As the Five Mecha awoke, the whole place seemed to come alive. The first to move was, of course, Saki's mecha, which took a first tenuous step before settling on a square platform just in front of its docking point. However, nobody else could seem to figure out how to get their Mecha to move- The screens were all in another language, one that they only vaguely recognized as having been on the consoles in the control room.
"Umm, Miss Saki, could you help me, I can't read anything on my mecha!" Coriander pointed out.
"Oh, Right. Well, I really shouldn't but..." Saki responded, cutting herself short before, suddenly, the displays in everybody's cockpits flashed, and everything was translated to English, and symbols and numerals they could understand.
"The mecha should tell you how to pilot it, there's an automatic tutorial, just do what it says for now, and when we get out of here, stay AWAY from any enemies, got it?" the sergeant warned.
Nolan, once again feeling rather old and out of place, stared at the screen with a blank look on his face. After looking over the instructions a couple of times he tried to match what he was reading with the controls that sat in front of him. Being in a flying model, Nolan had the added fun of working in three dimensions.
"Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, right?" he mumbled to himself as he started with the very basic of basics; stepping forward. With a bit of pressure applied to his controls, Nolan held his breath as the mech eased itself forward.
Oriza sat in the dark, even as the chatter sprang up. She had yet to make a decision- or rather, convince herself that this was the right one. And really, she didn't need convincing; what Oriza wanted was proof, and in the end the young woman simply had to admit to herself that the only trial was one by fire.
As if to corroborate this idea, Nolan could be heard with his offering of, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" She smiled grimly to herself and took a deep breath. Hero was at last fully awakened, and immediately decrypted. Slow and steady wins the race, she reminded herself before initiating the tutorial.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Well, walking wasn't so bad.
By now, Donovan had the very gist of how to use his mech figure out. It wasn't anything particularly special but on the bright side, if he wanted to flip the bird at the enemy, all he had to do was make the motion while firmly rooted into the seat. Easy, yes? His actual arm wouldn't move, but the mech on the other hand, would make the best iteration of the classic obscene gesture if he bothered.
But he didn't smile though; Donovan's face was still cast in stone, and as everyone started up on the excited chatter, he could only think of one thing to say. Or, to be more accurate, one thing to ask.
"Why?" The simple question hung. "Why are the rest of you getting in? I'm curious."
"Why yourself, Buddy?" Saki retorted, as her Mech locked down- in fact, after their first few steps, everyone's Mechs locked down to the platforms in front of them. The platforms began moving, taking their loads down the hangar room, and over to a wall. The wall retracted upwards, showing a curved track that went 'Up'. The platforms rotated, bringing the Mecha forward, and, without any input, they each crouched.
"Oh, this looks like fun!" Saki squealed as she realized that they were going to be catapulted up and out of the mountain.
"What's going to be.... Oh.. Oh no..." Coriander asked, before what was about to happen dawned on her. There wasn't much time for more complaining however, as the platforms made a series of loud noises, and then were suddenly pulled along the tracks at fantastic speed. The G-Forces were immense, and the velocity readouts read somewhere in excess of 500 miles per hour as they were all taken up a very tall ramp that narrowed into a dark vertical corridor.
It seemed like they were going to simply smash into the ceiling, when a crack appeared, widening and turning into daylight. As suddenly as they started, the catapults unlocked and flung their loads into the sky, and each mech was sent vertical, to fly briefly in the sky above the battlefield, a birds-eye view afforded of them of the mountain range- coulee could be seen below them, a few miles away, and beyond that, the smoke and fire of the ECF encampment, which was now more or less destroyed.
Nearer, however, was the wreckage of Saki's old Mech, and beside it, they could see its defeater.
Saki's voice could be heard over the comms "Alright guys, Just try to guide your Mechs down and go hide somewhere so that you're out of harm's way, there's no use trying to fight if you've never even piloted before-HEY!"
It was Coriander. Before anybody could do anything, Her mech dove toward the ground, obviously intent to fight with the Citabrian OrganArm which had killed her friend.
All the while the mechs made their way through the mountain and suddenly launched into the sky, Nolan was glued in place from shock. Once clear of the mountain he tried to regain himself as he moved in small increments. "I think I may have just had a heart attack," he said, only half joking.
As Saki gave the group reasonable tips for survival Nolan finally relaxed from his sudden rush of adrenaline, but his attention was once again diverted from the controls of the mech by a sudden occurrence. Only this time it was the youngest girl, Coriander if he remembered correctly, rushing head long in the exact opposite direction of where she should have gone.
In the next moment a little voice in the photographer's head said, "Ignore it and get to safety!" Almost immediately following that Nolan felt a large amount of guilt. "What happened to the man that wanted to change things, even if it meant getting blown up?" he then asked. Grinding his teeth in mild frustration Nolan clumsily pushed forward on the controls as he made an attempt to help the young Coriander.
