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3 yrs ago
Current Back at the guild after a long absence. Much changed since I was gone?
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Medical student living in Scotland, a lover of beer and steak mostly - but also writing, and politics. Because why not make myself even more divisive.

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Ingram climbed down from the cockpit of his MAS, tossing his helmet over to a tech as they came running over to service the squadron’s machines. Spotting the medical team running towards the Coalition MAS docked in one of the Roanoke’s hangar bays, Ingram sighed. As Ingram was making his way across the hangar, a hoarse voice raised itself above the din of the Roanoke’s ‘RTB Response’ protocol teams.

“Boss!” Aleks gave a shout, beckoning him over. “We got to talk!”

Aleks didn’t look particularly happy, but it was the curt, measured, precise tension with which he moved that really made it obvious - Aleks was annoyed. Not quite enough to be angry, but more than just irritated or frustrated, and as he glanced over towards the princess as she was tended to by medical staff, it was also obvious why.

Ingram paused, looking over at his second for a moment. Ingram’s eyes narrowed, following Alek’s vision and finding the target of his frustrations, then turning back to the man. He sighed and walked over- beckoning with a shift of his head towards a more secluded corner of the hangar. Not that the hangar was in any way secluded, but out of the way of running technicians and engineers, more or less outside the din of machinery and people.

”Concerns regarding our new guest?” Ingram half asked, half stated as fact. He knew Alek’s well enough at this point to read the frustrations on his face- hence part of the reason why he dragged them off to a more private corner of the hangar. ”Speak openly- I know you’re going to anyway.”

Aleks nodded.

"We need to decide what we're doing about her, as an authority. I don't want her giving orders and circumventing chain of command, especially if she doesn't know how to do so effectively."

”Yeah, I know. Ingram sighed, shooting a look over at the medical team standing underneath the Coalition Helheimer. ”Royals can be a finicky bunch- they’re used to getting their way. I’ll talk to her, maybe she’ll listen.”

“Unfortunately for us, she is within our Chain of Command,”
Ingram added, pulling out his holopad and flicking over to a classified document. Technically not for Aleks’ eyes, but it wasn’t the first time Ingram had fudged some rules when it came to talking to Aleks. Legal jargon aside, the document more or less stated that command and control of part of the 5th fleet was being transferred- the Roanoke in particular, was being handed over to Princess Aurelia, forming their own battlegroup within the fleet. Their purpose and operations- hitherto undisclosed.

”Technically, she’s the boss now. But I understand what you mean- interrupting and giving conflicting orders during an operation is no good for anyone. It's a good way of getting us killed.”

Aleks blinked thrice in rapid, dumbfounded succession.

"Some of the others will not like this. Her highness will have serious trouble earning respect after…" Aleks searched for the word, his face twisting in frustration as he found that he lacked it, "... all of this. This is saying nothing of how her presence will affect Abigail and her situation."

Yeah, I know. The Roanoke isn’t a big ship either. As far as that situation goes, we’ll have to play by ear. I was anticipating receiving commands from a Royal, not necessarily having her on board while the orders were given.” Ingram replied, slipping his holopad back into his pocket.

Aleks rubbed his chin through his beard, shaking his head, tense as steel wire.

"Thank you for showing me the orders. I would like to come with you to speak with her, and I would like us to have a longer and serious conversation about this later on."

”Only if you play nice.” Ingram responded, his head turning to shoot a glance at the subject of their discussion- still in the middle of her impromptu medical examination. The last thing any of us need is conflict on the ship as well as off it.”

The Savolax sniper inhaled sharply, then exhaled slowly, gradually relaxing, resting his hands on his hips. It was one of the more unusual things about Deadeye - how quickly he went from genuine slaughter and extreme violence to chill calm - but it was better than seeing him angry.

"How do you feel about this?" He asked Ingram after a moment.

Ingram was silent for a moment, his mind in quiet contemplation despite the din of the maintenance crews running by them. He pulled a flash out of his pocket and took a swig out of it, his face scrunching for a moment before offering it to Aleks. It was a Gansu-Special, some concoction that Gansu had invented some time ago. Capable of putting an adult man on the ground in moments, it was a favorite of the 7th.

”I think she means well- for a Royal anyway.” Ingram admitted, ”Even if it wasn’t ideal, necessary or even warranted, the point was that she was trying to shield and cover a damaged squadmate. That’s more than can be said about most nobility.”

”She has a lot to learn, but at least she’s not arrogant about it. She’s malleable. When to interfere and when to do as you’re told can be taught. The instinct cannot. Rookie mistake with the tactical situation as it was, but mistakes can be fixed, and we can keep tactical control away from her easily enough. There are worse Royals to be working under by far.” Ingram pointed out.

”Do I like that we’re in this situation? No, absolutely not. It's hard enough keeping everyone alive without having to worry about the whims of a Royal to boot.”

