Aizu froze for a moment as she locked eyes with Shiro, still not having grown used to his mask or his mannerisms as her momentary stare briefly transitioned into that of a deer caught in headlights. It was like catching eyes with a stranger you had been staring at unknowingly--it was all Aizu could do to brace herself for whatever tense interaction might follow.
Is he...giving me a thumbs-up?
Her startled expression slowly shifted to one of uncertain confusion, followed by an awkward, open-mouthed chuckle as she offered a shakier thumbs-up in response. He might look weird, but he just acts like somebody's uncle.
She quickly stifled herself as one of the other Kaisers offered additional information, blinking slightly as she attempted to shift herself back into something resembling professionalism. Though some in the room--particularly those numbering amongst the Iscariots--seemed to be playing more fast and loose with their briefing demeanor, Aizu wanted no undue attention pulled from the woman atop the bandstand; the mercenaries were likely only accountable to their own (a perhaps enviable freedom), but her own dreams, as far as she could feel, were held squarely in the hands of a woman who seemed as if she would be more than willing to quash them for a few seconds of middling amusement.
The very thought made her swallow slightly, an otherwise-unacknowledged display of nervousness despite the Second Knight's reassurance.
Aizu sighed slightly at the Fifth Knight's mention of his Exousiarch, working another bout of tension out through the brief clenching of her bandaged hand. Though she had only ever seen such things in action during her review of tournament footage during her brief period spent training for a potential Valor entry, she knew enough to know how formidable they were. As a patrolman, they weren't the sort of thing someone casually encountered out in the field. Whether or not she'd be able to work her way around one would no doubt be one of her first major tests.
I really hope they don't hand those things out like candy...
It was strange, seeing how self-assured some of the others in the room were. One of the Iscariots--one of the more professional-seeming ones, at that--was already asking if they had permission to shoot to kill. Aizu clenched her jaw a little tighter as their leader replied in the affirmative; it wasn't the sort of thing she had hoped she would have to think about. Even if they were cultists, insurgents, whatever--weren't they still people in some respect? Wasn't there...
"...Some other way?" she muttered to herself, not even seeming to realize that she had spoken out loud.
Many in the room already seemed as if they were ready to move. Aizu's gaze shifted slightly as Pheles's words reached her ears; all the woman had seen was a few slides, and she was already talking about breaking metal. The Sixth blinked again as she took stock of the other woman's countenance; she was dead serious about it.
A strange, motivational stirring worked its way up through her chest. Man. She's kinda cool.
"I'm sure you´ve heard this over a dozen of times today, but congratulations of making it to the Kaisers. Is this your first mission with the Kaisers, or have your already had some experience with them?"
Aizu blinked, shaken from her internal thoughts for the umpteenth time that day as her attention darted immediately to the nearest face, a new one to her. There was a sense of aged gentleness about him, something that the force's newest arrival had yet to really encounter amongst the battle-hardened members of the investigation and strike teams.
"Oh, um," she said, composing herself slightly, "A-Actually, I don't think anyone's congratulated me yet, though I've got some welcomes and all that." She paused, for a moment, then offered a smile, taking a few steps back so that she could pair it with a full bow. If it was unclear why she had stepped away from the man at first, the full length of her horns coming down only a few inches away from him over the course of the motion might have made it clear. "So, thank you! I think you're the first!" She snapped upward again, her smile having grown; despite being suddenly pulled from her thoughts earlier, she appeared to have taken the man's well-wishes to heart. "And yeah--this is my first time. I've, um...honestly never done anything of this size before. Up until a few days ago, I was just working street patrol."
She took a better stock of the man's appearance now that her wits had returned to her. Judging by his features and his calmness, rodeos like this one were probably something he had gone through many times--or at least had the 'pleasure' of cleaning up after. "I...um...I'm not asking for like, gossip or anything," she said, mildly waving her hands, "but, uh...what are they and the ISD like? If you've been around a while, I mean."
The briefing continued into the Questions-and-Answers section, Shiro listened attentively as always though he found himself with not a lot to achieve. So he simply resolved to take note of everybody's behaviour. A small passive thing to do. Like Guts who asked him if his mask smelled of fetta cheese. Blatantly obvious, Shiro pondered why Guts sounded like she was tortured via sensory deprivation which caused her to go insane. It's no secret that he's used that method before, but not on her? Strange situations create strange bedfellows. Then Anthem spoke and asked a question to everyone though Shiro assumed that she'd like an answer from him. "Though I have no direct experience with cybernetics, I do know that there are three core principles to getting one or deciding on one: 1. Acquisition covers the price and rarity of the parts, 2. Skill, the capabilities of the Surgeon and his team to accurately and safely integrate the parts, and 3. Maintenance, repairs and replacement parts. If you have the money and connections, which this Syndicate seems to have, then it is possible to able to augment yourself with pretty rare parts. As for surgeons? I'd say maybe seventeen or twenty-one. Depending on who you ask."
Having answered Pheles' question to the best of his abilities, Shiro returned to his vigil over the group. He'd also begin to mentally prepare a checklist of equipment that should be brought along, at least for his own needs.
Then he heard Guts mention how she'd poke around in their insides if they died. A morbid curiosity sprouted in the torturer's mind. He'd have to ask if he can oversee the autopsies afterwards.
Then the Remiel answered the questions that were directed at her, rather comprehensively. The only thing left in Shiro's eyes were to prepare and wait for the call.
Shoot to kill. That was all she needed to hear. She suppressed a cry of exuberation, which in her case, was possibly just to pump her fist in the air and exclaim ‘yes’ in a wholly underwhelming tone. She ran over her initial loadout schematics over her head, exploding the diagrams of her arsenal, and fitting them together. As she compiled her list, her pen took to paper, jotting it down with noticeably much more fervour than she had for the other notes. The other notes had been mandatory, required for her job, but this was her personal project, her own art piece. Though her framework and topic had been decided by external factors, she could bring her own flavour, her own personalised touch to the canvas. It was...fun. It couldn’t beat soaring through the clear, blue skies at Mach 5 speeds, but it was something.
Breaker spoke up from the side, discussing the details of the pricy operation that would have costed Marauder, in response to Anthem’s question. Pixie took mental notes that whoever the Marauder was, they were well-paid, and had enough money to throw around to augment themselves. She did not, however, take physical notes. There was no point in logging it into the front of her memory banks. After all, the investigative matters of the what, the who, and the why were not her focus. They were here to do a job, provide the service they were tasked to do, and vanish with money in hand. They were paid to support the raid, not to play police and private investigators. She charged extra for that. While she was in the business of advertising her skills, she was certain the elites of the Impsec were not going to be happy about having Iscariots do their job for them.
She was not in the habit of troubling herself with making enemies, or things like winning and losing. It’d only cost her her beauty sleep. That was how she dealt with society, and she knew that this was what gave her happiness during times of quiet and peace. A quiet life, in the midst of the roars of gunfire and the danger of treading the line between life and death.
The briefing was over, in any case. She could relax a little bit now. “Bethlehem, am I not wrong?” She turned around on her seat, to face the operator in the maid outfit, and raised her empty glass before setting it down on the countertop. “You make a most wonderful drink. I’d be happy to visit your services again, possibly as soon as possible. Hopefully, after the mission, if you’re not too busy. I’d even pay for it.” She wasn’t lying- she didn’t like to lie. She would be most pleased if she could have another drink from her. She wasn’t an eyesore to look at either, especially when she was working. Perhaps that was the allure of the maid outfit, or perhaps she simply wore the outfit like it was made for her. “Until then,” she nodded again in thanks.
She got off her seat, and patted Zenko on the shoulder as she made her way past him towards the elevator. “I’m heading out to prep. We’ve got, at least, a few hours to do that. Think you could get Sterling and,” she cast a glance at Zengren, who was already decked out in her armor, a puzzle for the ages, “maybe Zengren to get ready by then? I’m leaving it in your hands. It’s time to make our money, and I don’t want us to go home a dollar or a life poorer than we started.” She patted his shoulder again, hopefully coming off as reassuring, before she made her way into the elevator.
