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Either Fuka was off her game or her comrades were simply faster than her, and she hadn't yet decided which was preferable for her pride. She had managed to knock the arm off one of the little flyweight bastards but had yet to actually splatter a cockpit, and what fun was piecemealing a mech if you didn't get the kill? Disabling the enemy was necessary but not as enjoyable as getting the final tap, the veggies before the proverbial desert.

Fuka grumbled to herself in consternation, fingers tapping against the joystick as Sulser crowed about his achievement. She had been hoping for more from her first foray into piloting for hire, and her flighty nature made it hard to remember that she existed more for drawing attention than for snagging kills.

"He just said to regroup," Fuka stated simply, shuffling the Dragon towards their commanding officer. "So probably do that."

So far everyone was still alive, but there had been a few good knocks. Unfortunately, those hit included herself and Jaromir, two of the more experienced pilots, as opposed to someone less valuable like Alvin or the babbling rookie. Hopefully, the local yokels didn't have too much more in the tank, or were willing to be less discerning in their target selection.

"Let me pull up front once we get going. The Dragon can get battered a bit more before I have to worry."

She had paused her assault only to communicate with the lance leader, allowing the crew of the crippled Goblin a few extra seconds of panic before she unloaded the rest of her ire into them. A short burst from the autocannon hammered the tank's hull, blasting open the armor and obliterating the poor bastards inside as the ammunition cooked off.

The resulting corona of flame and fuel spray made Fuka snicker, just another firework among the glorious display. The little vehicles were nothing but a distraction, fun to play with but unremarkable save for their age. The real challenge would be the rival mechs! Fuka craved the rush that came with testing herself against her fellow pilots, and she knew she would get her chance when Ulrik ate a series of missiles.

"Finally!" she crowed in answer to Dash, throwing up dust as she stomped the valley floor. "Let's shred the bastards."

He was actually a step ahead of her, already facing off against one of the little Locusts as Fuka scrambled to reposition. The blasts of laser fire were blinding and beautiful in equal measure, but they were off-target. A poor start, but now wasn't the time to be giving critiques.

She would show by doing.

The autocannon swung up as the samurai locked in on the 1V, Fuka leading her target before squeezing the trigger. There was the satisfying ker-chunk of the autoloader and the jolt of a shell being launched, the autocannon shot splashing squarely against the 1V's right arm. Immediately she followed up with a beam from her medium laser, the bolt of blue slicing through the now weakened plating and into the sensitive equipment hidden underneath.

The Locust wasn't built to stand up to that sort of punishment, and as it stumbled to try and escape the crossfire its arm was simply sheared open, the machine gun hanging limply from the rest of the frame. Fuka had drawn its attention from her lightly armored comrade, and in doing so she had almost certainly left herself open for return fire, but no matter.

It was her job to look big and mean and shootable, if the enemy was targeting her then that meant things were going well.

Something was glowing off in the distance, a brief glance at the scanners telling her that the Firestarter was embroiled in a struggle of its own.

"Alvin, help the pyro out!"

Im interested, have a mando character I wouldn't mind reworking, but I'll have to see if my schedule clears up. Will know by tomorrow!

Fuka had rebelled against her family and her homeland, rejected their patriotic dogma in favor of pure militarism. They spoke of honor and courage and loyalty, trying to hide a lust for power behind sentimentality. They would never refer to it as such of course, such a soft word did not suit the mighty Combine, but that's exactly what it was.

Sentimentality. Clinging to a way of life that was ancient before the DC even existed. Fuka found it quaintly amusing now that she was removed from it, but it had been enraging when it had controlled her life.

And yet, despite her drastic efforts to escape the Combine's clutches, she found herself succumbing to that same sin: sentimentality. She hadn't just enjoyed herself on the battlefield, she had identified herself by it. She was a pilot damn it, and a pilot without a war to fight was a whetstone without a knife. She craved purpose, a flight to fight for, and paychecks to covet!

Strapping into the Dragon was like coming home, the samurai beaming brightly as she drummed her fingers against the controls. The weapons were hot and the armor was solid, the bossman's warning coming in through the comms. Fuka refrained from replying, simply clinging to her support straps as the lander clattered to a stop.