Oriza took another deep breath as her system was flooded with adrenaline at the sudden upward surge. It was exhilarating, to be quite frank. But the the best part was clearing that deathtrap of a delivery device and coming to the apex of her launch and viewing all the world below. That was truly a fantastic sight she would cherish for years to come. The mountains- and there, Coulee!- and almost directly below her the far more ominous vision of the invaders still standing sentinel beside the Haven entrance. This last bit was what put her back in the moment. Again she was serious and focused. I need a weapon. Even if she didn't intend to fight, Oriza would not very well let the Citabrians beat about and do as they pleased. She would go down there and defend those innocent people. "Hero! We need a weapon to defend those folks!" Oriza's knight in shining armor explained exactly how to do such a thing.
From her back she drew what was easiest described as a giant claymore, the blade beginning to faintly glow as it was heated. Donovan's question went unanswered, lost in all the action. Now she was poised to land directly in front of the plugged Haven entrance.
Donovan mused over the question shot back at him for a little bit, but the reply came in the form of a two way video feed. "I think I asked first." he replied, annoyed. From the video feed, Saki could see that his eyes were staring at something in front of him, occasionally moving back and forward as though taking in details of an unseen dashboard that lay before him. However, if Saki thought about it; she'd figure that wasn't really the case, considering they were both piloting the same mech. There was no dashboard for him to stare at. But if he wasn't staring at the equipment in his mech, just what was he looking at?
"I was bored." Donovan flatly replied to Saki, despite being the one to have asked first. Unlike the others though, he lingered in the air a bit more before finally dropping onto the ground well behind them all. He wasn't going to lead the charge.
It didn't take long for the enemy to notice the sudden 'flood' of foes coming straight at it. It did not take long for it to launch its own counter. The Mecha leapt off the ground, straight for Coriander, taking a shot at her as they approached one another. A combination of the damaged mech being off balance, and Coriander's higher than average reflexes, aided her in avoiding the shot, which also blasted past Nolan, making a near-miss.
Coriander didn't seem to notice much or care- So much was her lust for blood- re-ignited as she saw the Mech once more, that she simply smashed into it, fist-first, not bothering to pull out or learn how to use a weapon.
"I don't think we have time for this, idiot!" Saki commented back to Donovan, as the battle had begun, this new turn of events more pressing than somebody's question. "Just come down and distract that thing so I can kill it!" Her own mech blasted down, boosting toward the tumbling mess that was Coriander and the Citabrian OrganArm.
"Girl! Uh, Coriander!" Nolan shouted as he got past his predisposition to calling everybody younger than him by a vague noun rather than their name. "This is dangerous... um... You are going to get yourself killed!"
After his intial shout to the young girl, the old man caught up to the other mech only to have absolutely no idea what to do about the situation. "Uh, how do I, ya know, shoot things or whatever this thing does?" Nolan asked the machine he was sitting in. After a moment the screen that had initially shown him instructions on piloting gave a readout of the weapons the mech had equipped. "Oh. Neat. Now how do I use these without killing the girl?" he asked again, only this time the screen gave no answers.
Just picking the first thing that came to mind, Nolan tried to get the mech to equip its melee weapon. What he got however was a long range rifle. "What the heck is this?!" Nolan called to the machine in frustration, not wanting to go as far as to kick something for fear of making things worse.
"Whatever, I'll just have to use this, even though I would not count this as being a long range situation" he sighed as he readied the weapon. Nolan, never much of a marksman himself, was happy to see that the mech stabilized his aiming to the point where he was only marginally worried about hitting Coriander.
What if you accidentally hit the girl? asked a voice in the back of his mind.
"Shut up," Nolan replied.
There is too much movement, you can't make the shot, the voice said.
"Shut up," Nolan replied once more.
"It's just like taking a picture, so let's hope I don't miss the mark," Nolan thought as he squeezed the controls when he saw an opening.
Hero the Bright One came crashing to the earth. It was harsh, but the mighty knight took it well. Oriza stood him upright, sword held casually in one hand as though she was accustomed to this sort of thing. In actuality, she was just trying to think through the process of forming a defensive posture so she didn't look like an easy target to the clearly distracted Citabrian. Why didn't she rush to help? Young miss DuPont yearned to help these people, wanted to be right there with them in the fight. The stronger, more sensible part of her brain refused on the grounds that she knew nothing and could only get in the way. Here, defending the people, getting in the way could only be a good thing. And who knew when enemy reinforcements would or could arrive? She had to play it safe.
