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Chapter Six: All Hands on Deck

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario rubs his hands together. "So, there is a difference between the Eu-11 and the Eu-13! I must have had wax in my ears, thinking I heard one when you said the other. My bad!" Grinning, he says, "I've always been the one to pull the strings in my training tanks, and again in the Spartas I was in inside the Assault-Scout. I think I'll be more used to being in the commander/driver seat, and have a gunner working what weapons we have available."

"Ok, we have Mack in her Super Valk, and me in one of the Mjolnir. If we have one of the ladies pair up with me, we can have our other in the second tank, with perhaps Cera acting as gunner in that one. Who better to provide us real time information on the capabilities of these new VHTs, all while getting some valuable intel on their battle testing?" Mario looks to Elinor and Toph, wondering which one would want to sit in his gunner seat.

"So, our two babies here have rockets, not missiles. We have ammunition for them, correct? It is just the 120mm that is missing ammo. What kind of warheads are loaded in them? HEAP? Plasma? And is there any way that we can alter the 105mm shells from my Spartas to fit inside the barrel of the Mjolnir? Or, better yet, I can whip up the plans for some Sabot rounds in a jiffy. Can the Broadsword replicate them from my schematics?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph smiles to herself as Mario has either Elinor or her riding gunner seat with him. Probably best to keep him and Cera at arms reach for a while. She still sees him as a 'silly male', and it will take some time to change her point of view to regard him as a skilled fighter. Biting the bullet, she raises up her hand. "I'll ride shotgun with you, Mario. I've been trained in Mecha Weapon Systems, so between my training and our Technopathy, we should be able to work as one inside the new tank."

She looks up at the armored vehicles with interest. I wonder what kind of flying Veritechs that is hiding inside Cera's mind, if she was able to pull these out?
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
1st Lt. Mack crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She did not appear annoyed, but she definitely had something on her mind she was going to share. "Corporal," she told Mario, "I was requesting recommendations, not asking you to take over. The final decision is mine, buster."

"And seeing as we have Toph's opinion..." She looked about to Elinor and asked, "we have a wide variety of expertise here from tanker to test pilot, doctor to close-air support specialist. I'm trying to get your perspectives. Before I assign people their seats and choose who stays and who goes, do you have any recommendations on how we might roll?"
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Cera looked on at the human, Mario, in absolute confusion. "What is a kiss? And what is a... sister?" Then, after a moment of added confusion, she added, "And... why do you kiss your sister?"
Elinor choked back her laugh and let Mack answer the question, making a mental note to go over this later with Cera.

Cera asked again, pointing at Mack's smartphone. "Who... is that?"
"Professor Stein," Elinor replied quietly so as not to disturb the rest of the discussion. "He's a friend, one of the ones we were going to bring to the Broadsword anyway, and the guy currently organizing this rescue with us. He's a good guy. I trust him."

She looked about to Elinor and asked, "we have a wide variety of expertise here from tanker to test pilot, doctor to close-air support specialist. I'm trying to get your perspectives. Before I assign people their seats and choose who stays and who goes, do you have any recommendations on how we might roll?"
"Yes'm," Elinor replied. "What with this being a new model, and us being relatively new to Traversing, or at least knowing we can do it, I think we oughta form up in pairs that we're comfortable with. If Mario and Toph feel they can work together, I say let 'em. Me, I'd like to stick with Cera. We worked pretty well together last time, plus I'd like to see her in the driver's seat this time while I shoot, 'specially as it's her design and all. That'd leave you with the cat and a seat to carry the colonel when we've got him."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
1st Lt. Mack crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She did not appear annoyed, but she definitely had something on her mind she was going to share. "Corporal," she told Mario, "I was requesting recommendations, not asking you to take over. The final decision is mine, buster."
Mario has the good sense to look chagrined and to shut up, other than to say, "Yes, ma'am!" No need to have his ass chewed over this.

"Um, Cera? You mentioned some things about these new tanks, but not everything. How much armor do they have, and what is their top speed? Are any of the weapon systems non-functional in the different modes, like how the main gun on the Spartas is best used only in its tank mode?"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(This post is a four-parter, but I think it covers all of the bases. Enjoy!)

Shirley's phone spoke up again over the sound of the hovering tanks. Professor Stein's voice was low, this time. Low and cautious. "It is time we get back to it, lieutenant. Get out to the coordinates there on your phone. If you are quick about it, you will arrive there before the Zentraedi ambush takes place."

"Gotcha, prof. It sounds like you're alone out there in the Badlands. Are you gonna be all right out there?"

"We will be fine. Do not worry about Reggie and I. We have adequate means of safety and security, at least for the time being. I wish I could say the same for certain about Hitomi." The professor paused. "Reggie, lad? Is there anything you would like to add?"

