2017-10-28: Life Will Change

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<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

It is a grand stage that Prime Minister Shakhan has set forth - cryers gathering people to the square, vendors keeping people fed and happy while they wait for the word of the mysterious princess-medium from afar. They say she is beautiful; they say she is mysteriuos; they say she is a warrior or a coward or a fool. The crowd has as many ideas as people within it. Above the square sits the balcony of the palace upon which the podium is set, and today the way is lined with Aveh honor guards and the finest floral arrangements the Prime Minister could provide - the kind of ostentatious show of resources one comes to expect from the man.

Behind the curtains Princess Cecilia gathers herself, in the finest white dress Shakhan could provide. She tugs at it. It is uncomfortably ill-fitted in small ways, she thinks. He borrowed it from the old royalty, she decides, with a certain grim disgust. It is also tight enough that she could not reasonably hide anything on her person, which she recognizes as an idea somebody in Gebler probably had.

The curtains part. The princess stares out across the skyline.

She remembers a message given to her by a mouse, and takes a step into sunlight.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon Albus closes his eyes inside of his Gear.

The voice of the wind mouse echoes in his ears. "The princess is about ready to make her big speech! You might wanna get going." Hanpan didn't stick around much longer, after saying that. His eyes open, slowly, as he takes a deep breath in. They knew the sign would come. They didn't know how -- or why -- but they knew they had to be ready. And thus, the plan is underway.

The former soldier swallows. He tells himself the same thing, over and over, these days: he isn't a soldier. He isn't a leader. Why, then, has he ended up in charge of the Yggdrasil Gear team?

Weglaf is a big brute of a Gear. Blue, with a broad chest and rounded, bulbous legs, its faceplate is recessed. Its single ocular flashes green, as it stands upright on one of the launch catapults of the sandship Yggdrasil. The arms spread out, and it crouches over, as thrusters heat up.

"This is Leon," he says. "Strike team, we're moving in. Bart, remember that you and your team are going to have CaraKin support. Everyone..." He closes his eyes, again, then they open, and shine silver in the light of his HUD. "...Let's remind Shakhan who we are."

<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 So, to make the record clear... Bart was really not in favor of this idea from the very beginning. But since it seemed that folks were dead set on going ahead with it, he had decided to do what he could to support it.

 Because the pirate has his OWN PLAN which will not spring dramatically into action just yet, but a plan he has, and IT IS AN AWESOME PLAN THAT CANNOT FAIL, AND WILL STUN EVERYONE WITH ITS BRAVADO.

 Or it's idiocy. One of the two.

 But with a distraction arranged for outside of the city, mainly of the 'stomp around in large Gears and wave arms like lunatics in order to attract attention' variety, Bart has decided to make his move. And with his hand* picked* team of crack infiltrators, he's slipped into the city, using a hidden passage concealed with a shop set up against the wall of the palace to slip inside.

 ...he found out that part of the way was bricked off, and after a brief consultation had decided to just KNOCK THE WALL DOWN and continue onwards. This in turn had lead them into a storage room that was so dusty it probably hadn't been used in months, and he looks about for a moment. "Looks clear. Okay, we should be able to get through this part of the palace without too much trouble. If we come across any servants, then just..." And Bart makes a vague, chopping motion.

 "If they're guys at least. Lily is supposed to be in here as a maid so let's not get ourselves turned into ice statues or anything." Because Lily would probably freeze or explode them first and then ask questions later. But Bart checks with his group, and then - provided there are no objections to what is essentially 'rum rampant through the palace until the guards take notice or they find the goold ol Shaman Princess and Unofficial But Still Terrifying Sorceress Princess - kicks the door open and starts into the hall.

 It's good to be back home.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

There is a quiet problem in the Palace, kept secret by deft Gebler agents.

There is blood along palace walls, and ash and deep gouges between doors and in floors. None of it is obvious to those in the Square; all of it is in tunnels and hallways inside, flashes of light far from windows and far from where more trouble can come down. But it is there.

...Closer in on that action, Lily Keil throws out a hand and an Avehan soldier bearing down on her with a shotgun bursts into flames abrubtly. She wears prison clothes, gray but stained red, without shoes, and with an armored jacket lifted from one of her victims covering her arms. Her hands are aglow, red-orange circuitry gleaming about her fingers.

She floats mid-air as she hurls a lance of ice to another... and spots a Gebler soldier turning the corner in her hallway. She narrows her single good eye quickly--

And takes off in the opposite direction, hurling a blast of raw darkness to knock rubble into the hallway from the ceiling as she runs.

Much of the blood on her is her own. Exhaustion runs through her. ...But the strange glow in her eye is unusual. The floating is unusual, the way she doesn't even touch the ground.

And she is deadly calm despite her exhaustion, Drive pumping through her veins.

Bart's team might hear a rumbling in a nearby wing.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The Caravan Kinship would not miss an event like this, of course. It was an opportunity for gain that they could not ignore, and so they had entered the city and set up their stalls in the square where Princess Cecilia was supposedly going to be giving her speech. The Carakin that they were known for, however, seemed to be absent from the scene.

Perhaps they simply couldn't find a place for it in the square...?

Wherever it was, Jacqueline can be found tending the stalls. She's dressed different than usual, in a thick coat and pants - usually worn while performing her alchemy - rather than the dress and shawl she's typically known for. She's absent her usual cheer, as well, a fact that her friends in the CaraKin and those who frequent their set-up would notice but strangers might not catch on to.

She attends to her customers as normal...but all the while, she is on alert. Waiting for a signal, the sign for them to begin their operation.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

Lunata's spent the last hour and a half hunched over in the dimly lit cockpit of the Rephaim. It's deathly cold in the sphere of the Gear, with nothing but the ambient cockpit lights and the crack from the half-ajar blast door. Her head's tucked down as she fixes her jacket sleeves and attaches her throat microphone and adjusts the listener headset.

"... nata, you hearin' me?"

She blinks, peering up. A heavyset man in uniform was standing there in the silhouette of the light.

"... Mister Maitreya..."

There's a chortle. "Leon and the Captain're in position, so we're going to go in soon. You ready?" The implication behind the question was clear -- was she ready, mentally, as well as physically?

"... yeah."

The older man looks sympathetic for a moment. "... don't overexert yourself. Would hate to see you burn out." But he knows she doesn't want to be chided too much, so he slips away as he readies to fix his helmet.

The blast door closes with a hiss, erasing the last remnants of light from the Yggdrasil's hangar outside. Darkness.

"... show me the way, Ge Ramda ..."

Her fingers trace over several keys in succession--

--and a shimmering sphere thrums into light from the centre of her display, interlocking rings ebbing and flowing within its gaze, a whispering, shrill sound emanating out towards a pitched crescendo as the Rephaim starts up.

Overhead, an assault craft is struck down over darkened skies--
--a cross-fire catches several unusual ancient Gears as they collapse over a street front--
--a young pilot screams for his life as a hail of Ether showers into his cockpit--
--a stuffed teddy bear loses its arm and spills its stuffing as its owner sheds blood--
--the ancient Kingdom which will one day be Aveh burns.

"... you recognise this place ...? I know, Ge Ramda ..." A pause, and her eyes burn with a soft blue hue as she places her hands over the flightsticks.

The emerald iris of the Rephaim shimmers as she thrusts her hands forward.

"Lunata Croze, XG-00 Rephaim, I Have Control! Launching!"

The white, wingless Gear of Rujm el-Hiri sails into the skies, following Leon's command and darting forth in formation with the Weglaf.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Until Jacqueline brought it up, Catenna had no idea where Bledavik was. Nor did she have much more than a passing friendship with Princess Cecilia. But a friend is a friend, and Catenna's worried about her, too, especially with the news that had come out over the past few weeks.

It sounded like the Princess needs help.

It's why one of the booths set up for the event is Catenna's, a simple kiosk with a big awning in alternating blue and white stripes. She's been serving up curry and rice, like she always does. She even wore one of her more modest dresses, the grey one with white and black and ochre-yellow geometric patterns along the fringes and the usual Zortroan-style rings-and-sashes arrangement encircling the waist. An ever-more-full jar of gella sits somewhere behind her.

"Please be well," Catenna says with a polite nod of her head to the last customer in line, sending them off with a tiffin box they'll probably start eating right away. Outwardly, she reveals nothing. Most of the time, Catenna is calm and controlled anyway. She of all people can keep signs of some inner turmoil buttoned down.

She does glance towards Jacqueline's booth, though, then towards the crowd.

A signal will come, she knows. When that happens, she wants to be close to Jay.

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Kahm Yugh watches the proceedings from somewhere both far and near, scrutinizing the unfolding ceremony with an eye that cared little for the pomp and more for the hint of anything about to go awry. Much like everything else about Bledavik's governance, it looked like the Avehans ran the show only from the surface. Meanwhile, just beneath the glossy sheen, lay reality: Gebler operatives running real-time analysis and diagnostics (they're about to have a field day wih the escape Lily Keil, while strike teams waited in the (perhaps literal) wings should anything undesirable arise.

And lately, they had every reason to suspect that something would do.

Kahm, meanwhile, continued to wait and watch his video feed as the curtains parted, and Cecilia Adlehyde stepped forward. A verbal command zoomed the camera in on her and enhanced audio. The Captain steepled his hand in thought.

"Your move, Princess." He said.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

From atop a rooftop with an excellent view of the balcony on which Cecilia stands, sits the Lightning Seraph Ragnell who strolled her way into the palace unseen and was unfortunately later kicked out by Seraphita. She hasn't been by again since, which may have lead Cecilia to believe that the Seraph is long gone. She may take some heart when she sees Ragnell, with a bag of popcorn in hand of all things, lift a hand and wiggle her fingers at her the moment she steps out into the sun and stares out at the crowd. It's hard to miss her. She *is* sitting on a rooftop overlooking the rest of the crowds, after all.

Then she grabs a handful of popcorn and goes *crunch*. She doesn't have a Gear, but she knows today is the speech and assumes that there are lots of people who won't just sit back and do nothing. And Ragnell, being one who understands humans even if she doesn't like them, is ("of course," as she'd add herself) right. There will be fireworks to join in on, or perhaps just watch, soon enough. All she has to do is wait.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei is with Bart's team because he is a little antsy about bringing a gear into a populated area. Why, Beldavik isn't even on FIRE yet, but he is willing to punch, kick, and chi blast the hell out of people to help rescue Lily. Of course, he's not entirely sure that's a fair assumption--maybe Lily doesn't need rescuing but if she missed a check-in, then clearly this will at least help her send a message out.

"It's been a while," He tells Bart, cricking his neck. "But I think I can handle it better this time." He pauses for a moment before adding, "And I'll be sure to stop at knockin' out if I can, so... I'll keep my head cool."

He wonders if he'll run into Loren or Kahm though. He doesn't know the latter too well, and indeed--let's be honest--nor the former but he is less sure about what will happen if he runs into that guy. But what are the odds of that? So long as those very unlikely things don't happen, he'll be golden.

"I'm not sure Shakhhan thought this plan through though." Fei admits to Bart. "I don't think Cecilia's the type to just say what he wants." Unless he's holding a hostage? He doubts even then, to be honest. "She's pretty strong willed."

He holds up his Hide and Seek badge and squints at it for a moment, dusting dust off his knuckles.

"Any changes to the palace since you were last here?" He asks.

<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

"Kat here. You got it. If you need fire support, signal." Katyna Reidal is also in a Gear, and one that is only likely to be recognizable to people who have been on the Yggdrasil recently or people who were aficionados of the Battling Gear tournament about, oh, six to eight months ago.

Wild Trigger - which she has renamed Argentis, and you can tell if you get close, because she's very carefully painted it in small letters near the cockpit hatch - is a heavily built, broad machine that looks like its exterior layer was roughly assembled out of thick plates of metal. It's currently mostly unpainted besides its new name. It carries only one external weapon: a rifle about as long as the Gear is tall, held in one hand for transportation.

Katyna is in her element. She never really came out and publically said she had been with a military, but the preparation for vehicular combat is where she felt most comfortable of all her time on Filgaia. This just feels right, even if the politics are still a little murky to her in some ways. She knows this. It's something she doesn't have to guess about, or lie over.

She waits for launch, just behind Leon. She can keep up. The machine might look like a heavy, blocky brute, but it's a lot faster than it seems.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida should not be here. She should not be following through on what amounts to a gamble that Bart will take advantage of the situation to rescue Cecilia and wreak havoc. She doesn't know the Captain's plans--hell, she hasn't spoken to him since that incident with the Wels--and she's going off what she knows of him.

Fact: Bart hates Prime Minister Shakhan. Really, really hates him.

Fact: Bart is close friends with Princess Cecilia. They trust each other, clearly.

Fact: Bart is in possession of an intact, fully-functional land battleship with unique capabilities.

If anyone is going to try and spoil this thing, it's going to be him.

A refitted Gear sits atop a hill not too far from the Yggdrasill's angle of approach. It's clearly a Trooper, but it's not an Aveh-standard build; it doesn't have an Aveh IFF beacon, either. As Leon's Gear team approaches, the Dust Dragoon lifts itself into the air on jump-jets, following it. In the cockpit, Ida adjusts the shemagh she tied in place over her piloting helmet and goggles. The last thing she needs is to get her family into even more trouble by being recognized while doing what amounts to a guerilla operation.

Without any planned support from the actual guerillas, too.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

*** SOME TIME AGO ***

"... okay, that outta do it," hums Shalune in satisfaction as she hops down from the back of Big Shal and surveys her handiwork. The golem isn't anywhere near the size of Diablo, or the rest of the Gears that make up the Yggdrasil hangar - only about twelve feet tall rather than the usual fifty or so - but that doesn't diminish the power the golem can bring to bear in its own odd way, nor the confidence that Shalune has in her partner.

"We've gotta protect the Carakin's identity, after all," the mechanic chirps as she raps gently on the golem's leg. "So we'll be sneaky."

*** RIGHT NOW ***

... ... in the midst of the Yggdrasil forces - in fact, perched on the shoulder of the Rephaim, held in place during the launch by an improvized harness, a couple of ropes, and a handle that's been welded to the Rephaim's latest attempt at a replacement arm - is a Mysterious Unknown Gear. Obviously, the rust-red paint splashed haphazardly across it makes it look nothing like the rust-yellow Big Shal, and the Carakin golem doesn't have a cloak, nor a gigantic domino mask with a question mark on it. Height aside, the two obviously can't be one and the same.

Perched on the scaffold platform attached to its back, clinging on for dear life with a grin frown, Shalune peers out from under the rainbow-coloured balaclava she's knitted for herself at some point, fundamentally useless given the mass of pink hair that sticks out of it at odd angles and down to her waist; just in front of her, set into a recess in the Golem's body, lies her pot-like ARM, its normally soft thrum a high-pitched whine as it gathers power.

"We can do this," she promises herself, and then touches at the mouthpiece of the headset she's borrowed. "Lunie, I'm with you, okay? It'll be okay," she promises quietly, repeating the phrase with a quiet sort of conviction. "Big Shal's got your back. Let's-- just try to avoid anyone getting too hurt, and just make a big ol' mess instead."

Mysterious Gear #1 gives a slow thumbs up, to emphasize the point.

<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

A FEW MOMENTS AGO, BEHIND THE CURTAINS:

"You can totally do it! You're a princess, that makes you awesome!" Seraphita says with far too much energy, helping adjust some of the frills and ribbons of the beautiful white dress so generously lended to Cecilia by Shakhan. It isn't impossible he took it from the queen's wardrobe. You know, when this place had a queen. It was probably sitting in a box somewhere, clearly labeled BOX OF ACCESSORIES TO USE TO RUB MY POSITION IN, DON'T TOUCH.

It's okay though, because no matter where the dress came from, Seraphita supports Cecilia! She is clearly still in a good mood from meeting and hanging out with a real princess, and those vibes are going to be hard to knock out of her.

NOW:

But alas, the princess must go on stage now, so Seraphita shuffles to the side to hide behind the curtain. Her large pink ears are visible to onlookers, sticking out from behind the sides of the backstage area.

She turns to Tolone, whispering: "I wish I had a pretty dress like that to wear at parties!! Can I get a pretty dress too, Tolone?"

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Something about this whole thing feels fishy. Lemina... honestly doesn't know what, though. She's always a little lost when it comes to Filgaian politics -- everything is different, and what's more, she's... honestly pretty sheltered from the realities of international relations, when it comes down to it.

Strangely, unlike many who seem to be here with a plan of some sort, Lemina has no plan *whatsoever*. She doesn't even know that there... is a situation to have a plan for, as such. She's just here in the crowd for now. She's near Jay's stall, and gives a wave, but she's not too near that, even.

It's really hot. Lemina doesn't seem to like that part very much.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

There is indeed a problem underway deep within the halls of the palace. Ash and blood line the sections of the path a certain woman has taken as she flees; an alert has just gone out moments before:

"We have a situation with the prisoner. Two men down. She's adminstered Drive, act as if she's armed."

It's likely more than two by now, Loren thinks darkly, expression contorted as he applies a splint to his broken arm, teeth grit. Damn, damn.

In the hallways, footsteps ring out as soldiers give chase.

...This will have to do.

He touches a pair of fingers to his earpiece moments later. "Captain? It's Voss. Keil's escaped; soldiers are in pursuit. Unfortunately, I've been injured but it isn't serious."
...It's just a broken arm.

<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

A FEW MOMENTS AGO

Tolone's advice to Cecilia is as follows:

"Don't screw up. Imagine them all in funny costumes if you get anxious." She even - without any kind of smile or positive emotion - raises a hand to give a mechanistic thumbs-up, no doubt due to Seraphita's prodding.

NOW

"Probably," she tells Seraphita, voice quiet. "Are -"

Tolone's left ponytail shifts, slightly but distinctly.

"Seraphita," she says, "I'm getting a signal. Keil escaped. Voss probably screwed up. Get ready. We may have to handle this ourselves."

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Bart's plan may be dumb, but it's smarter than Claude's, which was:

a) Pretend to be the prince of Krosse;
b) Pretend to be married to Cecilia
c) Hope Shaka Khan did not murder him for his effrontery
d) Punch dudes until they run out of dudes
e) Find Cecilia
f) Run away
g) Not die while accomplishing a through f
h) Hope this didn't somehow blow back on the Kingdom of Krosse, even though it totally would.

Compared to that sort of stuff, blowing through a wall sounds totally sensible, which is why he's part of the hand* picked* team running along behind his occasional adventuring partner, who seems to really know the layout of the palace for some reason. (Must be spies.) Claude's long curved-bladed sword is out in one hand and his four-barreled Lancaster pistol in the other; he lets Bart take the lead but keeps his eyes and head on a swivel. "I'm pretty sure I can recognize Lily in disguise," Claude says, helpfully. "I'm pretty sure she won't freeze me."

He pauses, reflecting on past conversations and one romp through a forest of rare food ingredients.

"I'm reasonably sure she won't freeze me."

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia originally suggested being on the distraction team for this one, eager as she was to try out her Gear. Though while she controls her stolen machine remarkably well for some with no experience (that she can remember), she hasn't had any actual combat training yet, so that was judged to be unwise. She didn't argue being put on the infiltration team instead. She was told there was likely to be fighting involved there too, which is all she needs to be in her element.

It's the initial, stealthy part that's the most difficult. She's not exactly known for her patience or subtlety. Being told that she cn bunch basically anybody she comes across along the way does wonders for her mood, however. Xantia's fist meets the opposite palm when Bart makes his chopping motion. "Can do!"

Fei's addition makes her eager expression soften somewhat, prompting her to add, "Don't worry, Fei. Remember what I promised, it'll be fine." The promise that she would stop him from doing anything unfortunate, if it looks like he's losing control. She hasn't forgotten about that.

She doesn't have much more to contribute, not even really understanding half of what's at stake here, though this does leave her free to pay attention to the surroundings, her head jerking to the side as she picks up sounds of a disturbance. Is someone fighting over there? "Hey, Captain Bart... was there anybody else coming? If not, I think someone's started without us."

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

Ragnell will not be the only one who intends to watch today.

 And unless forced to do otherwise, that is precisely what she intends to do.

 She is in no condition to do so - former Gebler assassins and vengeful Metal Demons have rendered her physically fragile enough that she has absolutely no intention of ripping asunder injuries that have been kept relatively well in the process of mending. Duels to the death were never easy things to recuperate from, much less ones that occur one after another, after another. The long stretches of road in between did not help, and her hatred of the Badlands has only soured her disposition, keeping out of sight and out of mind from the days since and licking her wounds like some large predatory cat. Thankfully, for all of her defiance against the attempts of such persistent hunters, they've not troubled her enough to find her den.

 But sometimes even commensurate hunters know not to follow the wake of an incapacitated tiger.

 She does have business here, however - perhaps not right now and in the future, and with the promise of trouble to follow, her opportunistic streak ensures her presence here, taking stock of the castle's fortifications and the response time of the Prime Minister's forces and its allies. It had been easy, under the guise of a simple traveler with not much to her name, her pale tresses dyed and bound up, stuffed under a short, strawberry-blonde wig. Having spent years cultivating a reputation as an irrepressible reprobate (on top of other things), she has a fine eye for detail - earrings, necklace, a wide brim hat, off-white blouse, long black vest and jeans.

 It is, after all, expected for couriers to be everywhere their job takes them.

 And so Cassidy Cain passes herself off, from a distance at least, as a very convincing copy of Gwen Whitlock.

 Sorry, Gwen.

<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

Ah, Bledavik. The jewel of Aveh, city of a dozen facets. He hasn't been back here since the day of Shakhan's revolution. The Drifter's cashed in some genuine favors (and a few fabricated ones) to perch himself on the dignitaries' balcony. Read, "where Aveh's officers are sitting and a good place to survive the heavy showers of Gear-fired shells expected this afternoon". Not a bad viewpoint either, he thinks as he chews on some beef tartare. Could leap down those rafters and join any scrum that comes up, too...

The buzz of gossip reveals that Aveh's finest are busy fighting decoy pirate attacks miles away. And that the major general's aide's dog has had a litter of puppies. Arash learns many things. He isn't about to commit to Shakhan's Republic's full destruction over what happened that day, a professional accepts his losses no matter how painful they might've been. But if those Gebler folks get a black eye and a head cold? And that nice princess up there gets a chance to pursue her dreams in peace? Well, he might stick his neck out for that.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

  "One Shish kebab, n' don't hold back on the meat." There's Gwen Whitlock, super courier, doing what comes natural to her during just about any time she has to anxiously stick around in some spot with no indication as to what, exactly, might be happening next: she eats. It's good to stock up on calories in case she needs to really lean on her ARM for extra oomph, beyond what the arm's natural build in energy generation system is able to provide.

Plus, the food here is particularly delightful. Spicy and sort of sweet, all at the same time, with subtle overtones of spiced sauces and oils.

As the convincing Gwen comes in who is not at all Cassidy Cain, the other Gwen Whitlock is dressed in a sort of semi-disguise, not wanting her stay in Aveh to end with her ending up getting undue attention. ARM-users get Noticed here. Plus she got this really nice poncho from a Baskar client as payment for a particularly difficult job, and it looks *great* on her.

She holds up two fingers. "Changed my mind. Make it two Shish kebabs." Looking up towards the stage as she departs the vendor's cart, Gwen munches on the first one, ripping off a tender piece of roasted meat before her eyes settle on... her?

.... Why is there another Gwen here?

Keeping her eyes on the stage as the curtains part, Gwen jogs over to attempt to trail the other 'Gwen'.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Seraphita is just about the only person in this palace Cecilia is mostly OK with. Mostly. She did try to diablerie Ragnell earlier so she got a demerit there. Seraphita's excitement is almost painful, but...Tolone's wooden (...cybernetic?) encouragement reminds her the stakes and the stage.

It doesn't make me 'awesome', Cecilia thinks, pausing halfway up the carpet to take a breath and look around. She spies Ragnell, and her eyes linger there. It makes me a target. And it makes me responsible.

She finishes the slow walk up to the podium, eyes sweeping across the crowd. Shakhan gave her a whole speech that she read once and then threw in a fire. As if.

She draws in a long breath, trying to identify...anybody, amid the crowd, and largely failing. Should she be nervous? She's spoken, before, if not quite to such a crowd as this, looking at her like some captive animal rather than people adoring and admiring their princess. Her gloved hand rises up, presses against her chest to calm her pounding heart. She thinks back to what Hanpan said to her, the last message she'd received from outside. 'Princess, ah, Jack has one last thing he wants me to tell you before you go...'

"Yes," she murmurs. "It does seem to have been pretty stupid," she says to herself, and chuckles. Perhaps Kahm hears it, before she holds her hand for quiet from the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen. People of Aveh and byeond. My name is Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde, Princess of the Kingdom of Adlehyde, and last of my line. My kingdom was ravaged some time ago by the Metal Demons...our king slain, and the royal treasure, the Teardrop, stolen. Much has been made of my distance from my kingdom in this time of trial. Prime Minister Shakhan has asked me to tell you my reasons."

...and then, barely a paragraph in, she goes off-script. Her eyes harden. "This planet is dying," she says. "I refuse to idle in a tower while it rots! The Guardians have always been a reminder to all of us to stand up and ensure this world recovers from her wounds! I have my own responsibilities to that end, and they cannot be fulfilled in Adlehyd1"

Her hands fall to her sides, fists balling because boy the others better show up RIGHT ABOUT NOW-- "But they can be fulfilled here!" she calls.

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

That is correct, Cassidy Cain is not here.

 But twists of fate and happenstance as they are, the green-eyed Drifter was not expecting the actual courier to be here, and because she doesn't expect the woman herself to be around, of course she is. And not only does Gwen manage to find her in the teeming masses waiting for the lost-now-found Princess of Adlehyde's speech (and partaking on various street foodstuffs in the process), she is following her. She manages to see that much, passing through various stalls and their display of wares as they are, Gwen's reflection sliding effortlessly across the surface of a bronze shield being peddled by a pair of metalworkers that she has just passed. Inwardly, she sighs, eyes turning to the skies.

 But there's no small measure of amusement there, at least. She has been in the business long enough to be aware of one simple truth: there is no perfect plan. In fact, the odds always favor a particular scheme going absolutely wrong than one that goes absolutely right. Were she forced to make a choice between genius tactical ability and ridiculously prodigious adaptability, she'll pick the latter over the former every day.

 She takes several steps out of the natural flow of foot traffic, under the guise of taking stock of various pieces of jewelry on display by a gemstone peddler. She picks up a pearl ring to inspect it - her favorites, in no small measure due to how they are formed, a spare hand falling on the string of white gold on her neck and missing the string of like, lustrous beads that are normally part of her ensemble. The weight is all wrong.

 She waits until Gwen catches up to her, and when she does, before the woman even speaks...

 She turns around, tears making those large eyes luminous. Arms extend to sweep Gwen in a sudden embrace.

 "I- is that you, 'wennie?" she exclaims; the tears are real. "I didn't think the day would come! I've been looking for you for years and when they told me you might be here, I didn't think I 'ad a chance of hopin'...but you ain't gotta worry no more, you don't gotta be alone again, 'cause it's me. Your long lost twin sister-- "

 ...crap. She needs to come up with a name.

 "Hwen. Hwen Whitlock."

 Someone is buying it at least. The little jewelry lady is wiping her eyes with a handkerchief at this touching reunion between two long lost twin sisters, one of whom didn't exist until ten minutes ago.

 And just in time, too, for Cecilia to take her place on stage and begin her speech.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Go!"

The Weglaf's thrusters fire -- and the former Kislevi Gear shoots into the air. It flies up through Aveh airspace, and the first sign of something wrong is the distant thunder of the cannons on Bledavik's walls meant to deter such a thing. Weglaf shoots past them, though a near miss leaves the side of the dark blue Gear blackened. The Gear soars over the rooftops as it comes downward, and the left foot hits an empty watchtower.

It explodes into wooden shards that fall down on the edge of the Square. There are screams, as Weglaf slams into the ground just as Cecilia cries out, '...they can be fulfilled here!'

It lands next to one of the standard Aveh Gears -- a rather basic one, meant for guard duty. The blue Gear snaps its arm to the side, and a long, single-edged saber snaps out like a switchblade, before Leon thrusts it forward. It rips clean through the cockpit block of the Gear, the long and sharp blade edged in blood as it punches out the other side. Weglaf's other arm wraps under the Gear's arm, as it slumps, and he turns.

A gunshot from another of the Aveh guard Gears slams into the disabled one, instead of Leon's machine. Weglaf's eye flashes, once, as he throws the disabled machine to the ground.

Inside the cockpit, Leon finds himself smiling. He flips a switch, and his Gear's loudspeaker crackles to life.

"The Black Wolves send their regards! Tell Shakhan to deliver them to hell, shortly!"

<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 Bart looks at Fei for a moment, and then shrugs. "Who can say what that swine has in mind? Although I expect some way to get more power is probably the gist of what he's after, so... yeah. Let's get Cecilia out of here before he declares he's gonna have a shotgun wedding with the Princess or Adlehyde or something like that."

 The pirate can see that as a possibility. Shakhan is that sort of swine.

 And then the building rumbles slightly, and Bart's head swivels to look in the direction that the sound came from. "...either Leon's being more enthusiastic with the distraction than I expected, or..."

 Pause.

 "Lily?" he asks, wondering.

 Well, nothing to do but check it out. And Bart looks at his companions, most specifically AT CLAUDE at which point he goes, "Well, you're about three times as confident of that as I am, so you can take the lead if you're that sure," Bart quips, although he's already moving ahead.

 There's a bit of a commotion from the square where Cecilia is giving her speech. Bart pauses by a window and looks across the palace, where the Princess is flailing about. "...oh huh, I guess we're a bit behind schedule here..." the pirate admits after a moment. And then he grins.

 "Alright, time for subtly is over! Let's roll folks!"

 The distraction is there to help draw the attention of the guards - Bart isn't trying to make a huge, dramatic entrance. What he IS aiming to do is clear a path for Cecilia to escape through, while hopefully keeping the guards from finding the exit they are using to the palace. If that doesn't work, then there's always plan C, I, and M.

 This day proves to be a bad day for the doors in the palace as Bart starts ramming through them, the generally thin wood providing to be a frail barrier for a heavily muscled pirate and his crew. With all of the OTHER noise going on, the sound of wood breaking as Bart makes his way towards the balcony where Cecilia is giving her speech is hopefully going to go unnoticed.

 Lily will probably get a surprise as Bart smashes through a doorway further down the hallway that she is in the process of 'remodeling', and he just sort of catches a glimpse of her and points as he keeps going.

 "GOTTA RESCUE THe princess sorry can't stay for long bye-!"

 Fei, Claude, or Xantia can stop and talk to her of course. BUT BART IS ON A MISSION, and he reaches the balcony a few moments later, lowering his shoulder and slamming into the heavy wooden door to the chamber adjacent to it...

 ...which Tolone and Seraphita will note with a dull thump and an 'ooooowww' as the door fails to give way. A moment later the lock and most of the handle is blown off the hinges, and Bart kicks the door open and tosses the rather large, cone barreled 'Bart's Door Knocker' aside as he steps in. "Ceci, I've come to sweep you off your feet and-"

 Pause.

 "...okay, ladies yes. Princesses, no," the pirate comments, his gaze going to Seraphita and Tolone after a moment. "Hi, I'm a pirate and I'm here to kidnap the Princess. Would you mind stepping out of the way?" he asks politely. Before adding in a louder tone of voice, "PIRATE. HERE TO KIDNAP THE PRINCESS." Projecting and hoping Cecilia can hear him.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances toward Catenna for a moment. Their eyes meet, and then she looks up at the balcony as Princess Cecillia makes her entrance. She starts about like Jacqueline expects...and then, presumably, goes completely off-the-rails. Jacqueline can't help but smile, at that.

It does corroborate some of her own theories on the Princess's actions, but she doubted whoever was responsible for setting this charade up wouldn't take too kindly to that. She looks toward Catenna and nods subtly, before gathering specific wares from her table and loading them into her bags.

Some of them were left behind - ones that weren't particularly costly anyway.

And then, as she's preparing, and exactly as she expects, she hears cannonfire in the distance.

That's the distraction she was waiting for.

She slides out from behind her stall and starts walking. The crowd is running away from the commotion.

Jacqueline, of course, is walking toward it. She moves quietly and subtly, weaving her way through the panicked throngs as if she's done this before.

