the enemy vessel. “The Yap has roughly as many, if I recall. A moment, please.” The scope of the implied request overwhelmed the operation's current scope.

Kaitlyn manned the comms. "Mister Orozco, could your powers disable an enemy vessel if it comes within one kilometer? Say, turning their ship into lead."

Iker explained, “I can’t turn their ship into lead, but I can manipulate their steel. I suppose cracking open a gash in their hull would suffice. Worked for the Titanic. I’ve located a proper spot.” There was little rush in his voice. He murmured off to the commander, “Would you mind if I lodged my axe into that section of wall?” The Philippine corvette’s background conversation diverged into a jumble of confused noises, but the receiving Filipino ensign remained resolute. “Standing by.” It would calm down shortly.

Kennedy shook her head. One prisoner or two was acceptable; protocol existed for that. Several dozen was another matter entirely. Still: “We’ll make do. Our urgent mission prevents us from decelerating our engines, but I’m certain Arms Masters can circumvent that complication.” Where would she stow them? The mess hall? Herberts could stare them into submission, she (jokingly) mused.

“Estimated ten minutes until visual,” Lockwood commented. Ten minutes to prepare, four minutes to get two rafts ready. But Iker could do it.

"Myron, teleport to the Supply." Kaitlyn ordered her thoughts, then: "We'll cycle lifeboats. When in range, Mister Orozco will incapacitate the enemy vessel. Maynard," she hailed the crew member in question, "Whip up some static when we attack. Unless asking them to surrender and hoping they don't raise an alarm is an option."

"We'll rescue as many people as we can. If they resist," she swallowed, "I'm sure there's protocol."

“Protocol indeed,” Herberts grinned.

Tick, tick, tick.

"Captain, approximately how many men can a lifeboat safely transport?" She'd have Myron cycle teleport. Drop in, take passengers, return, rinse and repeat. She'd rather elaborate to Myron in person. Either ship's lifeboats sufficed.

Kennedy threw her hands up, rather resigned to this new situation. “A lifeboat?” she scoffed. “I don’t know. Depends on size and shape. Our boats can fit twenty comfortably, fifty uncomfortably.”

“Permission to prepare jamming, sir?” Maynard asked, hoping he didn’t accidentally subvert the chain of command.

“Granted,” Kennedy replied, “But nothing until my signal. Clear?”

“Yessir.” The radar station commenced.

Kennedy manned the communications. “Battle stations. Ready two lifeboats. All unoccupied personnel, man small firearms and await further instructions.”

The conversation aboard the Yap had settled, and Iker returned to inter-ship dialogue. “I’m allowed usage of the ship’s hull to channel my ability. Should we break formation and push ahead? Distance might mitigate risk of damage to the Supply.”

Myron walked through Qingshe's portal, knowing that the female Arms Master was sincere about giving him a chance, no matter how slight, before saying to Kaitlyn, "Private Pierce, I presume you need me for a plan?"

"I leave that to Captain Kennedy," Kaitlyn replied. She'd flexed her dubious authority, and she'd rather not gamble with the lives of both ships herself. Beyond what she already had, at least. "Myron," she turned to face him– and couldn't suppress a frown. Admittedly, he merely followed orders. "We'll scuttle the incoming enemy vessel using Mister Orozco's powers, then jam their radio–" or that'd be the simplified way to explain it, at least. "You will teleport the lifeboats to their position."

She paused, and frowned further– in thought, this time. "I'd prefer a stabler method, but loading soldiers onto the boats would be redundant, and loading you..." She studied him for a moment, and got the distinct impression he wasn't very bulletproof. No, sending anybody with those boats was almost a guaranteed bucket load of casualties. They lacked options for optimal life and minimal risk, she surmised.

"Captain, would their ship sinking force them to accept 'rescue'? We, you, could send men with the boats to make demands personally, but we couldn't guarantee their safety."

If they attempted escape, the Supply would waste two lifeboats on mercy. She felt her heart beat faster. Had she made the right choice? What options had a higher degree of success? They– she risked lives and resources on something completely unnecessary, but...

Feigning calmness, she scoured her belt pouches, nervously fumbling with a chocolate bar. Don't think about it. The operation will be a success, you'll see.

Myron cautioned, "Fair warning: them jamming or physically breaking their own communications devices can interrupt the teleportation. You and the ship's captain should hail them first; they'd pull out their own comms out of instinct." Follow orders. Ignore how, after all these years, you're unworthy of forgiveness. He followed, "Even if they escape with the lifeboats, they won't be useful battlefield assets for the mission's duration. I'll teleport them at your signal, Private Price." Myron closed his mouth and waited.

Kaitlyn blinked. That was a critical oversight. You're slipping, Kaitlyn. Your machinations were stillborn. Kaitlyn's ears rang with mocking laughter, and she shivered. No, this was a learning lesson. Better to be informed now than during operation. "Thank you for informing me. Now, go prepare, I'm sure someone will direct you."

That came off as both rude and flippant, didn't it? Was this really Captain Kennedy's ship, or Captain Kaitlyn's? Maybe she should ask for a tricorn hat, next. She broodingly bit her chocolate bar, briefly focusing on the sweetness. Mmmh... Stress begone, stress begone–

"Captain, you're more experienced on these matters. I've never ridden anything larger than a paddle board, heh." She glanced around the room. "Have you ever done anything like this before?"

"Myron, you are an Arms Master, so you submit to Kaitlyn's purview, just as this vessel's functions fall under mine: comms, radar, armaments," Kennedy denoted. "We can coordinate, so long as the chains of command are kept tight. Gordon."

Kaitlyn recognized the gentleman with the bullhorn who called down her and Hannie, if merely from his accent. "Yes."

"Assist Myron with preparations."

"Yessir." The man stood by Myron, expectant of another move.

"The Supply has never faced active combat, only logistics excursions." Kennedy elaborated. "The Tongan tsunami, for instance. But we have simulations and protocol, and we've trained for encounters like these. If that qualifies as experience, then the whole crew has it.

"That said, this skirmish will guide future manuals for generations to come, especially with superpowers involved. No pressure," Kennedy smiled. "Off record, the whole world is woefully unprepared." She shrugged. "But we manage. I can't guarantee Chinese morale, whether they'd rather drown or escape with us. They might have their own lifeboats. If you desire some gum after that chocolate, I keep a pack in my coat pocket. Calms the nerves."

"Halloo?" Iker hailed Kaitlyn's radio. "I lack permission to advance."

Rhiannon sighed. "The Yap shall not break formation. Mister Orozco lies within a completely different purview." She turned to Kaitlyn, expectantly.

Iker thought briefly, then spoke up: "If the Yap's lifeboat is tempered steel, perhaps I could take that forward and crack the enemy there. A rescue option would already be present when the patrol sinks."

"Is it, Yap?"

