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Futuristic Mortals Above, God's Below (1x1 Private)

Sub Genres
  1. Action
  2. Adventure
  3. Anime
  4. AU
  5. Cyberpunk
  6. Dystopian
  7. Platonic
  8. Romance

Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan

"I'll save you."


"I promise I will find you, no matter what; you hear me?"


"Even if it's the last thing I do..."


"Even if I have to give up everything, I'll bring you back."



"I swear I'll burn the world to ash if it means I can even hope to save you!"


"Wait for me!"



She never wanted to believe in failure.

It just wasn't something she had allowed herself to consider, even during the lowest moments of her life, when all hope seemed impossible to reach. She knew she had to keep moving towards her goal.

Everything else had been left behind the moment her life was ripped apart before her very eyes. The place she'd called home for as long as she could remember; the family that had cared for her, raised her as one of their own; the girl who'd loved her...

When weighed against what she needed to do, it was incomparable.

That very night, she took the first of many lives she would end. The first stain, the first fleck of red on hands that would run crimson. The long arduous process of leaving her humanity behind started then.

In her uncontrollable need to complete her task, she killed and killed and killed, over and over again. Corpses formed the path ahead of her as she waded knee deep through their blood and filth.

She committed herself to the unthinkable and the unforgivable, all for the sake of saving everything she held near and dear to her beating heart.

In a crowd of what felt like strangers in that moment, staring at a small flickering screen of a grainy video feed, the sense of failure drove it's cold blade through her chest.

As if in slow motion, the broken, mangled frame of her AC was thrown off the edge of the Ark by a lone NEXT.

In those few seconds, her old life ended... and XVI's life began.



Four years later... (And now switching to your character!)


"Greetings LYNX; this is your mission."

- Eradicate the defensive units deployed in the Line Ark zone - 200,000c Reward -

"As you know, Line Ark is the main base of the anti-establishment forces that oppose the Cradles."

"We have tried to negotiate peacefully with these revolutionaries but they have refused our overtures and continue their violent attacks."


"This mission is a show of force to encourage the enemy to rejoin negotiations. We never like to resort to violence, but on this occasion, we have no choice."

"Line Ark's main weapon, Enoch, is currently operating in another area. We understand your trepidation in facing a high-ranking LYNX; it will not become a risk in this operation."

"Note that this mission is a test run of your capabilities. We trust that you will deliver a successful result."

- The League


The dull and cracked screen flickered and crackled as she turned the screen off for the day. The pay was extremely generous for it being her first mission as a registered LYNX, but when one was just starting out as a mercenary: one didn't question the generous payouts of their contracts.

This was the first mission of the game, a warm-up to let the player get used to how the game paced itself while they destroyed pitiful targets that couldn't handle the might of a NEXT...

Her NEXT... She considered herself extremely lucky that she had a NEXT to call her own. Just like the game, she could've sold herself out and picked one of the League's biggest corporations as a primary client, but that lure of freedom had been too great to pass up. Sure, she was stuck with a NEXT model whose parent company was six feet under, but it was still a steadfast and reliable build that she could get behind as long as she didn't screw up something awful...

The whole room rumbled as the Giga Base Arms Fort began to depart for its destination. Mercifully there had been a Global Armaments convoy planning to head in the same direction her first job was; getting her and her NEXT aboard for transport had barely brought up any trouble as she settled in for the two day journey towards Line Ark.

Welp, it was time to begin the game...
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That Lass Over There

Constant Panic
"... What the fuck."

Maybe a more eloquent response was in demand, but with this sort of development, maybe she could be forgiven. After turning off the screen with a movement that felt oddly natural, not even needing to look to see where the power button was, she wiped her hands over her face, trying to process what to her had been a rapid series of events. A sci-fi and fantasy nerd through and through, an otaku to top it off, though maybe not as socially deficient as the title might imply, her mind instantly came upon the dreaded conclusion; that she had found herself quite possibly in one of the worst games she could have. Many joke of how they dread waking up to hear the words 'hey you, you're finally awake,' but for her, the debriefing that had just went through one ear and out the other was likely far up there on game intros she'd like to never hear again. God, the number of retries and reruns, especially once she tried to keep characters alive and got invested in trying to find a best ending, even though the wiki quite clearly stated that there was none...

"... Turn off the damn lights already!" But apparently a game written in the early 2000's had no projection of a home assistant program, so she had to get up and press the button somehow blander than a switch herself. Massaging her temples, she paced around, breathed, went through all the textbook coping mechanisms she could to get a clear head - completely forgetting for several minutes that part of those coping mechanisms is trying to take advantage of them and think through the things stressing you out, rather than just pointlessly going in circles until reaching an arbitrary state of calm.

Right, so. I'm in Armored Center 4.5. That dumb one, where they decided to make a dating game in a gritty, post-apocalyptic mecha setting. Also, the world's boned because radiation back when they really didn't get how that worked. Either this is the oddest choice for deathbed hallucinations I could have had, or I'm really stuck h-- Let's go with the latter, it sounds more optimistic. Somehow. Finally having her brain moving to understand and plan around her situation, she moved toward the bathroom almost unwittingly, thinking a splash of water would be good to put herself together with.

That mission is essentially the tutorial mission. I'm the protagonist? Better than not knowing where the hell I was, I guess. Standing at the sink she splashed her face with a little bit of water, careful not to run afoul of some nightmare dystopia water rationing or something of the sort that she had no idea if it was even in effect. When she stood back up she paused for just a moment, and could feel the headache return with a vengeance... Definitely the protagonist. Really? A mirror scene for building your character? I know nothing like this was in game since the player avatar never actually showed on screen, but come on.

Though her criticisms and protests continued in her head, feeling tired more than anything else, she perused the options presented to her. In the end, she barely touched anything... Dull blonde hair, brown eyes, a figure she had worked hard enough to keep in shape... Now a bit younger looking, though.

She had no idea how much of a change tweaking the bags under her eyes would make until she tried it for the sake of changing at least one thing, for curiosity's sake.

Surprisingly, she was also given three text boxes to fill; a name, a callsign, and the name of her NEXT. Jane, Jane, and MOBIUS. Lacking the creative spark while still trying to think over her situation, she ended up using her own name not just for the character name but the callsign as well. She did get a little more loose with the NEXT's name, referencing an old game she had just recently got the chance to go back and play, though she did wonder if this was something that she should have put more thought into.

After finishing with what she now realized might have been a forced event - and leaving the fact that she could be forced to do things without realizing her autonomy was stolen as a tough pill to swallow for another day - she laid down in her bed, left to think on how she would deal with the first mission. It had been years, but she still remembered how brutal the game could be. She made it through with a hyper aggressive playstyle and laser blades, but more than any skill it was an endless amount of resets and retries that got her through. XVI, and the other Collared as well... She couldn't even think of how she would deal with them when it came time.

Or, maybe she would wake up in a moment... Not that she particularly wanted that, either.


