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/qst/ - Quests

Previously, on SRW Quest: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/3351006/

All humans, like the rest of the primates, learn by example. This does not just hold true for basic tasks like speaking or reading, but also applies to morals and ethics. Who we elect to spiritual guide ultimately depends on us, and, to a degree, to the environment we've grown up into. It is not rare to see a little boy striving to imitate his father, but what can be said of orphans? They, too, seek to shape and orientate their moral compass. There used to be two of them on military outpost of PN5-2. One of them was meek, fascinated by technology, awed by progress. He was a self-made man who found a mentor much later than he would have liked to. He admired him with all his heart, and he was disappointed beyond words when despair turned his idol into a mindless ragdoll.

The other orphan had grown up too quickly. Alone as he was, he resorted to reading almost compulsively. He believed in and loved knightly tales more than anything else. Even so, he had things he disliked about them. He thought that loyalty should come before pride, that honor should be the mighty shield that protects the weak, not the merciless blade that brings down the judgement against innocents. He revered the other orphan, and considered his mentor almost like a father. It didn't matter that they carried out painful tests on him, after all a knight is supposed to take pain in stride, isn't he?

The two orphans didn't dare to consider each other siblings. But when their mentor changed for the worst, they had to consider themselves at least allies. Alone versus the world, they risked everything they had to protect those they cared for. Betrayal, deceit, lies: they stopped at nothing because they couldn't afford to. And when the day of reckoning came, they were prepared. The man of science reneged on all of his principles that day, while the bookworm accepted his role as a pawn of destiny and took the blame.

It was for the best: dead people can't feel the hatred of others, he thought. But there are grudges not even death could extinguish. And so, having donned the whitest of mantles, and having bared the cruelest blade ever forged by men, he prepared to strike out against blameless people. People who used to live simply, adhere to their uplifting ideal, following those they admired while attending to their responsibilities. With a bitter laughter, the man realized that unlike in his stories, there was no need for ancient prophecies or cursed children, venomous snakes a father raises only for them to kill him eventually.

This mother of all tragedies was born of nothing more than simple people doing what they thought was the best.
It was morning when you came to, the sun filtering gently through the window's bars. The environment of the cell struck you as unfamiliar for a second, that is, at least until you were fully awake again. There was a strange atmosphere, something profoundly unsettling about the circumstances surrounding you. Perhaps it was the result of the prolonged nightmares that plagued your sleep. It was the last one - the vision of a colossal, hulking metal titan cruising through the galaxy - that forcefully woke you up.

Your memories were jumbled and dizziness pervaded your body. The last event you could recall was... Mark's death. That was the horrific image you had unconsciously tried to suppress, probably in order to retain your sanity. He died one step away from success, one step away from returning home safely once more. It was something you hadn't fully metabolized yet, something you couldn't bring yourself to accept. And it wasn't just because Mark was the only person to show you a hint of friendliness: you were also starting to fully grasp the extent of the danger you had been plunged into.

And now you were supposed to just stay there and wait until the enemy attacked again and the HQ decided that the robots and their pilots were expendable enough to take care of the issue. Because that was what it came down to. But now wasn't the time to get worked up about it. There wasn't a lot to do, but anything was better than wallowing in bitterness.

You could organize your memories to prepare a report, or you could read a book. Alternatively, you could ask to talk with prof. Deucalion.

>Let's not lose our mind. What exactly happened yesterday? [Heritage +1]
>Reading a book isn't fun but it's better than nothing [Synthesis +1]
>Somebody owes us an explanation [Revenge +1]
>>Let's not lose our mind. What exactly happened yesterday? [Heritage +1]
[Your alignment shifts towards 'Heritage']

Right, first thing first. Putting together the chain of events that had occurred the day before took precedence. Going over your course of action, there was nothing really that could be blamed on you. Mark's death was an unfortunate consequence of his own, reckless decision, in spite of the fact that you had offered to carry out the operation in his stead. But that didn't ease your coscience.

'Should I have insisted? Should I have done it despite his instructions?' you kept asking yourself, over and over.

At that point, the door opened. It was the first time someone skipped the formalities and just let himself in. The man who entered was somewhat short, standing roughly at the same height as you. His short hair was dirty blonde, and his blue eyes were shrinked by the lenses of the glasses he was wearing. He was donning something that looked like a purple ceremonial robe, partially covering a sturdy and thick black military gear.

"Good morning, miss Stella. My name is Father Matheus. I am here to invite you to Mark Venedig's funeral. We're holding a small service in his honor, and we were hoping you would join us."You nodded absentmindedly. It sure was strange that your comrade in arms had died, but it was even stranger to consider that a man you had never seen before was officiating what looked like a religious rite in his honor. Granted, this made sense. Mark had talked at length about his faith when he came visiting, after all. If anything, it was the man extending the invitation that was odd.

"So... are you a priest? Do you follow Mark's creed too?"
"No, not exactly. However, it wouldn't be heretical nor blasphemous for me to conduct this ceremony. Having established these matters of canonicity, I find myself compelled to exhort you to hurry up, lest we be late. That'd be acceptable of you, much less so of me. Come on, they're waiting for us."

The sense of hurry in the pastor's words was palpable, but there was a thing you absolutely had to make sure of before leaving with him.

"Excuse me, uhm... 'father'. Do I know you?"
The man cocked his head in visible sorrow, his brow frowned.
"Von Neumann, could it be that you do not recognize me? I am Simulacrum."

And in that moment, his voice rang familiar to that you heard during battle. He was the pilot of the chrome ghoul, and somehow his somber appearance resembled that of his own robot.

"Oh... yeah, I am sorry, I didn't recognize your voice. I guess I am just still a bit distressed and confused."
"Aren't we all?" he asked, showing you to the exit with his own hand. He let you get out first, but then moved ahead to lead the way.

"Well, for one, you seem pretty calm, Father Matheus"
"Oh? Well, it's a father's duty to keep calm and watch over his children. Wouldn't you agree?"
"I suppose. But aren't you afraid the same will happen to you? Aren't you afraid that you, too..."
That possibility was too grim and dark to contemplate, at least in the world you lived in. Except for a few rare acts of terror, war regarded those who wanted to be at war, and the poorest regions of the planet. Dying in battle was something you have never considered nor wished for, unlike Mark.

"That I too could die? That's no problem. I have already died a long time ago."
"You... you did?"
"Of course. 'Simulacrum', grave: that machine is where my soul is buried. After all, that mecha couldn't work without one, while I could. It was an easy decision for the high command, and an even easier one for me."

That explanation begged more questions than the answers it provided. Was that man... dead? What was a soul? How could one live without it? What did it involve? Back then, when the G-mu was mauled, you definitely felt Mark and others with you in the cockpit. Was a soul something fundamentally tangible? Moreover, some of those 'presences' didn't feel like Mark's brethren at all, but rather something far more unsettling.

All those questions were clouding your head, and before you could find a suitable answer, Father Matheus opened one more door, gesturing you to get in before him. It was a small, sober room. A few people were there, and the scientists you met were among them.
A coffin was laid in the center of the room. It was black, and the shape of a golden star intersected over a golden arc. It was a military symbol that you had seen on uniforms before.

Before you could take a seat, a red-eyed man walked up to Father Matheus, his anger written all over his face.
"What the fuck is the meaning of this, Matheus? I don't want that bitch at his funeral!"
"What you want matters not. She's fought together with us, and she's here to bid him farewell. She has every right to be here."
"Don't fuck with me," he replied, hissing his scornful reply through his teeth. "We all now it's her fault Mark is...!"

>Say no more. I will see myself out [Heritage+1]
>How dare you? I did everything that was in my power! [Revenge+1]
>Let the two settle it. No need to fan that flame [Synthesis +1]
>Let the two settle it. No need to fan that flame [Synthesis +1]
>>Let the two settle it. No need to fan that flame [Synthesis +1]
[Your alignment shifts towards 'Synthesis' ]

"That is quite enough," Matheus said. "The captain would have wanted her to be here too. Unless you can prove otherwise, I'll let her participate. Is that clear?"
The other man dared not respond, and Matheus simply nodded in your direction as if to say that the matter had been settled.

Once the verbal bout was over, the three of you parted ways. You and the boy sat far apart, while Matheus walked all the way to the altar. He stood alone behind the casket, his hands stretched out in a ritualistic prayer. People stopped talking, and those who were sitting on the floor stood up out of respect.

"We are here to give our final goodbye to our good friend Mark Venedig. O Mark! You have been chosen by the Valkyrie at birth, and now, having died in battle, you have fulfilled your destiny. May you walk the bridge of Bifrost ever safe! May your forefather and prophet, Amuro Ray, welcome you with open arms! May you and your brethren find peace in Gladsheim amongst the gods, 'till the age of Ragnarok is upon you!"

Much to your dismay, you noticed that many people were looking at you, and not at the ongoing funeral. Was that quarrel earlier what brought you to the spotlight? Or was it simply the fact that, for most of them, it was the first time seeing you? Neither prof. Deucalion nor prof. Isomaki were paying you any attention, after all.

The ceremony continued on that note for roughly 30 minutes. Some of the people attending it looked like they were in a hurry to leave. Was it because Mark was a Newtype? Apparently such a term had become a slur of sorts. As they proceeded to flow out of the room, some of them still quizzically glanced at you. [Socializing Background] Something in their eyes was now a lot less like curiosity and a lot more like worry.

Father Matheus was still in the room, confabulating with three more people. They seemed to be in the midst of an heated discussion.
In particular, a short, tanned, platinum-blonde girl was lecturing the boy you had fought with earlier. He kept twirling with his brown hair in an act of ostentatious defiance, which made for a jarring contrast given how much he had cried during the service.

