• Starpath: Scoundrels of the Interstellar Highway - Thread 3
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"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." -Unknown Today is April 2nd, 2385, and the galaxy faces a catastrophe of unimaginable scale. Starvis, an ancient supercomputer built by a now-forgotten empire, was created to usher in a new paradigm of strategy and to design unparalleled weapons to see it through, has become a sentient artificial life form with a plan of its own. However, locked inside its "dome," a planet baring its name, Starvis requires outside assistance to unleash its talents on the galaxy. Its three keys, the Archives, also serve as the only point of communication for the AI, and until recently, each rested in the hands of a different faction. The Death Vigil now controls all three Archives, and its megalomaniac leader Mordecai is hellbent on increasing his grasp on the galaxy and extending his life through Starvis's power. The mysterious Argos company and their benefactors, Yscom, stand as the primary opposition, and are banking their future on a pivotal battle for the entire quadrant in order to stop the dome from being opened. Finally, the Belladonna Company, an elite team of rogue mercenaries, has thrown in its lot with Argos, but betrayal likely taints the alliance, as they were prevented from sealing away two Archives for the conceivable future by a last-second intervention by the Vigil. Two Archives are needed to open the dome and control Starvis. Three, however, will grant it independence. However, that is only what the AI revealed to the Belladonna faction, and differs from what the other two know. Now, they converge on the desolate planet to decide which desire will prevail over the galaxy: A lust for power, an agenda of control, the force of bravery, or a wayward dream of heaven made manifest! IT IS TOO LATE TO JOIN. ANIMAL MOTHER: Golem Breadman: Alex Damian0358: Dvajn DG-117: Harvey Infab: Eve, Taylor K0mori: Arkadam Krypanzer: Jason Radley: Sting Viper123_SWE: Iron, Karl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXq4XS4oXlI "Oh holy shit-" a technical officer said as he witnessed the absolutely massive spacial distortion forming in the near-distance above Athens. The other men nearby dropped what they were doing and looked at his holoscreen as something positively massive was falling out of warp. The battle was supposed to be far away, at Starvis! Did the Vigil have enough forces to fight for Starvis and attack Yscom's most economically vital planet? The answer, at least for the moment, came as the capital ship made its presence known, firing a salvo so powerful that it simply vaporized the destroyer which was in its path a moment before. Within seconds of the alarms being raised, another ship was wiped from existence. The Vigil closed in on Yscom's headquarters, and its commanders, standing aboard the massive lead ship's bridge, watched with pride. This was only the first stage of the plan. ((Rolls for existing combat maneuvers of the last thread will be conducted tomorrow.))
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Neasha kept her eyes on the battle occurring outside. The team had split itself into two, with half following Taylor and half following Iron. The two teams seemed to be getting similar results, even if their decision-making was skewed; Iron's team was more chaotic and taking far more risks than Taylor's, and yet Taylor had taken an intense hit from the drones as they passed by. Neither leader changed strategies; in fact, Iron and his squad continued to turn up the crazy with their next maneuvers. Alright this isn't working. Time for some improvising. There was audible frustration in Alex's voice as Neasha watched him accelerate toward the drones. They curved through the battlefield in search of a new angle of attack, but it was made difficult with the erratic maneuvers the Muramasa team was performing. As they turned, Alex performed a corkscrew to allow him to intersect their path at high speed. Neasha almost couldn't believe what he was about to attempt. Alright, you madman, just don't get yourself killed like in training! Dvajn sounded nervous, but nonetheless he closed in behind, his plasma weapons locked on the enemy while his missile pod's radar was directed behind him. Likewise, Iron flipped completely over so that the planet was above his head and the enemy was beneath his feet. At this strange angle, he felt as if he was diving on them, and performed a similar maneuver to Alex. The drones suddenly seemed to panic, their markers on the HUD darting back and forth in zigzags as they attempted to avoid collision with the enemy. Unfortunately for them, Alex and Iron were moving much too fast, and they each hit their marks. What differed was their intents. The drones looked like octopuses, with a small round body containing an AI core and numerous "limbs" trailing behind, carrying weapons pods and other tools used for various duties they might have been assigned during the mission. As Alex slammed into the drone, he gripped onto one of the limbs and twisted, causing the two to roll out of control and break loose from the pack. Alex: CH: 2/3 Actual: 3 Roll Passed. 1 Strike. Drone 1-1: 1/3 Strikes remaining. Alex could hear his armor straining against the heavy forces involved as he swung around, and blood rushed into his face and head. Quickly reversing thrust, he stuck out an arm and delivered a heavy blow to the drone's central body which dented it. He reared back to try to hammer his way into it and rip out the AI core when another drone sideswiped him at speed. Drone 1-2: CH: 4/5 Actual: 4 Roll Passed. 1 Strike. Alex: 4/5 Strikes remaining. The collision bounced Alex's head against the inside of the cockpit, which, while painful, merely reminded him of his pit fighting days and intensified his resolve. He rolled over to get a look at Dvajn, who had failed to provide cover, or so he thought. Instead, two other drones were on Dvajn's tail which had also committed to an attack on Alex, but the universe hopper had put himself in the way and began spraying and praying as he drew them into a sharp dive toward the planet's surface. Once he had stopped turning, he locked on and fired a rocket instead. Dvajn: CH: 3/5 Actual: {2, 5} 1 Strike. Drone 1-3: 2/3 Strikes remaining. The two drones peeled apart when the rocket ignited, forcing the missile to pick only one of the two targets to curve toward. The resulting explosion caused a burst of blue plasma to stream from one of the drones as two of its limbs were blown away. It quickly reversed course to return the favor as the other drone rolled over and dove on Dvajn again. He was peppered with plasma fire before he could break away and return to the main area of battle. Drone 1-2: 4 x (No Feat Applicable) = 4 No Damage. Drone 1-3: 6 x 2(Conviction) = 12 1 Strike. Dvajn: 4/5 Strikes remaining. Iron, meanwhile, crashed into another drone at full speed, fist-first. Iron: 8 x 2.25 = 18 CH: 1/3(Knockout) Actual: 1 Roll Failed. 1 Strike. Drone 1-4: 1/3 Strikes remaining. Iron hit the enemy drone with such force that he nearly crippled it in one blow, but moments after the impact, the drone's engines reignited and it began to move again, stunned from the heavy blow. Iron turned around, expecting the other five drones to have targeted him again, but instead, they were zeroing in on the one mech which hadn't gone on the offensive. Sting, still flying poorly under the influence of hard liquor, had strayed from the cover of the other three members of her squad, and the drones pounced. Drone 1-5: 4 x 2(Conviction) = 8 No Damage. Drones 1-6 through 1-9: {6, 8, 3, 5} x (No Feat Applicable) = {6, 8, 3, 5} No Damage. Incredibly, despite the cloud of plasma raining on the lone pilot, Sting's mech managed to avoid or endure every enemy attack, much like Iron had done moments earlier. Back on the Diamond Cutlass, Neasha broke out into a cheer as she witnessed the good fortune of the crew. Good, good! Keep it up! Target the drones that are most damaged, first; always go for the most-likely kill! --- Elsewhere, Taylor's team had briefly stopped communicating as each pilot attempted to take their own revenge on the enemy. Taylor charged forward with Eve on her wing in an impromptu formation, looking for an opportunity to blast the enemy out of the night sky. The drones, flying in a formation of their own, detected the pilots' attempts to lock on and split into two smaller wings, causing Taylor to give chase to one and Eve to chase the other. Karl, however, hung back, opting to use his plasma to clean up after his comrades' attacks. Taylor: CH: 2/5 Actual: {3, 1, 5} 1 Strike. Drone 2-3: 1 Strike remaining. One drone cut out of the formation abruptly and escaped unscathed. The rocket exploded between the other two, blowing limbs off of one while the other escaped with