He simply stared at her with an expressionless look on his face. "You did ask." he replied, still seemingly looking at mostly everywhere but the female sergeant's little video window with a look of disinterest. At that, the video link between them was cut, and Donovan sat there in his mech. Out of everybody, he was the only one that followed Saki's order of staying the hell out of her way.
After having his mech sit down, Donovan rummaged around for the tutorial she had mentioned and started to go through it. And it was interesting. Why wasn't anybody else looking at theirs, he briefly thought.
A single glimpse as to what the rest were doing made him feel a little silly at having wondered that, sending him back to his reading.
Oriza wouldn't have to wonder for long; Coriander and the Citabrian smashed to the ground within a few moments of her own landing, much to Nolan's chagrin- they both seemed to have been stunned by the impact, giving the cameraman a great shot on his target. A round burst forth from the oversized rifle, or rather, the cannon, which his mech held, and traced its way down into the enemy mech, bursting straight into and blowing a hole in its chest, before beating up a cloud of dust and debris as the round exploded in the ground underneath the pair of Mecha on the ground.
Saki was speechless as her Mech landed gracefully on its feet just outside the cloud of dust, and she did what she could to see through it. "I'm reading the enemy as dead... The girl's mech is still active but I can't tell if she's alive!" Saki mentioned over the comms, looking on as the dust dissipated, revealing the effects of Nolan's first foray into combat.
Nolan sat speechless in the cockpit of VÃ¡li. His target was dead, as was his goal, but he still held a terrified look on his face. "Coriander," he asked in a very flat tone. "Coriander?"
Just like when he first climbed into the mech his hands started took shake violently as his mental image of Coriander joined with the face of a similar looking girl. Taking in stuttered breaths, Nolan was petrified by the idea that he had accidentally killed Coriander.
Nolan, whether consciously or not, lowered his mech to the ground near the two mechs. As he tried to call for Coriander again all that he said was, "Abigail."
When she started thinking more clearly with the adrenaline settling into a steady buzz, Oriza realized learning how to defend herself and the others better would be good. And she would have, if the battle hadn't ended so suddenly. Things were worse, though, not better. That poor girl Coriander might be dead- and to friendly fire! The young woman was grim. Despite her novice status, Oriza marched confidently enough to the wreckage, and Hero's chest unfurled once more. From its kneeling position- a true miracle if ever there was one- Oriza had little trouble making her way safely to the ground below. A short sprint to mystery mech, and then it was the trouble of finding a way to open it from the outside. "Coriander!" Oriza thumped on the metal with one fist. "Can you hear me?"
The sitting mech suddenly got up as its head swiveled to gaze upon what had happened. Donovan had essentially looked up from his light reading as the others cried out Coriander's name. "So that's her name." he quietly spoke under his breath. Unlike the others who merely shouted from inside their mechs, Donovan tapped a few buttons and established another video feed, another video screen popping up inside Coriander's cockpit.
The image of Donovan simply sat there, staring at Coriander with all the might of his disinterest.
Nolan and Oriza's efforts seemed to be for naught, but Donovan's methods did produce some kind of result- He could see into the cockpit, and could see her, lying in her chair, the harness keeping her from falling out. She seemed to be quite perfectly asleep; there wasn't a scratch on her, and her chest rose and fell softly as if she were snoozing away contentedly. She had obviously been knocked unconscious but didn't seem to have any major damage done.
Saki did the same thing, looking into the cockpit and finding the girl to be asleep. "Well, she looks fine, You, red-hair" Saki's mech suddenly called out "Back up for a moment, I'm going to open her cockpit for you to get her out." And, sure enough, as soon as Oriza moved, the cockpit opened, showing the snoozing girl to be rather safe.
Not even stopping to see much more, Saki's Mech suddenly turned, and began sprinting off down the mountainside- she had another engagement to take care of. "Lieutenant Ritchie! I'm coming! Are you still there?" she called
"OF COURSE I'M STILL HERE, WHAT'D YOU EXPECT MISSY?" the now familiar voice roared over not just Saki's comms, but everyone's.
An explosion in the distance made it seem like that might not be the case, though, and Saki's Mech sped on.
Nolan gave a sigh of relief as he brought a hand up to wipe away a bead of cold sweat. "Well, that was a particularly traumatizing event," he said as he rested his head in his palm. "Don't know if I could face anybody again if I had her blood on my hands."
As he composed himself after the most recent round of flashbacks, Nolan did his best to return to a state of rational and linear thought. "Alright, Coriander is alive, so next I should... Help out?" he thought as he went over what to do. Scanning the situation he noted that he was still in his mech, and he still had out his long range rifle.
"Alright, let's see where those other enemy mechs are," Nolan said, getting into the habit of talking more even if it was only to himself or a machine. From there, he moved his mech around Coriander's downed mech and hefted the rifle as he amplified his vision range to see down the mountain in the direction Saki had run off.