Dusk fell upon Blackwoods training camp, the MAG's premier facility for training of MAGE units, the elite ExoFrame corps of Mionaria. in the distance, birds could be seen flying off, either nocturnal ones heading off to the hunt, or diurnal ones heading off to rest. A late evening course was being held for those who were to graduate, and all the instructors were present, helping each of the recruits learn to maintain their own ExoFrames, which would be a necessary skill with the shadow of war approaching.
Altogether, it was a peaceful time at Blackwoods, no combat training was taking place, and indeed most of the students were asleep or doing private activities elsewhere. Some were even on leave. Commander Shaoran was helping Roland Gilly learn how to remove the armor plating from his unit, while Katia Minos was showing Neaw Neawson some of the inner workings of his Martina's head.
Neaw scratched the back of his head, a bit confused about how the head of his unit could be so complex. Watching as Minos seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of each and every part, the Cadet felt compelled to voice this opinion.
"Wait, wait a second Commander. This part does what exactly again? I thought this thing just had my sensors in it or something, but I'm not too sure now..." The pilot's voice trailed off as he squinted at the internal workings of the head, trying his best to recall what each part was for and how it worked.
Roland Gilly was having a much easier time than Neaw, what with being a Mechanical Petty Officer and all. Normally his position required demanded he sit behind a desk and file paperwork, but in the off chance he actually got to get his hands dirty- like the days before he got this crappy promotion- he was working on servos or hydraulics or the pilot interface. Working with slightly larger tools on the armor wasn't a very large step from his field of expertise. "What do you think, sir?" he asked, gesturing to the shin plate he'd just tugged free.
Katia chuckled at Neaw's confusion. "I just explained to you, these ARE your sensors, they just happen to be rather complex. Also, some of them are used to read your brainwaves and others to hear your voice. In fact, most of the head sensors are output sensors. The input sensors are spread around the body so you don't get blinded so easily." the woman explained, patting Neaw on the back as a consolation prize for being so forgetful.
"For a mechanic, I think your form's a bit rough, but I heard somewhere that you're not usually the one to take the armor plating off when you work, anyway. Don't worry about it, this model's pretty tough, and you'll get used to it anyway." Shaoran answered Gilly, as he moved the mobile armor rack that supported the prodigious weight of the piece they had just removed. "Now onto the leg workings. I believe you're familiar with these..." He began, pointing out some of the larger components.
Neaw's brow was furrowed as he listened to the explanation for what might have been the hundredth time. Then, after going over the information a second time in his head and taking another long look at the parts he turned away from the head.
"Shouldn't we put 'er back together, I doubt I'll be getting anything else into my head tonights. 'sides, I don't like having her uncovered like this for too long, isn't right." As he finished talking, Neaw glanced at his frame, a look of pride showing clearly in his eyes.
He nodded. "Correct. I deal with all the inner workings... sir." He'd almost forgotten the respective term. Gilly then gestured to the parts that had been revealed. "This is definitely my domain. I think we can skip this part, sir, as I can safely say I know this better than most pilots. What's next?"
Shaoran's brow furrowed as he thought for a bit, trying to figure out something he might need to have Gilly do on the fly. Picking up a hammer, the commander smashed one of the components, an easily replaceable, probably fixable one, but still. "Okay, now, can you fix this without power tools? Or find away around it's function to keep your armor in service?"
"Alright, you can put it back together. I'm not helping you, so if it comes out ugly it's your fault" Katia explained to Neaw, handing him the smaller pieces of armor that made up the head/helmet unit of the Martina Nekane.
"Haha, then pilot and frame would be matching." Neaw joked as he began to work with the parts passed to him. "But - nah, that would be a disservice to her to let that come around. I might not know their functions too good, but I think I can fit my puzzle pieces together by now." Neaw shrugged as he had to closely look over two of the parts he held to remember where they went. "Or, at least I hope so."
The pilot chuckled as he turned all his attention to the task at hand, completely set upon having a perfected, respectable, and working frame by the time he was done.
Gillly sighed as he examined the damage. It was one of the main pistons for working the ankle. That was a real pain in the ass, but the MPO voiced no complaint. Instead, he answered, "I can do both. The work-around is easy. If you tighten this all the way..." He cranked the piston's head tight as it could go, essentially locking it. "It's stuck as is, but workable. Or..." He loosened it up, and searched his pile of tools, looking for his old faithful.
"Ha." He withdrew from the mess a second adjustable wrench. With the first he loosened the piston fully and pulled it free of its place while the other served as a placeholder while the replacement was located. He swapped them out in about ten minutes then sat back and sighed- this time a relaxing exhalation. "Done, but did you seriously have to go and break it?... sir?"
"Well, It's one thing removing and replacing working components. it's another to work with broken ones. Most of the stuff here is worn out when it gets to you and easily replaced, but, out in the field, you may have to deal with actual broken parts with no replacements." Shaoran explained, after being impressed with Gilly's ability to manipulate the frame's parts.
Katia stifled a laugh as she watched Neaw put the wrong parts together, upside-down, and a bit off-center. "You may want to take note of the curved parts, Neaw. they all curve out, and most of them simply lock together with a few fasteners. you're making this way too hard on yourself," the instructor said, sounding a bit amused. She was enjoying watching the very homely man failing horribly at what was ultimately a simple task.
Neaw looked at the curved parts suspiciously, he had been ignoring them. Picking one up the pilot followed its curve with both his eyes and his index finger, then he put it down with a grunt. Puzzles were supposed to be flat.
But, he had no time to be regretting the complexities of the task, he had already decided it was something he must know. Taking apart what he had constructed the Cadet approached the job even slower than before. This time cobbling together both the parts in front of him and the curved ones that kept escaping his mind's grasp. After a few minutes, Neaw glanced away from the pieces and towards Katia, looking to see if she had died from laughter or if he had finally got it right.
