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RP: Bahram Wing [Bahram Wing Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

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Inactive Member
ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
15:13, Commonwealth Standard Time

After long months of recovery from the wounds of the battle at the Elevator, Bahram Wing had been returned to duty, given the honors of a new ship, and even new units. The reasons were mixed: perhaps it was the rallying cry that they had brought to the battlefield, allowing the Vanguard to spring back and push the remaining NVR forces away, or the entirely accidental rescue of the Minister of the Conclave that had earned them a powerful new friend in the upper echelons of society. The reasons themselves didn't matter that much, as before they could revel in the little prestige they'd attained they already found themselves pressed into new battlefields on the edge of known space.

The VSV Astarte was a fine vessel, evoking feelings of the classic era before the worst of the Outer System Conflicts and of the new one being created. It was very much a vessel of reclamation, returning pride to the Vanguard and the strength of arms to its soldiers. The crew were bright and new, carrying with them an atmosphere of excitement at finally seeing the frontiers, and the officers selected from the bridges of the most distinguished Vayu, but all could already feel the weight of the new assigment being levied on them and the high expectations of the brass.

As they arrived upon the vessel, Bahram Wing was given notice from their CO, being instructed to leave their belongings in their assigned quarters and head to the ready room adjacent to the hangar, where they would meet their fellow garrison pilots and be given further intelligence on the ship's status.

Mridula was barely awake as she shuffled down the hallway. She had mechanically dressed in her uniform, mechanically applied her facial markings, mechanically brushed her teeth and hair. She still hadn't completely recovered from the battle at the elevator, the trauma from the machine's collapse and the subsequent state of her dear friend Mareyn sitting inside her like a dull ache. She'd been assigned to Astarte due to her experiences that day, but she wasn't entirely sure she was able to serve, or even deserved it. The Ivuori didn't even know who she had been roomed with; she had slept like a rock since her arrival, brief dream-touches with Madhu her only solace. Still, though, she reported to the ready room like everyone else, her eyes flicking dully around.

It'd been days since he'd even looked at the news reports, instead spending every waking moment on vacation with his daughter, and now Serhan found himself being crushed in intelligence reports and data on the 'new enemy' that the Astral Vanguard ordered to make 'armed intervention' upon. The Conclave, in its infinite wisdom, still clung to the centuries-outdated notion that there were never any wars in the Commonwealth, and that its military existed only for the purpose of carrying out police actions against rogue nations. But the data seemed to say the opposite, that the scale of this 'police action' would be too great to be encased in a well-prepared term that people could use to distance themselves from the bloodshed.

It was going to be a war.

"They're rather late..." Serhan found himself idly browsing the local OGNEIR.net node and resting in his elevated seat, wondering if he'd be even as lucky before with this new batch of frame runners, field mechanists and physicians. If it was anything like the Third, most of them wouldn't make it past their fourth sortie, but he was hopeful that the new technologies of Solan and the strength of the crew might hold it all together. The outlook wasn't terrific.

But he could hope.

Zus made her way into the room, Reovan in tow, and the two sat down near the middle of the room, The younger Eyr Ranr looking mildly bored and wandering her eyes about the room while the Sund Wakir sat at attention almost, waiting for their commander to speak. The Sund Wakir would give the Eyr Ranr a slight smack on the leg to get her attention, and very soon, both Zus Storhan and Reovan Mehta were paying attention the the raised chair which held their bespectacled leader.

Malik laughed as he headed to the ready room, walking alongside Shokhi and Zalus, his arms draped around their necks and pulling them in close as he told them jokes, an odd mixture of Cohronl and Mazerinii humor. The runner had been "busy" these past few months, and was honestly glad to see his wingmates again. Zalus, Zus, Reovan, Savitar, Shokhi, and even Serhan, they were all welcome faces to him. His mane of orange hair was gone now, replaced with a shaved head, though his attitude had only seemed to be come friendlier and more open to the people he considered his friends. Of course, the phsyical contact was for a reason. You can't share an empathic connection with someone you aren't touching, can you?

An Ivuori followed behind the other frame runners like a lost pet. He had that pathetic expression of being lost, and not having enough nerve to ask where to go next. 'So we're going to a breifing? At least I know that. But where's it at? I'm so confused.' Akjit thought to himself. He casually flipped through his little sketchbook to pass the short amount of time he'd be spending looking at Zus', Malik's and Reovan's backs as he followed. His fingers briefly paused on the roughly drawn images of Khiyai and Amari, before moving on to the drawing of that VANDR. It was lightly armed with pulse lasers and a tether; Akjit was thinking of how he'd use the teather to reel in the enemy and stuff, but, in the end, he never really got to even sortie; it was over before then.

Alia was also in the room. Her presence not so much as a pilot, but as an observer, just incase they need anything special made or modified for the frames under her care. 'That idiot ruined another frame.' Alia thought as she remembered reading the sortie logs. 'I'm just glad it wasn't any of the ones from my hanger.' She continued to think as her shoulders rose then fell with a silent sigh.

"..." Stifling a yawn, Amari soon made her way into the ready room. Albeit looking a little more worn then usual, she seemed as she always was: laid back, calm, giving each of the people who'd arrived thus far a little wave and smile before she located a seat for herself, pulling it out and sitting down with a little sigh. In the wake of the recent events, the Vanguard had required the services of nearly all of its physician staff in order to cope with the amount of injured located in the aftermath. She, being no exception, had taken to the task with gusto burning the midnight oil on more then one occasion just so one less poor soul ended up sleeping with the dreamers.

Finally allowing herself a small yawn, only half hidden behind a hand, she rested her head on her arms that were now planted upon the ready room table.

Rather than taking a seat when she entered the wardroom, Mridula stood by the door in a parade rest position, her face fixed into the slightest of frowns. Her eyes swept over the people entering, but didn't really register any of them - though they had saved her life, she didn't feel much of a connection with them. They had all fought and bled together, and somehow she felt as though she was intruding on something sacred by being there - the only thing she'd done to deserve being assigned to Astartes was almost dying. She knew very well, after all, the deep and unexplainable connections that could form between people.

Shokhi Miyorh did not recall much of anything from before the order came. He had been sleeping, maybe. Or maybe he had been daydreaming. Or... well, that didn't matter. Whatever it was, it was lost in the unstoppable labyrinth of his MIND. Ahem. He actually didn't even recall getting the order, which suggested he had probably been deeply lost in thought, but fortunately somebody (Malik) had taken him out of his reverie and brought him along for the ride. Complete with every sort of inane conversation that could be imagined. Shokhi assumed so anyway. He knew all these people in the wing were prone to inane conversation and he, on the other hand, was prone to being quiet and reserved. Also prone to thinking bad things about Reovan every so often, but he wouldn't ever admit to it.

Malik's smile widened, taking on a slightly mischievous bent as he grinned at Shokhi, the two Iroma entering the ready room. "So, Shokhi. Whody'a think is better looking? Zus or Reovan?" Malik's question was probably completely innocent, but his voice was still robust enough to carry over to the ears of Zus and Reovan.

"Da buh wha..." Shokhi stuttered uncertainly, absolutely flustered by the question. What the hell kind of question was that? Shokhi didn't think about these things! And even if he did he surely wasn't telling Malik about it! "I, um, I mean, well..." He staggered a little bit more while trying to come up with an answer, and finally he did! But it was not nearly so suave or smooth an answer as he might have liked to give. "Um, Zus is... I mean Zus is too tall..."

"Well, maybe. But she's still kinda cute, In a little sister-ish kinda way," Malik started, smiling at his friend. "Sure, she may be a little bit sticklike, but that's normal for Eyr Ranr, I think. Reovan is pretty cool too, but, eehhh, the red hair just isn't my thing. And I think she's dating Savitar, anyway." The Cohronl grinned as he led Shokhi into the room, finding a nice seat near Zus and Reovan and the rest of their wing. "Besides, I'm pretty sure that I'm already taken, so she's all yours."

Zus took special care to ignore the blasphemy spouting from Malik's mouth at the moment, more intent on learning what it was that Serhan had to say to them. Reovan couldn't really be read from where Malik and Shokhi sat, but one would get the vibe that she was rolling her eyes. Zus' mental image of Malik continued to degrade down the path of 'Idiot' or 'Moron', while Shokhi's blustering seemed rather cute to the Eyr Ranr. She kept that to herself though, the more closely she guarded a secret the more useful it could be.

Akjit heard this, and looked at Zus carefully, noting her every curve, bend and hair on her head; he made up his mind. The young Ivuori pulled out a writing utensile and presed it against the archaic medium, etching and drawing on the paper. Within a few moments, a slightly cartoonish image of Zus and Malik formed, with Zus impaling the latter with exaggerated horns through and through. He carefully detailed Malik and made him realistic, along with his gore and entrails of course. Zus, he left chibi and adorable.

"Red hair is pretty," Shokhi commented quite suddenly, almost reflexively defensive in his response. And then he found that his cheeks were coloring slightly and he was silent for the next few moments, only managing to say anything again once he had been seated. His attention was now focused on Serhan, but he managed one more comment. "My father wouldn't approve... of me thinking about females who aren't Ivuori..."

"Maybe Redheads are pretty, but our old mechanist, back at Fort Jarizas? Khiyai? Yeah, she's the best looking girl I know." Malik's smile widened even more at Shokhi, as he patted him on the head. "Hey! Who cares what your father thinks? It's perfectly fine to like any girl you want, so don't go thinking like your father is going to show up someday and tell you how he thinks you're a failure. 'Cause from what I've seen, Shokhi, you aren't one. You aren't anything close to one. You've managed to, in the entire time I've known you, never get shot down. That is an achievement."

Akjit nodded to himself when Malik mentioned Khiyai. He flipped back a few pages, eyes falling on to the carefully faithful depiction there. Since he already had a drawin of her, he wouldn't do another for now. Instead, Malik did mention Reovan, and also included something about her being in a relationship already. Akjit's drawing tool got to work again, the little sketches ever so audiable over their talkind and walking. Just as they were about to enter, he finished his little masterpiece. 'There!' Malik was orientated to the 'left' and behind him, stood Reovan, pointing at his back with a mischevious glint in her eye. Out of the end of hte paper was a fist and arm flying into Malik's face. Akjit nodded his approval on his work. 'Oi! What's with all the blood here? I know blood and guts are kinda like the insides of a ship and...oh. Yeah. That's why I like them. Except when they're coming out of people I like. Wait! I like Malik! Don't I? Huh. Then why am I drawing him with his...oh well.


Eventually, with the remainder of the pilots filtering in, Serhan was left with a room filled with people that he did not recognize, interspersed with a few familiar faces. He'd probably become quite familiar with many of the faces as time went on, know the names and the people behind them and eventually mourn their loss when misfortune would strike some of them in ways that would cost them their lives. But he'd do his best, and cherish every life that came to him until then.

"Well. Let's begin your briefing with simple introductions. I am Marranr Serhan Nejem, your Executive Officer on this vessel and direct superior as members of the VSV Astarte's Bahram Wing." Standing up to the lecturn, he gently pushed his glasses up with the middle of his white-gloved hands, and gave the crowd an appraising glance. "I am a native of Criun Lighthouse, have a daughter on Mazerin and have spent most of my life in the military. During the last war, I held the call sign of 'Ice Wyrm' and received honors for my part in the final offensive on A'Veyri-Du."

"Look to your right, and to your left. Unless you perform to the best of your abilities and learn to work as wingmates, one of these people will die." The officer gentle brought down his palm onto the lecturn and leaned forward. "And regardless of your actions, some of you won't be returning home."

As Serhan finished his opening statements, Shokhi did as he was bid, and looked to his left, then his right. Were both of these people going to rape him? No! One of them was going to die! It occurred to Shokhi abruptly that he would probably be the one to die out of the three... he didn't trust his ability as a pilot nearly so much as he trusted that of the rest of his wing. He was visibly distraught, too. Somebody wouldn't return home - and he had the painful suspicion he was the one Serhan was referring to when he said 'some of you.'

Malik was all smiles though, giving thumbs up to Shokhi and the guy next to himself, and then to Zus and Reovan behind him, and then to the pilots infront of him. "We're wingmates, right? And that pretty much makes us like family. No, closer than family! We're wingmates, siblings forged in blood and flesh, or something like that! I'll do my best to look out for each and every person I fly with!"

Akjit listened to what Malik said, and since he was the least credible of the pilots, 'Oh right! That's why I drew him suffering!' he mostly dismissed it by looking a way, and towards Sehran instead. Still, the words 'We're Wingmates! We're Wingmates! We're Wingmates!' echoed in his head. Why?

Mridula simply stood and listened. When everyone else looked left and right, she watched them - she wondered, like he did, which of them would die and which would live. She wondered if she would die, hoping, of course, that she would survive - at least long enough to have another of Ediz's BEST kebabs. She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the wall, drumming her fingers, wishing that the loud bald man would stop gesturing so emphatically.

Serhan clenched his teeth slightly, and squeezed the muscles in his arm until his knuckles made an audible 'pop.' A small smile graced his mouth, and his gaze immediately levelled itself at Malik. "Every one of you should do just that. Become closer than family and learn to work together better than the hunting Neesh." Despite his prejudices against his least reliable frame runner, he had a genuine reason to praise him.

He was right.

The officer's smile faded briefly, as he continued. "But understand, those bonds might be broken if one of you were to die. You'll lose comrades and feel that crushing pain of loss, but instead of sinking into despair, embrace each other even stronger for that reason. You might all avoid turning into the burned-out husks that High Command gives high praise and ranks as field officers." Serhan's voice nearly became sardonic as he said this, wavering only for a second before it became his more formal near-monotone. He let out a deep breath, and slammed his other hand onto the lectern. "That said, let's speak of the mission, and cease discussion on this messy business of death."

And he was right. The guy who stole a VANDR and got sent away and all that stuff was right. It was just like what Akjit's father said, 'Just because a thief tells you not to steal, doesn't mean you shouldn't listen. Good advice comes from the most unlikely places.' The young frame runner nodded to himself as he thought over that tidbit. It was a bit confusing, but he was certain that with enough thought or experience, he'd have a better handle on what it meant. And then Akjit's eyes followed Sehran's hand, and hopped up a little as it slammed down into the lecturn.

Closer than family. Malik had said it, then Serhan had repeated it. Shokhi didn't really know what that MEANT, though. He wasn't exactly on close terms with his family, why would being closer to his wingmates really mean anything? Shokhi couldn't think of anybody he was 'close' to. His social life consisted of occasionally being dragged into conversations by Zalus, Malik, Savitar, and that one time Reovan. Still, he asked a question... "Is the mission... likely to kill somebody?" What? He was too young and far too introverted and bookish to die! And Serhan had just spoken in so much depth about DEATH and DESPAIR and LOSS! What was he supposed to be thinking about?

Mridula had been mulling over the thought of her own death for a few minutes now, and had come to a simple conclusion: she wasn't going to die. If she died, her parents would have only one daughter. If she died, her other half would float, lost, through the rest of her life. If she died, then the NI in Ediz's cart would probably choke him to death. She resolved, right then and there, to stay alive.

Zalus cracked his neck and smiled. He knew what the stakes were whenever he went out, and he knew he had some close calls as well, but he had no intention of dying anytime soon. The wing was filled with some goofballs but in general, they were decent pilots that Zalus could trust to cover his back. Zalus raised his hand and asked the commander: "But sir, I thought we were immortal. At least that's the impression I recieved from the recruiter when I joined up."

Malik raised his hand, one thing on his mind now. "Marranr Nejem, sir! I've heard rumors of a new model VANDR, and I have to ask.Do they really exist, and are we going to use them on this operation, sir?" Even though Malik's all expenses paid "vacation" and the events leading up to that had matured him a bit, he was still, deep down, the same VANDR fanboy he always was.

"Vaybalri Rashidan, Ka'salm. I suggest you quiet yourselves." Serhan said, gently biting the side of his tongue as he attempted to avoid cursing the two men out during the briefing and waste valuable time he'd rather spend speaking to his daughter while they were still in radio range. "This briefing will proceed to order, in accordance with regulations."

"The first order of business is the status of this wing. Some of you served under other wings on planetary and orbital garrisons. Most of you have not seen combat, while others were survivors of the incident over the Capital. For any number of reasons, the name of a small, understaffed wing from Mazerin took precedence, with its commander in charge of a large and diverse group of frame runners." The officer felt the need to use diplomatic language in his speaking, hoping to avoid disaster and earn himself the enmity of his troops so early in the campaign. "You will be divided into six standard squadrons, so be sure to read up on your postings after briefing to know your assignments. I've carefully read though evaluations from all of your previous executive officers and only separated old wingmates if there were indications of conflicts between members."

"Together, you number a hundred and sixty four. You are Bahram Wing."

Malik sat up in his seat, heart swelling with pride as he smiled, eyes twinkling with awe at his commander.

Zalus looked around the room and finally realized just how many people were in it. "Looks like the next time we get ambushed they're going to need a bigger force..." He said under his breath.

"Well, the first order of business is introducing some of our supporting staff. You'll become quite familiar with the Vaytulris Mridula Ituri Osei, our Solanii Liason, and Alia Jyotsna, the Chief Mechanist for our flight deck." Serhan gestured to the two women, and gave a small nod when they acknowledged. He'd been somewhat familiar with the latter of the two, but the former was something of a mystery, an unknown person the Wing had rescued under circumstances he did not pretend to enjoy. Which made her addition slightly suspicious, but seemed to give a slight reassurance. Solan only rarely dispatched crew, unless they had something to gain by doing so or had failed to make their quota on science personnel for the Vanguard.

Mridula raised her hand and waved from her position in the back of the room. "For those of you following along at home, that means if you suck up to me I can get you really neat guns." She smirked and crossed her arms again, trying to keep the despondent expression off her face now that people were actually looking.

"Crap! Alia is the Chief Mechanist. Again. If she hears what happened during the incident, she'll probably try to keep me from touching a VANDR at all! But Mridula seems pretty cool, especially if she can get me new equipment for my VANDR." A look of worry apeared on Malik's face, but it was hidden by a smile as the implications of Mridula's presence floated around in his head.

"Vaytulri Osei will now be taking the stand to give you a short overview of the two new, cutting-edge, unit types that the Astarte is carrying. Part of her joint contract with the Vanguard and Solan will involve the tuning and recording of the performance for these new unit types." Serhan gestured to the smooth plas wall behind him, which shifted color and became a display screen with a pair of gaunt, biomechanical humanoid figures on it.

"Meanwhile, I am serious about the VANDR you all will be using," Alia said. "Sucking up to me won't win favor or even change queue positions on repair manifests." She spared Malik a steely glance. "I expect all of you to be good to your frames and I'll be good to you. Be an idiot out there and I will make sure you hear it."

Mridula balked. She had figured she would have to say a few words, but she hadn't expected to have to give an actual presentation on the RAEVR and the Erla VANDR II. She rubbed a hand over her head, a few hairs springing from the tight bun she usually wore. The time when Alia was speaking was used to carefully compose herself and regain her slightly superiorly-amused expression; when the other woman was finished speaking, she smoothed out any lingering wrinkles in her uniform and stepped through the ready room to the front.

Malik somehow managed to almost ignore Alia completely, his sheer glee over the TWO new VANDRs almost audible. And probably visible too. But it didn't matter to him. There were two new kinds of VANDR available, and this made Malik one very happy boy.

Once Mridula had taken the podium from Serhan, she produced her data pad from wherever she kept it tucked away and brought up some schematics, just in case she forgot what she'd been learning.

"We'll start with the Erla VANDR II," she said, projecting her voice loud enough for everyone to hear easily. Her eyes swept over the crowd, and a smile tugged at her lips. "As you might expect, it's a refinement of the original Erla VANDR. However." She pressed her fingertips onto the podium. "It isn't a simple 'better' version. The Erla VANDR II is the predecessor to even greater things - things which are already in development, in fact, and which I'm sure you'll see later. For this reason, the II was only distributed in limited numbers." Her long fingers tapped at her datapad like a sea bird's feet toddling over the sands; subsequently, numerical distribution figures were added to the diagram of the Erla VANDR II behind her.

"You - we - are one of the lucky few to be issued some." She gestured back to the diagram. "Specifically, around eighty. Obviously this means not all of you will be piloting one." The biologist paused to let this sink in, taking up her datapad in one hand and tapping it thoughtfully against her lips.

"I know one who isn't getting one." Alia muttered from her seat.

'Not me.' Akjit thought.

"Woohoo! I can't wait to pilot one!" Malik rejoiced.

