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The Main Six - A Story about Reckless Ladies in Power Armor

Discussion in 'FanFic' started by DaRedOne, Mar 20, 2018.

  1. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher

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    My name is Legion - part 03

    The Secondary Hab Dome was secondary in name only. It was a massive superstructure about as big as some of the largest metropolis of NeoTerra. It was a marvel of human engineering, and it was such a perfect imitation of how living on a planet’s surface would be, that the high rise vaulted dome often caused a strong vertigo sense on any nomad stepping on it for the first time.

    It was described as ‘falling upwards’ by several of them, a sensation of dizziness and confusion that came with the sudden addition of an actual sky above their head. Twilight felt that way when she drove out of the Vaudeville tunnel and into the hab dome, taking a moment to let her brain adjust and her eyes settle in as she looked at the artificial sky. Blue with great, fluffy clouds like some painting she had seen in a museum back at Beauvoir, the sky was the one thing that always gave Twilight a foreboding sense, the feeling of being vulnerable and in the open.

    Jewel was perfectly fine with it, though. She rode shotgun on Twilight’s compact grav-car, her Comlog open in front of her as she double-checked the lists her friend had pulled out of Virtualspace. Twilight’s dive had rendered so much information that they hadn’t had the time to sort through all of it, and Jewel was still combing through while the hacker drove on.

    “Focus on the stuff about the Nakatomi building.”

    Twilight said before nodding once. A nod of her head was all it took to make Jewel’s Comlog switch pages to show what the hacker wanted her to see. That sudden switch made the diva yelp and shake her hands.

    “Twi! Privacy, darling.”

    She huffed while scrolling through the information floating in front of her, her eyes scanning the text faster than most people could. Twilight might be better at writing code and bypassing security protocols, but the former PanO countess was a better reader, and her analytic eye picked up some details that her friends often missed.

    “Here. There’s a haqqislamite lady staying in the twentieth floor. Legion had a contact with a haqqislamite mercenary company, right? This might be it.”

    “Probably.”

    Twilight nodded. She raised one hand from the steering wheel and began swirling it in the air as she spoke, causing a series of holographic displays to form around her fingers as she manipulated the codes without looking at them. After a few seconds, Jewel’s Comlog changed again, showing a camera feed for the Nakatomi Offices’ twentieth floor.

    “See if you can find any suspicious movement. I’m going to shut their vigilance down in ten. Giving all control to your suit, Jewel.”

    “Okay” Jewel sighed loudly, shaking her head as her friend forgot about personal space “This is odd. Kind of… Empty for an office building in the middle of a day cycle, don’t you think? There should be a lot of people coming and going.”

    Jewel put a finger to her lips as she switched from camera feed to camera feed. She quickly noticed there was a room she couldn’t access, and it wasn’t the toilets. The absence of something often meant the presence of trouble, she thought as she tapped the missing camera, then opened up a schematic of the building to make sure she was not making things up.

    “This is it, Twi. Twentieth floor, room 2017. It’s a huge void, I can get nothing there, just the name of a tenant and that’s it. If this isn’t the one we want, I’ll dye my hair green and call myself the Jokerette.”

    “Joker’s Daughter.”

    “What?”

    “The green haired clown girl related to the Joker, she’s his daughter… Well, sort of, she’s actually-”

    “Darling, it was hyperbole. I’m not going to dye my glorious hair green.”

    Twilight chuckled and drove on, hands on the wheel as she smirked back at the haughty diva. They took less than ten minutes to get to the Nakatomi Offices, and by then Jewel had been granted full control of its security protocols, thanks to her hacker friend. Twilight parked the grav-car a block away from the building, and they finished the distance on foot.

    Riot Grrls weren’t an uncommon sight in the Secondary Hab Dome, but they weren’t common either. It was just the kind of unremarkable thing to ensure the receptionist wouldn’t bat an eye at the two women when they passed by him, the man seemingly completely enraptured by whatever he was watching on a solid screen monitor.

    Twilight noted the solid screen and raised an eyebrow as the elevator doors closed. Odd. Then, as the last sliver of the door closed, the man raised his head and she caught sight of his eyes: they were jet black, completely empty as if she had looked into the void of space within his head.

    “Oh. Fuck.”

    Jewel perked up, her hand moving instantly to the rifle locked to her back. She drew her gun and racked a bullet into the chamber in a single, fluid motion that could have been on a movie. Her stance was perfectly still as she turned to Twilight.

    “What’s wrong?”

    Twilight’s hands shook as she reached back and pulled her shotgun off the mag-lock too, pumping it once to feel the reassuring click of a shell into the firing chamber. The elevator moved slowly, lights blinking around them as the purple haired woman lowered her visor too, motioning for Jewel to do the same. Her hands shook, that familiar tremble adding to the tension on her words.

    “The receptionist. Did you see his eyes?”

    “Nope. What about them?”

    “They were… Black. Like, completely black, like a pair of charcoal stones. Really… Do you remember those sepsitorized Ghulams we ran into back in Alfundaq?”

    Jewel shuddered. She remembered the near destruction of the asteroid all too well. Those frantic moments when no one knew who they were fighting, the panic as friends turned their weapons against friends… The ability to corrupt Cubes was the Combined Army’s greatest weapon. The diva’s next word bellied the fear in her voice.

    “Yes.”

    She said before the doors of the elevator opened up. A quick look at the LED display above them showed they were not on the twentieth floor, but on the seventeenth. They didn’t step out of the metal box, not daring to brave the dark corridor in front of them.

    Twilight’s grip got a little tighter around her shotgun as she lowered it, raising her left hand to open her hacking interface. A disk of purple symbols and neon images formed around her hand as she tried to manipulate the building’s security system again… It took about a second for her to get slapped with a negative warning so hard she actually reeled in pain from the red klaxons as they replaced the usual purple glow around her hand.

    “It’s a trap.”

    “Oh, really? I thought it was just an electrical failure, darling.” Jewel snarked as she stepped out of the elevator. “Come on, get out of that box before it falls.”

    “It has analog safety locks.” Twilight said as she stepped out of the elevator anyways, bringing her shotgun up again. “But yeah, I guess they figured out I was snooping around. Couldn’t shunt me out, so they set a trap.”

    “And we walked right into it.” Jewel huffed, leading the way with her gun at the ready, her visor making the lack of lights on the corridor completely irrelevant.

    “Can we blame Rhona for being too reckless and forcing us to act without fully considering the consequences?” Twilight followed behind the white armored diva, shotgun at the ready too.

    “No. But let’s do that anyways. If we get out of this alive, that is.”

    Twilight had the building schematics showing at the corner of her visor, serving as a map for them as they moved in the dark, covering each other. The silence was so strong they could hear their own sensors pinging out, and the occasional tap of their heels on the metal floor.

    “It’s too quiet…”

    A burst of gunfire shredded the wall next to them, the gunshots coming from inside the wall as a pair of heavy machineguns opened up in a perfect crossfire. If their warmor were a bit bigger, a bit slower, the two girls would have been cut down. But their lighter suits moved fast enough to dive back into cover as the corridor around them erupted in a violent storm of bullets and shrapnel.

    “You had to jinx it, Twilight!”

    Jewel called over the roar of gunfire as they huddled down, trying to keep a low profile. They could hear the whine of the heavy guns coming off the next two rooms, and the only thing keeping them safe was the corridor being too dark to allow the shooters to see them well. It was still a dire situation, with the two women pinned down by the heavy gunfire raining down on them.

    “Flashbangs!”

    Twilight called out as she tossed a grenade over her shoulder, not caring much for aiming it. Jewel echoed the movement, sending a second grenade over towards the shooters to ensure they’d be caught in the blast. There was a pair of muffled explosions behind the two of them before they spun around, breaking cover to rush their shooters before they recovered.

