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For the Homeland


Roromi
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The rain had faded away at some point in the night, or was it early morning? Either way it was a good thing for several reasons. First being that camping in the soggy wet jungle was always miserable. Second reason was that it meant the testing could be done in the sunny weather. A solider crawled out of his foxhole and stretched. He dusted off the condensation that had gotten on his uniform. Reaching down to the binoculars around his neck he brought them up and scanned the vector he believed the ship would be coming from. 

A cold sweat ran down his neck as excitement filled his veins. “She’s here!” He yelled down to the hole before jumping back into the muddy entrance. “She’s here, the Archangel! We can finally begin the operation!” He yelled excitedly as other soldiers went about getting up and preparing their stations. Indeed the trials for the Archangel and the Astrays would prove the be quite challenging. 

****

Nathaniel sat in the seat of the Gold frame, feeling a little surprised as he realized the straps hadn’t been adjusted since he had last been in the mobile suit. “I suppose that makes sense…” he mused as he booted up the OS and turned the machine on. The soft whine of computer fans could barely be heard inside his insulated helmet. He looked out at the two technicians looking back at him and gave a thumbs up motioning for them to step away from the hatch. As the Cockpit sealed the displays settled down and activated showing him an altered perspective of what he had just seen. Catwalks lead up to the suit and he could see the hatch and launching catapult. 

“Alright everyone lets do this by the books!” He slowly marched the suit to the catapult and clamped his feet onto the device as he haunched the suit down to be ready for launch. “Nathaniel Barondel, Astray Gold Frame Launching!”

The Golden mobile suit flung through the air and traveled an impressive distance on momentum alone before skidding across the water and sand to land at the beach of Outpost Echo. Nathaniel grinned from the gut turning ride and looked to see how his teammates were doing with their own launches. “Alright, this is a war game with live ammunition. We will conduct a patrol, just keep an eye out for anything, target drones will appear at random intervals.”

The premise was simple enough, walk around through the jungles, jump at animated target and destroy them. Still the Lieutenant smirked at the challenge, he was immensely curious how his team would perform. He took point and began leading the small team of mecha into the canopy of trees. 

Their March was slow and deliberate, almost like a weekend hike in pace. Still they practiced good formation staying staggered behind each other with overlapping ranges or fire. Each unit was decorated with an additional piece of equipment it seemed. Nathaniel’s own Gold Frame largely remained the same with the exception of an experimental rifle. He traded out the traditional weapon for an telescopic bayonet beam rifle. The weapon could collapse for greater maneuverability and quick fire fights, then extend the barrel for longer sniper shots. The best feature was the ability to produce a beam saber from the barrel to act as the “bayonet” for close encounters. Despite the new features of the rifle he was still reserved about the power consumption that the beam weapons seemed to boast. Of course the only way to truly confirm his suspicions was through combat or training. “Which is why we are here…” he concluded to himself. 

It didn’t take long for the group to find their first set of floating targets. Proportioned drones they had fired off before arriving buzzed out of the trees, lit up as targets on their displays. Just as he was leveling to take his first shot he paused. There was an unknown bogey mixed in with the drones, a helicopter nearly the same size. It didn’t register as a friendly and from the stance it was taking…

“Everyone evasive action!” Nathaniel roared out, real concern etched in his tone. “We need to fall back immediately!” As if to accent his point the helicopter released a volley of missiles at all of them. Nathaniel turned to regard the projectiles and fired his head cannons to intercept. Flames erupted from the missiles and splashed into the trees almost like water. “Napalm!” He cried out in alarm as a wall of flames erupted between the mobile suits and their way back to the ship. 

Realizing the deepening situation Nathaniel ominously announced, “everyone on your toes this is not scripted, it’s a trap!” Gritting his teeth he added, “we have to take them all out and get back to the ship.” It was the only order he could give as more enemies appeared, more helicopters and even tanks on a ridge; began to open up fire on the four Astrays. 
 

****

On the bridge of the Archangel, Hawthorne sat anxiously as her mobile suits fired off one by one. Things had been going smoothly just before the wall of flames and smoke appeared on the island. Everyone on the bridge became alarmed from the unscripted wall of flames. “Contact Chromatic team, find out what’s going on.” She commanded smoothly. Before the communications officer could confirm her order though the crewmate on radar cried out, “ma’am! Alliance naval vessels are closing in fast- they’re firing missiles!” 

Leaning forward in her chair now, Hawthorne cried out, “intercept them! Helmsman raise the ship! All hands combat stations!” At once the ship came to life with alarms blaring and action being taken. The CIWS intercepted the incoming barrage effectively, causing brilliant explosions in the starboard windows. It seems somebody tipped off the Alliance to our little exercise… Hawthorne pondered as she squinted at the enemy ships. 

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Geneva watched as the Gold Frame blasted away from the Archangel, with her Blue Frame being second in line. "Alright. Time to do this." The mobile suit gently placed its feet on the launching pad, bending down in the process. "Don't screw it up, don't screw it up..." However, the Blue Frame didn't move an inch from its spot. "Oh! Geneva Halston. Blue Frame launching!" Finally getting their approval, the Archangel crew sent the machine flying out into the jungle. The mobile suit jittered as it headed toward the beachfront. Geneva's stomach began to churn, the feet of the machine eventually planting themselves on the sandy surface. "I'm gonna hurl..."

The Blue Frame followed suit behind its leader, with a new loadout in tow. Two SMG weapons were held in the hands of the mobile suit, with knifes sticking underneath them. The pilot felt that it was a good balance of quick paced combat and close ranged based on the options she found from the Archangel's stock. A small part of her felt excitement from this mission. She'd be allowed to test these weapons and see if they were a good fit, but the mission was soon to take a drastic turn.

"AH!" Geneva blindly fired upon the missiles in her direct vicinity. The tiny blue bullets slammed into a few, but most completely missed their target. "Who are these people?" She watched the enemy units surround the Astray team. "Can't we just run now?"

