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Chapter Six: All Hands on Deck

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario looks over at the Abrams and smiles. "Ma'am, if that tank has a full load, we are looking at 42 shells. It will require us to dismount and go in on foot in order to unload them, though. If you would cover me, I can go down there and take a gander to see what we're dealing with."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Lt. Mack kept her eyes on the furball while she listened to Mario. "So the tank's shells are compatible with the Mjolnir's?"

"Yes, Leader Mack!"
Cera verbally saluted. "Both use 120mm smoothbore ammunition. I designed them to be compatible with Abrams just for reasons like this."

Lt. Mack was impressed. These Mjolnirs really were a combination of Ura-Meltrandi and human engineering. She wanted to cover Mario, but she just couldn't take her eyes off of the Ajax/Malcontent battle. She felt one lost moment could get all of the Wild Cards killed, not to mention Colonel Sharp.

"Mario, use those communication skills of yours and get ahold of Muppet or Bruce Leanne to see if the owner of the tank doesn't mind. The last thing I want is to take something that belongs to the colonel and leave him high and dry. Cera, if we get the green light, cover Mario."

"'Green light'?"


Right, Lt. Mack sighed. The Ura-Meltrandi didn't seem to stop for anybody so why would they bother having stoplights in their culture?

"Cover Mario if Mario gets permission to get inside that tank. Assuming no one else is inside of it."

"Yes, Leader Mack."

"Which reminds me - just what in the heck are they doing in that barn?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
"You got it, Mack! I'll give them a call, and hopefully we'll be able to split some shells up between the two Mjolinirs!" Switching to the radio, Mario sends out the following, "Lt. Kirin and Lt. Hall! This is Corporal Zuko. What is your status? We are looking at that M1 and wondering if we might have a source of 120mm shells that we can tap into for our Mjolinr tanks."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
When Toph hears the signal, she replies on the same channel. "This is Toph. We are helping the Colonel, Hitomi, and another pilot find some dirt that they suspect that General Steele has stashed down here. I'll ask about the shells in the Abrams for you."

She looks over at Colonel Sharp and asks, "Sir? Is the Abrams loaded up with shells for its main gun? If so, our mecha outside could really use them for their cannons, if there is no reason not to allow them access to them."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Heya Gang! Read this one carefully; you'll see why.) =)

Colonel Sharp tried to get back into a positive frame of mind. Humor usually worked. Using old tanker humor, he appeared mock-startled at Toph's question. "Lieutenant! For shame! Artillery uses shells. Tanks use rounds!" He shook his head as if to say, "Didn't they teach you anything in boot camp?!"

Murphy heard this and suddenly added a retort of his own. Unlike Colonel Sharp, Murphy's face was as stone-cold serious as ever, even if his words were not. "Don't believe anything she says, colonel! You jus' can't trust anyone with a rank that starts out with the letters, L-I-E!"

Colonel Sharp's eyes widened in true amusement. He hadn't expected a joke out of Murphy after what had just happened. He gave Toph a look that seemed to say, "Did you hear him just make a joke about you?" He said, "Lieutenant, wait one on those rounds."

Murphy entered the bunker he had indicated. "This here's the one! I oughtta know; General Steele had me design this little possum-hole!" Murphy howled from inside the bunker. "We're still in the clear, too."

The inside of the bunker was set up on one side like an office complete with one hell of a desk and a large chair behind it, three phones, a desktop computer, three monitors, a pair of nice leather couches across from this and a thick, full-sized refrigerator. On the other side of the bunker taking up a wall was a trio of gun racks. The following arms were in racks looking well-kept and ready for use.

"Help yourself," the colonel waved his hand to you.

6 LAR-10C Laser Carbines with adjustable slings.
6 LAR-12 5.56mm Light Laser Assault Weapons with adjustable slings.
4 IPP-5H Heavy Ion Pulse Pistols with adjustable Kydex holsters.
2 handsome T-9 12.7mm Pump Pistols each with a leather holster and 3 boxes of ammunition. Upon close inspection, 1 out of 3 of these boxes contain 24 M.D. shells while 2 boxes contain 24 S.D.C. shells each.
Assembled at the top of the racks were a total of 24 E-Clips, 12 Cobalt Grenades, 12 Cobalt limpet mines, and 6 high-quality survival knives with brown sheaths. These were Marine K-Bar knives in mint condition and legendary for their dependability.

"My turn to be useful." Hitomi withdrew from her sleeve a small device about the size of her thumb. With a press of a button, a wide red laser beam burst forth and crossed over the entirety of the desk in the matter of seconds. She turned off the beam and then looked at the device. Then she tapped a few keys on the keyboard. She pressed the device up against what appeared to be a touch screen. One moment later, an accepting sound from the computer trumpeted her success in accessing the permissions she was looking for. "Fingerprints," she smiled. "Gotta love 'em."

Hitomi's fingers rapidly danced across the keyboard. As you joined them, you saw Colonel Sharp stand beside Hitomi in staring at the screens. "Ah! Jackpot!"

"Why, Miss Hitomi, this little plan of yours was right on the money!"

"We strike silver?" Murphy asked as he examined a K-bar.

Col. Sharp gave a broad grin. "Depending on your perspective, we've struck gold! All of the general's Spartas prototype schematics Miss Hitomi discovered in Eglin are right here. The EU-11 amplifier, the enhanced recoil compensator for the main gun, plus a full readout on how to put together a reinforced pilots compartment. I think there's more." He grinned at Elinor and Toph. "There's even also a copy in here of the video those kiddos from Alabama put together for you, Wild Cards."

Murphy grumbled. "Schematics are dandy, but alone they don't make the fiddle sing. Any hard or soft components down here?"

"Hai," Hitomi replied as she stared at one of the monitors. "Right here in this mecha hangar."

"There's a mecha hangar down here?" Sharp turned to the monitor she was pointing at.

"Sure is, sir. Small one, see? A vertical elevator shaft leads straight back up to the surface."