>Attempt to eavesdrop [Synthesis +1]
>This is none of my business [Heritage +1]
>Boldly walk into the conversation [Revenge +1]
>>Boldly walk into the conversation [Revenge +1]
>>Attempt to eavesdrop [Synthesis +1]
Socializing background should make it easier.
>Attempt to eavesdrop [Synthesis +1]
Making sure to be far enough not to be seen, but close enough to hear them, you eavesdropped on the clique. By giving them a second glance, you noticed that Roger and Dorothy were there as well, just behind the main group. It looked like they had not noticed you either. The duo were hard to spot from your earlier position, concealed as they were by the impressive frame of a man standing in front of them and right next to Matheus. That guy could rightly be defined a colossus.

The giant was completely bald, a thick black beard growing on his face and on his neck instead. In a way, he was the polar opposite of the brown-haired boy, with his shrill voice, his delicate frame and his babyface. Not only that, even their behavior was radically different. One appeared calm and serene, the other was as angry as he could be.

The discussion seemed to involve who should and should not be invited to a certain meeting. The brown, platinum haired girl insisted a certain person being present, whereas the little guy vehemently objected. Matheus and Roger attempted to mediate, while the others were largely silent and interjected rarely, only to express their disagreement with a point of view or another.

It was a very heterogenous group, and they stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike most of the people there, none of them were wearing a standard uniform. Roger and Dorothy were still in their formal black wear, Father Matheus looked like an archbishop holding an homily, the brown-haired guy donned red and only red, whereas the giant was covered by the green of his suit. Lastly, the short girl was clad in a strange, sailorlike outfit. The same golden star on Mark's casket was emblazoned on her shoulders.

However, despite your attempts at keeping at a safety distance, the eyes of the girl met yours, and she smiled in what seemed self-satisfaction. "What a coincidence. Miss Carlotta Dubois, was it? please join us, we are in the midst of discussing something important." Roger and Dorothy greeted you with a nod, while the giant turned around and stared at you with his piercing black eyes.
[Social Background] You were used to being the center of attention, of course, but the current circumstances were unusual to say the least. Giving a distressed look to the girl, you tried to keep it together and to appear at ease as you asked a rather logical and straightforward question, not without a hint of irritation.
"Excuse me miss, who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?"

The atmosphere was still tense, and out of the corner of your eye, you could see that the room was now all but empty. The personnel had left much faster than you expected or could predict. Surely trying to sneak on Roger and the others must've distracted you from that, and now the sense of isolation was starting to stir. Not that you could count on any of the people who left the room, of course. It just felt like you suddenly had lost the protection a spectating crowd could have offered. At the same time, you also felt eager to go on the offense, tired as you were of being tossed around without a proper, minimal explanation.

The young lady who welcomed you earlier crossed her arms over he modest bust before proclaiming her identity loud for everyone to hear.
"My name is Lal'c Melk Mark, Ace of the Brotherhood and former Topless. From this day onward I will be the acting officer of the company stationed on PN5-2. You will address me as captain, is that clear?"
"Yes what?"
"Yes, captain."
"That's better. Now, we were in the middle of scheduling a meeting, but a certain SOMEONE who shall not be named," she said, while clearly glaring at the boy in red, "was insisting that you should not be allowed to join. Of course that's preposterous, I am everyone's captain and newbies are no exceptio. I don't care about your grudges from the previous war. Is that clear?"
No one dared to contradict her, but a certain someone clenched his fists in restrained anger.

"Good. Now let's go, we're headed to the briefing room."
While the room used for the funeral service was now as good as empty, the briefing room was admittedly much better. To begin with, it had a large, round table with comfortable chairs, and most importantly some of them faced the windows. Finally you could take a look at the world outside without having to ride a mecha. The chairs were numerous and well-spaced, which you thought was a nice touch. "A choice of the former squad leader... the one before Mark, I mean," Father Matheus whispered in your ear before taking a seat.

Regrettably, the briefing was not off to a good start. The short boy was still visibly upset, with no signs of getting over it. He decided to kick off the discussion by voicing a complaint.

"This would have never happened had Captain Venedig been alive," the man said to newly appointed squad leader. "If not by unanimity, we used to reach decisions by consensus at least. I don't want her to be there with us, gods know what she's capable of." Clearly he was not willing to let the matter go, but you had an idea.

>Confront him on his attitude head-on [Revenge +1]
>Attempt a diplomatic resolution [Synthesis +1]
>Harshly rebuke him for being whiny [Heritage +1]
>>Harshly rebuke him for being whiny [Heritage +1]
>>Attempt a diplomatic resolution [Synthesis +1]
Update is ready, just waiting for any form of tiebreaking to occur...
>>Attempt a diplomatic resolution [Synthesis +1]
>>Attempt a diplomatic resolution [Synthesis +1]
File: captain Lal'c.jpg (37 KB, 225x350)
37 KB
[Socializing Background] "Hi-Drapearl, I suppose?" you asked all of a sudden. Granted, this was just a hunch, but the voices seemed to match. That would leave the giant to pilot the Solarion, which all in all made sense. "This is not the first time you display unwarranted hostility. Could you please explain to me what is currently bothering you?"
"First off, fuck off von Neumann," he responded, confirming your suspicion on the spot. "Second of all, YOU are what's bothering me. You shouldn't be allowed on board the robot and you shouldn't be allowed here."

You grinned, faking regret. "That truly is unfortunate, but I made an agreement with Mr Roger Smith here assuring me I would be part of any briefing session as long as I am part of this squad." As if to confirm the veracity of your words, the negotiator nodded and smiled.

"I said it once and I'll say it again: fuck off, von Neumann. I don't want you in the briefing session and I don't want you in my team. If you're really as innocent as you claim to be, then get the fuck back home."
"Do you think I WANT to be here?"
"Quiet, you two."

The captain's call to silence made you snap back into reality. She clearly disapproved of the infighting, and you couldn't help thinking that perhaps there was a better way to get Hi-Drapearl to acquisce, besides playing teacher's pet.

"No one wants to be here, I am sure. We'll have to make do, Ensign de Spycer. And Von Neumann has been an asset to the defense forces on this planet so far, or at least so I have been told. Now, let's get to the point."

As you all headed for the exit, the pilot of the winged mech could be heard whispering something.
"Speak for yourself, bitch. I do want to be here."

Lal'c stood up and started circling around the table, scanning everyone as she passed by them.

"Very well. First of all, Roger Smith and Dorothy Wayneright: you will return to your assigned position. Your job here is concluded. The High Command can't afford to have more than one Super Robot deployed at this base."
"Excuse me captain Lal'c, before we go, we'd like to point out that this base is severely undermanned as is. We wouldn't mind standing behind until more reinforcements arrived, so long as no major operations are planned."
"I see your point, mr negotiator, and I agree. Regrettably, those in charge have already convened that no more reinforcements are to be sent to this base for the time being. I would love you to stay, but these are not my orders, meaning I am bound by them just as much as you are."

With a simple nod, Mr Smith signaled his willingness to comply. It was sad to see him go, given how considerate he had been of you. Unfortunately, everyone there was but a cog in a much larger wheel.
"Very well, then. We shall depart after the meeting is over."

"Good. Next, I have been informed that the newcomer, Von Neumann, is not familiar with the team members. Please stand up and introduce yourselves."
"I am Father Matheus, Simulacrum" said the priest, hiding his smile.
"I am Joan de Spycer, Hi-Drapearl," said the brown-haired man, not even looking in your direction.
"I am Lukasz Chtograd, Solarion" said the tall man, with no emotional inflection in his voice.

>Introduce yourself (Synthesis +1)
>Ask Lal'c about her mech (Heritage +1)
>Wait wait wait, JOAN? Your name is Joan? Like in Johan? (Revenge +1)
>Introduce yourself (Synthesis +1)
Joan is is turning out to be like one of those bitchy wannabe queen bees we probably had to deal with at school.
>>Ask Lal'c about her mech (Heritage +1)
>Introduce yourself (Synthesis +1)
>>Introduce yourself (Synthesis +1)
"And I am Carlotta Dubois, but I see that most of you call me Von Neumann. Either way is fine," you replied, concluding this round of presentations.

"No one asked you," de Spycer hissed under his breath, as confrontational as ever.

"Very well. Now we all know each other. In the last battle, we dealt a decisive blow to the alien lifeform that has invaded this planet...uh, the Synapticons, apparently. Very good. But we're not done yet. The worst is behind us, that much is sure, but still have a long way ahead of us: we must mop up the minor nests and whatever pest escaped the psychic feedback of the broodmother's death. Before we go further into that, Von Neumann, I want a report of your last mission. Omit no detail." Captain Lal'c was again pointing her finger at you, her words implied that her orders were absolute.

Going over the events of the last day, you recounted the enemies and the difficulties faced, Mark's plan and his demise, as well the sudden surge of power coursing through the Von Neumann shortly before the Big O killed the broodmother. Only Lal'c and Joan looked like they were attentively following you.

"I am sorry for any imprecision on my part, but I don't fully understand the situation either. I lost consciousness after I went 'berserk', but I vaguely remember prof. Deucalion giving some details of what was happening to mr Smith. Isn't it so?"
"Ah." The negotiator stuttered, taken aback. "Oh yeah, that's correct. If you want to read more about it, just check my report," he said, as if trying to avoid the topic.

"Oi oi Lal'c, aren'tcha glad we have one of your comrades on board with us?" the boy in red asked, not without some hints of malice.
"That's speculation on your part, ensign de Spycer. And I stopped doing that a long time ago now."
"That's what you filth say! But I don't believe ya, just like I don't believe missy here. Yer fucking with the rules that..."
"Then, was that your opinion of captain Venedig too?" the captain suddenly asked.
"Well, this and that are different, ya see..." Joan replied, stumbling on his words, clearly tripped up by Lal'c question.
"You've made your position clear, ensign de Spycer. Now please be quiet, I have something more important to address."