The Filipino ensign responded, "I believe so? It's that orange boat you lent us, correct?"

"Affirmative," Kennedy smiled. "Penny for your thoughts, Price?"

Myron interjected, "I've also stored a large amount of supplies in my Shield, including live ammunition. I have mundane small arms, including rocket launchers and Anti-Materiel Rifles, and spare ammo for them. Just to outline my offerings." He withdrew a stick of chewing gum from his shield, before presenting it to Kaitlyn. "Here; don't worry, it's not poisoned."

Kaitlyn regarded the offered gum uneasily. "No, thank you, Myron." She paused and considered what else he said. Rocket launchers and their ammunition. Live ammunition. Explosives. Explosives that could be targeted. Myron had a high degree of accuracy, or she at least assumed as much.

"Six minutes," Lockwood announced.

"Live ammunition." She brought a hand to her chin. "We could target the enemy vessel's lifeboats. Captain, I have a layman's understanding of ships, but they usually follow patterns, right? We must have some estimate to locate their lifeboats." It was sick, cruel, and ruthlessly efficient. And it was Kaitlyn's idea. She wasn't sure how much she liked that.

"On the vessel's sides, likely at the middle or rear," Kennedy guessed. "That's standard procedure, at least. I doubt Chinese design deviates strongly."

"As for Mister Orozco's idea," she glanced towards the comms, "We can't secure his safety through that option. He'd alone be at the mercy of an entire ship of angry Chinese with guns. There must be safer options."

"Don't worry about my safety, Kaitlyn," Iker assured, "One life is worth the gambit to save hundreds, right?"

"Oh," Kennedy stated. "I operated under the assumption that you could handle personal gunfire as an Arms Master."

"No. Well, yes, potentially, but individually. Who'd be insane enough to shoot an unarmed lifeboat, anyways?"

"The PLA," Kennedy retorted. "Also, it's technically well armed with you aboard. I would cite the Geneva Conventions, but the People's Republic have broken it several times already. I'm not bothered. If you risk yourself, Mister Orozco, I won't stop you, so long as the Yap allows you to use their boat."

"We'd be happy to be rid of, apologies, to let him go," the Yap's captain corrected.

"Well," Iker mused, "Are there safer options to consider before I depart? Don't want to waste myself for nothing."

Myron responded, "Depending on the state of Chinese communications, I can beam in sleeping gas bombs from my storage or the sleeping gas itself." Regarding Iker, he sighed, saying, "The receiving end of Anti-Arms Master sentiment: tch, how foolhardy. I'm reminded of my younger self; that is not a compliment."

Kaitlyn considered for a moment, then sighed and shook her head. No matter which way the cake was sliced, Iker's portion would be dangerously slim. He could erect a shield of sorts, but bullets easily punched through steel, especially if fifty angry Chinese fired on one position. They couldn't send soldiers or they'd be outnumbered. "No, not without risking further lives."

Aren't you missing something, Kaitlyn? The realization didn't comfort her; it only made her feel worse. "Does anyone here speak Chinese?" She considered a promising new angle of approach: a bluff, plain and simple.

Kennedy looked around. "We have Murray, who's usually at his post."

Gordon intervened. "I sent Murray to caretake that minor I mentioned earlier."