Reggie's eager voice came over loud and clear. "Hey, Wild Cards! Lieutenant Mackenzie! You pay those Zeki-alien-demons back for what they did to my dad, O.K.?! Be winnin' an' grinnin' for his memory!"

"Amen!" Shirley exclaimed. She paused to allow you to add whatever words you were inclined to say, then she ended the call.

* * *​

Shirley calmly looked to Spaceman Sam. "So you're cool with giving your permission to have them come board?"

Sam nodded without hesitation.

"Thanks for that. Do you have the means to pick them up while we attempt our rescue?"

Sam nodded again. Then "he" and Samantha climbed out of the Mjolnirs, walked across their hulls, and set themselves before the giant vehicles. The Mjolnirs were a great deal larger than the Veritech Hover Tanks and the thrumming of their engines made one raise their voice in order to be heard.

"Professor Stein," Elinor replied quietly so as not to disturb the rest of the discussion. "He's a friend, one of the ones we were going to bring to the Broadsword anyway, and the guy currently organizing this rescue with us. He's a good guy. I trust him."
Cera cocked her head in confusion. "Another male you trust?" The Ura-Meltrandi looked as if she were going to say more, but she kept the remainder of her thoughts to herself.

* * *​

"Um, Cera? You mentioned some things about these new tanks, but not everything. How much armor do they have, and what is their top speed? Are any of the weapon systems non-functional in the different modes, like how the main gun on the Spartas is best used only in its tank mode?"
Cera pointed at the thick hull and the main gun. "Defenses! My Mjolnir are more heavily-armored than the Veritech Hover Tank! Unlike that model, my tanks have reinforced pilot compartments! Should the Mjolnir fall in battle, you do not have to fall with it! They include ejection seats and flare and chaff launchers as well!" She grinned. "Let us see how the foul Zeki like that!

"Speed! Their top speed is 30 miles per hour in Guardian mode, double that in Battloid, and double that again in Tank mode!
And if your mathematics skills elude you, it means the Mjolnir can travel up to 120 miles per hour in tank mode... In all modes, the Mjolnir can fly with a top speed of 50 miles per hour with a 1,000 foot ceiling. If the tank cannot crash its way through an obstacle, it can soar over it instead.

"All weapon systems can be used in all modes. Be cautious using the main gun in Battloid mode! The main gun can only be fired once every five seconds in that mode. Most importantly, one must set the Battloid in the proper firing stance. Look!" Cera stood up and entered an aggressive posture. She leaned forward as if she were handling a large shotgun, one leg forward of the other and bent, her shoulders squared, Cera looked as if she were ready to blow someone to bits while being ready for the recoil.


magpul-dynamics-art-of-the-shotgun-review-c.jpg
(Image credit: Tactical Life)

NOT either of these stances (note the straight legs for this clay-shooting position).
clay_pigeon_shooting_lessons.jpg
(Image credit: Shooting UK)

"If this stance or something similar is not adopted, or if you fail to brace the Mjolnir against a very hardy object like a sturdy building, then you risk the force of the tank round knocking the battloid to the ground! And while you scrabble like a dull-brained Dolza-Zentraedi grasping futilely at food, imagine what your enemies will be doing to you!"

The Mjolnir's main weapon is capable of firing several different types of ammunition for sustained periods. With a dedicated gunner, the weapon can fire up to once every three seconds. Without a dedicated gunner (driver only), the use of the autoloader can provide cannon fire once every five seconds. Use of the cannon in Battloid mode is possible, but limited to once every five seconds, if the Mjolnir is set in its firing stance (a Weaver-like stance which does not take an action but must be declared). If the Mjolnir in Battloid makes use of the main gun without setting in this stance, the Strike is allowed with full bonuses, but the pilot must make a Piloting roll with a -15% penalty. Failure means the Battloid has lost its balance and falls down (lose Initiative and one action).


"Gotcha, space-chick! Take a breath now." Mack intervened with a raised hand and Cera returned to a relaxed position. "Boy, when you get going, you really get going!"


* * *​

"Yes'm," Elinor replied. "What with this being a new model, and us being relatively new to Traversing, or at least knowing we can do it, I think we oughta form up in pairs that we're comfortable with. If Mario and Toph feel they can work together, I say let 'em. Me, I'd like to stick with Cera. We worked pretty well together last time, plus I'd like to see her in the driver's seat this time while I shoot, 'specially as it's her design and all. That'd leave you with the cat and a seat to carry the colonel when we've got him."
Mack carefully (mindful of her injured leg) spun on Elinor. "Oh, stick me with the cat, will you? And here I was ready to let either you or Toph take The Red Baroness!"

"Mroooowr! Rweeer!" MechaKitten squealed. In your minds, you heard a boy's excited voice talking to Mack. "Of course I go wif you up in air! You haz the best view!"

"Gimme a minute to think on all this." Mack crossed her arms and went silent. When she was ready, she spoke. "O.K. We'll stick with what's comfortable this time around. Mario and Toph in Toothgrinder, Elinor in Toothgnasher... and we'll take Cera along."