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After parting ways with Keiran, Roane undertook a daring, one-man mission to the galley to try and convince the cook there that theirs was a worthy cause and that a donation of snacks would be of a great benefit to the team’s morale. They were, arguably, the Orb military’s VIPs—what were a few bags of chips when it came to keeping their spirits up? When he arrived in the galley, however, he found it empty. Not a single soul sat among the myriad tables and, as far as he could tell, there was no one in the kitchen either. The pilot called out and received no response. Looking over his shoulder conspiratorially, Roane ducked into the kitchen, found the pantry, and promptly liberated armfuls of carefully curated junk food. The selection wasn’t the greatest, but he knew that military ships kept this kind of grub tucked away. With his bounty in hand, Roane was little more than an orange blur as he made his way back to his quarters and, squirrel-like, shoved the ill-gotten goods beneath his bunk.

--

Before he knew it, the pilots were being called together. It appeared they had reached their destination.

So soon?

He had been perched on his bed, typing away on his laptop and praying an irate cook didn’t come asking after his supplies, when the word came. Roane closed the personal computer’s lid and tossed it irreverently onto the bed next to him, giving the stash one last worried look before making his way to the ready-room.

---

A few minutes later, he was in his red and black test suit and riding the tow-cable up to the Red Frame’s cockpit. As he rode the cable upwards, he looked at the diamond-like devices affixed to the Astray’s wrists. Micha Redwood, a member of his team at Morgenroete, had discussed with Roane a rather unconventional idea that he wanted to test. Roane, a scientist at heart, agreed immediately. He was curious to see what a pair of rocket anchors affixed to his mobile suits arms could do and a training exercise sounded like the perfect place to test such a bizarre loadout. Thus it came to be that two ‘Gleipnir’ piercer locks, the same as the ones the G-team had developed for the Blitz Gundam, had been strapped to his machine.

“I don’t know if this is going to work,” Roane said as he sat down and booted up the machine. “But it’ll certainly be interesting,” the Red Frame was still equipped with its beam sabers, but Roane insisted on leaving his beam rifle behind. It was an energy sink and he was working with limited battery. The Gleipnirs weren’t exactly cost free but they didn’t have to generate a beam, at least. “We might run into some issues with speed though,” he muttered to himself, flipping switches over head before putting his helmet on. “The piercer locks take time to launch and retract, but at least we still have our CIWS guns.” The more he thought about it, the more he questioned the idea, but it was too late to change it now.

It’s only a practice op, if ever there was a time for something not to work it’s now,

“This is Roane MacMaster, Astray Red Frame. Launching,” the mobile suit then shot down the catapult, which flung them out over the water and the beach, where he landed with a thud, sending up a column of sand. “Seems like he’s running nominally so far, we should get off the sand though unless you feel like reprogramming your OS’s on the fly.” Every other machine but his was working off a Coordinator-based operating system. The Red Frame alone had one that was compatible with naturals, which he thanked his lucky stars for. Part of his mission, at least, was to gather enough data to produce a working, wide-range natural OS.

That’s a job for the egg-heads though, for now, you just have to make it sing,

But things went pear-shaped almost as soon as they had landed. Barondel’s voice came in over the group channel.

“Fall back? We just got here?” Roane cried as the helicopters overhead began firing their salvos. “What the bloody hell?” The Igelstellungs whirred to life, tracer bullets skittering across the sky as they intercepted the missiles headed his way. His team-mate, Geneva, was wailing loudly as the Blue Frame’s SMGs went wild.

“Keep it together Gen,” Roane tried to sound strong and reassuring but his voice was anything but. He barely knew his teammate but she sounded like she was having a bad time. “Ah, shite. Lieutenant, who are these guys?” A petrifying cold was beginning to seep into his limbs. He had never been in combat before—had never intended to ever be in combat. They were only attack helicopters and he was in a prototype mobile suit. It should be an easy win…but why couldn’t he bring himself to fight?

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On the bridge of the Archangel, Kali’s brown, analytical eyes hidden behind her spherical spectacles scanned the viewing screen as Lieutenant Barondel launched the Gold frame. His voice rang out in her earpiece as he commanded his team. Her deft fingers instinctively reached out and began typing on the interface in front of her. Captain Hawthorne had given her access to the data on the mobile suits, this was her opportunity to add to that data while they were testing in the field. She noted the distance the Gold Frame had traveled in its launch, Kali was impressed and awed by the feat. She was curious and eager to see how the other pilots measured up.

Kali noted the staggered formation and was curious how other formations could enhance their defense as well as offense. Her fingers put her thoughts into data noting how a rotating star formation could provide optimal defense, as well as alternating firepower from each of the mobile suits, would help reserve power.

Along with all her datapad and terminal, Kali also decided to bring along a notepad and pen. She noted the standard equipment loadout for each suit as well as the exception that made them unique such as the Lieutenant’s bayonet beam rifle and the Blue Frame’s SMGs. She noted the Red Frame’s pilot confidence and ease. A quick examination noted he was worked with a different OS compared to the other suits.

She heard Geneva’s voice which was a first for Kali, the two bunkmates kept missing each other. A soft smile formed on Kali’s lips at being able to hear it for the first time, it was such an odd way to meet she thought as she glanced at the woman’s visage on the screen. Kali noted a silent, respectable greeting in her mind and hoped their paths would cross soon.

The team approached the drones that awaited them for the exercise. Kali waited for the Lieutenants command for the exercise to begin when her terminal blinked with warning indicators. Kali looked up only to hear the Lieutenant’s voice cry out in her ear to take ‘evasive action!’

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The explosions that followed from the fire missiles rang in her ears as she watched in horror the battle that ensued right in front of her. The reality was further solidified when the Lieutenant cried out it was a trap! They were surrounded!

Kali glanced in the Captain’s direction who appeared anxious at the events unfolding. The Captain's anxiety notwithstanding, the Captain gave her commands with cool confidence which comforted Kali and urged her to calm her anxiety that threatened to take over. Kali turned back to her terminal, she glanced at her datapad and her terminal determined to do something to help! The alarms rang and the ship shifted into action! What could she do? Then it dawned on her as she recalled the lieutenant’s words,

“Alright, this is a war game with live ammunition. We will conduct a patrol, just keep an eye out for anything, target drones will appear at random intervals.”

Light reflected off the lenses of her glasses as she logged into the protocols for the training exercise, “What are you doing?” one of her fellow officers asked, “Reprogramming the drones from the exercise.” Kali explained hastily as she typed intensely, “We can help the Lieutenant while we intercept the vessel.” She said with determination as she finished with one final keystroke.