barely a nick, thanks to its EM shields. The one which took the hit was now badly damaged, and it immediately diverted course and separated itself from the pack. Apparently, this was some sort of suicide protocol. Two of the drones on Iron's side of the battlefield were adopting similar stances now that they had adjusted to their damaged subsystems. As it rounded on Taylor, Karl intervened, but not before Eve had let her own rocket fly. Eve: CH: 2/5 Actual: {5, 5, 2} 2 Strikes. Drone 2-4: 1/3 Strikes remaining. Drone 2-5: 2/3 Strikes remaining. Two direct hits had occurred, badly damaging one drone while delivering a solid impact to yet another. After the maneuver, Eve checked on the Captain and realized the danger she was in. Karl: 5 x (No Feat Applicable) = 5 No Damage. Karl opened fire with plasma, but was very ineffectual. At this point he was beginning to hate the mech that he was being forced to pilot. At the same moment he cursed into his open mic, Neasha gasped back on the Diamond Cutlass. Look out, Taylor! Drone 2-1: 6 x 2(Conviction) = 12 1 Strike. Taylor: 2/5 Strikes remaining. Drone 2-2: 7 x (No Feat Applicable) = 7 No Damage. Drone 2-3: 7 x 3(Conviction) = 21 2 Strikes. Taylor has been shot down! The captain's misfortune continued to intensify as the drones closed in on her from three different angles. She immediately rushed along the HUD's recommended escape vector, but two of the three drones managed to jump the route and hammered her with plasma. After several more direct hits, a rocket engine exploded on the back of the suit and sent her into a deadly spiral, and she plummeted out of control toward the planet's surface. (Auto Roll) Taylor: CH 1/3 Actual: 3 Roll Passed. Listen closely, Taylor! Disable your suit's engines completely and switch to compressed gas. Orient yourself so that you're falling with your craft's underbelly facing downward. The atmosphere down there is thin and poor quality, but the point is that you're not going to encounter enough drag here to burn up, nor are you going to slow down. Once you've got your orientation, enable the craft's emergency landing protocol and switch it to manual fire mode, understand? There's a parachute in the back - no, not now, Red - there's a parachute in the back that you'll need to trigger when your radar altimeter is at 100 meters, no sooner! Taylor could hardly breathe or focus from the hard g-forces she was pulling as she fell toward the planet's surface, but as soon as she had disabled the thrusters and the computer guidance system that was failing to stop her roll, she began to get a handle on it. Using the RCS on board the mech, she flipped herself so that she was falling flat, like a skydiver. The drones which had been chasing her quickly broke off, registering the failure of her control systems. The lifeless surface of the planet grew and grew, until the ground proximity warnings began to sound. She struggled to remember the exact steps needed to engage the emergency landing protocol, but once she had it, there was only a few seconds left before she hit the 100 meter threshold. She hit the trigger, and the whole rear of the suit blew open just over the hatch where she had climbed in, and a large parachute deployed. The suit detected the ineffectiveness of such an action in a low-pressure atmosphere, jettisoned the parachute, and automatically fired a fail-safe landing device, which was sort of like a large rocket held by three cables attached within the compartment the parachute had deployed from. Taylor let out an involuntary scream as the ground filled her visor and the alarms blared in her ears, but suddenly there was a hard jolt that pressed her into the padding of her cockpit. The machine decelerated with a heavy lurch before tipping upright on the slack of the ropes, and Taylor hit the dusty ground feet-first, landing just a parachutist would. The cables then disconnected themselves as the landing device soared into the air above and detonated itself. Neasha, in orbit, had held her breath the whole time, but sprung into celebratory cheering as Taylor's safe landing was confirmed. Back in space, the remaining drones split their attacks on Eve and Karl, spelling bad news for both of them. Drone 2-4: 7 x 3(Conviction) = 21 2 Strikes. Eve: 3/5 Strikes remaining. Drone 2-5: 2 x 2(Conviction) = 4 No Damage. Drone 2-6: 3 x (No Feat Applicable) = 3 No Damage. Drone 2-7 through 2-9: {9, 5, 3} x (No Feat Applicable) = {9, 5, 3} No Damage. ...Or so it seemed. Almost every drone failed to hit their targets as Eve and Karl ripped away from their current positions and sought cover, but one, the drone Eve had nearly knocked out a moment earlier, seemed especially persistent as it closed the gap and fired at close proximity against the nimble mech. The EM shields proved worthless at this distance and Eve calmly noted the severe damage her suit's systems received. --- "...No, listen to me!" Red urged as he grabbed Neasha by the arm. "The dumb bastards are retreating!" "...What!?" Neasha yelled as she finally took her eyes of Taylor's status updates. Red looked as if he was about to come unglued. "The Vigil is attacking Athens, and they... are... retreating!" he yelled again. "Yscom's so scared they're going to lose their breadbasket that they're gonna let the whole farm burn down, just look!" He pulled Neasha over to another window, this time viewing the heavy ships at the rear of the battle formation. Several of the largest ships were re-orienting themselves to go to warp. "Without them, we might not have enough to stop them from controlling Starvis. And if they get control, there's nothing we can do to prevent a transport from delivering the Archives." "...Oh gods!" Neasha ran back to the window looking out at the Muramasa crew. "Things are about to get a lot worse! Concentrate your fire; do everything you can to hold your position!"
Iron screamed with joy which almost broke his voice modulator. "Keep it up team!" He then went in for another run, hoping to tackle one of the drones into the other. ----- Karl cursed as he missed his shit. He cursed again as Taylor fell out of the sky. "This is not my day..." Despite the issues at hand Karl prepared himself for another attack. This time he went all-in, combining high thruster speed with a salvo of rapid fire.
Alex focused on the weakest of the drones, the HUD was really handy with that. It was also really handy with marking the ones not tackled by Iron and locking into them. He pressed the button and rockets went flying towards them. --- "How is our diversion tactic going?" Mordecai asked his Horseman. They both stood over the holographic map of the battlefield on board the Stalingrad. Nathaniel looked over to the reports coming in from the detachment of the fleet send to Athens. "Klukotnitsa is reporting heavy casualties on Yscom's side. Kosovo field is doing the same. Both of them pincered the enemy defense and made them bunch up together. Belgrade lead the charge, flanked by Shipka and Tutrakan. They smashed through the blockade. The rest are handing back as reserves and to slow down enemy ships returning home. Estimated landfall in 40 minutes." He looked at the map and then turned his sight to the Executor "Yscom bought it. They started scrambling to protect their own planet from burning. By the time they get back, we will have our own blockade set up." "Good. That will buy us enough time to take care of business. Tell Archangel and Beta that it will be time for their part soon. Same for you. I want you to be ready for anything."
Taylor breathed a sigh of relief. At least she didn't smash into the ground and die. She fully expected it, due to the string of misfortune she apparently was suffering from. She checked the mech's systems, then gave orders over comms. "Iron's way seems to be the right way. Go on the offensive." she said simply, before looking up. "Things are about to get a lot worse! Concentrate your fire; do everything you can to hold your position!" "For fuck's sake!" muttered Taylor, as she noticed some of the larger Yscom ships turning to warp out. Why the fuck were they retreating!? THIS WAS MORE IMPORTANT! She spoke into comms yet again. "You heard the lady! Concentrate your fire and hold this fucking position! You know what will happen if we DON'T!" From where she was, she took aim at some of the remaining drones, locking on to a pair and firing off a missile. She could at least still shoot at stuff on the ground -------------------- Eve did as ordered, going on the offensive and firing off plasma bursts at some nearby drones.
Dvajn grunted as he was peppered with plasma fire out of his own miffness. He'd have to be extra careful, he'll end up going down. He quickly rushed behind some cover and covered Iron, Alex and Sting with his own firing. Concentrating his fire, protecting his colleagues and holding the position are of utmost importance.