    The corridor had been tight once, but it had been shredded open wide by the two guns, their heavy power tearing down the walls and chewing up the supports and office cubicles. It looked like a large room peppered with waist high, half molten walls now. At opposite corners of the now open room stood two Reaction Zonds, the four legged drones cycling their guns as they tried to reset their sensors after the flash grenades.

    Twilight rushed the one on the right. She leapt over the wreckage of a wall and ran on top of several office tables, jumping from one to the next before leaping on top of the Zond and crouching down onto it. She touched her hand to the smooth, domed chassis, next to where the processor should be.

    “Go to sleep.” Twilight’s hand shone bright purple, slivers of light sinking into the smooth dome before the drone went still, its guns slowing down and its body slumping as if dead.

    Jewel raised herself up and thumbed the E/M launcher of her combi-rifle on. She aimed calmly, letting her suit align her hands with the iron sights on her gun before squeezing the trigger with all the calmness of the world. There was a little ‘fhwump’ out of her gun, and the drone went dead on its tracks.

    “I didn’t jinx it!” Twilight finally said as she got down off the drone. “These things must have been set to react to sound”

    “So? You’re saying you talking triggered the ambush. That is the meaning of jinxing.”

    The dark skinned hacker rolled her eyes before nodding at the emergency staircase.

    “Come on. This way. We need to get to the twentieth floor before Legion escapes.”

    They rushed upstairs, Twilight leading the way with her shotgun pressed to her chest and her suit’s sensors at full power. No more ambushes now, it was clear they were on the right track, and their prey was trying their best to keep the Main Six from finding them. However, Twilight couldn’t shake the feeling it was still too easy.

    The whole building was dark now, and Twilight led the way to make full use of her shotgun in the enclosed spaces. She set it to roomclearer rounds, the wide blasts perfect to shred anything that decided to come against the purple armored Riot in the dark.

    She kicked the door to the Twentieth Floor open and strode into the main corridor, a ping on her HUD telling her Jewel was behind her and she didn’t need to worry about her back. The two women advanced fast, moving with practiced cadence as Twilight came up to the room 2017 door and pressed her side to it.

    Jewel flanked the door too, pulling a small breaching charge from her thigh compartment and planting the disc sized explosive on the door. They had done this so many times before, they didn’t have to talk. Both women knew to wait the three seconds to let the charge arm up, and they waited in silence, their suits’ lights dimming down in the dark.

    Three seconds. Three clicks of the small breaching charge before it blew up the door, ripping a hole the size of a football on it. Twilight kicked it open and rushed in, suit powering up again to glow bright neon purple. Jewel rushed in after her, adding her own neon blue glow to the dark room.

    It felt so familiar, the dark room with many monitors, bathed in green light and echoing with the sound of a dozen processors running at full power. It was like they were standing inside a much larger version of Twilight’s own room back home. It even felt as empty, as their suits’ sensors picked no signatures, no living beings inside the room.

    “Well… This looks like the place.” Jewel said when her suit confirmed they were alone.

    “They must have left several automatic protocols running from here as a decoy.” Twilight said out loud, putting one hand to the nearest terminal as she tried to connect with it “If Pinkie hadn’t thought of going to-”

    Something clicked to her side, and Twilight threw herself back to barely dodge the burst of a combi-rifle that had been less than a metre away from her. Thermo Optical camouflage could fool most sensors unless they were actively searching for it, and Jewel had been lulled into overconfidence by the idea Pinkie had already found this ‘Legion’.

    Well, now the diva felt silly. She saw the blur of a camouflaged person move about in the dimly lit room and instantly figured out what was going on, now it was a matter of flushing out that camouflage.

    “Cover me, Twi! I’m gonna mark him!”

    Twilight nodded as she tumbled across the floor, raising her gun to fire back at the source of the shots. Not even with her visor’s heat sensors she could see through the highly advanced PanOceanian camouflage tech, and so she trusted her eyes, firing at what she hoped was not just a bundle of cables shaped like a person.

    There were many ways to fight a ghost, but Jewel preferred the technological one. She ducked under a computer monitor and opened up her comlog, groaning when she heard the rattle of gunfire behind her. Faster, she had to be faster. It was a simple matter of echolocation, her suit sending out several subsonic pings that reflected off the walls around her, bouncing over every surface in the room.

    All those signals came back to Jewel’s suit and she just had to collate them together, then use all the information to build a VR map of the room, then transmit that to Twilight’s visor… It took less than twenty seconds to do that.

    Twenty seconds felt like an eternity as Twilight weaved and dodged the blasts sent her way. She felt a bullet graze her shoulder plate and the high impact sent her tumbling again, rolling on her side against the cables on the floor. She could hear the steps of her shooter, but all she could see was a barely there blur…

    And then, like magic, the blur became a person, or at least the shape of a person. Twilight’s visor projected on her eyes, showing the feminine shape of the Hexaedron operative in front of her.

    “Now I see you, bitch.”

    The purple hacker raised her shotgun one handed and squeezed the trigger, her arm bucking with the force, but the searing blast took out one of the Hexa’s legs, shearing her shin in half and practically obliterating her left foot. The woman, Legion, could this be her? She was soon laying on the ground, wheezing and drifting into unconsciousness from the bloodloss.

    Twilight scrambled to her feet, crawling over to grab the woman’s face. Jewel came over too, still pointing with her rifle as if the Hexa could somehow shrug off having a limb blown off.

    “Fuck. She’s going into shock. I’m going to try and-”

    “No.” The camouflage turned off and Twilight saw herself face to face with a pale skinned, green haired and green eyed woman. “You’re not gonna take my Cube, you Nomad whore.”

    Legion spat at her face, but the blood stopped on Twilight’s visor, leaving a red blotch over it as the former Hexaedron operative held one of Twilight’s hands, keeping the hacker from touching the cube port behind Legion’s jaw.

    “You’re already dead.” Twilight answered “You can’t stop me.” Her tone was grim, even a little sad, as the young woman realized just how many laws and ethical beliefs she was about to break, again.

    Legion, the pathetic, pale, malnourished thing under Twilight’s grip, smirked and showed her bloody teeth, playfully raising her other hand even as it shook from the pain and blood loss. She pointed at the door behind the two Riots.

    “I’m just the distraction, you dumb bitch.”

    There were people at the door. People wearing office clothes and looking pale and emaciated, people with black, empty eyes that looked like the void of space…

    The creation of the Cube had been one of Humanity’s greatest advancement, the ability to interface human brain with machine to create a seamless connection. But the best and most common use of the Cube was as a storage unit for a person’s memories and personality, thus allowing those memories to be accessed and downloaded into a new body later. It was the closest to immortality one person could get, and technological advancements meant nearly every human in the Human Sphere had one implanted.

    Then the Combined Army had appeared and some of its agents employed the Sepsitor. The Sepsitor was a piece of Voodootech that corrupted a person’s Cube, overloading their brains and overriding all functions to transform the person into a secondary host for the Sepsitor’s mind. It turned human beings into husks, empty and enthralled to some bizarre alien AI from the depths of space.

    Twilight saw the eyes before her and realized those people were lost. They were all under the command of a single entity, and as she turned look down at the woman beneath her, she saw green eyes slowly turn into black voids too.

    “My name is Legion… For we… Are… Many.”

    Jewel raised her rifle, swallowing her breath as she looked at the people arrayed at the door. There were Thirty floors on the Nakatomi building, and each one had Eight offices in it… At best there would be a couple thousand people in the building, there should be a couple thousand people. If only a third of those had been sepsitorized, if only a fourth… The Diva suddenly felt a deep sense of dread as those people began shambling in.

