The Day Prior:
Anna grabbed Terra's hand with a bright smile.
"It's great to meet you!" Anna said with enthusiasm. "You know, you don't have to greet me so formally like that."
The former Red-Star pilot tilted her head.
"Formally? I don't understand."
This is how Terra spoke, most of the time. It was functional, but not overly-social.
Anna shook her head.
"Let me guess, you didn't talk much as a kid." Anna shook her head again. "Just talk to me like you know me. Talk to me like a friend. Is that too much to ask, Terra?"
Anna wondered how she'd react to that. She hadn't met someone so...stiff before. It was a bit unnerving, to say the least.
"Don't let all that military junk scramble your brain too much."
Here, Terra allowed herself a smile.
"I didn't have much in the way of friends. Talking to people socially is a new thing for me. I will say that I've had success, but it's still a process I have to work on. I thought I'd ask you about Denver-Vegas, since you're from there, as is a new friend of mine. Maybe there was something you wanted to know, as well, things you might have missed out on."
Anna tightened up a bit after hearing that. Anna hoped she didn't ask anything too personal. They didn't need to know the reason she actually defected from there in the first place. If people did, she probably wouldn't pilot another NC in her life. Anna was supposed to be a soldier now. They couldn't find out that she never could...
It was best if she kept the answers as brief and basic as possible. That was the only way she would be able to see combat. It was that or she could just keep Terra talking.
"Well," Anna said with a chuckle, "I didn't really pay too much attention to my briefing. Could you bring me up to speed a bit." Anna was sure that would keep herself from having to answer anything.
"There's a lot on our plate."
It wasn't that Terra had any problem talking. it was just that Commander Narra's desire to have people get to know each other had been the greater battle, in her eyes, than ones she'd actually had.
"Our basic layout is that we have the Darwin area protected by a shield wall against any heavy bombardment from ships, but that they can be passed through physically...though that can be a difficult situation for the enemy, as Haven just trains all of its guns on any craft of NC trying to step in. It is, essentially, why we get are the defenders against whatever remains, because whatever does can either take a beating or is skilled enough to survive that gauntlet. The last battle, we lost some of our people, we managed to gain more defectors, and the command structure was terrible. That's why we're organizing into small squads. A de-centralized force can't be thrown askew."
This was a fair and important sum-up of what was happening now, though it wasn't going into huge specifics because not only would that take too long, but Terra didn't know everything. Specifics were for follow-up questions, like this one.
"What sort of NC are you piloting, by the way? My squad has some long-range options, but Id, Grand Sword Star, and Sahaquiel are heavy into killing at closer ranges."
Anna blinked. That was quicker than she expected.
"I pilot the Lug. It's an armored sniper," she answered.
"Ah, then your cover fire will be exceptionally important. There are two things that I think you should know, specifically. The first is that one of our NCs was taken out by an enemy whose machine excelled in fire and close-range brutality. Hisako called it Ursa Nova. It's a huge bear mech, vicious and dangerous like Sahaquiel."
Hang on. She mentioned this NC, Sahaquiel, and that there was a Denver-Vegas pilot here already. Wasn't there such a person from the Reality Game who'd gone AWOL?
"I've heard that name before," Anna shot back. "Sahaquiel. I recognize the name from home."
"Kxeyun's NC. She was the one using the holo-link, injured in the last fight."
There was a pause from the woman, then...
"I rather like her, and I respect what she's been through, and what she had to do to get out of it. She needed a friend even more than I did."
"Wait. She's the pilot of Sahaquiel?" Anna asked. "The rogue Reality Games participant? That Sahaquiel?"
Here, Terra's eyes narrowed a bit.
"The same, but the 'forced Reality Games participant' is more accurate."
"Oh..." Anna took a sheepish step backward. "I always wanted to participate in those."
This actually...surprised the former Red-Star pilot. Kxeyun had indicated a situation that she literally couldn't walk away from alive, save for the manner in which she did it, and there was not much likelyhood of her lying about that. And yet, someone had wanted IN? Terra found this...odd, and didn't actually know what to say for a minute. She eventually settled on...
"It may not be a good idea. If you were unaware that Kxeyun was a prisoner, then perhaps they don't always tell the truth when they report things over there. I don't know. I lived in Japan-controlled Red-Star territory my entire life."
She shook her head.
"Her escape was more daring than my own. Her suffering was much greater than my own In that respect, I guess that makes me no one special, though I haven't been without..."
She stopped, just cut herself off there.
Anna didn't pry into it. Instead, she opted to go back to the next mission.
"So...you want me to do cover-fire?"
"Well, I'm not your group leader, but I assume you'll be trying to pick off as many opponents in the most efficient manner possible. There is something you can do for me, though. The second thing I mentioned before..."
Anna nodded, signaling her to continue.
Here was when Terra became serious. And if you have to ask what that sounds like, take what you thought felt formal and crank it up a bit.
"When I left Red-Star, I did so with the understanding that my parents would die because of me. In order to deny them the benefit of the capabilities they spent literal years and a number of resources creating within me, plus that of my NC, I had to be willing to do what they believed I would never do: Sacrifice my family, the people who I cared about more than anything else. This was the reason I was allowed to keep them, I believe, so I knew their demise as punishment was inevitable."
She paused, then continued a bit more humanly...
"That said...I began to wonder whether they did so or not, if they had maybe something else planned for them, something to use against me, to test my resolve, maybe. This is heartless, I know, but I had already accepted that they would pay the price for my freedom. You are a sniper, so I believe you would be able to react the fastest. If something happens and they are there, I may ask you to take the shot, to end whatever predicament they are in. It is not fair and it's not right, but it may be necessary..."
"You'd want me to do that for you?"
"Only if necessary, only if I am busy or unable to. Id has a plasma rifle, but that's limited in ways. It may fail where your weapon does not. So, if the situation is beyond Id's immediate capacity or it's an obvious trap to draw me in close, we can't risk losing people to it, anyone to it. Haven must win against Red-Star because Red-Star's methods will ruin the world we live on. If they attempt to use them against me, they must be denied, even if that is the price. I have to be willing to pay that price, and their suffering must end if there is no other solution."
"I-I think I can do it," Anna replied. "I'll do it if it comes down to that."
"Thank you, Anna. I don't want this. I just had to...accept it."
Haven Base Present
Anna had to think that over. Osamu had said they strapped Terra's parents to guns. Anna swallowed hard. She stood by as Mariano addressed the volunteers.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
Anna raised her hand and took a step forward. Anna bit at her lip. She needed to sound strong for everyone's sake.
"I need to take out those guns. You can't tell me no."