The drone's indicators flashed with their new directive and scattered and began firing at random intervals at the unexpected enemy. Kali was thankful that the drones were equipped with live ammunition. She was certain this tactic was enough to even the odds and allow the team to regroup and allow the Archangel to intercept with less interference. It wasn’t perfect but it would have to do, she thought to herself as she analyzed the battle taking place seeing if there any other opportunities in which she could assist.

Edited by Grayson
Grammar police
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Keiran looked at Roane as he came back carrying all of the food, he raised an eyebrow and then helped him store it underneath his bed, even using his own boxes of anime merch to help cover it up, it would be a small price to pay for the team morale.. well, that was the idea, if they were all close, he'd be able to let loose and be more.. like himself. He was able to speak with Roane a little, making small talk here and there, though neither of them talked much about their pasts.

That's when the alert sounded, Keiran was in the middle of rearranging the episode count on his hardrive, he huffed a little before stowing it away securely and getting up "Let's.. get to work" He said, Nodding to his roommate before the two of them got to the hangar, he entered his mobile suits cockpit and smiled as he got comfortable in the seat "Alright, Green frame.. I was gonna take the Mirage but you drew me in.. Don't prove me wrong" He mumbled to himself, more to ensure himself and keep himself cool, he was a competent pilot.. but this was obviously gonna be different from the simulations he trained in, and even more from the Fighters which he originally learned to pilot.

His loadout was a simple one, he wanted to be able to help out anywhere possible, He immediately took his green frames signature weapon, that 3-in-1 Beam rifle, A shield, and a bazooka for his secondary. He was already thinking of ways to use the main weapon, how it would work amongst his teams own loadouts, he closed his eyes.. relaxed, and when it came time to launch, he smiled. "Keiran Larris, Astray Green Frame, Launching" his serious tone was betrayed by the grin underneath his helmet, he flew through the air and landed with his team right in formation, he took the middle part of their formation, so that his distance between his teammates was equal. 

Unfortunately for him, and his teammates.. thing went haywire, he immediately shot his vulcan guns out towards the missiles to get rid of what he could, he raised his beam rifle to shoot back before lowering it.. That might be a bit too much, he thought.. at least for the choppers, he was about ready to spring into action when he heard two of his teammates with panic in their voice, he bit his lip and drew a breath before opening comms as well "Alright, focus up!" He said, he spoke with confidence, hoping it would rub off on his allies "We've got four state of the art mobile suits, top of the line weapons, and the entire archangel at our backs!" He went from holding his beam rifle in its rifle formation, to putting it in the twin beam saber form "Let's get this done so we can get home safe, yeah?" In his mind, he was screaming out at his own.. audacity? He'd never speak up like that normally, but after everything thats happened.. he had to make sure his team was ready to fight. He decided to take a step forward with his shield and twin beam saber ready, "Sir, permission to step forward and tie up the tanks?" 

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The helicopters were soon swarming around the Astrays. It seemed like more and more of them were popping out of the forest and from behind the mountain centered on the island. There were more than enough targets for sure. They couldn’t retreat until they enemies were destroyed.

Nathaniel gritted his teeth as a tank shell slammed into the left arm of Gold Frame. He could hear Keiran’s resolve and nodded to himself. Now that he was certain that everyone knew this was live combat he could focus on trying to direct his troops. “Granted Larris! Move in there and take out those tanks!” he barked. He then turned to regard the Blue and Red Frames.

Geneva was doing an admirable job fending off missile barrages, “XO!” he called out, “provide air cover for Kerian’ keep those choppers off him!” Nathaniel narrowed his eyes at Red Frame which seemed to be putting a minimal effort into simply defending itself. “It doesn’t matter who they are right now MacMaster, what matters is that you kill them first!” he roared out as he stepped in to shoot one of the choppers with his beam rifle.

The pink bolt sounded slightly different from the normal beam rifle, but the effect was no less desirable as a helicopter exploded. It seemed just as one of them was taken out, two more flew in to replace it. The truth was he was running out of Vulcan ammunition, and that there were too many to keep shooting with a beam rifle. To panic fire would drain the power, damn they know what they are doing…

Several more helicopters exploded as a mass of training drones flew in towards the enemy helicopters. Nathaniel allowed himself a small smile as the unexpected assistance made a sizable dent in the growing enemy numbers.

“We have to secure this position first everyone, take out the enemy, mind you energy levels!” Even as he gave the order his thoughts flew toward the Archangel, to Delphine. I hope you can last without us… he wished.

-----

“Good thinking!” Hawthorne called out to Kali as she eyed what the girl was doing. She was about to say something else when the smile on Delphine’s face vanished.

It felt like the entire ship rocked as an explosion hit the starboard side. There was a fluttering shared by everyone’s stomach as the Archangel plummeted back into the brine. Everyone rocked violently from the short but suddenly fall.

“Ma’am they hit our propulsion! We can’t maintain lift!”

Hawthorne rubbed her head as she recovered, her hat scattered on the floor, but she didn’t move to recover it. She hissed a curse under her breath, “It seems they know the ship’s weak points…”

“More destroyers, three o’clock!” a different voice called out.

“Can we turn the ship about?” Hawthorne asked wearily. There was a pause before an officer called out, “Yes, Ma’am!”

Narrowing her eyes, she commanded, “then pull us into a circuit and fire the main cannons, we’ll sweep out the enemy ships like clockwork!” a loud roar echoed through the bridge as a flight of jets flew straight overhead, echoed by blasts on the ship. “use the weapons take out those jets we can’t have them strafe us and take out the cannon!” she cried out. There was a trace of real concern in her voice, she knew her ship could best naval vessels, but the jets might be too fast for her weapons to effectively counter. Either way the Archangel had to make quick work of their enemies or they would be done for. Her thoughts drifted to the Purple Frame in the hangar. Despite herself, her thoughts then drifted to Nathaniel. You better make it…

-----

“yes, that’s right!” Yuna squirmed in his seat as he looked up from the floor to look at the approving gaze of his father, Unato. The son held a phone to his head and cradled the device with both hands. “I gave you the position, along with their load out and personnel. Are you certain you can capture the ship?”

There was a pause that Unato Seiran found uncomfortable despite himself as he watched his son nod frantically. The older man nearly jumped as his sun cried out, “excellent! Thank you so much! I look forward to working with you again!” the boy hung up the phone and flashed his father a triumphant looking smile.

Normally Unato would handle such affairs himself but knew that he needed to maintain a buffer of deniability, and his son needed to learn such statesmanship at some point. “it is done then son?” the old man asked cautiously.

