The Armada Sector Date 5115.64 Time 1900 Situation Room A
Admiral Serrano watched as the last of the Pilots entered the room, just in time for the briefing to begin. He inclined his head to the assembled group, then turned to Maye, to address her question.
"In time, Captain, in time. For now, we need to discuss more long-term goals- we're not out here just for a patrol, after all. We are here to turn the tide of the war, for good. So, without further ado, let us begin the briefing."
"Vi. Situation Room A. Projection, Operation Checkmate." In the middle of the room, a hologram popped up, a representation of the Red Sector, and more importantly, the territory just beyond the Red Line. A red triangle appeared just past the No Man's Land, their current location.
"To start off, I would like to thank you all for your service on this mission in advance. Whether veterans of the Pilot Program already, or merely recruits with incredible potential, you all have accepted a very essential, very dangerous mission to take back our homes from the Shard. It will not be easy, but your success here will mean securing the future of Origin-kind. Now, to business." He indicated the triangle on the map.
"This is our current position- just past the Red Line. In approximately one hour, Operation Checkmate will begin in earnest, and from there, there's no going back. Until we succeed, or until we are destroyed. Our first step in the Operation will be to reach this sector, here," he said, a large section of debris and asteroids highlighted in green on the map. "We call it the Graveyard- the remnants of one of the last battles of the Shard War before the Dragons. The wrecks and corpses of Shard and our own vessels alike will partially shield us from their sensors, and their Leviathans' relative lack of maneuverability means that they will be unable to field too much resistance against us should we be detected. From here, we can conduct scouting missions and raids with relative impunity. This leads us into Phase 2."
He highlighted the star system that the Graveyard hung just outside of. "This star is Delta Black. It's not much, but it will make for a good stepping stone. The second world of this system is our target- we'll call it Sundowner." He flinched almost imperceptibly at stating the name, but moved on before it could be noticed. "It's the capital of an old Jovian colony. Manufacturing and mining, mostly, which makes it ideal for our purposes. Most importantly, it's the nearest source of Phase-capable materials we can identify. Our mission will be to lay claim to Sundowner, destroy the Shard hive present on its surface, and drive out the enemy occupying it before proceeding to Phase 3."
The map disappeared, replaced by an image of something and spacefarer worth their salt would recognize: a Phase gate. The fastest and most reliable method of FTL travel in the Sector.
"Sundowner was host to one of the largest Phase gates in the entire Origin Sector before the Shard came in. And while it has been disabled and likely harvested for parts, sources say that the majority of the infrastructure is still there. This, is our ultimate objective: with the material and manufacturing capabilities of Sundowner at our disposal, our Engineering Corps will attempt to reconstruct a functional Phase Gate, deep in the heart of enemy territory. On the other side of the Red Line, another Gate is being constructed. And once we connect the two..."
The image changed to that of a fleet emerging from the Sundowner Gate, larger than any that had been fielded before in the war, armed with Dragons and the most advanced ships and weapons that could be mustered.
..."We will be able to launch a full-scale offensive on the Shard, right in their blind spot. Instant, easy ingress into their territory. From there, the Shard will be fighting a war on two fronts, and our victory becomes only a matter of time. Check, and mate."
The image disappeared, leaving the crew to mull over the information they'd been given in the silence that followed.
The assembly was... interesting, to say the least. He got to see more of the teachers who were working here, and got an idea of how he and the others were going to be learning here, which was... maybe slightly concerning. Four Pillars? Games? Rotating class?? You mean I only have a year to prove myself here?? He frowned, letting only a small amount of the turmoil he was feeling show on his expression. It was... exciting, he supposed, that they would be taking their Provisional License exam in the first year, but from the sound of things, that was the only year they had. Which meant... what? If he failed the License exam, he was done? Game over, no continues, do not insert new coins?
...That would be a downer. I suppose I could always just go vigilante, in that case, but I would really prefer not to have to break the law. He grit his teeth as they all got up to leave for the gymnasium for... oh. Fuck. Quirk Demonstrations. He sighed. This had to happen sometime, but it didn't make it any easier to swallow. His Quirk still wasn't where he wanted it to be, but... hm. This was a school, after all. He was here to learn. And he'd already come plenty far from where he was before. It wouldn't be that bad, surely. He really shouldn't compare himself to other Heroes at this juncture, anyway. None of them, least of all him, were going to be No. 1 tomorrow. Or even in a year. Or ten. This was where their story began, not where it ended. He felt better after considering this, and followed his classmates to the gymnasium with a bit more spring in his step.