Looking even more stern than she ever did, the captain turned around to face you.
"Listen well, Von Neumann. That power...humanity has a habit of calling 'miracles' that which cannot be explained. This endless universe is filled to the brim with such 'miracles'. But if it cannot be explained, then it cannot be replicated. And if it cannot be replicated, it cannot be relied on. Only a fool would go to battle hoping that a miracle will occur twice, don't you think?"
Compelled by her powerful words and by her energetic personality, you couldn't help but agree, nodding in her direction.
The question precipitated the room in an awkward silence. Only the Hi-Drapeal's pilot withstood your gaze; everyone else turned away.
"Just a stupid superstition," Lucasz said, halting the conversation with that stony remark.

"Very well pilots, the meeting's adjourned. Von Neumann, your robot is waiting for you in the hangar. We also arranged a new room as you requested, though you will be sharing it." Lal'c concluded, capitalizing on that moment of silence to avoid your question. She finally sat down and started filling some modules she had brought with her.

>Wait, sharing my room? With whom? [Revenge +1]
>Let's get to the hangar and work [Heritage +1]
>Bid Roger and Dorothy farewell. [Synthesis +1]
>>Bid Roger and Dorothy farewell. [Synthesis +1]
>>Bid Roger and Dorothy farewell. [Synthesis +1]
>Wait, sharing my room? With whom? [Revenge +1]

Before he left, you thought that showing some appreciation for the sole person who tried to treat you properly was the least you could do. That's why rather than heading for the hangar right away, you decided to take some time to see Roger and Dorothy off. Running behind them, you caught up to the duo in the corridor connecting one wing of the military building to the other. They were talking about the report, or rather, it was mostly Roger speaking whereas Dorothy either nodded or proposed minor corrections.

"Mr Smith! Miss Wayneright! I, uhm, I wanted to say my goodbyes before you left, and... well, thank you. You helped me out both on the whole negotiation affair and on the battleground. I couldn't have made it so far without you guys."

The negotiator in black smiled and bowed slightly, and his companion did the same.
"It was our pleasure, miss Carlotta. I appreciate your gratitude, and if I may impose, I have a favor to ask."
"What is it?" you asked hesitantly.
"Me and you... we're similar in ways we don't understand. All Super Robot pilots are like that, and your Von Neumann is in between a Super Robot and a Proxy. That's why you can function as a bridge between the rest of your team and captain Lal'c. No, rather, you should. And you should seek what you and her have in common. I am sure there's a lot."

"In other words... you're telling me not to judge a book by its cover?"
"You could put it that way, I guess." The man checked his clock and turned around, lifting a hand to wave in your direction. "No slacking off now, miss! The hangar awaits and you got work to do. See you again!"

And just like that, you were left alone.
It was not just the corridor. The whole building felt empty, as you wandered through it, as if that wing had been completely abandoned. Thinking of it, prof. Deucalion did mention the need for reinforcements and equipment, so there might've been some truth in your hypothesis. As if to stress this feeling of abandonment, the hangar was completely empty when you finally reached it. There were no mechanics, no security agents, and no fellow pilots. Only a metal ladder leading to Von Neumann's the cockpit and a toolbox. The giant black machine was crouching, as if it were a man at arms waiting to be knighted.

You only took a few steps towards the ladder before changing plans. After all, this was an unique opportunity to take a closer look at the robots used by your comrades in arms. Taking a peek couldn't hurt, now could it? And besides, this was the kind of information that could have proven to be useful in battle, even if just marginally.

The light in the hangar was scarce at best, so the other robots were barely visible. Nevertheless, you tip-toed closer to them, eyeballing their position using their contours and making sure not to come too close.
Of all the mecha, the Simulacrum was the one that looked even more terrifying from a short distance. To think that machine held the soul of a person! Or at least, that's what Father Matheus maintained. The 'head' of the chrome ghoul was particularly uncanny, terribly out of shape and vaguely bestial. The most terrible thing, however, was that you could feel its 'eyes' on you, as if it were alive.

The Hi-Drapearl stood in all of its might just next to it. Its design was certainly unique, even if it was rare to see it in its robot form. It looked like it wasn't equipped with beam swords, or any form of close-ranged weapons, but perhaps it was not meant to ever fight from up close.

The Solarion towered the other machines in the hangar, solemnly watching over them all. The trump card of the Human Empire forces deployed on this moon, the Solarion had little to none in-combat utility when it wasn't firing his powerful concentrated beam. And yet it was also able to repair a hole in the walls, making you think that perhaps it shone as a support, too.

Finally, an unseen-before machine was parked in the farthest part of the hangar, closer to the exit. It was black and red, its head strangely round. Compared to the Big O, it seemed a lot more harmonious in its proportions, yet you couldn't shake the feeling that the mecha looked somewhat old when compared to the others you'd seen. Prof. Isomäki did seem to imply that the base was understaffed and undersupplied, after all.

Having finished your sightseeing stroll, you returned to the metal stairs and climbed it to the reach the cockpit of the Von Neumann, which opened with your touch. Even if you could see no one around, probably a small team of technicians did perform a minor set up routine to prepare the black robot for a training session. In any case, now it was up to you to decide what to do first. The monitor seemed to be already on, and three options were flickering on screen.

>"DATABASE" [Heritage +1]
>"SIMULATION" [Synthesis +1]
>"RECORDS" [Revenge +1]
>>"RECORDS" [Revenge +1]
Social background dictates we know all.
>"SIMULATION" [Synthesis +1]
WIth our background we learn more by doing than actually reading stuff.
>>"SIMULATION" [Synthesis +1]
>"DATABASE" [Heritage +1]
[Your alignment has shifted towards Synthesis.]

You had, quite literally, just one job: to practice on simulations over and over. It wasn't exactly a thrilling perspective, but there were worse things out there, like for instance dying in battle. And simulations existed PRECISELY for the purpose of avoiding such a grisly outcome.

You pressed the 'simulation' button on the touch screen, and quickly entered a bootcamp of sorts. The machine must've registered your level of mastery, as it kept proposing basic exercises like running, crouching, dodging and acrobatics. Then came the time for weapon practice. You weren't exactly a sharpshooter, but the aiming practice worked literally miracles. Pointing, aiming and shooting: you learned how to execute this basic routine in an extremely short span of time and with a more than acceptable precision.

Then came the time of practicing swings and lunges with the blade. This was admittedly much easier, and to a degree, much funnier too. The sword tended to be more effective than its ranged counterpart, but some issues remained. For one, getting closer to a enemy in order to slice them was many times more dangerous than just taking them out from a distance be it as may, by the end of it you learned how to shout 'FRACTAL BLADE' as if it were a single word in a fraction of a second.

Finally came mock battles. Perhaps the Von Neumann had acknowledged your newly-acquired proficiency, and started proposing you different battle scenarios in increasing difficulty. Some of the featured Synapticons as enemies, and some of them poised you against different robots, some of which you were seeing for the first time.

The gap between weapon practice and battle practice became evident during the first battle, where a smaller force completely wiped out your team. Frustrated, you tried the scenario again and again until it resulted in a victory. Slowly but steadily, you kept clearing stage after stage, until all that was left were mock missions labeled as 'impossible tasks'.

It was hard to admit, but this was 'fun'. After all, it was not too different from a video game or a tv series, and perhaps this sense of distance from real, actual danger somehow made the experience more enjoyable for you. The prospect of fighting aliens again was less than alluring, but simulations? Yeah, you could go on with those for days.

The cockpit was filled with the sounds and the noise produced by the simulated battles, so much so that you almost missed the 'thud!' rythmically repeating just outside of your machine. Once you noticed, though, you quickly quit the program and pricked up your ears.

"Von Neumann! VON NEUMANN!" a voice outside was calling

Opening the cockpit's door, you saw captain Lal'c standing there, arms crossed and head raised up. Reacting almost mechanically, you gave her a military salute.

"Working hard, I see. The High Command wants me to keep an eye on you, but unlike Hi-Drapearl, you seem quite cooperative. I couldn't fathom what their problem with you might be."
[Social Background] The captain was all praises. Probably she was fed up with Joan's grievances, to the point that literally anyone else looked better in comparison. This was your turn to play the model student.
"Thank you captain. It's not easy for a newbie like me, but I'll keep doing my best. Now, If I could be so bold as to ask... "

>What's your impression of de Spycer? [Revenge +1]
>Has a suitable room been arranged for me already? [Heritage +1]
>Who exactly sent you here? [Synthesis +1]
>>Has a suitable room been arranged for me already? [Heritage +1]
>>Who exactly sent you here? [Synthesis +1]
>Who exactly sent you here? [Synthesis +1]
>>Has a suitable room been arranged for me already? [Heritage +1]
"Oh, the Senator for this Star System required my presence. Apparently this unit was now leaderless, so I had to take charge of it. Are you dissatisfied with me so far?" Lal'c asked.
"Oh no, not at all. I am just trying to make sense of this whole situation, is all."
"Hmmmm... " the captain hummed as she kept staring at you then.

She started scratching her head, as if she were deep in thought. It was as if she was pondering on something rather complicated, carefully assessing if she could share her doubts or not. Then, after clearing her throat, she made a go for it.
"Von Neumann... have you ever heard of the term 'Newtype'?"
"Huh? Yeah, I have, but captain Venedig told me that it's a slur and that I should not use it."
"Well, he wasn't entirely wrong. It's more that people started calling 'Newtype' anything they couldn't understand, and some people did not want to lose their identity. I guess captain Mark was one of them."
"I suppose," you timidly replied. "Can you believe it? They thought I was a Newtype too!"

Lal'c's eyes widened to paroxism. A mix of undiluted surprise and shock was now painted all across her face. Her eyes lit up, and she started climbing the stairs as fast and recklessly as she could. Before you realized it, she was inside the cockpit, making the space in there even more cramped than it usually were.
"When captain Venedig died, you said you felt invigorated, correct?"
"Y... yes, why?"
"So what happened?"
"I felt like Mark and the others were lending me their strenght, I guess..."
"You already said that! I want more details and more precision. Who were the others? Other Newtypes? Were you capable of unusual feats? Like did you perhaps bend the laws of physics or something?"
"No, I.. I don't... captain Lal'c, you're too close," you stuttered, moving away.