Now it was Cera's turn to look surprised. "You... you want me along on the Mjolnir's maiden action? During an important rescue mission of someone you value? Against the Zeki and your general's own forces?!"

"Cera," Mack chided. "You're a Wild Card, sand-for-brains! One of us! After all the heart and soul you put into these brand new veritechs, you think we wanna leave you here so you can miss out?"

Cera dropped her head. She had not expected this at all. Long trails of red-brown hair drooped over her face, hiding her eyes. "But auxiliary specialists do not accompany warriors on the field of battle. I am beneath you."

"Maybe with the Ura-Meltrandi, but as a Wild Card, you stand with us! Right, dudes?"

Cera looked up with an expression of shyness; the first you had seen since she had undergone the completion of her education. She had no words. She stood there as Iris approached, and leaned on the giant insectoid. Iris leaned against Cera and together they formed an odd triangle.

Samantha held up her tablet. It read, "THE TIME IS 2008 HOURS. WE ARE ENROUTE TO THE FLORIDA SHORELINE. THE SUPER VERITECH WILL BE READIED IN (E.T.A.) 15 MINUTES."

"You heard, er, seen it, squadron!" Mack yelled. "Anybody got anything else they wanna bring up? Now's the time!"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph replies, "Just some megasuits that will fit us and leave the enemy wondering who the hell we are if we ever have to dismount and work on foot. Hmmm. That being said, can I score a couple of pistols to hang on my hips? I've never been much for packing a rifle. Other than that, I'm not sure what else we have to say, other than the enemy had best watch their asses when we get there!"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario nods. "That's a good idea, LT. Not that I'm expecting to have to get out, but if we do, Sam, are there any suits here that we can get fitted into that does not match our ASC ones? In the meantime, I think it might be time to start to Traverse the tanks and introduce ourselves to the spirit of the tank. I don't want to try that in the middle of a fight and discover that we have a personality conflict! I'm sure that would be bad."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Reggie's eager voice came over loud and clear. "Hey, Wild Cards! Lieutenant Mackenzie! You pay those Zeki-alien-demons back for what they did to my dad, O.K.?! Be winnin' an' grinnin' for his memory!"
Elinor smiled. "You got it, Reggie!"

Cera cocked her head in confusion. "Another male you trust?" The Ura-Meltrandi looked as if she were going to say more, but she kept the remainder of her thoughts to herself.
Elinor simply nodded. There was more she might have said, too, but now didn't seem to be the time.

"Maybe with the Ura-Meltrandi, but as a Wild Card, you stand with us! Right, dudes?"
"Yes, ma'am!" Elinor agreed firmly. "These are your babies, and you know 'em best, Cera. That makes you the specialist we need with us on this trip."

That being said, can I score a couple of pistols to hang on my hips? I've never been much for packing a rifle.
"Didn't you get some when we geared up for this trip?" Elinor asked. "I'd like to grab my pistol and LAR-12 myself. Should be still in my Valkyrie where I left it?" She glanced at Sam and/or Samantha for confirmation, then back at Toph. "Unless you're thinkin' someone might even recognize our guns?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph says, "No, I have my pistol, but I'm hoping for a second one. Like I said, I am not a fan of rifles. If it comes down to it, I'll pull both pistols and double gun someone."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
"In the meantime, I think it might be time to start to Traverse the tanks and introduce ourselves to the spirit of the tank. I don't want to try that in the middle of a fight and discover that we have a personality conflict! I'm sure that would be bad."
Cera nodded in grudging agreement. "It is best to Traverse in places free from distraction. I have created the Mjolnir primarily for Traversers to use. As such, the machines are 'friendly' to me and my allies."

Shirley smoothed her hair. "'Friendly?' Wait. The tanks have feelings?"

"Machines do not possess emotions. Machines have only protocol."

"Right. I get it now." Shirley found herself rolling her eyes at her own question.

Elinor asked. "I'd like to grab my pistol and LAR-12 myself. Should be still in my Valkyrie where I left it?" She glanced at Sam and/or Samantha for confirmation, then back at Toph. "Unless you're thinkin' someone might even recognize our guns?"
Shirley responded with a wistful look. "Y'know, before my dad became a drill sergeant, he was pretty active in Special Forces. One thing he passed on to me was to always make a note of the weapons your enemy uses. You can learn a lot just by what a person carries and doesn't carry."

Then she turned to Spaceman Sam who had "his" hand raised. His tablet followed. "LEIUTENANT KIRIN'S SUGGESTION IS HELPFUL. ARMS AND ARMOR ARE BEING MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU. WE DEEPLY APPRECIATE HER ASSISTANCE." Both Sam and Samantha turned to Toph and bowed with nodding heads and clasped hands held in gratitude.

