You’re not sure how long passes before your squad eventually shows up. All the while watching the motionless corpse, like watching a movie.
It’s real, it’s not real, it’s real, it’s not real.
“Target neutralized, gear intact. We’re going to need a pickup at…”
The surreal separation ends, and you’re still there, kneeling before the man you murdered. The heavy weight of emotion presses down on your chest.
Ivan checks over the body, and subtlety secures something that it was carrying, Blissless crosses her arms and looks back toward the direction of the academy. Luca wraps an arm around you and helps you to your feet. But you, you can’t stop gazing at the awkwardly contorted corpse.
The transport finally appears over the sea to the west, silhouetted by the quickly setting light.
No, that’s not right. That’s not what won’t leave you now.
Closer, but still, no.
Yes. But at what?
The shadows don’t ever seem to leave the transport, even as it hovers just overhead. It’s only the hum of its engine, and the rapidly displaced air that tells you it’s finally time to leave this place.
Someone must’ve taken care of it, because you’re already hovering back over the sea.
A small figure stops in front of you. “Oren, it’s-“
Luca’s sympathetic voice is quickly cut off. He’s moved aside, as Ivan sits across from you.
He waits for you to look up before speaking. “Alann Sardiss.” His words entirely devoid of the usual excessive flair. “Fifth squad deserter, an average performing soldier who became known for his increasing erratic behavior and insubordination.”
“Ivan, maybe now is not the best time.” Luca interjects.
Ivan merely shakes his head before continuing. “Eventually, when en route to a mission, he turned on his fellow squad mates, injuring all three of them, and hijacked the transport vessel, killing the pilot. That’s the man you killed.”
His words hang in the air, even after he said them.
His fingers drum rapidly on the knee of his frame. “They sent our squad, or more specifically, me, because I have experience dealing with such runaways.”
It’s happened before?
“And what happened today, shouldn’t have happened at all…” He takes a sideways glance at Blissless before returning to you. “The consequences of which, will fall upon my shoulders, but you Oren…You did what you had to.”
A thick silence hangs over the four of you as the transport makes its way back to the academy. When you finally do land, Ivan quickly stands before anyone else.
“Go home, Oren.” He picks up his frame’s helmet. “They’ll be wanting a debriefing and…they’ll want to check on you.” He walks to the end of the transport. “But that can wait.”
Even with Luca escorting you, the trip back to your dorm was a silent one. As time passes, you begin to feel more grounded in reality, but talking just doesn’t come easy right now, not to mention, the dense pit of undirected anger that lingers within you.
“I’ll be right over here if you need anything.” Luca kindly tries to make gesture seem casual, but the concern in his voice betrays him.
“Thanks.” You reply flatly, before stepping into your room.
You bask in the quiet solitude for a moment, before turning toward the bath.
Would you do it all over if you could?
What’s there to redo?
You slide onto your bed, glad that you got through so many of Meiya’s messages that missing a day won’t be too terrible.
The light of the drifting stars filtering through your window is the last sight you see before you close your eyes.
“It’s not your fault.” Ena states, clearly wanting to say more, but leaving it at that for today.
The message indicator on your Assistant flashes, and you groggily reach for it.
“Luca says you’re still in your room. I don’t care what you do, go do your debriefing, go check on your frame, or if you’re up for it, you can come spar with me. In any case, get out of your room. That’s an order. –Captain.”
You sigh and note that you have been sleeping for quite some time.
Are you feeling better?
Who knows? Daylight’s burning in either case.
You get out of bed and think about how to start your day.
>Go get your debriefing out of the way.
>Go check up on your frame in the Main Research Center.
>Go spar with Ivan in the training building.
>Go get your debriefing out of the way.
the other two sound like terrible ideas.
wandering the school might also be good, but the pressure of getting to class on time would NOT be helpful right now.
Why did I let this update get so large?
You’ve got no classes until the afternoon, so you might as well start your day doing something productive.
You get dressed and head out to the academy grounds.
When you get off the rail, you note that a few workers are already hanging up the dark green banners, representative of The Disciple, all around the rail station.
