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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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      Powerplant: Ultracompact energy battery, power output rating unknown
      Propulsion: unknown 
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 b
      Equipment: sensors, range unknown
      Fixed armaments: 2 x 75mm multi-barrel CIWS, mounted in head; 2 x beam saber, power rating unknown, mounted on shoulders, hand-carried in use
      Optional hand armaments: Type 71 beam rifle, power rating unknown; shield
       
    • By Roromi
      Biography
      Full name: Delphine Hawthorne 
      Faction: Orb
      Rank: Captain
      Age: 36
      Sex: Female
      Height: 5’5”
      Weight: 150
      Eyes: brown
      Hair: red
      Skin: fair
      Handiness: right handed
      Personality
      Delphine can be cold at times, always task oriented. Despite her professional demeanor she often harbors doubts about herself and her abilities. She can be a facade of strength but a mess of emotions underneath. 
      She can be quite playful with people who she considers close, and even has a reputation as a bit of a flirt outside of duty.
      Strengths and weaknesses
      Commander  –  Delphine is a natural leader. She is easy to follow, and persuasive in her commands, even if she herself doesn’t fully understand the situation. 
      Lack of confidence – in a professional world that competes with coordinators she herself can find herself lacking conviction or harboring self doubt. Though she is good at keeping this part of herself hidden from most, those who know her well enough are able to see when she is feeling uneasy. 
      Ambitious  – She is career oriented and has always had aspirations of advancing her military career. She will work protectively of her station and her progress. She is also willing to take questionable risks if it means advancing herself. . 
      Natural – Nothing special about her Genes though she does keep herself in excellent physical condition. 
      Appearance
      Delphine is very attractive, but often hides her charms behind a military uniform. She will rarely dress up in civilian attire and even then hardly ever in a dress. Her eyes tend to speak volumes as she has what is described as a mischievous smile. 
      History
      Delphine grew up in Orb and has lived there her entire life. She could be described as a military brat with both of her parents having served in the military. Even growing up she could be described as a tomboy despite her good looks. She lived a fairly normal childhood even going as far as marrying her highschool sweetheart Frank. 
      Despite being married at a young age she was determined to not be tied down with a family and always maintained with her husband that she would be serving in the military like her parents had. This understanding had at times come at odds with her husband, but even so they stayed together. 
      As she progressed in her military career she came to work closely with another officer by the name of Nathaniel Barondel. For the longest time he never disclosed to her that he was a coordinator, but ultimately confided in her when he saw how desperately she was trying she to keep up with his pace of growth. 
      The two developed a mutual relationship that proved how coordinators and naturals could work together to feed of the others strengths. In many regards it was Nathaniel’s “one step ahead” demeanor that drove Delphine to thrive and push herself. 
      Their teamwork culminated as they were assigned to the same special operations team, with Delphine acting as his second in command. The ultimate test was when they were tasked with securing the secret Earth Alliance weapons being developed in Heliopolis. Together they accomplished the mission. Politically Hawthorne was shown in a positive light as the heroic captain of a ship that saved countless civilian lives that day. 
      The added pressure of publicity mixed with the political climate weighed heavily on Delphine’s ego. This was compounded when she was assigned to be the permanent captain of the Archangel, a challenge and opportunity she couldn’t pass up. 
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