She didn't wake up, and besides a gnawing fear of jumping into real combat with no experience, she had nothing to show for her days of thinking on how to deal with the first level. It's not like the level was supposed to be difficult in itself, but playing a game and piloting a 10m hunk of metal weighing an unimaginable amount were two very different deals. She was almost... no, definitely paranoid of all the things that might be different when translated into reality. For all she knew, it may unexpectedly be a lot closer to the game than she could hope for. Heck, the mechs might even control with a gamepad. But even with those thoughts trying to calm her down, she ended up trying something completely new in a panic; the sniper rifle that would give her distance and power, and thicker armor that could protect her from stray bullets she wasn't able to dodge. That was the idea, at least.


"Greetings LYNX; this is your mission."

The whiplash from adrenaline high to sitting in a chair with a debrief was heavy, and she sat still for a moment as she wondered what happened.

... I was shocked at how powerful the sniper felt, how natural controlling the mech was to me. And... Ah. Right. She came to an understanding of what happened after playing through the events in her mind, realizing she had been sitting still like a fool as she aimed, too drunk on the power of picking off targets from unreachable distances to even think about the flanking forces that spawned halfway through to teach the player to pay attention, and she wasn't fast enough to dodge a ruthless swarm of missiles.

Well... I suppose I don't die, huh? Even so, she didn't feel particularly comforted. Reliving the same couple of days over and over wasn't really living to her, and the future - or very apparent lack thereof - of this world still concerned her. She somehow wanted to do something about it, even though the game hadn't been very secretive that with all the choices the player was given and the other characters made, there wasn't any hope for fixing things. That's maybe why she had tried so stubbornly to find a route to do so, when there was none.

The splash of water on her face made her realize she had found herself in front of the mirror again, not even remembering getting out of her chair from the terminal. Goose bumps ran up her skin, the robbery of her free will bothering her much more than the now two apparent deaths she had suffered. Almost to distract herself, she looked through the hair options, and with a half-hearted impulsiveness she decided to see what she looked like with a short bob cut and silver hair.

Again, she put her name as Jane, though this time she decided to have her callsign be Pathfinder, and her NEXT named FEN9. In the end, not having any meaning to a name was just a little too strange for her as a lover of fiction.

And again, she passed the two days in a blur, though this time she recognized her mistake and let neither panic nor paranoia dominate her thoughts. The game had for the most part been as she remembered... Though, the tutorial had been actually more merciful than she remembered, and that may have played a part in her foolish screwup. And with limited lives not seeming to be an issue, there was no issue with her typical playstyle. In fact, she almost felt like it might be more effective, since there might be a chance to win a victory by destroying enemy morale with the oppressive sight of cutting through groups like butter... Probably, she wouldn't be that lucky though. And indeed, when she treated the tutorial like she had originally played the game, it barely felt like combat, but rather like she was simply waiting for things to happen and keep pace with her. It was the tutorial, after all. Was the somewhat snarky self-deriding thought she had.

After going through the tutorial level and making it to the first real step in the game, she had her NEXT customized this time for the speed she had been hooked on and disoriented by in her playthroughs, and abandoned everything that didn't help her kill the poor sod a few meters in front a bit faster. The strongest sensors she could get so that she could have even slightly better battlefield awareness were also something she remembered to get, remembering that the little bit of extra durability was worth far less than the stronger sensors.

Somehow, this time, rather than feeling like she was going into battle, it more felt as though she was about to open a birthday present while sitting herself in the cockpit of her NEXT - she hadn't been nearly as much of a diehard fan of mechas as many others were, but even so the idea of actually getting to pilot one the way she wanted, free from worries as she planned, the only tether holding her back snapped, maybe something else snapped in her mind too. Before mission start, she checked her controls one last time, knowing that even the slightest misstep would have her rocketing through buildings and quite possibly the enemies she was supposed to dispatch. She hadn't gotten to go full blast in the tutorial, but this time, she hoped she could.

Aron the Aron Aron the Aron
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Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan
The cockpit felt more than a little cramped as Jane wriggled her arms and legs; her hands and feet responded to her mental command even with the restraints clamping them to her cockpit seat. The AMS (Allegorical Manipulation System) was working splendidly as it too responded to her hands and feet moving, translating to her multi-ton war machine flexing her fingers in front of her screen. Even after going through the awe and wonder the first two times around, it was still quite the oddity to see a giant pair of metal hands and fingers move when she willed her flesh and blood version to. The intriguing allure of the technology in this world was outstanding to witness first-hand, even if it wasn't completely explained by the wiki's back in the Real World... A last minute sweep with her eyes confirmed that everything with her NEXT was in order: the eye cameras were transmitting to her screen in perfect resolution; her radar was clean with no hostile ECM signals being detected; her Generator Output and Primal Armor gauges displayed "full" without issue; and her equipment and weapons' ammunition counters were showing greens across the board. Everything that was in the game was there on the screen; every last bit of the HUD had a place in front of her eyes for real.

"... -eck. FEN9; comms check. FEN9; comms check. Are you zoning out on me again Pathfinder?"


... Ah, she might be forgotten she was on open communications with someone. So absorbed in her owns thoughts, Jane had temporarily forgotten about the face that was staring at her from an open Communications Window on her Sensor Suite. That was another difference that Jane was just beginning to come to grips with: the characters in the game suddenly had faces to associate them with on the battlefield, and if she was being honest with herself: she didn't expect her first noteworthy character to be... cute.

May Greenfield: GA LYNX, and plucky NEXT pilot that probably had the most reasons to be liked in the whole game. Jane's memory of the game reminded on how the friendly green-haired girl on her screen was one of the few love interests in the game that stayed with the heroine regardless of the path that had been taken. She was a popular character since she was one of the few LYNX that never truly opposed the hero in the story, and it didn't hurt that she was quite the lass. The giant green Smiley Face on the NEXT's shoulder; the most jarring green paint job to ever grace a mecha; the rock-steady support that could always be called from her; it was no wonder she was one of the more standout "romanceable's" despite being a minor character in the overall story.

And looking at the portrait staring back at her, Jane found it hard to deny that May was a good looking woman. Even with only her head and upper torso visible, even with the stuffy mechanical LYNX suit giving her modesty, she was the kind of "young and busty" that was typical of any decent anime heroine. Her frame amazingly beheld the perfect balance between the delicacy of a young maiden and the beauty and allure of a young woman. Innocence was written upon her face, but a sultry sensuality crept up if Jane stared into those lustrous blue eyes for too long.

LYNX ID #19139125 - NEXT Merrygate - Callsign: May Greenfield - Collared Rank #18

A female Lynx affiliated with GA (Global Armaments), she piloted a standard biped called Merrygate. She packed quite a bit of firepower with her missiles, which was why her support is valued and respected. Her nickname, "Smiley," came from her distinctive emblem.

She piloted a strong, SUNSHINE-based craft. She can provide strong offensive support with overwhelming firepower thanks to her vast arsenal of missile launchers, bazooka, and machine gun.