Well, it is an academy after all, so that excuses them for starting so early. The competition for who represents The Disciple must be really intense here.
A flash of the scene on the cliffs, forcefully pulls your attention forward.
“Hey you, explain something to me.” Ena demands suddenly.
“What do you want to know?” You ask it.
“What’s this Disciple month about? I hear loads of people talking about it whenever you walk through crowds.” Ena explains. “Not to mention all the decorations.
“Didn’t you say all of this was dumb?” Your voice heavy with skepticism.
Ena huffs. “Maybe it is. But you’re not doing it any favors by holding grudges.”
“Fine.” You turn down the main path that will lead you to your destination. “You probably already know this by now, but it’s the month devoted to advancing in all academic pursuits.”
“Yeah, yeah, but why a Disciple?” It impatiently questions you.
“Because in The Mariner’s journey, The Disciple provided valuable information about the perils he would have to face. It’s to respect him, and the help he provided The Mariner on his journey.” You give her the summarized version.
Ena grunts, dissatisfied with the answer for whatever reason. “Then why the dark green?”
“It was chosen a really long time ago, I guess, it spread as a tradition after that.” You explain.
It broods over your answer for quite some time before speaking again. “Then, who is this Mariner guy?”
You finally arrive at the administrative building that houses the Vice Admiral’s office. “That would take a while to explain.” You step through the entrance. “So, maybe later.” You say quietly under your breath.
"Ugh." Ena sighs in annoyance, her curiosity not sated.
Once again, you approach the receptionist who hold access to the elevators.
Even with the amount of people she must see in a day, her face shows a pained expression of acknowledgement.
“I’m here for a mission debriefing.” You formally explain.
“Go right ahead, sir…” Her voice still stilted as it was the first time you exchanged words.
A few moments later, and you step out into the fifth floor. Even with all you’ve seen so far, this single floor is the most decadent.
The marble floor echoes your steps as you proceed forward, but once you reach the indoor terrarium, you stop.
It’s not there.
As much as you stare at the numerous exotic plants encased within, you can’t find the white bird that should perched among them.
“Oren Fisher.” A warm voice calls out, snapping your attention away from the enclosure.
You turn to find primly dressed secretary of Vice Admiral standing just a few feet in front of you.
“Your debriefing?” She astutely asks, pointing a finger at you.
“That’s correct.” You feel the need act more proper around her.
“Great.” She smiles. “If you’d just follow me…”
Her long heels click loudly on the marble floor as she glides away from you. Strange that you didn’t hear her approach at all.
She eventually leads you to a vacant office with darkly tinted windows blocking any view within. Only a single table with two chairs flanking it occupies the space. A small, nonopening window lets in a good deal of light, and a chilled bottle of water stands on the table.
“Please.” She pulls out the chair for you to sit, and then wraps around the table to take the other.
“Now, Oren. Feel free to call me Victoria or Ms. Yse, whichever you feel more comfortable with.” She tells you as she pulls out her Assistant, and an additional recording device. “There’s nothing to worry about, we’re just going to have you go over the events of your mission piece by piece, starting from when you were dropped off.” She finishes with a bright smile.
“Alright.” You squirm slightly in your seat.
She patiently motions for you to begin.
You begin to explain what you can remember of the mission. The words come fairly easily as she insists that you explain it as you’d normally would. Several minutes pass with her quickly marking down many notes on her Assistant.
As you come to the part after Blissless left you behind, the words don’t flow as freely, and it takes you much longer just to get through what was only a few minutes of time yesterday.
She holds up a bold hand stopping you mid explanation. “I’m sorry, Oren. You said that the target was mumbling something to himself when you first came in contact with him. Did you happen to make out what was said?” Her eyes watch you carefully.
Yeah, you remember distinctly what he said.
>“Come on… You should be working!”
But, why do feel uncomfortable telling her? It's just part of the debriefing, right?
>Report what the target said.
>Say that you didn't hear it clearly.
Your sudden suspicion confuses you, reporting what happened is part of the mission, and you were prepared to carry it out the day before. Weren't you?
“The first words he said were ‘Come on, you should be working.’” You tell her and watch as she smiles slightly. “He was frantic when he said it.” You clear your throat.