"The EVII features much of the same maneuvering and propulsion equipment as the original model - you'll all still be swimming about like minecarp." She grinned. "This is actually more useful than it was on the EVI, since it'll allow you to change position quickly. The EVII is equipped with rapid charged particle accelerator cannons, which are longer range than the light particle cannons on the previous model. It also has less missiles, but the loss of those is balanced out by more long-range laser cannons. So you won't be doing as much up close and personal combat - in fact you shouldn't, since most of the electronic warfare equipment is gone, so you won't be able to disable an enemy that gets in too close.

There's a new system that should prevent you from being completely annihilated in close combat, though - the Advanced Blade System, which is, in short, a really big sword with a cannon on it. The EVII is also equipped with a VT sword. All in all, the EVII is much improved from the original, but if you try to use it in the same way, you'll get yourself blown up." She stopped again to catch her breath and give the others time to digest the info-dump.

'Don't get confrontational like my dad after a few drinks. Got it.' The young frame runner thought. 'Hmm. I wonder if she could use one? Her throat must be dry...'

"Not to interrupt, but weapons loadouts aren't really necessary for the breifing at the moment ma'am." Alia piped up after she woke from her slight trance due to the droning nature of the weapons description. "Just the bare facts, the specalities can be talked about later I think."

Mridula narrowed her grey eyes at Alia. "Marranr Nejem asked me to give an overview, but if my descriptions are so soporific then I'll limit myself a bit." She gestured at her datapad again; the diagram of the EVII vanished along with its data to make room for the growing one of the Raevr VANDR, which began to rotate gently.

"The Raevr has a long and boring history involving Solanii politics that I'm sure none of you want to hear, but I'd be absolutely overjoyed to elaborate on it a bit if any of you feel the need to contact me privately. Suffice it to say that it is a transforming frame with much the same armaments as the Erla VANDR II, except with more missiles. It's got racks here and here - " she gestured to points on the back and sides of the rotating models - "where more weapons modules can be mounted. Blah, blah, air support, disabling enemy emplacements - ah!" A flicker on her rapidly-scrolling datapad drew her eye. "The Raevr is also equipped with a new technology called the VecTran Node System or VNS. There's a lot of complicated science behind it, but in short what it does is it holds a bunch of missiles in a kind of spatial pocket, to be released in whatever numbers you like whenever you like, without the complexity of actually having to fire them." Mridula nodded.

"...as for numbers, we have about another eighty of these, also meaning most of you won't use one. Between the EVII and the Raevr, there are enough frames for everyone. If you happen to blow yours up, there are four Erla VANDR Is left onboard. If you manage to blow up one of our shiny new toys, then I'm not sure you'll fare any better in one of the old ones, so don't." She tapped at her datapad again, closing the display behind her. "Any questions?"

Alia perked up at the mention of a spatial pocket technology. "Can I have the technical data for the VNS system forwarded to my workstation? This intrigues me."

"Righto." The Ivuori's fingers danced across her datapad as she sent the specified data to Alia right away. "Sent. Should be there whenever you get back to your terminal."

"Oh yes. I like this Mridula." Malik smiled, practically beaming at both the new mecha, and Mridula's retort to the monster of the Hangar.

"I know that idiot will want to sortie in both of these things." Alia thought. "I need to convince Serhan to ground Malik's destructive ass as soon as I can."

Serhan gently wiped a very small tear from the corner of his eye and pushed his glasses up, nodding to Mridula in acknowledgment for her efforts. "Thank you for the information. In addition to these new units, the ship will also be stocked with MACD modules for battlefield support and have a fabrication bay for manufacturing small-scale replacement components."

Mridula grinned out at the crowd, nodding in return to Serhan and acknowledging his acknowledgment. She cocked her hips to the side and crossed her arms again. "...what, no questions about the RCPA cannons? I helped design those, you know!"

Akjit didn't know why, but he had the sudden urge to ask Mridula to stand in front of one of the new models for him to sketch. Or, better yet, get started immediately. His pencil started to work furiously to take down as much information on the other Ivuori so he'd have something to work with later when she wasn't around. Hopefully, they'd all think he was taking notes. 'Where am I going to put her? Will she be standing on the Frame's shoulder? Or by its foot? What will she be wearing? Hmm... Akjit sniffed back a speck of blood in his nose. Perhaps. Just perhaps, this would be his finest work yet.

"Well that was kinda boring... But it's nice to know that I'm going to be getting a nice toy to play with. I do hope I'll be getting the one with the missiles... whatever it was called. I'd rather like to keep the ability to dance with my enemy." Zalus thought to himself.

"I'd just prefer the EV 2, please. I don't know, but it seems to fit me." Malik was still smiling, wondering what the EV2 would be like to pilot. If he got one.

"You're not assigned the frame here, idiot." Alia retorted.

"Marranr? Can you confirm or deny the Chief Mechanist?" Malik asked the older runner, honestly worried that he wouldn't be able to use one.

"Speak to me in private at a later date. I think it deserves some discussion, but this isn't the time." Serhan gave his reply with a lightly distant manner, placing his hand over his throat as he cleared his throat. "You may return to your seat now, Vaytulri Osei." The officer said to the liaison, gently giving her a tap on the shoulder.

Akjit noted Malik and Alia fighting a little. He didn't like fighting. But he did love how he was getting so much material to draw! He turned a few pages to make sure there was room for Mridula and the new frames, and quickly drew cute little cartoon versions of the two quarreling frame runners; standing between them were two mini-VANDRs the size of toys fighting furiously. The two rooted for their own mini-VANDRs and victory.

"Yes, Marranr Nejem." The liaison nodded to Serhan, then smirked as her hand snaked up to tap him on the shoulder as well. She strode through the briefing room again to take up her spot by the door, this time looking more comfortable as she leaned on the wall.

Serhan made a small frown when she returned his tap, but otherwise found it mildly amusing that she was genuinely unafraid to do something like that during a briefing. Most of the people who acted with irreverence only did so because they had no understanding of proceedure. "With that out the way, I'll begin on what the Commonwealth government has outlined as our primary enemy for this campaign." He gestured to the screen behind him, which switched to a split-screen of battle recordings, fragmented scans and insignias recovered from recovered units. "The enemy is a rogue nation known as the New Veyrin Republic, a country which declared independance ten years ago and was pacified and reclaimed by the Astral Vanguard."

"But for an unknown reason, by means that remain unknown, they've returned. Our first mission will be to gather intelligence of the new NVR homeworld and understand how they've acquired such immense production capabilities."
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Malik raised his hand again, hoping he wasn't interrupting. "Sir, I thought that all of the inhabited worlds in the Iruotl system are under Commonwealth control? Does this mean the NVR are using a dwarf planet in the outer system as their new base of operations?"

Serhan made a quiet grunt, clearing his throat. Malik seemed to have a penchant for asking that sort of question that had him giving important explanations, even if the runner himself was probably rather clueless as to the implications of what he was asking. "They do not have any holdings on the edge of the system, nor any in the small gas cloud that extends much of the way beyond it. I believe you have enough of a mind to know what this implies." The officer answered calmly, wondering if any of his subordinates would immediately latch on to the answer that had been presented alongside the question.

Mridula spoke up from her position by the door, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "So you're saying they have planets in the inner system, Marranr Nejem?"

The Marranr shook his head. "Were it that easy, we would have discovered their headquarters already."

"Sir, does this mean that we will encounter more of the enemy units, namely the one with four arms, on this campaign? I know that I'm not exactly an expert on them, but I can offer first hand experience on fighting that model, Sir."

Shokhi wrinkled his nose and, after a moment's hesitation, offered a comment. Yes, the world is going to end. "I believe the Marranr is saying we do not know precisely what to expect out of this campaign."

"...right, right, I knew that." The biologist looked slightly embarrassed as she dragged a hand down over her face before pushing her glasses back up her nose with one long finger.

Akjit was mostly distracted by his drawings, the finishing touches going into the Malik vs. Alia Mini-VANDR fight; fortunately, the most recent details were enough to have him stop scribbling. With hesitance he asked, "Uh, so we don't know where these guys are at, and how they're getting stuff? What if someone was giving them it all? You know, traitors?"

Serhan nodded to the theories of his subordinates, but still did not receive the exact answer he was looking for. "While there are suspicions of sympathizers in the military, and terrorist cells cooperating with the NVR, it has become well understood that their military and industrial capacity has been moved to a site somewhere beyond the system." He continued, feeling that he should probably not waste any more time. "Based on information garnered from salvaged computer cores, datapads and drone NI cores, military intelligence has relayed to us its suspicions that there is probably a large, well-defended area where the NVR remnant is amassing their forces for another all-out attack on the Homesystem."

"I suspect that the majority of you now understand the nature of this posting, and that it is not a simple patrol or seek and destroy mission, and that it may be months before we discover the location of their homeworld. The Erla Miraiv is tied up exploring systems towards the Nebular Cluster, while the Haidan attempts to maintain a panicked defense of the Core Worlds. The Astarte Battlegroup is literally all the Graiv can spare right now."

A small map of the cluster of stars around Iruotl came up on the viewscreen, with a number of stars surrounded in red circles. "We have detected trace emissions similar to those generated by the Soono Carriers faced over the Capital in these solar systems. The first we will be visiting is the closest to the Blue Rift Expanse, and has no history of attempted colonization." Serhan tapped the star neighboring a large wave-like gash set on the side of the starmap. "Intelligence has explained we will probably encounter a token force of bandits using antiquated weapons, but stay on your toes. Massed firepower can easily bring down any one of this wing. "

"That said, are there any questions?"

Malik raised his hand, again. "Sir, I don't mean to be insubordinate, but from what I've seen of the forces we've encountered so far, underestimating our opponents is not a good idea. It took two VANDRS to kill one of their four armed frames, and we had to lose one of them to do it. I would like permission, sir, to work with Vaytulri Osei, the wing's mechanists, and my wingmates to find a counter to whatever the NVR pulls out of its ass to try and kill us with."

"I think you should probably ask me before you start volunteering me for a project, Vaybalri. What exactly do you presume you'll be working on?" Her fingers tapped at her chin as she eyed Malik. "And will any of this interfere with anyone's duties?"

"I would also object to this," Alia said as Malik ignored the fact that he asked to work with the mechanics, when he is not one. "A detailed account and any readings, scans or other information is required. I don't want you distracting my workers, Malik."

"Sir I would also like to point out that on the carrier I scouted there was docking for two of the large Frames. I'm certain that our new and improved frames will give us a better shot at them but I just would like to voice a warning to those who haven't read the report, Sir. " Zalus offered after raising his hand. "Also it took three VANDR to kill the one we faced in combat. Even though I would have been able to make due on my own..." Adding the last part jokingly.

'They want to attack the home system? That seems rather stupid. What kind of objective would be fulfilled by doing that? The allegiance of our other worlds won't be gained that way. It'd just be chaos.' Akjit thought. It was approximately 8 years ago, so he was definitely missing something. "S-sir. What are their goals exactly? I wasn't, um, old enough to appreciate the gravity of the situation 8 years ago."

Questions. Shokhi had enough to spill out over the sides, but that would have required him to actually ask them, and that was something that was very difficult for him to do. What sort of person would ask questions to gain knowledge? That was what reading books is for! He did pay a good deal of attention to Zalus' commentary, though. Shokhi wasn't likely to underestimate anyone anyway, but he had a certain respect for Zalus' skill.

Aside from Akjit, none of them really seemed to have any questions, making the situation slightly more annoying than it had to be. Serhan adjusted his glasses, the golden rim of his orange lenses managing to hide bottom of his brow as he frowned. "That is not a question I can answer, Vaybalri Chirimar." He cleared his throat and began for the door. "Since there clearly aren't any more questions, I'll be taking my leave from this session of briefing. You're all dismissed."

" Remember to review your squadron postings on the local OGNEIR.net node, and be at the Simulation Bay at 21:00 today."
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
16:34, Commonwealth Standard Time

With the stresses of the briefing past, the members of Bahram Wing could enjoy a few moments rest in the intermittent hours between the briefing and whatever grueling combat simulation their XO had prepared. The majority of the crewmen either went off to the mess hall or recreation rooms to fill up or work out their worries, with a few more drifted off to their assigned quarters for a much-needed rest. With sudden warnings of imminent death and the exposition of new tools of war, the atmosphere was a little tense, with most of the new wing members only talking to people they had already known from previous assignments.

Serhan wasn't anywhere to be found in the crowds of runners and maintenance staff plying the halls, having either run off to the wardroom or left to prepare for the simulations he called for earier.

An aggravating hunger fueled the belly of Mu'Tasim as he strolled into the mess hall, ever since his recovery and recent enhancements, he had gained a greater hunger than before. He looked among most of the people already there, none of which he recognized. The brief scan left him feeling a tad empty, as had yet to see any of his old wingmates. Though, for him, that was beside the point as his hunger arose again. He walked up to the small grazing area and picked up a small plate, look to see what he could pick and place to satisfy his stomach.

Malik groaned, making his way to the mess hall on his own, hoping to see one or two familiar faces there. While he had met most of his wingmates either at or on the way to the briefing, he still hadn't seen Mu'Tasim or Khiyai. This fact kinda sorta dissapointed the runner, he still looked up to Mu'Tasim, and felt a bit guilty for causing him to get shot down. Khiyai, on the other hand.... Well, Malik still had fond feelings for the mechanist, and had hoped that she would've been assigned to the Astarte along with the rest of the old wing. Sighing and shaking his head, Malik scanned the mess hall for any familiar faces, his eyes perking up as he saw Mu'Tasim's trademark beard. Beaming with an ear to ear grin, the cohronl made his way over to his role model. "Vaytulri Farouk! Mu'Tasim!"

Akjit didn't know where else to do, or go for that matter, so he quickly scurried behind Malik, hoping to get something to snack on while he finished up with the drawings he took during the briefing. They were coloring up quite well, and the bloody gore was coming along splendidly. 'Bloody gore...' he thought. 'Hmm. Red jello it is.' The young Ivouri quickly got a small cup and began to spoon himself some helpings of the jiggly sweet stuffs. 'I got plenty to draw, but there's more important thigns going on too. What are their motives? And who can I ask for advice and stuff for piloting frames?' he thought slowly; a single spoonful of red jello jiggled as he thought before vanishing in a single "Nom!" that left him satisfied. 'I think Malik killed an enemy ace when he was fighting, and Mu'Tasim is supposed to be one of the best too. I'll hang nearby first.' He edged closer to the two and listened in intently.

Mridula snappily walked down the hall to the mess, dressed, as usual when she was off-duty, in her lab coat, turtleneck, and black slacks. She had her datapad in one hand but didn't seem particularly interested in it - even less so as her stomach grumbled loudly and she put a hand over it. She spotted Akjit and Malik, but wasn't quite quick enough to catch up with them before they entered the mess, so she just stepped up behind them and Mu'Tasim at her own pace. "'lo there."

Mu'Tasim's robed frame turned, with a plate in hand as he heard his name called, as he did, instantly recognized the firey-orange haired pilot he had counseled and flown with before. The Temple Guard donned a gracious smile to the him.

"Rashidan! It's good to see you again!" Mu'Tasim spoke warmly, his hunger still scratching at him. His eyes simply trailed up to Mridula, unsure if she was just speaking to him, or the pilot he had just greeted.

Akjit watched as the three greeted one another, and was curious as to what would happen next. 'Will I ever find an appropriate time to say hi?' He wondered. 'Screw this. I can do it, I can do, it....' Akjit's chest started to heave, his breathing speeding up, and just as it seemed he was about to yell from the top of his lungs, he spoke meekly, "Hi guys."

In response to his look, Mridula waggled her fingers at him and offered a rakish grin.

Malik's grin became wider, if it was possible, the tall runner saluting. "It's an honor to be serving with you again, Sir!" The Runner dropped his salute, his grin still there. "I'm sorry for not being around for the past few months, sir." Malik stepped back, putting an arm around Akjit's shoulders and pulling him up. "This is Akjit Chirimar, sir. New pilot. He joined the wing after that debacle over the capital." He then pointed, with his other finger, to Mridula. "And this is Mridula Ituri Osei. She's from Solan."

The Temple Guard addressed Mridula warmly as she waved at him, and then to Akjit as he addressed himself. Though, he left it to Malik to introduce the two to him and when he had finally given their names he bowed his head solemnly to Mridula.

"Osei," He greeted respectfully, and then nodded his head in the same fashion to Akjit, "Chirimar. It is a pleasure to meet the both of you! I am Mu'Tasim Farouk."

"Nice to meet you, too, Farouk." Mridula nodded to him, then batted at Malik's arm around Akjit's shoulders, trying to dislodge it. "...don't terrorize the poor kid."

"It's, it's nice to meet you too Mu'Tasim, sir." he forced the words out. "Out of curiosity, um, would you be able to teach us a few things on piloting? I'm a little nervous from that briefing and all. But, that's only if you got time, I mean, you don't need to go out of your way or anything." Akjit nervously spoke. 'I hope he does teach us some cool move or something...I'm not going to join my old friends yet!'

Malik laughed as Mridula batted his arm away from Akjit, then at the shyer pilot's request. "Hey, Akjit, I'm totally sure that Mu'Tasim would be glad to help you, he did for me. And even if he doesn't, I'll be able to show you a few tricks for taking the enemy with you if you get shot down. And surviving that."

"Now now." Mu'Tasim spoke modestly, "I don't think I'm quite that experienced per se. To be honest, Fort Jarizas was my first active duty with a VANDR, before then, I only trained with other Temple Guard."

"You were still better than anyone else in the wing, barring Serhan. Of course, it probably isn't that hard to be better than someone like me, Sir." Malik continued to smile, scratching his horns as he blushed in embarrassment. "Have you been given a promotion yet, Sir?"

A sour grimace fell on Mu'Tasim's face, showing that he had not, but he decided to clarify anyway.

"I don't believe they hand out promotions for recovering from surgeries and radiation poisoning." He said with less enthusiasm.

"Last time I checked, they shouldn't hand out multi-rank promotions for getting shot down repeatedly, getting sick, stealing a VANDR, using it on a suicide attack to kill an enemy ace, and then spending four months in a prison. But they still gave me one, sir. It's Vaybalri Rashidan, sir. And to be frank, You deserve that promotion more than I do."

"Oooooo." Akjit whispered to himself. Though what the two were talking about was less than glamorous, it was all still very impressive. Well, to Akjit anyways. "Wait. What exactly happened to you two? You had to recover from surgery Mu, and you had gotten into prison?! I'm missing out on the stuff here!"D

"I received... er... an upgrade or two, whilst I was disabled. I was also recovering a sharp dose of radiation that I sustained on a previous mission." explained the Temple Guard, gesturing to his left arm with a motion from the plate in his right.

"I also received a dose of that same radiation, but I wasn't content with sitting around. I escaped from Jaburo Station's hospital, stole a VANDR, used that VANDR to destroy 20 Soono, then assist Zalus in destroying an NVR ace in one of their four armed frames. I destroyed my VANDR in the process of doing so, and was sent to a military prison for the past four months. I was assigned here recently, and have found myself promoted to Vaybalri." Malik shrugged, and smiled at his companions. "So yeah."


Lamya sat in the recreation room, partaking of the hookah while sitting on a rather large pillow. She was lounging and relaxing. She was still quite tense as she was a raw recruit. As she inhaled the flavored tobacco smoke she let her eyes idly wander across the other faces, picking out ones that looked like interesting people.

Zalus walked into the rec-room taking a drink from his flask and took a look around. He was looking forward to resting for a little while before he might be forced into any unpleasant duties. He scratched the back of his head and took a seat at the bar. He looked up at a near-by monitor that was turned on to Astral News Distribution.

Lamya's animalistic eyes drifted to Zalus taking note of his short white hair, and general muscular build. After thinking a moment she leveraged herself off of the pillow. She walked over towards him, sashaying slightly as she moved. She was half dancing. "Hello," she said to him as she approached. She laid her hand gently on his shoulder "I'm Vayshirin Lamya Nagi... I'm new here. Who might you be?"

Zalus turned around and found himself looking directly eye level into a woman's chest. He looked up at the woman who had just introduced herself and smiled. "Well my dear, as of just a short while ago, I'm Marbalri Zalus Ka'salm. How may I be able to help such a lovely lady as you?"

Lamya snorted loudly. "Flattery" she said slightly derisively. "Well, I was looking for someone to talk to for a bit. You're a VANDR pilot yes? I'm a Starship Operator." She pointed to her patch. "I feel I should get to know the people who I fly around, and who protect the ship" She offered Zalus a warm smile. "Tell me a little about yourself?" she asked.