Roland nodded and wiped his brow with an understanding, "Yes sir." He put the tools back on the pile of utter chaos, and looking at it Gilly realized it was quite the surprise he didn't stab himself with something on accident. His gaze returned to Commander Shaoran as he rose to his feet. "Is there anything else, sir?"
Katia continued to chuckle, and as Neaw looked back, his wavering hands would be rewarded with a series of clicks as the specialized self-fasteners that held the faceplate together aligned and locked, greeting the pilot with the familiar visage of his Martina Nekane. "Well, It appears you have succeeded, recruit." the commander observed, amused.
"Hrmm, Yes, there is one more thing" Shaoran answered, looking at Gilly's pile of stuff. "We need to get you organized, also, you need to compact that tool kit into something that fits in the auxiliary compartment of an ExoFrame. Most frames just need the basics, though, so it shouldn't be too difficult."
Neaw wiped the sweat from his brow, happy to be finally through with all that fumbling around with this piece and then that one, it wasn't exactly what he found to be a cheery evening's pastime.
At being called a "recruit" he turned his head again and cracked a grin, his voice full of mock offense. "Oi, oi! C'mon now, the Chief said it was 'Cadet' now, can't be having Commanders making mistakes, can we?" Not giving Katia a chance to answer, Neaw leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Looks bad in front of the men, right Sir? Don't want to be giving the confused recruits no bad examples or next thing we know they'll be setting the bunk house a'fire."
Roland nodded, and gathered the basics: wrench, vise, hammer, screwdriver- and so forth- and tucked them into a bag. He stowed them in the present Lander Onida's auxiliary compartment without trouble, then withdrew them. He had only wanted to know if the bag, fully loaded, would fit. "This'll do, I imagine. What's next?" Gilly didn't catch himself this time, and should he realize it later would feel awful sore about neglecting the respective.
"Well, I would-" Shaoran was suddenly cut off by the base alarms going off. "It seems something is in Blackwoods. Recruits! Back to your barracks, get into the bunkers and stay out of the way. Instructors, let's get moving, and see what's up!" the black haired commander ordered, gripping Gilly on the shoulder before turning around and heading to his Ganesa Thera.
"Well, it looks like it's time for you to go, Neaw, Come on, we need to get the recruits out of here. will you help? this is important." Katia told to the man before her. "Us instructors will hold anything off, so don't go getting hurt, okay?"
Neaw had already begun to move when Katia requested him to escort the recruits. The man scowled and his response came out angry, the mirth from earlier gone. "You want me to escort a bunch of grown men and women across their own backyard while just a few of our frames go out to fight unknown numbers? Not gonna happen Commander. I told you I follow the Chief and he said "recruits" and I'm a cadet." Turning away from Katia the pilot waved to Roland. "Roland, your an MPO, suit up and get in your machine. We'll both head out when all the recruits are gone!"
Roland nodded to his superior and began ordering the Recruits toward the barracks. "Double-time! Commander Shaoran's orders!" Like the good military boys and girls they were, no problems were had. He then turned toward his colleague looking rather wary. "Neaw, your heart's in the right place, but your head's all wrong. Besides, my Lander needs to be pieced together. It'll take at least fifteen minutes if I start now."
Which is when a recruit sprinted back inside the hangar. "Sirs! Sirs! We can't go ANYWHERE! There's..." He paused to catch his breath. "There's gotta be fifty of them out there, maybe more!"
Gilly was never pleased when someone disobeyed. This situation was no different. "You're a SOLDIER! To your barracks! Now!" The recruit seemed a little surprised and dismayed but jogged off after a quiet salute.
Fifty? Even if that was more than the actual count, there was no way- hard calibers or not- that the less than dozen MAGEs could hold their own. "Neaw, suit up. If you get in trouble, tell them it was an order." Then he turned away, and his eyes fell upon the Isaac Risa. He knew what he had to do.
By now, Katia had suited up, the rest of the instructors were already outside, and the fighting had begun. It seemed to be rather fierce, As one particularly large and vicious frame made its way forward at the head of the pack, but Shaoran singled it out, his Ganesa Thera holding the large enemy at bay. most of the rest were grunt frames, even if there were about twenty or more of them, they seemed to be more than matched by the instructors.
Katia paused before heading outside, and turned towards the two recruits, Neaw especially. "You two need to stay out of the frames! Go back into the compound to your barracks where you'll be safe! I don't want anyone harmed!"
Neaw was stripping out of his casual clothes as he made his way to his locker, yelling at Katia over his shoulder. "I don't care if you're all instructors or not, this whole base won't be safe if they overrun such a small group as you're currently throwing out the window." Ripping open his locker the pilot began to quickly suit up. "Now, neither of us have the time for this right now Commander -" Neaw had turned around and looked out of the open hangar door, right at a group of enemy frames hiding by one of the far building.
"Squad from behind Katia, turn your ass and engage - ma'am!" The last bit was added a bit too late for his statement to be anywhere near proper for, but Neaw didn't care and he began to move even faster, quickly struggling into his suit.
Roland was jerked from his reverie by the sound of combat, and Katia's voice coming through the loudspeakers of her Frame. He saw the approaching enemies as well, and his eyes went wide.
What came next was practically a repeat of the first day Roland Gilly officially piloted an ExoFrame. He clambered up the IR and into the cockpit- still wearing his mechanic's overalls. They were comfortable, though, no one could really blame him. Starting it up, however, was a problem. Something wasn't booting properly. "Come ON!" he hissed. Next came the painful procedure of running diagnostics...
...to discover that no problem existed.
Katia ran off the moment Neaw had mentioned enemies, and her capabilities with the somewhat lumbering Haldis Sakti were very easy to see. somehow, an odd-looking enemy frame began to vie with her, while the grunt NM frames stayed back, mostly due to Katia's covering fire. As Neaw and Roland's frames began to start up, they could hear Katia talking with the enemy pilot, a most interesting conversation, to say the least.