Fehlek moved with the herd as they entered the room, taking a moment to absorb the presence of the numerous individuals he'd be working with. In all honesty, he wasn't quite expecting this many people. He was overhwhelmed, solely due to the amount of names and faces he would have to remember going forward. Getting someone's name wrong always made his stomach drop, as he feared they'd interpret it as him being disrespectful and, frankly, it was incredibly embarassing. Maybe it called for a study session, depending on how frequently they'd be working together in the future..
The ambience wasn't bad at all; in fact, Fehlek let a little bit of jealousy fester in his heart, distraught by the fact that he hadn't stepped foot in the place earlier. Of course, there was no arguing the strange looks Fehlek would get, considering he would seldom bring a glass to his lips. His reasons were arbitrary, but he preferred to be sober and mentally present. Being in complete control of his actions wasn't something that Fehlek was so ready to take for granted. He wasn't going to stop others from having their fun, though. Letting take the lead, they were quickly intercepted by one of the Knights and their curiosity, He couldn't help the woman's friendly demeanor, bringing up her interest in the Tournament of Valor. Thus, Klauss deflected the responsibility of answering to Fehlek and Émile , then Emile to Fehlek. Acknowledging Émile's grin, Fehlek had trouble stopping himself. "Of course, my overwhelming success at the tournament! Well.." The hype was nice, but Klauss was spot on, even considering how much he personally enjoyed the tournament. "Overwhelming success is an obvious overstatement. Though, I guess that's a story for another time, huh?"
Raising his arm and announcing his presence during the role call, Fehlek stood silently throughout the rest of the information dump, crossing his arms as his eyes stared intently at the speaker. There wasn't a drop of information he was going to miss, as their success depended on it.
The briefing was clear-cut and kept short. It easily could've been extended for some extra fluff, but it seemed like nearly all of the bases were covered. The Syndicate wasn't an opponent to be taken lightly, a truth Fehlek couldn't avoid even if he wanted to. As a Vanguard, hearing about the Syndicate was practically a daily occurrence, with familiarity being the driving point for Fehlek's borderline hatred. With everything Fehlek knew thus far, Syndicate could practically be considered public enemy number one, having spread their plague with no sign of slowing down. Given the chance, putting a dent into them was something Fehlek wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of. Remiel's efficiency during the briefing was entirely expected. It didn't seem like they were lacking in any department. Afterwards, Fehl found himself pondering any potential questions, but he couldn't dig anything up that was worth asking. Either way, it looked like everyone was going to pick up the slack in regards to extra information. His position at the center was exciting. Fehl was worried that he'd be stuck either at the back or as some kind of reinforcement, which might consequentially would've ended up killing his drive. Not to mention the kill order. Fehl wasn't one to disregard life, but an order like that was definitely going to keep things interesting. This was entirely different from other scenarios; the people they'd be dealing with weren't worth keeping alive.
Fehlek was disappointed at the revelation that close combat came second, not first. He always felt like a pansy when he had to use firearms, but he never made much of a fuss about it. Fehlek had quite the knack for making small arms work, even in scenarios when they weren't necessarily applicable. This was entirely due to his stubborn nature, of course. "I've got a good feeling about this. Seems like the chemistry ain't too bad. As long as everyone's got eachother's backs, it should be smooth sailing from here. Just curious as to who's gonna be the one to rid of Marauder." Now was a good time to get acquainted with the rest of the people at the center team. Only issue was figuring out who was who..
Zenko gives Pixie a comical salute with one hand. His tail wags a bit when she pats him on the shoulder for the second time.
"On it! Consider them--" he mimes a gesture that's probably supposed to look like throwing a lasso, but ends up looking more like he's fishing, "--wrangled."
He takes a step forward, then stops, and twists to look back at Pixie again, who's already heading towards the elevator. "By the way? Nice choice." He waggles his eyebrows over her head and at the bartender. "Hey, good luck. If you get on her good side, maybe you can vouch for me to get free drinks, huh?"
Zenko barrels up to Sterling, tucked away in her corner of the room. His shoes practically squeal on the floor with the force of his stop to keep from sliding facefirst into a wall.
"Sterling!" he yelps. He's already reaching to grab her wrist and maneuver her across the room with him. "Okay, so Pixie already left to go get ready and I came to collect you and Zengren to do the same but you need to come with me to get Zengren because she's still hanging with that big masked guy across the room and he's- ha, no, I'm not, aha, scared of him, per se, but he's also really big and I mean who wears a mask like that, to a work meeting nontheless, except for supervillains, and maybe computer hackers on tv, and-- anyways, dude, just come with me, not as moral support, just as backup--"
Ha. Haha. Oh, man, they're both very tall. And Breaker looks, um, very sci-fi antagonist up close. Zenko's got a crumpled snack receipt in one of his pockets, and he's half tempted to whip it out and stick it to the Knight's forehead, just to see if it'll work. The poor man's exorcism.
"Oh, hey, Zengren, there you are! I've been looking for you," he says, cringing internally at himself, because she's by far not hard to spot in the crowd, towering over everybody else's heads. "Anyways, the rest of the Iscariots and I thought it was a good idea to dip for now and start getting ready for the mission, pack up supplies, uh, re-polish our-- war hammers, you know. Unless you'd rather stay longer and chat with, uh, your buddy."
Zenko steels himself and looks up at Breaker, casually inclining his head in a nod, a little wave with one hand. "'Sup. Zenko, 'The Hierophant', fifth of the Iscariots. Good luck with, uh, the-- mission." As if they're not on the same mission, duh! That was so dumb. Sterling, help!
It seemed as though this briefing has concluded with the recent departure of an Iscariot. The Pixie one. Shiro pulled out his phone, with swift movements of his thumb, he sent an encoded message to his offices—in the Kaiser Knights' Headquarters and his private business—that he will be indisposed for several days from now onwards. The incredibly tall torturer trotted to the couch that held his puffy jacket. Lifting it up with two fingers, Shiro threw it over his shoulder and decided to linger a few minutes longer. Most notably with Zengren.
"My, my. Gas, guns, bombs, blades. Swords that channel elemental energies, I'm getting memories of the war. With how apparently hectic this will be." Shiro spoke plainly to Zengren, the truth is that the doubts in his mind pertained to the enormity of this whole shebang. "But with that out of the way, what's new with you? How long have you been with the IoS?"
Just a small question, the man isn't intending to keep this conversation going for too long.
Then the slick fox Hyzurian of the Iscariots approached. It seems he has been given the task of fetching the horned demonoid. Breaker's scarlet eyes lit up as he stared at the fox with the chatterbox. Even the mask decided to show off its' disassembly capability by splintering the lower-half. The torturer could tell that the fox feared him. The fox did a small wave and introduced himself. Shiro lifted his head slightly and eyes looked down on the shortie. "The Hierophant...? Ah, then do tell, Divinator, what does the future hold?" He asks in that bone-chilling tone of his, known to make people spill their guts with just the sound alone.
Teammate successfully pissed off. Minimal response to her lame USB killer joke. Authorization to kill granted.
Onto weapons. Pure damage was probably more appropriate for such an aggressive assault, especially with the Marauder being armored enough to eat a full on rifle round, but a suppressor plus subsonic combo just felt more natural. The loss in firepower would just have to be compensated for somehow. If all else failed, the classic tactic of landing a few shots and running away like a coward could suffice. With 20 other attackers bearing down on him, how was the Marauder going to notice one idiot in the back with an SMG instead of an LMG? That other lightly armored woman would also be a pain, but at least she’d stay down.
The question of why they brought stealth specialists to a loud op lingered, but stubborn as she was, a plan was already in the works.
Hopefully everyone else on the squad was on board with being bait.
Thoughts of her flawless strategy were interrupted by Zenko sprinting across the bar, directly into the wall. For the second time that day, Lilianna found herself getting dragged along by the arm.