Her destination is the castle, and the Princess within. With any luck, the city's defenders will be too busy with the real threat to worry about an unarmed merchant making her way through.

<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

Argentis rockets out mere instants after Weglaf.

Katyna fires its leg thrusters several times mid-flight. It's not sufficient to fly long-range with, but it is enough for long, drifting jumps and short fits of hovering, and when it's part of the force of launching it gives the Argentis a graceful arc all out of odds with its chunky, heavy armoured appearance.

It still comes up short, whether from the Yggdrasil moving or because her launch system was further back or just bad luck. When Argentis touches down, it hits a mercifully empty street and skids - no, it's got little wheels under its feet, kicking up sparks on the cobblestone as Katyna brakes hard.

Katyna shifts Argentis so that it holds the oversized rifle with both hands. She points it up, toward the sky, and fires a single shell upward. It leaves a smoke trail behind it like a small missile and explodes in a bright flash that leaves sparks that linger in the air... a firework? Or a flare.

It certainly means that she's going to draw attention. It also, not coincidentally, gives the Yggdrasil another target to launch Gears more accurately at, as if it needed one. Katyna starts Argentis walking afterwards, no longer braking on its wheels, as it jogs to catch up with Weglaf again.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei smiles back at Xantia. It's hard to have low spirits when Xantia's around even when Xantia's in low spirits because she's just so, what's the word, earnest? He thinks that's a good word for her. "Sounds like her," He tells Bart before running after him. He slows down only when he sees Lily. "Go on ahead, Xantia!" He tells her. "I'll be right behind you--" He glances over to Claude who he knows as Burger Guy before adding, "WNice working with you man." He has a better understanding of Claude now and that understanding is 'burgers are pretty sweet'.

He turns towards Lily and approaches her. She's hurling in midair and is covered in blood and hurling darkness energy waves and all that nonsense. She may be on truth serum or something crazy. Fei takes in a deep breath.

"Hey Lily," He says. "Up top." He hifives her even if she is about to hurl a deadly icicle at someone with that hand.

"I've got some healing potions for you." He adds, reaching into his pouch and offering some apple gel and heal berry mixture to her. "Leon's here too causing a distraction. Sorry we're late!"

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny does not in fact stop to talk to Lily, because he has continued to downgrade the odds of him remaining unfrozen to 'possible, but unlikely.' He does call out to her, though, using the two words that are guaranteed to send most people who know him into shivers, i.e.:

"I'm helping!"

He vanishes after Bart shortly thereafter, emerging into a sudden bevy of beauties and also Bart, talking to them. "Hi, I'm also a pirate," Claude lies. He's normally bad at lying, but the fact that he points the gun in Tolone's direction may help convince her. "Definitely not the Prince of Krosse. Just a princess-rescuing pirate."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Part of Catenna figured Cecilia wouldn't be the type to just rotely follow someone else's script set out for her, if indeed that's what's up here. She seemed far too headstrong for that.

Catching Jacqueline's glance, Catenna nods, then draws the curtain over the opening of her stall. She reaches through it and sets out a sign:

CHAMBER POT BREAK - BACK IN 5

Before long, Catenna's just behind Jacqueline, moving through the crowd with a quiet purpose. Outwardly she doesn't seem to be armed - she's just a nice woman in a dress, with a shawl about her hips on top of the dress.

Only once she and Jacqueline are out of the increasingly turbulent crowd does Catenna glance around. "We must hurry," she urges quietly, undoing her shawl and letting it spill away to reveal that she's got her sword belted at one side and both of her Mediums securely fastened at the other. She nods to Jay with simple purpose, then starts forward.

She can feel the castle rumbling. Something's up and it doesn't feel good at all.

<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

"Aww, come on, the left tenant would never mess up! It must have been someone else's fault!!" Seraphita ensures Tolone, as her eyes fall back onto the stage. "Eeee, look at her Tolone! She's so proud and strong! Maybe we should give her Aveh? Mister Shakhan is nice but he's like, bald! And not a super cool princess!" If Shakhan was a magical princess, maybe Seraphita's opinion of him would be more favorable.

Her opinion of him is STILL more favorable than basically any other Solarian's, at least.

And then the princess goes off-script and everything is going wrong. Oh no! PIRATES, OF ALL THINGS! This is terrible!

Seraphita leaps out from behind the stage, to Cecilia's side. "Don't worry, princess Cecilia!!! I'll be your knight! But I don't have armor... um... or a sword... can you imagine I'm like, really awesome and hero-y? Pleeeeeease?" She's asking so nicely. Make an effort, Cecilia!

It certainly does seem like anyone who wants access to the stage will need to deal with the hyperactive, red-clad bunny without a skirt. Where is that skirt anyway? It is a mystery, like so many other things.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

I have my own responsibilities to that end, and they cannot be fulfilled in Adlehyde... but they can be fulfilled here!

Lunata can feel her very own blood chill at that declaration, as she watches it from a monitor that somehow, some-ever which way, is zooming in on the Princess' declaration as all hell breaks loose. Jay, Bart, and the others will be doing her job... and she will be doing her part too.

But even still, she has to tuck away the bile rising up inside of her that wants to ask: "Is Adlehyde worth the sacrifice for you?"

The flame in her eye is emanating, and on Leon's command, she's followed in to disrupt the party processions as the Rephaim's white figure descends next to Weglaf and Argentis', ripping apart an Aveh Gear in a single slash of one of her hot pink-coloured beam sabres.

Why do the ancients feel that laser implements of death need to be magenta and pink?

She doesn't know, but what she does know is that she's here to cause carnage and a commotion. And to that end...

The Rephaim begins to glow -- as the Leyline converter vents unfurl on the back and the shoulders of the white Gear. The very powers of Muse, Geo, Fray and Wing are channeled towards points throughout its body as it begins to shimmer with an indefatigable power.

"... I'm not here to play around today."

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Where there was noise that those on Bart's team may have noticed, there is quiet briefly. The shaking fades. The palace is its ordinary level of quiet once again.

It lasts until the sounds of crashing from the courtyard, the sounds of a loudspeaker amplifying a voice such that it reaches even here through the windows. The Black Wolves, Leon's voice announces.

A small smile spreads onto Lily Keil's face, her vision still clouded as she lifts her hand from where she hovers behind a pillar. "Guess that's... my signal..."

An instant later Bart shows up and Lily stares at him, obviously bloody. He points. "..Heheheh..." It's... it's not the most reassuring laugh, but Lily, despite her hand being out and ready to cast, does not freeze any of the others.

Instead she points towards a ruined side office and abrubtly it ignites, an explosion shattering the furniture within as acrid smoke starts to rise into the air.

Distraction? She can do distraction.

The black-haired sorceress, her disguise ruins, floats after Bart almost lazily, toes pointed down towards the ground, left eye covered in bandages. She looks much more than half-dead, frankly.

But Fei approaches her, and moves to high-five. ...She... is high-fived, right before her fire goes off. "Fei," she murmurs back. "...I heard him. Thank you." She's... sort of nauseous, to be honest, but she takes the mixture--

And downs it. "...Let's go." She starts towards the place Bart went, glancing to the others. "...Fei," she murmurs. "Point out who I shouldn't kill."

In short order she's visible approaching the door Bart just blasted through.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

The Yggdrasill's launch catapult thunders. Leon and the Gear team take to the skies, and from her vantage-point Ida can see the muzzle flashes of anti-air cannons as they open fire on the incoming machines. Fascinating ARMs, those, she thinks, mostly to try and draw her mind off the deepening sensation of dread in the pit of her stomach. Do it. This world needs Cecilia far more than it needs you.

Katyna fires the flare, and while she might not be expecting it, she draws in some more attention. An unannounced visitor appears at the edge of Leon's radar--something with the vague profile of a Trooper, but no Aveh IFF. It flies over the wall in a graceful arc, its pilot maneuvering on jump-jets like a pro--in its cockpit, Ida's guts twist themselves in terror. She's going to land on someone and kill them. She's going to kill a civilian--

No. The section of wall is well clear, and the Dust Dragoon touches down on the empty ground a hundred yards away from Weglaff. <<Leon,>> says Ida. There's no visual transmission over the line--and it's secured using something he might recognize as heavy-duty encryption. What the hell kind of Gear did Ida make off with?

<<I was right. I assume Bart is somewhere else. If you'll allow me...?>> Her voice is tight, tense. She is not in her element.

<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


Among the crowd there is a figure. Tall. Broad shouldered. Obviously some kind of woodcutter. Like really. He's got a pack of sticks or cordwood on his back. I mean its not really good wood. So he can't be a really good woodcutter. I mean really. Some of it is splintered, most is cracked. Hardly any is workable.

So he's a very bad woodcutter.

He's also distracted noming on some kind of baked good. Its some kind of small pie, and he's wolfing it down. Just mowing though the thing with abandon as Cecilia is escorted out and put on stage.

"Countdown to going off the rails..." He mutters to himself around a mouthfull of pie.

"...you already knew it would." A little voice comes from the interior of the woodsman's hood.

Still the woodsman calmly eats his pie. Walking near the edge of the crowd as he strolls though the throng. Of course there, on the edges of the throng the woodsman comes upon a touching sight.

Two Gwens.

Eyes widen. The story starts to come out. The little figure in his hood starts to tear up. Tiny little wind mouse eyes wibbling.

"Its so beautiful."

The woodsman just looks suprised. "Gwen!" The voice familiar enough to notice. "I didn't know you had a sister! This is such a happy day for you! And..."

...but then comes the speach.

...and the predicted moment of 'off scriptedness'.

The Simple Woodsman just sighs under his AMAZING DISGUISE. (Its not amazing at all. Its just Jack with a damn bundle of wood. He's bad at this.)

"...well. Thats that. Pardon me Gwen. Hwen. I have to go make a scene."

And with that he turns and just starts calmly strolling towards the castle and its stage there. And the bunny that seems to be guarding a princess.

Hanpan? He leans slightly out of the hood and sends a burst of wind down a line of stalls. Rattling eves and knocking things over. Creating a racket in the opposite direction.

"OH NO THEY ARE SHOOTING! RUN AWAY! PIRATES!"

Cheerfully called out just to get the civvies moving faster.

<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

The only person within Lemina's line of sight who seems to know what she's doing is Jay, and honestly, Lemina can think of worse things to do than follow Jay into danger. After all -- she kind of made her peace with some degree of danger in this situation going in; the only question is what... exactly she's heading into.

Without really thinking about it, Lemina decides to grab her staff off her back. ... granted -- it's not like she really needs it to do magic, but it's definitely reassuring. Even if she's once again let herself get swept up into something that's way, way beyond her understanding...

... all she needs is confidence in herself and her magic and it'll work out just fine!

<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Tolone gives a silent shrug to the proposal to give Cecilia Aveh. "If the commander agrees," she says, but then matters develop. Tolone seems briefly concerned as Cecilia seems to go off the wide clean path of Acceptable Rhetoric and veers into the Sedition Ditch.

When the door slams open - eventually - Tolone frowns. She continues to frown as a free bonus action for the remainder of the story.

Her eyes twinkle. (The cameras are adjusting.) An advanced digital scan plus the fact that the man who has just burst into the area has presented himself as a pirate leads her to a conclusion. "Seraphita," Tolone says: "his bounty is over one million gella. That's enough for at least two dresses."

Tolone looks at Claude. Her eyes drink in every girthsome inch of his quad-barreled iron. "Nice gun," she tells him, before taking a step towards the group. As Lily and others become visible, Tolone raises her voice slightly.

"All of you put your hands up and you'll save yourself a lot of pain."

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

Shalune - contrary to popular opinion, typical habits and general appearance - isn't stupid. Which is why she's got her own harness keeping her in place on Big Shal's back, and a couple of bits of Gear-grade armor bolted and welded onto the sides of the scaffolding she uses as a platform, reinforcing it and making it a little safer for her to be on. It's not exactly a cockpit, but it's a start, and enough for her to go on for the time being. After all, she explicitly doesn't want to turn Big Shal into a weapon of war.

Just a weapon of helping out. Sometimes, that just happens to mean something reckless and big, that's all.

"Three-- two-- one--" she slowly mutters under her breath, feeling for the hard cylinder that counts as her weapon when not fully extended, and bracing against the bottom of the platform. "--Lunie, we're heading down! Big Shal, hit it!" she orders, and her golem's eyes flash bright enough to be seen through the mask - which turns out to just be a uselessly painted plank of wood, immediately blown off and away from the force of the impact of the machine's fist against the centre of the harness around its chest.

There's a series of high-pitched 'fwip' sounds as the cables holding it in place immediately give way, and Shalune is suddenly thankful for her forethought as the golem and rider plummet down towards the city. It would be 'in pursuit of Leon' were there any control - instead, it's just a freefall, one that a golem that rickety is surely not going to survive without damage.

True enough, Big Shal's landing is impossibly heavy, and the Golem automatically stumbles, pitching to one side as one leg simply tears itself apart from the impact. For a moment, it almost looks comical, one arm swinging widely around as if to try to maintain the golem's balance with half of it shorn away--

--but then the scattering pieces of junk seem to halt, hovering in place as if caught by a giant magnet before pulling back towards the golem with improbable speed, a sudden and miniature whirlwind of metal. Rather than reform the leg, they focus in on the golem's fist, and what might have been an attempt to catch its balance turns into a shattering blow on the nearest Aveh guard Gear.

Immediately, Shalune hops to her feet, the cylinder in her hand expanding outwards into a five-foot staff of white-gold metal with a thick canister at one end; she jams it through a hole in her makeshift canopy, pointed at the suddenly-exposed cockpit, and pulls the trigger to generate a 'whoomp' of concussive energy, an almost solid wall of sound that sends both pilot and gear limp.

"... I'm really glad that worked," Shalune whimpers to herself as human and golem bunker back down, trying to keep the edge of fear down.

<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

"WHAT, ONE MILLION!!?!?" Seraphita intones, loudly, as she turns to look at Tolone rather dramatically.

There is a long pause until she adds: "How many zeros is that? That's more than I can count to!! Oh but I do want two dresses! Then I'll be twice the princess!" That's not how it works but let her have this one.

<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Tolone's expression develops the tension of one who longs for the release of death. This is not a good thing to see in the face of your opponent, and are those freckles or screws on her cheeks?

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Kahm heard Cecilia's murmurs, and frown softly in thought. She began her speech with a fact they all knew, and made clear her resolve. "So, that's what you've chosen." The Captain mused. And then...

A FEW MONTH AGO, IN THE MOUNTAINS OF LACOUR

Even before the Rephraim was a glint in the sky, there was an ineffable sensation-a pressure-that drew Kahm's eyes in the distant gear's direction. "Captain." The commlink in his ear crackled with words only he could hear, "We've got a bogie coming your way."

"I know." He said.

NOW

Something tugged at the edges of the Kahm's consciousness. A feeling, an instinct that pulled him into action from the moment before the Princess finished her final sentences. "All units, scramble!" He commanded. "The enemy is here!"

Several things happen at once. The initial onslaught from Yggdrasil units catches the Aveh gears offguard, but they were not the true targets. The air behind Cecilia suddenly heats and rises in a terrific updraft as several sleek, Gebler gears flew overheard to intercept the incoming forces. On the ground, a combination of Aveh and Gebler soldiers work to keep order. They don't seem like they've been caught particularly off-guard. They move too efficiently for that.

At the head of Gebler's mechanical assault squadron was a particular gear. It broke off as the rest of the unit scattered, each to contend with quelling their own particular assignment.

Hauteclaire is a gear of unmistakable visual design and pedigree. With a mostly-white paint job, the mecha reflected powerfully in the zenith of the ascendant Aveh sun. With a design the strided the line between a slender and bulky aesthetic, the gear was as recognizable for those things which did clash with it's white color scheme: A large, black cannon affixed to it's right arm, and a blade nearly the length of the gear itself, normally carried on it's back via a system of magnetic locks.

In flight, it appeared to make use of four long blade-like appendages that extended in different angles from gear's body, creating an 'X' pattern behind it. A lone, white spike (Or horn?!), projected from top of its head, curving backwards, purposes unknown. A veritable distortion of undulating force flowed in the mobile weapon's wake, a byproduct of the Hauteclaire's ether machine.

For Leon, Ida, Katyna, Shalune, and Lunata, to see it was to know a fact: This was no gear wrought from the nations of Ignas.

The gear landed before them in a cloud of dust and fury, while Kahm's earpiece sparked with a most unwelcome message from Lieutenant Voss: Regardless of the circumstances, it couldn't have happened at a worse time.

"Acknowledged." He said, "But we're about to have bigger problems. Report to the hangar immediately and deploy to my side, Lieutenant. Your gear is already prepped."

To the others, but the Leon in particular, he turned on his external speaker. "Black Wolf." He said, surmising quite clearly who it had to be inside the Weglaf, "You should have stayed dead. The rest of you have made a terrible mistake."

There's no further conversation, no warning or opportunities to surrender. The white gear moved quickly and efficiently, simultaneously grabbing the carbon blade on its back as the mag-lock released with an ominous KA-CHUNK, the flight rods humming with activation as it turned on whatever kind of otherworldly thrust it utilizing, swinging that heavy blade out at a high-speed, uncompromising thrust aimed to cleave through...well, all of them.

The edge of the weapon ionized with an ominous blue energy as it approached it's first target. It might not be an idle threat.

<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Ther boy from Ea---er, pirate rolls his eyes at Seraphita. "God, it's ten zeroes, obviously," says Claude C. Kenny, recipient of a degree from an actual space university. "And I think you've got it wrong, lady. We've got the drop and the gun on you."

Claude waits for Bart's lead, but he keeps said gun pointed at Tolone, who seems the angrier of the two. He's pretty sure she'll jump first.

<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

"Run! Get to safety! We can't let these rascals cut off the head of Aveh!" Arash heroically panics, encouraging Aveh's nearby brass to preserve themselves instead of organize a response. The 'evacuation protocols' that he taught a week earlier are also paying dividends, as the guards nearby facilitate their undignified rout. "I'll hold these bloody barbarians back, any proud Novemberite'll defend his allies to the end!" This obvious lie and his tear-streaked face cover over the fact that his weapons were stashed right by the balcony entrance.

 "And there's our flying metal friends." He sniffs the fuel-tinged air. "As fragrant as always." As per usual he's leapt onto the roof, concealed himself under a hanging eave, and found a direct line of fire towards the palace windows. Should anyone try to recapture the princess, well of course he'll gun them down. And if some shots should miss and strike her Gebler guardians...that would be a pity, wouldn't it?

<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 IT probably isn't surprising that Bart gets a chill when Lily comes floating up behind them, and he pauses for a moment. And raises his one good eyebrow, since y'know... Lily. Floating. All that good stuff.

 "...Lily, you... doin' okay back there?" he asks in a somewhat querulous tone of voice. "You seem a bit... different."

 Pause.

 "Please tell me you didn't find the royal happy stash or something..."

 Quips are about all he's got in the face of the (admittedly terrifying looking) woman. He's never heard of Drive, and the concept of Lily floating due to raw power would only get worse if he knew about the side effects.

 And then things get worse when Tolone tells them to put their hands up. And Bart turns around, and grins. "Hey, hey, hey! 'Over one million' is worth a lot more than two dresses!" Not helping his case at all here, but... well, Bart can guess from the uniform that these two are probably Cecilia's handlers. Better make a bit of a scene here.

 And with that, Bart pulls out his whip, allowing it to uncoil before he snaps it once, the cracker on the end making a satisfying whip-*crack* in response. "Look, the Princes off Kross here..." And he points his thumb at Claude. "..and I are here to fight it out over Cecilia's hand in marriage, and having you two girls here is really gonna crimp the butch rivalry thing we got going on." He looks back for a moment at Fei, Xantia, and Lily.

 "...um, we also have the wandering martial artist, a wild girl, and the wicked witch of the north, if that is sufficient to scary you two off?" He actually sounds a little hopeful in that regard.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with Heavy Swing!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lunata Croze with Heavy Swing!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Katyna Reidal with Heavy Swing!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Yay, the subtlety is over! Xantia was waiting to hear that. With a wide grin, she confirms, "Ready~!" and follows after Bart as he starts blasting through doors. Ever so slowly, Xantia's grin transforms into a slight frown. Until she takes it upon herself to rush past, and break down a door before Bart gets to it, having no more trouble with it despite her much shorter stature. "Don't hog all the fun!", she chides.

She's right about to beat Bart to a second door, when she suddenly stops cold, allowing the pirate captain to barrel on ahead. She's rather easily distracted, and seeing a badly injured Lily is definitely a great enough distraction for her to pause, and state the obvious. "Lily! You're hurt!"

Fei tells her to go ahead, but Xantia's conflicted, her impulses to help injured people and punch bad guys reaching a stalemate. Besides, didn't she promise to watch Fei? But, she's also supposed to help complete this mission...

She ends up just standing there, wasting far too much time and not really being a direct help to either side right away. In the end, she can't get herself to just rush ahead and ignore Lily, waiting for her and Fei instead of immediately going through the door after Bart and Claude.

Lily seems to want to keep fighting, which prompts a concerned, "Are you sure you're okay?" She turns to Fei for his judgement. After a moment, a hand flies to her mouth, when she realizes, "Oh, sorry! I didn't go ahead like you told me. Should I still do that?"

She should've just stuck to the plan of 'rush in and punch everybody in the way'. This is already not simple enough anymore for Xantia to quickly figure out the best thing to do.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Gwen had a plan when she followed Not Cassidy Cain. It was a decent plan, thought up in the short space of the minutes she spent following Definitely Gwen.

Not Cassidy will find Gwen, for all her happy-go-lucky manner of conducting day-to-day business, is actually pretty capable when it comes to tracking someone down, even among a bustling crowd. Almost as if Gwen's profession was... something that would involve tracking people down to give them their mail, in fact.

Gwen gets close enough to place a hand on the Not Cassidy's shoulder, suddenly, there's someone hugging Gwen right now, weeping tears of joy and decreeing that they're her twin sister. The redhead, for the most part, just loosely flops in the embrace, blue-grey eyes wide as one gella coins with shock. "-Uh."

Green eyes, flecked with gold. A distinctive look that belongs to along one person Gwen knows, who'd definitely be the sort of person to be able to attempt such a ruse.

And what would a ruse be without some witnesses? Of course there are witnesses. Jack and Hanpan, no less, who knows enough to realize how much of a touching sight this is, but not enough to know just why this really can't be a thing. At all. Well, it could be, but the chances of such a thing happening is really, really, *really* low. "Mmn." She looks to Jack out of the corner of her eye. "She's not-"

_Hwen_. Hwen Whitlock.

And someone, there is probably a Janus Cascade, suddenly struck with the complusion to fall over laughing uncontrollably.

".... Cassidy," Gwen murmurs, like an adult to a naughty child, "You realize that if someone recognized you as me here, you'd be in some pretty big trouble, right? I mean, with everythin' goin' on, there's probably next to no chance someone's gonna put two n' two together, much less care, but-"

And that's when Cecilia speaks. Gwen turns from her vantage point to glance towards Cecilia, eyes wide. "Hot dang, she really did it! Uh." SHe watches Jack depart, and places one hand on Cassidy's shoulder, handing her a spare shish kebob. "I'm gonna go this way. Could use the help if y'got any to spare!"

GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Heavy Swing for 154 hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Heavy Swing for 34 hit points!
GS: Katyna Reidal takes a glancing hit from Kahm Yugh's Heavy Swing for 77 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Cool, Cecilia sees her. That's that taken care of, then. Next on Ragnell's agenda: figuring out if she needs to get over there. ...and then getting over there. She doesn't have long to try to ponder this, though, because then Cecilia begins her speech, some commotion begins up in the skies, and Cecilia's words are punctuated by a Gear SLAMMING into the ground and shanking one of the other Gears standing guard, while pirates come in on the back of the balcony to KIDNAP the PRINCESS, AHEM AHEM. Ragnell chuckles.

"Humans are so transparent," she murmurs, tilting her bag to pour the rest of her popcorn into her mouth. What happened to all the corn she had? it went flying when Weglaff landed, THANKS, WEGLAFF. Regardless, this is not a good place for her to continue to be, all considered. She anticipated fireworks, but she didn't realize just how explosive they would be.

Which just makes it more *exciting*.

Anticipating that there would be fireworks means being, to a certain extent, prepared for them. As chaos continues to bloom in pretty colors as more and more people join the festivities, Ragnell pulls out a grappling hook and aims it over the balcony across the way. She fires, and the hook sails and lands with a *kachunk* on the edge of the balcony, then tightens. Ragnell leaps off her rooftop, rope retracting as she swings; a moment later, assuming nothing terrible happens to swat Ragnell out of the sky or cut her rope or knock the grappling hook off the balcony, and she'll pull herself up onto the edge and hop down next to Cecilia.

Ragnell only *sort of* plans, really.

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

"I know!" Cassidy tells Gwen, still hugging her; squeezing her, in fact, like a toothpaste tube. And not even correctly, outing herself immediately as the kind of person who'd squeeze such a thing in the middle, to the anger of everyone else who needs the toothpaste after. She even cheekrubs the other woman affectionately, her distinctive brogue gone in favor of adopting Gwen's accent and diction flawlessly. She has run into the woman enough times to be able to copy it convincingly; shades of her theatrical past, coming back to haunt everyone who chooses to be in her vicinity.

 Easing away and at Gwen's murmured warning, there's a slight smile and a hooding of those eyes.

 "Ay, well. Y'ken me lass. I like living dangerously." Nevermind her injuries. But with the woodworker leaving along with his Hanpan, and the courier moving to follow, she stays behind, lifting her fingers in a wave.

 Even with the disguise, she doesn't find it prudent to venture into the castle. Gebler presence was everywhere, suffocating her with the heat of the desert. None of that, however, leaves a trace on her smiling mien.

 "I've got plenty of sommat tae spare," she tells her. "But off you get. Find your friends. I'll do what I can, I promise. But y'ken what that means, ay?"

 She winks, inclining her head over her shoulder.

 "That's two you owe me."

 Attacks occur and smoke, explosions and screaming commence. Large war machines drop as if from the heavens, leaving thunderous quakes at their wake. And should the redhaired courier look back at her..

 ...she's already gone.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

Lunata's teeth clench as a sensation overwhelms her for a moment--

"I know, Ge Ramda!" she shouts impatiently as the sphere in her cockpit shimmers to a particularly errant shine, and the Rephaim not so much avoids as it raises its own beam sabre in turn.

The two blades -- Hauteclaire's carbon blade released from its lock clashing against Rephaim's wash of beam energy -- spark with energy as she stares towards the white face of her opponent's Gear.

"What is this sensation...?" Lunata frowns, a sweat dropping from her face. Whatever it is, it feels... unpleasant--

--a white Gear much like the Hauteclaire twists on one knee--
--the pilot yells, "Where is it?! I can't see it!"--
--A flash of recognition and warning as the cockpit turns red--
--The screen rips apart as a carbon blade strikes through--

"Be silent! Be silent, Ge Ramda, you're distracting me!" Lunata shouts frantically, her cool immediately going out the window. She didn't need Ge Ramda's fear right now. She stares towards Weglaff and the others, gritting her teeth.

"Lunie, I'm going to go after this one!" she barks at Shalune with uncharacteristic anger. The head vulcan locks into place as the hardpoints track the Hauteclaire's swift movements, with Lunata grimacing as she pulls the kill switch.

GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Kahm Yugh with 90mm Leyline Vulcan!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

What is that?

Katyna is momentarily distracted by the appearance of Rephaim, which she has seen before but never active. It's not a machine she's familiar with, and it can do things she hasn't seen any of the Gears of Filgaia do. How many beam sabers are even out here? That one makes 'one', as far as she knows.

But she knows not to draw her attention away from her enemies, and the Hauteclaire is the same kind of mystery. Well, different in detail, but still: not what she expected. It doesn't match any of the machine types she saw in the Battling Arena, nor does it match anything she was told do expect about Aveh Gears.

Katyna brings up Argentis' off hand and swings it, backhand-like, at the incoming blade. This would be a terrible idea, except the lower arm unfolds some of its armour plates into what is either a large buckler or a small regular shield, and the angle is such that she can sort of deflect the incoming blow; it scrapes along the outer section of Argentis' arm, sliding the blocky Gear backwards slightly under the force, before skipping off and away.

Damn, she thinks to herself. She hasn't seen anything like that anywhere around here. Where did he find that?

Katyna tracks the fast-moving Hauteclaire with her cannon. She doesn't bother responding on her own loudspeaker, but simply focuses on trying to get a solid lock. Eventually, she feels she has one, and she fires. It doesn't sound like a gunshot, but a distinct sound all its own, and the shell is trailing a thin thruster trail behind it - it's a gyrojet, not a standard bullet, more like a bullet-shaped missile than a solid slug. It doesn't maneuver, mostly flying straight from the barrel.

They wanted a distraction, she'll provide it.

GS: Katyna Reidal has attacked Kahm Yugh with Gyrojet Cannon!
GS: Katyna Reidal has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei laughs. "It's okay. I just didn't want you to feel chained to me or anything!" He gives a nod to Lily but admits, "I don't think I can really uh--point all the non-kill people, it might be easier to think about who you should kill? I mean, you probably know more of who is, uh, with them than I do." He stops suddenly, though, as an idea occurs to him. He looks back over to Lily and Xantia, frowning, and then says, "I'll be right back. I just thought of something I could grab from one of the rooms that'll help us. Be right back!"

He then turns and runs back the way they came. Huh. That's weird.

Maybe he just doesn't want to kung fu fight cute girls with kung fu. Okay, that's actually part of it. The other part is, well...

...He just has to find the room, first.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Ida, Leon thinks. His jaw sets; his eyes narrow, for a moment. The last time they spoke, it wasn't on the best of terms. He rather shot her, after all. And, despite the pride in his declaration, his nerves run high. He is facing Gebler -- he hasn't seen them yet, but that is all the more reason to know fear. He switches to a transmission.

"Everstead-Rey. Lily is in there," he transmits back. "I won't turn down help. But I want one thing understood: today, here, with her life at stake... if you endanger her, I will kill you and sleep soundly tonight."

He turns the transmission off. And he watches, as Gebler's Gears take to the skies. He draws in a sharp hiss -- his eyes go wide, for a moment -- and then he stares. "It's a trap," he transmits over the Yggdrasil Alliance short band. "Of course. Stay alert. That's--tch! That Gear...!"

The white Gear, sleek and deadly all at once. His eyes widen as he sees it.

ONE YEAR AGO

In the sands of the battlefield, Lieutenant Leon Albus flashed a grin. His hair was still worn short, then, in a Caesar cut and his Kislevi combat gear fit snugly. He watched as the bombs that his small team set exploded. Fireballs erupted into the evening sky, and Roanie stood up next to him. The blonde-haired young man beamed, looking sideways at him. "Lieutenant! Sir! We've got the drop on them!"

Leon smiled. "I see that, Roanie. Colonel Keil will be pleased. Markham should be firing the flares... now."

He watched as the first one went up. A flash of green erupted up high, smoke against the evening sky. Kislevi infantry let out a whoop -- and then ran, a sea of olive drab against the ground, as they charged the broken Aveh fortification ahead of them. Leon watched with a smile.

The smile slid, slowly, to terror. The Hauteclaire flashed overhead, white and terrible, before shots rained down. The explosions ripped through the Kislevi ranks... and fire and violence crashed down down in their number, as Leon stared.

Helpless.

TODAY

"...It's you!" Leon says, and he brings up one of the big, armored forearms of the Weglaf--and sparks explode and hurtle out of it. The blade rips through the armor, shearing some away. Sparks hurtle and fly, and Leon swings his arm backward. "I remember you. Maybe I've made a mistake--I won't pretend this isn't foolhardy. I know how strong you are, Gebler pilot. I have one question for you."

The 'but' remains unspoken, and yet as heavy as gravity itself.

Weglaf rushes forward, with all the sluggishness and rattle of an excavated Gear instead of Solaris-made finesse. The other arm swings back, and the blade glints in the afternoon sun, before it slashes down for the Hauteclaire a moment after the vulcan shots and gyrojet pepper down upon the Gear.

"WHERE IS SHE!?"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Kahm Yugh with Saber Rush!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

If anyone was slow to start panicking in response to A GEAR CRASHING INTO THE GROUND AND OPENLY DECLARING REVOLUTION, a small wind mouse shouting about pirates gets the crowd into a proper lather, and people shout and start vacating the square!

