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RP: SFS Service to the Free State: Glorified Border Guards


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"It's going to be okay, Laura. Just take it easy and be yourself. I got your back."

"Yeah? And how's the view, Bernie?" Senior Corporal Laura Romero snapped back her companion. "We get the best damn training and what do they do? They cancel our mission to Gartaga, break up the squad and turn us, me, into a glorified border guard for the Spacers!"

Bernhard kept quiet but smiled slightly. He knew she was nervous. Laura got snappy when she was nervous. She had taken the Squad Leader course for a lark, an adventure. She had not expected CentComm to turn her into a squad leader! Both of them were convinced that she would spend her entire career simply being the Most Brilliant Medic in the Universe, working under Sergeant Volkov. Now here she was, ordered to take command of a Marine squad and its attached auxiliaries. They were supposed to train the Free Spacers into some sort of border guards, showing them how the Marines did things in a ship boarding.

So now they found themselves in an elevator that just opened its doors to the main hangar of the NSS Ulfberht, a carrier version of the Orca-class. Laura wished she was back on the NSS Dauntless, flagship of the 4th Fleet and sister ship of the Ulfberht.

Besides the rows of interceptors and attack craft, a large Freespacer frigate sat in the middle with a bunch of people around it. Three landing skids elevated it higher and Laura could barely make out the shuttle atop the frigate. Some were Navy techs, curious to examine crewless warship in its silver and blue which stood in contrast to the dark greens and blacks of the Navy's ships. The rest, Laura could see, were her squad.

Three other Marines, two of whom were fresh from Boot Camp. Greenies. Another who was supposed to be a veteran of Rok'Veru like Bernhard. She hadn't told him about that and wondered if he would know the guy. Whatever, Marines were Marines and she knew how to deal with greenies.

Attached to them was a Navy woman, supposed to pilot the shuttle and then act as naval inspector for the Marines. Laura summed up that job as telling the Marines what not to touch. As Marines who trained to conduct boarding operations, they ought to know how to spot hidden compartments and such. True, Laura and Bernhard's crash course in that stuff had been brief since all of their work had been as infantry. But what could this Navy girl know which Laura couldn't learn on the job?

Then there were the two Spacers. Officially, they were auxiliaries. Volunteers who were supposed to observe, learn, and obey. One of them was a clunking hunk of metal, supposed to provide electronic and drone support. The other was a straight up Spacer serving in the Corps. Laura had heard some of them did that but had yet to meet one.

And then there was the ship. It was driven by a bloody AI! Her superiors had said that it was the ship but didn't see it that way. All of her squad milled around the ship, waiting for her and Bernie.

"Show time, Laura," Bernhard whispered and Laura tisked in an aggravated response.

"Attention. Chief Greer and Senior Corporal Romero are approaching. I believe the proper thing to do now is salute?" the Phantasm Gunship spoke to the crowd around it using an external speaker.

"Lacking hands, I can only introduce myself as Harmonious Solarsailor 44808-5I, fifth of the gunships produced by your NAM and our Intelligent Design Node. The shuttle attached to me has no name and does not respond to any of my communications."
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Arceins watched the crewmen mill around the bright blue and white ship that he sat beneath, asking it questions and inspecting its exterior. Strangely enough, the ship spoke back, but unlike some of the other Marines he didn’t feel… startled. He felt as though he had seen this type of thing before, but he couldn’t remember where. Not like that’s new, or anything. Since Rok’Veru – or, that’s where he was told he was – he could remember very little from before waking up in a surgery room. Something about an unexpected procedure on a dying subject.

Now, Arceins was told he was a warrior in a nation of warriors… and he looked the part. He absently rubbed the plates of armor inserted under the white/gray skin of his right arm with the cold metal of his cybernetic left. It seems that Star Military cared more for his capability as a warrior rather than as a citizen, and had kitted him to make sure their investment wouldn’t get destroyed. He wondered if it perhaps wasn’t the other way, considering the lack of anything which lay at the back of his head. No memories, no knowledge. He didn’t even know his parents when they commed him – something in their eyes made him believe they were glad he didn’t.

Arc has a brother now. A new and improved model of the merchant-prince his family was preparing him to be.

Absently Arc flipped his combat knife with his living hand, flexing his hand between every flip. Occasionally he missed the catch and the knife skidded off his hardened flesh, never causing more than a scratch. With his cybernetic hand he counted through the letters he was teaching himself. He was glad he didn’t know who he was. It seemed like he didn’t belong to himself there, and here he doesn’t belong to himself either. In the long run, not much has changed.

The crate he was sitting on vibrated as the ship began to speak, something which some of the other crewmen still haven’t gotten used to. “Attention. Chief Greer and Senior Corporal Romero are approaching. I believe the proper thing to do now is salute?”