Shaoran continued to vie with the larger enemy frame, his own capabilities and those of his frame stretched to their limits. Something was off about his enemy, not only was it extremely fast, but its movements were erratic, uncoordinated, but somehow extremely effective. All Shaoran had to do was make one mistake and all was-
Shaoran felt five points of burning stinging pain, and the sensation of being lifted off the ground. He grunted, and felt his head grow lighter, as well as his limbs grow somewhat weaker. "Who.. Who are you, and why are you here?" the commander asked his assailant.
"My name is James Brighton, and I'm here for the little princess, if you must know..." The enemy pilot answered. His voice gave Shaoran the chills, and the next second, the Commander was thrown to the ground, like a discarded plaything.
Neaw ignored the Commander's conversation with the enemy and finally finished suiting up. Going through the pockets of his casual wear he pulled a small box which he pushed and then began to yell into as he made his way over to his MN.
Thomas Doverreck had retreated to the comfort of his bunk when the alarms went off and recruits all around the complex had begun to flood in. He was irrated that the one time he had planned to have a lazy evening and get plenty of sleep was right when everything had to blow up.
And, to make it worse, Neaw's voice had begun to shout from under his bunk. "Doverreck, don't bother trying to respond this thing only works one way, I knew you would argue other - nevermind, just suit up and make your way to the hangar. Grab Zali while your at it, the Chief and the whole camp are in trouble. Now start moving!"
Thomas sighed, trying to not notice the strange looks the others where giving him as Neaw shouted, and just grabbed his jacket. Shaking his head, he hoped the girl would be easy to find.
With diagnostics complete, the bootup process went over smoothly. It was aggravating, but Roland couldn't seem to get upset. He was too excited to really be mad at any one or thing just then. He felt like he belonged in that cockpit, and he definitely belonged on the battlefield. He grabbed a rifle to augment his suit's inherent weaponry then turned to Neaw. "Hurry up, Cadet," Gilly said to Neawson. "We need to move."
And that was the moment when night turned to day. from the direction that Katia had run off, a bright flash of light illuminated the darkness of the night, followed by a loud crack-bang, before going away. in the place of Katia and her foe, there was only a crater, perfectly round, and making a slight suction noise as air filled into the void space that had once been two Exoframes and a bit of tarmac. The Grunt frames, seeing their opening, moved forward towards the hangar, to take out whoever was left in it.
Back at the main battle, the large enemy frame was beginning to charge forward at the other defenders, it would come in close, and then blast them back, knocking them helplessly to the floor, maniacal laughter broadcasting from the suit, not only over the communications, but also out of its loudspeakers. Shaoran, for his part, lay on the ground, fading between consciousness and unconsciousness, trying to recover from what had just happened.
Neaw was into his MN as quick as possible and lifted up the familiar spear he always carried. As he watched the enemy grunts move in for the kill he stayed in a crouch, his right arm coming up and sending a burst of fire towards the enemy.
"Roland, how do you want to do this, they only have NM's here, no range, but we need to have them dead and gone quickly." Neaw triggered his weapon again, trying to keep the enemy away until they had a solid plan.
Thomas on the other hand was making another plan; he had to go into the women's barracks and that would be no easy thing. Should I just saunter in and ask around - no that wouldn't work! The recruit cursed himself within the confines of his own mind, this was more difficult then it should be.
Hell, as much as I hate to admit it, I think I'll do it like Neaw would probably do - he always gets results. Yeah, just go in there quick, loudly, and like I own the place! The pilot approached the door and put his shoulder to it, ready to push through as violently as possible - and couldn't do it. He pushed gently with his hand and walked in, clearing his throat as he did so.
"Ahem - excuse the intrusion, but - ah, Command needs recruit Zali Hanya to report for duty." He tried to ignore all the cold stares he just knew he was getting, and just told himself to get it over with. "And, ah - I'll be going with her, escorting her to the hangar where....we both need to...report." Like a car running out of fuel Doverreck sputtered to a stop, just hoping that Zali would show herself and they could go fight.
"You'll lead the charge; I'll follow up and overtake you and sow a little discord while you work them over. Just watch out for my grenades. I'd hate to hit you with one of those." Psychic grenades were the last thing any pilot wanted to experience, and MPO Gilly wasn't a terribly big fan of using them, but it was necessary considering the enemy's numbers. "Essentially, we need to play to our Frames' powers. If I can cause enough mayhem, we should have no trouble cutting them down to size."
Then, off the com, he added quietly to himself and the ExoFrame: "Hear that, Isaac? We need to disrupt the Neci Mara formation, confuse them so our teammates can do the dirty work." It was strange talking to the suit, but it reassured Roland, and also made him feel more... connected to the "persona" of the Isaac Risa.
It was not long after the flash of light and the two recruits starting up that the Neci Mara frames began attacking the hangar, in an effort to destroy it and the Exoframes held inside while the main defenders were distracted by the rest of their teammates. What they hadn't expected were the two Frames defending it from the inside. The fire from the Martina Nekane quickly caused them to keep their heads down, most of their shorter-ranged weaponry useless for now, but they did begin to fire off their mortars in an attempt to bring the building down. The heavy concrete, however, proved that plan to be impossible for the moment.
The initial shrieks of surprise quickly died down and turned into glares as Doverreck talked himself into a corner. Soon enough though, Zali showed herself from a bunk near the middle of the room; she had been quickly changing into a pilot's suit as quickly as she could after hearing the other recruit's stumbling. "What's going on? I know you wouldn't come here unless it was important... Does it have to do with the alarms and the banging?" she asked, as she reached the door.
Thomas was overjoyed to see his partner finally come out, now they could leave. But, finding that quite a crowd had gathered, blockading the door and finally pushing the younger recruit off the edge - Doverreck jumped out of a side window into the open.
Rolling as he landed, he somehow managed to come up with just a few scratches and some grass stains Thomas yelled up to Zali. "Neaw and the Commander are fighting HARM, they're apparently all over the base. He wants us to go help clean up or something," Wincing from a slight pain in his hip, the pilot looked at the broken window and the glass on the ground. "You should probably take the door out."
