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Mule was stoic and still as Diver went through her various answers. She didn't have anything to add that the team hadn't presented themselves, or at least thought so, and thought mostly on the answers they'd been given. It was likely infuriating for the analysts that they'd gone and escaped the scope of the simulation when handed an impossible task, but to expect anything less from operatives of their caliber was to sell them short. She found her smile a bit warmer at the thought, returning Chariot's beaming celebration. The rest of the technical details didn't matter to her, but she would wait for the debrief to end before stripping down anyway.

"Understood." Mule said as she held the lanyard up to her face, looking over the details of the card attached before slipping it around her neck and gingerly tucking it down the back of her armor. Then she stepped away as Diver offered some helpful instructions, finding her bag along the room's wall and beginning the process of clicking and ripping off the various buckles and straps that comprised her vest and tactical rigging. Lighter than it had been in the simulation, empty now. They'd really tore into the Retra staff over that one but the attention to detail given in their equipment had been impressive, at least. She made a promise to herself to visit an armory if she could find one.

The gear went back in its bag without a fuss, the same as it had been when she got on the plane that morning and no less worn in despite the memory of a full operation lingering in her head. That felt strange, not to be able to count the scuffs and scrapes with an hour of combat and maneuver still echoing around in her nerves. She shook her head, hoisting up her luggage before turning back.

"Sounds like you've got quite a few facilities for being all the way up here! For now, I think I'll be reporting to the dorms to get my things moved in." Mule shuffled her bag around, moving towards the door before turning again. "Though, If at all possible with my clearance I would like to log at the armory some time soon. The setup in the simulation was authentic enough that I think I can guess what AAR your engineers were reading for my gear." She smiled over at the busily typing desk section. "But I can run heavier than that. Explosives, medical, mobility, whatever the team can put to use."
The twitch brought on by the sudden rush of alarm, long suspended by the process that had submerged her in that virtual world, finally played out as Mule fluttered back to reality. Her boot found the edge of the pod as the jolt of awakening bumped her forehead noisily into the canopy. Less like awakening and more like being thrown back into the body she belonged in, as she sat, held her forehead, and thought about it. The actual feeling, the sudden fear of having her consciousness plucked away, was nowhere to be found even if she could plainly remember it, play out its impulses as if cast back to the second of departure. A minute was just enough time to get to wondering if the simulation ran in real time or not, but as the pod hissed open she was more concerned with pulling herself out of it and looking presentable.

Boots clacked down onto the Vindsvalr's flooring panels as Mule descended, stumbling forwards as the mixture of un-numbing limbs and overcompensation for the dangling weight of the objective nearly toppled her. Tail flicking out as she caught herself and stood up straight in response to Diver's voice, a medley of odd feelings began to filter in. Her thigh felt quite bare without the old drop holster clamped around it. She spared a glance at the stricken Thrones, brow furrowing in concern as the Sankta dabbed at her face even in reality.

"It's an... interesting training medium to be sure. I think that I would be quite confident working with this group in a post-candidacy capacity, and that even if the simulation's objective was voided and the examination seemed to be measuring combat capacity chiefly, as a squad we demonstrated a convincing ability to cooperate."

That was the best she could manage in the quickly growing gulf of silence that seemed to follow Diver's question. It was one thing to point out the group's efficacy, another to think idly that it certainly wasn't her cannonballing into helicopters or shredding platoons of androids. These were strong fighters she was standing beside, and if that was Retra's expected mission profile she was left wondering what exactly in her portfolio had turned a head. Useless thoughts for now, she reminded herself, standing by and smiling idly as she listened to the other thoughts given.
Mule found her guard quite down for the overwhelming reaction the rest of the team put up, ceasing her own fire as Strix and their melee contingent saw to the massacre of the androids. She even had a spare second to stare as one of their number was hurled into the belly of the VTOL, gutting the beast and spiking it down onto the pavement with a hopefully survivable landing. She moved out from behind her bullet riddled cover, passing by the stricken Thrones to shoot a quick look up and down the street before doubling back. Remnants of virtual glass crunching underfoot as she went, the siren that spelled trouble blaring in the distance.

"We need to shift positions after that siren. Maybe we can get this examination in on the move, or anywhere that isn't here." She looked between Vlad and Thrones, offering her arm down to the kneeling Sankta. "Let's get her stood up or carried, and go."

The transaction of force wasn't going to be in their favor anymore if they couldn't simply pin the enemy to the ground on arrival, that much, if little else, was clear to her. It wasn't thinking within the requirements of the simulation, but they now had two casualties to lumber around.