Arc frowned and looked up towards the entrance to the hanger to see a young woman with white hair, and a scarred man approach them. From their insignia it appeared the younger looking woman was the Senior Corporal. Glancing over at the Naval Captain sitting on a bench next to them, he shook his head and flipped the knife a couple more times before deciding to put it away. As far as he was aware, a Captain outranked a Chief and until the Chief officially took over command of the gaggle of Marines and Auxiliaries, the Captain was in charge and as the person in charge of a body of troops, they should handle the saluting. Regardless, he looked up expectantly towards the two Marines approaching them.


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Ships were something that were rarely discussed, let alone seen, where Elijah came from. Living in the poorest of poor slums in Funky City really only prepared you for a few things, despite what many scarred Nepleslians claimed otherwise. It taught you the biz, it taught you how to kill, and if you were smart, lucky, or mean enough, how to succeed at both. It didn't teach you ships, no, nothing about ships.

And ever since Elijah had joined the Marines, he'd discovered a lot about ships. One, they were not friends. The first time he'd rode on a shuttle, he'd freaked out in his seat, gibbering and cursing and screaming before a syringe of something (it felt like liquid calm) was injected into him by a medic who looked as if he were sitting through a particularly dry history lecture.

Being in the hangar bay of this one was a lot like that, though thank goodness he'd acclimated a little since then. Still, he gawped at the bulkheads, pausing to scratch to his head at the Navy cargo handlers and technicians that scurried to and fro, salty old voidfarers who seemed to take no notice of the industrial majesty that so bewitched him. He'd felt like a man that wandered into a secret church, witnessing arcane, eldritch rituals performed by hoary old priests and priestesses; that is to say, ignored, overwhelmed, and impressed, even if he didn't precisely know what he was impressed by. He was still working on the Freespacer frigate - his mind hadn't quite freed up enough processing power to comprehend that. Little steps.

Culture shock, as a man being lowered into a cannibal's cook pot would say, is a bitch.

Not really knowing where to stand, Elijah opted to stand near his squadmate, P2c Vinidict. Vinidict didn't talk much, a quality that Elijah appreciated when sensory overload made it too difficult to speak coherently. Although Arc probably never noticed him, Eli liked to think they had an invisible rapport growing; a sort of, 'You stand near me, I won't acknowledge you' deal that made the socially sticky situation of finding somewhere to stand in crowded areas (again, not something you learn how to deal with in the slums) a blissful no-brainer. Arc didn't seem to mind, or indeed notice.

A voice reverberated through the hangar, setting off a muscle tic in Eli's leg. He stamped his foot like an impatient horse as he listened to the message:

“Attention. Chief Greer and Senior Corporal Romero are approaching. I believe the proper thing to do now is salute?”

Eli snapped to attention, preparing his sharpest salute for his superiors when they appeared. Military protocol was a comfortable piece of driftwood he could cling to in such an unfamiliar enviroment. Anxiety loosened it's iron grip, and he visibly relaxed. The fact that the voice seemed to be coming from the Freespacer ship that he hadn't made room to comprehend yet didn't unnerve him in this state, nor did its apparent introduction.

Arc didn't move though. Elijah looked at him with the uncomprehending panic that only the freshly initiated military servicmember seemed capable of, something Mama Garvey would call, 'Gapin' like a plucked chicken, you are'. His inaction called into question what Eli was doing; the inevitable happened. Do you salute? Don't you salute? A Chief was an officer, right? Indecision paralyzed him, flashbacks of kill-hatted instructors knife-handing him inches from his face flew through his memories like atmospheric jet fighters buzzing an air control tower. Still, admirably, he held his posture. He would stay the course - he would salute.

But what was Arc doing? Eli had to try to save him. Never let your battle buddy die, as the kill-hats would say.

"Arc, mon." Eli said, pausing. It ocurred to him he'd never had to correct anyone before. "Er. P2C."

Was he a stickler for rank? There was so much he didn't know.

"I 'tink th' boss-man and th' boss-lady are comin'. 'Least the ah... th' ship say so." He finished, lamely. He opened his mouth again, trying to add something, but the words didn't come.

He eventually choked out, "We wan' a good first impression, seh ya, mon?"


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Arc looked up at the Nepleslian from Nepleslia, only just realising that he had been standing there for some time. The guy had a tricky accent to decipher, but eventually Arc managed to work out he was talking about the approaching Marines. Flicking his gaze between the boy, the naval Captain, and the approaching Marines, he stretched his back and shrugged. Regardless of the fact, Arc would never make a good appearance at anything again.

