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Quest Beyond the Blue

Sub Genres
Action, Adventure, Anime, Romance
Other
Here
Mission 1 END New

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>Hover at your position, remaining in Stance Mode while you fire on the enemy [GUN, DC: 12]
[Avg: 16 + 1: Success]

You decide to stick to Stance Mode, hovering where you are as your eyes narrow and you focus on the black shape pursuing your ally. The wings on your AC flatten out and spread to stabilize the craft as you retrieve your gunpod and quickly convert it into its handheld form. Though the Kite's systems are already locked onto the bogey as it flits about, you manually override any automated movements in the AC's arms to line up your shots yourself.

Pilot: Hound 4 " Joker"
AC: AF-07T Kite (Trainer)
AC Mode: Stance
STR: 2
GUN: 2
ACM: 2
EVA: 4 (+1)
END: 3
TEC: 2
Loadout:
1x Standard Gunpod

As your concentrate, the world melts away, leaving only the endless blue that makes up the firmament. You only hear two sets of breaths - yours and Lise's. And eventually, that too is shifted to the background as you can only hear your heartbeat in your chest as your eyes strain. And then... nothing. Confronted by the void of emptiness, a clear sky, you pull the trigger on your control stick and watch as a three round-burst erupts from your gun. You quickly begin to line up a second shot.

And as expected, two of the shots go wild but the third is projected to strike the bandit mid-flight. With an inhuman reaction speed, however, it jukes upwards to avoid the lethal round... Only to be directly struck by every bullet from your next shot - just as predicted. You hear a cheer from behind you as the AC's fuselage bursts into flames. Although it still keeps up its dogged pursuit, Stingray's AC suddenly decelerates and transforms once more, using its own gunpod to pepper more rounds into its damaged hull as it passes underneath. Smoke rolls off the machine as it begins its death spiral towards the earth below.


AWACS "Control"
<< All bandits down, nice work Hound Squadron. Hopefully that's the last of them. >>

Diedrich Vogel

<< Much obliged, mercs. Those were what remained of our pursuers... And it looks like they're late to the party. >>

Western Coalition Peacekeeper Squadron | Meteor 1

<< We received reports of aerial combat over Leciel. Confirming IFF signatures... Everything looks to be in order - Orthrus Security Solutions mercs. >>

You can hear a fair bit of derision dripping off the voice in your radio as a formation of five ACs approach in Silhouette Mode. Looking overhead, you can spot the faintest glimpse of something flying higher - likely their own sniper. You shift back into Silhouette Mode as Hound 2 and 3 fly back to regroup with you.

Hound 2 "Watchman"

<< Looks like we can leave the rest of the escort and clean-up to them. Shame about Hunter... I'll take care of the report once we get back. Are we cleared to withdraw, Control? >>

AWACS "Control"

<< Affirmative, Hound 2. We'll be sending some personnel out to retrieve Hound 1's AC. Considering the situation, you all did well enough. Head on home. >>

As you watch the Diedich Vogel continue on its flight path flanked by the heavily-armed Peacekeeper Squadron, lift your visor up and take a deep breath. Your WSO brings a hand to her chest as she calms down as well before you ultimately defer to Hound 2 and follow the attacker AC, taking the left wingman position as Stingray covers the other side. There's a clunk behind you - seems like Prinz fell asleep. You smirk slightly, looking up towards the blue of the sky one last time before returning.

Sometime later...
"...Not exactly routine, but you managed to survive and adapt. Watchman, you'll be taking over as Hound 1. We've retrieved Hunter's personal effects and will be sending them back to his contacts within the week. Should an off-base funeral be arranged, we'll inform you all and assign the requisite leave for attendance. Otherwise, the base psych's available for any grief counseling. That'll be all for you two... Joker and Prinz, stay here."

The debriefing back at the small airbase on the outskirts of civilization in Leciel. As the lights in the room turned back on, the large screen monitor in the room finally turned off. Just a few second prior, the officer who had provided AWACS was going over the collected data and flight paths. One kill for each pilot. Lise sat next to you, arms folded as let out a soft sigh after the flow of information had ceased. Unfortunately, there wasn't any further information about the passengers onboard the Diedrich Vogel, but sitting here now - just having made it out of that combat situation seemed to be enough for the fresh graduate.

You glance over for a moment - in the air, you tended to forget how others looked, despite flying with them for hours. While you're sure that she's the same age as you are, her smaller stature makes her seem even younger. Not quite absurd... but she'd likely pass as a high schooler rather than a college student. With how long her golden locks are, you wonder just how she manages to fit all of it into her helmet. Maybe a ton of hairpins? You scratch your head as she stares back for a moment when she realizes you've got your sights locked onto her.

Prinz.png
"...Mm? Something on my face Joker?"


Shaking your head, you bring your attention back towards the center of the room as a man in fatigues enters the room with a hardcase in his hands. He sets it down on the table and opens it up, logging into the protected console before saluting to Control and taking a step back. The screen is overtaken by a video feed of the wilderness - likely streamed from somewhere far. While the sun's setting here, the scenery outside where the camera is positioned is enveloped by the darkness of the night with only an offscreen bonfire providing an orange glow. After a few more moments of stillness, a man enters the frame, taking a seat on a nearby rock.

You recognize the man instantly, despite having never spoken to him until now. The CEO of OSS and the leader of its flagship team, Wardog Squadron. Wardog 1 "Oz", a veteran who attained the position after the last CEO was shot down in battle. With how skilled he is, along with the rest of his squadron, they've been flying missions in the east on the frontlines of the war. Lise blinks as well, rubbing her eyes as she sat up in attention and saluted. Glancing over, you followed suit.


Oz.jpg"At ease. Hound 4, right? The new recruits - Joker and Prinz. Oz here, I don't think I need any introductions. Just took a read at the report by Huntsman and Control - saved Gransbourg's statesmen, huh? Stuff like that - we're mercs, so we won't make the news most of the time. But, it's a little different here. After all, Miss Prinz here is in line for the throne. Just came off a call with the Acting Captain... Rosebud or something? Well, seems like we'll be negotiating a contract with them..."

