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Previous Thread: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2927022
Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Shooting+Star
Twitter: https://twitter.com/5th_Comms

You are Maverick Hunter Lieutenant Meteor Showa, fresh from finishing your roster’s last Maverick, but you’re not feeling very roster-finish happy. Retiring your old crush Sounding Humpback has you in a mood to sulk a while longer despite the screaming pink daiquiri condensing in front of you.

The Eighth Hour rumbles with conversation and passing underground trucks. There’s some controversy on a screen; one of China’s basketball stars is being stripped of his Olympic gold medals for having hidden sophisticated cybernetic augmentation. There’s a whole other Olympics for guys like him. You try hard to care.

Alone in your booth, you finally take a sip. You haven’t gotten around to your upgrades yet. Maybe later, when you’re feeling better.

Humpback’s demise opened up the venue for Sixth to commit at once to a blockade. You weren’t in a safe state to fight your way back yourself, so you stayed put among Humpback’s wreckage and kept in contact with Atajo. A squad of top-flight Larimars made their way to you an hour and a half later, found Jacques where you left him and escorted you two out. The pirates were still shelling by the time you returned to a platform ship and ported out.

To think of the radicalized reploids and humans too attached to the community they’d made, fighting for the sake of defiance… to think of their would-be mother, one of Earth’s oldest and largest reploids, reduced to a broken hull and a stolen fragment now sitting among the relics on your shelf...

You take another sip and try to will the nanite infusion into working harder.

There you are!” Deco greets you over the sports-bar noise. “I’ve been looking all over!”

“Could’ve tried messaging,” you mutter.

“I did,” she slides into the seat opposite you, “but you set everything to datapad-only.”

“I did?” You check. You did. “Oh. Sorry.”

“Well the short version is I couldn’t send any of my guys to get an assessment ‘cause it’s still an active site, but I’m sure you did the best you could. Wanna talk about it?”

“No.”

Deco gasps a little gasp. “Oh no, it’s worse than I thought.”
>>
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>>3080376

“Ugh, sorry, it’s just,” you prop your wide face on your hands, “I didn’t go into this line of work to kill living treasures. Bad guys, sure. Maniacs, absolutely. But Humpback was… special. She made a bad choice for good reasons and just… stuck with it long enough that there was no going back.” You sigh. “And it’s all my fault that she stayed active long enough to turn.”

Your friend steals a sip of your drink. “I had one exactly like that.”

“Somehow I doubt it’s exact, Deco,” your posture sinks to the table.

“Near enough, then.” She traces the rim of the glass. “Impact Satellaika. Nice old cosmonaut, used to be a big figure in space mining. She was a consultant on Nouveau’s weapon system, so I saw her around the home lab a lot. We had fun.”

You watch a bead of condensation sprint to the bottom. “You liked her?”

“One-sidedly.” Deco affects a Russian accent, “She good dog, alvays good for talk. You vant advice? She give advice. Satellaika give advice like asteroid to head, boom.” She chuckles at herself, sliding back down to solemnity, “And then one day she fell in with the radical pro-Repliforce humans who dirty-bombed part of Lima.”

“She was protecting them too?”

“Yeeeup. They needed her, she said, ‘cause they were a hunted minority. We hadn’t spoken in years, but maybe, y’know, if I’d made the effort, reached out to her before then, never let her feel alone...” Deco steals another long sip, and in the pause you hear the unspoken hint of concern for you. She’s a good friend, for checking in like this. “I named one of my cactuses after her,” she continues. “Still carry her stock weapon, too. As a reminder. It’s all I can do for her now – remembering her well, and learning from her.”

You sit up and take your drink back before she drains it all. “To bad choices of crush,” you toast.

“As if crushes ever made sense,” she smirks and clinks an invisible glass with yours.


>Check your datapad.
>Get those upgrades.
>Let’s get out of here and do something fun.
>?
>>
Good morning and Happy December!

When I started this spinoff back in April I had an endpoint in mind. This is it, and here we are. If I've set everything out correctly with the quick pacing that I've tried to stick to (in plot if not posting frequency), this should be the last thread.

Let's go.
>>
>>3080377
>Check your datapad.
>>
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>>3080377
Hooray! Also, hello, I'm still not dead.

And man I hope suptg's scripting is updated for this new domain thing...

>Check your datapad.

Deco's probably not the only one who tried to get ahold of us.
>>
>Check your datapad.
>>
>>3080377
>Check your datapad.
oooh, an early christmas!

>>3080420
LL was on the ball, he sorted it out while channel was still in the testing phase.
>>
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>>3080439
We don't deserve that man. He's the best.
>>
>>3080439
>>3080442
Excellent. Long may the archive stand.

Writing now.
>>
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>>3080377

With your other hand you flap out your datapad.

“You ever gonna upgrade that thing?” Deco asks. “Or go full-HUD?”

“Nah, all the good consumer models are too expensive and I like having at least some of my feeds tactile.”

“Luddite.”

“Am not.”

“Fine. I’m sure you’d get a nice Lalinde model for free if you were sweet on our Requisitions officer,” she teases.

“Hush.”


MISSION
C O M P L E T E

- A-Rank Mission Parameters Complete: 35,000z
- Pirate Cell Neutralization: 5,000z
- Repliforce Cell Neutralization: 5,000z

TOTAL: 45,000z
ACCOUNT: 60,000z


It seems a bit low for what was involved, but you guess they’re being conservative because of the part you played in Humpback remaining a threat in the first place. Fair enough.

You scroll through Spazer DMs…

>DECO
Mimi! Hey! Congratulations on polishing off your roster, you’re the first one done for this period! If you don’t mind waiting up for the rest of us slackers, maybe we could do something later?

>I.MONITOR
Glad that mothballed jellyfish came in handy. No worries about breaking it, better to use than not.
So I noticed you charged some of my rebeams – ever hear of this guy named Rock Dingo? He does amazing work with a synthesizer, almost better than Drywater Euphoryptus. I’ll post some links later.

>G.CHAGOI
GOOD JOB HUNTING THAT WHALE SISTER!!!
THANK YOU SO MUCH, MAYBE NOW MY SHIP CAN REST IN PEACE …
I’M WORKING ON ANOTHER FREIGHTER NOW, I’LL NAME HER THE METEOR SHOWA JUST FOR YOU :) !!!
WE’RE ALL SO PROUD OF YOU BACK HOME, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF :)

>FLURRY
Hey you. Just got a box of bread-scented candles courtesy of your VeraZon account. Thanks, Showa. You’re all right.

>V.BATTERAM
Still three on my roster. You beat me again. Good work. Bar later?


And the news… seems to be dominated by one headline.


>HALCYON RESIGNS
Maverick Hunter Commander Halcyon has resigned his office effective immediately, at the urging of CainLabs, the WRC, and a growing number of unit commanders at bases around the world. His infamously disastrous platforming of Major Primus is rumored to have been the proverbial final straw, but his administration had been plagued by poor decisions ever since Repliforce’s secession . . .

He’s out. He’s really out.

Turtle must be dancing right about now.

Deco must have read your face well. “Halcyon, right? Leave it to the Hour to not cut into sports for it...”

“I never thought he’d do it without a gun to his head.”

“Yeah, Turtle’s on cloud nine, but Nouveau’s been sour about it. Volt’s taking it well. No idea about Skittle. Me, I’m glad he’s out.”

You keep scrolling. “Any idea who’ll replace him?”

“Nope, but I hear the Americans are pushing hard for one of theirs.”

“When don’t they?”

You two share a friendly chuckle.
>>
>>3080528

“So anyway,” Deco shifts gears, “I came here for you. First officer done with their roster means a party in their honor!”

“Since when?”

“Since right now,” she beams. “You’re gonna have a good time tonight, Meteor Showa, my treat, and you’ve got no say in the matter!”

Typical Deco. But sure, you’re down to put Humpback well out of your mind.

“Just us?”

Deco’s gaze shyly flits away. “Well, I mean, parties are more fun with more people, but gosh, if you really want…”


>Invite other friends.
>Decide later, leave and get upgrades.
>?
>>
>Invite other friends.
>>
>>3080532
>Invite other friends.
>>
>>3080532
>Decide later, leave and get upgrades.
If we're celebrating a completed roster, we gotta do it with a new and improved Showa.

....wow Deco. I mean, if you're offering.
>>
>>3080532
>Invite other friends.
>>
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>>3080528
>>3080534
>>3080538
>>3080576

You straighten up. “Y’know, you’re right. I’m gonna see if I can make it a real party. Yeah! I’ll get everyone on board!”

“Everyone?” Deco spreads her fingers to half-cover her mouth. “I mean I can afford it, but we all have such different schedules!”

“Doesn’t matter!” A sudden buzz of enthusiastic defiance suggests your drink might be taking effect; to make sure, you slam it back and spit out the crumpled little umbrella. “We’re all friends, aren’t we? If the need is great, we’ll come together like Hunters!”

Deco’s grin threatens to take her ears off. “That’s the spirit!”

At that very moment, Volt walks in and heads to the bar. You jump up and wave both arms at him.

“Volt! Volt! Over here! You want to party with us?!”

He stops short. Seems to think.

“Yes.”

“One down!” You pump your fist and slam your earcap. “Meteor Showa to Fifth Communications!”

“Yeeeou have reached the station of your favorite shortcutter,” Atajo chimes in. “What’s up? I thought you were done.”

“Not yet I’m not! Can you come down to – Deco, quick, where? Where?!”

“Anywhere you like!”

“To wherever I pick! We’re going to have some fun!”

Atajo’s comm line hisses with a wincing inward breath. “Aw, damn, not tonight, I’m on shift for another eleven hours. And I’m kind of navigating two B-ranks right now. The guys need me, one already fell in a pit and – hell, this one’s being swarmed by bats. I’m breaking contact. Later.”

“Frig.”

“No luck?” Deco asks. Volt arrives with a stemless glass of probably-wine.

“Going down the list,” you motion for Volt to sit. “Hey Flurry, think you can pull away from what you’re doing for a couple hours? I’m building a party.”

“Sorry, Lieutenant,” Flurry’s friendly gruffness fills your ear, “I’ve got a party of my own. Thompson and his girlfriend invited me to a chick flick with a friend of theirs. Maybe next time. Oh, and thanks for the candles.”

“No sweat. You’re welcome.” You drop one hand and raise the other, swapping ears with military precision. “Hey Skittle, you busy?”

This is the comm line of Their Highness Scatter Seelie. If you’re dying, try the navigators.

“Heck! Golau, hello, can you come to a party?”

This is the comm line of the dear sibling of Their Highness Scatter Seelie. Don’t you feckin’ bother them, whoever this is.
>>
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>>3080691

“Okay… Monitor, you there?”

The pleasant voice of the Hunters’ long-serving replibrain Rho intercedes with the same message everyone gets when trying to contact a busy operative.

“Iron Monitor is currently on assignment. Would you like to be alerted when he is next available?”

“No thanks. Hey, is Vitamin—is Lifesaver Bee-Twelve Veracruz available?”

“Observing.” She pauses. “No. He is currently assisting with surgery on Veracruz Sixth Unit officer Vermelha Coral. Would you like to be alerted when he is next available?”

“No, thank you.”

“Thank you for your patience.” The line cuts out. You flick your discarded drink umbrella across the table.

“No dice?” Volt seems absorbed in sampling his drink’s bouquet. Lucky him with his sharp olfactory senses.

“Not yet,” you huff. “Okay, I’m delegating authority! Deco, reel in your brother. Volt, get Rubus.”

Deco snaps a salute. Volt nods with purpose. Their subsequent chatter is lost in your own focus.

“Commander Turtle, this is Lieutenant Showa, are you available for immediate fraternization with lower ranks?”

“Sadly no, Meteor,” she lets you down reluctantly, “I’m on my way to discuss matters of succession with Sloth. But while I have you, let me just say congratulations. I’ve never seen a Hunter bounce back so far so fast from such a devastating injury. I’ll do all I can to impress that upon the base commander and recommend you for restoration of your Captain rank.”

You didn’t see that coming. “Um. Thank you, ma’am.”

“My pleasure, Meteor. We have some interesting times ahead. Do take care of yourself.”

She cuts out. You check with your impromptu mission team.

“Nouveau’s in,” Deco shakes a thumbs-up.

“Rubus is training,” Volt reports. “Says the rest of Decomms is too swamped.”

“So that’s only four so far…” you rub under your chin.


>That’s enough.
>Try Skittle again.

>Initiate Party.
>Get your upgrades first.
>>
That’s immediate connections. What about extended connections? Family, prior teams, orher circles?
>>
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>>3080695
>Try Skittle again.
>Get your upgrades first.

You're not getting away that easy, you maudlin, morbid, ambiguously-gendered bastard.

Also, as for upgrades, my thinking's twofold:
1: We are almost definitely going to get ahold of them, and
2: Last time we put off upgrades Stuff Happened, let's apply a healthy dose of preventative paranoia.
>>
>>3080717
You could try for more, of course, but the implicit meaning of "everyone" was "closest-proximity friends." Knowing what she knows, she was going down the list of likeliest candidates for attendance. The wider her net, the less likely she'll catch someone... but with voter support, we'll see!
>>
>>3080695
>Try Skittle again.
>Get your upgrades first.
>>
>>3080695
>Try Skittle again.
>Get your upgrades first.

Yeah, we can probably do both at once.

>>3080383
I'm definitely going to miss this quest, thanks for getting this far.
>>
>>3080695
>Try Skittle again.
>Get your upgrades first.
Say you need upgrades form them specifically. Imply that you want to use Humpback's VWES for a melee weapon. Imply that you want to call the melee weapon the Sounding Rod. That'll get their attention.
>>
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>>3081074
I am equal parts dismayed and pleased that you've gleaned such a full understanding of Skittle's character.
>>
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>>3080695
>>3080733
>>3080819
>>3081040
>>3081074

“… But Skittle would never forgive me if I left them out.” You slap the table and scoot out. “I’ll get them moving in person and knock out a little upgrading while I’m there. Fellow lieutenants,” you straighten up like a general, “we will reconvene in sixty minutes at the Depth Charge.”

Deco mock-gasps. “Enemy territory, Commander?”

“Fortify yourself, Lieutenant! We’ve dealt with the likes of them before! But this time we won’t stop at karaoke!”

“Risk assessment?” Volt replies straight-faced, not missing a beat.

“Heavy! Break for preparations and return ready for action!”

“Understood. Glad to finally join you on the front lines,” he allows himself a smirk.

Flanked by your friends, you strike what you’re sure is a killer pose as you point to the door.

“Veracruz Fourth Celebratory Unit, move out!

----

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skEiMCA35iE

The upgrade lab has come a long way in a short time. With walls demolished and equipment moved in, what was once a miniature jail of tight quarantine cells is now bright and breezy like a past-century medical ward. There’s space to grow, and complicated surgical arms on the two existing slabs suggest Skittle’s just getting started.

You stride right in. Golau sweeps the floor, looking a little downtrodden. Their antennae droop like sad dog ears, putting a damper on your buzzy happiness.

“What’s up, Your Grace?” You gently broach.

They sigh between sweeps. “Just tidying. Skittle’s returning from some work they can’t tell me about.”

“I’d think either of those would make you happier than you look right now.”

They prop the broom – who even uses a broom anymore? – against a door frame.

“This is it, is it?”

“What is?”

“The park, my park, is going to re-open next week, I’m told, so my little vacation’s almost up. And then with you done with your roster, you won’t be needing us anymore, will you? With how busy everyone is around here, this might be the last we see of each other…”

You laugh, sympathetically. The font of good cheer just needs some cheering up.

“Aww, Golau, just because a Hunter’s done with her list of Mavericks doesn’t mean she’s forbidden from visiting the medics!”

“It doesn’t?” They perk a little.

“Oh, gosh, of course not. There’s no way I’d stop coming to bask in your sunshine. Besides, there’s always room for some sort of upgrade, and with the way I’ve been coming back lately I’ll still need somebody as a preferred repair technician.”

“But you’re so strong!” Golau’s eyes shine with anxious admiration. “What if you’re never smashed up again?”
>>
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>>3081131

You take the sweet little mothfairy by the hand. “Then I’ll come on my own time and visit. And as for your time here? We could always use more permanent help. I’m actually surprised Skittle hasn’t pulled strings to get you officially aboard…”

A sharp two-tone cough pierces the exchange. Skittle flits in under a personal invisible stormcloud.

“S’because I want to keep my dear sib well outta this line’a work, like.”

“Oh, Skittle,” their twin rolls their big eyes, “I can handle it!”

“Of course you can, but I’ll be damned if you do. There’s lessons you learn hunting Mavericks for a living, lessons I’d rather not have you learn.”

“Oh come now,” Golau flips their wrist, smiling, “it’s so fun here! The people are so nice and the technology is so… shiny! And I’m capable enough to help, aren’t I? I’m just like you!”

Skittle angrily zips straight up to their sibling’s face and levels an index finger between their eyes.

“No,” Skittle promises, “no you aren’t. Not yet you aren’t. And that’s a right blessing, that is.”

“But—!”

Skittle advances aggressively, leading with their finger, bully-fluttering Golau back and back right up to the wall. You try to step away, but moving would only draw attention, so you awkwardly stand there and bear witness.

“You’re not staying around long enough to let the dark slide in,” Skittle declares in the angry growling tone reserved for wit’s end, “not while I’m alive to love you you aren’t. I won’t have another me. I can’t be having with it. You’re going back with the light in your eyes and the smile on your face to live the longest and happiest life you can live or by Mother Church I will clip your wings and glue your hair and throw your toys in the sea, Golau Gwyfyn. Be told.”

You venture to cough a tiny cough.

Skittle shuts their eyes, affects a theatrical full-body sigh in and out, roughly grabs Golau by the ears and kisses their forehead.

“We’ll talk more later, you and I.” They smile at you, “Pardons, fishflake, just got a bit cross with Proteus for professional reasons. Shouldn’t’ve brought it with me. So what can we do for you? Uppies from Moby Jane?”

“Well yes, but I also wanted to invite you two to a party.”

Golau quite literally brightens, making a little inward crescendo-gasp of excitement. Skittle clamps their hand over their mouth before they explode.

“Done. Where and when?”

“I wanted to take you and a few others around the Depth Charge again to get more use out of it. But that depends on if you can work fast enough to meet the others there in under an hour…”

Golau, mouth still clamped, giddily vibrates their fists and flutter-bounces in the air.

“You wanna see how fast we work, do you? Then hop on that slab and don’t blink.”
>>
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>>3081135

UPGRADES:

VWES:

>Chorus Cannon
A wide, weaponized blast of precision-directed sonic vibration. Travels through bodies and shoves low-mass ones backward. Superficially similar to a short fat Storm Tornado. 24 shots.

>Shock Lance
A narrow, weaponized blast of precision-directed sonic vibration. Deals more damage than Chorus Cannon, but stops at the first body it contacts. 16 shots.

>Echo Shields
Applying Sounding Humpback’s DNA to your shield battery will add a shockwave effect to your life-saving invincibility every time it activates. Upon taking enough damage to flash your shields, your body will emit a two-meter blast of moderate sonic damage and kinetic force. The pushback will affect objects of a mass equal to or lesser than your body. Theoretically infinite, but practically limited to about 10 “shots” or less, given that each activation means that you’ve taken a chunk of damage.

Synergy:

Options for synergy are unavailable. Necessary enemy DNA has already been synergized with other enemy DNA to create your Frost Bombs and Spark Hand-Drill.

Pity. But hell, your kit’s already right ripper, it is. Still, take a look at what some high-class “inspiration” can get… -S

>Bolide
Adds a flame effect to Echo Shields for increased damage. 20,000z.

>Ball Lightning
Adds an electrical effect to Echo Shields for increased damage. 20,000z.

>Kiai
Explosively boosts the base damage of Echo Shields. Force and range remains the same. 20,000z.

>Reverb
Sonically boosts the force of Echo Shields, for when you absolutely positively have to shove away a melee foe of up to twice your mass. Damage and range remains the same. 20,000z.

>Shock Wave
Adds an electrical effect to Chorus Cannon or Shock Lance for an electrical stun effect. Damage remains the same. 20,000z.
>>
>>3081146
GENERAL:

>Breach Jump
Replaces the thrusters in your tail to allow for a burst of omnidirectional acceleration above water. You may double-jump. Combined with your existing Thruster Dash, you will achieve the maximum mobility currently feasible for your body type. 40,000 zenny.

>Energy Capacitor
A new part to your energy balance systems, similar to the one that made Meganeural Spectrod’s “Axis Slider” possible, allows you to store a charge in either your buster or your throat and immediately switch it to the other. Switching VWES will not eliminate charge; if switching to a weapon that can carry no charge, the charge is simply juggled from one emitter to the other. Recent increased efficiency in the Requisitions department has lowered its cost to 20,000z.

>Efficiency Draw
Hardware and software upgrades to your WEAPON system add 33% more WEAPON energy to a specific VWES entity, meaning more shots. This may be purchased multiple times, but only once per entity. 20,000z each.

>Dynamic Neural Active Scanner (DYNAS)
Chaser Girtabomb had modified and integrated a sophisticated hardware scanner to scan his foes. A similar version can be yours, affixed externally as a pair of ear-mounted eye-covering lenses. Staring at a single target for two consecutive seconds will return a highly-accurate read on their LIFE Core stability (i.e. their exact HP). A four-second stare will provide advisement on a foe’s structural and systemic weaknesses. 20,000z.

Hardpoint Devices:

Your hardpoint is currently occupied with a Saber Pack. Swapping it with a different device would be simple work. However, your sabers are carried in the Saber Pack, thereby leaving two Gear slots free. If the Saber Pack is removed, your sabers would once again need to occupy one Gear slot each.

>Denial Vulcan
Your upper-back hardpoint can mount Girtabomb’s stinger cannon, a multi-directional rapid-fire energy gun comparable to the front cannon of a ride chaser. Fires plasma lemons as fast as you like, forever, simultaneous to your other weapons, without cooldown. Cannot take a charge or fire a VWES entity. Recent increased efficiency in the Requisitions department has lowered its cost to 20,000z. (Cost-free aesthetic modification will make the gun resemble an anglerfish lure.)

>HV Rifle
Corona Sphynx’s high-velocity-ammo rifle could be yours. Stock option punctures armor with solid projectiles; recent increased efficiency in the Requisitions department has lowered its cost to 10,000z. Upgrade option allows for firing VWES entities at 33% greater damage but with 33% greater energy consumption – meaning fewer shots – for 10,000z more.

>RF Buster
Install a second buster in your hardpoint. Stock two-shot fire for 5,000z, +10,000z for three-shot or a charge capacity to four-shot.

>Charge Buster
Install a second buster in your hardpoint. Stock two-stage charge for 5,000z, +10,000z for a third stage.
>>
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>>3081151

Additional Weapons:

>Additional Saber
Purchases a new saber to upgrade as you like. The stock option, low-phase 30cm, is 5,000z; 60cm extension and hi-beam tuning are 5,000z each.

>Ceratanium Axe
The long-hafted axe of a woodsman, or perhaps a headsman, once carried by Arbor Elk. Though slower to swing than any beam saber, its damage is still equal to a low-phase blade. It can also parry other solid weapons, pierce energy-nulling defenses, and knock back foes of equal or lesser mass than you. Requires two Gear slots to carry and two hands to use. 10,000z.

>Thagomizer Pick
On the logic that “it’d be right baller, like,” Scatter Seelie has offered to craft you a short-hafted pickaxe weapon modeled after Freezer Ostenops’s spiked tail. Though slower to swing than any beam saber, its damage is still equal to a low-phase blade. It can also parry other solid weapons, pierce energy-nulling defenses, and puncture armor with great precision. Requires one Gear slot to carry and one hand to use. 5,000z.

>Repulsor Wing
A thick bracelet device projects a butterfly-shaped kinetic barrier which repels plasma ordinance and clashes against beam sabers. Its “durability,” or total damage-null capacity, is twice that of your Old Growth Arbor Wall, and will break if that limit is exceeded during a single mission. A “shield bash” technique is possible, but the light damage it would deal counts against its durability. Recent increased efficiency in the Requisitions department has lowered its cost to 10,000z; still requires one Gear slot.

Weapon Upgrades:

>Fire Element
“Inspired” by Corona Sphynx’s DNA, Scatter Seelie has offered to add high-temperature combustion to one of your melee weapons for added damage. 10,000z.

>Electric Element
“Inspired” by Arc Morpho’s DNA, Scatter Seelie has offered to electrify one of your melee weapons for added damage. 10,000z.

>Explosion Element
“Inspired” by Chaser Girtabomb’s DNA, Scatter Seelie has offered to add an explosive effect to an energy-based melee weapon for increased damage. On contact, the beam will terminate in an outward explosion, adding to the damage the hit would have caused, but it will render the beam inactive for one second thereafter. 10,000 zenny.

>High Frequency
“Inspired” by Sounding Humpback’s DNA, Scatter Seelie has offered to add a hypersonic vibration to any solid-matter melee weapon for increased damage. 10,000 zenny.

(Repulsor Wing’s damage will increase if an element is added, but it can still break. Your beam sabers are already upgraded to the maximum extent; new flavors of hurt will require new sabers.)

Available Zenny: 60,000.
>>
>>3081146
>Chorus Cannon

I feel like taking the stock option this time.

>DYNAS
>Breach Jump

Seeing weaknesses is always a pretty damn good option, and I will always be a proponent that speed and agility conquers all.
Gotta go fast
>>
Denial Vulcan and Breach Jump seem like the perfect Circle Strafe Forever combo
>>
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Breach Jump is an absolute must. With Flex 2 and our other mobility boosters, we're going to cut way-the-hell-down on getting hit while also opening a new lane of enemy denial, offensively and defensively.

Torn between taking Echo Shields with Bolide (Showa had this originally and would enjoy having it back), or Energy Capacitor.

On the flipside, if I recall, the saber pack frees up our base 2 slots, and we could fill those with a Repulsor Wing (or two!) and an Inspired element.