Shirley turned to Cera. "No emotions, huh?"

But Cera remained firm. "None, Leader Mack." Nevertheless, the Ura-Meltrandi's eyes followed the mega-suits' movements closely and with curiosity.

"Shall we begin?"

Mack tried crawling up onto the Mjolnir, but her cast-laden knee gave her trouble. Twice, she tried to hop up onto the hull of the floating tank and twice she slid right back down. Still, with grunts and mutterings, the daughter of the Special Forces sergeant persisted.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
As Mario approaches the tank, he feels more excited than a little kid on Christmas morning. Looking over at Mack as she struggles, he clears his throat. "Um, Lieutenant? Need a boost?"

If she turns down his offer, the tanker makes his own climb up into the driver's seat. If she accepts, he'll give her a hand before making his own climb up into the vehicle.

Either way, Mario settles into the seat and takes stock of the layout of the interior, taking note of what is the same and what is different from the Spartas and other, older tracked tanks that he's more familiar with. Letting his hands slide over the controls, he leans back in the seat and closes his eyes, beginning the process of reaching out to the spirit of the machine he is now inside.

With his limited experience in Traversing, he takes his time to avoid getting that nasty brain-burn that wiped him out before. Mario sends his thoughts forward, trying to make his connection. Hello, my new friend. It is an honor to meet you. I am Mario Zuko, and I look forward to getting to know you as we prepare to go into battle together against our enemies. We shall go forth and show our foes just how powerful we are as we rescue the Colonel.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Seeing Mario move to climb into the tank, Toph shrugs her shoulders and heads for the gunner's seat. There may not be shells for the big gun, but there are plenty of pop-guns on this for the two of them to use without getting on each other's turf. Like the tanker, she settles in and looks over the controls as she adjusts her seat for the best comfort.

Focusing her mind for the upcoming effort to make nice with the tank, she closes her eyes and envisions herself as if she were diving into a pool that separates her from the machine heart before her. Moving through the ether between them, she calls out, Noble machine heart, I am Toph Kirin, and I, too, am a Traverser that seeks to become one with you. Mario, you and I will become an unstoppable juggernaut that will ride roughshod over our enemies. The battle will be truly glorious.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
"Machines do not possess emotions. Machines have only protocol."
This made sense to Elinor, actually. Things could be programmed to be friendly or not friendly, after all; it wasn't their emotion or choice, it was just how they were made. Like the difference between a real user-friendly car and, say, a Zentraedi ship's security door on lockdown. One "wanted" to help, the other "didn't want" to (especially if you were human), but in both cases it was a matter of design, not the machine's preference.

But Cera remained firm. "None, Leader Mack." Nevertheless, the Ura-Meltrandi's eyes followed the mega-suits' movements closely and with curiosity.
Elinor also gave Sam and his fellows an interested look. Clearly, they were more than just machines, they were people, or possibly a person (Elinor wasn't sure which; she also wasn't sure it mattered which).

Leaving the others to "meet" their own vehicles, Elinor headed for her assigned Mjolnir, Toothgnasher. Would Cera be offended if I referred to it as "the old goat?" she wondered. Probably, she decided, or at least the Meltrandi ought to be offended even if she wasn't. A girl ought to be more respectful of the craft that was to take her into battle! At least the first time. Elinor grinned to herself and swung up into the hovertank. She glanced at the driver's controls, but instead slid into the gunner's seat, letting her body adjust itself to the seat and to the positions of various controls. Carefully, without activating anything, she rested her bare hands on the control panel and closed her eyes to help her focus, then sent out her awareness to the machine surrounding her through that point of physical contact. Greetings, Toothgnasher. I am Elinor, your gunner. Show me what we can do together.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Incoming large post! Enjoy, friends!)

"Mistress?"

Shirley grumbled. "What is it, Cera?"

"Do you require assistance?"

Shirley sighed. She realized she needed the help to get up while the giant, rumbling Mjolnir waited patiently. Unlike jet-based veritechs, Shirley felt these hover tanks just floated off the deck as easy as you please, making them even higher than treadbound tanks and therefore tougher to climb up onto. When Mario reached for her, Shirley found herself thankful for his help. Yet, if anyone else had been paying attention, they may have noticed the natural trust between the two. Although they had known each other for only the fewest of days, they got along as if they had known each other all their lives. That is, when they weren't thinking about which one of them was the squadron leader and which one was the corporal.

* * *​

Physically entering Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder turned out to be an eye-opening experience, for neither tank was anything like what a military-trained human or tank-bred alien might have expected. Army of Southern Cross mecha were designed to get the job done while keeping the pilot informed, safe, and able while Meltrandi power armor could not have cared less about clone safety, but instead their cockpits put as few controls as possible before the pilot and in places that all made sense.