"Well my dear, I am in fact a pilot. I have 11 confirmed Soono kills and I am a very good dancer. How about you? Zalus said while shifting slightly and looking up at the woman that was a good foot taller than himself. He then took another swig from his flask as he listened to the woman.

"I'm afraid nothing near as impressive" she said "I am a raw newbie from the academy, and I was assigned to this ship at near the last minute. However, I too, dance. Shall we take advantage of this similarity in skills?" She grinned at Zalus, running her hand gently down his arm to his hand, and lightly grasping it, then giving a subtle tug.

"Well I can't turn down a chance to dance. Never get the chance to dance with someone who isn't actively trying to kill me!" Zalus put away his flask and stood up. He then led Lamya to the dance floor but had pulled himself closer and placed his hand on the small of her back. He cracked his neck and smiled up at the tall woman. "Well what kind of dance would you care for?"

"I've always been preferential to waltzes" she said. "Salsa is also fun. And there's Kathak but that's a one person dance... I'm in the mood for salsa I think" She leads him to the small dance floor in the rec-room, and makes a music selection, then takes the shorter man in a somewhat dominating grip, and she takes the lead as the castanets begin to sound.

She stormed aggressively up and down the floor with him, twirling him, and bending him over her knee in very aggressive salsa dancing. As the song wound to an end she planted a kiss on his lips, then laughed. "Fun, eh?"

"I'd say yes to both!" Zalus let out a small laugh. "Well Lamya, what would you like to do next? I'm thinking of a waltz?" Zalus took the lead of the dance and started a waltz. The frame runner liked the slower speed and delicacy of the movements involved in the dance, feeling very relaxed and fluid in his movements as they finished the dance.

Lamya's grin was wolfish at the end of the dance. "Yes" she remarked with a calmness not reflected on her face "It was rather quite fun. I especially liked that little step you did there," she imitated the footing of a rather complex step Zalus had performed. "Where did you learn that one?" she asked "Also, this dancing's making me a bit thirsty. Shall we both grab a drink?"

"back home dancing was a big part of our lives because of it's relaxing nature and also for exersize on the cramped airships. Also a drink sounds lovely!" Zalus led Lamya over to the bar and ordered a orange juice. He was still technically on duty so he wasn't going to get drunk just in case. "So what will you be having lovely?"

"Flattery again" Lamya says "I think I would like some guarmellon juice," she ordered. "Very refreshing," then started sipping at it leaning back in her chair to watch Zalus "Why did you join?" she asked curiously, as she sipped on her drink, eyes running up and down the other man curiously picking out his engravings and searching for scars.

"Well I joined the guard because I've always liked the pictures from off-world and always had the wish to travel space and visit where ever I could and find adventure where-ever possible." Zalus took another drink and noticed her study of him. "Well what about you? Why did you join up?"

"Similar reason" Lamya said "Couldn't just sit still, you know? I wanted to explore." She thought a moment, sipping at her guarmellon juice, then she ordered some olives as finger food, sliding the plate between her and Zalus, then grabbing a small black olive and popping it into her mouth, spitting the pit uncouthly onto the counter, a very unladylike gesture.

Zalus ate an olive and tossed the pit back onto the plate and looked around the room. "Well my dear, Is there anything else you might be interested in doing today besides lounge around in here? Maybe we could go get something to eat or find funner things to do elsewhere?"

Lamya laughed "Oh my, are you propositioning me? What scandal!" She placed her hand gently on Zalus' knee "Oh, not that it isn't a tempting proposition but..." Her stomach growled loudly "And I hardly know you well enough for that" she giggled "I do suppose olives are a bit too little. Let's head to the mess hall" she gently wrapped her hand teasingly around his waist, sashaying out of the rec-room.


"... Idiot!" Malik heard a voice pop up from behind him, that of a girl that might pass for a few years older or younger than his own. It was stressed and worried, and perhaps just a bit angry at him "Do you have any idea how worried I was!?"

After the young woman spoke up, Akjit couldn't help but express his total awe. "...Cool. This is all sounds like something coming out of one of those space operas I watch from time to time back at home." Akjit spoke to no one in particular. "I like it! Mridula, is it always this awesome?"

"What? No! If it's that awesome you're doing something wrong." She cuffed Akjit very lightly on the back of the head. "...and I'll make you pay for any VANDRs you blow up!"

A short chuckle escaped Mu'Tasim lips as he saw Mridula berate Akjit for admiring Malik's antics. Akjit seemed to be a shy sort, but apparently had somewhat of a romanticized view of the memories Malik and himself had shared.

"Well," He addressed to Mridula, "To make it clear, you're acting as a representative of the Solanii"

"Yeah." Mridula nodded at Mu'Tasim. "I was in the elevator when it was attacked, along with Mareyn."

Malik quickly spun around, and caught the grey-haired Cohronl girl in a hug, a slight bush on his face as he smiled contentedly. "I'm sorry, Khiyai. I thought that you would've known about what happened." He paused, his blush growing slightly larger. "I, I didn't want to make you come and visit me, while I was in prison. I missed you too, Khiyai."

"O-Oh. I didn't know that. I was just saying that the way Malik said it made it sound awesome. That's all. Um. What do you remember happening during the attack Mridula?" Akjit asked. He was out for most of the event anyways, and by the time he was ready to hop into a Civilain model VANDR, it was already over.

"...I don't remember a whole lot. There was screaming, and Mareyn and I were holding on to each other, and then there was a lot of bright light and somehow we both made it to a life pod. Then you guys showed up." The biologist shrugged. "...I don't much like to remember it."

"Indeed, we should leave the past behind us when comes to such events." Mu'Tasim nods, "Ruh tells us if there is nothing to learn from it, do not remember it. It is a waste to remember those things that do not benefit you."

"You know that I really don't care about those things! It's not as if I'd want to abandon you... even if you did something stupid and almost got yourself killed." Khiyai seemed to be rather flush, not a light blush of embarassment or coyly teasing him. She was angry, and tearing up, but just enough for the corners of her eyes to water a little. "I didn't ask for you to protect me from yourself, or some herdtitan dung like that!"

She turned her back to him, and let out a loud sigh of relief. "Still... you seem to be doing well."

"Khiyai." Malik placed a hand on her shoulder, turning her around to face him and kissing her softly, smiling at her as he clapsed his hands over hers. "I was wrong, to hurt you in that way. But you're really important to me Khiyai. I've had a lot of time to think over these past few months, and I couldn't stop thinking about you. I want to do all I can now to make up for abandoning you."

Akjit winced as he remembered the part of the shuttle in front of him being torn apart, along with the people who were there. In reality, romanticizing such terrible events was instinctive of most peoples, both to defend oneself from the horror, and to bolster support for the state. For Akjit, it wasn't any different. He turned to Mu after he spoke. "Yeah, you're right Mu'Tasim. I'll try and forget it too. Thanks guys." At that, the young man turned around a little as he overheard the lively conversation between Malik and 'Khiyai'. Akjit blushed a little.

Mu'Tasim looked down at his food, which was slowly beginning to cool as he stood and chatted with his newfound and old friends. His hunger was brought back into the light and he nodded to everyone present.

"Excuse me, but I'm going to go find a place to sit." Mu'Tasim said, breaking away from the small group.

Mridula's eyes had gone a little distant as she remembered what had happened on the day of the attack. She seemed to be staring off at nothing in particular.

Akjit got some more jello to make up for the amount that he had eaten while standing up, following after Mu'Tasim. However, when he didn't notice the Biologist's footsteps behind him, he turned around and saw her. It was as though she were looking at something a thousand miles away. The young Ivouri brought the red jello up to her eye level and jiggled it. "Um. I think. It's best not to think about that...I think." He spoke, guessing at what she was thinking and hoping he was right.

"...oh... right. Right. Sorry." Mridula rubbed at her eyes and sighed. "I'll be there in a second, okay?" She slipped off to the counters and fetched herself a plateful of kafta and a glass of water, bringing her food back to the table Mu'Tasim had chosen.

Khiyai nodded when Malik spoke, but pulled away from him when he attempted to embrace her. "You're still an idiot, and you definitely need to make it up to me," she said in a perfectly contrite tone, placing her hands against her hips. "But take it easy, okay? Reinforcements exist for when you can't fight anymore, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to die."

"Heeeeeey~ !" Another figure of pale skin and light gray hair fell onto Khiya's shoulders, causing the mechanist's knees to buckle a little as she was attacked. Khiyai's longtime friend, Anik Vadranno, no less. "Khiyai, who's the new stud?" She said with a grin, gentle nudging her best friend in the side.

"... Anik. It's me. Malik." The runner piped up, glaring at Anik. "Do I really look that different with shorter hair? Are there that many people with my exact height, my hair color, and my skin tone?" The cohronl sighed, shaking his head.

Joyfully, Mu'Tasim partook of his meal, satisfying the pangs of his starvation. He would never figure out why, but he always became hungry before missions, always needing something to bite on before going into a fight, even something like a simulation. As he ate, he gave Mridula a considerate glance, and then shifted his eyes to Akjit for a moment. Though a Temple Guard, and trained intensely in inspiring others and diplomacy, Mu'Tasim felt little connection with the both of them.

Mridula seemed to give off a few uncomfortable emotions, as Mu'Tasim picked up from being across the table. Akjit reverberated emotions of doubt and nervousness. Even with such information, he could think of nothing to say, and considered his meal a little more.

Anik seemed to leap to Malik's side, grinning widely like a gualmyan that has just swallowed a whole sandrat. "Kehehe. I knew that!" She said brightly, giving Malik a swat on the back. "Man, surprise surprise, they have our platoon as security for the upper areas of the ship. I probably won't see much of you unless you run off to pester my best friend here."

Akjit partook of his sweets, however, it was apparent he was thinking again, the scars on his face taunt in thought. He was being a hypocrite, thinking about what he said he shouldn't think about. 'I still don't get it. What is their agenda? Wait! What if they're the good guys, and we're the bad guys in some sort of horrifying plot twist? Oh no! Wait, no. That can't happen right? Still...why? That question lingers...' the boy thought. He nicked the side of his cheek as he chewed the jello that didn't really need chewing. "Ow!" He sat there for a while, rubbing his wound, before tentatively trying to start the conversation again. He looked at Mridula and Mu"Tasim in thought.

Malik shrugged. "I'm happy to just see everyone again. Spending all that time in the prison really made me miss everyone. Especially Khiyai. Life just wasn't the same without her switching between being sweet and sour." The runner chuckled at his joke, his posture relaxing. He had a few hours before the sim, and he was going to have fun, saints dammit.

Mridula simply ate quietly, relying on the other folk at her table to initiate conversation.

"So. The new ERLA VANDR is a beefed up version of our old one? If that's the case, what's with the RAEVR? I'm a little confused about the role it plays in combat. I mean, it's got lots of missiles, but what are you supposed to do with the frame overall?" He asked the two tentatively.

"Idiot!" Khiyai said, giving the man a stern look, sliding her hands up from her waist to cross her arms. She felt a bit angry at him, for poking fun at her attitude like that when she felt that she had genuine reasons for being worried, and angry. "I was coming to see you... but I guess there's not much point to it. My shift starts again in a few minutes, so I probably won't see you again until we leave orbit." The mechanist made a small sigh, and turned to walk away. "I'll probably see you around later... sir."

"I was just teasing, Khiyai. You're cute always. Unless you're crying." Malik spoke up as she turned to leave.

Anik slung her arm around Malik's shoulder and stroked her pale chin. "So, I see the hunk from Mazerin is back, and you've got some new cuties on the list." She said with a flourish, ruffling Malik's shortened hair a little. Although it seemed like she was being a bit rash to run into another bed, she'd been rather lonely since they'd left Mazerin, with her unit more spread out and running in shifts across the ship. She missed the closeness they could enjoy from running on operations and relaxing together, and felt a little deprived. "So who's the labcoat? The pretty one with the Solan pedigree."

"Ah, Mridula? Yeah, she's one of the people Zus rescued off the elevator. Solan decided to assign her to the wing, I guess." The runner shrugged, shaking his head and trying to escape from Anik's grip. "Why don't we get some food, Anik. I need to know whats been going on since i've been in jail, and why not ask my girlfriend's best friend?"

"From what I understand," said Mu'Tasim, swallowing a bit of his food before hand, "Is that it is a more cost-effect fire support model. It's made for short conflicts, and apparently can..." The Temple Guard tried to find the most appropriate term, but simply settled on, "Transform."

"I...see. If it's for fire support, what's the point of transforming? Does the transformation restrict it's support abilites, or give it other modes of attack?" The Ivouri asked. 'Maybe I should have paid more attention during the briefing.' Akjit thought. The sketch booklet in his pocket seemed to burn with guilt.

"It's so it can increase it's capabilities and adjust to different situations, it's not as good per se as the Erla VANDR, but it is a capable machine. Then again, I believe that the RAEVR is actualy a part of series of new specialized VANDR's, so there are others like it." Mu'Tasim explained to the best of his memory.

"Oh, ok. Well, I think I like the Erla VANDR II more so far. I know it's got some sort of drone bay now right?" He asked. Akjit mentally flipped through his small sketchbook, recalling how the shield doubled as a docking bay of some sort.

"Hey, sure! I could use some food after a rough shift. Just bring me over to that Solanii girl." Anik piped happily, grabbing an empty tray and a few clean plates. Remembering something she'd been meaning to ask about for a while, she seemed to snap to attention and turned to Malik. "And it's not just because's she's kind of cute. I've been trying to get the old KM1s upgraded with some packs we made ourselves, but we've been running into OS issues."

Malik shrugged, making his way through the mess hall to Midrula. "Hey, Mridula. I got a friend who wants to talk to you. She's an AT."

Mridula leaned back in her chair in surprise, snapped out of her daze. There was a bit of kafta smeared over her mouth, and she wiped at it with a paper napkin, blushing. "Uh? You want me to go over there, or are you going to bring her?"

"Yeah, she wanted me to bring you over. She wants to talk to you about the VAHINs." Malik smiled at Mridula, offering her his hand up, "Your blush is actually pretty cute. So lets get going, alright?"

Mridula took the hand and stood, though she rolled her eyes at Malik's compliment. "Thanks, kid." She started over towards where she'd seen the frame runner come from, looking for anyone that looked like an armored trooper.

Anik had finally finished piling up her food, with a tray loaded up with vegetables and starches, with a scant skewer of kebabs on the edge of her plate. A trio of plas drinking packs filled with a translucent purple fluid and what appeared to be a large hunting knife en lieu of a more conventional piece of cuttlery.

Zalus walked into the messhall along with the extraordinarily tall Lamya and looked around the room trying to find his friends. He caught sight of Malik and Mu'Tasim and waved. "Let's to say hello to a few of my friends."

"Sure" Lamya said with a grin, bending to kiss Zalus' forehead "Hiiiii!" She shouted, waving her arm energeticaly at the group. Her whole body waved comicaly with each ungainly swing of her arm, like a counterweight to a clock.

Zus appeared, practically out of nowhere, and answered Akjit's question about the VANDR II "It indeed has drones, and the weapons are set up more effectively, But I like the Raevr better, because of its extended amount of missiles and the tactical advantages of being able to tansform." The Blonde pushed her short hair around a little, looking at the people nearest Akjit, which happened to include Mu'Tasim, which made the Eyr Ranr rather happy. The tall skinny girl sat down next to the Sund Wakir temple guard, and greeted him with a traditional greeting.

Akjit jumped up in surprise as Zus seemingly popped out of hyperspace, his jello jumping up and out of his spoon as well. For a few brief, silly moments, the Ivouri struggeld to catch the jumping jelly in his spoon, only to have it bounce up again. Finally, it plopped down into his bowl again. "Uh, uh, Hi." he spoke shyly. He gathered himself up a little. "E-even if the RAEVR can transform, doesn't the drone complement allow the VANDR II to harrass and distract enemies while it moves in or out of position? I'm still not sure about what the RAEVR can do while in humanoid mode."

Mu'Tasim smiled up at Zus as she sat down next to him, greeting her in return. Despite wanting to ask her how she was, he still had to concern himself with new wingmates as well. The current situation distracted him from how crowded the room was getting. "Well", started Mu'Tasim, switching his gaze to Akjit, "It all trully depends on the situation in combat, you must remember, the Raevr and the series it follows is a cost-effective group of machines. The Erla II is effective in all situations, hence it's use of the versatile drones. The Raevr is a specialist series, thus it will have obvious weaknesses, but clear strengths."

"Ohhhh. I think I get it now. I guess that's pretty much all I got to ask for now." Akjit spoke, hand raised and rubbing the back of his head in nervousness. The young man looked between the two and noticed how they seemed to act a little Differently around one another. Just a little. "So, eh, you two friends?"

Malik waved over the Mazerinii AT. "Hey, Anik! Come on over here!" The runner smiled, sitting down across from Mridula. Looking at the blonde haired Eyr Ranr nearby, and then a tthe one with zalus, then back at Zus, Malik's curiousity was peaked. "Wha- Why are there two Zus'?"

"Gotcha!" Anik replied, vigoursly waving back to the man, the appropriately soft places of her rather buxom figure bouncing with her sudden movement. The infantrywoman made her way over to the runner and the Solanii scientist, giving both a nod as she set her tray down. "Oh Saints, thanks for waiting. I ended up being really hungry, and had to pile my tray with a bit more than you."

Mridula laughed softly and dabbed at her mouth again, suddenly self-conscious. To cover up her embarrassment she grabbed one of the plas packets on Anik's tray, sticking the straw into her mouth and sucking up some of the juice. "It's fine. Seems like most people are pretty damn hungry today... briefings are stressful."

Malik shook his head, breaking out of the slightly hypnotic trance Anik had placed him in. Smiling at the scientist and the AT. "I'm actually not quite that hungry. I never eat before a mission anyway. It makes me feel sluggish when piloting." Shrugging, he grinned, looking at both girls. "Anyway. Mridula, this is Anik. Anik, this is Mridula."

Zalus walked over to the table and noticed Anik sitting down at the table with the rest of the group. He quickly claped his hands and smiled. "I remember you! I see you are doing better there Anik!" Zalus turned to Lamya. "I saved her life a few months ago on Mazerin." He turned back to Malik and the other two. "Everyone this is Lamya, Lamya this is everyone."I

Lamya grinned a mysterious little grin as she survayed the group of pilots with her large but flat looking eyes. Then she made a sweeping jesture with her long arms, starting outwards and ending inwards as she bowed flamboyantly. "Pleasure to meet you all" she said cheerfuly. As she rose from the bow she let her eyes linger on each member of the group.

"Hey please to me-" Anik attempted to introduce herself to mridula, but found herself stopping short when Zalus approached to greet her. She gave a bright wave to the grey-haired man and made a pistol gesture. "Hey flyboy. Thanks a lot for helping me out at the spaceport, I really thought I was a goner." She said with a bit of an uneasy grin. "Crazy! I didn't think they made Starship Operators in your size. I bet you won all the hazing fistfights for your corps."

The Solanii biologist waved slightly at Zalus and Lamya, frowning slightly. "'lo. You were at the hellevator, miss?"

"I would say that we're friends" Zus answered the Ivuori. "As our shrinekeeper and one of the original members of our wing, I've known him a while and greatly respect him." The Eyr ranr eyed Akjit, recognising him from the Sigiriya where she had saved a number of people with the help of Reovan. "Hopefully, We can become friends, as well." she commented, holding a hand out to greet Akjit.

"Y-yeah." Akjit replied, reaching his own hand out in return. He seemed to mull over something a little as well, and finally spoke aloud. "You're one of the pilots that saved me right? I guess I owe you a favor. And...was it Reovan too? I haven't seen her around lately. You two, I mean three can count on me to watch your backs!" Akjit blurted out. He leaned a little closer, half whispering, "Is it true you're almost an ace Zus? Or, um, if I got that wrong, I wouldn't be surprised".

Malik looked over at Akjit, Zus, and Mu'tasim, smiling. "Hey, We're all already friends. That is what it means to be wingmates, right?" He then turned back, glaring at Zalus, then at Lamya, then at her hair, then at her chest. "... She's like a taller, lankier, flatter Zus."

Mridula smacked Malik on the back of the head. "It's impolite to talk about women that way, you tit!"

Lamya blinked at Malik. "Well, you see when I was a little girl I badgered my mother one too many times, and she put me on a taffy stretching machine and, well, this is the end result." She said with an apperently sincire grin, waving her arm down to signify her boddy. Then she snorted loudly. "I'm afraid I don't know your name, and I don't know which one is Zus" She didn't seem to mind his impoliteness much.

