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The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)

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    Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)

    They were left undisturbed for a long time, or what felt like a long time. Underground, the passage of time is a tricky thing.

    Regardless, when she awakens, Maria feels refreshed, ready for anything. Stronger and healthier than she's ever been. Although there are a few regrets over letting Carnassus mold her body like that, she can't help liking the new sense of power. After so long being the victim, the weakling... it's a nice change to feel like she could actually hold her own.

    As she's toying with her assorted cybernetics and flexing, trying to get a feeling for her new abilities without waking up Alyssa, she realises that they are not alone. Carnassus is watching her with interest and - although she might be imagining it on the alien visage - a little jealousy.

    "Good to see you up and about," the alien remarks. "You had us worried. Get your 'bodyguard' up and get to the briefing room. Your unit is about to face its first challenge."

    "I'm awake," Alyssa says, opening her eyes. "What's going on?"

    "Confederate attack cruiser of some kind inbound. Looks like your prediction was correct. Be ready." Then Carnassus was gone.

    Alyssa groans. "I miss the Wolf. Fuck all ever happened there. Better do as Her Creepiness commands, I guess... you want first shower or second? Then we should get to the briefing room..."


    Some time later, dressed and refreshed, both are in the main briefing room. A couple of plates of bizarre looking fruit (or presumably fruit) along with one or two other breakfast-like things are nestled in a convenient corner. Ivy is inspecting one with a mixture of suspicion and interest, and the rest of the human survivors are bunched up on one side of the central table. Assorted Akarrsa loom on the other side, politely ignoring the occasionally nasty looks they are given.

    "Good, we're all here," Carnassus says from the head of the table. She glances at both sides with a bit of a 'play [i]nicely[/]i, children' look, then stabs a control. A hologram rises from the table of a bulky Confederate warship. "Any of you recognise this?"

    Looks are exchanged.

    "Oh, fuck," Alyssa remarks simply.

    They knew it, all right. The TCBC Deathstrike. Pride of the sector fleet. Not the hardest hitting, nor the flagship, but her reputation for long-range hit-and-run tactics, elite crew and just plain luck were known to all. Twice the firepower of the Storm, enough speed to keep up with a frigate, and the experience and guts to use both to their full advantage.

    Alyssa gives a succinct overview, and Carnassus grates her teeth. "I was worried you'd say something like that."

    ((I presume your encampment bonus will go into HP?))


      Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)

      (Correct, restore HP.)

      Sometimes she hated being right. Sitting in the shower and letting the hot water relax her slightly tense muscles Maria couldn't help but think on the looming Confederate threat. The brass probably had all the time they needed to plan out an appropriate response. She wondered if they managed to keep an unseen eye on the Wolf and the lone fighter that nearly tore the frigate in two. There was a wealth of information in just a few seconds of that battle, and if there was a cruiser on its way here than this next battle was going to be nasty.

      But...but Maria didn't feel as apprehensive as she thought she should. There was a very real danger in being captured and labeled a traitor, and more than likely if they were they'd be bound and dissected to learn what they could of the Alteration technology, but she just wasn't worried. The Akarssa were monsters that could brush off particle rounds as if they were pea shooters. Even if the fighter had been disabled it managed to seriously cripple a frigate one on one. Those were nothing compared to what she herself could feel. The cybernetics were no longer alien pieces of machinery haphazardly attached to her body. These were natural extensions, parts she never knew she had been missing that were now as much a part of her as her old hands. Right now she felt she could take anything on, and when she pounded one of her fists into the palm of the other the resounding thud echoing through the shower revealed just how strong she had become.


      "Dammit..." And all that confidence simply vanished. Not much is known about military affairs when it comes to the Confederation's citizens, but nothing is more known than the exploits of the Deathstrike. The tales of its conquests are known to every boy and girl. The ship itself was a marvel of technology, constantly upgraded to remain state-of-the-art, but its true strength lay in its crew. There were no finer officers in the entire fleet, and no matter what seemingly impossible odds they faced they managed to pull through and grasp victory time and again. Not even Maria's little exploits on the Storm could match the tales the crew of that cruiser could tell.

      No no no, she couldn't think like that! Most everyone she cared about was in this room surrounded by creatures the likes of which the government has never seen. Her crewmates were just like her, a combination of flesh and metal woven together into a work of art far more capable than any human could ever wish to become. They couldn't lose. She wouldn't allow it. She won't let the Confederation take anything more from her!