Kennedy exhaled. "Can we radio him to the bridge?"

~~~~

With whatever happened in the galley now behind her, Hannie half followed and half led Murray around the Supply's lower decks. Neither had strict destinations in mind and so spent the past few minutes wandering around halls, occasionally ducking out of the way of rushing sailors, occasionally getting sleeve pulled away from interesting doors, and obligingly finding other forbidden places.

The toast was fine. She wasn't hungry, but it was fine. She wondered if she was supposed to bring up songs again.

Murray held onto his hat as he wandered around the deck. The sailors' cadence wasn't nearly so hurried now in anticipation as it was a few moments ago in urgency. A passing man and pointed at the girl. "What is, isn't she supposed to-"

"Captain's business," Murray explained, curtly dismissing him. He racked his mind for safe harbors by which the the pellmell roaming might temporarily cease. "Hey, what say we peruse the engine room? Or, if you'd prefer, we could check out the helicopters!" Those were still aboard, right? He didn't hear whirring; they had to be.

Murray handled Hannie as best he could, that was to say, ineffectively. It was almost a relief to him when the captain herself messaged him. "Present yourself at the bridge, promptly."

He didn't want to abandon Hannie, as a matter both of duty and of morals. He regarded it as much more ethical to sling Hannie over his shoulder again like a sack of potatoes and speedily trot to the bridge. He set the child down. "Yessir?"

Kennedy saluted. "I lease you to Private Price; she requests your translation skills. I hope you've been practicing."

Murray turned to Kaitlyn. "Duì wǒ yǒuyòng! Wǒ néng tígōng shénme bāngzhù ma?"

Kennedy pointed to Hannie. "The minor: what are her capabilities, if any?"

Myron stayed silent, making a point not to blab or to snitch about Hannie's powers lest he draw Kaitlyn's wrath.

Kaitlyn gaped at Hannie's blatant mishandling, then stared blankly as Murray said, something? in what she presumed to be Chinese.

"She possesses the power to generate extreme cold," she stated, slowly shifting her attention back onto the captain. She'd have preferred to lie and omit Hannie's power, but Rhiannon would shortly realize the truth. You don't take ordinary children to the battlefield, after all.

"Mister Murray, you will accompany Mister Orozco when he deploys. Myron will transport you to the Yap when we're ready." She half heartedly gestured towards the man in question without looking directly at him. "After crippling their ship and destroying their lifeboats, you'll deliver an ultimatum to the enemy vessel's crew. They can surrender and come aboard peacefully or attempt to escape and face our guns."

She looked between Murray and Kennedy, suddenly feeling a spike of anxiety. "As a bluff, of course," she added with a nervous laugh. "A warning shot should suffice if they don't think we're serious." She distinctly felt Kennedy would fire more than a warning shot otherwise.

"This is an active combat situation," Kennedy stated, standing at ease. "Firing upon enemy combatants to neutralize them is expected, if not preferred. My only concern is that it'd give away our presence, or that we'd have insufficient firepower for retaliation. Any warning shot we send will be directed towards the patrol boat." She smiled, the underlying implications readily apparent. Solution A's termination would beget a prompt Solution B.

That smile. "Can you do that, Mister Murray?" Kaitlyn confirmed.

Murray blinked. "Oh, um, dāngrán, I mean, certainly," he stated. He clearly wasn't accustomed to teleportation, in conjunction with the explicit risk of being jammed out of existence. His voice's timid nervousness peaked through his resolute sense of duty. "Tell me when."

The non-ordinary child scanned the conversation from her placement, her impassive expression suggesting the possibility that she had been shoulder slung and dragged into the presence of a naval officer where being lead by the hand would have sufficed multiple times before. She nodded to Kaitlyn's partial explanation of her capabilities, adding nothing to it, stuffing her hands in her coat pockets as if she could possibly be cold here.

"Hm," the captain acknowledged Hannie. The minor was at minimum aware of the situation, and recognized the applicability of silence. A decorated soldier's career awaited her, should she elect that future.

Iker piped up over the comms, "I'm beside the lifeboats, ready to commence."

"Two minutes," Lockwood heralded. "If you commence operations, you may engage at anytime between now and visual contact."

Kennedy adjusted her cap. "I'll give the go ahead to my people once you give it to yours."

Kaitlyn nodded, relieved to finally put her plan to action.

"Commence the operation."
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Collaboration between Kaitlyn, Iker, Myron and Hannie

Part 2/2


Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:38 UTC+8

It felt... final, decisive, the make or break moment. In a couple minutes, they'll either have secured 60+ POW's or lost two men and given their position away.

Since Hannie was present, Kaitlyn indulged her inner mother and motioned her over, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder. It was unprofessional, but she wouldn't see Captain Kennedy or her crew after today.

"Operation is active," Kennedy instructed her subordinates. "Inform the Yap to prime naval guns and torpedoes. Launch the lifeboat."

The bridge emanated quiet energy as ensigns paid keen attention to respective stations. The commander exhaled to relax herself, then inhaled to puff herself up. The only noise was the clacking of various keyboards and a seaman calmly relaying orders over the comms, headphones keeping allied ships' conversations from distracting the crew.

Blockade Runners, Lifeboat of the BRP Conrado Yap - 10/11/2022, 19:39 UTC+8

Iker looked out the window at the handful of sailors who lowered him. His salute was a mere thumbs up, a casual acknowledgment of calm assurance for both himself and the whole operation. He activated the communication systems in anticipation of receiving another aboard. He glanced around the controls; he'd operated more complicated machinery prior. The engines ignited, and Iker briefly prayed for the endeavor.

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:39 UTC+8

"Lifeboats away. Torpedo systems and auto cannons loaded and awaiting your command," the seaman commented, relaying the Yap's updates.

"I'm ready to... teleport, now," Murray informed Kaitlyn. "Take care of Hannie for me."

Kaitlyn smiled. "Of course. Fair warning, teleporting can be disorienting. I almost threw up the first time."

Myron extended his shield to Murray. "Touch this; conversion to data takes a second or less."

Gordon bestowed his bullhorn upon Murray. "In case your voice doesn't carry," he chuckled.

Murray grasped the bullhorn with one hand, then, once Gordon released, touched Myron's shield with the other. In mere moments, he vanished.

Blockade Runners, Lifeboat of the BRP Conrado Yap - 10/11/2022, 19:40 UTC+8

Slightly disoriented when he materialized inside the orange boat, Murray first sensed the motor's vibration and the waves' whispers upon the enclosure. Iker uncomfortably reclined behind him, surprising him as he spoke. "So that's how it appears. Curious."

Murray turned around and, lacking suitable alternative greetings, saluted his compatriot in this endeavor. "Seaman Michael Murray, at your service."

Iker nodded briefly. "Iker Orozco, at yours."

"Yes, well, I stand ready."

The lifeboat surpassed the corvette from which it embarked, and reached range of the Chinese patrol in a matter of seconds as opposed to minutes. Amidst the loud ambient noise, a faint shout arose a kilometer away: "Zuǒbiān de wèizhī chuán!"

Iker halted the engines. "Cause for alarm?"

"They've spotted us but cannot identify us," Murray commented.

Iker peeked through the lifeboat's window. He was immediately greeted by the piercing glare of a spotlight. "Zhèngmíng nǐ de shēnfèn!" traversed the waters over the enemy vessel's speakers, apparently at the wayward vessel.

Iker blinked and dismounted. "Well, we're at reasonable length, anyways. Please take control." Iker vacated the navigator's station as Murray stumbled into the pilot's seat. "Don't be alarmed; I'll attempt to summon a luminous battleaxe."

"Of course," Murray exhaled, "Why wouldn't you?" He saw stranger abnormalities this evening.