Zalus sat down next to Anik and held out his arms and gave Anik a hug. "It's good to see that you made it through that hell and survived. I do belive that you promised me a drink if you came out of that alive... and here you are!" Zalus smiled a sencere smile at this.

Anik placed a hand over her mouth and supressed the immense and uncontrollable urge to laugh, only managing to clamp down by virtue of her mouth being full of food. Zalus hugging her didn't particularly help, since it forced her to choose between expelling all of the food in her mouth over the table like a barbarian ingrate, or trying to swallow it fast enough to laugh. She elected to attempt the latter, and forced the mash of vegetables in her mouth down into her stomach.

The result were less than ideal. At least part of what she had attempted to ingest had lodged itself in her upper windpipe, blocking off the tenuous link between her nose and mouth and her lungs and leaving her a gasping mess that had tumbled backwards onto the floor.

Lamya noticed Anik's choking, and grabbed her as she started to tumble, attempting an amature version of the Heimlich. she placed her hands under Anik's chest, at the bottom of her ribcage as she stepped behind the woman, trying to hold Anik up against herself. Then she pressed hard, hard enough to bruise ribs, inwards under the ribcage and compressing anik's lungs hopefuly forcing out the lodged bit. "Silly girl" she said "That's why I spit instead of swallow... you alright?" She listened for breathing, preparing for another hard squeeze.

Mridula had started to move to help Anik, being the closest thing to a medic around at the moment, but she resumed reclining when she saw Lamya had taken care of it. She rolled her eyes at the tall woman's comment, though. "Classy. Saints."

Malik simply smiled and nodded, his attention slightly distracted with thoughts of a girl. Atleast until Anik started choking, and Lamya moved to help her. "... I share Mridula's comment."

While the small collection of frame runners, the liason and infantry woman chattered away, the messhall door opened, admitting a tall, dark skinned man who seemed to have just rolled out of bed due to the messy hair, and the fact he wore the t-shirt from the desert uniform with the standard uniform slacks and boots. He looked at the small gathering a moment, ran a hand through the messy dark brown hair as he walked, a apparent swagger in his step over to the stacks of trays and plates before helping himself to the sorted foods.

"I might be. I don't really like to keep stake of the number of people I kill, rather focusing on those I save. I can directly count the number of people I saved last mission, that being five." the Eyr Ranr answered the Ivuori. "I mean, which number is more significant for you? those souls lost, or those we have saved to live fuller, happier lives?" Zus looked a bit lost in thought for a moment, and dropped her hand to the bench, slowly snaking it over towards Mu'Tasim's.

"For some, it is those you save, and others, those you kill to save. It all varies from situation, to situation." Mu'Tasim said to Akjit and then turned his attention to Zus, "Though, I share your views, Zus, it is important to grasp the reason you fight, rather than the fight itself. At least, those are the words of Mu'Klamal." He smiled at her, feeling a bit of tenderness from her direction. His hand, the now artificial one, slid from his robe, and met Zus' half-way.

Akjit, not noticing the meeting and holding of hands, merely nodded solemly. 'Yeah. They're right. No wonder those two are some of the best frame runners of Bahram Wing! I gotta look up to them, and work hard, be more like them.' he thought. His mind briefly went back to his own flaws, and how he tended to shrink from certain things. 'I won't run away, I won't run away....' He finally spoke. "You're both right. Thank you guys."

Anik was admitedly much heavier than she looked, and she looked to be quite heavy, with her tall, statuesque appearance and body that seemed to be both hardened by effort and rather buxom and well-endowed on the whole. Her technique was rather good, but she did not have a good enough grip and did little more than cause the woman's ribs to buckle inward by all of a centimeter, befor they snapped back to shape. She was still unable to breathe and rapidly beginning to descend in color, although the maneuver did manage to loosen whatever was stuck just a bit, but not nearly enough to allow her to survive the hour.

"Goddamn!" Lamya started to shift her grip, and try again, trying to get her hands under the large woman's ribcage. "MEDIC! IS THERE A MEDIC NEARBY!?" She screamed this at the top of her considerable lungs.

Malik jumped up, pushing Lamya out of the way "Out of the way, Lamya!" with his larger size, as he wrapped his arms around Anik's lower rib cage, trying the same thing that Lamya had tried, except putting much more force behind it. Khiyai would kill him if her best friend died from choking.

Lamya landed on her hindshanks when pushed away with such violence.

Zus looked at the Ivuori as thanked her and Mu. "You don't have to thank us for our point of view. Just live. And do your best when it comes down to the line." The Blonde Eyr ranr Squeezed Mu'Tasim's hand as they came into contact, and smiled at him for a moment before returning her attention to Akjit. "Why was it that you joined the Vanguard, anyway?

Akjit steepled his fingers together and closed his eyes in thought as he went over the decisions that lead up to his departure from home. He smiled, opening his eyes. "B-because I wanted to be at a place where I could belong at proper. Not just sitting around uselessly at home. I wanted to see the galaxy. Our future is out there after all, not in some cramped...unsafe...shipyard..." At that last part, Akjit slowed down and broke eye contact, unconciously reaching up to touch the burns that marred his young face.

It was about now that Zus started to notice the ruckus that was going on behind her, and she turned to watch the situation that was rapidly devovlving into a gaggle of idiots who were being about as effective at saving the poor choking woman as if they were actively shoving a sock down her throat. She watched as someone else approached the group, and figured he knew what he was doing, and so she decided to stay where she was, at least until she figured she might be needed.

Mu'Tasim watched calmly from his position when his other wingmates dove to assist the choking woman. If he had gone to help, he would have done nothing, but clutter and cause more confusion, so as it was, he sat and watched as a stranger came by, and tried his own hand at it.

A firm hand clamped on to Malik's shoulder giving it a vice like squeeze. The man who'd entered the messhall just moments before behind him now. "Kid, if you wouldn't mind? I think I can help the lady a smidge bit better. You two are butchering the Saint's damned maneuver." the chiding tone was stern, not insulting but to the point.

Mridula watched, trying not to let her worry show in her eyes and suppressing the reflex to leap to her feet and kick Lamya and Malik out of the way. At least the sudden appearance of someone who seemed to actually know what he was doing cheered her somewhat.

Zalus stayed out of the way as the three others each took it is turn to try and help Anik. It fell upon Zalus as being fairly ironic that, having been to one to save her life that he just put her in a place where she could infact lose her life. Zalus helped Lamya up and moved her out of the way of the others.

Malik, though stubborn to a fault, let go of Anik, letting the hopefully more experienced man go ahead, noting in the back of his head that the voice sounded familiar.

The man moved past Malik, Using one arm to keep Anik up right, and placing the heel of his free hand on her upper back. "Alright now." His voice soft and trying to be soothing. "I'm going to give you a few love taps on the back, don't take it personal. When I do it, I want you to try and cough for me in between." With that said, the infantry woman would soon feel a rather hard impact along her upper back, and then another, and another all along the same spot.

"Hrb!" Anik coughed, clearing her throat of the mess of food, and more neatly forcing herself to ingest the food before gasping for air. A bit of mental discipline went a long way, even if meant holding out against instinct for a few second and hurt more than being kicked in the stomach by an angry Herdtitan. She dropped her body, keeping herself upright by leaning on her haunches and placing her torso forward to breathe easier. "Haa... haa... ghaa..." She turned to Rashek, her face red and her mouth gasping, and put on a coy smile. "You sure now how to handle a girl, stranger. I'll salute when I can stand again."

Mridula stood and sighed, deciding that she should actually do something. She walked to Anik's prone form and bent to offer her a hand, smiling slightly. "Need some help?"

"I'll help you up Anik if you promise not to punch me..." Zalus said as he started to learn down to help her up. He was truely sorry about causing her to choke. He looked over at Rashek as he help her up. "Thank you sir for your help, What is your name sir?"

Mu'Tasim sighed, glad to see something good come of the situation, "Well, it's good to see that someone here was skilled in Ghaliya's teachings."

"Yes, I would hate to have someone on our ship die in such a sad way, not even having a chance to die like a hero in battle". Zus looked around, realising she was thirsty, and wondered where she could get something to drink. "Uhh, Mu'Tasim, would you mind getting me a drink?" she asked.

"Sure." Mu'Tasim nodded, letting loose of Zus' hand and stepping off the bench and strolling towards the drink stand.

With Mu'Tasim's departure, Akjit snapped back to the present. 'Gotta stop remembering those things...' he thought. The Ivouri looked around himself a little before asking Zus, "Uh, where'd Mu'Tasim go?" No one noticed he had went off to hi

Malik smiled. "Thanks, Yo-" The cohronl stopped, trailing off midsentence as he glared at Rashek, trying to remember where the hell he had seen him before, and where he had heard his voice.

Lamya stood up carefuly, then turned to the newcomer anoffered an elaborate salut. "Thanks sir, I'm glad you could handle it.... are you alright anik?" she asked of the downed woman, still looking rather concerned. she didn't croud the poor woman, unlike the others. She winced, and touched her back, she thought she may have pulled something when trying to help the woman, or maybe she'd bruised something when she landed. She'd learn which it was later, most likely in the morning when it either hurt worse, or less bad.

Rashek shrugged his broad shoulders at the compliment from the Temple Guardsman. "I wouldn't say skilled, just something you tend to put into practice every now and then and not forget." he responded placing a hand on a hip as he looked down at the woman on the deck, waving off the salutes and thanks of the other three.

"Well, in my line of work it tends to help. You going to be alright there? Want a glass of water?"

Anik was pulled up straight by Mridula's hand, with Zalus' narrowly missing and instead skimming her backside as he continued to salute the officer. She shook her head a little and glanced at Mridula and Rashek, putting on a sheepish grin. "Aha... yeah... a glass of water would be a gift from the freaking Saints right now." She gave a slight salute to the man, wiping the cold sweat on her forehead. "I don't usually make a habit of choking. It tends to go down pretty easy, and I know my limits."

Mridula didn't bother to take her hand away once Anik was standing. In fact, she just moved her arm around the woman's waist with a grin. Eeeexcellent. I win. ...bastard medic might be a problem, though...

Malik glared at Rashek, then at Mridula, then at Anik, his eyes narrowing until he was almost squinting. "So, Anik, since auto-erotic asphyxiation isn't in your interests, what made you start choking?"

Lamya silently vanished to grab some water. She returned with the glass of water as quickly as she could, using her unique way of moving the flow through the messhall croud. She placed the glass of water next to anik. "Did your mother take you down to the balloon factory instead of the taffy shop?" She joked.

"Iunno. Zalus sorta hugged me when I was trying to swallow my food and hold back from laughing. Probably just bad luck." Anik explained, stretching a little. "My mom was more of a 'go hunting on the tundra with my brothers and me' type of woman. We just didn't... 'do' sweets."

The Temple Guard jumped as Lamya darted passed him once, and then twice on his way back.

The Temple Guard jumped as Lamya darted passed him once, and then twice on his way back. Since most of the Mess Hall was in chaos anyway, he didn't necessarily mind much of anything else going on. He strolled back to his seat, next to Zus, placing her water down in front of her, and his water infront of himself.

"Here you go, Zus." He smiled warmly at her.

Zus smiled at Mu'Tasim, taking a sip of the water after a polite "Thank You." She seemed to be reinvigorated by the tiny amount of fluid, and turned back to Akjit. "Sorry about the distraction, and as you can see, Mu'Tasim got us some water." This Akjit character seemed quite odd, and a little scatterbrained, never seeming to be on one train of thought for more than a few moments. He intrigued the Eyr Ranr, but she kept that to herself for now.

"O-oh. Silly me, I didn't even notice you getting up Mu'Tasim." The question that the flat chested Iroma had asked him earlier had jostled Akjit into a horrifying series of memories. The hot sting and fire of burning fuel on his face...he was a little disjointed from that. "Hey, I'm going to get some ke-kebabs, you guys want?" he asked. Eating the red gelatin only served to make him hungrier, and now he was eating his mean in reverse, desert, main entree, and probably appetizer.

"No thank you, Chirimar." Mu'Tasim nodded politely to the man, but at the same time, felt a small cringe in his stomach. The cringe wasn't exactly caused by his own accord, by what he seemed to be feeling from Akjit's direction. "Are you alright?" He asked in a concerned tone.

"I'm alright. But remember that advice you gave me? Not remembering the bad things? It's kinda harder to follow than I thought. Zus asked me why I joined, and...I recalled why. I thought about home, my parents. And this." Akjit lifted a hand up, touching the burn scars that laced his face. He got up and quickly grabbed a plate full of kebabs and bread to go with it, and returned. "N-nothing time won't heal, yes?" He seemed even more disjointed when he finally came back. "I came here to find somewhere I belonged, and I think I hit it. Still, that doesn't mean the past doesn't give chase to my fleeing." He smiled.

"Yeah, well, just be careful with what you put down there from now on. Pretty thing like you, the Saint's would grieve if you passed before your time." Rashek said before eying Zalus up and down, ignoring the glare from Malik for now, as if the young frame runner wasn't even present. "As for who I am, I'm Vayranr Rashek Baseil. I'm the guy who pulled both your asses out of the fire at the Elevator." He jerked a thumb towards Malik. "You're welcome by the way, even if you two took off leaving me all by my lonesome with sixty friends to play with."

"Now look here!" Malik said, pointing at Rashek. "All I saw you doing was hanging out on the edge of the battle! When that NVR Frame appeared and started shooting giant energy beams at me and Zalus, where were you? Where were you when you when we were getting tossed around by it? Where were you when I had to do a suicide attack on it?" The runner blinked, getting a good look at Rashek, finally realizing who he was. "And thanks for the advice on Jaburo Station!"

"Sorry about that But I had my own 20 little dance partners and I thought the others with you would have been able to help you out... But that was then and we all lived through it to come out better on the other side!" Zalus reached out his right hand and offered it forward for a shake. "It's good to know you are still alive and I again thank you for saving Anik life."

Rashek thumped Malik hard on the nose with a 'Tsk'. "I was cleaning up the mess you and the creampuff left behind runt. Even for me sixty Soono is a bad time. Besides there were more of those shitstain frames running about. Don't get cocksure of yourself for killing one, and with a suicide attack. From what I've heard, that daffy mechanist wants your blood for wrecking a VANDR."

"Yeah, well I had to wreck it. Mister I only do what the NI says was pretty useless. Like always. He almost always goes on about being the second best enlisted pilot? He isn't, his NI is. Anyway, Thanks for the help."


The the upper wardroom had been rather quiet since the new staff had arrived, largely because officers were all introducing and briefing their crew around the same time, and also due to the preferences of most officers. With the Vayu-class being the only model of combat vessel in service for quite a while, the majority of Vanguard officers and NCOs were used to dining with their crew in the mess.

As a matter of fact, Serhan genuinely enjoyed having this sort of quiet atmosphere, all to himself. The captain wasn't going to call for him in the immediate future, he'd probably be free to listen to his Ivuori opera and smoking and eating in solitude until he'd give the Wing a fine workout. There were certainly people he'd enjoy spending time with, and things he'd rather be doing, but few sure moments to himself were a welcome reprieve to the constant traffic of drones and soldiers in the hallways of the Astarte.

The door to the wardroom opened with a near silent swing, closing soon after. A set of amber eyes taking in the quiet atmosphere and solitary individual sitting alone at a table. That untidy hair, the posture, music it all pointed to one person. The slight clicking sound of boots on the hard floor could've easily let him know he was not alone if he was paying attention. And if he wasn't...well.

"I wondered if I'd find you here."a soft, serene voice said from behind him before leaning forward, head close to his as she stood from behind, eyeing just what he seemed to be eating. A coy little smile was in place as the speaker took a seat beside him now. Amari cocked her head a little as the Ivuori opera being piped into the room seemed to settle over her deepening her smile little by little the more she listened.

Serhan's head rose to attention when he caught onto the young woman's voice and brought a small, thin smile to his face. "There are only a few places I'd comfortably be, Al-Sumed." He seemed to be rather tired, made his unease with his new surroundings more evident than back at the briefing. "The bridge is certainly not one of them, and yet I'll likely be seeing it more than any of the places I like or belong in." The frame officer expressed, tapping a panel to lower the volume of the music a touch to make speaking easier, and stood up from his seat.

Although his hair was a little bit poor in its cut and setting, he managed to keep a neat bearing, standing up straight and keeping his uniform quite neat and unruffled in spite of all the walking and sitting he'd been doing over the course of the day. He passed his fingers through his untidy hair and let out a small hum of acknowledgement. "I suppose that Sankhur made the recommendation."

"Of my being aboard the Astarte?" Amari asked as she stood as well, albeit, she was close enough to him that she was smoothing his uniform coat absentmindedly "He spoke to me about it in passing I just did not think he'd go through with it. My superior at Fort Jarizas was...not the most competent of the bunch."

The doctor stopped fussing with the coat as if noticing what she was doing before peering at him with a somewhat amused expression. "Did you wish for me to stay on Mazerin?"

Serhan placed his hand on Amari's shoulder and nodded. "Of course not. There aren't many people better suited for the job, and none that deserve it more." He said with a rather warm calmness, allowing himself to smile a bit. Admitedly, he was rather sweet on the woman, so her posting to the Astarte was a bag of mixed feelings for him, none of which he particularly felt like expressing in excess. "Take a seat. I'm sure you'd want to be more comfortable while I patronize you further."

There was another swish of the wardroom doors as Alia Jyotsna, the head mechanic for the wing entered thr room. She just caught the end of Serhan's joke and turned to the two. "Ah, you two up here too?" She asked as she walked over to them. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"O-Oh..." Amari began as she seated herself just as Alia entered the ward. She wore a somewhat embarrassed expression before composing herself to her normal state of grace. "Nothing much, Alia, we were just...talking." the Doctor said as she made herself comfortable.

"Not at all, Jyotsna." The officer replied calmly, nodding to acknowledge the Chief Mechanist. "There's Mazrit, Hlaraian wines and a lovely Kuyuni liqueur in the cupboard." Serhan said calmly, pointing to the small plas shelves mounted next to the large viewscreen that dominated the far end of the ward. He hadn't really a stomach for the harder distilates, but could at least stomach most of what was stocked. "In moderation, since the ship is on alert."

Upon knowing there was something that could take the edge off in the cupboard, Amari hopped to her feet immediately making a bee-line for it. She opened it finding several different bottles, all of which she equally found appealing at this point.

"So, what do you two think of the Astarte? Quite a charming vessel, in my opinion." Serhan said in a flatter voice, expressing that had was probably only really working on making conversation, or just as easily that he was still a bit stuck in his shell from spending a bit of time alone. "The appeal is quite nostalgic. They based the chassis on the old Derzelas-class from before the Second Outer System War."

"It's a fine ship." Alia said, nodding. "The hanger's nice and large, not to mention well stocked, so my crew is also happy." She finished, watching Amari out of one eye. "Getting a drink? I'll have one too."

Amari's hand stopped over a bottle of liqueur a turn of the head, and she looked back at Alia. "What would you like?" asking before going back to her own she brought the bottle down as well as a glass for herself mulling Serhan's question over.

"I...don't know. I've never served aboard a ship before. I've mainly been stationed at VANDR bases on Hlarai or Maekardan before Jarizas."

"Ah. Well, the Astarte's a good start. Your standards might become too high if you think of this as the average vessel in the Vanguard fleet." Serhan replied, giving a nod when he realized that Amari had not had any prior experience on a vessel. He would have thought she'd have some experience as most Cohronl do end up serving in the fleets rather than garrisons, but it was his mistake for making the assumption. He pointed to the bottles on the far left. "The Hlaraian wines, Saravni my d- Al-Sumed. Just a glass."

Alia shrugged. "Anything is fine." She muttered.

Amari merely listened to the requests as she finished preparing her own drink. For Alia she picked the same before looking for a wine glass for Serhan. "The only time I ever was on a ship was when my father had to travel between the colonies around Grand Mazerin. Some of them are even now quite small or incomplete so knowledgable medical personnel was in short supply due to the lack of hospitals or clinics that would draw them in." Finding what she was looking for the doctor placed the glass down on a simple tray before picking up one of the bottles of wine. The distinct 'pop' of a cork could be heard and then the light splash of liquid in a glass a short while later, Amari had waited a moment or two before pouring.

"So, when I was little, he often took me with him on his rounds while my mother was doing work for Altjira or Solan at the corperate offices on my colony." Done, she resealed the bottles and placed the filled glasses on a tray, having also filled another small cup with ice including a pair of tongs for both Alia's and her own beverages.