The gym, like the rest of the school, was in pretty decent shape. It looked... sturdy, which was good- a bunch of superpowered teenagers clustered into this school was asking for trouble, otherwise. Suzaku looked around at his assembled classmates, pondering to himself who, if anyone, he should stand next to. Edgy Asshole was out of the question. It was too early in the morning for negativity. No one else really stuck out to him, except…
...Well, that was a familiar hoodie. Or, back of a hoodie, to be accurate. Wasn’t that the girl he’d followed into the school?
...Might be worth talking to?
He walked over- slowly, that hunched over posture did not speak of extroversion- as the girl seemed to turn towards him without moving, as a large ear rotated in his direction. A very… very large ear. A bat ear.
”...That’s… fucking awesome,” he said quietly to himself. He walked up a little less slowly, she knew he was coming, and waited just inside her peripheral vision, getting her attention with a small, friendly wave.
“Oh, hello… um...” came a confused reply; He smiled, hopefully in a disarming fashion.
”Just thought I should get to know my classmates a little,” he said, extending his hand out for a shake. ”Takeda Suzaku. Nice to meet you.”
The bat eared girl was removing her hoodie as the girl with the bristly hair showered a dummy in… actual bullets- the sound of which caused the girl’s large ears to flick back defensively. Suzaku glanced over at the demonstration, frowning slightly.
”That… doesn’t strike me as particularly heroic,” he said, half-jokingly.
“Oh. Yakkaimori. Koumori Yakkaimori. Keekee...” came the soft, high pitched reply- her thin hand shot out a moment later, taking that of Suzaku.
”Yakkaimori-san. A pleasure.” He turned back to the display, withdrawing his hand from the quick handshake, her own hand returning to the baggy sleeve whence it came, as they both watched the next student step up to the plate.
“Likewise, Takeda-kun.” Suzaku smiled, watching as a girl already in school-uniform stepped up to exhibit her Quirk.
”Thought about what you’re gonna do for your demonstration?” he asked, tapping a finger on his sleeve.
“U-um, not exactly, kee-kee,” the timid girl replied with a nervous laugh, causing her rather pronounced nose to crinkle slightly.
Koumori had only been paying a passing attention to the Quirk demonstration, until the girl made her bold proclamation.
"My name is Azukina Yomodachi, and I aim to be the future Symbol of Peace! My quirk, Flash Freeze, was inherited from my father, Frostbite! While I don't believe I have what it takes to be a great hero yet, I will show you all just what I can do today!"
This immediately caught Koumori’s attention. The girl’s manner was striking. Suzaku raised an eyebrow, but didn’t seem overly perturbed. ‘Brutal Number Ten Hero Frostbite?’
”Certainly not lacking in confidence, is she?” He smirked, though in a friendly, playful sort of way. After all, he wasn’t one to judge. He had the same ambitions, if not out loud.
Koumori, on the other hand, was stunned. A girl aspiring to be the Symbol of Peace? Going to the same school as she? A mix of emotions flooded to the bat-like girl. At once, she felt both a swelling pride, as if her efforts were not as misplaced as one might think, and, at the same time, a deep sinking feeling. With a Quirk like that, this Azukina Yomodachi girl could have easily gotten into a school like U.A. The feeling of being overshadowed, of her Quirk being as sub-par as she thought it was, weighed heavily on her. What should she do? Approach this girl, or keep her distance. She felt her stomach turn, even as she was metaphorically blown away by the windy demonstration.
As the chill swept the room, the slight girl seemed to stumble back, catching herself on the back foot, looking as if she were fighting a yawn. Suzaku’s eyebrows had climbed almost to his hairline, utterly stunned at the display. Someone like that is going here?? With that Quirk, she could have clean-sweeped the Entrance Exam that kicked my ass! He was suddenly feeling very insecure about… jumping really high. He leaned in toward Yakkaimori as the black-and-white student walked off, admitting the next person to try their luck.
”I… might be in trouble,” he muttered, almost too quiet for even himself to hear. Koumori’s attention slowly returned as her sleepy spell dissipated, turning to look towards Suzaku.
“Hm? D-did you say something? Keekee?” queried the Mutant; Suzaku raised an eyebrow, then shook his head.
