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GBN 1.8 [GBN 1.8] Alpha Override

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As Creed locked the MKII into place on the AEUG vessel his screen suddenly acknowledged “Mission Accomplished”. Marco release the controls clearly relieved at the end of the situation. He didn’t realize how on edge he was until the cutscene had started. As the cutscene went on Marco realized that the mission would become distinctively Seed based for the next round. He watched in intrigue as it depicted a slightly familiar scenario with Heliopolis. “Does this mean we’ll be working with Zaft this time around?” He murmured out loud. 

 

Finally the controls returned to his cockpit and Marco saw that a waypoint had been set for a familiar looking ship not that far away from his current position. Maneuvering the Saviour to the Nazca class Vesalius; Creed began to feel excited once more. His machine docked and he found himself inside the hangar of the fabled ship. As he looked around the hangar a deck officer approached him with a crisp salute. “Please proceed to the briefing room on the command deck sir! Commander Le Creuset will join you as soon as he’s able to.” Creed gave a half hearted nod in response. He floated his way to the command deck and was marveling at the detail of the ship. Part of him always enjoyed the idea of having a ship as a force nest. 

 

As he entered the debriefing room he brought up his game menu and swiped a few controls waiting for the rest of alpha team. Even as he did so he brought up the after action report and grimaced at the statistics. If they succeeded it was in spite of being a team not because of it. Creed wasn’t above acknowledging his own shortcomings. He got flustered, lost his temper, he was reckless. He let out a sigh and started stroking his beard in concentration. The memory of the Galbaldy caused him to furrow his brow in anger. He was letting something so simple bother him. That’s not the type of player he was, nor the type of person. “Things will change this time around.” He mused. 

 

One by one his teammates entered the room and he eyed each one curiously, having never seen their avatars before. The two boys seemed like normal average players  but the squirrel girl did caused him to slightly shake his head in confusion. As they filed in everyone eyed each other with their own motives hidden behind their faces. Marco cleared his throat, “I want to apologize to everyone here…” he looked at everyone in the eye as he said so, Marco was standing in front of the room. “I let my feelings cloud my judgment that mission and fought instinctively err- recklessly really... I don’t think I have to tell everyone that we got lucky.” He waited to see if anyone had a response to his admittedly lame apology. He dared to add, “I think if were going to succeed in his next round then we’re going to have to work together as a team…” he let the words hang in the air and waited to see what his teammates would say. He was genuinely curious how they would react. 

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The battle had ended and what had he done… nothing. The anger he felt for himself and the gunpla was more like a raging inferno, however he took a deep breath as him and his gunpla were transported to a hanger. The Win Screen was still on his monitor with a snarl on his face Shin rammed his fist through the monitor making the screen vanish. 

"You call that a victory… I call it a tasteless battle." He crossed his arms and sat in the cockpit of his gunpla. He could see the rest of his so called team coming and starting to head out of there machines. He didn't care, he pulled up the battle data and short recording of the fight from all his teammates. As he watched he got even angrier however he did see a level of skill and could see that each had their own plans, all except one. He could tell that she was a novice completely new to GBN how she got a beta key he will never understand. However something that stuck out to him was the gunpla, for being a newb it was very well crafted. After he was done with his analysis he opened the cockpit, Shin had opted for an actual opening rather than the teleport animation. As he floated down to the ground he continued to play out the battle over and over. Shin ignored everyone as they entered the room he was the last one in and that was fine by him. He leaned up against a far wall 

 

Shin closed his eyes as the man began to speak. As he spoke and apologized Shin grew more and more angry till finally it boiled over. His hand slammed against the wall making a loud bang 

"Stop apologizing! In fact that was a pointless way to start this meeting. We all acted according to our own will so accept it and move on. As for being lucky, your damn right. I only joined the beta to see what kind of fighters I could take out. " He paused for a moment then looked at the group. 

"So far I'm not really impressed." He let that sink in for a bit but then continued 

"I do agree that if this mission is a team battle we will have to work together. Because let me tell you… I won't lose again. " There was a certain fire to his words and the look in his eyes was that of someone determined to prove something, and what he wanted to prove had nothing to do with the fight. It was easy to tell there was hate behind almost every word he spoke. His disdain for gunpla and GBN was loud and clear in every action he took

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Hikaru couldn't help but be surprised at the victory.  He had no real knowledge of what was going on until the cutscene mentioned Unit 03's location.  Now things started to make sense.  One of the team had absconded with the damaged Mk-II without telling anyone, securing the victory, and it was the teammate that was AWOL from the battlefield.  After giving a sigh, he then looked to Fa and gave a small smile.  It was hardly a consolation for hurting her home, but...  "Miss Yuiry, Kamille Bidan was secured by one of my allies in time.  You should be able to see him soon.  Mind yourself of the others in the hangar, and you might be expected to sit tight to keep from being underfoot until some details are worked out."  Once they docked and he helped Fa out of his machine, he was informed by a crew member that there would be a team meeting and where to go.  Fa was left in the capable hands of the crew, though he really had no idea if she'd stay put or not.  He was able to at least see Kamille getting out of a machine with Risu and point him out to her before he left for the meeting.

The Beta Gundam's pilot went to the room in question and listened to Creed apologize to the group for his conduct.  The adolescent felt that Shin's response was absolutely cringe-worthy.  It wasn't something that could be left hanging in the air without comment.  "Acknowledging our failures and showing respect for the team is hardly a 'pointless' way to start a meeting dedicated to self-analysis and improvement.  You want to avoid losing in the future?  Exploring the 'why' behind the losses in the past is one of the ways to do that, right?"  Hikaru asked Shin before he looked back to Creed, pondering the matter carefully.  He scratched the back of his neck.

"In my case, I guess I flooded the radio too much in the beginning.  I was trying to clarify my plan for Argama Team in a way that the NPDs could process and act on.  If I went too meta with it, they'd have ignored it as ramblings.  This made it more...wordy than it otherwise might have been.  I might still need to do that in the future, but I can try to switch to our team channel and clarify my intentions in a more brief manner on the side.  I know the other team did it too.  That guy in the GM III was bragging about manipulating Emma Sheen when I tried to lure her Gundam into position for capture."  Manipulating the NPDs to act was a viable action and one he couldn't throw away because people were impatient.  Especially if the other team retained the tactic.  "I need to read up on this...merged history some if I want to keep that as an option though."