”But we’ll figure a way through it- we always do.” Ingram concluded with a short sigh, ”And if worse comes to worst? Well, at least I can’t hear you tell me ‘I told you so’ when I’m 6 feet under.”

Aleks nodded solemnly.

“You are mistaken; if we share a grave, that’s all you will hear. Alright, let’s go speak to her highness, I will probably be quiet and let you do the talking - if I have anything to say, I will make sure to be diplomatic.”
Abigail slouched in her chair, fingers pressing against the side of her face as she held herself upright. It wasn't that she was exhausted, just really uncomfortable; the lurch of the Krakono did nothing for her remnants of nausea and even less for the thumping headache that accompanied it. Her HUD told her it was a delightful thirty two degrees Celsius in the cockpit and she was sweating like a hog in her EVA suit. She'd been tossed around like a leaf in a storm drain and the effects were making themselves increasingly apparent.

But they weren't far now. They couldn't be far now. Even without the Full Echo, each cacophonous bounce of the Krakono crossed more distance than any foot patrol could ever hope to in twice as much time due to sheer size alone. The issue remained that Jakunta's singular attack had the unintentional side effect of alerting everything remotely nearby of their presence, and given the terse silence on the Comms, Abigail couldn't shake the feeling Jakunta was very much aware of this as he forced his metal demon to tear through the jungle at a breakneck pace.

Her gaze slipped through the smart AI sensors again as she watched the designated Helmheimr follow them, lost in thought - then her eyes narrowed and she immediately slammed onto the Comms:

"STOP MOVING-!"

Whatever it was, it tore through the trees like toothpicks. A gargantuan leathery belly slammed into the Krakono. The Kolibri's boosters flashed into life so fast that the MAS skidded clean off the Krakono's chassis and into the dirt as Abigail scrabbled underneath the Krakono, away from the line of fire but very much in range of what appeared to be a grotesquely large male Riverdrake that clearly took the cannon blast as a threat to its territory. This creature was just as, if not larger than the Krakono; in the chaos, the munitions fire and the thumping of the heavy MAS its approach was masked until it was too late.

"Can you shake it off?!" Abigail cried out in horror, grabbing her heat knife and trying to take a slash at the monster's hind leg - in vain.

"No," grunted Jakunta through gritted teeth. The Krakono whined in protest as the hydraulics shuddered under the weight of the Riverdrake, stuck in an even struggle to remain upright. If the drake knocked over the Krakono here of all places, Jakunta wouldn't have the time to right himself before the Coalition descended upon them and picked them all off.

Almost instantly, Jakhunta's radio crackled with a split second burst of static.

"Grizz, this is Deadeye, right turn now!" Aleksanderin's voice cut through the static as the remainder of the 7th drew within range, and the engagement began in earnest. The Yeoman was in the midst of a mad charge straight at the entangled Krakono and riverdrake, bayonet affixed and raised, rails on the longbow charging. All Jak had to do was pivot so that the drake was the first thing the Savolax would run into. The Krakono creaked as its great body heaved to the side, one gargantuan leg thumping into the ground to steady itself.

At the apex of the Krakono’s turn, just as it came to a great creaking halt, Aleks activated his flight engines and completed the charge.

The drake gave a screeching reptilian roar as its side was punctured by a shard of forged savonite-titanium the size of a sports car, and it turned with shocking speed and deliberacy to face the new threat, raking its claws across the front of the Yeoman as Aleks danced backwards out of its reach, with timing so tight it was up for debate whether he’d done it just right or half a second too late. Flakes and ribbons of armour fell to the forest floor as the bayonet flicked a streak of xenobiological matter across the field - he was outsized, and at this range outgunned, but their first collision had left the lizard worse for wear, and that was an advantage Aleks knew to push.

Aleks grinned in the cockpit, regarding his prey as it drew back and up, protecting its new injury and sizing him up in return.

The jungle buzzed with Savolax as his speakers came on.

”You don’t look delicious.” He taunted it. ”Not delicious at all.”

"Deadeye, please confirm: did you just chat shit to the wildlife?" Abigail asked in the encrypted channel. The Kolibri scrambled to make distance from the melee and circled the Helmheimr, autocannon raised and smart targeting engaged for any coalition surprises.

Crack. Louder than thunder. The longbow discharged from the hip, a spear of Savonite disappearing deep into the creature’s thorax. It squealed and screeched, lunging for Aleks as he leapt backwards, drawing it away from the Krakono for a moment.

“Affirm that Pipsqueak.” He confirmed, shouldering his rifle and placing another round in the creature, this time puncturing its thick skull. “It would probably taste like chicken, but not in a good way.”

"No talking!" Barked Jakunta. The Krakono lurched forward when the Riverdrake let go of the chassis, stumbled, crashed into a tree that covered it in detritus and continued a slow thunderous charge through the jungle.

Aleks frowned. Jakunta didn't give him orders, but Jakunta was right. That bothered him.

He took it out on the riverdrake, which was grabbing frantically at its new head injury, writhing about on the floor.