For the Princess's part - well, she's less surprised than anyone else, probably. She turns, takes a few steps away from the podium to the commotion, and--

Is intercepted by Seraphita. Her lips crook and she looks past the excitable soldier to Bart, as if to say 'please assist in dealing with this.' She looks to Seraphita, near her, and then past her to Ragnell, and then back to Seraphita. "Ah," she says, slowly. "I'm sure...you'll do fine?" she says. Her fingers flex. Her weapons are back with her belongings in her room...She edges away, along the railing - in Ragnell's rough direction, perhaps hoping she will be 'mysteriously abducted' by an 'agent of the Guardians.'

Unfortunately, there is another problem.

Footfalls come from within the palace; amid the screaming and fire, it would be easy to miss them, but they come with purpose against the tile. "So this is her play," the owner of those boots rumbles as he walks. "More explosive than anticipated. Fatima's doing. Still within the parameters."

The only warning the pirates assailing the princess get is the sound of drawing steel.

"Welcome, rats," declares Kahran Ramses. He slams the hilt of his sword directly for Bartholomew's neck. "I thank you for so eagerly entering our trap."

DC: Kahran Ramses switches forms to Gebler Captain Ramses!
DC: Cassidy Cain switches forms to The Good Example!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Bart Fatima with Cheap Shot!
GS: Kahran Ramses has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

As Jacqueline moves through the crowd, a gust of wind blows through the stalls. She...frowns slightly, but decides to let it go for now. She spots the Simple Country Woodsman and starts moving towards him, tailing him. She spares a glance behind her, and offers her a nod and a hint of a smile. The first smile she's given in a while.

She could always use a little extra firepower, after all, and she knew Lemina possessed it in spades.

"Looks like we're headed in the same direction. Who are you with?" Jacqueline asks, focusing on Jack and keeping her voice quiet. Ordinarily she wouldn't have bothered with him...but he didn't look like Aveh or Gebler, and he looked big enough to be useful in a fight...or as a distraction, whichever way.

Little did she know that she would need it, with the fight breaking out around the Princess.

GS: Bart Fatima guards a hit from Kahran Ramses's Cheap Shot for 40 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh critically Guards a hit from Lunata Croze's 90mm Leyline Vulcan for 20 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Katyna Reidal's Gyrojet Cannon for 178 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Leon Albus's Saber Rush for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny was so focused on keeping angry twintailed girls covered with his pistol that he failed to guard against the arrival of bishy swordsmen. "Aw crap," he growls, turning to train his pistol on this mysterious swordsman... but he's closed all too quickly with the pirate leader, and Claude doesn't have a shot.

The young man licks his lips nervously; whoever this guy is, he looks and smells like he bathes daily, which on this planet means there's something weird about him. All he can do is try to wait for a shot and try to encourage his ally. "You can do it, Bart!" Claude shouts. "Good luck!"

A little sparkle twinkles around Bart for an instant, and then is gone.

<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


"Well," Comes a drawl from the Simple Country Woodsman. "I suppose I'm with whoever else is in on the stupid plan the princess dreamed up." Comes Jack's responce with a sardonic kind of amusement as he glances over his shoulder towards Jay, and then smirks towards Gwen. "You sure? She looks just like you."

But then come the explosions and the Gears. Pirates proclaiming deadly intent and a sudden reveal of a Captain with a trap and the swordsman just slowly sighs.

He reaches into the bundle of sticks and pulls out a carefully wrapped object. Long and slim, the cloth pulls away to reveal the curved sheath of a familiar sword.

"So, anyone have a way to get up there? Else I'll bring it down here."

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Bart Fatima with Good Luck Bart!!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Once they're inside the castle, Catenna picks up her pace. She's got to keep pace with Jacqueline. She's got to get there before something happens to Cecilia.

Cecilia having company does rather complicate matters. Especially when the company gains one more member.

"Jacqueline, we cannot hang back anymore," Catenna urges her friend, her voice a low hiss. She gestures with a quick sweep of one arm and begins to move forward, through the crowd, until she's within reach of the stage. She reached for Jay's hand, then looks up to Jack.

"If you are coming to help Princess Cecilia, I will need you to take my other hand," she says, holding it out. Lemina gets a similar look from her, then Gwen.

"...Just hold on somewhere," she urges.

The stage is within sight. Catenna can see Seraphita's bunny ears from here. With Jay in hand and probably Jack in the other, she breathes in, then begins to chant softly in her own language. One of the Mediums at her hips pulses softly. Catenna begins to crouch downwards, her legs bunching.

And then she Jumps.

It is an insanely high jump; a burst of water droplets shimmers in the air behind her. Air rips past her as she hurtles across the distance in the space of about two seconds, carrying Jay and Jack (with optional Lemina and/or Gwen) behind her like rag dolls - and then it's over, and Catenna's heels touch down to the stage with a click.

With a little help from Lucadia's arcana, she's just Jumped the entire party multiple hexes across the battle map, right up onto the stage, within a few feet of Cecilia.

Unfortunately she's staggering a bit with disorientation, and she's also got her hands full of friends and not weapons. Whoops.

DC: MISS! Bart Fatima completely evades Good Luck Bart! from Claude C. Kenny!
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 The day Bart is gonna take a good luck from a macho rival is the day he puts down his pirate hat for good.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Elsewhere in the confines of the palace, the footsteps of the guards patter past, not turning down the particular corridor a certain young woman has hidden herself.

Elsewhere, a certain medic can feel the foundations shudder. Something's happening--

Precisely 'what' makes itself known as a several urgent alerts play out along all communication channels through his earpiece. Slowly, Loren lifts a hand -- his good hand -- to his forehead and closes his eyes. Oh yes, of course.

The response from the Captain comes swiftly. Ever so slightly Loren stands that much straighter in the confines of the small sideroom.
"...Yes, sir."

He should have realized this was all about to get much worse. Though... Kahm had anticipated this?
There isn't much room to contemplate it. Bigger problems are afoot, and unfortunately, he has a good idea of what they might be.

Just as Captain Yugh said, the Gear's ready and awaiting launch. It takes, in fact, nearly no time at all.
"Captain, en route to your location. ETA: one minute."

Schiehallion doesn't move quickly. It doesn't need to, as one look at the massive frame of the combat support Gear as it touches down in the plaza, will tell: it's built with all the solidity of a damn mountain, something that opts to wade through -- or wait out -- attacks rather than outpace them.

It's without a doubt also of the same origin as Hauteclaire... wherever that may be. Certainly not anywhere around here.

Over private channels, the combat medic comments, "Captain, on site now. It appears we have visitors." ...It's a little dry, perhaps.

Moments before, with a pointed shout, one of the enemy gears on field in the Square rushes Kahm.

"Unfortunately," Loren states, switching to external speakers, and testing the motion in his right hand, "She's alive."

Support doesn't mean unarmed. As some of those present might discover momentarily. Loren scans the field, sights falling on two of the other figures present not already engaging the captain -- a standard Gear and... is that really a small Golem? (this earns a brief sigh) -- and engages targeting and ether-channeling systems in rapid succession. The Gear draws its sidearms.

A pulse of earth-charged ether ensues from the muzzles of the ARMs, peppering the air -- and possibly the opposition.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Shalune Amira with SEG-V.Terra!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with SEG-V.Terra!
GS: Shalune Amira guards a hit from Loren Voss's SEG-V.Terra for 110 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey guards a hit from Loren Voss's SEG-V.Terra for 118 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Noding to Jay, Lemina says, "I'm... here alone, actually! Hiro's busy with... sssssomething." Was that question to her or Jack? ... oh well. Either way.

Catenna tells her to hold on, and she does just that. She transfers her staff to a slightly awkward one-handed grip, and... then it's time to jump! Lemina takes to it pretty well, having flown on many an object in her time. Landing on the stage is a little rough, though; she slams her staff down to try to stabilize the landing.

Unfortunately, that's... all she does, for the moment. She's a little dazed -- she was expecting transit, but not... that.

<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

There is so much chaos. Seraphita's eyes zip from left to right - there's a Gear flying by, there's a guard sent flying by a punch, there's sections of wall collapsing and there's fire, and lightning and ice and gunfire and... so many stimuli!!!

And then above all, there is the Commander.

Seraphita's eyes light up, brighter than stars. She throws a fist up, grinning. "Goooooo, Commander! We won't let you down either!"

She is psyched. Absolutely psyched. And before her, enemies - no questions to ask, no morals to consider. The bunny's arms spread wide as she looks towards the princess. "Quick, find someplace safe to hide! We'll handle this!"

But then there's Ragnell on the stage. There's more, and more people on the stage. Zooming past guards, gunning for the princess. In Seraphita's mind, she is definitely protecting the princess from all these awful kidnappers right now.

"Hiiii guys! Sorry, sorry, we can't let you have the princess! I'm gonna have to ask you to leave, please and thank you!!" She's polite, because Tolone probably won't be.

But then there's a tug. Catenna, Xantia and Arash find something trying to siphon magic from them, setting it ablaze rather painfully inside them. It seems to be Seraphita's fault, who is now doing a handstand and waving. Ragnell is spared, because Seraphita assumes she isn't here to kidnap a princess. Xantia gets an extra sorry from Seraphita. There's one person left on the stage who gets her attention.

It's Lemina.
Seraphita hops to her, and attempts to HUG her. All that magic she just tried draining from the others, it lights up around her like a fiery aura. "I love your hair!! It's so bright and floofy!!!"

Yes, this is how she fights.

GS: Seraphita has attacked Xantia with Inner Fire!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Catenna with Inner Fire!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Arash Khan with Inner Fire!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Lemina Ausa with Burning Hug!
GS: Seraphita has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

'Everstead-Rey.' Ida can hear the tension in Leon's voice. He addresses her by her family name.

'Lily is in there.'

Ida's blood runs cold. Cecilia, she knew, but not Lily. She wonders when she started considering the ex-soldier a friend, but she's at that point now.

'If you endanger her, I will kill you and sleep soundly tonight.'

"I understand," Ida says. She thinks back to last night, to Barber and that Hellion that tried poisoning a whole town, to that thing that Neriah became. She realizes she's been transmitting nothing to Leon for a good fifteen minutes, and turns the channel off.

A console lights up to Ida's left, and tactical data starts streaming across it. Enemy, 100 meters high and closing fast, falling. Configuration unknown. The Dust Dragoon's AWACS manages to stay active for a whole thirty seconds, which is more than it's ever been able to manage in its tenure as Ida's machine. And then--

515: OUT OF MEMORY ERROR

CAUGHT SCRIPT
GOODBYE
>

Ida does not need the AWACS to know that the thing that just engaged is not from Aveh. It looks, in fact, like something that belongs to those shadowy 'Gebler' goons supporting Shakhan's regime. It's fast, too; the Dust Dragoon is at the very edge of the formation, and it still takes a solid hit from the carbon blade before Ida can back away. The impact staggers the machine, but the reactions Ida drilled into herself when she was in better shape are still there. The Dragoon takes a step back, its rear foot digging into the dirt; Kahm's blade carves a big, deep gash into the torso, but it's still standing. Ida glances over at the damage readout, but a second machine swoops in, peppering the Dragoon with... something Ida doesn't recognize. It looks like magic? Possibly? Her eyes go wide behind her goggles, and she tucks the Dragoon into a crouching stance, turning it so it's in defilade with the heavier armor between her and the enemy Gear. The Ether tears holes into the armor, anyway. For a few seconds Ida is dead certain she's going to die. When that doesn't happen--and the Gebler pilot confirms Lily is in fact here--Ida takes a breath. Anger starts to boil up inside her, and it takes serious effort to keep it gagged down.

The Dragoon doesn't give Schiehallion time to reload, if it even needs it. Ida charges right on up to the mountain of a machine, and pulls back the Dragoon's right hand. It clenches into a fist, and a big, weighted knuckle-duster swings down over its fingers. It drives the weapon right at the Gebler Gear's center of mass. Ida knows that's probably where the cockpit is.

For some reason, she can't bring herself to care about the pilot.

DC: MISS! Catenna completely evades Inner Fire from Seraphita!
GS: Lemina Ausa critically Guards a hit from Seraphita's Burning Hug for 21 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Loren Voss with Screaming Internally While Punching In A Giant Robot!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Inner Fire for 106 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 The fact that the Commander of Gebler is nice enough to announce himself is all that Bart needs to save himself from getting neck chopped by the hilt of a sword. Instead he spins around, geing knocked backwards as he brings his arm up to guard against the incoming weapon. It's enough to cause him to grunt, and the pirate staggers backwards for a moment, shaking his arm to try and bring some of the feeling back to it.

 "Pale hair and eyes... so, you must be the rumored Commander that I've heard so much about," Bart comments, his one eye narrowing slightly. "I guess we hit the jackpot a bit more than I was expecting."

 Ramses - Sigurd had described the commander of Gebler as quite dangerous, and not someone to underestimate. But it seemed that they had a lot of strong soldiers here, which meant...

 The pirate smirks, and brings his whip around in a long, snaking strike aimed right towards Ramses' face. "If you were familiar with Aveh Sand Rats, you'd realize that backing one into a corner is probably the worst place to face one!" And Bart's all confident and stuff, which is why Claude throwing a good luck at him is... just...

 Bart just turns his head, his eye narrow and flat. "...oh, yeah. Luck. Right. You could, y'know. Help."

 And at the last moment, Bart brings his wrist up into the lashing whip... which diverts its path, bringing it around so that it wraps around the leg of a nearby chair. And the pirate turns, using the motion of his body to launch the chair RIGHT AT RAMSES FACE. Because really, if the whip isn't going to get the point across, maybe some more hefty furniture will!

GS: Bart Fatima has attacked Kahran Ramses with Head Hunter!
GS: Bart Fatima has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

If there were one thing that Shalune would never change about Big Shal, it's the golem's stature; she considers it 'just right', a height that can be imposing when necessary without being approachable. Besides, if Big Shal were too big, she couldn't help around the store.

It particularly comes in handy during times like these, when their profile is too low to be part of the strange Gear's initial assault. If nothing else, it gives Big Shal time to recover from her initial attack, the golem bringing its arms up in a guard; the component pieces of scrap that made up its oversize fist tear away following the impact, picked up into the odd whirlwind before spiralling back into place at the golem's ankle, reforming the foot as if it were never broken.

"Wah-- Aveh has stuff like that?" she blurts into her commlink as she stares through a small viewing pane on top of her makeshift cockpit. "What the heck is it? How is it even flying?!"

... this is a girl who regularly wields scavenged bits of Veruni technology out in the open, and whose rickety golem is currently rebuilding itself on the fly thanks to the power of a small and totally innocent white ARM, and even she's got no clue how the thing above them is propelling itself.

Shalune swallows uncertainly at the sight of the reinforcements, and then her expression hardens as she hears Lunata's voice over the radio, unexpectedly full of emotion. "O-okay! I'll make a ruckus here! --just be careful, okay?" she requests, feeling the need to at least say something, keeping her voice level for the sake of the waitress-pilot. "We're all with you. I'll-- I'll try to figure out what parts to target to stop that thing moving, too." Kind of an empty promise, honestly - but she can at least seek to do what she can, and she certainly can't deny the spike of curiosity that rockets through her at the sight of the unknown technology.

Underneath her, Big Shal stands, its leg restored - and promptly jukes forward as if it were a boxer, throwing a punch with surprising agility to kneecap one of the Aveh gears closing in. --or it would, were it not for the way the Golem seems to detect an uncoming threat, twisting to one side to reestablish its guard. It doesn't help; the attack tears at Big Shal's arms, shearing one of them away momentarily - but Shalune grits her teeth, willing more of herself into her ARM, and the connections and cables seem to knit back together almost instantly.

"--wah!" blurts the girl inside the cockpit, momentarily rattled - which perhaps suggests that she has nothing to do with the golem's decision to turn on the massive mountain of a Gear, picking up speed as its heavy steps draw near. The pieces of Aveh gear that it's blown away from its opponents follow it, flying into place to lock at the golem's shoulder in a mass of spikes, driven into a leg.

DC: MISS! Arash Khan completely evades Inner Fire from Seraphita!
GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Loren Voss with Assaulting Charge!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Loren Voss guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Screaming Internally While Punching In A Giant Robot for 65 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Shalune Amira's Assaulting Charge for 17 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny blinks a bit owlishly at Bart. Help? In... in a duel?

"Well... okay," he says, slowly training the pistol toward Ramses. "I figured you were tough enough to take him by yourself, but if you need my help..."

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

She is oblivious to the threats circling around the battlefield but it's not surprising that once she finds an opportunity, she takes it.

 She is not here in Aveh and the royal capital is suddenly teeming with gears.

 One of them emerges from the span of desert from the outside of it, able to insinuate itself with other forces that have started to move on high alert. A generic model, to be sure, but clearly recognizable as one of the kingdom's machines. A month ago, a ship carrying a supply of them had crashed into the desert while she and a motley crew of brigands have been escaping, and appropriated one out of the sheer desire not to die scrabbling about in the desert, miles from civilization. It had been a blessing, veritable mana from heaven, as clunky and damaged as it was.

 Thanks to Dayton Derrida, however, it isn't so clunky now.

 As always, the woman is not without her tricks. Unlike others who have celebrated their finds by ensuring that their brand new machines display their individual decals and insignias, Cassidy had opted to keep the exterior of her gear exactly the same. Colors, racing stripes, spinning rims and the like, that can come later. The machine at present is a work in progress, she didn't see the need to do all of that when the thing has yet to be finalized.

 But it is a good opportunity to test what is under the hood, so to speak. And really, its nondescript facade is more of a boon today than a bane.

 Because it enables her to pretend, for just a moment, that she's one of the people she is inevitably going to try and screw over. So as Loren turns towards the enemy gears bearing his way, she is moving, as if to provide backup...

 When the massive hand unlatches its equally massive blade, and attempts to kneecap the Gebler medic's machine where it stands.

GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Loren Voss with Once a Thief!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 "Dude he's like the Evil Commander of the Evil Forces of Great Evil, when do you ever take that guy on by yourself?" Bart asks, despite the fact that he basically did The Same Thing except with Rats and Occasionally Margie as backup in another timeline. "This is where we band together for great justice and all that."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"She's smot-" Her words are getting smushed by Cassidy's face-rubbing- "-mah sistmer!"

But Cassidy's still a friend, so it's close enough for Gwen. "Be careful, whatever y'do, okay?" Her warning seems nicely timed with the cacophony of battle, overshadowing whatever trite thing Gwen would've thought to say next.

Gwen watches the space where her long lost 'twin sister' was, moments ago, a shell-shocked expression on her face.

".... I'm going to regret this, aren't I?"
----

Gwen joins Jack as he unsheathes his sword. "I'm not sure exactly how t'get up there in time."

  Catenna, thankfully, has an answer. Gwen, in lieu of nothing else to grab on, grabs ahold of Jack's arm. "Pardon the rudeness," she mutters beneath her breath. "I ain't meanin' to make a come-on to ya, but I think she's about to-"

Annnnd they're flying, Gwen's ARM probably clenching a bit *too* tight to Jack's arm in absolute fear as they land. ".... I dunno I could call that... fun... but, uh, that worked?" She looks over at the scene in question. "Uh... who's... who?"

GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Cassidy Cain's Once a Thief for 202 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Tolone considers Bart. He provides a helpful force inventory. "No," she tells him.

"I don't care," Tolone answers Claude, along with a small nod. "See, that guy was -" Tolone pauses for a half a second. "You said 'Fei'? Spell that for me," she tells Bart.

BUT THEN...

"!!" Tolone seems shocked, but delighted, at the sudden appearance of Kahran Ramses. "Commander--!"

"You've already lost," she tells Bart again, even as she takes a deep breath, folds her arms, closes her eyes... and says one word. "Bang," and then there is a sudden storm of explosions as something rips out through the loose black of her trousers, a thundering storm of streaking, wailing rockets that arc harmlessly around Bart and the Commander's clash, smashing towards Lily. Unfortunately, this is a zone that includes Claude C. Kenny.

Tolone pivots around and calls over the screech and horror of explosions that seems to be bursting tryptophobically out of her thighs, "Looks like we have them surrounded!" This towards Seraphita.

She sees people leaping in the air. Gwen may be able to see Tolone looking. She leans backwards, the dust clearing to reveal gleaming chrome where she ought to have legs. SOMETHING slides open and a ten-chambered revolver of SOME kind emerges from where she OUGHT to have part of her LEG.

It shoots more rockets up at Gwen and Jack.

GS: Tolone has attacked Lily Keil with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
GS: Tolone has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
GS: Tolone has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jack Van Burace with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
GS: Tolone has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

All of them manage to hold, in one fashion or another. That was something, but Kahm was hardly impressed. The Hauteclaire's blade struck cleanly, more or less, meeting with some resistance and coming to a stop on the Rephaim's blade before pulling back.

The Rephaim is first to attack. Something about it intrigues Kahm, or perhaps the person piloting. This is the one, he thinks, that was connected with those ruins Lieutenant Voss excavated. But that was immaterial now, what mattered is that she was the first to fire on him.

Being first, however, was not necessarily an advantage.

The gears eye's glow, and something unusual happens: The vulcan slugs don't just not hit, they change course, each veering away from the gear's body at the last moment as if some immutable law had directed them otherwise. Some keep travelling on at random angles, but other pepper the surroundings as chunks of wood and adobe fly up in their wake.

The white gear was already in motion by the time it had to contend with the Argentis's attack. He instinctively understands it's not what it seems, but the opportunity to evade has already come and gone-he'd have to improvise. Kahm's hands veered the control sticks to the right, and the gear leaned away from the rocket slug's path so that impacted the thicker shoulder armor, which crumpled and ejected reactive plating around the slug to kill its considerable momentum.

That left the Weglaf.

The other gear's blade swung down, and Hauteclaire lifted its to meet it. That was a terrific clash as, advanced technology or not, the white gear struggled to oppose the might of the blow Leon had given it. It's actually pushed back, for a moment.

Then it pushes forward, right as the Lieutenant arrives, using it's etheric propulsion the shove the Weglaf back and break their exchange in the process. "She told us about you, however." Kahm said, "Captain Albus, I presume."

The Rephaim and Argentis are threats, but Kahm tries to keep them spaced apart, lifting one arm to spray the two with autogun fire from the Hauteclaire's wrist, lest the approached too close. Leon gets a more personal approach, as the gear lights up with a third source of ammunition, blasting it with more kinetic artillery from the autocannons on its head.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lunata Croze with Wrist Guns!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Katyna Reidal with Wrist Guns!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with Anti-Personnel Turrets!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Tolone's Show 'Em A Little Leg for 19 hit points!
GS: Katyna Reidal takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Wrist Guns for 131 hit points!
DC: MISS! Jack Van Burace completely evades Show 'Em A Little Leg from Tolone!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Tolone's Show 'Em A Little Leg for 19 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Ragnell has posed.

Butch? Y'all don't know a *thing* about butches.

Without anything getting in her way, Ragnell is free and clear to do exactly as she'd intended, and she stands on the edge of the balcony with a cocky smirk and Cecilia edging towards you. "Huhhh, looks like Sera got another new friend," she remarks shading her eyes as she eyes Kahran smacking Bart in the neck with a sword. She laughs outright when Claude attempts to wish Bart luck and Bart flat-out says 'OR YOU COULD HELP,' then reaches out a hand to the Princess.

"That dress looks terrible on you," she drawls--then winks, grin wide and lascivious. "How's about we find someplace nice and private to get it off~?"

Once Cecilia takes her hand, Ragnell will pull her up onto the edge of the balcony, then wraps her free arm tight around Cecilia's waist. "This is gonna be rough, so hold on tight," she murmurs to her. Then she looks back over at the growing fisticuffsswordicuffsgunnicuffs over yonder.

A beat.

"Later, suckers!" Ragnell declares. Then, cackling, she leaps off the balcony with Cecilia in tow, swinging courtesy of the grappling hook rope down towards a window a floor below and smashing through it. Given as the Seraph is not visible to most people, many present might well believe that Cecilia straight up flew away, which probably only helps Cecilia's claims of being protected by the Guardians and all that.

It also means that Team Ramses just had the Princess snatched away right under their noses. They might be annoyed by that.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"Fine," Lily answers, and her voice remains... Different. Too quiet, but it carries enough to be heard, a strange quality in it. ...Or maybe it's the strange quality in her aura. She is... obviously lying about being ine. She glances to Xantia too at that. "I'm injured, but we have more important things to worry about," she tells the other girl, still fairly emotionless for the moment. "Thank you." The last she adds in a slight daze, as she has to try again to keep herself... together.

Lily's hand is up, at Tolone's direction, but only one of them; her swollen left hand hangs at her side. ...It is not a particularly 'surrender' motion. Fei answers her and she tilts her head. "...Kill the ones I recognize," she repeats in her own words. She watches the standoff, looks out to where she sees the Gears battling and something grips her heart.

And then Kahran arrives abrubtly. Their trap, he says, and her eye, still aglow, settles on him balefully. But the fighting is starting and--

Tolone. Amidst the people suddenly up here, most of which Lily doesn't recognize in her drugged haze, Tolone acts. The missile that she frankly never expected rockets towards her, along with oters, and she does not freeze Claude... But she doesn't move to shield him either. Her eye flashes and her hands pulse with violet power as a rippling shield of darkness appears before her to largely absorb the blasts. She narrows her eye.

"...I told you I'd show you new techniques. What are you?" Her voice is strange, too quiet, too distant, as she puts her hand out further and it glows blue with strange runes circling around it.

From nothing a lance as wide as Lily's torso shapes from ice and rockets abrubtly towards Tolone, covered in frigid mist.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Tolone with Mistflash!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Tolone critically Guards a hit from Lily Keil's Mistflash for 18 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a glancing hit from Tolone's Show 'Em A Little Leg for 43 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Anti-Personnel Turrets for 120 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses guards a hit from Bart Fatima's Head Hunter for 55 hit points!
GS: Bart Fatima takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia just looks at Fei quizzically. She doesn't say anything aloud, but you can almost hear her trying to figure out what chains have to do with anything. Even if she did figure that out, she'd still be confused, as she tends to choose to stick by Fei of her own accord anyway. She probably wouldn't even be with Bart's crew right now if it hadn't been for that.

She's still no closer to making sense of that when another curveball is thrown, in the form of Fei suddenly running off. That does get her to at least start to say something. "Huh, what? But--" And there he goes. Well, that settles that, she supposes. She couldn't possibly leave Lily unattended, after... whatever might have happened back there. A bit awkwardly, she smiles at Lily, agreeing readily enough, "Well, that's that... I guess we should go fight, then!" Taking charge of the situation wouldn't happen any other way, when it's left to Xantia.

Finally, then, she steps onto the stage of chaos proper, and before she can even take proper stock of the situation... her hand flies to her stomach, before she doubles over in pain, suddenly suffering the mother of all heartburn. "Wh-what...?" What's even hurting her? Xantia doesn't understand. Was it something she ate? Even Catenna's special curry didn't burn this badly. It may even be somewhat of a mystery to Seraphita, for Xantia to react that strongly when it never felt like she had a ton of magic potential.

She only figures out the cause after being told 'sorry'. After which her eyes go wide. "Sera?!" Why is her friend here? Is she... fighting them? She has to talk down this misunderstanding right away! Ignoring the pain in her stomach, she raises a hand in a 'stop' signal. "Wait! You're fighting the wrong people! You're a hero, right? So you should be fighting--"

A pause, as a grim realization just clicked in Xantia's head. "Oh no! We're pirates! Heroes fight pirates!" That was an aspect of being pirates that she somehow failed to consider, they're not generally considered part of The Good Guys, the way Heroes are. Which means...

"...I don't want to fight you, but I guess I have no choice... I'm sorry, too!"

Rushing the bunnygirl, Xantia engages in a basic flurry of punches. Punches that she's pulling, to a degree. It's plenty to knock out your average guard, but in this case... it's not so much that Xantia is underestimating Seraphita so much as she hasn't fully understood what she's up against.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraphita with Flash Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

An answer comes to Leon from an unexpected vector. The single eye of the Weglaf shifts, swiveling to focus briefly on Schiehallion. It flashes once when it gets a good read on Loren's Gear. "Then she'll be coming with me," he says. The relief stays out of his voice. Facing Gebler in open battle like this -- a first, even for him -- is not a time for relief.

But there is a firmness in his voice.

It becomes more calm, though. "Shalune, these are Gebler forces," he says. "Be careful. These things... they don't play around."

His eyes widen a moment -- because another Gear that he can't explain, with no voice from its pilot -- takes the field. The Black Wolf commander isn't sure who it might be. He has no time to contemplate, for the fold-out saber slams into the Hauteclaire's blade, in a terrific clash, and then his eyes narrow as the white mecha is pushed backward. A trifling victory, he thinks, against this opponent.

"You presume correctly. What did she tell you? And who are you?"

The Weglaf's back is to the stage, for the moment. He cannot see Ragnell's intervention, nor can he see the way that ice rockets down so terribly. His eyes narrow, and his teeth are bared, in something like anger, before he throws out the other arm. From a nozzle in the forearm armor, a wire explodes outward, tipped by a large metal cap. It tries to slam into Hauteclaire.

Its magnetic cap might lock onto the streetlamp behind it, instead.

Eitherway, a powerful burst of electricity shoots down the wire and explodes in a shower of spars and arcs of lightning that course through the air.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Kahm Yugh with Electro-Disruptor!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline lands pretty stably, taking a moment to assess the situation. As Catenna had indicated, the Princess wasn't alone...fortunately, though, some of them were familiar faces.

Except when one of those familiar faces was a certain rabbit-eared girl that she had met at the Serpent's Coils, and she didn't seem like an ally...

Especially not an ally was the girl next to her, who seemed to machine parts and was using them to great effect. Jacqueline starts to back away...and then suddenly a certain Seraph appears, spiriting away the Princess.

"Ah! Wait...!" Jacqueline says, reaching out to her...

And then she's gone. Jacqueline sighs and turns her attention back to the fight. Her eyes fall on Lily for a moment...but she doesn't seem to be a very receptive mood.

Right. Well then. She was stuck here, so she might as well help out. She could try and catch up to the princess later.

Jacqueline reaches into her pouch, drawing out a Crest and invoking it. All of the rubble Tolone's missiles made in the room starts to shake before flying at her at high speeds.

<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

After firing the shell, Katyna goes into evasive maneuvers, because although Argentis can do a lot of things, engage in a swordfight is absolutely not one of them. She fires the leg thrusters again and, ponderously, Argentis lifts from the ground; it goes up, up, up about thirty feet, then settles onto a stone building, one of the solidly built ones with a flat roof.

The building shifts underfoot. Kat can feel it - but it can hold up the Gear as long as she keeps one foot on the corner of the structure instead of planting both of them solidly on the roof. She hopes it holds, but it gives her a better shooting position.

Argentis goes to a kneeling position as Katyna settles its weight more evenly, bracing the cannon and hopefully letting the others take the lead. It sort of works; in her defended position, Argentis is sprayed with bullets. It sounds like a hailstorm on a tin roof from the inside, and it isn't much quieter than the outside; the heavy plates do their job and absorb small-caliber fire, but they can't keep doing it forever. Still, she's emplaced now, which might be a plus.

"You know it?" Katyna sends back to Leon. He certainly sounds like he does. She's watching the Hauteclaire intently. The way it changed the course of the bullets... that's not something that they could build here on Filgaia. But she makes a wrong assumption, almost immediately: it must be ancient, as old as...

Well, some of the very oldest Gears she's heard of. Just repaired.

Katyna brings up the rifle again. She takes careful aim, bracing the gun against Argentis' knee; she's being scrupulous about where she aims. Once she has a chance to fire, but doesn't because Kahm is coincidentally passing in front of a large building. A weakness? But she sees an opening soon enough, and as soon as she sees it, Katyna fires, sniper-style.

The shell looks like an ordinary round, for the gyrojet at least; it seems the same as the last one. But on impact, the softer metal distorts and squashes against the Hauteclaire (or, if she's very unfortunate, a building); this exposes something buried inside the outer layer, an ARM of some kind.

It discharges in a hellacious burst of electricity, like a constrained lightning bolt or a ridiculously amped-up taser. It doesn't do much structural damage, but it scrambles systems in its wake, forcing annoying reboots or self-corrections or simply taking them offline.