"I'm guessing you're Creed."  He recalled the voice from during the mission, and felt come confidence in his guess.  "Maybe you were reckless, but you were also the only one I who had my back in combat when I needed for support in the initial two-on-one.  I thank you for that, it's one of the reasons Kamille survived the fight at all.  That being said, I'm pretty upset that you ducked out on the fight later without telling any of us what you were doing.  Yeah, it won the battle for us, but our communication absolutely sucks.  I was the only one of the team left fighting when the battle ended, and had no idea why."  Hikaru said, hinting that going AWOL without cluing everyone else in on it had consequences for the team.

"Speaking of Kamille.  Risu, thanks for finally bringing Kamille into your cockpit."  Which one Risu was happened to be clarified by the fact that Kamille was with her.  "I have to ask though...what happened?  You took a hit and just...sat there for half the battle until the end.  You didn't even respond to me on the radio.  Did you bump your head on the console in the crash and get knocked out or something?  I hear the feedback for that sort of thing was upped in 1.78 for some reason..."  He was curious about the squirrel girl's effective non-participation.  Regarding Shin's actions specifically, he really had nothing more to say at the moment.  He fought solo, didn't like losing, and was a jerk to everyone about it.

Edited by MM007
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Risu took a brief pause as she was pulled out of the dark cockpit space of her gunpla and deposited into what appeared to be a large atrium, though the way that various other gunpla were placed in rows against the walls seemed to suggest that this was a hangar, not unlike one for aircraft.

She was perhaps too engaged with getting her bearings that she’d effectively tuned out the rather terse conversation happening between the other members of her team, though the way she appeared to actively avoid them would no doubt inform the other divers about what kind of person the little squirrel was, though as soon as her name was called, she’d turn towards the one who’d addressed her.

Hikaru, she recalled, though the fact that his name showed up just above his head helped quite a lot. Now that they weren’t engaged in distracting combat, she could dedicate her attention to what he was saying. Unlike previously, he was showing concern. Whether or not he was mad at her, she couldn’t tell, but regardless, Risu felt like she ought to apologize. With a small pout, a white speech bubble appeared overhead, filled with a single word.

[sorry :c]

[i’ll try harder next time]

It’s just a game, Risu thought to herself. There’s no reason you should be getting down like this! Even though she knew better, something nagged at her, or rather had been nagging at her for quite some time. Right now, though, it didn’t matter. She’d try to keep her word as best she could. She wanted to do good, if not for them, for herself, and then maybe Choco as well, whenever she decided to show up.

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Creed let the voices fire back and forth as Shin launched things slightly into the realm of uncomfortable dialogue. The kid seemed like a volcano ready to pop at the slightest irritation. There was an anger buried beneath him that Creed couldn’t quite seem to place. Marco kept his expression as neutral as possible as everyone else talked. Marco nodded in acknowledgment as Hikaru thanked him for the assistance earlier. Of the group, Hikaru seemed like the more level headed of the boys, Creed could sense some leadership potential from the kid. His eyes settled on the exchange between Hikaru and Risu. The squirrel girl intrigued him, she clearly had potential as a builder and with that in mind he had to wonder why she was in the beta. He studied her closely as she talked and finally cleared his throat. 

 

“Hikaru is right… we need to analyze the past to be victorious in the future. I would have preferred to bag all three machines if it was entirely up to me.” He eyed the fiery youth as he talk as if daring Shin to suggest a different outcome. He then returned his gaze to Risu, “let’s start this off properly… my name is Marco Creed, I’m the poster boy for Zapp inc. I’ve been building and driving pretty much since the beginning… I’d love to hear about each of you and what you built your machines to do? We need to understand the roles we all have in mind in order to figure out how to work together.” Marco nodded his head towards Shin once again motioning for the kid to speak up again. 

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Shin was ready to blow up at the kid, however his gaze quickly turned to the little squirrel girl. As the chat bubble appeared over head and her nervousness showed Shin stopped. All he could think as the girl typed was 'cute' he recomposed himself as Creed spoke and kept eyeing him. Shin let out a slight chuckle. He wanted to know if Shin could have seen a different or better outcome but he kept his thoughts on it to himself. This group already proved to him that moving past failures wasn't there strong suit. He remained quiet and once Creed was done speaking he could tell he was once again motioning for him to speak. With a deep breath the crimson haired man spoke up. 

"If you wanna know about me it's all public record. I'm Shin Hakuren, also known as The Raging Beast of GBN. I've worked my way up in singles ranked battles to be the best. As for why I build my gunpla it's for battle nothing more. That's a gunpla is good for. " As he spoke he flicked his wrist to show a detailed layout of his Astral Astray. On the screen several slots in the machine read out part missing. 

"This is my current Gunpla, and seeing that it didn't fully blowup in my first match I might use it again. It's main focus is close ranged combat with only mid range support tools. Don't expect me to help anyone at long range. I hate that kind of fighting and aim the farther I get it terrible." He let them study his specs a bit then closed the display. With that he was done he fully explained how his machine and him would be useful in combat. While he had a fair grasp on his teammates skills and there gunpla. It wouldn't hurt to see what they thought they could do. After he was done he walked back to his corner of the room and leaned back against the wall. Intending to silently listen to his "teams" discussion.

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Hikaru felt an urge to headpat the squirrel, but resisted due to politeness.  Not everyone appreciated such things and it could come off as creepy.  "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Miss Yuiry was grateful to you.  I managed to bring her in as well.  To be perfectly honest, the realism of their expressions, their grief...it makes me wonder if the immersion is a bit too much.  But it might mean her relief will be just that much more real too."  He recalled Fa's realistic expressions and unknowingly commented on something Risu might be quite familiar with.  The impact was so great, in fact, that he couldn't bring himself to be overly familiar with the NPD and just call her 'Fa' as he would otherwise have.  Not without permission.

"In any case, I'm Hikaru Hiyashi.  My father is one of GBN's engineers and my step-sisters are playing on the GBN main servers as Purus Seven and Eleven.  That's why I have the 'Adopted Puru' handle.  I'm honestly surprised they weren't chosen for this Beta instead of me."  Those two were currently providing character and voice work for the Puru series in general in both game and media, often appearing at real-life events.  He wasn't sure how famous they were, but it was enough to contribute to the Gundam canon.  "As for me...let's just say Gundam and Gunpla got me through a time of mourning and leave it at that.  I got a 3D Printer, figured out how to make my own pieces, and never looked back."  He brought up information on his machine and provided it.