The lifeboat flooded with light, and Campeón Champiñón rested trustfully in Iker's possession. After a momentary pause, Iker swung it horizontally towards the ship's hull. The clang with which the axe pierced mimicked a bullet shot, and Murray jolted in his chair.

"Àn zhù nǐ de huǒ!" blasted the speakers. Eerie calmness encompassed both ships. The Yap, a third party, approached from behind and beside.

Iker sat in the cabin and placed his fingers on his temples, furrowing his brow and trying to concentrate above the waves, as if finding the perfect chess move in a losing match. Thump came a distant sound. "That's not sufficiently large... Ah," Iker mused, "They must have two. Michael, please, does the ship's rear host a lifeboat?"

Murray peered through the spotlight. "Affirmative, I believe."

"Eureka." Thump again. "Very well; that's a couple away vessels rendered inoperative," Iker stated. "Pardon me in advance; I'm known to produce ghastly noises with heavier undertakings." Breathing heavily, Iker gripped his kneecaps and gritted his teeth. Murray felt unease, as if encountering a deranged drug addict along narrow corridors. He focused towards his own preparations, inspecting and activating his bullhorn. The unmistakable shriek of unwilling metal surfaced, muted by a thin film of water.

Iker relaxed. "I've created a gash beneath the surface, roughly twenty meters long," he announced. "I suspect our adversary's patrol has one hour left afloat."

Murray rolled his shoulders. "Well, fortis Fortuna adiavat." He exited then mounted the vehicle, speaking at the highest volume his limited voice and technology allowed. "Chuán zhèngzài xià chén, shàng chuán zǒu ba!" His Australian accent deformed his admittedly competent Chinese. "Wǒmen shì nǐ wéiyī de- Whoa!"

A bullet grazed the lifeboat's upper hull. Murray didn't need to dodge but nonetheless momentarily lost his balance. He regained it and attempted to conclude and repeat. "...de jiùyuán! Chuán zhèngzài-"

Another cartridge was emptied, penetrating the ocean before the vessel. Iker manned his radio. "We are being fired upon, but inaccurately from such a distance. What are your orders?"

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:42 UTC+8

Dread gripped Kaitlyn as she appraised the situation. She hadn't accounted for the possibility of such hostility. The closer they got, the more likely they were to get shot. The PLA navy wasn't very receptive to its 'rescue.' Should Murray and Iker maintain course, and hope the Chinese cease fire when they realize what's happening? Would they rather go down with the ship than receive mercy? Would they retaliate harder if ASEAN retaliates?

She breathed out, feeling her heart beat faster. She entertained a fleeting thought. That's not an option yet. "By now, they're probably suspicious. They'll be raising an alarm soon, won't they?" She addressed nobody in particular, not that she expected an answer.

The Philippine escort would appear any moment now. While the Supply could whip up some noise, it'd be better to take preventative actions other than that. Not quite an attack... Per se... More like suppression. "Myron, can you drop the gas yet?"

"Assuming their comms can receive a hail, yes," was Myron's answer. "If they have Internet, I can also force sleeping agent through their firewalls."

She blinked, and turned to face the captain properly. This fiasco had occurred because Kaitlyn hadn't understood how the enemy vessel would react. The crew or the captain. "Captain... What would it take for a ship to lay down arms?" Evidently dooming the ship wasn't enough. Kaitlyn wasn't entirely certain that dropping bombs would improve the situation more. She needed the perspective of a commander.

Huddled up to Kaitlyn, staring fearfully out into the ocean, the forgettable 14-year-old piped up. "People keep saying we shouldn't let them take us. I think a lot of people would rather..." She hesitated, unsure what sort of language was appropriate for the company of navy sailors. "Sink?"

Rhiannon Kennedy adopted a casual stance that reflected Kaitlyn's nervousness and awkwardness. Thoughts of surrender weren't typically encouraged among military leadership, but present duty ironically demanded it. She exhaled. "I'd continue to engage the enemy so long as I believed my endeavors made a difference. If there was some tactical advantage in my efforts or my death, then a noble sacrifice it would be." She didn't dare talk of surrendering her arms even theoretically, but her words implied the contrapositive: Pointless resistance would shatter morale. "Of course, slumber would remove me from the fray proper quick," she chuckled.

Blockade Runners, Lifeboat of the BRP Conrado Yap - 10/11/2022, 19:43 UTC+8

Iker kept the radio on for transparency's sake. Murray's brave but increasingly frantic warnings sounded in the ambience. "Chuán zhèngzài xià chén, shàng- Ah, bugger!" The bullhorn amplified his yaup and was consequentially turned off. The roof above Iker heard Murray's knee hit its frame. "They got me!" Murray exclaimed. "I'm injured, but nothing vital. Punctured my left thigh."

The Arms Master clutched his chin in contemplation and thought aloud. "I can't change physical properties. I can barely alter momentum. I might not react in time..." He signaled to the Supply. "Awaiting orders, but I concentrate also on other matters. If you hear me writhing in agony; that's normal." The comms then relayed strained screaming from Orozco.

Another bullet struck the Australian seaman, but he announced it openly. "My chest... They appear to shoot... bottlecaps? Coins? Little domed, flat objects; never seen them before! They couldn't penetrate my upper torso. Hurt like hell, though."

That wasn't the Chinese doing. As hypothesized, the larger cross section evenly distributed the impact. Not a moment too soon, either. "Keep talking," Orozco groaned.

"Right," Murray concurred, striking up the loudspeaker. "Shàng chuán zǒu ba!"

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:44 UTC+8

"For what they did to Murray?" Kennedy commented, "Say the word; we'll blast them."

Keep calm and carry on. It wasn't the most motivating line to quote, but it was something. The situation got worse, and Kaitlyn still sat on her ass twiddling her thumbs. Because you're useless. You're worse than useless, actually. Your actions just got a man shot!

No, that's not my fault–

First rule of leadership, Kaitlyn, everything is your fault.


She felt cold, and a little light headed. "Myron, drop the sleeping gas." Despite her temples' low drumming, her voice rang clear. "Captain, we'll probably be discovered very soon, so I won't stop you from firing on them. However, could we target their weapons specifically? Take out their means of a counteroffensive. Clarify their two options."

She gripped Hannie's shoulder harder before realizing what she was doing and relaxing slightly. "God help me," she murmured under her breath. Kaitlyn hadn't killed men before. She remembered that beach, a second sun blazing in the sky. Screams. A barrier breaking.

Myron momentarily slowed down, almost losing a valuable second from sudden surges of pessimism and weariness. He was tired of a fight for redemption that would never come. He grit his teeth and 'uploaded' the data-converted sleeping agent onto every open PLA communications device. Aerosol tranquilizers flooded the opposing vessel. The nonfatal weapon if inhaled would cause drowsiness then unconsciousness among their foes, saving Iker and Murray from inevitable death.

Myron assured Kaitlyn, "It's easy to resign yourself to dying and killing after seeing how hard it is to save lives. But to be honest, don't stop doing so... It took me a long time to see that lives are precious."

Blockade Runners, Lifeboat of the BRP Conrado Yap - 10/11/2022, 19:45 UTC+8

The horizon's stars sparkled through the gas, first atop the radar array, then around the bridge, then across the vessel's abdomen. The spared sections were the bow's tips and the helicopter pad that covered the ship's tail. If seamen operated on those sections, they didn't engage. The Yap entered firing range of even its small arms, but the guns remained silent.

Iker commented, "Visual on sleeping agent. Moving to board the vessel." He accelerated to full speed, fastened the steering wheel, and peeked onto the roof. Murray acknowledged Iker with a brief nod, lying down and applying pressure to his wound. Iker saw a pool of dark liquid on the bright orange surface and descended. Were there personal air filtration systems aboard? Thank God yes, and two. More presently, Iker found alcohol and bandages, and ascended to apply both to Murray's thigh. Murray's grit his teeth but kept silent. Afterwards, Orozco knelt and extended his hand. "Can you walk?"