Her head turned to the outside once more, and the growing congregation around the downed aircraft. "Or loaded in, supposing we have a pilot," She said. Unfortunately, the extent of her training was for operations from aircraft, and a passenger with style was still a passenger.
An open lobby posed just as many problems as an open street, perhaps more if you wanted to forebode about the building coming down with them in it rather than in its shadow. She decided to worry instead about the things she could fix. Mule broke the doorway first, shield up and at the front as the group staked its way into the skyscraper's ground floor. Ten meters in and not receiving fire she stepped out to the side, reversing to face the door so that more mobile operators and their wounded could carry the pace into the room. As Chariot looked over the wall outside the promising set of sliding doors Mule crept backward, keeping the rear of the group and turning to look over the elevators herself as they all settled in.

"Might as well kill ourselves as ride separate passenger lifts up without this building cleared." Mule spoke up, looking up at the ceiling and shallowly into experience Cut cables, no guarantee the line was in service, uncertain resistance further up, there was no other way she thought to put it. "Let's poke deeper in, find the utility section, a freight..."

She cut off as the brutal concussion of jet engines echoed into the room, off streets and windows, shaking the glass fixtures through the lobby as an aircraft held off the ground outside. That was trouble enough. Mule's body spun to follow her head, shield first eclipsing her before her elbow crooked out just past its protective edge as she drew her pistol. Mere seconds for the attackers to dismount, about one for Mule to clock that they weren't already pulped by the gunship's armament. She braced her pistol and opened fire, one pane shattering an instant before the rest disintegrated under the androids' barrage.

A few impacts whistled and clanged off of the Defender's shield, projectiles glanced wide into the terrain or immediately mangled into a dangerous cloud of spall leaving distinctive black sunbursts across the armor face. She hurried off a set of shots, responding to the contact and staying out to give the rest of the group a chance to cover or retaliate before she joined Chariot in ducking down. Mule drew her arms in, crossing them defensively and angling her shield up over herself as the occasional ricocheting bullet or debris from the mess the androids were making from the lobby clanked off of her. Passing her weapon into her shield hand for a moment, she reached down and patted the scuffed extent of her jacket to make sure her earlier guess was correct. She pushed and prodded the cylinders of a few smoke grenades before putting a finger back up to the radio. No point trying to screech over a fusillade coming from so close.

"Mule here, I have signals. Unknown if enemy is on vis or IR detection, smoke available if we have a way to punch out of this. Over."

With that, she went back to her gun, twisting her wrist and sticking the handgun out over the top of her shield to blindly put a few shots on their new robotic suppressors. The last thing they needed was to go totally cold and let the enemy walk right up to them. This was the fire element, clearly, and already she turned her head to search for some yet unseen avenue that a prospective maneuver element would be using to encircle them. An offshoot hallway undefended, the very elevator shafts they had been about to survey, with their luck an IFV driven through the wall.
Mule's tail tensed, ears standing on end under her cap as the feeling of looming danger radiated up from her gut. There was no surprise as to why when the accumulating energy of the enemy arts droids finally released itself, the concussive popping of plasma formation following the unearthly glow of raw Arts ravaging through the buildings beside them. The lack of roiling dust was about the only thing to pull her back to the notion that she was in a simulation. At the very least, the threat of those falling boulders was real.

"Heads up, debris." She spoke into the radio, standing in case the collapse spilled far enough down the road to jeopardize the rear team. That, and it was just about time. A few more shots pinged hopelessly off of the carapace of the armored ones approaching her as Mule counted down her ammo, and the steps they had before they overtook her. Between the screeches of metal on metal she took notes. No sign of slowing, no indication of an attack. The classic, suicidal rush of an autonomous opponent. It was intimidating to be faced with such confidence, but not so with a team behind her. And already, these strangers registered naturally in her mind as the fireteam.

One more shot, sprung off a shoulderplate. The rattle, and her count, told her she had four left. The defender plunged her weapon down, returning it to its holster with a brush of her jacket before she crossed to the other side of her belt. Two had broken off to engage their new comrade. Three were targets. One more step from them, and it was time. She set her foot forward, and began the counter-charge. Thrones' voice rang above the pulse in her ears. Her fingers wrapped around the grip of her tomahawk, yanking the weapon free and holding it out to her side.