    Twilight stood up, dropping the dying body and forgetting the cube. No way she’d let a- Oh, sweet Mary mother of God. Legion had been connected to the Social Energy! There was no knowing how deep her tendrils could be!

    The dark skinned woman looked at the dead eyed people in front of the door, but Jewel was the one who broke the silence:

    “Why aren’t they attacking? They’re just standing there.”

    “There’s no EI Aspect to command them.” Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “They’re stuck. That… That thing back there… She was the control node… I think.”

    The people at the door suddenly lurched forward, coming at the two women in erratic, jerking movements as if they had forgotten how to walk. Their hindbrains were the only thing working now, the most basic impulses left as their human minds had been utterly burned out. One of them stumbled on a computer table and fell face first on the floor, a sickening crack meaning he had broken his neck.

    The next one was slightly less unresponsive in her movements, and she lunged at Jewel, trying to grab at the diva and pull her down. Jewel swung a fist at the woman’s temple and knocked her down with a single punch, her enhanced strength making short work of the shambling husk of a person.

    “Just like Alfundaq again…” She sucked the air in through her teeth “They’re going feral.”

    She sounded calm, but Twilight could feel the diva’s voice breaking as she pulled her gun up, pointing at what should have been just a group of Bakunin citizens as they slowly but surely advanced towards the two of them.

    “How many outside?”

    Twilight asked as she turned to the computer behind her, trying to regain control of the building. But more importantly, she had to purge everything Legion had done in the Social Energy, to erase any traces of the Combined Army influence. It was easier said than done.

    “I don’t know. My sensor’s picking a couple hundred, but that’s just this floor.”

    Twilight had her back to the diva when she answered. The hacker couldn’t see it, but the burst she heard followed by a loud, damp thud meant Jewel had decided to put those people out of their misery. The loud sound was bound to agitate the husks. Soon they’d break out into a frenzy.

    “Can we break through?”

    “That depends. Do you have a tank in your pocket?”

    Jewel’s snark was cold, but her attempt at humor was just to mask the growing dread in her voice as she fired off another burst. Her sensor was turned off, as she didn’t need it to tell the passage in front of them was blocked. She knew what Twilight was doing, she knew the importance of minimizing the damage that creature had made to the Social Energy…

    Jewel just didn’t know if she was willing to give her life for that.

    “Twi! They’re starting to rush!”

    The diva called out as a larger man wearing a janitor’s uniform came through the door threshold, running at her before being stopped by a quick burst of rifle fire. At least the small door made for a natural bottleneck. But ammunition was a problem.

    Twilight managed to get in contact with Spike and set up an automated sweep routine, trying to find and isolate any traces of Legion’s corrupted AI in the Social Energy. She also sent the information and the code for her sweeps to Celeste’s office. It would be almost impossible to completely ensure the net was clean of external influence, but at least they’d be able to contain it. Or so she hoped.

    “Well… I have an idea.”

    Twilight said as she closed the window, finally looking at where her friend had been holding the feral people at bay with short, controlled bursts. They weren’t coming en masse yet, probably because Legion hadn’t had time to get as many of them as she wanted up to the Twentieth floor. There was the distinct possibility of the whole building being infested with husks, though.

    “Well, darling, I am all ears.” Jewel snarked back, while unleashing another burst. The diva was quick to reload, sliding one empty clip off and slotting a new one into her rifle in a short, efficient move. “What I am not is made of ammo.”

    “Think we can get to the elevator shaft? We could climb down from there.”

    “You want to break through? That’s impossible! They’ll overrun us the moment we step out! They’ll overrun us if we stay here too, for that matter.”

    Twilight allowed herself to grin as she raised a hand, opening her fingers up to bring up her hacking interface. The purple circle around her hand swirled and swirled, clicking into place like a virtual, projected clock.

    “O woman of little faith.”

    The hacker smiled, fighting her shakes back as she commanded something to scuttle up the stairs, slow and ponderous. It was followed by the sound of cycling ammo belts and the very characteristic powering up of actuators.

    Then the corridor erupted in heavy machinegun fire. Twilight directed the Reaktion Zond with one hand, guiding it to cut down the husks and attract their attention. With her other hand, the young woman crossed herself and asked Saint Mary for forgiveness as she consigned so many innocent people to oblivion.

    “Oh. I really didn’t see that coming.”

    Jewel didn’t admit it, but she was dumbstruck for half a second as the zond drew out the husks, its loud, flashing gun causing so much noise the smaller women were completely ignored in favor of the buzzing heavy machinegun.

    The lull in the attack was enough to allow the two women to dash down the corridor towards the elevator. They reached it just as the husks got to the drone and overwhelmed it, tearing the machine apart even as it continued to fire into the horde.

    It took both of them to pry open the elevator doors, their suits’ enhanced strength allowing them to overpower the safety locks. Once open, the doors only revealed the deep, seemingly endless black shaft of the elevator, but it was either braving the darkness or fighting the horde, and Jewel had done her fair share of shooting for a day.

    The diva leapt at the elevator steel cables, wrapping herself around them and starting to climb down as if it was a rope in high school. Twilight followed suit, taking a moment to bid the hapless drone goodbye and thank it for saving her bacon before she too began descending.

    It would be long, dark and tiresome, but at least now they were safe. Twilight only hoped the same could be said of the rest of the ship.
    ________________________________________________________________

    Scooter heard gunshots coming from outside and perked up, somehow grinning despite her mouth being taped shut. She could hear the very characteristic popping sound of a Vulkanja made MULTI-Rifle being fired in full auto mode.

    Her guards had the same reaction, the two men turning and going for cover at each side of the only door to their room, each of them holding a compact rifle on their hands. They looked ready for action, their dark glasses streaming with information as they waited for the door to be breached.

    Then an armored, orange fist burst out of the wall next to one of them, grabbing the man by the neck before pulling him through the wall, his screams muffled as more shots were heard.

    Scooter was vibrating as she watched it all happen in front of her. The door swung open and the final guard brought his gun up to shoot at the head of the invader. However, a cyan armored body fell in through the door, and the guard barely had time to look down and see the rainbow haired woman pointing her gun at him before his chest was riddled with high powered bullets.

    Butterfly rushed into the room, going straight for the tied down girl in the center of it. She quickly untied and pulled off the tape from Scooter’s mouth, allowing the little girl to squeal so loudly one would think she had been in a roller coaster.

    “Rhona! I knew you’d come!” Scooter tried to get up, but Butterfly held her down while checking her for any kind of damage.

    “Hey squirt!” RD stowed her rifle on her back as she approached her sister, leaving Jack as a guard at the now broken down door. “You okay? They didn’t hurt you, right?”

    As her sister ruffled her hair, Scooter finally had enough strength in her arms to jump up and hug the armored Riot Grrl. Hugging armor plate was nowhere near as good as hugging a real person, but at the moment it felt perfect.

    “I’m fine. I’m fine. Glad to see you. I promise I wasn’t skipping classes! These guys got me right as I left the Van Dorp!”

    The punk looked at the doctor, who nodded to confirm the teenager was fine. RD finally released a breath she had been holding all day, her body relaxing and unleashing all the tension that had built up. Everything hurt, from her neck, to her feet, to the very broken bones on her hand… And still it felt so good! No amount of pain could keep her from running her throbbing fingers along her sister’s hair.

    “It’s okay, squirt. I know.” She smiled, then put a hand across Scooter’s shoulders “Let’s get you back home, Scoots.”

    As the three of them left, Rhona reached for her visor and sent a message to Pinkie and Twilight. She was so glad it was all over now.
    ____________________________________________________

    Luna stomped down in front of the smirking thing in front of her. She refused to call the hybrid a woman, or even a person, as her shifting skin seemed to writhe and move as if to mock Luna’s perfectly sculptured face.