Murray grimaced. "Fuck you, 'Can I-'"

"I ask you if you want to be a hero." Iker's face was cold and stern in the starlight as he presented a mask. Boarding a sinking ship to carry limp bodies to safety was a harrowing situation already, twice so with a faulty leg.

Murray received the message. "I, I can walk."

"Excellent," Orozco quipped, his voice lacking consolation, his empathy merely assumed. He descended again and directed the wayward vessel to the ship's aft.

Blockade Runners, HMAS Supply - 10/11/2022, 19:46 UTC+8

An overwhelmingly successful operation warranted applause, but tension aboard the Supply was only briefly alleviated. The most afforded was a sigh of relief across the command deck. Of course, the operation wasn't fully successful, was it? By Kaitlyn's standards, all lives must be saved. By Kennedy's, the blockade runner must reach Mischief Reef and return. The night was longer yet. "Minutes to interception, Lockwood?"

"Three, I believe," Electronics responded. Every moment was precious.

There, they made it. You can shut up now.

Yes, now the two of them must haul an entire ship's worth of doomed men onto a boat in three minutes. Congratulations, Private Price!


Kaitlyn frowned, imagining mockingly slow applause.

Could she improve the situation? The gas didn't appear to flood the whole ship. Some crew must still be awake, and they'll want to rescue their comrades, so it wouldn't just be Iker and Murray. She'd like to speed up the process, though.

She opened her mouth to state intentions but froze. What, she's going to go down there and help the evacuation? Wasn't she Team B's 'leader'? The leader isn't supposed to put themselves in harm's way.

But was Kaitlyn really a leader, so valuable as to be indispensable? I'm just a private, about as nobody as you get.

"I'm going too."
She finally released Hannie, turning her attention to Myron. "I'll need a gas mask." She suspected Kennedy would have one and would speak up if Myron failed to produce one. She's doing this. She's contributing. She may not be the strongest soldier, but she was a soldier. She could help evacuate a few men.

Myron, seeing opportunity to help, retrieved a gas mask. "I've learned to prepare for everything. Remember: I've fought since I was your ward's age." Her ward; that was what Hannie was to her, wasn't she?

"Depart with my blessing," Kennedy saluted Kaitlyn. "Let's lower our expeditionary boats to assist. We ourselves will not deviate from our present course."

Blockade Runners, PLA Navy Ship Luzhou - 10/11/2022, 19:48 UTC+8

The orange lifeboat docked underneath the opposing patrol's side. Murray gulped. "So, how do we ascend?"

Iker shrugged. "I figure there's rope somewhere, attached to a weight. We'll grapple using that."

A rooftop thunk stilled the musing. Iker adjusted his facial covering and inspected the incident. A rope ladder ascended to the patrol's fenced rim. A sailor gazed downwards and hailed them, a gas mask similarly encompassing his head. He was fortunate to have reacted to the sleeping agent in time, as the ASEAN delegates were that his magnanimity overshadowed his desire for vengeance. "Bāng wǒ xiè xià zhèxiē shītǐ!" came his muffled plea.

"Xièxiè; lǐjiě zhěngjiùle nǐ de chuányuán," Murray accepted, bowing in sympathy.

Iker climbed aboard without hesitation, Murray limping behind. On deck, he found himself surrounded by unconscious seamen and a handful of masked former adversaries, all recently hauled from their posts. Iker slung his first catch and promptly lowered. Many hands caused light work, so the adage went. Bodies piled up at the contact location, and descended as expediently as possible.

The HMAS Supply appeared on the horizon, flanked by two small craft. The Yap soon decelerated beside the enemy patrol, and a second connection was made for direct transfer. Within minutes, the sides of the massive blockade runner barely avoided hitting the PLA bow as it cruised past at full speed, and what felt like a toy fleet encompassed the sinking vessel.

"Wǒmen bǎ tāmen dōu zhuā dàole ma?" Murray inquired of his Chinese counterpart.

"Wǒ rènshí de měi gèrén."

Murray sighed and clutched his aching knee. "We got everyone," he announced to Iker.

Iker manned his radio. "This is Orozco. Operation successful, amusingly. Boarding escape ships and departing."

@SkyHresvelg@Aisede@Lewascan2@Sniblet@Conscripts@Gerlando@Creative Chaos@Nimbus@KaiserElectric@Landaus Five-One@Letter Bee
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AGH, God that stung! And, okay, what am I meant to do when an assailant I don’t know has me basically trapped falling to my –

Clearly knows something about Charter’s powers –

‘father’. ‘father’. ‘father’ ‘father’ ‘father’ ‘father’ ‘father’ –

Get. A. GRIP.

The air rushing past her had slowed. Stopped. Was beginning to reverse. That put her on a timer – in somewhere around a minute or two she’d be a smear of blood and flesh being rapidly dispersed by the waves.

Unless she acted. Needs her allies absent. If I heard that voice right… “Fine, I’ll take your message,” Callie near-growled, “so get that blade away so I can take it. And do it fast, ‘less you want that one suspecting you.”

There was a slight ‘woosh’ as the sword was taken away, and the portal was closed; Sohrab had done what the daughter of his ‘Malik’ had said. A cascade of relief crashed through her, both of the trickling stamina ceasing to flow from her but, far, far more than that, of the reassertion of control over her own being. Without ears on her, Callie gasped at the feeling of it, taking a moment to just pant for breath.

Gathered herself.

Grit her teeth.

Opened up a channel back to Noel and Iker. “Back in action, command. Antiquarian wants to defect, for a sum in the billions. At least seems pliable; recommending capture if possible. Warning that she’s canny in her antique’s use, if not her negotiation. Cannot easily engage second antiquarian; requesting antique mental control to stand ready, if we have anyone. Can transport on command.” Intangibility denies most of my capabilities, maybe Qingshe’s too – need to plan in case no-one’s available. She focused on that thought, burning it into her memory, to… Report later.

A part of her mind followed through; the other part remained on the present. Rapidly, Callie demanifested Charter, slung her broken rifle over her shoulder, remanifested it, then tucked in her arms and legs, diving, diving – and up again, through another portal. That would keep her airborne for the next little while.

And she would use that while. She brought her sight back to the ship – to the man flying the bird of semi-solid darkness, still yelling at those aboard. ‘Anui-El’. Has clout, so removing him from their command structure would be effective; his Arm provides them mobility we ought to deny; and there’s no need to compromise in striking him.

Callie took a breath. Confusion and fear. Let’s sow some more of it.

Her focus divided again. Part of it remained on the man; she turned off her night vision, seeing him only by the light of Mei’s ship. Longcoat to anchor to; still yelling – good. Arm summons at least one shadow bird; possibility of countering if they can transmit themselves through small gaps and are strong enough to remain in one place against immense pressure and have limited intangibility. Part of her felt the tiniest bit of something approaching glee. Seems minimal.

The other part of her looked behind him. Gazed upon the ocean. Sought to break past the black surface, to understand that the black-blue that she saw was a function of the absorption of most other light – which meant that the blue light remained. That, of that little blue that the evening twilight allowed, some of it penetrated dozens of metres deep into the ocean before returning to the surface, to soar across the sky to, without her night vision on, eventually reach her eye.

That she could – against all her instincts – see it!

Thus, in a moment in which Anui-El was bellowing at his allies, he found himself suddenly unable to close his mouth. For that lowest point that Callie could see beneath the waves was suddenly joined by a small portal to the space within.

All of the saltwater on the other side, just as suddenly, had somewhere new to go.

And from both sides of that portal a veritable geyser burst forth.