Doverreck's foolhardy choice of exits was not exactly helping the team out - he would have to walk much farther than if he had used the door like a normal person. Still, later on Neaw would probably approve but, right now he had other problems.
Thankful for the heavy concrete used to make the hangars and the protection they offered, Neaw popped out of cover, this time going for accuracy he let loose a ball of plasma aimed directly at a NM's head.
Roland Gilly was probably just projecting, but he felt as if the Isaac Risa was simply humming with excitement; there was a gentle vibration running all throughout, and it served to feed the MPO's own energy. He boosted right after Neaw and his Martina Nekane, and overtook them in short time- just as planned. He tossed a psychic grenade with the right arm before letting loose a brief hail of slugs from the auto cannon. Couple this with the particle cannon, and Roland was well on his way to sowing a little discord; in fact, he thought that might be exactly what the IR was designed to do. Mentally, he was daring someone to get within melee range- he wanted to give the pile another go.
Neaw's ball of plasma flew directly on target and smashed into the enemy's head, melting the faceplate and burning a few small holes in it. The pilot could be heard screaming until the Psychic grenades hit that spot, knocking three of the frames out immediately. The auto cannon rounds would have been more effective, but the overall fact of the NM's being behind cover and then them suddenly falling hampered that fact.
The Isaac's Wave cannon, however, started turning the nearby ground and some of the cover into a fine powder, their very particles detaching from each other due to the weapon's capabilities. For the most part, the two remaining enemies tried to keep their distance, but the complete discord sewn by the IR was making that difficult.
Zali sighed at the insane man as he busted through a window, but she knew what she had to do. quickly, the girl made her way down to the hangar, but paused before the door, the sounds of battle outside stirring memories and causing the recruit to freeze with her hand at the door handle. She wasn't sure she could do it, after what she had ended up doing before- Nearly hitting her own teammates, freezing in the face of danger, just getting in the way. The recruit waited, unable to make herself continue.
The Van Edna made its way forward, fighting closer to the hangar to meet up with its backup. while his own group had been knocked down to size, it was still fighting, and they did have another mission to do. None of the other MAGE units could compete with it, and took the easy road of avoiding it instead. Brighton was not pleased. "YOU COWARDS! YOU MAGE PIECES OF SHIT COME OUT OF YOUR DAMN HIDEY HOLES AND FACE ME! It's obvious you are unfit to rule and protect this world! HEAVEN has given me the power to take what is mine from the weak! YOU ARE ALL WEAK!" he cried out, over the loudspeakers, the comms, everything he could, cursing his opponents.
Doverreck had taken the shortest route possible to get to the hangar, but it still ended up being rather round about, taking him outside of the compound at one point - where he was now stuck, hiding behind a rock as two frames wrestled not ten feet from him. The one piloted by the instructor was rather damaged, but still had the upper hand against the NM it was fighting.
Still, this was no place for a man-a-foot to be, and Thomas checked out the area behind him to makes his escape - he then quickly did a turn about as the route of his desire exploded in a fiery puff of despair.
That was when the yelling started, and when Recruit Thomas Doverreck's tolerance for the ridiculous snapped for the day and he went out hunting for a frame.
Neaw smiled as Roland and his Isaac just ripped through the enemies closest to them. "Oi! You're doing good with that frame, we should just see if you can get the Chief to give it to yah once this is all over, it suits you!"
The battle was turning now, at least for the group in front of the Hangars, but they still needed to help out Shaoran. With that in mind Neaw advanced behind his squad-mate, and then dashed towards one of the fallen frames, attempting to run it through with his spear before the pilot could regain his senses.
"Leave them!" shouted Roland. "We'll take them; the pilots might run, but an intact NM will be a precious gem." Having cut through the main group, he turned about now. "Stay away from the disabled ones, I'll give them a once over with the sonic cannon." For now, though, he made sure to utilize his particle cannon on the small number still standing, and supplemented the assault with more autocannon fire.
The two still standing continued to dodge, their smaller numbers giving them a bit of an advantage. they split up and tried to pincer-move the now exposed MAGE frames, firing off mortars and spread rifles to try and damage their foes. Neaw, ahead of Roland, managed to get hit by several pellets from the spread rifles, smashing into his armor and tearing holes through a couple of the auxiliary components as they went.
The Isaac Risa would find itself in the middle of a hail of Mortar rounds, each of which exploded into flying fragments of metal, peppering the frame in pockmarks and scratches. It seemed that, with less to get in their way, the two NM's were able to fight to their strengths.
Suddenly, Zali heard an unfamiliar voice yelling, calling MAGE weak and some other nonsense, a fearful racket that had her continue trembling for a moment. However, the words angered her. MAGE was not weak, MAGE had honor, civility, they were protectors, while these HARM folk could only cause chaos and destruction. That was why Zali Hanya was here, to protect against evil people like these. Her hand twisted, and she opened the door to see the battle raging on outside. She gazed for a few moments, but then steeled herself, heading toward the Kali Pazia she was now used to using, and beginning the mounting and startup procedures.
Neaw's MN stumbled a bit as his charge was met by the pellets from the HARM Unit's spread rifles. The pilot himself just gritted his teeth, there was no way to get back to cover now and stopping to fire one of his weapons would mostly likely get him even more shot up.
Neaw flipped on his radio as he kept moving, still intending to run the NM closest to him through. "Gilly, you seem to have the situation under a bit more control than I do at the moment, try and help me when you can will yah?" His charge had not been the best of ideas, but hopefully it would leave Roland with more time to use his superior Frame to the MAGE's advantage.
Roland gave a curt, "Wilco," and came about Neawson's right side. A second psychic grenade had been snagged and he tossed it then in the direction of his partner's assailants. A sonic blast followed and that was followed by more autocannon fire. "Let me draw some attention."