"The RX-179 Beta Gundam is a mix of the RX-178 Gundam Mk-II and the RMS-154 Refined Barzam made partly of custom-printed parts, plus the Zeta Gundam's beam rifle and a Clay Bazooka.  It's a 'jack-of-all-trades' machine meant to be upgraded depending on how my skills and the needs I encounter in GBN develop as well as an armament testbed, so I made it a modular unit with hip and arm hardpoints.  Let me know if there are hard-mounted weapons the team needs to test before full integration into a Gunpla and we can probably do that.  It also has the ability to employ a Back Weapon System-enabled G-Defenser that isn't completed yet.  There is also a quasi-psycommu, but it's meant more for connected armaments or turret control than INCOMs."  Indeed, the Gundam currently had two beam guns on its hips that each provided a dome of coverage to the machine's left or right.  The typical 'two INCOMs with two axes of movement each' limitation on a quasi-psycommu was the perfect amount of control to make it work.  It also employed a beam claw on one forearm and the top part of a damaged vulcan-equipped shield undergoing repair on the other.  A stolen GM II Shield was in the unit's left hand undergoing repair, a beam rifle was in its right hand, and a Clay Bazooka was in its rear skirt armor rack.  "I also have a stock FXA-00 'Flying Armor' intended for use by any non-flight-capable units on the team, but I have to remember to log in with it.  If someone needs me to provide that next time, please speak up.  It might have been useful moving the captured Gundam back faster at least.  Finally, I have two folding jump seats in the cockpit based on the one seen in Unicorn.  Miss Yuiry found them useful this mission.  Call me in to carry NPDs or for evacuation if prudent.  I just wasn't able to get to Kamille this time around."

It was then that he remembered something.  "Oh, I also think I managed to convince Emma Sheen that the Beta Gundam was another Gundam Mk-II or a derivative.  I might make appropriate bait for it, though Beta Team might have mitigated that to a degree."

Edited by MM007
spelling and grammar
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Risu listened quietly, though she'd occasionally fidget with her hands. While the others were talking about their Gunpla, she found herself more occupied with looking at her own. She didn't get an opportunity to look at the machine before, and now that she stood at the foot of it, she couldn't help but admire how it was portrayed. Risu had built Higanbana for Choco, but her friend had refused, instead telling her that she could have it. For a moment, the squirrel reflected on why that was. Maybe Choco had her build it to trick her into playing GBN. While that was fine, she wondered why Choco didn't just ask her if she wanted to play from the start.

It was obvious that the Higanbana was an exceptional Gunpla, built using advanced modeling techniques. While ultimately, the machine was stock in its configuration, it was far from a scratch build: the original white-and-navy colour scheme had been replaced with a pearl white and two-tone red satin finish, merging pieces formed from plastic plate to modify the proportions of the already fairy-like mobile suit. The V-Fin had been replaced as well with an intricately detailed golden figurehead, owing to the ornate aesthetic. Just how it was made was something of a mystery.

Eventually, she'd turn back towards the group, giving them a small bow as greeting.

[my name is risu btw  ٩(◕‿◕。)۶]

[im new to gbn wwwww]

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Marco kept an impassive face as the boys described their machines. They were fairly easy to understand, if not straight forward. Shin was meant for close range combat while Hikaru was a jack of all trades. If Shin was the most vain of the group then Risu could be described as the opposite. The squirrel girl seemed to be mindful yet still absent minded as she completely ignored his question about the Higanbana. While Marco was versed as well as the next Gunpla fan he was the first to admit that his expertise on the peculiar suit wasn’t the most forthcoming. The girl seemed to enjoy looking at her handywork (something Marco could appreciate as a builder himself) but lacked any self confidence. The most reasonable conclusion that Creed could come to based on what he had seen was that the Higabana must be a long range type of mobile suit. He would have to learn more but suspected that getting Risu out of her shell would be a bigger priority. 

The man stroked his beard as he processed the information. Theoretically they had a balanced team excluding himself. Truth be told he wasn’t happy with the performance of the Saviour and the whole reason for him asking about his teammates was so he could figure out how to compliment everyone. The so called victory they experienced was anything but to his pallet and he wanted to thrive on the next challenge. Clearing his throat he brought himself out of his contemplation. “That’s fine” he responded to Risu, “everyone starts out somewhere! I’m sure we can bring you up to speed in no time!” He added cherrily before returning his gaze to the boys, “It’s a pleasure to meet you all…. and thank you for sharing about your machines. As fans I think we can all appreciate the work we put towards our hobby. As a builder myself I can say that I’ve noticed a particular quality evident in everyone’s work. Craftsmanship aside…” his voice grew more serious as he looked around the ZAFT board room once again absorbing the simple environment. “I want to share with you all an observation I experienced in the last mission. Something that I think Hikaru was hinting towards as well… the NPDs… To put it bluntly, I think they’re on a different level than previous GBN incarnations… Beta team had a unique NPD pilot on their team and the characters she exhibited were startling… truth be told it was one of the more difficult fights I’ve had on here.” 

He looked around the room to gauge how the other players were taking in his words. He continued, “with that said I have a few concerns immediately for this next phase that I want everyone to be mindful of… Kira Yamato… and Rau Le Creuset… not to mention the unnamed NPD with Beta…. I believe that we will be working closely with Rau on this mission and I hope everyone can remember just the type of person that he is, the more that fact sinks in for myself the more… unsettled I begin to feel… if I’m being honest.” The growing look of disgust on Creed’s face portrayed his concerns openly. He knew he was starting to sound slightly paranoid so he added, “I’m also very concerned that we will be fighting against Kira this next go around… he’s easily one of the strongest characters in the entire franchise. New pilot or not he will be very dangerous I suspect…” he looked back up realizing that he wasn’t even looking at everyone else. He sheepishly smiled then asked. “What do you guys think?” Even as he asked his eyes fell on the squirrel trying to get a feel for how she would react. He could guess how the boys would respond but he needed to understand this particular teammate more if he could help it. He needed to figure out a way to get her more invested in their situation, like it or not everyone was stuck with each other. 

Edited by Roromi
:P
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In response, Hikaru paused for a moment...before finally yielding to the impulse and head-patting the squirrel with as much stoicism as the act would allow.  He might be unknowingly head-patting some 50-year-old man in his basement, but eh.  It was the internet.  "Nice to meet you all, then.  And yes, it will take time.  If it were a game that was immediately easy to master, it wouldn't be much of a game, would it?"

