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”Engineer Langenberg,” Tango’s voice buzzed through the speakers, ”I believe you have missed an announcement by the Captain. The crew is to meet in the docking bay lounge in twenty-nine minutes and thirty-four seconds.”
The room’s PA was disturbing her attempted sleep, yet again. Unfortunately, disabling the speakers or lowering their volume was out of the question. No way that would fly past anyone with half a brain in the engineer’s quarters of all places. She half-opened one eye, still not entirely used to talking to the ship itself. ”Did he happen to mention what the occasion is?”
”No he did not. Although his delivery seemed to imply the gathering is mandatory and certainly not to be slept through.”
”Fiiine. Bloody nagmachine.” she groaned as she pulled herself off her bunk and started throwing her clothes back on. The Irene didn’t talk, why couldn’t they just keep making ships silent?

Having reached the lounge with some time to spare, her gaze fell upon Yasiliah. Of course it was the witch. Astrid perched herself on a chair on the opposite side of the room in silence, wondering what was on the captain’s mind. No more than a minute later, her curiosity got the better of her. ”You have any idea what he wants?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

I have made the same blunder with the irritable engineer.
“You talk too much. Our ancestors came up with a nice, simple word for these occasions, it’s the word ‘no’.” she rolled her eyes at Rook’s response just in time to see something in the sky. A dot at first, but quickly getting bigger and bigger. Soon the dot had arms, legs, thrusters...

As if this couldn’t get any worse. It almost sounded like the start of a bad joke. ‘Two former child soldiers, a giant, a merc and a battlemech meet outside a prison ship...’. “Ye’ve gotta be takin’ the piss here!” she groaned somewhere between frustrated rage and utter terror, hastily repositioning to put something between herself and the third newcomer. As if it would be of any help against that mountain of metal and death. Somehow she doubted her telekinesis would be enough here. And she thought things have gone out of her league before. At this rate, the entire Ascendancy Fleet would show up in the next five minutes.

Fortunately, this one seemed to be a fan of poetry as well. If poetry meant a friendly, then there was now a good chance they might make it out alive even if Tiny decided to do something stupid. On the condition that this bright red beast could fit into the ship’s corridors. “Nice entrance.” She regained some of her composure and stepped out from her cover. “Did you rehearse that, or is that just the way you roll?”

The appearance of yet another armored suit, this one somewhere in between Rook and the Red Baron, made her seriously doubt the life choices she’s made over the previous year. It was only when the suit’s occupant spoke did she breath a sigh of relief. “Finally!” It had to be the big guy, no one else spoke in an accent even weirder than that of Arcturus. She was relieved when Kelan didn’t trust Tiny either, yet at the same time disconcerted when he mentioned a hostile encounter with one of his buddies. True to her word, she’s kept her eyes on the newcomers, though mainly Rook, and thus hasn’t noticed the damage Belial’s suffered. “Careful, big guy. I heard a high-powered railgun shot just before the defecation hit the ventilation. Any helpful sensors on that thing that might tell us whereabouts he might be hiding?”
Still here.
Rachel didn’t expect the girl to flinch at her question, though given the situation, being intimidating was a good thing, as the Giant could attest. Guess she learned something from her Ascendancy ‘squadmates’ after all, even if it was just barking at others. Then she spewed out something about looking for allies and her name, followed by a passphrase straight from a book of poetry. “Whatever happened to the good old days when passwords were pseudorandom strings of alphanumeric characters?” she sighed.

“Wait wait, are you seriously suggesting we implicitly trust two people that literally wandered out of the sodding woods?” she asked John, her gaze now shifting between Narvia and the Giant. The latter’s unique method of approach left her a more than little worried for her safety, which only amplified the general distrust of other people she has developed during her days as a full-time thief. “Ugh, you’re the leader,” she groaned, then addressed Narvia and the Giant, “but I’m not turning my back to either of you.” For foreman’s sake, John, now you’ve made me volunteer for a rear guard!’ she thought.

And what was that about ‘Secret regiments’? What was John going on about? Then it hit her. Shortly before the start of the mission, he mentioned he could see all magic. Damn it, another unwelcome variable, one that could potentially make this girl even more dangerous than the Giant. Rachel was feeling more and more out of her element with each passing second. At least Narvia claimed she didn’t want unnecessary bloodshed. It was a shred of good news, whatever her word was worth. She turned to the giant. “Alright, that’s three claiming peace. What about you, Tiny?”
She should’ve just died at Proxima. Walking into that airlock would’ve taken two seconds and it would have spared her from dealing with this crap. First a tank, then a giant, now this barely legal merc, or whoever she was supposed to be? She let out an exasperated sigh. “Too many freaks, not enough circuses, who the bloody hell are you supposed to be?” she snapped at Narvia, only briefly glancing her way, sizing her up. Between her and the giant, Rachel thought it was clear who was the bigger threat. Had she known that Narvia possessed magical abilities, she wouldn’t have decided so easily. Fortunately, she sounded utterly clueless, if not outright scared, though Rachel was not a massive fan of the drawn, albeit lowered sidearm.