“You don’t salute warrant officers. Only salute officers… like her,” he said, before flicking his thumb toward the naval captain. “And only the commander of a body of troops would salute. Again: her.”

Arc leant back and studied the man next to him, struggling to remember his name before noticing it on his shirt. Garvey was dark skinned, a sight which was somehow unusual and strange. Arc, like many of the naval ratings which scurried around, was an unhealthy white, and Arc supposed that eventually the man next to him would lose some of his color as well. He was almost as scarred as Arc as well – although with not nearly as many modifications – a sign of a child ‘hood that he saw on many Nepleslians from Nepleslia. Like many new recruits he saw, Garvey wore most of his hair still – something that would become a hassle after too much time spent in a suit.

Garvey also looked afraid. Of Arc? Of the ship? Of the Marines approaching them? He was not sure. The poor guy was probably drawing a sudden blank from having to apply things that were crammed into his head just a few weeks before.

“Don’t talk at attention.”
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A shuttle sat at rest in one end of the hangar, barely noticed by the personnel. It was a civilian transport, which meant private property which meant not worth bothering. On the rear hatch, a rather elaborate statue-figure protruded.

Only it was apparent to anybody watching that the statues was not actually a statues as small running lights traced around its form. Long, brass-plated fingers twitched. An eye in the cross-shaped helm blinked on. Soon, the machine moved from the door, panels sliding shut behind it. Two elegant legs met metal hips covered in metal skirts. A bulky, but slimming form met at the waist, leading to the elongated arms and stocky head. For what was clearly a freespacer design, it was surprisingly not patchwork.


The machine ambled over to the corporal, in no apparent rush as it sized up the microgravity of the hangar. When it finally reached her, the eye traveled to the bottom of the cross, staring down at Laura. At around eight feet tall, it was a definite difference in stature.


A brass tipped hand extended to the corporal, gesturing to shake.


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"Yo! That's Corporal Meatbag to you, Dolly!" Laura smacked his hand in a sort of horizontal high-five. Bernhard simply raised an eyebrow slightly.

"Right, ladies. I am Senior Corporal Laura Romero. I am your squad leader. I am also your squad medic. Not tall, dark and handsome behind me. He's got the rank because he's a doctor. Chief Bernhard Greer, MD. MD stands for Mindless Drone. He obeys me because he's not qualified to command a squad. All his rank means is that he's more important than the rest of you! I am qualified to pump you full of toxic stuff and send you back into the fight. He is qualified to cut you open, spit on your heart, pour alcohol into your guts and then sew you back up if that's what he thinks will cure you! Isn't that lovely? I get to order you into life crippling situations and when you get crippled, I get to fix you! If I can't, then he does!"

Laura's speech started quietly and calmly, rising in pitch and fervor like a drill instructor. She was establishing her unquestionable dominance. Bernhard just wished it involved less of her sarcasm. Outwardly, he made no reaction. That was how they were as a pair. She showed every emotion under the sun, he kept himself level to provide both of them with some stability.

"And in case any of you are wondering, Captain de Luca also has no command authority over any of you! She is here to make sure we don't push the wrong buttons or shoot the wrong box. Boarding is a Marine operation. I am in charge the moment we step aboard the shuttle. I go down, Chief Greer takes over by dint of rank. He goes down, only then does Captain de Luca take charge. But you will give her all the respect and courtesy due her rank no matter the circumstances!

"Next thing. Everyone is a combatant the moment they step onto that shuttle," Laura pointed at the shuttle perched atop the Phantasm. "Everyone will be expected to be able to defend themselves. Even Chief Greer will be fighting. And he has more combat experience than any three of you combined so if he does tell you to do something, it is usually worth listening to and even doing. Just so long as you're also obeying any orders I give you.

"Last point. Mistakes happen. Make sure they don't endanger anyone's lives and that they don't happen a second time. Chief Greer, anything to add?"
Laura turned to Bernhard, standing tall beside her.

"Greenies, follow the Corporal's instructions, ask clarifying questions if you can, but use caution when exercising your own judgment. We would rather every operation be slow and correct than fast and messy. Spacers, welcome to the club."

"Next order of business! Bottle!" Laura shouted firmly. Bernhard pulled a cold bottle of beer from his trouser pocket. "Ship, you are hereby commissioned as an auxiliary vessel in the service of the Free State, under the command of the Imperium of Nepleslia. The big ships get a bottle of champagne or whiskey. I don't have the cash for that so a beer will do. Mark the time!"

"0805 Ship Time!" Bernhard called. Laura smashed the bottle on Harmonious Solarsailor's hull and tossed the craggy bottleneck onto the deck.