GS: Katyna Reidal has attacked Kahm Yugh with Electrostun Shell!
GS: Katyna Reidal has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Tolone with Rubble-Rouser!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Tolone critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Rubble-Rouser for 19 hit points!
GS: Seraphita takes a solid hit from Xantia's Flash Combo for 59 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

As it happens: Lemina is also a fire-elemental witch! When Lemina sees Seraphita start to work her magic, her guard is instantly up -- she can feel that magic working, and it puts her on edge. Sure enough, Seraphita comes for her next, with --

-- a hug?

Lemina is a little gobsmacked, but her immediate reaction is sound -- with a quick gesture and a muttered word, she meets fire with ice, coating herself in a protective layer that keeps her cool in the face of fire. She quickly scrambles out of the hug, cringing a little bit.

"Aaaaa! Thank you! But you made it weird!" A pause. "Mega-weird!" Another pause. "Mega-mega-weird!" ... She does floof out her hair a little, though, because despite everything, Lemina loves compliments.

It's probably for the best to avoid starting with fire, Lemina reflects -- while you can bully another mage of your own element out of their comfort zone by going hard enough, but even then... it's best to start by getting them off balance with something else. It's a luxury most mages don't have!

Lemina is not most mages. She gives her staff a big whirl around, forming a spike of ice at its head; she stops the whirl abruptly, whipping the icicle sling-style for Seraphita. The icicle... is very large. And, as it happens, very icy!

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Seraphita with Ice Lance!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"He doesn't look all that evil, he mostly just doesn't reek of cow poop," Claude replies to Bart. He then frowns. "Then again, he does look a little Diasy. EXCUSE ME, SIR!" he calls out. "DO YOU SPEND MORE THAN THREE HOURS EACH DAY BROODING? ARE THERE ANY BLUE-HAIRED GIRLS SORT OF MOONING OVER YOU DESPITE YOUR LACKING ANY DISCERNIBLE PERSONALITY TRA--oh crap rockets."

It is perhaps fortunate that he has no idea that Ragnell is laughing at him, because Tolone's blast sends him flying back into the wall, which cracks and shudders under the impact. Amazingly, the young man rolls off the impact with considerable speed; that hurt some, but Claude's taken shots from three Quarter Knights and lived to tell the tale.

Claude kicks over a table to use as improvised cover, then hauls back his sword and concentrates his chi. "Hey! Pippi Sadlocking!" he calls out to Tolone. "You don't have us surrounded, we have more people than you! That's not how surrounding works!" he points out, not unreasonably. And then, because he is trying to keep a LOW PROFILE, he deploys the second element of his CUNNING PIRATE DISGUISE.

"DEMON FANG!" Claude shouts as he whips his sword forward, firing a pair of scything vacuum blades hissing toward the Gebler officer.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Tolone with Air Slash!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Seraphita completely evades Ice Lance from Lemina Ausa!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna knew there would be rabbit ears involved. She had no idea their owner would be this...

...unseemly.

Catenna barely has a chance to reorient herself before something tugs at her in a way that's more metaphysical than anything else. With a hiss, Catenna shakes her hands out of Jay and Jack's and boosts herself backwards, once more calling upon Lucadia. She boosts upwards again, sailing high above the stage.

It pulls her out of Seraphita's range for a critical second. At the apex of her jumps, she flips backwards, legs coming up over her head and then arcing back down as she lands a few extra metres away, dropping into a crouch and inhaling to steady herself mentally.

Only to find Seraphita attempting to hug Lemina Ausa. Catenna stares at the rabbit-eared... person... for several seconds of pure disbelief.

With a quick glance, Catenna orients herself mentally - takes stock of where Princess Cecilia is -

Oh. There she is. Absconding with one of the Seraphs. Catenna sets her jaw and lets out a hiss through her teeth.

Having no idea what Ragnell's actual ambitions here are, Catenna nevertheless finds herself with little choice but to keep the Gebler contingent from pursuing. Snapping her right hand forward, she locks her eyes on Seraphita and presses her lips together. "I am sorry, but we cannot leave right now. And I do not think a hug would suit me, so please perish the thought!"

Catenna curls her fingers and drops her left hand to brush over the more familiar of her two Mediums. She chants something inexplicable - unless you're the type to understand the obscure languages of southern Elru, in which case she's just invoking celesdue in Zortroan.

Catenna's magic is never impressive to the eye. Seraphita will feel it, though: Her body weight will suddenly shift, and the earth will simply loosen its grip on her. All of a sudden, gravity reverses itself as Catenna attempts to drag Seraphita upward and slam her into a support rig rig overhead.

She purses her lips, feeling a little bad about beating up someone who just wanted to share a hug.

GS: Catenna has attacked Seraphita with Grav!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Tolone guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Air Slash for 61 hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Wrist Guns for 124 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


The jump? Thats entirely unexpected.

Jack though takes it in stride as he clamps on and then is lifted onto the platform. "Huh. Now at least I won't have to cut it down." He says thoughtfully as he holds his sword in that loose grip of his. Almost casual really. Dressed as a woodcarver, the man doesn't look that impressive. Though the sword he carries seems old and venerable enough.

That seeming laziness is entirely dispelled as missiles launch towards him from a very unexpected vector.

The sword is twisted in his grip before drawn, drawn do fast that the pressure wave created by the seemingly simple manuver tears into the projectiles angling towards him. The explosions ripple away from him, backblast and shrapnel adroitly deflected away even as he smirks slightly. His head cocks slighlty as he rests the naked edge of his sword on his shoulder for a moment.

"I've heard of hot legs, but that is taking things a bit literal yes?"

Then he's moving again sword swinging around to an attack angle. "...and I believe you have the defintation of surrounded wrong." A glance towards the hyper bunny. "...and the defintation of 'your princess'." A shrug. "Sorry don't have time to debate right now."

The blade flashes, but its not the blade that Tolone has to look out for. Its the tiny flying Wind Mouse that aims to slam into her forehead and then use her as a springboard to launch himself at Cecilia.

"Pardon me, miss!"

GS: Seraphita guards a hit from Catenna's Grav for 56 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Seraphita!
<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

"Awfully chipper, ain't she? Must be strong as all get out. I oughta be careful-" An icy hot vice grip clenches around Arash's heart before this thought resolves, drawing all the feeling from his body towards the manic rabbit in the palace. Oh, It's A Mana Burn! "AUGH OW OOF." Arash forces clinging, viscous air from his lungs, delaying the reaction through sheer force of will. Then he whispers a silent thanks to that First Aid For Magical Accidents seminar he took his grandkids to. Good thing he never had much magic in his system at all!

He steps out of cover to flash a glance at the brawl before him. The pirate's holding back? Well, one of them is. Not the mage. Mages never hold back. As for his part-something tells him this particular bunny woman won't take a few bruises very personally.

He aims his rifle like a second pair of fists, parrying each of Seraphita's blows and denying her blocks through sheer force of rubber. And, uh, one at her arm so her handstand'll fall straight on her face.

<Pose Tracker> Cecilia Adlehyde has posed.

Cecilia breathes a sigh of relief as she and Ragnell land on the same wavelength. "It does," she grouses to the lightning seraph, reaching for her hand. "Please!" She doesn't even blush at the innuendo. She has a change of clothes and she wants into it like RIGHT NOW.

She hangs on as tight as she can to Ragnell, eyes sweeping across the crowd of rescuers. "Remember what I told you! Shake them off and join me!" she calls.

And then Ragnell 'kidnaps' her, though to mortal eyes it looks like she just suddenly developed the power of flight. Wheeee!

GS: Arash Khan has attacked Seraphita with Shamal Snap Shot!
GS: Arash Khan has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Seraphita takes a solid hit from Arash Khan's Shamal Snap Shot for 118 hit points!
GS: Jack Van Burace has attacked Tolone with Heal Blade!
GS: Jack Van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Tolone takes a glancing hit from Jack Van Burace's Heal Blade for 32 hit points!
GS: Jack Van Burace takes Cover! He gains 50 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Suddenly--

A large comically oversized amount of luggage flies through the air. A luggage tag indicates the luggage belongs to 'PRINCESS CECILIA ADELHYDE - STEALING LUGGAGE OF ROYALTY IS A CAPITAL OFFENSE'. The bag spins several times in the air before threatening to collide against Ramses's beautiful mug. The locks may yet remain secure because they look very secure, or perhaps they won't--the guy who threw it didn't think that far ahead, okay?

Fei then hops in from off-screen, bouncing back and forth between his feet.

"Hey guys! Sorry, I thought...the princess was here? I was going to get her her bags! Is that guy with the sword one of their minions or something?"

He blinks cluelessly.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

"What...?" Lunata's eyes look on with surprise as the Gear not so much defends or evades the vulcans and just-- veers them away, as if it'd been repelled by a barrier. "Does it have a similar barrier to the Rephaim?"

She grimaces as she feels the threat of the attack before she sees it, impulsively dragging her hands back as the Rephaim's eyes shine once more; the Hauteclaire isn't the only one with a trick, it would seem, for--

--the moment the wrist guns' bullets clash against the Rephaim's armour, it shimmers with an iridescent thrum; what seems simply metal actually has an oscillating frequently right above its surface, one that seems content to simply thrush and push away bullets where they come...

...right until it catches the kind of... dorky looking accordion tube of a right arm that it has, which gets shredded. A Shalune (tm) repair job...

"... you've done something to Mister Leon, haven't you? I just can't stand people like you!"

She's unusually judgemental today, but such is the nature of combat and her -- in a powerful hum that surrounds the Gear once more, the Rephaim's buckled over into a concentrated burst of power as it thrusts its stomach out, the torso compartment revealing a powerful golden emitter as it unfurls.

"... Leyline Converter, 87% ..."

The cockpit thrums with a wash of power as she shouts, "I'm backing you up, Mister Leon, Katyna!"

There's a low, ominous voice, and an uncoordinated, raw burst of wicked Leyline energy not so much shoots as spills out of the stomach of the Rephaim, crackling lines of Fray arcing like electricity washing towards the Hauteclaire's position. A triple threat of electricity!

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Kahran Ramses with STEALING LUGGAGE OF ROYALTY IS A CAPITAL OFFENSE!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Kahm Yugh with Leyline Pulse Burst!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
GS: Kahran Ramses guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's STEALING LUGGAGE OF ROYALTY IS A CAPITAL OFFENSE for 61 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Kahm Yugh critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's Electro-Disruptor for 39 hit points!
DC: MISS! Kahm Yugh completely evades Electrostun Shell from Katyna Reidal!
GS: Kahm Yugh critically Guards a hit from Lunata Croze's Leyline Pulse Burst for 56 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Publicly, the pilot of the heavy Gear states, "Captain Albus, one of the only two survivors of a certain incident, as I understand it. It's unfortunate, I suppose, but your luck runs out here."
Can you feel the sarcasm?

Over private channels, the medic announces, moments before he reaches up to touch a hand to his glasses and submerge a fraction of his will into the ether amplifiers, "Support incoming." Fluid aquatic-aligned ether descends in a blue-tinged swirl around Kahm's Gear, sinking in to lend the Gear a touch of the alignment and speed of the rapids.

One of the Gears charges full on towards him. Schiehallion begins to shift its stance into a form more suited for an incoming strike, but the Dragoon is too sudden, too rageful. A fist delivers a bone-rattling strike to the centermost region of the Gebler Gear, sending it skidding back roughly a hundred or so feet. Loren grips the controls in an attempt to stabilize it -- and hisses out a breath as pain jolts up his right arm.

His gaze flickers to the screen.

...There's a girl riding on the Golem. Which is also charging right for him. His lips move silently before he once again shifts position, swiping Schiehallion's right arm upwards to deflect the strike away. The spikes scrape against the outer plating of the Gebler Gear with a sharp screech.

His hand flies across the terminal inside.
AMMUNITION CLASS CHANGED

Without delay, both of the Gear lifts both of its sidearms at once, opening fire on both combatants in an array of flash rounds. Delay and push them back, keep them off the Captain...

...Before that blade comes in from parts unknown.
Or at least unknown until the point where there's notable impact as it sinks in quite solidly and the diagnostics report scrolls rapidly down the screen.

ADDITIONAL HOSTILE ACTOR DETECTED

"Yes," Loren mutters at the readout, settling back in his seat as he glances over the camera display, "I can certainly see that."

Clever trick. Whoever that is, it looks like they've hijacked an Aveh Gear or something. Oh, that figures.

The Gear doesn't holster the sidearm, doesn't face the additional opponent beyond a turn of the head.

Instead, the ground beneath the plaza briefly trembles as Loren displaces a section of his will and awareness outwards... and the earth answers in the form of a great array of onrushing stone spires. Attempt to knock it back and away, at least until he can reorient his positioning.

...The knee damage is going to give him a problem shortly.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Indeed, Gwen sees Tolone. She also sees the gleaming metal... legs? Something robotic, almost alien, when it's attached to someone that's human. "She's... got an ARM attached to her too?" Wait, what was that word she heard back in Berry Caves? "Maybe they're... ceramic?"

Cybernetic. Close enough.

Tolone's rockets make an audible clang against the brandished right forearm of Gwen's, the heat singeing the exposed fabric of her blouse underneath. "I take it you're here t'keep the princess captive, right? Kinda a shame- would've been kinda nice to chat with someone else who deals with the same things I do. Kinda." The poncho is drawn back, along with the sleeve and glove, the courier exposing the full length of her metal ARM. "Mine ain't as fancy as yours, though. Care t'test your fancy metal parts against mine?"

She's feeling a *lot* more brave now that she's among friends, especially seeing as how Ragnell spirited Cecilia away to safety.

Gwen'll assume it's to safety.

"I'll start off real easy-like! See if you can match me!" Gwen, loading a bullet into the bend of her right arm, straightens it, and with a crackle of energy from the exposed metal surface of the ARM, fires. "Somethin' light!"

No one tell her these are Gebler. She'll definitely lose her confidence.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Kahm Yugh with Haste Factor!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Tolone with Crackshot!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Tolone takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Crackshot for 100 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

"It's not weird, hugs are how people show their appreciation for each other!!" Seraphita insists, even as Lemina rather effortlessly bats her away and raises her staff.

Alas, before she can argue any more than that, the party of four retaliates, and they aren't kind to the poor rabbit. With gravity suddenly reversing, Catenna and Xantia both smash Seraphita upward and into the wooden supports of the stage, crashing right through. On the upside, Lemina's spike of ice, especially dangerous to Seraphita, misses her in the chaos, if narrowly. Some of it melted near her and got her hair wet, which probably looks very funny as a consolation prize. Securing her grip on the supports after that crash, the Element attempts not to fall, but suffers from being momentarily immobile and holding onto something. Arash has a perfect, easy shot lined up, and he takes it. He couldn't stop her from standing on a hand, but nailing her in the shoulder so cleanly means she falls off the support structure and back onto the stage, her arm letting go due to said bullet.

She whines, still on the ground. "Ow, ow, ow! You guys are mean! Toloooooone, they're being mean!!"

How dare enemies be mean.

Seraphita gets back up; she fishes in her shirt(?), retrieving a standard-issue healing patch and slapping it on her shoulder. Good as new! For now, anyway. She's going to have to avoid getting shot a second time.

She will accomplish this using fire.

Her form flashes bright red as Ether gathers up all around her. Her hands rise, and there's a clap of thunder as an explosion erupts on the stage, plasma arcing from the flames. It's shaped like a giant rabbit, just so we're clear. It threatens Lemina and Arash above all, erupting into existence between them. Smaller flames split off the main explosion, hopping, bouncing on the stage as they try to catch Xantia and Catenna.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Shalune Amira with Concussive Rounds!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Concussive Rounds!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Cassidy Cain with Terra Vector!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Seraphita has attacked Arash Khan with Thermo Rabbit!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Lemina Ausa with Thermo Rabbit!
GS: Seraphita enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Xantia with Hopping Flame!
GS: Seraphita enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Catenna with Hopping Flame!
GS: Seraphita has completed her action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Hopping Flame for 85 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Concussive Rounds for 177 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Arash Khan takes a glancing hit from Seraphita's Thermo Rabbit for 70 hit points!
GS: Shalune Amira guards a hit from Loren Voss's Concussive Rounds for 75 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Shalune Amira!
DC: MISS! Cassidy Cain completely evades Terra Vector from Loren Voss!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Seraphita's Hopping Flame for 50 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Even as the explosions rip around, Tolone is already looking back towards Lily. She is a high threat individual here. More so with the Commander's presence. While Tolone has absolute faith in Kahran Ramses -- that faith comes with devotion. It isn't necessary for her to protect him.

But she will do it anyway!

"My name is Tolone," she answers Lily. A huge lance of ice smashes toward Tolone, who BACKHANDS IT, sending the chunk of ice flying off to the side; the blow makes her stagger for a pace, though, this contemptuous show of force at least requiring her to exert herself. Her teeth bare. They're perfect.

Tolone's left arm flips up with the help of the opposing arm. No, it doesn't. Her arm moves out of the WAY. There's a gun there? Gun-shaped. A sudden shrieking beam of unnatural light erupts outwards, the air stinking of ozone in its passage as she attempts to slay Lily with a single energetic burst! "You don't need to know it for long," Tolone concludes.

She is then bombarded by rocks. Big, stone, juggalo-forceful rocks. Tolone grits her teeth as she casts her eyes round, looking towards Jay and narrowing her eyes. Tolone's voice raises - "The Princess -" - but they are surrounded, and as established before, the Commander is here and in theoretical peril. SOMETHING streaks out of Tolone's face, near the eyes, two screeching lances of intense light. The target is Jay!

This means Claude gets to hit her right square in her shiny metal ass with a Demon Fang, the huge air-blade of deadly force leaving a discernible nick as Tolone's head whirrs audibly and looks towards him. "Insulting my hairstyle? At least you're changing the script. Usually we hear something about 'I won't let you do this'." She turns her right arm towards him as if to shoot finger guns at him. Indeed, Claude may expect an actual 'shot' of some kind - what actually happens is that her right fist erupts off her wrist, curling into a fist as it aims to slam into his jaw and THROUGH!

(Afterwards it starts scuttling back to Tolone on fingertips. The rocket motors have limited fuel, probably.)

Tolone's attention turns back to Jack. They do have a rhythm, she thinks, before she declares, "Are you seriously attacking me with a low level life form? Do you think you're going to make me laugh myself to -" SPROING - "Gh!" Gwen comes in with a shot that manages to break through Tolone's beleaguered guard, hitting her in her right arm with a loud SPANG and making her grind her teeth.

"Miserable -Lambs- - That arm must itch, doesn't it? Heh heh heh," Tolone breathes, before she answers Seraphita: "We're not going to let them do whatever we want, are we? Commander, I'll clear them out!" As her right hand runs between Seraphita's legs, Thing-style, Tolone's attention returns to the man and the ARMed woman. Her left arm snaps into place.

"Match you? I beat you before you were augmented," she tells Gwen, before her head snaps back and there is a sudden surge in both the etheric tension in the air AND the air pressure in the... well; air; a sudden sweeping funnel of suctioning force, aiming to whip through the balcony, gather the two of them, and, in principle, hurl them towards the Gear fight, where, Tolone assumes, they will die in confused humiliation.

"Tch!!"

GS: Tolone enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Tolone has attacked Lily Keil with Positron Beam!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Eye Laser!
GS: Tolone has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Rocket Punch!
GS: Tolone has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Tornado Warning!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jack Van Burace with Tornado Warning!
GS: Tolone has completed her action.
DC: MISS! Jacqueline Barber completely evades Eye Laser from Tolone!
<Pose Tracker> Kahran Ramses has posed.

Ramses watches Bart's reactions with a silent, almost uninterestedly analytical eye. "Speed," he observes, apparently not terribly impressed by Claude and Bart's assessment of his nature and manner. "And a mouth, as well," he mutters. "Only one of these things could save you." He finally reaches for sword and hilt, to draw the blade properly. "I am grateful you have come, [Prince Bartholomew]. I had wondered whether our trap would catch such useful prey. I shall have to be careful...it has been some time since anyone tasting this sword needed to remain alive at the end."

He sweeps the blade out of its sheathe, eyes twitching past Bart for a moment. "Seraphita! Tolone! My apologies. Our stratagem called for inflicting such riffraff as this upon you." He takes another step forward, eyes sliding back to Bart, clear and cutting. "We need Prince Bartholomew, Princess Cecilia, and the anomaly Keil alive. You may enjoy yourselves with the rest."

He lunges at Bart, blade flashing bright. The cutting moment is impossible to see - just a sudden, horrible blur coming to cut clear through Bartholomew's ribcage.

Fortunately, it is somewhat ablated because Fei bongs him over the head with Cecilia's suitcase. It is an impressively-constructed thing full of clothing and Mediums so it, one, doesn't break; and two, hurts like hell. "Who--" he croaks out, spinning to see Fei. He pauses, then, something in him lurching. He dazes for a moment from what is probably mild concussion, and then his eyes light up and he swings again, this time to carve into Fei. He doesn't say anything, but somethig wild in him searches Fei's face. Those...eyes, that face, he's seen it...something burning and bothering his very core.....

DC: MISS! Jack Van Burace completely evades Tornado Warning from Tolone!
GS: Lemina Ausa critically Guards a hit from Seraphita's Thermo Rabbit for 30 hit points!
GS: Claude C. Kenny guards a hit from Tolone's Rocket Punch for 88 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Tolone's Positron Beam for 86 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Bart Fatima with Wind Edge!
GS: Bart Fatima takes a solid hit from Kahran Ramses's Wind Edge for 130 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Swift Sweep!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Tolone's Tornado Warning for 61 hit points!
GS: Break and Slow! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily's pretty sure she can hear Claude talking. She's not sure why this is true, but it definitely appears to be the case. Between him, Bart, and Seraphita, it's... a little surreal, a little wearing on the nerves as she wonders just how drugged she is.

Her breathing is heavy. She is still bloody.

"Your Highness," she breathes, as she sees Cecilia being taken away, hearing her call. Shake them off, and join her? Lily glances towards the fighting Gears once with her good eye.

"...Not where I'm best used," she murmurs, and turns, still hovering, towards the battle at hand.

She snaps off to Gwen, joining the battle with her, "Don't understimate her. If you're not willing to kill get out of my way." Still distant, as Lily draws on her own power, the glow at her hands intensifying. Her fingers twitch on her left hand, covered in drying blood.

"Tolone," she repeats, seeing her ice shunted away, seeing perfect teeth. Her eye narrows--some kind of gun appears and the beam rockets towards Lily, who puts forth another barrier of shadow to meet it, light and dark mixing in a brutal explosion that sends tears through her armored jacket, shoves her backwards aerially.

"I don't need to know your name at all," Lily corrects as she gathers herself. She glances between Tolone and her commander, considering immediately--considering the movements here... The two are moved, and there Lily sees her opportunity--

"Heh--" Her hand shifts to her side, where abrubtly a six foot span of eye-searing darkness springs into being, a greatsword that she lifts in both hands, despite the obvious pain in her left, the swelling and the blood.

"I'll kill all of you," she murmurs, "One at a time." Lily charges, with a brutal horizontal chop in a broad arc meant to cut the augmented Element in half. Ether pulses along with her glowing eye, and the blade seeks to unmake whatever it touches. "Your commander is next."

Her voice is still wrong.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Tolone with Black Wolf's Claw!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Tolone critically Guards a hit from Lily Keil's Black Wolf's Claw for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Oh Moon. Catenna just made a bunnygirl cry. She hangs her head ever so slightly.

A tiny voice in her mind screams at her: NO, STOP PITYING HER, STOP THINKING SHE'S PRECIOUS AND ADORABLE, SHE'S A BAD GUY, SHE LITERALLY IS GOING TO SET YOU ON FIRE IN ABOUT TEN SECONDS

The little voice in Catenna's mind is not wrong. Catenna, however, is momentarily struck by the fact that tie plasma fire is shaped like a...

...a giant rabbit. Her eyes widen a little and her heartbeat quickens.

Until several bouncing fireballs hop up and slam into her. With a gasp, she bats at the flaming train of her dress, dropping to the ground and rolling away as vigorously as she can. She leaves fragments of flaming skirt behind her, revealing the shorts and boots she wore under the gown.

Damn it all, it hurts, and she liked this dress! She winces and rolls back to her feet, slicing away a dangling part of her skirt with a quick flash of her sword. The rest of it stays. She's got her armour on under it; that ought to help. "People tend to be mean when you mistreat their princesses," she shoots back to Seraphita, reminding herself that the little mental voice is right and that, as adorable and charming as Gebler's bunny may be, she's also a powerful enemy with a magic Catenna doesn't quite understand - at least, she doesn't see Symbols, and it doesn't feel like Guardian arcana, either.

Questions for later, she decides. Maybe at a time when that commander guy didn't just give Tolone and Seraphita blanket leave to kill them all.

With a soft hiss of breath, Catenna chants something again, then brings her hand to her side, sweeping it outwards.

Surging up from behind her with a shimmer of magic, water roars into existence. It surges and swells around her, growing and building into a huge tidal wave. Driven by the power of the Sea Guardian, the tidal wave rips across the stage, cresting as it surges towards Seraphita and her blazing bunnies. A few patches of flame are simply drowned by the wave as Catenna attempts to slam the wall of water into the firebunny, aiming to wash her off the stage.

"I do not mean to imply that I am unappreciative of you miss," she calls over the sound of rushing water, "but you must understand that this is not about friendship!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Seraphita with Cascade!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 Hmmm, so this one was better informed than the rest? Bart can't say he's too surprised, really. "Is that right? Well, I think you're going to find that I'm harder to keep in this trap that you might expect, ~Kharan Ramses~, Commander of Gebler!" See, he can say names in dramatic ways as well! Not that... it helps all that much given that Ramses has just told his secret to pretty much ALL AND SUNDRY in the area. It's one thing to be called out by name. It's another to have damn near everyone he's been working with hear it!

 But as the sword comes around, there's not a lot that Bart can do but brace against the impact. Thankfully he does have the chair to help block some of the impact, but the force of the blow sends Bart sliding backwards into the wall, where he slams into it with a thud.

 "Heh, careful - I'm the delicate sort who breaks easy," Bart comments, wiping a bit of blood off of his lip from where he had cut the inside of his mouth from the impact. "Hard to believe the big boss is facing us himself - that rat bastard Shakhan leaves the dirty work to his henchmen. I guess you're already a cut above his grade."

 Still... was this his opportunity? No, not if Fei couldn't hold him for a bit. And so Bart pushes himself away from the wall... and brings his free hand up behind his back, pulling out a heavy caliber revolver. Bringing it up to sight down the barrel at Ramses, the pirate glances... and sees Cecilia flying off.

 He looks astonished at that, and shouts, "IF YOU COULD FLY, DAMNIT, DON'T GO ASKING ME TO INFILTRATE THE DAMN PALACE AND NEARLY GETTING KILLED IN THE PROCESS!" he roars after a moment, before just turning to Ramses. Giving him the flattest, 'can you believe this crap' stare.

 And then firing off a round towards the Gebler commander.

GS: Bart Fatima has attacked Kahran Ramses with Bart .45 Revolver!
GS: Bart Fatima has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

In the pilot's cockpit of her pilfered and covertly augmented gear, Cassidy keeps silent because she must. The ever present shadows threaten to ensnare her, tickling the back of her mind, sibillant whispers pounding within it. Mocking her, taunting her, writhing with satisfaction at pulling her back into the midst of a future that had been decided for her. She moves like lightning, but is unable to outrun these Gebler shades and the fact that this isn't one of the machines she has trained in doesn't matter, because fundamentally, they are all the same and in this kind of darkness, she is right at home. She is not a stranger here, they hiss. She belongs here, they say.

 How did you earn your name?

 Emerald eyes shot with gold watch dispassionately as her strike - a dirty blow, but well aimed and practiced, finds purchase on the Gebler medic's machine; they flit over the state of the battlefield from the diagnostic screens before her. Even the tiniest hints register - the bend of one knee of Ida's gear, the twist on the heel by Shalune's. The brief, astonished pause from Leon's before the Gebler captain forces him to keep paying attention. Fingers keep a secure clench over the controls and deep down, she hates how easily it all comes back to her. Despises how a decade is not nearly enough to forget the punishments drilled into the very marrrow of her bones.

 Dinnae earn it, she had told Morgan Newkirk. I took it for myself.

 The very first thing she had ever stolen.

 The earth erupts, threatening to tear her asunder from underneath, but it makes itself known by its vibrations, deeply felt under the crust. Her heart races, white hot adrenaline pulsing along with a very potent, very real killing intent and the kind that separates human beings from monsters. It roars within her, the smell of fuel and electricity tickling her nose.

 Again.

 The silent gear rears back on its heels, knees bending, and surges forward. Its circuits maintain a clear set of diagnostics, everything is green and she interprets it as permission to move. And move it does, testament to a combination of the skill of its pilot and the engineer that worked on it, it's as if it soars through whatever obstacles had been set in its path, twisting, leaping, outright cutting down a spike or two when it comes up too fast and close to be able to lurch away from it. After a diagonal slash, the terran lance falling away, it braces a foot on its new landing, and springboards off it.

 It cuts through the air like a massive bird of prey, landing uncomfortably close to the side of Loren's gear where it knows has a debilitating injury, if not just because it put it there. The hand reverses its grip on the massive sword, swinging upwards in an attempt to take off one of Loren's gear's arms clean at the elbow.

 There is nothing beautiful about the way it fights. It does not move unless it has to. Its swordsmanship is downright archaic....but familiar to those learned and came from the sky. To them, it would be unmistakeable.

 Clear Mirror, Still Water - of ancient enemies from Shevat.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

'Shake them off and join me'...well, the Princess hadn't told her anything, but she had every intention of doing so. The problem was...how? Well, she'd work on that later. Right now, she had to focus on the problem at hand. That problem was the area erupting in flame, as the rabbit attacks her allies.

...It was a pretty big problem.

Also a problem, the robot girl - Tolone, as both the rabbit and the girl herself were kind enough to supply.

Two beams launches out of her face and straight toward her. Jacqueline realizes the danger and ducks to the side, the twin lances of light burning a hole straight through the wall behind her.

...Jacqueline didn't want to consider what that could've done to her head.

She reaches into her bags, drawing out a bottle of bright orange liquid. She's seen the kind of attacks this Tolone was capable of...she doesn't know how deeply the augmentations run so she's somewhat worried about how this will affect her, but right now she needed to take the bite out of them somehow.

She hurls the bottle at Tolone, where it will break open on the first thing it contacts - she hopes it would be Tolone - and splash all over.

The bright orange liquid inside was concocted to combat ARMs, and has a habit of soaking into them and gumming up the works temporarily, at least until the ARM in question burnt it all away.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Tolone with Haywire Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Loren Voss with The Good Die Young!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

"--U-understood, Mr. Leon," mutters Shalune in return to Leon's warning. She still sounds like she's catching up with events, honestly, and perhaps Big Shal's the one who's really running the show - but there's a core of strength back there born from her determination to keep pace with Lunata, and before she really knows what she's doing she's hauled herself back up to a sitting position, ready for the impact this time as Big Shal's shoulder drives home on the enormous craft.

A breath, and then she's talking a bit more lucidly; having both her and her golem act independently does at least allow her to focus on more things than just the back and forth of the battle. "--I think this thing's acting as a distraction, too. If nothing else, it-- probably wouldn't be able to follow if we disengaged, from the look of it, but I guess I'm not sure after seeing that other one move. The power-- I don't know how this one's moving, either," she mumbles, turning to watch it as Big Shal begins to jog in a wide circle around the craft. It's more like she's thinking to herself than anything. "No exposed power systems - all the joints are stuck under a ton of metalllp--"

She squeals unexpectedly as one of the concussive rounds from the enormous Gear shatters part of her cockpit, piercing a hole straight through the canopy and leaving a high-pitched, piercing sound in its wake; she whines under her breath as she clutches at her head, trying to stop the sudden ringing in her ears. "--t-the pilot's trying to use non-lethal-- seein' stars, but I'm okay-- tryin' to round on this thing properly--" she reports, not even hearing her own voice or how thick it is.

... still... the machine she's riding doesn't seem to be stopped in the least - at least, not in a conventional sense. Instead, the golem keeps up its pace, but looks back over its shoulder; as if in response to some conscious thought, some of the patchwork bits of shattered metal orbiting the running golem drift backwards, swinging into place to patch the hole as if they were always meant to be there.