But the current situation warranted the brainstorming of contingency plans if the unknowns got hostile. One or the other could probably be defeated with little trouble. Both, not so much. Another ugly variable was the way those two would interact. It would be just splendid if they were hostile to each other. The girl seemed easy - telekinetically snatch the sidearm and set her clothes on fire. They looked flammable enough, though she wouldn’t know unless she got a close look at the fabric. Either way, hair burned well as a fallback option.

The giant would be a bit problematic. In theory, he should go down using the same method. But his hair was covered by his helmet and his demeanor, and the fact he so casually shared he had backup, either meant that he underestimated them, or he had a very good reason to be this confident. ’The sharpshooter...’ she realized, remembering the single shot she heard at the start of this shitfest. That particular problem was twofold - first, was he on the Giant’s team? Second, if he was a marksman, they could technically reach him. If he was a sniper, he was probably miles away, out of sight, but certainly not out of mind.

She turned back to the giant. “That gunship was already gone," she growled, "poor bastards just didn’t know it yet. And your little show of force wasn’t necessary, he was no longer a threat.” she referred to the gruesome execution of the escaping soldier. Maybe this band of mercs had appearances to keep up, but if the Ascendancy reached this wreck and found a bloodbath, the easiest thing for them to do was to blame the public enemy number one - aliens, or even better, the ‘xenos-loving Moonstrike rebels’. That would be some fuel for the Ascendancy propaganda machine.
Rachel was about to throw a railgun dropped by one of the downed soldiers into the gunship’s engine intake to bring it down when someone’s literally knocked it out of the sky in such a horrid manner it made her look away for a moment. It wasn’t the first time she’s seen a wall painted with someone’s blood - heck, she’s done that more times than she could count - but there was something gut-twisting about this specific instance.

“I’ve got our six, keep it up!“ she called out to the team. Between John’s disarmament trick, their reinforcements disintegrating, the tank’s offensive capabilities severely limited and the wailing of their fallen comrades, the morale and fighting capability of the Ascendancy soldiers guarding the ship plummeted. With the extra breathing room, she cast a ring of fire around the unknown intruder to gain his - its - whatever’s attention, though the flames went out almost immediately as there were no flammable materials on the floor.

What, the fuck, are you?” Rachel stressed the ‘what’, moving away from the tank’s line of sight and dropped to a lower, defensive stance. As if it would help against something that could throw a man with such force. That Ascendancy soldier, who she assumed was thrown by the exosuited new arrival, hit the ship with enough force to turn him into coal on impact. She was visibly poised to lash out should the giant get too close. And friend or foe, she surely wouldn’t shed any tears over this one’s demise.
Rachel was momentarily taken aback by John’s display, never having came into contact with a high magic user before. Though she was glad she wasn’t the only one going out of her way to reduce the bodycount. After all, all carving a bloody path through the known universe would accomplish is bring the hammer down on them sooner.

With both the Ascendancy soldiers and the tank preoccupied by John, she took the opportunity to take a good look around. But aside from fallen soldiers, many still alive, but out of the fight due to numerous fractures courtesy of her favorite fighting technique, there wasn’t much that could be used against the tank. “Maybe next time you should do the stuff you actually were quite good at during the war, not the stuff they had you do when your abilities didn’t turn out to be to their liking.” a voice in the back of her mind nagged at her. No doubt the infiltration team was enjoying their stroll through the ship. If only they’d hurry up. Unless…

Rachel’s gaze fell upon a soldier shuffling away from the fight, missing his helmet and dragging his leg behind him. Best candidate around. She reached out and watched with slight amusement as the poor sod tried to grasp why the gravity suddenly shifted from ‘downwards’ to ‘backwards’. Upon realizing he came to rest at the young rebel’s feet, he scrambled for his sidearm, only to have it break free of his shaky hands and land in Rachel’s palm. Her hand swooped down at his unprotected face and he braced himself for another painful strike. Except it didn’t come. Instead, the young insurgent just touched his forehead, there was a brief strange feeling and that was it. Little did he know she’d just relived half his memories since he entered boot camp.

“Thanks,” she said, tapping her temple with her left index finger, triggering her mind control spell. “Now scram.” The soldier pulled himself up without a word and limped away. “Tank’s CO has got a blind spot between the turret’s fifth and eighth o’clock. Probably the best way to approach.” she called to her teammates. She used the fact that most people were paying attention to the unchained mass of white liquid instead of her and moved to a different, slightly elevated position. In addition to ‘reviewing’ the basics and learning the orders of the local Ascendancy forces, she learned from the soldier’s mind that the tank was equipped with incendiary infantry suppression charges. The soldier she ‘questioned’ seemed to believe it would prevent anyone from getting close to the tank, a view likely held by the tank crew as well. They wouldn’t like it when the anti-personnel lining would not ignite upon firing. She only wished she could influence the tank commander’s mind directly. “Think one of you can open that tin so I can get to the crew?”
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