Two more bayonet jabs and a stomp to the head and Aleks was satisfied that the drake was dead - and then he started looking for coalition targets.

"7th this is Deadeye, ignore wildlife where possible, leave them to the Coalition."

"Understood. Deadeye, are you going to help me cover Sunray on the ground or find a new position to fire from?" Abigail asked.

"Pips, Deadeye here, I'll stay on your six for now, engage targets as I-" he broke off for a moment as another big lizard tried to bite a chunk out of him and got a mouthful of bayonet and railgun, "- follow you."

Abigail had the Kolibri keep pace with Aurelia to cover the princess' left flank as the Krakono picked up momentum. Suddenly aware that the princess hadn't received an update in a while, she swapped channels. "Sunray, follow Grizzly - I'm right here to back you up. Don't worry about the lizards, just keep moving where you can," Abigail reassured the princess as the Kolibri jogged beside the Helmheimr in the wake of whatever the Krakono smashed to pieces during its race back to the Roanoke. She swapped to the encrypted channel. "Boss, you're in the air - can you detect any Coalition units nearby? They're bound to be closing in by now."

There was a crackling boom of sound as the Sparrowhawk whizzed by, strafing a pair of drakes that got a bit too close to Sunray and the Pips, disappearing back into the thicket of trees as he continued on his path. His voice crackled in moments later, a bit distorted from all of the disruptions.

“They’re closing in on us alright, I’m picking up patrols all over us, closest at 3 and 8 o’clock, 10 klicks out. Make a break for the clearing, the Roanoke’s guns can cover us once we get in range.”

"Well, somebody's gotta tell her - and since I've been playing mouthpiece this entire time it's going to be me." Abigail clicked back into the public Comms just as Aleks kicked a smaller, runty Riverdrake away from the Kolibri's broken landing strut. "Sunray? It's Pips. There's Coalition patrols closing in on our location as we speak - a lot of them. You've got Deadeye right behind you, I'm on your left, and Boss in the sky. We're almost at our ship." Abigail turned the volume down in her cockpit so the little pinging alarm about the structural damage she was inflicting on the landing strut didn't distract the princess. "It'll have more than enough firepower to deal with them but I don't want you getting caught in the crossfire. The moment the hangar doors open, you run in first. Trust me on this - we'll be right behind you." She hesitated a little, eyeing her MAS's condition on the HUD. "None of us want to stick around for longer than we need to."



> 7th Squadron - P-TSCSA YEOMAN-2
> CDR Aleksanderin ‘Deadeye’ Danielsson

> 7th Squadron - TTN-001 ‘TITAN’ SOC
> LT. Gansu ‘Eyes’ Mathen





A Garmr down the scope - incoming radio chatter from boss - three Fenrir units bearing down on Gansu - another three on his five o’clock, mark three.

Finger on the trigger, heart beating a million miles an hour, thoughts racing so fast it wasn’t even like language any more - but head as cool as ice, heart stone cold - Aleks grimaced and turned from the Garmrs, twisting on his spinal axis, facing towards the newcomers, engaging reverse thrusters.

Radio on.

“Roger boss, three fenrirs on me. Pipsqueak, I can’t cover you - Grizzly, do it for me. Eyes, I’ll lead these three your way and help you deal with your own. Over.”

“Ooh, ooh, ooh! Bait and switch! Moving into position!” Came the excited reply.

Speed, faster than usual, in the opposite direction, facing retrograde. Enemy approach vector and their own speed in mind, they would catch him eventually - if he wanted to simply run, he’d have to turn around to do it - but they were heavier than him, the older models especially.

His unencrypted channel gave a crackle, and in his peripheral HUD the vision of an enemy pilot’s face, young and beautiful, aged only by the horrors of war, clean shaven and smooth faced except for the remnants of a burn scar across his jaw.

“Huntsman.” He snarled in a tone that was forged of equal parts begrudging respect and complete hatred.

Aleks’ mind ran the numbers almost as fast as his targeting computer. Gansu was behind him, the distance precise but abstract in his thinking - and Aleks’ hailer, speaking publicly through the unencrypted channel, was on the other end of the perfect line drawn from the Titan through the Yeoman, straight to the approaching Coalition squad.

Aleks knew what to do. He’d done it before, and he’d do it again.

A beat of silence, of stillness, and inaction, as Aleks opened the channel back at his assailant and they looked each other in the eyes - perfect equals on the black battlefield of orbital space.

The younger man barely reacted. If anything, he was disappointed - as though he’d somehow thought the Huntsman would look different.

“Prey.” Aleks replied, before killing the feed as the enemy commander’s face hardened with the freezing fury of a perfect, violent storm.

The enemy lit him up, practically dumping their magazines in his general direction as he levelled his own rifle - but they’d waited a moment too long, indulged their anger a second too many, and his firing solutions had already begun to come in.