Death was at least quick, though cruel and unusual, for Anui-El, Priest of Birds; not even supernatural toughness can stand the quick shock of ultra-cold water filling up one’s lungs. The rest of the ‘Foreign Volunteers Division’ visibly quailed, all except Mei and Sohrab, the former of whom just closed her lips and gestured for her Ship to keep sailing/flying towards the Diversion Fleet. For now, it seemed as though they were going to keep attacking, although if Mei’s offer was accepted, that might change.
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Sister Marta

Aboard the HMS Supply

Sister Marta Rocha thought much could be said about the theological implications of mystical teleportation, especially when it involves being converted into data and transported via radio waves. The sheer disconnect between being there one moment and here the next left her stomach and equilibrium a bit out of sync. She thought this was probably what other people felt when they got seasickness - well, nothing that faith and antacids can't resolve. At least that suspicious Myron guy took her to her destination instead of dumping her in the middle of the ocean or locking her in a USB.

She let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. No use being negative about things - she was finally done providing what help she could to the injured behind the lines, and she'd now been called in to assist - firstly by providing care to a boatload of POWs who had been incapacitated mostly peacefully. Sleeping gas was involved, but there were a few injuries since many crewmembers had been in active combat stations - running up and down, holding dangerous objects, the works. Mostly nothing more than scrapes and bruises, but a handful of concussions, broken bones, and internal fractures were also reported. And, enemies or not, Marta thought it would be downright shameful to let them be further injured while imprisoned!

"Ms. Rocha? Ms. Rocha, it's down this way."

She started for a moment as the crewman who was leading her to the brig caught her attention. She flushed slightly, almost tripping over herself as she corrected her path. How embarrassing! She got so lost in her thoughts she missed a turn. Despite the strange circumstances, the crew members were very professional, and she didn't want to make a clumsy impression on her first outing.

"Ah, sorry about that! Bit distracted is all."

Some military and even civilian authorities find her presence odd - a young nun wandering around battlegrounds and disaster zones. In a place where Arms Masters congregated in large numbers, her few eccentricities barely made an impact and only more so as Noble Arms continued to proliferate. It was gratifying - it meant that they could get down to business. Thankfully, the remainder of the trek through the ship's claustrophobic interiors was brief; soon enough, the seaman stood aside to let her into the brig area.

"Here we are, Ms. Rocha."

She stepped in gingerly and began to analyze the cells - not precisely intended to hold this many people.

"The brig is a bit overcrowded. Isn't there any more room?"

"Sorry, Ms., but we hadn't expected this many POWs. She's already full to bursting as is..."

"Nothing for it, I suppose... all the more reason for me to get started."

She calmly walks to a more central position, observing the prisoners. Many of them are still unconscious and doing fine. Some are awake but still out of it. And a few are awakened by injury, one case even showing an external fracture. Steeling herself, she raises her right hand skyward. After a few seconds, light coalesces around her right arm, plates of gilt silver appearing in flashes until the final piece, marked with a Chi-Rho, completes the gauntlet over her right hand.

"Behold, for I bring to thee Health and Healing..."

A pulse of light emanates from the Noble Arm, permeating steel and lead. Scrapes and cuts vanish, bruises dissipate, Flesh and bone reknit, and even invisible concussions are brought back into shape. The light passes even through walls, past the brig. Some sailors in the area of effect are also relieved- back pain is assuaged, migraines temporarily suppressed, and one man is suddenly and rudely sobered. That done, she reaches into her bag and pulls out a hardened radio—time to report in.

"Hey? Hey, yeah, it's Marta speaking. I managed to get here within the three-minute limit, thank goodness. What's next on the agenda?"
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((Collab Post between Letter Bee, Sniblet, and Creative Chaos; Gerlando has also allowed his OC, Nil, to be used as an NPC by Bee.))

CNS Shangqiu - Engine Room - 10/11/2022, 19:18 UTC+8

Battle cries screamed out from the entrances, and Noel had to applaud the enemy’s fearless courage as they charged in, laying down covering fire that indicated not a disordered rush but tactics.

As he deftly leaped around the flying bullets, somewhat constricted by the room’s confines, he took out his Floro MK-9 that was strapped to his side and shot into the middle of the group of sailors, incapacitating one but invigorating his comrades.

These men knew how to fight Arms Masters: numbers, coordination, and tactics. 5.8x42 cartridges unloaded, their bullets flooding the hallway in the attempt to strike against the fast-moving Indra, mixed occasionally with the pistol fire of the captain behind them.

Everything alike shattered or ricocheted against her wings, folded defensively in front of her from the moment of contact. Though it blinded her, in narrow quarters and with a long Arm, it made little difference to whoever would get hit.

”Well, this is suicidal,” she… mumbled? It was difficult as ever to place how she spoke like this. With her spear readied, she rushed down the hall, exploiting the time it took the attackers to realize that they must aim down - only her legs were visible.

The Chinese Sailors did the same against Nico, but two were also firing tasers at the guy, bear in mind that the entire group of infiltrators was already wet from the sprinklers.

Wait, these guys got intel on me? Well, maybe not enough. Nico cut away the taser wires with an inhuman level of finesse, using every swing to deflect gunfire, running at full tilt. Despite his best efforts, several shots connected. Most glanced off his body, the more shallow wounds healing in a small burst of sparks.

What few bullets could manage to find their target hurt like hell, but he simply moved forward, devoting as much energy as he could to maintaining his stride. The moment he reached the net shooters, he took a deep breath and focused his senses, rapidly slicing through the barrels (and possibly a few fingers) of the assailants within the reach of his blade.

Nil now launched copies of her staff at high velocity, decapitating an enemy sailor with the sheer force of one of her supernatural projectiles. At the same time, the ship was moving on its own, even though the controls were nonfunctional. Something Occult was at work here, and Noel was the first to realize it.

"The ship is sailing back to one of the battle groups!" The First Lieutenant shouted as bullets whizzed past him, veered away by his Noble Arm's passive power. "Something is controlling it and it isn't friendly to us!"

Callie's portal had faded due to her own distractions. And they had to call her fast as the enemy still streamed in. Nico managed to sever the fingers of the Chinese Sailors using the Netguns, but now six had surrounded him - Two swung machetes at him, two more tried to get under his defenses with thick-bladed knives, and two tried to taser him.

As for Indra? Nil's burst of firepower had cleared a path towards melee, but now two enemies shot at her exposed legs with pistols, two swung machetes at her wings, and two more tried to taser her.

Indra didn’t respond to Noel’s assessment. She said nothing further. She was stuck in the fast-moving and wordless world of combat - no real thought, just crisis instinct tempered by training, just muscle memory, just the half-light. A hasty look around found four immediate threats: the machetes would catch up sooner or later but were not presently doing anything that mattered. A sweep, a slice, a jab - she smelled blood and death in a way that she never had before, but anyway - keep all of your enemies in front of you, track their aim, shuffle your wings - did she just get shot?…