Closing your eyes for a moment, you recall the military situation in Gransbourg - under the terms of surrender following the cessation of hostilities from their last war, the country's armed forces were significantly cut-back and underfunded. While their economy had long since recovered, their precarious location within the Buffer Zone meant that their defense forces were only a token resistance should the continent be invaded. In that region, it was common for states to employ mercenaries to bolster their forces... and until now, Gransbourg has solely relied on their own defense force.

"...Joker's got potential, but according to the dossier, communication's his weak suit. On the other hand, Miss Prinz has the connections and the training to serve as a proper officer. Thought it over and here it is. We're very certain that we'll be able to secure a contract with Gransbourg. And once that's done, we'll need to send over a new squadron to represent the company. You don't have a lot of experience, but the other recruit we have in Hound Squadron wouldn't have performed nearly as well on that flight."

He clasped his hands together as the two of you listened intently.

"Joker, you'll be leading the OSS's newest unit - Kerberos Squadron. And Prinz, you'll be with him - if anything, you'll be the commanding officer in all but name. It's your country, after all, but instantly promoting the fourth-in-line to throne might raise some eyebrows with the international community. Pack up your things - within the next two weeks, we'll send you over to our new airbase there. Well... I'll also leave recruiting to the two of you - check your devices, should be some dossiers from our newest recruits. Normally Hound Squadron would have first pick, but you need to bolster up your forces."

"Sir!" "...!" You both stand and salute him as he takes a swig from a flask. You suspect it to be alcohol, but that's soon debunked as he wipes some juice from his mouth with an arm.

"...Damn good pineapple juice here. That's it from me - Oz out." The feed cuts suddenly there as the officer picks up the console and closes it up and leaves the room. Control clears his throat and dismisses the two of you. Standing up, you leave the room followed by your WSO, who looks to be beaming with enthusiasm.

"A promotion! And I've hardly been here for that long. Not to mention - returning home... I haven't been back since I got hired. Two weeks out... I guess we'll both have our own preparations."

"..."

"...And well, maybe you should work on your communication skills, Joker." Flashing a smirk, she playfully elbows your side.


[Mission Complete]


Mission Clear Rewards:
3 Stat Points - Limit 1 per stat.
1000 Credits
Potentials Unlocked
Potentials
Pilots, both Joker and other members of the Kerberos Squadron, can unlock Potentials that affect mission performance by modifying rolls in combat. With the completion of the first mission, you can now select one of three Potentials - further opportunities to improve or unlock more will be forthcoming.

  • The Devil's Own Luck I: Once per mission, ignore one failure and treat it as a success.
  • Wing Commander I: Call upon one of your Squadron Members to add a +1 bonus to your next roll. Limited to one call per sortied Squadron Member.
  • Skydancer I: Add +1 to the bonus(es) provided by Joker's selected AC Mode after switching for the next roll. Activates each time an option is selected that changes modes, regardless of success.
Squadron Members
Joker has now been promoted to Kerberos 1. As such, he will now fly with a team under his (silent) command. Typically, a full Squadron will consist of three Fighter ACs, one Attacker AC, and one Sniper AC along with an AWACS unit. You will now have the chance to select from the pool of Recruits to fill out Kerberos Squadron. Select 1 from each category.

Fighter Pilot Candidates:

  • "Ronin" ( ♂ ): A pilot hailing from the Amatsu Imperium. Formerly an Independent Mercernary before joining OSS. A professional through and through.
  • "Stig" ( ♂ ): Some say that he's the product of a genetic engineering project or a drone in a flight suit. All we know is, he's called "Stig".
  • "Crescent" (♀): A Tai Dynasty pilot from the countryside. Though lacking in experience, she's a natural-born pilot. A great cook as well.
Attacker Pilot Candidates:
  • "Gorilla" ( ♂ ): Fitness nut. A former Western Coalition Peacekeeper Squadron pilot in search of more lucrative opportunities. Known to use brute force to open authentication devices.
  • "Sunshine" ( ♀ ): A younger recruit, fresh out of the Royal Altian Officer Academy. Has never left the Kingdom of Altia until now, despises Altian cuisine.
  • "Carmilla" ( ♀ ): A noblewoman from the Holy Theranos Empire. Previously flew for Daeros Limited as a test pilot. Distinctive laugh and a sheltered upbringing.
Sniper Pilot Candidates:
  • "Stalker" (♀): Origins unknown, formerly worked as an assassin before being acquired by OSS. Displays slight instabilities, can operate as a Fighter as well.
  • "Glint" (♂): A farmboy from Gransbourg. Shows incredible potential as a Sniper AC pilot, but has little combat experience. His brother's in the Royal Guard.
  • "Gambit" (♂): A pilot from the USF, has a gambling problem. Debt bonds bought out by Oz, would prefer to avoid returning to his home country to avoid any further trouble.
AWACS Candidates:
  • "Scheherazade" (♀): An operator from the Perdra Sultanate. Once worked as an executive's secretary before realizing her potential as a missions control.
  • "Thunderhead" (♂): A former Western Coalition AWACs, switched to mercenary work when the laxer conditions became apparent. Loves eating on the job.
 
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Coin

77 Mourner at the Dusk of Judicious Finality
+1 STR
+1 ACM
+1 EVA

Devil's Own Luck

Stig
Carmilla
Stalker
Scheherazade
 
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Mission 2 - Night Raid New

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>The Devil's Own Luck I acquired

[Vote Results]

+1 STR
+1 ACM
+1 EVA

Kerberos Squadron Recruitment:

  • Crescent (Fighter)
  • Carmilla (Attacker)
  • Stalker (Sniper)
  • Scheherazade (AWACS)


[Mission 2 - "Night Raid"]
Your gaze falls to your left arm, where a new patch has been attached to your jacket. The past two weeks have been hectic, between your reviews of the dossiers for your new squadron and having to brush up and review company policy. And in that whole time span, you've been grounded - couldn't have the new squadron leader die in another patrol gone wrong, after all. And despite Lise keeping you up to date with news both across the continent and in her home country, there's been nothing else to learn about those black ACs nor the full extent of the situation.

Kerberos Squadron Emblem.png

The cargo plane touches down finally as your thoughts swim about. You enjoyed Hound Squadron's escort detail and an uneventful flight over to Gransbourg. It was almost a little surreal - you happened to be the last one to actually arrive - Lise's transfer orders came in a few days earlier. More likely than not to coordinate with the Gransbourg government in an official capacity. You grip the patch as the ramp opens up and lets in the vibrant hues of the day.