Neaw's stumble was all it took to give one of the NM's its chance to dodge out of the way, but that was distraction enough to allow Gilly's move- the grenade was shot out of the sky by a spread rifle, but the Sonic blast and Autocannon fire managed to do a number on the distracted opponent, knocking it to the ground where it shuddered and twitched, the sonic pulse having jolted loose some components as well as rattling the pilot.
The Downed NM's partner, however, did not take his time mourning the setback, instead it grabbed at Neaw's spear from the side and yanked, trying to bring the recruit down forcibly.
As Neaw and Roland continued to prove a good distraction, Zali was finally able to get her Kali Pazia up and running, and the Range-oriented frame made it's way from the hangar, the suddenly determined pilot already firing her weapons, which were fully operational for the first time since Zali had been using the Frame. The heavy laser rifle she had picked up lit up the night as she sent a shot at the NM attacking Neaw- the Frame's head disappearing as it was vaporized under the intense heat and energy of the weapon.
Neaw Neawson's eyes almost popped out of his head as the scariest and largest laser bolt he had ever seen passed closer to his frame than he would ever want. The fact that the laser also managed to kill the enemy pilot did little to reduce the impact of his near-death experience.
Shaking the frame's now limp hand off the haft of his spear, Neaw regained his unit's balance and gave the dead enemy a quick and satisfying kick. Switching his radio on again, the pilot smiled. "Ah, good to see yah made it Zali. I'm also happy to see you only hit me when you're wielding a training weapon - and to be fair just about everyone on the team has at least thought about shooting me." Turing his MN to see how Roland was doing Neaw kept talking. "To be honest I'm a bit proud to say I got to have the front row seat for such a beaut of a shot. Now, back to business - oh, and tell Doverreck to hurry up and get out of here, he's with yah right?"
Not waiting for a response Neaw gripped his spear and debated whether or not he should go stab some of the downed units. Walking over to one, he decided to wait until he reached his target to make his decision.
Doverreck, at that moment, wished he was in the hangar still suiting up. But, no, he was hiding behind a rock, on the front lines, on foot. In his mind he had seen him finding something to do, but as he peered over his hiding spot and watched the frames battle each other he wasn't quite sure if that was gonna happen.
MPO Gilly could only hope Neaw did well in his skirmish because he severely doubted his own opponent was down for the count. He drove in quick as he could and sucker-punched the immobile Neci Mara in the gut- "pile-driving" him, if you could excuse the pun. The weapon retracted and Gilly slammed him to the ground for good measure with the other arm before turning toward Neaw to see the NM without a head. Then the chatter picked up, and he joined in. "Nice shot, Zali. If you can keep that up, you'll be giving orders in no time."
"I- What did I do?" Zali asked, somewhat surprised that she had actually hit something. "I was aiming for his torso..." she admitted, somewhat dejectedly, before fire from a Ramla Ivar made itself apparent toward the three recruits- the suit's range and prediction abilities making the autocannon fire land with surprising accuracy, even from the distance at which the enemy was. Rounds slammed into Neaw's main sensors, shearing them off from the side and exposing the man's face to the cold air. Another blew the sonic pulse weapon off of Gilly's shoulder, and the ball turret on Zali's shoulder disintegrated.
Brighton cackled as he made his way forward, slamming one of the instructor's frames to the ground in a disturbingly fast punch, one that looked like it should have hurt the pilot, but he didn't seem to care. "So you've brought some backup, they look tasty" the Commander said, venom in his voice. "It looks like today has some other perks than just stealing the princess- We have ourselves a Buffet."
Shaoran's eyes slowly regained sight- the man could feel blood dripping from his stomach, through five holes caused by razor-sharp claws. The Commander groaned, staring at his HUD to try to remember what was going on. Oh yes. It was a battle- he had been stabbed. But the fool made a mistake, a dire mistake. He didn't finish Shaoran off. And that would be his downfall.
Neaw's Martina Nekane stopped dead, the cool air hit his cheek and snapped the man back to reality. "Find cover, now! Whatever is closest, do not try to run to something that bastard will get you!"
Following his own advice Neaw rolled to the ground and rolled into the crater left by the teleportation device. His face stung and he could feel blood on it, something must have cut him when the Ivar had almost blown his head off. Smiling savagely the pilot opened coms to the other to pilots.
"Zali, think we can get you to do another one-in-a-million shot?"
The Isaac Risa lilted from the sudden loss of the sonic weapon, but Roland recovered and likewise moved for the crater, firing his particle wave cannon and lobbing another grenade in the direction of the Ramla Ivar. Then he was beside Neaw, hunkering down. The Mechanical Petty Officer glanced at Neaw, and for the life of him couldn't resist the urge to ask, "So, do you come here often?" More likely than not the wry smile was evident in his voice.
The wave cannon, while it had the range, was not accurate enough to hit the Ramla Ivar, instead splintering a couple trees at the edge of the forest, while the grenade instead landed near a Neci Mara, taking the pilot out and confusing the instructor that had been fighting it. however, it was one less enemy for them to fight so the instructor continued in his defense of the base. The RI continued firing, rounds bouncing off the edge of the crater, as the hole was too far for its bow weapon to be useful.
Zali hid back in the hangar, and hunkered down behind the door, putting all that she could out of her mind to try to get a clear shot- she almost had one, when a large intimidating figure made its way into her sights- Brighton was coming straight for her.
Shaoran gritted his teeth, grunting in pain as his Ganesa Thera righted itself, standing up despite the damage, blood dripping down the armored exterior from the pilots' wounds. Angrily, Shaoran advanced after Brighton, but was impeded by a Ophelia Latika, the snakelike frame latching onto the GT's pauldrons with its claws- but they were out of acid.
Shaoran smirked, though the enemy pilot would never know it.
"Come here often?" Neaw's smile was actually visible on the side of his face that showed. "I own this bar!" Hoping that the Ramla Ivar would be distracted by Gilly's attacks, Neaw peered over the lip of the crater.