New objective: talk to Big Spooky. Large, armed masked dudes were nothing new to her, but the Hyzurian did not have that same experience.
His stress was both apparent and amusing, if only to horrible people, and “‘The Hierophant', fifth of the Iscariots” picked out the right impertinent little… infiltrator to accompany him.
But business is business. She had a poor widdle animal to rescue, after all, time was wasting.
“We’ve got a proper duo of comedians in here, don’t we? Anyways, you’re Breaker, right? Don’t mind him, we’re just here to bring our little friend along with us to get geared up for the mission. We’ll see you there.“
As familiar with tall scary dudes as she was, Breaker successfully managed to give her the creeps. Still, no use wasting a chance to be a moron.
She grabbed one of Zengren’s arms and drastically overacted pulling on it, as though in a tug of war.
“I…said…we’ll…see…you…there. Come on, help me out here, dude.“
Oh my god, this dude totally knows how creepy he is. Zenko's pretty sure he does that thing with his mask on purpose just to freak him out more, but it definitely works, because the way the mask splits itself reminds him of the way an insect moves its mandibles before eating its prey, and Zenko (who does not especially feel like being a fly today) makes a noise that sounds a bit like "eep!"
"The Hierophant...? Ah, then do tell, Divinator, what does the future hold?"
Definitely The Hierophant pissing his pants if you use that creepy-ass voice again, Zenko predicts to himself, pretty accurately. Out loud, he says, "...the future says, um, that we're totally gonna kick Syndicate butt, y'know, 'specially you guys with all the bᶦᵍ ˢᶜᵃʳʸ ʷᵉᵃᵖᵒⁿˢ..." trailing off into a nearly-inaudible voice.
Fortunately, Sterling hears his pleas for rescue, and she starts yanking on Zengren's arm in a display that resembles, in spirit, a chipmunk trying to move a redwood tree with its hands.
"Haha, anyways, it was, erm, nice meeting you--" Zenko coughs loudly into his shoulder, "--but we really need to take our friend and get moving, right, Zengren?!" He takes hold of her other arm and joins the effort, only saying that last part a little frantically.
Bluntly put Zengren wasn‘t happy with the answers given but to expect clear answers on such matters was to engage in fanciful thinking of getting every answer right away, but she had a feeling some of the others here didn’t exactly understand the saying that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” gently shaking her head, considering they had a few hours to prepare Zengren wasn’t in any hurry to rush off and get her gear in order.
Besides her old friend had a few questions for her, and she was more than happy to oblige answer them. “Yup you got that right, sounds like this won’t go down picture-perfect, I expect to get caught off guard by something“ Zengren replied with a small nod her tone rather serious as that was really how she felt about the whole situation.
”been with em what least a decade really, got a mech I tinker with, too honestly there nothing left of the original one with how much i upgrade it, so yeah everything’s been going great side from some of the new blood” She’d reply obviously throwing some shade towards the other Iscariots present. Speaking of them Zenko had approached obvious expression of fear thanks to Breakers appearance it seemed soo Zengren couldn’t help but chuckle. The fox boy having been asked to collect Zengren for the Iscariots to leave and get ready for this operation. “Surprised you needed to look for me am I really that inconspicuous? But I suppose ya right we should get going” Zengren replied holding back a laugh at Zenko stumbling. “And don’t worry fox boy, breaker doesn’t bite… but he does sting” she'd say seeing that both sterling and Zenko were trying in vain to pull her away she'd sigh a little. "welp seems the kids want me out of here breaker" Zengren replied jokingly before she'd turn around dragging the pair of Iscariots with her.
Remiel's commanding presence was evident in the way that she carried herself, especially with how she was able to flawlessly capture everyone's attention on stage. Even upon entering the room, Siesta was able to spot her amongst the small crowd due to her pragmatic demeanor and her icy glare. The Anteråsan agent's composed, squared posture also seemed to give an illusion of height, making her seem taller than she really was.
When her signature code name had been called, Siesta simply raised her hand and replied accordingly. "Calling for duty."
Siesta was able to determine for herself Remiel's competence in her ability to carry out a mission, given the immense amount of effort she seemed to have put into the briefing—the alphabetized role call and group categorization based on each member's background information and specialized skills, the holographic projectors she had prepared in advance, a vast amount of knowledge regarding the Syndicate to be able to answer questions right off the bat—and immediately she knew that, out of all members present in the room, Remiel would have her highest respects. Of course, with the government's history of attempting to track down the Syndicate, such work ethic was to be expected as to explain the gravity of the situation. However, the Vanguard found the acting leader's attention to detail to be awe-inspiring and to have implied a strict loyalty to her line of work, which, to Siesta, could not go unnoticed. For the same reason, as morbidly intriguing his methods may be, she found herself to appreciate Breaker's work as well.
For members of separate forces, some of which she did not see herself getting along with, they seemed to be able to cooperate with one another and come up with questions that would be essential to the mission. Methods of capturing the targets, means of communication, scouting on different terrains, what would happen in worst-case scenarios… all aspects were well worth taking into consideration, which she could see Pixie physically taking note of from the corner of her eye.
The head Vanguard made sure to wait until all questions were asked before she would throw herself into the conversation.
"Well, if that's settled, I would like to properly introduce myself, since I didn't get the chance to do so beforehand…." She cleared her throat.
"Hello. I am the head Vanguard of Imperius, also known as Siesta. As the appointed representative of Elesrith," she paused for a moment to take in a small breath, "I have been designated the task of leading one of the three groups that will be breaching the port's gates, which will take effect within the next 48 hours. In the meantime, I hope to become better acquainted with you all."
With that, she bowed, making sure this time to acknowledge the Iscariots, despite begrudgingly.
It is no secret that Breaker could taste the Hyzurian's fear. The um's, the stutters, his voice becoming meeker with each syllable told Shiro all that he needed to know. To the small fox's rescue, came an even smaller mouse. She excused the fox's foolishness, for it seems as though this is a common occurrence. Breaker relents his ways, eyes lose their shine and mask becomes whole. Even the torturer's voice settles down. He places a fist over his chest and bows a greeting. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance." Like a dime, Shiro exhumed his respect towards Sterling. Though he did not miss the hilarity of still towering above her even if he bowed. He just chose not to show it.
"Well, Zengren." The torturer places a hand on her shoulder. "Take care of these... kids. And good luck!" Mirroring her own words, Shiro gave the trio a send-off with a small wave.
Shiro still wished to speak to a few people. Firstly, the Archon of Imperius. Leader of the Vanguards. He approached the woman and thanked whatever deity gave her average height so he did not have to strain his neck looking down. "I was wondering when you'd introduce yourself. As you know, Breaker, Acting-First Knight of The Order while Claudwin is absent. If you or Remiel have any concerns regarding the order, then forward them to me." A complementary handshake though Shiro did not care whether she accepted or not. After introducing himself, the next person that he went to speak to was none other than Bethlehem. "Bethlehem. Once again, I thank you for your services. After the operation is concluded, I would like to request a martini, because I may or may not have need of it." His tone was lighter when he spoke to the maid as opposed to most of the present company in the bar. Internally he still dreaded that damnable thing.
Next was Lucael, the giant glanced briefly at the dark-haired knight. "Lucael, I would like you and Anthem to later join me in coordinating the Order's side of this whole ordeal. Our headquarters." With that, he concluded his reasons. If anybody else wished to speak with him then he'd make time. However if not he'll hop into his car and drive away to prepare.
At such a massive influx of information, Nina's attention was cleaved in the most delightful of ways—while her mind ran amok with images of their upcoming battle and observations of her new teammates, her hands twitched in longing for her weighted gloves and perhaps a blade or two. Admittedly, she had already found herself with a bias despite the relative lack of information. Out of their two opponents, she found herself infinitely more interested with the latter, this nameless girl who Nina found from the details to be quite similar to herself (morals and occupation excluded). She wondered idly to herself how this alter ego who stack up in one of Nina's beloved Tournaments.