"Anything in there?"

"The camera here shows two prototype air veritechs. They look to me like Logans but a lot beefier. I also see two loads of soft and hard components and an Ajax's ion cannon down there, but no Ajax. There's another camera here showing that unholy little prison I was telling you about. They're empty, but those old bloodstains on the floor means they've seen use."

Colonel Sharp said. "Shut her down. Take the hard drive." Hitomi shut the computer down and dropped to her knees under the desk. It appeared as if she were expertly taking apart the computer tower with the help of a pocket-tool.

"That prison is likely where they were going to throw you, colonel." Hitomi slapped her thigh in frustration. The very idea of this man being locked in such a gulag just made Hitomi's blood rise.

"Yes, but there will be time to talk about that later. We have a rare opportunity here I intend to make the most of. We take what we can and blow the rest," he indicated the grenades and mines.

Colonel Sharp turned to Elinor and Toph. "Ladies. You've come here to rescue me, right? I presume you have a place in mind to take me to. Does that place have somewhere we can put two veritech prototypes and do you think you can fly those prototypes out of here? If the answer is 'no', then they go up with the rest of General Steele's safehouse here."

Hitomi gave Colonel Sharp a suspicious look. "What are you up to, sir?"

"Murphy! Let's go up there and lend 'em a hand with those rounds while the ladies blow this place up!"

"What?!" Murphy growled like a junkyard dog. "Why do you want me to huck rounds, sir?!"

"Smurf!" Colonel Sharp leaned in the same way he had before when he had to convince him Toph was with him. "How many mecha do you know that use 120mm smoothbore rounds?"

It took Murphy two whole seconds to catch up to Colonel's Sharp's logic. "Shiiit! There's a whole new mech up there!"

Colonel Sharp returned his attention to Elinor and Toph. "What do you say, troops? Can you handle it? You'll have Miss Hitomi to help you."

From behind Colonel Sharp, Hitomi rose hard drive in hand. Hearing the colonel's words, she smiled, nodded, and gave you both an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Colonel Sharp tried to get back into a positive frame of mind. Humor usually worked. Using old tanker humor, he appeared mock-startled at Toph's question. "Lieutenant! For shame! Artillery uses shells. Tanks use rounds!" He shook his head as if to say, "Didn't they teach you anything in boot camp?!"
Toph gives the Colonel a wide grin. "Duly noted, sir. Rounds, not shells. But sir, in the defense of my instructors, they were more concerned with aerospace training, not the difference between tanks and artillery pieces."
Murphy heard this and suddenly added a retort of his own. Unlike Colonel Sharp, Murphy's face was as stone-cold serious as ever, even if his words were not. "Don't believe anything she says, colonel! You jus' can't trust anyone with a rank that starts out with the letters, L-I-E!"
She looks over at Murphy, and with the smile still on her face, she says, "Well, that's easy enough to fix. Just give us a promotion to Captain, and we will be all set!"
Colonel Sharp turned to Elinor and Toph. "Ladies. You've come here to rescue me, right? I presume you have a place in mind to take me to. Does that place have somewhere we can put two veritech prototypes and do you think you can fly those prototypes out of here? If the answer is 'no', then they go up with the rest of General Steele's safehouse here."
"There isn't a Veritech out there that the two of us can't fly! That will give us plenty of seats for all of us to make our escape to the Broadsword. All we need to do is place these charges in the right spot and let them take care of Steele's house of horrors here. Just a quick question, though. Does anyone have training in demolitions? I personally do not, but I can place a mine on something that looks important and hope for the best. If there are any supplies of missiles down here, we can place a few of these Cobalt mines on them and let the resulting explosion do the work for us. We can also use these new Veritechs to haul out some of that hardware that is too big to fit inside the cockpit."

Toph looks over at Elinor and Hitomi and says, "Ladies, shall we start loading up?"
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Elinor's character sheet
Action Points: 3/6

Then Toph found Hitomi (and very possibly Elinor) beside her.
Elinor had moved up in line with Toph even before Master Sergeant Murphy had finished speaking. Though she remained quiet to let Toph handle it, if Murphy spared any attention for her, she made sure he knew he'd have to deal with her if he tried messing with Toph in any way other than verbal.

When the Master Sergeant was out of hearing range, Colonel Sharp stepped up beside Toph and spoke with his eyes low. "Lt. Kirin, please accept my most personal apology. I... didn't think. I should have realized your heritage would set old Murphy off! I should have warned the both of you." He sighed. "As for Murphy, he was there when your father was killed. They were squadmates. After considerable risk, Smurf's the only reason we got Hiroshi's body out of Brazilian territory."
Elinor opened her mouth to reply, but Sharp was called away before she could get any words out. "Note to self," she muttered, "Tell the colonel about Cera before Murphy meets her, if at all possible."

Murphy heard this and suddenly added a retort of his own. Unlike Colonel Sharp, Murphy's face was as stone-cold serious as ever, even if his words were not. "Don't believe anything she says, colonel! You jus' can't trust anyone with a rank that starts out with the letters, L-I-E!"
That startled a laugh out of Elinor despite the tension of the moment. Toph's reply got another laugh as Elinor turned to investigate the weapons locker.

Colonel Sharp turned to Elinor and Toph. "Ladies. You've come here to rescue me, right? I presume you have a place in mind to take me to. Does that place have somewhere we can put two veritech prototypes and do you think you can fly those prototypes out of here? If the answer is 'no', then they go up with the rest of General Steele's safehouse here."
Elinor looked up from the K-bar she was inspecting. "Absolutely," she replied. "Plenty of room where we're going. And as long as those prototypes are functional, I can fly them." That last sentence came with all the confidence of a career test pilot, for all that her career hadn't yet been that long.