With a rumbling skid, the golem stops; this time, it's made it to the back of one leg. Were Shalune not momentarily blinded, she might be trying to get a better glimpse of her opponent's workings - as it is, the Golem simply raises its hands, spare scrap building around the two fists to create a single mass that Big Shal brings down in a hammering blow - and then back up in a second, each strike blasting the improvized weapon back into pieces.

... is the golem intentionally destroying bits of itself to keep its options open?

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Loren Voss with One-Two Step!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: Seraphita takes a solid hit from Catenna's Cascade for 92 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Unlike Leon, Kahm does see the teriffic effects of Ragnell's action from afar, frowning in irritation. The Commander and the Elements were over there, however....so he'd have to trust it would be handled. He didn't like the looks of this: A two-pronged attack, likely the one on the exterior of the city was to keep them occupied...



He opens a separate line for a heartbeat's breath, "This is Yugh." He said. "Tell our mutual acquaintance that to be where he's expected."

The meaning of Cecilia's last statement, and of the guardian disk she'd sought out earlier, had not escaped him.

Meanwhile, Leon was demanding answers the Captain wasn't particularly inclined to give. "She told me enough." He said. In this case, that was Leon's name. "Like you, i'm a Captain. But my subordinates would never be so compromised."

But talk was cheap, and Loren's etheric support descends upon the Hauteclaire just as it must contend with a trio of electric attack. The gear's systems and internal status lit up with various degrees of 'SURPLUS CHARGE' on Kahm's HUD, and he cracked an unusual smile. "Appreciated, Lieutenant. Watch out for that new unit....I don't like the feeling. The pilot clearly knew the advantage of not standing out."

Now then, on to work. Hauteclaire made no attempt to evade Weglaf's latest gadget. The magnetic cap attached securely to the gear's elbow as the gear moves in preternaturally motions to, no joke, catch the Argentis's electroslug in it's hand. Did Kahm somehow know what was hiding within the payload?! It doesn't do great thing to finer aspects of the gear's hand actuators, but the slug is stopped in time for the taser method inside to go off.

All this happens as a steam of leyline electricity speeds towards him from the Rephaim, striking the Hauteclaire directly in the chest. All three sources of power surges and scramble across the gear, seizing it in storm of raging current. And yet....no circuits are fried, no armor is blackened. Something interferes, and the raw power seems to energize the gear, drawing down premade chambers and routes, energizing the Gebler weapon as the air distorts visibly around it.

"Naive." Kahm says.

The connection is made, and a the gear becomes like a vortex of power to it's three opponents, drawing more from them than any likely intended, draining their power to add to it's own!

GS: Kahm Yugh has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Haste Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick! Statuses applied to Kahm Yugh!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with ECM Drive!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Katyna Reidal with ECM Drive!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lunata Croze with ECM Drive!
GS: Kahran Ramses has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Kahran Ramses guards a hit from Bart Fatima's Bart .45 Revolver for 66 hit points!
GS: Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Kahran Ramses!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's ECM Drive for 94 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh drains Leon Albus! Kahm Yugh gains 188 temporary hit points!
GS: Lunata Croze guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's ECM Drive for 102 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh drains Lunata Croze! Kahm Yugh gains 298 temporary hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

The Dragoon was engineered with open-ground combat in mind. Ida planned on being able to use its jumpjets to maneuver in rugged or rocky terrain--and to take advantage of high ground to rain mortars on enemy Gears. So far, nothing has gone according to plan--she's in a city, and while pretty much everyone with common sense has cleared out of the area, she doesn't want to risk a missed shot exploding someone's house. Loren's Gear opens fire again, and this time the Dragoon has nowhere to dodge. The flash rounds slam into the bulky machine's armor, exploding with waves of concussive force. It staggers back a step, Ida stabilizing its gait on instinct--but as she does so, several segments of her main viewscreen turn bright, blinding white and then black out.

612: SENSITIVITY THRESHOLD EXCEEDED

RESET/SHUTDOWN?

>

Ida types 'RESET'. From the outside, the Dragoon looks beat to hell. Inwardly, Ida isn't doing much better. The first screen to come back online registers yet another Gear charging the massive, mountainous enemy with a blade. Ida doesn't have to look for very long to know this pilot is a hell of a lot better than her. She sucks in a breath, does a quick estimate of trajectories, and--

The Dragoon steps to the side, and hunches down. The massive mortar tube on its back swings upwards, into position, and Ida cycles in a shell. TYPE-S LOADED flashes across the screen. Is it the right kind? Because if it's an E or an I then you're going to kill your allies, and then you'll be killed, and you'll deserve it. Ida swallows. "Shut up," she whispers, in the silence of her cockpit. "Smoke out, Captain!" Ida transmits, thumbing the secure channel back open. The mortar roars, and a shell screams downrange, at Weglaff. Ida pushes a joystick back, twists the Dragoon's torso a little, and sends a second smoke round downrange towards Shalune and the mysterious blademaster's Gear. The mortar rounds don't hit very hard--and they're not aimed at anyone. As soon as they hit, they start belching out clouds of thick black smoke, and clouds of confetti-like silver foil.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Leon Albus with Type-S Mortar!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Shalune Amira with Type-S Mortar!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Cassidy Cain with Type-S Mortar!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Shalune Amira takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Type-S Mortar for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Shalune Amira!
GS: Katyna Reidal critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's ECM Drive for 32 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh drains Katyna Reidal! Kahm Yugh gains 260 temporary hit points!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Kahran Ramses's attack becomes clear!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Kahran Ramses's Quick Strike for 30 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Shalune Amira's One-Two Step for 104 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Loren Voss guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's The Good Die Young for 228 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"It's weird when you do it RIGHT NOW!" Lemina shoots back -- before ensconcing herself in a shell of ice once again, weathering the worst of the firestorm. ... Firebunny. Definitely firebunny. She's not fast enough to get out of the way -- so it's really better to just... protect herself and hope for the best!

Well, ice didn't work -- so now Lemina has to try her luck with something a little more -- direct. If she can't chill Seraphita out, she'll just have to try fighting fire with fire! She swings her staff around her in a low-to-the-ground twirl -- one that's mirrored by a ring of fire that suddenly envelops Seraphita.

This one doesn't explode drastically or anything -- it just grows to a reasonably decent size and then gets extremely hot. It's as much about controlling Seraphita's movement and buying everyone time to breathe as it is putting the hurt on her, honestly.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Seraphita with Fire Ring!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei focuses his gaze on Ramses. There's something about him, he thinks, this feeling he's got deep inside his soul.

It tells him he's never seen this guy in his life. He pauses for a moment, as if to listen to the red guy inside his head.

nope, don't recognize him

Fei doesn't hear that directly of course, but he can tell a look of hate when he sees it, even if he's confused. He has his arms up in time for Kahran to swipe into them without hitting anything vital--but to be fair, he had more time to react thanks to LUGGAGE DAMAGE.

He takes in a deep breath and shifts his posture into a standard form. "Okay." He says before hopping up onto the luggage and sliding it towards Kahran to throw several quick punches for him before finishing in a roundhouse kick! The style is already familiar, no doubt. That blurring movement for starters, it's just like what he uses.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Kahran Ramses with Hoten!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

"Wait, you can fly?" Claude asks aloud after Cecilia, because he can't see Ragnell and all he sees is a flying Princess. Still, she's a magical girl - one of her Guardian buddies is probably letting her do it, so---

(suddenly, important Nouns)

"Wait, you're a Prince?" Claude asks aloud, staring at Bart with widening eyes. "I mean, I guess it explains why you know Cecilia, but---"

(suddenly, eye lasers)

"Wait, you're a ROBOT?" Claude asks aloud, staring at Tolone with eyes that can't go any wider because they were already widened before he knew he could get EVEN MORE OF A SURPRISE. Dang it, eyes. "That's coo---"

The rocket punch shuts Cluade up, for which much of the room is grateful, the blow spinning him around, dripping blood from his chin. The young man grimaces and holsters his pistol; the Lancaster's a great gun, but it doesn't have that kind of stopping power. The sword goes away a second later, because Claude is going to need both of his hands free. And also a distraction.

Lily takes care of that part, screaming and swinging some sort of... invisible nothing around. She's sort of crazy, but he can't do anything about that except what he's already doing, i.e., sprinting toward Tolone and gathering chi in the palms of both of his hands. Motes of bluish-yellow starlight trail behind Claude as he moves forward; by the time he's ten feet away he starts punching, unleashing a quick one-two. A step later, it's one-two-three-four. Then eight, then 16, 32, and by the time Claude closes on Tolone, his arms and hands are flickering in and out of sight, each one flickering toward the robot or gynoid or whatever who is still totally a person (probably*) according to the laws of the Federation.

* - Determination of eligibility for citizenship to the Pangalactic Federation is fairly loose, because the universe is a weird place full of weird folks. The only requirement is that citizens be sentient, and after admitting races of gelatinous amorphous entities named things like *glorp* (in their own language: *glorp*) the leap to synthetic lifeforms is fairly easy. In the case of synthetic lifeforms, however, the following additional rules apply:

1. Must possess sentience.
2. New sentient lifeforms must not be created with a switch that turns them from good to evil.**
3. If synthetic lifeforms were built with a good/evil switch prior to their induction to the Federation, the switch must be left on good and secured with at least two(2) strips of duct tape.***
** - Happens more than you would think.
*** - Short of molecular fusing, the most powerful adhesive in two galaxies.

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Tolone with Meteor Palm!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


"Easier to say than do, princess!" Jack calls out even as Tolone turns her attention more fully on them all. There is a smirk from the swordsman as he watches Hanpan bounce towards Cecilia though. "You shouldn't mock lesser life forms. I'm fairly sure Hanpan is smarter than you. Older too." A longer pause. "And made with a lot less metal."

The wind stirs up, but Jack has lived for over a year with a Wind Mouse. Elemental Masters of the air. He's been taught a few tricks for that...

The sword is slashes, and uppercut of air pressure that splits Tolone's cyclone and sends it screaming back towards her own person.

"Still not seeing surrounded or outnumbered. What do they teach you in whatever school you happened to go to."

The swordsman almost seems negligent about it. Dismissive. As if his opponent isn't really worthy enough to see the full extent of his skills.

Thats bound to go over well. He's sure.

GS: Tolone takes a glancing hit from Jacqueline Barber's Haywire Draught for 12 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Tolone!
GS: Tolone enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

Lunata hisses for a moment as her eyes widen, watching the Hauteclaire's armour just... just-- completely absorb the energy she's fired as if it'd been nothing. No, not nothing -- as if it was feeding on the very energy she was discharging towrads it.

She hadn't really expected a machine to be able to perform in that regard, and it intimidates her for a moment. "U-ugh--"

She grits her teeth, shaking her head. No, come on, she'd spoken for so much -- she can't just let this kind of drawback deter her now!

"... You've got to have some kind of limit on how much you can absorb!" Lunata yells, sending the Rephaim on a charging course forward--

She jukes, left and right, the swirl of the desert hissing against the pearlescent white plating of the Rephaim's armour--

--and instead of a blade or a rifle from the arm, it's the solid gray hipskirts that swivel instead. They lock into place, and with two deafening *POP* sounds, two high-velocity railgun rounds are launched towards the Hauteclaire in rapid succession.

GS: Jack Van Burace has attacked Tolone with Slash Rave!
GS: Jack Van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Kahm Yugh with Hip-mounted Railguns!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Type-S Mortar for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
DC: MISS! Seraphita completely evades Fire Ring from Lemina Ausa!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Type-S Mortar for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Cassidy Cain!
<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

The horror! Arash's rented light-grey suit jacket is struck by the firey bunbun's nose as he dodges, forcing him to stop drop and roll while patting furiously at the burning. Now it's completely ruined. Plus, well, he certainly can't hide here for much longer without cooking to a golden brown. With a mountain goat's stride he bounds from shingle to shingle, straight towards Gebler's finest. It's time to make some friends.

 While Seraphita is distracted he grips his King of Spades with both hands, the Geo magic in its blade blazing like a small emerald sun. Its mighty swing tears apart an entire corner of roof, rending it into a spiraling mass of white dirt. "ROCKET SAND!" Like a tiny tornado it whirls towards the rabbit-woman like only a big clod of dirt can.

Arash girds himself and leaps afterwards it, crossing all the way to the palace and rolling on impact. Until he's nearly at his opponent's feet. "Surprise! Arash Khan, at yer service." Then a swift one-handed shot to the sternum, his rifle girded snugly under his right arm.

GS: Arash Khan has attacked Seraphita with Rocket Sand!
GS: Arash Khan has completed his action.
GS: Seraphita guards a hit from Arash Khan's Rocket Sand for 64 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Katyna! Lunata!" Leon calls out, over the Alliance's shortwave radio. "This Gear--I saw it when I fought with Kislev. The pilot... he's very skilled!"

He doesn't answer, perhaps, if Kahm has done something to him. The truth is that any offense wasn't directed -- at least, until recently. Until they had Lily. To say that his blood is running cold is an understatement, at the moment. Loren's voice makes his sentiments chillier.

His words come out a little too snappish; a little too fueled by desperation, knowing what he faces. He spits back at Loren, "Brave words from a dead man!"

He looks back at Hauteclaire, then his eyes narrow. He understands that sentiment. "We'll see about that, Captain." But, the wire and the cap is attached to the Hauteclaire -- as three arcs of electricity come hurtling in, and he realizes that something interfered. His eyes widen sharply. "Everyone! Get back, he's--"

The vortex of power explodes outward. It slams into the Weglaf, throwing the blue Gear backward. It slams into one of the storefronts on the edge of Shakhan Square, crushing the facade under it. The Gear stumbles back from it, and then Leon looks up, with anger. The plates on the front are blackened and burnt. A few of them are cracked. His warning came far too late.

A shell comes slamming down nearby, joined by Ida's efforts. "Noted!" he answers her, before the smoke explodes and erupts around his Gear. Weglaf vanishes in the smoke, and it makes it that much harder to strike true for a moment. It also lets him relocate, as Weglaf sprints to the side, then turns. A plate on the chest swings open.

Three rapid-fire, ugly shots explode from the large-bore cannon inside. Each goes flying for the Hauteclaire, exploding violently on impact.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Kahm Yugh with Impact Cannon!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Tolone guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Meteor Palm for 70 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

"He caught it!?"

Katyna is entirely sure that he shouldn't have been able to do that. The Hauteclaire is something special, but electricity follows rules and one of those roles is that it is hard to catch - and it's not just Katyna's shell he managed to stop but the wire and the raw electrical energy emitted from Rephaim (by a mechanism Kat can't figure out, either, which is its own problem).

On the plus side, he's not shooting back, and so Katyna has enough time to load a different shell and take aim. Or at least Kat thinks he's not shooting back at first, because then he reaches out, makes a connection, starts to draw from Argentis...

Earlier, Katyna (correctly) identified Kahm's unit as not a normal Filgaian Gear because of what it looks like. Kat's Argentis does look like a Filgaian Gear - a little battered, armour plates a little crude - but when he starts to draw off power, he finds that it is anything but.

Something inside Argentis whirs as it is, roughly, jump-started (or perhaps whatever the reverse is: drop-started?). Ancient generators begin to hum to life, and for all that Kahm is pulling away from Katyna, it doesn't seem to be slowing her down much. More, the Gear is moving differently. Before it moved like a single machine. Now it's moving like a smaller machine with too much bolted out; as if the impulses come not from the normal machinery of the Gear but from something deep inside roughly shoving all the excess material and framework around.

Katyna, in the cockpit, is having lights light up that she didn't even know were lights. One of the screens, permanently black, flickers to life, showing a series of letters and numbers endlessly drawing and emptying itself too fast for her to actually read it. What did he do? she thinks to herself, shifting with the controls. Is it going to shut down on her? "I noticed!" she calls back at Leon, her voice tinged with a hint of panic.

But if anything, Argentis seems to be as active as ever... though its balance, its movement is all different. It rises, leaping down from the building as Katyna tries to judge its new balance; it really does look like it's being pushed and pulled from within. On the run, Katyna stops for a few moments while she fires another shell. And this one is different; it's energized, not with electricity but with a white-blue energy, forming a halo around it; it appears to be emitted from the tip of the bullet and streams backwards, forming a rough cone.

It also penetrates right through the shielding Hauteclaire seems to have, if that's all that Kahm trusts to defend himself. Not that it can't be dodged, but an energy field is probably not the right call here.

GS: Katyna Reidal has activated a Force Action!
GS: Katyna Reidal has attacked Kahm Yugh with Penetrating Shell!
GS: Katyna Reidal has completed her action.
GS: Tolone critically Guards a hit from Jack Van Burace's Slash Rave for 30 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia was honestly hoping Seraphita would go down as easily as your average guard. That'd make everything a lot easier. Unfortunately, that isn't the case, not even when others join in the attack. She looks around with some distress. With all these people, it really is starting to feel like, like... well, like Seraphita says, like they're being mean. "I wasn't trying to be mean!" She can't speak for the others, but... just making that clear.

But wait a minute, she looks... pretty fine, all things considered. Xantia's starting to suspect that she may not be fighting someone ordinary here. It probably shouldn't have taken her until all the fire happens to be absolutely sure of that. Making it look like a rabbit is a neat trick, but when it explodes into bouncing flames, she reacts instinctively, jumping, rolling, and crossing an arm in front of her - the arm bearing her bracer, which apparently offers some measure of magical protection, the intensity of the incoming flames somewhat reducing before they wash over her. It still doesn't make it a very pleasant experience, but at least she's isn't actually on fire.

She then hears Bart yelling something about the princess flying away, which prompts a smile, in spite of everything. "Oh, the princess got away? That means we win, right?" It's not clear who she's even asking that question, if anybody. Now they just have to get away, somehow. Easier said than done. Seraphita probably won't just stop. Xantia wouldn't, if it were her.

Abruptly springing to her feet, Xantia opts for a favored tactic. A sudden dash forward, ending in a quick, single strike. A palm strike, in this case, aimed for Seraphita's midsection. A chi-disruption technique at its core, but plenty painful besides. It's mainly intended to try and knock the wind out of the bunnygirl for a moment, so that she can point out, "The princess isn't even here anymore... can we stop fighting now?" It's worth a try.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraphita with Disrupting Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"Y'seemed a little surprised there. Should I go a little slower? Not everyday y'get to come up against someone a little bit familiar with those tricks." Nevermind Gwen is completely off- Tolone's 'tricks' are entirely different from the courier's own, which consist mostly of 'scare away opportunistic bandits'.

Gwen's in over her head.

"-Eh?" Gwen turns to regard the... rather intense Lily. "U-uh, I don't think killin's necessarily what's needed right now, but I'll take yer comment into consideraruioo---" Tolone, as if liking Lily's suggestion, has summoned up an unexpected vortex of Ether-fed wind, completely catching Gwen off guard.

And off her feet.

The force would have been enough to throw Gwen off the stage entirely by itself, but Gwen manages to slam her ARM into the flooring, delivering enough force to wedge a hold in the material. "Gh...!" Her boots feel empty air of the space just outside the stage's boundaries. She breathes, then climbs forward, horizontally, as Tolone turns her attention to other opponents.

She gets up, her hair and clothing askew. "... H'okay... If all else fails..." The courier starts into a run, gathering speed and momentum to make a pointed counterargument to Tolone's wind.

With an electric punch to the face.

Things usually work out when she starts punching things.

GS: Seraphita takes a solid hit from Xantia's Disrupting Palm Strike for 101 hit points!
GS: Cripple! Statuses applied to Seraphita!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Tolone with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Tolone takes a glancing hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 58 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses critically Guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hoten for 24 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Leon Albus's Impact Cannon for 172 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a glancing hit from Lunata Croze's Hip-mounted Railguns for 164 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kahran Ramses has posed.

Ramses is off his center now and Bartholomew's smarmy retorts earn him a small emotional response, his lip curling just slightly in frustration. "A good commander delegates judiciously," he informs the sand pirate, power sparking across his blade, flickering. "A great one knows when to handle matters himself!" He surges, then - lightning-quick he all but appears in Bart's presence, which is going swimmingly until Bart shoots him. Ramses swings down hard in a blow that would surely cleave him in half if the shot from the Prince of the Pirates didn't catch him dead in the chest, sending him stumbling backward and reeling from the shock of the blow. He shakes out his head again, swiftly pivoting toward -

"that--" he half-croaks. His body moves before his thoughts have entirely caught up, catching the first punch with his arm, th second with his blade, and then the roundhouse with his face.

He staggers aside, something wild in his look. "That technique," he seethes. "I've seen it...who taught you, boy!?" he demands, with a heat quite unlike him. Why, why is his blood boiling like this...!

He surges again, blade lashing out in a rapid, one, two, three combination to carve Fei apart. "Reveal your secrets!"

If his anger seems out of proportion, it, probably should.

DC: MISS! Kahm Yugh completely evades Penetrating Shell from Katyna Reidal!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Bart Fatima with Skill of the Wind Element!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Slash Slash Slash!
GS: Kahran Ramses has completed his action.
GS: Bart Fatima takes a glancing hit from Kahran Ramses's Skill of the Wind Element for 35 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

"M-Mistreat?!" Seraphita seems surprised. Ashamed, maybe? "No! No no no, that couldn't be right! I gave her cupcakes and I helped make her dress pretty and I was protecting her! Princesses are super cool, I wouldn't wanna hurt one!!" She sounds, and is, so honest, too!

Poor Seraphita. Moments later, Catenna sets the stage on water. The flames from the Fire Element are doused, and worse yet the bunny is knocked back by the wall of water. It seems to bother her quite a bit too; she's drenched from head to toe now, and beyond smelling like wet bunny, she seems uncomfortable. Or maybe it's just what Catenna said?

"T-Tolone, it's not true, right? We treated the princess super nice! I tried to make sure she was comfortable and happy!!"

Whining is interrupted by ROCKET SAND, and with good reason. The bunny is momentarily blinded! Next thing you know, Arash is right at her feet and punching her in the chest. Let's be completely fair here, there is a lot of padding to go through to hit her sternum. It doesn't quite knock the wind out of her. She catches Arash's arm, the fist still against her chest. "Owie, that hurt! You're super accurate to be able to aim there!! You must be a martial arts master! I wanna learn one day, you know?"

Xantia follows up. Seraphita's hands are busy holding onto Arash's in a very awkward position, and so Xantia has an easy time hitting her mark. The palm-strike causes her to back up, to let go of Arash, and to cough for a few moments under the pain of both strikes. Then she looks sad.

"Sorry, miss Xantia, I can only stop fighting if the Commander or Tolone says it's OK! But I don't wanna hurt you so I won't kill you if I can help it!!" That's... good to know?

Lemina, finally, invokes fire. The fiery ring wraps around Seraphita and scorches her skin and outfit. She looks around, noticing that she's firmly locked in place due to the ring. She takes a deep breath, and...

Ether pulls in towards her. Magic is siphoned from the very air like the bunny is a great vacuum. The flames that bind her are snuffed, and then the drain extends out as she backflips onto her hands, then flips back forward, and devolves into a cartwheel to speed past her captors and back towards Tolone.

"Oh, oh, look guys, I've been practicing my cartwheels! Tolone, tell them how good I am at cartwheels!!"

GS: Seraphita has attacked Arash Khan with Bun-Bun Dance!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Lemina Ausa with Bun-Bun Dance!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Xantia with Bun-Bun Dance!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Catenna with Bun-Bun Dance!
GS: Seraphita has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Lemina Ausa guards a hit from Seraphita's Bun-Bun Dance for 129 hit points!
GS: Poison and Mute! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
GS: Seraphita drains Lemina Ausa! Seraphita gains 128 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Catenna takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Bun-Bun Dance for 202 hit points!
GS: Poison and Mute! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Seraphita drains Catenna! Seraphita gains 264 temporary hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a glancing hit from Seraphita's Bun-Bun Dance for 85 hit points!
GS: Poison and Mute! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Seraphita drains Xantia! Seraphita gains 248 temporary hit points!
DC: MISS! Arash Khan completely evades Bun-Bun Dance from Seraphita!
<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Tolone finds Lily coming towards her. The woman's moving with great speed for a sick woman, she thinks, before answering, "Understood!!" to the Commander, and then the blade glows and shines and Tolone throws up her hand - the one that had just now flipped back to shoot a laser...

To catch it! The blade carves down longitudinally, amputating Tolone's pinky finger with a spark of force, but focused live green-hued wind Ether screams upwards as she tilts her head back, looking down her nose at Lily. "You're lucky we need you for a sample," she tells Lily, before swinging one terrible robot leg up to hit her in the inner thigh with steel-denting force. At that point she breaks this Ether Lock - it's not exactly a thing even she can do all day - and dives to the side, rolling with sharp vigor.

At which point Jay pours anti-machine glop on her.

Tolone makes a theremenic wail and pushes herself up to her feet, heavily. Her voice burrs and glitches as she trembles, visibly powering through the effect. "dO you thiNK for one moMEnnnt that I would be s-s-stopped by your low-gr-rade novelty item-m-ms?" Then Tolone leaps up into the air, which is easy for HER to do. She almost hits the roof.

In fact she does hit the roof. She kicks off it to slam herself at Jay.

Tolone weighs approximately 550 pounds.

Whether she hit Jay or just caused structural damage to the palace, Tolone raises herself up with some weariness to face the incoming Claude. "A robot? Don't be absurrrrrdddkdkdkd," she says, even as the approaching figure and his flurries get to rip into her unopposed for exactly 19 punches before she starts to counter-strike, soon enough ending up in a countervailing punch rush rhythm.

"You can't understand me, -Lamb-. I'm what that rude woman wants to be," Tolone says over the wind. "The perfect integration of human and machine--"

FWAM! One final blow from her leg, and the clash ends, wind bursting out and kicking dust up everywhere!

At this point Jack's reversal of her wind pressure bursts down, Tolone's twin tails fluttering forwards like the flair on a bicycle handlebars. It may tickle Claude's nose if he's staying close. "So you think you're going to challenge the Element of Wind with your second-rate sword techniques? I hope your mouse knows where your next of kin are!"

Tolone turns her gaze towards Gwen as she closes the distance and perhaps it is the sheer grim force of that gaze that spares her. That, or EMP hardening. Gwen's fist hits Tolone in the cheek and manages to make the skin there, which does not feel like it's real skin, jerk backwards. There's a stretch/tear mark (no blood) along several of the screws in her cheek bone there; Tolone's head turns with the blow as she lets out another "Tch."

Her eyes close.

"For the sake of our ideals... I'll make an example out of all of you!" There is a limning moment of green around Tolone, and then the wind screams outwards, this time focused AROUND Tolone - the howling winds, crackling with static electricity, do no more than lightly tingle the nearby Seraphita, slightly more firmly tingle others, and REALLY sweep down on Claude, Gwen and Jack.

Over the wind, she shouts towards Seraphita, "They're trying to psychologically dominate you! They're afraid of your skills! Kill a couple and the rest will break!"

DC: MISS! Fei Fong Wong completely evades Slash Slash Slash from Kahran Ramses!
GS: Tolone has attacked Lily Keil with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Head Dive!
GS: Tolone has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jack Van Burace with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Anemo Wave!
GS: CRITICAL! Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Tolone's Head Dive for 131 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 Bart... would like to take time to reply to Claude about the whole 'prince' thing, but unfortunately he is kind of busy at this point. Mainly due to the fact that Ramses is actually a fairly good swordsman and this is a bit more difficult than he would have expected. But the interesting part...

 ...the interesting part is despite the fact that Bart just SHOT HIM IN THE CHEST, Ramses seems angrier at FEI for some reason.

 "Hey, hey! You don't have time to be focusing on him, 'cause I'm here to TAKE MY DAMN KINGDOM BACK!" the pirate shouts, just as Ramses unleashes another blast of wind in his direction. There's only a moment to slide out of the way, and Bart is still clipped by the swirling ether stream that rushes past him... but it's clear that Ramses is fixated on something else.

 Well, Bart can work with that. He dips into his pocket, pulling out an Aveh coin. A quick glance at the face on the coin - it's one of the old ones with his father on the face - and the pirate channels Ether into the object. Ramses can probably feel the energy gathering, like the hair on the back of his neck standing up for a moment as Bart plants both of his feet.

 "I'm gonna pay both you and Shakhan back - with interest!" Bart states, his voice flat and determined. "But here's a down payment!"

 He snaps the coin forward - and it goes from 'size of a penny' to 'size of a manhole cover, and moving at about 5 sharls per second!

GS: Bart Fatima has attacked Kahran Ramses with Heaven Cent!
GS: Bart Fatima has completed his action.
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Tolone's Show 'Em A Little Leg for 58 hit points!
GS: Tolone has completed her action.
GS: Claude C. Kenny critically Guards a hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 73 hit points!
DC: MISS! Jack Van Burace completely evades Anemo Wave from Tolone!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 168 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily is one of those grateful about Claude. Nevertheless she spots him moving into the opening she creates and marks him in the ally list again for the moment, but she has her own problems just then. She stares at Tolone as she throws up her hand against a blade that can disintegrate matter with little trouble... and holds it, with her Ether. Her eye narrows, and she grits her teeth. Sample, Tolone says, and something flashes in the sorceress's eye. "you--" Locked in place in this clash, the leg swings up to hit her hard in the thigh, and there's an awful noise despite the shield of ice that meets that blow. It may not be just her barrier that cracks. "Gh--"

Tolone moves, and Lily falls partway down, hitting the ground and a knee with a wince. She glares again in that direction, listens to her. It takes her a moment to gather herself.

...A moment, and a faint red glow that encapsulates her briefly.

Gwen can see Lily, then. At her words, Lily does not look back to Gwen. She hears her on the battlefield and that's enough. "Think harder before she kills you first," she spits out, and starts to rise again. The battle at hand is fast; she can see more data, no blood, markings...

"I don't care about your ideals," she says, shifting upward again, Ether forcing her body from one knee. She still looks at least half-dead, feverish, bloodshot eye and sunken. She does not look... All right, to say the least. "Sample," she hisses. "Because of you..." She narrows her eye again. "Seraphita..." THe wya she drains magic...

No. Lily closes her eye instead, and focuses. The air gets... much, much colder abrubtly in the vicinity of the Kislevi sorceress. Pain still floods through her, but it will make her will that much clearer.

"Leon," she murmurs, and opens her eye before the mist coalesces around Tolone--and becomes blades of ice bursting in starry patterns, crashing all around in an effort to slice through her outright. She winces again, as if the act of casting itself is starting to become painful.

It's moments yet before the assault stops.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Tolone with Mistgleam!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Tolone takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Mistgleam for 160 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Well then. So that's the kind of effect it has on people amplified by machine parts...Jacqueline's actually a little horrified by it, though her opponent just seems angered more than anything. So angry that she hops straight into the ceiling and kicks off to charge at her head first.

Jacqueline invokes a stone pillar to try and intercept her...but Tolone slams straight through it, causing both stone and metal to slam into her and drop her to the ground. Covered in stone rubble and a metal woman Jacqueline coughs, the wind knocked wholly out her.

...There may be some blood mixed in there, too, that was a pretty hefty strike.

Even after Tolone removes herself from her person Jacqueline lays there for a moment, still having to recover from the strike.

In fact, she stays on the ground for a moment, sorting out a few potions from her bags. One of them she keeps to herself, the other two are tossed to Claude and Gwen.

"C-Catch!" ...She still sounds a little winded...

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Distribution Theory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Distribution Theory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Distribution Theory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Claude C. Kenny! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The water washes where it will, but mostly what Catenna notices is that she seems to have genuinely hurt Seraphita's feelings. She presses her lips together in a firm, anxious line, her eyes softening a little, losing some tension at the outer corners. "I am sorry. But that is not the point," she says patiently. Some part of her really does believe there's a way out of this through talking.

Until Seraphita starts sucking up all the magic in the room.

The truth is, Catenna does almost nothing but magic, and she doesn't have much of a defense against something like this. She lets out a sick-sounding groan as her strength gives way; sinking to her knees, she clutches a hand to her heart, pressing her hand to her chest and hunching her shoulders. It's like she's crumbling into herself as so much power flows out of her and into the dancing fire bunny.

It's all she can do to keep from passing out right then and there.

Closing her eyes, Catenna trembles, fighting to keep conscious. Her shoulders shake as she shifts to her knees and folds her hands in front of herself. "Ahenai chadani," she whispers in Zortroan. "Celesdue chadani... chada chadani... shudatam chadani...."