Unlike either, the Mjolnir was genuinely comfortable. The twin side-by-side leather seats were form-fitting and felt great to put one's body against. Pilot and gunner could reach over and touch each other if they wanted as there was no console between them. The controls were many, but movements required were relatively few. The video screens provided were adjustable so that either soldier could readily share information with the other. And if Mario knew anything about tanks, these Mjolnir appeared to be somewhat sound-proofed from the main gun.

Entering the tanks and their cockpits (leather seats, nothing like Mario has ever seen, user-friendly, comfortable ride. Militarily, everything makes sense and provides the maximum amount of control with the least amount of movement). The climate control was impeccable. Even the controls were attractive and easy to lay hands on. In other words, this was a veritech one could fight inside for a long time without undue discomfort. In fact, one might even enjoy the experience. Definitely not a military machine created with tax dollars.

* * *​

As Mario, Toph, and Elinor focused their minds, touched the tanks with their flesh, and attempted to communicate with Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, only Shirley was hesitant. "Hey, guys? Shouldn't we wait for--" But by then the trio could not hear the rest of their squadron leader's query, for they were gone. Each of the Wild Cards who had touched the Mjolnirs with the intent of Traversing felt a faint but potent memory appearing in each of your minds like a loud but rapidly-diminishing echo sounding off the canyon walls of your minds. It was this:

Cera glanced at Elinor and Mario with concern in her eyes and voice. "The... Mario is correct. Never force technopathy! That path leads only to inglorious failure and horrendous pain, permanent damage... even death!" (From Chapter Three: All In, page 8).
Mario was the first one in, and just like the first time he had attempted technopathy, he arrived in a dark realm of shadows, wearing absolutely nothing as if he were part-shadow himself. He arrived alone.

Toph arrived the same way. And Elinor too. But neither of them knew it, for each of the three were absolutely by themselves. The noise and lights of the physical world, the thrumming of the tanks, the lights of the Broadsword's launch bay, the feeling of hard deck beneath one's feet - all lay absent replaced by a quiet sense of freedom. As each of you tried to gain your bearings, you saw the world slowly shifting into a deep blue hue. There were soft shapes around you, but you could not quite recognize them nor touch them. Some were small, some large, none distinct. Time seemed to flow in a different manner. It was like living in a dream.

Forcing nothing, you flew. You wandered a little, floating along without worry, knowing full well you were no longer under the pressures of your bodies. There appeared to be no hunger, no hormonal responses, no desires set upon you by the vessel that was your human body. For a short while, all there was here - was you.

You were lost, alone, and Traversing in a realm unknown to the average person. The sensation of being here granted a realization - no one else could be here. No one on Earth. Not Dr. Hitomi Yashida, General Steele, Colonel Sharp, your siblings, your parents, your families, your friends, or the remaining millions of other people all over the Earth.

Only Traversers. Only you. This was your world...

... but you were quite the stranger to it. Then it dawned on you. Just how did one get back to one's body from here?

"Dolts. All of you." A familiar face floated and chuckled through the azure. It was Cera. She wore a knowing smirk and her voice sounded more bold than usual. Perhaps in the physical world, the fierce-eyed Ura-Meltrandi was the strong-hearted auxiliary specialist guided by the spirit of her warrior race or the shy and unsure young creature fresh out of the tank and thrust prematurely into the world you knew. But here in this world, Cera looked and seemed more sure than ever.

"Have you learned nothing from yesterday's trials?" she chided you softly but seriously. "Did we not reach in together when I first guided you in here? Did we not hold hands? The Blue World is ancient and limitless." With a twist of her ethereally-beautiful form, she guided each of you back to a single point. At that point, Cera had each of you hold hands. Then you were there in a "human chain" - Shirley, Toph, Elinor, Mario, Cera, and MechaKitten. The little fellow was clinging to Shirley's shoulder with eyes so bright and gold they were easy to see in this realm. He was silent and watching everything with the demeanor not of a tourist, but of a creature well-traveled, perhaps even more than Cera. Everyone here was encased in a blue energy, neither great nor faint. What this energy was, your education had not told you.

"Now hold on to each other and do not let go. Oh, and Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher are this way..." Hands full, Cera ushered you on.

* * *​

In moments, you had the impression you were right back where you started. The dreamlike quality of The Blue World seemed to keep many secrets, including of how to get around. But Cera seemed to know. Nor did MechaKitten appear lost. Shirley's head, by comparison, was on a swivel. The Californian surfer was lost in wonder and trying to look everywhere at once.

In moments, two very bright cubes came into view, each the size of a small destroid. The cubes were multi-colored, dazzling to see, and encased with a mind-boggling cascade of numbers and symbols streaming through and about them like a thousand highways of information without a single traffic jam.

Here, Cera floated easily and spoke to you. "See how easy my Mjolnir are to find compared to that damned Zeki-Zentraedi security door? The door's machine did not want to be found. These do. Remember - machines typically perform their protocols in three states. Friendly. Indifferent. Hostile." Cera put one hand on her hip and grinned at you. "They appear to us because they are 'friendly.' The door was 'hostile.'" Cera then indicated you were free to address them.