Does anyone have training in demolitions? I personally do not, but I can place a mine on something that looks important and hope for the best. If there are any supplies of missiles down here, we can place a few of these Cobalt mines on them and let the resulting explosion do the work for us.
Elinor shook her head. "Me neither. Sounds like a plan, though." Keeping the K-bar, she also selected one of the T-9 12.7mm Pump Pistols (and its boxes of ammo). While she waited for the others to make selections, she considered the laser carbine. If no one else took them, she would also find a "home" somewhere on her person for the other pump pistol (and its boxes of ammo), the rest of the K-bars, and any unclaimed E-clips. Be a shame to let those get blown up, she figured.

About then, her mental note kicked in. "Colonel, can I have a word? Real quick, before you guys head back upstairs."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Elinor had moved up in line with Toph even before Master Sergeant Murphy had finished speaking. Though she remained quiet to let Toph handle it, if Murphy spared any attention for her, she made sure he knew he'd have to deal with her if he tried messing with Toph in any way other than verbal.
Murphy hadn't. So long gone was that look in his eyes it was as if no one but he, Toph, and the colonel existed in that moment. Elinor had also been around long enough to sense that it was no act - something about this Master Sergeant, this man, was cracked. Perhaps permanently.

She looks over at Murphy, and with the smile still on her face, she says, "Well, that's easy enough to fix. Just give us a promotion to Captain, and we will be all set!"
Murphy didn't smile. He nodded once as if to relay that he had acknowledged her joke and kept on what he was doing (inspecting the rest of the bunker). It made one wonder if he did smile at all. Or if he had ever laughed.

Elinor shook her head. "Me neither. Sounds like a plan, though." Keeping the K-bar, she also selected one of the T-9 12.7mm Pump Pistols (and its boxes of ammo). While she waited for the others to make selections, she considered the laser carbine. If no one else took them, she would also find a "home" somewhere on her person for the other pump pistol (and its boxes of ammo), the rest of the K-bars, and any unclaimed E-clips. Be a shame to let those get blown up, she figured.
The Broadsword's borrowed mega-suit had magnets along the thighs, back, and waist. In no time, Elinor went from unburdened to one-woman war-machine.

Unless Psychie speaks up, add both T-9s, their holsters, and all 6 boxes of ammo, one of the laser carbines (remember E-clips; without those, it's just a big club), and 5 K-bar survival knives.

"Just a quick question, though. Does anyone have training in demolitions? I personally do not, but I can place a mine on something that looks important and hope for the best. If there are any supplies of missiles down here, we can place a few of these Cobalt mines on them and let the resulting explosion do the work for us."
Hitomi raised her hand along with a smile that had come from years of blowing things sky-high. "Leave that... to me."

About then, her mental note kicked in. "Colonel, can I have a word? Real quick, before you guys head back upstairs."
Colonel Sharp looked at Elinor's face and saw an important sense of urgency there. He casually walked with her just outside of the bunker so it was just the two of them. Elinor saw in his face a special combination of care, know-how, and experience come to the fore as he calmly asked, "What have you got?"
 
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Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Elinor had left the jokes with the others and was all business now. "I need to warn you, sir, especially given Sgt. Murphy's, um, prejudices. My pilot's a full-blood Meltrandi." She looked Colonel Sharp square in the eye. "I trust her with my life, sir, and all of ours, too. She's part of our squad now. She's also been..." Elinor thought for a moment, trying to find the right word. "...entrusted to me, and I won't let her come to harm if I can avoid it. Her name's Cera. She's not just piloting one of those new mecha you're about to load up, she designed it -- and it's a pretty awesome beastie." Warmth and pride filled her eyes at that, but she kept her voice professional. "That's the short version, anyway. Thought you should know."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Colonel Sharp became quiet as he digested Elinor's words, but then recognition of what she was really saying dawned in Colonel Sharp's eyes. He lifted up the visor on his A.T.A.C. mega-suit and adjusted his glasses while he thought. The look on his face was grave, but understanding; it was like she had informed him of a booby trap or ambush they needed to be aware of.

"Lieutenant, you should know they're more than just prejudices; they're long-used survival instincts that kept he and his people alive for years blended in with the worst non-suicidal case of PTSD I've ever known. I am very glad you came to me with this. Thank you." He put an appreciative hand on Elinor's shoulder. Now aware, Sharp knew how to best to try and disable this "bomb." "Hope you're ready," he suddenly said. He turned toward the bunker. "Smurf! Front and center!"

"Yassir!"

Once it was just the three of you, Colonel Sharp laid it down for him. "Smurf, we've got a Meltrandi ally--"

"Another one?! Yer shittin' me! She okay?"

"Well--"

"Sharp," Murphy turned toward Colonel Sharp and looked him dead in the face. "Do ya trust her or don't'cha?"

"I don't know her yet, Smurf. We haven't met. But Lieutenant Hall here does. Says her name is Cera. She's a mecha designer--"

Murphy shook his head. "Bullshit. Meltrandi don't design mechs; Robotech Masters do." In terms of the Zentraedi Lord Dolza sent to destroy Earth, this statement was true.

"That's changed, Murph. She made those mechs upstairs we haven't seen. And Lt. Hall here trusts Cera with her very life. Sounds like Hall is Cera's guardian." He let that sink in. "How do you feel about that?"

Without warning, Murphy spun on Elinor like a hunter on a deer. Or worse. Suddenly, like Toph before, Elinor felt like she was looking down a pair of 12 gauge barrels. The man had just suddenly switched. Given Elinor's background and the lessons of her beloved Grandpa Will, she remembered stories about people Grandpa Will had known. People changed by war. Things like the "Thousand Yard Stare" and how war veterans were people changed permanently. Master Sergeant Murphy was now looking at Elinor as if she were a potential threat and she knew it. He muttered something low and heavy.

"Ain't havin' another goddamned Zenny turncoat blow my squad up again!"

Out of the blue, he just about demanded, "Why should I trust you?"