Looking to the group, as well as to Marco, Hikaru pondered the matter for a moment.  "I'm not surprised that the NPDs are more capable.  I wonder just what sort of game this will become.  It's a rather big change.  Not just in difficulty, but in player resolve.  Looking into Fa's eyes when she asked why her home had to be attacked in such a way...replicating the pain of war so faithfully is hard-mode stuff that not every player can stomach.  Myself possibly included..."  Indeed, it raised ethical concerns that weren't necessarily to the benefit of the game if playing the 'bad guys' had such a weight.  Shaking himself from these thoughts, he continued to ponder.

"Regarding Kira, you're right that he shouldn't be underestimated...even if his early survival was due in part to literal plot armor.  It's his role that will be hard to determine."  Hikaru looked to the group, trying to analyze what he'd seen so far.  "If he pilots the Strike and we fight in space without much change, we may face the Aile.  If the NPDs emulate the thinking of the character at the time without sufficient constraint in the system, however, he may instead hang back and use the Launcher to protect the Archangel as a mobile beam cannon.  Remembering his initial reasons for fighting, he has no reason to risk himself further than that if he has allies to handle the close-up stuff, and Beta Team may consider his safety a priority.  If he has to be called out to fight, he could just swap packs at that point.  Mu La Flaga, as a threat, is limited due to the low power behind his gunbarrels against our collective armor unless the machine he's piloting is changed.  He's more dangerous as a battlefield coordination asset as long as we keep our wits about us and avoid his main gun or joint, thruster, and sensor shots."  Hikaru suspected that the pilot in the GM would use the NPDs' reasoning abilities to alter their combat plans, at least within the scope of what the system allowed.

"Of course, if we get an opportunity to grab Flay's escape pod, we get some of Kira's reason for fighting.  It all depends on the when and where we face him, the nature of the new NPDs, and just how the enemy tries to take advantage of it.  On our end, confronting Athrun about Kira while we're here might change how he conducts himself in battle, for example."  Hikaru shrugged before moving on to another point he was wondering about.

"So, what are we working with on our end as allies?  Are ZAFT's machines still no-beam, or does their coordination with the AEUG give them access to the technology?  I could see early development of the CGUE DEEP Arms or something like the GINN High Maneuver Type II's beam carbine...otherwise they'll be limited against Kira's machine save as bait or battery drain."  The pilot was still wondering about the technological issues this gestalt world had.  It made him wonder about all the technological and political complexities promised by such interactions in this complex system...

 

Edited by MM007
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Hikaru was the only one to respond to Marco’s remarks, accordingly the man nodded his head in agreement about the game being a challenge. The boy was sharp and Marco found himself largely agreeing with the kid’s assessment about a lot of the possibilities they could be facing as a team. Marco was about to respond to Hikaru’s question about the technology when the door opened up to their conference room. 

A tall blonde man gave a smirk and a salute as he floated into the room. The smile the officer wore was charming yet Marco knew better than to trust the expression being offered. Indeed, the smile was complemented by a white mask which hid the eyes of the man, giving him an almost doll like appearance. The man spoke up with an air of friendliness in his words. “You must be the mercenaries the council has hired for this operation.” The white clad ZAFT officer paused to stand beside Marco at the front of the room. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Commander Rau Le Creuset. I couldn’t help but overhear your last question…” Rau offered a nod towards Hikaru. “The Vesalius is equipped with my own CGUE along with a couple of spare GINNS. Hence the reason why you are all here to compliment our forces.”

Marco stood up stiffly as the notorious officer barged in. He had heard of other people hiring NPDs from series before but he couldn’t rightly recall anyone ever dealing with Rau, likely for a good reason. Rau didn’t miss a beat, “unfortunately my team is tied up with the capture of the Earth Alliance units and will be unable to assist. We will be relying on all of you for this next leg of the mission. Briefing and deployment will happen in 24 hours. In the meantime feel free to utilize any of our facilities or equipment to prepare yourselves. I for one look forward to seeing the performance that your unique machines have to offer.” The man offered a cat like grin at the comment and gave another salute before gliding out of the room. 

Marco remained some what  stunned by the performance and found himself staring at the exit longer than intended. Gulping, he snapped out of his trance and looked once again at his teammates who seemed just as speechless. Shrugging he cleared his throat, “I’m going to log out for awhile to rest and prepare for this next mission…” as he spoke he brought up his interface and sent a friend request to the people in the room. “Feel free to message me privately if you want to talk.” He glanced around at everyone one last time before logging out and entering into the real world once more. 

Edited by Roromi
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Risu’s little ears flattened at the touch to her head, appearing to wince away at Hikaru’s touch. Still, she looked like she appreciated it, judging by the small, nervous smile she’d given him. As the proceedings continued, she remained quiet, trying her best to understand what was going on. By the looks of things, this Rau person seemed quite important. And while she didn’t quite get the finer details of his speech, she understood that the next part of this questline was gated for tomorrow.

Her attention quickly shifted to her interface as a red circle marked with a ‘1’ appeared above the back of her hand. She’d hold it in front of her to open it, finding a friend request from Marco. She’d leave it for now. As the other divers begun their goodbyes, she’d stand idly in place. She was typing something, and it was taking quite a while. Eventually, she’d bow again, offering her own farewell-for-now.

[good night!! see u tomorrow wwww (´`)*: ]

Despite this, she lingered, watching the rest of her new Force disappear with clouds of teal, cubic particles.

Now alone, she could finally relax. It felt like she’d been holding her breath the entire time. Slowly, she’d slump to her knees on the cool metal floor, letting out a shaky sigh. This wasn’t normal for her. Usually, she had no problem with people online, where they were static, distant avatars speaking in text, but in the space of virtual reality, it all felt too real. They looked real, quite possibly like their real selves, and they were speaking to her about things she had no understanding of. And now they were counting on her: strangers she barely knew hanging their hopes of success on her meager shoulders. While they’d managed to eke out a victory, Risu could feel it in her heart that she was dragging them down, that they felt that she was dragging them down, holding them back from performing perfectly.

Why was she even doing this? She didn’t know Choco in real life, either, but the obligation of meeting her in this game gnawed at her conscience. She wanted to impress her, especially since she’d been given the game, owing nothing in return. For all her hangups and anxiety about all of this, Risu wanted to do better, she wanted to be better for when they would inevitably see each other.

