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Chapter Eight: Drake's Dream!

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
Finally feeling a little less overwhelmed, Hercules takes a deep cleansing breath before downing the leftover beer in the bottle, slapping his big left hand against his even bigger left thigh and rising with explosive speed to his feet.
"Right," his voice echoed with certainty across the landing bay, "I want to cast an eye over the weapons we have here on the ship and any that are down there" he pointed out at the floating city, "to see what we'll be dealing with in the future."
He turned and nodded to Reggie, "We also need to get your new legs in fighting form too. Once that's done, I'm going to turn out some good quality Greek food! I can't let the Italians steal all the culinary thunder on this bird. You know what that means, don't you Trouble?"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Psychie Psychie (Tag!)

He turned and nodded to Reggie, "We also need to get your new legs in fighting form too. Once that's done, I'm going to turn out some good quality Greek food! I can't let the Italians steal all the culinary thunder on this bird. You know what that means, don't you Trouble?"

From his perch on Toph's shoulder, Trouble rears back on his haunches and launches into an enthusiastic reply. "MEEEEEEEW!! Reeewoorreww!" In your minds, you hear his boyish voice cry out in joy. "It meens FEEEEEEEESH!! Tasty, wriggly, shiny, nommy FEEEEEEESH!"

* * *
The trickle of tears turns into a full on flow as she looks at the amazing flying board. She goes up to each of the people that were revealing the Mehve and gives them a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek, then goes over to Hitomi and takes the other woman by her hands. In a quiet voice, she says to her, "Do you have any idea how much this means to me? You do realize that this makes me love you even more, don't you?" She pulls her into a tight hug, holding her close for a moment before releasing Hitomi to go and examine the Mehve in more detail.

When Toph hugs the surprised and stunned Cal, the handsome, strong-limbed soldier kind of freezes in place and tries to hug Toph back but only succeeds with a few pats on the Japanese-Meltrandi's back. Perhaps this is because each of the Special Forces crew is still set up in their rigs, complete with explosives, ammo, knives, and other dangerous paraphernalia. Perhaps it's because he's not used to being hugged by an ecstatic officer with whom he has next to no acquaintance. Perhaps also, it is because all three of them may have more or less clean uniforms on, but bearded Cal - at this range - strongly smells of the field. Toph can smell caked-on sweat each with its own emotion, the scent of dried blood, and cordite. Cal knows his whole team smells this way. "Uh, uh, thanks ma'am?" Still, Cal tries.

When Toph hugs Gabi, she receives a warm and blissful hug filled with the free-willed Hispanic love of hugging, even though Gabi is carrying drone and drone-related gear along with the aforementioned Special Forces-related pleasantries on her rig. Gabi's giggle is girlish and full of happiness for Toph and nothing is going to stop the Mexicana from expressing herself honestly. "You go, chica!"

Scary Jerry just grabs onto Toph like she's life itself. It's enough to make one wonder when the last time was that this guy received a hug from anybody. Toph instantly detects the tall, wiry, clean-shaven soldier's muscles under his rig; Scary Jerry is built like a jaguar in his prime - lean, powerful, full of readiness. The same cannot be said for the mind that guides that body when he exclaims aloud to everyone, "Oh! Oh gosh! A hug from Kirin! I'm never going to wash this body again!!" And only his snickering, head-shaking teammates seem to know exactly where he's coming from.

It's when Toph approaches Hitomi that she finds the Jeet Kune Do instructor warmly smiling, arms outstretched to receive Toph's embrace. Easily the cleanest of the bunch in her standard UEEF uniform, Hitomi smells of perfume - womanly and exotic, soft yet hard to forget. There is a phrase of wisdom from ancient days past that goes, "When your work is speaking for itself, don't interrupt!" Thus Hitomi, full well knowing this moment is all her idea, doesn't say a single word but instead just kind of glows a bit when Toph says what she says. Instead of speaking, Hitomi skillfully and steathily passes on a small piece of paper to Toph - a special paper carefully shaped into an origami sculpture. It looks like Elmo from the Muppets.
"Open me at your leisure," is written in flawless Japanese on Elmo's chest.

The Mehve, Toph discovers, is a wonder of engineering. The entire thing can't weigh more than 50 pounds. Probably closer to 30. Her humming engine is extremely quiet. No exhaust. Her controls are simple, yet Piper makes certain to point out a bracelet on Toph's right arm along her megasuit. "You get into trouble, you call over the radio and try to use this. It's a remote control for the Mehve, but it's experimental so don't go relying on it yet!"

Outside, the wind calls. The sky beckons.
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph listens carefully to the instructions on getting the Mehve airborne and how to fly it, giving each control a dry run to make sure she is fully up to speed. Then, she slips into the CVR-3 armor and makes sure it is buttoned up tight, both to keep the wind out of her face, and to make sure if she happens to fall into the water, she won't drown.

Now fully suited up, she scoops up Trouble and puts him on her shoulder. "Lets go, big guy! And here's to hoping that we don't fall into the drink to get you your fresh feesh!" Toph can't help but have a huge grin on her face as she powers up the flyer to take to the air. "Trouble, I don't know about you, but I want to know just how fast we can to on this!"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario's response to the introduction to the wingboard is amusement. Pilots and their toys. <snort> I can't judge too harshly, though. That thing does look like it might be a lot of fun.

He gives Toph a thumbs up, saying, "Go for it, Lieutenant! Lets see how you handle this thing."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Psychie Psychie (Tag!)

Geared up and ready to go, Piper orders the flight line cleared while bright yellow swirling lights and attention-getting sounds of the hangar bay get people to move in a way that can only be called automatic and orderly - even the Broo. In moments, there are only a pair of Sams between Toph, MechaKitten, and the launch zone. Outside, an open blue sky crested with teams of clouds and the deep blue sea where the glowing new city of Pacifica rests upon the water as if made to just that.

Following the instructions Toph has been provided, and having done everything but technopathically-link herself with the incredibly-light and electrically-powered Mehve, Toph hears instructions from "Surfer" Sam in her megasuit's helmet. Toph responds to these instructions as her TASC training has taught her to.

"Muppet One, this is Broadsword command. Like, how do you read me?"