Hello, my new friend. It is an honor to meet you. I am Mario Zuko, and I look forward to getting to know you as we prepare to go into battle together against our enemies. We shall go forth and show our foes just how powerful we are as we rescue the Colonel.
Noble machine heart, I am Toph Kirin, and I, too, am a Traverser that seeks to become one with you. Mario, you and I will become an unstoppable juggernaut that will ride roughshod over our enemies. The battle will be truly glorious.
Shirley gave it a try. "Uh, hey. I am 1st Lieutenant Shirley "Mack" Mackenzie of the Army of Southern Cross. I lead this squadron. We're going into battle, but don't worry - Cera will be coming along with us. Do you understand?"

The twin machines gave no reply whatsoever. Cera shook her head. MechaKitten just kept watching and enjoying himself.

"Greetings, Toothgnasher. I am Elinor, your gunner. Show me what we can do together."
"Gunner Elinor," Toothgnasher replied to Elinor. As it did, Mario felt a tingle of memory in the back of his mind. The machine spoke very clearly, without emotion, presenting only facts. Just like another machine Mario briefly had an acquaintance with - a machine called Rattletrap. "I am prepared for battle. My MRL is armed with 6 Plasma rockets, 6 HEAP rockets, and 12 High Explosive rockets. My EU-13 magazines are fully charged. I have no 120mm main gun ammunition."

Cera smiled proudly. "That's how you do it! And Toothgrinder?"

"The same, auxiliary specialist."
Toothgrinder replied.

"Very good," Cera cooed with something that resembled affection. She nodded to each of you. "Remember - machines have no emotions. They have protocols. Treat them accordingly." Turning back to the Mjolnirs, she ordered, "Reveal yourselves." And they did. What they revealed was nothing like the Wild Cards had ever seen in the Army of Southern Cross. The data highways formed pictures and graphs and ever-moving images that each of the Wild Cards could understand and remember with ease. In mere moments, the Wild Cards fully understood how to pilot these war machines!

Also, as of this moment, all of the information in the Technopolis Mjolnir post is now known by your characters. Top speed, flight ceiling, all of it. Ain't technopathy fun? =)
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Feeling slightly embarrassed at his mistake, Mario tries once more to establish contact with his tank. "Toothgrinder, I am Pilot Commander Mario Zuko. Please state your readiness for battle."
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph gives Mario a smile. "Looks like we need to keep learning about Traversing, huh? Lets try this again." Focusing her thoughts into the tank, she sends, "Toothgrinder, I am Gunner Toph Kirin. Besides the empty main gun, what weapons are assigned to be operated by the gunner's position? How do we split up the operation of the weapons?"
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Elinor stared intently at the flow of data the Mjolnirs provided at Cera's command. Her eyes widened slightly as she took in several of the more unusual facets of the hover tanks' design, but she said nothing, focusing on absorbing every picture, graph, and bit of information. She remained quiet for a few moments after the dataflow ended, thinking over what she had just learned. Then she turned to the Auxiliary Specialist and said, "Cera, these are incredible. Very nice work!" She smiled sheepishly and added, "But you're right, we need to learn how to navigate this Blue World before we get ourselves lost. Is that something we need to know now, to get the best out of the Mjolnirs, or can it wait until after the rescue? What's the best way to use them in combat -- from here, or from the physical world? Bearing in mind that we have very little time."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Okies, let's get this rescue moving, shall we?) =)

"Battle Stations" by Ulpio Minucci and Arlon Ober from the Robotech Perfect Soundtrack. Because I felt like hearing it again. =)

Feeling slightly embarrassed at his mistake, Mario tries once more to establish contact with his tank. "Toothgrinder, I am Pilot Commander Mario Zuko. Please state your readiness for battle."
Toothgrinder replied simply and instantly. "I am prepared for battle."

"Toothgrinder, I am Gunner Toph Kirin. Besides the empty main gun, what weapons are assigned to be operated by the gunner's position? How do we split up the operation of the weapons?"
Toothgrinder offered. "The gunner typically operates the main cannon and both EU-11 gun pods. The pilot typically operates the Multiple Rocket Launcher and the Laser Cannon. Operation of all weapons can be performed by either position freely with the exception of the main gun which functions at its best when operated from the gunner position."

Then she turned to the Auxiliary Specialist and said, "Cera, these are incredible. Very nice work!"
Cera merely grinned in pride. She felt she had done her best work, but how good it felt to hear it, especially from her dentella! "I will make my War-queen Taniya proud!"