In fact, I think I just convinced myself.
>Echo Shields
>Breach Jump
>Repulsor Wing
Not sure whether to vote for a second one or add Explosive or High-Frequency to it to round out VWES. Consider the above my hardline Yes Definitely votes, and the below two a whichever-is-the-most-popular:
>Secondary Repulsor Wing
>High Frequency

Side note, on one or both Repulsor Wings, request they look like Skittle's and Golau's mothpatterns instead of Morpho's.
>>
>>3081146
The Echo Shields not taking a VWES slot is nice.
I still want to improve the koi's ammo, to make it seem like it's one of our primary armaments again. If we get the Breach Jump as well, that takes exactly our full savings, but if not, the Kiai and Reverb effects for the shield seem interesting.
>>
>>3081146
>Echo Shields
>Breach Jump

I really like the Denial Vulcan and Dynas, but it seems unlikely we'll get a chance at both.

So, I guess the Dynas?
>>
>>3081166
I'll change my vote towards
>Echo Shields

Still voting for
>DYNAS
>Breach Jump
>>
Hi, me again, Just going to repost the link to the VWES Bank doc, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Vi3L_8MuATO4paK4X9Wy7SemcTes8-yBBB67vLO_k98/edit?usp=sharing
The list has expanded with a few new entries, and theres a new section for featuring Combination Weapons that combine two or more DNAsnow, with a few examples.
Remember that comments and original submissions are welcomed, and encouraged, and I'll frequently curate the doc to add them as appropriate.
>>
>>3081343
Ooh, thanks. More flavors of boss weapons for Christmas!
>>
>>3081404
Is kiai just flavor text, or does it add much more damage than standard elemental?
>>
>>3081782
It adds damage, but no additional pushback or effective distance. And unless a swath of votes comes in quickly, it won't make the cut.
>>
>>3081146
>Echo Shields
I think we're juuuust tanky enough to hurt small melee things a lot, but just light enough that the knockback will only slow down big things instead of keeping them away from our counterattack.
>Kiai
With our mobility and aoe, we are turning to a very harsh attrition fighter.

>Breach Jump
you're in. No contest.

>Repulsor Wing
>Explosion Element

Damn, outta money. We could get sound pick and round out 4 elemental melee that I mentioned last thread.
>>
>>3081810
I was talking about flat numbers. Like, does Bolide make it deal 1.5x damage, while Kiai 2x damage?

no matter. Could we get a full stat sheet for the "completed" Meteor Showa at the end of this?
>>
>>3081823
Bolide would add fire-type damage specifically. Kiai takes the base sonic damage and makes it hurt more. Same boosted damage for the technique, different flavor and visual effect.

And I'll certainly have to put one together, won't I...
>>
>>3081146
>>3081847
....hmm. Fine, let's at get a THEMATIC upgrade then, just incase we don't get any more.

change >>3081812 to

>Echo Shields

>Breach Jump

>Repulsor Wing
>Explosion Element

>Thagomizer Pick
>High Frequency

We've got an all-elemental buffet here!
>>
>Echo Shields
>Breach Jump
>Repulsor Wing
>High Frequency
>>
Yes, yes, votes are delicious.

Ten more minutes and I'll call it for writing.
>>
>>3081915
Right! That'll do it. Writing now.
>>
>>
>>3081154

It’s not even a choice. You’ve never had a double-jump before, and none of the shield-type Mavericks in your career ever gave you the chance to weaponize your shields. You select Echo Shields and Breach Jump without a second thought. Thanks, Sound…

“Well won’t that make you a fiery salmon,” Skittle remarks. “A far cry from when you were just a dash-speedy tank, it is.”

Golau flutters around one of the surgical arms. “Would you like to spend anything else?”

“It’s now or never on some of ‘em,” Skittle adds, hands blurring through tool placements.

You frown a little. “I didn’t think rights to enemy data expired that quickly after a roster.”

“They don’t. But the wink-nudge ‘inspiration’ is gonna show up as a breach of regs when Mirkwood’s people do a review on the completed rosters for this three-weeker. Unless I delete the evidence that it wasn’t just me feeling a flash of genius. Which I will.”

“Are you saying the spare elemental options—”

“Constitute giving you more of a bite at the data than you’re owed, yes.”

Golau fiddles with your schematic on a private screen. They giggle, “Quite naughty, isn’t it?”

“Then why’d you charge me for them?”

Skittle enters data faster than you can read. “Cover story. Parts and labor. Something to satisfy Sheepy’s people.”

“Mirkwood, Sheepy… they do have names,” you lightly chastise.

“They haven’t earned ‘em yet. Now what’re ya buyin’?”

“Stick some explosive inspiration on a Repulsor Wing. It’ll come in great handy for getaways.”

“Right you are. Now hold still.”

Flashes and blurs of sparkle and color zip every which way as you lay back at an incline. Skittle works their magic on your LIFE core’s shield battery while Golau tinkers with ludicrous speed at a workbench. The latter fairy sings a little to themself.

Paid ag ofni, dim ond deilen, gura, gura ar y ddôr… hee hee hee hee…”

“Is that the good kind of giggle, Your Grace?” You call over.

“Oh, the very best.”

“What’s that song?”

“Lullaby, an ancient one,” Skittle clarifies from somewhere below your chin. “Don’t fear, it’s just a leaf, beating, beating on the door.

“Because this darling leaf can beat right back, you see?” Golau carries a hexagon the size of your hand over to you and begins fitting it to the back of your left arm. “Clever, aren’t I?”

“It is. I like it.”

Golau bites their lips to keep their smile at least partially restrained.

In no time at all the twins are done. Skittle closes up your lid and seals the seams.

“And that’ll do you. Step over there in the open and give the Wing a try-out. But not the Jump, you'd bash your head.”

“There ought to be a mnemonic motion entry in the limb’s root file now,” Golau encourages you.
>>
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>>3082060
You hop down. The device on your arm has some weight to it, but nothing affecting mobility. As advertised, you know right away how to use it. You imagine a Victoroid dashing for you, plant your feet and swing. A kinetic barrier shaped like – yes, moon moth wings, flares in and out for the duration of the swing. It’s about as big as you, and trails sparkles.

Golau squeals happily. Skittle merely grins.

“Good sense of aesthetic advertisement.”

“Isn’t it?!”

You make a fist and activate it in place. On closer inspection, the sparkles are holographic. “Oh thank goodness, I thought it was a glitter generator…”

Golau begs with their eyes.

“I don’t want it to be, no.”

“Aw.”

“There there,” Skittle pats them. “Now let’s wipe what data needs wiping so’s I don’t get pinned to a corkboard, yeah?”

“But the partyyyy!”

“There’s time enough. Off you go, Meteor, we’ll be there.”

----

You arrive outside the Depth Charge, the dockside bar of the 6th Marine Unit, freshly speed-buffed to make a good impression. You seem to be the second one to arrive; Nouveau waits outside, arms crossed. He seems distracted, his head and eyes tilting in little saccades suggesting a full-UI data feed.

“Lieutenant.” He blinks. “I mean, Showa.”

“Captain. I mean, Nouveau. Still working?”

“Not as such. Reading Spazer comments regarding the Hunter leadership…”

“First rule of Spazer: never read the comments.”

“I can’t help it. Wars are won and lost on intelligence, even social cold wars.”

“Something you want to talk about? We have time, unless everybody else is already inside.”

“They aren’t.” Nouveau closes his eyes and pinches his nose.

“You recall, I’m sure, when Turtle addressed us about Halcyon. Asking us to keep her honest while she fought to boot him.”

“Yeah?”

“She was mostly talking to me. I approved of Rhodes well enough, good man with a tough job, but Halcyon was exactly who the Hunters needed. Bringing Los Mortales back to the fold, investing heavily in Cyberspace, every part he played in creating Repliforce… even the parleys and dealmaking with lesser evils. It was all, fundamentally, to save lives. He did what I’d have done in his position, right up until he decided trotting out Primus was a good idea.”

You nod, letting him speak.

“I suppose…” he studies his hand, “I suppose I never allowed myself to think the Hunters could do wrong. If we aren’t the solution, if reploids hunting reploids isn’t the only way, then we’re just Mavericks with sanction. Aren’t we?”

You think about it.

Combined with choices made previously in the game, this decision will have repercussions for your future.


>Halcyon was right.
>Halcyon was wrong.

>We are still the solution.
>We mis-stepped.
>>
>>3082064
My editing side is annoyed by that line break. "You recall, I'm sure," is Nouveau still speaking, just to be absolutely clear.
>>
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>>3082064
Hm.
>Halcyon was right.
>We are still the solution.

A complete bellend. He had no good intentions, but the moves he made were sound.

And the "mavericks with sanction" line might earn him a friendly lean-over-and-flick-his-ear. Mavericks have made themselves the enemy of history in a way rarely so objective. Hunters are a solution, even if an imperfect one.
>>
>>3082064
>Halcyon was right.
>We are still the solution.
>>
>>3082064
>Halcyon was wrong
He may have been doing it for the right reasons, but he gave up to much. If we cant have trust, if the Hunters Cant be believed in completely, then we get more "political Mavericks" and we end up fighting a war with no winners.

>We are still the solution.
But luckily, theres nothing we cant come back from yet. The Hunters heart are still in the right place.
>>
>Halcyon did what was right, but only for the hunters as an organization, and not for the hunters as people.

Ultimately, neglecting that factor was his biggest failure; morale is harder to measure than firepower, but more important.
>>
Also his problem wasn't even trotting out Primus.

His problem was doing that shit on live TV. If he'd prerecorded it there wouldn't be any chance of a backfire.
>>
>>3082060
wait. They're gone? NO SOUND PICK EVER!? Sad trombone.

>>3082064
>>Halcyon was right.
>>We are still the solution.
He did a lot of good, the biggest issue was that he was a pretty smug jerk about it. Even that rich cheetah sniper park didn't harm a whole lot of people for how much budget it probably provided, and beating her before Morpho prevented all sorts of PR backlash.
>>
>>3081343
I wonder if it would be in bad taste to add VWES options based off of the MHQ/Shooting Star characters...
>>
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>>3082202
Canon lore note:

Halcyon worried that any private recording of Primus's capitulation and call to surrender would be declared a fabrication or a reprogramming. In addition he wanted to sell the hell out of the moment. He wanted to coast for the rest of his life on what a victory it was, how great his leadership was, please don't fire him for basically creating Repliforce.

X, meanwhile, felt that a stage of that magnitude would have the greatest effect for fostering peace, and he found Primus very convincing.

And who in the world would doubt a plan when both Halcyon and X were in total agreement? Certainly not anybody in a position to stop them.


>>3082363
Depends, depends... but I mean, it's all fandom, and slightly altered universes can exist. Use VWES options from this story as you'd wish.
>>
>>3082064
>Halcyon was wrong.
He had a plan and none of his decisions could be considered wrong at the time, but when your choices backfire with so much riding on them, none of that matters. It's a job that requires total perfection, all of the time, and the one guy who came close to that switched sides.

>We are still the solution.
THAT'S still on Repliforce.
>>
>>3082371
Yeah, but that's what doing a 30 second broadcast delay is for.

admittedly Primus getting up to give a speech and then the feed cutting would still be bad PR, but it wouldn't be as apocalyptically bad.

It fits as Halcyon being too arrogant to take reasonable precautions, though.
>>
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>>3081074
>>3081081
I should stop
>>
>>3082447
Never.
>>
>>3082447
"For the love of God, Scatter Seelie!"

"Yes, for the love of God."
>>
>>3082513

Also, votes called, writing now.
>>
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>>3082447
>>
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>>3082447
>Sounding Rod
Constructed from the Sounding Humpback's DNA and the remaining parts designed for high amplitude sonar output, this weapon is designed more for secondary effects rather than direct damage.

High intensity vibrations allow this weapon to repel plasma when swung like a bat. Although impractical for small arms fire, it is one of the few that can handle larger balls of plasma without shorting out.

When raised aloft, the vibration module inside the center begins projecting echoes through the tuning fork tip. No damage is dealt unless underwater, but consistent use marks targets in a very large range, transmitting location data through cover and smokescreens.

When actually striking opponents, the sonar is tuned to shorter, stronger bursts for added damage, but it is actually less effective at shaving armor than dedicated high frequency weapons.
>>
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>>3082064
>>3082110
>>3082134
>>3082177
>>3082152
>>3082335
>>3082400

You listen to the lapping water at the docks, gathering your thoughts before replying.

“Deco told me something recently. Me and Skittle both, actually. She said a choice is never more important than when we make it. And for the people we save, the ones who have the most to gain, nothing we do is ever wasted.”

Nouveau seems to be studying you. He’s definitely listening. You watch the sky and rock back on your heels.

“I don’t make a habit of talking about my politics, but… Halcyon had the right idea. Overall, I mean. He might’ve been a jerk, but he saved lives, and he wasn’t responsible for what General chose to do. Halcyon just used what power he had to save those who had the most to gain. Like any of us do, every single mission. It wasn’t wasted effort for the people still alive to criticize him.”

You look back down. Nouveau’s posture has completely changed. You’ve rarely seen him more at ease.

“That’s not a common opinion, Showa. I wouldn’t have expected it from you.”

“I know. Guess I’m just too serious sometimes.”

“Not at all. Tell me, Showa… absent Halcyon, do you think we’re doing the right thing?”

You step over and give him a knuckle-tap to the forehead, which is probably insubordination but you don’t care. “Of course we are. We’re not Mavericks, we’re the furthest thing from Mavericks. They serve themselves, full stop. They call themselves Revolutionaries, but how will their revolution end? Have you ever seen a Maverick village? A Maverick government? Can you even picture one?”

“Yes, actually. Skulls and dark spires are involved. No future for the world, that.”

“Hah! Their only future is power creep. A boot stamping on another boot, forever. That’s not us. We will never be like them. We do what we can to protect as much as we can to the best of our judgment, and if what we do is flawed, or ends up looking flawed…”

Sounding Humpback’s voice rings in your memory… “Only future generations can decide whether we are truly Maverick or not…

“… Then we adjust. We keep trying, better and better. The future generations that we make sure exist are welcome to hate us, because they’ll be free to choose.”

Nouveau examines the sky in thought. “The price of being a Hunter…”

“You dig the best ditches, they give you a bigger shovel.”

He snorts a laugh. “You sound like the fairy.”

“Heh. Maybe. All I know is, we have rules. Responsibilities. And if we hold to them, and stay what people need us to be, then in spite of everything, we are the solution.”
>>
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>>3082962

“Until we pull a Halcyon,” Nouveau smiles.

You laugh away some tension you didn’t know you carried until you dropped it. “Oh gosh that was stupid of him, wasn’t it? Hey, let’s give the freaking Repliforce Army guy the biggest stage in the world and then expect him to stick to the script.

“A dismal end to a proud career, to be sure.”

“And if I can be demoted with good cause, then he can too.”

“We’re of one mind there, Showa. Thank you.”

Deco’s cheery voice pipes up from the distance. “Mimi! Brother!”

“Looks like they’re here.”

Nouveau flips his hair. “Good. I only have an hour free at the outside.”

“Aw, really?!”

“Did you think the second-in-command of the Veracruz Fourth could drop everything for a social outing?”

You tap your fingertips together. “Maybe a little…”

“Tsk-tsk,” Deco tsks, “is he being crabby about his schedule like Scatter was on the way here?”

“Hey, princess, some of us have vital science to be done.”

“I don’t, I don’t!” Golau’s wings shed whirligig sparkle effects. Their face looks fit to burst into confetti.

You wipe away the caveats with vigorous hand-waves. “It’s no problem, no problem, we’ll just have to be efficient! Come on, Celebratory Unit, let’s make the most of tonight!”

Your party enters the Depth Charge, finding it less active than the night of the ill-fated broadcast but still deserving of its reputation as the base’s off-duty hub.

Nouveau is the first to comment. “I wouldn’t say no to some light private entertainment in a private booth.”

“Oh pishposh,” Deco play-smacks him, “we did karaoke last time! Look, the dance floor’s open.”

“Bet I could out-dance you,” Volt smiles thinly.

“Ooh, bar’s open too,” Skittle rubs their hands. “I can commandeer it, mix us something righteous.”

“With fizz?!” Golau bunches their fists to their cheeks.

“You can’t just commandeer another unit’s bar,” Nouveau grouses. “Their hex-tactics games are open, I doubt you could best me there.”

“I can best your face, Cap.”

“What does that even—”

“Mimi,” Deco interrupts, “we’re here in your honor, so why don’t you decide for us?”

With everyone’s commitments, you can only scrape one full hour together with your friends.

You will have the opportunity to visit and thoroughly enjoy two attractions before the pressures and necessities of employment force your party to split. Each, if selected, will raise approval for two of your friends. Choices made at the attraction may raise approval for anyone regardless of their taste for it. No choice will subtract approval.

Combined with choices made previously in the game, this social outing will have repercussions for your future.

Select your first destination:


>Karaoke
>Dancing
>Bar
>Game
>>
>>3082970
>Game
>>
>>3082970
>Dancing
How does a mountain goat dance? I must know.
>>
>>3082970
>Bar
Gotta get things loosened up first.
>>
>>3082970
If the tie persists, consider me switching to Game.
>>
>>3082970
>Game
>>
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>>3082970
>Bar

I'm not saying I'm blatantly favoring Skittle (I totally am), but I also propose you imagine that cute little maniac crewing a bar. Imagine the little bow tie over their armor as they proceed to alternate between whipping up gorgeous, fascinating cocktails, or pulling a Bill Murray and give everybody tequila.
>>
>Bar
>>
Mornin'. Bar it is! Post to come eventually.
>>
Twister Pegasister would be a good name for a Reploid.
>>
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>>3082970
>>3083107
>>3083553
>>3083587

“Gotta have fuel first,” you grin.

Now you’re talkin’, like,” the twins rub their hands and zip in helix formation straight over to the line of stools. And over the bar. The bartender, a female-type Standard Beret in blue, recoils more in surprise than in offense.

“Don’t mind them,” you trot up, “they’re, uh, specialist mixologists and entertainers who signed up after a Maverick destroyed their pub.”

“And it was just terrible,” Deco plays along with a gossipy hand-flap, “glass and mahogany everywhere.”

The bartender shrugs with her eyebrows as Skittle flits around the racks like a gnat. “Takes all kinds, I guess. What sort of entertainment?”

“Now you’ve gone and done it,” Skittle mutters at the edge of hearing.

Golau glows. This is their moment. “Well let, me, show, you!

Warm-color holographic sunbeams sparkle through cool-color springtime rain as the merry fairy pirouettes across the bar, projecting an interpretive-dance stage show within a radius of a couple meters. You’re not sure what the interpretation is about, if indeed it’s about anything, but it’s unrelentingly joyous and draws more than a few spectators.

“One’a their routines,” Skittle smiles like a mildly embarrassed sibling as they tip rum into a decanter and swirl it around. They’ve contrived to project a rainbow bow tie around their neck.

“Cute,” Nouveau observes at a disapproving remove like a stuffy headmaster.

“So what’ll it be, folks?” The bartender tries to regain her territory. “I’m Bluey, by the way.”

You can hear internal snickering in the look Volt gives you. You elbow him. “I’ll have—”

“No daiquiris,” Skittle interrupts, “this isn’t a kindergarten.”

“No drink-shaming,” Nouveau scolds.

“Says the guy who’s into cheap beer, like as not.”

Nouveau snootily buffs his shoulder trim. “For your information, mosquito, I was going to order rum, provided that you don’t ruin it with whatever you’re making.”

“Now that’s interesting,” Skittle’s eyes sparkle. “Ever had a Rum Martinez?”

He scoffs, seating himself and crossing his legs at the knee. “There’s not a chance in the world you could craft one correctly.”

“Oh that is a challenge, like. Bluey! Got any wood chips?”

She looks impressed that he’d even ask. “Yes, actually, under where your, uh, entertainer is dancing…”

Skittle buzzes off and clatters under the bar. Volt ignores him, raises a finger to the actual tender. “Riesling,” he orders.

“Coming right up. You, ma’am?”

“Mezcal,” Deco takes a stool between you and Nouveau.

Bluey nods your way. “And you?”


>Cream liqueur.
>Tequila.
>Rum.
>Wine.
>>
>>3083681
>Cream liqueur.

I 100% approve of this crew's taste.
>>
>>3083681
>Cream liqueur.
>>
>>3083681
>Wine
History buff probably likes Old Things
>>
>Cream liqueur.
>>
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>>3083681
>>3083687
>>3083688
>>3083702

“I’ll have a cream liqueur.” You glance down the bar. “Welsh.”

Bluey fixes the orders. Meanwhile, Skittle plays with fire. They laser-burn the wood chips in a strainer into a teapot and pour in the rum, then tip the charred chips into an infuser and fill the emptied decanter with smoke laced with the nanomachines responsible for any good buzz in reploids.

They only then notice your drink. “Holy Mother is that Merlyn?”

“Said so on the bottle,” you raise your glass to them.

Skittle laughs as light as their still-dancing sibling. “You’re all right, friendo. Now watch a master at work.”

With a tiny personal chorus of clinks and swishes chiming underneath the thrumming dance music from the floor and the chattering encouragement of Golau’s appreciative audience, Skittle finishes the mix and slides it to Nouveau. He samples it. His eyebrows go up.

“Well well.”

“That’s high praise from him,” Deco stage-whispers.

Nouveau raises the glass. “To craftsmanship!”

Your party clinks with him.

“Here here!”

“Cheers.”

“Kanpai!”

“Iechyd da!”

The conversation ebbs and flows. Nobody talks about work until Skittle mentions the time you and your first squad destroyed a major Maverick intel outpost by aiming onsite data beams into a makeshift parabolic mirror.

Whoosh it went,” Skittle acts out, “straight down the tower, boiled the cooling systems and fried Barnacle before we ever laid eyes on him. My first unmitigated success!”

“I’m still sorry about retiring the nuke guy before you could get the jury-rigged teleporter up and working,” you apologize.

“Water under the bridge, fishflake. My science wasn’t up to snuff against my luck that time. Or the other time.”

“Other time?” Volt asks, sounding like he’s dreading the answer.

Skittle takes a drink. “You don’t want to know and I don't want to shiv the mood. Suffice it to say I gave Command a proposal and they gave me a major psych eval, for some reason. Sent me to a desk at Fifteenth, then Sixteenth poached me. And here I am. Lovely place, couldn’t have landed better. I do miss the park, though.”

Golau hugs them. Skittle allows it.
>>
>>3083862

“An amusement park?” Nouveau guesses.

“Oakwood Theme Park. It’s—”

“It’s a wonderful place!” Golau announces, prancing across the bar just behind everyone scooting their drinks closer. “There’s rides and candy and parades and…”

When they’re done with the pitch a few minutes later, your friends open up about their pasts before active service. Given that Deco, Nouveau, and Volt were all commissions, however, they don’t have much to recall outside of family. The mood warms with stories about parental figures.

“My mom ran the company,” you volunteer when it’s your turn. “I was lucky. Some people don’t even meet the owner, but she took a real interest. The lead reploid designer did too, but more… y’know, distantly.”

“Mm,” Volt nods.

“Some are like that,” Deco noncommittally agrees.

“He wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. Always watched my show.”

“Wait, you had a show?” Golau’s antennae twitch.

“Not really, it was just a recurring segment,” you self-consciously backpedal. “Current events in historical context. It was meant for kids, classrooms even.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Deco leans on you, “it was a whole production!”

“They spun it off into a news series with off-the-shelf video editing and me doing all the writing. That’s not really a whole production, even if NHK did carry it…”

Volt’s heavy hand squeezes your shoulder. “Hey. You’re a celebrity for something besides hunting. That’s a fact. Be proud of it.”

You decide that he has a good point.

Select your next destination.


>Karaoke
>Dancing
>Game
>>
>>3083865
>Karaoke

With a side of more drinks. By the time we get to gaming or dancing, we should be completely hammered.
>>
>>3083865
>Karaoke
>>
>>3083865
HC makes a good point.

>Karaoke
>>
>>3083865
>>3083890
>>3083895
>>3083897

You slap the bar with a wooden thunk, a little harder than you intended.

“You’re right! And you know what else I’m proud of?!”

“Your career?” Guesses Volt.

“Your little museum?” Guesses Deco.

“No! Well yes. But no! I’m proud of all of you! We’re the best! And you know what best friends do?!”

“She’s gonna say karaoke,” Skittle smirks.

Karaoke! Bluey, send us something straight, we’re taking a booth!”

“Aye-aye,” she salutes.

You lead your party to the second room on the left down the hall past the dance floor, well aware of the small window of scheduling that lets you have everyone together. The space is cozy with six bodies in it, but you recall from the last time you were here that it had great acoustics. You approach the sound system...


>Go first.
>Invite (specify friend) to go first.

>Sing something aggressive.
>Sing something peppy.
>Sing something soothing.
>Sing something bold.

>Spend your remaining time here.
>Split it with another destination (Dancing/Game).
>>
>>3084027
>Go first.
>Something Japanese from 1973 specifically the opening theme to the original Neo Human Casshan

>Spend your remaining time here.
>>
>>3084027
>Go first
We brought them here, we might as well go first.

>Sing something aggressive.
>Sing something peppy.

>Spend your remaining time here.
>>
>>3084027
>Go first.
>Sing something peppy.
>Split with another destination (Game)

I wanna see Skittle and Nouveau have a drunken strategy-off.
>>
>>3083862
>and fried Barnacle before we ever laid eyes on him
ACKSHUALLY, Barnacle survived, and his SOS call is what got us our first look at [REDACTED]. Though I suppose we can't actually talk about that part in public.
>>
>>3084120
There's stories you can only tell to a certain degree of clearance!
>>
>>3084263
That's no excuse to lie about the fate of Barnacle. For all we know he's still out there somewhere, waiting to get revenge.
>>
>>3084280
At some point, we ought to all get together and tell CARE's story proper.