He immediately saw Brighton's nightmare of a frame charging for Zali and swore. Keeping up his strand of curses Neaw did his best to acquire the enemy Commander as a target. Brighton was moving too fast to take such a luxury though and the MAGE pilot discarded exact accuracy in favor of an overwhelming attack. Neaw dumped all the ammo for his two shoulder weapons at Brighton, doing his best to protect Zali with a swarm of mini-missiles and both of his rockets.
Roland rolled toward Neaw to pull him down, but when he saw Brighton- or rather, when he saw the Van Edna, he instead raised his rifle and began firing in regular intervals. At the same time, he was trying to keep his head down- that Ramla Ivar was still out there.
Thankfully for the recruits, the Ramla Ivar and its partner- both out of Autocannon rounds- had decided to move forward to be in range for their bow weapons, and would be a few minutes before they could attack effectively again. However, that didn't make Brighton any less dangerous. The concussion cannons simply blasted Neaw's mini-missiles and rockets out of the air, but it managed to stop the man's progress toward Zali.
"Oh, so you want to play like that little man?" the psychotic commander said, turning his head toward Neaw in a smooth deliberate motion that could give a snake chills. Roland's rifle rounds pinged off the Van Edna's surprisingly thick hide, the angles causing them to graze by leaving only shallow gouges that only served to anger Brighton further.
Shaoran Grabbed the Ophelia's extended arms and pulled on them, flinging the frame face-first into the hard tarmac, shattering it's faceplate and knocking the pilot unconscious in one swift motion. Moving forward, Shaoran followed after Brighton as fast as he could, but the enemy man was surprisingly far from the Commander and disturbingly close to the recruits- whom should have been in their barracks and not on this battlefield!
Zali had been momentarily frozen by the man charging at her, but when Neaw drew his attention, she was able to breathe a sigh of relief. And then she realized that it was after Neaw and Gilly. Trembling, though the movement did not translate to the frame, Zali attempted to train her rifle on the enemy commander, and she pulled the trigger-only to be informed that the gun needed a little longer to recharge.
Neaw let out a laugh he wasn't really feeling. None of his explosives had made contact with the enemy. He shrugged though, Zali was safe now and that mattered more than his situation, there was no way her frame would ahve survived close combat with a Van Edna.
Sadly, neither would his Martina Nekane. "We hold out for the Chief, Roland." Neaw spoke to Gilly as he climbed out of the crater. "Deal with the Ramla Ivar if it becomes a problem." Watching Zali try to fire on Brighton, the pilot grinned. "Don't ask too much of your system Zali, its good if you give it the time it needs, and I'll see to it that you get it."
Now, standing completely exposed, in front of the enemy Van Edna Neaw stopped talking. He was facing a monster and he knew it. The man wasn't stupid enough to go on the offensive with Brighton, hell he was only planning on dodging as quickly as possible if the man made a move. No, attacking wasn't an option. So instead, knowing that his face was exposed, Neaw smiled a cold smile.
Roland dug in his heel and trained the autocannon and particle-wave cannon on the VE's center of mass; once they started, he wasn't going to stop until they ran dry or the Edna fell. "Neaw, FIRE! He's going to make quick work if he gets down in this crater, and we can't run! ALPHA STRIKE NOW!" An Alpha Strike, as he would have surely learned by now, was the act of opening all the hatches and unleashing everything simultaneously- missiles, guns, anything that had range.
"Alrighty then. Sure I can do that sure as day Gilly." Neaw's morbid smile slipped from his face as a silly grin took over. Looking at his internal ammo counters, Neaw's ordinance accounted for; one burned out plasma cannon, a dry rocket launcher, empty mini-missile bays, and maybe another ten minutes of fire from the autocannon.
Raising his Martina Nekane's left arm Neaw placed his aim for the initial burst of fire on the enemy VE and stabilized his exo-frame's standing position.
"One Alpha Strike coming up." Neaw cheerily called out as he pressed the trigger and opening fire with the MN's 10mm autocannon.
Neaw and Gilly's comms crackled with maniacal laughter from Brighton. "Oh, this is rich. What fools you all are!" he called out, and they could almost see the insane gleam in his eye, if only the frame's mask weren't there. Once again, the 10mm rounds did absolutely nothing to stop his slow, deliberate steps toward the duo, but Roland's larger autocannon hit much harder than Neaw's. Combined with the Particle wave cannon, the Van Edna was forced to bring its arms up in front of itself to protect the pilot, but the pilot simply kept walking forward- In fact, he sped up despite the obvious heavy damage being done to the ExoFrame.
Behind the Van Edna, however, Neaw, Gilly, and Zali would notice something approaching. at first fearing it to be an enemy frame, they then noticed familiar markings- with the exception of several holes dripping blood. it was Shaoran, and, having ditched his plasma rifle, the Ganesa Thera was now charging at full speed, with the Charge bunker primed and ready, but he would be a few moments yet before arriving.
"Zali, girl, tell me your charge has gone through now!" Neaw shouted as he caught sight of the Chief coming up from behind the oncoming monstrosity of an Exo-frame. "The situation could benefit from quite the wallop going straight down the corridor quite nicely if I do say so from my position!"
As he spoke Neaw eyed the two Ivar's coming back into range and - leaving the VE situation barreling down on him up to fate and his teammates - the Cadet switched his measly 10mm autocannon fire onto the foremost of the upcoming targets.
Roland choked off his desire to rebuke Neaw. They were both right, really- the Van Edna needed to be eliminated post-haste, but those RI's were nothing to scoff at either. Ultimately, he had the feeling they were rightly screwed. No time for that, though! He kept his weapons firing at top speed. If nothing else, they would soften up the armor for a good pile-driving and serial-killer type stabbing. If he was lucky it might be enough to make it easy work for Shaoran to finish up after the Edna cut MPO Gilly into itty-bitty pieces.
Neaw wouldn't get an answer from Zali- too focused on keeping her rifle trained on target so she could fire the moment it was ready. impatiently, the girl watched as the charge counter rose steadily, but much more slowly than she wished. "come on.. come on...." she muttered to herself, starting to feel nervous as to whether she could get the shot off in time.