"Muppet One, you're totally cleared for take-off. Mustang One will be your Valkyrie escort. Happy sky-sailin', duuude!"

Then she is off with a "Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!!"

"Nausicaa's Theme - Soft & Peaceful Ghibli Piano Music" a beautiful improvisation by PianoDeuss on YouTube. Of all of the Nausicaa music out there on YouTube, I found this to be the best for this scene. Enjoy! =)

sky-sun-sea-path-wallpaper-preview.jpg
(Image credit: WallpaperFlare.com)

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(Image credit: Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Wiki - Fandom)

The wind carries Toph along as she leaves the humongous star-frigate from the future behind. One moment, Toph is surrounded by well-wishing friends and a crew of mostly strangers on a quest to alter the course of human history like no one has ever done before. The next moment, Toph is alone save for Trouble whose tiny paws are magnetically-attached to her right shoulder, his long tail wildly flapping in the wind, a huge grin on his little kitty face. It is simply the two of them - one Earth native, one visitor from far-off stars - and the sky, the sea, the city, with a single shining steely Valkyrie at her six o'clock position. The huge warbird is just close to be there if something awry should happen to Toph, just far away enough to give her all the freedom Toph should desire. Toph sees the two-seater veritech with a lone occupant - a Sam unit who gives her a thumbs-up before returning "his" hands to the controls.

While she lacks an altimeter, Toph can reason she is about a mile up off of sea level. From up here, Pacifica's blue forcefields shimmer like moonlight in daytime - surreal and dreamlike. The island-city is miles-wide and miles-long, vaguely rectangular in shape. It is as if the island itself was formed into a shape that allows for ease of travel atop and beneath the Earth's lovely blue seas.

Toph is free to soar, speed, and sail as she wishes!
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph can feel the excitement of taking to the air on her gifted Mehve build inside of her. "This is Muppet, and I read you loud and clear. Rodger that Mustang One is my escort. Trouble and I are both set to take to the air! Lifting off!" With a gentle touch, she kicks the engine on and rises up off of the deck, and soon is out of the bay and into the open air.

At first, she takes things a bit easy until she gets the hang of the controls and how the Mehve handles, but as her confidence grows, so does her enjoyment of the flight. Being in the air has always felt right to her, but being on the flying wing is a very different experience from any other aircraft she's ever flown, even counting her beloved Cookie Monster. Toph can feel the grin on her face as the mechanical cat on her shoulder leans forward with the wind in his face.

This Mehve is truly a wondrous gift.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus
(Part 1 of 2)

"Mass Effect 2 - Project Base (1 Hour of Music)"

Toph's Mehve ride is a truly joyous one as she sails over Pacifica, this steely city with its pristine buildings and streets, incredible amount of construction and activity, and utter lack of signs of human life. All is automated here. If it moves, it's a machine, be it a Sam or Samantha, the heavy loaders, the Cyclones, or the bright yellow Silverbacks. They all work together in a scene of marvelous coordination. It is like watching orchestration in motion, flawless ever-moving tranquility. No city on Earth - before the Rain of Death or present - can rival this.

This is because you are the only living beings here.

As the Broadsword comes in to land at Pacifica's wide and hardy spacedock, the Wild Cards notice that Toph and Trouble have friendly and unobtrusive company in the air with them besides the Sam-piloted Valkyrie. A red and green shape with huge rainbow-colored wings buzzing along. It is Iris and she travels far behind Toph's speedy Mehve. The Scrath travels with great pleasure in her movements.

Under a series of well-rehearsed communications and motions, many of them heard over the ship's intercom system for your convenience, the computerized crew of the Broadsword seamlessly docks and for what feels like the first time in a century, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief among the human crew as the star-frigate from the future simply rests in safe hands.

"Listen up!" You hear Captain Piper's voice come over the ship's comms. "The Broadsword is gonna be here in dry dock for about two weeks as we perform repairs, modifications, and complete overhauls, but this ain't shore leave, people! Consider yourselves on-duty at all times. Pacifica is gonna resubmerge and we'll be underwater until the jobs are done. In the meantime, we have a lot of adjusting to do. If you're old to the Broadsword, then consider yourselves under New Planet guidelines even though this is Earth. If you're new here, then you're going to train your asses off because you have a lot of learning to do.

"When you're off-duty, there are several locations on Pacifica you're welcome to visit. But stay outta the restricted zones! Pacifica is still a work in progress and anybody I even imagine in one of those zones is subject to lock-up in our brigs! So just don't, got it?

"In the meantime, old crew. Help the newbies out. New crew. Don't take anything personally. Broo-crews. Be ready because Pacifica has wild areas we need your help with. A big chunk of the city is forest and growth for the Tribe of the Star-watchers.

"We'll keep you updated on current events. Welcome home, Broadsword! We have made it to Earth! The year is 2025! And whether they know it or not, humanity is counting on us as always! Let's prepare to do our part to defend Earth's future against the Invid Invasion! Let's do Captain Drake proud! That is all."

* * *​

"Ship Of Fools"

This song turns out to be the Broadsword's anthem as chosen by the crew. They sing it often enough in the next two weeks plus as time for the Wild Cards passes in eventful and illuminating ways! The following things take place between late May 2025 and June 13th, 2025 (what will be present day):

1. On the ship and off of it, you receive UEEF Marine training every day for 8 hours a day! Calisthenics! Military etiquette! Rifle training! Ground-based out-of-mecha squad tactics! You're basically put through a two-week boot camp all over again that is definitely tougher than what you received in the Army of the Southern Cross in terms of unit cohesion, doing more with less, and (dare I say it?) espirit de corps ("a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of a particular group").

But wait! There's more! Who is ordered to put you through the training? Why, the only true ground-pounding grunts onboard the Broadsword, the Force Recon Special Forces team led by Scary Jerry! You learn that they have a name for their team - Adamantium ("nigh-unbreakable!")! Scary Jerry, Cal, Gabi, and the other 9 crazy members run your asses through the wringer while teaching you things about aliens you may never have to fight. It makes your training against Dolza's Zentraedi feel very elementary as Adamantium has faced more space aliens, planetary dangers, and cosmic disturbances than any member of the ASC, alive or dead.