”N-no… it’s nothing.” He straightened up, watching a boy spin things- and himself- very rapidly, before continuing. ”Just... feeling a bit inadequate.”
“Y-you t-too?” she squeaked out as she heard a strange popping from the spinning boy, almost as if he had a stiff shoulder or something. He nodded, before shrugging.
”Y-yeah, just… something I have to work on. Just have to keep reminding myself that… we all made it here, didn’t we? That means we have potential, yeah? They see something in us that they can make into a Hero.”
Another tap on his sleeved bicep. ”I mean… no one’s expecting us to be Pros the minute we walk in the door… right?”
“I su-suppose, keekeekee,” Koumori answered, unable to hide her uncertainty. But what if she couldn’t make it to being a Pro Hero?
The brown haired girl then tilted her head slightly, noticing the lavender eyed boy’s tic. And also that he was rather handsome in the conventional way, with an even skin tone and dark hair. Her gaze seemed to stay at the location of the tap, her attention only shifting when an overpowering, yet pleasant scent filled the room.
Noting his companion’s unease, Suzaku shrugged again. ”I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Despite what some people might say,” he said, injecting some venom into the words, ”this isn’t a school for losers or rejects. It’s the first year this school has been open. And they want to open for much longer than that. Just looking at this place, I can already tell they’re taking us seriously as Heroes.”
The short girl seemed to have her breath catch in her throat, her eyes darting about, “Wh-who said that? Keekee...” she asked, observing the coordinated rescue efforts of a plant girl and a dragon like boy, “Th-their Quirks are like mine, too...” she mused quietly.
He jerked his head in the direction of the idiot who’d drawn his malice earlier. ”Jerkface over there. Thinks it’s cooler to be an asshole and bring everyone down than to actually make the best of their situation. He’ll wash out quick, mark my words. Places like this… you have to want it. Above anything else, skill, powers, whatever… you have to have heart. Everything else comes after that.”
“I th-think-keekee I’ll avoid him...”Koumori’s eyes then dilated as the tall, lean looking girl began introducing herself, as if she realized something terrifying, “But that Yomodachi girl did all that with one hand,” she pointed out ominously; Suzaku’s response was another tap, and another shrug.
”So? When I first got my Quirk, it was… nothing. Purely cosmetic. I couldn’t do anything with it. So… I made something of it myself. Because this… this is where I want to be. So I’m gonna make it happen, however I have to do it. Simple as that.”
The bat-girl nodded, “That’s admirable, Takeda-kun. Oh- Y-you said something was a-awesome earlier? W-was it that our principal is Oracle Thought!?” she returned, now with mounting enthusiasm, half attentive to Kudo Akeno’s heated pummeling of a dummy “She is pretty fantastic, isn’t she? Keekee!”.
He jumped suddenly. She had heard that? And she still wanted to talk to him, even with the expletive?! That’s… that’s…
”I-I… was actually referring to your ears. I, uh… I like bats. But they’re even cooler, now, ‘cause you heard me, from at least 5-10 feet away, in a crowded gymnasium. That’s really powerful! They must be a big help for situational awareness- do you have an estimated range of what and where you can hear?”
“Um, I...” the poor girl was sweating from nerves, “I n-never checked f-for distance, b-but I can hear u-up to ab-bout fifty kiloHertz, and a-about negative one decibel,” she admitted, albeit sheepishly.
Suzaku’s eyes went wide at that revelation. He pulled his phone from his pocket with an almost feverish light in his eyes, typing a quick note to himself, grinning widely. ”Fifty kHz… that’s incredible. And -1 decibel? Oh, you’re going to be an amazing hero with that…” He trailed off, before snapping to sudden attention. ”What else can you do? Do you have wings? Sonic discharge of any kind?”
“I’m sure you’ll be a fantastic hero too, Takeda-kun. The majority of the Top Heroes have Emission Type Quirks,” she parroted, though truly meant it to be encouraging- however, at the mention of wings, she seemed to become a bit sullen, “Well,” she began, raising her arm, which, with her sweatshirt removed, displayed a small, brown membrane of skin stretched between her elbow and the base of her underarm, “I do… b-but they don’t really d-do anything, keekee. And I-I have echolocation... kekekii.” she admitted softly; Suzaku nodded to himself, finishing his notes.