Her eyes flickered around the room as the briefing concluded, some of her teammates already closing things of their own and slinking towards the door. She bit her lip with an uncharacteristic look of thoughtfulness; yes, of course, if they were to be embarking on something so grand it would surely help her to endear herself to her teammates. Upon a scan of the room she settled first on Aizu—ah, Darklight, she would have to get used to that for the mission, better to get the practice in early—accompanied by an admittedly unfamiliar face. She sidled up to the pair, catching the tail end of the Aizu's words and giving her a friendly nudge. This new teammate must've been ISD. "Darling Ai-" she clapped her hand over her mouth dramatically and pinched herself. "Darling Darklight, I'm sure somewhere in that big brain of yours you already know that they're just a bunch of nerds." She glanced back towards the man apologetically. "Most of them. Not saying you're in that minority, my friend. I haven't decided yet. Hey, speaking of it, are you on the flank team? I don't think I caught your name in the teams." A slight lie, sure, but it would do for now.
Hikari nodded a bit as the new recruit to the Kaisers answered his questions. This mission would likely be the girls way of understanding the various groups properly, which would probably be quite the ride though. Admitingly, he wouldn't be suprised if this port raid was a one-and-done raid.
"I... um I'm not asking for like, gossip or anything but, uh... what are the they and the ISD like? If you've been around a while, I mean."
One thing stuck out to him. Been around.. a while? Well, almost 20 years is bit much- but it isn't as if I'm that old. Maybe old enough to have a midlife crisis, but not that old-
"Well, usua-" "Darling Darklight, Im sure somewhere in that big brain of yours, you already know that they're just a bunch of nerds"
He was interupted by the arrival of another of the Kaisers, although he couldn't quite remember her name.
"Most of them. Not saying you're in that minority, my friend. I haven't decided yet. Hey, speaking of it, are you on the flank team? I don't think I caught your name in the teams."
His mouth turned up a bit when he heard the nerd comment. Bunch of nerds, huh? Snobbish might be a better way of putting it. And essentric, for a few. Still, what group here didn't have at least one "Crazy" person? It was a mixing pot of chaos, in his opinion.
"Alas, no. I am in the center team. And for my name, just call me Windshot."
Looking back at Darklight, he finished what he was going to say before her fellow Knight had swooped in.
"And to answer your question from before.... the I.S.D is annoying in the paperwork, to say the least. Its less pizazz that most make it out to be, but I've managed to work there for around 20 years. I can't say I've had much experience with the Vanuguards or the Ischariots, but from what I've seen firsthand, they are efficient in how they do things, reguardless of how oddball they can come across as."
He glanced back as he heard the head Vanuguard introduce herself, but quickly returned his focus back to Darklight.
"Apologies if I couldn't give you as much info as you wanted- But i'm sure you will probably learn a few things during this assult on the port."
Pheles nodded to herself at the given explanation and reassurances from Remiel, who had proven to be as prudent and thorough as Pheles would have expected, demanded, of someone who wished to take command over them. Likewise, Breaker proved he had a wealthy amount of information for them just as Lucael had; it was always a pleasure working with professionals, trusted ones even more so.
With some taking their leave to prepare, others lingering to get acquainted, Pheles found herself drawn back into musings of those around her, although it was clear that her interest and desire to remain dwindled with the need to prepare becoming a more pressing priority.
"Just curious as to who's gonna be the one to rid of Marauder," she heard, and she turned to the one with the callsign of Grimoire, with a grin that most would likely determine was one just shy of overconfidence.
"The whole situation is bound to get messy with so many of us walking into that fight, it might be easier to take a stab and guess how he goes down. Melted down? Buried under a few rockets? Corrosives slugs eating him from inside out?" Pheles's gaze rolled upwards as she continued to think, but soon Breaker's voice reached her, pulling her out of her thoughts.
"Lucael, I would like you and Anthem to later join me in coordinating the Order's side of this whole ordeal. Our headquarters."
"Understood," Pheles replied sharply, eyes narrowed with due respect, and her posture stiffening all at once. Climbing from her seat, she gave a tight smile and wave to her companions, "If we don't get another chance to reconvene like this before we move out, know that I look forward to seeing you all again at the dawn of battle," Pheles remarked pleasantly enough, dipping her head once to address those closest to her in proximity before following Breaker out shortly after. By the look of things, it would be a busy, productive night, ahead of her; best to stay on top of things and linger closer to headquarters and even kit herself out before tending to what Breaker had in store for herself and Lucael.
The girl blinked as the Fourth Knight tapped against her frame lightly, looking to her in slight surprise as she so nonchalantly offered her rather harsh take on the I.S.D. straight to the face of one of the agents themselves. Aizu felt her face run hot with embarrassment, as if the words had come straight from her mouth instead. She waved her hands with a slight sense of panic, blinking twice more as she attempted some sense of damage control when it became clear that Nina simply wasn't going to take her words back.
"O-Oh! Um--well--I mean, I'm sure she means that in the sense that it takes a lot of time and effort t-to learn all the ins-and-outs of investigation, right?" she said, looking rapidly between the Knight and the Agent as she let out a nervous laugh, "I-I mean, I never really did any investigations or anything when I was in the guard, just...stood on the perimeter of a crime scene or two and told people not to interfere, b-but--but it always seemed really complex! I'm sure it must take a lot of work!" Though she was, to an extent, attempting to assuage the agent's feelings, there did seem to be some authenticity to her words; perhaps the real question, however, was what might have catapulted someone from the patrol force to Knighthood.
Aizu calmed slightly when it became clear that the agent was not, at least outwardly, primed to take any offense from Nina's words. Perhaps, to an extent, he had expected her to be that way; being among them all in person, it felt surprisingly easy to forget that the Knights were a known entity to people throughout the Empire as one of the foremost keepers of the peace.
"No--no, it makes a lot of sense; I remember the local force could be a bit intense with all the paperwork too," she said, offering another somewhat apologetic smile, "got stuck with it a few times as um, I a sort of hazing, I guess." She offered another slight laugh. "But yeah, thank you--I'm sure I'll learn a lot either way!"
While it was expected of a maid such as Bethlehem to tend to the needs of the Kaisers, the Knights and their guests, any compliments given were appreciated by her. Seeing it as a feedback of sorts, the maid took pride in the services she provided, no matter how trivial the jobs might be. Honed by years of training and discipline, Bethlehem bowed courteously at her matron, confirming their question with her polite gestures. The counter between them marked a vivid barrier of their yet-to-cozy-up encounter. While the maid would do what she must to ventilate the atmosphere, she still owed her prioritized services to the Kaisers and their Knights first and foremost. Such a constraint was already a natural force that impeded her hospitality unless spoken to. While she retained her personality, much of her habitual demeanor and style were carefully tailored by the Head Maid themselves. The wounds that Bethlehem carried with her since were not visible, but always present. The reason why she woke at a certain hour and the reason why she deemed it suitable to sleep later than everyone else. A clockwork doll, to be directed to a certain task without question, that was her worth. Even if Bethlehem had harbored her reverence for the Knights, she knew it in her heart that she was the same as every other maid. When she finally break down or no longer serve her master's purpose, she would simply be replaced with another. Naturally, such thoughts were removed from her pragmatic mindset, and was filled with indoctrinated procedures over independent thoughts. Brushing these thoughts aside, the maid's emeralds conformed to her acquaintance's words, with a gentle smile formed.
"Within my master's sanctum, you need not worry about compensations. I am simply an extension of my master's hospitality and am more than happy to serve." It was short-sighted of her to not inquire their names, but she was sure that in time, they would get the chance to acquaint better. Especially with the upcoming operation, her understanding of her peers will be a useful aspect when facing their enemies. Thankfully, Bethlehem's ears have not been idle as she paid attention to those that spoke, as well as their interactions with one another. While the names have yet to stick, the maid was far from an aloof person. Her eyes followed them discreetly before a familiar face, or rather mask, required her attention.