Colonel Sharp was stunned. If Elinor being an Army of the Southern Cross T.A.S.C. pilot wasn't enough, not to mention one of the very few who made it through General Steele's Assembly recently wasn't enough, then what was Murphy looking to know here? Sharp looked to Elinor and nodded in what he hoped was an encouraging manner. This show was suddenly on Elinor's shoulders.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
"Lieutenant, you should know they're more than just prejudices; they're long-used survival instincts that kept he and his people alive for years blended in with the worst non-suicidal case of PTSD I've ever known. I am very glad you came to me with this. Thank you."
Elinor shook her head. "I'm not sayin' he's not justified, Colonel. I'm not even sayin' he's wrong, most of the time. Just, he is with Cera, is all."

Out of the blue, he just about demanded, "Why should I trust you?"
Elinor didn't see Sharp's nod. All her attention was on the man staring at her like he didn't know whose side she was on -- and like he was ready to shoot her, right then and there, if it was the wrong side.
"Because my grandpa taught me there's three things that matter most in life," she replied with quiet intensity. "God, country, and family. And my team is my family. That means Cera. That means Toph. That means Mario and Shirley, upstairs holding off all comers while we do our job down here. And that means you, Colonel Sharp and Hitomi, too. We're all in this together, Sergeant." She nodded firmly, then added, "And because there is nothing more important than protecting what we love."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph is quite content to let Elinor take the pump action pistols, the rifle, and the knives. But she does decide to grab up a pair of the Ion Pulse Pistols with a couple of energy clips for each, and six of the hand grenades. "Hitomi, do you want to take any of these grenades? What about the limpet mines? I can carry a few for you so you can keep your hands free."
"Because my grandpa taught me there's three things that matter most in life," she replied with quiet intensity. "God, country, and family. And my team is my family. That means Cera. That means Toph. That means Mario and Shirley, upstairs holding off all comers while we do our job down here. And that means you, Colonel Sharp and Hitomi, too. We're all in this together, Sergeant." She nodded firmly, then added, "And because there is nothing more important than protecting what we love."
Toph looks over as the tensions between Murphy and Elinor are playing out. At first, she is content to let Elinor handle her own self, but when Murphy yells at her, the half-Meltrandi feels that it is time to step in. "Murphy, you may not know Lt. Hall, but you knew my dad, and you should have known me as a tyke. As Hiroshi's daughter, I am telling you that Cera is not your enemy, but instead, she is a friend of ours. No one is telling you that you have to be her best buddy, or even like her. God knows that there are people that get under my skin no matter how many others are their friends. But what I am saying is that we both consider her not only a comrade, but a friend. If you can't trust her, can you at least trust me?"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Add those items to your Character Sheet if you please.

Hitomi nodded. "That's so sweet of you!" she said concerning the explosives. "One of those mines is for this room. The rest get used in the hangar."

* * *​

Elinor shook her head. "I'm not sayin' he's not justified, Colonel. I'm not even sayin' he's wrong, most of the time. Just, he is with Cera, is all."
"I believe you," Colonel Sharp nodded somberly. "I can bet Murph will want to believe too. But there's a third factor in this - a factor inside of him that he can't exactly control or fix. That's the part that needs convincing."

"That means Mario and Shirley..."
(ellipsis mine)

Murphy listened to Elinor's words and seemed to agree with them, but agreement wasn't enough. Until... "Mario an' Shirley? Who're they?" Murphy looked confused. "I don't know a Mario, but I sure as heck know me a Shirley."

Colonel Sharp said, "You certainly do. T.A.S.C. 1st Lt. Shirley Mackenzie. Jamal's daughter. Can't wait to tell him that she's alive after all."

Murphy snapped his fingers. "Oh, Baby's momma! Yeah, I know that gal! I'm the one that keeps that monster purrin'. An' it's good that I do - you don't want Lady Mack in an automotive garage fer long with that luck o' hers, I'll tell ya!"

"Murphy, you may not know Lt. Hall, but you knew my dad, and you should have known me as a tyke. As Hiroshi's daughter, I am telling you that Cera is not your enemy, but instead, she is a friend of ours."
Colonel Sharp winced as Toph interjected herself into a delicate conversation she was not invited to. But what was done was done.

"Nope," Murphy continued to frown. "Wasn't in yer life back then. Only saw pictures and videos of ya from Hiro, Zyorna, and Albert." Murphy tried hard to consider Toph's argument, but when he spoke, it was in low tones. "Y'all don't understand. It ain't as easy as that." He looked at Elinor and Toph. "I appreciate what yer tryin' to do and I want ta trust the two of you, but I just don't know ya. Faith alone don't work against the demons inside of me, girls." He stared at you with a faint hint of the deepest sorrow. The awful nightmares that unmercifully trolled him from his past were not so easily mollified. "They need facts."

"The answer may be simple," Colonel Sharp said as he waved a hand for Hitomi to join you. "Lieutenants, contact Lt. Mackenzie. Give her the okay to empty the Abrams and have her meet us at the entrance to the barn." He glanced at the chronometer inside of his mega-suit. "Smurf and I have to move out now. Our time here is being paid for by the General's airborne T.A.S.C. unit. There's no more time for discussion. You have until we get up there."

"Sharp!"

"What is it?"

Murphy trembled and looked down at the custom-made heavy revolver on the hip of his Tac Corp mega-suit. Expertly, he unloaded six large-caliber rounds from it. "When we meet this Cera... you stay on my right side... and the minute I see her... you grab my wrist."