"But you're right, we need to learn how to navigate this Blue World before we get ourselves lost. Is that something we need to know now, to get the best out of the Mjolnirs, or can it wait until after the rescue? What's the best way to use them in combat -- from here, or from the physical world? Bearing in mind that we have very little time."
"No," the Ura-Meltrandi replied. "One traverses into The Blue World to make direct contact and perform transactions with the machines. Once acceptance is reached and knowledge is comprehended, then one exits here and uses the machine." Cera spoke to Shirley with respect and straightforwardness. "Leader Mack. Your silence gets you nowhere. You should interact directly now. Do as my dentella has done."

By this, Shirley thought Cera meant to introduce herself and ask the Mjolnirs whatever was on her mind. Though mind-boggled and completely out of her element (the A.S.C. hadn't trained her for anything like this!), Shirley spoke with confidence. "Mjolnirs, I am 1st Lieutenant Shirley "Mack" Mackenzie of the Army of Southern Cross and the leader of the Wild Card squadron. You will do as I say!"

Cera heard this and beamed at her in approval. "Affirmative," the 'friendly' machines replied.

"Except for Cera, we are new to using technopathy. What are your recommendations?"

Cera gasped and blanched. 'What? Recommendations'? Cera had no idea how her precious Mjolnirs would respond, for she had never asked for their opinions about anything. Like herself, they were but replaceable tools, or so she felt.

Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder replied as one. "Lead us to victory. Destroy our enemies. We exist only to serve."

Cera turned to all of you. "See that? They said 'our' enemies, not 'your'!" Cera turned to both Mjolnir veritechs. "Well? Are the Wild Cards accepted?"

"Yes, Creator,"
the machines replied in unison.

"Then we shall return now." You saw Cera close her eyes and lean back. She fully relaxed. "Return, Wild Cards!"

And you did. The next thing you knew, you were back in your seats and back inside your senses again. The Blue World had gone away. The sensation of feeling like you were returning to your bodies as if waking from a dream was a slow, pleasant sensation. You heard the heavy humming of the hover engines thrust, keeping you aloft. You felt your uniforms over your skin, but you did not feel the leather chairs underneath that, though you still felt quite comfortably supported. Something was different.

You felt something moving all around you and when you opened your eyes, you saw a pair of "Spaceman Sams" placing you inside some kind of mega-suit. The suits were quite unlike those provided by the Army of Southern Cross. The Broadsword's crew, while you had been under the effects of technopathy, had busied themselves fetching and placing you inside these new mega-suits! You realized quickly that each of them were fitted well to you and now each of you looked like either "Spaceman Sam" or "Spacewoman Samantha" with one exception - these suits were matte-black. They looked so dark, there was hardly any reflection from the lights and screens inside the Mjolnirs. You could not see any identifying letters, symbols, or numbers anywhere on them.

A bubble of sorts was being placed over your heads. You recognized it as the helmets belonging to the mega-suits. As they clicked onto the magnetic clamps around your necks, you felt the climate controls instantly engage, cooling your skin while providing electronic symbols and numerical readouts for your benefit. Unlike the A.S.C. mega-suits, these helmets provided an unobstructed view no matter which way you turned your head with no blind spots.

A tablet then hung over your faces. "YOUR MEGA-SUITS. DESIGN DESIGNATION: CVR-3 PERSONAL ENVIRONMENTAL COMBAT ARMOR. STANDARD ISSUE FOR ALL ROBOTECH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE VERITECH PILOTS." It was Spaceman Sam in Toothgrinder and Spacewoman Samantha in Toothgnasher. Simultaneously, they pointed at the small hatch inside the cockpit you now knew lead to the cargo lockers. Each was large enough to keep a survival pack and a rifle or rifle-sized weapon inside with some energy clips. Beyond that, it could not keep much. "PERSONAL WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION ARE STORED INSIDE. WE APOLOGIZE." With that statement, they bowed as best they could and ended up looking like an old Japanese couple in the doing. "THERE IS NO TIME TO BRIEF YOU ON THEIR FUNCTION. WE ARE CONFIDENT IN YOUR ABILITIES TO ACQUIRE THIS KNOWLEDGE ON YOUR OWN. VERY CONFIDENT."

Remember, these are all black with no identifying markings on them.
CVR-3 Body Arrmor front and back.png
(Image credit: www.kent.net )

CVR-3 Body Armor with helmet.png
(Image credit: digitsweb.com )

Each of the Wild Cards understood every function of these machines! No button, scope, latch, monitor, etc. was unknown to you. This was very confidence-inspiring as now nothing was alien inside these tough, fast, and hard-hitting machines. You knew the Mjolnirs functions as if you had lived inside these cockpits.

"WE WILL BE OVER THE DROP POINT IN T-MINUS THREE MINUTES."