"Congratulations. Ceremonies are over. So... I know who he is," Laura pointed at Phase. "And her," she looked at Violetta de Luca.

"Soun..." Laura began to say when she was interrupted.

"Corporal Romero, additional personnel have been transferred to your command. Please acknowledge via your datajockey," the ship's AI spoke over a PA.

Laura cursed loudly and fluently as she stormed off to read her datajockey and shout at the AI for being an idiot, moron and imbecile.

"Any questions while we wait? About our combat experience or the mission?" Bernhard asked casually.


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Out of the same non-descript civilian shuttle came a figure that, compared to its compatriate, seemed to absolutely lumber out.

Several CLANGs announcing its arrival as it damaged the stairs leading down from the rear hatch. Heavily armored in the torso, shoulders and limbs. Two blue LED eyes moving independently about its face, floating from one fleshy sack to the other. Welded to the left side of its face - where a ear should be on most fragile meatbags - was a small chain at the end of which a small figurine danced along with each step, seemingly made from the image of an individual.

However, aside from how heavily armored the Warmonger was - and even putting aside the strange LED lights that it had for eyes - the strangest thing about the hulking Freespacer...

...Was the positively buoyant, obviously fake afro that bounced around on top of its head with each heavy footstep it took.

Making its way over to where the meeting was taking place between what it considered comically fragile lifeforms, its eyes immediately snapped to lock onto the other Freespacer that had made its rather loud acquaintance.

"WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR BOISTEROUS VOCALIZATIONS." The Warmonger screamed, its voice loud and sounding as if it were broadcast over a cheap microphone at the center of a singularity. "I WAS NOT AWARE THAT YOUR VOCALIZATION BOX WAS DAMAGED TOO. WHAT A STRANGE COINCIDENCE." It stopped next to the other Freespacer, pausing for a beat. "...OR PERHAPS THAT IS THE WAY YOU NORMALLY VOCALIZE. HOW EMBARRASSING FOR YOU."

Keid stood through the initial brief, its eyes aimlessly wandering all over the tracks below its face plate, somehow resembling the idle screensaver of a DataJockey.



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Garvey had intended to thank Arc after Corporal Romero's energetic speech, but was quickly drowned out by the arrival of what seemed to be a walking main battle tank. The calming effects of Arc's words, Chief Greer's sanguine demeanor and even Corporal Romero's profanity-laden speech on the Mission (with emphatic capital, of course) were gone. He had been told Freespacers were all eccentrics as a rule, but Dollmaker and WARMONGER KEID 57-5675-8188 (a name he was sure he'd never forget) were like nothing he'd ever seen before. His mouth flopped open, and unable to help himself, simply stared at the newcomers. A vague voice somewhere in the back of his mind (no doubt cowering from the sonic assault) attempted to tell him boggling as he was might be considered rude, but his conscience's meek calls were ignored.

Strangely, the most normal part was WARMONGER KEID's afro, a relatively familiar hairstyle in the slums Garvey was a native to, so he focused on that until the shucks-howdy, country virgin stare was gone from his face. Truly a strange mission, conducted with strange people. Garvey shook his head, regaining his composure as WARMONGER KEID's speech ended.

A few things Corporal Romero had said at the beginning of her speech were... fairly disconcerting. Garvey required further clarification.

"Chief, I uh... ain't no eas' way of sayin' dis, but..." Garvey said, his hand awkwardly poised on the back of his neck, "You ain't gon' spit on me heart if I catch one, are ya? An' uh, de Corporal ain't gonna inject me wit' de 'toxic shit' is she?"
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Bernhard noticed that Laura had either ignored or not heard this new Spacer's words. Most likely the former. So he resisted the urge to defend her and ignored the challenge to her as well.

"Before I was a doctor, I was a medic. Marine medics, Corporal Romero included, have always been described as 'Lethal killers and potent healers.' The fragility of any species is obvious to a trained medical eye. But a trained Marine looks beyond his own vulnerability and sees only how he can tear his enemies apart in a myriad of ways. I would suggest you reflect on how easy it is to destroy machines just as much as flesh in modern combat. I have seen 25 meter, 50 meter tall mecha brought down by Marines. A single explosion vast enough to cripple Nepleslian warships. A Mishhu particle beam, a Cat's aether saber, a satchel of high explosives, or a Molotov cocktail would be enough to make you just as vulnerable. The Void, as you say, has much to threaten me with but it cannot threaten me with the most deadly force in the galaxy: the Nepleslian Space Marines. Remember that, the rest of you," Bernhard turned to the others, still speaking as calmly and quietly.

"As much as the enemy may scare you, know that you scare him twice as much. Every force we have faced, we have beaten back. That legacy is part of each of you now."