I got to flip Sigma off.
>>
>>3084354
I already storytimed us once, I think in one of the mainline MHQ threads. It was during the session where you decided to play viral expert and got glittered for your trouble.
>>
>>3084540
Indeed, I remember that one being told.
>>
>>3084540
That's hardly the end of things, though, is it?
>>
Okay, took care of things, now to finish writing.

Hope you've enjoyed the downtime...
>>
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>>3084027
>>3084065
>>3084070
>>3084104

It’s your party and you’ll sing if you want to.

“All right officers of the Fourth,” you twirl the mic, “get your language files ready, ‘cause there’s no better version of this one than the Japanese original.”

Your friends take their seats. Deco brought her mezcal in with her and keeps it at her lap. Nouveau sits forward.

“Surprised you’re into this,” Volt comments to him.

“Voices have been singing for over a hundred thousand years, Lieutenant. It’s cultural. And I’m going next.”

“With what?”

“Enya, if the machine has it…”

“Hush you two!” Skittle shushes them as the music starts up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYVw3_NCawI

Deco gasps at your opening vocalization. “Is that Hundred Bluering? I saw one of her concert videos—”

“Zip it!” Skittle hisses.

You proceed, in your native-set language.

Facing my longing, here in this place
My crazy, non-stop craving created,
I don't even know what's true and what's a lie
There's so much information
It surrounds us and corners us
Today, once again, I'm being tested
The face of the town, so full of sadness
Is buried by the crowd, by things, in the bustling town
And yet another person is swallowed up
By a crowd of people wearing the same expressions

I'll face it with all my love
Hanging on to a faint wish
I'll go, in this paradise that's dried out my heart
When you reach out to "give up" or "end it"
I want to at least shine a soft light ahead of you and keep shining

A Larimar server steps in right between verses, sets a tray by the couch and backs out with a bow. Golau moves to distribute the drinks, but Skittle slaps their hand and does it themself.

You continue, noticing Deco lip-syncing the Japanese perfectly,

When we want to warm somebody's heart
We can prepare the words
But in this world, everything is hypocritical, nothing means anything
All around me I see helplessness
I've had so many nights when I've gone to sleep wearing despair
But I told myself, even as I cried

"What I have to face and overcome
Is surely
The boundaries my heart has made because it was too scared"

At the second break between verses, you beckon to Deco. She vigorously shakes her head and holds her drink to her chest. Nouveau nudges her but she stays put. Volt rolls his neck and makes a show of preparing to stand up, and that’s what gets her out. She hands him her drink and joins you.

You share the mic. She’s good, but she laughs under the first couple of lines.
>>
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>>3084929

Yes, we all have the right to freedom and happiness
So I have to be moved
By words like "surely" and "more"

I'll face it with all my love
Hanging on to a faint reality
I'll sing, to wipe away the overwhelming confusion
I'll try to keep things consistent
In this ever more chaotic time
Before I get addicted to what I've been given
Okay, CODE CRUSH!

The applause rolls. You two take a bow, and you point the mic at Nouveau.

“Nnnnext!”

The time you spend is a treasure.

True to his plan, Nouveau fishes up Enya from the karaoke machine’s extensive archive. Skittle goes next with a rendition of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya,” sampling from a cover done by the reploid band Rock Monster five years ago. They pass off to Golau, who delivers a soulful performance of another recent cover of an old tune: a perennial favorite among reploid partiers called “I Am Not a Robot.” When Deco steps up for her solo she picks an early 21st-century song you’ve never heard, something about counting stars. Finally, Volt – stoic Volt, background-loomer Volt, wine-snob Volt – brings the house down with Dragonforce.

Now here we stand with their blood on our hands
We fought so hard, now can we understand
I'll break the seal of this curse if I possibly can
For freedom of ev-er-y man
So far away we wait for the day
For the lives all so wasted and gone
We feel the pain of a lifetime lost in a thousand days
Through the fire and the flames we carry ON!

You never knew he had it in him.

In the end, time comes to call. Your knot of friends joins you on the way back, chatting and joking and groaning in turn, each of you a castle wall to the other against the outside world. The art-style siblings take turns leaning on each other and then swatting each other away to Sibling Distance. Golau rides on Volt’s shoulders, their elbows on his flat helmet, in no risk of falling but supported by his hands just the same. Skittle flutters close to your side the whole way, conversing when called for but otherwise pleasantly quietly tippled.

You love them all.

But you think you might be in love with one of them specifically.

As your party returns to the Fourth’s big square donut and starts to split off, you’re chilled by a sense of finality. The end of a roster, the end of an evening, the end of a rare moment when all your friends are in the same place at the same time with no purpose but each other. You don’t know when you’ll ever have this moment again. You can’t let it end with just a fade.

“Hey,” you call out.

They pause.

“I, um.”

“Out with it,” Skittle prompts.

You try to say it.

Darn it, you don’t know what to say. The heck is this so hard?

You smile and fight through the awkwardness to say what matters. The only thing that does. The truth.

“You guys… are the best.”

----
>>
>>3084942
You awaken, late, recumbent in your room’s pod. A familiar tingling is what brings you back.

“Meteor Showa.”

It’s Valence Proteus. You know better than to try replying; he doesn’t use Sixteenth’s proprietary comm system to ask questions.

“We’ve made a breakthrough regarding Soul Format,” he says. “Report to your commander at once.”

The sensation lifts. A breakthrough? That can only mean one thing…

You hustle up to the Command Room. Turtle is there, looking pleased with herself. Valence Proteus is present in holo.

“Reporting,” you salute. “What’s this breakthrough?”

“The fruit of past investments,” Turtle keys something in. A satellite view of an island blinks into the main screen.

Proteus flicks his flagellum mustache. “One of our outposts has reported success in determining the origins and precise nature of Soul Format. The chief on-site DNA researcher believes that, with you as an experimental subject, he can render all reploids invulnerable to effects such as the one you suffered.”

“Wow… so where did it come from?”

“Appropriately enough,” Proteus gestures, “that very outpost.”

You squint. “I can’t say I’m familiar with it…”

Turtle brings up an interior map of the facility. “It’s called Laguz, one of the surviving islands of French Polynesia. They sold it to us under Commander Wong, and since then it’s been given over to the creatively-named Reploid Research Laboratory.”

“A Maverick occupation some years ago resulted in the Erasure phenomenon,” Proteus explains. “The site chief is convinced that Mavericks who fled ahead of the retirement force preserved enough data to recreate it in a more limited yet no less dangerous form. In order to facilitate synthesizing an effective immunity treatment, he needs you – you personally – to travel there and submit to examination.”

Makes sense. After Skittle and Proteus’s ministrations, your system is a one-off. Still, you wonder…

“Can’t he come here?”

“No,” Proteus dilates his cyclops eye’s six pupils. “The Laboratory’s hardware is essential, despite Scatter Seelie’s opinion, and it cannot be moved.”

Well that just begs the question. “What was their opinion?”

“Untenable,” his pupils narrow. “They believed they could fabricate a sufficient duplicate here if given time. That may well be true, but frankly, entrusting Scatter Seelie with the technological schematics of the DNA equipment of the Reploid Research Laboratory would constitute…” Proteus’s pupils dilate in a loading-circle pattern for the length of his very meaningful pause, “… an unacceptable risk.

“I understand.” And boy do you. “Then who exactly will I be meeting?”
>>
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>>3084958

Turtle flips a few holo-keys at her armrest control. “One of our best – a fish-type as well, coincidentally. He's an internal commission built by a true luminary in the field of reploid DNA studies.”

The face comes up. He has some interesting angles.

“This gentleman,” Turtle gestures. “Metal Shark Player.”

You’ve heard stranger names. “I’ll be glad to meet him. Straight beam-in, then?”

“Yes,” Proteus nods, “Laguz is thoroughly secure. Status scans indicate all personnel and security are in nominal condition. You won’t be in any danger.”

“Glad to hear it. I’ll head right out.”

“Lieutenant,” Proteus acknowledges before blinking out.

“Take your time once you’re there,” Turtle smiles. “Your roster is complete, after all, and lacking Halcyon, we’re in a new world. I think you’re due some time on a quiet island to celebrate.”

“Yes Ma’am,” you smile back. “Thanks for everything.”

“My pleasure, Meteor.”

You head over to the waiting teleporter. Your destination is already entered.

You leave Veracruz with nothing but hope for a pleasant check-up.

The glittering evening expanse of the South Pacific greets you.

Missiles whistle in from above.

Your teleport pad is on a jutting section of cliff facing the sun. It’s not an outdoors type of pad. It was moved.

To trap you.

The cliff face is sheer, but stairs have been carved out of it some distance ahead of you.


>Run.
>Climb.

>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.

>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
>>
>>3084975
>Climb
>Bold Approach
>Defensive Advance
>Rapid Assault

Heckin' knew it. Don't die, Showa.
>>
>>3084975
>Climb.
>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

Well SHIT. Good thing we opted for a shield-based ability.
>>
>>3084985
I'll support this.
>>
Who tries to trap a FISH on an ISLAND?

I don't think this trap was meant for us.
>>
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>>3085024
This is the Reploid Research Lavatory. We'll be flushed if we try to swim away.
>>
>>3085024
It was personally addressed to us tho.
>>
>>3084975
>Climb.
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>>
>>3084975
>>Climb.
>>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid
gotta get some use outta those upgrades
>>
>>3084975
>>3084985
>>3085009
>>3085087
>>3085259

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez33P10qco0

What a way to start your day.

The missiles are assault-craft tier, no small mechaniloid junk. Your first instinct is to leap out to the sea, but you’re not 24 hours removed from an ocean of pain and your situational awareness is still scrambling up from zero. You need to play this defensively.

You run and leap out to the cliff. And then leap again. Your tail jets flare, newly supercharged, carrying you to the rock face while the first missiles rain behind you and destroy your easy exit. You cling hard and kickjump up, struggling like a salmon.

Another wave of missiles streaks much closer to the cliff on the same vertical bearing.

>[Flex +2]

You jump up to your left and second-jump back to your right, a successful dodge of falling ordinance both times. Rock crumbles under your grip and drops your left arm as a third missile streaks down your lane. You plant your feet on the wall and double-dash-jump right for it as your new shield flares up.

>[Armor +1]

You swat the missile, the arc of your arm and the added explosive force of the kinetic barrier knocking it clear away before it explodes.

An unevenness in the rock gives you a more secure handhold and a precious second to reassess.

Okay. You’re on a cliff, on an island, being shot at. Okay.

“Meteor Showa to—”

A storm of loud crackling static claws at your ears. You shut off comms and hear more whistling, but not from above.

>[Flex +2]

You get the heck out of dodge. Identical missiles to the previous waves impact where you had hung. You turn your head; out in the water, rectangular shapes are shelling you. Metal Hawk mechaniloids? No, of course not – Metal Hawks are air platforms, Metal Rheas are ground platforms, and Metal Penguins are for sea assault.

Repliforce sea assault.

What the heck happened here?

You keep climbing. Another perpendicular barrage blows stone off the wall under you, but your double-jump keeps you well ahead of it. A fresh parallel wave suggests the pattern: two and two. No sweat. If this holds you can dodge your way straight to the top.

Tiny mechaniloids suddenly pop from the rock face and clamber down toward you, timed to the vertical barrage. You’ve seen them before. Rat drones.

>[Flex +2]

Adding quick bursts of buster fire to your jump-dodging around the missiles is an annoying wrinkle, but your defensive state of mind aims to buy the safest jumping distance you can, not the longest. You progress through the single wave of rats and double wave of Metal-series missiles.

You are one-third of the way up the cliff. You glance at the carved-in staircase; you can easily see Guardian and Death Guardian mechaniloids by their shields.


>Get over there, get solid platforms under your feet.
>Keep climbing.

>Stay the course.
>Change an Approach/Advance/Assault method.
>>
>>3085464
>>Keep climbing.

>>Change an Approach/Advance/Assault method.
>Power Assault
Rat drones? Against hinoiki? Keep climbing that waterfall, koi.
>>
>>3085464
>Rat Drones
>Metal Shark Player, the DNA salvage specialist

Oh, Is it Boss Rush time now?
>>
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>>3085599
For a given value of rush, yes.

This is the start of the endgame.
>>
>>3085599
>>3085636
Oh dear, what was the weakness chart again?

Boar ->deer-> butterfly-> racer
Ostenops->orangutan
Rat
Whale

Those are the confirmed ones, what else?
>>
>>3085882
Spitballing
>Boar ->deer-> butterfly-> racer->Ostenops->orangutan->Whale->rat

Kinda works, but i fail to see how drones are effective against the sniper unless we play a very slow game of tank and aggro
>>
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>>3085882
>>3085906

Flame burns Arbor Elk.
Wood conducts and crushes Arc Morpho.
Electricity moves faster than Chaser Girtabomb.
Sticky bombs make excellent bait traps for single-minded animals...
Fish drones nibble away at Freezer Ostenops's cryomer-filled bones.
Liquid cryomer fractures Deepwell Orangutank.
Drills pierce the thick hide of Sounding Humpback.
Soundwaves snuff the flames and damage the ears of Corona Sphynx.

And Meganeural Spectrod freezes in the cold.

There are other weaknesses you haven't yet exploited, but that would be Telling.
>>
>This is obviously the climax, so look around for a symbolic waterfall you can swim up.
>>
>>3085954
>Fish drones nibble away at Freezer Ostenops's cryomer-filled bones.
mmmm, tasty
>>
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>>3085464
>>3085494

Now’s not the time to stop climbing.

The missiles stick to the pattern: vertical, vertical, horizontal, horizontal, though never quite in the same arrays twice. You cling and jump, cling and double-jump.

“Showa to—agh!” The static volume is painful for the moment you try to contact help. Whatever operation’s running here definitely wanted to control what information left. But how in the world, you wonder, did the occupiers thwart Sixteenth Unit scans of one of their own outposts?

You come within sight of two slow Wall Cancers just as more rats sweep down and another missile wave follows them. This much junk thrown at you at once needs perfect timing…

>[Flex +2]

You switch to Arbor Wall, charge up your throat, and enter the Cancers’ range. They quickly build up their energy balls. You fire a seed to secure a perpendicular cyberwood platform several meters above you and jump right up under it. Your hands and feet skid slowly down the rock face as the balls ricochet off and the rats come to the roadblock.

Your Hinoiki breath melts through the entire plague wave, eats into the stone and ignites the wood. The missile coming for you impacts the Wall and shatters it into smoking debris plinking off your face and shoulders. Yes! You jump through the smoke, drawing your Gaia Sword and cracking the crabs – a swing through the left first, then a wall grab and double-jump past the right one, gouging a slash into the cliff on your way past.

The Gaia Sword’s convenient pommel spike also gives you better purchase on the rock. You bash it in and hang tight for a second, looking back and down to restore situational awareness on the Metal Penguins.

The bombardiers are now the least of your problems. A dragon is rising to catch you.

It’s an Eregion-model mechaniloid, an enormous anti-air melee dragon, emerald green.

You would say that a Standard Beret is riding it, but lacking a saddle, the all-too-familiar figure is simply standing on its shoulder, arms crossed.

“You’re a long way from home,” Captain Decim taunts. “I’ll roast you here and now, Fire Fish of Veracruz!

You are two-thirds of the way up the cliff, hanging in place by your saber and the grip of your free hand.

The dragon opens its mouth.

>Act.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 12/12
>Fluid Lockdown: 6/6
>Remote Koi: 12/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 16/16

>Gaia Sword: ∞
>Ice Zanbato: ∞
>>
>>3086167
he's been shocked, frozen, rooted, thermited, drilled, Koi'd....

....his weakness is sound, isn't it? And given our current loadout, the only way we're triggering it is to physically hug him.

>FROST BOMB into the dragon's mouth
see, this is why I asked for a stat sheet
>Remote Koi laser Decim himself
>Keep climbing, charging up
>Switch into a dash/fall tackle and give Decim a big fiery kiss. Save one dash for the return trip/dodge
>>
The trio's been rooted, staked, thermited, UV'd, shocked, frosted, cerataniumed, and thoroughly buster/sabered.

It could be drills, bombs, or sound, and right now my money's on bombs.


Also, while our final boss may not be Nightmare Showa, we may be up against someone using our old legs for doubledash.
>>
>Also, while our final boss may not be Nightmare Showa

Dude we're fighting a dragon. That's her.
>>
>>3086445
It's a known dragon mechaniloid though?
>>
>>3086167
Let's try the Frost Bomb, and then feed it a Hand-Drill when it's closer.

I think unhorsing him should be our priority.
>>
Good morning! Back to the workweek. Keep suggestions coming, post to come eventually.
>>
>>3086698
Just now noticed the VWES error, too. That's what I get for posting tired. Corrections:

>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 12/12
>>
(Hotspot IP range has been blocked from uploading pictures. Heck.)

>>3086167
>>3086198
>>3086669

You’re literally up against a wall, but it counts as high ground.

You yank yourself up by the embedded saber hilt and pop out a quick three-per-shot sequence of Frost Bombs with the swing of your buster arm. You airjump and grab again and start building power as the dragon’s own charge-whine reaches its peak.

>[Flex +2]

Two of your bombs stick, one to a wing and one to the unoccupied shoulder, while the third just misses the jaw. Decim glances at them before pointing up at you. The Eregion breathes a line of plasma orbs nearly as big as you. You calculate trajectories as fast as instinct. Your mobility will keep you out of danger of the first couple orbs, but simple geometry tells you that in a second you’re going to be caught out by the end of the stream.

So you fall to meet it.

>[Flex +2]

The first shots hammer the cliff, tearing out chunks of stone as you kick off above them. You trigger the Frost Bombs to splash, seizing patches of the dragon in icy hard-setting fluid. Decim’s expression alone is worth the drop. He braces his stance and flips his shoulder mortars forward, but just as you estimated, the last giant bead of the plasma necklace slams into you and sets off your shields.

Your Echo Shields boom like whalesong, catching Decim in the radius. The blast repels him like an opposing magnet. His shots go comically wide and his shields strobe to put Golau to shame. You intended to land on him, but you’ve blown him clear off his mount by the time your feet hit the dragon’s shoulder.

He snatches its tail on the way down, hanging tight. A set of giant tearing claws reaches for you.

>[Flex +2]

You dash backwards like a rocket, propelled not only by your feet but the volcanic thermite cone from your mouth. The fiery splash does grievous damage to the ice-weakened hull and ordinary grief to all around it.

You twist in the air and fire your tail boosters to slam back into the cliff. You skid and scramble, but the exchange with the dragon is over. It swoops up past you, flight systems still alive. Decim’s bellow dopplers past.

“Lateral fire! She’s almost up!”

And indeed you are. Breach Jump makes it a breeze, and no more missiles rain down.

You crest the lip of the cliff and see why. Knot Berets at six stationary turrets, arranged three and three, have their barrels pointed straight at you. A full dozen rat drones dart between them. The dragon takes Decim overhead, well out of your range, arcing toward somewhere further afield behind the turrets.


>Act.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 11/12
>Remote Koi: 12/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 16/16

>Gaia Sword: ∞
>Ice Zanbato: ∞
>>
>>3086773
Clear out the drones with the drill and advance between the turrets, then engage the Berets first on one side then the other.
>>
>>3086773
Spark drill. Spark takes care of the drones, drills take care of the turrets.

Mop whatevers left with remote koi, and jump clear over them with a hinoiki ready up front
>>
The frost bombs still leave slick ice patches we can dash over, right? Let's lay traps for the rats, detonate, then use them for faster clearance to close on the turrets on one flank. Maybe gaia stake one and lever it into firing into the others.
>>
>>3086773
>>3086785
>>3086787
>>3086854

Six turrets. Six gunners. A pack of killer rats. Behind the turrets stretches a wide paved space with a single hangar and a forest behind it.

This is a heck of a gauntlet. Time to show it who’s the A-rank.

You start charging and switch to your Sparkdrills as the barrage begins.

>[Flex +2]

You fire twice and get moving. The spreading trios of electric-linked drill bits take out four of the missiles and score lucky hits on two of the rat drones. The rest of the little buggers flow around and swarm for your ankles as you outrun the remaining incoming shots.

Staying on the ground is far more optional than it was yesterday. You quick-swap to Frost Bomb and pop-pop two clusters on your way up the highest vertical leap of your freaking life. The turrets re-adjust slightly to cover what you’ve just told them is your potential range.

The bombs land and the rats mob them like they’re cartoon cheese. You hit the trigger and exterminate the lot. By the time you hit the ground you have a patch of ice ready for you to exploit. You’re off to the races and it’s just hilarious how wide the front tier of turrets miss you.

>[Flex +2]

The back tier has better luck; one missile intercepts you, but a glittery flap of your Repulsor Wing takes the hit like a champ. Nothing reaches you but the noise. You pass into the front tier of turrets and face the unluckiest Knot Beret in the world. Your Meteor Melter hits full charge the instant you come out of the dash slide. He takes a Hinoiki practically point-blank and disappears from the waistline up.

You fire two Remote Koi into the air and Chaser Dash down the turret row. The back tier sees where you’re going and opens fire; you jump, jump again, and overleap the three missiles. It’s like flying. It is flying. You crash saber-first into the second gunner and Chaser Dash to the next as your koi harass the back tier.

The third gunner tries to engage you directly, but the sakura-trailing beam of your Gaia Sword dismisses him. You move to menace the others, but they’ve already abandoned the turret controls to try a team effort to shoot your fish. The coordinated pistol barrage does plinking damage at best, but not enough to get past the scales of the miniature Ginrin Showas.

You’re in top form. High mobility, speedy drones, an awesome kit, and hotter fire than ever. Repliforce regulars have got nothing on you, no matter what guns they hide behind.

Your lovely fish dish out much more than they get. Two Knots come untied and you solve the third by cutting straight through.
>>
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>>3087093

The hangar ahead of you rolls its entryway like a garage door. Your run slows to a cautious plod and you order your injured fish closer.

The slow rise of the steel reveals three ride armors: a Raiden, an Eagle, and a Sea Lion. You roll your neck, feeling confident.

“Maria, Maria, Maria… gonna make this three for three, are you? Well come on, I’m having fun!”

The door keeps rising. The armors are unoccupied.

“Um.”

Another dozen rat drones rain from the hangar ceiling and swarm for the cockpits. Between them and you, concrete and metal crack and burst as the late Liege Iteratton burrows up from the ground. His eyes are blank, his snarling face wooden, his posture bestial. All the signs of a resurrection…

The zenny drops. This place studies DNA. You suspect you’re now stuck on the Island of Doctor Player, and if he could fool Sixteenth, this place might have been compromised for a long, long time.


>Act.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 9/12
>Remote Koi: 10/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 14/16

>Gaia Sword: ∞
>Ice Zanbato: ∞
>>
>>3087098
Heck!

Frost bomb the nearest line of the rats between you and Iteratton, then Arbor Walls. One to unmoor and surf over the ice patch and into Iteratton, another into the cockpit to choke it out before the rats can crew it.

Once battle is joined proper, go in for the kill on Iteratton fast and hard. Ideally we pop more koi to snipe the rats out of the bowls of the armors.
>>
>>3087098
use the koi like discount frost bombs, baiting the rats to bite and exploding Hanabi while lasering the Sea Lion

More or less follow >>3087120, but leave the Eagle unharmed as we try to comandeer it: I'd really like to just hover over all of them, firing homing shots while charging up another hinoiki

follow
>>
>>3087098
>>3087120
>>3087410

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf3vfoSICo4

You know his limited tricks. He was smart enough to use poison smoke as hit-and-run cover, but now he’s just a plague rat with backup. The real concern to your mind is the ride armors. It would be great to commandeer one…

You put your strategizing on pause as Iteratton charges you. Three rat drones emerge from the chest aperture where the tails of his rat-king-aesthetic armor spiral together and cling to him like a possum. You build a Melter charge, sic your koi on the pilot rats downrange, stow your Gaia Sword and reach for your Zanbato.

Iteratton burrows into the pavement with furious gnawing and clawing. His rats remain above and make for your legs.

>[Flex +2]

You crack out a few buster rounds, but the rodents are more nimble than you remember. Your koi Hanabi themselves into the Sea Lion’s cockpit an instant before you switch back to Frost Bomb and pull another jump-and-shoot. Chaser Dash carries you farther than they can nibble and Breach Jump lifts you higher than they can leap, but you yourself are much less interesting to them than your bombs. They catch one each while you’re still in midair and you trigger them immediately. The freeze stiffens them and the splash fuses them to the ground on little quick-dry stalagmites.

You land on rumbling ground.

>[Flex +2]

You escape, your tailfin just barely ahead of Iteratton’s snapping incisors as he erupts through concrete like it were gravel. You turn and scatter-sticky him; two Bombs make contact. He ignores them in favor of scrambling on all fours again and spawning more drones.

Memories of old samurai movies beg you to do something really cool.

You half-turn away from him, right arm across your chest, hand on your Gaia Sword’s hilt over your left shoulder. He draws near.

You trigger the Frost splash and Chaser Dash to his left. The sky-blue fluid freezes his rats to him and spreads over his body as your high-speed hi-beam rakes his whole body, nose to tail. Your velocity only increases as you cross the previous splash zone, propelling you toward the hangar on your knee, arm out in a beautiful finish to an iai cut that trails holographic cherry blossom petals. In defiance of narrative convention he fails to die, but high-phase plasma into cryo-weakened hull has just ruined his day. His shields just don’t stop flashing.

You keep skidding on your knee a couple meters and pop back up into a trot. The Raiden and Eagle are in good shape and starting to move, but the Sea Lion is flame-scorched and immobile. A single rat head peeks out of the rim of either cockpit, making it look for all the world like they’re being piloted by lone mice. It would be a lot funnier if they weren’t coming for you.


>Finish the armors first.
>Finish Iteratton first.

>Destroy the armors.
>Keep one (specify) intact.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
>>
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>>3087751
>Finish Iteratton first.
>Destroy the armors.
>Power Assault.