Fire one, two, and three - raking the shots across the front of their formation, from right to left. The first Fenrir II engaged its ventral boosters and managed to just scrape a miss from his first shot - but having fired low, Aleks was anticipating that movement, and his second shot made a solid connection with the top of its head, driving a tungsten spear down the mech’s spine and straight into the pilot. As his rifle shifted to the other Fenrir II to fire the third round, the PLEBS activated, pivoting on their mounts, and firing a three second burst aimed at the Fenrir’s primary visual sensors.

As the enemy mech was blinded, it reflexively jerked to the side along its flight path, and although the third shot from the Longbow did hit its mark, it struck at an angle and was deflected, taking a chunky streak of alloy armour with it. Aleks juked out of the way as the Fenrir III finished reloading and resumed its hail of fire, a couple of hits striking true - luckily against armour rather than core components - on the Yeoman.

But Aleks had been reloading too, his previous magazine stored neatly away with the rest to the rear of his mech’s body, replaced with a full box magazine of savonite rounds.

As Aleks was making his way towards him, Gansu was still taking fire from his remaining Fenrir’s. Fortunately they were too far away to be doing any real damage to the Titan’s armor, but that wouldn’t last long. He ignored them as best he could, moving in the path of Aleks’ trajectory. This was going to be fun!

As he was moving, the hail of bullets suddenly stopped. Gansu looked around curiously and winced. A squad of UEE Sparrows were attempting to take the fight to the remaining Fenrir’s. It would go poorly for them, but it gave him the opportunity to aid Aleks. And who knew, maybe they would be able to get a kill in.

The Titan settled into position, and Gansu waited. When Aleks was close enough, he began firing up the X34. The large cannon appeared over the Titan’s head, a bright blue glow slowly spreading throughout the barrel. As he aimed at Aleks, an alert appeared across his screen.

WARNING: FRIENDLY TARGET DETECTED.

“Yes, yes I know! That’s the point! Deploy Cyclopes!” Gansu put in the override code and waited as a dozen drones spread out around him, ready to defend against any missile attacks or slow down MAS that got too close.

“Plasma cannon firing up D-eye. Get ready to dodge out of the way on my mark. Five...four...three...two...one...mark!” As he shouted out the signal to dodge, Hyperion was jerked backwards as the plasma cannon fired with a dull roar.

“Roger-wilco-” Aleks started back on the radio, burning hard on his rear thrusters, his ankle stabilisers leaving a fine, almost-glittering trail of manoeuvring jet exhaust particles in their wake as he - to any outside observer - performed a half-twist backflip. His radio cut out as the G-force set in, and he exhaled hard, forming a single word with his hard earned breath, speaking only to the glowing interior of the cockpit.

”Hooooo- he began, drawing out his breath and tensing his core to resist the strain of the turn.

The plasma cannon fired beneath him, missing the Yeoman by an astrological hair’s breadth, a brilliant glow of destruction, radiant with power as it tore through his pursuers. In the back of his mind, Aleks smiled.

His rifle came up, sighting perfectly the other Fenrir-III as it engaged one of the two remaining Sparrow units, coming into view just over the Titan’s shoulder.

One, two, three shots, as fast as the longbow would cycle and before the X34 had even spun down, straight into the side of the Fenrir commander as it wound up to fire its own plasma weapon. One shot looked like it might have glanced off the caster’s alloy shield, but two others found their mark at the shoulder joint, and all but severed the arm.

ook.” Aleks finished his hook manoeuvre as the G force subsided, heart pounding and pulse racing.

As the freshly-injured Fenrir III recoiled instinctively from his interdiction, trying and failing to handle its destroyed arm with a renewed sense of panic, Aleks turned briefly to survey the aftermath of Gansu’s prodigious attack.

The Fenrir II was absolutely obliterated by the blast, leaving nothing behind but chunks of superheated metal. The Fenrir III fared only a little better, with its shield absorbing most of the blast from the X34. It’s armor was still glowing red from the plasma and it was dazed, but it was still in one piece.

Gansu’s excited voice came crackling across comms, the grin in his voice palpable. “Ha-ha! That was sick! Bayonet the surviving F3, D-eye. I’ll start trying to save the Sparrows.”

He whirled Hyperion around, viewing the end of the battle between the Sparrows and Fenrirs. As predicted, it wasn’t pretty. There were only two left, and one was in the process of being gutted by a Fenrir II’s combat sword. With the Fenrir III distracted and a Fenrir II stuck in one place, Gansu took his shots. “D-Eye, be aware, one friendly Sparrow left and three hostiles. Firing on targets now.”

At the time Gansu was turning to engage the other group of Fenrirs, Aleks was driving the Yeoman in a sharp corner around the Hyperion’s neck, whirling back towards the single remaining Fenrir III - the one with the scarred pilot - with his bayonet affixed.