Why? Because that's what the Expeditionary Force Marines do! They are the first on the ground against the unknown. And for the next two weeks, the Wild Cards learn how to team up together, carry each other (that's right! Sometimes Hercules carries you and sometimes you carry Hercules!).

You come away with a crash course filled with first-hand experiences of custom arms used in the year 2045 against the Invid, Cyclone training, Silverback training (those mini-mecha that Force Recon uses and sometimes does not use as often enough, Adamantium goes out wearing only their Mega-suits against enemy forces).

You are not trained to become Force Recon - you are trained in the basics of being an Expeditionary Force Marine - a special brotherhood and sisterhood that work far better together than alone. In time, you see that Scary Jerry is honestly crazy and honestly the best of the best - the guy seems to understand in his soul what it takes to win against impossible odds and the rest of Adamantium puts up with his craziness in part because Scary Jerry is your best bet to staying alive and not winding up like him.

You also train with the Broo. They follow Adamantium's every command, their child-like ways made more deadly by soldier training which has transformed the playful Beasties into battle-hardened, well-disciplined hunters of the Invid who are the most loyal people the Broadsword has ever seen.

The Wild Cards also get about 1 hour of Traversing classes with Professor Stein, 3 days a week. You come away with a basic knowledge of Technopathy (which allows you to operate many basic mechanical and electrical devices simply by touching them. Things like firing a projectile-firing pistol simply by touching the handle with your finger, opening a mechanical door just by touching the door and not the lock, or (possibly the most fun) operating simple mechanical locks by touch alone. Key-operated or combination locks simply pop open or closed at your touch. Not once do you enter the Blue World again while in this basic training.

In what off-time you are not recovering from training-based bumps, sprains, and bruises, or sleeping, studying, or otherwise busied, the Wild Cards are given free roam of the Broadsword and you manage to visit every place of your choosing. Until finally, you survive the two-week crash course in Expeditionary Force Marine training!

In a word? Whew!
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Part 2 of 2)

The date is Friday, June 13th, 2025. Time? 0813 hours.

Hitomi and Toph, both being doctors and shipmates, have seen each other off and on but Hitomi seems to be waiting for something from Toph that she has not yet received - and Toph being as busy as she is might be wondering what it is. Also, Reggie and Beema have become fast friends.

The Wild Cards are in the Briefing Room along with Captain Stein and Professor Stein who have asked you to be here. Mack, Cera, and Trouble are here and looking healthy if a bit weary (Trouble from playing with a container of Scotch Tape). Scary Jerry, Faydra the Broo chieftess, and Bong the enigmatic Broo Shaman are present too.

The subject? What do the Wild Cards think is the next plan of action.

The world situation in the past two weeks has gotten a bit uglier with reports of the Malcontents actively mobilizing to South America, parts of the former United States of America, and parts of the Middle East. The sad and sorry remnants of Lord Dolza's once-invincible 5,000,000-vessel armada are making their way to parts of the Earth in order to take up the call by some strange new menace Earth media has learned calls itself the "Zeki Zentraedi." Sound familiar?

The attacks on Eglin ASC base have ceased upon the worldwide declaration given in the Zentraedi language to every radio signal it could reach. The Malcontents are on the march to come together and there is little the UEG and the ASC can do to stop them. As it stands, the forces of Earth each has its own takes on what to do. Some powers are staying out of it, hoping these "Zeki" will take the male Malcontents back to the stars and leave Earth alone while Supreme Commander Leonard of the ASC has worn himself out trying to warn everyone not to let the Zentraedi mass together but to hit them while they are still in smaller forces - cries that have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

As for the mission to revive Commander Kirin, Captain Sharp has kept the details close to his chest. He and Piper seem to have agreed that there is little the Broadsword and Pacifica can do about the Zeki-instigated exodus. Pacifica continues to stealthily travel the Earth's oceans, the submersible city taking on construction every hour of every day.

In the Briefing Room, Captain Sharp places one hand on the holographic projector showing the entirety of Earth slowly spinning before you in a beautiful display of the world humanity owes its past, present, and future to.

Captain Sharp cleans his spectacles and asks the Wild Cards. "Troops? I think you know what the stakes are. What kind of mission are you thinking of taking on next?" Mack looks to each of you before she answers. Cera stays quiet for the moment, the Ura-Meltrandi's thoughts unreadable.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Earlier, just after the Mehve flight.....

Toph may have landed on the deck, but her heart is still soaring up on the wondrous gift that the crew of the Broadsword have given her. She looks over at Trouble and scoops him up, saying, "That was one hell of a fun ride! Thanks for coming along with me, big guy!" Toph sets the mechanical cat down and looks around the hangar bay with a beaming smile on her face from the fun of the Mehve flight. There are few things that would rank higher on her list of exciting and fun things to do . . .

But now, her thoughts turn to the note that Hitomi had given to her before taking off. There was no time for Toph to look it over in private before her take off, but now, things are a bit different and there is some places that she can go and read the message in peace.

With a casual flip of her hair, she heads across the hangar bay to find an out of the way spot and settles in with the note in hand. Heart thumping rapidly with trepidation, Toph opens the note and begins to read.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Psychie Psychie
Earlier.

The origami-Elmo neatly unfolds in Toph's hands producing two things. The first is a message written in womanly handwriting and easily understandable.

That is, if one can read Japanese.

"Spring yearns for summer
Summer thinks much joy awaits
Let's give this a try!"

The second is the unmistakably classy and charming scent of Hitomi's perfume, brought slowly into the air by Toph's careful opening of the origami paper.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario spends the two week period of time learning more about the workings of the UEEF mecha, especially the Cyclone and Cera's creation, the Mjolnir. When push comes to shove, he wants to be at 100% readiness to deploy in one of those machines and rock the bad guys. The news that the Malcontent Zentraedi forces are banning together is troubling, and there is the oncoming threats of the other assaults on the planet to contend with. Not a day to be sitting idle.