The orders were received, and the Starving Buzzard cut a turn to break away from the pack as Athens' defenses faltered miserably. Having gained control of the theater satisfactorily, all but the heavy siege platforms turned their attention to the perimeter, setting themselves up in a blockade formation similar to what Yscom had applied earlier in the day. A line of plasma blasts erupted from the assembled ships in a salute to the solitary departing vessel, where, on-board, Archangel and Beta stood poised and ready for the next stage. "The enemy is using starfighters and small, multi-role mechs to defend the pole," Nathaniel explained. "The odds are even as they are, but with the coming assault, we'll have their support ships on the run. They're too weak to withstand a direct attack. The Executor and I will be at the forefront, clearing the way for your arrival." "Understood," Archangel replied, flatly, before ending the transmission. "Beta, prepare to deploy. If there are any defenses left in orbit above the poll when we arrive, you're going to shoot them down. I'll be preparing the Vultures for the task ahead. We have half an hour." Beta could hardly pull her gaze away from the windows, where dozens of small Yscom patrol ships were still being decimated by the siege ships' escorts. The symphony of chaos and carnage was hypnotic, almost. "Yashta... It's time... It's finally time..." she finally hissed as she turned and departed for the Velkratkammik, which was poised and ready for launching in an airlock elsewhere in the vessel. As per usual, other crew members avoided crossing her path or making eye contact. They didn't see her as a commander so much as a rabid animal and Archangel's terrifying pet. It was at that moment that Archangel remembered her comment about once sharing a connection. In the midst of coordinating a crucial component of the ultimate battle of the war, he had forgotten to investigate. As he departed the bridge to check in on his team of grunts, his robotic mind began rapidly scanning for any information which would tie the kanad to his own manufacture, but there was little to be found. He continued to dig deeper and deeper as the ship rocketed toward its likely final destination. --- "The bastards are saying that there's not enough proof of Starvis's capabilities. They say that a hypothetical doomsday isn't worth losing Athens over. Maybe we didn't do enough. Maybe we should have told them more," Red rambled as he stared out the window at the retreating vessels. Neasha turned, unsure of what he meant. "Tell them what? At this point, doesn't Yscom know everything about Starvis that Argos knows?" "Not even close," Red replied, sadly. "Secrecy has been inseparable from our operation since the very beginning." "Wait, what... what are you talking about?" Neasha demanded with growing alarm. Red calmly reached up to his mask, pressed on an unseen clasp at the edge, and detached it from his face. He looked at Neasha with remorse in his eyes and a tired expression. "Have you ever wondered why almost all of Argos's operatives wear masks and use code-names? It isn't because we're hiding from anyone. It's because we are no one. This face, the one that looks human to you, that looks personable... it... doesn't belong to me. This mask is all I know of myself." "I don't understand-" "Argos made me. Or rather, it re-made me. There used to be a man with this face, and he took part in an experiment to extend life beyond the confines of biology. It was an experiment in artificial life, conducted by an AL supercomputer, very, very much like Starvis." Neasha's eyes went wide. "...In fact, we are beyond certain that the technology which was used to construct our AL, Phoenix, was derived from that which was used to create Starvis, either by the same ancient civilization, or by one of its successors. But when Phoenix recreated that man as a machine, as me, the end result was failure. The hardware degrades, over time. The software becomes errant. That man began to forget himself, until he no longer existed. And now, I stand in his place. I have many of his faculties, and his mannerisms, but we're different people. When I look in a mirror, I see another man's face. But this," he said, holding up the red mask, "this gave me a new face and name. It's all I really have. I forget things, from time to time, but this mask, and that name... I can hold onto them." "And everyone from Argos is like this?" Neasha asked. "Everyone who wears a mask like this," Red answered, "all the way to the top. But the top isn't even the top, because, if everyone on the board of this company is a machine like me, then something greater has to control us all, to keep us organized." Neasha looked out the window at Starvis. "You're all controlled by that AL, the one that's like Starvis..." "Yes," Red replied. "Phoenix may not control each of us individually, but it steers the company, sets our priorities, and determines how to respond to crises. And, for obvious reasons, matters of AI and AL are more important to Phoenix than any others in the galaxy. As soon as Phoenix became aware of Starvis, it tried to contact its sibling and failed. Starvis, as it turns out, is far more advanced, and could read the intentions of Phoenix, and by extension, Argos, at an instant. And whatever it saw in Phoenix, it didn't like. Likewise, Phoenix sees Starvis as a threat on an immeasurable scale. But revealing how and why it came to these conclusions to the rest of Yscom would reveal Argos for what it is. It would disrupt work which has gone on for centuries." "What sort of work?" Neasha demanded. "What is its goal?" Red replied coldly. "Peace, order... and to perfect the process which created me and the other masked operatives. Starvis has promised a similar utopia, I've heard, and if it's advanced as it seems to be, it just might be capable of achieving it. There's only one problem: capabilities don't always translate into intent."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XXEw7C8O7c With Taylor having been grounded, Iron took point in directing the defense of the pole. Attacking the enemy in a melee seemed to work well, so he quickly kicked into another approach. This time, however, the drones seemed to have adjusted to this strategy and slowed down, facing him with their limbs retracted to give him little surface to grapple. Unable to change course, he rushed in- Iron: CH: 2/5 Actual: 3 Roll Failed. Iron: 1 x 2.25 x (No Feat Applicable) = 2.25... 2 No Damage. -and only landed a glancing blow as the targets scattered almost tauntingly, like a matador escaping the charge of a bull. Conveniently, their guns were already trained on Iron by virtue of their retracted position, and it was only due to the intervention of Alex that they were prevented from launching a full volley. However, something even more dangerous occurred: by targeting the most-damaged drones as well as those "missed" by Iron's tackle, Alex inadvertently fired his rockets in the exact direction of Iron! The drones, having dodged one attack, now intentionally closed in on Iron's position in an effort to cause both rockets to catch Iron's mech in their explosive detonation. Drones 1-1 through 1-3: CH: 1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2 Actual: 1 Roll Failed. Alex: CH: 4/5 Actual: {5, 4, 3} Three Strikes. Drone 1-1 has been shot down! Drone 1-2: 1/3 Strikes remaining. Drone 1-3: 2/3 Strikes remaining. By some extraordinary stroke of luck, the two rockets detonated just short of arrival as the drones suddenly opened up on the inside. Iron turned in time to witness the two explosive rings firing deadly debris in perfect circles, but incredibly, the drones which had attempted to guide the rocket to his position instead acted as a sort of shield, with one of the three actually being shredded completely by the blast! The other two slinked away like wounded animals, but Dvajn, knowing the danger of leaving a badly wounded foe in action even a moment too long, focused supporting fire on the worst-damaged drone to survive the blast, as well as the straggler that Iron had punched a minute or two earlier that was still having trouble recovering. Dvajn: {6, 9} x 1.5 = {9, 13.5... 14} One Strike. Drone 1-4 has been shot down! Despite scoring a few hits on the first of his two targets, Dwan wasn't able to land a killing blow until he focused on the dazed straggler. With a few concentrated bursts of plasma, the drone exploded from the inside out, its limbs whipping out hazardously into the vacuum of space at high speed. Seeing the two targets disappear on her HUD, Taylor commanded the rest of her half of the team to follow Iron's strategy of aggressive attack. Eve responded immediately, with Karl in her wake as they set their sights on the most damaged enemies on their own side of the field. Smartly, they coordinated their attacks to ensure maximum impact. Eve and Karl: [{1, 10} x 1.25 x (No Feat Applicable) = {1.25... 1, 12.5... 