With a few strides and a half-leap she evaporated the distance between them, aiming to collect the armored androids well before they crossed her defensive line. She kept stride as the rings of light passed her by, the clash coming the moment after they appeared to sink into their targets. The Defender's shield became her main arm as she sprung up and crashed the alloy plate into the trio, ramming the center body and snarling as her arm whipped out. The blunt edge of her tomahawk whistled in the air, swung wildly out to harass the left side before she turned and hammered at the right, once more boxing with the hardened face of her shield. The hand-axe did the fending, its bearded head used to ward their movements and catch their blades. Mule had to kill with footwork, dancing back to try and entertain the three of them all at once, stealing every opportunity to break forwards and put every kilo of body and gear behind the next staggering shieldblow. She'd have to see what the Arts did, but the Defender was dead set on tossing these Big Bob things around like a bunch of upjumped dolls if that's what kept them back.
Her second target fell, so she found a third. At a glance the enemy formation was breaking, some keeping stride to push after the group Mule was in and the rest stopping to engage. Her sights flickered across one of the androids keeping stride and she fired. The machine bounced left to right where it stood as consecutive impacts contorted its frame around, but before the hail of lead could lay it to the ground Mule felt a familiar bounce against her wrist, the distinct recoil of the slide locking back. A flick sent the empty magazine skittering far out to her flank. Her head came up to scan as her hand went down, forcing her pistol back down into the bars of her holster. Freed to work, she gingerly plucked a magazine from her kit and reloaded while checking her surroundings for a bit more clarity. Nine in total were bearing down on them. Thrones and Strix were doing their thing, that left hers.

"Understood. I've got this." She heard of one of the two stepping away from her, but didn't look back to check who. Her handgun clicked free of its restraints once more, drawn up to draw a bead on the encroaching droids.
"Get distant if you need to but remember I can't intercept if you're too far out." She called out, hopefully to be heard over the gunfire that ensued. She had plenty more ammunition to burn through and hopefully no one counting up the LMD in virtual reality. She stayed crouched down, far out of the way of her comrade's firing lines but a one woman shieldwall before the squadron set against them. Bullets whizzed around at ankle level as she fired into the crowd, hoping to unlimb the unarmored and potentially hobble the protected androids before the melee began.
"Contact front!" Mule's voice raised as she cried out the automatic response. Metal whacked onto concrete as the Defender collapsed forward onto one knee. Wide open eyes swept left to right, counting heads, hands. Green dots aligned before her left eye as she trained her weapon out across her shield. That was how far she'd gotten before, when a barrage of Arts had rendered the machete wielding bots inoperable. No such fortune this time. Her finger traced a straight line back. Bullets pelted the android directly ahead of her, two shots walking up its torso plate before the third tore into its head unit, a clinking rattle emanating from the entrance wound as the projectile deformed and trapped itself within the machine. It reeled back from the impact, catching and righting just in time for a fourth and fifth shot to sever a knee joint and send the android spiraling to the ground.

Mule shifted, the Zalak's tail flicking across the ground as her weapon fell onto another target, but her shot was gone. The impressive mass of the other Defender barreling into the center of the enemy line assured that. Her peripheral vision caught sight of the gauntlet wielding warrior throwing foes around in the melee, but she was already turning away and lifting. Quick steps carried her across the street surface, a few glances confirming the positions of her friendly operators. She hadn't seen the others fight, but they had an Arts specialist in the Sankta. Mule slid to a halt in front of Thrones, crouching to brace her shield into her new position. From there she picked at the sides of the enemy formation, peppering the android furthest to the left and sending sparks flying into the air alongside bits of its metal flesh.
Mule set down her coffee after a tentative sip or two, grateful to get in that much after the briefing came through. The others didn't look like they had much prep to do, though neither did she really. They'd be in the pods and away as swiftly as Retra seemed to want them. She went with some of the others to drop their bags against the wall. First went her backpack, gingerly placed against the wall, but as the operator threw down her duffel bag she knelt and unzipped it. Bright orange fabric and a matte-finished carabiner stared out, the jacket yanked from within and laid beside her. She'd be needing the carrier right off the bat. The vest came out, all open, dirtied pockets crafted in blackened ballistic fabric to complement the eight kilos of ceramic plate hidden in its front and back faces. A hydra of belts and semi-elastic straps hung from the armor like a burnt up squid.

Breathe out. She held it up and lowered it over her head, clicking buckles into place and cinching the vest tight against the snow tone of her sweater. The straps came next, running along the muscles of the arms and legs and creating small points of webbing where they crossed over above and below joints. Low profile rigging for gear she didn't currently have, but also a welcome degree of compression. Breathe in. Compression. She felt heavier, but centered. Mule nodded to herself in approval, clicking the sheath for her axe onto her right thigh and standing up. She toed the empty duffel over to the wall, and threw on her coat. Posture 2 in thirty seconds. In only a week, she'd gotten so sluggish.