She appeared as a possible partner through a wide number of GA missions. While she lacked some experience in battle, she more than made up for it with her charisma and natural piloting ability. During missions, she was able to make strategic moves and decisions when faced by dangerous circumstances. This was most notable during her battles against NEXTs. Well aware of the advantage the enemy often had against her heavyweight, she took the initiative in finding a way to make the fight an even match.

"You aren't going on one of those internal monologues, are you? The Operator warned me how quiet you can get on-mission." The massive green NEXT standing off to Jane's own machine raised a thumb's up to check if she could be seen. It looked more than odd seeing a giant ten meter tall mecha give a thumb's up to another giant ten meter tall mecha, but nobody else was around to witness the young LYNX's quirks "And I thought Ay-Pool was quiet... Anyways, let me know once you're done your checks; the Arms Fort is dropping us off at the AO (Area of Operations) in a few minutes!"

Ah right: this was the mission right after the tutorial. Hopefully things wouldn't go as wrong as they did during her first run through the tutorial...


Seeing the vast open waters to either side of her NEXT, standing on a wide four-lane road that was several tens of meters above the sea, nothing prepared Jane for the simple complexity of the road bridge she was currently standing on. Far out in the distance, she could see the distant twin skyscrapers of Line Ark standing over the tall bridge; her camera was doing well in spotting it from so far away.

"Commence mission. Destroy all Line Ark defense units."

The monotone voice of Collared's overseeing AI was still rather jarring to hear now that it was throughout her small cockpit instead of being played through headphones or speakers. Off to her NEXT's side, the distinctive green form of May's NEXT lumbered forward.

"Merrygate reporting for observation duty. Sorry Pathfinder; Collared's asked me to be their official observer for your first job, so I'm not allowed to step in unless things go sideways. This mission should be a piece of cake though; it's just a few dinky MTs and Normals are all you have to deal with. They shouldn't even get past your Primal Armor!"

That's right, May had been kind and easygoing enough to have had actionable information on Line Ark's defenses sent to her NEXT's onboard computers during the transit. She had a peek at them while she had the opportunity, so there weren't any surprises waiting for her!


Of all the units, the MT63-MK Mamluk is the most produced of its time, used by all groups from the corporations to terrorists groups around the world. Like most MTs, the Mamluk appears in large numbers and is primarily used to provide fire support to other land units. Despite having reasonable firepower for its class, the Mamluk poses minimal threat to the average NEXT, and is easily destroyed with even light weapons. It is armed with a quartet of rifles, two on each side of the upper torso, for mid-to-long-range fighting. These are backed up by a group of 12 rocket launcher tubes which the MT fires in volleys, and these rockets can cause surprising damage to a careless NEXT that becomes caught in the barrage.


The GA03-SOLARWIND is a medium to heavyweight Normal AC manufactured by GA America, offering solid armor plating and powerful weaponry by Normal standards. Although not as fast or versatile as its competitors, its stability and reliable design has made it popular with corporate militaries and armed groups around the globe, and it is currently in worldwide use.

More variations of this Normal appear than most others. The standard model that is used most often is armed with a bazooka and spread missile launcher. Some variants replace these spread missiles with dual large missile launchers, with the potential to cause considerable damage to a NEXT. The most recent variation is armed with dual vertical missile launchers, and a grenade rifle mounted on the left arm.

Out in the far distance, a small collection of reverse-legged MTs were idly standing around, most of them facing the ocean scanning for threats. None of the much smaller walkers had noticed either FEN9 or Merrygate standing on the far end of the elevated road; perhaps it was high-time Jane put her new NEXT thorough its paces and experience its blistering speed first-hand.
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That Lass Over There

Constant Panic
There was a part of her afraid to speak.

The protagonist of Armored Center 4.5 was, outside of specific scenes, silent. What would she change by not obeying that? Would she be giving up her advantage of knowledge in exchange for being able to crack a few jokes? But, remembering her mistake on the first go around, she calmed herself and thought rationally about it - as long as she didn't mind dying, which as far as she was concerned that glass had already cracked, she would never be out of info. She could just retrace her steps to where she failed, and try something different with both the knowledge from the game and her knowledge from previous attempts to back her up.

"... Sorry, Merrygate." The words followed a small, habitual cough to clear her throat. She blinked as she heard the clear, chime-like voice that came out her own mouth, but put it to the side for the moment. With a guilty smile, "Comms are fine. I can hear you loud and clear." Having a face to the voice, and those little moments the game couldn't capture through dialogue alone like May's body language, really made everything feel so different. Having been reminded of what she was supposed to be doing Jane stopped marveling over the feeling of moving a war machine with her mind and got to checking systems, once again enjoying the unexplained perk of being able to do things the had never been taught as if she had been doing them since she was little. The checks didn't take too long, the instruments replacing... Or, that had been represented by, the HUD were all very clear and concise in portraying the situation of the NEXT. "All systems green." Jane had taken a glance at May as she did so, even controlling her NEXT's head to turn and look at Merrygate. Once a loser with loser humor, always a loser with loser humor.

On the journey to the mission site she took time to think about what she would be doing from then on. She wanted to do something the original game didn't allow for; would she even be able to? She already knew what the best choices were from thinking far too much about the game when she had been playing it - the Corps, while dreadfully horrid both in regards to their priorities and their... issues, in how they treat human life, they were still the best choice from a resources and manpower perspective. That was her original assessment, at least. The Corps were just in a better position to research and develop a solution if there was one, or organize an exodus if there was not. Obviously, she had never been able to put that theory to the test.

She thought back on what she could remember of the game's story, timeline, and characters, attempting to put together a bit of a timeline for herself. What missions to do when, who to kill and who to save, who she would need to attempt not necessarily to romance but at least establish connections with so that they could play a part in leading the Corps and humanity to a better future. Maybe because of the type of game it was, but the bulk of her list ended up focusing on the Collared, for better and worse. Unfortunately... Most everyone who sided with ORCA would likely have to die.

She found herself slightly glad that May wasn't one of the ones she was going to need to kill, having seen the LYNX as a real, breathing person.

Not long after that morbid thought occurred to her they arrived at the mission site and Jane put her thoughts aside, focusing on what she needed to do immediately.

Jane reviewed the data May had given her one more time, linking distant memories with the images and database entries. She wondered if she would somehow find a way to die again... As she mused over her poor performance in a dead timeline, she rubbed her arms like they were sore, in reality trying to get a handle on the trembling she was experiencing. Even though her body was acting so rebellious, her mind was clear, and it confused her for the minute she let herself wonder on it. ... No use thinking on something that won't be answered, I guess. That was the decision she gave herself when she felt like she might be taking too long to get the party started. The arm of FEN9 raised in a half-hearted gesture of farewell, Jane having her NEXT begin the walk forward with slow, heavy steps carrying the intoxicating power of a war machine. "Thank you, Merrygate. I'll try not to disappoint." In her efforts to calm herself Jane's face was stiff and expressionless, but there was a bit of a sparkle in her eye that she wasn't aware of, and hardly capable of hiding.