”Excellent… there’s a lot you can do with just your echolocation alone. Great for rescue, support, or even certain combat applications. I think you’re gonna do great here, Yakkaimori-san.”
“C-combat?” she stammered, looking at her rather thin arm, and beginning to feel somewhat flustered, “Wh-why don’t you e-exhibit next, Takeda-kun? Keekee.”
”Not necessarily direct combat, you understand, but things like battlefield awareness and-- Hm? Oh. Oh! Oh, sure, I can do that,” said Suzaku, noticing the stage was now empty of any participants. ”Wait here, then. I’ll go… show you what I can do.” With that, he squared up, took a deep breath, and walked forward.
Koumori nodded and allowed Suzaku passage, sinking into the crowd a bit, squinting to see what he would do.
”Just… one dummy, I guess. Oh! And some assorted… rubble, I guess? Something like a collapsed building, or a street lamp that’s kind of off-kilter?” He nodded as his requests were fulfilled, filling the room with rubble, regaining a little of his previous luster. He turned toward the congregated students, and bowed. ”Takeda Suzaku, at your service. My Quirk is simple enough. I call it Black Wings. Observe.” Koumori clapped softly at Takeda-kun’s introduction; with a minor look of strain passing across his face, ragged black shadows suddenly burst from his shoulder blades, taking the vague shape and appearance of blue-black, jagged, feathery wings. He sighed a bit in relief, and straightened up.
”They may look cool, but they’re kind of weak- not good for physicality. What they are good for, is mobility.” With that, he turned toward the simulated ruins- in particular, the bent street lamp, and kicked off the ground, his wings giving him a mighty flap and propelling him almost 20 feet into the air, allowing him to gracefully alight onto the street lamp. Koumori gasped in awe, mixed with a slight pang of jealousy, her ears standing straight up, though not likely clearing the shoulders of the dwindling crowd.
”I can’t quite fly yet, but--” he leaped off again, landing on a particularly tall piece of rubble, ”--I can jump, and I can glide, which gives me--” he leaped off yet again, this time at the dummy, knocking it down with a flying kick to its head, ”--superior mobility, agility, and advanced vectors in combat settings. I am also trained in Karate, and my wings can be used as minor cover; they can’t take a hit worth a dam-- er, darn, but they can obfuscate my position if need be.” He stood up from his dive-kick position and bowed again… before crumpling just a little bit. ”Er… anything else? Questions…? Comments…? ...Cool, alright, thank you.”
He finished in a rush, walking quickly back to Yakkaimori as he let the next student step up. He turned to her and grinned sheepishly.
”So… there you have it. My half-baked Quirk.” He crossed his arms again, tapping on his upper left arm. Again.
“A-are you kidding? That was amazing! Keekee.” she affirmed, for once her vocal tic seeming to be level toned, “You jumped so high! A-and you know ka-ra-te?”
Suzaku chuckled ruefully, tapping lightly on his arm again. ”I-I mean… I guess. But they’re still so weak, and all it takes is a few good hits to disperse them. Like I said. When that happens, it takes a while to recharge, and until that happens, I’m basically Quirkless. I’ve still got a long way to go.But… yeah. I’m a karate-ka. Not a master or anything, but… enough.”
Her ear flicked in recognition of the tap, but, as her face lit up, as she got an idea. Koumori nodded, and moved as if to pat his shoulder in support, but stopped short. She seemed in a rush, suddenly. She also couldn’t help but notice the low murmurs of others quickly preparing to demonstrate their Quirks. While she didn’t want to be overshadowed by someone with a flashy Quirk like Azukina or Suzaku, she certainly didn’t want to be an unmemorable finisher to the exhibitions. So, mustering all the courage she could in her tiny heart, she strode, somewhat stiffly, to the area before Gudo-sensei. Suzaku smiled as she strode up to demonstrate.
”Knock ‘em dead, Yakkaimori-san!” he called out to her.
The sudden support caused the girl to blush, and her final step as she turned around was a bit more unstable than she would have liked. Her hands fidgeted, as if seeking the baggy sleeves of a sweatshirt that was no longer there, black fingernails clicking against each other. Slowly, she plunged her left hand into her pocket, then spoke up.
“Greetings fellow c-classmates... of Jigokuraku Class 1-A. M-my name is Yakkaimori Koumori. My Q-Quirk is called … called Bat, and I w-would like to d-demonstrate it for you.” Despite her rigid enunciations, it was clear she was nervous.