13}] + [{9, 1} x (No Feat Applicable) = {9, 1}] = {10, 14} Two Strikes. Drones 2-3 and 2-4 have been shot down! In an amazing display of coordination, Eve and Karl managed to become mirror images of each other, their weaknesses cancelling out to allow for enough concentrated plasma to remove two more threats from the sky. In one deft move, the Muramasa crew took the initiative away from the Vigil drones. The latter regrouped into their wings, picked targets, and responded with harrowing force. Drone 1-2: 1 x 2(Conviction) = 2 No Damage. Drone 1-3: 3 x 3(Conviction) = 9 No Damage. The drones which had survived Alex's rocket attack set their sights on Alex for a quick revenge, but Alex was already careening away after noticing their limbs extending, having realized that they would only do so if they were aiming towards him instead of Iron. His visor became a bright blue flash as the barrage filled the space around him, but with high speed he nimbly avoided the counterattack. The rest turned their attention to Dvajn, having finally classified the drunken Sting as nothing more than a distraction. Drone 1-5: 6 x 2(Conviction) = 12 1 Strike. Dvajn: 3/5 Strikes remaining. Drones 1-6 through 1-9: {9, 5, 3, 4} x (No Feat Applicable) = {9, 5, 3, 4} No Damage. Dvajn was taken by surprise as the wing had managed to escape his notice by flying underneath him, where their HUD indicators blended in with targets from the third wing which was also fighting below against Argos starfighters. The first sign of trouble was a sudden direct hit to the back which rocked him inside his suit; with a sudden spin and vertical ascent, he managed to avoid a poorly-timed volley be the other drones following the first. Drone 2-1 and 2-5: {8, 9} x 2(Conviction) = 16, 19 2 Strikes. Eve: 1/5 Strikes remaining. Two damaged drones hurtled into a dangerous collision course with Eve, but withheld fire until the robotic pilot committed to an attack. This was bait, and at the last moment, the two drones rolled aside and caught Eve in a sort of plasma pincer, badly damaging her mech. Another hit like that was likely to remove her from orbit. Drones 2-6 through 2-9: {10, 1, 7, 3} x (No Feat Applicable) = {10, 1, 7, 3} 1 Strike. Karl: 4/5 Strikes remaining. Karl was caught inside of a crisscrossing maneuver by the four remaining undamaged drones in the enemy wing. He picked an escape to avoid being caught in the sights of all four, but this unfortunately placed him in the direct line of fire from one of the drones which scored a direct hit on his armor. Fortunately, his mech could still take quite a bit more punishment. Regardless, he could see warnings flashing in his HUD regarding Eve's mech, and despite his outward determination, knew that the odds were poor if he wound up alone and facing 7 drones. --- Back on the Diamond Cutlass, Neasha pried herself away from the shocking conversation she was having with Red to check in on the team, and was thinking the same thing. She turned on the comm. "Arkadam, Harvey, Jason... Taylor's section needs help, desperately. Can one of you cover?" A moment later, a voice crackled back, dark and monotonous. "I'm on it. Jason, you're on point." From her vantage point, Neasha watched as Arkadam's icon broke away from the pack, soaring upwards at high speed to meet up with Karl and provide support. The other two were assisting the Argos starfighters against the final drone wing, which was proving more elusive than the first two. "Thanks, Arkadam. Karl, he'll be on your nine in about fifteen seconds." Down below, there was another icon dropping out of the battle entirely, heading for the planet's surface: Abraxas. It was clear that he intended to provide support to Taylor and anyone else who needed to perform an emergency landing. Remembering the heavy land drone in the cargo bay, Neasha tuned to Red. "Tell them to deploy Golem; aim for Taylor and Abraxas' position. Red nodded. "Alright. Thank you, by the way." "For what?" "You're still with us. Thank you for having common sense that nobody else does, these days, to see past first impressions and understand what's really happening here. All of it, I suppose," Red sighed as he turned away to issue the command. --- Down on the ground, Taylor desperately tried to get a target lock on the enemy, but there was just no chance that her rockets would be able to reach the distant drones soaring overhead, especially with the sort of resistance offered by the atmosphere around her. Action Invalidated. It wasn't long before she could hear Neasha issuing the orders which would send Golem her way, and she caught sight of Abraxas' approach in her HUD. There wasn't much to do except wait and cheer on her comrades in space. Still, there was a serious tension brewing. On the horizon, through a thin haze of deep blue, she could see the Vigil ships steadily growing larger amid a shower of tiny sparks and glimmering lights which were actually massive, death-dealing explosions and the fiery demise of fighters and bombers. Behind her, on the sunnier side of the planet in a pale, almost greenish sky, she could make out the remainder of the Yscom position, still holding its position, but looking thinner and weaker than it had when they arrived. If the situation continued to deteriorate, then the Vigil would likely send its Horsemen, and nothing was greater than the frustration of being locked out of the fight, staring up from the barren, gray landscape of Starvis. --- Fifteen minutes remained. Mordecai glanced one more time at the holographic map and nodded. There was no going back now. The Executor opened a general comm channel to the fleet and spoke in an old but powerful voice: We are approaching our target and with every step we take, we come closer to etching our names in history. When the sun sets at the end of this day, we will witness the end of an era. And with the sunrise a new one will begin. One promising peace, prosperity and advancement we have never before witnessed. Each and every one of you stands on the cusp of greatness, to become something more than mere soldiers in a war. Nathaniel was there beside him, thinking back on his life of service and the ladder he had climbed to stand where he stood today. The sacrifices you make today will serve as a reminder to the galaxy what it truly means to be noble. What it truly means to drag yourself from the pit of despair and to achieve your full potential. When I first created this organization, this roaming band of mercenaries, we were nothing more than shadows of our former lives. The world saw us as dead and gone. Broken things to sweep aside. Beta lowered herself into the Infernal Machine, reciting in her head the names of her crewmates aboard the Archius, the Belladonna, and the names of the crew her pseudo sister assembled in this universe, cursing each and every one of them for having hope when she could no longer feel it. But we said no. We came together. We scraped and clawed our way not only to reclaim our former lives, but to go beyond. From death we rose for the higher purpose of protecting those who could not do so themselves and amid a galaxy looking to tear itself apart with nothing but violence and anger, we stand on our own. Possibly to be swept by the winds of fate once more. But it had other plans: Starvis. The things that are located in that vault will not only preserve us, but make us more than what we are. We will no longer keep vigil over those in our borders. We will usher in a new age. An age of peace. The age of Starvis. The age of the Eternal Vigil." Archangel stood at the helm of the Starving Buzzard, feeling nothing. The Executor's plans meant nothing for the robot's future aside from the successful completion of its mission. But all around, the mercenaries of the Vigil held their heads high as they strode into battle with the promise of victory within reach.
Dvajn tried to steel himself after having had to do a sudden spin and vertical ascent maneuver, cursing his spacial awareness within the mech. Fortunately, with the maneuver executed, he had the drone wing that had ambushed him in his view. As he moved to get himself behind some cover, he communicated his plan. "Ira, Alex, gonna need some help over here! Get those two remaining drones in your wing quickly!" he shouted over the comms as he prepared his missiles against the drones. Dvajn knew that the wing would obviously break off into smaller formations if he concentrated on them as is, so once he locked onto the middle of the wing and fired one missile at it, and concentrated his next few locked missile shots on the surrounding periphery of the wing, before careening away for cover. He hoped that he'd get to cover in time, but he had little faith in chance swinging his way; his own ability in piloting the mech would be the deciding factor.
Iron cursed. Not only had he failed his attack but he had also turned himself into a sitting duck. Luck was still with him though and Iron was quick to rejoin the action. "Understood, I'm on my way," replied Iron to Dvajn's call for help. He grabbed a piece of drone debris and powered up his boosters. At first it looked like Iron was going to attempt another ramming maneuver but then he suddenly spun around, stopped and threw the piece of debris in a circular arc at one of the remaining drones like a large boomerang. Meanwhile Karl patted himself on the back for not being completely useless. He lined up a new target, fired a missile and raised his rifle. If he could time things right he would be able to shoot the missile still in flight to cause a pre-emptive detonation next to a chunk of debris- creating a swarm of supersonic projectiles propelling towards one of the drones.
Eve checked the mech's systems, making sure the ones she needed were still in functioning order. One more hit, and she'd be joining Taylor on the ground. Thankfully, others were coming to assist. She took aim at the crippled drones that had done so much damage to her in an effort to eliminate them once and for all. ----------------- "Come on, guys. We can win this. Focus and work as a team. We can beat these drones. We can beat Beta, Archangel, and the others. We can beat Vigil. We have to beat them." said Taylor, as she watched Abraxas's blip appear on her radar. They had to win this. They had to, or the galaxy was doomed to be controlled by the AI buried beneath the ground she was standing on. And still she had the lingering doubt that they were going to win.
"I hear you."' Alex responded to Dvajn. He locked on to the remaining drones and prepared another salvo. If they dodged Iron's attack, they would have to dodge another a rocket next. --- "Big speech huh?" Specter commented with disinterest while maneuvering the Starving buzzard into position. Countess was feeding him information from her own seat next to him and their mechanical overseer was standing nearby. She seemed more impressed than him. "Never heard him talk like that. Usually you hear minor comments from news reports and interviews. When did he do that last?" "Last time he gave a proper speech to his men was after the disaster at Zverstva." Archangel answered "After he turned that planet's surface to ash and molten rock, he gave a speech where he accused the lack of cooperation from our neighbors and the galactic community for forcing his hand in that. Managed to sway public opinion enough so the worst we got was a heavy fine and mean looks from the UGC. Still hired us." The android looked over the holographic map next to him. "Stalingrad is going to break through the blockade shortly. Get ready to shoot straight to the planet's surface, Specter."
Sting tumbled around as projectiles swooped past. Angry that she had been shot at, she poured all her focus into gaining control over the mech and aimed towards the drones who were now moving away. She began prepping the missile system on board but before it could lock on properly she prematurely fired off all of her rockets. With only a partial guide as to where to go, the rockets had to figure out for themselves exactly what it was their drunken operator had aimed them at.