She was never good at games, and in virtual reality, where real dexterity was important, she had little chance of keeping up: she was clumsy and unskilled with anything requiring a modicum of finesse or expertise. How would she get better for Choco?

Risu paused for a moment, laying back and closing her eyes before she’d log out herself. “Sorry….”

Edited by Rabbidy
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Creed did his daily routine as normal. Wake up, eat breakfast, and do shores around the house, and post on his Zapp Inc blog. It wasn’t until midday that he started having any thoughts about GBN and the next part of the mission. Gundam Seed had always been one of his favorite series and he vividly recalled being thrilled by the exploits of Rau Le Cruset during the show. This caused Marco to decide two things for his planned session that evening: the first being to not pilot the savior, the latter being to have fun with the situation. 

His two conclusions caused the sponsored professional to literally dust off a mecha from his shelf and do some light touch up work on it. Before he could really ask himself what he was doing he had his paints out and his printer etching out a custom design on decal paper. He meticulously cleaned the surface of the regal white Gundam with cuetip and applied his custom decal where the old one had been. 

The Gundam Bael had intrigued Marco, especially for being in a series that wasn’t particularly his favorite. Still the fan in him enjoyed the simple design the machine boasted. The white and blue paints paid homage to Tallgeese II and the weapon choice reminded him vaguely of Epyon in their specialization. Twin gold swords (which Marco had made out of actual metal) hung ready on the hips of the model. Even motionless and poised the figure had a majesty about it which Marco had to concede made it appropriate to lead Gjallarhorn. 

The skilled builder smirked as he ran his fingers over the recently added logo. He replaced the IBO livery with something more appropriate. On the left shoulder of Bael now housed the symbol for ZAFT with the letters being innocently swapped out to spell ZAPP  instead. By the time Marco had finished his updates to the model he ate a light dinner then finally decided to log into GBN and get his bearings for the new mission.  

 

As Creed appeared in the beta lobby because it was a beta he hadn’t bothered to set up a force nest just yet, and he took in the scene of the public lobby. He took a moment to access his menu before heading for the default hangar. He toggled a few commands and as he exited his menu his avatar shimmered for a moment as his clothes changed. It was no secret that Marco wasn’t a young buck anymore and his frame was no longer the wiry build he had from college. Fatherhood added a few pounds to his waist and he sighed in resignation as he looked at himself in the clingy red spacesuit of a ZAFT ace pilot. Ultimately he had to smile because this was the first time in awhile that he had gotten excited enough to play along with a mission. He paused to look at the patch on his shoulder and grinned when he saw his custom ZAPP patch in place there as well. 

A few random players paused to look at him but nothing too obtrusive as the veteran went to the tower’s launching pad. Within a few moments he was within the cockpit of the Bael. He flexed his arms and fingers as he settled over the controls and launched the machine into the always perfect skies outside. Bael wasn’t a true flying machine but it had a knack for maneuverability and unlike the savior wasn’t so rigid when shifted directions. He eased the machine through some simple paces and soon brought the machine to the loading point for his mission. In an instant he went from soaring around the pleasant blue skies of the lobby to the motionless, frantic pace of the Versailles Hangar. 

Technicians floated to and fro, pushing crates around as they prepared for battle. Creed pressed a button and found himself soon alongside the foot traffic, as he pushed himself towards the briefing room. As he sailed past different crewmen he noticed that a lot more of them paused to salute him, apparently appreciating his effort at wearing one of their uniforms. Marco smiled as he saluted back and was wearing a cocky grin on his face as he opened the door to the briefing room. As he neared, he wondered if his teammates would be appearing soon as well. Marco had a tendency to show up early for missions so he could prepare as much as possible; he knew he was likely the first one onboard the ship. Even so, the foot traffic of the NPDs was alarming as they hustled around, legitimately worrying about their existence as they prepared for the upcoming battle. Their existence, Creed mused, his grin fading into an expression of thoughtfulness. That notion stuck in his head more and more as he took note of the diversity in the ship's crew, and the unformed expressions on their faces. It was that damn look, not the look of a mindless NPD, but one of genuine concern about living the day through, which was unmistakable. He found himself floating outside the boardroom, staring out the viewport towards the stars, wondering just how far this update had taken GBN. 

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Posted (edited)

There was more activity in the lobby this time.  That was always a good sign, but Hikaru would only spare a smile and a nod to the receptionist due to time constraints as he headed to the hangar.  Blinking as he saw green bots moving about on his machine, he realized what was going on.

"More Elemechu?"  Hikaru noted when he stood in front of his machine again.  Of course, it was understandable.  He'd made a number of changes, particularly to the armament and equipment of the unit.  Such changes needed to be inspected for improper hacks or other measures before use.  He waited for the scan of his machine to complete, hoping he wouldn't be late for the operation, while reflecting on the changes to his unit.  The Beta Gundam was now equipped with its upgraded BWS-capable G-Defenser and had a simple but resilient 'Mobile Armor' form that consisted of the whole thing laying down on its face.  Its shield had a nice surprise if its main protection was breached and the Long Rifle had improved accuracy due to Smart Beam Gun technology being added and married to the quasi-psycommu in a similar way to the hip beam guns.  Wanting options other than just beam, however, Hikaru had settled on adding a Union Flag's Linear Rifle to the G-Defenser's centerline and a Dom's Heat Saber to the side opposite the new Long Smart Gun.  Both were low weight, but the Heat Saber sported a solid reach while the Linear Rifle served to improve the aerodynamic properties in detached or Mobile Armor mode with its electromagnetic field emitter.  Not the most powerful additions, but suitable until he thought of better.  Perhaps something based on the Gerbera Straight from Red Frame would be more appropriate than the Heat Saber?

Oh, and the whole thing was standing in a stock FXA-00 "Flying Armor", but that was meant to be loaned to one of his allies as needed.  Maybe it would improve the movement of one of the GINNs supporting the operation at worst.  Kira likely did have an Aile Striker, after all.