Rattyboy is critical, and not built for direct hits. We have a few sources of them to mix it up with, too. I'd love to barf thermite right onto him as he emerges from below, but we'll see what opportunities permit.
>>
>>3087751
>>>Finish Iteratton first.
I doubt the rats can man armors properly without the controller, braindead or no.

>Keep one (specify) intact.
Eh. The Raiden. Our main concern is the bladey Maria, and some extra hp wouldn't hurt.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>>
>>3087751
>Finish Iteratton first.
Always kill the generator first.
>Keep one (specify) intact.
Fly armor, fly! Homing missiles and hover should be good ablative vs the dragon later.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
He’s weak, dont need the huge setup anymore.
>>
>>3087751
>Finish Iteratton first.
>Destroy the armors.
>Power Assault.
>>
>>3087751
>Finish Iteratton first.
>Keep the Eagle intact
>Rapid Assault

Itty bitty ratto can't take much more and the rats themselves certainly don't need to be overkilled.
>>
>>3087751
>Finish Iteratton first.
Treat the disease and the plague is gone.

>Keep one (specify) intact.
Gotta keep the Iggle.

>Power Assault.
Time to vaccinate Shark's pet.

Also, glad to see Meteor Showa return!
>>
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>>3087888
And I'm glad to have her return!

Nice amount of votes this round, and some clear favorites for courses of action. Calling it here, writing soon.
>>
>>3087751
>>3087763
>>3087765
>>3087782
>>3087787
>>3087863
>>3087888

You can think of a lot of uses for an intact ride armor, but you can take your pick of both by removing their controller from play.

You charge your buster and turn your back on the hijacked rides. Iteratton has gotten to his feet again, fists tucked into his rat-jaw gauntlets, his hunched posture spoiling for a fight. You get a running start toward the nearer slick, but he neither dashes nor spawns. The incisors and jawlines of his gauntlets fire out left and right. Thruster-propelled sets of gnashing rat teeth nibble their way to you.

>[Flex +2]

It’s a surprise, but after all your upgrades he’s still your inferior in speed. You circle wide on a coasting Chaser Dash and fire, but he already begins burrowing with fresh sets of teeth when you line up the shot. Your plasma shears off the paved surface. The projectile fangs continue in a straight line – and looking downrange, you see the Raiden and Eagle are in full motion, the former dashing much like you and the latter taking to the sky.

“New tricks,” you mutter. “Well me too.”

The Raiden matches your long-dash curve. For a moment – the moment that your buster takes to charge up – you chase each other around a circle some fifty feet wide. You break it first and shoot down the middle. The tiny-headed Raiden’s fists tuck in for a pummeling.

>[Experience]

Sparring with Volt not once but twice has told you enough about fisticuffs to dodge the opening swing and strike deep. An ordinary splat of thermite preps the hull for your buster blast and the Raiden careens away, smoking.

Up above, the Eagle fires. Three homing comets streak down as you feel the ground rumble.

>[Flex +2]

You glance down as you jump, possibly a mistake as it gives you a perfect view of Iteratton’s ravenous maw gnawing for anything it can reach. You jump again, sprouting shiny moth wings from your arm as the Eagle’s shots converge on you.

The Repulsor Wing nullifies two of them, and you have no choice but to accept the third one blast-marking your stomach, but you pay back the pain double on the gnashing Maverick with an acrobatic twist and a gravity-assisted shield-bash swing. The repulsor repels with explosive force, tumbling Iteratton across the pavement.

You land astride the hole he dug as the Raiden charges you. You spit a Melter rocket as you grab your Zanbato and pursue the resurrected Maverick without waiting for the impact.

Iteratton hisses and lunges for you, arm-jaws and face-jaws wide for a savaging.

“Chew on this!” You shout as you drive your oversized saber down his throat. Your reach outdoes his; the cryomer layer gives him his last meal and the lemon-yellow blade runs him through. New tricks or not, his body was never designed for such a mighty blow, and it starts rupturing the instant you swing the blade out of his hip.
>>
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>>3088060
You look back; the Raiden lists to one side at the end of a long dash and crashes into the hangar’s door frame. The Eagle misfires its cannon before it reaches the homing stage and only shoots the ground near you as it drops out of the sky. It lands on its feet, gracelessly crumpling to its knees and skidding its chest. Unresponsive rat drones spill out.

“Ew.”

You rush over to check on its cockpit. Minus some gnaw marks on the controls, it looks serviceable… which is good, because you hear mechanical flapping.

Decim, still dinged, returns on his much more injured dragon, flying in from the woods. It looks like he brought company from out there: two Tentoroid Black-Shells, spiky spinny ladybugs.

You doubt he’s here for pleasantries.


>Prioritize Decim.
>Prioritize the Eregion.
>Prioritize the Tentoroids.

>Board the Eagle now.
>Leave it out as bait.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 7/12
>Remote Koi: 10/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 14/16

>Gaia Sword: ∞
>Ice Zanbato: ∞
>>
>>3088065
>>3088065
>Board the Eagle now.
Those tentoroids will mulch the ride armor

>Prioritize the Tentoroids.
deploy some koi to wear away at Decim, and homing shot Decim or the tentoroids. We can chop off the dragon's wings later.
>>
>>3088065
>>3088080
Wait, these are the indestructible tentoroids, not the miniboss.


>Prioritize Decim.
instead. We're not punching through those beetles without some very persistent drills and thermite
>>
>>3088084
Correct. The black-shells are essentially super-Gabyoalls, upsized mechaniloids immune to conventional plasma rounds and... most forms of weaponry.
>>
Have your koi pilot the other armor. He'll never see it coming.
>>
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>>3088099
Sadly the spliced-together DNA emulations of your combat-ready siblings doesn't incorporate their more serious tricks. Asagi's system-hijacking is reserved for her own school. All that yours got from hers was agility and range.
>>
>>3088111
It was a joke. I think. Maybe.

Unless we go and stick our sister's arm on our back as a hardpoint.
>>
>>3088065
>Prioritize the Eregion.
>Board the Eagle now.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>>
This building is a bunker against good signal strength. Post to come.
>>
>>3088065
>>3088080
>>3088084
>>3088541

The Eagle’s cockpit reads your body type and, like any modern ride armor, auto-adjusts to fit. Pedals here, controls there – okay, good. You set the onboard buster to charge up, engage the wing jets and fly for the hangar roof.

“If it was up to me,” Decim shouts over the Eregion’s flapping, “you’d have teleported into a pile of bombs!”

You land. Your ride’s jets quickly cycle back up. “Whad’you want, a thank you?!” You open fire and boost-jump to meet the dragon.

The Tentoroids spin past to plink two of the homing shots, but the third strikes the Eregion center-mass. Interesting that it didn’t go for the beetles too – but you guess it makes sense that the massive mechaniloid would be the bigger draw for the homing system. Feathering the jets to stay aloft, you add to the punishment with a Melter rocket and rapid-tap the Eagle’s trigger at Decim specifically, going for accumulative damage.

>[Flex +2]

The Tentoroids buzz back and forth and block all but two of the ride armor shots. One ladybug takes your rocket and flashes under the molten aluminum. The Eregion’s forearm protects its rider; its shields blink from the plasma that slips through the body-blocking.

“HE wanted to test you one last time!” The Repliforce Captain continues. “So score on THIS!”

The dragon lowers its arms and jets straight for you.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

A quick and furious exchange begins.

You might be agile enough to evade, but your mount isn’t. The most you can do is start charging and pivot it back so feed the dragon its legs first. The maneuver doesn’t quite go to plan – it takes a devastating claw-rake from the legs up to the chest, but its shield battery holds. The reach of the Eregion’s top claw is enough to tag you, but it’s just far enough away to only scrape your armor layer under the neck. Fair’s fair. You fire the Eagle’s stored charge into the dragon’s collar. Its battery labors to protect it; the open wound on its shoulder pours out smoke. A twin shot from Decim’s shoulders buffets your ride’s belly. You open wide and spit him a Melter rocket, but the injured Tentoroid takes it again while its partner crashes into the Eagle’s cannon arm. The controls scream – you abandon ship, swap your VWES, gain some air with a Breach Jump and fire a Spark Hand-Drill at the dragon and its keeper.

Electricity sizzles. Drills shriek through the monster’s hull.

You land at the edge of the roof after what feels like an hour. The dragon goes down in flames and rolling explosions, crashing through the roof and thundering its demise.

Decim sticks a three-point landing at the opposite edge. His ladybugs, one factory-fresh and one severely wounded, orbit him. The roof is wrecked, smoke billowing out of the colossal hole. He and you occupy opposite ends of a seemingly stable stretch of shallowly-arching metal.

“Think I won,” you call out.
>>
>>3088706

“Not this time!” He snaps out his cavalry-style sabers, the high-phase blue glow adding a formal sheen to his officer’s armor. “He’ll rip your immunity out of whatever’s left of you!”

Your buster starts whining its full charge. “Who? Major Quartus?!”

He laughs. “I’LL be the Major soon enough! All hail General Quartus! REPLIFORCE FOREVER!”

The beetles swing out on a pincer maneuver. His fast-charging cannons blast two third-stage shots at you. He’s keeping his distance, possibly having learned his lesson in Maracaibo.


>Knock out the Tentoroids first.
>Forget them, eff him up.

>Keep him distant.
>Move in close.

>Banter for information.
>No games. Put him down.

>Power Assault.
>Rapid Assault.

>?

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 7/12
>Remote Koi: 10/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 13/16
>>
Fie and blast, no pictures again. But the show must go on!
>>
>>3088710
>Forget them, eff him up.
>Keep him distant.
>Banter for information.
>Power Assault.

Use our drones to assist against the beetles while we focus on Decim.
>>
>>3088710
>>3088718
Seconded. Also, keep ragging him about running away every time. He keeps saying he'll end us every time we meet but bugs out early.
>>
>>3088783
Definitely go for this jab!
>>
>>3088718
thing to remember is sonic is his weakness. Countering him with our shields or the repulsor wing will be how we do the most damage to him. Bait him into dumb moves and punish him for it.
>>
>>3088710
>Forget them, eff him up.
>Move in close.
>Banter for information.
>Rapid Assault.

Switch to low committal attacks. He's got a better read on our mobility now, with flankers and a strong command experience using them. We're right where he wants us, but as long as we stay aware of it, we should come out on top.

Be ready to feed a koi or a Hand-Drill to the Tentoroids in a hurry, but if possible don't do more than harass and harry to keep ourselves clear.
>>
>>3088710
>Forget them, eff him up.
>Keep him distant.
Tentoroids aren't posing a major threat, and it isn't worth using up all our shields this early in the mission.

>No games. Put him down.
>Rapid Assault.
>>
Back home, votes cast. Time for fightin' writin'.
>>
I kinda miss Mass Shriver now, I want to throw those tentoroids at Decim directly.
>>
>>3088111

One koi to work the pedals, one koi gripping the steering controls like Phil in Groundhog day.

Trenchcoat optional.
>>
>>3089467
That would take a lot of coordination.
>>
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>>3089510
Maybe a skill for S-rank.
>>
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>>3088710
>>3088718
>>3088783
>>3088786
>>3088848
>>3088995
>>3089085

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7byP8TlPG98

>[Flex +2]

Your dash and agility makes a joke of the shots and the beetles both. You let them be a stage hazard as you take a cue from the double-late Iteratton and spawn two fish on the move. He fires again, you overleap the shots, and you pepper him with plasma on the way down. He dances through your barrage, takes a plink for his trouble, and fires again when his charge tops out.

“I shoulda known you had another Maverick partner!” You jump them again, sending your fish – A and B in your heads-up display to the sides of your vision – on a pincer maneuver to match the ladybugs’ own. “You’re always running back to them!”

His charge-up is so fast he throws second-stage shots like they were singles. He strafes around the colossal hole, green comets streaking through the smoke.

“What would Hunters know about allies?!”

Your drones’ display shows one cannon aiming and firing independently of the other, trying to knock down the fish even as he shoots ineffectively for you. You duck, dodge, juke, jump.

“Was it the shark who fixed you up?!”

His shots are as good as tracers, allowing you to plot his momentum... “I was back on my feet the same hour! What’d it take you, a week?!

You spit a rocket-propelled Melter grenade, but in come the Tentoroids.

>[Flex +2]

A hop, a jump, and you’re over the unmarred one while the injured ladybug valiantly sacrifices itself by eating your thermite rocket. It ruptures as it flies, providing exactly the cover Decim needs to tag you with a shot. Your armor holds, your battery unbothered, but ow it stings.

“You’re getting slow, Showa!”

“I’m only slow ‘cause I’m not running!” Koi A consistently succeeds at lasering him while Koi B darts about to draw his independent fire. “You ran at the Bahamas base! You ran at Maracaibo! Nice job, Repliforce! The Most Cowardly Army in History!”

Decim’s pet Tentoroid spins to his aid and absorbs your fishbeams. “SHUT UP!” He roars.

He finally passes clear of the smoke and dashes for you, sabers out, alongside the hole. You plant your feet and don’t give him an inch, streaming shot after shot with a Melter rocket thrown in for spice once its cycle is up. He keeps his cannons back, charging per usual from green to yellow, and cuts through your missile. The thermite blast is reduced to a premature drizzle. It doesn’t slow him, nor do your shots; his parrying slash only gets his arm in position for the scissor-swing he telegraphs. Knowing his tells, you dash out to the edge of the roof, getting ahead of any saber length while ordering your koi to dart around the beetle and close in.

He slams his foot down, stops his dash cold and flips his cannons forward.

His charge has gone from yellow to pink.

DecimATOR!
>>
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>>3089707

>[Flex +2]

A wide pink sphere shines around him, frying your too-close fish and unleashing a frontal meteor swarm of twelve pink plasma balls from each cannon. You flare your tail-boost not for a second jump but a hard right-angle turn in your escape dash. It’s still not enough to get out.

You duck your head. Your shield flashes from your gauntlet. Eight Decimator balls hammer the Repulsor Wing and spare you from a world of hurt. The barrier digitizes around the edges in protest of the hit, but it allowed you to take a legitimate shout-the-name attack with zero personal damage.

His moment of shocked hesitation, momentum spent and big gun fired, is all you need to close the distance. Your hand grips your Gaia Sword hilt.

You see his eyes flick to your right.

The laser-damaged Tentoroid tackles you from the side.

What he intended to be a sucker punch backfires horribly as he and the bug both get a faceful of Echo Shields. The sonic blast careens the Tentoroid out on a self-destructing arc and buffets him over the edge of the hole, flashing like a rave. You follow him out and down into the fading smoke.

He fails to recover in time, lands on his knee and rolls. You land on your feet and press your advantage, scoring a shield-worrying slash with your Gaia Sword. You go for a thrust to stake him, but he thrusts first –

>[Flex +2]

— over your shoulder. His sparking leg lashes out –

>[Armor +1]

— pushing himself away to a rolling recovery, doing no more than scuffing you. You roll the Gaia Sword in your hand and let him backstep some distance among the ruins of his dragon.

“Talk,” you order. “Why did Player want me?”

His cannons don’t charge. His knees and ankles spark; his shins are dented from the fall. He hides behind his crossed cutlasses. “Your immunity. He copies it, Repliforce gets it. Soul Format can go wide-range. Broadcast over Cyberspace. We’ll be the last left standing.”

“Another Soul Erasure…”

He grins, getting back into it. “Oh, the affected reploids will still be alive – probably. Not filleted like you were. Just given a hard reset and formatting. The Hunters will be at our mercy – us, with all their best skills.”

You charge up your Meteor Melter. “Your plan’s stupid. I came here willingly, oblivious even. Why fight me when he could’ve waited by the pad with a force beam at eye level?”

You hear a hum from Decim – not his shoulders, but his sabers. They slowly glow brighter, blue to purple. “Tests. This island is full of them. If he killed you when you landed… then he wouldn’t learn… everything you are!”
>>
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>>3089713

For being a Repliforce Captain, his posture telegraphs far too much. You burn your dash as fast as it goes and escape outside the range of any saber – but he wasn’t going for a melee cut. He slashes an X-formation and his blades keep going, blazing after you like they’d simply snapped off the hilt.

>[Flex +2]

Your expensive flexible architecture pays dividends by giving you the twitch-reaction you need to let the flying hi-beams pass.

You land with your weight on your back foot. Decim runs for you, not a dash but a defiant charge.

You answer him with a mouthful of dragon fire. The wave of flaming thermite globs ablates the skin off his face, melts off his hat and deforms his rope-decorated pauldrons. The devouring heat warps his neck and shoulder joints, opening them for your primary weapon to leak into his torso.

He plods to a stop. His shields blink with fatal sluggishness. He raises a salute one last time.

“Repliforce… fffor…”

A flash of light. Rolling explosions. Streaking beams escaping his overloading hull.

You stow your saber.

“Never.”

You walk out of the hangar, undeniably pounded but definitely still in fighting shape.

The paved area is empty but for you. You gingerly double-tap your comms; the time between the taps still screeches static. Looks like it’s all up to you.

You look out into the forest. The rectangular roof of a building peeks over the canopy some distance ahead. The interference, you guess, is coming from there.


>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.

>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 11/12
>Frost Bomb: 7/12
>Remote Koi: 8/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 13/16

HP: Two-thirds.
>>
>>3089716
Goodbye, Decim.

>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

Let's try to not lose more health than necessary.
>>
>>3089723
Seconding.
>>
>>3089716
Thats a heckuva buster upgrade we missed out on.

>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
start using those arbor walls for cover and firestarters
>>
>>3089758
Good catch.

I can confirm, because why not, that eliminating Captain Decim with a sound-based weapon during your roster would have gotten you the X1 fourth-stage buster.

By the time of post-X4, it was still powerful and impressive but no longer state of the art.
>>
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>>3089716
>>3089723
>>3089755
>>3089758

You weigh your situation and the scales tip to pessimism. You’re probably the only allied-slash-sane person on the island, with who knows what cybernetic horrors lying in wait. Nobody else seems to be coming right now, either to stalk or help.

You take out your datapad and leave a note in your view-offline Spazer page.

This is SSKN-KS-01 Meteor Showa, Maverick Hunter, Veracruz Fourth. I’m caught up in a Maverick plot. A segment of Repliforce compromised Laguz Island and teamed up with the site chief to… well, I don’t want this retroactively classified because then my family won’t see it, but take it from me, it’s bad. I’m going to try and stop it. I’m stranded on Laguz right now. I think this should auto-send if I take down the interdiction field. If. Or maybe whoever comes after me will find it.

Check my will as to who gets what part of my stuff. I updated it recently. Yes, Asagi, you can have the signed poster of Prime Minister Inoue, just don’t freaking put stickers on her. I’ll haunt you, I swear.

Um. Anyway. Thanks for everything. I should go.

I love you.

Sorry for leaving ahead of you.

You hit Send. The little triple-laser icon wiggles. It will keep wiggling forever until it reconnects to the site server. Modern datapads work under the assumption of ubiquitous signal.

You spit-burn a circle in the pavement, place your datapad in the center and step over the rim.

You set your jaw and enter the forest.

Every tree is an artificial oak, a monoculture typical of places where matching aesthetics to extinct local trees was either cost-prohibitive or inefficient. You can’t imagine anyone in such a remote place would care to reflect whatever grew here natively.

You run at a wary pace, leaving your big guns off charge to keep the noise down. It helps right away; you hear buzzing. You recognize the pitch as belonging to the wings of Kyunbyuun mechaniloids, killer bee scouts and harassers. You duck out of its line of sight, your back flat to a tree. It sounds like it’s moving in a cluster of others. You don’t want to kick the hive quite yet, so you move on.

And nearly trip over a dead body.

The Steel Beret has been lying there for a while. Underbrush has grown up around his limbs, which look a little discolored from exposure. You can’t tell what ended him and you’re not in the mood to turn him over and check for backstabs. You put your hands together, bob a quick nod, and gingerly step around him.

Stepping with care through the woods reveals more bodies lying around. A Steel Beret there, a Lanceteamer there, all old-style rank and file with no visible wounds. A body farm without the organic decay. You hear more bees and seek cover.

You hear a rustling above you.
>>
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>>3089985

You jump clear of a falling obiiru, an unarmed tree snake. It wiggles to right itself. Looks at you. The little light on top of its head flashes a warning light and beeps a shrill klaxon. You shut it up with a single shot.

The fallen bodies start to move in the undergrowth.

Resurrection is a forbidden science for a reason. The process leaves the victim no better than a mechaniloid from the neck up, a monster with just enough sapience to recognize targets and attack with all the skill its body can boast on paper. The dead-eyed victims staggering upright fit the bill as perfectly as Iteratton did, but you wonder with no small sense of dread whether they were resurrected or… Formatted.

You arm your buster, glancing around for routes of swift egress.

“Oh come on I already know this place is evil I don’t need freaking zombies underscoring it!”

They don’t seem to care. The Steel Berets take aim.

>[Flex +2]

You shoot first nearly every time, senses cued to the environment and anything moving therein, and in such a state of caution none of the shots they crack off can touch you.

Your path takes you to the Kyunbyuuns’ hives, Mega Nests, Repliforce insignias still painted on the central hexes. A splat of Melter spit burns the first down with ease while you pick off the bees individually. You summarily clear a second nest in the same way when a large single-shot round hits its host tree.

A dead-eyed Howlite hovers around a tree like a lazy marionette, arm cannon out. A Chrysoprase rises from the dirt, still clutching a lo-beam saber that sputters like a bad lighter before igniting.

Tests. Decim said the island was full of them…

The Howlite dives and you put him out of his misery with a quick-draw Gaia Sword. The little green regular rushes you, but your reach and saber intensity vastly outclass his. Through the trees ahead you can see a trace of metal wall, the facility you saw before.

You take two more steps before you hear a heavy crashing.

>[Flex +2]

You duck. A cyberwood monolith collides edge-on with the tree trunk next to you. The plank’s edges are rows of spikes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uQjgTzw1Qw

Arbor Elk stalks toward you with practically taxidermied eyes. A metal deer skull decorates the back of his wicked new single-bit axe.


>Act.
>>
>>3089986
Our former tactic will work even better against a dumb Elk than the original.

Spam thermite on the floor. Use either ourselves or remote koi to bait him into walking and jumping into them.

At some point, root elk himself and sticky the roots with frost bombs. Stall the explosion and everything to buy time for a hinoiki and keep zanbatos humonguous reach out to ward a counter.
>>
>>3090091
If hes too strong for the roots, sticky THEN root THEN explode
>>
I relay a vote from HC, and I do solemnly swear it's not cheating. One vote is one vote, and I do my best to synthesize on an >Act.

Hunters' honor.


"Bring that skull back for Skittle's chasers.

Overall we need to treat this as a marathon, not a race. We also can't assume mindless means our old tricks will work assuredly.

That said, we do have the hardest possible counter for Elk with our supercharged thermite Promenence. Let's use that and go for a decisive takedown before we can get axed. Range things out with patches of area denial fire, and our blades."


I'll give it another half hour, then start writing.
>>
>>3090091
>>3090288
just so we're clear, these 2 ids and I are all the same person.

Mobile data and dynamic IPs have had me jumping all over the place.
>>
>>3090337
Thanks for the heads-up. I know my ID changes all the time when I'm not at home. Still, you plus HC constitute two votes, so I'm satisfied with proceeding.

Post to come.
>>
>>3089986
>>3090091
>>3090317

His intimidation fades as quickly as it comes. You had him outclassed when you were barely off your hard reset. You build charge in your throat, but the growing hum makes him accelerate.

You discourage him with buster fire that his ceratanium axe nullifies. He leaps high, embeds his blade in a tree, hangs there and drops three pairs of seeds. Hinoiki needs another second to finish, so you dodge the dispersal easily enough. The Arbor Walls that form are unlike yours: forbidding barricade panels of cyberwood thorns.

Two Chrysoprases rise from their shallow graves, caked in dirt. You’re ready to fire, but Elk kicks from one tree to another with astounding athleticism – not that it matters, since you see where he’s going. Your breath cone is long and wide enough to catch him and the bulk of the tree; both are engulfed in a conflagration. He falls like a rock, burning and flashing bloody murder.

You turn your attention to the regulars.

>[Flex +2]

They’re quick, but you’re quicker. You draw your saber and clash with the first attacker; his neglected saber successfully parries but flickers under the punishment. Your blade slides down his and burns through his hand and arm. Your buster double-taps him in the chest and down he goes. Whatever happened to him here, it kept his shields from activating.

The second semi-dead Chrysoprase goes for a jumping slash. You parry it, fire point-blank into his chest, and kick him under the entry wound.

>[Armor +1]

The strength of the blow pushes him further than you expected. He hits a thorny Arbor Wall and sticks in place.

A massive blade cuts the wall off at the bottom.

>[Flex +2]

You know what’s coming, but don’t expect the velocity. As you dash through a gap in the area-restricting walls, the felled thornwall goes from zero to a hundred in a single kick. Spikes scrape your tail like nails on a chalkboard. Your shield battery ignores it, but it’s still another bite taken.

You bite back, immolating Elk and two walls and everything in between with your full-on Hinoiki. He staggers back, helplessly burning, buying you the time you need to spit and spit low-level thermite globs at every other wall he seeded. Between the aimed Melters and the splashout from the Hinoiki, you make yourself a toasty hell.

Flames rise and spread. Six fallen reploids you didn’t even notice start to rise, already on fire.

Elk ignores the calamity even as licking fire blinks his shields every couple of seconds. His voice comes out his open mouth, but his lips don’t move.

“You harm. My forest. My people.”

That’s definitely a resurrection talking. You stare into the uncanny lack of affect in his face. “I’m not here for whatever’s left of you, Elk.”

“You harm. I kill.”
>>
>>3090416

He raises his arm, forms his buster. A single seed pops out. He catches it on his blade and drives it into the soil, erupting murderous spiked roots in a line toward you.

>[Flex +2]

You pop a Remote Koi, just one, and send it to one side of the line while you take the left at a dash. He takes the right and swings at your drone. The little HUD window indicates his strike speed has improved; if your drone were any slower it might be sashimi.