      "What's the plan of attack?" If anyone had been watching they would have seen Maria go from an almost defeated slump to a rigid, determined creature with a smoldering gaze that dared anything to try and cross her path. The fact that her eyes were artificial would make that look all the more intimidating.


        Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)


        Carnassus glances at Alyssa, who takes her cue, leaning forward.

        "Deathstrike isn't the worst thing we could be facing. She's still just one ship - a fucking good ship with one of the best crew out there, but just one ship. Most of the details about her are classified, but I know a bit." She stabs a finger at several points on the image.

        "She's based on the BC-277D - highly upgraded, but there are some things you can only patch up on a hull. For a start, she's got a big blind spot just in front of the engines. She's got a wing of Switchblade fighters to cover that, but it's a weakness. She's also got a total of five turret mounts and the forward battery - the 281 that superseded it has twelve turrets. Deathstrike might have huge amounts of firepower, but its focused into only a few locations. Each turret represents a major victory if taken out. What assets do we have?"

        One of the Akarssa, a brute with very dark skin and several noticeably missing fangs, growls a response. "Four raiders. You disabled the fifth, and we lost two against the Storm."

        "Show me the Storm."

        Another hologram comes up, showing the sleek hull of the research cruiser next to the bigger, more vicious battlecruiser.

        For some minutes, it dissolved into back-and-forth between Alyssa and several Akarssa, with Desarra butting in occasionally. Maria could understand much of the technobabble, but the military talk was a little over her head.

        Then she notices something. A small point in the hull where the guns couldn't point at, and probably just the right size to sneak one of the Akarssan raiders into.

        And then conduct a boarding action.

        It sounded like suicide.

        But between her companions, the Akarssa, maybe a few of those Nakatta hound-things... there was probably a higher chance than trying to take on the pride of the fleet with half the force that took on the far inferior Storm.

        She hesitates, then clears her throat, and makes the suggestion.

        Looks are exchanged. In the background, having been listening quietly, Carnassus grins broadly.

        "We'd have to time it carefully," the dark Akarssa muses slowly. "And that raider would need cover."

        "Switchblades would tear it apart if it stayed docked. This would be a one-way trip," Alyssa remarks. "No retreat, no surrender. We'd have to take the key systems, and either trigger self destruct and grab escape pods, or capture the thing."

        "Not quite." Carnassus speaks up for the first time. "We have a limited form of teleportation. Pulls something back to a specific point. It's how I escaped the Storm. But if you wanted to have that option, it would limit the size of the strike team. It's bulky technology, you wouldn't be able to fit as many onto the raider."

        "Bigger team with greater chance of success, or smaller team with a way out." Alyssa shakes her head, then glances at Maria. "Your idea. And you're our commander. What's your instinct?"


          Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)

          "Smaller team." There was almost no hesitation when Maria was asked for her opinion. "It may make the job harder, but I want to make sure everybody can get off that thing in case we need to retreat. I don't want anyone getting left behind to become a Confederate guinea pig." If someone couldn't tell by the tone of her voice the way she stared into every single individual there as she spoke would show she was dead serious.

          With her piece said and done Maria sat back in her seat and tried to follow the military planning as best she could. It was a rather useless effort, though. She wasn't a trained soldier, she had no understanding of military tactics, and to make matters worse she never did spend all that much time riding around in space vessels. She began to question just how much of a commander she could be while obviously missing these rather important qualities. It didn't feel right to throw her friends at a problem without being able to fully think it through. Alyssa was far more suited for this job. That WAS her job before they had all been captured. All Maria could do was promise to give everything she had to make sure they all remained safe.

          Would that be enough? That question started rolling through the woman's mind, but she brushed it aside and focused on the approaching threat. She at least knew it would be terrible to rearrange the current line of command, especially since she was the one who dragged them all into this. She was responsible, so this was her burden. Maybe some time later when she had the chance to corner the Lieutenant one on one she would ask for an honest opinion on being made the group's commander, but when it came time for the actual mission Alyssa would definitely be the one calling the shots.


            Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)


            The meeting finishes, with the plan roughly in place, and the various groups vanish off to their assignments. Half an hour until launch, and the aura of tension was almost palpable.

            Maria tags along with Alyssa as the lieutenant sets off for the armoury, but at a quiet moment, she pulls on the woman's arm, and voices her concerns.