The commander unit began moving again, slowly and grindingly, as its sensor readouts normalised and the flight-gait coordination processors on board began recovering from the overload of being hit - and more remarkably, surviving a hit - from the X34. Achingly, it turned to look in the direction of the Yeoman’s approach, and twitched in panic - the pilot activated his own RCS systems, turning the mech to face the Huntsman he had come to kill, willing his plasma-caster arm to obey the commands of the on board targeting computer-

Aleks flicked on the unencrypted channel.

“Huntsman to Fenrir III. Relax, pilot, you did ok.” he at last made impact, driving the point of the bayonet straight through the slowly rebuilding energy shields and directly into the Fenrir’s left shoulder joint, transecting a brief, sharp line through the wiring plexus feeding power to the plasma weapon in its hand.

Unwilling to give up so easily, the Fenrir III’s pilot made a mad swipe with his other arm, trying to bat the Yeoman away and gain distance - but at this range, as damaged as he was, he was never going to be fast enough, and Aleks used his rifle to deflect the clumsy blow over his head, before drawing back and swinging the titanosavonite alloy blade straight into the his opponent’s main ocular array, utterly destroying it.

In the Fenrir’s cockpit, the main viewscreen went dark, and the pilot was left first in a dim, noisy hole as his radio net’s activity peaked, then in silence as Aleks took his antenna and auxiliary sensor units by the fist and ripped them out.

Without sensors or comms, the Fenrir III was more or less dead in the water, the pilot inside drowning in the silence.

Until Aleks’ bayonet drove straight through one side of the cockpit canopy, barely missing the pilot inside, and levered the door straight off.

The coalition pilot’s suit helmet sealed and pressurised automatically as he came personally face to face with the eyes of the Yeoman-2, exposed and open to the vacuum of space.

There was half a second of regard between them, accompanied by another burst of static from the unencrypted band on the Coalition pilot’s radio.

“You came closer than most, pilot.” Aleks’ voice echoed in his mind, as he gave an audienceless roar in his pressure suit and tried one last time to raise his weapons against the Huntsman -

“No!” the scarred pilot cried over the free channel.

Aleks reached into the cockpit with his free hand and tore the enemy pilot straight out of it, crushing their waist in his grip, before slamming them back into the chassis of the mech and using them like a blunt instrument to smash up its insides, rendering the whole machine inoperable - and hopefully, unrecoverable.

As the Fenrir drifted away with its cockpit open and the operator smeared across the interior, Aleks turned away, swapped magazines back to his signature armour piercing rounds, and focused on the next task.

A little way across the battlefield, Hyperion’s Heavy autocannons roared again, this time sending two shells apiece towards their targets. The Fenrir II never stood a chance; in the middle of finishing off a Sparrow, it was ripped in half by the explosion of the shells. The two halves went spinning in different directions.

The Fenrir III’s shield did its job admirably. The two shells smashed against it, albeit only just being stopped from hitting the III’s armor. The Fenrir III jerked back as its shield finally collapsed, and pointed towards the Titan with its remaining arm. The surviving Fenrir and it began to speed towards the Titan.

Gansu headed backwards, bringing up his SAMs, as his unencrypted channel began to crackle to life. Gansu didn’t even look over at the woman as she snarled. “Of course you’re the dogs of the 101s-”

“Shut up! End channel.” Gansu snickered at anger and confusion at such an abrupt end in the enemy MAS pilot’s eyes before the channel was closed. “D-eye, I’ve whittled them down to two and gotten the F3’s shields down. They’re both bearing down on me.”

Hyperion’s SAMs fired, sending two missiles straight towards the Fenrirs. Before they could even get close, the Fenrir III’s laser systems shot them out of space with a dull explosion. Gansu cursed, pulling back farther as they closed the distance.

The Fenrir II fired its spike missiles, which Gansu ignored. They were intercepted by his swarm of Cyclops and destroyed in a hail of laser fire. Allowing him to focus on the bigger threats, like their broadswords.

Hyperion’s minigun came up, spinning up and firing on the Fenrir III. It brought it’s alloy shield up, taking the hail of gunfire from the minigun for both itself and the Fenrir II. “Shit, shit, shit.” Gansu muttered, pushing the Titan farther back. They were getting into uncomfortable territory.

His eyes widened as the Fenrir II appeared over the head of the Fenrir III, with its Sledgehammer missile locking into place. He didn’t have anything that would block a missile of that magnitude, and Hyperion sure as shit wasn’t fast enough to outrun it. Before Gansu could go and join the spirits of the war, the Fenrir II exploded violently as two missiles hit it in the back. Looking behind, Gansu saw the remaining Sparrow wave a friendly hand. It had expended its last Claymore missiles. With that and a burst of speed, it was gone. It was too beat up and out of ammo to do anything other than get in the way.

“D-eye, update, F2 is down thanks to our surviving Sparrow friend. I’ve got the F3 suppressed but it is approaching quickly if you want to take this opportunity to kill her!” Gansu spoke rapidly, almost incoherently, as he pushed Hyperion backwards with the minigun still firing at the Fenrir III. It was close enough now that the swarm of Cyclops had gone to intercept and was harassing the Fenrir III, ineffectually firing lasers all around the MAS armor.