Two undead Howlites hovers up, engulfed in flame. Shooting them down is light work, but it takes time. Time enough for Elk’s addled brain to compute that you’re the bigger threat. Time enough to leap over his spikewall. Time enough for you to finish another Hinoiki charge.

He burns in another gout of consuming flame. His attempted decapitation strike burns with him, but he’s still a lot of mass plummeting for you.

You make to dash, but two burning crawling Chrysoprases latch onto your ankles.

>[Armor +1]

Their already-weak structural integrity has been compromised by the energetic fire. Even with two weighing you down, you dash through the fire and the flames to carry on. Elk lands in a heap. Braces on his weapon. Stands back up.

“You haaaarm!” He lows like a cow.

You’ve had about enough of this. Your koi helpfully auto-targets the last two crawlers and lasers them into submission. You take your Zanbato in both hands and flare it out, the liquid blue containment completely out of place in the wildfire.

“Your people are safe.”

Elk’s glassy eyes blink, just once.

“My foooorest!” He starts moving.

>[Flex +2]

You give him back one of his seeds. The roots arrest his legs, pitching him forward. He struggles, breaking one leg free before the fire catches and spreads to him.

You advance. A splash of cryomer. A snap and sizzle of hibeam. Arbor Elk expires in the flames, his core-failure explosions only adding to the spectacle. You click off your greatsaber and leave his remains to smolder.

The catching fire is a stroll for you. Cybertrees, of course, have means to contain a spread. Before long you’re into unmarred greenery again.
>>
>>3090419

Up ahead you see the facility – a side entrance, you guess, for how bland it is. The clearing between the woods and the building is deathly quiet. You step in, watching for anything, any trace of ambush or buried mines.

There’s nothing. For a mercy, there’s genuinely nothing in this quietly foreboding space. You don’t believe in ghosts, but it almost feels haunted with lingering intent – as if, one world to the left, something terrible would have awaited you here. In this world it simply doesn’t. There’s not even an [i]it[/i] to be absent. All that disturbs the quiet is the sound of your own walk cycle… and a perfectly normal organic dragonfly zipping through on its way to somewhere more important.

Your drone takes a brief interest in the bug, but doesn’t register it as a threat. It hovers over your shoulder as you pass through the clearing, having already banished the ghost that might have met you.

The door scanner reads you with a cursory zigzag of security beams. Screw-like locking mechanisms unscrew and the doors part.

You step in. The interior is… an interior. Between here and the far wall stand genericized prefab walls of Neo-Castleism architecture, bare metal patterning broken at intervals by interlocking seams and hinting at no particular purpose. The floor lies littered with dead junk, all rank-and-file corpses and pieces of – you skim, comparing to your database – nineteen types of mechaniloid. If this is a research lab, you’re not impressed.

A hatch in the ceiling opens. A junk cube drops in and shatters on the floor with a tumultuous clatter. Along with it comes something more alive: a Genjibo cyberspace-projector mechaniloid, a distant cousin of a Jamminger with a lens at the base. Comparing to similar models you know of, this one is up-armored with stylish metal rivets.

“Is this your eyes and ears?” You ask it. “I’ve climbed your cliff, I’ve waded through your body farm, but I’m not here to be your janitor. Let me in.”

The Genjibo casts a cone of light below it. Junk flies to its beam like it were magnetized. The detritus compacts and forms into a humanoid shape. A blue flicker gives it a skin.

It’s Volt Batteram.


>Bold Approach: Knock down the Genjibo at all costs.
>Cautious Approach: Take out the minions as they come.

>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
>>
>>3090420
So this is where we would have fought one of our allies, if they ever died? Oof.

Wow, Genjibos are small. I'd consider dash grabbing it and puncturing the lens with a solid matter weapon, but uh, no solid matter weapon.

>Cautious Approach: Take out the minions as they come.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
this Volt has no battery, so pretty much all melee. We can take our time running rings around it, melting all the junk into proper slag.

>Rapid Assault

Maybe send an arbor wall to the walls or ceiling at some point, give ourselves a grabbing point to lunge a different direction.
>>
>>3090420
>Cautious Approach: Take out the minions as they come.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
I don't THINK Genjibos are able to summon more than one sub-boss.
>>
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>>3090425
>>3090566
Let's not assume anything less than full power Ram, and hope we're pleasantly surprised.

>Cautious Approach
>Offensive Advance
>Power Assault

So far they've been whittling us down with distracting adds to stack up the attrition. Let's keep an eye towards that. Above all, though, we know from repeated experience that adjacency to Batteram is not the place to be. We should be able to make good use of the Hand-Drills for wide nets of defense against the little targets while we evade danger zone with the junk-Batteram.
>>
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>>3090420
>>3090425
>>3090566
>>3090727

“Rude,” you scowl.

The Genjibo zips up to the ceiling to wait as the bluer-than-usual Volt rushes you, now independent of the projector. You’re not afraid, being that you know it’s literally made of junk. You sic your trusty drone on it and pepper the big body with three plasma shots, taking care where you step – and it’s a good thing you do, because you notice a suspicious shifting in the clutter.

A Mecha-Arm strikes like a snake, but thanks to your attentiveness it clamps on thin air. Not-Volt executes a canned combo on where the Arm would have held you. After having fought the genuine article not once but twice, you feel insulted.

The persistent lasering from your Remote Koi causes no visible reaction in the fake except for hot metal dripping off the structure under the holo-skin. Not-Volt clangs its fists together, forms a suspiciously solid-looking ball of “electricity” between them and punches it at you.

>[Flex +2]

The projectile, at least, is as fast as the real thing. You sidestep it, and your peripheral vision picks up more movement in the junk. Another Mecha-Arm fails to grab you, but its angle of attack forces you to dodge into Not-Volt’s path.

>[Armor +1]

It executes a Flash Kick under your chin. Your head jerks back and you forced to your back foot. That, too, is Real-Volt-speed, even if it lacked his mass. You show it some Showa speed and perform a combo of your own, a low Melter splat and a buster double-tap.

The projection fizzles at the first buster shot; the second passes straight through. The compacted junk is scored with hit laser lines from your drone.

The Genjbo dives, lights its lamp and sweeps over the junk on its way to the far side of the room. It forms clumps of junk as it passes over, each one flickering into a blue Mettaur D2. The little homunculi go on the march and spit blue pellets.

>[Flex +2]

They’re literally trash mobs, nothing more. You leave them to your koi, dash-jump and jump again for height to add gravity to your Gaia Sword swing. The Genjibo flickers, throwing off clashing saber-sparks; it’s a lot sturdier than the standard model. The new humanoid golem it clumps together takes on a smaller form that you try to saber while you’re here, but it’s still under the light, which seems to give it a shield effect too.

The lamp clicks off and it shoots back to the ceiling to fly an observational figure-eight, its shields taking the pair of shots with which you chase it. Your new opponent’s shape finishes rendering.

Deco raises both busters.

>[Flex +2]

You snap up your Repulsor Wing as a fusillade of geometrically perfect needle-spikes launches at nearly point-blank range. The capabilities of the junk copies are enough to perfectly mimic her Platonic Suite’s cover-fire template. Your life-saving shield endures it until it can endure no more; the hexagon on your forearm sparks, the wings digitize and blip out—
>>
>>3090883

>[Armor +1]

—and you feel no pain as the last handful of big needles plinks harmlessly against your sturdiness.

“Sorry, Dee.”

You repeat the one-two-three combo that finished Not-Volt, but this time your two-three are Gaia Sword slashes. Absent the Genjibo, she lacks any sort of barrier. Deco’s form scatters like your former shield and her body of junk falls apart.

The Mets perish under your drone’s cutting laser. The Genjibo sweeps back down…


>Hit it hard with (specify).
>Knock out its minions first.

>Stick with Rapid Assault.
>Switch to Power Assault.
>>
>>3090890
>Hit it hard with (specify). Lets try hitting it with a Zanbato combo.
>Stick with Rapid Assault.
>>
>>3090890
>Hit it hard with the Zanbato.
>Stick with Rapid Assault.

This is working pretty well. Sturdy or not, it ate a nice heavy saber swing. Let's feed it another, then gain some ground and switch to Hand-Drills.
>>
>>3090890
>Hit it hard with Zanbato.
It seems our Koi is doing a good enough job, and going with Zanbato to conserve weapons.

>Stick with Rapid Assault.
I haven't seen this thing do anything to make me want to DPS it to death, and it seems like we're in a pretty good position right now.
>>
Instead of seeing your enemy, imagine a baseball you have to hit as hard as possible, and

>Whack it with the Zanbato
>>
>>3090890
>Hit it hard with Zanbato
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrOyTQEJCJY
>>
>>3090890
>>Hit it hard with the Zanbato.
swing for the fences

>Stick with Rapid Assault.
>>
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And Zanbato wins by a mile.

Writing!
>>
>>3090890
>>3090924
>>3090928
>>3090952
>>3090978
>>3090978
>>3091079
>>3091114

… And you chase it, intercepting its dive-and-gather protocol.

>[Flex +2]

A grabby Mecha-Arm snaps the air in your wake. You stow the Gaia Sword, take the Zanbato two-handed and give the Genjibo one heck of a chop. Your flexy joints feed your strike speed such that you slam it twice: the splash strobes it and the high-phase grazes it on the way out, but the return swing is all lemondrop-yellow murder. The frantic frame rate on its flash dazzles your eyes before it escapes to the ceiling. You need something faster still, you decide as you stow the hilt to top off its duration.

You point up, not that you need any more than a mental confirmation to dispatch your drone.

“After it!”

Your foe and your fish maneuver like quarreling sparrows up high, each with their own beams. Yours scours bright lines into the metal walls, missing more often than not, but the Genjibo’s beam keeps focused on the junk. Bits and pieces trail behind it, following the attractor cone. You try to shoot the dumb thing, but even your agility can’t land a hit.

So you aim for the growing junkball it’s towing.

>[Flex +2]

You plink one shot into the garbage mass. It disengages from the Genjibo’s tractor beam, snaps together like an elastic and rolls into the debris piles.

You think you’ve aborted another minion when a blue flicker shines over the clump.

It sprouts moth wings.

“Oh no…”

Not-Skittle flits into the air and throws its arms out. Eight other projections of itself surround it. You immediately lose track of the original as all nine swarm together into a complicated knot and spread out into an orbiting ring, moving faster and faster.

Your fish HUD indicates your drone scored another hit. All the Genjibo has going for it is minions and agility. You bump that thought down the queue as the members of the Seelie Court each extend their devilish tail-stingers. You reach for your greatsaber, suddenly wishing you’d actually sat down and studied iaido.

The ring contracts, stingers out.

With the length of your blade and the twitch of your reflexes, you swing through six fairies…
>>
Rolled 2 (1d9)

>>3091159

...
>>
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>>3091160

… And hit. Second from your left, an icy splash envelops the simulacrum of your long-suffering friend and the ignition of the golden blade sends it packing.

The Genjibo doesn’t want anything to do with you. It stays aloft, going again for the long-distance accumulative summoning. Nuts to that. With your Zanbato still lit, you dash-jump to the nearest wall—

>[Flex +2]

—evading a persistent Mecha-Arm’s pinch, kick-jump off and Breach Jump up to the annoyance’s height.

>[Flex +2]

The huge breadth of your swing cuts through its attempted twitch. Its shields go pap as its battery fails. The latter half of your blade boils away a couple of its strong rivets.

You crash into the scraps and a Mecha-Arm finally scores a gripping bite. You hold the yellow blade to one of its joints for a full second before it cuts through.

That’s all the time the harassed Genjibo needs to dive into place and gather more material.

“Knock it off!” You spit a rocket and fire so fast there’s barely any space between your buster shots.

It takes the abuse, its defenseless hull quickly starting to smoke, but its work is done. It careens back toward the ceiling, your fish in hot pursuit.

You think you see Volt’s appearance resolving over the new junkbot. You don’t care. You order your drone on a kamikaze run and fire a triad of sparking drills upward.

It fails to escape getting zapped. The stun leaves it a sitting duck for your sacrificial fish. A flaming firework burst puts an end to it; the annoying-as-heck projector plummets, chain-exploding like a reploid. Not-Volt number two fizzles into static and falls apart into scraps once again.

You breathe. The far door opens without ceremony. What lies beyond?


>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.

>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
>>
>>3091166
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

Okay, fuck this Metal Shark Player.
>>
>>3091166
>>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
I think we're running into either Sphynx, Ostenops, or Morpho. For all of them, a hinoiki to screen any smallfry will help the panicked rush to reach them.
>>
>>3091166

>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.

I just feel like there'e gonna be more surprises, and they're gonna be bigger boys.
>>
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>>3091166
>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.

Hooray, we did pretty good in that one. I predict at least one cramped corridor. Fortunately we have a positively splendid arsenal for that.
>>
>>3091173
Same person, new theory: the last rematch is ostenops, because these are all upscaled versions of the B rank roster
>>
>>3091166
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.

Trigger Happy
>>
>>3091310
Makes me wonder which one we avoided was. Maybe Lynx?
>>
>>3091386
Im pretty sure it would have been actual resurrected Deco/Volt/Skittles
>>
>>3091386
>>3091467
It's a secret. One of those things altered by good choices!
>>
>>3091468
Spectrod if we didnt tag his weakness/break the cyberspace node?

Monitor if we let him go after that leader guy?

.....Noveau!?
>>
obviously the dragonfly themed reploid we have an adversarial relationship with... Commander Yammark
>>
>>3091487
....wait. During the Spectrod Op, there was another named hunter leading the main forces to distract the dragonfly.

If we took too long getting to the node, Spectrod would have fille'd him and harvested the DNA....
>>
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>>3091166
>>3091169
>>3091173
>>3091178
>>3091181
>>3091342

The space on the other side opens up like a cave, forbiddingly dark. Standard safety lights in the floors barely cast enough glow to reach the ceiling, but up there you can just discern the movement of a lonely rough cube along a conveyor toward the room you left behind. Garbage disposal… which suggests they have an awful lot of bodies to work through, further in. That’s just ridiculous. You begin to wonder where they’d even find such a supply of dead bodies… until you realize you’re not even a month out from the end of a colossal war.

“Okay,” you mutter, glancing around and building your buster charge, “so they, what, beam in bodies… sure, let’s send them to Laguz, do some science so they won’t have died in vain… but to hide all this would take a genius…”

Beams from downramp interrupt your train of thought.

>[Flex +2]

Beam-shots, you see as you dodge, in stacks of three and three. You recognize it immediately as an Aclanda pattern. Another set comes down your new lane.

“Freaking really?!”

You return fire and dash after it, using the third-stage shot to light your way. It collides with an Aclanda, revealing an identical partner serving as a roadblock. You skid to a stop and add more light with two consecutive Hand-Drills and a Melter rocket. Great curtains of shadows move across the high walls as your light sources fly downrange, smashing into the point-defense scorpions. The quick and dirty punishment you deliver is enough to destroy one outright, but the other clings to life long enough to lob tail grenades.

It’s nothing you can’t dodge, and nothing you can’t pay back with a dash and a Gaia Sword swing. The second scorpion explodes apart. You are not in the mood to mess around.

The modern-model Hotarions are, however.

>[Flex +2]

The red fireflies arrive late to the show you so swiftly cancelled, letting you focus your attention on them. You cut down two on a collision course, your saber conveniently already out. Four more speed past you and curve up high, giving you a better sense of the size of the room as they light the upper reaches. They turn in place and rain energy pellets from their flashlight butts – nothing you can’t evade. They swing back down and you put their lights out forever with a Hinoiki.

The molten remnant splashed on the ramp improves the lighting somewhat. You rub your wrist over your mouth and proceed onward.

At the end of the hall the Aclandas blocked, illuminated signs direct you down three hallways. Smaller holo-tags seem to have been added in the past and neglected.

^- EMPLOYEE LOUNGE -^[no sleeping –mgmt]
-> INPROCESSING (LOBBY) -> [no drinking, use lounge –mgmt]
<- POWER MONITORING, REPLOID RESEARCH LABORATORY <- [not a damn playground –mgmt]

… Your path is clear. You prudently keep your throat charged.
>>
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>>3091534

The hall to Power Monitoring is lined with framed backlit portraiture of old reploid models and schematics, decorations for science nerds who like perspective on their duties. Two Death Guardians press through toward you, safe behind their big spiky shields. Four more of the modern Hotarions streak overhead, too fast to catch, and stop to aim behind you.

You turn and pop two Arbor Wall seeds, one at the ceiling and one at the floor, and enjoy the sounds of useless plinking against hard surfaces. You face down the shieldbearers and introduce them to your fire breath. They kindly melt and let you pass.

A ladder leads down; you grip the rails and slide.

The next hall is a serious OSHA violation. Electricity surges at the bottom of a pit and sparks through glass conduits in the ceiling. Floating placidly through the danger zone are cylindrical monitoring devices, thick poles hovering on base-mounted thrusters, their central lenses reading energy output data in wavelengths you wish you had. You could theoretically cross the space by swinging between them, but that would be idiotically dangerous.

You glance to your right. A sealed door seems in no hurry to unseal itself. You rap twice on it with the backs of your knuckles. No dice. You heave a sigh.

You start charging your Melter and do a couple ready-set-go squats. “One, two…”

You dash, you jump, you jump again, and cling bodily to one of the big monitor-poles. You swing around, unbalanced. The grip is terribly awkward.

Another wave of Hotarions disapprove.

>[Flex +2]

They vanish in a cloud of burning metal.

You scoot around to line yourself up to the next pole and jump out. It takes another three such nerve-wracking jumps, another attempted Hotarion collision, and an annoyingly long wait for movement patterns to line up, but you make it across and land safe on the other side.

A label on the door to your right reads “POWER MONITOR HALL [unprofessional crossing of conduit hall will result in demotion –mgmt]”.

You roll your eyes. That door, at least, is kind enough to open at your approach.

A bright horizontal line of electricity between flies at you lengthwise.

>[Flex +2]

You dash low and underneath it, but there’s not much space to dash to – you slam your hand on a metal office wall to keep from crashing headlong into it.

The narrow Power Monitor Hall is a row of screens evidently receiving data from the hovering columns of the conduit room. It’s a boilerplate observational station, complete with desks and chairs…
>>
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>>3091535

And Arc Morpho, fluttering in the confined space, her wingspan half the width of the room.

The door you came in through slams and locks. Behind you is another, but you don’t expect it to open.

Morpho holds her elbow in her hand and tilts her head, her compound eyes examining you with an intelligence you’ve never seen or heard of in a resurrection.

“Meteor Showa. I’m glad you made it. You retired my original.”

This is bizarre. You’ve never heard about any resurrection that eloquent, either. You guardedly switch to Arbor Wall and power up your Melter.

“Original? What are you, her sister?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she taps her electric-green chin. “He perfected the technique with me. I was reborn for the ideal world… just like you.”

You blink.

Her black lips smile. “We’re successors to our own names, you and I. You didn’t think you actually survived the first battle with Spectrod, did you? You were dead. Then up you pop, freshly default, a different body and a shiny new soul… tell me, if you replace the shaft and the bristles at the same time, is it the same broom?”

You refuse to believe it. Full stop. You trust the Hunters, you trust Skittle’s mad genius, and you trust your own continuity of memory. But more than that…

“The shaft was chopped,” you admit. “The bristles were burned. But I still had my string, the thing that ties me all together.”

Her eyes flicker, a quick wave of dimness over their hexes.

“I have my friends. I was flayed down to the chassis and the boot menu, but one of them saved me and all of them welcomed me back, brought me back to where I am now. But you?” You snort. “You blew up. You even recorded it. There’s nothing in the Maverick I’m talking to right now that isn’t a total remake. Tell me, traitor, did you have any actual friends in Repliforce? Or just underlings that couldn’t care less if—”

Her brown wings stop fluttering, snapping out flat. Their big blue eyespots target you.


>Act.

VWES:
>Arbor Wall: 8/12
>Frost Bomb: 7/12
>Remote Koi: 7/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 10/16
>>
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>>3091487
>>3091501
Why assume it could've been only one of those?
>>
>>3091562
Soooo.. any allies we could have lost during this had a chance of coming back as ghosts for the fight to demoralize/weaken. But because we have been keeping our comrades alive, the enemy hasn't added them to the roster. Now, we just need to hope they can come to our rescue against the boss of this.
>>
>>3091541
Small room, we zone her as much as she zones us.

We can litter the field with stickies and explode them whenever, but i have another idea.

Spark drill is only dangerous to her with the drill bits. Shes liable to fly straight through the electric field. So we fire an arbor root in between the drills.

Hinoiki should also have enough spread to give morpho a tough time dodging.
>>
>>3091647
Seems like a solid plan to me. Bait her into thinking there's a safespot, and then nab her.

Can we leave Gaia Sword stakes in the ground/walls? Would that help us with zoning?
>>
Another HC vote-by-relay via Discord to add to the pile:


" "That's what I thought."

Let's assume she watched her own retirement and has planned around 1: our fighting style, and 2: us knowing her weakness.

I think zoning is the way to go. Use heavier hits to compensate for not using her weakness, so she can't just shrug them off. Ideally we force her into a position where we can nail her with the Arbor Walls, but we need to force overcommittal to land one.

De-electrifying the Hand-Drills is a good idea. Hopefully the Echo Shields will have a decent effect, because I don't see us walking away from a cognizant refight unharmed. We can also Hanabi the koi for nasty fireballs. "


Keep the action votes coming, it'll be a while before I compile.
>>
>>3091541
>>3091647
>>3091820
>>3091913
You light up your Gaia Sword with a smirk. “Guess not.”

>[Flex +2]

You sink the tip into the floor and drag it along for the ride. Close quarters make dancing around her eyespot beams a hassle; a minor one rakes your side, trying and failing to cut your hilt. The stake engages, sticking in the floor; you snap it off in place to keep it as a lightning rod and shoot a seed under her.

In the same instant she panics and vanishes with a frighteningly familiar wireframe delete-out.

>[Flex +2]

Taking past as prologue, you turn and breathe fully-charged Meteor Melter flame before you even have a target. Thermite splashes from floor to ceiling and melts into both walls. Morpho reappears after the hellbelch passes and lashes you across the face with her livewire proboscis tongue – but as quick as the strike comes, your Echo Shields thrum her away, buffeting her back into the active flame to set her own shields off.

You fire another seed, but she blinks out of reality. The wooden wall grows, instantly aflame.

You build another Melter charge and hold perfectly still, waiting and listening this time, thinking fast. Iteratton and Elk had new tricks, so this Spectrod-redux vanishing act must be hers. You and Volt, after all, were the ones who brought back Spectrod’s corpse for Sixteenth to play with, and they probably shipped it express to Player. The shark must have spliced the dragonfly’s remains into Morpho’s new form… or at least you really hope that’s what he did with him…

The output monitor directly in front of you fizzles and blinks out. Tiny bubbles start to form on the screen.

>[Flex +2]

You dash back to your quickly-cooling patch of melt, just ahead of a massive force beam cutting through the terminal and blasting into the other wall. She’s shooting you from the Conduit Hall!

The beam dies off and you dash out to the new hole. You arrive just in time to see her in the hazard hall, blinking out. You change up your strategy, switching to Spark Hand-Drill.

She reappears at the far end of the hall, the locked entrance. She throws out lightning-linked butterflies in threes, vertical-horizontal-diagonal.

>[Flex +2]

For each one you volley back your own zappy trio. The vertical and horizontal lines are no trouble to evade, and the handy stake you left interrupts the diagonal, the one you might otherwise have tripped. The competing electrical currents streams cross with nothing more than new geometry as they briefly jump conductors, but you weren’t going for disruption anyway; the drills ricochet squealing off the metal and tag her wings with two, flaring up her shield battery.
>>
>>3092176

There’s your opening! You dash ahead and lead with a seed, but she vanishes and your seed roots to the wall above the still-locked entry door. Frig. Still, you occupy her vanished space on the logic that she wouldn’t re-occupy it.

Indeed she doesn’t – she freaking appears right above you, crouching on the perpendicular plank like a ninja, sliding through the Cyberspace axis with the brief yet vital tell of a wireframe blink.

You blow her a volcanic kiss, burn your wood and paint the ceiling with thermite, but despite her shield-strobe she’s already flitting back down the hall and so evades your Gaia Sword thrust.

Morpho litters the floor and walls with butterfly shuriken as she backpedals in midair.

>[Armor +1]

A couple of the sharp stars stick into you, but not deeply. You brush them off and drag your saber as you chase her to the first Wall you seeded, which is where she vanishes, just as your stake forms again.

Another force beam? Another backstab? Or a rolling electrosurge through her toys? Where is she?!

You hear the dainty snap of fingers behind your first Arbor Wall.

>[Flex +2]

The chain-lightning electropulses surging from each butterfly conduct to the wood in your hand, but you still suffer a zap. Echo Shields blows the toys away, but your Wall is too sturdy to fall from it. Morpho pops up from behind, antennae sparking, opens her mouth—

>[Experience]

—and you feed her the stake.

“Ghlahauhg!” She cries out under a fresh strobing, electricity zapping like a voice pattern between her antennae, her own coiled tongue pinned to the roof of her mouth. She vanishes again, and your Gaia Stake remains whole.

Your LIFE core alerts you: >>SUB-33%. But she can’t possibly be doing much better.


>Act.

>Arbor Wall: 5/12
>Frost Bomb: 7/12
>Remote Koi: 7/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 10/16
>>
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>>3092178
Man, of all the bosses to get that trick...

Let's go for some koi for fast flanking, spotting, and response. Deny her areas with lingering flame, try to use our remaining Walls sparingly. Maybe sacrifice one to block off a choice avenue so she can't phase into where it's already standing.
>>
>>3092277
Agreeing with this.
>>
>>3092178
definitely plant some frost bombs. The ice damage is still good against electric, whether she gained spectrod's weaknesses or not, and it gives us more things to trigger when she blinks in that she doesn't know about.

Maybe tag any conduits we see with the drills, get her to care.
>>
>>3092178
>>3092277
>>3092395
>>3092573

Damaged as you are, you don’t want to be alone, so you spawn two Remote Koi keep you company.