Then Garvey spoke. Bernhard almost smirked. "Corporal Romero likes to exaggerate but in a sense, it is true. All medicine, if taken wrongly, can be poisonous. Spitting on your heart, though, is generally unhygienic and not an acknowledged form of medical treatment so I won't be doing that. None of her patients have ever died under her care, though, and that should tell you all you need to know about her skill. Just ignore whatever she says about amputating heads to cure the wound and any time she calls herself the Most Brilliant Medic in the Universe. I'm guessing someone at NAM goofed when they cloned her."

He chose not to say that he believed her to be a better medic than he had ever been. They didn't need to know that. They also didn't need to know that he actually knew her entire medical history and that she actually had been made to be like that. So long as they accepted that it was part of her quirks.


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Laura's speech left an impression on Phase, though they hardly had a chance to react before the massive hunk of Spacer interrupted. Massive mechanical hips shifted as Phase re-assessed the situation. That ruined the impact of the situation. They thought, an imperceptible glare on Warmonger. At least they got SOME reaction before the other Spacer entered. Time to adapt.

"Oh, how intense you are!"

A fresh voice. Cool. Soft. Female. Probably modeled after a Yamataian. The mono-eye formed a plus sign, giving a sweep of Warmonger. The metal husk of Phase's armor settled, becoming less rigid and mechanical in stance. Two brass-capped fingers on the left arm rose to meet Keid's chin - well, lack of chin - and traced the metal plating.

"I could fix that, you know~" that voice cooed, head cocking. "I am good at that sort of thing."

Brass hands left the other Spacer with a soft brush of metal on metal. The jagged legs traced the ground as Phase turned their body to face the Corporal. A hiss snuck out of the Frame while they adjusted stance. Legs compressed, body hunched over. A hand on the ground to brace. All to get to eye-level with Laura.

"And you can call me Phase, Corporal 'meatbag.'"
There was a certain slyness to the way meatbag was said this time, though what it meant was anybody's guess.

Files added: CORPORAL Laura Romero, Chief Bernard Greer, WARMONGER KEID 57-5675-8188, "Garvey"
[*]CPL L. ROMERO: very respect, such intimidate, wow
[*]CB GREER: clever boy
[*]WK57: noisy, show-stopper
[*]"Garvey": He is going to be very fun~
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The robust and loud instructions from Corporal Romero led Kassandra Hammerhand to crack a grin across her olive tanned lips. She had been leaning against a supply crate that had been left during prior load up routines in the hangar of the Orca-Class carrier. With her marine duffle bag slung over her left shoulder and her arms folded over one another, dressed in standard regulation NSMC green uniform, Kassandra or "Kass" as she is often known couldn't help but let out a puff of air in amusement.

Tilting her head to look about the ginger single lock of hair that flowed down in front of her face waved under the green beret. What a squad. Kass laughed in her internal survey. Two machine types and three marines, with a pair of Medics as Squad Leaders huh. Some transfer. She pushed off from the crate and adjusted her beret. What a change of scenery. She had been working in the expanse patrolling in force with search and recon teams. Hopefully, she'd find some action here with the Corporal's team- well now her team. Pushing past the crowd, the tanned, tall and professional looking Freemud raised Nepleslian smacked her boots together and thrust her hand up in a full salute.

"Private 3rd Class, Kassandra Hammerhand, mam!" she barked. For all here internal monologuing and snarkyness, she always presented herself as a proper soldier. "I was transferred here from 44th Recon Team, mam! It is a pleasure to serve under your command." Kassandra continued her debriefing for the Corporal, while still holding her salute until Romero would address her.


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Arceins watched the following theatre without any outwards reaction, his right hand twitching through the letters he was practicing before. Anyone who labelled themselves as the Most Brilliant Medic in the Universe obviously had more issues than he did. Arc didn’t know who he was, and he was fine with that. Constant pain, a lack of knowledge of the past, and a perfect recollection of everything post-surgery left him with no desire to explore options for his future. It was out of his hands anyway – now he was but a vessel for other people’s will, and he was strangely fine with that. However, the Corporal seemed far too immature for her role, especially if she was trying to make herself into something she is not. The Doctor behind her seemed more able than her as a leader, especially when she went storming off cursing and yelling about getting more personnel.

The two hunks of metal, though, were even stranger. He knew he had seen and worked with them Before. But like everything, that was a distant, faded memory. From the way they interacted, they were still trying to work out their roles within this motley group. Warmonger and Dollmaker? Do their names describe their profession? Arc regarded them with a blank stare - they were really nothing new.