"The shuttle wasn't as grand as the Astarte, but, when you're only eight it's rather big." she sat the tray down at the table, despensing the drinks to each one of those at the table before seating herself, plucking a cube of ice with the tongs; dropping it into the glass.

Alia accepted her drink from Amari and took a few icecubes. "Thanks." She said with a smile as she gave the drink a small sniff.

"I can agree with that." Serhan answered, accepting the glass and nodding his thanks. "Although I was eight years old a few more ago than you, I have some nice memories of leaving the Lighthouse with my mother to pick up my father after one of his survey missions on Veyrin." He twirled the glass a little before taking a small sip, and allowing himself a small smile as he savored the aromatic liquid and light burning in his throat. "The world seems much smaller these days."

Amari shook her head as she took a sip of the liquier murmuring about 'apertifs' before looking up. "I think that it isn't smaller, but larger. Here we are, on this huge ship, bound for the Saint's only know where. I've never gone beyond Grand Mazerin before...it's a little thrilling for me in the very least." another sip, a sigh and she wore a small smile. "Even though this is such a serious endevour, I consider it a worthwhile adventure still, since I can see things I've only seen digital images of on OGNEIR.net."

"I suppose this soldier, who became old before his time, has seen too many things to be as excited as you." Serhan said with broad, exaggerrated bow that saw his arms extend out to the sides of his body, in mimicry of the sort of extravagant gestures of Ivuori opera performers. He made a dull chuckle and leaned himself against the nearby wall. "I still look forward to experiencing those new places beyond the home system, although my outlook will be a bit more burdened than that of the crew."
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
15:55, Commonwealth Standard Time

Preparations for the mission were now well underway, and discussions with the sectional officers and captain seemed to give an optimistic 'two days' before they would be able to launch. Although busy, Serhan had cherished the relative peace of the last few days, taking his off hours to hover around the medbay or speak with the daughter he'd left on the world below. With simulations planned for his wing in a few hours, he was fairly confident that he'd be able to single out squadron commanders and put some leadership that could stand in his absence.

Being placed as the XO of a starship, that much was likely.

His trip to the bridge was fairly quiet, technicians still firing code away at their immersive workstations, only occasionally waking up to eat or shake off the pod sickness. The optimistic 'two days' was given again, and the operations chief on deck assured him that he could probably leave again without any hassle. So with little keeping him on the bridge, Serhan decided to make his leave. Until he was interrupted by the Sensors Adjutant, who brought the readings onto the main viewscreen.

The Astarte's sensors immediately lit up like candles in the dark, and warnings rang off on the bridge. Fold signatures opening up along the outer edge of Mazerin's gravity well signaled the arrival of enemy vessels, two of which were in the flower-like carrier configuration, and another larger vessel that couldn't have been mistaken for anything other than a battleship. The captain was immediately signaled to get to the bridge, and Serhan quickly moved to patch into the comms system, not wasting a moment to think about the issue or have a genuine philosophical moment. A Saint-damned battleship of an unknown class had just appeared over one of the core worlds!

"Warning, VSV Astarte. We are on alert, NVR battleship squadron on approach." The officer's voice resounded throughout the ship, calm and collected even when he stared down a scenario that he himself found rather impossible. "Bahram Wing, prepare to launch!"

With the bridge doors opening, the captain strode forth the slight limp in his left leg not harrowing him in the least as far as anybody knew. The bridge was in a stir, a hornet's nest of activity as he made his way deeper into the command deck spotting his XO. His jaw was firmly set, the kepi that usually would've adorned his head not present but being slightly out of uniform did not matter given the alarming situation.

Coming up behind him, he placed a hand on the shorter man's shoulder a firm grip as he looked at the consoles nearest to him.

"Sound general quarters for the rest of the ship. We need to alert the Mazerinii land bases and aerospace control of the situation if they haven't already been notified." the man ground his teeth a little at the whole affair before releasing his grip and patting him on the back. "Let's get ourselves and friends into position and keep an eye on that enemy squadron"

"Bahram Wing, prepare to launch!" Malik hadn't heard those words for a while, and, to be frank, his heart jumped at hearing them. The cohronl smiled at the people had been sitting with before bolting off, running towards the nearest lift, holding it as long as he could for other people to get in before sending it down to the Hangar deck. "Bahram Wing is going back into action. And I'll be there, part of it. Jumping out of the lift as its doors opened, Malik rushed into the changing room, stripping out of his uniform and into the standard Linksuit. The Cohronl strode out of the changing room, heading towards the VANDR Bay.

As Mridula heard the magic words "Bahram Wing, prepare to launch" she knew it'd be the first of many. She tossed her book down and grabbed up her datapad, running out of her quarters and pounding down the hall to the bridge. She skidded to a stop only when she had reached her station, sliding into the pod in one motion. The feeling of the needles entering her body and prajna flooding the tank was familiar, and when she closed her eyes, she wasn't startled by the vivid virtual world that popped up inside her head. She immediately got to work looking over the sensor data that appeared in front of her.

Like all Temple Guard, Mu'Tasim heard the call to duty, and gladly answered as he rose from his own seat and left from his position in the mess hall and down towards the hangar deck. His face gained a more serious mask, something he unconsciously did in more alarming and sudden situations. Just as his face, he put unnecessary amount of speed in his step as he dashed down the halls, agilely side-stepping people, as if to reach an objective. Still, even as an acolyte, his harsh training forced him to act above the norm in emergencies. He hopped into the elevator with Malik to head down to the Hangar deck, only a few seconds before the Cohronl entered into it.

Prepare to launch. The words inspired mixed emotions in Nenetl. Excitement. Uncertainty. Dread. Curiosity. Passion for disemboweling. Okay, she always had a passion for disemboweling... her first sortie. The first, she imagined, of many. The apprehension of first flight was heavy in the back of her mind as Nenetl burst free from her room, half sprinting, half skipping on her way to the hangar. Like all new things, Nenetl wanted to experience combat. And she wanted to win at it. She was awesome, after all... couldn't be outperformed. There was her pod. Step one...

The Astarte's port side VANDR bay was unlike that of the Wyrm of the Endless Sky or any Vayu, a more contradictory meshing of composite brackets and umbilicals feeding into the service ports of over eighty units. Each mecha was in a bundle of four, clustered around a single launch catapult built into the surface the grouped brackets were fixed to, connected to the main floor by a series of catwalks and lifts, or reachable with a well-placed push off the ground. GB systems kept gravity within parameters that were functional, but not particularly true to the more natural conditions on land.

Without much time to decide on units, most of the pilots that arrived early had chosen their VANDR ad-hoc, so none of the the launch brackets had been emptied, and strangely only the venerable EV I's that were meant to have been carried as an emergency provision were missing.

Zalus run out of his room missing his shirt and ran towards the VANDR bay. He was waiting for a moment to get back into the fight but he was hoping that for once it would be on their terms instead of constantly having to fight off ambushes. He ran into the locker room threw on his linksuit and ran over to Nara's new EV2 body and climbed in. "Time to dance my friends!"

Malik kicked off the Hangar floor, guiding himself up to a catwalk, then kicking off that towards the nearest Erla VANDR 2. Smiling as he entered the state of the art war machine's cockpit pod, Malik began the start up sequence, linking his consciousness to that of the VANDR's. Looking around using the VANDR's visual sensors, Malik powered up, trying to connect to an operator or someone who could give him permission to launch over the comm channels as well as over the EV2's loudspeakers. "This is Vaybalri Rashidan. Do I have permission to launch?"

Akjit quickly ran out of his room, pulling his pants up as he tripped and fell. The Ivouri scrambled back onto his feet, and kept on going, oblivious to the soreness. He quickly sighted Malik, and followed his lead, Akjit hopping into an Erla VANDR 2 as well. Inside, he set up and went into standby. He gulped nervously as a small voice in the back of his head spoke to him. 'You could always not launch.' It spoke. The voice tickled his fears, and tempted his instincts. Akjit gulped again.

After a quick venture from the elevator and even quicker change into his link-suit, Mu'Tasim hung up his Temple Guard robe and dashed out into the Hangar Bay. It shamed him to have to pick a new Frame, he missed Famasir, the thought twisted his stomach that he lost him twice. Yet, that didn't dissuade him from picking out a Warrant-Officer-Red Erla 2. The Temple Guard rushed along the catwalk and entered into the cockpit, linking up with the new Frame. In a moment, he lost feeling in his body and gained it in his VANDR, easily linking up with it. For some reason, the process had gone much smoother than with the Erla 1. He went ahead and sent a small communication to whoever was already in their VANDR's.

"Let us wait for everyone to suit up before we head out, we should move as a wing. Unless whosoever is in charge thinks otherwise." Mu'Tasim declared, unsure about who was running the 1st Squadron.

Into the portside bay came Nenetl, dancing along the catwalk on her way to... well. She actually came to a dead stop and stared for a moment. This was somewhat overwhelming, actually. It was more at random than anything that she ultimately picked out a unit, one that just happened to be very close to her. One that also happened to be an Erla VANDR II, though Nenetl couldn't have said it was her preference by any means. Well. No matter. It was time for insertion! Insertion sounded dirty, Nenetl thought bemusedly, as the familiar needles and prajna took her over.

After a few moments, Mridula had gotten her bearings and figured out what was going on - there was some manner of unknown battleship coming after them. She figured some basic information would be best to start with, since as far as she knew they didn't know anything about the attacking ship; she brought to the forefront the data from the subspace mass sensors, in the form of a rough outline of the enemy ship.

As if to agree with Mu'Tasim, a smooth female voice spoke over Malik's comms. "Negative, Vaybalri, you're not clear to launch. We're still mustering pilots to their machines."

Meanwhile, behind a dense shroud of stealth systems and ECM, the enemy battleship and its escort had begun to make headway towards the Astarte, seemingly not firing any weapons as it deployed a few dozens of its frame complement to intercept the initial wave of units the Astral Vanguard cruiser had hastily deployed to defend itself, supporting them with a large number of automated units. Strangely, the escort vessels, of the same type that had once utterly devastated an entire division of Vayu over Maekardan, were not deploying any of their infamous cargo of automatons, but simply coasted alongside their larger kin. At a distance of a whole astronomical unit, it would likely take them several minutes to reach attack range with beam weapons or missiles, although their screen of aerospace units would probably make the interception before that time.

Initial scans proved largely useless, as the distances made RADAR and LADAR ineffective at producing reliable or current. But cursory scans with more sophisticated sensors were able to point out a few issues. The battleship, despite being rather large and clearly armed on its exterior, was largely hollow and lacked anything more than basic living spaces and accommodations for more piloted frames and automatons.

Serhan glanced over to the Captain and nodded duly. “This is unorthodox. I do not recall the NVR battlegroup at the elevator acting with such... restraint, and that battleship is too suspicious.” Even though he'd only arrived at the Elevator Battle after the first strike by the NVR, he'd become familiar enough with their tactics, and had expected another show of overwhelming show of force with outdated automatons. He almost suspected the worse, but could not make any assumptions until the sensors could retrieve more conclusive data. “Clear our second wave for launch, and inform them to watch out for an ambush. This enemy is acting subtly.”

The captain could only nod silently as he seemed engrossed by the information being relayed thus far. A finger tapped quietly on one of his legs his face twisting slightly to a grimace. It was clear he was not liking this at all. "The way they're moving. According to the data on the previous encounter, those petal-like ships have many of those autonomous units. Yet, they don't launch. As you've said they're showing remarkable restraint in this situation when before it seemed they were in a wild abandon in their attack on the elevator." slapping his leg with a somewhat agitated air he hunched over beside Serhan, examining the readouts further.

"Keep the frigates in a staggered formation about the Astarte. I do not want us tightly packed. They are to watch those petal ships as well as cover us if we require it." Raking a hand through steel gray hair he frowned. "That battleship gives me an uneasy feeling...there should be more to it then what we are seeing. Give the go ahead to launch." the last he said to one of the operators nearby.

Mridula stared at the readouts in front of her, then grunted before her voice filtered into the frame runners' ears. "Be careful. This ship is suspicious. It's half-empty, which means it might be full of shit that's going to leap out and blast you when it gets close." That said, she changed her channel to that of the sensor operators. "Get me info on their armor. The battleship and the escort."

"Copy that, Vaytulri!" The lead sensors operator signaled back, as he and his four subordinates attempted to work on their individual subsystems, sifting through the data and trying to cut through the ECM well enough to feed back anything that might have been of use. Initial feedback from sensors just turned out white noise and readings from the particle field that surrounded the vessel. "It'll be a while. That thing had a dense hull and is practically swimming in un-tuned distortions and charged particles."

Malik's voice filtered back to Mridula. "Awww, Osei. I didn't know you cared about us so much. I'll be sure to give you a kiss on the cheek when I come back." The runner chuckled softly, vocal signs of his impatience filtering through the comms. If Malik could move his body, he would be fidgeting right now.

"See if I tell you when it starts shooting at you, Rashidan!" Mridula hissed. She watched the frame runners' positions carefully, along with the positions of the two ships, as she waited for the information from the sensor men.

"Rashidan, keep your chatter to a minimum, in a high-alert situation, we should keep the channels clear for the important information." asserted Mu'Tasim, who was patiently waiting in the line of Frames.

Akjit sat inside is Erla VANDR II quietly, his fists curled up tightly, knuckles white. 'Aren't you scared? What about your friends? Do you want to meet them again so soon?' It poked and prodded at him.
"Wait. Who's saying all this? You're not a figment of my imagination....are you?" Akjit spoke aloud. The pre-battle jitters were bad enough, but now the young Ivouri had to deal with a malicious NI that apparently didn't like him. Akjit hada sinking feeling already, and tried to listen in on the other pilots' chatter instead.

"Yeah Yeah sir, I know. I'm just a talkative guy. Maybe if we're lucky, I can talk the NVR to death." Malik had cut the transmission back, and was now only transmitting to the other VANDR in the Hangar, and talking over loudspeakers. "As long as I don't clog up all the channels with my chatter, we'll be fine, right sir?"

"I would guess." Mu'Tasim chimed in response.

Alia covered her ears from the hanger's floor. "Keep it down up there!" She shouted.

Mu'Tasim's speaker volume lowered, "My apologies."

Malik laughed, his voice booming through the hangar. "I'm sorry Jyotsna, I forgot that I still had this on. I'll cut it down now."

'Ah. Listen to them, talking like idiots. You think so to, don't you?' His NI asked him some more. Again, Akjit stayed quiet. 'What? You not worried? C'mon. Where's all that heavy breathing you usually do? Maybe some tears will help? What if I played you a lull-' Akjit yelled out loud. "In the name of the saints, shut up!" The young Ivouri's voice could be heard across the hanger over his EV II's speakers. "I'm...not running! W-what? Is, is this thing on? Uh, sorry...."

"Confirmation to launch, Second Wave. Clear out so we can dispatch the next one." A feminine voice came in from the CiC room, clearing the members of Bahram Wing already suited up and ready to sortie, crystal-clear and enthusiastic. The sort of person you'd expect to have only just graduated from the academies on a soft world like Hlarai. "I repeat, you are cleared for launch. Good hunting!"

"Alright everyone, let's stay together and get out of the way." Mu'Tasim said over the SQAUDCOM, his VANDR began clearing it's spot, and floated out of the way mechanics and landed on the rail-launch. "Vaytulri Mu'Tasim Farouk, launching." reported the Temple Guard as his VANDR fired out of the bay and out into space. He slowed his speed not too far from the ship, allowing the other pilots to fall in.

"Command, can you prioritize targets for us?" Mu'Tasim asked back to control.

"Haha! Alright, Lets get going!" Malik laughed again, cutting his loudspeakers as his VANDR cycled onto the launch rail next, the Cohronl tensing up slightly. "Space..." "Vaybalri, Malik Ibn Rashidan, Launching!" Yelled the runner, passion in his voice as the Erla MKII was shot out of the cruiser's launch bay, doing a barrel roll as it entered into space. Malik quickly regained his bearings and formed up on Mu'tasim, letting out a whoop of joy.

I repeat, you are cleared for launch. Internally, Nenetl's brain was pounding in the anticipation of what was to come... what terrifying, exhilarating things were to come. If she could have screamed, she would have. She did the next best thing, broadcasting a remarkably elegant squeal of glee over the channel. You know, elegant as far as squeals of glee go. And, with the order to launch come, launch she did.

Akjit's EV II was finally quiet after that, but it only gave him more time to ask himself questions. And he didn't have time to spare on those questions. Any moment, he was going to launch out the rails after Malik, and any moment after that, things were going to get messy. And then the squeal of glee hit his ears. Akjit sat their, face twisted in confusion, the scars contorting with it. At first he was like a pained gargoyle, but then he was like a happy kid again, laughing. "Akjit, Launching!" He felt the pressure of acceleration, and grimaced, only to relax as it bled off. The EV II fell into formation after the others without another complaint.

Lamya sat on the bridge of the Astarte chewing on her lip while she watched the screens. She wasn't entirely sure what was happening with this mystery ship approaching, but she knew that the Astarte probably wasn't ready for this yet. She gritted her teeth, and listened quietly to Serhan, as he ordered the frigates to stay in formation and the fighters to launch. "Sir" she asked, politely and slightly eagerly "Do you have any orders for me?"

Mu'Tasim received a ping from the Astarte, as a channel opened up. “Copy that, Vaytulri.” The operator's voice returned to sound in, seemingly inside of the Temple Guardsman's head. The other members of the Wing had a similar prompt open up on their heads-up displays, signally the channel was open. “Bahram Wing. Your priority target is are the piloted humanoid-type frames being fielded by the enemy. They carry disposable anti-ship fusion cannons which double as breaching lances, and pose the greatest immediate threat to the Astarte.”

“But stay out of the battleship's threat zone until we have more concrete battlefield intelligence. Captain's mandate.” The operator warned sternly, before sending a second ping out. "Your field leaders are the current senior officers. Vaytulri Farouk, you have control."

The Captain kept his gaze on the console before him speaking in turn to Lamya with a quiet tone. "Assist our Solanii Liason with monitoring the enemy battleship and report to me upon any findings as you see necessary." looking up he fiddled with the eyepatch, lifting it and rubbing at the seemingly empty socket replacing it soon after. "Ready point defense batteries for any incoming enemy ordinance or units. As for our main arrays..." Naveed rubbed at a stubble chin momentarily.

"When we have target acquisition our main laser batteries will lock upon the nose of that enemy battleship. The others, we keep in reserve." the later was firmly put, an ace in the hole.

Additional scans made on the battleship seemed to indicate a few problems. First, the hull itself was assembled from a cheap alloy sheeted over reactive armor saturated with charged particles, like a covering of tiles, appearing to have been designed to blow off cleanly without compromising the hull or damaging the interior. The chassis, on the other hand, was made of an entirely unknown substance, neither a metamaterial or organoid alloy, but possessing an indeterminable density and strength.

"Sirs. The hull's low-grade. Spaceflight alloys from a few centuries ago, but that chassis is..." The sensors operator did a double take, and would have jumped in his seat were he not completely immobile in his immersion pod. "..Dear Ahni, what is it?!"

"Alright, I recommend we keep a loose formation on approach to the designated hostiles. Mark your first-targets and open fire when you get into an effective range, but keep away from the Battleship's threat zone." Mu'Tasim chimed to the rest of Bahram Wing as his red frame advanced forward towards their targets. "Is that acceptable, Bahram Wing?"

Malik's VANDR accelerated, pushing past Mu'Tasim's and taking the lead. "Sorry, sir, but no. I have to recommend, based on my previous experience with these frames, that we attack them as a group. That model has a well rounded armament, and was more than a match for both me and Zalus. Even though we were in EV 1s at the time, I would prefer it if we worked as a group and did not take chances: Mu'Tasim and I will move in towards Medium-close range, drawing fire from the NVR frames. Akjit and Nentlel will use ECM and long-medium range fire to keep us covered while making shots of opportunity. If that is acceptable to you, sir."

Nenetl desperately wanted to chime in on the planning, but she found herself in the position of being an inexperienced pilot among slightly less inexperienced ones, and she (well, Malik) had already been warned against filling the channel with unnecessary chatter - so rather than make any comments about Mu'tasim's recommendation she simply had a short statement: "I like Vaybalri Rashidan's plan, sir!" If it didn't work, she would hurt Rashidan later. Badly.