Innumerable plans for approach appeared in her mind, but they were swept aside with the comfortable realization that, as it was now, all she had to do was advance. Nothing here could stop her. Even as she reached the edge of the bridge, she continued stepping forward, FEN9 falling from the bridge to the ocean with the remarkable weight of gravity, and right as the unit's feet were moments from falling into water she hit the thrusters full force, a wake of waves being carved in the water's surface by her NEXT's incomprehensible speed. In her moment of shock it was reflexes that led her to change trajectory and evade the incoming fire, though there was hardly any time to adjust to the speed before she had already reached her targets.

In just a moment, three enemies had already became piles of superheated scrap as she danced between a cluster with her laser blades, and as she advanced she quickly boosted to the side to avoid rifle fire, retaliating with her cannon at just the right time to nail a MT near the center of its core. Every movement felt so incredibly natural, and somehow she found herself dodging shots based on where she saw barrels moving to point - something she had never learned to do with her own body, having lived a peaceful life before. In a way, she even started playing with the enemies - before the reinforcements with more powerful weaponry showed up she blinded the enemy with the best shot at her with a FLICKER shot, and swept to her side without her laser blade extended, knocking aside the rifles of the MT she had put between her and the rest. So things like that are allowed now, was her simple thought as the laser blade extended and tore upwards through the helpless scrap metal, noting the maneuver for later in the odd case that it would ever be better for her than having the laser blade extended to do an actual cut. Though, she couldn't think of such a situation off the top of her head.

Flying to the side more FLICKERs were shot out with eerie precision for something that required manual aiming, blinding three of the MTs aiming at her, and with a fly by cut the superheated plasma of her laser sword slid through the eleventh MT that she had blinded first, before FEN9 burst forward into the crowd of MTs that had been trying to gain distance for hope of evading her lethal reach. In a vague nod to memories of replaying until she could kill all the MTs before the reinforcing Normals arrived, FEN9 danced with brief flashes of light optimized to not waste a single bit of energy, leaving glowing wrecks in its wake as stray missiles exploded on the surroundings, failing to find the NEXT as it went faster than they could hope to keep up with.

Standing amongst the wreckage, the reinforcements took a moment to appear on her radar, and there was a burning feeling in her body much different than the pain she was used to as she breathed in and out in the cockpit. Watching her radar, she turned her NEXT to face a specific way, and the moment the first Solarwind popped out from the urban environment the Kojima cannon claimed another victim. Nine, with no real reason, she started counting the remaining targets. From standing still her thrusters went full throttle towards two mechs that were sticking unwisely close to each other - Seven, their superheated halves exploded, something she had been expecting to happen much more often than it had due to the conditioning of games. She dashed toward the next target without care for the hopeless missiles attempting to follow her or the rockets she was managing to dodge on virtue of reflexes and the speed with which she could shoot off to the side, repeatedly appearing directly in the face of enemies as they seemed to have gotten a bit smarter and spread out, something she didn't expect from the computer of the game. Six, she let her boosters cut as she recognized her energy deficiency, allowing the missiles that would have found her as a sitting duck to collide against the building the drop put between them. Watching her radar, Jane walked her mecha through the street toward the oncoming dot, and landed a FLICKER straight into the enemy, sidestepping the reactionary blind fire and getting close to let the back-mounted slug gun finish it, not wanting to sit still for any longer. Five, the counting was starting to bore her as she looked at the destroyed Normal, boosting up into the air to resume her slaughter.

In the end, she had to hunt down the last five as they stopped chasing her so actively, one trying to set a trap for her and another attempting to run, but they were all cut down in momentary flashes of bright light, without care for their clever movements and hard effort.

Now that she was here, personally experiencing it, she could finally appreciate the absolute difference there was between NEXTs and other mecha in the game. Closing her eyes while still keeping her ears sharp for alerts, Jane fell into a relaxed smile, breathing in and out with deep, slow breaths, even though her body hardly felt exhausted. "Merrygate, targets have been eliminated. Mission accomplished." She opened her eyes knowing that it wouldn't be good to relax in enemy territory, but she seemed completely different from before the mission. Her tone of voice was sweeter, not at all carrying the slight hint of distance it had before, and her face, rather than forcibly holding back any expressions she might have, was relaxed into an innocent smile. A child who had found their favorite toy. Exhilarated, the lives that had just ended weren't even a factor in Jane's thoughts as she reflected on the feeling of moving at such high speeds and the skills she had displayed like they were her own, even surpassing what she had done at her peak skill level in the game given this absolute control of her mecha. Moving with her, FEN9's shoulders rose and fell on their servos as she subconsciously tried to keep the shivers down with those deep breaths.

"Is it time to head home?" Somewhat self-aware, though completely misunderstanding herself as being tired after the conflict, Jane wondered if she looked silly in her senior LYNX's eyes.
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Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan
With a low whooshing and the deep whine of boosters flaring, the hulking heavyweight Merrygate glided along the pavement until it came to a skidding halt not too far from the newly battle-tested LYNX. Compared to the sleek, dagger-like contours of her NEXT, Merrygate was an unsightly array of hard edges that came together as a colossal suit of angular armor armed to the teeth with projectile weaponry. Perhaps its pilot wasn't as geared towards solo combat like the rookie she was looking after for the past few minutes, but much could be compensated for by natural piloting ability.

"Well done. An almost perfect performance considering it's your first go in the real world, but don't get too high on yourself yet, Rookie. MTs and Normals are nothing to write home about to any good LYNX." May's face had a congratulatory expression as she winked into existence on Jane's screen. She looked happy that Jane had proven capable of taking care of herself on the job, though part of that was likely down to the other girl not having to step in with her own NEXT. "Operator, this is Merrygate. We've confirmed all targets destroyed; mission complete."

"Mission Completion verified; beginning wire transfer of funds. NEXT FEN9 has been evaluated to be a beneficial asset to Collared; the League looks forward to doing business with you."

Hearing the monotone voice was not going to get any easier if this was what Jane had to contend with during solo operation. On the bright side, she was now armed with new knowledge about herself that she would be able to put to good use: her NEXT had worked beautifully for what she had set out to make it be, and her piloting ability was far better than what she had initially pegged it to be. God only knew just how much further she could push herself and FEN9 once she really started digging into the meat of the story campaign...

"Heh, I know that face Pathfinder; it gets tough figuring yourself out when you're in the hot seat. The combat shakes go away as you get more and more familiar with the jobs- hm?" A faint beeping noise piqued May's attention away from her comms screen, averting her gaze to pay attention to something Jane couldn't see from her end. "Uh, hold for a few FEN9. NEXT Merrygate reporting... ... ... About 5 K's from Line Ark... ... ... ... ... Got it; tell the suits that I'm expecting half the pay by the time I get there." The smile on her face suddenly felt a little forced when she turned her gaze back to Jane. "Sorry FEN9; work call's pulling me into another job, so this is where we're gonna have to part ways. You got a good head on your shoulders, so try not to lose it pissing off some Collared LYNX, eh?"