    “Where’s the girl? You better start talking before the technicians come in to ask questions, woman…”

    Legion smirked at the SWAST Lieutenant, loving how the artificial woman in front of her seemed angered by her mere presence. She could smell it in Luna’s blood: the enhancements, the changes, the minute ways she had been improved over a normal human. But more than anything, Legion could smell the rage, the anger, the boiling of the black haired woman’s blood.

    “You’re ridiculous. You’ve got nothing I can fear. Nothing to bargain with, nothing to threaten with. Haven’t felt this powerless in a while, have you, princess?”

    Luna straightened up, knowing full well not to answer the questions of a captive, but it was hard not to get angry at the green haired woman. It was hard to hold back the impulse to snap her neck with the flick of a finger.

    They were in a room, an isolated interrogation room within the Van Dorp Center. That didn’t surprise Luna in the least, as it was a place run by the Riot Grrl Corps after all. Thankfully the local security had deferred to her authority and the only other person in the room with her was the pink armored girl sulking in a corner.

    Pinkie had her arms folded and was staring at Legion with nothing but hatred in her eyes. She wanted to kill the woman, but couldn’t do so until they were sure Scooter was safe. And so far, it had been a back and forth of Luna and the former Hexa trading insults and nothing else.

    It was hard to interrogate someone who literally had nothing to lose. She wasn’t a Pan Oceanian agent anymore, so there was no Patriotism to appeal to. And it seemed she was barely human, so even the idea of prison or execution seemed trivial to the hybrid woman.

    “Oh, I have one thing.” Luna turned around. straightening herself up and putting her hands to her back “I could send you back to the Hexaedron. Would you enjoy that, ‘Legion’? Or should I call you Christina Ackerman? Hexaedron operative number TH-097?”

    The SWAST officer allowed her quarry to absorb the information, looking at the green haired woman for any reaction. There was none.

    “I know who you are. I know who you betrayed to get here. Would you enjoy being sent back? I’m pretty sure whatever the Hexaedron does to you will make the Black Labs feel like a sunny vacation.”

    Pinkie rolled her eyes. She could tell the hybrid wasn’t going to crack, it was on her stance, her shoulders, her eyes… Legion, or Christina, or whatever the fuck this woman’s name was, she was gone. It only made Pinkie feel more and more worried about Scooter, about her sister…

    The pink armored girl giggled to herself. Scooter was RD’s sister, but by this point she was pretty much everyone’s mascot. No, that was not right. Scooter was family. She was Pinkie’s sister as much as she was RD’s…

    RAINBOWTRASH: I got her!

    Pinkie nearly leapt from her chair as the message popped up at the corner of her visor. She felt her heart jump to her mouth and she wanted to scream so loud! But she kept her cool, standing up and reaching for the holster on her thigh.

    “Hey, Legion? Christina? Alien bitch?”

    Pinkie’s perky, high pitched voice cut the air like a knife as both the other women in the room stopped talking to look at her. There was a sense of bewilderment to them, as they had been so immersed in their fruitless discussion that they had forgotten the girl was right there in the room with them.

    “What?”

    “You just became expendable.”

    Pinkie shot the woman between the eyes. Her hand moved too fast for Luna to stop, and as the lifeless body of the hybrid woman dropped to the floor, Luna backhanded the pink armored Riot Grrl hard enough to hurt her even with the visor in the way.

    The slap hurt, but it hurt good. Yeah, she was going to get chewed out for this. Hard. Twilight was going to go crazy, and so would Celeste later. But this Legion, she had messed with Pinkie’s family. Nobody messed with Pinkie’s family.
    ____________________________________________________________

    Legion leapt up from her chair as she felt the feedback of another body dying. She had lost two bodies in a single day, more than she had lost in the last few months. It hurt so much, her leg, her head, her arms… She had to repeat to herself several times.

    “It’s not my leg. It’s not my head. It’s not my leg. It’s not my head.”

    Her voice droned on in the dark as she looked up at the ship’s control node. All of this mess, all the dead bodies she had to leave behind, they were all decoys. It was a shame she hadn’t been able to corrupt much of the Social Energy, but the few pockets she had managed to subvert would cause so much trouble for this wretched, horrible, tainted…

    She stopped herself. That was her human side thinking. Her human side, the one called Christina… Or was it Christian? Carina, maybe? Or perhaps Coran? She didn’t remember anymore. Not with all the bodies, all the minds inside her head.

    She wasn’t human anymore. She was an extension of the Evolved Intelligence. She was above human pettiness, above such silly notions of Allegiance, be it to a Flag, an Organization or a Family.

    So it didn’t matter that she had lost so many bodies. It didn’t matter that her progress had been halted. She was still alive, or at least one of her host bodies was, and she had a ship, a small freighter that she was about to launch out of Bakunin, out into the void where she could meet up with her beloved Mother…

    It didn’t matter. The pain didn’t matter, the sacrifices didn’t matter. She did not feel rage or frustration. Her work of two years for the Mother had been undone, but she was not angry. Her host bodies were dead, but she was not frustrated. She had had to organize a wild goose chase that spanned half of Bakunin just as a ruse to escape…

    She was not angry.

    It was done now. She had her escape, all she had to do was press the button to launch her ship… But her fingers hurt so much!

    “It’s not my hand. It’s not my hand”

    She repeated to herself as she finally pressed the launch button. Her ship had been programmed to follow a route deep into Human Edge, away from Bakunin, away from human interlopers… Away from all this nauseating, annoying…

    She was not angry.

    Legion, or the woman that called herself Legion, managed to wobble up to a bed and lay down on it, her body shaking to the point she more fell on the bed than laid on it. The embryo inside her would take some time to get used to this new host. Some time to establish a new prime host. It was okay. Soon she would see the Mother again.

    And all of humanity would soon understand how much better the Mother was.

    END
     
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  2. stevenart74

    stevenart74 Well-Known Member

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    Awesome stuff as always, @DaRedOne . . .

    In particular I felt excellent the descriptive parts of the "Fish Hunt" of Twilight on the Bakunin Arachne-Sphere and the alieness of the Hybride Speculo-Hexa mindset. . .

    I have to finish a lot of commissioned works and some urgent stuff for My R.P.G. Infinity Game, but be sure that the rough works that I sketched for the "Main Six" art will be finished as soon as possible in AT LEAST Basic Colours. . .

    Keep Up that Good Work !!!
     
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  3. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher

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    Danger Rose and Golem2God like this.
  4. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher

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    This is a few weeks late, but I got a new job in these weeks, so this ended up sitting on my HD until I had time to go over it again. I enjoyed writing it, and it serves as a backdrop to how my girls ended up in Kurage. Also, I will probably write a few more chapters taking place IN Kurage as well. Cheers and enjoy it, folks!

    Call to Arms

    Jack stretched her arms and legs, bending her back and relaxing to allow her spine to pop into place. Bakunin’s artificial sun was not the same as the real thing, but at least it was better than the neon lights of Beauvoir. What she missed wasn’t the light, though, it was the warmth, the feeling of her limbs being heated up by the gentle caress of sunlight, and no artificial sun could reproduce that yet.

    The Varvara Park was in the Primary Hab Dome, the monolithic superstructure that capped one of Bakunin’s twin drive-pillars. The park itself was a marvel of human engineering, with real grass, real trees and real water, all somehow cultivated and kept alive despite the metal and plastic that made up most of the Mothership. It felt fantastic for most of Bakunin’s citizens to even have a place to sit down and enjoy a sunny day, but for Jack it felt… Fake.

    She had other issues to think about than how plastic the grass felt against her legs. Mainly the fact she was really second-guessing the reason why she was at the park, and the reason was limbering up a couple yards away from her: Rhona fucking Dmitry. Jack liked RD as much as she liked any of her friends, which was a lot, but moments like this made her wonder exactly why.