"Glad you made it here in one piece, Joker. Or should I call you 'Commander' now? Actually, Joker just runs off the tongue better." Naturally, the first to greet you as you disembark is Lise, her fatigues bearing the same patch as well. An older woman follows closely - as long as a young boy who isn't wearing a uniform. With his stark white hair and black hoodie, he certainly stands out. You tilt your head at the unexpected tagalong, but the woman clears her throat and brings a hand up for a handshake as she approaches you. Judging by the features on her face, she's likely from the East.
Haze.png
"A pleasure to meet you, Joker. I'm Haze, I'll be flying as Kerberos 2." You shake her hand firmly, and judging by the way she looks you over subtly as you draw back, the woman has a certain amount of experience to her. The boy stares off into space as you gesture towards him, shooting Haze a questioning look.

"...Right, an explanation. This is my charge, though perhaps protégé would be more apt. For convenience's sake, we'll address him as Stray. Rest assured commander, my arrangements have already been cleared by Oz himself. But that's enough of that - a tour of the new base is in order, isn't it?" You nod as the trio walk over to a nearby truck. It's a standard model from Esora, and a brief sense of nostalgia washes over you as you open the thick doors and climb into the rear seat along with with Stray.

"...Ahem. Haze was actually an instructor in Altia who taught me everything I knew - her skills with a blade are second to none, Joker. Though, to think you took on someone that young as a student - he must have some potential. Or maybe he's actually you're secret so- Gyah!" Prinz fiddles with the radio to the vehicle, flipping through several stations before eventually settling on a Leciellan song as she looks over to the driver. Her last insinuation is met with a swift chop to the head.


"There were other circumstances regarding this arrangement, but perhaps in a few years, Stray will be flying on missions of his own." You glance over to the boy, and he stares back. There's a certain amount of kinship between you two - between the silence and an unspeakable quality you can detect within him. You bring a fist out, and he brings his own to it in a sign of silent camaraderie before you notice the princess looking back with a slighty mug smile.

You fold your arms as you puff up your chest and look out the window. As Haze drives around the base, you quickly begin to construct a map of the base in your head. The notable buildings you pass by include the command center, two different hangars, two sets of barracks, and the communications center. Of course, you'd be hard-pressed to find the OSS logo stamped on any of these places - mercenaries didn't like to advertise their bases, after all. There were also three different watchtowers and the barbed wire fencing that enclosed the whole space.

After another pass around the compound, the vehicle came to a stop as it pulled up by the command center. Though the building looks brand new, you know better - the base had been built upon the remains of a previous Gransbourgian installation that had been razed to the ground during their last conflict. Still, the fact that the ruins managed to persist for so long proved just how tough their construction was - something that made it easy to raise an entirely new base within such as short period of time. Lise disembarks as well, taking the lead as she waves to Haze, who drives off.

Scheherazade.pngEntering through the wide doors, you're greeted with drab achitecture from more than a few decades ago. It almost feels like you've stepped back in time, but Lise's own presence keeps you grounded in the present. You keep your glances succinct, however, as she leads you to the operations room. Compared to the previous one at your last base, this room's been equipped with the latest technology. The large screens have a blue glow to them, and a number of personnel are already located in the lower levels at their terminals. As you fold your arms and survey the area, a woman in a suit approaches you.

"My, you must be Joker. It is an honor to be serving with you under the OSS. I am 'Scheherazade', and I shall be serving as Kerberos Squadron's AWACS. Rest assured, I shall do my utmost best to direct you during operations." The woman bows slightly before you before looking to her pad and turning her attention back towards the lower levels. As she heads downstairs, Lise blinks as her phone rings. She answers the call and moves away for a moment, looking slightly concerned before making her way back towards you.

"...Aaah. Joker, do you remember that mission that was scheduled this week? According to our contact with the Gransbourg Defense Force, there's been an information leak - and we'll have to deploy tonight. We can't really do much about it with how time-sensitive the situation is. That being said, looks like you'll have enough time before briefing to explore the base. I'll stick around here and start finetuning the plans. 'Course, I'll be flying with you tonigh too - they only sent that trainer Kite over." Though she looks exasperated, her smile returns to her face before long. You only realize it when her expression changes, but your mouth's already curled up into a small smile - getting to fly even sooner than anticipated was a real treat.

As Scheherazade waved Lise over next, you brought a hand to your chin to consider your options - what would be the best use of your time before briefing?

You have enough time for three outings. You...

  • Seek out Kerberos 3 "Crescent".
  • Seek out Kerberos 4 "Stalker".
  • Seek out Kerberos 5 "Carmilla".
  • Stick around to speak with Prinz and Scheherazade.
  • Look for Haze and Stray.
 
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Lucem

Nine Thousand Club
  • Stick around to speak with Prinz and Scheherazade.
  • Seek out Kerberos 4 "Stalker".
  • Look for Haze and Stray.
 
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simj22

Awful, Terrible No-gooder
Seek out Stalk Stalker
Stick around with Prinz and Scheherezade
Look for Carmilla
 
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Coin

77 Mourner at the Dusk of Judicious Finality
Seek out Kerberos 4 "Stalker".
Seek out Kerberos 5 "Carmilla".
Stick around to speak with Prinz and Scheherazade.
 

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>Stick around to speak with Prinz and Scheherazade.
>Seek out Kerberos 4 "Stalker".
>Seek out Kerberos 5 "Carmilla".



Since you're still standing in the command center, you decide to chat up Prinz and Scheherazade. And sure enough, after taking a seat an an unmanned terminal and waiting a few minutes, the situation's calmed down enough that the two women are now free to talk. You approach them scratching the back of your head as you gesture towards Scheherazade.


"...Oh? Did you wish to know more about me, commander? If you insist then. I suppose it should be plainly clear, but just to confirm, I am from the Perdra Sultanate." Your AWACS officer bows slightly as Prinz enters the conversation as well, tapping her chin.