Suddenly aware that she was no longer in complete control of herself, Jane's head flooded with the overwhelming weight of what had just happened in the past hour. Her body worked on autopilot through the robotic motions of winding down from her first true mission; her will pushing her blackish-purple NEXT into withdrawing from the carnage she had freshly doled out. Her mind had fully checked out by the time she had come back to the confines of the same spartan room she had started the game in, and an internal query of what had transpired between her finishing her mission and ending up in the room had left her with nothing but a big blank in her memory. If that sensation of not being in control of herself was going to be a common occurrence, then Jane had every right to be worried for herself...


Nothing had really changed as Jane sat on the lumpy bed of her lonely metal room for the third time in her existence within her new reality, hands firmly holding a screen that was showing all sorts of details she couldn't pay attention to. Menial details like her Callsign or the technical specifications of her NEXT she didn't pay any more attention to than a cursory gloss-over with her tired eyes; her personal account being 200,000 credits richer was a nice boon for what had been a shakedown. Wasn't the screen in her hands displaying the Main Menu from Armored Center 4.5?

... Details aside, Jane was now completely left alone as to what she wanted to do moving forward. The three new missions that cropped up on her "Mission Select" Menu on her screen were vague in detail; only displaying the mission name, the mission's client, objective in one short sentence, and the payout if she succeeded. They did a good enough job telling her what she needed to know in the most barebones way possible, and the briefings only happened when she accepted the mission...

Sometimes it was hard to remember that Armored Center 4.5 had came out more than a decade ago; she couldn't entirely fault the game for its anachronistic design...


Client: Global Armaments America
Objective: Defeat all enemies
Area: Naval Port of Mimir
Reward: 300,000c

Client: Interior Union
Objective: Defeat enemy Arms Fort
Area: Northwest Sea
Reward: 400,000c

Client: Omer Science Technology
Objective: Defeat all enemies
Area: Deep Mining Facility B7
Reward: 300,000c

Meanwhile, back at Line Ark around this the same time...




"NEXT Enoch. Send info on the lone attacker."





That Lass Over There

Constant Panic
Jane only managed to get a small nod in in response to May's words before her mind blanked and she found herself in her room once more. Startled by the unexpected change she looked around for a few seconds, figuring out what happened. The realization that arrived after that bit of thought made her fall back onto the bed, disappointed in the sore lack of time she had between the mission finishing and her being hoisted back to her room. Ignoring the mission selection screen for a moment she went into a notepad application - because apparently apocalypse Earth doesn't have paper for her to use - and noted down the two things that had just popped into her head, relating to her time management. If she were constrained to purely mission time, which is likely to be almost entirely occupied by fighting with little room for conversation, and the few out of mission character interactions there were, then it was highly likely she wouldn't be able to break entirely free.

Things to test 1. Restrictions on movement outside missions/game events. Can initiate encounters with capture targets and other npcs on my own?
2. Safety nets around missions. Is there a time limit for missions where there's a bit more freedom in engagement, like elimination missions?

With her notes done and made she set the screen aside for the time being, thinking back to the mission selection options. For now, at least, there wasn't any obvious priorities, so she could probably just go with the ones she wanted to. She didn't feel any immediate pressure to test her theories either; her gut told her that she wouldn't be getting very far in this run of things as far as trying to save the world, or at least the people on said world, went. Even so, she should definitely make sure she tested everything she could get the chance to. What would she need, what could she get? What are the differences from the game that might affect things? She had already felt how not being constrained to premade animations affected the combat, but what else might have been affected? She didn't have a good enough memory to know if May's lines had been any different than in game, but it felt like they were subtly different. That may have just just been the effect of adding body language to the mix though.

... I suppose I should go ahead and pick one. She didn't really feel like performing the test to see the restrictions on her movement at the moment, so that was thing left for her to do. When she tried to think of choosing one, however, her mind blanked, and her fingers tapped on the bed just short of where she had dropped the tablet-like screen. I'd rather do an Order Match? It definitely was true. Rather than fighting swarms of enemies or big bosses, the idea of the equal playing field, one on one competition of skill was infinitely more appealing to her. I don't see the option, though.

And then a thought occurred to her, and she had a moment of dread. Is... Is this hard mode or not? I don't remember the number of enemies in the first mission to tell. She didn't know if she could actually do anything about it if it was, but knowing whether it was definitely trumped walking into a mission to get surprised by an enemy NEXT showing up mid mission as reinforcements. Looking at the mission list, she thought for a moment, and then decided on the mission she would do first. I remember these missions being hell on hard versus their normal versions. I don't know if it'll be the best way to find out, but it's certainly better than nothing. She picked up the screen and accepted the "Attack on B7" mission, wondering if she would once again experience that disconcerting loss of control.

Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan
Jane's fears and wondering were sadly confirmed as her motions suddenly became robotic and and artificial in nature. Her senses were vaguely detecting sensations of movement in her eyes and mouth; she barely registered the sensation of her fingers tapping away at the grimy plastic/glass screen she was holding. Was she having a conversation with someone on the other side of that screen? Her hearing had become muted as if she was wearing a quality noise-blocking headset, and her eyes were blurred with phantom tears that weren't actually there.

Before she knew it, Jane was back to reality. She was still in the same room clutching the same screen; nothing had appeared to have changed since she accepted the mission. The recurrence of her losing all sense of control was beginning to leave an abnormal sense of normality with how often she was suffering it through; it was like jumping in and out of a random daydream, drifting into a drug-like limbo only to be blinked back into reality in an instant. Nothing told her how long she'd spend floating between the spots of agency she was afforded, though one or two looks outside the window she had in her room could likely tell her (though, she had no idea how to work the shutters that were perpetually shut whenever she was conscious).

Before she could contemplate her situation any further, the LYNX's restored hearing attracted her attention back to the screen. Ah, she was being briefed on her accepted mission...

"Okay, here's the mission."


- Clear all defense forces protecting B7 - 300,000c Reward -


"The client is Omer Science Technology. The objective is to destroy the defenses at TORUS Corporation's B7 Deep Mining Facility."


"The main enemy force consist of Normals and autonomous defense drones. Depending on how many of them there are, they should be no problem for a NEXT."


"The automated defense system will try to close the external barricades. You have permission from the client to destroy them; this shouldn't damage the facility itself."

"Briefing over."


"This is an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties with Omer Science Technology. Not a bad deal, right?"

Some undisclosed amount of time later...

Jane was falling.

The sensation of weightlessness typically associated with freefalling was conspicuously absent in FEN9's cockpit, yet Jane couldn't help but feel like she was falling. It had been over a minute since she brazenly boosted her NEXT down the single transport shaft leading into B7, and her surroundings had yet to change. The inky void below her metal legs and the contrasting greys of steel and concrete holding the elevator shaft together were all her eye camera had to offer through her screen, and the monotony of seeing the same crisscrossing patterns of the elevator shaft's support structure was starting to feel like a never-ending nightmare. Jumping down had definitely been the right call to make since she had been falling for a minute straight, though blowing up the elevator platform might've been a bit unwarranted.