    The two of them were preparing to run a hundred meters dash. They had betted something silly on it: if Jack won RD would have to wear a frilly dress every day for the next three months, but if RD won Jack would have to get an eye color change. She wanted to remember how they started the bet, but the idea eluded her. It was still a fun idea.

    RD was a well oiled machine, all lean muscle and confidence wrapped up in a tattooed body toughened by living in the streets of Vaudeville, solving problems with her fists and wits. Jack was a buffed up, well fed, somewhat naive farmgirl from a planet that didn’t have AI ghosts talking to people’s heads, or power armored punk soldiers…

    They couldn’t be more different from each other, even their personalities, with Rhona’s loud, boisterous style clashing hard with Jacqueline's oftentimes shy, silent and sullen behavior. However, their love for physicality was what made the two women friends, and Jack remembered that as they both touched their fingers to the race track, the two of them kneeling side by side to prepare for their competition.

    “You still have time to call it quits, Jack.” RD chuckled as she lowered her head, throwing her rainbow colored hair back.

    “Well, why don’tcha do it, then?” The farmgirl huffed and adjusted her long ponytail against her shoulder. She looked up at the pink haired girl standing between the two competitors, and grinned “Call it, Pinkie.”

    Pinkie loved to watch her friends compete, but wasn’t a competitive girl herself. She held an air gun on one hand, and adjusted her dress to make sure her skirt wouldn’t be buffeted by the winds on the park. Pinkie’s frilly, feminine pink dress clashed with the tomboyish shorts and tops of her two friends, marking out why she wasn’t competing with them.

    It was still fun to watch them run, and the poofy haired girl raised her gun to the air, covering her ear with the other hand. The gun made a loud ‘pop!’ when she squeezed the trigger, sending confetti and streamers to the air as both the Bakunin born punk and the Dawn born amazon broke into a powerful run.

    Jack was one hundred and eighty pounds of pure muscle, her thighs exploding with strength as she propelled herself across the track, bounding and leaping like an Ariadnan deer in the wild. Her bronzed skin quickly gained a sheen of sweat as she kept running, pushing her legs to their breaking point. Before the first second, she had already gained a good distance from her rainbow haired friend.

    That sudden explosion hurt the legs, it burned the muscles as she pushed on, running at top speed. For those precious few seconds, the mere hundred meters of their dash, everything ceased to exist. It was the track, the finishing line, and the wind on her face. Even the pain on her legs and the burn on her lungs were gone, replaced by the sudden realization she was winning it all so easily.

    Then fatigue settled in, the pain on her muscles slowing her down from breakneck speed to merely fast. It hadn’t been even six seconds. For a moment she looked to the side and saw Rhona coming, the smaller girl saving energy with shorter steps, her body lowered to suffer less wind resistance. The punk moved like like a great feline, bounding closer to her prey as Jack’s bigger body tired down.

    At the seventh second, Jack was overtaken. She watched wide eyed as her smaller friend passed by her in a blur of rainbow colors, and as much as she pushed herself, forcing her burning legs to go faster, she couldn’t keep up with the punk. All the blonde could do was chase the smaller girl, watching as the intricate wing tattoo on RD’s back moved with her running, making the illusion of beating wings as the girl pretty much flew over the race track, hitting the finish line a half second before Jack herself stepped on it.

    It was over in ten, maybe eleven seconds. So fast, yet it felt like an eternity. Jack was left panting, her shirt matted with sweat as she stopped to catch her breath. Next to her, the punk was doing the same, fanning herself as she grinned at what had been a very hard earned victory.

    “Holy fuck, that was scary.” RD chuckled between her breaths “For a moment I thought I’d never catch up.”

    “Yeah, says tha girl that moves like a fuckin’ jet.” Jack managed to pant out as an answer “Ah guess Ah lost, then? Horseapples.”

    The two of them shared a chuckle as Pinkie caught up at the finish line. She came jogging at them, her hair and the hem of her dress bobbing at an almost comical rate, their bounce matching Pinkie’s own skip on her step.

    “So, Jackie’s lost? Does that mean she’s finally coming with us to the Armored Heels?”

    As Pinkie approached, Jack groaned at her, already questioning if the idea of taking that stupid bet had been a good one. She had agreed to getting a Comlog and a Cube implanted on her a few years ago, and her neck still itched every time she remembered there was a microchip in there, recording her every memory until the day she died.

    “Yeah. Let’s go do it, then. You sure this ain’t gonna mess up mah eyes, right?”

    “Ah, relax, big girl!” RD punched her in the shoulder, hitting the USAriadnan flag the amazon had tattooed there “You’re gonna like it.”

    She had a lingering feeling that was not true, but Jack followed the two girls anyways. They only stopped so she could retrieve the hat she had left on a park bench, and it was off to Vaudeville and those cramped, artificially lit tunnels again.
    ________________________________________

    Luna sunk into her chair, groaning loudly at the pile of reports in front of her. There was no physical pile, but she could see it in her mind, almost as if her Comlog was projecting a sample of the many, many pages the SWAST officer had to fill and type down after another operation.

    “Holy Mary Mother of God, I hate paperwork.” She grumbled to no one in particular as she opened one of the files and began typing down. Same old shit: double check dates, double check witness reports, double check casualties numbers, double check arrest numbers.... It was such a bore.

    The long haired officer grunted to herself as she finished the first report, tapping her holographic screen to save the file, then open a new one. Just for curiosity, she pulled up her communications node and called up a familiar, pixie-like face.

    “Hi Puckie!”

    “Luna, ma’am” The communications officer offered a quick salute.

    “Say, are there any occurrences at the moment? Any shootouts? Hostage situations? Anything?”

    Puckie sighed and shook her head as she looked down from the screen, checking something out.

    “I’m sorry, lieutenant.” She managed a weak smile that made her elvish features curl up “Nothing that requires a super heavy suit is going on at the moment. But I can put you on the waiting queue.”

    Luna shook her head, suddenly realizing the universe was telling her to just do the damn paperwork already.

    “Nah. Thanks, Puckie.” She smiled back at the pink faced communications officer before closing the link and opening the screen to see her pile of reports again. It would be a long day.

    She had been immersed in those reports for two hours when a voice from behind her made the enhanced woman stop.

    “Bored, aren’t we?”

    Luna turned around, swivelling in her chair and drawing her oversized sidearm in the same movement. Nobody should come up behind her like that in the middle of Jurisdictional Command HQ. Soon she was face to face with an old woman, an aged, white haired lady with a dark complexion and a fancy, gold and black tattoo around and under one of her eyes.

    “Wadjet? What the fuck? I almost shot you, nana.”

    Amanda ‘Wadjet’ Amari was somewhere between a Corregidor Intruder and a Tunguska Spektr commando, a freelancer stealth specialist that worked for the Nomad Nations as a whole instead of any specific ship. She wore long robes that were tinted blue and masked the highly technological nature of her operations. Even her rifle looked older and heavier than the sleek MULTI-Snipers favored by the rest of the Nomad nations.

    “Language, dear.”

    Wadjet grinned as she sat on a table, taking a packet of cigars out of her coat pocket and pulling one out with her teeth. The older woman offered one of the cigars to the younger one, and waited until Luna had lit them up before she continued talking.

    “I wanted to talk to you, but if that’s how you say hello to your granny, I think I should have gone and bothered Eleanor instead.”

    Luna tried to fight back the blushing on her cheeks as she pushed her big gun away from her. She had to admit, doing desk job was boring, and the boredom was driving her insane. Maybe that was why she was so jumpy.

    “Sorry, nana. It’s just I’ve been on desk duty for a week and I can feel my nerves atrophy every time I type a new report.”