"At the academy, I never did get to speak with any of our foreign exchange students from there. Scheherazade, can you tell me a little about your homeland?" Prinz smiles, asking a question you've had floating in your head as well. Though there were pockets of communities throughout Esora, you've never really had a chance to ask any about the state of their country - let alone why they had chosen to uproot themselves and seek a new life in the UFE.

"Well, the Perdra Sultanate is naturally the largest superpower on the Perdra Continent. Though, their position in the region was only cemented after the Sajis dynasty ultimately triumphed over other nations vying for control of the region. Perhaps, it can be said that the Tai Dynasty's decision to support them was what ultimately secured their hegemony." She turns her pad's screen towards the two of you, slowly scrolling through a few collected articles regarding the nation's history. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that she had scoured the internet so quickly for all this information. Turning it back towards her, she paused.


"I should also mention - although the capital enjoys a flourishing economy and a wealth of trade agreements, there are many areas where tensions still run high even after the unification of the region. Cultural and religious differences are not so easily overcome by conquest and the erasure of borders, after all. My, if you'd like, I could send you both these articles if you'd like to learn more in your free time." You and Prinz both reply in the affirmative and it doesn't take long after Scheherazade's finger stops moving for both sets of phones to vibrate.

"...Ah, there is another thing I am curious of, if you would indulge me, Miss Prinz. I've heard many tales of Altian cuisine perhaps you could tell me about some of their dishes? As I recall, that academy you mentioned was located in the kingdom."

"...Erm. I suppose you've only heard bad things about it, haven't you?"

The woman nodded.

"...It's really quite as dreadful as you've heard. Back at the academy, we'd collect and trade MREs as a second sort of currency to avoid eating at mess hall as much as we could."

You bring a hand to your chin as you try to imagine what academy life was like for Lise - there was nothing of the sort going on during your school days. As they continue to chat, you check your phone for the time, bringing up a hand in farewell as you begin to walk out. Naturally, they respond with their own gestures before you make your way out of the command center. You still have plenty of time until the briefing, after all.

-/ Some time later /-
You decide to head to the firing range. It's been quite some time since you've practiced with your sidearm - a standard issue handgun. You consider yourself a decent enough shot - moreso with a rifle. Practical skills, such as hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship were truly reflected by an Aerial Cavalry in Stand Mode - and the amount of training that an AC pilot had to take on over compared to the pilots of yesteryear made particularly skilled ones even more valuable.

You enter the small building and you're somewhat surprised by the 'newness' of the equipment. Compared to the rustic and practically ancient shooting ranges you've been on in Esora, a nice range like this is a bit surprising. The OSS really spared no expenses when it came to the new base. You check in with the RSO who inspects your sidearm before clearing you to shoot at the next available booth... and there's only one other person currently at the range. From the front desk, you can already hear a contant pinging as a metal target is struck with small caliber bullets.

Followed by a louder series of pings and the sound of a paper target getting shredded. After putting on your eye and ear protection, you approach the line and load up your handgun. You start the automated process, sending a paper target down the line before you begin to fire. The booth you're in gives you a real-time display analyzing your each shot. As shots ring out next to you, you try to tune things out as you slowly work your way through two magazines. The firing next to only ceases for a few moments at a time before resuming. And from what you can see from your position, they've been continuously hitting the same spots with their... bolt-action sniper rifle and handgun? The former is more than a little surprising, but given the size of the space and its modern construction, the acoustics ended up fairly dampened while away from the line.
Stalker.jpg
You already have a hunch about who was shooting, so you step back and wait until they finally finish their own set of practice. And the woman who turns back after wiping her brow with an arm looks back at you. The way she looks at you is familiar - you've seen plenty of pilots with sharpened gazes that could cut flesh like that. And, you're damn sure that you've had that same look while flying as well now. But, that predatory stare soon softens as the woman raises a hand.

"Ah, Commander Joker. It's such an honor to be working here with you. You just arrived, didn't you? I'm Kerberos 4 - Stalker. Well, the callsign is a bit embarassing..." She laughs sheepishly, slightly reddening before turning her gaze towards the ground. You point towards the targets with a small smile, it was clear that she was the sort of crackshot that her dossier made her out to be.

"O-Oh, yes. Perfect vision is necessary for pilots, but I'm quite skilled with a gun. Whether its calculating trajectories or drawing a steady bead on the target, I'm your gal!" Stalker smiled, bringing her hands together as she did. You look over to the sniper rifle - it was actually an older model now that you could make out more about it. Your pilot brings a hand to her chest as you silently inquire about it.

"My rifle? Ah, it was my favorite weapon to use during my previous line of work. As an assassin." The way she says it so nonchalantly and with her pleasant tone of voice is perhaps indicative of the truth. If you weren't already aware of it, that would have caught you off guard. Still curious, you gesture to her again.

"Why I chose to go into mercenary work? Well, it's not too different from being an assassin - if anything there's more variety to it. Killing for profit, but you also get missions to guard or destroy objectives. And well, being able to pilot an AC is quite the experience. I was only able to do so for a handful of jobs - and the training I had to undergo just for that would have gone to waste otherwise. W-Well, if I also had to pick another reason for joining the OSS, I-I guess it'd be for... love..."

You blink, scrutinizing the ex-hitwoman's face as it reddens from that confession.

"A-Ah! Don't worry Commander! You're not really my t-type and I'm a professional! B-But, I'm sure that someday, I'll meet him on the battlefield... And I'll be the only one in his heart. And if he's not the one, I'll keep on searching through my crosshairs. Cupid shoots through the heart after all... Ehehehe~..."

For a moment, you feel two sorts of feelings. Wounded pride, for being shot down without even having to say a word or even consider the notion. But also a sense of relief. As you excuse yourself, you think back on her words. That darker side that the dossier warned about - it was all therejust now. And suddenly, Stalker seemed like a rather apt callsign. As you check your phone for the time once more, you decide on your next destination. Silently, you offer a prayer for the poor S.O.B. who Kerberos 4 may latch onto in the future.

...

Teammate Potential Unlocked
Love's Crosshairs - Stalker is searching for her beloved...