The young man nodded enthusiastically, “Yes father! The Earth Alliance sent a task force to capture the Archangel and the Astrays. I’ve been assured that if they can successfully do so then our transgressions will be forgiven in the Alliance’s eyes. There was even mention of possible membership!”

Even as Yuna cried out almost hysterically, Unato was waving a hand as if telling the boy to calm down. “good… very good. Let us hope that they can come through and take that blasted ship with the least amount of casualties on both sides. We can’t build a friendship on blood loss… Good job yuna. Keep me informed on what happens.”

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The bullets kept pelting more of the missiles, but it wasn't long before Geneva was given another order. Their green mobile suit was taking some fire from the enemy choppers and needed to be stopped quickly. "Yessir! On it!" She yelled out as the Blue Frame left its location. Whatever was happening in this battle, it sounded much worse to the mobile suit pilot than she had first thought. Explosions and gunfire riddled the island and their mothership, causing Geneva to gasp as she watched the Archangel get hit. 

"Gotta focus. Follow your orders." She told herself while the sounds of warfare continued. A part of her expected something like this to happen due to her amazing luck in the past, but the other part found this to be a chance to show their adversaries the true power of the Astrays. "I can hopefully keep these guys out of the air..." Many helicopters flew in the sky while the Blue Frame ran toward a nearby dirt pile, getting closer to her green ally.

"Come on! Look at me!" Geneva pulled both the SMGs in front of her, opening fire of the flying machines. A few couldn't even react as their armor was torn into like swiss cheese. The tiny blue beams continued along as the ORB pilot looked straight ahead. "Your puny choppers can't do nothing! Just give up!" Suddenly, the two weapons stopped completely.

EEK!

Geneva quickly looked down at the armaments' screen. "Overheated?!" She screamed. Even worse, there were still many choppers ready to fight her. "Oh no, oh no, oh no!" A sense of panic immediately swept over the pilot, who could've made better responses to the situation, but the Blue Frame only watched in fear as it stared at the enemy machines. 

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(Thanks Roromi for the cameo)

Things only got more hectic. Chaos, in its truest form, blossomed up around Roane and the Red Frame as his allies all moved to engage and the radios blared with orders and activities that barely penetrated the oppressive thud of his heart as it hammered deep inside his chest, the blood rushing to his head. It was too much for him. Roane’s hands should have redoubled their grip on the controls but instead he found them sliding up towards his helmet.

Can’t breathe…

Roane wrenched and twisted the helmet, trying to remove it but finding it locked steadily in place.

“Can’t breathe…,” his thoughts became sound, a whisper at first, then louder. “I can’t breathe!” he was clawing at the helmet now, his fingers trembling, fumbling at the locks on his suit. “Lieutenant I can’t do this!”

Gold Frame barreled past Red Frame again to stab at a helicopter with the bayonet rifle. “Damnit Roane!” Nathaniel cried out. “Was all that bluster just hot air! Not only are you going to die, but you’re going to get everyone killed MacMaster!” The pink blade of the rifle swiped sideways to get another enemy. The time for kind words was long past, with enemy fire coming in, Nathaniel had to get through to Roane.

“I….” Roane’s hands slowed their clutching but trembled still. “I don’t want to die,”

Then you have to fight.

“I don’t want anyone else to die, either,” for a moment, Roane’s loose grip on his senses allowed him to understand the Red Frame in a different way. The humming of his mobile suit that he heard in the cockpit was translated into words.

If you want to live, if you want to save them, you must be a warrior.

“A warrior…” his hands lowered form his head and found themselves resting on the controls once more. Tenuously, his hands wrapped themselves around the sticks. “I might not know how to fight…but that’s what the Red Frame was designed to do and I know the Red Frame,”

The Astray’s right hand swung upwards towards one of the helicopters and in a flash, the Gleipnir rocket anchor blasted off the mobile suit’s wrist, it’s golden diamond spike splitting into three claws that crushed the chopper in its grasp. Roane’s hands moved not necessarily with skill or confidence, but with familiarity as he swung the loose rocket anchor and the debris of the helicopter towards another assailant and swatting it out of the air. Letting go of the first chopper, the piercer lock retracted back to the Red Frame’s wrist, only for the Astray to pivot, aim both arms at two of the tanks engaging the Green Frame and let them fly. The rocket anchors pierced the tanks’ armor and Roane wrenched backwards on the controls, bringing the enemy machines up into the air where they slammed into yet more helicopters.

Inside the cockpit, wide-eyed and shaking, Roane tried to catch up to his racing pulse, stifling the roars of terror that brewed inside his lungs.

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With bated breath, Kali’s brown anxious eyes darted about behind the round lenses of her glasses as she watched in silence. Private Larris decided to focus on the tanks to her relief which was short-lived when a tank shell hit the left arm of the Gold Frame, “Lieutenant!” she cried out, her hand clasp over mouth all too late! Geneva was fighting off the missile barrages while the drones did what little they could do to assist. Kali felt the Archangel lurch at the Captain’s commands. Kali’s indicators went off signaling the Green Frame’s SMGs overheated, “Hang on, my friend.” Kali felt herself say out loud much to her dismay as she typed changing the protocols of some drones to cover her while her weapons recovered, “Hopefully they’ll last enough for the weapons to cool down.” She said hastily as her eyes shifted to Roane as he cried out, he couldn’t breathe. Kali never felt so helpless as she watched, she heard the Lieutenant's voice yell at Roane, but she had toned him out as her eyes scanned her terminal to see what else she could to help, the drones were all occupied! The explosions and crashes brought her attention back to the Red Frame who had overcome her fear, “You did it!” she exclaimed in her earpiece. They didn’t have long to celebrate the victorious moment as more helicopters swarmed the area. Kali sat back in her chair daunted by the odds they faced. A determined look came across her face, unless the enemies were destroyed from the source, they were just spinning their wheels at this point. Kali sat up from her chair and typed in her terminal tracing the trajectory of the enemy fire, tanks, and helicopters. Her eyes widened at the discovery, “Lieutenant, they are coming from the mountain.” Kali said earnestly, “On the island.” She clarified. She hoped the information she relayed was useful as she typed in her terminal frantically. It was a gamble, but she hoped that by redirecting the drones toward the intended area it would draw the enemy fire towards them and allow the Astrays to regroup while the Archangel did what it needed to turn the tide of the battle.