Mridula frowned deeply. The readings she was getting from the battleship were extremely strange, to say the least - flimsy, but with a stronger core; minimal crew quarters; plenty of cargo space; and the chassis was simply a mystery. A strange and creeping suspicion began to form in her gut. "Runners. I'm trusting you know how to take care of the enemy frames, but that ship... I think it might be planning to... ram into the planet, or something. It seems like some sort of suicide ship. I can't be sure, but..."

Lamya stared at the sensor readings of the opponent's vessel, pondering. She wasn't a sensor specialist, she was a pilot, but there were things she could work out. She tried to apply her experience as a pilot to figure out the mobility of the enemy vessel: it's speed and it's acceleration abilities as well as it's turning abilities.

In the meantime Lamya kept her hands gently resting on the controls. If she saw anything that looked aggressive she was prepared to attempt get the ship out of the path of the attack in order to minimize damage... if so ordered. Messing up the formation without orders was probably a bad idea. (Or to put it more clearly, if the other ship goes agro on her, she's going to quickly request permission to attempt dodging.

Receiving feedback from the system, Lamya would notice that the unit's sheer size did not correspond to the rate at which it was accelerating nor the amount of inertia behind it, although its actual agility was still unknown. The vessel was still moving alongside its two escorting vessels, perhaps even a little faster than the two flanking it.

"So wait, what are we doing exactly?" Akjit asked, confused by both Mu and Malik giving out orders. His EV II trailed behind the two and off to the side, ready to dash away in an instant when the fighting started. "Um, if these were Soono we're up against, I think the scatter idea would be good. But since these are manned, I think we should team up on them. Just. Just saying."

Numbering in the high dozens, the enemy frames were clearly of the new manned type that had been encountered before, supported by what was easily hundreds of unmanned and unmodified variants 'Soono' frames that had long become infamous to the frame wings of Mazerin. The brunt of the attack was suppressed by the front-line wing launched by the eight Vayu that supported the Astarte, themselves bolstered by supporting fire from their staging vessels. But even with fire support, these did not last long in the face of massed attacks by even weak and unintelligent Soono, and most had to flee back to their supporting ships or be shot down by the advancing swarm.

Without any defenses from borders or hostile frames, the Vayu had to pull back and make a tactical retreat, taking potshots at the enemy in an attempt to break their formation and given an opportunity to the advancing first and second waves of reinforcements from the Astarte. The enemy frames reacted violently by effectively breaking formation to mass attack the nearest of the scout vessels.

The first wave of reinforcements arrived on the scene as the first of the Vayu was being struck with repeated attacks by heavy fusion cannons. Continued bombardment with superheated jets of plasma had worn down shields and eventually rendered its large main cannon inoperable and had scored multiple hits across the hull and brought the vessel to critical damage. Intervening VANDR stepped in to hold off the enemy frames, managing to keep them off the damaged vessel long enough for its shields to come back online.

After a few moments, the second wave were now in weapons range and able to relieve their wingmates.

The captain jerked his head up gripping his hands upon the edges of the console before his face became a storm head a low growl building up in his throat then.

"Point defense batteries target the enemy frames attacking our Vayu, now!" He slammed a fist down on the console hard unaware of the sting in his hand before he swept it it outward. "Have the remaining frigates form into pairs about our ship with remaining frames of their compliment to provide support. Ready third and fourth squadrons for launch." he turned his one-eyed gaze upon the Liaison then as if trying to bore a hole into her with the heated look in his eye. He was swept up in the moment now. "Any new pertinent information on the enemy battleship?"

"I have no idea! I only know what I've already said! Do you have any suggestions for me to look into, captain?" Mridula's voice was getting slightly high with panic - this was uncomfortably reminiscent of the battle at the elevator.

"Check the ships current heading and vector. Think." The man had turned his gaze from her and was staring straight ahead now. "How much damage do you believe a ship of that size would cause a planet? Take out a city possibly? A hundred or so kilometers outside of it as well. That would be a poor thing to do, a foolish thing to do. There is more to his, I can smell it. Run that ship through with every scan we have and then feed it into the NI."

It was distressing to see the massive swarm of enemy craft overrun the Vayu escorts. Mu'Tasim was an infantryman at heart, space battles in a VANDR seemed to be a very different perspective. With the current situation, though, there wasn't much time to tread on anything but their objective. Malik's plan was decent, definitely more involved idea.

"Malik, we'll take it that way. We'll approach and take the brunt of the assault while Nenetl, Akjit, and Zalus provide fire-support." declared Mu'Tasim as he powered up his forward shield and began to advance forward. Mu'Tasim made one more check, "Rashidan, are you with me?"

"Are you ready, guys?" Malik yelled over the Comms, to anyone who might be listening, his EV II crossing its arms, taking the ATA and ABS in hand. "Put Ya Guns On!" Malik let loose a shout, his VANDR moving forward rapidly, zig-zagging and spinning as it began to close the distance between him and his target, activating the phantoma shroud to make it somewhat harder to hit him. "Let's Go Wild! Its time to start the party!"

A massive swarm of enemy craft, a crazy and possibly suicidal wingmate, and a plan that was feeling less solid with each passing moment... by the gods she didn't believe in, Nenetl was getting a bad feeling about this. Like all bad feelings she ignored it, broadcasting a cheery, "Copy, covering fire!" The EVII advanced steadily, though a good ways behind Malik and Mu'Tasim, ticking off enemy units in her mind. She mentally prepared herself for... what she knew was coming. Countermeasures, she was supposed to provide countermeasures.

"Rgh! Tell me everything, you dopes!" the liaison hollered at the sensor operators. "Every scan you have! Run it or we're all going to die!"

Lamya spoke up quietly "Ma'am, I've got it's vector and heading. I'm working on figuring out it's maximum speed and agility. It seems to be quicker then it's escorts." She wired this, and the relevant data, to Mridula. She frowned staring at the display panel, running quick calculations in her head, then addressed the captain. "Sir, should I move to intercept, prepare to retreat, or maintain course?" she asked the captain, cautiously. "Each of those possibilities is risky." she fretted under her breath.

"Roger, roger." Akjit sounded off. He quickly set his sights on a threatening enemy, activated his Phantoma Shroud and slaved a quartet of LEMBs to the shocksword's aim. The Ivouri let off a flurry of his missiles to cover the other pilots on their approach, and opened fire with the LEMBs; as soon as it contacted an enemy, he would fire off the Shocksword as well, essentially using the lesser beams to aim the more powerful weapon more efficiently. The EV II zigzagged after the others.

The deployment of enemy frames had begun to be dispersed and turned back when the second wave of frames from the Astarte caught up with the battle, giving the arriving members of Bahram Wing a fighting chance. Fire support from the Astarte and her escort vessels had punched a hole through the front prong of the enemy's ad hoc formation, and was keeping their heavy units from making any more attacks on the critical Vayu. But reinforcements were being scrambled by both sides, with two more squadrons of VANDR following up from the Astarte and more waves of automated Soono being launched by the battleship. With the stresses of the attacking swarm lessened, the Vayu were able to regroup and consolidate their position as they continued to fall back towards the Astarte.

With that, the enemy broke off their assault and began to send their unit towards the Astarte herself, a screen of Soono protecting the remaining humanoid-types from point defense fire. Bahram immediately received priority to take down the units at the core of that group.

The N.I., which Mu'Tasim took the liberty of naming Famasir for the sake of ease, gave a loud warning of the incoming point defense fire. Famasir laid out a safe area, in which Bahram Wing could avoid getting shot but still advance. With a quick mental note, Mu'Tasim sent this safe zone to this fellow pilots.

"Hey! We have incoming Point Defense fire from the Astarte, move into the safe-zone to avoid blue-on-blue!" Mu'Tasim barked, it was then he noticed the orders to prioritize the humanoid units. It was then that the Temple Guard made a new order. "Rashidan! We're going straight for the Humanoid units. Nenetl, Akjit, Zalus, Zus, focus your fire on the humanoids."

"Astarte, can I get you to take care of those automated units covering the priority units?" Mu'Tasim relayed back to the ship.

Mu'Tasim received a short reply from the Astarte confirming the shift in fire to the automated units. A second later the field of fire shifted slightly now focusing entirely upon the Soono.

"Acknowledged." Zus replied to Mu'Tasim's orders, finding the nearest enemy and opening fire from extreme range with her SCPA's. She was unfamiliar with the frame and it's NI, the Raevr VANDR being both a new unit and a radically different one. Currently, the unit was in fighter mode, which was a bit of a different feeling for the pilot, but it did make everything somewhat more straightforward. The Eyr Ranr had only had a few simulations of the frame, but was confident in her ability to pilot it, so she didn't complain.

Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
16:11, Commonwealth Standard Time

A massive swarm of enemy craft, a crazy and possibly suicidal wingmate, and a plan that was feeling less solid with each passing moment... by the gods she didn't believe in, Nenetl was getting a bad feeling about this. Like all bad feelings she ignored it, broadcasting a cheery, "Copy, covering fire!" The EVII advanced steadily, though a good ways behind Malik and Mu'Tasim, ticking off enemy units in her mind. She mentally prepared herself for... what she knew was coming. Countermeasures, she was supposed to provide countermeasures.

"Rgh! Tell me everything, you dopes!" the liaison hollered at the sensor operators. "Every scan you have! Run it or we're all going to die!"

Lamya spoke up quietly "Ma'am, I've got it's vector and heading. I'm working on figuring out it's maximum speed and agility. It seems to be quicker then it's escorts." She wired this, and the relevant data, to Mridula. She frowned staring at the display panel, running quick calculations in her head, then addressed the captain. "Sir, should I move to intercept, prepare to retreat, or maintain course?" she asked the captain, cautiously. "Each of those possibilities is risky." she fretted under her breath.

"Roger, roger." Akjit sounded off. He quickly set his sights on a threatening enemy, activated his Phantoma Shroud and slaved a quartet of LEMBs to the shocksword's aim. The Ivouri let off a flurry of his missiles to cover the other pilots on their approach, and opened fire with the LEMBs; as soon as it contacted an enemy, he would fire off the Shocksword as well, essentially using the lesser beams to aim the more powerful weapon more efficiently. The EV II zigzagged after the others.

The deployment of enemy frames had begun to be dispersed and turned back when the second wave of frames from the Astarte caught up with the battle, giving the arriving members of Bahram Wing a fighting chance. Fire support from the Astarte and her escort vessels had punched a hole through the front prong of the enemy's ad hoc formation, and was keeping their heavy units from making any more attacks on the critical Vayu. But reinforcements were being scrambled by both sides, with two more squadrons of VANDR following up from the Astarte and more waves of automated Soono being launched by the battleship. With the stresses of the attacking swarm lessened, the Vayu were able to regroup and consolidate their position as they continued to fall back towards the Astarte.

With that, the enemy broke off their assault and began to send their unit towards the Astarte herself, a screen of Soono protecting the remaining humanoid-types from point defense fire. Bahram immediately received priority to take down the units at the core of that group.

The N.I., which Mu'Tasim took the liberty of naming Famasir for the sake of ease, gave a loud warning of the incoming point defense fire. Famasir laid out a safe area, in which Bahram Wing could avoid getting shot but still advance. With a quick mental note, Mu'Tasim sent this safe zone to this fellow pilots.

"Hey! We have incoming Point Defense fire from the Astarte, move into the safe-zone to avoid blue-on-blue!" Mu'Tasim barked, it was then he noticed the orders to prioritize the humanoid units. It was then that the Temple Guard made a new order. "Rashidan! We're going straight for the Humanoid units. Nenetl, Akjit, Zalus, Zus, focus your fire on the humanoids."

"Astarte, can I get you to take care of those automated units covering the priority units?" Mu'Tasim relayed back to the ship.

Mu'Tasim received a short reply from the Astarte confirming the shift in fire to the automated units. A second later the field of fire shifted slightly now focusing entirely upon the Soono.

"Acknowledged." Zus replied to Mu'Tasim's orders, finding the nearest enemy and opening fire from extreme range with her SCPA's. She was unfamiliar with the frame and it's NI, the Raevr VANDR being both a new unit and a radically different one. Currently, the unit was in fighter mode, which was a bit of a different feeling for the pilot, but it did make everything somewhat more straightforward. The Eyr Ranr had only had a few simulations of the frame, but was confident in her ability to pilot it, so she didn't complain.

"Roger! Malik Ibn Rashidan, Erla VANDR II, annihilating the enemy!" Malik's EV2 continued to rapidly close the distance between him and the enemy, blue-ish afterimages trailing behind his frame as he opened fire with all four Storm Rays, sending each cluster of laser beams on a lazy curve meant to disrupt the formation of enemy Soono. The Cohronl continued to rush ahead, slowing down just enough so he could get a good look at the formation the humanoid frames were in.

"Acknowledged!" Nenetl's voice was cheery as she responded to the orders, and she held back and opened fire on the nearest humanoid unit without so much as a moment's hesitation. With, of course the regenerative beacon flares. She'd been told something about countermeasures, and measures didn't get much more counter-y than that. The idea was (in her head somewhere, admittedly not the best source of ideas) to create as much chaos and trouble for the enemy as possible! If it worked, well, burn that bridge when she got to it...

“Confirmed, 1st Squadron. Targets locked.” The operator replied to Mu'Tasim, her voice retaining a dissonant calm as the forward laser batteries were brought to bear on the core of the enemy units, the beam emitters projecting at an angle as the ship maintained its angle on the advancing enemy vessels. Invisible lances burst across space, becoming a glow of white and blue as they arced through debris as they approached the enemy formation. A thick curtain of plasma and smoke scattered around, obscuring of visuals and spiking thermal sensors and radar with the sudden spike and snuffing out of hundreds of power sources.

With a single blast, most of the enemy frames had been taken out, causing their formation to collapse.

"Mop up the remaining forces, 1st Squadron. The 2nd and 3rd are providing fire support to the retreating Vayu." The operator finished, highlighting the remaining dozens of Soono and humanoid-type frames. With the attack, the 1st Squadron was given a chance to mop up the remaining units with a clear advantage.

"Copy that, Astarte." Mu'Tasim relayed back to command, "1st Squadron, primary targets are still the humanoids, secondary targets are the remaining units the area. You are free to engage secondary units after we--..."

The Temple Guard stopped for a moment as he approached one of the humanoids, his VT sword active. Slipping through it's particle shield, the Guard's VANDR descended onto the unit and began ravaging the mech with his blade. "Rashidan!" Mu'Tasim relayed to Malik, signalling him to take advantage of the chaos.

"After we deal with these humanoids, keep on the suppressive fire, and keep mind of the ship." The Temple Guard finished comunicating to Wing.

Cut by the distortive pressure of his sword pushed forward by the sheer strength of his VANDR, the enemy unit was split and spiraled into oblivion as it spewed forth red synovial fluid and superheated plasma from its seperated bottom and top halves. As a consequence, three of the nearby automated 'Soono' seemed to tick off for an instant before immediately closing to attack him.

"Roger" Zus responded to Mu'tasim, turning her Raevr to fire again upon the nearest humanoid enemy. the Eyr Ranr let off a volley of PASD missiles before boosting in a random direction and getting a bead to fire on her enemy. she fired her SCPA's again, trying to catch the enemy unit off guard after the distraction of the missiles

The humanoid frame attempted to evade the volley of missiles, but narrowly evaded and was clipped. The blast of particles across its left arm allowed it to receive both Sniper Cannon barrels from Zus' Raevr VANDR. The impact sheared off the top layers of armor, but did not manage to penetrate the bottom of the unit's armor. It attempted to return fire, launching a spray of fusion plasma at the incoming frame.

"RIGHT! VT FA~NGS!" Malik responded over the com to Mu'Tasim, all 12 of the self propelled knife missiles were launched from his ATA Shield, streaking through space towards his target, their fine edges penetrating through whatever shielding the manned frame had.

"Let's Go, Kentares! Sublight Jump!" The EVII seemingly dissapeared for a brief second, reappearing, albeit without any momentum, extremely close to one of the humanoid frames. Not wasting any time, the VANDR did its own imitation of Famasir's deadly flurry, the VT Sword and VT Drivers built into the legs and shield assaulting the frame, Malik finishing the assault by wrapping the EVII's arms around it and squeezing. "Take this! VT Crush!"

Malik had perhaps not mounted the cleanest offense, but the enemy was bowed by the display, unable to react as it was impaled on all sides by VT Fangs. Already, it bled out synovial fluid and plasma from its many punctures, and only worsened when the runner followed up with his swift attack with sword and shield that punctured it directly in the upper torso and left shoulder. The ruined limb was left to hung, like a parodical stand-in.

At this point, the enemy might have made an attempt to defend himself or flee, but did not have the time. The Vaybalri had gone to the effort of leaving his weapons embedded in the body of the enemy frame, and exerted the force to crush its head and neck into a mess of carbon armor and splattered organoid tissues that quickly hardened and shattered like glass under the worsening conditions.

In a panic, the pilot jettisoned his cockpit block, attempting to distance himself from his craft before it was destroyed.

Nenetl maintained her distance, once again transmitting a rather shrill sound of glee (she could think in obnoxious sounds! It was a rare gift) as a way of acknowledging - not that her orders had particularly changed. She did much the same as she had before, in fact, considering the orders. Another volley from the regenerative beacon flares, this time in the general direction of the Soono bearing down on the temple guard.

Launching her second volley of beacon flares, Nenetl's counterattack caught the attention of the NI motivated units for the instant before Mu'Tasim was surrounded. She'd spared the Temple Guard from a sudden pincer attack, but attracted attention onto herself. Thirty missile signatures broke out onto her short-range sensors as her NI panicked to attempt evasion.

Mridula's console soon became more active then before as three high-output readings, ZeP generator readings moving in at high speeds to their position. The NI of the Astarte continued relaying information to her as things became more clear as they closed further into the ship's detection range. Vector Wave and Subspace Mass sensors began painting a clearer picture, whatever it was the readings appeared to be three times the size of the VANDR with a large distortion wave being emitted in its wake and moving at speeds above the norm. The NI could only advise caution as the unknown object continued on its course the gap closing, and quickly.

"Watch out," Mridula broadcasted to the squad. "Something's coming your way, three times as big as your frames and it's going fast as nightmare. Coming from your eleven." She shifted agitatedly around in her sim, anxious to get more data on the strange new combatant. "Keep me posted on that thing," she said to the crew, keeping the runners' broadcast channel open just in case.

"Did Malik just?!"

"Yes." Akjit's NI Replied. The Ivuori grunted. So far, he was hanging back and cautiously taking potshots at the enemy, but the distance between his wingmates and the enemy seemed to suddenly close, with three after Mu'Tasim and Malik giving a fourth a crushing hug. "Shouldn't you...you know. Get closer?" It prodded at him.

"Shut up." Akjit launched several missiles towards one of the enemy Soono and then VT jumped into medium fighting range, directly below his target. The Ivouri swore when he realized what he just did, letting the NI goad him into doing something that might cost him. Akjit fired his Shocksword directly up at the enemy, and due to the position he was in, it lanced up and towards the area between the legs.

His attack burned a hole into the groin region of a single Soono that had rushed to defend its humanoid-type controller, costing its life. Crimson fluid bled and crystalized from the hole, and plasma vented out. It had stopped moving entirely.

Its controller, however, had cut around and was not returning fire at Akjit, stressing its thrusters to keep flanking him faster than he might be able to turn.

“Hey, hold on Vaytulri. We're getting a fix on it.” The sensors adjutant sent higher resolution imagining of the object that was closing in on the 1st Squadron. Scans held it to be roughly humanoidn in shape, although as close to the archetypal VANDR as a VANDR might be compared to a human being. There were inconsistencies. It was bulky and wasting huge amounts of heat and charged particles, but moving with the agility one would attribute to a high mobility powered frame.

"Awww, Saints dammit!" Heat and radiation signatures spiked, and the object suddenly decreased in mass by an eighth. Missiles, the size of household water canisters and numbering in the hundreds, streaked towards the collected members of Bahram's 1st.

"MISSILES!" the Solanii liaison squawked in a most unladylike fashion. "Missiles, hundreds of them, coming your way! Whatever shot 'em is some kind of - I don't know, some crappy frame, but missiles!"

Serhan adjusted his glasses and gestured his arm forwards to the swarm of red signatures that represented the missiles on the tactical display. "You heard her. All starboard anti-frame lasers, provide supporting fire." He said with a brusque, businesslike air, examing the battlefield for an instant. Whatever the anomalous object was, it clearly had put stock in simple tactics... or was that just a way to put his unit off-guard? "1st Squadron isn't going to get flanked."