-/ Some time later /-

For your last stop before the briefing, you decide to head to the second set of hangars. The first building has been allocated for the three Fighter ACs in your squadron with room to spare, while the Attacker and Sniper ACs are located in the other. Of course, there's always room for more - and you're certain that asking for more land for the base won't be an issue with Lise. As you decide to check up on the two ACs, you're immediately greeted with a -


"OHOHO~!" Your hand immediately flies to the side of your head to adjust the volume on your headset, only to realize to your silent horror - you aren't wearing one. The laughter continues as you begin to immediately regret your choice for the Attacker pilot. You actually time it - 3 minutes and 27 seconds later, the sound echoing through the hangar finally ceases. Naturally, your gaze is already fixed on the woman standing at the nose of the Vikhr Vk-06 - the Striglav Dominion's latest Attacker AC model. She swiftly hops off and gracefully lands on a catwalk before making her way to a lift. An exasperated technician lowers it as she laughs once more, bringing her head back and her hand near her mouth. Once she's on the ground she quickly struts over, already in her flight suit.
Carmilla.png
"You must be Kerberos 1, Joker! You'll have the honor of flying with I, the magnificent Carmilla!" She bows before you, though you can't help but wonder if she was sizing you up just now. You look over to the Vikhr once more, questioning the loud woman.

"My, my! The commander is curious about my lovely mount? Let me educate you then, of the wonder of the Vikhr Vk-06! Equipped with brand new reactive armor plating and capable of being operated by a single pilot or with a WSO, the Vikhr is the newest of the Striglav Dominion's attacker units. Of course, my dear Joker, you might be wondering - Carmilla, how does it handle high altitude flights?" You didn't.

"Why, it comes with one of the most advanced de-icing systems in the world! I suppose you must also be curious about how it feels to fly such as heavy AC - you are flying that trainer, aren't you? Quite impressive - to have shown such a performance in that! BUT! I digress! Sitting within the cockpit of the Vikhr high above the clouds and nearly touching the night sky, it's much like sitting by a stone hearth with a cup of hot cocoa in my hands. Ah... such warmth and bliss~..."

You're... not quite sure just how much you can handle from Carmilla. But at the very least, between her strange and bombastic speaking habits, you can find common ground in your shared interests of ACs and the beauty of flight. You hope, at least. Scratching the back of an ear, you decide to ask her about more of her history.

"OHOHOHO~! You're the strong and silent type, aren't you commander?! But, I can still strangely understand your subtle gestures and cocking of the head! As you probably know already, I was once a test pilot for Daeros Limited. Naturally, with both the Holy Theranos Empire and the Striglav Dominion being in the Eastern Alliance, they ended up developing the latter's current series of ACs - of course including my glorious Vikhr. BUT! You likely didn't know this - I am also a woman of noble birth from the empire!" She throws her head back and raises an arm in a stylish flourish. Of course you knew.

"Of course, I enjoyed a lavish life within the Holy Theranos Empire. But, there is no honor in simply standing idly by! And so, with the tutelage of my dear grandfather, I became a prodigious pilot! Ohohoho! But test piloting is nothing compared to the glory to be sought within the battlefield's skies, and so, I. HAVE. ARRIVED! Rest assured commander, I shall destroy your enemies for the honor of Orthrus Security Solutions!"

You bring a hand to your ear, smiling slightly as you bring a thumbs-up to the well-endowed woman. If she didn't have the skills, she wouldn't have been a possible recruit for Kerberos Squadron. Checking your phone for the time, it's just about time for the briefing. You clear your throat before she goes off into another tangent, displaying the time on your device before waving farewell. She responds in kind, but you've managed to make it far enough that you can escape the hangar without being exposed to her laugh for another time... at least until the mission.

-/ A short time later /-

A map of the waters near Gransbourg is displayed on the large screen within the command center. Scheherazade stands at the forefront, while you and the other members of Kerberos Squadron have assembled. You only have a brief moment to greet Crescent, the small young woman who'll be flying as Kerberos 3. Perhaps you'll find some time to speak with her another time. You stand at attention with the others, perhaps a little surprised that Carmilla hasn't so much as made a noise once the briefing started. As Scheherazade gestures towards the screen, it automatically responds and homes in on the tactical markers.

"Operation: Egg Smasher is our first major operation as Kerberos Squadron. And as such, we'll be working with the Gransbourg Defense Force's naval division to clear out pirates who have recently set up an outpost close to shore. Intel suggests that these pirates were former mercenaries who ultimately united with smaller groups of criminals to form a small army when their contract expired with Eleria, located in the southern part of the Buffer Zone." Lise briefly glances towards you as your hands ball up into a fist. Mercenary work wasn't glamorous, nor was it looked upon highly. But it was people like this who sank legitimate organizations down. And even if it wasn't your first choice, you were a commanding officer in the OSS.


"This joint operation will consist of two phases. Based on previous reports done by GDF patrol boats, we can expect a large contingent of flight-ready ACs, along with several vessels that have been converted for piracy via munitions and reinforced plating. Our role in this mission will be to achieve air superiority and..." Scheherazade motioned towards the oil rig structure displayed on the map.

"Disabling the defenses of their central facility - formerly an offshore oil rig. Drone surveillance has revealed that the rig has been fortified with heavy armor plating and outfitted with several anti-air gun emplacements. The former should be disabled before Kerberos 5 approaches for a concentrated assault. Once she is in position, our allies in the GDF shall infiltrate their facility to neutralize their threats. Our contact, "Rosebush" shall be directing their forces and will keep in touch over comms. Conditions for flight are favorable, and the cover of night will afford us the initiative. That concludes this briefing, but perhaps Kerberos 1 would like to speak a few words before our maiden flight?" You scratch the back of your head as Lise smirks, moving to stand in front of the screen as you consider what sort of speech you should give.

"..."

After a few moments, the rest of your squadron claps politely before you head out of the command center and take two trucks over to the seperate hangars to prepare. You sit in the passenger seat with Lise driving... and you can't help but silently tease your WSO about the fact that she just barely sees over the dashboard. She grits her teeth, but endures your silent chuckling as the short drive concludes. Naturally, Stray rides along with you and disembarks as Kerberos Squadron's three fighter pilots enter.