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Keiran shot forward as fast as his green frame would allow, he was taking small arms fire from the helicopters, but he held on.. and once his teammate Geneva got to covering him, he was even more confident "Thanks for the cover!" He said on comms, trying to rally the troops in whatever small way he could, he raised his shield to block some tank shells coming his way, but the impact caused him to slide backwards quite a bit "Not indestructible.. got it" He said to himself, but he didn't let that hurt his confidence or hurt his main mission objective, gripped onto his now axe tightly, and then moved quickly, using his vulcans while swinging and swiping at the tanks, he was standing amongst them to dissuade the helicopters from firing their missiles on him, for fear of friendly fire of course. He was doing good, but a stray shot got past him and landed on their Commander "Damn! Sorry, Lieutenant! I let one get past me!" he said apologetically, immediately making up for it by clearing the tanks out with more care. 

He assessed the situation a little as he kept fighting, doing his damndest to keep his team and the archangel safe from the tanks, they were the biggest threat after all- if they got into position and got a good volley off then.. they were toast, he ran disruption as best he could, but the situation was slowly coming together in his mind "We need to make a power play or we'll get ground to dust.." He thought, looking around he saw his the blue frame in a predicament, the drones were protecting her.. but he was still worried, he started strafing, pulling his Axe up and then holding it like the beam rifle that it was, He took some pot shots at the helicopters, but.. he wasnt the most accurate with it, not yet "This thing needs more combat data!" he said, frustrated with it. He spun around and started firing on the tanks with his rifle as well "Boss?! I hate to say it, but I don't think we can take a battle of attrition!" 

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An aircraft is flying, a cargo transport with the middle of the plane missing and claws are in place of it, rotor blades are attached to the tips and a set of engines are pushing it. In the claws, are different scrap as well as containers. (OOC: combine the body of Thunderbird 2 with the middle hallowed out, bigger wings and the tiltrotors of a V-22 Osprey on the wing tips). The plane itself has seen better days, but is flying, considering it is made with different scrap pieces. It is flying slowly, about 200 miles per hour and no weapons can be seen on it, since it has no weapons.

Flying the transports, bound for ORB, is Mairéad Sandilands, rather Mai Ingram,  Mairéad is dead. She died in a crash after a fight with her siblings on joining the EA after their parents' death. As she flies, alone with nothing to her name, just a refugee, no family, no home, nothing. "At least I have ye lass, and the Guild," she comments as she turns on the autopilot and stands as she stretches.

"Only two more hours till I am at my destination," she says as she grabs some food and checks the cargo. As she heads back to the cockpit, she sees something and blinks, "..." As she rushes the cockpit, she jumps into pilot seat and puts on the radio to listen for chatter. "Oy, a fight... There were no ZAFT forces here? What in the blazes is the EA doing, stupid dolts." She comments as she sighs and turns off the autopilot. "I better climb to avoid being targeted," and she pulls up on the yolk, the plane groaning. "Come on baby, we can do it," she adds as she is in no position to help.

Looking down as she pulls up, she sees a mobile suit, in trouble, "Nothing I can do to help," she comments as she levels off and flies on. As she does, she looks and sigh as she thinks to herself... "Damn it," and she turns the cargo plane and heads back for the fight, "I guess I am joining the fight dad," she says. "I love you, but I hate you," she says as she hopes this work. As she banks, she begins to descend for a better view and how she can help. "I'm going to regret this; she comments as she looks at the fight.

She really, really does not want to lose the Flerken, as it is her home, additionally, she is attached to it. "Stupid Earth Alliance, stupid ZAFT, stupid war," she mutters to herself. She is so going to regret this.

Edited by JohnSeever
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Hawthorne held her breath as the brilliant twin cannons of the battleship fully opened up and streaked out across the ocean. One, two; the blasts alternated, reaching and daring to touch enemy naval vessels. Each ship graced by the beam, erupted into flames or explosions. They had only completed about a quarter of a circuit when a crewman shouted out, “ma’am cannons are overheating!”

“hold your fire.” She belayed with a tone of awestruck in her own voice. Hawhtorne gawked at how quickly they had repealed the incoming enemy ships. Much to her hopes, a handful of ships began to veer away. Other’s maintained their course towards the Archangel but it was clear they weren’t expecting to be so out gunned.

“Plan your next shot for maximum effect, fire as soon as we’re able to. We have them on the ropes!”

The weapons control officer responded with an enthusiastic, “Aye, aye!” and a few heartbeats later another shot rang out from the Lohengrin, albeit not as long or sustained. Three more ships were hit in some fashion then the rest of the ships began to withdraw. Although her gaze never left the retreating vessels she asked cautiously, “how is Chromatic team doing?” Chromatic was the code term they had decided for the Astrays before the deployment.

“they’re taking heavy enemy fire, we’re still getting active friendly signals though!”

Sitting back in her chair, Delphine grimaced and looked around. She didn’t want to act irrationally, but the Astrays are a vital national interest…

“make sure these ships retreat then come about and nail the island with everything we have.”  She ordered. Despite herself she found herself looking at Kali, as if expecting to see the girl concede her agreement with the notion. I can’t help you yet Nathan…

-----

Another blast nailed Gold Frame squarely, the shield absorbed the hit. But he could still feel the violent vibrations within the cockpit. Nathaniel growled in frustration as he pivoted to return fire at one of the tanks. The pink blast from his rifle darting out to instantly explode the offender.

While the initial tide of the battle was a one-sided wave, the Astrays managed to weather the initial assault, usually the most devastating. The wall of flames had already died down dramatically, having spent most of the accelerant to dwindle into a smoky forest fire. Hot cinders and ash plumed up from the forest behind the Astrays.

Nathaniel heard Keiran’s words of caution and took into consideration Geneva’s and Roane’s situations. Gold frame darted in front of Geneva to protect her. “XO pull back, lead the retreat through the burnt trees. The flames now won’t harm our machines…” As if to accent his point the Archangel let out a blast of her Lohengrin cannons towards ships in the sea, the awe-inspiring act seemingly pausing their fighting for a heartbeat. Shaking his head, he added, “Everyone fall back to the Angel now. We repealed them back enough we can make it!”