Once checks were complete, he got in his machine and the location shifted to the ZAFT hangar.  After guiding his machine off of the FXA-00 Flying Armor and setting it to be usable by any of their allies, he got out of his Mobile Suit and observed the tone of the people preparing for combat.  It was a good thing he brought the Flying Armor, too.  Someone had brought an IBO unit that was either bone stock or a sleeper.  Process of elimination implied it to be Creed.  He looked for the pilot and decided to check the boardroom they were in before.  He hadn't run into Fa and Kamille yet either, but wondered how they were doing.  They, and the NPDs here, were realistic enough for him not to remember that they weren't 'real' and feel actual concern for what was coming.  Memories flashed to Fa's grief and he wondered if it was more than 'skin deep'.  How far could one go emulating feelings before they became real?

"Hey there."  Hikaru said, taking note of his teammate.  "I see you brought along an IBO machine.  Good thinking against all the beam.  I brought an FXA-00 Flying Armor explicitly for a teammate to use if needed to keep up with the Aile Strike.  Think your Gundam needs the boost, or is it better without it?"
 

Edited by MM007
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((This was a collaboration between me and Hikaru. Enjoy!))

Creed was snapped out of his reverie by Hikaru’s question. The older man had a flustered look on his face as he returned to the here and now. He looked at the kid and took an extra moment to contemplate the question. “Hmm” he pondered out loud. Bael was somewhat specialized, if not specific in its design. By all rights he suspected that his machine would be fast enough to compete with the Strike, maybe even the Destiny is that became an issue down the road. The question wasn’t wether or not he needed a boost, it was if Bael would be better without the bonus? Marco finally shook his head, “let’s see what everyone else brings to the table. I’ll take you up on it if no one else has a use for it. Bael is plenty fast enough, my only fear would be off balancing the machine with too much speed. It could become unwieldy.” He looked at the kid directly, “thank you though!” He was genuine in his appreciation, at least the kid was trying to help his teammates. “Bael might get nakered up but it should outpace the Strike… last I checked sword beats knife.” He added the last part with a snicker as he referred to the armor Schneider knives the Strike was known for. 
 

Hikaru smiled back, getting the joke. "Heh, yeah.  Those and its vulcans may be the only things that can actually hurt your machine aside from the Sword Striker or maybe the Launcher Striker's overkill."  He chose to respond to the gratitude next, glad someone appreciated it. "You're welcome. Logging my machine in while standing on the Flying Armor was as easy as not, and my machine's new G Defenser should be just as fast so I don't need it unless there's call for atmospheric re-entry.  It's essentially a 'poor man's' Mobile Armor with a Beam Smart Rifle for longer range hits." That wasn't the full loadout, but it was a decent summary.

"I also added some emergency non-beam armaments in case I ran into a machine with anti-beam properties.  You and Risu are already fielding them, and it's only a matter of time until the enemy does too..." The Diver tried to keep combat trends in mind and predict them, though he wasn't going to pretend to be 100% successful.

 

Marco nodded his agreement as Hikaru spoke. “If they’re smart they’ll mix things up as well. Best we can do is hope to keep them off balance.” As he mused he began stroking his beard nervously as he gazed out the window. “Do you really think they’ll have us diving into the atmosphere?” The veteran asked cautiously of the younger man. His reference to the flying armor Hikaru brought along. “That’ll make things very interesting if it goes that route.”
 

"Well, I don't know if it'll happen this mission or not."  Hikaru admitted, having given a shrug. "Things are up in the air and the timing is likely off, but both scenarios this seems to be comprised of have an eventual orbital drop mission we can use it for.  In the meantime, the Flying Armor is something that might be able to keep an otherwise sluggish teammate more highly mobile. It seemed better to have it as an option than not to carry it along. The Aile Strike is fast.  Some of Beta Team's machines are also fast. It was that simple in the end."

Indeed, things were getting harder to predict.  The unit was something he could carry along with his machine into GBN without any form of penalty, and he didn't HAVE to use it...so why not?
 

Again Marco grinned at the man, a twinkle in his eye and looked back at Hikaru. “It’s very smart of you bringing that in. Any edge will help us! Once this is over I’d like to take -“ his voice trailed off as a man floated towards the pair. Non other than Rau Le Cruset appeared with an eerie smile on his lips. The NPD gave a salute towards the divers, “gentleman… the briefing will commence momentarily. I would suggest you attend the conference room soon”. With a curt nod the devilish man floated away and Marco gave Hikaru a helpless look. “If our teammates don’t show up won’t the simulation forfeit us out?” The question was partially directed at himself. In previous versions an impartial team would be disqualified from participating in the mission. Was this something 1.8 had changed?

Marco’s panic grew as more and more NPDs piled into the briefing room. It soon became obvious that the briefing would start one way or another. He looked at Hikaru, curious to see what the kid had to say about all this. 

 

Hikaru noted Rau, creeped out a bit by the man after knowing his true ambitions but giving him a nod.  Whether they remained in this altered era was hard to determine, however. In this merged universe, Rau may well take on Char Aznable's more ethically questionable aspects as well.

Entering and having a seat with Marco, Hikaru started noting various AEUG and ZAFT pilots.  There was even Shiho Hahnenfuss. Lots of background characters were present. "...Given that the other team was allowed to participate with an NPD filling their fourth slot,"  Hikaru started when speaking to Marco, "I suspect that we might not get the boot so easily. It's more likely that Kamille and Fa, who are here because of our actions, would be compelled to fight to balance out the roster.  That's just my guess though."


 

Marco found himself sitting with his teammate and nodding once more with Hikaru’s assessment. He was glad that he was stuck with a competent diver at the very least. It helped that they seemed to be of like mind as well. “That’s a valid point” Marco mumbled as the lights and din died down to let the attention settle on the infamous commander. 

Rau took a moment for the chatter to die down and a moment more before finally talking. “Thank you all for being here. As you are well aware we are still in a dogged pursuit of the legged ship. We have reason to believe that they will be making a run to enter the earth's atmosphere and proceed to Joshua.” He paused again to let his mask scan the crowded briefing room. “Because of the value of the G machines and our depleted fighting force we will be relying on the strength of our recently acquired mercenary force for this mission.” Rau lifted a glove hand to motion to Hikaru and Marco who shuffled nervously at the attention of so many NPDs. “Of course you will not be deploying alone, ZAFT does not take this task lightly so I will deploy as well to offer any assistance on this matter.” He let the gravity of the unusual deployment settle over the room. “At this point we can’t be certain of the exact strength of the enemy force but we can assume it will consist of five mobile suits and a single mobile armor.” The mention of the mobile armor hung in the air like a stale odor which caused the commander to grimace ever so slightly. “We must assess the enemy’s strength quickly and adapt accordingly. I would not ask for such a reckless course of action if it were not important.” As he finished there was that eerie smile along his lips once more. “Crew is dismissed, I want a word with our hired swords.” 