Looking around, you identify Crescent's AC as a J-5 Alioth - a Tai Dynasty fighter. A large curved blade is mounted underneath, and a rather thick looking radome dish is mount on top. Haze's AC is a Type-4F Washi from the Amatsu Imperium - distinct in its more organic-looking round curves. The large single-edged blade underneath reminds you of the stories of their ACs swooping in and attacking in a furious zeal. You're lagging behind in terms of generations with the AF-07T Kite, though it's hardly an issue. All three planes are carrying Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (LAAMS) under their wings. Parting ways, you watch as Stray remains with the ground crew as you make your way into the male locker room. You suit up quickly, putting little thought into it - all you can really focus on is the flight ahead.

Once Prinz climbs into the seat behind yours, the automated canopy closes over you and locks. You adjust your helmet and make your final checks with ground control before taxiing the plane out onto the airstip. As soon as you receive the all-clear, you accelerate down the long path, quickly gaining enough lift to tip your AC upwards. The metal bird soars into the air as you flip your visor down and adjust your oxygen mask - it's time.

You're quickly joined by the rest of Kerberos Squadron as you fly in v formation. Within a few minutes, Scheherazade's voice comes clear on the comms, from her own crewed plane far from the frontlines.

Pilot: Kerberos 1 " Joker"
AC: AF-07T Kite (Trainer)
AC Mode: Silhouette
STR: 3
GUN: 2
ACM: 3 (+1)
EVA: 5
END: 3
TEC: 2

Loadout:
2x Knives
1x Standard Gunpod
Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles

Potential:
The Devil's Own Luck I

AWACS "Scheherazade"
<< Kerberos Squadron, you are now entering hostile airspace. As expected, their boat patrols have been bolstered as a precaution following the information leak. Their ACs have already deployed - our superior radar systems can detect them before we come into range. >>

Kerberos 2 "Haze"
<< Kerberos 1, I recommend splitting off. Our fighters can focus on achieving aerial superiorty while Kerberos 5 begins to thin out their naval forces. Kerberos 4 can provide covering fire for her if necessary. >>

It sounds like a sound approach, so you approve of the tactics. As Stalker's AC ascends to take up her position above the clouds, you push your AC forward towards the group of three pirate ACs currently patrolling the air space. With the element of surprise, you figure that you can take out these three and move onto the next. You give Carmilla orders to wait - once contact is made, she'll be free to engage the enemy down below.

You're moments away from being detected on their radars. You...

  • Shift into Stance Mode and dispatch the enemy AC with a knife. [STR + ACM, DC: 12]
  • Remain in Silhouette Mode and close in with both your LAAMs and gunpod. [GUN + ACM, DC: 10]
 
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GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>Shift into Stance Mode and dispatch the enemy AC with a knife. [STR + ACM, DC: 12]
[AVG: 15 + 2: Success]


You can sense Prinz tensing up as you decide to kick things off with a bang. As you make your final approach, you suddenly cut the engines and tilt the Kite's nose downwards. As the systems blare [STALL WARNING], you ignore them - along with your WSO's sudden cries of terror as the AC tumbles forward, nose over thruster. Even as the world spins around you, you keep an eye on the radar. When you're close enough, you pull back and shift the trainer into Stance Mode, suddenly forcing the engines to their limit as you lunge forward.

Pirate AC Pilot
<< Bogeys detect- Gah! >>

And suddenly, there's a clash of metal as you focus on your own orientation - your AC's limbs are wrapped around the the enemy AC. The added weight causes its engines to strain and sputter as it struggles to shift into Stance Mode to face you. You can hear and feel its inner mechanics struggle against the lock you've got it in. Drawing out a knife, you quickly drive it into its fuselage and find yourself rewarded with a belch of fire as you strike a fuel line. One of its engines explode as you begin to tumble out of the sky. You continue to drive the small blade through its thin plating before you're entirely certain that he's finished, snapping the blade off as you try to retrieve it.
Pilot: Kerberos 1 " Joker"
AC: AF-07T Kite (Trainer)
AC Mode: Stance
STR: 3
GUN: 2
ACM: 3
EVA: 5 (+1)
END: 3
TEC: 2

Loadout:
1x Knife
1x Standard Gunpod
Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles

Potential:
The Devil's Own Luck I

Using the pirate's vessel as a springboard you ascend upwards as you work the Kite's engines once more, watching as Crescent and Haze get to work. Kerberos 3's AC shifts into Stance Mode as it approaches from above, its radome becoming a round shield. Her opponent's AC shifts into Stance Mode, hoping to shoot her down with both its gunpod and missiles in tandem. Projectiles fly and detonate on the surface of Crescen't shield as she pushes forward, throwing her blade forward. You blink, watching as the dao scrapes against the pirate's armor plating and severely damaging its shoulder joint. The blade suddenly flies back into the Tainese pilot's manipulator - it was connected by a wire to its arm. She closes the distance, delivering a vertical slice to sever its arm and the wing behind it before slamming her shield into it. It's not quite enough to crush the cockpit, but more than enough to send another AC towards the water.

AWACS "Scheherazade"

<< Haze, Fox 2. Missiles away. >>

Meanwhile, two of Haze's LAAMs shoot out towards her target. As she rapidly closes in, she stays in Silhouette Mode, and suddenly inverts her own craft as she draws a steady bead with her Washi's integrated machine guns. She lets the rounds fly hot and trace glowing paths in the sky as the AC twists to avoid the missiles. Her salvo hits one missile as it passes by, causing it to detonate in the middle of the pilot's evasive manuever. And in one swift motion without transforming, her large blade bisects the AC as she begins to advance towards her next target.

You turn your gaze below briefly, watching as Carmilla's Vikhr shifts into Stance Mode and slowly begins to glide over the water's surface.

Kerberos 5 "Carmilla"
<< Ohohoho! Now, I'll show you the divide in our classes! >>

And upon reaching gun range with the nearest ship, her Attacker goes to work. She empties round after round of a gatling gunpod into the makeshift patrol vessel before moving onto a more heavily armored one. Naturally, it fires upon her with a high caliber gun. But the round's explosive power is deflected by the Striglavan AC's plating. Her wings raise as she fires a salvo of unguided rockets into the ship before raising both gunpods and unleashing a deadly salvo into it. As she shifts back into Silhouette Mode and begins to ascend in search of her next targets, another ship attempts to fire on her - only to disappear in a pillar of water and fire.