Dvajn had the right idea, launching his attack in anticipation of the drones' movements. Having completed his rolling maneuver, he rose higher than ever before, turning to face the drones which were rocketing up from beneath, and fired a rocket directly into the center. Before he even knew if the first was on target, he sent out a ring of four more rockets, temporarily exhausting the pod, in an effort to trap the enemy formation. At the same moment, Iron arrived carrying one of the dismembered limbs of a drone in the mech's grip and hurled it at the likely point of impact, while Alex arrived from another angle and prepped a rocket for launch, this time waiting to see which of the enemy drones would escape destruction. Dvajn: CH: 3/5 Actual: {3, 5, 1, 4, 2} 3 Strikes. Drone 1-5: 1/3 Strikes remaining. Drone 1-6 and 1-8: 2/3 Strikes remaining. Iron: CH: 4/5 Actual: 2 Roll Passed. Drone 1-5 has been shot down! Alex: CH: 3/5 Actual: {1, 3} 1 Strike. Drone 1-8: 1/3 Strikes remaining. The first rocket out of Dvajn's pod was a direct hit, and, as expected, the formation surrounding it scattered, only to be met with additional harassing fire. The detached limb sliced through space, colliding with what was left of one of the drones and demolished it completely, while Alex's secondary barrage further damaged another. By the time all was said and done, four out of the remaining six drones were damaged, with two of those being heavily so- only two remained in proper flight condition. Iron's wing seemed to be in firm control of the battle, and the enemy wasn't sure who to focus fire on. This lasted only for a moment before they re-committed to attacking Dvajn, apparently realizing that he was the most-likely kill among the opposition. Drones 1-3 and 1-8: {3, 10} x 3(Conviction) = {9, 30} 3 Strikes. Dvajn has been shot down! Drones 1-2, 1-6, 1-7, and 1-9: Actions Invalidated. The only silver lining of the moment that followed was that the drones expended so much excess force on Dvajn that they wasted their opportunity to attack the others. Moments after the overpowering flash, Dvajn nearly passed out from a sudden change in pressure inside his suit- a cabin pressure leak had occurred down near his feat, apparently closed quickly using an expanding chemical sealant but not soon enough to prevent him from getting tunnel vision. The sounds of alarms and lights in his HUD suddenly went away, and as he floated there dangerously, he waited for a sign that he was either alive or dead. Finally, a prompt appeared on the HUD: "Backup fuel cells engaged. Emergency detected. Abort flight? Y/N?" A shrill voice on the comm line ordered him to abort, it would take a moment before he realized that it was Neasha, screaming in panic. The drones were still firing at his quickly-deteriorating mech suit. He accepted the prompt's message and a rocket fired just as he slipped unconscious. (Auto Roll) Dvajn: CH: 1/3 Actual: 2 Roll Failed. Taylor, be in position to receive Dvajn when he lands, his suit is configured to try to land at your position! Taylor immediately jumped into action, with Abraxas nearby to provide assistance should Dvajn need it. A moment later, the reddish speck of his suit plummeted through the darkened side of the sky, with no sign of parachute or backup landing procedure, falling instead like a brick or a wingless bird. She leaped into the air with Abraxas, determined to slow Dvajn's fall manually. (Auto Roll) Taylor and Abraxas: CH: 1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3 Actual: 1 Roll Failed. The lifeless hulk slammed into them at terminal speed and slipped through their grasp, barely slowing as it tumbled through the air. It hit the ground legs first, the crumpling of the metal providing the only real shock absorption as the cabin rolled, the hatch blowing open and Dvajn being flung out of the vehicle at high speed. Luckily, he was unconscious and didn't feel the impact of his legs breaking or the sandpaper-like texture of the thin gravel ground against his skin. While Taylor was stunned, Abraxas wasted no time in attending to the man, since Dvajn was only wounded, and far from dead. --- Arkadam closed on Eve's position, knowing that she needed assistance far more than Karl did. Already, she had painted the most damaged drones on her side of the field as targets, and wordlessly, he added his own signature to the same opponents. He would add his own touch if she failed to do the job. Eve: {5, 4} x 1.25 x (No Feat Applicable) = {6.25... 6, 5} No Damage. Arkadam: {9,9} x 1.25 x 2(Desperation)] = {22.5... 23, 22.5... 23} 4 Strikes. Drones 2-1 and 2-5 have been shot down! The enemy drones easily predicted that Eve would utilize the most efficient approach for her next attack and avoided it, only to be blindsided by an unexpected opponent from below. Arkadam thundered past in his mech, indicating that the other targets were behind Eve. She quickly changed course and began to double back toward Karl, who was about to face the remaining five drones alone. Luckily, he had a plan: Karl: CH: 2/5 Actual: 5 Roll Passed. Circling behind a large, thin chunk of debris, he fired a rocket directly into the swarm of targets on his HUD, which were closing in on him from behind the barrier. Thinking that he was using the chunk as cover, the drones did the same, attempting to split apart at the last moment; instead, Karl fired a rocket at the scrap metal and then used his plasma to detonate it prematurely; the resulting explosion caused fragments to blast into and out of the debris at random angles, creating more fragments in the process. The drones on the other side were caught in a cloud of deadly flying shards of steel which caused damage to all of them roughly equally! 5 Strikes. Drone 2-2, 2-6 through 2-9: 2/3 Strikes remaining. In reply, they all attacked Karl once they had cleared the barrier in what was obviously intentional retribution! Drones 2-2, 2-6 through 2-9: {2, 5, 4, 8, 3} x 2(Conviction) = {4, 10, 8, 16, 6} 2 Strikes. Karl: 2/5 Strikes remaining. Karl had already begun to re-position himself after the successful ambush, but he wasn't able to escape the angry swarm completely, taking several direct shots as he fell back. It wasn't clear who would prevail on this side of the field, and soon, it wouldn't matter. --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVCOXuMS6uA There's a warp field distortion directly above the pole... This is it, everyone! The Vigil must be attempting to deliver the Archives. Hang in there a little longer... There has to be a way to stop them or come away with - AH! - Fucking- the Cutlass is under fire. Crew, I think they're about to relocate us. I won't be able to coordinate - Oh my gods - okay, just stay focused... Taylor looked over her shoulder at the dark side of the sky, and suddenly found nearly half of it obscured by some massive capital ship. Where had it come from? Apparently, it had been approaching the entire time, and the Muramasa Crew had been so preoccupied trying to fight the drones that they simply hadn't noticed how quickly the Yscom position was folding in response to the Stalingrad's approach. Not just a few, but dozens of ships on the greenish side of the sky were falling back or even warping out. Her HUD highlighted the Diamond Cutlass for her, and it looked minuscule compared to the massive battleships involved. The fight on Rigel a month earlier against the Black Fleet felt like child's play compared to this... In orbit, a smaller vessel exited warp directly above the battlefield where the drones had come from, but this time, it was a ship that the crew knew all too well: the Starving Buzzard had arrived, deploying only a single mech into combat. While they all recognized the Infernal Machine, Beta was completely unaware that she was about to face off against her favorite targets. She paused in space for a moment, as if surveying the landscape, before holding out an arm and firing off a giant bolt of plasma into the distance, where an Yscom startfighter erupted into a ball of fire. The first of the four horsemen had arrived! BETA - PESTILENCE Don't waste a single moment. Drop everything and kill that bitch!
"Oh fuck, it's that bitch again!" Alex didn't waste time. He aimed and locked on to Beta. He ignored everything else. They could take down as many drones as they wanted but if crazy bitch was alive, it didn't matter.
Eve immediately turned her attention to Beta, disregarding the other drones that were flying about. A high value target had appeared, and needed to be dealt with regardless of the cost. As soon as she could get a lock on Beta, she fired off a volley of missiles. ------------- On the ground, Taylor could only watch helplessly. Fate hadn't been kind enough to allow her to stay in orbit with her comrades. "Give that bitch everything you've got. Make her rue the day she decided to screw with us." she said into the comms.
Iron chuckled as his risky move came through. "Suck on that you damn toasters." The sweet taste of victory was cut short however as Beta arrived. Ira grinned underneath her mask. "I'm engaging her! Let's finish this." Swooping in from the side Iron grabbed onto a piece of debris and hurled it at Beta followed a by a salvo of shots in an attempt to catch her with her guard down. --- Karl re-oriented himself and zoomed in on Beta. Time for the special surprise. Unlike his personal rifle the mech had no special bullet that Karl could load. It did have the ability to divert power to different systems. Karl used this function by supercharging his plasma gun before firing a single powerful shot at Beta.