"THAT isn't going to heeelp youuu~!" Brighton called to Neaw, in a singsong voice as he turned to fire upon the Ramla Ivar Exoframes whom were suddenly within his range. The two frames easily avoided the shots with their prediction software, but he did succeed in keeping them from firing their bows. Brighton was, however, still somehow focused on Gilly's attacks, and from this much closer distance the MPO could see that the Van Edna's arms were actually shifting and moving to intercept the rounds at great speed, much faster than a normal human or even frame should have been able to move. From it still emanated a maniacal laughter, almost giggling in its cadence.
And then, it suddenly shifted, Jerking to one side and spinning around to face Shaoran- But the Frame's pilot hadn't guessed quite right; Shaoran had feinted with the charge bunker, and now, Gilly could see, a Plasma sword stuck out from the VE's torso, right where the Pilot's kidneys would be.
Zali's shot suddenly rang out, but it missed the Van Edna. In fact, it didn't seem to be going anywhere near Brighton's armor- the shot whizzed within inches of Neaw's Martina Nekane's head, and struck a Ramla Ivar; catching it off guard, despite the predictive software.
Neaw whistled softly, thankful that Zali's shot had been placed to go by the still covered side of his head sparing him the pain of a flash burn from the proximity of the laser.
"Shoooo." Neaw vocalized as he let out the remaining air from the wistle. "Zali, you should see if the chief will let me stand out in the middle of the field whenever you go practicing that marksmanship of yours. Live ammo a'course, the tension seems to do you a wonder of good!"
Switching back to the field of battle that was more important at hand than any future plans Neaw shouted over the communications to Gilly. "No more point in firing on him, it's not that much of a tangle any more and isn't doing much good! You go open up on those meddlers -" Neaw's MN casually rolled its damaged head in the two Ivars direction. "- an' sweep them up with you and Zali working together."
Neaw himself starting moving forward, trying now to get closer to the enemy VE instead of further away. "Chief, you sure you got him good? Man's crazy as any I've seen and y'know how that type is." Neaw refrained from explaining further assuming that Shaoran did in fact know.
Gripping the spear and keeping his remain sensors at high alert Neaw's MN took up position to cut off Brighton from any movements towards his side of the field.
"Predictive software,eh? Let's just see!" And without further warning, the Isaac Risa leaped from the crater and made a mad dash toward the archer units, sometimes bobbing, other times weaving, and generally behaving erratically. The autocannon spat every so often when he felt there was a clear shot, and only in brief spurts. When uncertain, he gave another blast from the particle-wave. He REALLY wanted to put that software on a run for HARM's money.
The Ramla Ivar that had not been hit was swift to its feet, jumping about and easily avoiding the shots coming from the Isaac Risa, however, it could not get a bead on Gilly's suit, and thus kept its arrows to itself for the time being, trying rather to avoid damage than cause it. However, the one which had been damaged by Zali's shot had lost nearly all of its mobility- The laser blast had managed a square hit on the suit's hip and waist area, fusing plates together and completely immobilizing the legs. it was currently hunkered down on the ground trying its best to crawl away from the battle, though the hits it kept taking from the IR's autocannon soon forced it to stop its progress and broadcast a distress signal; it had given up, and was surrendering. The Exoframe opened up, the pilot exiting, and then running away, just in time for the HARM frame to explode into fiery bits of charred metal and singed wires.
Neaw's perspective was quite different. He noticed that Shaoran and the large enemy frame seemed to be locked together- neither one was moving. the ground was pooled with blood from Shaoran, and the plasma sword suddenly extinguished, the commander falling to his knees, and then falling backward. The Van Edna managed to regain its footing, unsteadily, stumbling back and forth- despite its level of damage, it was doubtful Neaw could do much to stop it. In fact, his hopes of doing so were suddenly dashed, as all the remaining enemy frames rushed over, pointing their weapons at him. One rushed forward to grab the enemy commander, whom weakly struggled, but then finally gave in, allowing the group to begin retreating. They had accomplished their goal, and paid the price. with their leader incapacitated, they chose to turn tail and run rather than continue fighting.
Zali finally spoke up on the comms, somewhat quietly "Hey, uhh, Neaw, Gilly... somebody should get the commander- and- and- the other instructors will need help too!" it was only then that the group would notice the field of battle. Outnumbered instructors had all been knocked out, or otherwise incapacitated, and were probably dead, but around them littered the wreckage of a larger number of enemies than destroyed defenders. Not really waiting, Zali ran out from her cover toward Shaoran's limp Exoframe. Gilly's quarry slipped away into the forest.
Neaw sunk the tip of his spear into the ground, and let his MN stand stock-still from just its own power as he watched the last HARM units disappear from his sensors. Reaching downwards Neaw fished out the box he had used to call Doverreck just earlier that day with and flipped one of the few switches on the device.
"This is Cadet Neaw Neawson." Neaw's tired voice came over all the common speakers on the base. "All enemy effectives have retreated. The cap is back on the problem, but the situation is not dealt with. All recruits should report to the scene of the battle to help with the clean-up. Let's do this right people."
Neaw watched anxiously as Zali moved towards the Chief's fallen Exo-frame. He made no move to join her in her effort - he had failed the Chief today, but the rest of the group had picked up the slack and done right by Shaoran's efforts.
"Roland, I'm gonna need you to come back in. We'll need your experience more than likely just to open some a'these tin cans up if we are to have any hope of saving the lives that are left."
On the other side of the battlefield, Recruit Thomas Doverreck rolled out of a grimy, makeshift fox hole. Covered in grit, ash, and sweat - along with a bit of dried blood from the "window incident" - Doverreck stumbled out onto the scene of destruction as the communications box he still had with him delivered Neaw's message to the base.
Climbing atop the closest MAGE instructor's frame the dirty recruit blindly started feeling for the release catches, doing his best to do at least something good for the base while the day's light still lasted.