[Social Background] People had invaded your personal space before, meaning that you were kind of used to it. Playing it cool and using politeness were usually the best tools, and it looked like it was already working. Perhaps realizing her over-eagerness, the tanned girl moved away, stepping back on the flat part of the stairs.
"Ah, yeah, that was a bit uncalled for of me. But the thing is, I think you could be a Topless!"

"Uhm... Thank you for your kind words, but I don't believe my figure is that great. I mean, I try to stay in shape of course, but.. wait, is that an order? If I could help it, I'd prefer not to get naked, captain."
"No no no, you misunderstand, I mean Topless like..." she stopped her frantic speech and started looking for something in her pocket. It looked like a circular, silver-chromed band-aid. She placed it on her forehead before violently ripping it out, screaming "EXOTIC MANEUVER!"
Just as expected, nothing happened, but the captain's actions were enough to leave you flabbergasted. She , on the other hand, simply remained stuck in a strange position, like a magician who failed to impress her audience with her trick. Straightening herself up, she collected her emotions and attempted to regain her usual composure. Then, she handed another such band-aid to you.
"Can't help it, I guess. Once you're a Topless, it's hard to return to normal. Being a Topless is a time-limited business, and some of us never grow out of it. I thought I did, but here I am, making a fool out of myself. If you ever want to give it a shot, try using this. Sorry Von Neumann, I'll see myself out."

>Reassure her [Synthesis +1]
>Ignore the whole thing, try to change the subject [Heritage +1]


As for the reason why this vote >>3383888
wasn't counted, it's because I had already begun writing the update before it was cast. Then I collapsed and I picked myself up just 10 minutes ago
>>Ignore the whole thing, try to change the subject [Heritage +1]
>>Reassure her [Synthesis +1]
>>Reassure her [Synthesis +1]

[Socializing background] "Captain... thank you for that."
"Huh?" she replied, surprised.
"It must've been hard on you. I could tell. Being a 'Topless' was something really important for you, wasn't it? And you mentioned being part of the 'Brotherhood' or something. It's hard when you lose all your connections, all the people you used to rely on. I would know, I miss my friends too. And yet you pushed through your pain to try and show me something. So, thank you again. I appreciate it."

The captain seemed really dejected, but she still managed to force a smile through her sorrow. Admittedly, a huge chunk of your speech was mere projection. You had no idea why the captain did what she did. Maybe it was out of an odd sense of kinship?

Be it as may, this reminded you of mr Smith's words earlier that day, the part about finding something in common. You managed to form a connection, no matter how weak, so perhaps this was an opportunity to learn more about the captain. Even if it was impudent, something compelled you to learn more eventually. You walked out of the cockpit: for today, training was over.

"What is this 'Exotic Maneuver' you speak of? Is it like a super power?" you offhandedly asked, trying to catch up with her.

The girl replied with her bitter smile. Her eyes were those of a person reminiscing.
"Yes, it is. The power of bending the reality of physics... that's what a Topless' real strength is. That is, until they expire. We all do. Topless... it means standing above everyone else. Being unrivaled."
"I am sorry to say this, but I don't particularly desire that. I am glad just being the best I can be."

Lal'c nodded, apparently satisfied with your answer.
"That's a fine spirit. But you shouldn't go about smashing the desires of those who DO want to stand on top. You see..."

Right before your commander could get into the details, the hangar's door opened with a loud bang. The other pilots were there, and Father Matheus in particular look somewhat shook.
"Von Neumann!" he exclaimed. "We have been looking for you. You've been in there for hours. Don't you want to take a break?"

Time really did fly. Only now were you realizing just how much time had gone by, and a sense of faintness spread through your body.
"Hours, even? That's... really something. I didn't think doing simulations could be so absorbing. Damn, I almost lost myself there"
"Don't worry, it's a rather common event for beginners. You must've fallen into a trance," the platinum-haired girl explained. "I told you to practice with the Von Neumann, and so I thought you might've been here. That's why I came to look for you."

"In any case, are we eating or not?" Lucasz asked, his hungry voice sounding even more menacing than usual. "Von Neumann can come too. I don't care."
"Yeah, good idea," the captain chimed in. "Let's eat together like a real team!"

>She seems fired up. It'd be a shame to disappoint her now. [Revenge +1]
>Let's accept the invitation, what's the worst that can happen? [Synthesis +1]
>I'll come if Hi-Drapearl won't whine [Heritage +1]


I would like to apologize for yesterday. My fever got the better of me, but I am back on track now.
>>Let's accept the invitation, what's the worst that can happen? [Synthesis +1]

Hey, no need to apologize about being sick. The important thing is you getting better.
>>Let's accept the invitation, what's the worst that can happen? [Synthesis +1]
You weren't exactly familiar with your teammmates. Matheus seemed to be nice, but he also had an aloof aura around him. Lucasz was quite hard to read, while Joan's hatred for you was plastered all over his face. Lal'c had started warming up to you, so maybe it was worth pursuing this opportunity.

Having dinner with them was not on top of the list of things you wanted to do, truth be told. The company was dull when not outright hostile, not exactly what you'd call ideal. Nut it was a good opportunity to understand them and try to gauge where this hostility could be coming from.

"Sure, I'll come," you replied.

Before you could take even one more step, Lal'c tugged at your shirt and held you back. Leaning closer, she whispered something in your ear.
"Next time you use the Von Neumann, look for the word 'Newtype' on the database. I am sure you'll find what you see there interesting." She then let go of you, giving you a friendly smile. "Oh, and tomorrow we'll spar. You aren't going to learn much if you rely on simulations only."

Having said this, she walking briskly towards the rest of the team. You followed shortly behind her, still pondering the meaning of her words. Chasing those thoughts away, you attempted to make some small talk with the rest of the team members.

"So... what's on the menu?"
"I'll be fucked if I know," Lukasz replied, his words like a gravestone on the conversation that could have been.
"Why don't you choke on whatever it is that we'll eat, Von Neumann?" de Spycer added, effectively spitting on that grave.
It wouldn't have been easy, but really, nothing had been up until that point.

"Can't we just get along like comrades? In the Brotherhood..."
The captain's speech was halted in its tracks by another outburst of the Hi-Drapearl's pilot. "No, fuck that noise. Comrades? With all due respect, captain, going pew pew while fighting birdbrained aliens isn't enough to qualify for the title of comrade. I lost mine fighting the Mycenaeans, Angels, and the rest of the scum of this galaxy. You don't even BEGIN to..."

This time it was Lukasz who stopped Joan in the midst of his tirade.
"Hi-Drapeal I swear upon the gods, if I hear bitching coming from your mouth again I will make sure you eat your next meal with a straw."

[Social Background] And thus the conversation ended for real. Some people have a natural talent at getting along with people. You would know, you were one of them. Nothing could be easier than getting people to hear what you had to say, provided their disposition was even a tad bit less antagonistic than Joan's. It seemed that Chtograd had the opposite talent, which was nevertheless very useful in its own right. Unfortunately, however, it was his perentory tone that killed your hopes of bonding with your teammates over a meal.

>This is a trainwreck. I am out [Heritage +1]
>Maybe if I try talking with Joan... [Synthesis +1]
>Have it your way then, cunts! [Revenge +1]
>>This is a trainwreck. I am out [Heritage +1]
>>Have it your way then, cunts! [Revenge +1]
Not to Captain Lal'c, of course.
Sweet. we only need a tiebreaker now.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Assuming direct control. 1 = heritage, 2= revenge.
Over the course of the dinner, no one said much. The food was largely tasteless and slimy, which also partially explained why no one bothered checking what was on the menu. Apparently it was a mix of key macro- and micronutrients, especially concocted to give pilots the right nutrition. It was hard to feel thankful for such a prodigy of science.

[Socializing Background] And yet it didn't take a genius to realize that things were not going to change, given all that transpired. Sure, something could have been done to improve the mood of the team. Telling a joke, changing the subject, pretending nothing was going on and that everything was fine. That would've bought you a few more moments of peace. But it wouldn't have been a real solution. No, that required address the root issue directly. Too bad Joan had no intention to help you with that. What were you going to do, then? Bow your head and apologize for somehting you most definitely did not do? No, screw that. You wouldn't have turned into a sheep just to please a pack of hungry wolves.

Scooping up the food and swallowing it as soon as possible, you finished your meal and prepared to leave. After all, there was nothing left to say. Everyone was feeling down at the table, and your presence wasn't making things any better, that was for sure.
"Oi, Von Neumann. Where are you going? You forgot your tray."
"Is that so? Let me pick it up then. I'll be heading to my room. See you guys tomorrow."

Apparently the cafeteria expected every client to clean up after themselves, a reasonable and efficient procedure on a base starved for personnel and supplies.

"Ehm ehm," Father Matheus cleared his throat. "About that. We've accepted your request of having a proper room, and not a cell. So, congratulations miss Carlotta. You now have a room in the pilot's quarters."
"Is that so? Fantastic then. Can I have the keys?"
"We don't have a spare ready for you at the moment. Ah, but de Spycer is almost done eating. You can go back together."
"I'd rather go alone, if I could" you politely replied.
"As you prefer. Either way, this isn't going to change the situation. You and her will be sharing the room."

You gave him a puzzled look, cocking your eyebrows

"Excuse me father, what could you possibly mean by that?"
"Oh? It's just like I told you. You're gonna share a room with Joan. We only have double rooms in the pilots' quarters, so you're gonna share with her."
"HER??? What is the meaning of this? That's clearly... it's a boy, isn't it?"