Her fair green eyes met their glowing zircons as they spoke. For some reason, the master interrogator's usually-stern voice seemingly receded as he addressed her. For a moment there, the maid felt as if Breaker had finally cast aside the facade that he put up for their guests. It was an interesting take to see him giving her a special treatment with his tone, maybe to the other Knights as well, but that was something she has yet to conclude wholeheartedly. What could warrant such a development, Bethlehem asked herself, choosing to find an answer at a later time. She still owed him a response, as her discipline required it. "As you wish." She replied with grace, seeing the man off. Gliding behind the counter, the maid waited patiently for Breaker to say his piece to Lucael, before she could address the latter.
"Herr Asher. I understand that we will form the center. Shall I raise the Templar Protocol for the occasion?" Bethlehem asked Lucael if she should prepare for the Knights their heaviest equipment.
As the name suggests, Bethlehem will procure specialized gears to cover the center group's advance such as ballistic shields and various firearms ranging from medium to close-quarters situations - all to be chambered with the appropriate rounds for unrivaled stopping power at the cost of the rates of fire. Heavy plates will be enchanted and distributed for extra protection against general ballistics and incarce attacks. To complement their entree, smoke dispensers and canister rounds are also employed for screening and enfilade envelopments. If anything, Bethlehem believed in unit cohesion and their ability to execute the mission without the hassle of unnecessary headaches with specific tactics. Even if they were supposed to work with the other agencies, without the proper time to retrain, the maid calculated a slight chance of mishaps for their joint effort would only complicate with field incompatibilities. While she did not state her concerns during the briefing, as it was not her place to do so, the maid had her priorities to follow through with regarding their joint-operation. The least that she could do in this instance was to make sure the Knights were able to remain in the fight - with or without the others. She was sure that the other Knights were aware of this and made no attempt to say anything else other than a simple inquiry to measure the Lucael's thoughts for this particular deployment and arm them swiftly thereafter.
He had pondered for weeks on the appropriate methods of penetrating through the Marauder's core. The questions of the others and their concepts were already theorized prior to the meeting, but the conclusive answer was never favorable. The substantial issue was civilian safety, and the syndicate prioritized that in their previous skirmish, making sure that all combat was to occur near nonmilitant zones to maximize their chance of victory or escape.
The best they could do was to investigate and gather more information about the Arcalion Syndicate and prioritize neutralizing enemy territories while interrogating those under the upper echelon. Or perhaps, if the chance appears, the entire team would have to put in their greatest efforts to capture the Marauder or someone of equal importance. But the chances of the syndicate making the same mistake twice by allowing their tracks to be exposed was highly unlikely.
He glanced at the lead operative, Remiel, and sighed at the realization that all he could do was rely on her competence and skill in leadership. Not that he doubted her, but something about the woman’s aura had made him uncomfortable at the idea that he had little options on the matter.
Tossing his doubt aside for now, Lucael nodded in response to Shiro’s command, along with a simple “You got it”. He did wonder why he and Anthem were exclusively chosen by the second knight, but it wasn’t like Shiro was the type to leave details without a reason.
Before he was about to leave the lobby to prepare for the eventual departure, he was stopped by Bethlehem's question regarding the fancy protocol. Lucael glanced around the lobby and roughly analyzed the fighters, most of them not properly equipped with weaponry, though they probably had their weapons stored away somewhere where only they could reach. Was it okay for them to share the knight's weapons arsenal without the direct approval of their Collbrande? Well, with the permission of the First Knight, it wouldn't have been a problem. But it was too late to call him for any sort of agreement.
"Do it privately in the next few hours, when things settle down for the better. If you'd be so kind, would you and Jammy introduce Darklight to the armory located below the settlement? I trust that you'll do fine with the explanations, and it'll be best if she knew what weapons to use for the upcoming investigation. I apologize for giving you tasks so mundane, truly."
It was already mid-day with nightfall nigh on the day after the first assembly and meeting of the team at one of the Kaiser Knights’ private properties. Remiel’s assurances of quick action would hold true as earlier in the morning, everyone in the team would get a message blast from an unknown number that seemed to pose as an ordinary restaurant handing out a promo but of course would just be a front for Remiel to call for another meeting in the Kaiser Knight Order’s home turf as per Lucael’s recommendation in small talk after the whole matter at his private bar, they know all too well to not trust the provincial police and ISD enough to have a meeting in their buildings despite being more suitable. How their phone numbers were acquired is anyone’s guess but should be a no-brainer for those who operate on the more legal side of things as their contact information was a requirement for their workplaces and associates, and sometimes the law, to get a hold of them.
Remiel was not the first in the meeting venue in spite of her calling for it amidst her day-to-day bustle and preparations. The venue being the Kaiser Knights’ home turf would mean that at least one other person would be there before her and the rest of the team who would later trickle into the meeting place bit by bit in the middle of small talk or silence as the commander quietly made her preparations alongside who else will or might want to give their piece during this meeting. Whether or not they were free to have a look around in the metallic room of such military qualities, stocked to the brim with weapons, armor, and other equipment while waiting was up to the custodians of the building. The team would notice that Remiel had pieces of armor covering parts of her get-up which seemed to be the same as her get-up the last time they met with a helmet meant to obscure her whole head resting on an armory table at the front, presumably the presentation area as a holographic projector along with a few holsters and sheathes full of firearms and an assortment of melee weapons, including her single-edge vibroblade katana, rested with the helmet, looks like the raid was tonight and the Ashen Ember will be giving a final briefing before everyone heads off into the fire.
As soon as everyone was here, she wasted no time and stood up, calling the attention of everyone with her voice instead of her metallic sabatons, “Everyone.” The moment she caught everyone’s attention, she continues, “Since you’re all here, I’ll get to the point. The raid will occur in the next 3 standard hours and I will partially assume that you’re all already prepared with your gear and a heavy meal so let me get to the final briefing.” She switches on the projector showing a much more detailed layout of the port with colored surveillance photographs taken from the air using a drone that are much more recent, some of which proving that the intelligence she spoke of is correct about a major factor in the operation that the Ashen Ember gets to.
“The Marauder and the lightly armored suspect are confirmed to be in the port according to these surveillance photographs. The general plan will remain unchanged where we will strike the port from four directions and surround the Syndicate with a few squads remaining behind to protect the entrances and to serve as reserves. Central team, remember your roles, we will serve as the main force that will strike the Syndicate while the flankers commit to the encirclement maneuver and the securing of the merchandise hidden in the warehouses and containers inside the port perimeter with the follow-up EOD teams. The randomness of it all will definitely peak during our engagement with these two so be prepared for anything. I’ve procured a degree of support from the air in the form of surveillance drones and helicopter snipers and gunners that will act as our battlefield eyes and early warning for any responders from outside that the Syndicate will send our way during the operation, to the greatest extent, the latter will serve as close air support. Better-equipped tactical teams with heavy infantry weapons have also been allowed so our law enforcement allies will not be coming in squad cars looking like your run-of-the-mill policemen but armored cars with tactical units with military-grade equipment and training inside. They’ve been vetted but not the least of our worries. Now…”
Next, the special communicators that she mentioned in the previous meeting, for this, she points onto another table lined up with pairs of handheld devices that looked to be the more futuristic equivalent of burner cellphones and an earpiece communicator to go with it, the number of pairs is exactly the same as the number of members in the team, “Those will be the communications apparatus that we will be using throughout the operation and the time that we’re together as a team. Future message blasts or announcements will be on the burner phones that will be containing only my number and those of your teammates. Reminder that they are strictly business phones, very disposable once we’re done as well if you don't intend to return them. Calls, messages, and conversations through the phone and earpiece will be on a heavily encrypted frequency so don’t worry about unwanted eavesdroppers. Other, more secure means where no digital footprints are involved, of communication will involve old fashioned snail mail but those are going to be reserved for the most sensitive matters that can’t be discussed in a phone call or meeting.”