Arc lent back on the boxes behind him and stretched his left leg out before resting his foot on his right knee. The rate the crew was building, they would need more mechanics than medics. Arc flicked his knee with his right hand, and it gave a light clang. He wondered if the ship that could speak could repair itself as well, but decided it didn’t matter. He wasn’t a sailor anymore, he was a marine his concern was being a death dealing war machine. … not a sailor anymore?

Evidently the other new Private also didn’t know that you only salute officers.


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Garvey smiled at the chief's response. "Thanks much Chief. Big relief, dat is."

He turned his attention back to the others, having decided he was finally ready to comprehend their existence. Dollmaker was... did SI's engage in seduction? It looked like seduction, and the imported Yamatai porn holo voice did nothing to sway this. He shook his head, and decided he'd never really understand. The point was to give these people confidence in their ability to fight - and if all there soldiers were like Keid, then they could probably be formidable.

As for their leadership... Corporal Romero was a pretty girl, fiery, but was she a good fit? Garvey wasn't prepared for his direct leadership being so vocally disapproving of the mission - normally it was the rank grunts who bitched. He decided he still had a lot to learn in his own neck of the woods as well. Arc, even though he was a stick in the mud, was turning into a a more and more comforting presence to stand near. At least with him responses were predictable.

A leather smack of boot-on-boot snapped him out of his reverie. He shook his head, his dreads swaying gently in the ship's a-grav, and to his delight, another human seemed to stand before him. He listened attentively while Kassandra introduced herself, grinning slightly at her overbearingly military introduction. Was this how he looked a few minutes ago?

"Kassandra, girl, ain't no one heah to salute. We all enlisted here." Garvey winked at Arc, a direct acknowledgement of how green he'd been earlier. He expected no response, and pressed on regardless. "Pleasure ta meet ya, mus' say its ver' good to see another... what was it again? Meatbag?"

This last question was directed at Dollmaker, this time with a knowing wink, and then unconsciously voiced (coincidentally) what Arc had been thinking. "Dis rate we gon' need more mechanics than medics, seh yea."
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Kassandra jerked from her salute and turned her head to catch the glimpse of a tall, dark and joking Nepleslian meatbag. Kassandra looked at her hand and then the dark skinned marine and shrugged, "Guess I've been around the transfer block too many times. Salute the squad leader regardless." Turning fully to meet the new comer, she extended out her gloved hand in a welcome. "It's good to meet you too Mr.MarineMeatbag." Kassandra lead with a smirk. She watched the two machine types move about in the curious nature and exclaim discoveries and inquiries as they passed. Kassandra had little experience with machine-types. She did once tango with a machine gone hey-wire. But, filling Phase or Warmonger with assault rifle rounds seemed a bad first impression. Things were sure going to be interesting around here. "So what do I call you stranger?" Kassandra asked.


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"Oi oi, stop calling each other names already. You wanna fuck with each other, go do it in a storage closet!" Laura shouted at them, interrupting her own tirade at the ship's ACE AI.

"ACE, I'm just about ready to launch! How many more twerps we waiting on?!"

"At this time, Corporal Romero," the carrier's AI spoke calmly, its deep bass voice reverberating around her, "We are awaiting the arrival of two more Marines who should be along momentarily. There is another, however, she will not be along until the next supply run."

More shouts and curses at the AI for this sudden change of plan.

"You call me, 'Chief.' You call them," Bernhard to the other Marines, "Idiots. Because I am fairly certain that's what Corporal Romero will soon be calling you. Those two are 'tin cans,'" he pointed to the Spacers. "And that is our ride. A fully sentient AI warship." Now he gestured towards the Phantasm.

"Hello. I am Harmonious Solarsailor 44808-5I, now an officially recognized auxiliary to the Nepleslian Star Navy and armed patrol vessel of the Free State and once again, I do not know the name of the shuttle attached to me. I am synthetic intelligence, not an artificial intelligence. The differences lies in that I am fully free and not bound by my programming. An artificial intelligence is bound by core tenets of its programming to prevent it from being used against those it serves. This ship is my body and I am fully in control of it. In contrast, ACE, who is not as agile a thinker as I am, is part of this Orca-class carrier but he is unable to control every part at will. While he has a large amount of autonomy, ACE requires permission to utilize certain functions or carry out specifc actions."

The frigate, Bernhard noted, kept talking on and on about the differences between an AI like ACE and itself. He wondered what DREI, the previous Nepleslian military AI, would have made of this. She had more spunk than the lobotomized ACE, which only spoke in a rather dull tone. Then again, perhaps once the various ACEs in the fleets had a few years to develop personalities, they'd be like DREI. He also noted that there was no let up in the frigate's speech, probably because the thing had no need to breathe as it talked. Still, what it said had some food for thought.