Now, the Wild Cards are gathered together in the briefing room with Colonel Sharp - sorry, Captain Sharp - standing at the podium. Mario looks around the room for a moment, then he raises his hand to call the Captain's attention to himself. "Sir, I am of the opinion that while it would be a benefit to the Broadsword and the city of Pacifica to have Commander Kirin healed with the Isotope-9, we need to get the defenses of the city up to full operational capability. Namely, we have to get its main gun working before it is too late. If I recall correctly, this will involve a run to get needed tech and data from the Grand Cannon site in South America."

He shifts in his seat a bit, then continues. "Sir, obviously I will whole-heartedly give my full effort to whatever mission is decided, but this is what I see being the best move for us."
 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
If anything, the grueling training regime of the Force Recon SF troops was a breath of fresh air for Hercules. As a young man growing up and even once he'd joined the ASC, he'd regularly pushed his body to the peak of fitness, but now he was finding a new level under the uncompromising eyes (and hands) of Scary Jerry and his team. Every morning he woke up early, eager for the day's training and every evening he went to bed happy with bruises and sore muscles. Over time, he improved his combat techniques, ranged, melee and unarmed, to the point that he could last toe-to-toe with the biggest and toughest of the SF troops for a full three minute bout, no punches pulled, not holds barred.

He also enjoyed the time training and learning about his Traversing powers, learning how to manipulate equipment with the force of his will and charisma was enlightening to him. Professor Stein's work was as mentally challenging as the combat training was physically and, while he had made some good progress, he still felt he wasn't on par with the other Traversers in his team.

With what little private time he had, Hercules divided it equally between working with Reggie on his walking exo-frame, cooking the bounty of the oceans around them and deepening his knowledge of the many weapons and mecha his team would be working with. While he knew he'd never be a patch on the armory expertise of Booty, Hercules felt he owed it to his departed friend to be as diligent and caring with the weapons as he had been.

Sat now in the briefing room, Hercules kept his peace. He was a soldier, he listened, he watched and, when his superiors had made a decision, he would act.
 

Silanon

Three Thousand Club
Two weeks - well-spent. Attempting to do what seems barely possible, eight hours a day; under Jerry's lead. Learning to do what should've been impossible - traversing - whenever time allows. And, perhaps most important in sight of the impossible task ahead; getting to know the people around her. Knowledge and expertise can only get a single human so far; after that, only cooperation can do the trick. And yet, even the best teamwork will not stop the invasion; and thus, Ylva nods in agreement when Mario answers first, avoiding to look in Toph's direction. Tough choices, these; and that's without personal involvement.

"I tend to agree. No matter how hard Jerry tries, there's only so much a handful of people can do. That soldiers alone can do, period. As things are, we won't fight off an invasion. Even under the best lead. We'll need the cannons. So if you ask me, that's the choice. Especially since it'll take time to turn the plans into reality as well." A look around at the other - more familiar, now. "I mean - it'd probably be easier with Commander Kirin's insight already. From what I've heard, she's the kind of woman to make most things easier. But if hell breaks loose before we get both, I'd trust someone else to make good calls in her stead. There are good people here. But there's no cannon, yet, and her presence alone won't change that overnight. Though I wish it would, that'd make things really easy."

A short pause, eyeing the spinning Earth in thought. "Did the troop movements change anything for us, at all? Regarding the Isotope-9, or the plans for the cannon? We don't know much about the medicine, Sir, and how to get it, exactly. If waiting would make either task impossible - then that'd change priorities, perhaps."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
There were reasons Elinor had gone for pilot rather than marine, as she thought grumpily to herself more than once over the past two weeks. But she couldn't deny she felt more like part of a team at the end of it, not just a collection of assorted individuals. Pilots, in Elinor's experience at least, tended towards individualistic thinking, which was fine if you were the only one in your cockpit and you could still follow your wingleader's orders. What they were up against now, though... it seemed like those in charge (and Elinor didn't consider herself among them, especially not with Mack back in the squad leader's seat) thought the Wild Cards needed to be a real team and not just a squad of pilot-minded soldiers. Fair enough. They were probably right. Which didn't make her any happier about it, just understanding. She did enjoy the Technopathy training and practice. Anything she could do to further her knowledge there, she was definitely for, 100%. She wished she could get some more experience in the Blue World, but that didn't seem to be on the table for now.

Now, in the briefing room, Elinor gives Toph an apologetic look. "Agreed," she nodded to both Mario and Ylva. " 'Specially with the Malcontents actively mobilizin' to South America. I know it's a big continent, but I'd as soon not risk them gettin' to our target first and us havin' to go through 'em to get it."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus
(Big post! Grab the snacks and drinks and enjoy!) =)

"Sir, I am of the opinion that while it would be a benefit to the Broadsword and the city of Pacifica to have Commander Kirin healed with the Isotope-9, we need to get the defenses of the city up to full operational capability. Namely, we have to get its main gun working before it is too late.

Captain Piper pipes up. "Even if we had the plans today, Sam tells me that Pacifica's Mobile Grand Cannon won't be ready anytime soon. Months, easy. And I wouldn't worry about Pacifica's defenses," Piper glances at Sam in a confident way. "Sam built this city from the ground up. He's kept it safe and undetected this long. Doctor Yashida?" Hitomi turns. "Any idea how long it'll take the Ice-9 to have an effect once we get it?"

Hitomi thinks a moment then replies smoothly, "Once properly administered, it could be a matter of hours or days, but I doubt it'll go into weeks."

That answer seems to satisfy Piper.

A short pause, eyeing the spinning Earth in thought. "Did the troop movements change anything for us, at all? Regarding the Isotope-9, or the plans for the cannon? We don't know much about the medicine, Sir, and how to get it, exactly. If waiting would make either task impossible - then that'd change priorities, perhaps."

Captain Sharp replies to Ylva with a nod that appears to show his approval in her thinking. "Their movements haven't affected our plans, but they eventually will. I'll get into all that in a moment."

Now, in the briefing room, Elinor gives Toph an apologetic look. "Agreed," she nodded to both Mario and Ylva. " 'Specially with the Malcontents actively mobilizin' to South America. I know it's a big continent, but I'd as soon not risk them gettin' to our target first and us havin' to go through 'em to get it."

"That's the thing," Captain Sharp eyes Elinor. "They're already there and holding it!" Captain Sharp takes a deep breath as he recounts history.