An uphill charge straight into enemy fire wasn't exactly an easy task, but it was probably the one she was best suited for. Fuka had many flaws but a lack of self-awareness wasn't one of them. The fancy flanking maneuvers and tactical scouting were best left to more nimble folks, her lead foot would stay right in the thick of it.

The valley was beautiful in its cold hostility, and had she been given more time Fuka would have gladly sat down to take in the view. But instead of a sightseeing tour, she got an ambush, a wave of antiquated war machines opening up on her little lance.


A manic glee had entered her voice at the show of violence, her Dragon lumbering forward at speed. As long as she kept in a straight line she could just about manage to move without falling on her ass, but it didn't leave her a lot of room for error. As she charged up towards the front one of the bastard Goblins sighted in, a burst of gamma rays shearing off some of her armor in a spray of slag.


It wasn't a critical blow, the Right Torse was still relatively intact, but she wanted to keep the stress testing to a minimum. The tank responsible was reduced to scrap before she could turn her guns on it, Fuka making a note to thank Jaromir as she looked for a convenient object of ire.

An Edgar presented itself at an inopportune moment, Fuka raising her autocannon and aiming for its cockpit. At that range she barely needed the targeting system, cold eyes were more than enough to measure her shot. A squeeze of the trigger sent a shell straight through the viewport, all that "reinforced" glass doing nothing to stop the round from ripping it apart.

Then it was on the next. The Dragon turned to get a better angle at one of those nasty little Goblins, Fuka's second shot smashing through the treads. Good hit, no kill.

"Tell me if we're pushing up boss, I'm doing alright."

That was the most nerve-racking part, the waiting. Sitting there in the dark listening to the crackle of comms, safe for the moment but keenly aware that you were balancing on the edge of disaster. One accidental sound, an unfortunate gust of wind to blow away the fog, the merest hint of paranoia in the enemy, any number of minor mishaps could flip the ambush on the poor idiots setting it. And as one of those poor idiots, Rimau was understandably concerned.

She drummed her fingers against the rickety armrest of her frame, beating out a silent rhythm as her team chimed in one by one. The golden child's AI friend tagged all known hostiles and Rimau whistled in approval, the markers a welcome addition to the signatures her own systems had picked up.

There was a dull thud of metal feet against sand, the sound of surf being displaced by some monstrous charging figure as the Ogre moved forward. The twins shifted into action against the bunker, and the telltale thump of a missile tube gave way to the horrendous sound of impact.

Rimau had no time to stare at the twin's handiwork, fingers already blurring across her jury-rigged setup. The hiss of smoke canisters comforted her as she surrounded herself with chaff, the Dustcloud suite activating in time with the shoulder of her weapon. At this distance she could stick with the HBR, sighting it on a Widowmaker attempting to acquire a target.

Two slugs punched straight through the tank's hull, a gout of flame spurting from the jagged gash as ammo and fuel cooked off. Rimau switched targets immediately, dropping her Frame to a kneel as she eyed a Lancer attempting to close the gap between it and Cardinal One. Another burst slammed forth, the shell blasting the chassis open before the pilot even knew it had been seen.

Anyone who happened to turn their attention towards the Chop Shop would see nothing except an inky fog rolling across the waves, a walking cloud moving at a steady pace towards the Ruzi defenses. The Dustcloud's constant activity ensure that Rimau was forever concealed, her Frame hidden from all. There was simply no way the enemy could get a lock on her, forcing the enemy to fire blindly at the roiling mass.

Another Widowmaker fired and hit nothing, a snapshot in return its legs out from under it as Rimau switched on her comms.

"Cardinals I'm moving up on you,I'll take the Widows if you can snag the Lancers."
putting this here not to lose it

It was never her preference to go in from the front. The Chop Shop was, by its nature, unsuited to leading glorious charges or anything of that nature but part of being a soldier was sucking it up and accepting the fact that things just weren't going to go your way. With the combination of her smoke and the howling storm, Rimau felt moderately confident the Ruzis wouldn't be able to lock onto her.