He saw now that the enemy strategy relied on two factors: shock-and-awe; and overwhelming numbers. The Orb forces demonstrated a resilience to the shock and just contributed their own awe, and while they didn’t have numbers, they did have overwhelming firepower.

Nathaniel brought Gold Frame into a kneel. He put his shield on its’ side and placed his rifle on top as he established a firing position. He let loose a volley of pink blasts, one after another. “I’ll cover everyone...” Energy be damned, it won’t mean a thing if none of us get back. If the Archangel had just demonstrated one thing; it was that the enemy wasn’t too fond of this new beam weaponry.

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Thankfully, the Purple Frame's pilot was able to help out the Orb pilot with drones. At first, Geneva was confused by the repurposed machines, but was soon to understand her savior. "T-thank you?" She called out to the drones, but even they weren't enough. More missiles began to head toward the Blue Frame, with Geneva using her vulcans, only for her superior to come assist.

"Sir?" Now two of her teammates had stopped to help, sending an array of emotions. "Why didn't I bring another weapon? Why didn't I check the heating levels of them? Why am I such a mess?!" At this point, there was little for the Blue Frame to even do, with Nathaniel giving her new orders. "Yessir!" She responded to the Gold Frame's pilot. The blue mobile suit turned away from the leader, sending the mobile suit back.

"Everyone follow me!" Ironically, her SMG's were no longer overheated, but were in quite a hot location. Geneva didn't know if the flaming trees were actually making her sweat, or if it was all in her head. After all, she could only see smoke and blackened wood in her vision, hoping that the others were around her back on their way to the mothership.

"Wait... Is the Commander coming with us?!"

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Barondel’s orders to pull back snapped Roane out of his battle focus, the shadowy edges of his mental tunnel vision peeling back to let the light of reality back in. He observed the wreckage of the helicopters and tanks he had obliterated, heaped and smoking on the jungle floor. The battlefield had been wreathed in flames and Roane felt like he was awakening from some dream to a scenario he no longer recognized.

“What the hell happened…?” he asked himself as the Astrays began their retreat. “What was the Earth Alliance thinking?”

Geneva’s voice came over the comms and Roane nodded. “On it, Gen,” he said, dodging back from enemy fire. As he made his retreat, he continued his assault with the rocket anchors wherever he could, pegging enemy aircraft out of the sky if they fell within his reach. Something curious caught his attention, though: an aircraft unlike the others.

“I’ve got eyes on some kind of jet fighter. Looks heavily modified and a little too junky to be Earth Alliance,”

What are you doing here? You’re going to get yourself killed.

Roane tapped furiously at the keyboard and extended his communications range to try and hail the Flerken.

“This is Private Roane MacMaster of the Orb Union hailing civilian aircraft. This is an active battlefield, mate. You should get as far from here as possible before you accidentally get shot down,”

 

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Her anxiety screamed beneath her calm, determined demeanor as her brown eyes darted to and fro looking for the next opening the next opportunity. Fingers danced along the keyboard of her terminal; her eyes dare not stray from the battle on her screen. Her silence and stillness were betrayed by her typing fingers and observant eyes. She gained access to the visual receptors of the drones giving them additional eyes on the battlefield which she shared with the crew of the archangel. Perhaps they would see something she did not. Her eyes momentarily locked with Captain Hawthorne giving her a silent, agreeable, and determined nod before she returned to the task at hand while her anxiety worried that her observation about the island went unnoticed. Given the circumstances she understood yet her anxiety did not.

The drones closed in on their intended destination, with simple keystroke Kali activated the self-destruct sequence on one of the drones cause a sizable and noticeable explosion. She was certain that while it wasn’t enough to turn the tide, collateral damage would still be factor. Still a gamble, she didn’t risk exploding another but was concerned that any of the remaining drones could be shot down before she could. She set a timer on another drone as she listened to the chatter. The lieutenant was getting his team to evacuate or regroup, she was certain the intention and it only caused her anxiety to climb another notch. When she heard Geneva mention whether the commander was accompanying them, her anxiety within screamed another octave. Another drone exploded closer to the mountain on the island. Kali nervously set the timer on another; her little trick would only last so long.

Kali’s indicators flashed bringing her attention to the unknown aircraft entering the battle zone. Her anxiety reached its crescendo! Was Kali holding her breath? Her heart thumped in her chest as she heard Private MacMaster try to hail the airborne vehicle. What else could she do to help?

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The aircraft flies on as it starts to rock left and right. Acting like it is having issues as she throttles up to try to get speed out of the craft, Mai hears the voice on the radio and someone talking. “This is Private Roane MacMaster of the Orb Union hailing civilian aircraft. This is an active battlefield, mate. You should get as far from here as possible before you accidentally get shot down,

Sighing, she mutters back, "I'm think here," says the Scottish accented lady voice. "Oy,  Mac, give me a few spots, i cannot keep me cargo stable and secure," she adds as she flies on and once she has flew past the three frames, rocking left to right she pulls up hard as she thumbs a button...

Now comes the fun part, the hollowed out area has different sized junk and held by different nets, all of the sudden release and the junk begins to rain down on the copters and drones. As the cargo goes, the craft increases speed as it noses up and the two jet engines on the back fire.

Looking as the stuff drops, she sighs, "Hope that helps Mac," she says to the Private as she tries to climb as fast as she can and has the throttle is wide open and the tiltrotors as running as well. This wil be an interesting day.

Edited by JohnSeever
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Keiran had taken some, well a lot of fire from the tanks he was going up against, though it wasn't anything he couldn't handle, he could still move, and fight.. and that was what was important to him, he grit his teeth and then kept on fighting till he finally got the retreat order, he let out a breath and nodded "I'll reinforce the rear! Let's get out of here!" He called out to his teammates, he was the most out of position, especially because he was the one that had pushed up the farthest to get the tanks out of play, he put his booster on as high as they would go, he noticed his commander watching over his escape as well, so he felt even more obligated to move faster, but he had to slow down as literal junk started falling down from the sky, he nearly got crushed by it "Are you kidding me?!" He asked, frustrated, he moved around nimbly, though he wish he could've just gone in straight line here.

"I'm through! Let's go boss!" He said to his leader, grabbing his bazooka and then firing it at the enemies, emptying its clip as they retreated into the trees, he couldn't see much, what with all the fire and brimstone, but he had faith in the one leading them through, he relaxed a little, maybe this would go their way after all "Anyone hurt?" He asked, with a worried tone on his voice, he sounded exhausted too, because of how much he had to dodge and move the Mobile suit around.