She noted that some of the others had needed even less preparation. Warriors who were at one with their tools, arts users who had no such desire, or whichever in between, it was good to see people so confident. For her part, almost damningly, she was used to more of a briefing and certainly more in the way of equipment. But she'd fight naked, or near-naked if you really wanted to count a hand axe, and secure a weapon if she had to. The group was counting on her to carry her own weight. As she walked to the pod, she downed as much of her coffee as she could. It had a peculiar but not unpleasant tinge, one that made her realize just how thirsty she actually was while she settled into the pod. The lid came down. The awful sensation of losing control crept in. At the onset she braced herself, but at the edge of a last flicker of warning shot through her nerves. Instinctively she revolted, a knee flexing up towards the pod door but making it... not even off the padding as everything swam and darkened.

Mule swayed in place as the world began to reform, white suddenly dominating the visual landscape as bulkhead gray had gone before it. The others, armed to the teeth now, their charge, and then the false city itself. As grogginess cleared away and she took an account of her surroundings she couldn't help but wonder as to how the others had generated their armaments until she felt the subtle twist along her right arm. The imposingly dark coating of a ballistic shield, and the thin letterbox of clear polymer to look through it, looked up at her from the mounting point along her right forearm. It wasn't the one she'd left behind, that one was worn down and blasted all over and now in an arms locker at Penguin, but conveniently enough it was the same model. A common make, an intermediate shield with enough height to occlude one's upper body, and about torso width for a male. The tapering at the top edges beside the viewport made it simple for an operator to brace a weapon. Her left hand instinctively shot down to her leg. The same story, her service weapon from Penguin. Retra had done their digging or her agent had put forward a much more complete history than she had. Mule's flat face belied her joy as she drew her pistol. The game was no longer survival, it was the demonstration they had been asked to perform, and it all started to make sense.

"Yes, though usually they were a little bit more needy." She smiled back to Vlad and returned her weapon to her side. She stretched out a hand. "Toss that thing over and I'll get it shackled on. We should maybe duck our heads off this street sooner than later. Diver said they don't know about us but..." She looked up. Thousands of empty windows, no visual description of who or what their adversaries were for the day. It would be foolish to assume a motivated attacker would come without sharpshooters, moreso to assume they would remain idle while they planned their route.

"I don't think that will be true for very long, noise or no. And then," She looked to Strix after Thrones had weighed in. "Yeah, we've all got to come home from this. Splitting our force broadens our front line. We should stay out of aggressive postures. We might have to kill everything we see but we get to pick our fights as slow as we wish for now, so let's all stay together." Internally, she wanted to stay away from the open and skulk off to the shadows right then, but as she spoke she shuffled towards the front of the pack, placing herself between the red beacon and the members of the party she deemed to look less hardy. Protect the direction of travel first, react to contact later... If they were going to be surprised while they talked it over, she resolved to be in the way.
It was like no landing she'd ever endured before, at least in the details. The procedure was the same, though familiarity was a mixed bag of comforts when it could also be said it reminded her more of a crash drill than an actual reception. At least the plane started shaking first. Her fist tensed to whitening around the strap of her duffel, though Mule kept her gaze as steely as circumstances permitted and planted firmly on the checked pattern of the metal floor. Only that last jump, as the cargo loads whined slightly in their restraints and shifted heavily under the final jolt did her head come up, taking a quick set of looks around the cabin to make sure it was in one piece, and again as they began to descend. She couldn't join the others in commenting on just how bad the ride in had been, if only for the low feeling that her voice would have come out rather weakly after all the excitement at the very end of the ride.

But it was over. The harness and mask clicked off, her bags both came up in her arms, and Mule was making her way down the ramp as soon as the operator to her in-side had successfully stood out of retention and started the walk down the ramp. Her first few steps were unsteady after so long bolted to the side of the angry aircraft. Part of her wondered how much if at all she was going to notice the unsteadiness of the flying ground beneath her feet. The initial impression was quite pleasing, stepping into the organized chaos outside as workers continued to strip the plane behind them of every valuable it had carried with it. If you didn't account for the staggering difference in scale, budget, and altitude it ran like any bustling aerodrome should have.

Mule joined the cluster of operators steadily growing around their greeter, holding her prolonged silence as most people took on her offer of breakfast. It was a subtly sobering thought to know that most of her colleagues had set out on the journey from far enough away that breakfast this morning hadn't been an available option. That was far braver than she was, she reflected with a small smile.

After Strix was done with her question, she joined by throwing one of her own at Diver. "Good morning, Diver. Can't say no to some coffee! But, if you don't mind me asking, what manner of simulation are we running off to?" A completely different waver took hold of her voice once she was off of radio discipline. "If our things are needed I suppose I can at least suit up while we're doing food."
Always. Was letting the lunch orders go in but I'll get a post up.
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