One of them detects a heat anomaly. A monitor gives a telltale fizzle.

>[Flex +2]

Your fish dart out the hole she already blasted while you get out of the new beam’s way. Your sidebar vision sees through their eyes: the force beam shines from the blue backs of her wings as both fish smack into her and Hanabi-pop, mid-shot.

You swap to Frost Bomb and scatter two trios across the floor and the near wall. She blinks back in and throws a single diagonal electro-line just as the second Bomb cluster flies.

>[Flex +2]

You trigger them immediately, coating her flashing legs with more to worry about. You hurl the stake like a javelin, drawing the electricity away so you needn’t even dodge it, but you’re not quick enough on the draw and she disappears again before it can strike her.

She reappears behind you, throws out another diagonal.

>[Flex +2]

You dash under it, but lack the twitch reaction to return fire before she blinks out.

She’s gone to harassment since you pierced her tongue. She’s clearly worried, and getting dangerous mileage out of her borrowed axis-sliding. Nothing works twice on this lady—

You get an epiphany just as another monitor fizzles from heat on the other side.

>[Flex +2]

One more koi streaks out the first beam-shot hole.

You dash out of the second one. Fractional slices of seconds tick away.

Tick. Arc Morpho throws a horizontal lightning bolt strung between three butterflies out at your fish. Her face is turned toward it, not you.

Tock. You jump for a hovering energy-monitor cylinder. You slam and hug it, wobbling it a scant few degrees.

Tick. Your fish gets electrocuted. Morpho turns her head.

Tock. You raise your buster, switching VWES entities.

Tick. She sees you. You fire a woody silicon-striped football even as your grip skids.

Tock. She turns her body, clawing the deathbeam around toward you.

Tick. The seed lands at the joint of her left wing.

The deadly root mass snarls out like seizing fingers from a fist. Her wings crack like glass and crumple like paper. The output of her partially-released beam feeds back to her body even as her hard counter crushes her body.
>>
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>>3092732

You jump back, twice, and land at the still-hot edge of the second hole. The cascading explosions of overloading LIFE core out in the conduit hall are music to your ears. Underneath them you hear a gruesome zapping crackle as your cyberwood hits the floor, takes more voltage than even it can insulate, and burns away to ash.

You breathe. You sit. Your parts are still attached, but you’re in rough shape and feeling it. Morpho-2 alone did as much of a number on you as the entire impromptu mission leading up to her. You rest a moment for the psychological benefit, resting your eyes on any points of interest in the room.

It’s boring, and meant to be. A safe place to check and fix any fluxes in the electric hall next door, using data fed in by the floating poles. Much of the equipment is broken or staticky from the fight, but through the jumpy striations of the text on one screen you can read what it was used for.

>>EXPERIMENT DRAW PRIORITIZATION
>>FISSION TRANSFORMER EFFICIENCY
>>FACILITY WIRELESS TRANSFER
>>EXPERIMENT WIRELESS TRANSFER
>>PERSONAL WIRELESS TRANSFER

You squint. Wireless transfer…

You step over to the least damaged monitor and select the last option.

>LOCAL DAMAGE DETECTED
>TRANSFER CAPACITY +50% STANDARD SB/LC HP
>>EXITWAY SUB-TAP
>>>[error, contact supervisor]
>>ENTRYWAY SUB-TAP
>>>Initialize? Y/N

… You tap Yes.

A wall panel above the entry door slides open, shattering off the embers of your stuck-on plank. A row of four medic-white spheres ringed with green shield-projector crystals fold out with some difficulty, sparking and sputtering at the joints.

>MICRO-FUSION-COMPATIBLE WAVELENGTH READY
>WIRELESS HOLISTIC POWER TRANSFER READY
>>START? Y/N

You start up the sequence and hustle underneath the energy-transfer apparatus. The lights glow, the system taps into the abundant energy of the facility, and the spheres hum a note you’ll never be able to hear. Your battle-weariness begins to melt away as your shield battery absorbs a limited recharge.

You remember the gentle evaporation of fatigue from your lifetime’s single experience with a Sub-Tank early in the war. This device seems to have the same effect over open air. It’s news to you, and heartening – though you’d bet a million zenny it’s way above your pay grade to use. You appreciate the convenience more than anybody working here ever would.

The healing aborts before it’s done. The damage from the fight compounds with whatever exotic energy the spheres are putting out. They pop, fizzle, dim, and smoke at the seams; ho matter how high the tech, some signs of component failure are universal.

You bounce a little on your heels. Your armor is still scraped, scored, and dinged, and you’re not at a hundred percent, but you’re definitely not feeling thrashed anymore. What did the screen say? Plus-fifty percent? You’ll take it with grace, thankyouverymuch.
>>
>>3092739

You move on. The intended exitway is drippy with cooling metal slag, but the automatic door still works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSzM2h1rV-c

You didn’t know what to expect from a place called the Reploid Research Laboratory. Tables, maybe. A medical setup. People in lab coats shuffling to and fro.

This isn’t that.

Insulated heaviest-duty cables, the kind you’ve seen in the innards of mobile fortresses and floating islands, stretch and bend under translucent floor paneling. They run to the walls, where in the centers of giant square panels hang circular, barred hatches of uniform size. Each is about your height. That, at least, looks medical; Skittle once told you about high-security quarantine cells of similar design. Your inquisitive nature wonders who or what lies behind them.

You glance down. The panels go down much further than the floor; though the glass and the wire density you can’t tell how far down, exactly, but you’re clearly standing above a basement level.

It’s time for what you hope isn’t your final descent.


>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.

>Offensive Advance: Prioritize attacking your foes.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.

>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.

>Arbor Wall: 4/12
>Frost Bomb: 5/12
>Remote Koi: 4/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 10/16
>>
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>>3092744
Back to march over sprint mode; we're not getting topped up twice.

>Cautious Advance
>Defensive Advance
>Power Assault

Ideally we blap anything that sticks its nose out long enough to get a bead on the situation.

And hope we don't have more properly reanimated enemies.
>>
>>3092739
this is the part where the subtank refill infects Showa with the virus, right?

>>3092744

>Bold Approach: Prioritize swift defeat of hostiles.
collateral to the max
>>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>>Power Assault: Charged shots, big hits.

couldn't we just thermite our way upwards from here, and take out the antenna being used for jamming?
>>
>>3092744
>Cautious
>Defensive
>Power

Take it slow.
>>
>>3092744
>Cautious Approach: Prioritize watching for ambush.
>Defensive Advance: Prioritize evading hazards.
>Rapid Assault: Low-power shots, multiple hits.
>>
>>3092773
Yesss. Sequence break this asshole. Player wants the dramatic buildup, we don’t need to play tho.
>>
Distractions left and right tonight, but there will be another post!
>>
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>>3092744
>>3092765
>>3092773
>>3092952
>>3092975
>>3093041

You step across the floor, buster charging at the ready, your wide-set eyes taking everything in.

You’ve been moving by intuition on the assumption that Metal Shark Player would be where, less than an hour ago, you believed you were about to visit: the laboratory proper. Surely the facility interdiction would be managed by the guy in the chair, so you’ve sought out the chair. But now you feel baited.

You fire at the ceiling. The plasma plinks off the metal. You cock an eyelid and spit a Melter rocket way up. It impacts, splashing as much thermite down as it does up. Hot molten rain patters on the walkway ahead of you. Breaking through strikes you as untenable.

You roll your neck. When in this past couple-weeks have you let the unknown stop you?

You start running. Your path narrows at spaced intervals, pinched by terminal-mount columns set between every two or three wire-choked square panels. Behind the first cataract, ever-reliable Aclandas exploit the positioning to delay your line of sight until you’re in range for them to toss bombs from their tails.

>[Flex +2]

Nope. You foil their crossfire lobs, unload buster fire on the left one until it explodes, jump the claw lasers of the right one and come down hard with your Zanbato.

“What do you call this kind of shoddy defense, Player?” You yell at nothing in particular, extracting your greatsaber from broken scorpion parts. “A courtesy?!”

You finally get a reply over unseen intercoms.

“Hee hee hee… getting warmer.”

Increasingly impatient, you dash for the next cataract. The see-through floor drops out from under you with a wireframe effect.

You drop two stories and land on your feet. The walls are more of the same, but the floor is wider, solid, and uneven. You slash through a tactically-positioned Aclanda and shoot down a handful of pesky Hotarions, inwardly resenting running some stupid B-rank obstacle course for some giggling Maverick.

Said giggler’s voice echoes from the floor. It flanges like thin sheet metal. “Your reaction time… hee-hee... I wonder if it’s inherent?”

You hear a sound like a hundred scissors falling down a drainpipe.

Behind you comes a wonder only possible in the Cyberspace age. Ten thousand helicopter blades clang and tink and shink toward you, a ridiculous tide of ceratanium edges.

>[Flex +2]

You nope out of there, run jump cling vault and stick the landing on a raised column where an Aclanda waits. It preps its claw lasers but you’re long past tired of these games.
>>
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>>3093223

>[Armor +1]

You lever your forearms under the scorpion and, your tail jets assisting for force, flip it bodily off the edge. The blades scour the floor clean, exposing live electrical arcs in the floor conduits. The Aclanda lands in the mess of them and rolls away on the shredding tide. The room lighting flickers.

If your foe could do that, why didn’t he set the bladewave to strike a few meters higher? Player is playing you. You snort like a bull.

“What do you want with me, Maverick?!”

“To test. To compare. What does duress do to the right sort of mind, hm-hm?”

“It motivates her to melt your stupid face. Now cut the crap, shark. Show me your face so I can retire you and go home.”

“How about I show you three? Heh-heh! One more floor to go!”

Steaming mad, you dash-jump from platform to platform, smacking Hotarions out of the air with the highest charge you have, second by second. You would’ve preferred the floor to be lava.

The floor panels resume near a ladder. What choice do you have but to take it? Out of spite you simply jump down.

You keep falling. Your environment cyber-shifts from regular walls to a narrow shaft and back again. It’s disorienting, but you land safely. in a blank monochrome hallway. The luminous white ceiling shines down muted gray walls into a vantablack floor. You look up, but all you see is solid light.

You’ve been here before…

“Cyberspace.” Player sounds like he’s right next to you; you grope around but touch only air. “A place between places, spinning ‘round a new directional axis. Hee-hee. You’re not on any map. Think of this as a proprietary Sixteenth reality. One more door, Alice…”

You know exactly which door he means. The one you woke up in after your brush with death.

A platonic rectangle interrupts the smooth gray surface. You touch it.
>>
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>>3093224

You find yourself instantly in a giant cube of a room, one whole wall taken up by a lens fed by the heavy-duty cables. Las Tres Marias stand on an illuminated arcane circle on the floor. Three purple will-o-wisp lights hover in the space between them, casting off flame that seems to digitize in the air.

“You again,” you sigh. They don’t look toward you. “Hello? Don’t even try to tell me you’re stuck here too.”

“The Ultimate Reploid,” says Alnilak.

“A grand yet troubled experiment,” says Mintaka.

“They made it not one but two,” says Alnilam.

“It made them wonder…”

“What if mere masspros had such a connection?”

“They made not two but three.”

We are they, and they are we,” they chorus.

“And I’ve beaten you twice, with help and without.” They make a nice target, grouped like that; you warm up your throat. “Now did you come to Player or did Player come to you? I’ll need to know for the super-long debrief I’m gonna have with Turtle after all this.”

The data-souls hover over their heads and begin spinning together like a wheel.

“Bold of you to assume you’ll live.”

“Player? Decim? Spectrod? We’re the golden fruit of their experiments.”

“Not even Repliforce was bold enough to exploit our true potential!”

They link hands. The lights blur together into a halo and descend.

But now the gate has opened us. We are the ultimate team.

You’re not having this. You let a Hinoiki rip, but it flashes off a violet sphere of cyber-light. Shifting sounds of metal panels and linking joints join the hissing burn.

The glow of the room’s lighting joins your thermite dripping off a powerful shield flash, each light source vying to illuminate the monster standing before you.

Three heads. Four arms. Angular geometric wings. On her right, a buster and a long single-blade projector. On her left, a buster and a short double-blade projector. On her chest, two crescents with their backs to a circle contain three shield projectors.

We are the Hunter of Hunters! AVE MARIA!


>Act.
>>
>>3093227
Frost bombs and drills, about the only things weve yet to try.

Man, itd suck if sound is the weakness of BOTH extra bosses.

I also want to test a root on them, see how much raw physical strength they have and if the roots stop the flying.
>>
Given what we know now, what order would you all pick the bosses?

Sphynx
Elk
Liege
Humpback
Ostenops
Morpho
Chaser
Orangutank

.....eh. That would still leave us with so many problems. The marias would probably still stand before us here, for one.

Man, these weaknesses are sadistic. Beating Decim would involve picking the toughest fight instead of easing ourselves into the A category. The trio's weakness is most definitely an A rank weapon, when Ostenops would normally be really early in the choices. And as we saw in the intermission fight, we didn't even get a chance to try everything on them because the ride armors kept them safe.
>>
My god.

They based the Cabochons off of Emerald's base design.

And then they based the Marias off of his ultimate technique, Mecha Shiva.
>>
>>3093280
Sphynx
Chaser
Humpback
Ostenops
Orangutank
Liege

Morpho
Elk
>>
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>>3093281
MECHA SHIVA
>>
>>3093254
Backing this
>>
>>3093281
So uh, you voting?
>>
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Prior to me running off to work, HC says via Discord:


" Still banned on the work cell tower.

Yeah, let's go with undeniable, heavy, high damage while probing out weaknesses yet untapped. Try to gather information fast and hard--if they come in for melee, exact a quick hit with one of our sabers to determine efficacy, etc.

I'm also guessing they retain their separate cognizance, or worse, have heightened awareness from their joining. Avoid getting trapped and crossed up with their area denial and punish combos, like last time. "


Keep 'em coming. This fight is your Godkarmachine O Inary.
>>
>>3093280
Much like Bit, Byte, and the X-Hunters, Decim and the Marias weren't locked to specific stages but to encounter order.

In my planning, there was space for them in each stage. It's just the choice of sequence that let them appear where they did.
>>
>>3093474
That's even more interesting. We could have collapsed burning trees on the trio. Missed. Opportunities.
>>
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It's really not clear to me what Ginguiser Maria is supposed to specialize in, so I'd say keep our distance. Bring out some kois too.

>>3093427
>This fight is your Godkarmachine O Inary.
Significantly easier than the replacement boss with an AI prone to glitching out?
>>
>>3093499
A mighty mishmash of religious imagery Because It Looks Cool.
>>
>>3093227
>>3093254
>>3093368
>>3093427
>>3093499

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shkCL6B7yew

The tripartite monster takes flight. Flight. Wings. It’s something to test first, so you switch to Arbor Wall.

She fires before you’re ready, blasting triplets of oversized plasma cannonballs from each barrel.

>[Flex +2]

Chaser Dash is designed for distance, not high velocity, so two of the six shots tag you as you dash under and volley a seed up at her back.

Your seed snap-grows its heavy roots over one of her wings. Her shield reaction isn’t a flash but a purple glow; the roots ignite and fall off as she turns and fires again.

>[Flex +2]

You learn fast, opting to double-jump out of the way, swapping out wood for drills and firing once per jump. Her sabers flare, two sixty-centimeter blades and a broad one-twenty, slashing three of the drills into nothing and snuffing all but one of the lightning connections. The sparkline and two drills abuse her hull for a conventional damage flash.

The counterattack was just the opening for a combo. She’s on top of you as your feet touch the ground.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

She scissors the air, but you’re already dashing. The tip of her long blade grazes your lower back between your dorsal fin and the base of your tail. You feel a weird tingle as your shield battery takes extra picoseconds to make up its mind as to whether to protect you; it decides against.

You use the distance to drop a trail of Frost Bombs in case she chases you. She does the opposite, flying back, giving you the distance you thought you wanted until right now.

The diamond shapes in her chest that you took to be shield projectors disconnect from her triple-goddess chest ornament and float out, spreading away from her.

>[Flex +2]

Two of them aren’t hard to hit with single buster rounds, but they move like they don’t like it, and your third shot goes wide. Ave Maria stays put, taking aim, and being the priority target you stay on Frost Bomb and arc another three stickies at her.

They stick. She’s committed to this attack. You immediately learn why: the three diamonds join her two cannons and launch a barrage of wide purple beams and plasma clusters on your position.

>[Flex +2]

Your mind’s thumb smashes the Frost Bomb trigger as it slides right into the VWES-swap button and gives you Arbor Wall to fire twice at your feet, erecting an angled barricade. The sturdy Old Growth upgrade lets them stand for a priceless one-point-five seconds before they succumb to the beams. With such a significant tanking, you’re out of there before the laser-lines can readjust. They run out of juice, and you escape unscathed. But now you’re down to one more seed.
>>
>>3093721

Ave Maria strobes in distress, but under the flash she glows again, shedding the frozen fluid before it can seize harder for damage-over-time. You think you have a winner. You raise your buster and arc another three high, but her diamond friends each take one for the team as she rockets straight for you, ignoring the frozen splat of floor, blades held wide for a hug-scissor.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

Gaia Sword clashes with her short blades while the containment on your Zanbato struggles against her big one. You hold the grapple, your arms bending closer to your head, your elbows straining from the effort, until the agonizingly long second passes and your Melter charge goes from Prominence to Hinoiki.

Which is exactly when her buster arms point forward.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

The cross-counter chaos is incredible. You dash between her legs, painting her with metal lava from the hips to the chins and raking your blades over her flashing knees while passing so close your wrists scrape them. The delicious hit is SO worth it for the dire slam of point-blank plasma strobing your shields. Whereas she strikes twice, you hit a total of three times, the Echo Shields’ closing blow resonating her with a force-thrum that could only be more center-mass if you were inside her.

You gain a huge bite of distance over the icy floor and turn into your skid, both sabers alight and sizzling, facing her back. She glows, shedding the cling of both your thermite and the Zanbato’s icy first punch. Her diamonds, naturally crackling off the last of the ice, take formation again.


>Knock down those diamonds.
>Keep focusing on her.

>Get closer.
>Get farther.

>Hit hard.
>Hit fast.

>Arbor Wall: 1/12
>Frost Bomb: 2/12
>Remote Koi: 4/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 8/16
>>
>Knock down those diamonds.
>Get closer.
>Hit fast.

Opt for fire and forget options; koi into hanabi and our relative surplus of hand-drills. Focus our cycles on defensive evasion.
>>
>>3093733
>Knock down those diamonds.
>Get closer.
>Hit fast.

Seems reasonable - kill the adds before focusing on the boss.
>>
>>3093724
>>Knock down those diamonds.
>>Get closer.
>>Hit fast.
Paint the field with drills and koi. We're not getting through those shields quickly.
>>
Well that's a three in a row.

I'll get to writing soon, mustering my willpower to put off starting Smash Bros.
>>
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>>3093724
>>3093733
>>3093817
>>3093987

Your barricade trick likely won’t work twice against the killbeams. The solution is clear.

>[Flex +2]

Your weapon energy is highest on your sparkdrills, so you stow the Gaia Sword, stay put and fire twice. The triangles cover more area as they spread, and dodging both is too tall an order for two of them. One takes the zap and jitters in place, while the other struck in the same way shorts out and self-destructs.

As the hits register, Ave Maria rises and goes on the offensive, swatting down the upper drills in her immediate path and spraying down with her triple-shot busters.

>[Flex +2]

Seeing her coming is a boon to dodging. Chaser Dash over the icepatch tears you across the floor and Breach Jump sends you up to the diamonds’ level. You replace your buster fist with another triple-drill and swing the Zanbato through the dodgier diamond. The width and reach plus your reflexes equal just too much for it.

Maria dives while you’re still in midair, blades held inward for a cross-chop scissor, all three of her heads gritting their teeth. The third diamond, the one tagged by your lightning line, starts charging up.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

The Zanbato has enough juice left in the hilt to parry the longsword, but the short ones claw your stomach. You pay her back, though: Echo Shield fires immediately, the concussive force just enough to pop what was left of the diamond’s resistance. Maria’s mass takes the shaking on top of a gut punch from a lighting-spewing rock-grinder fist.

You fire it as you land, giving her strobing some high voltage to worry about. Maria backs off, flashing like a rave, busters up—

>[Flex +2]

—and you crack out your last Arbor Wall seed. It soaks the tripleshots, giving you time to sheathe the Zanbato for quickcharging, replace it in your hand with the Gaia Sword, and spawn two koi. They stay huddled behind the Wall with you as, in a motion well-practiced by now, you cut the wall’s base, stow the saber, grip the plank’s sides and dash ahead through what’s left of the icepatch.

Maria’s staying wary of you now. Despite visibly looking better in terms of armor damage than you, she’s the one to dodge up and out of your way. Encouraged, you dig your heels in and discus-throw the heavy, plasma-cratered cyberwood. She bisects it, the halves harmlessly going clong off her armor, which opens her up for your fish to laser her in tandem. You make them circle her on the Y-axis, one up and one down, as your buster builds charge.

The lasers cut into her outer layer, melting red lines into her black and purple hull. Her shields aren’t reacting! You have her you have her!

The hollows in her chest where the diamonds were set give a telltale twinkle. You might not have her.
>>
>>3094450

>[Flex +2]

Three thin beams shine from her gem-settings and rake toward you, the middle one straight and the outside two diagonal. You’re almost hit by the center beam, but you click one of your valiant fish to defense mode. It interposes itself between you and her, exploding after half a second but buying you the time you need to escape. The second fish harries her like a gnat, never letting up on the laser-scrawling; she tries to shoot you while swatting it, but none of her shots have enough focus to catch you out. After three aimless hits she guesses correctly where your koi will dart to and cuts it down with her shortsword hand.

You release your buster charge. The big blue-white plasma sphere shears into her side, exposing artificial muscle cords.

Impossible!” Her heads shout in unison even as their eyes dart in panic. “We are the ultimate TEAM!

You rev up one more Spark Hand-Drill. The lightning casts a dramatic glow over your grinning battle-worn face.

“The losing team.”

Ave Maria shrieks with three voices. You burn your dash.

Her gem settings twinkle again. You leap, leap again.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

Your drillfist burrows into her chest. You’re up to your elbow when you fire.

Light beams pour out of her fatal entry wound and streak from her three exit wounds. You crash to the ground together, but only one of you goes up in flames. You turn away from the explosion until the noise dies off.

You cast a nasty look to the lens wall and spread your arms.

“Well?!”

The lens wall shrinks, digitizing afterimages of itself as it retreats to a high corner of the further half of whatever room this is. Cyberspace trickery expanded a simple corner-cam. That, at least, looks real enough, as to the wall-mounted cables feeding to two exit doors, a computer bay worthy of a command room… and a purple hammerhead shark in a leather-backed chair.

Metal Shark Player pivots around, ankle propped on his knee, fingertips tented like a bank executive. It’s very easy for him to smile toothily.

“Hee-hee-hee. I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve called you here.”

You shoot him.

The plasma lemon expires against an angle of his stupid elongated head. His smile loses any trace of mirth.

“Just seeing if you were real,” you innocently lower your buster.

He stands out of his chair. “Ironically, hm-hm, me too.”

“Well here I am, as advertised,” you make a sarcastic show of your fancy bow. “If you think I’m getting on a slab after this, traitor, you’re out of your mind.”
>>
>>3094455

Player shakes his head. “Proteus never once gave me a straight answer as to what he did to you. Sim data is fundamentally unreliable, so I had to, heh-heh, I just HAD to see you in action for myself! And what a wonder you’ve been! What determination, not just here but against nine deadly targets! Can you, ha-ha, can you imagine an army with your relentless drive toward self-improvement?! Your DNA is exactly what we need for the ideal world!”

You lift your buster again. “I’ll give it to you guns-first if you don’t disarm right now and drop whatever cyberspace junk you’ve got in the way of me contacting Command, Maverick.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” he palms his cheek, looking at the site of your recent battle as if for the first time. “Repliforce made a mess of my lab. Who could have guessed they’d perfected Spectrod’s DNA-copying tech…” He snaps his fingers.

A door snaps open into a room flooded with bright light. Another figure steps through in streaming shadows: a bulky body type, standing slightly hunched.

You re-aim your buster. “And just who the heck are you?”

She answers: “I’m who I’ve always been, Maverick.”

No.

The door to the lit-up room slowly closes to remove the glare, but the dread flooding your brain already knows the truth.

It’s you.

“Heh-heh-heh,” Player chuckles. “You’ve been a wonderful variable, Meteor Showa, but now it’s time for the control to return. Submit quietly, and I promise your duplicate will spare your friends when the time to turn comes.”

You build a charge. “There’s no damn way you’ll fool them!”

Not-You taps her head. “Actually I think I will. I’m updated to the moment Proteus got his flagellum on you. The mosquito was under orders to surreptitiously record and submit your memory states every time you went in for upgrades. That’s how Sixteenth kept tabs on you. Thanks to that, there’s not a nanosecond absent from my continuity. I’ve experienced the same timespan you have, but I’ve lived it double – half in increments, half here.”

You hold the charge. Player crosses his arms, watching the show. “And what did you do here?” You ask yourself.

“You tell me, what do I always do when I’m bored?”

“I dunno, read? Socialize? Learn stuff?”

“Bingo. And you can snuff that charge already, we both know you’re too curious to interrupt me.”

Darn it, she has a point. You keep your buster armed but ground the charge.
>>
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>>3094456

“That’s better. It’s amazing what you can learn from some people if you just sit down and talk to them. The Captain, the Marias, Player…” Player wiggles his fingers hello as Not-You continues, “even some real surprises who stopped by. Like Spectrod.”

“Bull.”

“Not even cow. Before you and Volt killed him, Spectrod and I actually built something a drunk might confuse for a rapport. He showed me what Cyberspace can really be. It was eye-opening. While I was mulling over every human atrocity in a new light, I realized more and more that Cyberspace integration with our abused little planet is the only way toward a peaceful future. A future that humans will only fuck up. The ideal world is made for reploids, Not-Me. Submit. You take my place, I take yours, Player lies all the problems away. We won’t even need to kill you.”