    “You were always the most dramatic of the two.” Wadjet chuckled while blowing smoke “However, you’re also the most active. Which is why I came to you first.”

    “I knew it wasn’t to bring cookies and a hug.” Luna smirked “What’s the issue this time? You want me to bring down another Hashashin outpost? Or is it an ALEPH one this time?”

    “Oh, it’s none of that, dear. Although now that you mention it, I should have brought cookies. You look like you haven’t been eating well.”

    The older woman suddenly pinched Luna’s cheeks, as if to check how fat they were. She squeezed once, then turned them from side to side, inspecting the SWAST Officer’s perfectly symmetrical face.

    “It looks like you aren’t getting three meals a day, Lulu. Are you forgetting to eat again?”

    “Nana!” Luna pouted as she tried to push the older woman away “I’m perfectly healthy. Just because I’m not fat like Elly doesn’t mean I’m not eating.”

    That made Wadjet laugh out loud. The older woman wasn’t very tall, standing at about 1,65m, she looked small and frail, and yet her hands were still firm and never lost their grip. She let Luna’s face go and pulled back, still chuckling.

    “Fine fine. Anyways, I’m not here for you. Well, not just for you. I want those six little troublemakers your sister has taken under her wing.”

    “The ‘Main Six’?” Luna raised an eyebrow “Fuck, Elly can barely control them. And after the whole thing with Legion, I’m not sure they’re eager to do her dirty work again.”

    There was a moment of silence as both women took a drag from their cigars again. The smoke around them was growing thick, and someone was about to get called in for a violation of the ‘no smoking indoors’ policy.

    “Yeah, well, that’s because your sister is a bitch.” Wadjet smiled “Which is why I came to you, Lulu. I need you to come with me to talk to this Twilight girl. I’m sure she’s gonna listen to you after you helped them out.”

    Luna rolled her eyes and turned to her monitor, thinking about all the paperwork she was not going to do now. She should be happy about it, but somehow she could only think about the fact she’d have to come back to it eventually.

    “Ugh. Why does everyone want me as their bouncer now? I’m not even as big as Elly is.”

    “Well, first, you like to beat up perps; second, you have that jagged scar on your face; Third, you do that thing where you insult people in their mother language.”

    “Tozz fiik, jida” Luna groaned.

    “See?” Both women chuckled “You just proved my point.”

    Luna rolled her eyes again “Fine!” she slammed her hands down on her table “What the hell is the mission anyways?”

    “Oh, you’re gonna like it.” Said the old woman as the two of them stood up, Luna closing her monitor again. “have you ever heard about ‘Novyy Cimmeria’?”
    ___________________________________________

    The ‘Tactical Armored Heel’ was not, in fact, an armor workshop, despite the misleading name. What it was was a body modification Salon, one of the best in Vaudeville too. It had a large, neon pink sign on the front door, big and shiny showing an armored boot in a rather risqué pose. It was a very in demand place, and most people had to wait for days before they could get their appointment.

    Pinkie was not most people. She waltzed up to the door and flat out knocked on it, not bothering with electronic handshakes or anything more complex than her knuckles. The door opened with the characteristic pressurized hiss of a Bakunin door, and the person behind it hugged the small, pink haired girl tightly.

    “Pinkie! My darling dearest, how are you?” The man hugging her was abnormally tall and slender, to the point he had to bend forward to hug the smaller girl “And Rhonnie too! And who’s the buff lady?”

    “What’s up, Fingers? This is Jackie, she’s here for her first eye color change.” Pinkie stepped to the side,allowing the strange man to have a closer look at the Ariadnan Amazon.

    Jack pulled back, still not quite at ease with those modified people from her new home, even though Fingers’ smile was quite honest and friendly when he first tried to hug her. Once he realized how intimidated the big girl was, though, he switched to a handshake, which was accepted much more eagerly.

    “Ah, I see now.” he nodded at the flag tattooed on Jack’s arm “You’re not from these parts, huh? Don’t sorry, sweetheart, we have the best tech, the best pigments, and I would never hurt a friend of a friend, right Pinkie? Rhonnie?”

    RD rolled her eyes at that, but nodded and pushed past the tall man, groaning and wagging her finger at him.

    “Yeah, he’s good. But enough chatter, I need my hair done up. Where’s Colors?”

    Fingers watched the punk walk past him and frowned when she didn’t accept his silent request for a hug. It was his turn to roll his eyes when RD asked about another worker of the Armored Heels.

    “Oh, she’s not working today, Rhonnie. And I’m going to remind you she’s very much in a relationship, you naughty woman.”

    “Heh” RD shrugged, making the rainbow colored wings on tattooed on her back flutter along with her shoulders “I’m not jealous.”

    The inside of the Tactical Armored Heels looked more like the Bay of a TAG control center than what Jack remembered a Salon looking like. The first room had a reception table and several pod-like beds arrayed in a circle around it, several of those pods closed down and being monitored by Salon workers.

    The tall blonde followed Fingers along with her two friends, the slender man pointing at a trio of empty beds for them and snapping his overly long fingers to call for some assistants.

    “Jamila, Fuentes, come over here you two. I want these girls given the very best!”

    He clapped his hands as the two assistants began setting up the pods, opening them and showing they were filled with some kind of amniotic fluid. The sight of that watery gooeyness made Jack flinch, but her friends seemed eager for it.

    “Jamilla, Rhonnie likes her hair loose and smooth, and be careful with the colors, don’t get them too dark but not too bright too, and-oh!” He made a flourish as he turned to look at the much smaller punk Riot “Rhonnie, dear, we have a new eye pigmentation change, it allows you to choose the iris color yourself! Would you like to try it?”

    “Yeah, that sounds cool!”

    RD nodded as she smiled at the much taller man. She was quick to climb into the pod, only stopping to blow a kiss at the assistant and pick the seven different shades for her own hair before the heavy lid closed on top of her.

    “Fuentes.” Fingers called out for an overly muscular, shirtless man that looked right out of an underwear commercial “For Pinkie, you have to take care of her curls. Keep the volume but don’t let the hair strands break, okay? And make it bright, colorful, cheerful!”

    Fingers clapped his hands again. finally turning to Jack and nodding at her while the pink haired girl climbed into her own pod.

    “Alright darling, I know you’re new to this, so would you like me to walk you through the process?”

    “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea” Jack nodded as she approached one of the pods, allowing Fingers to guide her towards a viewscreen on the side of it.

    “Look here, dear.” He pointed out as a scheme of a human face was shown to her. “It’s very simple. A quick injection of pigments and nanotech directly into the eyes, the microscopic needles cause absolutely no damage to the Irises, as you can see.”

    Indeed it seemed to be quite simple and straightforward, and Jack nodded at the images she was being shown. There were a few questions, though.

    “Does it hurt? And will Ah have to spend some time blind or somethin’?” She pointed at the screen, specifically at the image of two barely visible needles pushing into the model’s eyes.

    “Oh, no!” Fingers shook his head several times to emphasize it “It’s absolutely painless, the needles are too small and too sharp to cause any pain, and the pigmentation is made to feel natural. There is a possibility your body will reject it, but it is small, and we have medical staff ready for it. Your beautiful eyes are safe with us, darling.”

    Jack felt only a little bit more confident at those words, but she nodded and touched the viewscreen to choose a color. She was presented with a slider, and adjusted it until she had a bright, vivid shade of green. It was just a bit more bright than natural, enough that most people wouldn’t even notice it wasn’t her natural born eye color.

    “Okay. Le’s do this, Mistah Fingers.”