The weapons adjutants complied quickly, and began targetting missiles to the sides of the deployed squadron. Indeed, the enemy had spread out their fire to attempt a flank, and the reason was obvious enough. As beams swept away some of the incoming fire, the reason for the spread attack was obvious enough. Sensors picked up multiple plasma detonations each time a canister was destroyed, and much more shrapnel than what might be logical for a conventional warhead.

Things were happening fast for the Temple Guard, about ten or so days earlier he had been in a hospital. In truth he forgot how fast these battles could happen, especially concerning the tactical shift of the battlefield. Nonetheless, Mu'Tasim brought himself to bear against his foes. He found himself surrounded, and that would not do, thankfully, he was bought time to fall-back, and away from his Soono opponents. As soon as he figured a way to counter-attack, the transmission, a warning of the sea of missile fire came over the comms.

"1st Squadron, evade the oncoming missiles, do not engage them! They appear to have a more devestating affect upon detonation!" Mu'Tasim said, turning his attention towards the new threat. Famasir began relaying and mapping a trajectory in which to safely maneuver and evade, and Mu'Tasim followed its guidance.

Mridula watched, wishing she was in a VANDR with the runners - not because she had any particular desire to die in a horrible blaze of un-glory, but so she could act without having to relay information to them. "They're cluster bombs. Watch it."

Zus' only response was a grunt as she switched her Raevr out of ARMS mode, firing off a few PASD at her enemy before MASC jumping to the frame's opposite side. Despite the loss of momentum, Zus gave her sublight drives full power and fired several RCPA blasts at her enemy before giving it a swift kick to the back with her VT driver legs.

As soon as she accomplished the maneuver, she disengaged, firing more PASD's, this time at the incoming missiles in order to disorient them.

Taking several hits, Zus managed to pull out of her maneuver with little or no damage, in part due to her shields holding true and a great bit of luck. Keeping his distance and outrunning her volley of PASDs, her enemy countered, making a VT translation of his own to cut around her offensive fire, but was impacted as soon as he exited compressed space and sent reeling. With two bursts of RCPA fire followed by a kick, she had put her enemy down and sent the motionless remains careening into the void.

Despite her best attempts, the rain of canister missiles opened and divided the moment they reached proximity into one of smaller can-sized projectiles that now numbered in the thousands. The unknown mecha was not even giving consideration to its allies, as it crushed friendly frames beneath a hail of fire, destroying much of the enemy force that had remained. Guided by the invisible hand of a clever puppeteer, the missiles immediately shifted their direction, swarming around to attack Mu'Tasim's red-clad Famasir.

He had moments to evade or be crushed beneath the torrent of enemy projectiles

"Yay, Missiles." Malik spat, grabbing the NVR Runner's cockpit and taking it with ham as he performed a series of acrobatic maneuvers to try and dodge the missiles, pulling back slightly and depositing the pilot somewhere where he wouldn't get killed.

Missiles! And then more missiles! Nenetl was seeing a lot of missiles, some of them aimed at her, some just aimed at everything that might have happened to be in a fairly large area that happened to include her. Either way, a lot of missiles, and her NI was frantic and Nenetl was... so help her, afraid. Struggling to process all the information coming at her, she did the only thing that came to mind, and the (insofar-unnamed) EV II VT jumped. Hopefully, she could get away from the immediate danger presented by the missiles. She could worry about the thing(s) firing them after she was still alive.

The sudden loss of momentum was jarring, and prevented her for a moment from doing anything else. First-sortie. Not as easy as she'd expected.

Akjit suddenly had two things to worry about, which he ticked off in his head. First, the swarm of missiles. Second, the guy trying to fly around and flank him. Chances were, he was already going faster than his Erla VANDR II could turn. The Ivouri thrusted his sword forward into empty space and dropped off several flares to get his enemy's attention as he sat still. The moment the enemy reached his four 'o clock, Akjit VT jumped again, this time, directly into the enemy's flight path with his VT Sword outstretched; the enemy was going to impale itself if it didn't evade or do something.

"You're lazy you know." The NI muttered.

Reacting to Akjit's unusual choice of tactics, the humanoid-type simply charged its quad cannons and pelted the Erla VANDR II's torso and arms with jets of superheated plasma. Damage was large concentrated on his frame's right arm, but was enough for him to lose grip of his blade for an instant. But before the enemy could capitalize on that moment of vulnerability, it was taken out by the shower of missiles that had been fired by the unknown, and messily disabled. The pilot had not ejected, but there wasn't enough of the unit around the cockpit block to confirm that he was even still alive.

Deploying rather late in the game was another EVII, headed toward the endangered 1st Squadron of the Bahram Wing. Almost immediately, the feminine voice of Isha Ragnar came over to the team: "Field Physician Ragnar reporting! Excuse my lateness. How may I be of service?" A rather awkward situation to be in, she thought, but was playing it off the best she could. There'd be a time to explain herself later, but right now she needed to her job... well, her OTHER job.

Lamya watched the VANDRs as she piloted the Astarte. She tried to keep her eyes open, watching the rest of the situation. She wasn't sure if the fighting with the VANDRs was a feint or a distraction. Certainly the opposing ships had severly damaged one of the Astarte's escorts "Permission to add some random elements to the ship's motion in order to confound lightspeed and FTL weaponry?" she requested of her superiors. Obviously if the answer was yes she would begin doing so, moving the ship sporaticaly so that it was less likely to be sucessfuly targeted at this range.

"Denied, the enemy ships have yet to make any open moves. Our suddenly starting evasive maneuvers could prematurely begin a fire fight we're in no way ready for at present. Maintain our course as we are." The captain's gruff voice murmured from where he was standing watching the battlefield displays

Mu'Tasim looked in what his Famasir could relay to him as a rather grim situation. He could feel the pet-like intelligence tug at him, urging the Guarduard to move. At the moment, he lost his nerve and froze for a second, never seeing so many missiles aimed at one person in his life. Though, that was no time to die, at least, that's what he felt Muna saying in the back of his mind. In a less-than-split-second thought, the VANDR made a sub-light jump from it's current position, to one that was relatively safer, specifically he moved to the right of his position and the barrage. A large jump out of the direction of the mass of missiles to gain a different vantage of the battlefield.

Famasir seemed to urge him on further, which pushed Mu'Tasim to select his MASC Scanner, turning his sensors Active. He became determined to find the source of this attack.

"Everyone, I'm going to switch to Active Sensors, and I will transmit data I receive, to you. Stand-by and defend yourselfs." relayed Mu'Tasim.

Nenetl's heartfelt wish to not be pounded into space dust by the hail of missile fire would luckily come to pass as she performed her jump. The missiles streaked off to her old position, detonating in a cloud of superheated plasma and force which, would likely have caused quite a bit of damage had they struck the EVII as intended, a bullet dodged and one rightfully so given the situation she was in.

The trail of missiles that had locked upon Mu'Tasim, and Famasir exploded along the trail as he was slightly less lucky then his female counterpart, the lock had not been entirely lost on him as they now tracked him down. Along the way several more exploded as a result of colliding with wreckage from enemy frames, or the proximity detonator going off, but the few that managed to survive came upon his position slamming into the EVII with significant force, the explosions enough to jar him within the cockpit block of the frame.

Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

With the Vayu escort returned to formation around the Astarte, the vessel was able to keep off the handful of approaching enemy frame units with a an effective screen of laser fire. The 2nd and 3rd squadrons rested on the hull of the Astarte, nestled behind the dense shell of compressed space that cocooned the vessel's hull and tentatively shooting down approaching aerospace fighters.

The battleship and two cruisers now skirted the edge of the Astarte's weapons range, deploying another two squadrons of frames to keep the Vanguard forces tied up as it prepared to make a push for the experimental Solanii vessel.


The barrage of missiles had detonated in proximity, causing discord among the ranks and causing sensors to spike and lose focus for an instant. The result was obvious enough: Mu'Tasim's frame had taken several heavy hits and everyone else's shields faced significant drain from only barely evading the cluster missile attack.

The enemy frame had slipped out of sensors long enough to be lost entirely, not being in sight as the cloud of high energy particles dissipated.

A number of Soono and humanoid types too great for the 1st to defeat easily was on fast approach, likely to arrive in a minute or two, and the remaining members of the Wing had pulled back to defend the Astarte. Whatever enemy frame had attacked was now unseen, and the man who had taken charge was that was now in a unit that had lost the function of its blade and was missing portions of sensor eyes and left leg.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

For a moment, Mu'Tasim was disoriented, he had little idea of his position as the barrage struck him heavily. In his mind, he cursed his lucky, along with his bit of carelessness. His body had been shaken from within the cockpit, but luckily, he was not hit with enough force to slip from his laying position.

To Mu'Tasim, his vision was somewhat groggy, as if shell-shocked, due to his VANDR's blow to the head. To top it off he couldn't feel one of his legs. Despite the damages, the Red Erla II began to recover itself. With what sensors still worked, he detected the forces Soono approaching. The squadron needed direciton.

"1st Sqaudron, fall-back to the Astarte." Mu'Tasim spoke calmly, as if he had just shrugged of sandrat instead of a volley of massive missile fire. "We will coordinate a defense with our remaining forces." He made a sub-light jump back to the rest of his Sqaudron, and then began to fly back towards their home ship.

"Astarte, what is the order?" was his question to command.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Serhan kept his eyes keenly fixed to the tactical overlay and rubbed his clean-shaven chin. "Hmm. Recall the 1st and dispatch the 2nd and 3rd once they've been resupplied and rearmed. Those cruisers need to be destroyed if the Astarte is to have a chance." With the enemy's usage of heavy waves of automatons was a bit frustrating since the units were competent enough and could be wasted without consequence. He'd have to risk the lives of a few of his men to keep those busy while created an opportunity for the others to strike the enemy hard.

"Tell the 4th to equip MACD modules, and dispatch the 1st as an escort." He said with a steady austerity to his voice. "The 4th is to cripple or destroy the enemy cruiser's engines and quantum link communicator. The Astarte's group will not last unless we can force the enemy to face us one at a time."

The XO turned to his commanding officer and gave a polite nod. "I may need to intervene personally if the situation in the field doesn't improve."


The female operator chimed in again to Mu'Tasim and then opened up the communications channel with the remaining members of the 1st Squadron. "Restock and resupply, 1st Squadron. The 4th is about to assault the cruiser-types and you've been chosen to escort them while the 2nd and 3rd keep them tied up."

The channel closed, and reopened, the HUD indicator showing that it had been opened only for the Temple Guard. "We don't have enough to replace that leg, unfortunately. A patch job and an injection of colloidal Veyrinite should restore blade usage and sensors readings to optimal capacity."
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

"Alright, we have our orders, Fanir's swiftness to you all." Mu'Tasim blessed his wing-mates.

"We don't have enough to replace that leg, unfortunately. A patch job and an injection of colloidal Veyrinite should restore blade usage and sensors readings to optimal capacity."

"Thank you for the notice, I believe I'll be capable enough without the leg." Mu'Tasim replied warmly to the controller. His VANDR swooped down towards the Astarte and into it's hangar. The loudspeaker put out a message, specifically for Chief Alia Jyotsna.

"I apologize, Jyotsna, I have sustained damage." spoke Mu'Tasim is a somewhat sorry tone, as he began to position his VANDR into place for repairs.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Zus was relieved when the order to fall back came; she had not been looking forward to so many enemies at once, even in this newer, more effective unit. "Falling back" Zus affirmed to Mu'Tasim, taking stock of what she had used; A little biomass would probably be all that she needed, and so the Eyr Ranr swiftly made her way back into the Astarte's Hangar with her Raevr VANDR.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Fortunately for Mu'Tasim, Alia had been just far enough away to not notice his dismembered and plasma-scorched Erla VANDR II, being too busy servicing and prepping the units of the still nebulously defined 4th squadron. This meant that maintenance went by rather clearly, as his unit received an infusion of raw liquefied biomass and colloidal veyrinite particles to kickstart its self-repair systems. Plates were replaced and burnt out sensor eyes were excised and exchanged for newer components.

Zus and the others received a less extensive work over, as the ship reloaded their largely unused complements of missiles and recharged their capacitor packs to full power.

Within a few minutes, the wing had been returned to fighting force. Orders were to remain on standby until the 4th was ready to go, but that seemed to be taking some time as well.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Fresh out of the hangar, Isha was almost immediately told to return. She did so with a sigh. Admittedly the female was a little perturbed by her pointless flight, but ultimately she was trying to shake off her nerves. From what she knew, this battle was shaping up to be rather dangerous for the Bahram Wing. When Mu'Tasim's patch-up procedures were completed, Field Physician Ragnar made her way over. "Mu'Tasim, I've been assigned to field duty with your squad. I'm Field Physician Isha Ragnar." She felt a little awkward having to repeat herself, but no one had even acknowledged her existence, so it seemed necessary to introduce herself yet again. "And I'd be happy to take care of that leg when we return," she offered.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Malik came in last, surprisingly, his EV2 slowed down just a bit by the extra weight he had picked up. On the way back to the Astarte, Malik had taken a bit of a detour, grabbing the ejection pod of the frames Mu'Tasim and Zus had destroyed, in addition to the NVR pilot he had grabbed previously. Climbing out of the EVII's cockpit to get a good look at the state of it, he was surprised to see Mu'Tasim's Vandr in such a state. Shrugging it off as bad luck, he turned towards the nearest member of the hangar crew, and started yelling at them. "Hey! I have some enemy frame runners here! Three of them! You might want to call some GI's to take them into custody!"
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Unlike Malik, the young Ivouri had only grabbed the destroyed frame to bring back, and nothing else. This meant he had a lighter load, and came in just before the other pilot. He couldn't even tell if the pilot of the enemy unit was still alive, but capturing their tech should at the least give something for people like Akjit's parents something to look at. The NI spoke as they landed,
"This is not a game child. You cannot expect to try something new in the battlefield and live through it if it fails, you fool." Akjit then quickly shot back, his temper rising.
"You know I'll find out what you are and why you're here right?!" The NI radiated a sense of pleasure at that thought, and countered Akjit's claim,
"As it was hoped."

As he emerged from his frame, the young Ivouri heard Malik crow about his captured pilots, and looked at his own 'catch'. It was a mess, leaking fluids everywhere. In fact, he wasn't sure what he'd need to call for. "Uh. Malik? Can you send a GI or two over too? And maybe a bucket and a hose. I-I'm not sure which I'll need."
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Nenetl received the order to return, and breathed an internal sigh of relief. They were getting a beating like rational thought in a John Woo scene.

"Confirmed. Falling back."

By some miracle, Nenetl had avoided severe damage, or indeed any real damage worth noting. She had been terrified, so very certain she would die. Reflex, and the NI screaming in her ear, had saved her. It was a slightly humbled (at least for the next few minutes) Nenetl who returned to the Astarte, despite the lack of damage to the Erla II she had yet to name.

She was loathe to admit it, but Nenetl was afraid. They'd just been given a pretty remarkable showing up. Even the Sund Wakir guard. Oh well... nothing to do but wait for the order to go back out again. She knew that was coming too.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
16:11, Commonwealth Standard Time

With Mu'Tasim's repairs and rearmament finished, he set himself ready to launch.

"Alright, 1st Squadron. Launch and get in formation to defend the 4th Squadron. Let us be quickly, the 4th has already launched, and we're holding them." broadcasted Mu'Tasim before he launched back out into space, his VANDR still missing one of it's legs. Famasir hit the throttle and joined up around 4th Squadron.

Zus felt through her links as the various hoses and cables recharging and replinishing her Raevr VANDR disconnected and fell away, the organoid machine lifting off the deck and swiftly transitioning from Humanoid mode to ARMS mode. After a brief pause to review the fairly simple orders given, the blonde Eyr Ranr made her way out of the Astarte and followed Mu'Tasim's EV II towards the 4th squadron.

For Nenetl, it had largely been a matter of waiting - by miracle, luck, and (she would be sure to say later) pure awesome skill, she had avoided damage, so when Mu'Tasim gave the order to launch, again, she did so, not broadcasting the excitement she had earlier... so she was a little intimidated. The fourth squadron needed protection, she could swallow that along with the wounded pride. To the mission.

Malik followed his squadronmates: Mu'Tasim, Zus, and Nenetl, out of the Astarte's hangar, warily scanning nearby space as he took a vanguard position infront of the 4th Squadron. Opening up a comm-channel to the rest of 1st Squadron, to the leader of 4th Squadron, and to the Solanii Represntative on the brigde, the supposedly hotheaded frame runner came up with a plan, still worried about that Robot of Unreasonable Size.

"Mu'Tasim Sera, Head of the 4th Squadron, Solanii Representative Osei. I would like to have your assistance in a plan. II believe that arranging the First and the Fourth in a specific formation, namely using Mu'tasim and Myself as forward guards, whilst Zus in her Raevr takes an overwatch position from a few kilometers back, using her superior range to provide fire support. The rest of the first will take up a line formation on either side of the 4th's own formation, and we'll head to the target. Missus Mridula, could you please provide support from your position, and warn us if that gigantic NVR Frame appears again?"

Zalus launched from the bay after his shield was repaired and fell into line with the rest of the wing. He had only sustained minor damage in the prior engagement and was rearing to get back into the fight with the unknown monstrosity. As he left the bay he started to scan for avalible targets and readied himself to deal with any hostiles. "Lets hope we have better luck with our big friend this time around."

The situation outside the Astarte had changed little since they had returned to dock with the vessel. The 2nd and 3rd Squadrons had moved to back up one of the Vayu as it moved positions and the debris field between the Vanguard and NVR battlegroup had grown in size by a significant margin. Stray laser blasts had begun to arc back and forth between the two formations of ship, but the beams were easily dissipated by the shields of the opposing force, and free electron beams could not penetrate the strong defenses of the VSV Astarte.

However, launching behind the 1st squadron was a larger contingent of frames, perhaps a little greater in size than the 1st and all armed with frame-portable heavy laser cannons. The fourth squadron commander fired a small beacon-flare, giving the signal to his wing to deploy.

"Yes, Vaybalri. This is Lantulri Eron Zosa, commander of the 4th Squadron. Your recommends are dully noted, but NVR cruisers are known for being able to take out formations quite easily. My unit will be relying on a sequentially generated flight path to bypass the enemy's point defense." The commander of the 4th squadron sounded rather smug and uninterested, his dismissal of Malik's idea slightly amused at his ideas. "All we need the 1st to do is ensure we get there in one piece."

"You all heard the Lantulri, stay loose, but close to our allies. Our job is to ensure they make it safely, let us do all we can to ensure this." Mu'Tasim transmitted to the rest of his squadmates, his VANDR finding a spot close to one of the 4th Squadrons VANDR's. "Sequential formation, but defensive, find a 4th Squadron member and keep the fire off of them."

"Yes Sir~" Zus responded to Mu'Tasim, quickly picking out a member of the fourth and flying near, but not too near, it. She began Adjusting the sensors on her Raevr, to be sure that her aim would be true when combat finally came. She hoped it would be soon, and over with quickly, so they could continue on with the mission before them.

Nenetl was reticent. The target had more or less hammered the temple guard into a... very damaged temple guard. That scared her. She tried not to let it affect her, though, simply transmitting a response: "...acknowledged..." - when Mu'Tasim reiterated the orders from the Lantulri. Pick a member of the 4th, protect. She could do that.

Malik's EVII accelerated, moving closer to Mu'tasim's to open up a private line between him and the temple guard. The Cohronl was jumpy, and seemingly angered by the Lantulri.

"Mu'Tasim, I don't like this. It feels like we're being set up for an ambush, and that neesh-dung of a Lantulri is too arrogant and smug to pick up on it. If the NVR is smart, at all, they'll be using that enormous Frame they threw at us earlier. I would like your permission to break away from the wing, hunt down the NVR's new weapon, and keep it busy until the 4th is done doing their job, Vaytulri Farouk."

Zalus flew in loose formation in front of one of the 4th wing VANDR and activated his Vector barrier. He kept his eyes out for the big bastard that had sent them into a rout. He kept his guard up and ready to defend the VANDR behind him. he opened a link to the VANDR he was covering, "Stay behind me and stay in one piece, Ok?"

Vaygraiv Naveed had grown tired of watching the three enemy ships still unscathed yet they had had their nose bloodied. The Sund Wakir put his kepi on his head then arranging it just so as his glared at the real-time battle footage being showed to him.

"Adjutant Weapons Operator Vasilyev, prepare to fire the main laser battery on the centerline battleship and the missile banks on them all." his voice chilly as he gave the order to fire. The NI automatically sent warnings out to the launched squadrons of the Astarte's impending offensive push warning them of potential charged particle fallout.