Finally, the teammate that did not show themselves in the first meeting and opening the floor to questions, “As for your missing teammate, I’ve already informed Cerberus and another associate of Lord Liberalis’s who will be assisting us about the situation. They’re in the building so you should be meeting them shortly after they’re done with… whatever it is they’re doing. If you have any questions now, don’t hesitate to ask. Unless the questions in your mind are reserved for them.” She crosses her arms, waiting both for any questions and Cerberus who she was sure was in the building.
A honorary knight serving as Claudwin Liberalis' only contract familiar. She was assigned to assist Cerberus as her private agent until the end of the formal agreement.
Exousiarch: Aftersky Radiance
An independent freelance agent known for her vigilantism, Cerberus is a young cyberhacker with immense experience in data collecting. She is commonly seen working with the ISD and was confirmed to be on the Arcalion's hit list.
A big, hunk of pure steel equipped with twin broadswords capable of manipulating the general elements. The Marauder is a force to be reckoned with and should not be ignored in the battlefield. True identity currently unknown.
The tormentor of the order had decided to reside in his abode situated in Aucteraden. He partook in his habitual rituals—the same ones that he carried from the Raignork War. Nothing too extravagant, echoey chants that resonated from his throat while sitting deep within a meditative trance. In front of him, sat his bone coloured and bone-chilling mask; while beneath the facade, a blade that is all too familiar for the torturer. A mono-edged dagger with a camouflaged grip & sheath, the glint of its' unsullied blade emanated from beneath the left eyehole. One would assume that a blade that clean saw no use, but one need only listen to the echoes of the past to know what manner of inhumane deeds did this blade do. Regardless, the ginormous man's ceremony approaches its' end, as the mask began to rattle against the floor and blade. Before ascending a path of shadow, it stared at Shiro, whose eyes remained closed. At the appearance of his cadmium crimson orbs, the mask—almost as if sentient—spun around without command and immediately embraced Shiro's head. The dagger followed, being presented by shadowy hands. Much similar to a servant on its' knees presenting an offering. A hidden button is pressed, causing the blade to spring to life with oscillations. Another click to silence it and Shiro with his own hands sheaths it.
Rising from his knelt position, Shiro received a message on his communication device that resided on the counter. It is, rightfully, an encoded message by the Shadow Huntress to rendevous at an innocuous restaurant. Seemingly to discuss the final preparations before the operation. Fine then, He thought while doing the final weapons check. Two HE grenades, his trusty sidearm-the Kurian K-45, and lastly, an automatic rifle that is modified to Shiro's liking. Much of Shiro's armour is obscured by a cloak—charcoal black with tiny, repeating hexagons—though what can be made out, appears to be a grey plate on his chest (several other sections such as his knees, elbows, etc.) and a black body-glove suit beneath it.
Arriving at the meeting place, discreetly, is far too easy for someone like Breaker. Yet, it surprised him that he was the first one to arrive. "Huh..." The torturer exclaimed. It did not occur to him that his path might have been too efficient. While there, he entertained himself by inspecting the weaponry present. But in time, the others arrived on the scene. To anyone who would strain their neck to look at Breaker, they would note that his mask had additions that were not superficial, such as an extra set of protective material that wrapped around Shiro's head. Dynamic metal, he called it that is able to flex or brace when needed.
The Shadow Huntress arrived soon and the meeting proper can begin. Once again, Shiro listened attentively while writing up notes. The idea of securing paraphernalia would be a cake-walk for someone of Shiro's ability, though he did wonder why the odd number for flanking operatives. Regardless Shiro conveyed a question. "Will the flanking team be composed solely of the aforementioned operatives or will we be joined by additional ground units?"
The Luminarium Cosmosys, founded and built by the Kaiser nobility well before the usurp of power from the Zervictus in the midst of the Rythen War. The towering status of the skyscraper remains significant and valuable throughout the massive province, as the center of governance for Aucteraden and its people. Its effulgent crimson lights influenced its surroundings to mimic the architecture's design, as the entirety of the district would soon adapt to its style throughout the years of peace after the Kaiser's reign.
Within the grand structure housed multiple groups of consequential individuals that serve the Kaiser's will, ranging from the renowned Kaiser Knight Order to the central government figures of the executive branch that works accordingly to the noble agenda for Aucteraden. As traditions pass from father to son, the Kaiser family maintained the security of the Luminarium Cosmosys by carefully selecting only the most trustworthy of people to work inside the complicated building, to maximize the security of private documents that should never leak into the public. As such, venturing inside the building was not permitted for commoners nor other related office workers that did not receive an entrance permit.
This archaic rule was fortified tenfold after the Collbrande Kaiser's newly issued decree, tightening the security to the point where the workers had to cycle their schedules to temporarily become the janitors to ensure that no outsider could find a way to employ themselves inside the Luminarium Cosmosys.
But the purpose of the architecture was not solely for government work nor was it built to dedicate housing for the knights to make their endeavors easier. Below the skyscraper's first floor was a series of guarded cellars made specifically for the Collbrande and their knights, storing thousands of military-ranked weaponry and experimental prototypes that no common soldier or agent could easily acquire. Along with an enormous bank of Empyrian Crowns shared between the noble house and their six knights, the cellars also housed a training arena and a garage of vehicles both ground and air, like it was built to be its own separate military base not attached to any of the imperial army's territory.
Luminarium Cosmosys | Seraphiel City, Aucteraden
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Anatasia - The Fervent Saint of the Battlefield, Saintalia
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Patience was one of a knight's greatest weapons. With it, one was invincible to ignorant plannings that many suffered against as a result of their impatience, often making decisions that benefitted none, and often guaranteeing the death of an individual one way or another, whether it was literally or figuratively. She had learned this during her first war in the field of hurling munitions, where death was inevitable for the oblivious in the harsh world of Raignork, where evil resided only in those who claimed themselves to be the righteous soldier. The dark hours spent in that vile world had almost corrupted the blonde familiar. To apply the lessons learned in war in everyday business, it felt wrong to even consider it.
But how could one cope when patience was being tested by a measly brat who had agreed upon a time and place for their meeting and later purposefully debauch their promise by doing the opposite of what was contracted? Such discourtesy would never be acceptable when one is exchanging words with the First Knight, surely? Even if she was only his contract familiar forged by incarce and trust, it made her question the integrity of this 'Cerberus' utility. Perhaps it was because this was her first time dealing with someone who did not honor their promise, but if this was a lesson she must learn, then so be it. Saintalia was not the type to back from a chance in obtaining wisdom through experience, and she shall not!
Before her sudden departure from the main lobby, Saintalia abruptly made a call to the squad commander Remiel (Panther
) notifying her about the current situation regarding their late attendance. As upsetting as it was to be late to a conference where she was supposed to be representing her master in his absence, the horse eared familiar tapped on her cheeks twice to enforce her resolve, and began the search throughout the complex building to find the hellion who she knew was purposefully up to something nefarious.
She had checked the front desk and asked for confirmation regarding Cerberus' presence, as she had to have checked in at the front desk before finding her way to the main lobby. As expected, 'Kara Lazuli' was authorized by the officers before she was allowed entry to the upper floors. Did she lose her pathway in the middle of exploring the building? Impossible, as this was someone with expertise that allowed them to figure their way out of places that most common folk could not. Was she a spy purposefully planted by the syndicate to be a double agent? Also not probable, as she was firmly recommended by both the First Knight and Electra Greyhardt. Then the only logical outcome would be...
Saintalia had her suspicions. From possible betrayal to simply being a dimwit that did not know how to follow standard orders, she was not the type to excuse possibilities if there was at least a 0.1% chance of it being true. But this outcome was far too foolhardy for the contract familiar to understand until she had composed her nerves to better take in the scenery. Standing just outside the office of one of Aucteraden's most important people, where the Collbrande Draigh Kaiser is commonly seen signing papers during his work hours, was the girl whom she was looking for—Cerberus.
Like a discreet stalker, Cerberus was somehow able to leave the security dumbfounded as she was directly outside the Collbrande's office, rehearsing a speech that could only be described as an insane fan's insane monologue.