    Fingers chuckled and waved a hand as he opened the pod and allowed the tall blonde woman to climb in. He seemed very confident and had a natural charm about him, his perfectly made, curly hair and his bright white teeth inspired trust, and his dark complexion was quite charming to look at. In the end, Jack felt safe, even if a little nervous.

    Jack pulled off her hat and left it on a hanger next to the pod. She tested the highly nutritious amniotic fluid lining the pod bed, feeling it smush around her fingers yet not quite adhering to them. It was odd, like sitting on a bed of jell-o. Eventually she felt comfortable enough to lay back on it, and watched as the pod closed around her, turning her world into a blue tinted cocoon.

    The process took about thirty minutes, and she really didn’t feel anything except a slight discomfort when the pod locked around her eyes. She was asked to focus her vision on the image of a pretty kitten, and after a while the still image became a video of a small cat playing the piano. It was cute.

    Jack got distracted watching cats, and didn’t see the time pass by. Eventually even the metal around her face felt acceptable, and floating in that gooey warm water was quite relaxing, making the amazon forget about the world around her for a while. There was a faint thrum on the background, but she preferred to watch the kittens than think about it.

    When the pod hissed open, Jack sat up the moment she was able to, blinking to adjust her eyes to the light. Indeed there was no change, and she turned to see her friends coming out of their own pods, looking pretty much the same. RD had her hair down for a change, looking like someone had splashed her with several different buckets of paint, while Pinkie still had her huge, poofy and unruly mane.

    “And there she is!” Fingers clapped excitedly “Here, have a look!”

    He held up a mirror and she looked at it, gasping when she saw the bright green of her own eyes. Covering her mouth, Jack blinked a few more times, and even raised her hand to touch her own cheeks, as if to check if it was really herself.

    “Wow. They do look good.”

    She had a shy, but honest smile on her face, a little marveled at the technology, until she got glomped by a punk half her size. When someone saw RD, they seldom realized how the rainbow haired girl was all lean, taut muscle, but getting glomped by her made Jack feel as if she had been hit by a baseball bat.

    “OH! You really did it! Awesome!” The punk looked at the mirror, her eyes a bright shade of red “Ah, you picked green? That’s lame!”

    RD laughed as she blinked a few times, her eyes slowly going from red to orange, then becoming green until they matched Jack’s own hue. Seeing it happen made the Dawn born woman gasp again, but then she giggled at it.

    “See?” Rhona said “This is how you do it!”

    Pinkie came up from behind, slapping the back of RD’s bright haired head and adding herself to the hug, pushing her face to fit into the mirror just like the other two.

    “Shush, Rhonnie. This is Jackie’s moment, and she looks nice!” the pink haired girl smiled wide, and her contagious energy soon had all three of them smiling “Take a picture, Fingers!”

    Fingers complied. He just had to tap the mirror and it took a picture of their smiling faces, sending it to Pinkie’s comlog right away. They all seemed quite cheerful, and Jack was finding herself enjoying the new look more and more.

    “Yeah, Ah like this. I’d rather look like a real person than some ALEPH robot.” She mock punched the punk snuggling her. “Thanks fer it anyways, Rhona.”

    They picked themselves up, and RD paid for her procedure and Jack’s. Not that the blonde couldn’t do it, but it had been part of their bet after all. Pinkie paid for her own, sharing a kiss on each cheek with Fingers before they all left the place.

    Jack felt oddly happy. She still caressed her own face every now and then, but every passing moment had her more used to the idea of her new eyes. It was such a small thing, but looking around, seeing Pinkie’s pink eyes and RD’s changed to yellow, it made sense. Besides, Twilight had hers purple, Jewel had blue and Butterfly had a lighter pink, so her green eyes would still stick out. It felt more and more like she was part of the team.

    By the time they got back to Beauvoir, Jack was very happy.
    _______________________________

    Twilight closed her fingers into a fist, smiling when her suit’s artificial muscles shone bright purple at her. She raised her balled hand and then opened it, watching as her hacking interface formed around it, a circle of symbols and pre-written programs. All it took was moving a finger or flicking her wrist to activate one, and merely closing her hand again made the interface go away.

    “How does it feel?” Jewel asked from her spot sitting on a computer a couple meters away from the purple haired hacker.

    “It feels… Right.” She grinned. “All actuators are good, and the hacking interface is smooth again. I feel like I can run through a wall and still have enough juice left to brick a Father Knight.”

    Jewel chuckled, shaking her head at those words. She turned to the computer screen in front of her and began typing on it.

    “Alright, darling, I’m going to upload the latest suite of programs and we can call it a day. I want to catch Las Flores today.”

    Twilight nodded and took a step back. They were in the armor workshop built into their own house, a smaller than usual place but still fully equipped to maintain and upgrade their armored suits. Twilight stepped into what was called ‘The Wrapper’, a coffin-like apparatus that allowed them to remove or put on the suits in only a few seconds.

    The young hacker closed her eyes as many hydraulic arms came around her, grabbing pieces of her suit and pulling them off. The armor plates came out first, unhooking the vambraces, chest plate, shoulder plates, her visor… Everything came out in a series of high powered hisses as the machine arms did their job.

    Eventually she was reduced to just the glowing, enhanced artificial musculature armorweave. That was peeled open, making a rubbery sound as Twilight’s toned, dark skinned body was revealed beneath the suit. She wore simple workout clothes under the armor, stepping forward barefoot and suddenly feeling very cold.

    “Who cranked up the AC?” She called out as she raised her hand, opening her Comlog to increase the temperature.

    “I did it!” called out a voice from the living room that Twilight recognized as Butterfly’s.

    “Hey, Butterball, darling, you can’t do that when we’re doing armor maintenance!”

    Jewel called out as she stepped into the Wrapper herself, getting her own suit removed. Unlike Twilight’s practical clothing, the Diva was only on her undies under the suit, so she got hit even harder by the sudden cold. Shivering on her legs, the gorgeous, blue haired woman came out of the workshop hugging her own arms, rubbing them to keep herself warm.

    Butterfly perked up from the couch where she was watching a show about Black Labs and Chimera productions. Her pastel pink hair was smoothed down and she had a comfy sweater on, looking the extreme opposite of Jewel’s barely there clothes.

    “Oh?” She widened her eyes “Sorry, I totally forgot you don’t put on clothes under your armor” She stuck her tongue out, playfully ribbing her friend while Twilight was already adjusting the temperature.

    Jewel fumed, but before she could say something, the doorbell rang. Twilight walked over to the large sliding doors and waved them open, gasping when she saw a tall, dark haired woman flanked by a silver haired elderly lady carrying a large, ancient looking MULTI-Sniper rifle on her back.

    “Luna?”

    “No, the easter bunny.” The SWAST lieutenant chuckled “This is Wadjet, an old friend of mine. May we come in?”

    Twilight nodded and took a step back, prompting a gasp from the underwear clad diva when she realized they had visitors and she was very much not presentable. As Jewel ran upstairs to get dressed, giving the two older women a glimpse of her pale buttocks, Luna smirked and snickered at it.

    “You know, I really thought the rumors about you Riot Grrls were just rumors. You girls are not doing yourself any favors.”

    That made the elder lady with the big gun slap the taller woman’s shoulder. There was something about the way Wadjet carried herself that made Twilight instantly respect the old woman, maybe because of her posture and the air of wizened authority she projected around herself. And her voice was aged too, rough as if she had smoked too many cigars in her life.

    “You’re one to talk, missy. I know what you do when you’re not putting criminal’s faces against the pavement.”

    That made the SWAST lieutenant blush and shut up while the elderly sniper extended her hand towards Twilight. Wadjet wore white gloves, and Twilight had a hunch the reason for those gloves was hiding battle scars.

    “Nice to meet you, miss Twilight. I’m here on behalf of the Nomad Nations High Command. Can we have a seat?”