“G-Goudo-sensei, please allow m-me an-an obstacle course with a maze, if you wouldn’t mind Sensei, keekee. The kinds of s-surfaces d-don’t matter much Sensei, keekee. I h-hope I c-can assist the class with my a-abilities, a-and help u-us...” She took in a deep breath, leaving her back to the gymnasium floor, raising her balled-up fist, from which a sort of headband with a distinct, familiar yellow, red, and blue color scheme dangled, “Go Beyond!”
With what was probably the loudest statement she had made today easily, and likely all week, the floor began to shift. At almost random intervals, walls of various heights and orientations began to rise. Several of the openings produced nothing, and were left as gaps, either on their own, or against the walls they had extruded. Instead of watching the madness ensue, Koumori instead made what would appear to be a bold move to anyone excluding the staff and possibly Suzaku, as she tied the cloth- now clearly revealed to be a piece of All Might memorabilia- over her eyes, just over her ears, to allow them full mobility and function. Only then did she turn towards the now cluttered gymnasium floor of unknown challenges.
Likely unnoticed by any but the most astute, Koumori began to emit a series of sounds, both from her mouth, and, oddly enough, her nose. A series of very soft squeaks and clicks sounded from the girl, and a half a second later, her ears began twitching, as if to catch the returning sounds, inaudible to everyone else.
The first obstacle was simple- a row of horizontal bars all in line, just high enough that the bat girl would have to step higher over them, or trip and fall flat on her face. The next obstacle was a large wall with various hand-and-footholds, meant to be climbed up and over. And finally, at the very end was a maze, just barely wide enough for the diminutive girl to squeeze in and out of it.
With steps akin to a ballerina, Koumori raised her knees and set her feet gently between the bars, each step carefully placed, one foot per space, never even a toe in the shadow of the bars. Her head was barely even facing what looked to most like the wide, grounded ladder, but the observant individual would see her ears tilted ever-so-slightly forward and down. The bat-girl’s thin arms remained at her sides, as if they were completely unnecessary in navigating the footwork course. Suzaku was grinning ear to ear at this point. Go on, bat girl, he thought to himself, almost bouncing in enthusiasm.
Next came the nearly thirty foot tall wall. As she stood meer feet away from it, she beamed. This would be too easy. The girl’s usually crumbling self-esteem bolstered at the thought of this task. Slowly reaching forward, Koumori placed her hand on the wooden surface of the wall. Not a handhold, mind- the wall itself. Her black little fingernails tapped against the smooth surface, and her hand flexed in an almost claw-like manner. Her other hand, similarly, swung up and pressed against a higher point in the wall. The timid girl felt she had waited long enough, and bolted upward. In a flurry of limbs and clicks, she scrambled up the wall in mere seconds. Suzaku almost laughed aloud. Of course! She may not have the proper traits to fly… but she can sure as hell climb! He pulled out his phone again, frantically adding to his notes. Anyone else who was paying as much attention to Koumori as Suzaku was would likely notice that she didn’t even touch a hand hold, and half the time, her feet weren’t on them either. Upon mounting the timber at the top of the wall Koumori crouched there for a moment, before tipping up her head, and, silent as the grave, dropping over the other side of the wall.
Her toes touched the ground first, followed by her heels, then her knees as she rolled. The impact was extended several times over as Koumori rolled forward, her back pressing against the floor before she came tumbling back to her feet. The momentum carried her for a few more steps before her balance was perfectly centered, at which point, her ears flicked outward and back ever so slightly, and her squeaking and clicking resumed. Her head tilted as the large wall drew closer, allowing her subtle sounds various angles at which to bounce. As before, her ears flicked and twitched, catching every minute sound, giving her a clear picture of the path ahead.
What followed was a cakewalk as the blindfolded Koumori not only avoided the simplest brush with one of the frosted plexiglass walls, (which at once allowed the students and Gudo-sensei to track the girl’s progress, and caused quite a bit of visual confusion) but seemed not to make even a single wrong turn. Suzaku began clapping as the girl wisped gracefully through the exit of the maze, smiling widely as his new friend completed her task with nary a hiccup.