"For anyone who could use a refresher in history, the Zentraedi Control Zone was home to over 100,000 Malcontents left there after the First Robotech War. We had beaten Lord Dolza, Lord Khyron, and Commander Azonia. The remnants of those millions of starships either joined with us or continued fighting as they were created to. War after war in South America, especially inside Brazil and near Argentina, took place as humanity retook those lands back from the Malcontents. The RDF had finally beaten the Malcontents back in 2020, just five years ago, in that very part of the world. Heroes like Max and Miriya Sterling along with the Skull Squadron risked their lives to vanquish what everyone thought were the last Zentraedi forces still loyal to Lord Dolza. Then the UEEF was formed, SDF-3 was complete, and Admiral Lisa Hayes-Hunter and Vice Admiral Hunter left with the very best Earth had to take their journey to the stars to make peace with the Zentraedi's creators, the Robotech Masters.

Captain Sharp lets out a frustrated sigh. "It wasn't long after the UEEF launched that there began reports of Zentraedi activity back in what we once called the Zentraedi Control Zone. Nobody thought much of it. The Merchant Republic, that huge organization of miscreants and scavengers, became a major power in the world because of all the protoculture and mecha left after those battles. For the past 5 years, the Southern Cross and the Merchant Republic have fought over the Grand Cannon with neither side keeping it for more than a handful of months. Three months ago, they
finally called an uneasy truce as South American Grand Cannon waited patiently for someone to either finish looting it or rebuild it.

"Then just last month, disaster struck, and no one outside of South America got details of the news until recently! A good-sized army of Zentraedi - apparently newly-cloned and ready for combat - appeared north of Brazil. In less than a single week, these well-armed Zentraedi swept through the Merchant Republic and all other scavengers and took the South American Grand Cannon for themselves! The Southern Cross and the Merchant Republic blamed each other and now all deals are off! No side trusts the other, but not long after this hostile takeover, we realized something - the Malcontents, or whatever you want to call them now, were holding their position. Making rude fortifications. Getting entrenched and even leaving booby-traps wherever they could. Now they're dug in so deep nobody seems to be able to get them out. No one seems to know why."

Cera folds her hands and turns to face Captain Sharp. "I can give you a good guess. These new Malcontents have been discovered by the Zeki-Zentraedi. With the call that came out, I imagine they are holding the Grand Cannon until the Zeki arrive."

"But for what purpose? How can the Grand Cannon help the Zeki?"

"I do not know, but like us, the Zeki-Zentraedi have technological skills never imagined by Lord Dolza's forces. The Zeki can clone themselves, alter themselves, and take bio-engineering to levels beyond even that of we Ura-Meltrandi. With such technical and scientific knowledge at their fingertips, not to mention any remaining caches of protoculture, they might create something of such incredible power as to serve them in their desire to destroy the Robotech Masters and everyone on Earth."

"Whoa! You got any good news?" Mack asks.

"Yes," Cera nods. "In what spare time I have, I have been in the CIC collecting data from Sam and monitoring Zentraedi channels as data comes in. There is no sign of the Zeki near the Grand Cannon since forces of the Southern Cross and Merchant Republic are both trying to take those priceless remains back into humanity's hands. As long as the Southern Cross and Merchant Republic bicker and fight, these new Malcontents remain surrounded leaving the Zeki with no way in." Cera gives the hint of a grin. "Either the Zeki will not or cannot reach the Grand Cannon. Unless something very unexpected takes place, this three-way stalemate could last well until the next year. That means time is on our side."

Professor Stein folds his large arms and taps his foot. "So we do have time to find the Ice-9 and begin Commander Zyorna's return to consciousness?" He turns to Hiram Sharp for answer as old friends do.

Captain Sharp looks back to Albert Stein with a firm nod. "The Ice-9, and the dangers that surround it, are going nowhere unless, just like South America, some highly unusual event takes place.

He looks to the Wild Cards and Scary Jerry who, by his wide-eyed expression, has been listening intently to every single word. Captain Sharp says, "We can do either mission at our leisure."

Scary Jerry rubs his hands together. "Sir? What can ya tell us about the Ice-9 mission?"

Captain Sharp sighs and gives a look of trouble. "Until you take on the mission, I can't go into great details. But I can tell you this. And what I am about to tell all of you does not leave this room. Am I clear?"

Sharp does not speak again until he sees every head nod or every voice reply to the positive. Even Piper's. "Taniya told me the Ice-9 is on a starship that crash-landed here on Earth. A Zeki-Zentraedi starship. It is in a remote part of the world very unlikely to be discovered by humanity anytime soon. Taniya's people can detect no life-signs aboard but for reasons she did not discuss, her people will not venture aboard the vessel. The War-queen sounded excited about all this." Captain Sharp slowly shakes his head even as Cera's mind races in confusion. The 2nd Generation Ura-Meltrandi seems to be just as in the dark as the rest of you.

"Taniya doesn't seem to want the Ice-9 for herself. But I think there's something on that vessel that even the brave and cool-headed Ura-Meltrandi allies want nothing to do with. And that has me worried. I can't tell you anything else until you decide to take on the mission. Cera? Can you add anything?"

Cera chews her lower lip in a way that would be cute if she were not a red-eyed killing machine with Kung-fu skills and technopathic abilities. "Only this. Ice-9 is a Zeki-Zentraedi creation. They use it to alter themselves. We Ura do not know how to make it nor do we desire to." Cera takes a deep breath and adds, "In order to find Ice-9, we require a Zeki starship. This is the only one that appears to be all by itself and out of contact with the rest of the Zeki forces that made it here from the Black Binary."

"Whooo boy," Mack grips the table she is leaning against.

The sound of an electronic ring-chime causes a pause in the conversation. "Enter," Piper replies and in walk the other 11 members of Adamantium, fully-armed and looking scraped up, but otherwise not seriously hurt. The Spec Ops team looks sweaty and smell worse, but they all have smiles and bruises as they collect around Scary Jerry and the Broo. Several of them wave or otherwise acknowledge the Wild Cards. You are not close friends with the Recon Force, but both you and they know you're definitely on the same side together.