The thought of ship AIs in complete control of Nepleslia's fleets was not one that seemed pleasant. Bernhard found the idea of relinquishing human control of warships to the more efficient AI to be disconcerting. It sounded like the premise to a bad story of how the Navy's warships turned into a massive fleet of sentient warships hell-bent on eradicating all sentient organics. They already had the Mishhu doing that. No need to risk the machines doing it too.



The rhythmic sound of combat boots off the deck. P2C Eir Nygaard-Smith was jogging quickly towards the hanger. She couldn't believe her shuttle had arrived not on time, late for meeting her new squad after reassignment. At least the snickering ensign had pointed her mostly in the right direction, except for that dead end of course.

By the time she finally had made her way to the hanger she was sweating a bit, her breathing was heavy but controlled. What she saw there made her stop in her tracks. Marines in a hanger where nothing new to anyone, but she had not seen the likes of the freespacers before. It took a moment to take them in before she gathered her wits about her. During that moment she took of her beret wiped her brow and straightened her uniform.

Properly composed, she made her way over to the group with a swift stride, after all she was already late. “ Private second class Eir Nygaard-Smith reporting for duty. Would have been here sooner but ... well, shuttle pilots”
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"Name be Pee-Treh-Cee Elijah Garvey." He smiled, warmly grasping Kass' gloved hand. Eli's scarred, calloused fingers had a surprisingly gentle grip. "Pleased t'meetcha, ver' much."

He let go of Kass' hand, and gestured to the rest of the group. "Spose' I take deh time to introduce everyone else, dat I know of. Seems like ev'rybody heah was 'sembled willy-nilly, no prep work, seh yea."

He cleared his throat, slightly embarrassed of his accent (and the interest, let's not be coy, Eli had only been around shaved male recruit scalps for a while before this, and in his nervousness Kass' genial gaze seemed to be boring a hole straight through him), but pressed on gallantly. "You got Boss-Man, er... Chief Greer, and de good Corporal, Romero." He pointed the two of them out. "Dem's the leadership. So far, from everyone dat introduced theyselves, yeh got..."

He ticked a few fingers off, mentally counting to himself, mouthing the names. "Okay, ye got P2C Vinidict, dat's Arc right deah. He a rude boy, mos' cool. Dem Freespacers, deh statue lookin' one is... heard the name be Dollmaker, and de big one is Keid."

He smiled again. "Think dat's it so far. Ev'ryone who's made demselves known, dat is."

Just as the words left his mouth, a new marine ran and joined the group, introducing herself as P2C Nygard-Smith. Eli did a double take, turning his mild surprise into a humorous, bug-eyed, open-mouthed over-exaggeration.

"Well, mon, 'pon my watch an' warrant!" Eli laughed, good naturedly. "We got anotha membah of da 'appy fam'ly. Welcome, girl, welcome!"
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Phase took a minute to judge the reactions of the folks around them using the sensors hidden across their body. They could read Garvey like a book - more so than the newcomer Kassandra. A bunch of other minor things to note in the log for later, but nothing consequential yet.

With a fluidity unfitting of a machine Phase's stature, the frame swiveled about and away from the Corporal, pushing off of the ground with hydraulic ease. The faux-digit-grade feet met the ground with only the softest of clicks as they headed straight for Elijah.

"You know, Garvey~," they began in that feminine voice, "I have pets capable of both biological and mechanical augmentation. Do not worry yourself about medics and mechanics. I'll have you know,"

Phase leaned forward, gently landing on their hands in front of Elijah. That mono eye shrinking into a tiny dot - as if focusing like a camera - right in his face.

There was something akin to a laugh at the end of that. Or maybe it was processors whirring very quickly?

Files Edited: "Garvey"->Private Elijah Garvey
Files added: Private Kassandra Hammerhand, Harmonious Solarsailor 44, Private Eir Nygaard-Smith, Private ??? Vindict
[*]Kass: Do not like the look she gave me. Otherwise, funny.
[*]HS-44: Further analysis required
[*]Eir: Formal. Further analysis required.
[*]Vindict: Quiet. Un/Phased/.


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"I don't give a shit how soon or late he's going to be, ACE. I'm going to brief my squad and get them geared up now. If he's not ready to go when we launch, we launch without him. Teach him to be late!"

Then she spoke to Eir quietly. "When I am verbally abusing the AI or some other lowly creature, please do not interrupt me to tell me you're late. I can see you're late. Just get in line and wait for me to get to you. Understood? Good."

Laura stormed back to the troops. Bernhard watched but said nothing. A storm was brewing and God help the poor sod who decided to yank on the Universe's Most Brilliant Medic's chain today. Laura was channeling her nervousness into rage, rather than the positive outlook she normally had.