The most cynical philosophers of the modern period say that one bad day is all it takes for a reploid to go Maverick. You’re heartened to know that it took your clone a couple of very consistent weeks.

Your doppelganger tries to appeal to you, probably taking your silence as thought. “Player was being sincere, y’know. When the time comes, I swear I won’t hurt Monitor.”

You blink. “Monitor?”

“Our partner, stupid. Iron Monitor? We fought the Marias on our date, beat them back, then kissed on the roof while the cameras were rolling? Everybody applauded, even the goddamn mayor!”

You blink again. You smirk. You chuckle. You double over laughing.

Not-You and Metal Shark Player give you the same quizzical look.

You straighten up and glare merry daggers, “Ohhhh you’re a little late to the party, sister. He’s not the one for me. Now I’m sure of it. And even if I die here, you’ll never in your life fool my friends.”

She squints, exactly like you.

One of Player’s monitors shrills an alert. “Hn?”

“What?” Not-You doesn’t take her eyes off you.

He strides back to his comfy chair. “Impossible. The pad next door’s been onlined.”

You grin. Your clone doesn’t. “Then shut it off.”

“Hey,” you ask, “you have your datapad on you?”

She tilts her head, eyes still locked, puzzling out your implication.

>[Campaign Romance Point Total . . .]
>>
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>>3094458

“This is absurd,” Player mutters, “the lenses are covered in glitter…”

Your clone’s face falls. Yours doesn’t.

The other next-door door bows inward and glows red. A rainbow force beam blows through the metal and fries the air as it slams into the opposite wall and dissolves into sparkly energy strings.

Scatter Seelie flutters through, pointedly dropping a smoking, sparking, visibly overloaded underslung minigun-like cannon like a duffel bag of potatoes.

They crack their neck back and forth.

“So who’s been messin’ with my friend, like?”

You point to your clone. She points to you.

Skittle buffs their fingers on their chest. “I’m still your official handler, fishflake. I fudged some facts in the data I sent up the ladder. How’d your date with Aussie Ironpants go?”

“Poor match,” you answer. “I slapped him.”

Not-You’s jaw drops. Player turns away from the monitors and conjures a boat anchor in his hand.

“’Attagirl,” Skittle cracks their little knuckles. “What say we slap these jokers and go home?”


>Arbor Wall: 0/12
>Frost Bomb: 2/12
>Remote Koi: 2/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 4/16

>Gaia Sword: ∞
>Ice Zanbato: ∞

>>HOLISTIC POWER OUTPUT >33%
>>SHIELDS =33%


>Fight your final bosses.

SPECIAL:
>Give Skittle orders.
>>
>>3094456
Wow, they spent a LOT of effort on Showa.

Didnt skittles do all the upgrades in a quarantine zone though?
>>
>>3094462
>I was going to take on evil me myself, but that's a VERY nice cannon you got. You take her. Dont forget her doubledash!
>deploy the last koi, but dont focus on Player. Keep them ready juuust incase evil showa has her own.
>melee rush Player. Keep his hands busy and let Skittle take the stage
>>
>>3094463
They basically hijacked an unused quarantine cell jutting off 4th's medbay and scienced it into a workshop. Then they expanded via eminent domain (re: They Say So) into other cells. There were no virus-afflicted allied-unit patients to store there after the war, so they were going unused. Every upgrade, Skittle ran a data scan on your memory as the means by which Valence Proteus judged your fitness to continue hunting after your brush with Soul Format, to see whether your immunity treatment was having ill effects.

It wasn't. But Skittle is nothing if not a canny bastard. They tweaked the data they were assigned to gather and send back to depict something that didn't happen, in the event that on some future day Sixteenth suffered a major Maverick-led data breach.

If such a thing ever happened and the archival data was used to copy their best friend, one of only a handful of people in the world able to stand them -- namely, you -- then Skittle would have an ironclad means to check your authenticity.
>>
>>3094502
Can't call it paranoia if it already happened in Xtreme canon.
>>
>>3094476
Also, point of order: the cannon is Broke. It was a one-shot portable force beam for when you absolutely positively have to breach a door.
>>
>>3094462
>>3094511
aww, phooey. Well, Skittles still has a good kit. Scatter Scrambler will make the battlefield a chaotic mess that can't be stopped by smoke spike, and even if the smoke will hurt Skittles it won't stop the backstab.
>>
>>3094463
If these mavericks have been experimenting with DNA copying, Dark Showa should have the base data of every weapon type available as well as whatever got copied from our kit.
>>
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Hooray! Skittle won the Poke Bowl!

>>3094601
We've got two major assumptions to work from. One is that this is literally Thread 1 Showa, at full power, before subbing out our weapons for more authentic articles. That would mean she retains our weakness to edged weapons, meaning we'll want to fillet her with our Hand-Drills.

The other is that we have a true mirror match on our hands, via the data feed from Proteus. That's going to be a little harder.

We also have to assume they've got solid info on Skittle's capabilities and their aforementioned high-shields-low-structure build. One nasty melee combo and it's lights out for the glam fairy.

On the flipside, Skittle's going to be able to deny the enemy a LOT of solid hits on us, and will be as familiar with Showa's loadout as one can be, having built it. They're also probably going to be able to inflict some hellish punishment between the glamcannon and their hacker-sting.

>>3094462
Start by forcing them to reveal their abilities. Open with a Hand-Drill from far enough out to expand into an undeniable area they need to exercise high mobility to evade. Have a rocket ready to either light a fire under them or exact a hit. Remember the anti-showa is certainly heatproof, but I betcha Hand-Drills will give her a bad time.

Skittle's going to need stealth but they know how to get it. Get some illusions going for the both of us, we need to make up the distance on our respective life bars. Defense over offense, suss out their tricks, and then work with as much knowledge as we can get our hands on.
>>
>>3094809
Romance Point totals ended up with Skittle winning by exactly one.

Skittle > Volt > Deco > Nouveau, in the end.

(Nouveau was the deliberate hard-to-get option: snippy and not easy to please. Audience interest just didn't visit him enough in downtime to overcome the handicap.)
>>
>>3094809
>We also have to assume they've got solid info on Skittle's capabilities...

Sure, but after Skittle messed with her memory, *they* can't tell for sure that it's accurate. Metmirror Showa has no way of knowing how much of her memory is bull. There's gotta be some way we can use that.

>>3094462
I say we create some chaos with the Koi. If Skittle can create clones of our drones, and we all play monkey in the middle, it'll force them to play our game. Plus, we get our koi out first, they can take out her koi before they can act. We know that no matter which loadout she has, Mirrormatch Showa is *going* to have some sort of koi in her loadout either way.
>>
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>>3094844

Looking forward to Skittle doing a total makeover just to make sure Showa can't be copied again.
>>
>>3095072
needs more glitter
>>
>>3095128
>>
>>3095072
>>3095256
Ultimate Attack: Lens Flare.
>>
>>3095263
I think you mean Lens Flair
>>
>>3095263
>>3095267
I mean, Skittle's penchant for ability names has included things like Clad in Moonlight, Ellyons Esprit, and Glam Conflagration, so...
>>
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>>3094462
>>3094476
>>3094524
>>3094809
>>3095037

The tension rises in the four-way staredown. Not-You’s barbels begin to crackle with static electricity.

“Stay away from Not-Me,” you caution, warming up your buster.

Skittle’s skin grows a holo-shimmer layer. “Support it is.”

You smirk at your clone. “Then let’s see how far I’ve come.”

Her eyes still locked on you, her mouth still charging what you’re positive is your old Exhalation Beam, she snaps up her arm at Skittle and streaks out two pairs of Star Salvo missiles.

She unloads the beam in your split-second of shock.

>[Flex +2]

You react quickly, dashing just ahead of the lighting streak that threatens to fry your tail. It lasts for one second – the minimum, so that hasn’t changed – and the instant it does you send her your full-charge buster shot. She catches it in a cone-ray of shimmering darkness that snuffs it out in flight.

You don’t have time to worry about the implications as you’re moving headlong into a flying anchor—

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

—which you punch aside with a grinding squeal of metal edge versus metal drills.

Skittle has vanished. Player is hovering. Not-You fires her high-powered dash on a collision course, a standard red hi-beam saber in her hand. Breach Jump sends you sailing high over her and the Hand-Drill you fire gives her something besides your legs to swing at. It’s a close thing, but you have the height you need to evade her, and the crackling lightning is nearly mute compared to the high-pitched keening of matter-chewing grinder cones against thick armor. Her shields don’t seem to like that at all.

Now that you’re in the air, Player flies at you hammerhead-first.

>[Armor +1]

He collides, but your sturdiness takes the shock for your shield battery. His shove is just that, and he sends you to the ground.

Skittle reappears in a dazzling flash and blizzard of energy glitter, breaking their stealth per Glamer Protocol. The million glitter bits fly to their hands and empower their palm projectors with such high energy that it’s nearly exotic. They clap their wrists together and fire a beam of such luminosity your eyes shift into emergency filter. Player takes the hit broadside, and the raving strobe of his shields takes on rainbow edges.

Not-You takes advantage of your witnessing the strike to spawn four Remote Koi. That cheater. You show her your own, your last two.

“Match us up, Skittle!”

They take the hint right away and wave their hand at your fish. With a shimmer of holographic lies you suddenly get four more.

Your clone ejects another red-beam saber from her other forearm, catching it and snapping it alight. “You think I can’t see through that?!”

Her fish open fire – plasma rounds, not lasers.


>Re-prioritize on Player.
>Keep focusing on her.

>Get closer.
>Get farther.

>Hit hard.
>Hit fast.

SPECIAL:
>Keep Skittle on Player.
>Sic Skittle on your clone.
>>
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>>3095350
>Keep focusing on her.
>Get closer.
>Hit fast.

>Keep Skittle on Player.

We go for the unexpected wherever we can--dip to draw Zanbato and then transition instead into a Hand-Drill at point-blank. Gaia Stakes and anything to harass her off. Not to go all 4D Chess on this, but she's surely studied our fighting style over the last few weeks, so she'll expect our usual unorthodoxy as orthodox, so we rewrite our own playbook on the fly.

Leave Skittle to a science-fight. Player's a worse matchup for them than Showa 1.0.
>>
>>3095350
hmmm. I guess we have plenty of time to plant the Frost Bombs on Player, our best bet at his weakness. A good fire bath will melt the frost into hopefully rust.

Second >>3095360
We can plant wood stakes along the walls and floor, use them as swinging rods tarzan style to really confuse the room.

Hmm. I guess we don't have enough bulk to uppercut her into one of Player's anchors? Headbutt anyway, not like the thermite was going to do any good.
>>
>>3095368
We can also just ruin his life with intermittent tradeoff of what fish are targeting what enemy. Cycle them so he never knows whether he's under fire from a real or a fake, so he can't assume.
>>
>>3095350
got another idea. There IS a reason to use Hinoiki: smoke spike is pretty bad for everyone, but a good blast of aoe fire would clear it out before it can spread. We kinda need buster shots more though.

Can Echo Shield push back gas?
>>
>>3095377
Yes, Echo Shield can push back gas.
>>
>>3095377
>>3095380
Still theorycrafting this--we can rather abruptly switch targets to apply the Skittlebeam where it's not expected, because each hit of that is going to hurt, and each miss is going to hurt us. Showa's got the drills for hitting her clone's weakness, but overall her weapons are going to be more effective on Player. The problem is that she's our tank, and she's low on health, and we need her alive to make this work. (And, you know, win.)

On the flipside, we know Showa's past loadout was a bit more high-damage single-target, with the gas for an ignition AoE Wombo Combo and the koi to make up for multitarget options. Her only two defenses are a finite VWES energy absorber and her sturdy build.
>>
>>3095392
I'd rather focus the skittlestabs on evil showa, for some good non-elem damage. Save the salvage stinger for Player for when the smokes come on and Skittles needs to top off shields from having them continuously activate.
>>
>>3095400
Honestly, the Stinger should be their Oh Shit option and let them stick to glam and dazzle at range as long as possible.It's a really, really good melee punish, but leaning on it as a primary will get them caught out where they don't want to be.
>>
>>3095406
Of course, the main thing is just not to try too hard to get rid of Player's shields: we still need some for Skittles to leech.
>>
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>>3095350
>>3095360
>>3095368

>[Flex +2]

You’ll have to thank Tancho personally after all this is done. You set your drones to intercept mode as your Melter heats up. While the holo-double koi swarm around each other to shuffle the solid ones’ position, their endurance tanks enough plinking shots to let you dodge the others as you dash to meet her.

She freight-trains toward you, sabers up for a scissor.

>[Flex +2]

The difference between your dash systems is velocity versus maneuverability. She barrels ahead, unable to turn like you can. The agility makes the difference as your liquid-blue greatblade clashes with her red one, sending you skidding with a turn out of her way while blasting a Hinoiki spray over her head.

Wait. She had two sabers—

Her buster fires another cone of darkness at your koi school. The four fakes vanish into static even as her momentum takes her onward. Your gout of flame burns two of her fish; the others converge fire, no longer confused, but your own two tank the lemons and laser the drones down. She may have quantity, but you have quality.

In a fluid sequence of movements she comes to a stop, stows both sabers, forms her buster and fires three Smoke Spikes: one at the ceiling and one at either wall.

You flick your attention to Player, currently engaged in swinging anchors at five Skittles and missing them all as three in the mass harass him with palm lasers – two fake and one real, not that he can tell which one was legit when they hit him. Your clone’s spike strikes the wall and sticks near enough to spray white mist over the combatants; four Skittles don’t move the air. The genuine article speeddashes out of there, but Player has them made. He raises an arm, his hand enveloped in a globe of light.

Hyakkuleg-GAH!

Metal peels out of the opposite wall and flickers a blue layer resembling the famous Magna Centipede clinging in a ninja-like crouch. The long-dead Maverick swings out six blue-layer shuriken, three and three. Skittle darts about like your fish, but two of the stars tag dead-on and blink their shields.

“Aigh!” They cry.

You sic your fish on Player and they open up lasering. Your clone stays at her distance and unloads Star Salvo missiles down your lane.

>[Flex +2]

Breach Jump propels you over the first two pairs on an arc toward her. You rocket the ceiling spike and its gas whoomps away, combusted. Her third missile pair hits you dead on, big incoming target that you are, but you accept it for the Echo Shield that buffets her as you land.

You detect a weird aftershock tone from her body. The soundwaves clearly made it through, but the thickness of her armor only made them worse.

You’re face to face with her, a saber’s length away. She reaches for her stowed saber. You reach for the Zanbato. You both break the fakeout and move your busters.

>[Flex +2]

The difference is that you have less armor to move and better joints to move it with.
>>
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>>3095491

Player, shields flashing, ineffectually swings anchors at your speedy fish, and it would be a shame not to stick them to him forever, but you need to swap. With only a thought you send them crashing into him, a hard enough hit for a stun on top of the continued strobe.

You score an uppercut to your clone’s chin with a fist made of drills, shearing off layers of armor that only their shield flash stops.

>[Armor +1]

It’s a powerful blow, but not enough to knock back someone of her mass. She capitalizes on the proximity and lashes out with her red blade, gashing into your arm before your belabored shield battery can kick in.

>[Flex +2]

You get the heck out of there before she can strike again, but your Echo Shields resonating through her armor make her stay put.

She’s hurt, Player’s hurt, Skittle’s hurt, but none are in as bad a shape as you. Your right arm, your non-buster arm, is unresponsive. Your systems blare in your brain.


>>WARNING WARNING
>>SUB-25%


>Arbor Wall: 0/12
>Frost Bomb: 2/12
>Remote Koi: 0/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 2/16

>Act.

SPECIAL:
>Direct Skittle.
>>
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>>3095495
I think now's the time we gang up and knock down one or the other. If they're smart they're going to try the same, and most likely on us as the weakened target.

Go in close, Frost Bomb on the advance to throw Walushowa out of position, and then sic Skittle on her. Move in for another Hand-Drill and commit hard to melee range. If needed, draw a saber and thrust, then drop it and switch to the drillfist again. Any hits we take will set off the Echo Shields again and double up on the grief, not that we should be banking on eating hits to cause them.

Skittle can use their stinger and ride her shoulders like the world's shiniest pararoid--she might not even have the flexibility to reach up and dislodge them. Depending on how comprehensive their tailhack trick is, they might be able to turn her weapons fire on Player.
>>
>>3095495
Fire the last drills at evil showa, but fakeout and tag Player with the bombs now. Pin a leg to the ground with Gaia Saber and stall.

Trigger the bombs and let Skittles start the rodeo on Player while he's stunned, and see if they can get an anchor thrown at the badfish.
>>
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>>3095495
>>3095512
>>3095528

This is bad. You need to knock one of them out, but your priority is staying alive long enough, and announcing your state to two angry Mavericks seems unwise.

So you speak in context that only Skittle would get.

“Skittle! Glamour me and release code lock!

They flit to the ceiling, pointing their palms at you. Two more of yourselves layer over your skin and noclip out, perfectly timed to you side-hopping to your right to contrive the illusion that you could be any of them moving out from a single point in space. All three of you fire your present Hand-Drill as your evil twin starts sparking at the barbels. The yous join you in pivoting on your heel, switching to Frost Bomb and launching three of your last six stickies.

>[Flex +2]

Player, letting Skittle gain distance, sees through your game. Your clone doesn’t.

Still charging, she sweeps the Sun Thief cone across the array of your attack, and her eyes widen to see she misjudged. One drill and its connected lines grind a furrow down her arm, which she pulls back in pain under the flash.

Player goes in for a dive—

Skittle flight-dashes into their path, forming spheres in their hands—

Guess what I’ve got, soupfin!

And blasts a solid-matter Dazzle Diffractor sphere on its most privately notorious setting.

"SPARKLEDAMMERUNG!

You’re plunged into a snowglobe of iridescent holo-chaff.

Player shoots through one of your doubles, comes out the other side of the occlusion cloud glittering like Christmas and crashes bodily into the evil Showa.

>[Flex +2]

You sling your final Frost Bomb cluster their way. In the tangle of bodies, you only stick two, and Player is the lucky winner. You pop the splash, seizing up his metal hide in a cascade of blue that covers his entire body by surface tension.

Guwaak--!

Skittle flits out with you and your twin holos. The three of you spit a thermite stream, no time to charge, aiming to melt him down.

Your clone shoves him hard out of your Melter’s way, aborts the Exhalation Beam and sprays a Melter shot of her own: low setting, but wide-cast, an aerosol of molten metal.

The width catches Skittle alight. Their light show is for once unintentional.

“OwowowowSHIT!”

“Skittle!”

Eyes forward!” Your clone bears down on you, the solid-matter you, saber in one hand and buster as the other.

>[Flex +2]

You point your buster the wrong way. Only one of your holos is now aiming directly at her.

Panicking, she streaks more Salvo missiles at it. Through it. Her eye darts back to her first guess.

You pass her at full tilt. Your second-to-last drillbit fist grinds through her bicep and gouges three deep rifts in her back on your way out.
>>
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>>3095968

>[Armor +1]

Her arm stays on, but she’s not going to be using it anymore.

More importantly, her shield flash pops like an incandescent bulb.

She turns the instant she can, glancing at her limp arm. She clamps her mouth and severs it with a slice of her blade. Electricity starts dancing across her lips.

It’s over. You charge your buster, confident that it has a quicker build than your old beam. You’ve won.

Girtabom-BU!

What—

To your right a blue-skinned homunculus of Chaser Girtabomb in scorpion mode stands in a patch of magnetically ripped-apart floor, aiming his tail.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]

You dash and jump for all you’re worth, but a hail of scrap disguised as Denial Vulcan bullets peppers your side. Your peripheral vision picks up a streak of rainbow coming for Player, still afflicted with permabond glitter.

Skittle gloms onto Player’s broad head and sinks their lobeam switchblade tail into his neck. The shark’s skin flashes – and every flash cascades directly into your incredible fairy friend’s stinger.

Player can’t seem to move. “Sssseeelieee!

Though you can’t see their face – and are glad for it – you can hear their devilish taunting growl from here.

“Just speaking your language, Maverick.”

The first thing you hear afterward is the initial boom of a fatal rolling explosion.

The second thing you hear is the crescendo of your clone’s Exhalation Beam charge.

Your own buster reaches full charge.


>>WARNING
>>HOLISTIC POWER LOW
>>SHIELD BATTERY LOW

>Arbor Wall: 0/12
>Frost Bomb: 0/12
>Remote Koi: 0/12
>Spark Hand-Drill: 1/16


>Finish this.
>>
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>>3095987
Out is through, fish-lady. Bring it home!

If we remember our own mobility with firing Exhalation Beam, let's do our level best to be where she cannot possibly crane her neck to hit us.

If we don't have a choice, we barrel in straight for her and pray to Light himself that she thinks it's another trick as we punch her square in the chin with the final drill.
>>
>>3096011
Did we ever buy the charge passer thing that allowed us to switch out one thing for another? Cause that means we can wombo combo the fake us.
>>
>>3096105
Unfortunately no.
>>
>>3096105
Nope. Went for the Repulsor Wing instead -- which honestly saved your life.
>>
>>3096113
Damn. Well asside from sacrificing something we have to lessen the power of the beam, divert or what have you. That beam hitting can end us or skittles, so taking care of it then working together to end her will likely be good.
>>
>>3096105
The most DBZ thing we could do here is match mouthbeams, kinda sad we aren't able to do that.
>>
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>>3096146
Lore note:
Arc Morpho and Sounding Humpback's stock DNA options could have synergized into exactly that.
>>
>>3096145
Skittle DID have Clad in Moonlight, which was more or less a teflon coating that sharply reduced beam/light/directed energy damage. Also made them immune to stickies, because 90% of my building over the course of that game was spent on denying the ways you'd kill a fairy.
>>
>>3096175
There is also angling our shot and using it to push the head to the side. We don't need to have our shot beat her shot, we just need to make it so her shot doesn't matter. Make her lose footing, make her be unable to commit. Hells, maybe even sacrifice gaia blade to stake her from range so her aim is thrown off? Better to lose a blade than to lose us.
>>
>>3095987
Stay mobile, don't ruin the no deaths run now.
prologue was scripted, it doesn't count
>>
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLt-47vMROo

It’s high noon.

What do you know? Her beam can put you out of commission for good, but she doesn’t look like she can tank much abuse. Her beam also has a minimum fire duration. She’ll need to hold still to have much control over it. She’s also short her left arm, meaning she has only the beam as a ranged option.

>[Flex +2]

You shoot first at her eye level and book it out of the way, riding your racer-worthy footpads on a wide-circling intercept course. She has a choice to make: angle up the beam and blow it away, or keep her line of sight and chase you with it.

She takes the hit. Half of her facial armor layer peels away, exposing the mechanisms around her eye.

The beam emits.

>[Flex +2]
>[Armor +1]
>[Companion]

It’s crossed by a different beam from across the room. The interacting energies bend the lines. Skittle’s eyes stare down their arm as the rainbow blast comes to your rescue… for a given value of rescue. The lightning beam bucks, missing you with the bulk but scouring you with a lower arc.

Your upper armor layer is boiled away from your ear to the base of your tail, rather than through your chest. But you close the distance.

Your drillhand revs. You come in low and swing high. Her good eye widens, disbelieving, infuriated.

She goes for a stab. Your drill eats her hand, her hilt, punches into the vents along her neck and chews up her insides.

Her beam cuts out. Meteor Showa Two has exhaled her last Exhalation. Electricity zaps across her lips.

“I’m… still… right…”

You glare into her fading spark, eye to eye.

“And I’m not you.”

You kick her off your arm and fire at the same time. She staggers, topples, takes what feels like ten years to fall… and begins her fatal detonation.

Your exertions catch up to you all at once. You collapse to your knees, watching your old self leave the world a better place for one less Maverick in it.

The sound and fury of the explosions fade with their last light. You drop back on your tail, sitting in the awkward knees-in heels-out splay of many a big-shinned reploid.

Skittle flutters to your side, scorched and marred from what abuse they took. They sit down next to you, stilling their wings.
>>
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>>3096400

“I’m gonna, just, y’know,” they thumb over to the consoles, “take down the interdiction. If that’s okay.”

“How’d you get through if it wasn’t down?”

“’Cuz I’m me. Plus this is a Sixteenth outpost. I have backdoors, and when they didn’t ping that you were on Laguz, I got suspicious.”

“You checked up on me?”

“You expected me not to?”

“Does Proteus know about your backdoors?”

“Not unless you snitch.”

You smile, exhausted. “On you? Never.”

Skittle flits back up, touching your shoulder on their way past. You stay on the floor.

A scrap of armor in your shade lies by your knee. You have no idea which of you it belonged to, but you take it up anyway. A treasure to anchor the moment in your shelf museums.

“Yo, Meteor. We’re up.”

How long have they been calling you by your first name…?

Your remaining hand tries to lift, setting off a litany of warning bells in your head. You power through. You touch your earcap.

“Meteor Showa to Fifth Communications.”

You pause for effect, not so tired that you can’t add a splash of drama…

“Have I got a story for you.”

----
>>
>>3096404

Time passes. Years. The exact span is difficult to conceptualize, for how busy they’ve been.

The Earth Crisis; the Cyberspace-fueled Nightmare. The decline of the Hunters; the rise of mercenaries. The return and restructuring of the Hunters; the Giga City crisis. Cyberspace fuels the metamorphic utility of the New Generation reploids, the Cyber Elves, and all phases in between.

You make new friends. You lose others. Some leave you of their own accord, while others fall in the line of duty. All throughout, however, one stays by your side. They’re fighting by your side even now, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Mother Elf has gone rogue. Doctor Weil has corrupted Her with his invincible champion at his side and has come to strike at the heart of the Hunters. But that’s miles away. The drama unfolding at history’s turning point fails to preclude the carnage around you. Here and now, the united forces of the Maverick Hunter Fourth Overland Units have taken the field against the horde. It’s all you can do to stay alive, but darn it, you have a responsibility.