Captain Piper chooses that moment to chime in. "The Broadsword's refits are almost complete. We can be ready to leave within a day, but..." Piper looks to Scary Jerry and Shirley Mack, "...we can only go to one mission at a time. I'm not splitting up my Spec Ops team and my Traversers. If you decide you want to take on different missions, you'd best flip a coin because whatever happens - you're going in together. Tell me what you think. You have five...," she corrects, "ten minutes."

"What's the story?" Cal asks Scary Jerry.

"Oh, it's more than a story," Scary Jerry's soulless eyes turn wilder than normal as his team begins to cringe in anticipation, "it's an adventure!" Then they crowd around him as he fills them in.

Mack turns to each of you and forms something of a huddle. "Neither of these sound like short missions to me. What do you guys think?"
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph says, "Sir, in order for our team to have as much info as possible, what is our manner of insertion and what mecha are we slated to take for each assignment? Also, on my Cookie Monster, she is capable of using one of the arm mounted pulse lasers on either arm, depending on the preference of the pilot. Is there enough time for me to get the Sams to make up a second one, so I can double my direct fire weapon's firepower? Or even rig up a different kind of gun pod to fit that weapon housing to give me better range? Like a Gu- or Eu-11 Gun Pod?"

She then turns to look at the rest of the team, saying, "You all know that I have a personal bias on what mission to take. But consider a few things in favor of getting the Ice-9:

One: Commander Zyorna has a lot of experience, both with the Invid and the Zeki, and has the love and confidence of this crew. Having her back on her feet would be a huge morale benefit to the people here, and I cannot overstate the power that holds.

Two: We know from personal experience that the Zeki-Zentraedi have some amazing tech, even if they are not from years in this current timeline's future. We have an amazing team of Traversers here, and by working together, we should be able to identify data files or hardware that can be used in our battle, both against the Malcontent forces and the upcoming Robotech Master and Invid force invasions.

Three: If the current band of Malcontents and Zeki find that ship, there may be clone chambers there that could increase their numbers beyond what anyone on Earth can handle. We cannot let this ship fall into their hands if we can avoid it. Even crashed, it is likely that we can find a way to either trigger a self destruct program, or rig their Reflex reactors with enough explosives to send this ship up in pure light.

"Once Commander Zyorna is up and on her feet once more, she may have some insights that we do not, and can then give us guidance as to the next step, which would be getting what we need to get Pacifica's main gun up and running."

She looks at each of you, one at a time, then says, "That is what I have to say, so please, don't just dismiss this just as a daughter's wish to be reunited with her mother."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Captain Piper pipes up. "Even if we had the plans today, Sam tells me that Pacifica's Mobile Grand Cannon won't be ready anytime soon. Months, easy. And I wouldn't worry about Pacifica's defenses," Piper glances at Sam in a confident way. "Sam built this city from the ground up. He's kept it safe and undetected this long. Doctor Yashida?" Hitomi turns. "Any idea how long it'll take the Ice-9 to have an effect once we get it?"
Mario frowns at this. Even with the confidence that everyone seemed to have in Pacifica's ability to go undetected, he does not like the fact that even with access to the Brazil Grand Cannon site, it will take months to get the weapon up and running. Not good. Not good at all. We're vulnerable until the city is at 100%, and that will take us time.
Toph says, "Sir, in order for our team to have as much info as possible, what is our manner of insertion and what mecha are we slated to take for each assignment?
This is a question near and dear to Mario's heart. Depending on how they get there will determine if he gets to use the sweet new ride of the Mjolnir. "Sir? If we can pull out the new Mjolnir tanks, will we be able to deploy with a full loadout of shells for the main gun? I certainly don't like the idea of going into a fight with less than full ammo stores. Assuming, of course, we can even get the tanks to the target zone without compromising the rest of the team or our mission."
She then turns to look at the rest of the team, saying, "You all know that I have a personal bias on what mission to take. But consider a few things in favor of getting the Ice-9:

One: Commander Zyorna has a lot of experience, both with the Invid and the Zeki, and has the love and confidence of this crew. Having her back on her feet would be a huge morale benefit to the people here, and I cannot overstate the power that holds.
The tanker mulls this over in his head. I can't say she's wrong. Morale is a huge factor in a crew's ability to perform.
Two: We know from personal experience that the Zeki-Zentraedi have some amazing tech, even if they are not from years in this current timeline's future. We have an amazing team of Traversers here, and by working together, we should be able to identify data files or hardware that can be used in our battle, both against the Malcontent forces and the upcoming Robotech Master and Invid force invasions.
His memory of facing off against that one Beastmaster is not one that he cares to relive. If Toph hadn't hit him when she did, it could have been ugly for all of us. "I recall that the tech we ran up against on the Beastmaster was impressive, but I don't know how well we could incorporate it into our own units. But that being said, it might also provide us with a work-around for when we have to face off against this gear again, giving us an advantage."
Three: If the current band of Malcontents and Zeki find that ship, there may be clone chambers there that could increase their numbers beyond what anyone on Earth can handle. We cannot let this ship fall into their hands if we can avoid it. Even crashed, it is likely that we can find a way to either trigger a self destruct program, or rig their Reflex reactors with enough explosives to send this ship up in pure light.
This is another good point that Lt. Toph has made. Besides, he's already fired the rounds that were responsible for destroying one Zeki ship; how much cooler would it be to say that they took out two of them? But that being said . . . "It may not be feasible for us to be able to bring enough Kaboomite to make the ship unusable for the Malcontents. We were only able to bring down the one Assault Scout because we had nukes. Unless we have access to something comparable, we may not be able to make the place go up in pure light, even as much as we want to. It may only cause us to bring attention to the ship, and bring in scads of Malcontents to it."
"Once Commander Zyorna is up and on her feet once more, she may have some insights that we do not, and can then give us guidance as to the next step, which would be getting what we need to get Pacifica's main gun up and running."

She looks at each of you, one at a time, then says, "That is what I have to say, so please, don't just dismiss this just as a daughter's wish to be reunited with her mother."
Again, with the good points. Mario also has to recall the fact that he's approached Cmdr Piper with his request to get his own dad brought to the ship, using the fact that his own skill as a Battloid pilot instructor might come in handy. Besides, it would feel awesome to see his parents again.