"Count on it.
Move it troops!" Colonel Sharp and M.Sgt. Murphy headed over to the heavy-duty elevator you had descended and struck the button. The old war dogs rose together.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
As Sgt. Murphy and Colonel Sharp rise up the elevators, Toph sends out the thought through the Nexus, "Heads up, gang! The Colonel and one other are on their way up to assist in parceling out the rounds in the Abrams. Just a bit of warning, though, the fellow with the Colonel is Sgt. Murphy, and he has some real issues being around Meltrandi. Very much the definition of PTSD from the First Robotech War. Cera, do not get alone with him for any reason. He will most certainly attack you, and we don't want either one of you to get hurt. In the meantime, there are two prototype Veritechs down here that we are going to liberate from the General, and with Hitomi's help, we are leaving a few high explosive presents behind to wipe this place out."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario receives the news about the Colonel being safe and coming out with a spike of joy in his heart. "Copy that, Lieutenant. We will hold our fire. The area up here is still secure with no contact with hostiles; just the fighting between the General's boys and the Malcontent ambush force." He stops for a moment, then has a thought. Sending out the message to Toph and Elinor, he says, "Once you get to these new Veritechs, please make sure you let us know when you are coming out so we don't have a friendly fire situation on our hands."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
At first, she is content to let Elinor handle her own self, but when Murphy yells at her, the half-Meltrandi feels that it is time to step in.
For the briefest moment, Elinor wished Toph had let her and Sharp handle it. Then she realized that Toph's actions only proved her point -- they were in this together, and Toph would stand by her just as she'd stood by Toph.

"Count on it. Move it troops!" Colonel Sharp and M.Sgt. Murphy headed over to the heavy-duty elevator you had descended and struck the button. The old war dogs rose together.
Elinor saluted as the men walked off, then returned to Hitomi. She looked around for a bag or something to put the unclaimed E-clips in. Why let them just blow up when sooner or later they'd come in handy? She also took this time to grab the other pump pistol and its ammo boxes ((sorry for the confusion, I should have left that part until now)).

"Copy that, Mario," Elinor replied. "Mack, Colonel says you're to meet him and Master Sergeant Murphy at the entrance. Needs you to help defuse the sergeant's PTSD, I think."

Elinor then tried to "tune" her mind for a private message to Cera. It had worked earlier, when they were in the same cockpit, and she didn't see why it wouldn't work now. She figured it was an aspect of the Nexus, since she and Cera hadn't been touching at the time.
"Cera, to clarify: Murphy's PTSD means he's faced Zentraedi and Meltrandi in combat before, and something happened that broke his brain a little. He seems to be a good soldier still, but he can't always control his reactions when he sees people his experience has taught him are the enemy, even if he knows they shouldn't be. He doesn't want to hurt you, and I want you to do your best not to hurt him if it comes to that. I don't think it will, I think the colonel and Mack will be able to keep things verbal, but do your best all the same."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Colonel Sharp returned Elinor's salute, and as soon as he pointed it out to the distracted Sergeant Murphy, the sergeant quickly added his own.

He will most certainly attack you, and we don't want either one of you to get hurt. In the meantime, there are two prototype Veritechs down here that we are going to liberate from the General...
(ellipsis mine)

Cera fumed at first. She had no concept of PTSD. She did, however, maintain one heck of an Ura-Meltrandi approach concerning threats to her being. "What?! Pathetic male! Let him dare attack me and I will... Wait. Did you say 'prototype veritechs'?" Her swift change from rage to curiosity was felt by all inside the polyphonic nexus.

Elinor then tried to "tune" her mind for a private message to Cera.
Elinor focusing on Cera seemed to pay off for she felt no one else in this binary nexus with her except Cera. "I am receiving a similar order from Leader Mack. I do not understand this human's... condition you describe, but I will not harm a creature my squadron deems worthy of life. I will comply, dentella." Elinor felt some of Cera's emotions on the matter - the Ura-Meltrandi Auxiliary Specialist was trying very hard to convince herself not to atomize some military-trained human who might try to kill her on sight. Elinor could sense that the very concept for Cera was far from easy to swallow and worse still to attempt to put into action.

"Fire in the hole!" Hitomi yelled from cover outside the bunker with Elinor and Toph.

The yell brought Elinor back to the mundane five senses most people are used to. Elinor felt herself get pushed down behind some sandbags either by Toph or Hitomi or both. Kuhwhoom! General Steele's office-bunker shook violently and emanated rich, black plumes of smoke that drifted toward the ceiling. Hitomi patted her Eglin Special Forces Patch on one of the three duffel bags each of you had taken from the bunker prior to its destruction. Each was enough to hold all of the E-clips and gear Elinor wanted, or the gear Toph had come away with, or whatever Hitomi was happily carrying in hers. Hitomi was grinning like a lady fresh out of Macy's after a big, big sale. Toph and Elinor knew Hitomi had the other 5 cobalt mines in their own ammo box and not in her duffel bag.

7th Special Forces Group from Eglin AFB. "Liberate the Oppressed"
Liberate the Oppressed - 7th Special Forces Group - Eglin AFB.png
(Image credit: Eglin.af.mil)

Hitomi waved you over to one of the cargo haulers and hopped in. Like many military vehicles, keys were not necessary to use the vehicle and once the three of you piled in across the spacious bench seat, Hitomi started the ignition and in moments, you were chugging down the underground road surrounded by concrete and mega-damage reinforced pillars and walls on all sides. But a few minutes later, the three of you found yourself in a tidy mecha hangar underground. It was perhaps 70 x 70 feet wide with a heavy-duty elevator capable of lifting either of the mecha found here. Before you were a pair of Logans. On steroids.

(This is the largest image I can find.)
Prototype Super Logan by Wayne Breaux.jpg
(Image credit: Wayne Breaux (from Return of the Masters))

These veritechs made the typical Logans appear skinny and frail. Armed with two EP-20 Laser Gun Pods and painted black from nose to tail without any identifying insignias whatsoever, these Super Logans looked like they were painted by the same source that had turned Mack's beloved Red Baroness into an ebony terror of the night. Thick arm shields doubled as the wings in jet mode. Hulking thrusters told of enhanced speed and maneuverability. Each stood proudly in Guardian mode, side by side and fully armed. Looking up the shaft over your heads, there was only one way to go with the Super Logans - toward the sky.

Hitomi paused and examined the sets of missiles huddled on the other side of the bay along with a number of chemicals and equipment used to maintain these vehicles. Hitomi tapped her black duffel bag. "According to a certain intranet mail I read, these are the only two prototypes of their kind. Maybe someone else has the full plans to make more, but they're also here on Steele's hard drive. Anyone ready for a spin? Oh, and who am I riding with?"