Upon hearing those words, the pilot in red stood up and dumped the rest of her dinner on your head.
This was probably the kind of situation in which you would have violently retorted, had it happened under normal circumstances. But nothing of what just occurred was even remotely close to the concept of normal. Of course being mistaken for a boy wasn't the most flattering experience for any woman, and the responsibility for misgendering her rested squarely on you.

"You guys should have told me earlier," you murmured, still in a state of shock. "Captain Lal'c, did you realize? Was I the only one out of the loop?"
[Socializing background] "Yeah, I did realize, von Neumann. Sorry, I should've told you earlier," she responded, with an uncertain tone of voice and exaggerated gestures typical of people who were lying. Oh well, the captain was probably clinging a bit to her pride. She wasn't doing anything unforgivable. Weirdly enough, on the other hand, Lukasz was smiling. A rare sight indeed.

You slumped your shoulders, leaning against the chair. What the hell? Understanding social cues was YOUR thing. How did you miss the fact that Joan was a girl? She even had a girl's name! But wait, this was beyond the point. You didn't want to share a room with HER, of all people. Nothing good could've come of this, right? Or maybe... maybe there was a chance at building a bridge there.

>I'd rather keep sleeping in Jail. [Heritage +1]
>I'd rather sleep with the captain [Synthesis +1]
>I'll annoy the shit out of her [Revenge +1]
>I'll annoy the shit out of her [Revenge +1]
>>I'll annoy the shit out of her [Revenge +1]
>I'd rather keep sleeping in Jail. [Heritage +1]
>>I'd rather sleep with the captain [Synthesis +1]

No, what you wanted to do was to annoy her just as much as she annoyed you. For crying out loud, sure, you made a mistake, but she's been nothing but violent and aggressive in the last 24 hours. Or were they 24? After all, it was plausible that days and nights worked a bit differently on a moon in a far away system. Well, that wasn't the point. She wanted to make enemies? You would've given her an enemy to remember.

"I'll head to my quarters, then," you told everyone.

The rest of the team was at least kind enough to give you pointers on how to reach the pilots' quarters in the base. Admittedly, it was a place you'd never been to before, so you would've probably gotten lost had it not been for their very precise instructions. The pilot's quarters were a considerably nicer area of the building when compared to the near-forsaken one in which you had been imprisoned and interrogated. Probably the same could have been said about the living quarters of the base's personnel in general.

A mere seconds before you could knock on the door and ask to be let in, you recognized a familiar sound coming from the room. Someone in there was sighing and weeping bitter tears of contrition.

[Socializing Background] You really had no idea how to deal with her. One second was crying, the next she was screaming at you. What was her problem? Sure, some people cope with sadness through anger and aggressitivity, and while that cannot be condoned, it can at the very least be explained as a phenomenon. But she wasn't being aggressive with anyone but you. Did she need a villain that desperately?

And if she did, what was there for you to gain in the process? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Taking a deep breath, you steeled your resolve and knocked on the door, just to make sure she'd know you were there.

"Don't open the door, it's just me. I wanted to apologize for earlier. I made a mistake in good faith, I wasn't trying to mock you. I don't expect you to believe, but I felt I had to say it anyway. I... don't know what's going on in your life. And I realize you must dislike me a lot. But, if you want... maybe we could talk about it one day. Anyway, I'll be sleeping somewhere else tonight, so take care."

Your little monologue went on uninterrupted, and that was already a small success. When the captain arrived, you asked her to let you sleep in her room for the night, to which she gladly consented.
There wasn't a lot left for you to do. Even the book's box was now out of reach, the closest thing to 'entertainment' you could think of was stranded in a far away sector of the building. In fact, this time was probably better spent sleeping, and despite some initial difficulties, you were quickly embraced by Morpheus.

As a consequence, you woke up much earlier than usual the following day. Feeling somewhat gung-ho about the whole training deal, you fetched some breakfast then headed for the hangar. The Von Neumann was still there, genuflected and waiting for a pilot.

>I haven't done a lot of maintenance, have I? [Revenge +1]
>The captain told me to check the database out... [Synthesis +1]
>Let's resume the simulations [Heritage +1]
>>I haven't done a lot of maintenance, have I? [Revenge +1]
>The captain told me to check the database out... [Synthesis +1]
>>>I haven't done a lot of maintenance, have I? [Revenge +1]
>The captain told me to check the database out... [Synthesis +1]
Rolled 2 (1d2)

1 for revenge, 2 for synthesis
Captain Lal'c had the full authority to give you orders. But rather than doing that, she decided to give you a tip, which could both be very useful and also convenient to cement a bond with her. Forsaking all hesitation, you tapped on the monitor looking for the 'DATABASE' entry, looked up the word 'Newtype,' and read the information as it was being displayed.

"With the term Newtype, the revolutionary leader of the Independentist Movement Afranche Char branded every pilot capable of superhuman feats or otherwise capable of displaying ESP-like powers. The use of such powers is usually accompanied by the violation of one or more law of physics. Some Newtypes joined him and his faction during the Civil War, whereas others considered him to be a dangerous terrorist and refused to give up their individual identity to accept the umbrella-term of Newtype. Because of the Loyalist victory in the war, the term is now deprecated and largely used as a slur outside of Independentist Systems"

'Huh. Civil war?' was the last thing you thought of, before the cockpit opened and revealed the presence of captain Lal'c. "Good to see you're up, Carlotta! I hope you're ready for some serious training from now ow. In fact, ditch the simulations and join the network. We're going to spar!"

[Socializing Background] Before you could reply, Lal'c had already disappeared. She was likely at least ten years older than you, but she had twice the energy and five times the motivation. Another option popped up on the monitor: 'LINK-IN'. After clicking on it, you found yourself in a wasteland, the captain's robot standing just a few meters away.

"Alright, first, let's practice some CQC. You gotta be prepared for when you have no weapons!" she said, charging and trying to tackle the Von Neumann. You dodged it, but her follow-up punch made the colossal frame of your mecha collapse on the ground. The same routine went on for a while, until you were at least capable of seeing her attacks coming and somewhat dodge them.

"Good, Carlotta! You're quick on the uptake. I like that."
"Thanks, captain. You're... a tought bone to crack, to put it mildly."
"Can't help it. I am a veteran, after all. Hey, come to think of it, where are your probes?"
"Huh? Probes?"
"Yeah, the probe blasters that were salvaged from the G-mu and implanted on your Von Neumann. I suppose the system doesn't recognize them, and makes them unavailable for the simulation."
"Oh, about those... I am not sure if I can use them."
"Only one way to find out then!"
The simulation abruptly ended and the cockpit's screen returned to panoramic mode. You could see Lal'c's robot standing up and heading for the exit.
"Uhm, captain? What are you planning to do?"
"Isn't it obvious? Let's run wild and gun down those Synapticon remnants. Wohoo! You too, let loose Von Neumann!"

>This is too dangerous. I won't come. [Heritage +1]
>Ah, that really gets me going! [Revenge +1]
>Alright, but shouldn't we warn others too? [Synthesis +1]
>>Ah, that really gets me going! [Revenge +1]
>Alright, but shouldn't we warn others too? [Synthesis +1]
>>Alright, but shouldn't we warn others too? [Synthesis +1
"Wait, what about the others?"
"Who cares about... I mean! The others have had their training, private Dubois! Don't think you're getting any special treatment here," the captain replied, trying to conceal some excitement that was unbecoming of a captain. "Besides, it's just a few loose critters. Are you really that anxious to have de Spycer screeching in your ears?"
"Er... no."
"Thought so. Come on, get moving!"

Light was now pouring inside the hangar like a stream, blinding you for a second and shedding light on the other machines. In particular, the Simulacrum was looking like a lit lightbulb now, because of its chromatic and highly reflective surface. Holding the beam rifle tight, you moved the Von Neumann behind the captain's robot.

"Captain Lal'c Melk Malk, Buster Machine Dix-Neuf, heading out!"
Her voice echoed through the intercom. A standard procedure to notify the HQ, no doubt.
"Private Carlotta Dubois, Von Neumann. Heading out!" you echoed her, just to be sure.

The atmosphere outside was pleasant. The gardens around the base were lovely when they were not being ravaged by feral beasts. Even so, there was literally nobody outside but you and the captain. The main exit\entrance was a few hundred meters away, barred by what looked like a force barrier. Even so, both the Dix-Neuf and the Von Neumann crossed it without issues.

The surroundings were as pleasant as you remembered them, reminiscent of an idyllic forest that would have doubtlessly inspired several fairy tales, had it not been used as a military outpost. The fact that monsters were still lurking in there somewhere further contributed to making it a less than pleasant location, but with some luck that was about to become a thing of the past.

"Alright, time for some pest control. We'll take a small detour and head for the nearby lake, apparently some of those critters are hiding in there," Lal'c explained.
"Roger that."
"We'll be lucky to get a couple of them, they lose their aggressive behavior when their broodmother dies and resort to running away as soon as they are attacked. At least that's what the manual says."

All in all, it was pretty comforting to know that the beasts were not going to strike back. But perhaps the lack of a real threat would have prevented the probe blasters from activating. Either way, there was no use worrying about that now. You'd cross the bridge when you'd get there.

And sure enough, just a few minutes later one of those wretched abominations appeared.
"Von Neumann here, Synapticon spotted at 6 o' clock. Engaging the enemy," you said, trying use as much military jargon as possible.
The beam rifle fired some shots, while you focused on activating the new weapons implanted on your mecha's back. To no avail, unfortunately, as they didn't budge a millimeter.
Then the unthinkable happened. More and more Synapticons were coming out from the lake, and what's more, they were fighting back.
"Captain Lal'c! They're resisting!"
"Yeah, I can see that," she replied, joining the fight. "I was told the broodmother was dead!"
"She is, I killed her myself! Why are they not running away?"
"GOD DAMMIT!" she screamed, before crushing down one of the aliens under Dix-Neuf's feet.