“Very interesting.” She notes something quite long in her Assistant, and when finished, slides the cold bottle of water toward you. “We can take a break if you want.”
You uncap the bottle and take a deep sip from it. “No, I’ll keep going.”
With much effort, you almost report all the details of the final part of your mission, but she stops you when you begin telling her about the shot you made.
“That’s alright, Oren. We can figure out what happened at the end easily enough.” She interjects, still writing in her Assistant, occasionally looking up at you.
You stop speaking, and raise your head. You didn’t realize it at first, but going over the events stirred up a lot of directionless anger within you, and having to stop suddenly feels somehow, dissatisfying.
She makes a final tap in her Assistant before placing it neatly in her lap. “You did very well, Oren.” She leans forward slightly, her long hair sliding off her shoulders. “We’re having the Analysts look over the details right now. But, for now, let me ask you just a few more questions.”
You nod your assent.
“Did you have trouble sleeping last night?” She asks with legitimate sounding concern in her voice. “Any more than normal?”
“No.” You quickly answer. “I fell asleep pretty quickly, and didn’t wake up until well into the morning.”
“Good.” She nods. “Any trouble eating at all, since yesterday?”
“I didn’t feel much like eating when I got back yesterday, but I did eat this morning.” You explain.
“Excellent to hear.” She leans back and startles suddenly. “Oh, that must be the score for your mission performance coming in.”
[Replied to the wrong post on that one.]
“Score?” Your voice hardly masking the incredulity you carry for such a word applied to situations in which lives are at the balance.
“Think nothing of it, but a marker of your progress.” She picks up her Assistant. “Speaking of which…Oren you received a 5.1 out of six.” She announces excitedly.
“That’s good…?” You ask, stiffly.
“Very good, especially for your first mission! Average first mission score lies usually between two and three.” She quickly slides through something on her screen. “For this mission, that comes out to a bonus of two-thousand two-hundred and fifty Sovereign Credits, deposited directly into your account.”
“What?!” Your body stands at attention. “Did you read that wrong?” You demand.
“No, it’s absolutely correct.” She smiles at you as always.
It would’ve taken you a full month of working the boats on Peugue to save almost that much SC. But, now you’ve gotten it in a day, all because you were able to kill a man that wasn’t even looking at you?
“Ah.” Ms.Yse stands suddenly while looking at the screen of her Assistant. “I have to get going now, but thank you very much for your time, Oren.” She holds out a hand which you rigidly shake. “If you need anything at all…” She hands you a card with her contact information. “Don’t hesitate to ask.
Still in your seat, you watch as she exits the office with a polite wave, and then walks out of sight.
“Score.” You repeat to yourself in disbelief. Now, bewilderment and anger linger within you. You kind of want to get the hell out of this office, but where to next?
You remember Ivan’s suggestions, and then consider if wandering around the academy might clear your mind for the time being. Maybe you can check out those places that the nurse suggested.
>Go check up on your frame in the Main Research Center.
>Go see if Ivan in the training building to spar.
>Wander within the Academy grounds.
>Wander outside of the Academy grounds.
You did enjoy messing around with your frame yesterday, and that weapon you used might’ve saved your life, so some thanks are probably in order.
You make your way out of the administrative office, checking again if that white bird is inside the enclosure, but no luck.
Ena sighs loudly as you leave. “That place was suffocating.”
“You don’t even have lungs.” You retort, not sure if you ever heard of a case where an Analyst spoke in such a way.
“Not literally, you idiot.” Ena shoots back. “Ignoring your rudeness, that woman was really weird.”
“How so?” You ask immediately. You head toward the sub-rail that runs directly toward the northeast quadrant of the academy.
“Everything. The way she spoke, the way she moved, even the way she smiled, it all felt scripted.” Ena’s voice heavy with thought.
“That’s just her acting professional. It’s part of her job.” You explain irritably.
“Hmm.” Ena still clearly doubtful.
The constant activity of the researchers filing through Main Research Center has actually become impressive at this point. You’re almost certain that you’ve seen the same hunched over man walking about wearing the exact same thing for three days now. The sheer exhaustion on his face confirms your suspicion that he hasn’t left this place all this time, not to mention his pungent smell as you pass him by.