Sighing once as the first release thankfully responded, Doverreck lamented; today was supposed to have been his day off.
Roland brought the IR to a halt, watching his enemies retreat with an annoyed stare. Neawson drew him from the mental turbulence with a purpose playing to his skillset. The Isaac made a quick jog back to the hangar so he could gather some field equipment, then it was back out to the battlefield.
The battlefield was littered with several frames, but, the most important were those of the instructors. Zali had already started on Shaoran's frame, having gently moved it so that she could access the emergency hatch release with her ExoFrame's hands, the arms spinning around to swiftly undo the release- A hiss of pressure releasing was followed by a large amount of blood spilling out, the commander's unconscious body soaked in its own blood.
Neaw and Gilly could hear sobs over the comms, though they were soon drowned out by wailing sirens as the emergency crews finally arrived on the scene to get to work on extracting and hopefully saving as many pilots as possible.
"Gilly, meet the crews and -" Neaw's voice cut off as his ear once more picked up the sounds of Zali crying. Each one cut him to the quick deeper and deeper. "Just make some sense of the mess, get them all moving, if you can get them to do it with some brains."
Flipping off his comm, Neaw brought his Martina Nekane into a kneeling position. Smiling fondly at the machine Neaw released the control harness around him and opened his machine up. Patting the MN's armour as he clambered out Neaw muttered quietly about how the frame had done well and deserved to hold none of the shame he had brought upon himself.
Stretching his legs for a second. Neaw fished his personal comm unit out again and started walking towards Zali - and Shaoran.
As he thumbed the button opening a direct line to Zali's frame, Neaw's voice was gentle as he began to speak over her sobs. " 's alright Zali. I'm coming over now. Look on your number six sensor and you should have a clear view of me. An' don't feel you have to tell me a word girl, I'll be there soon enough and the day's gone and chewed you up enough already."
Doverreck cheered himself on rather glumly in his little triumph as the final release catch opened up and the Exo-frame's hydraulics took over.
Stumbling backwards and off the frame Doverreck peered in the frame and found a battered, bloody, and unconscious but alive junior instructor - Davis or something short like that, maybe it had been with a "B".
Smiling despite his inability to identify the survivor, Doverreck stood up straighter and began to wave in one of the newly arrived med-teams.
Roland made his way to yet another wreck. Even at a quick glance it was evident the instructor was dead: the hatch had been peeled clean off the suit revealing a body rent in two. He moved on. The next was far more reassuring: the chestpiece hissed and unfurled, releasing a bruised but mobile mech instructor. "Are you alright?" Roland asked.
"Fine, but my Isaac is shot."
"We're trying to round everyone up for cleanup and medevac. Can you help?"
"Yeah." Both the petty officer and professor seemed to have the same idea- the latter stepped onto the Isaac's outlaid palm and clutched firmly onto its mantle. The pair moved onto a third MAGE, which was in dire need of Gilly's particular skills. Both of them clambered down from the IR and got to work cracking open the horribly beaten chestplate of a Kali. Roland took to it like a surgeon, the instructor his assistant. In short time they cut a clean hole to the pilot who was unconscious but evidently alive. So far so good.
Around the other Exoframes, crews were quick at work. those injured instructors were swiftly put on stretchers and moved to ambulances, which were now coming and going with alarming rapidity. Neaw and Zali would watch as one of the strikingly efficient emergency crews took Commander Shaoran, and put him on a stretcher, attaching a bag of plasma, and a breathing apparatus, as well as already starting to try and do something about the multiple puncture wounds in his torso.
Not knowing what to do, Zali dismounted her Kali Pazia, and simply stared at the pool of blood on the ground, not wanting to look at the damaged frame. She sniffled, then wiped a snotty nose with one of her hands, and began shaking a bit, hiccoughing occasionally. it was pretty apparent that Zali was suffering from some kind of trauma.
Walking up to Zali and grabbing her in a one-armed bear hug Neaw crushed the hiccuping sniper to his chest. "Oi, oi, oi! Zali-girl now is not the time to be looking so down - that means you have already given up on the Chief!"
Releasing some of the pressure from Zali but keeping her close by Neaw looked down at her with one of his ridiculous grins. "I want yah to just think for a second. Clear your 'ead and think for just a plain old moment. When has - or will - any of our group ever give up on the Chief?"
Smiling and patting Zali on the back with the arm he had hugged her with, Neaw beamed at the younger pilot. "Never Zali-girl, Never. You remember back to the battle and think on me facing down that monster of an Exo-frame boiling its way right towards my wrecked up ol' MN. Chief came through for us all there, and in a few weeks he'll be walking out of the med bay an' the first thing he'll do is personally find yah to let you know how damn fine of a shot you were today!"
Stepping off the side of one of the slowly moving ambulances Doverreck jogged up behind Neaw and Zali intending to wave to the two and greet them the recruit stopped short as his mind found the position Neaw and his psuedo-partner in somewhat awkward.
Dropping his hand Doverreck instead leaned up against a large column of rubble and contented himself with waiting until he was noticed to engage in any interaction.
Roland and the instructor, whose name he came to learn was Jean-Pierre McCloud, became a two-man metal-shearing machine, moving instinctually from one mecha to the next. The heat of the tools and constant exertion left them in pools of their own sweat by the end of the day. But it also left them with a sense of pride in their accomplishments. The sun had set on a sour note, but they had done their part in redeeming much of what had first appeared to be lost. They would be able to rest knowing they had given their all and needed no medal or commendations; their actions were their own reward.
Neaw would feel Zali's shaking lessen, and the hiccoughing would stop as well, but she continued to sniffle, and didn't say anything. The world, however, continued to revolve around them, and as Gilly and his new-found friend showed, not all that went on was bad. However, they had still taken a lot of damage, not only in personnel, but aslo in Exoframes. It would be a while before Blackwoods was fully operational again, but there was still the missing princess to worry about. Could they wait?