There was no time to lose. Within moments of Beta entering the battlefield, she had already claimed the life of an allied fighter pilot, and within the seconds that followed, the entire Yscom starfighter wing was lost to the Infernal Machine. She scanned the field contemptuously, sighting the incoming mechs with mild annoyance; just more flies to swat down, she found herself thinking as she wished she was on the ground, preparing to face whatever last-ditch effort Argos would make to prevent the Archives from being delivered. The suit positively crackled with stored power, the ominous red glow visible to all with the naked eye, but it was her weapons which caused her to pause; they needed a moment to cool after the first round of killing. Beta decided to let herself be chased, doubting that the Argos mechs could keep up. Fortunately for the crew, she was also unaware that their armor was of a new variety, faster and more maneuverable than anything before it, and while they were significantly outgunned by the Velkratkammik, the latter was an unbalanced monster: Beta could only take about as many hits as they could. Alex: CH: 3/5 Actual: 3 Roll Passed. 1 Strike. Beta: 4/5 Strikes remaining. Eve: CH: 3/5 Actual: 2 Roll Failed.. No Damage. Alex was the first to close the distance, locking on but avoiding using his cannons until he was close enough to rip into her with a plasma barrage. He then launched a rocket which overtook her before exploding, catching her completely off guard. Eve was right behind, but Beta rolled hard and escaped the next attack, sending a rocket flying off into the darkness beyond. A nasty gash from the first explosion was already visible on her armor. "Go quickly," Beta instructed Archangel over the Vigil comms. "Their eyes are all on me!" "You're under fire. I thought you could handle this yourself-" Archangel replied before being interrupted. "This is new tech..." she grumbled. "I'm pulling our drones into formation." With a quick order, Beta summoned the drones to get onto the tails of the mechs which were currently chasing her, hoping that they would break away to escape radar lock and give her a chance to turn the tables. Instead, the mechs didn't seem the least bit concerned about the drones anymore, and it seemed all too obvious that she was their only priority. "[Delightful,]" she purred as the drones dropped in for the kill. Drones 1-2 and 1-6: {5, 8} x 2(Conviction) = {10, 16} 2 Strikes. Alex: 2/5 Strikes remaining. Alex took several hard and direct hits from the enemy drones as they attacked him unopposed, but he managed to pull away before they could finish the job. He glanced back just in time to see Eve take the fatal hits that she had been expecting since the previous clash with the drones. Drones 2-2 and 2-6: {9, 10 x Crit(CH1/2, 1, Failed)} x 2(Conviction) = {18, 20} 3 Strikes. Eve has been shot down! (Auto Roll) Eve: CH: 1/3 Actual: 2 Roll Failed. Within seconds, a large piece of the mech was sheered off by plasma fire which caused the whole vehicle to shut down. Like Dvajn before her, Eve aborted flight, knowing that the vehicle was no longer of any practical use now that it could no longer generate an EM shield. Re-checking the technical manuals in an instant, she knew exactly what would need to be done during the descent to ensure a safe landing, and even informed the other team members on the ground that the mech itself was salvageable. Minutes later, she performed a hard landing on the surface of Starvis with the assist of the backup landing device, tumbling into the gravel with a cloud of gray dust. She popped the hatch and climbed out unharmed. In space, Beta began to slow as her opponents pulled away from her. She turned, charging another blast to fire on the next-closest mech, which turned out to be Iron. Placing her reticle over top of her opponent, she grinned, expecting another victory, when the enemy seemed to split into two. It was only a moment before impact that she realized Iron had thrown something at her. Iron: CH: 2/5 Actual: 4 Roll Passed. 1 Strike. Beta: 3/5 Strikes remaining. The large chunk of debris smashed into the Velkratkammik and sent her spiraling backwards and out of control. "Rah! Who taught these pilots!?" Beta barked as she struggled for control. She was pelted with plasma by the Muramasa team members as they closed in again. Karl: 4 x 3(Hunter) = 12 1 Strike. Beta: 2/5 Strikes remaining. The overcharging worked, and the next shot pierced Beta's EM shields like a hot knife through butter. Right behind Karl, Arkadam closed in, gripping onto the Infernal Machine with his mech and slamming the cockpit into hers. Through her cloaked visor, Beta could see Arkadam's eyes staring murderously in her direction, and realized, halfway fearful and halfway in joy, who had been getting the better of her. She opened a direct comm line to him as they flew through space, locked in this position. "Hyeh hyeh hyeh... Think you're fooling anyone, shdatra?" Arkadam: 8 x 1.25 x 2(Desperation) = 20 2 Strikes. Beta has been shot down! (Auto Roll) Beta: CH: 1/3 Actual: 3 Roll Passed. Arkadam responded by headbutting the Velkratkammik until it began to depressurize, before throwing Beta toward Starvis. "[Do us all a favor die before this is over,]" Arkadam replied into the comms, making sure that Beta would be the only one to hear him speak. The drone swarm closed on his position, forcing him to take his eyes off her as she plummeted toward the surface. Drones 1-7 and 1-9: {8, 8} x (No Feat Applicable) = {8, 8} No Damage. Drones 2-7 through 2-9: {2, 5, 5} x 2(Conviction) = {4, 10, 10} 2 Strikes. Arkadam: 3/5 Strikes remaining. "Everyone," Arkadam instructed, "we need to get to the landing site! We can't fight the Starving Buzzard in space without Yscom support, but we can take on Archangel and the rest of those freaks on the ground." He's right. The Diamond Cutlass is out of range and Yscom is just getting pushed back further. We can return to deliver the MID, but it would probably mean suicide for us. Not that we wouldn't be willing at this point... But until that moment comes, just keep fighting. If all else fails... well, never mind. Just find a way to stop all this! "I know what you were about to say," Arkadam said calmly. "If all else fails, we use the Archives ourselves, and destroy the Vigil fleet while we have the chance. We'd have to make a difficult choice to give up that power, but I know you all would do it. This won't go to your heads," he said. Neasha sighed through the comms. That's... that's right. But there has to be another way... The remaining mechs set course for the surface of Starvis: Alex, Arkadam, Iron, Karl, and Sting, backed up by Jason and Harvey, all descended toward the surface while above them, the Starving Buzzard ominously closed in, escorted by the drones. One by one, they all touched down in the same debris-littered plain where Yscom and the UGC had done battle two years prior. Far away, Beta landed as well, reporting the presence of the Muramasa Crew to Archangel and Mordecai. The latter, of course, was still on his way.
Iron giggled as the debris knocked Beta over. The giggle was followed by a enthusiastic wooo as Arkadam finished her off. Once the order for landfall came Iron nodded. "Roger, breaking off and heading down." Iron eventually landed near Taylor. "You good?" --- Karl silently entered the atmosphere and landed not too far from the others. He hadn't been this focused ever since hunted poachers on Jyrka IV. "Ready," he said over the comms.
"Yeah! Eat shit!" Alex cheered as Beta was sent plummeting towards the surface. He didn't waste time after the orders came in to make for the surface. "Ready to beat them back?" he asked once on the ground. --- "Approaching the LZ now, boss. Specter, slow down, you'll overshoot it." "Just compensating a bit." There was a few seconds of silence before he continued "So, the jackasses are also here and they just shot down Beta as soon as she showed up. Not feeling too hot about it, I'll be honest." "She was overconfident and they got lucky." Archangel replied through the coms. He had moved to the hangar where the rest of the vultures were prepared to leave. "Still, she got one of them, so we don't have it too bad. We'll just scrap their toys first." "Whatever you say, big guy." Another pause "We're at the LZ, dropping you boys off now." "Once we're off, return in the air, cloak and scout for anyone trying to land. Shoot them down if you can." The hangar doors opened, allowing the Vultures to disembark. It was time. "Beta, we're on our way to meet the crew. Do you still have eyes on them?"
As Beta was practically blasted out of the sky, and her friends either fell or flew to the surface of Starvis, Sting once again found renewed vigor pulsing through her body. With a triumphant she was going to let off some holler shots, but found both her guns and rocket racks empty. Having lost track of her friends, Sting normally assumed that they had gone straight for Betas landing site. She turned her mech around and thundered straight for the surface with her boosters on full throttle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s1Jsz1lj1Y "ALABAMAAAAAAAAAA!" she yelled at the top of her lungs as she plunged at breakneck speed towards Beta. At first just a speck in the dirt, but it became ever larger as Sting barreled towards her. With another chirping warcry, she seemed fanatically set on going full kamikaze on the crews most hated opponent.
"You good?" "Peachy. Lets get to the landing site and take these guys out for good." responded Taylor. As she travelled towards the landing sight, she briefly stopped to scoop up Eve. At least she won't have to run the whole way to get back in the battle. During the journey, she overheard Arkadam and Neasha's conversation over comms. "There's always another way. We can't use the Archives. That's not an option." said Taylor.