He leans back in his seat, and finally he admits, "Good points, all, Lieutenant." He then looks up at Captain Sharp and says, "Sir, depending on the answers to the questions already posed on the mecha, and how everyone feels about the idea of getting into ship that even War Queen Taniya won't touch with a ten foot pole, and given the fact that even with the tech from the Grand Cannon site, it will be some time before the main gun of Pacifica is up to snuff, I can see no objections to taking on the mission to get the Ice-9."
 

Silanon

Three Thousand Club
Ylva returns Toph's gaze for a moment, then turns away and clicks her tongue in thought. Good points, most; but not from the most unbiased perspectives, one might say. Mario's certainly more than Toph, but still...

"My objection's the time. If something takes a couple of months - without complications - and you postpone it for another couple of weeks; it'll be finished that much later. Will having Commander Kirin with us make things easier? Yes. Will it win the war even when the cannons are a week late? It won't. It'd be the end. No single person can replace that firepower, even if she makes all of us twice as efficient. Even the best engineers and greatest minds will need time to figure out the necessary details. Sure, that Malcontent ship might hold its own secrets - and damn, trust me, I'd be the first one to take a closer look - but we already know that the cannon down in South America is one of the most impressive things mankind managed to come up with. If I had to place bets, I'd take our tech over theirs. If only because it won't take another couple of years to get it to work with what we have right now. Whatever we find on that ship - it wasn't designed with humans in mind. Not on the right end of the gun, at least. It might not benefit us until after the war, apart from the ice-9."

Ylva turns towards Toph again, cautiously. "No offense. The moment we're going for the the ship - now or later - I'll give it all I got. I just don't think it's right to postpone long-term plans in favor of quick results, that's all. Even if they're as compelling as family." She looks around, wondering how many might see it the same way. Two weeks is some time, certainly; but not enough to know how people decide in moments like these.

The Swede's eyes shift over to Mack. "When Captain Sharp says there's no immediate time pressure regarding the Ice-9, I trust him on that. So my vote's for the cannon to get things underway."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Elinor listens quietly. Good points made all around, though Mario's use of the word "Kaboomite" makes her smile. Finally she throws her own two cents in.

"I've got to agree with Ylva," she says with an apologetic look at Toph. "I know Cera said that three-way stalemate could last over a year if nothin' unexpected happens -- but if somethin' unexpected does happen, we're gonna have a heckuva time gettin' in there, even more'n now. 'Holdin' it until the Zeki could arrive,' you said," Elinor addressed that last to Cera. "Again, I don't want them beatin' us there. An' it's a good point about construction times. A few weeks either way might not seem like much from here, but ever since I first met y'all on the Eglin tarmac, there's been all kind 'a 'unexpected' goin' on, and not all of it good. I don't want to put this off an' then find out we waited too long."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph looks resigned, and with a sigh, she says, "Well, don't worry; I'm not going to be mad at any of you if you choose to take the squad a different path in the short term. I do hope to be able to get the Ice-9 soon, though."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Toph says, "Sir, in order for our team to have as much info as possible, what is our manner of insertion and what mecha are we slated to take for each assignment?

Captain Sharp replies, "Concerning the Grand Cannon, we won't know until we get there. As for the ICE-9...

Captain Sharp sighs and gives a look of trouble. "Until you take on the mission, I can't go into great details.
I can't tell you anything else until you decide to take on the mission.

"... at the risk of repeating myself, I am not yet at liberty to say." Captain Sharp says all this while looking directly at Mack who seems to shrink a little.

Captain Sharp then turns to quietly chat with Professor Stein and Captain Piper.

With that, no other mission details on either mission are provided. You seem to be left with what you have been given. Unfortunately, this includes Mario's questions.

Mack puts her hands on her hips as she returns to your huddle. "Great! Guys, keep that up and I'm going to have to shift gears with you. Maybe listen to our CO next time? You know it's my ass if you don't."

* * *

His memory of facing off against that one Beastmaster is not one that he cares to relive. If Toph hadn't hit him when she did, it could have been ugly for all of us. "I recall that the tech we ran up against on the Beastmaster was impressive, but I don't know how well we could incorporate it into our own units. But that being said, it might also provide us with a work-around for when we have to face off against this gear again, giving us an advantage."

Mack nods, seeming to like this idea. That is, until she sees Cera glaring at Mario.

Cera says, "If you wish the tainted and disgusting Zeki tech for your own, you will do it without me. The Zeki and Ura are at war for good reasons and you risk much to the survival of your own people, Mario."

Shirley shrugs and follows up with, "Mario, I'll give you points for thinking outside the box?" The Californian grins.

(More later, hopefully tonight.)
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario shrugs, with an apologetic glance over at Cera. "Sorry, no offense meant. I just had the thought of using every asset possible to win our fight against not only against the Malcontents and the Zeki, but the Robotech Masters and the Invid later on. If we can succeed in our mission without lying down in the gutter with the devil, so much the better."

He leans back in his seat and says, "So, it sounds like we are leaning more towards the assault on the Grand Cannon location. If that is confirmed, what is our infiltration method?" Mario rubs his hands together in anticipation of the briefing to come.
 

Silanon

Three Thousand Club
Toph looks resigned, and with a sigh, she says, "Well, don't worry; I'm not going to be mad at any of you if you choose to take the squad a different path in the short term. I do hope to be able to get the Ice-9 soon, though."
"We all do." There are no words for moments like these, or at least none come to Ylva's mind. Toph's look says it all; here's one who simply wishes to save her mother; and how could that possibly be wrong? It isn't. But it's war, and things aren't ever that simple as 'doing the right thing'. "And we'll get to it; maybe immediately, maybe right after getting the plans for the cannon. We'll see - but we'll get her back on her feet, Toph Kirin."