            Alyssa shrugs. "I'm not sure it's up to us, girl. Carn was pretty hell for leather about you being in charge, and she's the boss. I don't think she's stupid, though."

            She pauses, then continues. "I know you've had no military training or anything, but you're lucky, you're tough, and most importantly, you've got drive. You've held the crew together twice and made them follow you; when we were defending the Wolf, and in the hangar. You certainly made me believe. You're a good symbol, Maria. And you're a symbol that knows she's just a symbol, so I can sit in the background and make sure everything works. Seems like a good system to me."

            The lieutenant smiles, leans forward to give Maria a kiss, then turns and hurries on to the armoury.

            Maria nearly jumps a foot as something leaps out at her, a metal monster with a snarling visage and massive, clawed arms... then realises, as it starts giggling, that the occupant was none other than Ivy. "Like it? This is what the full ensemble looks like. I feel safer than if I were in a Confederate battle tank."

            Alyssa indicates a suit of armour mounted to one side of the room, which was evidently Maria's.

            It was effectively a set of full-body metal carapacing, designed to lock into the assorted metal plates rising from her body, arms and face. Several compact weapons are attached to the arms. She can't help feeling a little more hopeful. With suits like this on their side... maybe they did have a chance.

            She begins pulling it on, with a little help from Alyssa. Now she sees what Ivy meant by 'full ensemble'; it fits her so snugly that it really does feel like part of her enhancements, rather than a bulky suit of metal. There is a small, unpleasant jolt as she slides the helmet into place, and there is an odd, metal taste in her mouth for a moment.

            "That's it connecting to the stuff in your brain," Alyssa remarks, working on her own suit. "I went and pinned Carn down to demand what everything does. She said that there's a kind of feedback loop between your brain and the suit that acts like a combat drug, boosts your reactions and speed and stuff, but it wears off when you don't need it. It's safe, don't worry. Tested it already. Messes with your mind a bit, but instinct can be better than conscious thought in a close fight anyway."

            She pauses with an encouraging smile. "Anything else you want to ask or get sorted out before dust-off?"


              Re: The Hunting of the Wolf (Termite)

              As nervous and unsure of herself as Maria was the small talk with Alyssa helped restore some of her lost confidence, and the kiss that followed was just the reassurance she needed to know that she would always have someone watching her back to make sure everything worked out in the end. The small woman stood for a bit just watching her lover rush off to the armory, her feet finally moving after a few seconds as she took in a deep breath to focus on the upcoming battle. She couldn't let herself be distracted with all this during the mission. There'd be plenty of time for that after everyone was home.

              During that breath Maria had closed her eyes for just a moment, but when she opened them she was greeted by a monster of metal practically leaping at her arms and claws that reminded her of her first meeting with Carnassus. Her heart nearly leapt out of her chest, but once that monstrosity started giggling she calmed down enough to realize her body was actually tensing to attack. "Like it? This is what the full ensemble looks like. I feel safer than if I were in a Confederate battle tank."

              "Dammit, Ivy, don't scare me like that!" Maria was nearly livid at the ex-science officer, and she had to consciously force her extended claws to retract while the plating covering the tentacles on her back closed on their own. Even then her voice did calm down as she started inspecting the exoskeleton. Her hand nearly reached out to touch Ivy's side before a slight whistle from Alyssa caught the girl's attention and brought it to the unoccupied suit over on the wall. "Oh...! E-excuse me!"

              The technician was mentally kicking herself as she hurried over to her own armor. She couldn't believe she let herself get distracted when she vowed she wouldn't, but that was immediately lost once she was close enough to start climbing in. Alyssa gave the girl a hand, but she didn't really notice as she felt her cybernetics reaching out to connect with each piece that was starting to envelop her. At first it felt like cold, dead machinery simply being laid over her skin, but once it was properly attached it felt like nothing more than a second layer that felt nearly as natural as the tentacles sitting in her back. The only thing making it feel somewhat alien was that slightly unsettling jolt once the connection was made as well as that odd metallic taste in her mouth. The explanation felt accurate. Her nerves may be reaching out to connect to the new additions, but that connection was made through another connection. It was like watching a video of a video. It never looked quite as clear, and that was the way her body felt.

              Once Maria was fully encased and given a few seconds to adjust Alyssa asked if there was anything else she felt like asking or addressing before this operation began. "Not really. You all know what you're doing, and you've probably done this a whole lot more than I have."