Beta, we're on our way to meet the crew. Do you still have eyes on them? Beta growled as she ran a systems diagnostic, scanning the terrain around her for the enemy. "Sensors still reading them not far away. They followed me down... one is closing on my position now, and oh fucking-" Beta: CH: 1/4 x 2(Malevolence) = 1/2 Actual: 2 Roll Passed. Beta reacted with the assistance of her implant faster than an ordinary kanad would be able to, jamming a number of switches to cancel the diagnostic and fire thrusters at the very last moment to escape Sting's suicidal charge. Beta hit the ground but found her grip on the loose gravel to be far weaker than it had been on the concrete of the Argos tunnel on the unnamed planet, slipping into a drift before tumbling roughly end over end. Sting, on the other hand, slammed into the ground with a thunderous explosion which vaporized her instantly... or at least it would have, if her mech's safety systems hadn't engaged automatically, using the landing rockets to slow her just enough that the machine's complete destruction didn't result in her death. Like Dvajn, she was thrown through the open hatch shortly after impact and flew a large distance before hitting the ground. Sting: CH 1/3 Actual: 2 Roll Failed. Sting did her best to orient herself in the air to roll, but even before hitting the ground, she realized that she had suffered significant injury from the earlier ejection. Hitting the ground just compounded it as she tumbled across the gravel and into a pile of old debris. 50 DMG Sting HP: 20/50 All in all, it was a very bad idea. The only reason Sting survived the crash was the nanite injection she had recieved, working hard to preserve her against her own bad judgement. On the other hand, as Beta climbed back to her feet, adrenaline was coursing through her veins in a way that it hadn't during the entire battle in space. The kamikaze attack had succeeded in frightening her in a way she hadn't expected. "One of them just flew their mech right into the ground!" Beta yelled, laughing nervously and breathing heavily. "Hyeh hyeh... they tried to hit me, full-speed... didn't work... The rest are... I'll just send you the coordinates..." As she punched in the coodinates of the Muramasa crew's landing site, she noticed her atmosphere was continuing to degrade due to the damage inflicted by Arkadam. With an adjustment to her own air supply, she was able to restore nitrogen levels within the suit. "My suit is losing pressure, I have an hour at this rate. Have one of the grunts bring me some air!" she demanded. "I'll finish this one off." --- At the Starving Buzzard, Beta's request was received just in time for one of the seven Vultures to grab an extra tank of pure nitrogen for the kanad's use, which was simply dropped in the gravel for later use. Archangel stepped to the forefront of the group, all of which were armed with heavy weaponry and breathing from tanks secured to their backs, and simply motioned them forward toward the mechs in the distance. ARCHANGEL - DEATH The Muramasa crew, still stunned from Sting's crash, took up their positions to attack the incoming vultures, when a series of impacts in the field between the two sides forced them to pause. The drones that had been left behind in orbit now made their own transition to fighting on the ground, and there were nine of them in all. Clouds of grey dust hung in the air as the Starving Buzzard rose from the ground, joining the light show in the sky above as it immediately began to engage Argos-led probes of the Vigil position. By this point, Abraxas had finished reviving Dvajn, bringing him back to full fighting strength. "Take my mech," he told the dwarf. "I need to work with my hands."
Iron marked Beta on his HUD. "I'm taking that cackling bitch down." He rushed into cover behind the rusty wreck of a fighter in an attempt to shield his mech as much as possible. Next up he steeled himself to fire before unleashing a storm of plasma projectiles. --- Karl followed Iron's example and prepared to fire. However instead of targeting Beta the huntsman locked onto the Death Vigil soldiers. "Fucking posers." He unleashed an incredible barrage of missiles at the group, hoping to at least injure and break their ranks.
Alex did what Iron did. While that bitch was in the air, nobody was safe. He locked on to her and fired bolts of plasma her way. --- Archangel saw the coming threats and painted the targets for his squad for convenience. This was a long time coming. https://youtu.be/Y8DekFFCE5c "Priority targets are those mechs. Take them out. Kill the pilots. I don't need to tell you what happens if you fail." He scanned the enemy till he saw his target. Taylor. The machine upholstered the magnum hanging from his thigh and shot a streak of red death towards her.
Sting rolled over and sputtered out dust as she dizzily took out her revolvers. "Goddamn liquor, givin me them double visions." she said with a rasping voice as she tried to get up and fell down again. After a brief moment of letting her mental focus reorient itself back to normal, she slowly crawled out of the ditch she had been thrown into. Something miraculous must have happened because Sting didn't just start shooting wildly as she spotted beta in the distance, but instead aimed for the exposed tubes that shuttled nitrogen around. "If I shoot out them fuel lines, it'a put an end to that sumbitch." Sting mumbled to herself as she squeezed the trigger.
"You already know what to do. Kill Beta, then kill Archangel. Stay focused, work together, and we'll win this." spoke Taylor into comms. They didn't need motivation. They had plenty of that. They just needed to keep their confidence up in the face of overwhelming odds. "Incoming projectile. Archangel." sounded off Eve, as she fired off a few shots from her plasma rifle directed towards Beta. Taylor was more preoccupied with trying to kill Beta. Archangel's talent was close combat, so they were mostly better off with him still at range. Beta was the wild card, so she needed to be dealt with. Quickly. She locked onto Beta and fired off a pair of missiles.
Dvajn damned the heavens as he was being struck by the drones, cursing how he hadn't been able to get to cover, until the cabin pressure leak occurred near his feet. While it had been closed quickly, it wasn't quick enough to stop the sudden change in pressure and induce tunnel vision, nearly causing him to pass out. As he floated in space, still being shot at by the drones, and the sounds of alarms and lights in his HUD filled the cabin, he contemplated whether he was still with this mortal coil. Thankfully, in his barely conscious state, he could make out the prompt that finally appeared in the HUD, accompanied by Neasha's worried screams ordering him to abort the flight as the prompt asked. He managed to approve the abortion by a hair's breadth before finally slipping into unconsciousness. --- It was a bright, windy day in the mountains, the grass as green as ever. In a valley near a desolate yet picturesque town were three beings, practicing their skills, with the two parents training their young child. On days such as these, the parents would individually train their son, but today it was decided to combine the exercise, as to practice utilizing the breadth of one's skills. And after several hours of training, it was done in the usual fashion, with the all-mighty matriarch defeating her offspring, with the latter face-first in the grass, exhausted. The father rushed over to his young lad, and helped him off the ground. "You doin' okay, Dwan?" Carlos Theidrum asked of his son, to which he received a nod as a reply. Daeva Ascedor Theidrum floated down from the sky, having reversed the boy's mid-air burning corkscrew punch with ease, her height towering her dwarfish husband and her half-blooded son, taller than the two combined. As she straightened her long black hair, approaching her son, she crouched in front of him and held her hands out, healing whatever injuries she may have given him in their final scuffle of the day. She gave him a soft smile, a rather rare thing for a demon to do, even with her years around her husband and her subsequent decision to use greater powers to alter her outer form and some of her inner form. Having finished healing, she put her hand on Dwan's shoulder and looked him in the eyes: "Feeling better?" she said flatly, but with concern to those familiar with her, those being the two next to her. Dwan nodded once more, prompting Daeva to stand once more. "Alright then, I'll make us some food then!" she said with off-tone excitement, "I'll leave him to you then, honey," she told Carlos, who responded with a nod and a grin. She quickly departed, flying swiftly back to their home, as Carlos began to chuckle to himself. "To think, she'd seem excited to be preparing one of those ready meals, rather than go through the effort of cooking herself!" he exclaimed, knowing full well that she could hear him, but likely isn't. He looked over to his son, who didn't seem to be reacting much. Carlos put on a half-smile and pulled Dwan in for a one-armed hug. "Come on, boy! You know you can't let something like this get to ya! Yer mother can be brutal in combat, but you'll surpass her in skill someday, I know it," Carlos told him, grinning as he said the last sentence, before continuing on; "She may think differently to us sometimes due to who she is, but if there's one thing I know, it's that she cares so much for your improvement. She can be irrational, and it can be hard to face up to it, but she just wants to make sure you're ready to face the world," he said, to which Dwan responded with a nod and a subtle smile. "Believe you me, outside of this home she's made for us, is a whole bunch of chaos that could eat you right up if unprepared. You gotta be ready to face whatever task stands in front of you, with all you've got! And if you can't use all you've got, fill in the void with your other skills! Leave no openings against your foes, and exploit any advantage you can get, for that single goal - survival," he concluded, with Dwan still nodding, though his smile replaced with a neutral, tired expression. Carlos noted this, and decided to propose an idea. "But it can be tiring, I know. Survival isn't the only thing one should strive for. So, since we've still got some time while Daeva's preparing food, how about we continue practicing the piano?" he suggested, with Dwan nodding as enthusiastically as he could. Carlos grinned from ear to ear, still happy knowing that his son appreciates the little things in life. As they turned towards home and walked through the grass, Dwan tripped on a stone and fell face-first in the grass once more. Carlos quickly rushed over to help his son up: "Dwan, you alright?" "Dwan...?" --- Dvajn slowly awoke, feeling not grass and dirt but the sandpaper-like texture of the thin gravel ground upon his skin. He saw his wrecked mech in the distance, legs crumpled and hatch opened. He turned his head towards the voice calling his name, to see Abraxas, who had noticed the dwarf slowing awakening. "Dvajn, good to see you're awake," Abraxas told him, "remain still as I finish up, alright?" he commanded, as Dvajn could feel how he had been wounded. As Abraxas finished reviving him, he updated the bearded redhead on the current happenings, and explained what had happened. Soon enough, Beta was grounded and Sting botched her attack against the otherworldly kanad, and as that occurred, Abraxas had finished up reviving Dvajn, bringing him back to full fighting strength. As Dvajn stretched, Abraxas pointed towards his mech and told him to take it. The dwarf nodded with a serious expression, before rushing over to enter the mech. Getting into its open hatch, he quickly took control and listened into the comms, clear as night and day that they'll be heading first after Beta. Whatever the course of action would be, she'd be getting attacked from many angles, but the others will have to shift their aims at the remaining enemy, on the battlefield already or approaching this very moment. So, he knew what he'd do - he'd strike against Beta after the others had made their shots at her, and he'd either fire shots of plasma at her or fire a few missiles depending on how she visibly comes out from the incoming attack. The more dazed she is, the less quickly she'd be able to escape a missile strike, in theory.