 

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“Ma’am the enemy is retreating!”

The words rang out like sweet music to Delphine’s ears and she let out a sigh of relief.  The captain leaned back a little bit before asking, “where is chromatic team?”

“They’re coming back to the ship, Gold unit is still engaging the enemy.”

Despite herself Delphine gasped, “just what is he doing?” She quickly corrected herself. “Weapons can we provide any support?”

“Not at this range ma’am!”

Hawthorne cursed under her breath as she looked around the bridge helplessly. To compound to her worries another officer added. “Gold unit’s energy is reaching critical levels!”

“Can we take off?” A trace of concern etched in Hawthorne’s voice.

“Negative Ma’am!”

Delphine grimaced at the response; it wasn’t good enough. If Nathaniel died out there now it would be her fault, she was certain of that. She slammed her fist down in frustration, biting her lip to avoid yelling out a profanity. They were too close to surviving this ordeal, he just needed to come back.

------

Nathaniel thought he heard some chatter about an unknown aircraft in the area, but he wasn’t so certain as he was ‘in the zone’. Shot after shot, he took careful, if not tense aim at the enemies. Despite being in a giant machine he constantly told himself between shots, “breath… inhale, exhale…” as if he was firing the rifle himself.

Several things happened, seemingly back-to-back that broke his spell of concentration. First was a wave of explosions from what drones remained, it set of a chain of debris flying around. Just as the debris should have been hitting the ground, Nathaniel felt a surreal moment as more junk fell than should have. As if to compound to his worries his last shot triggered an alarm in his mobile suit.

“Blazes!” he cried out in frustration as he had to jump back to avoid a large chunk of metal. He ditched the shield just in time to see it get crushed. His main concern wasn’t almost getting hit by random debris however, it was his energy levels hitting critical. He had mere moments to retreat or risk his machine turning into a modern day colossus statue.

His panic was momentary as he realized everyone managed to retreat, including Keiran who was by far the furthest suit they had out. He pulled back into the ashy veil of smoke and was pleasantly surprised to see Green Frame not that far ahead of him. Gulping, Nathaniel slowly nodded his head, his buck fever fading, “I’m fine!” he responded to the private.

A few tense moments later he was back onboard the ship with mere single digit percentages left on his operating time. He had priority to dock his machine first because of his energy scenario and parked the unit back in its’ spot. As he began to power down he instantly asked the bridge, “what’s the scenario? Do we need to refit and go back out?”

There was a pause over the radio before the operator responded, “Negative Chromatic 1, we’ve repelled the attack and are already returning home. Exit your machine and debrief, we’re going to stand down to yellow alert soon as we leave the battle zone.”

Now Nathaniel did let out a sigh of relief. He popped open his hatch to look at the other Astrays similarly parking. “Guess that beats any normal training we could have done…” he muttered as he stood on the catwalk outside Gold Frame, his hands resting on his head as he looked at his teammates.

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Geneva sighed in relief as the Blue Frame stopped moving. Her superior had managed to join up with them quickly, saving himself in the process. The Astray opened its hatch, Geneva stepping onto the catwalk near it. She always felt that she'd slip whenever she'd hop off the mobile suit, clinching as her feet hit the raised platform. Not once had she fallen, but in her mind, there's always a first time for everything. "I better go to him..." She muttered, noticing Nathaniel.

"Sir, I'm so sorry! It was so stupid, allowing my weapons to overheat like that!" She bowed down and apologized profusely to the Gold Frame's pilot. "I could've put all of your lives in danger... I think it was a mistake picking me, sir." As she spewed out her disapproval of the situation, it hurt the pilot in a bizarre way. "What?" Geneva wondered why she felt a pit in her stomach. It wasn't about the mission, but something else was going on in her head that made her feel... queasy.

"I-I have to go!" Geneva ran away toward the nearest hallway, trying to find the nearest restroom. It seemed as if something else was awry in the strange pilot...

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A woman’s voice responded to his hail, informed him that she was having difficulty keeping her cargo secure in that familiar Scottish brogue he himself possessed in a slightly diluted fashion. She seemed insistent on calling him Mac, too, which caused him to quirk a brow and grimace. It was not a nickname he was used to, but to each their own and besides, he was too focused on the battle to mind. Then, from above a shower of junk pelted him and his comrades, as well as the opponents from whom they were trying to retreat.

“Ach, the hell?” Roane asked as he watched the junk plane strafe across the sky. The woman hailed him again and this time the Red Frame pilot frowned in consternation. “Yeah, great, thanks,” he said to himself in the cockpit. “’Can’t keep my cargo secure my bleeding arse’,” he then muttered as he backed the Red Frame to safety. He boarded the Archangel at last and, once his mobile suit was secure in the hangar, sat back in his pilot’s chair and heaved a deep, long breath. Only then did he become cognizant of the tension that wracked his body, the muscles in his arms and legs twisted into firm, unrelenting knots—coiled springs threatening to burst. He remembered the breathing exercises they had taught him, went through them with measured time.

In…2…3…4…out…2…3…4…5….

It was no good though. The more he tried to focus on relaxing, the more the fear trickled in. He had frozen on the battlefield, embarrassingly so. The lieutenant had even had to chastise him for it, and then he practically went berserk. He was lucky that he didn’t accidentally harm any of his teammates.

I’m not a soldier…

He had to remind himself of that fact. Everyone else out there with him had some sort of experience that he did not, the quintessential ‘it’ factor that separated the warriors from the people like him. He knew the Red Frame inside and out, knew how to make it sing as only a mobile suit can. But he didn’t know how to unlock its true potential, to see it actualize into the weapon that it fully and truly was meant to be. Maybe it would simply be a matter of time—but if he kept performing the way he had today they would kick him out and find someone more suited for the job. Then he’d be letting himself and the Princess down.

Roane slammed his fists on the console, trying his best to avoid any sensitive pieces of equipment. He wanted to leave the cockpit but feared the reprimand that was invariably waiting for him beyond it. He pictured Nathan’s face—a man barely his elder—with its cool but stern aloofness bearing down on him. Roane didn’t particularly like the man—didn’t hate him either—it was a consequence of their meeting, he knew. But some part of him, quite possibly a heretofore unaddressed competitive side, still yearned for his respect as a member of the team.