Once you get off the elevator, you note that the stock room is at its fullest with the other clerk lazily manning the counter.
“Hey…” The clerk rests his head on his arms. Then suddenly jerks his head upwards as he notices who it is. “Ahh, it’s the troublemaker.” He smirks.
“What do you mean?” You ask defensively.
“Safety admin guys were in here this morning asking about an improperly assigned weapon. Ring any bells?” He crosses his arms.
He points back to the workshop. “Yeah, and because the genius wasn’t in yet, I had to field their questions for like an hour.”
You rub the back of your neck. “Yeah, I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t mean to dump any trouble on your plate.”
“Nahh. I was mainly pulling your leg.” He waves off your concerns. “You’re not the one with access to the weapons.” He shrugs. “Eh, it worked out in the end when someone from the Vice Admiral’s office told them to screw off. And they did!” He laughs to himself.
Even more benefits for being under the Vice Admiral’s supervision.
“So, you needed something?” The clerk leans back in his stool.
Well, you did come here to check on your frame, but you do recall that you’ve been meaning to get a diagnostic done on your Analyst. It’s the proper procedure, for what you've been noting, but you wonder if that might make it less effective somehow.
>Get a diagnostic done on your Analyst.
>Only check on your frame for now.
>I just think it's useful as is
...none of what you've said counters any of the above arguments. "useful as is" does not mean you can't have a check up when you're literally standing inside the place to do it, for free, when you have enforced spare time.
It’s far more useful than any standard Analyst as it is, so you’ll hold off on the diagnostic, at least for now.
“Actually, I’m here to check on my frame.” You inform him.
“Ah. Hardware.” He points behind himself. “The genius is in so go right on ahead.”
You proceed through the heavy doors and into Diana’s workshop. A high pitched noise of metal on metal rings through the wide building as she slides a part through a machine.
She holds the piece up to her goggled eyes for inspection and notices you as you snake your way through the mess. She powers the machine down as you approach.
“How’s the frame?” You ask as you watch her take off her protective gear.
“Better now that it’s away from you.” She tosses the heavy goggles onto the machine and motions for you to follow her.
“Those things are meant to take a beating.” You explain. “Plus, I didn’t rough it up too bad.”
She stops, turns to you. “Just because a piece of tech can take a beating, doesn’t mean it should.” She shakes her head and keeps walking. “You do seem to treat it better than most people, so I’ll give you that much.”
It’s an inanimate object for fucks sake. But, it’s not like you don’t agree with proper handling of such things.
“But!” She stops in front of your frame’s case and continues speaking. “That isn’t much.” She points a smudged finger towards the legs. “Sand in the knee joints?” Now toward the head. “Slight heat damage to the sensors.” Finally to the hands. “And worst of all you left the hands stinking like death.”
All of those issues arose at the end of the mission, right after it happened…
She observes your face as you think on it. “Alright, so it’s not SO bad. Don’t beat yourself up about it.” She crosses her arms. “All in all, there’s nothing permanent, I just felt like giving you a hard time about it.”
That seems to be a popular pass time around here.
“Anyway.” You pull your thoughts back to reality. “The frame felt great to use during the mission, and the rail gun you lent me…Might have saved my life. So I owe you some thanks.”
“What?” She uncrosses her arms and leans forward with curiosity. “How?”
So, she doesn’t know about it. Why would she? Then, maybe it’s better to keep it that way?
>Be vague, tell her you’re not allowed to talk about it.
>Tell her the truth.
Her earnest eyes bore into you, letting you know that they won’t be satisfied with anything less than the truth. So, that’s what you give her. In full detail, you explain the events that led up to you pulling the trigger, how the knee joints got filled with sand as you dug into the ground, then how the sensors sustained the heat damage from the blast, and finally, how the hands stink of death, because they were covered in it.
Her expressions switched from inquisitiveness, to shock, then to horror, and finally she now settles on heavy thought. She didn’t interrupt you at any point, she didn’t ask you to stop, she only listened.