Kerberos 4 "Stalker"
<< Ehehe~, that's one. >>

"Come on Joker, I don't want to lose to Haze! Here's your next targets!" Though the princess intially seemed to disoriented by your high speed manuever, it seems the adrenaline's already begun to course through your blades. And of course, you can't pass up a meal set before you. You begin to manuever towards the next cluster of ACs, who have seemed to adapt to the situation by taking up a v formation as they barreled towards you. Crescent follows closely behind, keeping her shield up as she remains in Stance Mode.

Pirate AC Pilot

<< Just what kind of mercs did Gransbourg hire?! >>

You...

  • Shift to Silhouette Mode and go in for a high-speed dogfight [GUN + ACM, DC: 12]
  • Remain in Stance Mode and start unloading your payload from a distance [GUN + EVA, DC: 14]

 
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GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>Remain in Stance Mode and start unloading your payload from a distance [GUN + EVA, DC: 14]
[Avg: 12 + 4: Success]
You take a deep breath as you steady yourself and tighten your grip on the control stucks. There. Over there. Targets abound, all over your field of vision, moving at high speeds. And naturally you expect them to retaliate as soon as you pull the trigger. You consider three possible methods to start your assault. Lead with missile and rely on your pinpoint accuracy? Snipe out one of the bogeys and use your missiles on the rest? Or unleash everything.

Those possibilities coalesce into a single strategy in your mind as you send two of the Kite's LAAMs right towards an approaching AC. From you position, you can make out the models of these pirates' crafts - Crusader F.3s from Altia. Perhaps at one point, they were veterans from the kingdom who could no longer fly under their flag. Or they were folk who couldn't quite make the cut like you did. But you throw any notion of sympathy aside - you've already resolved to do so long ago. You pull the trigger as the Kite's arms snap towards a target.

The night sky is rocked by an explosion as a sphere of black smoke envelops the space where one AC had just been - and in the immediate moment afterwards, a hail of bullets pierce another. Internal explosion rock its frame as the remaining four ACs continue flying forward - two of whom decide to break off to target you. You watch as Crescent and Haze engage the two in the air, shifting to Stance Mode as they do so as well.


[MISSILE ALERT] [MISSILE ALERT] [MISSILE ALERT]

AWACS "Scheherazade"
<< Kerberos 1, the enemy has a lock on you! >>


Prinz lets out a yelp as you remain hovering in the air, confronted by a veritable salvo of standard missiles from the two ACs approaching quickly. With careful aiming, you quickly shoot down one missile. The next two, however, come from an angle that you can't snap your aim towards. Instead, you force the Kite upwards with a jolt before juking to the side as the next two missiles fly through the space you once occupied. As one Crusader tries to rake your unit with its gunpod, you work your feet on the levers and narrowly avoid its barrage before drawing your remaining knife with your left manipulator.
You anticpated this - and your trainer AC's arm motors whirr in protest as you block the second Crusader's strike as it attempts to grapple with you at close range. You can tell from their movements - they're skilled in CQC. With one arm holding the gunpod in its rifle configuration, you grit your teeth as you narrowly avoid the bandit's attempts to lock your movements and deliver a fatal blow. Even when you move backwards to try and take them out with the gunpod, they immediately press the attack to force you on the defensive. They occasionally throw their knife into their other hand to try and catch you off-guard, but your evasive manuevering and own prowess simply provide too strong a defense for them to surmount.

"...! Joker, the enemy's locked on!"
You only glance at the radar to catch sight of the second Crusader circling over head, trying to take you out from range. And it's just as you suspected. You break the stalemate as you toss your knife at the Crusader - and it disappears into the dark depths of the ocean below. It lunges forward, bring its own blade down towards you. But you arrest their arm's movement by gripping their forearm. You can feel the strain in your AC's parts as you defly turn around with them - using them as a shield while their ally inadvertantly shoots them down with a full complement of their ranged arsenal.


AWACS "Scheherazade"
<< Splash 1... that'll be a confirmed kill for you, Kerberos 1. >>


With the Crusader leaking oil and going limp, you release your grip and allow it to fall towards the waters below. The other Crusader already seems to be disengaging after that disastrous offensive - two bursts from your rifle takes out their AC with little effort as you briefly check your ACs systems for any errors.
Pilot: Kerberos 1 " Joker"
AC: AF-07T Kite (Trainer)
AC Mode: Stance
STR: 3
GUN: 2
ACM: 3
EVA: 5 (+1)
END: 3
TEC: 2

Loadout:
1x Standard Gunpod
Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles

Potential:
The Devil's Own Luck I

"...Honestly Joker, if this wasn't a trainer model, you probably would have torn through this AC by now." You can hear some heavy breathing from behind you as Lise nudges your seat. That definitely was an advantage - trainer variants tended to have more internal reinforcements. They were expected to be roughed up by recruits during training flights after all. Though, it definitely wasn't as responsive as you would have wished - even with its limited configurations set to your profile, a lot of your dodges were at more narrower margins than you wished.

You bring your gaze upwards as you slowly push the AC towards the fortified oil rig in the back. Despite the weight of Haze's weapon, her Washi handles it elegantly as she continues to strike at a pirate on the defensive - and eventually, the weight of her strikes prevail over its motors as she cleaves right through it. Meanwhile, Crescent hooks her target with her blade, opening a large gash on top of its fuselage before its systems fail and send it careening towards the ground.


"Rosebush"
<< Attention Kerberos Squadron. This is "Rosebush", your liasion with the GDF. We've received a report from your AWACS that you've achieved aerial superiority. We will now be moving to phase two of the operation! All units, advance! >>

The voice of your contact seems... familiar. You can't quite place your finger on it though. Looking down towards the sea, you can spot the path of carnage left by Carmilla and Stalker's methodical advance. Flaming vessels, or ones sinking from the massive hole left behind by a high-powered shot. Looking over towards the oil rig once more, you recall the briefing's mention of anti-air guns. Though you're almost reluctant, you shift your AC into Silhouette Mode - AA guns would shred you in Stance Mode. An AC was simply unable to achieve its top speed outside of Silhouette Mode. You can hear a muffled sigh of relief from your WSO.

It's time to disable the pirates' defenses. You...