Like a moth drawn to flame, Aleks popped up behind Hyperion’s shoulder, almost perfectly aligned with Gansu’s own firing arc - and he fired two shots at the approaching Fenrir III, suspended as it was, trying to deal with the Cyclops drones.

They ran home straight into its guts, severing the pilot’s control of the legs, and spraying oil, sparks, and glittering MAS components out the other side of the mech. The Fenrir turned to observe the newcomer as it finished beating a cyclops out of the space around it, a little surprised to find its lower modules unresponsive, and even more surprised to be meeting a zero-g bayonet charge when its gaze finally drifted in Aleks’ direction.

Aleks lunged, driving the bayonet home through one of the suit’s frontal shield emitters, before swiping sideways in the same motion to disarm her. The Fenrir kicked on its thrusters and started to push back, reaching clumsily with its dumb, joystick arms to try and seize the Longbow - but Aleks engaged his lateral thrusters at the last moment and effectively sidestepped it, driving the bigger MAS directly into the barrel of one of Gansu’s cannons.

Aleks flicked on the local, unencrypted channel.

“Eyes, kill the pilot.”

The cannon fired once, obliterating the Fenrir before the coalition pilot could do anything. Hyperion rocked back from the proximity of the blast, and Gansu cackled. “I think we did a pretty damn good job for being suddenly attacked on our fucking leave!”

He shifted Hyperion around to face the battle, readying its cannons again. “Now lets see if we can’t drive off-” He was cut off by a flurry of chatter over the comms.

"Roanoke, this is River Styx. I'm going to need an escort as I pass through the battle space. The ISS is too far out to provide support for Sunray. Requesting the 7th's supp-"

"We've gotta move,"

“Did you fuckin’ hear th-”

“Did he say fucking Sun-” Gansu hit the comms at the same as the others, already shifting towards the Styx’s location.

"This is River Styx! Contact! I am being engaged by four times Coalition irregulars! I've lost power to one engine. Sunray is aboard this ship! I say again! Sunray is aboard! I need immediate assistance!"

“Fucking hell,” Ingram, cursing. “Squad, new priority- someone go grab Styx and walk his ass to the Roanoke! Now!”

Gansu hit the local channel with Aleks. “Go get him D-eye! I’ll cover! Hyperion is too fucking slo-”

"Ferryman this is Pipsqueak! Me and Grizzly are coming as fast as you can, could you give us an update?"

"Roanoke, this is Ferryman. Sunray is aboard a lifepod and is ejecting toward Cerol. Send a recovery team immediately."

“Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!” Gansu didn’t open his comms. He just raged impotently. There wasn’t anything he could do, and he hated it.

"Commanders, the Krakono is en route to whatever the fuck is left of the River Styx."

“Pips, Grizzly. “Leave the Styx, Secure the escape pod. Sunray has prio.”

"Boss, elaborate. 'Secure the escape pod?' "Mid-flight, or…? What about the Roanoke - the rest of the squadron?"

“Drop, now! “We’ll catch up, but we cannot lose that pod. Secure the pod, find cover- we’ll figure out exfil when we make landfall.”

Aleks’ eyebrows raised, his head cocked - and in the flickering darkness of space as the destroyed Fenrir’s wreckage floated by, the Yeoman’s eye unit cocked to the side too, mimicking his body language.

"Yessir. Preparing for re-entry. Starting up the Full Echo. Swapping to a private channel to co-ordinate with Grizzly. Have fun out there, guys."

“Will do Pips. Orders Boss? Does Roanoke still have prio?” Gansu flicked on his comm, watching Jakunta and Abigail’s huds fizzle towards Cerol.

Aleks checked his weapon, before scanning the area for new targets - specifically, for anything matching the description of an irregular - while the gears in his mind worked overtime.

“I fucking hate this planet.” Gansu said at last.













The first bullet struck him in his right side, piercing his chest and lung - but it seemed as though he barely noticed, apart from a twitch in his arm and a lapse in his stride. The next shot was a miss, from over correcting her aim for her attacker's centre mass, but then he got within fifteen feet of her and a little switch in the back of her mind flipped - the lights didn't go out, but the thought of letting him get any closer dimmed them.

Ellen meant to fire one more shot, hit him in the chest, and conserve her ammo. Consciously, she'd meant to do nothing more than protect herself, do no more damage than absolutely necessary.

Instead she fired three.

One round found its home just above his stomach, one hit him in the dead centre of his chest, and one struck just to the left of his Adam's apple.

He made it a few more stumbling steps, powered mostly by his own inertia, before losing focus and clutching desperately at his wounds, not quite realising that he didn't have - and would never have - enough hands. He wound up face down in the sand, chest heaving against the incredible finality of his injuries, body movements gradually slowing.