She checked the distance to the farthest wall. For a mad, confused moment she considered throwing her weapon to blast out the hull. If she could think straight, or breathe, she would’ve had no such idea. She might instead spend more time interrogating why the sailors are swarming like ants defending their hive, tens of men entirely ignoring the unhesitant slayings of their comrades and friends to fight hand-to-hand with Arms Masters. She began that thought earlier. Now it was far gone. Where possible, block shots meant for your team too

Her adrenaline wasn’t visible from outside. To a viewer, her motions looked refined, deliberate, and close to dancelike. Her wings seemed the most active part of her, acting as shield, as mobility, and occasionally as a bludgeon, softly glowing, whirling and beating, never still from instant to instant.

There were another dozen streaming in, firing back with assault rifles and submachine guns to suppress Nil and Noel, the latter who now hurled a shard of ice - A duplicate of Hannie's power? - To pierce another foe through the heart.

Nico decided to prioritize the machete-wielding soldiers, parrying their blades with Helios Rod and cutting through the weapons in the process. He overlooked one of the knifemen and got stabbed for his blunder. He let out a loud scream before rearing his large fist and punching the assailant in the head with an explosive strike, tossing his sword to the ground a few feet behind him, a sun-shaped rune appearing where it landed. He cracked his knuckles and started swinging at the soldiers surrounding him, trying to move as fast as his hands could allow him.

Noel had to hand it to the PLA Sailors; they were contemptuous of cowardice. Now he had to up the ante.

A snap of his fingers and a burst of force blasted three foes onto the walls; he had duplicated the power of a volunteer named Lucy who had fought in Lingayen, then went back home.

For a brief moment, the enemy quailed, allowing Nil to shoot a volley of copies of her staff that took out another three Sailors. This allowed Nico to get a few blows in, taking out four of the six men who had surrounded him, but the two remaining had clear shots to hit him in the legs with their tasers.

As for Indra, she managed to take out another four men, but like Nico, two more remained to taser her in her exposed legs. She realized then, in a brief flash of inspiration, that one of the best ways to incapacitate an Arms Master was not to concern oneself with directly harming them and to simply inflict pain. It was only her legs. They were covered up by her uniform. But whether by luck or good aim, the electrodes just about got her, and tasers hurt. She clenched her teeth hard and got one last hit in, shoving one of the men who got her with her spear’s haft, before dropping to her knees.

But then, some Arms Masters are even tougher than that. Down on the ground now, it was much easier for her to cocoon herself completely, sweeping the wires away as she closed her wings into a rough ball. In here, she had a second to breathe - maybe even to think, if she didn’t mind letting her team down with her inaction. Just… take a second to recover, and plan how she’ll come out…

And even as they were winning against the enemy crewmen, the ship kept sailing toward the enemy’s northwestern battle group.

On seeing the teasers get fired, he promptly activated one of his less-used tricks: the Vanishing Step, disappearing from the place he was standing. He reappeared where his sword had landed when he previously threw it aside. The moment after he picked up his blade, he lunged forward and aimed a decapitating slash at one of the taser-wielding sailors before turning to stab the other.

The Sailors were starting to fall back, their Captain howling curses at his own men before Noel silenced him by using his other copy of Hannie’s power to flash-freeze the man. As this caused the foes to begin a hurried retreat, the sixteen-year-old was finally able to receive Callie’s call and say, “Roger that - Can you whisk us away from this Corvette now? This ship is sailing by itself towards the enemy battle group; we’ll be surrounded by the foes’ ships within five minutes, maybe four.”

Then to Nico, who had managed to behead and stab the last of the sailors who had surrounded him, and Indra, who had received a reprieve as the enemy was routing, Noel said, “Do any of you need help? I have a copy of one or two healing powers ready…”

Indra hesitated a moment, then emerged from her cocoon with a whipping and a whirling, rapidly searching her vicinity for further danger. Everybody still standing here, she knew by name. Uh. That guy was missing his head. Um.

“Uhh.”

She’d- sort of expected to move on from that part faster. There was no head on his neck. There was not much neck, either. It was… and…

Indra was shot in the calf about 60 seconds before this moment. And at this moment, it hit her. She shivered and took all her weight off of it and that didn’t help and suddenly it felt like her other leg couldn’t support her either and her weapon slipped out of her hand and

It never hit the floor. With a weak groan, her knees buckled, her wings flicked out of being, and she settled, in an unbalanced, sideways kneel, on the blood-soaked steel, with fluttering eyes. Some Valkyrie.

After finishing the job, Nico kept his eyes shut for a while, catching his breath before finally looking around at the people around him, Helios Rod smoking softly from the blood on its blade. Te looked at the decapitated body and gave a silent prayer before walking to pick up Indra, supporting her on his good shoulder despite being stabbed. Thank everything this was at night. I’d have been dead.

He didn’t voice the thought out loud, but it ran through his head for a bit as he looked at Noel when he heard the offer for healing. “Get Indra back up first. She hasn’t got legs right now. After that, I’ll take some of that healing while I’m still conscious.”

Most of his more superficial wounds were rapidly healing, smoke coming from all of the burns and bullet scrapes across his body. It almost seemed like he was on fire, as Nico carried Indra to Noel on shaky knees, trying his damnedest to keep his eyes open despite the stab wound in his side.

A little behind the group Nil shook her head as she was fortunate enough to only receive a grazing bullet, she would then stand by the corridor the PLA sailors retreated to, standing guard in case some were cheeky or foolish enough to return.

Noel nodded at that as he walked closer to Nico and Indra… before copying two uses of a Healing NA he had seen used a few times.

Light shone down on Indra’s legs, regenerating the remaining flesh and blood, and in just a few minutes, the Swedish ‘Valkyrie’ had a new functioning pair of limbs.

Then he healed Nico with a copy of another Noble Arm that can repair injuries; Nemo’s Reversal.

Breathing hard, Noel spoke, “Now we wait for Callie.”

@Nimbus
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“Copy! Either confirm exfil from bridge or send rough location if you need something drastic!”

“Roger that. We're still at the bridge; so exfil should go on as normal.”

“Yessir – evac commencing! Hold defensive positions!” Callie answered, rapidly switching channels even as she consulted her mental map of the AO and began summoning another portal. “Snake, command is pulling us out. Hold for evac.”

Seconds later, she had taken a vantage point that let her see both the Stalwart and the corvette. Charter pushed her vision out again, back towards that window. Yeah, that’s them… She brought her eye back to the ship’s window; simultaneously looked beyond that to the Supply; and focused. This would take time, non-ideal considering her allies’ position; reducing the size of the aperture would keep that to as much of a minimum as she could. She grimaced, switched radio channels back. “Portal opening in a half-minute, on my mark! Going to be a tight fit, so mind yourselves!”

For just a moment, even as she brought her will to bear, her gaze wavered from her spyglass. From here she could see over a dozen Chinese ships, and she considered taking that drastic option – indeed, going even further than she had considered. She pictured it for a moment: forming a long, bladelike portal of negligible width, cleaving the corvette apart down the middle – and then the same to the next, and the next, until the entire flotilla was split in twain. Mei’s ship would be forced to descend to rescue the sailors. It would buy the Stalwart and Supply time.

It would also be profoundly satisfying and reassuring. The control…