Or at least not before they got sidetracked by juicier targets.

"Hello Cardinal, no apologies necessary. I'm going to be flitting around, if you see anything particularly angry at you just shout it out."

She knew nothing about how they fought, only that it was now her job to provide cover. If only they had a week to run some drills, or even a weekend to discuss basic tactics! Frames were an inherently individualistic weapon, pilots finding their own particular way of doing things. In a well-ordered strike team this was an advantage, the various pieces of the whole were aware of each other's strengths and moved to cover their weaknesses. In this cobbled-together kill team it was a liability. Rimau just had to hope that the Cardinals weren't too unorthodox for her to keep up.

The AI was noticed but not remarked upon. There was nothing to say about it until it revealed its utility or became a problem, until then Rimau would trust Vinland's prized pooch to manage it. She would focus on piloting, the roar of the monsoon echoing in her ugly little cockpit as she followed her dance partners out into the surf.

It was never her first choice to fight blind, but she was far better equipped for it than the enemy. The Chop Shop existed to hit hard, finding targets regardless of conditions before reducing them to scrap. A few punched commands and her sensors were up and running, sonar pinging off the twins so that she didn't accidentally ram into them.

"I see them."

For a given value of sight anyway. The Chop Shop's thermal cams rendered the enemy as orange blobs amid the swirling blues and purples, Rimau shouldering her main gun in a ready stance.

"Hold for now, I'll check with the others. If they take notice light 'em up."

Switching frequencies was done with a dial of all things, not fancy touchscreen or simple buttons. Rimau slid back to the crawler's general comms so that the whole team could hear her.

"Ramshackle here, the Cardinals and I have infantry and Frames to the Southwest, five hundred meters. We've yet to be spotted but the clock's ticking. What's everyone's status?"
Figured I should say it here because I expressed interest, I'll have to sit out sadly. I hope you guys enjoy!

She was second-guessing herself again. Rimau, the social media darling who had been graced with the highest honor Gyrland, could not help but wonder if she was finally going to be revealed as the fraud she felt she was. Ten years doing hit-and-runs, building a reputation for bravery under fire and a willingness to put herself in harm's way for her comrades, couldn't shake the feeling that she shouldn't have been assigned to this ultimate drive for victory.

It was a war between the intellectual and the emotional, the clinical soldier in her pushing against the nervous kid who had just wanted to find a fight with meaning. She was one of the most veteran Framers the Homeguard could dig up, her hours in the cockpit outnumbering nearly all of her peers. She was fast, she was smart, she knew the Chop Shop in and out and was prepared for an arduous offensive.

But what if she wasn't? The medal that said she was worth pinning the people's hopes and dreams on had been at least partially manufactured. You didn't give your propaganda producer a medal without expecting them to use it as propaganda, so how could she know that it hadn't been the only reason?

Well, at least she wouldn't be the only unqualified person on the team. The legendary Phantom Brigade now recruited untested greenhorns it seemed. Klara had been an officer allegedly, but not one valuable enough to try and get back. Ingram was a vet but an infantry one, and the twins Rimau had no real sense of. Royce was supposed to be well-trained, but apparently, he hadn't mastered the art of knowing when not to fall asleep.

That left Ramshackle as the resident old woman of the team, a position she didn't much care for.

The din of the monsoon wasn't particularly disconcerting, the thrashing of rain against the crawler's decks almost reminding her of home. Temasek was a wet country, with rain a constant companion to daily life. As such its troops practiced in mud more often than not, giving her an advantage over those poor Ruzi bastards and their love of solid ground.

"Ramshackle here, all green my end. Chop Shop's good to go."

The cockpit was cramped and barren, crammed with panels and instruments torn out of at least five different frames from across two different decades. 'Green' was not an adjective people often applied to machines in that condition, but Rimau had worked hard to figure it all out. She couldn't sabotage the pride she felt in her ride, as much as she might have tried.

"Chop Shop's not going to do great in the water but once we get to land I'll be taking off soon enough. Shikari, I'm going to stick with you until I get out of the waves."

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