The Synapticons had you outnumbered. The more you killed, the more spawned from the lake. The situation was quickly turning critical. It certainly was not a scenario that could be handled by just two machines.

>Request backup [Heritage +1]
> We must withdraw somehow [Synthesis +1]
>>Request backup [Heritage +1]
>Request backup [Heritage +1]
"We can't win this alone, captain! We must request backup if we want to make it out alive!"
"Good thinking, Von Neumann! Issue the SOS!"

The two of you slowly started backing out from the lake, but the aliens didn't seem like they'd let you go so easily. Finding an escape route was your priority, and given that there was none, the Von Neumann and the Dix-Neuf fought tooth and nail to open one up.

However, in the midst of that chaos, something caught your eye. It seemed like a broken robot had been dumped into the lake. It didn't look like any mecha you had seen before, in fact, even as a relict it looked sturdier and higher in quality than the Dix-Neuf or any other machine stationed on PN5-2, for that matter.

Wave after wave kept coming, but while your ammos were limited, the critters seemed to be infinite. Luckily, the rest of the team arrived much earlier than you had anticipated. The Hi-Drapearl started firing from above, while the Simulacrum 'rushed' to project its shield and protect you.

"You were lucky I caught a glimpse of you girls leaving this morning, or we would've been here much later," Father Matheus admonished you.
"Huh? You were in the hangar?"
"Of course I was. I am the robot, remember?"
"In any case, take shelter behind me. The AT-Field messes their brains up when they come too close to it. We have to endure until they decide this battle isn't worth it."

There was no way around it, so endure it you did. The fight was nothing like the simulations: it was excruciating, repetitive, static, almost reminiscent of trench warfare in World War 1, with the added pressure of knowing that even a single mistake could have compromised everything else. You had lost count of how many times the Solarion had fired its cannon, but at one point even the Synapticons must've decided that it wasn't worth it anymore. As the aliens retreated, so did your team.

You expected to get scolded once back to the base, but nothing of the sorts happened. The captain simply handed in a report of what happened to the HQ (from which prof. Deucalion was strangely absent) and quickly convened a meeting with the rest of the squad . Clearly no one was happy to hear that the aliens they had fought so hard to kick out of the moon were still alive and well. Father Matheus, in particular, seemed somewhat frustrated.
"Golly gee, friends. How are we supposed to fight another Synapticon army, this time with even less people on the team?"
"Ensign Matheus, this is not the time to think about problems. Instead, we should think of how we can solve them."
"Oh yeah, good idea!" Joan interjected. "Why don't you Newtypes work some magic and get rid of the bugs for us?"
"I've long since stopped being a Topless, de Spycer. But I have never been a Newtype."
"I am afraid I barely qualify for the title either," you replied. "But you I'll work my hardest, and that's for sure."

Everyone but Joan nodded at your words, probably taking them for an encouraging signal of goodwill. Of course, hard work alone wasn't going to cut it this time. Different solutions were being proposed at the round table.

"We should await reinforcements"
"We should attack with all we've got!"
"Let's use the plan devised by captain Mark!"

But all of them had critical pitfalls. First of all, there was no guarantee that reinforcements would arrive, and even if they did, there was a concrete chance that the base could be already overrun by then. In other words, time was not on your side. Blindly charging in would have almost surely resulted in annihilation, and even the plan used to bust the other nest had serious pitfalls. The most prominent was the change in the environment in which the battle would take place: the nest was probably located deep underwater.

This skewed the odds of the battle heavily in favor of the aliens, who had probably already adapted to optimally hande sub-nautical warfare. The mechs, on the other hand, would perform much worse than they would on space or on solid ground. The meeting was adjourned in a climate of overall pessimism, under the agreement that the team would finalize the battleplan before sunset.

The situation was deeply problematic. For a second, you tried considering what could be done to improve your odds of victory.

>I should train harder on simulations [Heritage +1]
>It's like the captain said. I must believe in my own power until the very end. [Revenge +1]
>Maybe there is a way to use that submerged mech? [Synthesis +1]
>>>I should train harder on simulations [Heritage +1]
>Maybe there is a way to use that submerged mech? [Synthesis +1]
>Maybe there is a way to use that submerged mech? [Synthesis +1]
Mark's G-mu proved capable of remote-controlling probe blasters, fluctuating machines capable of firing independently. In turn, your Von Neumann managed to acquire the same capabilites. The situation begged the question: what about other, larger machines? What you wanted to get to, in other words, was the possibility of manipulating the submerged mecha and use it during the battle.

Granted, this was an enormous stretch by itself. Your control over the probes was poor, never mind how it'd scale for larger objects. But it was worth a shot. While everyone else headed for the cafeteria, you ran to the hangar. No one was around, but something -maybe excitement?- compelled you to act fast. By the time you were sitting in the cockpit, you were already panting.

You attempted to meditate by collecting your thoughts, pretending your body was the Von Neumann's chassis. The faceless robot's sensor were now your eyes, and you were using them to scan the room and to take a look at the new piece of equipment installed on its back. Slowly but surely, they started to fly in formation, before returning to their original position. It was working. Now, it was time to bring the test to a new stage.

The Simulacrum was immediately discarded. At this point, Matheus had scared you into suspecting he might really be the mecha. The Hi-Drapearl was likewise off-limits. The Solarion was simply too large to give a reliable estimate. All that was left was the Dix-Neuf.

Taking a closer look at it, you noticed how some parts had gone missing and were now replaced by clearly more modern components, like an eye or an arm. Using the same form of meditation, you attempted to take remote control of the Dix-Neuf. It was terribly difficult, but you were making your way in when something stopped you.

The Dix-Neuf, too, was 'alive' and staring at you. After some consideration, however, it appeared that it had no qualms letting you in. To show some thankfulness, you decided not to toy with it too much. Your heart was overflowing with joy at the success of the experiment, but your stomach was languishing in hunger. It was time to fetch some food.
When you arrived, the halls of the cafeteria were completely empty. Everyone else must've already eaten. Only the captain was there, vaguely poking at her food with a spoon. She looked like she was down in the dumps, and truth be told, she had every reason to feel that way. After grabbing a tray and helping yourself to some food, you sat next to her.

[Socializing Background] "Come on, captain. You have to eat properly, or you won't be able to fight tomorrow. Yeah, I know it's gonna be hard, but we're going to try our best."
Lal'c shook her head. "It's not that, pvt. Dubois. I have never been afraid of dying, and I am not afraid now either. But... there are things that I'd leave unresolved. And if I did, I could never forgive myself. I am sorry, I realize it has nothing to do with you."
"You don't have to apologize. I sort of understand where you're coming from... I guess, I am not sure."

"Even if you don't, I appreciate the effort," she responded with a faint smile. "It's just that... I made a promise, a long time ago. And I had no chance to see it through. It's so frustrating that those damn aliens will...!" She said, clanching her fist in anger.
You placed your hand over hers to calm her down. "Hey, I get it. I really do. We're fight our hardest tomorrow. At least we'll go out without regrets. There's nothing else that we can do."

Lal'c stood up, nodding with confidence. "You're perfectly right. We must go out there and win. Our pride and our lives depends on that."
"Our pride as knights?"
"Well, that's what captain Mark used to say."
"I see. Well then, so be it. Our pride as knights is riding on this! Rest well, Carlotta," she said, picking up her tray and leaving the cafeteria. Her sudden change in attitude made you smile. It wasn't half bad, being that energetic.

Dinner that day was particularly tasteless. Despite all the confidence you faked to cheer Lal'c up, you were still frightened to the marrow. After eating not even a quarter of your portion, you dumped whatever was left and returned to your room, trying your hardest to fall asleep. Naturally, you were still avoiding Joan, so sleeping in the captain's quarters was your only option. It didn't seem like she minded, however.

>Hold the ring in your hand [Synthesis +1]
>Hold captain Mark's charm in your hand [Revenge +1]
>You need nobody and no one. Let go of your worries and sleep. [Heritage +1]
>>Hold the ring in your hand [Synthesis +1]
>You need nobody and no one. Let go of your worries and sleep. [Heritage +1]
>Hold the ring in your hand [Synthesis +1]
The ring was faintly glowing with a mysterious power and a warm light. Just looking at it was soothing, or probably you were just starting to feel the aftereffects of that intense day. Be it as may, your dreams were pleasant that evening. It was spring and the flowers were blooming. You never were that much of a fan of the outdoors, but in your dream you ran merrily through the fields, laughing and having the time of your life. It felt extremely refreshing.

The dawn came too soon, and with it, the time for you to get up. Just a few minutes to grab a quick meal, and then it was off to the hangar. Everyone was already there, looking stressed, angry and dejected like never before. There was no other choice though, you had to fight, and with a little ace up yor sleeve, victory wasn't impossible either.

One by one, the machines lined up near the exit and took their leave. Mechanics, field operators, and base personnel all saluted the departing column with solemnity, probably believing they were paying you and the others their final homage. But neither you or anyone else in the team had any intention to die. No, it would be the enemy who would taste death and defeat.

The Dix-Neuf had been equipped with spares of the G-mu. In particular, a beam saber, a beam rifle, and an impromptu shield. It wasn't exactly the stuff of legends, but everyone agreed that it was better than its usual loadout.

"Solarion, this is Dix-Neuf. Come in."
"Dix-Neuf, I can hear you loud and clear. What is it?"
"How strong is your cannon?"
"It's strong."
"I know it's strong, I am asking how much."
"Depends. What do you want to do with it?"
"Get rid of the small fry before diving in."
"It's a long shot, but it's not impossible. I can do it if you cover me while I charge it."
"Roger that. Team, protect the Solarion. With your lives, if you must," Lal'c regretfully added.

This wasn't good, not one bit. If the Solarion fired, the mech would probably get trashed too. You had to prevent that and activate it remotely before the cannon was ready, all the while protecting yourself and the rest of your teammmates. 'It never gets any easier, does it?' was what you were thinking.