... Eh, she probably didn't need to worry about it.

"Altitude 3.7km below sea level. Approaching Deep Mining Facility B7."

With only seconds to spare since the auditory warning from the AI, Jane braced herself as her NEXT finally reached the bottom of the elevator shaft, tossing up sparks and dust as it punched a small crater in the steel foundations. Jane herself hadn't been reduced to a bloody pulp by the sudden stop, none of the inertia having made it through to her isolated cockpit. Her entrance was bound to have attracted attention, it not out the whole facility on alert; her landing had all of the noise and gracelessness of a falling asteroid.

"An unidentified craft has infiltrated the facility. It is believed to be an enemy NEXT. All units assume battle ready formation."

Yep, that was to be expected. Strange thing that she could listen in on the radio chatter of her enemies when she logically wasn't meant to; bless whatever God had put her in this world that that particular detail had carried over for her.

With Jane quickly weaning off the slight disorientation that came with going from falling to standing still in an instant, she automatically began taking stock of her situation. Wherever she had landed was wide open, largely devoid of details save the wreckage and pieces of the elevator platform she had destroyed before jumping. Judging by the general sense of isolation and the fact she wasn't immediately being shot at, it was more than a guess to say that she landed in an empty room, and none of the security forces had found her yet.

"Commence Mission: Eliminate all enemy defense units."

... Yes, thanks AI; as if Jane needed a reminder as to what she needed to-


The noise broke the silence that had reigned, turning FEN9 around and drawing its pilot toward what had to be the only entrance/exit further in and out of the facility. A massive set of bulkhead doors, the ones Jane would typically associate with things like large spaceships and sci-fi military bases, had just clamped themselves shut. One good look with a critical eye told the LYNX on how they looked impervious to small arms fire. This wasn't much of a problem since FEN9 came armed with hard hitting weaponry; it wouldn't be so far to imagine that Jane could simply cut the doors away or blast them apart with either her Slug Gun or Kojima Cannon. God knew what laid beyond the door, though a vague recall of the briefing reminded her that a long and narrow corridor was past those doors. There had to be security drones and reaction teams waiting for her once she blew a hole through and announced her presence...
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That Lass Over There

Constant Panic
Even as the screens around her displaying the outside world showed that she had stopped falling, her stomach still felt like it was two or three stories below her and falling further. The human mind really could be silly and dream up whatever sensations it wanted to, Jane realized with a sigh, feeling like she had just watched a video of someone falling a terribly... Well, actually, I did, I guess. She interrupted herself and sat still for a moment, listening to the broadcast and letting her body rest to realize it was fine. If it weren't for the thought of how long the elevator may have taken, she might have regretted her choosing the showy entrance. Since it was the exact same thing she was liable to have done on her own, she didn't even have a realization of the game's guiding hand in her entrance, spared the icky feeling she gets every time she thinks of her stolen autonomy.

After a few moments of rest she finally felt well enough to continue on, FEN9 being urged forward toward the bulkhead that was her way forward. Remembering the map of the level shown in the briefing and the vague impressions she had from a level she didn't do often in a game that it had been a long time since she last played, it wasn't difficult to expect what a long corridor would be used for in trying to stop her incursion. Wasn't this a shooting gallery...? She couldn't remember what exactly was through the other side, just that it took a few attempts to get this mission right. The tight underground spaces weren't exactly her friend, after all.

Taking her time before opening the bulkhead as her enemies seemed more interested in holding their entrenched positions rather than taking the initiative to eliminate her, she tried to think carefully on what to do once she opened the door. Even if she could keep coming back, dying and having to redo missions... Wouldn't be fun. On the other hand though, "If I'm just going to get shimmied between each point in time, isn't it going to be unexpectedly short...?" Her realization and musing escaped her lips, her mind being brought off-track. A game was counted in the tens of hours, after all. "And, if it's going to end up going so fast, what happens wh-" She immediately shook her head, choked down her words, and twitched her hands that had much more strength than she had gotten used to. If it's just missiles down this hall, I can probably evade by hugging a wall and changing last minute... No, it'll definitely be those since those were the only long ranged weapons in the briefing.

Coming to her realization and settling on her plan, Jane moved one of FEN9's arms upward, while moving the rest of the NEXT's mechanical body to take a slightly lower ready stance. Tempted by that one Stellar Wars movie with the green lightsword piercing through the heavy metal door she extended her laser blade and cut through, almost disappointingly quickly; the blade was made to cut through war machines in quick slashes, so maybe the quick work was to be expected of her weapon of choice.

The moment the cut out chunk of the bulkhead fell out with a nudge FEN9 blasted forward, trying to gain as much distance as possible in a flash while the enemies got a lock on her. A bright streak of light, manually aimed in lieu of a lock on that would take too long for her liking, flashed from her cannon in hopes of clipping one of the enemies she expected to be at the end of the tunnel if not outright destroying them, and as planned she went to the right wall of the corridor, hugging it tightly while thinking of the angle she would need to boost into to both evade incoming missiles and avoid crashing into the other side. She also had an idea she wanted to try, inspired by some of the shows she had watched... Yet again, as she got into combat, all that was on her mind were these playful ideas and reflexes that instantly reaped the lives of those in her reach.

Ah... I remembered the missile spam was bad, but seriously... The incoming swarm left quite an impression on her, but she still waited for the last second to boost out of the way of the swarm, igniting her right laser blade as she passed it - a few explosions occurred as the warheads caught in the way set off from the heat, satisfying her childish expectations for some explosions. Even enjoying the dance of melee combat, she still fancied the powerful impression of a light show and fireworks from ranged combat. Watching the show as she passed in that brief moment she realized that the explosives hadn't actually attempted to track her sudden movement, and had a realization as she looked back to her front. Rockets... Don't home in on targets. They're different than missiles. Well, it still worked. With the blinding speed of her NEXT, FEN9 was on top of the enemies in another moment, denying the opportunity for another salvo. Watching her surroundings carefully for the more melee-outfitted Normals she cleaved through the enemies in the corridor, quickly turning what was an excellent firing line into a glowing hot scrapyard, using her missiles and Kojima cannon as needed between the flashes of her blades and the shots of the slug cannon mounted on FEN9's back. In the end, nothing that managed to threaten her showed up, the enemies seeming to have not gotten too much smarter than their game equivalents.

It was only her second rodeo, but the combat shakes had already gone; maybe because she knew that it was only the first area that she had cleared out, and that there would be more enemies to take care of. Her body did feel a bit sore though, as she kept it still and calm in the cockpit. For the moment, at least, she wasn't being challenged with anything she couldn't take. Embarrassingly, she had a few stray shots make contact with her in the melee, but those few had done so little damage that even if she had a bit more chip damage done to her in each chamber beyond, she would be fine, her Primal Armor left in tact.

"On to the next one, I guess..." FEN9 moved toward the next bulkhead and the chamber beyond, ready to get the mission over with.

Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan
The boosters attached to FEN9's legs whined with sharp pitch as Jane slowly boosted through the long corridor keeping her from the rest of the mining facility, gliding past the burning wreckages of her latest victims. The quadruped tanks she had put to the laser sword toasted merrily in the claustrophobic tunnels of B7, their rocket tubes detonating in blasts of bright orange as flames licked at the radioactive particle shields keeping FEN9 from harm. It had been a little embarrassing for Jane to have made such effort in evading wildly inaccurate rocketfire, at least the overkill effort had meant her taking negligible amounts of AP damage to her NEXT frame...


Referred to as an autonomous drone, the GAERQ9-SPINNE2 appears to be a computer-controlled quadruped MT armed with a powerful battery of large rockets. They often function as artillery or defensive units, usually accompanied by Normals. Although their weaponry is quite damaging, the slow speed of the rocket and lack of guidance make it fairly easy to avoid, and the platform itself is minimally armoured.

Contrary to the design of most Normal ACs, the SELJQ is a lightweight unit designed for close-range combat. While most other Normals focus on defense and firepower, Manufacturer Eqbal attempted to utilize its speed doctrine. The SELJQ is lightliy armored, although it is quite agile for its classification, allowing it to close in on its targets quickly.

The SELJQ is equipped with very high-grade weaponry for a Normal AC, comparable to that of a NEXT. It is armed with a shotgun similar in appearance to the CHARON, and a powerful physical blade called the Pile Bunker, visually similar to the MUDAN. In some cases the SELJQ is equipped with a laser blade, although the appearance of the weapon is identical to the Pile Bunker.

"On to the next one, I guess..." FEN9 moved toward the next bulkhead and the chamber beyond, ready to get the mission over with.

The next set of sealed bulkheads were almost comically easy to cut through when FEN9's laser blades flared to life; the signature lavender of the 07-MOONLIGHT's superheated ions and plasma tore amber chunks away from the steel and concrete fortifications. No sooner was her blackish-purple NEXT visible to the otherside however, did flurries of buckshot and bazooka rounds pelt the reinforced door from the other side. FEN9's passive sonar pinged madly as a messy cluster of red dots bounced around the tiny radar screen; Normals if their sensor signatures were to be believed.

A contingent of SOLARWIND had assembled in ambush for Jane. Bazookas and shotguns were readily waiting in the hands of nervous Normal pilots, waiting for the slightest signal to begin unloading, and the more twitchy SELJQ's that complimented them itched to test their mass-production pile bunkers against the might of a NEXT's armor. The volume of fire and enemy bodies alone would be enough to put Jane on the backfoot if she didn't do this the right way...

It was a good thing NEXTs had such countermeasures against the inevitable tactics of overwhelming numbers.

Jane took deep and steady breaths as she went into an intense battle-focus; her legs tensed in contrast to her limber arms as she leaned forward in a predatory stance. Her Overed Booster began to channel the Kojima Particles her generator was outputting, casting an eerie white-green glow to her machine as she prepared her gambit; if she let rip too early she would be stuck with a mob of angry Normals without her Primal Armor; too late and her Primal Armor would take too much fire to leave enough Kojima Particles for what she was about to do. Using her Kojima Cannon was right out since she needed every last particle her NEXT's generator could churn out, which left the ugly job of forcing the increasingly damaged bulkhead door open to her Slug Gun. The KAMAL Slug Gun comically looked like a giant shotgun that had been welded on to FEN9's back, but the sheer power from its buckshot could perforate smaller machines with judicious amounts of lead, if not outright blow them to smithereens.

When FEN9's boosters screeched in readiness, the KAMAL roared with a blast of fire and buckshot. The metal doors didn't stand a chance under the violent haymaker of the Slug Gun, tearing away into pieces with the agonizing groan of steel being rended. Jane wasted no time the instant she saw her window open; FEN9 blitzed into the room while her enemies were shocked by the force behind the surprise breach. FEN9's Overed Booster was blindingly bright with fierce glow of concentrated Kojima Particles as her thrusters shot her straight into the middle of the what-she-had-now-realised-was-a-tiny-connecting-hall.

By the time the Normal pilots could gather their wits, Jane heard the wondrous notification from her NEXT's AI.


When FEN9's cameras came back online, the scene Jane beheld was one of unparalleled destruction.

All around the untouched silhouette of her NEXT laid the debris that had once been a whole squadron of Normals. Partially melted AC parts laid scattered among the blackened lumps of what had once been 5 meter tall war machines, their metal shapes having melted away into unrecognizable masses by the blast. The air was sick and soupy with Kojima Particles, casting the room in faint hues of green as the radiation ate away the rubble Jane had just created. Not even the room itself was spared from the damage; as the layers of steel and concrete making up the walls and ceiling looked ready to crumble at the slightest breeze. Two bulkhead partitions to her front and left had been blown into nonexistence by her, revealing even more damage that had spread from Jane's insane move.

Such was the terrifying power of the NEXT, and the Kojima Particles that made it so special.


While Kojima Particles were widely known for their defensive applications (Primal Armor), it was discovered that they could be weaponized.

First appearing in the prototype unit known as the [00-ARETHA], Assault Armor allowed a unit to expend it's Kojima particle shielding to create an enormous 360 degree explosion around the unit; the compressing Kojima Particles in the Boost Unit typically reserved for OverBoosts created a devastating explosion that was only outdone in power and scale by nuclear weapons (think the Beirut explosion and you get a good idea of this power). Doing so completely depleted the unit's and any surrounding units Primal Armor given the shared resource of Kojima Particles. The radiation and pollution emitted from Assault Armor makes them dangerous when within miles of any settlement, which is why their use is heavily discouraged outside all-out warfare.

Despite its application, the technology did not become widespread until significantly later on after the destruction of Anatolia. It did see sporadic usage however, such as in the case of the Sol Dios cannons which operate around the same concept. Omer and TORUS are the only companies that have deeply invested in the technology, although some such as Cougar have developed experimental parts. Some older models such as Akva Vit's still exist.

That Lass Over There

Constant Panic

"Well, I hope they weren't planning on using this place for themselves." Jane looked around the charred, semi-molten scrapyard with her eyes a bit unfocused, unable to get a good look at the destruction she had wrought. She had just sort of... Impulsively done it, remembering that Assault Armor was effective, and now she had polluted an area on top of turning it into a site possibly not even fit for salvage. The bulkheads had just given up on even existing, and while not a professional she was pretty sure that the room itself wouldn't be structurally sound for much longer left as is. The entire part of half the roof being blown to shreds definitely did not help in her evaluation of the situation. She was pretty sure that this level of detail in the damages sustained by essentially setting off a small, fictional, radioactive warhead hadn't been demonstrated in the original game. And for some reason, her mind hadn't thought of the possibility of a more realistic approach to the damages done even with how many of the mechs she had been bisecting up till now neglected their developer given duty of exploding into nonexistence for the sake of saving graphical memory.