“But I blew it,” he muttered to himself, staring at the darkened screens around him.

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Kali watched as the unknown aircraft unloaded its cargo before ascending. The cargo rained down on the battlefield. Kali was confused by the tactic but grateful that in its own quirky way, was working! She listened to the chatter in her earpiece as she re-focused and prepared the drones to provide cover fire only to watch them be destroyed by the enemy. Kali sat back defeated unsure of what to do next besides watch the view screen helplessly. She felt herself saying her mantra like a silent prayer of support for the Lieutenant.

When her fellow officer the enemy was retreating and the mobile suits were making their way back to the Archangel, Kali felt as if her prayer was answered! A wave of relief swept over her and she felt her body sit back in the confines as her tension and anxiety left her body. Kali was exhausted but still managed to curve her lips into a satisfied but weary smile. A cup of tea sounded grand in that moment.

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Keiran sat back in his cockpit, he had acted a little out of character there, well.. a lot out of character, at least for him. He shut his eyes and thought about everything that had happened, two of his teammates had issues during the fight, Roane seemingly a mental one, and Geneva's an equipment problem.. it made him think.. "Did I do anything wrong?" He asked, thinking about it "I let some shots past and it hit our Commander, I should've been faster.. maybe" he mumbled to himself while sitting in the dark of his cockpit as he nitpicked every little thing he did, especially the damage the green frame had sustained, he sighed and promised to himself to do better, he took a few deep breaths to get his neutral expression back, and then he opened his cockpit, slowly hopping out 

"I-I have to go!"

He turned his head over to follow the sound of his teammates voice, he saw Geneva run off in a panicked state, he followed where she was going with his eyes, until she was out of sight, he scratched the back of his head and messed up his own hair, he wanted to follow but.. he felt like the commander would, instead he went the other way, leaning back against the guard rails of the cat walk as he stood in front of the Red Frames Cockpit, silently waiting for Roane to show himself

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Mai was pushing her plane to its fastest, 550 mph, the speed of a normal passenger aircraft and muttering to herself in Scottish, and if people understood her, would probably be blushing at the word choices. Sighing, she levels off and sets the Autopilot for ORB and sits back into the seat. "I lost a lot of cargo that I could have used back there," she adds as she looks out the window at the ship that is down there. Standing, she moves to get a towel and wipe her fact off as she grabs some water and heads back to the cockpit.

Thinking, she takes a drink of water, she keys up the radio for the ship, the Archangel. "Oy, This is Mai," she says. "I am sorry for the dropping of me load on ye troops. I hope I did not do any damage to yer units," she comments to them with her Scottish accented voice. As she talks, she wonders if that ship knows they are in ORB territory and why the hell the EA was there. "Again, sorry for the mess if I made one, Flerken signing off," she adds as she looks a the radar.

Hopefully, she is not in trouble with ORB, if that ship is part of Orb, or whoever that ship belongs too. "... wait, where there a Scotsman down there that called me?" she says as she blinks and gets a sick feeling in her stomach and looks at the controls, she is at top speed. "Oi, I hope that ship is not part of me brot..." and she stops. "Captain James Sandilands was not in that fight?" and she is worried. "I need to pack up and get away from here...." she states to herself as she is really worried now.  He will do anything to get her to join the EA or kill her if she didn't. "I already have a death mark on me..."

Edited by JohnSeever
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Nathaniel eyed Geneva as she bolted off. He let out a sigh and took a moment to keep himself composed in front of the hangar crew. Nodding to himself he wiped his face with his gloved hand and grimaced before walking down towards Keria and the Red Frame. “We’ll have a staff meeting at 1500…” he said towards Keiran as he walked back towards his cabin to freshen up. 

Of course he wanted to run after Geneva but he knew better than to push her too much. Like any social situation sometimes it was better to let emotions calm down first. He was soon at his cabin door tearing off the regular suit and entering his domain. “We got issues to iron out…” he mumbled to no one in particular.

He stood half naked in his bathroom and keyed a tablet before jumping in the shower. Satisfied with the message he put the device away to jump in the warm water.  

To All Astray Pilots:

We will have a mandatory staff meeting at 1500 hours. The topic of the meeting is to debrief the recent mission. Please bring forth any ideas or issues noticed from the action for discussion. 

Respectfully,

Lt. Nathaniel Barondel

Chromatic Team Leader

Of course, he wanted to reem the short comings from his team, but he was in a unique position where his team was somewhat invaluable. He couldn’t eject a member of the team and recruit someone else to take their place, they were the best options he had available. No, he had to address any issues tactfully, Nathaniel realized. “Sink or swim… we’re stuck together…” he muttered as he scrubbed shampoo in his scalp. 

A few hours later Nathaniel marched into the briefing room a few minutes early to his meeting. To accent the mood he was aiming for he tossed his officer’s hat onto the podium and loosened the collar of his uniform. He reached for a chair and brought it up near the front of the room. He sat down reverse in the chair, his arms hanging over the back rest, his legs straddling the seat. As he waited for his teammates he let out a long sigh. 

He looked at his tablet, he had sent Hawthorne a message after his shower telling her about the meeting. In an odd move she requested two things from Nathaniel. The first was that Kali be allowed to sit on the meeting. Seeing as how she was instrumental in deploying the drones to protect the Astrays, they both agreed it was appropriate for his team to thank her for the move. The second thing she wanted was for him to personally debrief her after the meeting. He was fine with that too of course. His reverie was interrupted as the crew began to trickle into the room. 

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Geneva had managed to spend most of her time back in the Archangel in the restroom. Whatever was going on, the pilot knew that it wasn't normal. She had a few minor defects from her perplexing upbringing, but this was also no simple case of the stomach flu. "Why? Why is this happening to me?" Her life seemed to be getting worse and worse once she joined this team, but even with how strange she acted, Geneva knew this was MUCH better than being court martialed. "Perhaps I need to look on the bright side?"

Almost in response to this, she along with the other Astray pilots received a message. As she glanced at the note, she learned they would be discussing the mission. "Looks like we'll be talking about the mistakes I made during it..." She muttered, slowly getting off the toilet seat. As much as she just wanted to go immediately to bed, duty called. Geneva Halston, XO to the Chromatic Team, had to play her part. Her illness would have to wait as she waltzed into the meeting room.

"Sir!"

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