* * *​

Above on the surface, Mario saw Mack's Super Valkyrie hustle up to the big red barn and tilt nose-down. There, two men in ASC body armor, one A.T.A.C., the other Tac Corp, seemed to be speaking with her. "Mario!" Mack said over the radio while her veritech's arm pointed at the M1A3 Abrams. "Start loading her up! Cera, keep us covered!"
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario replies with a quick and crisp, "Yes, ma'am! Moving!" He then carefully slides the mecha right up next to the M1 and shifts into the mode best suited to be able to take in the shells from the older tank. Jumping out, he gives a wide grin to the Colonel. "Sir! Good to see you alive and well. Glad to have gotten here in time to keep you that way. Ready to take on the ammo, sir. The loading hatch is right here."

At this point, Mario rolls up his mental sleeves and gets ready to haul rounds and get them stored inside his mecha.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
the Ura-Meltrandi Auxiliary Specialist was trying very hard to convince herself not to atomize some military-trained human who might try to kill her on sight.
Elinor wondered if Cera could tell just how very proud she was of her...whatever a dentalla called her charge. This kind of adjustment was plenty hard enough for some civilians, much less for a Meltrandi trained to see all males as the enemy, whether they were shooting or not. Especially if they were shooting. And she wasn't even a week old yet!

Hitomi tapped her black duffel bag. "According to a certain intranet mail I read, these are the only two prototypes of their kind. Maybe someone else has the full plans to make more, but they're also here on Steele's hard drive. Anyone ready for a spin? Oh, and who am I riding with?"
"Ready when you are," Elinor replied. "You know, testing out new tech is my job, but it isn't yours, Toph. You want Hitomi along for backup?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph will look about the hangar bay carefully before turning her attention to the Super Logans to see what kind of arsenal that they have loaded on them, besides the EP-20's. "I'll happily let Hitomi ride second seat with me. Lets get them powered up and see what they can do. I wonder if we have time to Traverse them? Hmm. With the Malcontents out there, I'm guessing not. I don't want to be stuck in the middle of a firefight in these until I know more about their capabilities. Hitomi? Do you need a hand with those explosives? Lets get them placed as soon as we can and get the hell out of here."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Below...

"Okay! I'm with Toph." Hitomi looked around the hangar bay and carefully made a mental plan. "Oh, thanks but it's best if I handle the mines myself. That way I know exactly where they all are and what their timers are set for. And as for using technopathy, it's faster to use than you might think. I know having watched Traversers use it from the outside. Like you two back at Eglin." She turned and examined both of you. "Besides, are you both LOGAN-qualified?"

Toph examined the heavy-looking veritech and noted the two EP-20 laser gun pods, the nose gun, and a new pair of laser cannons mostly concealed in the side decking. The nose gun seemed larger and meaner than the one mounted in a typical Logan and the side decking cannons were an entirely new add-on. Being in Guardian mode, neither Super Logan could carry missiles on its wings; a design "flaw" that was inherent with the machine. In the hangar bay, Toph counted 8 racks of missiles on small tracked drone-like vehicles, each able to hold 20 short-range missiles, but just over half these racks were empty.

* * *​

Above...

"Sir! Good to see you alive and well. Glad to have gotten here in time to keep you that way. Ready to take on the ammo, sir. The loading hatch is right here."
The rain continued to patter down from the Floridian night sky. The clouds were black and the nearby battle continued to rage with explosions that made the ground tremble and fires that lit the air like hellish fireworks. Once Lt. Mack, Colonel Sharp, and M.Sgt. Murphy were finished with their brief conversation, they turned (Super Valkyrie and all) toward Mario, Cera, and the Mjolnirs. "Who is that in there? One of mine?" He didn't know it yet, but it most certainly was. From the distance in the dark, Colonel Sharp could not recognize Cpl. Zuko in his solid-black Broadsword-borrowed mega-suit.

Mack answered with pride. "That's Corporal Mario Zuko, sir! He's one of my Wild Cards."

Once the distance had been closed, details were easier to discern in the cold and the wet. The flicker of a bond between the tankers appeared again - that strange flame, not born of A.T.A.C. or even Army of Southern Cross, but that odd sensation that the two men knew each other... from before. Colonel Sharp did not let this distract him but said, "Zuko! Good to see you, son! How have you been holding up? For a corpse, you are looking very fit!"

Right beside Colonel Sharp stood a figure in a Tac Corp with Master Sergeant rank markings on it carrying gear not normally equipped by most Tac Corp, including some custom long-barreled sidearm in what appeared to be a leather holster on his right hip. He spoke with a strong Southern accent. "Hold up, I know that voice..." The sergeant paused in speaking and stared out into space. Mario saw Colonel Sharp's healthy features from his risen faceplate. Both Sharp and his fellow here wore reading glasses attached with bands under their mega-suits. The other figure's faceplate was also up revealing a wide, bushy moustache like a man out of an old western. His strong, time-wrinkled features continued to look off into the distance. Mario had heard of the Thousand Yard Stare before but he had never seen it until now. Mario was dead certain this old dog soldier had seen more of war than most souls should. And survived them.

Something in the back of Mario's mind also seemed to tell him that he had met this figure before. That figure suddenly pointed at Mario.

"Greenhorn!" he nodded enthusiastically as Colonel Sharp formed a line with Mack's Super Valkyrie and the sergeant. "Hell, I remember you! You're that crazy young'un that went to bat with Mack and us fer them school bus babies on I-10! Them damned Malcontents were trying ta kill them civilians fleeing the tornado! Cowardly bastards!" He spat with disdain.

Colonel Sharp smiled. "Corporal! This is Master Sergeant "Murph the Smurf" Murphy from Tac Corp."

Without asking, Murphy reached over and grabbed Mario's arm with one hell of a grip and shook it heartily. "Yer all right, Greenhorn! Let's share us some cold ones and shoot the shit sometime!"