Exiting the maze at its back, Koumori made her way around the outskirts of the gymnasium, past the seated students, and back where she began, all without looking, only mild clicks emanating from her face. Upon turning back to the group, she removed her blindfold, giving a deep bow to Goudo-Sensei, then each section of the class- those who had already exhibited their Quirks, and those who had yet to demonstrate.
“Th-thank you all so much for your time,” she chirped softly as she raised from her bow, “I do hope you are now aware of my capabilities, and that I did not bore you with my… simple Quirk.”
And with another nod of her head, she moved to be seated. Taking a space behind the black-and-white haired girl, she waved her arm as if to catch Suzaku’s attention. Suddenly realizing he wasn’t quite where he should be, Suzaku blushed and quickly skittered across the gymnasium to the seat next to Koumori.
”See, Yakkaimori-san? That wasn’t bad at all! In fact, it was very impressive! I hadn’t realized you had such good climbing capabilities, as well!”
“I-it was nothing special, really. N-not as impressive as anyone else’s Quirk really,” she pointed out, before lowering her voice very quietly, “By the way… y-you keep tapping your arm… are you alright Takeda-kun?”
Suzaku glanced down, then back up. ”Oh… oh! Yeah, I’m fine, it’s just a nervous tic. I do it when I’m thinking hard or things like that. Nothing to worry about.”
Koumori simply nodded in response, letting out an affirmative “Keekee,” exhibiting her own psychological tic, though hers was obviously vocal.
The bat-like girl then whispered again, but not as low this time, “Do… do you think that I… I could make more friends Takeda-kun? L-like… f-friends like Yomodachi-kun? Keekee...”
”Oh, absolutely!” Suzaku answered without hesitation, causing Koumori to smile, ”Don’t worry, Yakkaimori-san- you’re gonna do great here. I can feel it.”
Suzaku and Koumori make their way to the gymnasium for Quirk demonstrations- Suzaku showing off his superior agility, while Koumori navigates an obstacle course and maze, “blind.” The two begin to form an unlikely friendship based on mutual self-deprecation mood and the dream of flight.
Adrian breathed deeply, struggling to keep himself calm as he started the test. It wasn't as though he hadn't done this before, but there were... complications. Not the least of which being the antlered Dragon right across from his berth, with a very particular, very familiar auburn-haired individual sitting in its mouth.
He'd know that shade anywhere. Being just a few shades lighter than his own.
His hands clenched on the controls in his cockpit as his teeth ground together. What the fuck is he doing here...? He'd worried about something like this happening at first; his brother emerging from out of nowhere to drag him back by the collar to his old, boring life. Back when he was happy to be out here. Before the operations. Before the fighting. Before anything else. After that, his fear was of someone he cared about being dragged into this awfulness alongside him, but he'd reassured himself that there was no way that could happen. Thomas had a life in Demeter- a good job, a girlfriend, a future. Not like him. He'd comforted himself that his brother would never be stupid enough to force himself out here, into the black.
He'd clearly overestimated how smart Thomas was.
Adrian jumped, distracted from his reverie by the sound of the technician chiming in over the comms. He'd been leaving them hanging while he glared at his brother and his brother's Dragon.
"Okay," he said out loud, a little sheepishly. "I'm strapped in. Start the test."
Not that this was a whole lot easier. Adrian could never get used to this part, like his comrades.
Tendrils began to emerge from the walls of his cockpit, writhing like living snakes as the darted toward him, the ends neatly slotting into the ports up and down his arms and legs, a small jolt running up and down his nerves as they did so. Not every Dragon was like his, but the philosophy was the same- becoming part of the machine, part of the Dragon. He started to shake slightly as his vision started to blur... going double. This was the worst part...
A shockwave crossed across his brain, feeling like he was being knocked unconscious repeatedly, until... he could see again. Specifically, he could see through different eyes. Del Lago's eyes.
It was always easier after the uplink- like breaking the sound barrier. A lot of unpleasantness, then... this moment. Being... different. More. Complete. It almost made everything else worth it, connecting to his partner like this.
He looked down at his/Del Lago's limbs, giving them a tentative shake to make sure they were working properly. So far, so good. Next, to test weapons--
A splitting headache suddenly struck him as their sensor suite was appropriated for something, sending a burst of cacophonous sound and pain surging through their heads. The connection severed before Adrian's head exploded, leaving Del Lago shaking its head to shake off the lingering headache, he himself pressing a hand to his forehead to stave off his own suffering.