Looking to the two paths that had been forcefully peeled open by the explosion, Jane slowly pushed FEN9 toward the one she remembered being the shorter path, thinking that it would be better to limit the backtracking she would have to go through to get to the other one. The less time she spent on these menial missions now that she felt warmed up to the combat, in her comfort zone of controlling the pace with high-speed melee, the better she would be. There were a lot of missions to go through, and she still needed to figure out what she had available to her in terms of operating outside the game's old limits. Who she might be able to use, the flexibility she would have on communications, and... No, actually, shouldn't she check when she'll respawn before she got too far in? She knew from her initial mistake of not following her normal playstyle that she wouldn't stay dead, but she didn't know for certain whether she would just return to before the mission she died in, or if she would return all the way to the start. Dying in the tutorial didn't really give her an answer for that. She thought about letting herself get killed in the next room, but at there was nothing she would really need a second shot at in this level either in difficulty or in trying to interact with an NPC/enemy, so it felt like it would probably be a waste.

Making her way through the short hall she found herself outside another bulkhead, and stopped to consider how she would approach this room as she remembered the devastation that her usage of Assault Armor had wrought on the room. With another one of those moments where she wasn't entirely sure where the instinct came from, she opened up the briefing that she had received on part of the screen that made up her vision. She read over the mission statement, focusing on the phrasing. 'Clear out defense forces', not 'destroy the facility'... To some extent, she was probably supposed to leave the place itself in tact. So, mentally, she marked Assault Armor as a last resort for this mission, and considered her alternatives. First, she would try to bait the enemies out the door - maybe stir up some ire by actually remembering that her loadout included some range in her slug gun and kojima cannon - and if that didn’t work it’d be time for plan B, or: zip around like an annoying little gnat (ignoring the size of FEN9 relative to the Normals) and just ‘git gud’ as a certain game’s fanbase would tell her to do. Worst that happens is she gets her test on when she comes back from death, actually, so the more she thought about it the less worried she was.

Anticlimactically, however, the moment she ripped a smaller hole in the bulkhead to limit the number of Normals that could give chase by taking advantage of the more real aspects of living directly in the game world, the enemies started closing in, and it only took one shot of the KAMAR to really poke the hornets’ nest. Better, the enemies coming through the hole after her blocked many of their allies’ firing angles, meaning that it ended up being a nasty cleanup affair of blasting Normals in the faces with slug rounds and surprise laser sword flashes while most of the time being able to avoid the attempted counter fire. She wasn’t able to get into a flow with the gruesome business of having set up a kill box of sorts so the combat ended up quite the sloppy affair, her jerky, spontaneous reactions to the situation not feeling as natural as the times where things just seemed to line up.

Eventually, all the enemies that would chase her through the hole ended up as scattered scrap in the hall, and with the room’s population cut sharply there wasn’t any issue now with rushing in and eliminating the remaining enemies. With that, at least, she was able to feel a little more fluid and in the lead with FEN9’s speed in display.

Aron the Aron

I ate the front of a sedan
There was no glory in victory when it was won through underhanded means, but such concepts like Honor and Valor had long been lost to the world of Armored Center 4.5. Jane herself had discarded the notions of playing fair, stuck in a monotonous cycle of drawing hapless Normals away from their comrades and quickly cutting them down before rinsing and repeating. It was instances like those that showcased one of the downsides her Melee-oriented NEXT: the inability to deal with swarms of lesser enemies. Her machine had been built with the idea that any NEXT she squared off against wouldn't be able to touch her before she was too close to counter, her heavy firepower skewed towards dealing catastrophic levels of damage to a single target.

Unfortunately, these weren't NEXTs, and mook-tier enemies hadn't the suicidal intention of facing FEN9 alone. Thus, the mind-numbing strategy that sometimes plagued Mecha Games.

In the end, she hadn't suffered much when she burst through the torn bulkheads in a wild dance of Laser Blades, dancing her massive NEXT around man-sized rockets and cleaving the AI controlled tanks in two before they could provide a follow-up to their initial salvos. FEN9 had a few new blast marks scorched onto its otherwise pristine paintjob, but nothing compared to the molten halves she had just finished dealing with.


... Ah.

There was also one little issue of FEN9 not being truly equipped for missions longer than a quick skirmish. Sure she couldn't exactly run out of ammunition when her Laser Blades had none to begin with, but it was common sense and a general feeling of pragmatism that advised against bringing a sword to a gunfight. She wasn't some top-tier pilot with the plot armor to dance her way around any mission with nary a scratch; the memory of her disastrous first attempt at the tutorial was still too fresh in her head to ignore yet.

A quick scan of her system displays told her the source of the warnings: she had completely blown through her ammunition reserves for her Kojima Cannon, and her Slug Gun had only enough for a few more blasts before being useless as well. It wasn't a complete catastrophe though, as an emergency communication was suddenly pushed through.



Well, things hadn't gone exactly as Jane had likely expected; the unusual cut-off of the mission was just another reminder that the world she was in was not a carbon copy of the game she had played oh so long ago. The destruction she unleashed with her Assault Armor was nothing like the game ever properly presented on a screen, and the wreckages of what had once been Normals and their human pilots were a morbid sight that had been spared in the games. Still though, she got paid to clear out a complex mining complex and that's what she did... even if she left it barely intact with her stunts.


Nothing had really changed with Jane's room as she was allowed a brief respite to walk around and explore her surroundings. The small bed was still lumpy and uncomfortable to sit on, let alone sleep in, and the lack of personal effects made for an unstimulating experience seeing what nooks and crannies her room hid.

That left only a few things to do...




After four missions of varying difficulties, Jane was just about ready to call it: FEN9 was pretty awful at dealing with crowds.

She was already aware that her NEXT setup wasn't the most optimal for running through a lot of the campaign, in fact she was aware that the general opinion was a rifle and laser blade in tandem for optimal efficiency and versatility, but she didn't want to shake the build that she had grown so attached to. The past four missions however did well to place doubts to the veracity of dual blades. Fighting big targets like Arms Forts whenever they showed up were a complete joke thanks to their hilarious quirk of being weak to Laser weaponry, but when FEN9 was being swarmed by AI drones, Normals, and warships all flinging their entire arsenal at her, suddenly the wish that she had a gun or missiles crept up in the back of her mind. At least she was several hundreds of thousands of credits richer; more than enough to make a couple of impulse purchases if she wanted a complete overhaul of FEN9.

Now she was getting to the good parts. With which missions she had been progressing, she now had three missions she knew she would be inclined to take on. Two of the three available had at least one ally who would become crucial to the story later on, while the last... well, Jane would be lying if she said that being able to meet May again was unwanted...


Client: Global Armaments America
Objective: Defeat all enemies
Area: Richland Agricultural Plant
Reward: 500,000c
AN: May Greenfield is an optional ally here

Client: Interior Union
Objective: Defeat enemy NEXT
Area: Old Peace CIty
Reward: 500,000c
AN: Wynne D. Fanchon is an optional ally here

Client: Omer Science Technology
Objective: Defeat all enemies
Area: Former Chinese Shanghai
Reward: 500,000c
AN: Otsdarva is an optional ally here

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