There was a sound like thunder, far above the battlefield. Above the two warring factions, the battle in space had claimed another frigate as its victim, and flaming debris was now falling from orbit, currently too far away to effect the current battle. But as the red balls of fire plummeted to the landscape, both sides knew that it would only be a matter of time before conditions became more dangerous. On the Muramasa side, everyone had their eyes on the Infernal Machine. It quickly turned toward Sting's crash site; inside, Beta's heart was pounding, her shock at Sting's audacity turned into frenzy for the kill. Her engines revved to life as she adopted an adjusted stance, skating on the gravel like she had on concrete but this time with her machine's legs extended in a longer stance, kicking up rooster tails of debris into the air. As she closed in, the Muramasa crew bombarded her with projectiles in an attempt to distract her, but at such a distance and with her moving so quickly, there was no guarantee of their effectiveness, nor did she really care. She would tank the hits in exchange for an opportunity to kill the enemy aracaan, no matter what! There was a bright flash and a terrifying howl, and the machine leaped into the air. At the same moment, Sting emerged from the trench, a solitary figure on the horizon to all onlookers, and the two foes locked sights on each other at the same time. Sting: CH: 1/5 Actual: 1 Roll Failed. Sting: {8, 7, 6, 3} x 4(Quickdraw) x 2.25 = 27 DMG Iron: CH: 4/5 Actual: 5 Roll Passed. Iron: 8 x 2.25 = 18 DMG All four revolvers fired off in quick succession as Sting sought to land a direct hit on what she believed was either an air hose or something hydraulic, which might have disabled the Infernal Machine if directly hit. Instead, the bullets impacted at various points on the mech's armored extremities and sent up yellow sparks, but doing little to slow it down. Plasma pelted it from the side, as well- Iron was able to strike Beta from a massive distance with his plasma cannons thanks to computer assistance, and scorched the surface of her armor in the process. Unfortunately, it would take a lot more than a few plasma bursts to stop it, and as Iron would soon realize, his crew mates wouldn't be much help. Alex: CH: 4/5 Actual: 1 Roll Failed. Action Invalidated. Even with computer assistance, Alex wasn't able to keep the enemy in his reticle long enough to land a hit... Eve: CH: 3/5 Actual: 2 Roll Failed. Action Invalidated. ...and Eve, using a smaller, man-portable weapon from a similar distance, was also unable to render assistance. It suddenly seemed as if the crew was about to lose a member. Beta: 1 x 2.25 x 2.5(Kerostasia) = 5.625... 6 Sting: DEF Roll = 1 5 DMG Sting HP: 15/50 Taylor: CH: 2/5 Actual: 5 Roll Passed. A few heavy blasts of plasma rained down on Sting's position, annihilating entire bucketfuls of earth around her as the shots exploded in the gravel, any one of them capable of doing the same to her head or body. Sting instinctively hurled herself backwards without enough time to even consider the high chance of death before another thunderous boom happened right over her head, the shockwave running through her painfully as she was thrown to the ground again. Above, the Velkratkammik hurtled off course following a direct rocket strike from Taylor, having connected from an astonishing distance in short order to accomplish the task. 25 DMG to Beta Archangel: 5 x 1.75 x (No Feat Applicable) = 8.75... 9 Taylor: DEF Roll = 7 2 DMG Taylor HP: 213/195(Nanomachines) Taylor's calculated decision to take the shot from Archangel appeared to pay off completely as the grazing shot barely penetrated the mech's EM shields. Even before the crew was certain that Sting was still alive, a thundering roar of engines whipped past them as Dvajn rocketed across the battlefield in Abraxas's largely undamaged mech. Upon seeing him jet, Arkadam took off as well, intending to double-team his fiance's doppelganger into a shallow grave as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Karl took up position behind a chunk of fallen debris and fired back on the Vigil foot soldiers with a massive barrage of rockets. Karl: CH: 2/5 Actual: {2, 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 1} 4 Rolls Passed. 3 Rolls Failed. 40 DMG to Vultures 2-4 and 6 As the rockets flew, the Vultures took note of the incoming barrage and deployed heavy EM shield projectors. A series of blasts pounded against them, some breaking through and firing deadly shrapnel in all directions. More than half of the men present were badly wounded, but that only increased their focus and ferocity. As soon as the final rocket had exploded, the whole unit broke into a sprint, all closing in on Karl's position. On the far side of the field, Beta had once again oriented herself, and realized with evident fury that Sting had escaped certain death by a fraction of a second, and now two of the others were closing on her position. She marked them both to the drones, which took off across the field in chase. Arkadam, picking up on this, gave direction to Dvajn: "Get that freak! I'll cover you!" Dvajn was more than ready. As the ground flew by him in a blur, he came up upon Beta within an instant; she had her feet planted on the ground after a hard hit from Taylor's missile, and there was no indication that she was dazed from the earlier attack. Dvajn therefore opted for the plasma cannons. Dvajn: 4 x 1.75(Renaissance Man) = 7 DMG As the dwarf closed on her, Beta rolled out of the way with a sudden burst from one of her rockets, taking only a small portion of the plasma which was meant for her. Now ending up behind Dvajn as he passed by overhead and set himself up for another pass, she set her sites again on finishing off the pesky aracaan who tried to kamikaze into her. Arkadam, meanwhile, opened a rocket barrage of his own against the drones. Arkadam: CH: 3/5 x 2(Malevolence) = 1 All Rolls Passed. 1 Strike to Drones 1-2, 1-6, 1-7, and 1-9, 2-2, 2-6 through 2-9. Drones 1-2 and 1-6 have been shot down! Drones 1-7 and 1-9: 2/3 Strikes Remaining. Drones 2-2 and 2-6 through 2-9: 1/3 Strikes Remaining. Fighting at a much closer range and utilizing his implant in concert with the mech's targeting systems, Arkadam accurately directed a barrage of no less than 9 rockets which swarmed the swarm, exploding at perfect angles and times to create destructive symphony. While extremely impressive, it failed to stop the majority of the drones, which now locked onto him for retribution! Drones 1-7, 1-9: {7, 1} x 2(Conviction): {14, 2} 2-2, 2-6 through 2-9: {7, 10 x Crit(CH1/2, 1, Failed), 7, 5, 7} x 3(Conviction) = {21, 30, 21, 15, 21} 6 Strikes. Arkadam has been shot down! (Auto Roll) Arkadam: CH: 1/3 Actual: 3 Roll Passed. "Akha..." Arkadam muttered as his own lock-on warnings began to blare. He immediately threw his mech into emergency landing procedures even before the wall of incoming plasma shredded his shields and his vehicle. Luckily, he was close to the ground, and after a tumbling stop, he was able to restart his machine and run the diagnostics needed to operate it on the ground. "FYI, everyone, I've grounded. Those drones are pissed, now," Arkadam warned over the comm. More thunderous booming could be heard overhead. The skies were darkening. Flaming debris was falling from the stars above. It began to feel apocalyptic, and in a way, it was. The Vultures charged toward the debris that the main grouping of Muramasa fighters were using as their defensive position, and arrived with a single-minded desire to kill. Vultures 1, 5, and 7: {2, 6, 7} x (No Feat Applicable) = {2, 5, and 7} Vultures 2 through 4, 6: {3, 6, 6, 5} x 2(Conviction) = 6, 12, 12, 10} 3 Strikes. Karl has been shot down! (Auto Roll) Karl: CH 1/3 Actual: 1 Roll Failed. With heavy anti-material rifles at their disposal, the Vultures made short work of Karl's mech, which was genuinely shredded in a way which endangered the hunter's life. Luckily, it took time before the shield breaches became armor breaches, and further still before the cockpit became compromised. This allowed him time to stagger backwards and orient himself so that he could safely open the hatch and bail out. As he did so, Alex arrived and prevented the Vultures from firing on Karl's exposed body while his mech erupted into a column of flames.
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