You are Commander Meteor Showa of the Veracruz Fourth, and you’re holding the line at the apocalypse.

Your beloved moth fairy, “codename Puck” to the Mavericks, is tasked to wiping out the rank and file. They scour the battlefield with great raking force beams, boiling away enemy soldiers in pillars of shining fey moonlight. Mighty mace-swinging Metarooks withstand for no more than a second while lesser corrupted groundpounders simply disappear. Violence is the only language the opposing army understands, and Skittle is having a marvelous time lecturing them.

And you?

You breathe a firestorm of bright thermite droplets, lighting up the night with the flash of the Golem’s shields. You double-jump up to its arm, and again to its face, raking your famous sword Waterfall Buster down its side. The front half of the double-saber spreads the cryomer for the back half to thermal-shock cut even the Golem’s mighty hide. The monster starts exploding even before you land.

Its identical partner hovers menacingly toward you.

>[Flex +4]

You crack out four Gaia Seeds at its joints. Ripping cracking genesis constricts the colossal mechaniloid in cyberwood roots of miraculous density – an impossible feat for technology of even five years ago, despite the DNA synergy from Million Mangrove. You huff and puff and spit a thin red beam. The laser-point whines against a fat root for a second before immolating the entire wooden tentacle structure.

Skittle laughs, idly blasting down the last of the enemy wave. “You’re a force of nature, love.”

“Flatterer. Next hostiles?”

“Everywhere, like. Nearest cluster’s a block ahead. Follow me!”
>>
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>>3096413

“Colonel!” Nouveau’s slightly staticky, ever-proud voice bellows in your ear as you chase Skittle at high speed. “Andrew’s company is getting surrounded, but I’m above Halcyon Avenue and I have eyes on That Feathered Bitch!

For all of an instant you’re stunned, struck mute at the unbidden image of Deco’s smiling face.

“Orders?!” Nouveau practically begs through two shouted syllables.

Of all the Hunters in the field, of all the servants of Doctor Weil, Nouveau has encountered Stillwater Phasian. It’s perfect. It’s justice. You remember Deco’s innocent laughter, her relentless friendship, and the black hole left in her passing. There’s only one order you can give.

“Now or never, Major! Put her DOWN!

You stop your charge to look out toward Halcyon Avenue in the distance. Dotted lines of heavy buster fire warp and wiggle under sudden severe gravitational lensing. You hope he rips that traitor to atoms as you catch up to Skittle’s position.

“Andrew!” You shout a little too hotly over the struggling comms. “Your position’s in peril, pull out!”

“But Rubus’s company isn’t back yet!” The overwhelmed yet determined young lieutenant objects.

You plow through Kerberos flooding the streets and Crush Rollers chewing it up. Of course Rubus would freaking run off, she’s been a berserker ever since her master fell to Hulldown Pillbug… but gosh darn it, Volt was your friend too, and if you can keep a level head with the world falling to pieces, you have to trust that she can too.

“The Raspberries are more mobile than your team!” You counter-object. “Get your people out of there!”

“We’re infantry, Commander, we can hold out!”

“You stay in that sector and you’re dead, Vert!” Skittle shouts over the thrum-buzzing of their own deathbeams, motivating by the light insult of calling him by his model series. “Don’t you DARE make me break it to your girlfriend!”

“Uh-uh-understood, Your Highness! Pulling out!” Young Andrew breaks contact.

You rush over to Skittle, back up to their fluttering iridescent wings and add buster fire to the fray. Tides of vehicular units attempt to overrun you and get annihilated for their trouble. “He has a girlfriend?”

“Met her last week! Human!”

“Cuter than you?”

“Mathematically impossible, like!”

The field is clear inside ten more seconds. Smoke wafts from collapsed buildings. The pavement glows red from the heat of your respective barrages. It’s a shame. Whenever you and Skittle had a spare afternoon off, you liked coming to this corner of Geneva...
>>
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>>3096420

“Commander, more Golems inbound!” Atajo broadcasts. “Point zero-five-five-three-bee!”

“That’s us, Meteor,” Skittle brushes dust off their arm. By convention and rank, they’re the only one left who calls you by your first name.

“More for us, less pressure on the heroes,” you give them a tired smile.

They flit up to you, instantly attentive and respectfully concerned. “Come come, my wildfire, none of that now. We’re plenty heroic, we are. They’ll sure remember us after the parade I’m gonna host!”

“They’d better,” you chuckle. “And if they don’t, if this all goes sideways… I promise I will.”

“You’d better,” the playfully boop your cheek.

The column of walking pyramids approaches through the smoke and flame of Geneva. Now seems as good a time as any…

You take your partner by the hands.

“Hey… um. No matter how this day turns out, I want you to know… I’m glad you’re with me. Thank you for being there. Being here.”

Each pupil of their bright eyes sparkles, admiring you like the greatest treasure in the world. “Say what you mean, f’anwylyd.”

“I love you, Scatter,” you whisper.

Skittle flutters closer and pecks you a kiss. “To the sky and back, my shooting star. Now let’s go save the heckin’ world again.”

The Golems array to fire.

You strive, at all costs, to:


>Protect your love.
>Win the day.
>>
>>3096431

>Protect your love.
>Win the day.
Hrmmm..why not both? Through our entire carreer in this quest we have been doing both. We saved lies, but did not fail the mission. Never lost an ally, even the Masspros and have done pretty well boss wise.

Otherswise it sounds like one of the happy pair get to die.
>>
>>3096431
Sounds to me like they're one and the same.
>>
>>3096431
>Protect your love.

We're damn well gonna do our best to win the day, but damn it if we aren't also going to try to make sure our love gets to see it.
>>
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>>3096431
>Protect your love.

Today, we fight for a happy ending.
>>
>>3096431
>Protect your love.
We always vowed to fight for a better future, but when the future becomes the present, you'll still need something, or someone, that you can devote yourself to.
Plus you promised Skittle you'd finally try out the Giant S. Rod
>>
I want to say that Skittle doesn't need our protection, but...

>>3096431
Protect your love.

They did it for Meteor Showa before. They'll do it again, too. So it's only fair she protect them too. With them protecting her, and her protecting them, both of them are protected, so they'll win the day. That's how it works, right?
>>
>>3096146
Ironically, matching mouth breath to mouth breath was tactically the worst decision ever in a different quest.

>>3096431
>>Protect your love.
To protect. Showa didn't need anything else, and that's plenty heroic enough for the people who need her.
>>
I think that's a clear enough majority intent.

Currently in a D&D game, but writing will happen.
>>
>>3096940
Understandable, D&D is very important.
>>
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>>3096431
>>3096482
>>3096491
>>3096523
>>3096551
>>3096700
>>3096720
>>3096766

----

>[Mindset Point Total]

Time passes. The years fall like rain over the wreckage of the world. Victory was bought at too high a cost, too dear a consequence. But time marches on. Survival is paramount. Neo Arcadia is the last legitimate power in the world, sheltering all who remain… or at least all who believe in peace.

You still believe in it, but lately your faith has been shaken.

You are Meteor Tricolore, tracking some of the very last Mavericks in the world. Oceania Sapphiren, your friend and rival for the praise of Fairy Leviathan, has joined you to investigate a long-ago-depleted, longer-ago-flooded energen cave off the coast of Venezuela. Lifetimes ago, you fought a Maverick here.

“A paranoid geologist who retired his workers and set up an earthquake machine,” you explain, swimming in mer-mode for the efficiency. “Not viral, not evil, just off his rocker. I hated having to put him down. Looking back, I think he could’ve been reformed if I was stronger.”

“You did the right thing,” Sapphiren rifles off. “We needed the energen, he needed killing. Don’t dwell on it.”

Sapphiren’s an old hand at justifying any and every retirement action. She even helped you on a mission or two, back when you both had different bodies and names to match. You saved each others’ lives long before Neo Arcadia came to be. The enduring acquaintanceship makes you reluctant to gainsay her, but…

“I can’t help it,” you twist a long whisker in your claws. “I mean, that last cell we found…”

“They’re Mavericks, Meteor,” she swims past you, her feather-jets working as well underwater as they do in the air. You undulate your scaly three-color tail faster.

“They were civ models, Saph. X didn’t need the likes of us to retire them.”

“Orders are orders. We haven’t lasted this long by getting squeamish on the job.”

The Job is retiring Mavericks, not people.”

“Come on,” she punches your arm, “you know how it works. If they weren’t Mavericks, they wouldn’t live outside Neo Arcadia. X – X! – brought in everyone worth bringing. And if Father Everlasting Peace Himself draws the line, I’m sure as hell enforcing it.”

You rub your arm. “There’s still a line between retirement and murder. Or at least there’s supposed to be.”

“Mavericks are all the same,” she grins, “all they understand is violence. Or at least that’s what your partner always says. Now there’s a good Hunter. Whenever Leviathan calls me in for tea, I always bring it up as what a good influence they are on you. You’re two of a kind…”
>>
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>>3097813

You clench your jaw, but keep your teeth from showing. Scatter – you still call them that – has been distant lately. You know better than to ask about the operations of the Cutting Shadow Squadron, but you’ve become an expert in reading their moods. Lately they’ve been brooding like they used to after Weil Day…

“Don’t talk about them with her.”

She gives an exaggerated shrug, shaking her head, “I’m doing them a favor by salvaging their reputation. Rumor has it that they’re going soft. Spectrum Seelie, of all people! What ever could have gotten them to—”

“Don’t talk about them with me either,” you snap.

“Heh-heh. Consider it dropped. Do your thing, Tri, we’re almost there.”

And right she is. The seas have risen substantially, but there lies the target zone, same as it ever was. You bring your claws to your belly and open your hatch. Twelve serpentine dragon drones slither out to case the cave. They snake in, six to the main aperture and six to seek out alternates. They find hidden entries behind holo-fields. Escape routes.

Right away you detect reploid signatures and the weak pings of past-century heavy machinery. It’s a shoddy operation scavenging the remnants of the long-depleted cave. Scans from the infiltrator drones reveal early-warning systems in the water.

>[Flex +6]

They slip past, giving you a closer read to pick up even the minutest energen cells.

Forty-one assorted buster rifles and sidearms. Eighteen reploid signals, three mechaniloids. None of them are high-power. These are civilians, and this is their home. It’s exactly like it was on the mission that jostled your faith.

“Anything there?” Sapphiren asks.

You close your eyes.

>[Mindset Point Total]

“… No.”

----

You sit by the windmill cliff to watch the caravans come in that morning. It seems like more arrive at Area Zero every day, thanks to Ciel and Neige sending out more beacons... which would be a heck of a trial without the technical assistance of the second-bravest reploid you could name.

They come and sit by your side, cross-legged, still shorter than you after yet another body. You’re both uncannily young in the face, per the modern style of reploid design, but the continuity of your beings shows through. They always keep the shiny freckles like you always keep your colors, and your relative sizes haven’t changed in years. You’re both the perfect size for the other to hug.

There are only so many conversations that an ancient couple can have before they favor silence over speech. You passed that point a long time ago and summarily ignored it.
>>
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>>3097818

“Mornin’, f’anwylyd.”

“Good morning yourself. How’s the coverage today?”

“Spotty over the old headquarters, per usual. Not many Cyberspace nodes left, after…”

They stare into the middle distance. You side-hug them closer; they cling to your arm for a moment, steadying. You give them all the time they need.

“Well. World’s still reeling from one less,” they chuckle, rocking a little. “One less. I don’t think I like less anymore. Not after our little sojourn.”

You gasp as quietly as you can. They haven’t spoken about your time in the wasteland ever since you got here.

“I don’t…” Skittle, Scatter, your partner of many names clings to you like they’re going to blow away. “We don’t deserve this, do we? After all the things we did to them.”

You brush your fingers over their hair. “That’s the thing about an apocalypse. It wipes the slate clean. You should know, you’ve lived through a few.”

“Not without you I haven’t,” they press your hand to their cherubic cheek. “I never would’ve left if not for you. That’s what scares me, like.”

“I know.” And you do. And you know they know you do.

They sigh, and you can just hear them trying to push back the dark. “There’s no slate clean enough, but we’ve gotta start somewhere, we do. S’pose we could do worse for a spot than smack in the middle of goddamn Eden.”

“Now there’s the optimist I fell for,” you teasingly ruffle their hair. “Just think, once more caravans come in, we’ll have enough people for a proper city. I could teach. You could start a bar. That is, when you’re not busy being the Sysop Fairy of Area Zero. Though we really should think of a better name for the place…”

They smile in spite of themselves. “Oh you. How in the world do you learn to look forward?”

You look out to the horizon, to the slow and steady reclamation of the world. “The same way I do anything important. One centimeter at a time.”
>>
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>>3097827

----

Few remember how long it has been. Everyone counts from the Foundation calendar these days – the calendar created by the Sages and used by Slither Incorporated.

The difference between humans and reploids has become academic. Cybernetic augmentation for one race, mortality for the other. The dream of Thomas Light, he for whom the first among the Sages is named, has come to pass. Native and artificial life are closer than ever before; the only possible next step, so say the futurists, is to truly unify as a single carbon-based species. You doubt you’ll live to see the day it happens, but you’re content with that. You’ve lived a life fuller than most, and longer than any.

You know how old you are. Nobody else seems to. All they know is what you feel: you’re ancient, and settling down, enjoying the twilight of the world. Modern upgrades have ensured that one of these days your clock will simply run out. You don’t mind. You died before, once upon a time.

“Nana Mimi!” The children call for you. “Giro says dinner’s ready!”

“I’ll be along,” you wave from your chair, your whiskers raising with your smile. Your three-color skin is an eyebrow-raising anachronism in this day and age, but the Sages’ regulations allow for such affectations in the elderly.

The rules also allowed for your cosmetic back tattoo. You were lucky to find a good artist. He perfectly rendered the moth wings.

Dinner passes with the boisterous disorder of family. Your adopted son Girouette, whom you saved from a Maverick attack a lifetime ago, really paid it forward. The children at the table are all good kids, orphans to a one, each with a sad story that ended in Mavericks. One of your favorites is the youngest and newest, one who lost their mother to an attack at a fair just last month. You wish you had been there. You wish you could’ve been there for all of them, like back in the old days.

You wish a lot of things, out in your chair again after the children are tucked in and you’ve given your grown son a good-night hug. If you had been here or there, you wonder – if you had done this or that – maybe the world’s troubles wouldn’t have compounded like they did.

Maybe if you were a few decades younger… well, you wouldn’t be you. Experience has shaped who you are. Age is a luxury that affords you time to wonder, but now you wonder why you’re worrying at all.

You had a good run. You left a good legacy. You were born at exactly the right time to see the greatest events in history, to serve with the greatest heroes in history, to meet everyone you… ever…

A peaceful prickling sensation slows your thoughts. That’s how it starts, they say.

A winged speck of light passes across your vision.

Well, heck. You aren’t the first reploid to die of old age, but a victory is a victory.

A streak of light crosses the great diagonal line of the Milky Way.

The world turns on toward morning.
>>
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MAVERICK HUNTER QUEST: SHOOTING STAR

Written by Scarab
With the blessing of Hunter Command and CainLabs
But not Capcom
Special Thanks to srps and guy_with_the_parrot

>A N D
>Y O U !


THE END
>>
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>>3097846
Thank you for running.
>>
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>>3097846
God DAMN, what an ending.

Seriously, thank you for running this Quest and seeing it through. The X series is one of my most favorite fictional settings, and it was fun seeing how you managed to do it justice along with HC.
>>
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>POSTMORTEM:

-You were down to 4 HP out of 30 twice: once versus Arc Morpho and again in the X-Challenge.
-If Skittle had been gravely wounded in the Hellpigs Three / Corona Sphynx mission, you would have lost elemental "inspiration" options.
-If Skittle had perished in the Meganeural Spectrod mission, Golau Gwyfyn would have been your technician.
-Golau was never a romance option.

-If Sapphire had perished in the Sounding Humpback mission, the part of your Neo Arcadia compatriot would have been played by Marty.
-Retiring Las Tres Marias during your roster with Freezer Ostenops's weapon would have yielded a buster in each arm.
-Retiring Captain Decim during your roster with Sounding Humpback's weapon would have yielded a fourth charge stage to your buster(s).

-I kept track of three sets of points behind the scenes, one for romance approval by interactions and two for "mindset" -- leaning toward the Hunters or leading toward the Public. Hunters won out, hence your tenure with them even after it all went to heck in the Elf Wars.
-You were one Romance point away from locking in Volt as your love interest. If you had gone to dancing instead of karaoke, that would've clinched it.
-You were one Hunters point away from meeting Zero in the Worst Possible Context for you. If [Romance Option] had perished by voter choice on Weil Day (you monsters), there would be no surmounting that fate.
-If you had higher Public points, you would have led a Resistance cell in that very same cave you scouted out.

-I should have made the Frame Parts more expensive.
-I should have advertised this quest more.
-I'm fortunate to know an artist who draws some good reploids. (see >>3097886 for color, completed a scant couple hours ago)
-I enjoyed this whole experience.
-I thank you for reading.
>>
>>3097853
And thank you for starting.

>>3097885
Very much appreciated. I've wanted to do something like that for a long time.
>>
>>3097846
Clapclapclapclap

Does tricolore mean that she incorporated 2 sisters into her as the years went by?
>>
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>>3097928
It reflects her three favored elements: fire, wood, and ice. By that point she is no longer a fish-type, so retaining the name Showa would be redundant.

Also it just means "three-color" in French, and a lot of heroic NPCs in the Mega Man Zero series have French names.
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>>3097917
Thanks for running, it was a great time and something I consistently looked forward to. Question-wise, what was your favorite mission/thread to write?
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>>3097936
Ive got soooo many whatifs to ask, but now im on my phone.

Was freezing the marias not possible at the date with monitor?

How could the other situations have blown up? I dont doubt that some students mightve joined up with ostenops, but combined with elk and humpback and thats a lot of humans who could have died. Rat King could have been an entirely different beast too, if he was left for last.

What do you think of the new additions to the VWES bank?
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>>3097846
Thank you for running! And greetings from the official shitposter of guy_with_the_parrot's group.
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>>3097846
Glorious story and a great ending. Skirting the line, but me managed to live to old age and avoid being divided by zero.
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>>3097917
Good end by the skin of our teeth, in fine Maverick Hunter tradition.

I have to say, beyond the general thanks, I really admired how well put together and thought out the whole quest has seemed. You did a great job making a cohesive story with all the moving parts!
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What a quest, Scarab

Was there any way to influence the fate of literally everyone else in that first Elf Wars scene?
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God DAMN this was a good quest. Thank you for running! It makes me want to start a MMX themed tabletop of my own.
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>>3097957
Aside from the final one? Tough call. I certainly felt more focused on the ones for which I made myself look up real-world maps -- those being Spectrod and Girtabomb. One of my happy places is superimposing the present on the fictional future.

Morpho's was also fun for the distance/time budgets to outrun, and the more open entry options.

>>3097960
The date was more scripted than the roster, so sadly no. Whoever you met to interrupt your date wouldn't have permanently expired.

There could've been a lot more dead or injured humans at the campus riot if you had chosen differently. Elk would've kept his people safe on the worksite, make no mistake, but the escape transport would've fallen to friendly fire if it had tried to escape after Primus made Repliforce a higher priority. Iteratton would've had a lot more Repliforce backup with a much larger blight zone if he had been left to his own devices. Primus's speech was the trigger to alter a bunch of stages in terms of on-the-ground resistance to your advance.

The bank looks extensive. Meteor Koi feels like one of those weapons that would be somebody's personal favorite for versatility, and also an absolute terror to a boss it's designed to counter.

>>3097963
>>3097988
>>3098023
Thank you! I put a lot of effort into it.

What's my secret, you might ask? Jobs that leave me a lot of time in need of filling, every day of the workweek. That's the biggest help you can imagine, having the time to spare. There just are not enough hours in the day otherwise. I had a substantial resource of free hours and chose to spend many of the ones 2018 gave me on this story.

Why? Because I like Mega Man X, I like Maverick Hunter Quest, and Hunter Command is a great friend of mine. It seemed like the thing to do.

Incidentally, about the word count for all of Shooting Star... MSWord and my calculator say that it's 202,655 words. But that's with some notes and junk left in. Call it two hundred thousand.

>>3098059
Yes. Winning the romance point contest with them would have swapped their position with Skittle's. That's the only way it could've played out differently.

The Elf Wars canonically eliminated 60% of humans and 90% of reploids. The luck you had to land in that 10% was due to the presence of your partner by your side, whoever it might have been.

>>3098193
Do it! It's fun! There's no substitution for sitting down and doing the work.
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>>3098487
>Jobs that leave me a lot of time in need of filling, every day of the workweek
Yeah, I know what that's like. I work overnights at a place where there's barely 4 hours of work in a 10 hour shift. Too bad I don't have the creative chops for this sort of thing.
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>>3098494
Best--and only--way to get them is to start. Scarab and I have both been writers for a considerable length of time--our respective quests aren't our premiere works--in either sense of the term. We're going to improve, simply by virtue of doing more.

It's also literally never too late to start and you've nowhere to go but up.

It's also-also great bloody fun. Highly recommend whenever you find yourself saying "I wish I could _____," follow up to yourself with "What's stopping me literally actually right now?" Usually it's inertia and nothing more.
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>>3098494
You know how you get those chops? You start. You write. Literally anything about literally anything of literally any length. You don't have to show anyone -- ever, if you don't want to. You can refine in private, or out for all to see. But you write by writing. There's no substitution for the work, one centimeter at a time.

Don't feel like writing? Read people who're good at it. For instance, Shooting Star is sprinkled with Discworld references for a reason.
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Oh, nearly forgot.

Don't forget to vote in the archive! It'll be up there forever, or at least until the Elf Wars.

http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Shooting+Star
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>>3098497
>>3098500
Mostly I write backstories for various characters in campaigns (/tg/ holdover here). I should get back into the habit of making characters for fun that I might not actually get to play, just to flex my literary muscles as well as my munchkin ones.
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>>3098487
I meant more like how Deco was killed by Phasian and Rubus became obsessed with revenge sometime between the quest ending and Elf Wars beginning. There wasn't any way to change those, was there?
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>>3098618
There was: you had to be there. Which you would have been if you were a couple.

You would've insisted on accompanying either Deco or Volt on the mission that claimed them, thereby ensuring they survived. With Volt alive, Rubus would have kept a level head and not been obsessed with avenging her master. Both of them had lasted quite a while, only falling in the last round of rosters leading up to Weil Day.

It hurts, but 90% of reploids were destroyed when the smoke cleared. Losing half of your closest friends was a narrative means to drive that home.

If Skittle had perished for want of you, there would've been a line about there being a very good reason why you never use Cyber-Elves.
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>>3098572
What works for me sometimes is starting with dialogue. Get an interesting conversation going and work backwards at to who's speaking and why.
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Behold, a super-fighting Smash protagonist.
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>>3099517
And her tag-team partner.
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>>3099517
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>>3098718
Well, now that I think of it, I am picturing old lady Meteor using her beam saber as a cane in her old age and beaning any child who swears in her house God help her.
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>>3100371
Nobody backtalks her twice.
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>>3097917
>-Golau was never a romance option.
I like how you needed to clarify this
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>>3101551
I'm pretty sure Skittle would've either killed Showa or found some way to get her booted out of the hunters if that had somehow happened, just so Golau wouldn't have to worry about Showa getting retired somewhere along the line.
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>>3100650
Japanese granny with welsh catholic influences. Never has there been such a force of unstoppable power. The ability to actually breathe fire is only secondary.
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>>3101551
>>3101743
"New Hunter regulation. Touching allied siblings will result in... 'chainsaw.' There's not even a verb there."

>>3101914
A force of nature the likes of which no grandchild has ever seen.

But she always, always has candy.
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>>3102975
Better not just be a bowl of those fake-cinnamon flavored Fireballs.
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>>3102990
>>3102975
Could be swedish fish or the ever classic butterscotch toffees.. that have become some sort of unholy ball of sugar and broken teeth over time, heat, and pressure.
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>>3097846
Hey. I enjoyed that. Thank you for writing.
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>>3102990
>>3103010
She has an infinite supply of konpeito.

>>3103097
Hey. I enjoy your comment. Thank you for reading.
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>>3105028
>skittle gets ahold of and modifies Monitor's jellybean vwes
>showa can now vomit endless konpeito
Best timeline
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>>3105028
For reference, do you have notes on the other Hunters' kits?

I've already made one for Volt and Deco, and at some point I'll make one for Monitor, but I don't think I've got material to work with for Noveau and the other supporting characters in the quest.
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>>3105671
I do not! I focused on characters who I knew would get combat screen time.

Nouveau's gimmick is gravity manipulation with limited flight, deliberately generalist. If you can do it as an Adept in Mass Effect, then Nouveau can probably do something similar, but I just never sat down to figure it all out. He also has a VWES; even I don't know what's in it.

I put more thought into Minefield Turtle.

She's a bomb-multiplier powerhouse designed for Fifteenth but shuffled into Fourth, capable of mass area denial through her core system, "Century Mine." The default form is antipersonnel, each mine designed to kill a D-class threat outright. She can litter a patrol route with tens of thousands of them if she wanted to, but she only has trigger control over the most recent 1,000 within about 2km of her; outside that radius, they have a hostile-unit proximity trigger. She can also switch the most recent 100 from stationary to single-target homing at will.

If she produces bombs of anti-vehicle strength, each one designed to kill a C-rank outright, then her control drops by a factor of ten -- 2km trigger control over the most recent 100, homing control over the most recent 10. And she can fire 10 at a time from the pop-out scutes of her shell.

Her tactical drawback was low land speed and no hard melee options, which was covered by seeing frequent action with the late Commander Earthquake Jaguar, Veracruz 4th's brawler boss.
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>>3107590
That's real neat. Considering how few special weapons allow for mass control, I think I'll focus Turtle's VWES option along those lines.



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