The battle began before any of you could even reach the lake. Small to medium sized creatures were pouring through the trees, and the team was having an hard time not getting surrounded. The Simulacrum's AT-Field came in especially handy, also thanks to its secondary effect of temporarily disrupting the coordination between the Synapticons and the yet to be seen second broodmother. Meter by meter, the soldiers of PN5-2 were advancing, edging closer and closer to the lake.
The fight became fiercer as more and more creatures joined the frontline, some of which were much bigger than those you'd fought up until that point. And yet... the sunken mecha was now well in sight. You couldn't afford to underestimate the enemy, so you had to find a way to activate the relict while also keeping the creatures at bay.

A machine alone could not single-handedly win the battle. You had to think of a precise way to use it in order to generate a meaningful advantage for the team.

>Perhaps as a bomb? [Revenge +1]
>Better to use it as a decoy [Synthesis +1]
>What if it were capable of disrupting their mental links? [Heritage +1]
>>What if it were capable of disrupting their mental links? [Heritage +1]
>>What if it were capable of disrupting their mental links? [Heritage +1]

In a moment of preternatural and inhuman clarity, you summoned whatever power animated the probe blasters and the Dix-Neuf in the hangar the day before. This time, you aimed it at the wreckage underwater. What was causing it? What was the source of this phenomenon? How could you control it? You did not know. All you knew was what you had planned to do with it.

The rusty hunk of scrap metal started emerging, now fully visible to everyone. Its eyes were glowing, and coated in coruscating energy as it was, it looked somewhat more serviceable than it had even just a few minutes ago. Clearly, it didn't go unnoticed. The first to spot it was Joan, in her Hi-Drapearl.

"What the...?! That's the After War model the captain downed many years ago! What is it doing now?"

Captain Lal'c caught up to it a lot faster, however.

"Von Neumann, that's you controlling it, right? What is your plan? What are you trying to do?"


That answer, both perentory and stunted, was all you could manage given your state. Just controlling the machine was extremely taxing in ways you couldn't begin to describe, and now was the time to give it its final order.

The machine crawled outside of the water and staggered to stand erect. Then, flexing its shattered arms, it started emitting an ear-shattering bellowing. Everyone instinctively covered their ears, but the Synapticons shriveled in agony. Some of them died when their brains exploded through their heads.

Seizing the moment, the Solarion fired. The cannon decimated the already exhausted enemy ground forces. As they started withdrawing, you gave orders to your animated scarecrow to jump underwater with them. Throwing the nest in disarray was probably the single most useful thing you could've done right now.

As the machine sank further and further down in the body of water, the piercing noise disappeared and communications were restored.
[Socializing Background] "Sorry guys, I might've been a bit rude earlier. I was trying to focus and I was afraid to mess this up."
"Nonsense, Von Neumann. You did great." This unexpected praise was coming from Lukasz, of all people.
"He's right, private Dubois. That's what I call quick thinking!" the captain chimed in. "Let's hurry up now, we must ride the momentum."

For better or for worse, the plan was working. The timing was right, and there was no way around this. Everyone had to dive into the lake and look for the second broodmother. The captain lead by example and dived in first, with the others following suit. Before jumping in, you decided to:

>Prepare my blade [Revenge +1]
>Ready my beam rifle [Heritage +1]
>Activate the probe blasters [Synthesis +1]
>>Prepare my blade [Revenge +1]
>>Prepare my blade [Revenge +1]
Extracting your blade and activating it was, by now, a trivial matter for you. As usual, it started glowing in its bright green color as soon as you shouted "Fractal Blade!"

A second later, you jumped underwater with the rest of the team. That's when the real battle began. Almost immediately, everyone was surrounded by water-type Synapticons that attacked from every direction. Probably because they were in their home turf, they fought more desperately and more viciously than ever before.

With the Fractal Blade, you slew those who dared come too close, whereas the Hi-Drapearl and the Dix-Neuf picked off targets from a distance. At the moment, the Von Neumann was the only unit engaged in CQC. The Solarion was struggling to keep itself to fire its massive cannon, whereas the Simulacrum tried to use its mass to stabilize it.

The AT Field was doing its job at shrinking the effective battlefield and reducing the number of beasts that could assault you at once. Even so, it was no easy day. Those beasts must've gone at it like rabbits to produce so many abominations in such a short span of time.

The Solarion finally fired its first beam since the beginning of the underwater operation, but the results were underwhelming to say the least. Despite being still several orders of magnitued more effective than any beam rifle could dream to be, its power had been severely reduced. Given the circumstances, it simply couldn't be used as an effective battering ram, the way captain Mark had intended with his original plan.

Soon, it became clear that all of this was no use. Even your plan proved to offer nothing more than a simple diversion. Everyone was struggling to fight underwater: the Solarion and the Simulacrum because of their weight, and the Hi-Drapearl because its high-mobility configuration was outclassed by the aliens' superior speed.

"It's not over, soldiers! Fight 'till the last man!" The captain shouted. But this wasn't her fight. She had her promise to keep, after all, and you couldn't imagine that anyone else was in a hurry to die either. Why were they fighting? Why did any of them -any of you, for that matter- decide to board a machine like this? What did they stand to gain, or what were they afraid of losing? In what you feared were your last moments, the biggest regret you had was not knowing enough about the rest of them.

Matheus was a condescending prick, Lukasz a tactless bastard, and Joan... where to begin? Simply the most irritating person you've ever had the misfortune of meeting. And yet... all of them were fighting, ready to give up their lives for each other. Even if you were hardly a part of the team, you always thought of it as an house divided, doomed to collapse upon itself at one point. But their courage and unity during this battle had thoroughly proven you wrong.
The beasts were charging at you as much as everyone else, so it probably wasn't a stretch to assume you weren't slacking off. For the first time since you arrived on that mysterious moon, you wanted to earn the rest of the team's respect and admiration. You wanted them to respect your way of fighting just as much as you respected them.

"Keep your heads into the fight, soldiers! We can still win this!"

Yes, winning. It wasn't impossible. Everyone was trying their best, so there must've been a way to win. All you needed right now was...

>Hard work and guts! [Synthesis +1]
>Hard work and guts! [Heritage +1]
>Hard work and guts! [Revenge +1]
>>Hard work and guts! [Heritage +1]
"Captain Lal'c, you're right! We can win, it's just like you said. Real power resides in those who believe in their own strength until the very end. And so...!"

You fumbled in your pockets. It was still there somewhere, just waiting for a golden opportunity... or rather, a silver one! You placed the chrome-colored band-aid she gave you on your forehead, and then pulled repeating the same words.


Except that this time, unlike in the hangar, it made all the difference. Your forehead started glowing just like the space around you. The rules that governed this world were slowly changing and bending, and this was reflected by the ever-spreading glow around the Von Neumann.

"Impossible! How's she pulling it off?"
"Heh. I knew it, y'all are Newtypes!"
"Von Neumann, just what exactly are you doing there?"

Panic, excitement and jubilation mixed in the voices coming from the intercom. Once again, a miracle was saving your lives. The attrition of water was all but gone, all machines were operating as if they were on ground. No, that wasn't quite correct...
"The attrition is zero! Our mechs are fighting in a space-like environment!"

That simple fact alone was making all the difference. The Fractal Blade was tearing through the enemies as if it were a warm knife plunged into butter. The absence of attrition allowed for more ample movements, so that a single slash was now capable of killing several aliens at once. The others were in a much better spot too, and this was especially true for the Hi-Drapearl (who could now pick off isolated targets more easily) and for the Solarion (whose cannonblasts had gotten more destructive)

The tides of battle were turning in your favor. The water-type Synapticons were now outclassed both in speed and in power, and it seemed that their numbers were shrinking too. They might have been many, but not infinite. However, there was something everyone had forgotten about...up until that moment.

A gargantuan, leviathan-like Synapticon slowly emerged from the deepest point of the lake. Its eyes were glowing red, and its warcry was deafening. "The Broodmother!"

All firepower available was immediately concentrated on the new target. The Solarion even managed to get a direct hit in, but the beast looked like it was all but unscathed. Its scales must've been too thick for bullets. The Hi-Drapeal discharged some explosives on it, but besides angering the beast, it achieved nothing. Even the Simulacrum's shield proved to be too little to hold the creature at bay.

In a fit of anger, you grabbed your Fractal Blade and attempted to slice it open. Even so, all you could manage were mere scratches on the surface of its body.
With its might tail, the broodmother hit the Von Neumann, flinging it. The robot collided against the shore, and the impact caused your head to ram against the monitor, which was now dyed deep red. The situation was desperate, and without another miracle, it seemed like this really was the end.

"Everyone, this is your captain speaking. With the beast in my sight, I can now afford to attempt a riskier maneuver. This machine was originally powered by a single degeneracy generator, but now there are two. If I detonate one of them, I am positive I can take the broodmother to hell with me. It's been a pleasure fighting with you guys. Here are my last orders: evacuate as far as possible right now."

>This isn't over, captain! Don't give up like that! [Revenge +1]
>SUICIDE ISN'T AN OPTION! LET'S KILL THAT MONSTER UNITED! [Synthesis +1] [Your current alignment favors this choice - high chance of a special event]
>There must be a way to eject your cockpit before detonation! [Heritage +1]
>>SUICIDE ISN'T AN OPTION! LET'S KILL THAT MONSTER UNITED! [Synthesis +1] [Your current alignment favors this choice - high chance of a special event]
>SUICIDE ISN'T AN OPTION! LET'S KILL THAT MONSTER UNITED! [Synthesis +1] [Your current alignment favors this choice - high chance of a special event]
The Von Neumann sprinted towards the Dix Neuf with supernatural speed. It covered the several hundred meters separating you from the captain in a matter of second, and once next to her mech again, you grabbed its hands and held them in place.