Marco tensed up as the man floated past the dispersed crowd of NPDs and paused an arms length from himself and Hikaru. “A word gentlemen…” he said politely, “it’s about that peculiar piece of equipment you brought along today…” Rau motioned to Hikaru and Marco felt his stomach sink as the NPD proceeded to formulate a plan, a decent plan, that used the resources of their small team. Marco’s emotions rolled from terror to fascination as the NPD got his reluctant approval. 

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      “Not bad for trash parts...” Hikaru said, smiling to himself. His new ZAKU Warrior Light Armor may not have been the best build he made, but it wasn't something to be ashamed of at least. Scanning it with the GBN scanner parts in his wheelchair and resolving to use that data to maintain or improve it later, he re-entered the empty Gunpla Duel room. Placing it onto the device where the ZAKU Warrior originally was, he accessed the system to fine-tune its specifications. He was also more than a little curious about how the Gunpla Duel system worked. It was a bit before his time, after all.
    • By Replicator
      Back inside his crashed Mobile Suit at the factory, Beta’s acting commander prepared to abandon Airbatel for a little experiment. He opened his inventory, more importantly, his avatar’s wardrobe menu, and pushed a button to load Preset B. Only a blink of an eye passed between his uniform and cap vanishing into glowing particles, and the appearance from thin air of a Gryps-era normal suit, customized by Aida with the colors of his Man From Jupiter attire, and loaded with accessories taken from Quattro’s normal suit: the leg pistol holster and jetpack, which ironically, made their Zeta debut on the very episode this stage had been built upon. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the button that would make the hatch open. Weirdly, despite not really having anything to lose in a virtual videogame, he had his doubts. The experience was more realistic than ever, and he could only wonder what would be of the world when these games became fully immersive thanks to full-body sensor coverage. Somehow, people preferred fiction to reality, even if the worlds they were moving into weren’t really places one should want to live in.
      Swooooshhhh...
      Bingo. The hatch was now open, and he was out of the cockpit, but his avatar’s health meter was not decreasing in any way, fast or slow, which meant no significant oxygen loss. They had even implemented a practical use for normal suits… which meant people in public servers would finally have to stop breaking character and getting out of their machines into space wearing only swimsuits or casualwear if they didn’t want their Divers to die. He climbed down from the GM III, and continued his journey on foot. His avatar still having the meter at all meant he had not been ‘ghosted’ into Spectator Mode… and could still influence NPDs or other Divers, even though his MS was out of the fight for good. However, he thought as he fired up his jetpack’s thrusters and flied out of the factory, watching out not to get too close to the whirlwinds, only God knew what he could do now. To find such opportunities to wreck havoc as a mere person was rare. And since he was on the defending team, there weren’t even enemy facilities to infiltrate… only these factories, and the Titans building in the distance…
      Suddenly, he needed to take cover. A GM’s BOWA rifle, briefly caught by the wind vortex before it became too weak to keep it spinning circles, was now approaching him with speed, just as he was getting used to seeing the colony from above. Rapidly, he accelerated towards another one of the factories, and crashed through one of the upper windows before the gigantic weapon could claim his avatar's life. Landing forcefully on top of a metallic scaffold, he took a moment to get up again, grabbing a hold of the metal bars. After getting himself on his feet again, he found yet another weird detail left in the map by the campaign’s creators, a sign of a different Universal Century. Did they really waste so much effort in detailing all of these factories and minor buildings, just in the remote case somebody did enter them?
      “... Beta Team… calling Beta...” Now, a faintly familiar voice could be heard emanating from a device on his wrist. It was the pilot of the Galbaldy Beta. She was surprisingly alive, and still trying to contact the team. Quickly, he initiated a conversation with her. “Beta Four? This is Beta One, come in! What’s your status?”. An uncomfortably long pause followed, but B-Four would respond eventually. “Beta Four reporting… slightly wounded, Mobile Suit inoperative. On foot, armed with explosives. Hiding in a building… what are my orders?” Hearing her out, Aida recoiled for a moment, thinking of a response, before looking down from the scaffold upon what lied on the floor. Yet another idea that could get the team back on their feet. “Beta Four, i’m sending you my coordinates. Regroup with me, on the double.”
      Elsewhere in the battlefield, Emma and Kacricon flied, looking for the sellsword that had shot Unit 03, when a woman in a blue normal suit appropriate to the era passed them, flying her jetpack towards the factory district. “What the hell… Kacricon, did you see that-” Emma was interrupted, however, as Kacooler’s news were more urgent. “Quick, I see stray shots!” Quickly, the dark blue Gundams spotted the enemy: one of the AEUG’s machines was in trouble, with a friendly trying to end it with a well placed slash, and an enemy keeping the energy blade from touching the Rick Dias' head with a beam saber. She recognized the friendly as the one that had shot 03, and the enemy as that weird Gundam that seemed to share more than a passing resemblance to her own Mark II. Why didn't the blue GM want her interacting with the white Gundam? She didn't know, but the other black Mobile Suit had caught wind of their arrival, and now fired its Clay Bazooka towards Kacricon and her. Kacricon acted quickly, dodging out of the way, and she followed suit, lifting her shield up in case the Gundam was not fast enough to dodge the round. "Emma, we'll waste that one! Poor bastard must feel pretty lonely, and with that kind of firepower, the maniac in the glitter dispenser can probably handle two tangos at once anyways." said Kacricon, referring to Apolly's Rick Dias as their new target and the Trinames Repair as the "glitter dispenser".
      Emma had her doubts, their orders were to bring the glowing Mobile Suit's pilot to their superiors for interrogation, and the Mark II lookalike still poked at her curiosity. But in such a situation, they had to be pragmatic. Emma fired her beam saber up, not wanting to use her rifle inside the colony, and charged at Apolly Bay's unit.
      Suddenly, the cockpits of all Divers cut to black, with the words “Mission Accomplished” for Alpha Team, and “Operation Completed” for Beta Team. Apparently, that had been the end of the stage. Now, a new cinematic showed, and control of the Mobile Suits was temporarily taken away.
      ---
      << GENERATION BREAK : CUTSCENE START >>
      Over at the Titans base, from which the firefight and the wind had both shifted away, giving fire control and medic teams way to take action, base commander Samuel D. Rogen of the Federation idled nervously next to a window on the upper floors, assessing the situation with a pair of binoculars and talking to himself in a low tone. "Not good… Some mercenary crashed into one of the R&D hangars. Let's hope these lunatics don't notice Sisquiede… they've already flied away with 03's wreck, so they are not afraid of carrying dead weight." A beeping signal interrupted him, followed by the shout of the communications officer operating the receiver/transmitter array of the base. "Distress signal from LCAM-01XA! The structural supports of Heliopolis-” The young officer paused, knowing the Titans were insistent in using another name for the colony, and corrected himself. “The structural supports of Gryps 1 are very damaged, and-” The young officer was cut off by Rogen. “What do they want us to do about it?! Our hands are tied over here, and all we have are Mobile Suits anyways! We can’t repair a colony! Order them to retreat and get over here before ZAFT comes back and squashes us all! Bask will have a plan.”
      Immediately afterwards, a new signal came in. The communications officer listened in, then gave everyone in the room the news: “Gryps 1 has experienced dissasembly. Archangel, X-105 and the Hawk of Endymion are falling back here. ZAFT has chosen to fall back for unknown reasons.” At the same time, the radar technician on Rogen’s other side spoke with an update on the fight taking place in Gryps 2. “The AEUG is on the run! They’ve put Unit 03 in a barge… the red one and his escorts are currently flying away.” Commander Rogen was not amused, but right as he was beginning his rant, the faces of Bask Om and Jamaican Daninghan appeared on screen. Samuel promptly filled his commanders in, and when he was done, Jamaican spoke. “So ZAFT partnered with the AEUG and used them as a distraction here, while they stole our X-Numbers… damned know-it-all spacenoids! We’ll give them a beating they won’t ever forget… once we’ve built System, no fleet, no weapon will be more powerful than us!” Bask lifted his hand, prompting Jamaican to shut up and let him speak. “Base Commander, Archangel is coming here. We’re boarding it, but without four of five X-Numbers, the ship is seriously understaffed. And we can’t really leave anything of value, given the condition of this colony. Lieutenants Kacricon Kacooler and Emma Sheen are to board Archangel with Unit 01 and Unit 02. Have the mercenary team join them. They’re insubordinate, but they're regular force material.”
      In space, an orange Mobile Armor could be seen approaching the punctured hull of Green Noa 2, escorting a white legged ship...
      << GENERATION BREAK : CUTSCENE END >>
      ---
      When the cutscene ended, control returned to all the Divers. The IFF, however, had been disabled, and the weapons had been deactivated. Combat was no longer possible, nor were the Rick Diases where they used to be moments ago. Now, Quattro, Apolly and Roberto all were far away from Beta Team and the two dark Gundams, flying towards the first hole, the one next to which the AEUG barge now safeguarded a Gundam Mk-II, before crossing the threshold and disappearing into the darkness of space. The two operational machines of Beta Team were left alone with Emma and Kacricon, while the voice of Jamaican pierced the silence. “... repeat, this is Lieutenant Commander Daninghan. Units 01 and 02, retreat towards the spaceport. Beta Team, escort Units 01 and 02. All non-mentioned personnel is to stay and help repair this base.” While Kacricon and Emma took off, the Divers of Beta Team saw a blue arrow appear in their cockpits, pointing in the direction of the hangars they had taken off from at the start of the operation. Apparently, that was the destination of the Mk-IIs, and by extension, theirs.
      As both his beam tomahawk and the modified Barzam's beam saber turned off automatically, Kyle was not disappointed or angry, he merely couldn't help but be bewildered in the team's voice channel. "Shouldn't we be back at Alfred's school already? We lost, didn't we?" Taking off towards the spaceport, the pilot of Trinames wondered to himself: How come I can never ever get a bit of casual fun without risking this kind of stuff…? Stupid maniacs.
      Upon returning from the cutscene, Carter found his Mobile Suit in midair, lunging at a missing person. The Red Comet was long gone now, and he was left alone, circling around his own axis. "Agh, I'd have beat him to a pulp..." he said as he landed the Zaku Forerunner for a moment, and turned it around, flicking the Saturn Engine back on to cruise towards the other side of the colony. They did give my mech one hell of a beating, though... no respect for the classics, no respect for the classics.