Mack puts her hands on her hips as she returns to your huddle. "Great! Guys, keep that up and I'm going to have to shift gears with you. Maybe listen to our CO next time? You know it's my ass if you don't."
For a moment, Ylva seems conflicted whether to speak up at all. When she finally does, she does so with an overly calm voice, as if to make absolutely clear that she means no offencs. "Be in her position, Shirley Mackenzie, and tell me your thoughts would be completely on point. And that you wouldn't need to know a lot more than what the Captain actually said." Anyone else - she'd understand the blame. But Toph - heck, Ylva's new here, and she still knows how much that mission must mean to the fellow traverser. Doesn't feel like the right moment to make a fuss about a somewhat reasonable question. The Captain even answered the other half of it, right? Leaders should know better, right?
Mack nods, seeming to like this idea. That is, until she sees Cera glaring at Mario.

Cera says, "If you wish the tainted and disgusting Zeki tech for your own, you will do it without me. The Zeki and Ura are at war for good reasons and you risk much to the survival of your own people, Mario."

Shirley shrugs and follows up with, "Mario, I'll give you points for thinking outside the box?" The Californian grins.
Mario shrugs, with an apologetic glance over at Cera. "Sorry, no offense meant. I just had the thought of using every asset possible to win our fight against not only against the Malcontents and the Zeki, but the Robotech Masters and the Invid later on. If we can succeed in our mission without lying down in the gutter with the devil, so much the better."
"Understanding them better would be some help already, Cera. I certainly didn't know what to do when I first saw their tech. Using it is an entirely different thing; from what I saw, that'd be... unhealthy, at best." Thinking of the abstruse dog-bomb creations... "But knowing the basics might mean knowing how to fight them better. We've not been at war with them for who-knows-how-long."
He leans back in his seat and says, "So, it sounds like we are leaning more towards the assault on the Grand Cannon location. If that is confirmed, what is our infiltration method?" Mario rubs his hands together in anticipation of the briefing to come.
Ylva glances around, mustering the others. Quietly counting the votes thus far. "I'd say we're rather split about evenly, right now. Maybe a bit more in favor of the cannon - I certainly am - but some haven't said much. And Jerry and his crew get their vote as well. Maybe we ought to wait for them before making plans? Especially since the Captain didn't sound like we'd have the best intel on the cannon situation right now." What kind of intel is 'we'll see when we get there'? Besides, Scary Jerry knows best how his team would want to approach a problem, and it ain't a real plan if it only accounts for half of the teams. Ylva's eyes move over to the special ops team - how's their discussion going, at this point?
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus (Tag!)
Mario shrugs, with an apologetic glance over at Cera. "Sorry, no offense meant.
Cera continues to keep your attention on Mario. She shakes her head when Mario apologizes. "It is of no consequence. I am not offended.

"When you," Cera indicates nearly everyone present, "completed my training with the Mindbender, you provided me with a basic understanding of how humanity functions. You simply lack a similar understanding of my people. Perhaps time will change this."

He leans back in his seat and says, "So, it sounds like we are leaning more towards the assault on the Grand Cannon location. If that is confirmed, what is our infiltration method?" Mario rubs his hands together in anticipation of the briefing to come.
Mack displays her empty hands to Mario. "Search me! I think you're thinking too far ahead. We're not even near Brazil as best as I can tell. How are we supposed to know details like that? Cera? Got anything by chance?"

Cera kneels down to a certain Mega-damage kitten who is pushing his head against her for attention. She scratches his head and behind his ears. In response, Trouble pushes his head further into her fingertips.

"The radio traffic Sam and I have been monitoring has not provided such details. I am under the impression we must select a mission before we are provided additional information. That we are being asked our opinions at all surprises me."

(More later. I hit Reply by mistake and I'm using my phone to post. Oops!)
 
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Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
"We all do."
Mack and Cera nod to this. Trouble just affectionately licks Cera's fingers with the little pink sandpaper tongue kittens of all varieties seem to possess.

Be in her position, Shirley Mackenzie, and tell me your thoughts would be completely on point. And that you wouldn't need to know a lot more than what the Captain actually said."

Shirley Mackenzie offers Ylva a lopsided grin that tells of heartbreaking sadness and lessons learned. "You wouldn't know this, Ylva, but I have been in her position - I'm an orphan. I owe everything I am to my foster family.

Shirley's blue eyes turn to Toph. "I'd give almost anything for you to get your mom back because I miss mine... terribly.

"But... I can't help but remind myself that we're fighting for every mom, dad, and kid on Earth."

"... at the risk of repeating myself, I am not yet at liberty to say." Captain Sharp says all this while looking directly at Mack who seems to shrink a little.
"Which reminds me," Shirley becomes stern and serious. "Wild Cards, did you see that look Captain Sharp gave me?" Mack glances to the veteran tanker who still has his back turned to you.

Then the ass-chewing begins - as firmly and professionally given as Mack can give it.

Turning back to you, you can see the Californian's fire begin to appear in her eyes. And, for once, it is not friendly. Mack declares, "Now hear this! We are not civilians. We are military personnel on a military vessel on a military mission. Don't you remember the Assembly?

Mack mutes her fires as she looks to Ylva and Cera for a moment as she explains. "We were tested when we first got together - a simple test of discipline. Some of us failed a simple order to stand at attention and shut up.

Then the fires return on most if the Wild Cards. "As a unit, we didn't listen to our commanding officer! Same one, too. Not General Steele. But Colonel Sharp! I can't be the only one here who remembers seeing soldiers go down the Walk of Shame.

"Wild Cards, here's the takeaway - we are in danger here. We are getting on Captain Sharp's bad side. Do I really need to explain to you what that means? Do you think he deserves that from us?"

Mack does not point any one in the squadron out; she addresses you as a whole except for Ylva and Cera. Recalling that Trouble was present at the Assembly, but in no way responsible for your behavior, Mack also leaves him out of this.

Shirley explains and instructs. "When you choose to ignore what your CO has told you, whether you realize it or not, you are challenging their leadership. You are telling everyone present that you think your words are more important than your commanding officer's.

"Sharp, and every person aboard this vessel, deserve our respect. And we're going to give it to them or I change gears. On you.

"Do I make myself clear?"

Cera picks up Trouble. They both share a silent glance at you, then to each other, then back at you. That glance seems to say, "Boy, am I glad I'm not in your shoes!"

(GM note: one more post and I'll be caught up.)
 

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