She shook it off. Portal-cutting so many ships to pieces could weaken the pro-military factions in the Chinese government, create a vacuum that those who argued that only Arms Masters could fight this war might step into. She’d been specifically briefed on this point. They’re already incorporating convicted criminals into their forces… If they start getting any more desperate with their choice of allies, the region could destabilise even faster than it already is.

Callie set her jaw. She had a job to do.

“Mark! Confirm when you’re all across!”

The energy drain wasn’t insignificant – a bridge of such length would always tax her – but Charter nevertheless obeyed her command. Suddenly, she noticed the wind rushing past her again, upward… Callie glanced down towards the onrushing waves. Gritted her teeth.

When the affirmation came, she closed the portal quickly. There was, after all, still one person to bring back, and for that she would still need energy. A last switch of the radio channel; a last redirection of her momentum upwards. “Hold the door, Snake; with you in about the same time.” She half-smiled, the weariness starting to seep from her bones. “Just please don’t rearrange the functions of the various parts of my face on the way, m’kay?”



Okay, analyse that later with everything else. Sweep for now. Intuition of her own position and velocity told her where she would need to place her end of her final portal; as part of her mind began that process to finally reconsolidate Task Force Obsidian, she surveyed the battlefield.

Nothing she saw was entirely unexpected. Ships burned where the decoy column had drawn the attention of the PLA’s initial response, though their intervention had made the fighting far less one-sided than it might have been. To the West, the other major task force was reconsolidating; in the South, the supply ships were clear of enemy interference, and – it appeared – home free. The sense of triumph was palpable as her vision traced back to Mei’s ship.

Straight onto the deck, where a corpse in a black longcoat was laid out, saltwater trickling from its mouth.

It twitched.

Caroline paled, the rosiness of her cheeks from the wind’s passage banished in an instant, overwhelming revulsion sweeping through her.

And, in that moment, her velocity just levelling out as the portal opened, she dropped gently onto the deck of the Stalwart.

She looked across towards Qingshe, forcing a grin through… Everything else. “Let’s… Let’s get going, huh?”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Amidatelion
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Amidatelion

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The Supply

“Volunteer Marta Roche,” a voice, that of a boy no older than sixteen or seventeen, echoed over the comms. “Once you’re done with the Chinese PoWs, can you come to the BRP Ramon Alcaraz using one of Qingshe’s portals? We need you to heal some of our people next…”

Marta fiddled with her radio a bit, stretching out the antenna - an old habit formed with time spent in areas with unreliable access to radio. “Sister Marta, hearing you loud and clear. Ready to do my thing, soon as I get that portal.” She looks at the Hand of Mercy - still about four fingers and change of charge. Good - more than enough.

There was, thankfully, a stationary portal, thanks to Qingshe’s preparedness. This meant that Sister Marta was able to return to the home ship of the ASEAN Flotilla so she can finally heal the members of First Lieutenant Alonso’s team who had been wounded in action.

Of course, once she had returned to the ship, she’d find out that the team members were nowhere to be seen, only Noel himself, who said, “...Yeah, apparently, my team felt that the healing I gave them was enough. One of them is also receiving orders from Sweden to begin preparations to return to Europe while the other, well, I don’t know what he’s doing right now. Probably taking a break from fighting.”

He then paused and said, “We can talk, though. Do you need any information or exposition about the current situation?”

Marta, who had appeared as quickly as she could, gauntlet aglow, couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of anticlimax. “...Oh. That’s uh, it, then?” She stopped for a moment to look at Noel and scratch her head - Coifs get itchy once in a while. “I guess it’s fine if everyone’s fine. They really hotfooted it out of here, though. Shame, I would have liked to meet them.”

She offers her unarmored left hand. “Pleased to meet you anyway. I’m Sister Marta, but you can just call me Marta! I assume the mission’s gone smoothly?”

Noel shook her hand and said, “It has. We managed to resupply the Qing Restoration Society Rebellion that is holding Mischief Reef as our ally. But we inflicted less damage than we would have liked; the Chinese used some sort of Noble Arm to make one of their corvettes act on their own and control every part of itself as though it was a living body. So the corvette we boarded and got injured in is still functional, and the enemy Navy has suffered minimal damage from our operation, although their Air Force has been routed from the area by Lotus Squadron - Vietnamese Elite Pilots.”

He then continued, “I suppose this is the best outcome for both sides, right? From a point of view that seeks to prevent deaths, I mean.”

“That’s good!” She dismisses her arm in a dim flash of light. “As far as I’m concerned, minimizing casualties is the whole point of the exercise.” Arms crossed, she looks outside the ship. “Too much blood has already been spilt on such a nice corner of the planet, don’t you agree?”

Noel nodded and said, “This is true; thanks for reminding me of that.”

Then he smiled and said, “So, we’ll be going back to Lingayen City to rest, then I’ll check the rumors that we’ll be reassigned later on. Not sure what I can talk about other than that, though? As far as I’m concerned, we’ve cracked the foes’ hold over the West Philippine Sea and that’s important… Well, not as important as saving lives.”

Marta thought that this was probably one of those moments where she was expected to take initiative and sound wise, or something like that. “Well, the path forward isn’t always obvious.” She nods again. “As long as we hold true to our convictions, we’ll find it sooner or later. Maybe this upcoming rest stop is just what everyone might need to get that moment of introspection.”

The Sister pulls a phone from a sewn-on pocket. “Let’s exchange contacts! I’m always open for consultation, though I’m more of a friendly shoulder to cry on than a confessional.”

Noel responded with a smile as he drew his own phone, saying, “Sure; I’ll share my number.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Sniblet
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Sniblet drinking problem

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Right now I'm listening to: the sort of thing that levels me out. It's working, surprisingly.
So that was it.
That was it.
That was it?
She did get shot. And she did have that embarrassing episode. But that was all. They won while she wasn't looking. Indra could scream. And she will, of course, later - after she's left.
The plan was never to stay for the whole campaign. The idea was to show, in a way that on a national scale was almost superficial but on her personal scale was about as impactful as a handgun round through the femur, which side Sweden would take if they didn't have their own problems some 600 kilometers of Baltic sea away.
While waiting to return to Lingayen, she makes herself fairly scarce, seeking out no one in particular - resting, as one aught to after being shot in the femur. It's kind of hard to get that off her mind. It still aches. She tells herself it's a good thing she's not walking home, and makes a face.
I'm retiring Indra soon, as I'm withdrawing from the game as soon as convenient.


The wretched Hannie, adrift aboard the HMAS Supply after everyone left her alone to handle captives-or-whatever, has heard at least enough from her surroundings that it's not a terrible surprise to see that they're now docking. Now, perhaps more than ever, the ship comes alive. It seems that she's in the way no matter where she goes. This familiar sensation calls up a practiced response: Hannie deftly vanishes from this mortal plane.
She slips into a closet, actually, but most anyone who noticed, in all the rush, wouldn't remember.
It's dark in here, and it's quieter. And lonelier. And there's not much more to be said, but that these are all nice things right now.
She closes her eyes and reminds herself, not for the first time but nearly for the last, that she wants to go home.
I'm retiring Hannie soon, as I'm withdrawing from the game as soon as convenient.
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