As this was conveyed, you saw yellow alert lights flash all over the Broadsword's hangar bay. The Super Valkyrie (or if you preferred, the Red Baroness painted and refitted) marched along the deck in Guardian mode with the canopy open. The entire veritech was as black as the mega-suits on your persons and equally without markings. From your monitors, you could see one of the Broadsword's crew piloting it. The Valkyrie reached down and carefully scooped up a waiting Lt. Mackenzie and frolicking MechaKitten. As she placed her helmet around her head, you heard her voice in your ears as she tried the radio.

"Radio check." You could hear her voice crystal clear. She was in a good mood and proved it by teasing you. "Hey squadron, you ready to roll? In case you're feeling chicken about driving these tanks for their first time in battle or rescuing our dear kidnapped colonel from General Steele's clutches, you still have time to bug out! Think of it! You could stay onboard in safety and watch the rest of us from this bay! Whaddya say, ya beach bums?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
"The gunner typically operates the main cannon and both EU-11 gun pods. The pilot typically operates the Multiple Rocket Launcher and the Laser Cannon. Operation of all weapons can be performed by either position freely with the exception of the main gun which functions at its best when operated from the gunner position."
Mario grins as he hears the reply. "That works for me if it is ok with you, Lieutenant. Cera, I must say that these are some pretty sweet mecha that you came up with. I am quite impressed with the Mjolnir tank. I'll have to get used to the thought of not using my arms to parry incoming fire and to just dodge out of the way. All in all, I like the idea of not getting hit."
"Radio check." You could hear her voice crystal clear. She was in a good mood and proved it by teasing you. "Hey squadron, you ready to roll? In case you're feeling chicken about driving these tanks for their first time in battle or rescuing our dear kidnapped colonel from General Steele's clutches, you still have time to bug out! Think of it! You could stay onboard in safety and watch the rest of us from this bay! Whaddya say, ya beach bums?"
"We hear you, loud and clear." The gruff tanker is looking forward to giving this mecha a in battle tryout. "Lieutenant Mackenzie, I must say, with all due respect, if you were to try and order me to sit this one out, you might just have to deal with a mutiny on your hands!" He laughs, trying to ease the tensions he's feeling. We're going to go into a fight with some of our own people. It is not an easy thing to do. "I am all set to go into the gates of hell to free our Colonel and give General Steele a black eye. Lets do this!"
Number of Attacks: 9
Strike: +11
Parry: +16
Dodge: +16 to Auto Dodge / +2 in Transport Mode from Combat Driving
Roll with Punch: +8
Initiative: +3
Perception: +2
Critical Strike on a 18-20

Main Body: 525

6 Plasma rockets
6 HEAP rockets
12 High Explosive rockets.
12 Chaff/Flares for Missile Defense

Anti Vehicle Laser: 1d4x10+20 MD per blast - 4,000 ft range
 
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Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Elinor returned to her body with a rush of excitement. It was both odd and comforting to know this Mjolnir so well. This was what she wished she had every time she went up for a test flight -- this bone-deep knowledge of her craft that would get her through anything that happened to go wrong, as it so frequently did. She smiled up through her bubble-helmet. "Thanks, Samantha," she said before it sealed to the suit that the Broadsword crewmember had placed her in. "You've done your part, in spades. Now it's our turn." As she readied for the drop and listened to the others over the radio, Mario's words reminded her of a song. Not her usual style, but her dad had been fond of it, and now it stuck in her head. "Mack, you just try and keep me outta this one. Mario's right." Without noticing, she hummed a little under her breath as she did her final self-checks. If you're going through hell, keep on going, don't slow down, if you're scared don't show it, you might get out before the devil even knows you're there...

 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toothgrinder offered. "The gunner typically operates the main cannon and both EU-11 gun pods. The pilot typically operates the Multiple Rocket Launcher and the Laser Cannon. Operation of all weapons can be performed by either position freely with the exception of the main gun which functions at its best when operated from the gunner position."
Mario grins as he hears the reply. "That works for me if it is ok with you, Lieutenant.
Toph nods. "Indeed it does. These EU-13 Gun Pods are not really all that different than the Pulse Laser of the Ajax, and I've been practicing using a dual pistol set-up, so I should be golden to do so with Toothgrinder. Leader Mack, I think we're all in agreement, so lets go kick some ass out there!"
On Foot
Number of Attacks: 6
Strike: +11
Parry: +14
Dodge: +14
Roll: +3
Initiative: +3
Perception: +6
Damage: +2 / +8 total
Critical Strike on a natural 18-20

In the Tank
Number of Attacks: 9
Strike: +14 / +3 with EU-13 Gun Pods
Parry: +14
Dodge: +14
Roll: +3
Initiative: +5
Perception: +6
Damage: +2 / +8 total
Critical Strike on a natural 18-20

EU-13 Gun Pods
4D4 M.D. per single blast, 1d4x10 M.D. for a five round burst.
Payload: 100 single shots or 20 five shot bursts per Protoculture magazine.
Capacity: The Mjolnir carries 4 spare magazines.
Left: 100 charges
Right: 100 charges
 
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