  • Fly in and strafe the compound at high speeds, taking out their emplacements one by one. [GUN + ACM, DC: 10]
  • Coordinate with Stalker, marking targets for elimination while you weave through AA fire. [EVA + ACM, DC: 12]
 
Mission 2 END New

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
>Coordinate with Stalker, marking targets for elimination while you weave through AA fire. [EVA + ACM, DC: 12]
[AVG: 4 + 4: Failure]

Potential: The Devil's Own Luck I Activated
Remaining Activations: 0​

Kerberos 1 "Joker"
<< ... >>

Kerberos 4 "Stalker"

<< Eh? You'll fly right into their gun range and pick out targets for me? I-If you insist, then I won't let you down! >>

"...Hey, even if I am your WSO, I'm still a princess. It'd be a national tragedy if I died to a bunch of pirates, but we'd both get written off as idiots. Haaah. I'll put my trust in you, Joker. Just don't get us killed, alright?" Lise chides you, but ultimately approves of your current plan - Carmilla doesn't need the support right now, and you wouldn't order the other fighters in the squadron to do something as dangerous as this. Gripping your controls tightly, you fly in.

AWACS "Scheherazade"
<< K-Kerberos 1 is flying right in! And he's transmitting data... relaying it to Kerberos 4! >>

Almost immediately as you approach range, your systems blare out warnings of enemy lock-ons. Prinz keeps her display and the cameras alloted to her on the turrets that soon slide out from their enclosures. You grit your teeth as you fly in close, narrowly avoiding gunfire as you encircle the compound. Though you keep ahead of the VADS emplacements that churn out bullet after bullet near your tail, you suddenly receive another warning.

Pilot: Kerberos 1 " Joker"
AC: AF-07T Kite (Trainer)
AC Mode: Silhouette
STR: 3
GUN: 2
ACM: 3 (+1)
EVA: 5
END: 3
TEC: 2

Loadout:
1x Standard Gunpod

[MISSILE ALERT] [MISSILE ALERT]

Surface-to-Air Missile emplacements. You can only push the Kite to its limits as its engines scream out. For a moment, you swear that you hear something shatter, but you press forward. One cannon belches out a cloud of flak directly in front of you - and you nearly plow right through the deadly shrapnel. Perhaps it was your luck, or your instinct, but you veer upwards as the missiles go wide. You can hear some of the metal fragments scrape against your AC, but you ignore it as you continue your deadly lap around the fortifications. Thankfully, it gets easier - the whole structure shakes as it endures high-altitude shots from Stalker's rifle. Each shot leaves nothing but the partially melted and shattered carcass of the pirate's defenses.

You break off once Stalker finishes disabling the last of the turrets, returning your AC to higher altitudes as you grip your chest. As confident as you were in your piloting, that was far too much of a close call. Lise lets out a shriek as she kicks the back of your seat before calming down. It's not too often that you actually fly hard enough that it actually leaves you in pain - you've always been good at handling high-g manuevers, but flying like that might have shaved a few years off.


AWACS "Scheherazade"

<< All defensive fortifications have been eliminated. Kerberos 5, you're clear for a direct assault. >>

Kerberos 5 "Carmilla"

<< OHOHOHO! As expected of my squadron lead! I shall tear wide these gates, have at thee curs! >>

"Rosebush"

<< Tch, isn't the Princess in that AC? Whether that was luck or skill, they still made it out alive... Marines, prepare to breach! >>

You roll the plane onto its side as you decelerate, faced with the starry skies to your left and the murky depths illuminated by the pirates' spotlights below. The Vikhr's massive three-fingered manipulators crush and penetrate the improvised gate that guards the oil rig and begins to tear plates of armor off. Several patrol boats and rafts filled with soldiers make their way around the AC and enter the opening left inside. As you circle the area with your AC, you take a deep breath.

"..Hey, Joker. When we're this high up, it's almost like I can reach out and grab them. Even if everyone is so very different from one another, they see the same sky, don't they?"


Night Sky.jpg

You nod, turning your gaze from the silent devastation and the carnage left on the water's edge to the heaven's above.

Sometime later...
"This concludes Operation: Egg Smasher. No casualties reported on our side, the only injuries I'll have to include in the report involve one of the crew members in my craft burning himself on the stove. As for the Gransbourg Defense Force, they're reporting a fair amount of injured personnel but no losses on life on their end. Any hostile pilots who ejected have been fished out from the sea and shall be persecuted under the full extent of the law. In addition, the marines recovered a number of imprisoned hostages - had we not flown tonight, they likely would have absconded on the ship they had prepared within the oil rig's structure. As for clean-up, that shall be handled by Gransbourg as well. A job well done, Kerberos Squadron." Scheherazade finishes the debriefing as the lights in the command center brighten and the data displayed on the monitor vanishes.

You run a hand through your hair, glancing towards the other pilots in your squadron. As far as you can tell, everyone performed admirably. And despite that nerve-wracking end to the operation, Lise is in high spirits - mostly due to your kill count. Haze and Stray approach the two of you as your other three pilots exit following a call for dismissal.

"With the way you were flying, I'm surprised your callsign isn't 'Daredevil'. Still, you made it out of that situation in one piece. Can't say that I've seen too many other pilots pull off something like that. There's more to being an ace than just skill - pure luck. And it seems like you've got both in high quantities." She pauses a moment, leaning down to pat her ward's head before stretching out an arm.

"...Seems like Crescent wants to celebrate at the mess hall as well. I'm sure you two have worked up an appetite for it too." The older woman turns, waving back as she exits. Stray seems to copy her gesture as you stifle a yawn and wave back. You consider turning in but...

"C'mon Joker! I've been hearing nothing but good thing's about Crescent's cooking since she arrived, and tonight was our first flight as Kerberos Squadron! Hehe, I'll show you how you celebrate in Gransbourg!" Your WSO's golden hair sways about as she prances around you before taking hold of your hand and leading you out. You're almost surprised that someone so small could drag you around so easily, but you simply resign yourself to her whims with a small smile. You've earned this much, at least.


[Mission Complete]

Mission 2 Clear Rewards:
3 Stat Points - Limit 1 per stat.
1000 Credits

The Devil's Own Luck I
Uses Refreshed​
 
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