"Sir? Are you alright? We got some interference--"
"Yeah, no sh--" started Adrian, before cutting himself off. "...Sorry. Yeah, something just... pinged off of my sensors. Someone testing a sonic weapon or something. Check up on the other Dragons, make sure they're all alright." He sat back as the physical uplinks started to withdraw, an announcement coming in over the ship's communications. Briefing, huh? Alright. We must be close to the border, then. If not over it, by now. He sighed to himself. Once more into the breach, then. At least, if we win here... we might not have to fight for much longer. He waited for Del Lago to deactivate their connection completely, eager to get all of this ugliness behind him.
A little less than an hour later, Adrian found himself just outside the Situation Room where the meeting was taking place, just in time to hear the tail end of his new squadron leader's... enthusiasm.
"...Squad are slacking off! I shall have to give them a lesson in punctuality later."
Adrian blanched. Fuck. There goes my chance to make a good impression on the boss. Regardless, he squared his shoulders and walked in, moving into the corner to get a good feel on everyone here, as more started shuffling in. Including...
Sigh. That conversation could wait. They had a job to do.
...Hello, Pilot (Designation: King). Awaiting instructions.
The Armada Sector Date 5115.64 Time 1801
The hangar bay was a buzz of activity, as it always was, but perhaps a bit more frantic than usual. The signal had just gone throughout the Elysium- they had reached the point of no return. Across the Red Line. Shard territory. As it was, any Pilot worth a damn (read: every one currently stationed on the ship) was, somewhat frantically, checking up on their Dragons, making sure they were combat-ready in case of a sudden scramble order. In other parts of the enormous hangar, the Anima pilots were doing the same, but with much greater detachment- after all, their fighters only had the most basic of AIONs attached to them- they didn't need quite the same care as one of these...
Admiral Serrano started to shudder slightly, but suppressed it. He needed to portray a certain front to his crew. It wouldn't do to show fear at such a crucial junction. Besides, they were on the same side here- it's not like they would try to hurt him. The one time it even had happened, it wasn't even her fault...
Serrano frowned as he forced his train of thought back on track. He was being ridiculous. He felt at the tangle of emotions at the back of his head where Sakura resided. Their reunion had had... mixed results, but they were both intelligent enough, at least, to put their issues behind them. They were a team again- they needed to be a team. For the sake of the Operation. He looked over toward where he knew she would be waiting. Perhaps... perhaps he could take a detour...
An image flashed in his mind. Black blood. He grit his teeth. No. Not yet.
Suppressing a tired sigh, he continued his rounds of the Dragon pens, watching as Pilots and their teams of technicians (in some cases) clambered over the beasts, checking diagnostics on everything from combat readiness to their current mood. Commendable, but mostly unnecessary, for now. According to their projections, they were in a low-patrol area. The chances of being attacked here were slim, and they would know well-enough in advance if any tried.
He cleared his throat.
"Vi," he muttered, addressing the Elysium's own AION.
yes, admiral. how may i be of service?
"Projection. Hangar bay, Dragon pens." A short blare of an alarm sounded, drawing the attention of the Pilots and technicians. Serrano made sure everyone was listening before proceeding.
"Attention: all Pilots, proceed to Situation Room A for briefing. Briefing will start at 1900 hours. Thank you." With that, he turned and began walking to the transport that would take him back to the Operations Deck, where the meeting would take place. He struggled to tamp down his nerves and... excitement, as made his way out of the Hangar Bay.
This is it. We're finally doing this. We finally have a chance to win...
Name: Rex Serrano Callsign: Bastion Age: 67 Species: Uplift- Wolf/"Retired" Pilot Appearance: Rex is very physically imposing, even by the standards of other lupine uplifts and Pilots. He has the appearance of a man half his age, nearly unchanged since he volunteered for the Pilot Program at its very inception. Nearly seven feet tall, and three hundred pounds of muscle, implants, and fur. His eyes are bright red and glowing, a stark contrast to the black-and-grey fur that covers his body. His left arm up to the shoulder is entirely sleek black metal, due to an incident involving his Dragon. Personality: On the surface, Rex is a very serious man. He takes the duty of leading his pack with the utmost responsibility. He's a born leader, seemingly unfazed by anything the war might throw at him. Underneath that facade, however, is a simmering cauldron of conflicting emotions, just waiting to jet forth. Anger at the Shard and the war in general. Fear and apprehension of being so near to his Dragon again. Guilt toward that same Dragon, for blaming it for circumstances beyond its control. Guilt again, for the ones who died while he was safe in the core. And... however small, there is anticipation, even excitement, to finally back in the thick of things once again. Biography: Rex was once an average fighter pilot, somehow lucky enough to survive engagement after engagement against the Shard, even as he and his fellows were pushed back from the Red Line, time and again. His frustrations with Origin's repeated failures to conquer this new invader is what led him to the first whispers of a project called "Batch One-" a radical new weapon against the Shard. Rex, desperate for a victory against the enemy, volunteered almost immediately. Through the pain and suffering, mental and physical, Rex endured, earning his place in the legendary First Squadron; the first Pilots, the first Dragons, able to be fielded in active combat.