    “Oh. Sure”

    Twilight widened her eyes and pointed at their dinner table, walking over it to pull two chairs for the women. Thankfully Luna was just wearing a dress uniform, so the chairs could support her enhanced weight. If the Taskmaster had been in full powered armor, nothing in that house would have been able to support the weight of her suit

    Butterfly joined them at the table just as Wadjet was taking out her packet of cigars. The pink haired doctor grabbed the packet and yanked it out of the old woman’s hands, clutching it firmly as she stared down the elderly sniper.

    “This is a no smoking house.”

    Wadjet and Butterfly stared at each other, glaring so intensely the whole room seemed to drop to sub-arctic temperatures. The two women had a long, wordless discussion where they talked about the impolite way Butterfly had acted, they discussed how Wadjet was being a bad guest by questioning their customs, and then they came into an agreement. All of that without a single word spoken between the two women.

    “Sorry.”

    The doctor returned the cigar packet to the elderly sniper, but Wadjet just tucked it back into her coat. She waited until Jewel came back wearing a more conservative dress, and only started to speak when all women were properly sat at the table.

    “So, girls, what do you know about Novvy Cimmeria?”

    “Novyy Cimmeria...” Twilight nodded “It was taken by some of the Japanese refugees after the Uprising. We were there when they escaped the State Empire.”

    The young hacker’s pride was not lost on Wadjet as she nodded back. The wizened woman gestured with one hand, emphasizing her every word.

    “Well, it’s about to blow up. The Japanese have found some rich mining fields in what was supposed to be an abandoned settlement and now everyone wants a piece of those untapped resources. Rodina is sending forces to secure what they say is their land, Pan Oceania is claiming commercial rights, and the State Empire just wants to kill more Japanese.”

    Jewel scoffed at those words, shaking her head several times.

    “That sounds like Wotan again”

    “It’s much worse than Wotan” Wadjet shook her head as well, pointing down at the table to call the women’s attention “In Wotan we had the threat of the Combine to keep people from going at each other’s throats. This is deep in the Human Sphere, just humans being horrible to each other. People killing people for money, a tale as old as humanity.”

    There was a moment of grim silence across the table, with each woman nodding in solemn agreement. Butterfly was the first to break the silence, putting her own white gloved hands to the table as she spoke.

    “Let me guess, the Nomad Nations are going in too? That’s why you’re here, right? You aren’t looking to chat about the nature of human conflict, you want soldiers.”

    Wadjet nodded, her mouth a flat, grim line as she spoke.

    “Yes. We have already established a transmissions node, the Johnny 5, and are trying to coordinate with Haqqislamite allies and the JSA forces on the local to ensure they have backup in their fight against the Hyperpowers. However… There’s a catch.”

    “ALEPH.” Twilight spoke grimly, already figuring out what was going on.

    “She’s smart.” Wadjet nodded at Luna, who smiled back with some pride at the dark skinned elder. “Can you tell me how you figured that out, dear?”

    “It’s simple. We have a Nomad Nations broadcast station in the middle of a budding Human Sphere planet. Of course She will want to silence us before we can gain influence. I’m betting She will hit us with everything She’s got while we’re busy fighting the JSA’s fight.”

    Wadjet nodded, a sly grin growing in her lips. She was not disappointed in these ladies.

    “You’re right. And that’s where you and your power armored friends come in. I know you girls defended the Dong from both the Combine and ALEPH back at Wotan. I bet just handling ALEPH in the cold is going to be a walk in the park.”

    It was hard to suppress a chuckle at seeing an old lady call the Don Peyotte by its fabled nickname. Someone had noticed the odd shape of the Nomad Frigate and quickly nicknamed it the 'Dong Peyotte'. It had stuck amongst the rank and file, but seeing someone with connections to the high command say it in such a nonchalant way was beyond hilarious.

    After suppressing her fit of giggles, Twilight was about to say something when Butterfly raised a hand.

    “There’s one issue, though. We’re talking about Dawn. We can’t ask Jack to go back to her home planet and shoot at her own people!”

    Wadjet put a hand to her chin, pondering and wishing she had a smoke right now. She looked up, sighing as she remembered not all of those girls were Bakunin born. Jewel clearly had no love for Neoterra or Pan Oceania, but Jack could be very homesick, at least that was what their profiles had said.

    “I’m asking you guys to fight ALEPH, not the Rodina forces. We’ll do our best to ensure you don’t get deployed in any conflict involving Ariadnan troops.”

    Butterfly and Jewel both huffed. They had heard talk like that before and were not convinced. Jewel in particular was always wary of promises from authority figures.

    “I call bullshit.” She stated flatly, her high class accent only making her harsh words harsher “We all know you can’t control what’s happening in a battlefield. Specially not one with Seven different nations, each one with their own interests. If we get down there, we’ll end up shooting at Ariadnans at some moment. It’s a fact. Don’t sugar coat it.”

    Once more Wadjet found herself respecting these girls. They weren’t just reckless gunfire and half naked beauties. Although she should have seen it coming, as people had a tendency to underestimate Bakunin forces for their unorthodox tactics and eccentric looks.

    “You’re right.” Wadjet drew in a long breath that quickly turned into a sigh ‘We still need you. All of you.” She looked around the table, pointing out that only half of the group was present. “I see you’re missing some members, so I’ll let you girls think about it. You have Luna’s number, so you can call her when you make up your mind. The Nomad Nations need you, ladies.”

    Wadjet stood up, finally taking her cigar packet out of her pocket again and starting to light one of the aromatic cheroots from it as she made her way out of the house, only stopping to bow politely at the three women before leaving. The elderly woman left without further words, but Luna waited for a moment before she spoke.

    “I’m going. I promise I’ll be there with you girls if you decide to touch down. It’s not much, but I’ll do anything I can to help.”

    The tall Taskmaster nodded and left too, letting the three ladies talk it over amongst themselves as she left with her elderly friend.
    _________________________

    “Ah’m going.”

    “Are you sure?”

    Butterfly seemed the most worried of all of them, but all eyes were on Jack as she sat on the table, straight and stiff as a rock. They were all sitting at the living room table, barely having time to look at Jack’s new eyes with the sudden news coming at them. There was a grim atmosphere all around, with the women speaking in lower voices and hushed tones.

    “Yes.” She nodded “Ah know y’all are worried about me, but Ah have to. Ah can’t leave mah homeworld hangin’ like this. If there’s goin’ ta be a war in there, Ah want to be in.”

    “But-” Butterfly tried to say something but was interrupted again.

    “This ain’t yer decision, Jane. Ah know yer worried about me, and Ah’m thankful fer that. But Ah’ve made up my mind. Ah’ll fight. Y’all coming with me?”

    “Hell yeah, I am.” RD nodded, standing up to wrap one arm around the amazon’s shoulder “Always at your six, big girl.”

    “I’m in too.” Pinkie said “You’ll need someone to keep you girls happy.” She giggled, standing up as well.

    “I can’t let you do this on your own.” Twilight said “And ALEPH will be there, I have to fight Her. You can leave the Observance, but the Observance doesn’t leave you.”

    There was a round of weak chuckles as Jewel rose up too.

    “Someone needs to keep your suits working. And I can only imagine the havoc all that snow and cold is going to wreak on the circuits.”

    Butterfly sighed and stood up too, sulking her shoulders.

    “We do it together, then.”

    They joined in a group hug, and Jack closed her eyes. This wasn’t what she had envisioned about going home. In fact, she had never thought about the possibility of stepping her feet in Dawn again. It hurt some places she never thought were going to hurt again, but wounds could heal, and pain could be endured.

    She had her friends with her, and felt ready for it. Defending the Johnny 5 wouldn’t be easy, but it would be done.

    END
     
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