Lances of unseen light cut across the shrinking battlefield, bursting into glowing strings of blue and white as they crossed through the field of wrecked Soono. The initial volley of laser fire caused the forward armor of the battleship to turn dull orange and rose up to a bright white. The material warped and buckled from the sudden shift in temperatures, causing the mass near the points of impact to spall and peel in thick layers.

The hail of missiles followed suit soon after, destroying the entire nose of the battleship with a pinpoint strike of massed weaponry. The reactive armor on the vessel seemed to experience a chain reaction, bursting off in rows and jettisoned by the series of small detonations that went off across the hull. The battleship was now sheathed in a dense field of charged particles, and covered to sensors. But it was clear that it had sustained enough damage, having lost nearly a third of its total mass in the continuing internal explosions that followed the Astarte's alpha strike.

Famasir lit up brightly to Mu'Tasim, warning him of the beautiful, yet deadly storm of fire. The NI gave the pilot a path to follow, and the pilot followed it to avoid it's fire.

Zus' Raevr plotted a course through the fire, and the Lanbalri kindly asked the frame she was protecting to follow her. As quickly as the fire had begun, however, it had finished, and she was able to return to a more sane flight path, that being the random path generated by the NI to keep the fourth from becoming starship-fodder.

As the Astarte begun its counterattack, the two VANDR squadrons were afforded a bit of a light show. It was a short lived feeling of success despite the massive cruiser's opening volleys having connected right on the battleship's nose. Their NI shifted their warnings from the automated warnings being issued by Ishtar, the Astarte's NI to one regarding the eight incoming humanoid frames all of which seemed to be of the same type encountered at the orbital elevator.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

If the Cohronl could've smiled as he was, hooked up by his entryports to the frame, he would've, the yellow-gold frame he was piloting accelerating ahead of his team-mates. "I Got this." Malik's EVII activated it's Phantoma Shroud as it began to close the distance between it and the eight humanoid NVR Frames, using the Regenerative Flares to disguise his launching of all 12 VT Fangs and of full Salvo of Canister Missiles, streaking towards a single enemy. Using a Vector Transmission Jump, Malik jumped closer to the Frame, accepting the loss of momentum as a trade off, opening up with the left Shocksting RCPA to disrupt his target's momentum, using the Shocksword MCPA to make aimed shots at the torso.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

A quick show of brilliant light, then...

...enemy frames. Eight of them. The NI's warnings chimed through her mind like a brass bell, and even as she took note of the incoming frames, Rashidan burst into action with a rather impressive degree of confidence.

Nenetl played a far more reserved game than her wingmate's sudden offensive. She did not wish to stray too far from the 4th, lest she lose track, and they wind up fodder for something unexpected. After all, it wasn't as though much of anything had gone according to plan so far.

She maintained a close distance, releasing the VT fangs - there were eight frames coming in, she had twelve drones, and her aim was simply to cause damage to as many of those frames as possible before they inevitably opened fire.
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

ON, VSV Astarte
High Orbit Over Mazerin
Bukor 11, 936
16:18, Commonwealth Standard Time

Before Mu'Tasim could sound an order, part of the wing had already begun their attack. The Temple Guard raised up his sword-rifle and began a forward assault, soaring forward as Malik had done. He raised up his Vector Barrier and sent forth a volley from both his MCPA and RCPA Cannons on one of the frames.

"First Squadron, suppressive fire on approaching Frames. Malik and I will try to tie them up before they can reach Fourth Squadron." ordered the Temple Guard as he fired off a salvo of beacon flares.

Zus' Raevr fired a set of Twin SCPA beams at her nearest enemy, as well as a small swarm of PASD missiles with which to distract her enemy. The unit, in ARMS mode, flew at full speed nearer to Mu'Tasim's damaged Erla before pausing next to the Temple Guard's Unit. "Mu'Tasim, I think we should gang up on one to take it out faster!"

Together, Malik and Mu'Tasim managed to split the approaching formation in half, as six of the humanoid-type frames boosted away from their attacked teammates and pressed their attack against the MACD-carrying 4th Squadron. One of the enemy frames had been blinded by the canister missile fire, and forced into a corner when Malik's blade struck in it in the shoulder and shattered its upper arm. In the intervening seconds, the target was impaled in the back by a volley of VT Fangs. Its attempt at a counterattack was cut short, as plasma was being cast off from its back in large bursts and its remaining intact arm missed a strike on the Erla VANDR II's head.

Mu'Tasim succeded in distracting and weakening the enemy frame as it attempted to bypass him, wearing down its shields with a few blasts and managing to catch it in the left leg with an accurate shot as soon as it lowered them to counterattack. The unit lost control for a moment, struggling to maintain stability as it returned fire with a desperate burst of its arm-mounted free electron blaster. Moments later, just as it approached getting a bead on the hastily christened Famasir, the frame had its head clipped off by a sudden sniper cannon strike by Zus' Raevr VANDR. The quick shower of missiles that followed knocked it away, but did not managed to complete disable it.

Nenetl had a little more luck in regards to hitting her targets, but did not put herself into a better situation. Her twelve VT Fangs speared a trio of frames, but netted her their attention as a consequence.

Once more, Isha Ragnar lagged behind her team, supplying what little aid she could to some of those injured before tailing after 1st Squadron. Combat had already commenced by the time of her arrival. She veered toward the "right" cluster of enemies, adding her own cannons to the show of lasers lighting up the otherwise pitch-black "sky." Her plan was to maintain fire support at a distance; close combat wasn't really her forte, and risking her life wasn't a very good idea: who else was going to patch up everyone else when all was said and done?

Long story short, Akjit was having 'launching problems'. Long story long, he was arguing with his Nightmare of an NI, which had proceeded to mess with and completely delete his personal preferences concerning how some weapons were linked to others. It said "Just fight like the others do." or something along those lines. Eventually, the young Ivouri caved in to it's demands; after all, even if he didn't, it wouldn't have let him launch, and he'd have to try and grab another Erla VANDR II or anything lying around. And the last thing he wanted was a curious technician climbing in and discovering it; if it's claim was true, than someone who knew him had the accursed thing installed.

Akjit was lagging, far, far behind the group because of this, and was accelerating at the group at top speed. As he got closer, the Ivouri singled out an enemy, and made a beeline straight for him, his VT Fangs fanned out to both his flanks as he continued to charge at the enemy piloted frame before suddenly performing a VT Jump, ending up as close as possible to his foe. Behind it. As it rushed away at him, he fired at it's back with his Shocksword and LEMBs; the VT Fangs would hopefully catch up at this point and close in to box the enemy frame in from the sides with withering fire. "That's better." his NI sneered.

Zalus kept his position in front of 4th squad and charged weapons as he sighted incoming targets. He took aimed shot when he could but the majority of his weaponry went towards suppressive fire directed at the hulking frames. "You know Malik. I was really not looking forward to dealing with these annoying beasts again..." Zalus started 'pacing' along the front line of the 4th squadron in order to get better shot when he could and to be ready to block incoming shots. "I also wish I had a death-ray... Just saying."

"Maybe you weren't looking forward to it," Malik almost yelled over the comms, his voice almost sounding as if he was enjoying himself, his Erla II kicking away the dead Frame as it turned to face his next target, "But I was looking forward to some payback! Just make sure you don't let them touch the 4th Squadron, and I'll get over there as soon as me and Mu'Tasim finish up here. Zulfiqar, Lets Go!"

Malik's EVII, named Zulfiqar, accelerated away from the destroyed frame, VT Fangs withdrawn into the ATA as its Phantoma Shroud kicked into high gear, blueish afterimages flowing behind it, confusing sensors as Malik opened fire, the VT Sword glowing brightly as he fired his MCPA at the closest NVR Frame, using his RCPA to trip its momentum up so that his slower firing MCPA would have a better chance of hitting. As Zulfiqar neared its target, it lashed out with the ATA, using the VT Driver edge of the shield to cover up the ABS returning to blade mode, Malik thrusting at the enemy Frame's torso.

Isha's beam strike was soundly deflected by the lead of the 'right group' shields, allowing them to close the gap and continue towards her. Her NI attempted to encourage the pilot, noting the decrease in the enemy's shield integrity, but doing little in the way of offering alternatives. The enemy immedaitely returned fire with a screen of missiles and spread out further to evade cluster fire.

One of these units was immediately struck in the arms and shoulder by a spread of VT Fangs, putting it off-ballance long enough for a rapidly accelerating Akjit to get a few clear strikes on its back. The effect was the opposite of what he had intended, but the high-speed melee drones had managed to get a clear shot and prime the target for a few quick shots to the back. But the target wasn't downed yet, and before the slices from raking particle and laser even cooled down, the enemy had already turned around and was delivering a punishing volley of light fusion cannon fire as it geared for a melee strike.

Zalus was immediately struck in the torso area with a stream of four fusion blasts, grazing his front armor but cutting down on his shields before he tried to get the clear shot. Some of the enemy had managed to flank him, and were aiming to target the unburened Erla VANDR II first! It was clear enough that the enemy was in range, and Nara already had a good idea of where the enemy was, feeding the estimations to its pilot.

Zulfiqar's battle charge was swift and terrible, unhindered by enemy attacks as no less than three enemy units, the very same that Nenetl hadroused moments earlier, and facing little more than a few glancing strikes on its shields. Because of this, he was able to get into range and place his shots well, wearing down one of the three frames and keeping the other two at bay and split on their attention, between Nenetl's unit and that of the young Cohronl's.

Meanwhile, the battle around them was continuing to evolve and change as the EM disturbances caused by the Astarte's alpha strike had begun to die down. The remains of the battleship, or rather a loose framework of battle-scarred hypercarbon and what appeared to be squarish pods set inside seemed to be intact. Deeper inside, was the outer hull of a much smaller vessel, perhaps the full size of the Astarte, gradually exposed as more and more of the remaining casing was cast off. The vessel was roughly equivalent in dimensions, but had most of its size in length and width, and had an assymetrical look.

What was troubling was that it appeared to be gaining speed as the outer hull was being ejected, and had begun to... split apart, exposing rows of glowing objects deeper inside the armor. Sensors indicated a high volume of boosted fissile materials, although the readings were inconsistent as to the mass or type. Something was still jamming attempts at a higher resolution probe.

"What in fucking black night is this shit?" Mridula scoffed, flinging her hands in the air. Since the jamming signals had gone up, her readouts from inside the sim had become garbage, simply mixed colors and useless, disconnected words and numbers. They were starting to sort themselves out just slightly, but the bits of clear data she was getting made no actual sense. "You guys suck at your jobs! Get me some better readings and fix the damn sensors or I'll flog you with your own spines, you filthy assistants!"

Lamya watched the opponent's ship breaking up, and the odd sensor readings. She rolled the Astarte to the side, keeping the main cannon aimed at the smaller vessel that was emerging from the enemy craft while attempting to lose some of the jamming by changing the angle from the opposing hull. She was also worried that something might happen with that hull, and was trying to keep her distance, trying to position the smaller enemy ship in the straightline path from as many of the glowing points as possible. She felt that this caution was warranted. "Does anyone else have a really bad feeling about this?"

The captain could've glared had his eye not been transfixed on the battle data being forwarded to him. With the ship's slight break of formation and the now discovered readings regarding fissile materials the hair on the back of his neck rose. "Ready the main laser batteries for firing again, target the smaller vessel!" he ordered. "And give me an estimate before we can fire the PWAC arrays again."

Mu'Tasim charged forward, his sword active, he thrusted both blades into the VANDR that he and Zus had peppered. His VANDR transmitted a positive pinging noise to hers, in appreciation of her assitance. Then withdrawing his blades, he charged towards the next Frame near-by to maul it with his blades, firing VT Fangs at his next unharmed target.

"Zus, assist Malik and Nenetl, I will clean up these two." said Mu'Tasim as he charged his next target.

Zus would have nodded were she in control of her own body, but instead her Raevr simply reversed course momentarily, Firing another SCPA blast at Mu'tasim's enemy as a farewell before changing course to find Malik's Target. "Rashidan, I'm here to support you" the Eyr Ranr announced to her fellow Frame runner, Firing several more PASD and SCPA, before transforming into humanoid mode, and MASC jumping back a little further.

As he attempted to attack it, the humanoid frame parried the attack with its still intact right arm, but quickly lost the limb as his VT Sword cut through it with the ease of a heated wire through plastic. The blade continued, sinking through its torso and cutting across, bisecting it along the midpoint of its right torso and left hip. It attempted to return fire with a few blasts of fusion cannon fire, but missed, shooting beneath the damaged stub of Famasir's right leg.

The motion allowed him to attack the nearest target easily, piercing its front with several VT fangs as Zus struck it in the back with another sniper beam strike. But this time, the target parried, albeit as it was already damaged and begining to vent charged particles and synovial fluid into the space around it from deep penetative burns and gashes.

The field physician was prone to listening to her NI's suggestions, despite her own feelings and judgment most of the time. It said charge, and so she charged, following a hail of her own PASD missiles. She followed up with a pair of VT drivers, aimed at the lead Frame's center of mass. To maximize damage at this range, all 12 "Storm Rays" on her own EVII lit up the target. Then she was propelling in reverse, trying to regain some distance with a quick jump backwards. Try as the NI might to suggest close-quarters combat, it always made her nervous.

Akjit dodged the volley of orange fury the best he could as he accelerated towards the enemy frame while firing his Shocksword and now the Shockstring mounted on his EVII's wrist. As he continued to rush at it, his VANDR's legs pulled up into the chest like a kid getting ready for a cannon-balled leap into the pool, making him a smaller target in the process. The enemy frame was reading a melee strike; he could see that, and wouldn't have it. The VT Fangs moved to bunch up on the opposing frame's right side, harassing it's main and sub arm in an attempt to pin it as he came into striking distance.

There was one thing though. Akjit was left handed. Even his VANDR was left handed. It rotated clockwise until it was horizontal in comparison to the enemy frame; at the right moment, the Ivouri cleaved his sword downwards. For his enemy, the viscous slash was coming in from the left side and towards his or her weaker, less heavily trained arm. At the same time, Akjit lashed out and downwards with both scrunched up legs, bringing their built in VT Drivers towards the chest and right arm from the same 'left' angle as his sword.

Zalus flinched as the round hit off Nara's torso. He quickly recovered and targeted the closest Humanoid Frame that was gunning for him. He activated his VT blade and fired off a quick volley of missile and energy fire into the frame he was attacking. As the missile closed on his target he jumped in right behind the missles and attacked his target as soon as the missles would impact. "This may sting a little..."

"Storhan, Just cover my rear if this doesnt work!" Zulfiqar detached the VT Sword from its right arm, holding it in both hands as it closed on Malik's target, the 12 VT Fangs launching and moving to attack the second humanoid frame. As it entered into suitable range, the Phantoma Shroud deactivated, Malik burning one of Zulfiqar's NEN-Caps so that he could pull what this off.

First, the Erla II rapidly closed with the first frame, using the momentum of the rush combined with the position of the VT Sword held over its head to bring it down onto the enemy, Malik yelling "VT-CLEAVE!" as the Veyrinite-doped blade cleaved through the frame's head and chest. Without wasting a moment, Zulfiqar released the VT Blade, and used the momentum to spin upside down, pointing both RCPAs at the third humanoid frame and opening fire, mixing Canister missiles into a full salvo of Star Locusts and Storm Ray beams as the EVII's pilot attempted to overwhelm the defenses of the third frame. The only reason that this wasn't overheating Zulfiqar was because of the Nen-cap Malik had used before starting this venture.

After her opening salvo, Nenetl had found herself forced to play defensive, and she would have breathed out all manner of curses had she been capable of breathing. Instead she silently thanked her wing for covering her when she would otherwise have been overwhelmed: and she fell back, allowing Malik to play hero. It hadnt taken long for Nenetl to lose that desire. She fell back, as she had before, on the now-returned VT fangs, her 'tactics' nothing particularly impressive - just fire everything on the same units as Malik had, and make every effort to not hit Malik, that would be bad. The VT fangs were followed immediately with a salvo from the PASD pods. As covering fire went, it might not have been the best choice...
Re: [Pre-Phase: Mission 3] Ghost on the Silent Line

Isha's missile blasted the humanoid-type's shields cleanly, pushing the unit back as a cloud of charged particles burst all around it. It had not been harmed, but the attack had given the field physician a good enough chance to land a solid hit with her VT Drivers and ram her unit's legs into the enemy frame's torso. Armor plating shattered and buckled, causing multiple ruptures inside the unit's chassis and a geyser of synovial fluid spew out into the void and crystalize.

The enemy hadn't been yet destroyed, though. At the moment where she was to fire her multibeam laser cannons on it, the humanoid-type effectively wrenched the offending limb from the shallows of its chest and pushed, or more appropriately, tossed the Vanguard field physician away with a single swift movement of its left arm, attempting to fire on her at a moment it likely thought she was vulnerable.

With VT Fangs darting towards it, the enemy frame double back and feinted a flank, causing the VT Fangs to fly away from it for an instant, and into the firing arc of its left fusion cannons. Destroying three wholesale with a volley of superheated plasma, it was cut away by Akjit's overwhelming attack, tearing one of the RPF claw sub-arms away and stabbing into its thighs and upper chest.

Akjit was able to slash down through a parrying arm and into the enemy frame's head, splitting open like a cleaver taken to a ripe watermelon. In a daze and blinded, the enemy was unable to respond to the follow-up kick, causing large gashes in its torso and launching it away from the Ivuori frame runner.

Nara was able to recover from the hit quite well, and managed to score a hit on the nearest unit, causing it to reel from the impact. Unfortunately, it recovered quickly enough to accelerate away as the EV II cut through compressed space and took a swing at it, missing by only a few feet. At the same time, his frame registered hits from the back as well as the unit he had attacked in front of him. Zalus had been caught in a pincer attack!

Zulfiqar power train was pushed to the limit, unleashing a massive amount of energy and leaving a pair of broken frames behind in what might have seemed like the blink of an eye, the second frame was now retaliating with a vengeance. It fire off two full salvos of missiles and made a quick burst of fusion cannon fire to the right of him as it flanked him on the left, sporting to close the gap and fight on equal terms.

However, he had not managed to entirely disable the enemy frames. Gushing red synovial fluid and plasma and broken from the head to the mid-torso, they still continued to fight. Malik would notice two massive volleys of fusion fire trace behind him, impacting his shields heavily as he made his charge. The two units would have gotten the drop on him if it weren't for Nenetl. Providing fire support, she managed to deal sufficient damage to permanently disable both of them, stripping limbs and weapons with a few choices strikes with her VT fangs and missile racks.


Meanwhile, the wider battlefield seemed to have gone on to a standoff between the Astarte and the strange battleship. The enemy vessel, which now had a clearer idea of the Astarte's weapons range, had gone out of its way to skirt the line and exchange missile barrages from external racks.

None of these volleys could penetrate the collected point defense fire of the Vajra-class cruiser and her Vayu escort, and missile launches from the Astarte would likely have the same results. However, the vessel seemed to have continued to split open and shift mass around. The battleship's cruiser-sized core, which had once been around the size of the Astarte had unfurled and opened up to a flatter and more elongated form, similar in form to a stick figure drawing of a person or a double-legged 'T'.

Only the flat side was exposed at this point, and whatever had been contained inside was now pointing away from Bahram's staging vessel.


"Well. It seems we're at a standstill unless the 1st and 4th eliminate their cruiser escort." Serhan said with a with a tense sigh. Things were dragging on far too much and although he was a patient man, he preferred to see combat resolved in a cleaner manner. Their enemy... whatever it was, was making a mess of things on purpose and trying to drag out the combat for an unknown reason. He half-suspected it had something to do with whatever cargo the battleship had contained, but knew the captain likely had the same suspicions. "Give me a status report on the 1st and 4th."

"And call back the 2nd and have them resupply to maintain our air superiority around the Astarte, and cycle the 3rd right after them. A protracted fight is preferable to one where we get overwhelmed by massed Soono units."

The missions operator gave a silent nod and patched herself into the ship's network, and began sending out orders.

Further away from the bridge command chair, sensors operators sifted through some particularly unusual data. Patterns for loose emissions that weren't halted by the cruiser's armor seemed to indicate equipment for fusion reactors and a large mass of chemically and atomically unaltered cobalt.

The chief operator, who couldn't make left or right of it, forwarded the data to the Solanii Liaison, who might have a better grasp of the potential meaning of the readings. To him, it just seemed like an excuse for a lot of fusion missiles with an exotic casing, but he could never be sure.
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