"Listen up. We got one more tardy but who cares about him. Today's plan is simple. We cruise around in Happy Silly Sausage here," Laura pointed to the Phantasm.

"Harmonious Solarsailor," the ship corrected her politely.

"Exactly what I said," Laura replied. "We're looking for any civilian freighters that the regular destroyer patrols haven't yet pulled over. We hail them, tell them to pull over for inspection, go aboard, poke around a bit, and if we don't find anything, we move on. For now, we're starting slow with inspections and routine boardings so that our Spacer friends can see how the basics are done without being shot at. Hopefully. Always a chance we're going to run into smugglers trying to pretend to be legit freighters. Once we show we can go aboard a ship without making new ventilation ports using explosive means, we'll probably be assigned more specific targets. In any case, we're going to be in Golem armors while Chief Greer will cover us in a Raider. Very rare for the bad guys to have Power Armor and military grade stuff is very cramped in civilian ships. So the smaller Golem makes it easier for us to get in, look scary, act grumpy and then move on.

"Three rules. Keep it simple, make it thorough, and shoot to kill. We are not police. If they want to dance, we bring our combat boots to the dance floor. Teams are as follows. Team Fluffybunny is me, Captain de Luca, and Private Hammerhand. Team Killer Kangaroo is going to be Dolly, Privates Garvey and Vinidict. Quarantine their idiocy and prevent its spread. Lastly, Team Sleepy Serpent is Chief Greer, Keid and Private ...Nibbly-Smith. Got it?"

"You mean Teams 1, 2, and 3, Corporal?" Bernhard asked.

"Exactly what I said," Laura shot back testily. "Of course, Corporal. As you say," Bernhard acquiesced, throwing a meaningful glance at the Marines.

"Armor up. Prep for close quarters and take everything you need. We don't get a reload until we return here. Keid, Dolly, you guys just need guns and tech, right?"

While Laura spoke to the two Spacers, Bernhard left to get into armor. He had trained on the Raider for the IPG but he had never taken it into combat. Its integral weapons were sufficient for anti-personnel work. If the pulse laser array could cut down NMX zombies on Tange, it would have no trouble with regular Nepleslians. But for close quarters punch, he had one of the Junker drones grab an AS4GS shotgun and 100 shells.

"Scalar pulse and stun grenades will be your friends for this. We don't want to use explosive weapons and cause a hull breach," Bernhard told the other Marines.

Throughout the whole proceeding, Captain de Luca had been quiet and attentive. She didn't like the snappy Corporal with her strange idiosyncrasies. But she had the combat record to prove her competence. But Violetta knew the man named Greer.

She strode up to him, now towering above her in his power armor. "Chief Greer, I am glad to see you made it out of Rok'Veru alive."

"The same to you, Captain. Though I am sorry to hear about your demotion," he replied as he continued to load shells into the large shotgun.

"I must admit that you have a strange taste in women," she said quietly to him. He stopped loading to show that she had his undivided attention. "I am skeptical about her but I feel more comfortable knowing you are minding her."

Bernhard interrupted her. "Reserve your judgment for after we complete an operation. You'll see why she's squad leader. Best get into armor, Captain."

Violetta bit down her annoyance at being interrupted. Of course he would have been curt after she had just insulted him and his fiancee. The Navy captain doubted any of the others here had the same clearance to read personnel files like she did. They probably didn't even suspect a thing between the two veteran Marines.

A few minutes later, Violetta decided that the Golem was the most cumbersome thing ever made. She had struggled into it and once it was on, she felt like a balloon. She declined any sort of weapon save for her personal sidearm. It was the Marines' job to be the heavy hitters and hers to advise them on ship characteristics.


Eir was about to respond to Elijah's warm greeting, a smile already on her face, when Phase made its way up to him. She couldn't help but blink and take a respectful step back noticing the ease the large machine moved with. When it spoke, she was visibly a bit surprised that it was - or seemed to be - female. With their appearance Eir could not help but assume that the 'spacers where sexless.

It was then when the Corporal stepped in, boisterous and direct. Eir's face flushed a little in shame when she was chastised about being late, or worse interrupting her with the fact. She remained quiet while the rest of their mission and squad assignments where given out.

She didn't even bother to try to correct the Corporal on her last name. With this seeming dismissal she made her way over to the Golem armor suits . Finding one roughly her size she started putting it on. Opening up the primary shell and sliding her head in then starting to secure the straps.

“Hell of a start” She muttered to herself, spending a moment to shift the shell a bit to make sure it sat on her comfortably. “Team sleepy serpent.” She couldn't help chuckling softly as she reached for the secondary shell.
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