      As for the team NPD, she unexpectedly burst through the roof of a factory, now at the helm of a restored GP03S, painted in Titans colors and wielding a Folding Bazooka. Her passenger, Aida, hanged on to the pilot seat as best as he could, lacking any jump seats where he could sit. He was not happy that their stellar find couldn't make it in time to save the day. "Crud… It was a perfect idea. But we are too late." The nameless NPD looked back at him, her black helmet visor betraying no faction, no feature of her. "We must go to the mission marker's position." Aida calmly replied, regaining his composure, "I know. But first, we must pick up my Mobile Suit. The Stamen can probably take it to the spaceport..."
      Minutes later, the six Suits entered the spaceport, just as the venerable Moebius Zero could be seen entering Archangel, in anticipation of the ship aligning right in front of an open gate, allowing the Marks and Beta a clear landing onto their Mobile Suit bays. The Trinames and Forerunner took off into space first, clearing the way for the two dark Gundams, before joining the Stamen and Airbatel behind them and landing inside the ship, which closed its hangar bays and turned around to flee, before the enemy Nazca-class could catch up. Leaving Airbatel in one of the bays and the GP03 in another, Aida and the NPD materialized in front of the latter, floating in the middle of the hangar bay towards the floor. Oxygen had already been restored to the area, and a black haired woman was moving in for an introduction. Not wanting to be impolite, Aida traded his helmet back for Preset A's cap. The NPD, however, did not change attire.
      With graceful movements, a woman dressed in a white Earth Alliance uniform stopped in front of the Mobile Suits, as a blonde man could be seen unboarding his Mobile Armor. Holding a clipboard, she would address the group. "You must be the reinforcements… I'm Executive Officer Badgiruel. Commanders Bask and Daninghan have boarded the ship some minutes ago and will be in the conference room for a debriefing. You can head there when you're ready. Dismissed." She would then head back, with the NPD following her in a manner reminiscent of an automaton. Aida was somewhat disconcerted at the two of them. "Yeah… nice to meet you two I guess." Then, he looked at the white Dynames and the blue Zaku, curious about the people inside.
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