His luck did not hold as well, after that success. Even as armed as they were, even with his beloved Sakura Blossom, the fight was far from easy. Death was commonplace, daily even. Even as they finally began to push back, finally started to win, the meat grinder feeling of the front lines did not dissipate. Over a decade, these feelings ate away at Rex, even through his facade of professionalism. Until the unthinkable happened: at the Battle of Sundowner, one of the last, worst failures of the Red Line, the First Squadron's leader, Haruka Koda, was killed in battle along with her Dragon. And something in Rex Serrano snapped- he saw red, and went out for blood. He pushed himself farther than he ever had before. Farther than was considered safe. And even when he and his Dragon were literally dragged back bodily from the carnage, it was too late; he was paying the price for his anger and hubris. His integration rate had reached critical, and was approaching terminal. Try as they might, his support crew could not stop his Dragon from consuming him- he had mere seconds before he was a part of his machine forever.
In a moment of desperation, Rex decided that he'd rather live, and pulled a knife from one of his crew members' belts. And swung.
Rex has never been quite the same since that day, seeming a shell of his former glory. The loss of his beloved commander, and the trauma of his Dragon- intentionally or not- turning on him, let him broken in comparison to how he was before. He allowed himself to be coaxed into a desk job, doing his best to fight from behind the scenes, with strategy rather than his claws and teeth. And for a while, this was enough. But as the years went on, and the war showed no signs of ending, complacency gave way to anger once again. He yearned to do more, feeling guilt for surviving when so many others would never be returning home. Even though he still feared what had happened, he felt worse through his inaction.
With his recent promotion to Admiral, he intends to rectify his previous passiveness. Even if he's still unsure of ever stepping foot in a cockpit again, he feels better about being on the front lines again, with Operation Checkmate, where his actions might actually mean something again. Favors:
A good fight
His Dragon (it's complicated)
Affinities: Rex's strength, both of body and will, is top-notch. His courage is unflinching in most situations, making him ideal for leadership in high-stress scenarios. Faults: Rex's temper is legendary, and while he usually has a handle on it, once it's unleashed, there's little to no chance of stopping it until it's burnt out. Furthermore, once he's set on something, Rex is extremely stubborn toward changing. He's single-minded and determined, and his strong emotions can make it difficult to shake off a potentially destructive course. Text Color: 9e0039 Theme Song:
Name: Sakura Blossom Appearance: Strangely humanoid, for a Dragon, being taller and more graceful-looking than most of its kind. It is constantly floating, the bladed tips of its feet never touching the ground, even at rest. It has four long, slender arms, ending in three-clawed hands. Its head is the most inhuman part, even then resembling a draconic helmet rather than an actual organism. Its colors are deep, blood-red, except for its six wings, which fade to pale, cherry-blossom pink at the tips, which appear to be flaky and brittle, despite their solidity. Personality: Nurturing and caring, especially of other Dragons. Has an extremely strong protective instinct in battle. A long period of isolation from its Pilot has left it far more quiet and reserved than before, however. Classification: Joker Capabilities: Sakura Blossom is, at its most basic, a healer. Dragon metalflesh regenerates extremely fast in its presence, healing "injuries" in mere hours that would otherwise take days or even weeks to heal. This is only the most basic application of its abilities, however, as its regeneration applies to its wings, as well, giving it an almost unlimited supply of metalflesh shrapnel and flechettes to use as weaponry. With concentration, Sakura Blossom can manipulate Shard units' flesh, as well, twisting and crushing them with their own bodies, though this is very taxing to both Dragon and Pilot.