Using the "magic arms" from Shirley's Valkyrie and all three of your able bodies, Colonel Sharp began to pass the load of 20 120mm rounds down the line to Mario. Mario saw an assortment of silver bullets, MPATs, and plasma rounds get passed down to him and into the Mjolnir which fed them into its autoloader just fine. As Mario rested part of his leg against the Mjolnir, suddenly, a communication came out of nowhere and visited Mario's mind...

"My main cannon is now equipped with proper ammunition."

It was Toothgnasher.

From the Super Valkyrie's speakers, you heard Mack ask, "How many rounds you have onboard?"

Colonel Sharp answered. "Two out so.. forty! All hot stuff. We'll divide it evenly between these... two... tanks..." as he worked, the old tanker began to gaze and gaze at the Mjolnirs. The longer he gazed, the wider his smile got. He began to smile as he had when he and Professor Stein had first gotten a look at Mack's Baby during the Assembly. Something about the brand-new Mjolnir tanks seemed to tickle the kid inside his heart. He really liked the feeling.

"My God! Corporal, what... what are these?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Colonel Sharp did not let this distract him but said, "Zuko! Good to see you, son! How have you been holding up? For a corpse, you are looking very fit!"
Mario smiles at the Colonel. "Yes, sir! Death really becomes me. Doing really well, and sir, I have lots to go over with you once we have everyone out of here and safe."
"Greenhorn!" he nodded enthusiastically as Colonel Sharp formed a line with Mack's Super Valkyrie and the sergeant. "Hell, I remember you! You're that crazy young'un that went to bat with Mack and us fer them school bus babies on I-10! Them damned Malcontents were trying ta kill them civilians fleeing the tornado! Cowardly bastards!" He spat with disdain.
Without asking, Murphy reached over and grabbed Mario's arm with one hell of a grip and shook it heartily. "Yer all right, Greenhorn! Let's share us some cold ones and shoot the shit sometime!"
"Master Sarge, I will be honored to hoist a glass with you, and I have a feeling that you'll love the Broadsword and her crew. Lets get the rest of these rounds loaded, and spread the love to the other Mjolnir."
"My God! Corporal, what... what are these?"
Between hoisting the heavy rounds into the ammo feeder, Mario says, "Sir, this is the Mjolnir class Veritech Hover Tank. Faster, better armored, and packing more weaponry than the Spartas, this is the brainchild of Cera, and was constructed earlier today by the Broadsword. This particular tank is called Toothgnasher, and that one is Toothgrinder, and I truly look forward to showing the two of you just how capable this amazing weapon system is!"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
"Okay! I'm with Toph." Hitomi looked around the hangar bay and carefully made a mental plan. "Oh, thanks but it's best if I handle the mines myself. That way I know exactly where they all are and what their timers are set for. And as for using technopathy, it's faster to use than you might think. I know having watched Traversers use it from the outside. Like you two back at Eglin." She turned and examined both of you. "Besides, are you both LOGAN-qualified?"
Toph nods, "I am fully qualified to fly the Logan. All a part of my flight training." She looks up at the mecha, saying, "I see that Mario is not the only one to get a new toy today! Hitomi, set those charges and then hustle your rump back so we can get the hell out of here. While you do that, I'll see about introducing myself to the spirit of this machine, and hope that it is quick enough to avoid getting Mario, Cera and Mack into a fight without our support."

Running up to one of the Super Logan Veritechs, Toph quickly checks to see if the cockpit is locked shut, or if it is possible for her to easily get inside. If it is open, she climbs into the front seat of the mecha and examines the interior. If not, Toph will start her Traversing to open the cockpit.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
"Besides, are you both LOGAN-qualified?"
Elinor also nodded. "I can fly any veritech. I'll just need a bit to see what makes this one different from the ones I've trained on, is all." She patted the nearest part of the Logan, then got herself into the cockpit and pilot's seat. First the journey, she thought, placing her hands on the console. She wondered if there was a way to "anchor" herself to make it easier to find her way back, and thought about that as she sent her mind into that other, blue world.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Between hoisting the heavy rounds into the ammo feeder, Mario says, "Sir, this is the Mjolnir class Veritech Hover Tank. Faster, better armored, and packing more weaponry than the Spartas, this is the brainchild of Cera, and was constructed earlier today by the Broadsword. This particular tank is called Toothgnasher, and that one is Toothgrinder, and I truly look forward to showing the two of you just how capable this amazing weapon system is!"
As the rain came down and the battle carried on not far away, Colonel Sharp hauled the rounds and listened in confusion. "Broadsword? Mjolnir-class Veritech? Son, I can't wait to hear all this over some dinner! It all sounds like some kind of... sci-fi fantasy or something!"

M.Sgt. Murphy did not let his age get in his way as he passed down the 45 pound-plus 120mm rounds like a man who was long-used to hard work. "You mean these here tanks are badder than the baddest we got?" Murphy couldn't believe it. "Sheeeit! I gotta see 'em in action!" As a man of armor, he, like Colonel Sharp, liked all things ground-heavy, mobile, and frighteningly-destructive. From high above his grinning face, MechaKitten with his eyes glowing gold watched all of this from the canopy of the ebony Super Valkyrie while Shirley worked the "magic arms" on the great machine's right forearm and kept watch.

But if it was action Murphy wanted, it was action he received. As you finished with the 20th round, Cera whooshed up in Toothgrinder. She saw all of you including Murphy and, yes, she most certainly remembered Elinor's warning not to be caught alone with this brain-addled human, but they had little time to get the rounds loaded before they were discovered. Besides, where else were they going to get the rounds? And what if Elly Nor and Toph Kirin somehow needed them to escape? Better to blast them out of the earth and provide them escape than let them be trapped when the jerk-face general's forces showed up to their hidden safehouse, no doubt laden with a nasty secret or three the general wished were better left here. Too bad, Cera thought. When you make an enemy of the Wild Cards, you deserve what you get!