With all the words spewed out, you’re left not entirely sure how you feel.
She finally holds up her hand. “To start, I’m not good with this sort of thing. So you’ll just have to forgive me entirely if I say something inappropriate.”
“Say whatever you want.” You tell her, still digesting the emptiness you’re feeling.
“Thank you for telling me this.” She holds a hand on your frame’s case, and gazes upon it. “I know what my creations can do, but this is the first time anyone has ever told me firsthand what really happens.” Her hand slides of the case, and she turns back to you. “I think..." She pauses to collect her thoughts."We have to fully acknowledge and then learn from these sorts of things if we ever wish to keep moving forward, or…you know, how The Mariner put it.” She laughs lightly at herself, and stops. “So maybe you can do the same. When you want, you know?” She's quick to add the last part.
To learn from a barbaric killing doesn’t seem very likely to you, but you keep those thoughts to yourself.
“Ahhh…” She waves her hands frantically in the air as if trying to shake off the heavy mood. She stops and composes herself. “Of course my weapon helped you out.” She announces with her normal prideful vigor. “I’d be able to create all sorts of things, if I just had the money for the parts…” She looks at you menacingly, likely remembering the bet you cost her.
“How much money does would that sort of thing take?” You express your interest. “How far would say…two-thousand SC get you?”
She considers your question for a moment. “Chump change…”
“But, it would be a good enough for a minor weapon, or maybe an upgrade to a frame part. The exact result depends on what parts are selling low at the time…” She turns to you suddenly with greed in her eyes. “You have the money, don’t you?” She steps toward you. "Don't you?"
You backpedal, careful not to trip over the clutter on the ground. “Maybe I do. That sure as hell doesn’t mean I’m going to give it to you.”
She stops pursuing you. “Fine. Buy your parts directly from Bliss or Delta Grenwich. Last I recall, something similar to that railgun I lent you cost four-thousand SC.”
Damn her for appealing to your frugality. You stop and think for a second, after all, it’s extremely rare that you have this much money in your account at any given time.
The only other way you can think to spend the money right now, is to send it back home, the whole amount would be far more helpful than any remainder you send.
Then again, this could be a kind of investment, allowing you to make even more in the future.
The option of not doing anything at all with it is always available, but for now, you should get this girl off your back.
>Decline her offer.
>Agree to her offer, ask for a minor weapon.
>Agree to her offer, ask for a frame upgrade.
“Fine then.” You relent and watch as she celebrates. “If I transfer over the funds to you, then I want you to put it toward upgrading the frame.”
“That’s always a good bet.” She smiles and then walks over to a nearby table to pick up what looks like a heavily modified Assistant. “I’ll see what I can find, and summarize what options you have, but if I find a real good deal that’s time-sensitive, then you might be out of luck for choice.”
“Sounds fair.” You reply.
“Ah, already found some stuff.” She flicks through the screen a few times and then clicks it off. “But first lunch!” She wipes her hands off on a nearby rag. “We can go over details, and see what we find.” She leads the way out. “You’re paying right?”
“Like hell I am…” You shoot back, following her though her maddening clutter.
Alright, that's where I'm going to end it for tonight. A lot of good and very intriguing discussion posted in the thread, and I want to thank everyone that participated! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the thread, and I will do my best to respond to them.
If not, then as always, I wish you a good day/night, and hope to see you again next time!
I'm guessing the white preiestess and white birds are controlling people for her own ends. We're stubborn/strong willed enough to see it and not flip out. The guy we shot saw it but panicked and was Lost.
I'm generally certain that you'll address it in time, but I've already seen one quest die because the MC is in a military/pseudomilitary organization and yet does not know protocol after years of study. Oren's kinda new, but I wonder for how long he gets to keep that excuse.
That's perfectly understandable. Maybe there's a way I can cut down on it without pushing anything ahead...
I do like it very much when people theorize! Of course, I can't give anything away, but there are some key players that you've yet to encounter, and everyone has their own hand to deal.
It is only his third day, and remember that you won't be assigned anything that's obviously out of your capabilities. (What happened on the first mission was apparently unintentional by the ones assigning the mission..) Other than that, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?