"I won't let you do that, captain! You have a promise to keep!"
"I appreciate the feeling, private Dubois, but this isn't the time to fool around. I must strike now that the beast is distracted."

Indeed, the rest of the team was doing its best to keep the enemy's eyes off the Dix-Neuf. It was a sorry sight, like a swarm of flies trying to settle on a cow, just to be dispersed by the wagging of her tail.

"What a joke," she bitterly remarked. "Look at the size of that thing. How were we even supposed to defeat it?"
"Strength isn't the size of your body! It's the strenght of your heart! You said so before, didn't you big sis?"
Something had come over you. Whatever was escaping your lips, was not something your brain was computing.

"I did...? Big sis...?"
"Yes! Let's go now!"

The Von Neumann shifted his grip to grab a hold of the Dix-Neuf's wrists, and in so doing, it dragged it upwards with it.
"It's time to use it!"
"Von Neumann, let me go! Use what? What do you mean?"

But you had no answer for her, for you did not know what you were referring to either. An unspeakable energy had come over you, compelling you to act in an inexplicable way. Its power was undeniable, but you felt nothing malicious within it. Lal'c's face appeared on the monitor for a few seconds. The look of determination in her eyes meant she now knew what had to be done, too. The two of you shouted its name together.



A veritable whirlpool of energy started twisting as the two mechas intertwined and spinned. Despite losing cognition of what was happening, you could clearly see the shape of the monster coming closer and being split in half by your combined attack. When the spinning ended, all that was left above you was the corpse of the broodmother, neatly split in half. Further down, however, was an evanescent image: a one-eyed colossal robot floating through space, its gray color somehow emphasizing its mass.

"You have to go, big sis! You must keep your promise!"
"I... I can't leave the battlefield like this...!"
"I'll take responsibility for this! Now go!" you replied, pushing the Dix-Neuf towards the image. "Cross the portal!"
But rather than diving further down, the Dix-Neuf clinged against the chassis of the Von Neumann tighter. It was a hug, or rather, the clumsy captain's attempt at a hug. "Thank you.. thank you for everything, Carlotta!" Her voice was broken by tears, but as soon as she composed herself, she dashed towards the dimensional rift waving at you.

"Excellent performance, Von Neumann," Father Matheus praised you. "But was that 'big sis' business about?"
"Oi, you fuckers! If you have time to talk look up!"

You instinctively tilted your head upwards. The mysterious energy that had possessed you was slowly vanishing, while your consciousness was returning. And apparently it wasn't the sole thing that was returning: the two halves of the monster were now sprouting tendrils, as if the broodmother was trying to become whole again.

>"Hi-Drapearl, do something about it!" [Revenge +1]
>"Solarion, blast it out of existence!" [Heritage +1]
>"Simulacrum, project your shield! [Synthesis +1]
>>"Solarion, blast it out of existence!" [Heritage +1]
>"Simulacrum, project your shield! [Synthesis +1]
>"Simulacrum, project your shield! [Synthesis +1]
"Simulacrum, we have no time! We must try to keep it from regenerating, perhaps we can use the AT-Field?"
"I am on it!"

His willingness to comply almost immediatly shocked you. After all, you had no formal authority to speak of. Perhaps, in this crucial moment, cooperation mattered less than ranks and titles. Even so, it was you who had the idea, so you had a moral responsibility to see it through the end.

The Von Neumann snuck in between the two regenerating halves, together with the Simulacrum. The probe blasters took off, and just like last time, you tried to used them to project another shield. The next command was issued by Matheus.
"You guys, me and the Von Neumann are covered! The AT-Field and the I-Field will protect us! Fire at will!"


As soon as the other two were notified, they started firining whatever they had left at the exposed underbelly of the creature. But it was no use. The remaining Synapticons had grown bolder and were now pouring out of their hiding holes. The regenerative capabilities of the beast were far outclassing anything your offensive capabilities.
"Von Neumann, we must get out of here if we don't want to get swallowed!"
"Tsk! Fine then, let's run for it," you conceded, running away from the beast as fast as possible.
Turning back, you could see the creature waving its tail and coiling, whole again.

"Oh fuck... What now?"

It felt like everything up until that point had been useless. Joan was cursing, Lukasz had returned silent, and it seemed like Father Matheus was offering a silent prayer to his god. All of this was abruptly interrupted by the noise of static.

"Alright, that was quite enough. Now, if you please..."
A familiar voice echoed through the cockpit from the intercom.
"Prof. Deucalion?" you asked in disbelief.
"Very well, professor, I am taking my leave. Scramble dash!"

Another unidentified voice came through, but before anyone could say anything, prof. Deucalion's face appeared on the main monitor.
"Good morning, folks. Sorry for the late, I have been busy taking care of some issues. Reinforcements are arriving, so please hold the line," he said, as if the matter didn't involve him in the least bit.
"Ceh... easy for him to say!" Joan protested.

But be it as may, the for of you fought tooth and nail to keep the monster at bay. Finally, the noise of an object entering water could be heard. Whatever had been powering your 'Exotic Maneuvre' earlier was gone, so whoever they were, they had to swim down there on their own.

As it came ever closer, you caught a glimpse of it. A white, black and red mecha, it moved nimbly and majestically even under water. Even so, it was extremely sturdy, as if it were a castle made of impenetrable iron. The same unknown voice you heard earlier spoke up again.
"Sorry for the wait, ladies and gentlemen. Shall we but an end to this?"
The newly arrived machine pointed with his finger at the sky, and then something like bolts of electricity started crackling on the horns at the side of its head. The robot's index finger then aimed at the creature as the pilot screamed "THUNDER BREAK!"

A lightning bolt flew in the direction of the monster and it spread through the water, frying every remaining Synapticon. Your machine wasn't unaffected either, but maybe due to some form of special insulation, the only issue you were registering was a problem with video quality on the monitor.

The electricity must've burned the beast on the inside, because it simply keeled and died. The day was yours, miraculously.
"So, who do we have the pleasure of talking with?" Father Matheus asked, now that the battle was over.
"Oh, sorry for the late introduction. I am the leader of the Mazin Corps, the one and only pilot of this Great Mazinger: Shirou Kabuto! Pleased to meetcha!"


"So you've sent the kid off to the literal sticks?"

The man stuck out like a sore thumb. While everyone else in the hall was wearing civilian clothes, he was the only one displaying a graveyard of crosses and military awards on his chest. It was not uncommon for a high ranking member of the army to be attending a parliamentary session, but the guest of the day was far from ordinary. To speak nothing of his rank, he alone commanded more influence and authority in the Empire than anyone else in the room. Save for the Prime Minister, of course. It was him who replied, standing up from his seat.

"We did, and as you know, we had the consent of all parties involved. Why does it bother you?"
"Eh, y'know, there've been talks about that place. Is it that weird that I am a bit worried, old pal?"
"Commander General, our long-lansting friendship and mutual esteem notwithstanding, I must request you address everyone in this assembly with due respect."
"Yeah yeah, I get it, please don't be on my ass about it... mr Prime Minister." The officer sighed. "This used to be so much simpler."

"It was," the Prime Minister said, sitting back down. "But things changed. Now we're not the hunted anymore. Now we hunt. I'd love to stay here and reminisce with you about the good old days, but we must proceed now."
"Yes, sure. I apologize to everyone in this room, I will make sure not to waste any more of your time," the Commander General apologetically said.

His eyes were darting back and forth across the room. The discontent whispered from MP to MP was palpable. 'You ungrateful sons of bitches,' he thought, 'Who the hell do you think I am? Who the hell do you think we are? We're doing the heavy lifting out there, and we're doing it for your sake.'

"Suspicious activities beyond the borders, was it, your excellency?" one of them asked him. "Surely this is not the first time the Independentists attempt to strike back. While we can only stand wholeheartedly with our brothers and sisters deployed on the battlefront, we can't ignore the fact that it was us who alienated them in the first place. The Union party believes..."
"We know very well what you believe, honourable gentlemen of the Union party. If you could please cease your grieving for the time being, I suppose you'd have the time to observe what my former colleague has brought with himself. Who knows, you might even find it interesting." It was the voice of the Prime Minister who chastised the man who dared to speak out of line, and the officer couldn't help but smile faintly.

Pressing a button on his remote, he projected a picture across the room.
"Yes indeed, 'honourable gentlemen'. This is no mere Independentist turmoil, as you can probably see. We're dealing with a bit of a bigger fish right here."
The whispers in the hall quickly turned much louder. Those who wanted to intervene lowered their hands and instead simply stood up, asking whatever they wanted to ask, while those who were simply chatting with their neighbors started having fully-fledged conversations with those around them. The room had plunged into chaos, and the Commander General quickly brought order back with a potent scream.

"Yes, I will be taking questions. Please, one at a time," he shouted, as if trying to both reassure and reassemble everyone else.
"That 'thing' is no mere 'big fish', your excellency!" one of the MPs protested, his face red with anger.
"Oh, indeed. You're right about that, that's no fish. Nay, that's Moby Dick itself."


That will be it for part 2. Part 3 is currently being pre-written for ease of use. I am really curious to hear what my players think. I am also sorry I ME3'd one of your choices. I promise I'll keep that to a minimum from here on out.
It's okay so far, but I feel that only giving us a choice between three options at any point makes it hard for anyone to really get involved. Giving us a chance to ask our own questions would help immensely. The alignment system also forces us to keep voting one way, especially now that we can get special events from it.

Also, from what I can tell, the series list so far is
Char's Counterattack
Gurren Lagann
Great Mazinger
Gundam X

and whatever the hell the Solarion is from.
You're keeping track, that's great.
I added the 'alignment' system because I wanted players to feel like their decisions had a measurable impact. I am afraid it backfried and it's now a railroading tool. I might roll this change back and only let players know towards which alignment they shifted depending on the actions taken \ questions asked.

I'll also open up the possibilities for customization. Thank you for your input!

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