There's a subtle ripple in the air around Catenna. Those looking at her will find her shape distorting - or is it the light itself being warped? Gravity flows around her; her hair billows, lifting out around her head in a rippling halo. Her limbs suddenly feel as light as a feather.

And then the air levels out, with a last shimmer. Inhaling, Catenna rises to her feet. Seraphita will feel that something is different: Her attempt to pull magic from the air simply stops when it reaches Catenna's body.

"You will not be able to do that anymore," she says with a flick of her head.

GS: Catenna has attacked Catenna with Eraser!
GS: Catenna takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Catenna's Eraser for 0 hit points!
GS: Lock and State! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Restore! Catenna clears debuffs from Catenna!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

"That style..." Kahm murmurs, as one camera caught a particular angle of the way that Avehan gear moved it's sword against the Lieutenant.

Dueling blades with gears is no different than among men, Kahm. Echoed the voice of his old teacher, No movement is wasted. Every strike is a killing strike. Let actors worry about style, all you need to worry about is making the other man die first.

"Lieutenant, watch yourself." Kahm warns Loren over a private line, "That gear is using Shevite tactics."

As he spoke, Hauteclaire turned all the absorbed energy towards something productive. It indeed could not endlessly store all the energy it took, as Lunata theorized, which is why it was necessary to use the power for something immediately. Leon would discover this first hand as his triple shots slammed one after another into a projected, dome-like energy field that surrounded the white gear, each peeling away another layer until the final shot managed to get through and embed itself in the gear's side. It was assisted, no doubt, by the timely dual attack from the Rephaim, who one railgun round was similarly stopped by the field while the other shot through the Hauteclaire's left leg, taking off a chunk of armor and circuitry beneath the knee actuator.

The gear's gyroscope's immediately compensated, and Kahm raised a brow of intrigue. "Their performance is reasonable, but that third one..." What had his attack awoken in the Argentis? The gear seemed to be behaving erratically, speeding up instead of slowing down, as if the pilot didn't know what was going on themselves. That made it predictable in it's own way, and the Captain's preternatural piloting senses handled the rest.

He felt the sizzle of energy along the slug, somehow, and handily ducked his gear low enough for the pass over the head (perhaps right by the Rephaim) before slamming into a building. His counterattack was instant, as the Hauteclaire deployed yet another scarcely seen technology. "AERODs, away!" Kahm commanded!

Several diode-shaped objects flew out from the gear's sides, flying in erratic-yet-aware trajectories and surrounding Leon and Katyna's gears from multiple angles before letting loose with highly focused particle beam fire, hot enough to pierce through any surface-bound armor.

That left the Rephaim, which had wandered into melee range. "All things on Filgaia have a limit." The Captain states elegantly, moving his gear in a way to mirror to Rephaim's previous movements, from the left and to the side in an attempt to draw Lunata's attention to that still-clutched carbon blade.

"But if you can't reach that limit, it might as well be infinite."

The blow come, but not from the blade. Kahm gets close, and turns his gear on an accelerated dime to slam it's non-damage leg directly into the Rephaim's flank.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with AEROD Snipe!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Katyna Reidal with AEROD Snipe!
GS: Kahm Yugh has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lunata Croze with Kahm Kick!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's AEROD Snipe for 239 hit points!
GS: Katyna Reidal guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's AEROD Snipe for 154 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

This is Claude C. Kenny's first experience with the -Lamb- thing, so he has no idea what the hell Tolone is talking about. He puts it down to some sort of software glitch. "Oh, okay, fusion of metal and flesh - cyborg, then, sorry," he apologizes. "Didn't mean to be, uh..."

(don't say spacist don't say spacist)

"...aw crap," he mutters, spared from having to say anything at all because the cyborg girl is calling down the whirlwind upon the room, and while Claude may not be able to sense the Ether she's channeling, he can feel when the hairs on his arms start to rise and the winds start moving. She's doing something, and it's something bad.

Claude doesn't have many options here. While his STUPID SPACE DAD was a powerful Symbologist, Claude is roughly as magical as most wheels of cheese you could name. He doesn't have much he can counter with, nor can he even really see what he's countering. He can't avoid it. He can't block it.

And so he grits his teeth and takes it, ducking his head down and bringing his left arm to cover his face and head, shrugging his shoulder and absorbing the impact of the spell. The Federation armourweave in his jacket provides some protection, but it's intended to stop bullets and blades, not magic wind and lightning. All he can do is absorb the punishment, and wait it out.

(c-catch!)

Claude's left hand snakes out as the wind dies, catching the potion out of the air. He uncorks it with his teeth nd pounds the liquid back, then tosses the empty bottle vaguely away from him (missing Lily by a foot and a half - oops). His right hand, all the while, is held back, gathering more of that brilliant chi as he focuses the energy of his body into physical force. The blue-white ball grows and strengthens, then takes on sharp lines, as the face and form of a screaming draconic maw forge themselves into being.

"Lady, I don't know what your ideals are supposed to be, and I kind of don't care?" Claude says, shrugging helplessly. "I'm just trying to save my friend." he pauses. "Who... flew away." He pauses again. "And my other friend, whose.... house this is."

....

"I'm just going to punch you now," Claude decides, darting forward in a sudden rush, swinging the brilliant draconic power toward poor Tolone's cute pigtaily face. "LION'S! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWL!"

(he's still trying to be in disguise)

(but it is clearly not a lion at all)

GS: Claude C. Kenny has attacked Tolone with Dragon's Howl!
GS: Claude C. Kenny has completed his action.
GS: Tolone critically Guards a hit from Claude C. Kenny's Dragon's Howl for 32 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Lunata Croze critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Kahm Kick for 72 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

"Maybe you didn't yourself, but..." Lemina frowns. Honestly, this is kinda beyond her -- Seraphita seems pretty earnest! ... But the rest of these shady people very much do not, and Cecilia herself didn't seem all that happy to be here...

... Lemina honestly doesn't know if she can tell Seraphita word one here. Or, for that matter, if she can do anything to Seraphita. Indeed, as Seraphita rips her magic from the very air, she starts to feel... pretty helpless. Is this -- the power of these strange movers in the shadows? Her stance falters, but she keeps herself standing with her staff... is she outclassd?

No! Lemina slams her staff down on the stone with forceful 'pwong!' noise and a wordless, mighty shout. Below Seraphita, a mighty swell of fire forms. At first, it looks almost like the one Lemina started earlier. ... then, of course, it explodes straight upward. Lemina Ausa never does anything by half-measures.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Moments after the earth ether kicks loose, Loren banks the controls to the right, moving away to attempt to round on both his current opponents and one who ambushed him. As predicted for a Gear its size and shape, it doesn't do this quickly.

...The knee is also a problem. It isn't responding properly -- which diagnostics had anticipated, but which he also can't, at the moment, do anything about.

"Agreed," he comments over private channels, gaze shifting from the Gear and the... Golem towards the direction that strike had come in from when yet another comes scrolling in.

ETHERIC CONTACT FAILURE

Followed by TARGET LOST, RECALIBRATING

Followed by TARGET FOUND. WARNING! TARGET CLOSE, RECALIBRATING

Loren doesn't wait for the rest of the messaging to come in. He knows exactly where they've landed, because there's only place they could possibly land at this point to make his day complete and it's--
Schiehallion turns, surprising sharply for a damaged machine of its size.
Loren gets a good view of an elegant swordstroke smashing through Schiehallion's left arm at the elbow joint, sending it flying to crash into nearby structures in the Square.
Oh, good. Loren stares for a moment at the silent Gear pilot as the damage reports come cascading in. Action after that half-second come much, much easier.
He has only a few words for Kahm over channels before he sinks his will into the still quite functional ether amps. "I noticed. Sustained significant damage." ...Kahm can probably see that too, honestly.

Pressure realigns and gathers itself nearby. From the heavens -- or at least, immediately above Cassidy's Gear -- the torrent drives down in a sudden hard-edged pulse of aquatic ether.

He doesn't stay like that long. Sidestepping once, as if in anticipation of further attacks from that direction, there are certain areas of the field he's not focusing on.

Such as, oh, the girl riding the Golem. At least until the Golem's fists slam into the back of Schiehallion's damaged leg, neatly cracking the already-splintered plating.

Her movement as she rounds in on his Gear also means that she'll get a really good look at the damaged, cut-off end of where Schiehallion's left forearm used to be. Sparks fly, something shines dully from within. ...The armoring on this Gear is fairly significant.

Well, Shalune has his attention now. The earth rolls underfoot as he shifts the machine back, urging forth from the nadir of the Square another array of flaking hard-edged earthen spikes. Slow the girl and her Golem or stop her entirely -- he has too much to worry about right now to play around.

His gaze flickers across the rest of the Square. ...In time to see the smokebomb charges detonate. More trickery. He lifts his good hand, fingers flying across the screen.
Reroute power. Seal circuitry to left forearm. Redirect power to targeting assistance routines.

The support Gear holsters its sole remaining sidearm as Loren once more divests his will outwards into his surroundings, another great stone pillar slamming up out of the earth, this one intended for the one providing that cover for the others. Oh yes, he knows all about support machines, and the trouble they can cause.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Seraphita with Pyro Pillar!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes 9 damage from Poison!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

"It's okay, Bart, this actually kinda happens a lot. It's probably nothing." Fei tells his friend before turning back to Ramses. "Sorry," He says to Kahran, reasonably. "I heard uh..." He stalls himself out--why the hell would he tell Ramses what Xantia told him about it?! That's stupid! "--wait, nevermind! I shouldn't tell you anything! Geeze! I saw what you did to Lily, I'm not saying squat! Tell me where Loren is and I'll consider it! Why did you put Dan in a GANG???"

Wait Loren? Why the hell Loren? What's going on here???

Fei smoothly avoids Ramses's strike, twisting back and forth as Ramses continuously strikes at him before he raises his hand to catch the blade between his two fingers.

He then leaps into the air over it and towards Ramses's head where he intends to strike it repeatedly with his feet!

"And for that matter," He adds. "I have no idea who you are!! Are you in charge here??"

GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Kahran Ramses with Hagan!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Cassidy Cain with Aqua Origin!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Shalune Amira with Terra Vector!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Lock On!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Terra Vector!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


"I don't have any next of kin," Jack's voice is darker as he repies to that one as he starts to stalk forward. He's only used air pressure these last few times. Only a hint of the full power of those strange techniques of his. "And you arn't an Element of Wind. I know elements of Wind."

The storm lashes in and Jack's sword flashes out. The ancestral weapon arcing out in a move that has been practiced so many times its blindingly fast. Nearly impossible to see. The keep blade slashes part of the platform itself free. A second slash tears it in two, then in four before the third slash sends it launching towards Tolone as it scatters her storm to the four winds.

"You are nothing more than someone who wishes to be more like a Metal Demon than what you were born. You are far from perfect. And you are nothing like Gwen."

A smirk.

"And judging from how your voice is reacting. I think you know it. I'm fairly sure you need a bit of maintaince."

GS: Jack Van Burace has attacked Tolone with Strike Buddy!
GS: Jack Van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Tolone takes a glancing hit from Jack Van Burace's Strike Buddy for 51 hit points!
GS: Tolone enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Shalune Amira guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Vector for 148 hit points!
GS: Seraphita guards a hit from Lemina Ausa's Pyro Pillar for 108 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Vector for 52 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses guards a hit from Bart Fatima's Heaven Cent for 90 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

Envision where the cartwheels will land, predict the movement of air against moustache hair. Enter Pure Focus. Even that barely prepares him for the cyclone bunny chaos that awaits him. Seraphita's cartwheel attacks hum millimeters away from Arash's vital points, and he has to twist and duck like mad to even survive. "Whoo, you've practiced well, miss, lemme tell ya."

 He strikes a guarding stance with his shovel. And he starts to...talk. "Now I don't mean to intrude on what I'm sure is a sensitive situation, but I'd hate to see what're clearly some fine friendships ruined over a spat like this. I'll admit that four on one ain't the kindest odds, but you're handlin' yourself great! Can't improve without a challenge. So what say we continue like this eh?" A smelting fire glows behind his old eyes.

 This time his spade strikes below Seraphita's feet, undermining the ground beneath footing. Arash goes for a kick to the face while she falls. But after this, too, he snaps and darts around to a blind spot, cycling the bolt and firing two quick shots at her center of mass. Float and Sting.

GS: Arash Khan has attacked Seraphita with Rocket Sand!
GS: Arash Khan has completed his action.
GS: Kahran Ramses guards a hit from Fei Fong Wong's Hagan for 57 hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a glancing hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Origin for 135 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Cassidy Cain!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia, at least, isn't at all surprised to hear Seraphita's claims of just being here to protect the princess. That's a thing heroes do, after all, it checks out. This is all just a really big understanding! If only she could explain things better. This is the first time she's actually bothered by the fact that she never fully understood everything about this whole situation. She only knows one thing for certain, so that's what shouts in response, "But Sera, the princess didn't want to be here, that's why she couldn't be happy!"

And that's why she's ended up having to fight a friend. It really is sad, it's no surprised that she doesn't look any happier than Seraphita does after lending her palm strike. It's the easiest way to tell when you shouldn't be fighting. Fighting is supposed to be fun! If you can't feel good about punching someone, something has to be seriously wrong.

Her intended counter-argument gets stuck at, "But..." when she realizes that it's the same for her. Well, she could stop fighting, but then she'd be letting her friends down, and they could end up getting hurt. What a miserable situation.

Really, the saddest thing of all is being called 'miss'. Friends aren't supposed to call each other that, why is she 'miss' again?

No more time to think about it, as Seraphita proceeds to demonstrate her cartwheeling skills. In a completely natural impulse, Xantia responds with her own cartwheel in an attempt to dodge, though she doesn't get quite far enough. Her leg is clipped, with enough force to causes all balance to be lost, sending her painfully to the ground.

As much as that must have hurt, she doesn't remain there long. Scrambling back to her feet, she dashes after Seraphita, leaps forward, then spins in the air, intending to deliver a powerful kick before landing. Only then does she speak again. But it's not to Sera, it's directed at Tolone and her accusations. "What? That's not true! I don't even know how to psychically dominate someone!" She doesn't even know the meaning of the word psychologically, literally, as evidenced by her getting it totally wrong.

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraphita with Whirlwind Kick!
GS: Xantia takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Seraphita takes a glancing hit from Arash Khan's Rocket Sand for 96 hit points!
GS: Seraphita critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Whirlwind Kick for 23 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

Lunata lets out another yelp as she watches the barrier emerge once more-- and she clutches and grits at her teeth as she starts to tremble, for once feeling desperately outmatched and uncertain of what to do. She wants to ask Leon what they should do, but they were busy -- Katyna's busy as well, and she doesn't know what's happening to the Argentis... what's that energy around it? Suddenly she doesn't know--

She holds onto her head. "Ghh--!! Not now, Ge Ramda!"

A pause, and her eyes widen as she realises too late that the Hauteclaire is launching in an acute angle at her, and she tries to hold her blade out to parry--

--and gets tricked by Kahm's gambit, as the Hauteclaire's foot smashes down on the Rephaim's knee, the crunch of ... not metal upon metal, but rather the corresponding barriers clashing against one another, electricity washing against leyline.

It isn't enough, and the slimmer Gear is flung on its side and sends it on a collision course against one of the nearby hills on the side of the plaza.

She gazes into the sphere, laying flat on the seat of her cockpit as warnings echo and blare all throughout her field of vision. It's oppressive. It's daunting.

"I can't win against him... not like this... not the way I am... I--"

Her eyes widen, and she feels an awful, erratic heartbeat shock her. Her vision is clouded by the cold, deathly flames that seem to cascade around her cockpit. Her eyes widen all the way as the battle fades from her purview, in exchange for that ever-present wheel of judgement that tempts her, now as it ever has... she hungrily reaches out for it.

"I want to win... I want to win... I don't want to feel helpless..."

GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Lunata Croze with Girls Are Making Contract - Please Wait Warmly...!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Lunata Croze's Girls Are Making Contract - Please Wait Warmly... for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"That barrier...!"

Leon calls out, staring, as all but one shots are blasted away by the energy storm shooting around it. His eyes narrow, and the Weglaf erupts from the smoke in time for the AERODs to come around. He hasn't fought such things before--and thus, he is not ready. They sweep around, at odd angles, and he finds energy blasts raining down. They slam into the armored hide of the Gear, holes burnt into it. Smoke rises off it, where it strikes. For a moment, Leon finds himself pinned down.

He grits his teeth, even as he turns the Weglaf. A few impact cannon shots fire from the chest, sending a wave of force rolling through the cockpit with each. The shots don't come near the AERODs.

He looks at the monitor, taking stock of the situation--of the desperate place they find themselves in. Cecilia fled, but he can see Fei and Bart in battle with the Gebler commander. He can see the Elements, laying into CaraKin. He can see Lily -- and his eyes widen, but his relief is limited. He grits his teeth.

'All things on Filgaia have a limit.'

He looks up, his eyes widening as he sees Kahm close in for Rephaim. "Lunata!" he shouts. "Look out!"

But the AERODs have him pinned down. He can't get closer. He feels his stomach lurch, twisting into a knot. He brought her here. He knew how it could be hard for her.

'But my subordinates would never be so compromised.'
'Do you... know the answer to that question yourselves, Miss Lily, Mister Leon?'
'But we'll hunt where we will. Claw and fang both.'
'You're the greatest man I know.'

Leon's eyes close. He grits his teeth. It isn't right, he thinks, for Fei to place that faith in him. Misplaced faith, though, may be all he has. His eyes snap open, cool and silver -- and angry -- and he makes the Weglaf rush forward. The AEROD has its shot, and a particle blast rips through half of the head. Molten, burnt silver splashes out, as paint burns away. And Leon rushes in, straight towards Lunata as she cries out. "Katyna! Focus your fire on him! Lunata, hold on!"

Weglaf leaps, flying into the air, and smashes down as Rephaim is slammed back into a hill. The blue Gear interposes itself between Hauteclaire and the fallen Gear, and swings back its arm blade. The one that Kahm turned aside, not a moment before, with his blade. "You're right," he says. "I won't leave my subordinates to be so compromised!"

The Gear rushes forward, and the blade crashes down, the air shimmering about it as it does.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Kahm Yugh with Commander's Strike!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

The pieces of the board keep moving - she anticipates communication between the two commanding gears in the midst of the fight and like she tells anyone who would listen, she doesn't put anything past anybody. In spite of her flippant facade and her laissez-faire and affable approach to everyone and anyone she meets, she is not in the habit of underestimating anyone.

 She is also well aware of her incredible ability to catch people's attention, regardless of whether she wants it.

 So Cassidy waits - by now, the larger gear would have registered her as a threat, though an indicator message rolls across her screen, a glance towards Ida's gear and the support she has just provided everyone else. There's no acknowledgment, at least nothing verbal, save for a tilt of that faceplate in her direction that suggests that she knows precisely what she did, and that the maneuver was welcome. She is not in a habit of turning away any advantage, either.

 The attack that she is waiting for arrives in a flashing torrent of water-based ether. She and Magic do not get along either, but thanks to her encounters with a murderous Gebler nightmare agent, she knows of ether, and several ways which it can be used.

 The radius is massive, enough to encompass her gear and then some. She moves quickly, firing up her engines and adjusting her expectations. One hand moves, to scoop up the massive spike-head that she had decimated moments before, and as the murderous storm of magic descends on her...

 She whips her arm forward, crossing it defensively over her head, its surface into the epicenter of the magical mass. Stone crumbles and cracks, bits shattering off the thick, crusty surface. For a moment, she vanishes from view in a hurrricane of light.

 ...and when the magic fades, she remains - and only minimally damaged. Eyes take note of her diagnostic scans, before she twists and throws the remains of the spike towards Loren...little more than a nub.

 But aimed for its visual receptors.

 She moves after that, in a straight line, and one that redirects in the last moment before the blade arcs again in an effort to take out its other arm, moving to create that opening for herself as the point levels towards its center mass...

 ...and if successful, she attempts to spear Loren's gear through where its heart would be, panels of her sword opening up and flooding whatever crevice she makes with a corrosive compound.

GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Loren Voss with Point Break!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

Katyna is, if nothing else, actually a talented pilot. She's beginning to compensate for the different balance of Argentis, but it still 'feels' wrong. Like something's inside, pushing... Well, maybe it is. She looks at the screen, which is still displaying page after page of nonsense output.

She's seen that exactly once before, and under better circumstances, but she never managed to repeat its activation. And, unfortunately, it seems to be going the same way as last time.

The screen clears itself, and is replaced with text in a bright red. Text that doesn't change, text Katyna can read:

ARGENTIS

ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR
ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR
ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR
ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR

SYSTEMIC FAILURE

SHUTTING DOWN

And it does. Argentis comes to a halt just as the AERODS come in; it starts moving again almost immediately, but it's back to its original parameters and it shows. Katyna, caught in the middle of the street, can not evade the swirling, whirling AERODs. She uses her shield, but there's no deflecting this; they start to burn through the plate serving as the buckler as well as several other points around the body. Argentis' armour comes from Kislev; it isn't really able to handle AERODs.

"This is a really bad time, Argentis!" Katyna reaches over to her console, flipping a switch to communicate to her team. "Leon! Lunata! How much longer do we have to hold him off?" A chunk of Argentis' armour hits the street as it's literally carved off, revealing the understructure of the lower arm; Katyna raises the cannon and fires it, one-two-three times in a row, simply to use it before she gets the entire arm sheared away and can only fire one-handed.

Leon wants fire support, and that's what she's here for, but if she starts losing Gear parts... she's not going to be good for much, with Argentis in its current state.

GS: Katyna Reidal has attacked Kahm Yugh with Boosted Shell!
GS: Katyna Reidal has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

Seraphita's cartwheels stop when she reaches Tolone. She remains upside down, looking up at her partner. "Don't worry! I can't be psychonautically dominated because I'm not in water right now!!!"

... yes, Seraphita. Sure. OK.

Catenna uses this moment to, seemingly, power up and start glowing. Seraphita oooohs like she's part of the crowd. "Whoa, cool! That's so cool! And your pose, you look super badass now! Aww, but I like doing that though, are you sure I can't?" She looks to Tolone, as if seeking her opinion. "Can I do it again? No, wait, better! Let's use our super special love beam!!!" It's not love and it's not a beam, but Seraphita can call it whatever she damn well wants when it does the job.

But there will be no time for that. Lemina finally finds purchase and proves she can set Seraphita on fire after all. Quite well, no less. The erupting pillar of fire does a good job knocking the rabbit off her hands. She's sent flying, flipping in the air to barely manage landing on her feet. Just in time for Arash to seize the opportunity too. He aims for her face, but meets her wrists as she crosses her arms to block. His shots graze her sides as she backs away, and then takes a polite bow, despite the streak of blood straining her uniform. "Aww, thank you mister!! I owe it to the Commander, he's the one who oversees my training! He's super duper cool and awesome!!!" The highest form of praise. In comes Xantia, not letting her catch a break. What she says, she has to address alongside what Lemina did, just after she handles that incoming kick.

By grabbing Xantia's leg. Forcing her down. And hugging her.

"I dunno much about that! I just do what I'm told! I did everything I could do make sure she was happy and comfortable! Because I know, she's very sad she lost her kingdom, and I think she should be more proud of being a cool princess who isn't afraid of anything!" More high praise.

Seraphita smiles. Ether flashes around her, arcing like a wildfire going out of control. "It's okay!! It'll be okay, because the Commander said so!!"

Seraphita is lit on fire. While hugging Xantia.

The rest of that energy goes into turning what's left of the stage into a fireball. Several fireballs, actually. Hares of fire and plasma form in the air, streaking like bullets towards Lemina, Arash and Catenna. They'll explode on impact, too, because why wouldn't they.

GS: Seraphita has attacked Xantia with Burning Hug!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Arash Khan with Thermo Hare!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Lemina Ausa with Thermo Hare!
GS: Seraphita has attacked Catenna with Thermo Hare!
GS: Seraphita has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Sheihallion is looking a lot worse-off than it was five minutes ago. It's small comfort, but Ida will take what she can get. She still has no idea what kind of devilry is going on in that machine--she's never heard of a Gear that could use magic, but that honestly looks like what it's doing with those earth pillars. Maybe? Claude could also make those, but he's not a giant robot. Ida's thoughts keep skittering around, even as she jukes the Dragoon right, trying to stay out of Loren's forward firing arc. The AWACS terminal hums, and an alarm blares for no apparent reason. Ida backpedals; the Dragoon's back slams into what's left of a city wall. An earthen pillar erupts where the Gear stood moments ago, scraping off paint and about an inch of the plating on the torso. That could have been bad. The pilot's recognized her as a threat.

Ida smiles, but it's absolutely humorless. You deserve this.

Something else unfolds from the Dragoon's back, and deploys--it rolls up and over the machine's shoulder as a few winch-and-gear systems pull it free. It's a Gear rifle, the kind Aveh typically uses, but it's been modified. They don't typically collapse like that for storage. As Cassidy goes for the kill, Ida takes shameless, shameless advantage, lining up her sights on the Gear's center of mass and firing round after round after round.

GS: CRITICAL! Lemina Ausa takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Thermo Hare for 158 hit points!
GS: Poison and Mute! Statuses applied to Lemina Ausa!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Loren Voss with Fusillade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Catenna used Mystic on Catenna! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Catenna has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Catenna takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Thermo Hare for 166 hit points!
GS: Poison and Mute! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Arash Khan takes a glancing hit from Seraphita's Thermo Hare for 66 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Burning Hug for 101 hit points!
GS: Poison, Disrupt, and Mute! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Cassidy Cain's Point Break for 288 hit points!
GS: ! Statuses applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Fusillade for 280 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

THe punch feels satisfying enough in how Tolone's face gives in just a minute amount to the force of Gwen's first, but it's momentary. Tolone's head is (thankfully) nothing like a regular human being's, which, while it allows Gwen to punch her at full force, it also means Tolone's still up and alert afterwards. "...?!" Something in Gwen's stomach twists at the sight of the mechanical parts thrumming just underneath that small tear. She shrinks away in fear.

Gwen just automatically assumes Tolone's mention of a 'rude woman' is directed at her. "I don't want to be anythin' except what I am!" Gwen verbally lashes back, a sudden unexpected spring of anger and panic present in her voice, as Tolone's winds begin to stir again.

The world twists and churns like she was in a barrel, static cackling and depositing Gwen against a nearby wall with a meaty smack, then falling nearby the likewise injured Jay. Pulling the poncho's edge up over her face so she can see, Gwen looks to Jay, who offers some potions. "... Thanks," she says to the apothecary with a weak smile as she opens the bottle. "Be careful, okay?" She drinks it down with a sigh, then wipes her mouth with the back of her left hand.

'You are far from perfect. And you are nothing like Gwen.'

"..." Gwen blinks from her fallen position, rather surprised by Jack's words. "... Goddamn, uh, I'm honored... I think..." She stands up, and sucks in a breath. "Stay here, Jay- might need you in a few moments." Gwen's ARM crackles to life, the black material between each dark plate pulsing with gold energy. "Gonna see if I can put your potions to the test."

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Bounding Flight!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Gwen Whitlock's Bounding Flight for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Quick! Statuses applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Kahran Ramses has posed.

Bart experiences the continuing saga of Kahran Ramses mostly ignoring him in favor of a guy who doesn't particularly matter to the situation. "Your kingdom?" Ramses spits, half-turning with more genuine anger than before - but much of it more displaced onto Bart than actually generated by him. "This sea of sand and dust? And you will take it back with this ragtag band of misfits? You insult yourself and me, boy!"

He'd add more, but Fei has just CAUGHT HIS SWORD IN MID-ATTACK and Ramses stares in mute horror, and for a few seconds seems far, far away. He has no real defense when Fei blasts into him, stumbling away - and then Bart blasts him with an extremely unlikely kind of ether, and the mass-magnified coin actually topples the mighty Ramses, sending him soaring back into the far wall. It cracks with the impact.

When Bart's inflated coin falls away, Ramses' eyes are wide with some ineffable emotion, alien to his soldiers-- fury. Unfathomable, depthless rage.

"I," he strains out, "am Kahran Ramses. I am commander of these men. And you...are a sandrat." He looks to Bart. But then to Fei, something.... "And you...I know."

Power flickers through him, gathering into his unoccupied hand. "To think a creature like you would return again..." he seethes. "I know those moves. You may change your face, but I know those fists! I KNOW THAT POWER!"

He holds up his hand, palm out, and a bead of light gathers into a sphere, and then shatters into scattering tracers of light, swirling and sweeping around the room before blasting into Fei and Bart both. "AND I WILL NOT LET YOU ESCAPE AGAIN!"

GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Megaflare!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Bart Fatima with Megaflare!
GS: Kahran Ramses has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

"That's right," Tolone answers Lily as the windstorm abates. "Just burn out and lay there. Keep your head down. - No, T-"

And then comes the ice. Tolone doesn't scream or screech in reply, though she does raise her left arm - the most disposable one - to guard her eyes, which are less replaceable, from the storm. Sparks fly from her body - no blood, it seems - as she says, "Ngh - You're going to burn yourself out for real, you idiot Lamb! Just shut up and curl in a corner for collection-"

Her head turns when she sees that Jay is still moving. "Idiot," she says, before she shakes her arm several times - the damaged hand is splayed out but it doesn't seem to be bothering her much. Nonetheless her right hand comes up to flip that arm up and shoot a brutal beam of positronic energy right at Jay. She aims for center mass.

Of course that's when Claude speaks.

His energy gathers. Sheer and shrieking force. Tolone's efforts to murder a downed person are put into temporary abeyance as she stares straight at him. "Then maybe you should leave, if you've got so much not-caring to do," she says to him, but then he comes screaming straight towards her. Tolone's eyes widen, she braces --

The fist strikes Tolone right dead square in the cheek that has already been damaged. Much like Jesus or other fictional characters, Tolone turned her head towards him - it is better to have one intact zone and one badly damaged than two partially impaired zone, she reckons. The blow hits her and her eye on that side closes. The force rips out and around her, throwing a hurricane force through her hairstyle, which rustles violently as she

just

STANDS there

the force dissipates into her spine, which creaks, and she says, "Are you starting to understand, Mr. Lion?" Her voice is a little thick because her cheek's peeled halfway off. Underneath it is whitish metal. A titanium alloy, if Claude had to guess. Tolone's conclusion is a sharp kick at his midsection, after which she purses her lips and considers her next move. She should get together with Seraphi

Her head turns towards Jack. Her eyes widen.

"You ignorant and miserable surface-dweller, do you know anything about ANYTHING? Do you think this uniform stands for some kind of fancy-dress party?? We're the elite warriors in service to Commander Ramses! You think you can psych me out with machine jokes??" Well, maybe he has a little, but an emotion is coming onto Tolone's face now: ANGER.

Tolone wades straight into his wind slashes. They tear away most of what remains of her leggings, although the material up higher is more durable and less, you know, exploded by rockets. One stroke finishes removing her cheek, putting a curiously clacking tone in her voice.

"THIS IS SPEED," she tells him, and then - zwee! - she leaps! Instead of vaulting around, though, this is a tight close in maneuver aimed to get within his arms reach and aims a series of sharp right-handed jabs, a knee strike, a headbutt and finally a sweeping effort to back-slam him into the ground hard enough to crack SOMETHING - hopefully terminally.

"NOW talk back," she says, because of course it's never enough, is it?

She turns her head to look towards Gwen. "You'll see her in Hell," she tells Gwen, at which point her eye lasers - which are actually, Claude could see (and others if they look closely-- but Claude's country doctor training gives him a leg up) are actually coming from those sick mascara extensions on the orbital curves past her eyes.

Maybe those can be broken! They don't LOOK that tough, comparatively...

"These quarters are too close, Seraphita! We can't risk the Commander being in the area when we use 'that technique'!" she answers Seraphita, mid-death raying.

GS: Sneak! The true nature of Leon Albus's attack becomes clear!
GS: Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Leon Albus's Heat Saber for 216 hit points!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Positron Beam!
GS: Tolone has attacked Claude C. Kenny with Show 'Em A Little Leg!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

The Weglaf's fold-out saber, as it swings in, shimmers for a reason. The air around it grows hazy like a mirage -- and a mere heartbeat later, it superheats to a brilliant red-hot that edges into a terrible yellow-orange color, moments before impact. The ground below begins to burn -- a few sheets of paper, debris scattered by the crowd, catch on fire, as the heat saber passes by.