It was slower than she expected, not that Ellen had spent a lot of time thinking about how long someone took to die. But when she had told herself that she would be alright with this, she imagined it being a moment--something filled with adrenaline that would pass quickly, and she would process the event later.

Instead, she stood and watched the man fall to the ground, his movements slow. He was dying. There was no way the shots she fired weren’t fatal, but she had expected something much more...instantaneous.

Ellen sunk to the ground a few feet away from the man, painfully aware with each breath she took that the man dying in front of her would not continue to do the same. After about a minute, she straightened, remembering that there were other people around and someone else could be coming her way--or her friends could be dead/dying. She should go and make sure they were okay.

But frankly, what could she do if they were dying? Ellen looked at the man on the ground in front of her, feeling powerless when perhaps she should have felt more powerful than she ever had before. Either her friends were fine and they had been successful, or they were dead and all was lost. Ellen wasn’t quite ready to find out which.

She flicked the safety on, not wanting to be startled into shooting a friend.

And then she flicked it off again, worried that one of the thieves might be the one to stumble upon her.

Ellen needed to know what was going on. She stood up and took a few steps away from the body on the ground. When she looked closely, she could see he was still breathing, barely. He didn’t even have a weapon. Maybe she had made a mistake.

Maybe he had the keys to the caravan. Maybe he had a wallet. Could Goodnight use a credit card for a short while until this guy was reported dead? Could they use cash? Was it heartless of her to wonder? Or was it practical?

Ellen probably should take his wallet and check his pocket for keys at least. She knew she should.

But the act of actually doing it seemed so wrong...and it took another minute for her to muster up the courage. Well… maybe she was just trying to wait to be sure he was fully dead.

Ellen was getting a much better idea of why video games often had the bodies disappear and just the loot remain after combat.

Whether he was in too much pain, or had already slipped beyond the realms of sensibility and consciousness, he put up no resistance to the young woman as she rifled through his pockets. He did indeed have a wallet, containing about $7.50 in cash, along with a debit card reading “Mr Joseph Barrow”, and a couple of old, out of date McDonald’s coupons. He also had ID - full name Joseph Leslie Barrow, age 39 - and an organ donor card, plus a photo tucked behind the little plastic window he’d put the ID card behind.

It was him, though younger, with his arm around another young man that looked a great deal like him - so much like him, in fact, that they were more or less identical.

Like twins.

They were standing in front of some ratty old building that looked like a pub, holding dark brown glass bottles, grinning like absolute idiots - as though they knew they were doing something they weren’t meant to be, and were just daring the world to let them get caught.

On the reverse of the polaroid, written in stunningly neat biro pen, was a little message.

“I know things have been hard, but I want you to never forget that I love you, and that I believe in you. Growing up I knew you could do anything you put your mind to, and I know that still. Please come stay some time, please let me help you, please just let me be your brother, Joe.”

“ - love, Harry.”

As Ellen opened the wallet, her attention shifted to his license. More specifically, his name and his picture. She stared at them for a few moments before noticing the picture of the sibling behind the identification. Ellen could tell instantly that the men were likely twins. She felt a stab in her chest at the thought of tearing someone’s sibling away like hers had been taken from her. Ellen forced herself to read the entire note on the back, feeling like she knew these brothers more than she should. Perhaps it would have been better not to look in the wallet at all. It certainly would have been easier.

Ellen shoved the card and picture back in the wallet, closed it, and brought it with her as she walked away from Joe, towards where her friends were hopefully gathering what they needed from the campsite. She shoved the wallet in a pocket, and carried the gun at her side--finger outside of the trigger guard--unsure exactly who she would encounter there.









Important Information




Hello, dear friends, and welcome to the world of Paradigm Shift. This is a roleplay where your character is a newly awakened magician, with no particular training or extensive background in magic, who is rescued shortly after their awakening by an agent of the Violet Underground and whisked away to safety just barely in the nick of time.

This isn’t an RP about saving the world, and it’s not a game where every plot line will have a happy ending. There will be loss and pain in equal or greater amounts as there will be joy and hope. You will be dealing with forces that were, and are, almost entirely beyond human comprehension - and you will also be dealing with forces created by mankind, too. This will be a story about survival as much as about being the good guy, and I personally have very high hopes for it. The roleplay started several months ago with a small cast and, with a few of our members moving on, we have decided to move the RP to the advanced section where less frequent posting is expected and a focus on quality over quantity is encouraged.

Before we truly begin, however, some ground rules…







- Expanded Lore -

Stories and Detail
















With the lore set out, we are presently looking for AT LEAST two interested new applicants to fill up slots that have been previously filled by old members. If you are interested in joining, please let us know in this thread. We'd also like to invite you into our dedicated discord server to chat with the current members, ask any questions and tell us about your character ideas.

Please also find the OOC and IC threads here.