"Honored to meet you, Lord Collbrande Kaiser! This one's name is Kara Lazuli, from the 71st district south of the city. Graduated the 8th of my class at Altaris University, which... isn't anything to be too proud of, I guess. No! No! No! That's not how you greet a Collbrande, is it? I have to be more formal, otherwise, it probably won't sound natural to him. Alright, let's try again... Ahem!"
"The Collbrande has no business with the likes of you, I am afraid."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Lord- GAH!"
Surprised to have been caught by someone who she did not recognize until she glanced at the person's face, Cerberus was being dragged across the hallway away from the office entrance, as she protested to remain there to finally exchange words with one of her idols. She wasn't much concerned with having been caught by the very person she probably wouldn't want to have crossed paths with, but instead was more distraught about the fact that her dream was further straying away from her because of this woman's sheer strength, who effortlessly dragged her towards the opposite direction.
"Wait! I came this close, at least let me say hello to the Lord Collbrande~!"
"Request denied. Even if I were to allow you to breach the privacy of the lord's workplace, the Collbrande will not be there to greet you back as you might have hoped. Unfortunately, he is not present in the Luminarium Cosmosys currently. Schedule a proper meeting with one of the knights first, like anybody else who wishes to speak with the Collbrande."
Her deadpan tone did not assure Cerberus one bit. Her struggle finally came to an end once the two entered the elevator, but not before Saintalia sent a sharp gaze at the security, indirectly alerting them of the consequences of allowing a cyberhacker to trespass near the Collbrande's office. But that was not in her list of duties until later, as for now, she had to immediately take her to the preparations area first and apologize for their late arrival.
"You will have explanations to make to the commander as well as the First Knight, who trusted that you would honor the contract until the very end of the agreed terms. I will let you decide if you want everyone else to know of your childish behavior. I would advise against it but as your agent and guide representing the First Knight during his absence, I shall leave it up to you to make the decision."
"Hmph. Always so formal and boring, as expected from Claudwin's familiar. How did you even find me, anyway? I made sure to cover my tracks, that's strange..."
"Luck was on my side today. And fate seemed to have delivered me towards your scheme, almost like a sixth sense. I would like to interrogate you later once the mission is done, especially regarding your methods of diverting security in the Luminarium Cosmosys... but that shall wait until the contract is outdated."
"In-Interrogate?! Geesh, I'll tell you without you having to go that far, alright? It's not like what I did was outside the norm, though my methods might be considered a bit more unorthodox than the others. But I can't be going around telling the magician's secret, you know? Where do you think my income comes from! You know how many copycats are in the cyber business?!"
Saintalia shook her head and sighed, and refused to reply to the youngling. As the elevator came closer to the ground floor, Saintalia pressed onto the security button and tapped a code using the floor numbers, and pressed onto the security again to finalize the order.
"What did you just do?"
"The password to the underground facilities are known only to the ones trusted by the Collbrande and the First Knight. That was simply the passcode that authorizes the elevator to take us further down. I hope you did not bring anything that could alert the system's security, as requested."
Cerberus gulped and scanned her eyes around the elevator, as she felt the atmosphere darken with each floor. The machine would occasionally stop to scan the riders inside and proceed, only for it to happen again several more times until the door opened to reveal a dark hallway surrounded by metal walls and red glows as its only source of light.
The environment was generally cold and heavy. The cameras installed below the ceiling automatically had their lens focused on the two as they walked into the corridor, turning corners several times much to Cerberus' confusion, as it just seemed like they were walking in an endless labyrinth. Each glass panel revealed either an arsenal of weapons or equipment not familiar to the cyberhacker. This was Aucteraden's counterforce headquarters after all, where it was only utilized during absolute emergencies.
Saintalia announced before she pressed her gloveless hand against the controls, awaiting authorization before the gate would open to reveal a gigantic space enough to fit a leviathan-class imperial vessel. That much was probably an exaggeration for Saintalia but for Cerberus, who had never expected such a space to exist underground the Luminarium Cosmosys, was completely taken back by the incredible view.
Following the amazed Cerberus towards the group stationed near the center of the [Iron Platform], Saintalia bowed to the other knights in respect and greeted the others present, before announcing her late attendance.
"Apologies, Commander Remiel. We faced some... unexpected interruptions on our way here, but be reassured, it is nothing worthy of your attention. Lord Shiro, Lady Vasilev, Lady Liess, Sir Asher, Missus Rieper, and of course, our new but honorable sixth knight - Lady Emaril, it is my honor to be standing here next to you for another common endeavor."
She then glanced at the others and greeted them properly.
"Saintalia reporting in. I am the First Knight's contract familiar, Anatasia from the Grezivorn Forest in Elesrith. I look forward to fighting alongside you all to achieve the common goal of eradicating the syndicate before their nefarious schemes spread to the other provinces."
Expecting an introduction from Cerberus, Saintalia awkwardly stood with her face straight, only to realize that the girl cared not for introductions and much rather instead preferred to gaze at the vehicles nearby.
Zengren spent her time preparing the gear load out she‘d quickly devised during the prior meeting, her hammer resting upon its small almost shrine like table within her personal weapon stockpile. She‘d them flip a few switches on the walls causes each to turn around to reveal weapon racks with various diffrent bits of equipment and gear hung upon them. She’d remove the anti-material rifle cleaning it before hanging it upon her back proceeding to do the same with the disruptor tho it was still with its casing being newly acquired. Lastly were an odd set of gauntlets, attached to what seemed to be long belts that made a sort of harness, each of the gauntlets upon being equiped flicked upon in some placed to reveal a little ports presumable the barrels of the strange little weapons.
once done she’d head to the meeting location by herself as much as her colleges for this mission where.. childish she’d rather be there on time then be late. With how little time she’d wasted Zengren ended up arriving a some after Shiro had gotten there but it looked like Zengren was second place. Once everyone did arrive Zengren was glad the briefing was mercifully clean and to the point at least they had a plan, so that was good then again plan never seemed to survive contact with the enemy. “Acknowledged we smash the place the flankers grab the good“ Zengren confirmed her under of the plan. Yet the sudden arrival of two new faced especially the awkward action of the one Zengren had presumed to be Cerberus since she didn’t actually introduce herself made Zengren turn to glare at the girl. Really? she hardly seemed professional.... oh well what could possible go wrong form here?
Remiel did not appear too surprised or negatively fazed upon the entry of the two newcomers during her briefing and looked quite forgiving towards their tardiness but didn’t really show it although some nuanced people can likely catch the memo. To add more to that, she even scoffed at Cerberus’s current demeanor given that she had already interacted with the latter prior to this meeting, making the latest encounter being the second time they’ve interacted and the first that would be in the flesh. But still, something about meeting someone in person and seeing more of their behavior made it a wholly different beast compared to interacting with them through less personal media that satisfies a certain base need. Although to Remiel, this kind of demeanor was tolerated so long as Cerberus does her job, one could even say that she welcomes this kind of behavior so as to show and contrast the different aspects of the team that she wanted and needed to see to be able to work with, the same went for everyone else since they had to interact for their sake and to an extent, for the Empire’s. When and how she will be dealing with anyone on this team outside of work is not out of the picture. Of course, boundaries must still exist both in work and out of it, this, she knows all too well.
Before continuing, she gives a nod towards Saintalia which was more akin to a slight bow more than anything before giving her remarks coupled with some reassurances, “Welcome back, Lady Anatasia. As for Cerberus over there… she doesn’t have to apologize for being herself right now, I can only imagine how many military nuts will lose themselves in this room on their first visit and she looks like that she is just the tip of the iceberg or she quite simply isn't interested in formalities. So long as her behavior doesn’t get in the way of the operation, I’m fine with it. Having looked at her dossier, being patient, and dare I say friendly, with her would be crucial. The same goes for everyone and each other here, granted I doubt some of you, perhaps myself included, will progress beyond a professional relationship which is understandable given the nature of what we’re doing here. Now then..” She cleared her throat before turning to look at Breaker to answer his question, Zengren appears to have gotten the plan anyway so she need not repeat herself to her yet.