It leaves a streak of fiery in the air, in its wake, and Leon shouts a wordless cry as the strike swings down.

GS: Tolone enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jack Van Burace with Head Dive!
GS: Claude C. Kenny takes a solid hit from Tolone's Show 'Em A Little Leg for 90 hit points!
GS: Tolone has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Eye Laser!
GS: Tolone has completed her action.
GS: Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Katyna Reidal's Boosted Shell for 152 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a glancing hit from Tolone's Positron Beam for 65 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Kahran Ramses's Megaflare for 83 hit points!
GS: Bart Fatima guards a hit from Kahran Ramses's Megaflare for 88 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

On the plus side, at least Seraphita's not going to have much luck pulling the mana out of Catenna anymore.

The downside is that fire still hurts.

Catenna's taken aback by the way Gebler's rabbit reacts to her spell. She blinks twice, then looks down at herself, then up one more time. A small frown creases her face. "I would really appreciate it if you did not try to do it again," she says in the most mild tone she can possibly manage in her state of tired frustration and growing pain. She may be safe from lingering effects now but all this Ether burning has left her unable to really muster up much magic to begin with.

Seraphita makes her plea. Catenna presses her lips together again.

Then the sadhappy bunny sets the stage on fire.

With a pained growl, Catenna throws herself forward - and the fireball goes off with a plasmic blast.

Flames burn past her and around her, and on her. Most of her dress burns away; only the fact that she invokes a hasty defense - dousing herself in water - keeps her hair from being scorched off. She still can't help but keep down an agonized gasp, wrapping her arms around herself as she's burned, badly. Beneath the dress, she's at least got her armour, boots and shorts; it doesn't cover everything, and by the time she pushes out on the Seraphita side of the fireball, she's badly burned along her arms and cheeks, smouldering. Blood runs down one arm from a half-burned-over wound.

"I am sure you did your best," she manages, her voice down to a low, pained rasp - but her eyes don't leave Seraphita as she begins to limp towards her. "And that she... felt that you were kind. Just as I do. You follow your orders but your heart is good.

"I can see that," she says, gaze steady, voice quieting. "And I do not want to fight you."

Catenna takes a couple of steps forward, and lifts her arms. She is not trying to attack.

Bunny permitting, she will attempt to give Seraphita a hug.

GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Tolone's Eye Laser for 67 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

Shalune doesn't have any kind of line to Ida - not to mention her ears are ringing hard enough that she's not likely to be able to even recognize the voice on the line calling for smoke support. What she does have is a cloud of black and grey obscuring her and Big Shal's vision - not that she really needs it, what with the golem doing all the driving. A massive impact rocks the golem, piling it to one side and tearing the makeshift canopy away - but this time she manages to keep her head, her faith in Big Shal's ability to take the damage keeping the both of them strong.

A sensation hits her; she's not a shaman, nor attuned to Ge Ramda in any way, but she's been around Lunata for long enough to know when something's wrong, and something about the inert way in which the Rephaim falls and crashes to the ground brings her heart to the back of her throat, the adrenaline chasing away the rest of the fog in her head. "Lunie!" she blurts over the comm-link. "Lunie! Stay with us! Big Shal, we have to-- go help..."

The yell dies before it can get any further, because the golem she's on seems to-- rumble in reply. Surely it's just the creaking of metal as the canopy starts to reform around her, but something about it feels very final, and the way in which the golem stays resolutely facing the giant bulk of her opponent makes the decision even clearer: Lunata chose to be here. Time to trust that team, and Lunata herself, to face the situation she's in right now.

So instead, Shalune awkwardly swallows the lump in her throat, turning back to the Schiehallion as her expression hardens and she tries to keep the panic down. She doesn't know who the other two machines attacking the Gear belong to - to some extent, she doesn't really care right at this moment, though she can at least grimly appreciate the assistance. But the two of them do manage to lock it in place, occupying enough of its attention to allow Big Shal to swing around in another tight circle. Anything she can use, anything she can exploit to get this done faster--

--there's a glint of metal--
--there's a glint of exposed metal--
--that shine means it was never tempered, no-one expected it to ever really show through--
--power lines for the arm would have been housed in there--
--it's a target.

It only takes her an instant, and before she really knows what she's doing she's acting on instinct: bringing her odd staff up, hooking it in place on her shoulder to brace it there. One hand goes to a pocket of her tattered coat, and then she's slammed a small, black-yellow box into the shaft of her weapon, aiming for the hole where the arm used to be. When she squeezes the trigger she's nearly taken off her feet with the force of the giant lance of electricity that rockets towards the exposed gap.

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Loren Voss with Divine Hammer!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Tolone tells her to lay there.

Claude's bottle comes close to Lily. It flies right past her blind spot in fact, the left side of her face, and shatters on the ground as she focuses on her spell. Lily glares forward as she channels herself through the ice, hears that term aain, that warning. "Burn out?" she hisses at Tolone. "What are you talking about?" Idiot Lamb, she's called. Her kind, Loren had said. Rage builds within her, muted by the lull of the drug but still pulsing hard enough to hurt.

Dazedly she floats backward, trying to keep her breath going. Still she feels too hot, too cold all at once, as if the power she channels has to move through her first. Leon is watching her, in that moment, and somehow she knows he's there, is nearby. Even before she hears his voice over the loudspeaker.

He won't leave her, she says. Her head rises again where she'd begun to slouch.

Still, it hurts, but she watches. Tolone seems... angry. Tolone seems to have let her be for the moment. "I..." 'You'll see her in Hell. Tolone talks about some kind of secret technique, with those lasers. "I," she says, "Won't... Be collected."

Lily hovers another foot upward, her hands burning red with power. Her breathing is labored; she's starting to wheeze harder. She grits her teeth, and this time does not even lift her hands; she only stares. "The Black Wolves do not surrender," she intones.

"Get out of the way," she intones to her allies. Then, a column of fire explodes from the sky straight down, burning red and orange and yellow wider than three of herself, the flames reflecting in her eye.

"And I've torn out Gebler throats before."

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Tolone with Conflagration!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Shalune Amira's Divine Hammer for 170 hit points!
GS: Tolone takes a glancing hit from Lily Keil's Conflagration for 66 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Once again, Lemina is overwhelmed by someone else's fire. The smell of burning is starting to get to her; she hasn't gotten it quite this bad in a long time. She can only protect herself for so long -- her magic is starting to run out on her, besides... she's definitely not going to get a chance to do too much excessively flashy here.

Still, she's got to try! "Just doing what you're told -- what kinda way is that to live?! You gotta have a mega-big dream!" Lemina declares, before starting a low chant. Her whole body is starting to fight her, but she's got to keep going. Her staff starts to form into an icy trident -- three long, sharp claws projecting from the head. She steps forward, still chanting... and slashes.

By the time she finishes the first slash, the head has grown longer -- easily more than two feet in length, now. She whirls, and slashes again. ... but of course, she's not done; the chant cotinues -- and the blades, now seeming almost impossibly long, push the limits of wieldability.

So, naturally, she slashes again. Back to ice! Ice is a girl's best friend. ... unless that girl is Seraphita. ... probably.

GS: Lemina Ausa has attacked Seraphita with Freeze Claw!
GS: Lemina Ausa takes 10 damage from Poison!
GS: Lemina Ausa has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 "Yeah, this is the grand poobah of Gebler, I think," Bart replies to Fei as the two of them continue to spar with the general. Commander. ...high dude. This isn't the easiest fight in the world, but it's probably an important one. If they can take Ramses down here...

 Bart pauses, and shakes his head for a moment as if trying to clear it. He listens to Ramses' derision, but he recognizes the truth.

 This is not going to save his kingdom. Even if they take Ramses down, the people are still going to be following the rat bastard who killed his parents and took over the kingdom.

 Bart pauses, and then grins.

 "Fei, my friend... I'm sorry. But you've got this!" the pirate calls out. He pulls a bottle out of his jacket, this one swirling with some sort of red colored liquid... and tosses it on the ground at Fei's feet.

 The red cologne is design to give RAW AWESOME POWER to his allies who breathe it in, and Bart is hoping that it will give Fei the juice he needs to smash Ramses into the ground.

 In the meantime, Bart is lining up Ramses attack - he braces against the roaring blast of power that slams into him, moving to the front of a certain dresser that happens to be in this area.

 The force of the blow slams him backwards, causing splinters of wood to go flying in all directions. And Bart grits his teeth, before pushing himself back to his feet. "Ah come on now, you call that a HIT? Shakan's limp armed torturer gave me worse than that when I was SEVEN you pansy!"

 Yes, Ramses is close to snapping due to Fei's presence...

 ...and Bart is taunting him more.

GS: Bart Fatima has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Red Cologne!
GS: Bart Fatima has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Jack Van Burace completely evades Head Dive from Tolone!
GS: CRITICAL! Seraphita takes a solid hit from Lemina Ausa's Freeze Claw for 231 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Seraphita!
<Pose Tracker> Claude C. Kenny has posed.

Claude C. Kenny hits Tolone harder than he had ever hit anything in his life, before he came to Filgaia. Nine months ago, he would have thought anything he hit that hard would become a pile of broken bones. But he's fought Quarter Knights and Hellions, and he knows he'll be lucky to scrape the pigtailed girl's paint.

"Sorry," he apologizes to her, "But I ---hrrrnnnk," he grunts as the pigtailed cyborg kicks him in the belly. The impact sends him flying back; he tries to flip around in mid-air but clips the table he flipped over (oops) and goes sprawling ass over teakettle. He comes up angry, and a little wheezy. "Sorry," he says again, sounding pained. "But this ain't about ideals. It's about a friend we came to save... and a promise." Claude drops into a crouch, his body erupting in a storm of chi energy, setting his clothing and hair whipping around. "I told Cecilia... I'd do what I could. No matter the cost! I'd fight as hard as I can to save everyone in front of me!"

Claude's right hand flickers up as though in some sort of fast draw, although he does not go for his sword. Instead he twists his back toward Tolone, concealing his movements, until his right hand is pressed firmly into his left palms, as though he was drawing a blade from within his body. He draws in a breath, and the chi surge reaches a crescendo. "LIGHT COME FO--"

Suddenly, his brain interrupts:

NO

BAD IDEA

DO NOT PHASE GUN BART'S HOUSE

DO NOT PHASE GUN BART'S HOUSE WITH HALF A CITY WATCHING

Claude looks up, his face scandalized. "Uh..." Claude says, then looks over at Bart. Well, this is awkward. "It occurs to me it's harder to save her if she's not actually in front of me," he says, to cover his mistake.

...

"OH LOOK A MAN WITH TWO DRAGONS ON HIS BACK!" Claude shouts, pointing in a direction that is not where he runs off to.

<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

Through the choking ash and long-eared fire Arash can see that the fight against Seraphita is...it's not doing so great. Especially for the woman on the wrong end of a thousand-degree hug. He instinctively dodges the mess of hares hurtling towards him, spending most of his concentration on the find motions of salve preparation. The most powerful batch of healing berry extract he has, basted onto a crest-enchanted handkerchief. He tries to apply it to the worst of Xantia's burns.

"Stay alive now, ya hear me? Would hate to see a friend end another, 'specially by, well, accident." There is a faint breeze blowing through Arash's hair, cool in the burning wreck of the room. And the, the far-off sound of neighing? That can't be right.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline glances up toward Gwen and nods.

"Right. I'll try to keep my distance...you be careful too, though, okay?" She replies, a bit concerned. Gwen seemed a little unstable, herself...

Jacqueline's about to try and haul herself to her feet...when suddenly she sees a deadly burst of light and energy streaking toward her. In her downed state, she shouldn't rightfully be able to avoid that...but she invokes an earth pillar beneath her, knocking herself out of the way.

It hurts a bit, as does the beam of late that grazes her and burns right through her coat and some of her side, but it was better than the alternative.

She's about to invoke an earth pillar when suddenly Lily provides a warning...

Jacqueline's not in the way, fortunately, but she is able to see the column of flame being dropped onto Tolone...as well as the hug Catenna's currently offering Seraphite.

"Oh, Catenna..." Jacqueline murmurs.

No, don't get sidetracked. Focus on the task at hand.

Actually, the task at hand was probably to get out of here and track down the Princess, but...

ight, freaky robot - or cyborg according to Claude, whatever that meant - girl.

She invokes her earth pillar Crest again, this time trying to slam it right into Tolone.

What she really wanted to do was to knock her off the stage...but honestly she might be too heavy to be knocked that far, and she might even be able to just jump right back up anyway with how she was able to reach the ceiling...

Well, it was some kind of plan, at least, not necessarily a good one!

GS: Arash Khan has attacked Xantia with Reassurance!
GS: Arash Khan has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Tolone with Pillar Crash!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong takes a solid hit from Bart Fatima's Red Cologne for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Fei Fong Wong!
<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

The Hauteclaire's leg snapped back down to it's side as the Rephaim went flying into collapse, turning away from the fallen gear. Although the gear remained intriguing, perhaps he'd misjudged the pilot.

"A child." Kahm stated, and Hauteclaire's head turned towards the Weglaf. "She wasn't ready for this, Captain Albus. None of you were."

But the Weglaf itself was already speeding at him in a blind charge, which Kahm could at least respect, if nothing else. The Argentis provided cover fire, but the pilot still seemed to be struggling for control. The massive carbon blade swung through the air with ridiculous speed, deflecting one slug and cleaving another in twain, but as before, three seems to be the magic number: Shalune's final shot impacts the Hauteclaire's shoulder, the one that she had previously damaged. The remaining armor is sheered off, exposing a part of the superalloy endoskeleton beneath. The gear's head turns to regards this with an unknowable expression.

>MANEUVERING CAPABILITY REDUCED BY 25%R
Kahm read the diagnostics screen with care. Well within acceptable parameters, but the Commander and his Elements might require assistance if they were still fighting by now..

Of course, he can't think too far into the future when the present demands immediate attention.

Hauteclaire stands it's ground, meeting the Weglaf's leaping strike with with a powerful upward blow from it's own blade, a trail of electric power left in the wake of the tip. A small crater forms beneath the gear's feet, and the two seem locked in stasis for a half-breath as man, machine, and willpower all combine in a trembling exchange of force. Weglaf's blade burns with unexpected fire, and Hauteclaire answers by channelling it's ether engine, Kahm feeling the slight pressure of an additional draw on his power, and answering with a cry, "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"

There was a explosion between the two, and Hauteclaire found itself pushed back, quickly regaining it's footing and making an immediate assessment. Kahm didn't have eyes on Weglaf just now, so he sighted the Argentis and raised the heretofore un-used cannon mounted on the Hauteclaire's arm. Invoking raw, driven ether, the barrel sparked with a bright-blue glow and shot a bolt of burning lightning at Katyna's machine, lest she get ideas.

He didn't spend time to see if the shot scored, already in motion and hovering lightly off the ground, leading blade first to misdirect the thrust the mysterious Avehan gear had made for Schiehallion, then swinging his blade across in an attempt to swipe the gear's side.

"I see you, zephyrim." Kahm said, an undercurrent of iron entering his tone, "You should have remained on the sidelines, clinging to what little you have left, unsought and forgotten."

GS: Kahm Yugh enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with Blade Ignition!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Katyna Reidal with Hi-Anemo Cannon!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Cassidy Cain with Heavy Swing!
GS: Kahm Yugh has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei Fong Wong is bewildered. He looks off towards where Claude points because a guy with two dragons on his back does sound pretty interesting but--nothing is there.

And then all of a sudden Ramses is up in his grill. "Oh fuck...!" He says, trying to throw a ki blast of his own to disrupt the attack but way too late there buddy. He is blasted right in the chest and crashes against the back wall. He stumbles briefly, pulling himself free and almost falls over flat on his face from the sudden concussion.

But he doesn't fall over just yet because he smells...

...cologne?

What? Is that cologne? What? What is Bart saying? "Uh." He says. "What's that smell it smells..." Fei grimaces but he DOES feel stronger. He just hopes Bart doesn't wear that to his dates.

"The grand poobah of Gebler..." Fei thinks that over. If he beats this guy, does that mean they'll finally leave him alone? It's worth a shot, but more to the point that power inside of him is just feeling like it needs to be unleashed.

Please don't die, or at least, like, don't die too much, Fei thinks as he charges back at Kahran, enthused with BART POWER which is very powerful if perhaps not accurate or always aimed at the right targets. But Fei is channeling it, and Fei can be pretty accurate.

He says it without thinking. He feels something besides chi charging alongside his technique and he combines it into a new power. It's familiar to him. He doesn't remember it, but it's familiar. It's like it lives in his bones and he's only remembered just now his bones are there.

"SUIKEI!" He shouts before throwing his palms forward and all of a sudden a surge of chi and ether explodes out of Fei's hands and and the temperature rapidly chills around Ramses before solifying into a giant block of ice around him.

Fei takes in a deep breath, looks ati t, and then throws himself back. "THE HELL DID I DO?!"

He walks closer and closer to Bart. "Ahhhnnn....!! I didn't used to do that!"

GS: Katyna Reidal guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Hi-Anemo Cannon for 214 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Katyna Reidal!
<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


Well. Jack got his wish.

He got her attention.

"Normally when I get the attention of a lady I don't mind. With you I'll make an exception." He calls as she rounds on him. "And yes, I think I just did." Again that superior smirk is back again.

"I have lived with true elite warriors. You and your friends are simply pale imitations who lack anything resembling true warrior spirit."

She flies at him then, blisteringly fast. Rushing close, close enough that he can't even dodge. An elbow comes over to crack him in the jaw. A knee slams into hir ribs. The headbutt staggers him enough for her to grab him and slam him backwards...

He cracks into the wall with staggering force as she spits venom into his face.

"You are nothing like true knights." He growls slowly as his hand grabs the hilt of his sheathed sword. "You know nothing of them. You don't even deserve to compare yourselves to them. A knight knows things like sacrifice. You have speed yes..."

There is a soft tink as sword and sheath seperate.

"But its all artificial."

The hiss of the sword leaving its sheath is hardly audible as he simply lets gravity slide the sheath off. The blade drawn and cut in a reverse grip, the blade ment to sever limbs should it connect. Ruthlessly aiming for joints.

"Artifical just like them." This time its his voice that shows a bit of anger. Fire leaking out around the edges as he tosses the sword to his other hand in a complicated manuver before slashing down across her chest. A disembowling strike. Nothing even close to non-leathal about this.

Apparently this Tol equates with Metal Demon in Jack's book now.

Its what happens when you bring up bad memories.

And when you shoot Gwen.

GS: Jack Van Burace has attacked Tolone with Trickster!
GS: Jack Van Burace has completed his action.
GS: Fei Fong Wong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Blade Ignition for 170 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has attacked Kahran Ramses with Suikei!
GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Jack Van Burace's attack becomes clear!
GS: Tolone takes a solid hit from Jack Van Burace's Trickster for 170 hit points!
GS: Arash Khan heals Xantia! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Tolone takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Pillar Crash for 155 hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Heavy Swing for 158 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses takes a solid hit from Fei Fong Wong's Suikei for 111 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

It's astounding how much two people can have in common, right down to failing to understand the same word. Granted, even Xantia is no match for Seraphita's ability to make things not make any sense.

And possibly also not her ability to take someone off-guard. It's not the first time someone's managed to intercept one of Xantia's attacks. But in this particular way... how do you even respond to a sudden hug? "Wah!" Seems about right. It doesn't even really seem hostile at all. Sure, it's a tight hug, but so are Xantia's, she'd be a pretty hypocritical hugger if she complained about that.

It's pretty clear by now that Seraphita doesn't believe she was doing anything wrong. Xantia can't immediately come up with anything else to say on the topic. But she pretty soon has something else on her mind anyway, when the bunnygirl starts using fire, while still holding her tightly. "Ahhh! It's hot! Sera, let go! Let go of me!"

When that doesn't work quickly enough, a self-defense mechanism kicks in. Without consciously realizing she's doing anything, her body seems to spontaneously start generating electricity, several arcs travelling from her torso outwards to her extremities in short bursts. Obviously, not a very pleasant experience for anybody in contact with her.

Arash rushes in with some timely healing. Xantia clearly needs it, the experience having left her badly burned. And yet... the burns she incurred are fading quite rapidly, unnaturally so. This can't be explained with just Arash's healing's alone. Something is amplifying it. The soft white light that replaced the electricity emanating from Xantia's body probably has something to do with it.

Even though there was absolutely nothing to suggest it just a short moment earlier, and the way she uses it is a little unusual, to the expert eye there's no doubt about it: Xantia, too, is capable of using Ether.

And already claiming, "...'m fine" to Arash, even though she doesn't seem about to get up right away. She needs a moment to catch her breath, then speaks again, this time to Seraphita, sounding a little bit different than she did before. Calmer, and perhaps a bit more insightful than her usual standard. "...sometimes you can hurt people, even though you're just trying to be nice. This doesn't feel right to me... does it feel right to you?"

GS: Xantia has attacked Seraphita with Shocking Rebuke!
GS: Xantia takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Katyna Reidal has posed.

In her cockpit, Katyna is sweating.

Not from heat (though Aveh is in a desert, it's evening and also she doesn't mind it hot) but because she hasn't actually been in a pitched battle like this... well, pretty much ever. She was in the Rezerbian Space Forces, but most of her life was as a scout and irregular. She's gotten into vehicular fights before, but they were small skirmishes, or took place in space. She doesn't have a spacefighter here, or even a modern machine; she has Argentis, to perform a pitched urban battle with other combats taking place on foot. On foot! It's so archaic it's hilarious.

Also, she's having it really driven home that she is not, in fact, the best pilot on this backwater planet. She's pretty sure she could keep up with Kahm if she had a machine of his caliber, but in its current state Argentis is not that - and she is pretty sure that, in a void, he's her equal. At least. He seems to have more actual war experience.

Pausing in her rapid fire, Katyna has to reload, ejecting the box of shells and slotting in a new one. Physically, by hand - which is why she did it before she lost Argentis' left hand to constant fire. Reloaded, she's on the move again, a long loping stride at odds with the blocky, bulky machine's look.

It's not fast enough. Kahm strikes Argentis in the leg, almost taking it off at the knee; the beam vaporizes the armour, revealing a skeletal understructure in the shin, and when Kat puts weight on it it threatens to buckle. As she was caught midstride, she almost falls, only staying up by a complex maneuver that nearly backfired and sent her careening into a building; since she pulled it off, she just sways alarmingly, but remains mostly upright.

Instead of trying to keep walking, Argentis squats down, putting most of its weight on its more intact limb. Katyna kicks the wheels back on, and the Gear skates across the cobblestone, kicking up sparks every time it hits a little bump or ridge of stone. She's starting to make her way to an escape point (read: driving straight down the main street as fast as she can until she finds a turn off Argentis will fit in to try to lose easy line of sight, and then jump a wall) but, in the meantime, she's still fighting.

Even if Kahm seems to have found a new target. Katyna has to keep him off Lunata while Rephaim does whatever it is doing, after all, and off... whoever that other machine is. It looks Aveh-like, but if it's fighting the defenders of Aveh...

Katyna empties the entire new box of shells at Kahm. She fires fast - too fast, extremely rapidly. The barrel of the gyrojet rifle begins to heat, steaming faintly and gaining a faint discolouration from the constant rocket shell exhaust. She's aimed it so that if she misses she's going to take out a fountain (currently empty) and part of an empty square, but not a building, and that's about all she can manage to do in the way of 'precision' given she is driving quickly and firing fast.

"We're going to have to ditch soon, you know!" Katyna calls to Leon. "I can't keep fighting this thing much longer, I'm down half an arm and half a leg!"

GS: Katyna Reidal has attacked Kahm Yugh with Gatling Shell!
GS: Katyna Reidal has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Kahran Ramses has posed.

Bart's cunning plan is not too badly formed - SOMETHING about Fei is clearly pissing Ramses RIGHT the hell off, and Bart putting all the aggro over in that direction is probably a wise move. Ramses initially takes the bait, even; shifting to turn a glower on Fei -

And utterly failing to resist the assault. One shot, two, three, and then a wave of impossible chill washes across him, freezing him solid. OOPS HE DIED

No actually the ice explodes. Kahran seems eerily calm afterward, though his eyes cut around with wild attention. He sucks in a long, slow breath.

And then he is simply....next, to Bart, with a speed uncanny - hand slamming into the man's neck, lifting him one-handed from the ground. "Yes," he says, low. "I see I was mistaken to divide my attention. Against a demon, even a sandrat is a dangerous distraction."

And then he swings around and THROWS Bart with an impossible, bestial strength, hurling him into the air and then LEAPING AFTER HIM, sword shining with Ether light as he rises. He grips it, two-handed, an explosion of light from the blade as he reaches his apex, positioned to intercept Bartholomew's flight, and--

"RETURN TO THE HOLE YOU EMERGED FROM, SANDRAT!" he shrieks - SHRIEKS, an impossible, utterly uncomposed fury - and swings down. Normal men would be sliced in two even being near that strike. If Bart survives that much, he'll have to deal with the impact - an inhuman power HURLING Bart through the floor, and the one beneath, tunneling him into the world below.

Ramses touches down next to the new hole in the floor, and his eyes cut to Fei, boiling. His shoulders and fists tremble. He opens his mouth as though to speak, but instead he just - charge at Fei, blitzing across the distance between them with the remains of his blade's ether charge to slash hard, sending a whirlwind in every direction with the cut, blowing out the nearest palace wall.

GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Bart Fatima with Aphelion Smite!
GS: Kahran Ramses has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Wind Edge!
GS: Kahran Ramses has completed his action.
GS: Bart Fatima takes a solid hit from Kahran Ramses's Aphelion Smite for 191 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

In the end, her blade finds purchase. She's already in the midst of pulling the blade out of Loren's gear's chest when her screen blares a warning of another enemy fast approaching. The silent gear pivots, blade whipping forward and corrosive fluid streaming from its hidden crevices. She is too late, however, to evade the sudden quickness Kahm demonstrates in an attempt to look after his lieutenant.

 The swing from the Hauteclaire impacts armor, warnings wreathed with red light winking around the borders of her screen. Heels dig on the dirt as she pushes back, a light, agile machine despite it. She does this fast enough to leave a clear line of sight for Katyna to empty the chambers of her firearms at Kahm.

 She lands; for a generic machine, its movements demonstrate a brutal, efficient sort of grace, already in ready position when she hits the ground and the point of her sword lowered on the ground. The Gebler captain addresses her then.

 I see you, zephyrim.

 The term triggers something within her, the thick, bittersweet viscocity of hate and longing in equal measure. She does not miss her home and what she has left behind within it, but something unpleasant gnaws at the pit of her stomach...

 For the first time since this fight has started, the mystery pilot speaks. The voice that emanates through Kahm's communications array is heavily modulated, masking the gender of the speaker:

 "Seeing me won't help you."

 With a hand, she flips a switch.

 In a blur of motion, she is suddenly there, sword brought to bear, a relentless plunge and twist in an attempt to reach the heart of Kahm's machine, and twisting it upwards, as if to hook into its very entrails and disembowel it where it stands.

GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Kahm Yugh with The Master Touch!
GS: Cassidy Cain has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
GS: Seraphita takes a solid hit from Xantia's Shocking Rebuke for 117 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Gwen closes her eyes, energy rushing through her body, courtesy of the actively pulsating ARM. She clenches her fist, then opens her blue-grey eyes, eeriely quiet as she focuses on Tolone.

A deadly ray shoots out towards Jay, and Gwen cries out in alarm, ready to intervene. However, Tolone voices the courier's matching invitation, and shoots laser beams towards her. "Gh-!" Gwen throws out her ARM to use as a makeshift shield, a job it readily adjusts to by fanning out interlocking blades of metal as she rushes forward, each beam causing her to react with gritted teeth.

Would Jack necessarily be so quick to come to her defense if he realized her ARM was made from a Metal Dragon fossil?

She's guessing he'd be kind of okay with it. It doesn't really change anything, does it? Either way, she feels flattered. Almost embarrassed. He's a knight. He saw her take hours to handle a simple technique with a knife. Yet here he is, snarling at Tolone.

If she wasn't feeling high enough due to the speeding mechanisms of her ARM, Gwen'd pause and let him have his moment.

Naw, she first needs to dodge out of the way of LIly's attack, which LIly thankfully gives her advance notice of. Leaping forward with an agility she didn't display before, Gwen lands on her feet, turns around, and extends the Mockingbird to point at Tolone, the ARM audibly whining and gearing for a possibly final blow.

"Ngh!" The bright bolt leaves the palm of Gwen's hand, the golden light streaming towards the cyborg.

There's nothing she can really say; everyone's said what she would've said in much better wording. All she can really do is pay it forward by pushing herself forward.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Bart Fatima has posed.

 "Heh, I can tell... you're a little worked up!" Bart comments as Ramses comes roaring in at him. And this is... well, it's not GOOD, but Bart has planned for this. He reaches back, grabbing onto the heavy metal antique torch holder that has been next to this wardrobe for quite a long time and bringing it around like a shield. And at the same time, he releases as much Ether as he can into pole, fortifying it for a moment as he uses it to block the massive blow.

 It still hurts quite a bit, and the floor buckles beneath him from the impact of Ramses blow. But for all that Fei and Ramses might have unnatural powers that grant them... well, awesome strength and destructive force, Bart isn't entirely without his own tricks.

 For one thing, he knows that there is a passage under this tunnel, and he brings the ether reinforced rod back at an angle that diverts a good chunk of Ramses' strike into the ground.

 The floor shatters, collapsing into a hole with a loud rumble and the scream of tearing stone, and Bart goes down into the hole.

 But he grins as he twists the mangled chunk of metal around, using it to slow his descent onto the floor below. The pirate lands with a heavy thud, the metal stand twisting and shrieking as the last of the ether energy dissipates and the remaining force twists it into a jagged wreck that looks more like a metal lightning bolt. And Bart looks up, and grins.

 It's a pained grin, and he leans against the wall with one arm tucked against his side to support his ribs. No clue if they are broken or just bruised, but they hurt either way. "Heh, well... not quite the route I was planning on taking," the prince of Aveh states, reaching up to grab a candle sconce.

 And he pulls it down, the wall next to him grinding for a moment before it slides away, even as bits of dust and the occasional stone fall from the hole Ramses had torn in the building down into the hallway with Bart.

 "But it works for now. I'd tell you to give that bald bastard my regards, but... heh." And Bart slides into the secret passage, the wall grinding closed behind him.

 Bart will be seriously disappointed if Ramses finds Shakhan first...

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Tolone with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Tolone has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tolone guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 75 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong critically Guards a hit from Kahran Ramses's Wind Edge for 26 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

Lunata's breath is erratic as much as it is hasted within the cockpit--

"Lunie!!" Shalune screams at the top of her lungs, the last vision she sees as she feels the touch of the Hauteclaire's carbon blade--
--She sees Jacqueline's stare towards the wreckage that had once been her cockpit--
--Lily marches onward with her Drive-fueled anger with a hiss, in his direction--
--Leon's Weglaf hangs on through with a perfect manuever, forced to climb over her as its fold-out saber cleaved straight as the Argentis follows through with a blast from its gyrojet rifle--

"W-what are you-- what are you showing me--"

The cockpit is rattling, spiritual flames burning ever which way as her eyes frantically try to catch hold of what's going on--

"They wouldn't-- what are you..."

I have heard thy cry for power...
...deep within the well of thy soul...
...thine defrayal is due.

"G-Ge Ramda? Ge Ramda-- help--"

A flood of light prompts her to wordlessly shout.

The Rephaim echoes in tandem, as the air around it begins to darken. From where Kahm had dropped her upon the hill, where the machine had been inert, it rises, cloaked in not simple Ether, not the power of the Leylines... but with the resounding echo of the dead, chilled and shrouded upon its armour.

                                  --05:37.084
                                   05:59.779
                                   06:42.084
                                  07:13.113--

"...I don't mean it, I don't mean it...!"

The Rephaim gazes upon the Hauteclaire, its arms outstretched. Where there'd only been a backpack for the Converters, a golden wheel had now struck out from its back -- a familiar wheel for those who'd been in the depths of Rujm el-Hiri. It shimmers, but its light is not a resplendent one -- it is a light that those that have brushed close with death would know. The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

"I don't want it...! I don't...--"

                                  --09:11.484
                                   11:53.779
                                   15:27.084
                                  19:26.153--

The Rephaim raises its hand.

What comes is not an impressive attack, made of the armaments of ancients past, nor even a sorcerous blast from the depths of the planet.