These were her thoughts as she popped the top hatch of Toothgrinder and appeared. "Hey!" Cera waved. "It's Toothgrinder's turn!"

She had hardly gotten the first word out of her mouth when Murphy, in the dark and the rain, turned toward her as if in automatic response to the sound of her voice.

"Crazy" by Nazareth from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack. You have this song to thank for this scene, Gang. =)

Expecting nothing harmful, Murphy gregariously looked up to see the speaker at the top of the tank. Then something in Master Sergeant Murphy turned off. And something else... turned on.

Suddenly, he became as still as the tank. Though none were around him, he sensed tall banana trees, wild birds chirping around their destroids, and the ever-towering, triple-canopy jungle all around him and his squadron in the bright sunlit heat of Brazil. Though Cera did not have hands on the Mjolnir's Blaster Cannon, something in Murphy thought maybe she did. And there was Greenhorn in the open. And Colonel Sharp. Wide open in front of her. And though he could not see her red-brown eyes, he knew she was Meltrandi at first glance. His razor-sharp and time-honed instincts told him so and that was enough. Right then, there was a blur of movement off to his immediate right, but Murphy did not sense it. All he saw was the silhouette of a micronized Meltrandi - the deadliest of Zentraedi predators - smart, swift, and supremely fearsome, behind a tank gun with Greenhorn as her first target. With a twist and a pull, she could kill all three men with a single burst of cannon fire. All of this flashed through Murphy's cracked mind in less than a second.

"Ahhh!" Murphy's response was as automatic as it was unhesitating. With the smoothness of a practiced gunslinger, Murphy moved to draw his custom-made mega-damage .44 magnum revolver and take her out. And for him, at that range, she was dead meat. His lunge was fast, but his right arm stopped as if caught on something.

Just a moment ago, Mario saw Murphy grinning and hauling the last round. Then he looked up at Cera, froze, and drew. It happened that fast. Mario saw that something had hung up Murphy's right arm. It was Colonel Sharp. With wisdom, forethought, and a deadly sense of urgency, the old tanker had moved. For just one very important moment, the Old Man Sharp was one sure blur. When Murphy and Mario looked down at Murphy's gun-hand, they found it empty with Colonel Sharp's left hand on Murphy's arm... and Murphy's custom .44 magnum in Sharp's right.

"Jesus!" Murphy cried and turned away from the gun and Sharp, unable to look at either of them. He staggered past Mario, suddenly breathing hard like a man who had run a marathon. Shakily, Murphy removed his Tac Corp gauntlets and helmet. The rain fell upon him and he sucked in the fresh, uncirculated air with ragged gasps. He had nearly killed her. He knew it and so did she. Everyone did.

As MechaKitten continued to watch with eerily-glowing eyes, Murphy gasped and coughed and leaned against Toothgnasher. He looked as if he were about to weep. For even here, amongst friends and allies, his ancient demons of war continued to crawl throughout the hell-wrought battlefield of his mind. He hadn't made any progress at all. The doctors were right. He had nearly killed that Meltrandi without a second thought. Then he heard a distant voice calling him. The more it called, the closer it got. There in the rain, Colonel Sharp was shouting. "SMURF! SMURF!" he repeated, just inches from the bushy sergeant's face. At first, Murphy turned away again in sadness and shame, but Sharp, that paladin son of a bitch, was ever the more demanding of him than his demons.

"Godammit!" Murphy exclaimed. "I nearly killed her!"

"No, Smurf! Look!" Sharp showed Murphy his .44 magnum revolver, cylinder out and open. The weapon was empty. Murphy had remembered he had thought to unload The Undertaker before their meeting. The rounds were in Murphy's armored pocket. All he would have gotten from his efforts was a solid bead on the middle of her head and a very loud click. No bang. He had thought ahead. Fuck them doctors, he thought. With the full weight of the wars upon him, Murphy collapsed onto the Mjolnir. Colonel Sharp held onto him, keeping his best sergeant from falling into a heap on the muddy ground. In the distance, the battle between the Zentraedi and Ajax fighters waged on, but that battle would end. Murphy still couldn't face Sharp, but shame had begun to melt into heavy embarrassment. That blasted Superman Boy Scout Sharp. God love him, Sharp would never let Murphy fall and both men knew it. He would continue to be Murphy's pillar of faith until the end of time. This was as it must be for they were eternal brothers of war.

Murphy stood on his own two feet, dizzy, gasping, his heart still racing, his bare hands upon the smooth hull of the day-old tank. But he was a little smoother inside. Less crazy. Less angry. More thoughtful. Maybe he would find the grace to apologize for attempting to blow that "Sarah's" brains all over Florida, maybe he wouldn't. He had never been good at apologies. Only action.

Sharp finally let Smurf be. He tapped The Undertaker's empty leather holster and Smurf slowly nodded. Sharp replaced the revolver back in its rightful home and strapped it down, still empty, still where it belonged. Shirley's concerned voice came over the Super Valkyrie's loudspeakers. "Is... is Murph' gonna be okay?" Sharp just nodded and started the train of loading Toothgrinder up with 120mm rounds.

Leaning against the Mjolnir, Murphy slowly turned toward Mario. Murphy's fogged-up glasses had slid down his nose. His eyes were closed. Mario could not tell what was rain and what were tears down the grizzled old warrior's leathery face. As the rain dripped off his big moustache, Murphy suddenly straightened in shock. "Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed with great urgency. "Sharp!" Greenhorn!" Sharp turned again, uncertain what to expect.

Murphy kept his naked hands pressed against the Mjolnir. "This tank! This... veritech! It's... it's from the future!!"

Mario and Sharp saw Murphy's eyes fly open. Sharp stepped back in shock, for his old friend's pupils had utterly vanished leaving only a stark void. There in the black of the Floridian night, the only color in Murphy's eyes were the whites - and they showed brilliantly like stars...
 

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