New threads work a treat a lot of the time, we've found at least, and while a discord does make things seem a bit dead on the guild itself, that's mostly to *other* people looking *in* on us. The discord is usually reasonably alive for our own game, and it's a very convenient space to field GM question time.
I do think we need a bit more direction and a little bit more starting energy from our starter post, I won't lie. Especially with an established group that already know eachother, giving everyone time to sort of mill about IC and chat casually can be good - but with an unfamiliar group in an unfamiliar setting, I've always found it more effective to start with more focus. For example, it might be helpful for us to have started in the orientation session, with some time for us to react to it immediately after that post, and then something to kick the main plot along.





Goodnight


The Bunkhouse








It was the certainty of routine that kept Goodnight running. With such a large mass of people to manage, a timetable had to be maintained and stuck to; even if the monotony of the passing days could be a strain to the individual. At 9pm everyone was expected to be at their registered 'bunkhouses', which was a generous title given to the smaller, more niche shells of boutiques and independent stores within the mall. They tended to have more comfortable décor and threadbare carpets that offered a layer of insulation against the cold. In these stores, rows upon rows of sleeping bags were set out and designated to each mage. It was typically considered poor taste to go around messing with what little personal effects people left near their sleeping bags and the bunkhouses were seldom visited during the day. More often than not, one or two bootleggers kept watch by the entrances so the residents and their belongings were safe.

There had been a slight change to the usual set-up that night for the Julien's bunkhouse where the volunteers for the medical supplies mission were sleeping. The first and most prominent; they got an upgrade. As a reward for their exceptional bravery and successful mission, the group were given a reward that didn't come easy unless you were on the staff's good side. Most of the other mages were moved out of their bunkhouse and into other ones leaving them with highly sought after and very rare to find privacy. As the team came out of the communal washrooms ready to settle down for the night there was no bootlegger at the door but rather a plastic lawn chair positioned within eyesight of the entrance and Brooks casually reading a magazine. He was sitting near their sleeping bags without impinging on their personal space and seemed just as unfazed as usual. He barely glanced up at your approach before going back to his reading material.

They had an hour until lights out but the staff tended to relax a little on the rule if the majority of the residents didn't feel like a 10pm bedtime was appropriate. That gave them time to relax, wind down and talk about things outside of the therapy setting.




Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






Dr. Cassar stared Audrey down as she spoke, a calm, stung, disappointed silence as she went further and further down the proverbial path of violence with her speech. He broke his eye contact only to look around the room and assess the reactions of the others, and his eyes widened in muted, suppressed, quiet shock when Abigail interrupted.

As Audrey's gaze moved to him, Cassar looked right back, lips pursed - and he nodded.

"I can certainly understand the need to be decisive - and better than most, I understand the need to be able to move past the hard decisions without letting them weigh on you inappropriately. But I want to point out, the man who slipped past you and threatened Angeline and Abigail was not the man Ellen shot and killed. You did not miss him because you simply were not being... ruthless enough - so the solution is not to be more ruthless, or to not reflect on your actions."

Cassar paused a moment, looking down to the floor, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together slowly as he thought.

"I couldn't say, you know, if you were right to go looking through that man's wallet." He looked up again at Ellen. "I couldn't tell you. And I don't think you should let what you've done drag you down into a pit forever, from which you could not emerge - but..." he looked back to Audrey, "... that is not what grieving is. Grief is important, it's how our kind, humankind processes loss, and emotional harm. Normally, it is for people we knew - but not always, you know?" He glanced back to Ellen.

"You shot a man, with a gun, more than once. He fell over, and he died. It was not instant. I can tell you for absolute fact, that he was in a huge amount of pain, the kind of pain you would not believe unless you've been shot before too, and that as he lay there dying he was terrified in a way that most people cannot know - in a way that I pray everyone here never knows, ever. This all happened because of your actions. That does not mean you did the wrong thing, and I am certainly not naive enough to believe that our situation," he gestured around the room, "could be resolved without force, or that self-defense does not incur such a cost... but the only people who even know he's dead are in this room. Somebody should grieve, to remember that he was a person, and that he once lived."

He looked back at Audrey, his eyes harder than they were before, his demeanour colder.

"That is how you let go. That is how you move on. And Audrey, I just want to say, you cannot compare this type of decision making to medicine. The work you do is necessary, and I value it, but you cannot pretend that it is anything like mine."

"Of course it's not," Audrey agreed immediately. "Completely different outcomes. It was the only metaphor I could think of at the time."

Cassar kept staring her down as she replied. He took a deep breath in, held it for a moment, and then released all of his discontent with it as he exhaled. A dry, rough, frequently-sanitised hand came up and scratched his beard as he nodded, and the smile came back to his face.

“Ok. Look, I don’t want to take up any more of you guys’ time, you know? I think this has been pretty good, and of course, you all did a really good job getting the medicines back, so thank you again. I’m free to talk about stuff any time anybody wants, work permitting, and I’ll hang around here to pray for a bit as well in case anybody wants to join me - although, you don’t have to pray if you don’t want, and no pressure either way.”


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