"Will the flanking team be composed solely of the aforementioned operatives or will we be joined by additional ground units?"
“About 50 men split between the two entrances will be assisting you so at least 25 men will be accompanying you on your side of the port since not all 7 of you flankers will hit the same gate. We’ll be getting at least 50% more than that amount in the center due to its role in the raid. The seaborne authorities coming in from patrol boats and diving teams will be around the same number as yours. In total, we have a little over a company’s worth of men and materiel including the aerial support that I’ve recently procured and assuming things go well, we may never have to call for another company’s worth of backup. I've already spoken to the commander of the unit, he and his men look to be on the good side of things but still, be prepared.” She then goes silent. Formally disclosing to them the amount of men and materiel at their disposal might raise some further inquiries, but those can be answered later during this briefing or after the raid. Though relevant figures will know the answer to that, this is a multi-province affair after all, Aucteraden cannot just do all the lifting by itself especially with its legal rank and file being compromised.
Remiel then waits for anyone else to speak up, occasionally glancing at Cerberus, a habit of hers to keep an eye on teammates. Assuming this raid is a success and they get information they’re looking for and it’s encrypted and heavy on the more digital details, she’s going to be having a long talk with the wee and youthful hacker.
Zenko slinks into the darkly-atmosphered armory, footsteps near silent on the floor like the nocturnal animal he is. He's a little on the later side, purely by accident, and Remiel's already started the briefing.
He weaves himself seamlessly into the back of the gathering crowd. It's fine. Nobody will notice his tardy arrival; they're all too preoccupied thinking about the impending mission. He figures, at least.
He didn't mean to take so long preparing, honest, but... well, one thing led to another, and he's here now at least. Fully armed with sharp things, too. Zenko's changed into what he's affectionately dubbed his 'work clothes,' a simple, sleek uniform, in dark colours and with plenty of pockets. He's got at least a half a dozen knives hidden on his person, probably more, he's lost count. A Glock's tucked into his waistband -- nothing fancy, but guns aren't his specialty. It'll do the job. He's also got his favoured bow strung to his back.
Zenko had debated, for just a moment, whether the bow would be more of a hindrance on the mission, especially if he ran into trouble close-quarters, but ultimately decided to bring it. It's his ace, after all. Practically an extension of his own body.
And he's got a few tricks up his sleeve, too, beyond just infusing his arrows with elemental magic. This bow's nothing like the shoddy thing he carried around in his youth. No, this one's a beast, and so are the arrows he's doctored up. A little bit of exploding arrowheads is hard to say no to, after all.
(And, well, if a big bad gets to close for 'sploding, he's got a shard of a razorblade tucked under his tongue, too. A trick from his youth. Call him paranoid; Zenko calls himself scrappy.)
He absently nods his head a bit as Remiel answers everyone's questions. He's got nothing to ask just yet, busy picturing in his head like a mental chess board just how the operation's supposed to go -- the rapid descent into the Syndicate's wares, pouring in from all sides like smoke, what exactly would they find? Would the Marauder allow themselves to be cornered in the center of the port like planned, or would they lash out before that point, make a brutal escape, need to be chased down and restrained before long for questioning. The armoured one, too -- if they both turned their fury on the invading forces at once, what would happen? Surely they were all strong enough to handle it.
Zenko catches himself and nearly scoffs out loud. Of course they were; eveyone here was the dream team, dozens of the highest-trained fighters prepared specifically for this mission. He himself was nothing to scoff at, phenomenal fighter and master of stealth that he knew himself to be. He wasn't the Fifth for nothing.
He shakes his head a bit to dislodge that train of thought, ears rustling a bit as he did so. What a stupid question. It's not like him, to feel more prey than predator like this. Just nerves, he thinks, hand coming up to absentmindedly run over the charms tucked in his inner breast pocket. Oh, that's right: he'd wanted to hand those off to the Iscariots before the mission.
It was silly, really, they were just folded tabs of red paper with thread tied at the top like a bow -- nothing like proper good luck charms, more like the imitation a child makes from seeing a picture in a book (so what if that was what he had done). If nothing else, though, Zenko could pretend they were real, and that he was doing something to help ensure his team's safety. Who cared if they weren't proper luck charms. He had made them, so it had to count for something, right?
There were four of the folded tokens in his pocket. One for himself and each of the Iscariots. Pixie and Sterling weren't there yet, but he wasn't going to wait until they arrived so he could hand out the charms like he was a schoolgirl passing around friendship bracelets. He shuffles over to Zengren, in the lull of silence that followed Remiel's briefing, where the demonoid was leering an impressive glare at the newcomer women (one of whom was a... horse? A horse hyzurian? Zenko didn't know, but her ears didn't look very canine or feline in origin).
This was such a stupid idea. This was so embarassing. He's not a child. Why would he think this was a good idea? It's too late, though, because he's already held one of the good-luck charms up and out to Zengren, decidedly not looking at her face as he speaks.
"'S for good luck. With the mission. So you don't die. Kitsune magic, you know, so it definitely works." Thank the universe once again that he didn't have human ears, because he was sure that underneath all the fur he was glowing bright red. He practically shoves the charm into one of her hands and scurries off, retreating into a corner of the room to wallow in the shame of his life choices until the other two arrive.
To Nina, the closest approximation of that sweet battlefield adrenaline were the rituals that she so painstakingly exacted beforehand: more of an impulse than a superstition, they brought with them a delightful buzz that housed itself comfortably in her throat until the mission was complete. The weight of her kit and pressure of her weapons against her skin were the same as a blanket when she was under fire. Such was the feeling that took her as she sat in the Luminarium Cosmosys. A stunning building, almost imposing, but a small detail against the revolving landscape in Nina's mind. Sitting and listening to the briefing, even the new arrivals were such small glimmers in front of her—she was raw adrenaline, hands tapping against hands and cut ends of nerves, a knot that even under pressure could only close tighter in on itself.
But, even in the grips of anticipation, she was mostly the same. Saintalia's admittedly composed closing remark sent a giggle through her, shaking her composure slightly (but what a relief - the knot has somehow loosened). Cerberus' silence only peaked her interest in the enigmatic woman more. What a character. She genuinely couldn't read if the silence was the kind of dignified, audacious silence she would expect from an elite operator or something else. She rose as the briefing concluded, glancing around at the uneven, scattered groups of them in the vastness of the room. From the corner of her eye, she caught the fox type handing something to one of the girls on her team, blushing like some kind of schoolgirl—she'd seen such charms in the city markets in her outings as a young girl. Soon enough Nina herself was smiling.
She wandered to the other side of the room, sidling up to Pheles. Admittedly, she was disappointed to not have more Knights on the flank team, but she supposed it was a good opportunity to branch out socially. She gave the woman a small wave before leaning in conspiratorially. "So, Miss Anthem,"—she emphasized, she wasn't gonna fuck something up so simple—"if I get some good stuff from the raid, should I drop it off at your doorstep as usual?
Pheles would regard her with a perplexed expression for the attentive use of her code name, and that quickly devolved into an outright frown. "Why would you wait until after the raid to hand it over to me? Wouldn't it be more convenient to shuffle off your ill gotten goods to me while the battlefield is still smoking?" The taller woman questioned her.
Nina grinned childishly. "Conniving as always. At this rate you'll be able to take over the business yourself pretty soon." She glared up at her. "Even if you can't look your business partners in the eyes from up there." She paused for a moment, biting one of her nails idly. The image of Zenko's charm flashed in her mind, a bright, warm red, a familiar shade. "You don't think there's any chance any of us will be seriously hurt, do you?" She let her eyes wander, following the others, bright colors in such a dim-feeling room. "Sometimes I think it's too easy to get relaxed in a job like this." GM // Serobliss
(Anatasia, Cerberus) KKO //Satella
(Anthem) IOS // lunar_moth