Instead, a thin tendril of unearthly light emanates from underneath the Hauteclaire... and then the ground erupts.

The wheel's turn is inexorable as it is undeniable, a conductor performing its swan song for those that it has reaped, and those that has come before it, for a column of screaming souls emanates from the depths, clawing, tearing away where they can, in the form of vengeful wraiths, mournful revenants where drag and consume all that they can. And within the apex of that miasma, a familiar -- to those of the Guardian faith -- figure emerges, a lich-like being whose spectral form cascades around the very aura the Rephaim has channeled as a conduit.

It is the very definition of anathema, for beings of life.

It is Death, come to reap what is due.

Ge Ramtos has cometh...

GS: Lunata Croze has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lunata Croze has attacked Kahm Yugh with The Wheel of Spirits!
GS: Lunata Croze has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Ether and superheated blade meat, and the clash creates an explosion that drives Weglaf backward. The blast slams into the Gear, driving it back -- and the place where the Hauteclaire's sword broke through has left an enormous, smouldering and molten gash along the armor. It cannot take much more of this, but Leon isn't sure that he has a choice. His lips curl back, into a growl, and then he shakes his head sharply.

"She isn't," Leon says, "but circumstances rarely let us decide when we're ready. Or is life in Solaris kinder than that, Captain?" There is a cold venom to Leon's words, even as he comes down from some of that anger.

He glances sideways at a display, looking at Katyna's Gear. He nods. "We've done what we can. Get the Rephaim and pull back! Shalune, pull back if you can!!"

The Weglaf steps backward, quickly, feet crunching into the ground. Part of the plan involved a withdrawal signal. A pair of flares fly up -- these ones bursting with a bright red flash against the sky, before snaking down to the ground.

Leon doesn't shout pull back. He can hope the ground crews figure it out. The Weglaf turns, aiming its cannon towards the Hauteclaire. The impact cannon opens up, pumping a few rounds towards the white Gear, but none quite come close. It is little more than covering fire.

His Gear steps backward -- in the awkward place of trying to get closer to the stage for that very same withdrawal, but also provide some cover for the still downed Rephaim. Except, of course, Hauteclaire's pilot turned his attention to their mysterious assistant. As a result, he wasn't quite looking when the terrifying aura erupts around Rephaim. His eyes widen, sharply, and he sucks in a breath. He holds it.

Then, he gasps softly. "What--what in the world..."

"Leon!" a voice crackles over his shortwave, and that brings him out of it. "We're picking up reinforcements! You need to get out of there, now!"

"Gh--right!" Leon says. The impact cannon thunders, a few more times, before Leon turns his Gear closer to the stage -- and the main hatch opens up halfway. He looks down at it. "LILY!" he calls out. "Fei! Get in here, we're leaving!"

GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
DC: MISS! Kahm Yugh completely evades Gatling Shell from Katyna Reidal!
GS: Kahm Yugh guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's The Master Touch for 194 hit points!
GS: Kahm Yugh enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Lunata Croze's The Wheel of Spirits for 374 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Seraphita has posed.

Electricity courses through the poor rabbit's body. She is forced to break her hug with Xantia and falls onto her rear. But then... Catenna approaches. How quickly the tables turn when a hug is involved.

Catenna adds compliments to her hug. No doubt to Tolone's distress, the rabbit returns the hug with no strings attached, and no further flames or magic eating. Just a hug! A tight, warm hug. She's about to say thank you when Lemina attacks.

The claws of ice tear through her back. In fairness to Lemina, both of Seraphita's hugs were flaming. Stopping her from firehugging Catenna, not a bad idea. But boy does the ice seem to hurt the Fire Element.

Is it possible to be so in-tune with your Ether or your sorcery that the opposite element hurts you? The answer is yes, it turns out, or at least it's yes for Seraphita specifically. She breaks out of the hug, her back not-quite-torn open by a large icy wound. Surely she had something to answer to Lemina, about already having a big great dream and wanting to make sure the Commander is happy, at all costs, but alas she will not have the focus to reveal this today.

As she tumbles to the side and lands by Tolone, Seraphita rolls about, whining about the ouchies and the pain. Her body erupts in flames and thaws the ice. She gets back up - she doesn't look pissed, more neutral than anything. Ether flares again, far more than before. Is she about to unleash another giant explosion?

... nope. She becomes distracted.

Her eyes wander over to another fight, as Fei, Ramses and Bart clash ever so violently. And it isn't looking good for the one of those three she likes.

Seraphita zips to Tolone's side, now ignoring her aggressors. "Tolone, Tolone! Quick, we gotta go help the Commander! GO GO GO GO GO GO! C'MON!!!" Seraphita is go, whether Tolone follows or not. She makes one big leap towards the Commander, seeking to grab him by one arm and hold him back. "Commander, Commander! Are you OK? Do you need help? You look angry, you can let me and Tolone handle cleanup for you!" She's extremely spazzy, but she means well.

GS: Seraphita has attacked Kahran Ramses with Cheerful Bounce!
GS: Kahran Ramses takes a solid hit from Seraphita's Cheerful Bounce for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Kahran Ramses!
GS: Reload! Kahran Ramses gains 15 extra FP from Seraphita!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Honestly, Catenna has nothing left to give at this point, and she's fully expecting to be killed, or at least severely injured.

Instead, she gets a hug from a girl-rabbit who isn't wearing pants.

Catenna blinks a couple of times, then hugs Seraphita snugly for a moment - at least until Lemina takes a shot at her and batters her with a gigantic ice storm. With a gasp, Catenna jerks herself backwards, staggering and nearly falling over. She's far too injured to put up much of a defense if Seraphita decides to assume she set her up for Lemina's attack.

Instead, Seraphita tumbles away, scampering over towards Tolone to try and solve Kahran's little freakout. You don't have to tell Catenna twice that now's her chance to...

...get the hell out of there.

Hastily, Catenna scarfs down a handful of Heal Berries. As the worst of her burns ebb, she looks back towards Lemina, then Arash and Xantia. "Come on," she calls to them before breaking into a sprint. Moving hurts; she winces as she dashes towards Jacqueline, moving to try and take ahold of her friend.

"I'm going to jump," she calls. "If we remain behind their reinforcements will kill us!"

Their reinforcements? Even the three soldiers were more than most of them could handily manage.

<Pose Tracker> Tolone has posed.

Tolone's attention returns to Lily. "I don't see any wolves," she tells her, before skreeeeeow FWAM! The fire bursts down on Tolone, whose Ether defenses, though mighty, do not spare her from being singed by it. It does keep her from finishing her trash talk - for now at least.

Her eyes track to Claude. Claude is punching out. Tolone files this information away; it is quite possible it may redound to his advantage later. Or it means he's going to get bullied by Gebler on the theory that he's a weak reed. "Heh," she says, before Tolone's eyes return to Lily. She smiles. Sort of.

Then comes the stone itself. Tolone doesn't feel it coming but she sure feels it hit; there is probably a visceral satisfaction in the loud chorus of POPS and CHUNKS coming out of Tolone as she shakes her head once, her gray ponytails fluttering as she reorganizes herself. For a fleeting moment, on the side of her face that hasn't been repeatedly brutalized, she looks very... vulnerable.

Don't worry: It lasts like a second. Then it's back to the RTF (Resting Tolone Face).

She's registering what Jack says but it isn't being parsed in her brain. The running transcription might as well be 'bleat bleat i'm a lamb baa baa look at my fluffy tail' until the brutal moment when he strikes.

Tolone's front is split in a diagonal line that intersects much of her torso and carves through her left arm. Tolone throws herself backwards but this only spares her from Jack's follow-up strike. In the glimmering moments of swordsmanship he can see sparks and cabling fly away. The left arm falls apart, jettisoned and already seeming to erupt within. Tolone's remaining arm is thrown over herself as she staggers back, gazing at him with wide and shocked eyes.

There's a little blood in there somewhere.

"... Miserable...!! You're going to lecture me about what's 'artificial'? You think that sword of yours came off a tree? Your pants? Your belt buckle? The food you ate for your final meal?! You think you're powerful because you and your entire squadron are surrounding me? Hmf! Even with overwhelming numbers I'm tearing you apart!" Her free hand comes up. Clutching at the air, she says, "For the commander--"

And at that point, Gwen shoots her.

The round clocks her upside the head with a clear and resonant CLONG, dislodging her right-hand hair ornament, much of the hair there, and revealing armored skull-metal with several protruding vanes of unclear purpose. It seems the hairstyle was not entirely by choice.

"Nghk - hhnh -"

-- Perhaps, brave adventurers, you might think this is the chance to close in for the kill! Except there is one big problem with that plan, which is that Tolone, pressed into a rearward ditch (metaphorically), begins to lash out with howling, screaming winds that seem to pour off of her like she's the eye of a personal hurricane. Dust is thrown everywhere; flame flickers; that stone pillar tips over.

Seraphita speaks. Tolone doesn't respond verbally. What she DOES do is drop one last cyclonic force ripple into the occult nexus of where she is and leap after her, swinging down the gap and throwing herself in the obverse direction relative to Seraphita. She lands heavily near Ramses.

She looks at Fei briefly. Then she looks back at Ramses for a moment, before making a grating noise. Then...

Back to Fei, who can probably see her missing arm and the huge rip in the side of her face.

GS: Tolone has attacked Lily Keil with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jack Van Burace with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Anemo Wave!
GS: Tolone has attacked Kahran Ramses with c o m m a n d e r . . .!
GS: Tolone has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 110 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 134 hit points!
GS: Kahran Ramses takes a solid hit from Tolone's c o m m a n d e r . . . for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Kahran Ramses gains 15 extra FP from Tolone!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

There's a glint of a light in the stump of that arm. Shalune takes careful aim for it.
Loren doesn't see her, isn't even focused her way at the moment she packs something down the length of her ARM, doesn't see anything until there's that arc of a projectile, until the sensors pick up on what he couldn't.
His eyes widen a touch the moment he does.
There's an explosion of electricity from what remains of the Gear's arm, and only the breakers he initates keep the pulse that follows from completely chewing up the systems beyond what they already manage.

He mutters something in a language few here would know, venting a bit of his frustration. Don't underestimate Lambs the Captain had once more or less said.
Some of them have things they SHOULDN'T have.
The retaliation comes quick, an invocation of concussive water-borne force driven in an upward sweep at the Golem's lower section, another apparent attempt to roll her out of the way.

Something is tossed, quite handily, towards the forward visual receptors. A feint, he thinks, gritting his teeth as he grips the controls, engaging all systems to prepare for evasive action.
Schiehallion shifts its stance as the Aveh Gear closes, rolling its mass out of the way of what would have been a near-mirror of her previous strike...
And in the last instant, she reverses the angle of attack. Even if his machine wasn't damaged, there's no guarantee he would have managed anything akin to a dodge.

As it is, the blade sinks in deeply, cracking the plating as it sinks through the chest of the massive Gear.

Immediately the cockpit is awash in red lights, the messages from various diagnostics routines scrolling nearly endlessly down almost every spare screen in the interior of the Gear as the audio alert system screams. Loren himself has barely glanced at the reporting, shoulders hunched as he leans suddenly forward in the guts of his machine.
The edge of the blade rests all of a few feet above his head.
Oh, that's good. Something's leaking into the surrounding electronic systems and tearing them apart, he notes in passing as he lifts his head a scant few degrees and catches a line on one of the screens. He exhales sharply, already reaching out for what etheric amplifiers aren't dead or going steadily off-line.

His gaze lifts to the battlefield display.

What an opening it is for Ida.

"...Shit," he hisses out, slamming his good hand to activate the shielding systems. There's no way he can move right now without ripping the Gear apart. Hard-edged panels of light snap into place about the Gear... only to immediately flicker ominously.

CAUTION: SHIELDING SYSTEM COMPROMISED the alert flashes, just seconds too late.
Well, he tried, he thinks remotely, as the barrage slices through the shielding and readies himself for the impact that's certain to follow.
Smoking gouges are left across the once-pristine surface of the Gear, components laid bare underneath the ruined armor plating. The only good news is that the alarms don't get much louder. The damage report scroll on the other hand...
27% power and dropping. Probably worse if this goes on much longer.

"--Captain--"

In comes Kahm's blade, forcing the alleged Aveh Gear back and away from him.

He makes his decision rapidly. His sole good hand taps a few icons on the screen. Divert power systems and fuel to repair protocol. He needs to hold this thing together a little longer.

He sinks back in his seat and closes his eyes.

Death or glory.

"Heavy damage sustained. Holding my position, Captain. Mission is priority," he messages Kahm.
Just like back in Adlehyde. Success first.

His focus shifts, finding and selecting his targets in order. Shining regular-angled white light -- etheric-borne shielding -- erupts from the air around Hauteclaire and sinks into Gear's frame.

Then...

There's a sickening lurch beneath the Dragoon's feet, rolling hard across the battlefield. From below? It might be the most logical consideration, judging from the upward smash of stone that had come before.

It appears in a heartbeat and glittering brilliantly, a crystalline rain that falls to the tiles of the Square below... and the Dragoon.

GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 75 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss used Mystic on Loren Voss! 200 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Jack Van Burace takes a glancing hit from Tolone's Anemo Wave for 175 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Terra Limit!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Kahm Yugh with Barrier Order!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Shalune Amira with Aqua Origin!
GS: Loren Voss takes 8 damage from Corrode!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Kahm Yugh takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Barrier Order for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Kahm Yugh!
GS: Shalune Amira takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Origin for 280 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Shalune Amira!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Limit for 109 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Fei and Bart. Fei and Bart are targetted by the target Lily can't ocus on yet, can't get to yet. The battle assaults her in images, Seraphita and her fire, people she knows, people who run together as her mind muddles and muddles. Keeping her focus is increasingly difficult for the Black Wolf on the ground, as her field of vision necessarily narrows further, and further.

On Tolone. Tolone sasses back and the hate in Lily's gaze is obvious, past even the suppresse ear of this woman that has echoed within her. ...That smile is what does it, when it returns, after her fire leaves her standing. She wathes as Tolone is hit, and hit, and hit by the others.

"Ah--" Her chest is tight--she wavers where she is, still hanging in the air. It's in this moment that she does not see but feels the echo of the dead so close, hears the scream of souls. It freezes her in place for just long enough. But then Tolone is speaking and Lily shakes he head, listens to her--and sees.

"W-what--" Shock shows in her eye, still glowing, horror partway through the drug's haze. "W-what are you--" Something about it--Something--

The cyclone hits her and she crashes backward, impacting palace wall with a loud crack that sends a tiny fissure up its length. Leon's warning echoes in her ears. Her name in his voice calls to her, and she looks up towards his Gear.

"A-aah..." It's getting worse, whatever's going on with her, as one hand comes up to her chest as if in pain. "H-Help..." She looks very, very dizzy.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Lily Keil with Drive!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Lily Keil's Drive for 12 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lemina Ausa has posed.

Lemina -- who is, frankly, out of her depth against the Solarians -- almost immediately moves to take the quick exit Catenna offers. She's even ready for it this time! She forms up with the Guardianist, getting prepared to jump a good, long distance.

She does glance back at Seraphita, though. ... what was that magic, now that she thinks about it? It's not common for Filgaians to be able to wield the elements so... casually, like that...?

... she'll have to think about that later.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Today... didn't go as planned, to put it mildly. Xantia thinks they technically won, but it sure doesn't feel like it. She hurts too much for that, and she had a fight that her heart wasn't in, besides. Even so, there's no hard feelings. In fact, she really hopes she can make it up to Seraphita sometime. This was clearly just an unfortunate coincidence, if everybody just knew the full story, they wouldn't have needed to fight. Or so she believes, based on her own limited understanding of the situation.

For now, there's little more she can do about the whole thing, being in poor shape after that fight. Though she could manage to slowly get up and walk on her own, should Arash offer assistence in making it to Catenna's escape point, then she won't refuse it. She'll worry about regrouping later, getting out of here, through whatever means available, is the main concern right now.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Even from this far away, Jacqueline feels...concerned. She doesn't know why, but she's struck by a sudden emotion.

'Lunata, Shalune...you two better be alright...' She thinks to herself, then shakes her head. No, focus.

Tolone's looking beaten...but she's not done. No, she unleashes a powerful tempest. Jacqueline raises another pillar of stone to protect herself. It provides her with some protection, but the tempest still assaults her. Jacqueline drops to her knees, wincing, but forces herself to her feet with the help of her battered and broken pillar and downs another potion.

Jacqueline glances toward Catenna and offers her a somewhat sad smile. She reaches for her hand...but she doesn't hold onto it for long, just long enough to slip something into her hands.

It's a key - a key to the Carakin. Jacqueline still has one for herself, but she made spares just in case

"I'm sorry...there's still something I have to do here."

She looks to the side, to Lily, then back to Catenna.

"Looks like there might be someone who needs it more, anyway. ...If I don't come back before too long...just go. Leave -it- behind if you have to, okay? Take care of them for me, Catenna." She says.

She had to do this. If she didn't...then it would've been all for nothing. Dragging the Lunies and her Caravan Kinship into a mess they rightly had no business being in...

Jacqueline takes a deep breath and moves...in a different direction than the fleeing Elements, because of course.

She still needed to find the Princess. She couldn't stop here.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei weaves around Ramses's strike. He gets mildly scratched by the wind, but Ramses just can't get a good connection with Fei's body here. Fei's body moves as if it knows how Ramses fight even if Fei's mind, mouth, inner spirit (all of them) don't.

He says, "Did everybody in Gebler have family in Lahan or something?!" Why do they all hate him so much?!? Nevertheless, the whirlwinds just float on by before he throws a pair of index fingers towards Ramses's throat but--

--he snaps his fingers back. He hears Lily calling for Help even if she's not raelly calling. "Guess we'll both have to remain in the dark, huh?"

He then turns, gets a good look at Tolone being a freak of nature (Fei gets a 15 on his WILL Save so he merely raises both eyebrows) and a faint swallowing that doesn't quite finish.

And then he drops down by Lily. He hefts Lily up in his arms because she looks like she's having a heart attack and now's not the time to be polite about it.

"Hang in there, Lily! We're almost to Leon and uhhh I hope you taught him a little bit about nursing...!"

He dives into Leon's gear with Lily. His elite martial arts skills enable him to do this without banging Lily comically against the gear in the process.

"I have no idea if we succeeded or not!!" He yells at Leon as he gets in. He glances back and sees Xantia heading off and relaxes just a bit. He can rendevoux with her later.

"I think she's having a heart attack!" He adds to Leon, so it only lasts half a moment.

<Pose Tracker> Arash Khan has posed.

Arash sticks two fingers in his mouth and whistles a high, reedy sound. Two beats pass. And he nods to himself, confident that whatever message he meant to send has found its place. He's done his part as a friendly interloper, and hopefully hasn't antagonized anyone who'd make his involvement public. Not that he couldn't spin too, that of course.

 "Ready when you are." His hardened brave eyes conceal a distinct queasiness at the thought of Jumping. Here goes something.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

Shalune grits her teeth, feeling the pressure of Ge Ramtos even from where she's still facing off against the enormous, plodding machine that accompanied the Gebler commander; she doesn't need to be told what she's witnessing in order to figure out what the feeling means. It's a harsh, almost alien sensation, and if she thought she was used to the pressure of Ge Ramda's presence, it's nothing compared to the real thing.

... but...

Gritting her teeth, she tries to will her heart to slow down; tries not to think about what Ge Ramtos' presence might mean for Lunata's situation. She should be falling back; she knows that, in the back of her mind and past the rushing of blood in her ears - she doesn't need to be told that by Leon, the Yggdrasil officer's warning coming over the commlink in a too-tinny tone, something in the inner workings of the device damaged. "I-- I can't do that, sir," she mutters almost to herself. "Not after last time-- I'll-- I'll catch up. ... promise."

"Big Shal. I'm--... please, help me," she mumbles as she touches her forehead to the back of the golem's head. "Even if it's stupid, I-- I can't just run away without her, y'know?" she whispers.

For a moment, the Golem seems almost to hold in place, as if in thought - that hesitation allows the gigantic Gear's water attack to roll over it, tearing at the golem's limbs and shearing both legs out from under it into so much wash of metal; the pink-haired mechanic finds herself bouncing off the roof of her makeshift cockpit with a yell, the rest of the ruined golem flung aside and away.

Not that Shalune cares, right at this moment. "Big Shal! C'mon!" she blurts again, even going so far to pound the gantry underneath her as she squints back tears - and in response, the pulsing of the ARM set into the golem suddenly shines with a vivid sort of light, its constant thrum accelerating into a roaring whine that fills the space of her cockpit. The cloud of spare parts has become a veritable whirlwind, in the wake of the last attack - within it, Big Shal is remoulding itself, reshaping itself, seemingly absorbing the cockpit into itself to make it more sturdy, the damaged limbs rebuilding in a blink of an eye.

Against the din, Shalune squints, pouring her own concentration into the tool that connects her and her golem; she tears a bag from one pocket of her jacket, throwing a small ration bar into her mouth to bite fiercely down on it.

If she had more time, she might find something to laugh at in the way her own control scheme mimics the deal that Lunata has struck with Ge Ramda. But it's not like Lunata can sleep and eat off the selling of her soul... and time isn't really on either Lunie's side.

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Shalune Amira with Aquarius!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: DISEASE! Shalune Amira tries to heal Shalune Amira, but it doesn't work!
<Pose Tracker> Jack Van Burace has posed.


The storm strikes at Jack even as he opens his mouth to reply towards the malfunctioning Tolone. Death itself is screaming nearby as the storm's force slams into him. This time his anger and his skill isn't enough to evade the carnage thrown his way. Knocked backwards he skitters across the platform before he slams his sword into the surface to give himself something to grip as he tries to weather its power.

Its difficult to say the least.

As the storm falls the swordsman stands, sword slowly raising again in a defensive posture. "Your power." His breathing labored and his eyes brimming. "Is artifical."

But his arm shakes, his legs burn. The combat has taken more out of him than he likes and the others are falling back. Slowly...or not so slowly...retreating. However they gave Cecilia her opening. He supposes thats what matters in the end.

So he begins to back towards the edge of the platform. Casting about for others that might need help as he does so. Jack has left people behind before, he doesn't want to do it again.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As others begin to gather around her, Catenna reaches out to close a hand in Lemina's, her other held out for the likes of Arash and Xantia. Her eyes remain on Jacqueline.

Jay reaches out. What Catenna gets is something else. A key.

The priestess's eyes widen. But in her heart, she knows what Jacqueline's trying to do, and who she's after - and it's a quest more personal for Jay than it is for Catenna, a Zortroan interloper from another continent altogether. She closes her eyes for a moment and bows her head, then opens them again, her pale grey eyes finding the other woman's.

"Be safe," she urges. Then she swallows gently. "Jay... we will speak again soon. I believe that in my heart."

With a quick glance, Catenna checks to make sure Lily's being tended to - and so she is. Her gaze returns to Jacqueline, and she steps back. Her reserve is betrayed by the hints of small tears standing at the corners of her eyes.

Taking Lemina and Arash by the hands, she looks up to the pair. Then, with a last look back towards Jay, she tenses her legs and calls on the power of Lucadia again.

The last thing Jay will see from her is a worried look before Catenna's hurtling off the stage and through the air with a huge power jump, leaping several hexes of distance with Lemina and Arash in tow.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

Ida doesn't stop firing until she runs out of ammunition. Her teeth leap on edge in something that would be a humorless smile if one could see it beneath the scarf. She remembers what she told Zed weeks ago, about what it felt like to not be the one being beaten down, for once. Ida has no idea who the Gear's pilot is, but she does know that they walked onto this battlefield in a machine that, theoretically, outclassed the three of its opponents put together.

There is something satisfying in watching it struggle. It's not down yet, though. Backed into a corner, it's only become deadlier.

A spare clip pops out of a slot on the small of the Dragoon's back, but she doesn't have time to load--the Gebler Gear's trashed, thanks in no small part to the mysterious Aveh Gear and Shalune somehow managing to induce the mother of all shorts. (Did she see something vulnerable in the stump of the arm that got hacked off?) Ida doesn't have time to capitalize. The ground begins to tremble. Ida tenses up, and the Dragoon takes a step back, as if trying to anticipate where the pillar's coming from this time. The AWACS terminal lights up again, the alarm sounds. Surge detected, 12:00 high.

"Clever," Ida says. The Dragoon braces. Ida tucks it into as tight a ball as she can manage, retracting the mortar and presenting the Etheric barrage with the relatively-undamaged armor on its shoulder and back. It still shreds way too much of the machine's plating for Ida's comfort--chunks of it fall to the street--but it's not the lethal wound it could have been.

And then another surge knocks the AWACS offline again, and this time, Ida can feel it, too. Her face goes pale. Leon gives the order to retreat, and Ida is grateful. But first she falls back. The Dust Dragoon follows Big Shal, backing away from the wounded Gebler Gear with its rifle raised. "Acknowledged," Ida says. "What in God's name is happening? I'm all right, I believe Shalune's all right, but what about Lunata?" Evidently this is her first real encounter with the new, not-just-for-show Rephaim.

<Pose Tracker> Kahran Ramses has posed.

Ramses can't even dent him.

"Demon!" Ramses snarls. "YOU THINK YOU'LL ESCAPE!?" His blade begins to flash again, preparing another boiling swell of power. "Lahan!? - Ah yes, of course..." he spits. "A repeat of your PERFORMACE IN ELRU I'm sure! It all makes SENSE now!" He moves to rush again, wild - but stumbles, falling to one knee with a pained grunt. He slams his sword into the ground. "Ngh--no, not now...! Damn you, demon...!" His eyes roll up, teeth grit and glaring. "Damn...DAMAN YOU! Don't you run! COME HERE AND DIE!"

The Elements arrive; Tolone and Seraphita's presence bringing a certain balm to his senses. He shuts his eyes tight. Has he ever been this furious? This unhinged? "Seraphita," he rasps. "Tolone....take care..."

He's trembling. That's new, too.

"That man...." He struggles to get the words out. "That man is...[a demon...]"

If anyone was hoping for cogent, well-structured orders out of Commander Ramses tonight....they aren't coming.

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

Hauteclaire has enough reserves to keep the mysterious field surrounding it active, apparently-although all of the Argentis's shots are well-placed, they fall victim to the same queer ability that confounded the Rephaim's vulcan cannons at the start. Each slug veers and goes astray, as if outright refusing to strike the gear.

And it was a good thing, because Kahm could no longer afford splitting his attention on the Argentis's unknown threats. He catches the mystery Avehan gear off-guard, but the pilot recovers quickly. They knew what they were doing, and Kahm steeled his resolve. Lambs running around in gears were one thing, but this would take.....focus, much more focus. "Keep your head on, Lieutenant, and enjoy the evening breeze." Kahm says to Loren. "I have this one."

Or did he?

Seeing me won't help you.

The distance shouldn't have closed so fast. Nonetheless, there the gear was. Loren's barrier was particularly well-time, and without it the enemy pilot may well have opened up the Hauteclaire in exactly the way they intended. As it is the barrier slows the blade somewhat, allowing Hauteclaire's to catch and divert it from the target, so that the point instead embedded itself somewhere to the northeast of his cockpit. Even that blow was something of a victory for the Shevite, however, as the corroding fluid seeping out from the blade burned into electronics and systems.

"I see you like to win." Kahm comments, diverting his gear into war of attrition and strength against the other as they struggled to control the blade's movement. "Something..we have in common.."

But the contest itself is a diversion, enough to give Kahm the space to lift the Hauteclaire's good leg-ignoring the groaning protest of the either under its load-and kick hard into Aveh gear's abdomen to push it away.

"Captain, squadon Alpha, Delta, and Gamma returning from pacification activities!" A report crackled in his ear, and the signatures of Gebler IFFs appeared on his radar, "All sectors are under control!"

"Good." Kahm said. "Deploy to our are and assist in mopping up..."

Wait.

The hairs were standing on the back of his neck.

Something wasn't right.

Hauteclaire's head turned towards the risen Rephaim, gear and pilot alike beholding the fell energies over the other mysterious gear. Kahm had never been in the ruins, he did not know the symbols it invoke, or the importance. But he did know, on some level, what it meant. He knew death.

"What...on Filgaia..." He muttered, then the light erupted beneath him, fading into darkness as pillar of dark, screaming souls erupted around the gear.

He had no words to describe, only feeling. And it was a feeling, he think, he last felt in that miasma-infested grotto. When that posion had overtaken him and Hauch..

The dead pull at him. The wind into his soul, whisper into his ears. Memories unbidden flashed before him. A woman's face, smiling, tired, and unfailingly loving.

Kahm... She asked. Have you become....strong?

"Nnngh..."

The Captain shut his eyes, found his breath. Even with training, the assault was unexpectedly formiddably. He instinctively invoked his gift, closing his soul, drawing on the Hauteclaire's machine, projecting the isolation. The terminal flashed a myriad of red SYSTEM ERROR warnings before finally being brute-forced into compliance.

>DEPLOYING ANTI-PHENOMENON INTERFERENCE FIELD...

Kahm opened his eyes, and stared at the specter with contempt.

"Not....today.."

The 'horn' that angled backwards from Hauteclaire's head struck a single, discordant note, reverberating in an unending chorus. The darkness immediately vanished, leaving the Hauteclaire where it stood, frost-covered along most of it's armor. The tune continued, and Hauteclaire remained stopped. Everything stopped.

"Lieutenant..." Kahm's breath was hard, and he remained focused on the Rephaim, dimly aware of Leon's warning shots, physical and verbal. "Do not engage that. Link up with the reinforcements."

If the other gear is going going to strike, Now would be the time.

GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Cassidy Cain with Kahm Kick!
GS: Kahm Yugh has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lunata Croze with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Leon Albus with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Lily Keil with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Jack Van Burace with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Kahm Yugh has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Ether Disruptor!
GS: Lunata Croze takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Lunata Croze!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Gwen Whitlock critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a glancing hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Cassidy Cain used Mystic on Cassidy Cain! 200 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Cassidy Cain has activated a Force Action!
DC: MISS! Cassidy Cain completely evades Kahm Kick from Kahm Yugh!
GS: Jack Van Burace takes a glancing hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Jack Van Burace!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Shalune... make sure you get back," Leon says. His voice has wind whipping by it. He looks sideways, and his eyes widen as he sees Fei leap like that. It always takes him by surprise when he pulls a stunt like that. Still, he lands in the cockpit, and has Lily with them. He looks between the two, eyes widening at the words 'heart attack,' before he looks at Lily. He grits his teeth.

No time for smiling or relief. "Lily," he says. "Hang on. We're going to get you out of here." A moment's pause, though -- the hatch slides and seals shut, with a click -- and he speaks more softly. "...It's good to see you. Both of you."

The discordant note ripples through the air. Leon grunts, unsure of what it means -- except that he sees the darkness surround Hauteclaire has vanished, and the ice with it. He gasps, eyes staring at it, before he nods. "We're getting out of here! Katyna, withdraw! Lunata, do the same!"

He fires the thrusters on the Weglaf. The blue Gear shoots upward, rattling, but bounds into the sky -- and he sees a couple of missiles wind in, from the Yggdrasil. Explosions erupt -- a final bit of covering fire, for the retreat.

GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Kahm Yugh's Ether Disruptor for 0 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily is scooped up quickly as Fei drops by her, plucked out of the air entirely and easy to get--despite the fact that she was floating, she is not the easiest burden, an adult woman of some height.

He says to hang in there, and Lily looks up with her golden eye at him, surprised and not entirely registering that her plea was answered at first. ...A plea it was, and in her expression there is something softer than her usual harshness, something quiet and very human.

"Fei," she breathes, and inlines her head once, letting herself rest against him without worying about being dropped. "T-Thank..." Still though it hurts.

Her face shifts again in pain, her eye closing and opening again and she takes a ragged breath.

Kahm's power moves out in a wave and she grits her teeth by instinct, her markings pulsing gold in return as she asserts hersel... But that hurts, too. She winces, and looks up at Leon finally. She sees his worry.

"I'm..." Her voice cracks, "Fine..." THe hatch closes, and he starts his work.

She murmurs, "I... knew you'd come for me..."

Her head lolls and she slips entirely out of consciousness and into a much too deep sleep.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei has Sabin strength he'll be okay.

He doesn't seem to freak out at the note but honestly, he's in pretty good shape. Ramses got a few cuts on his arms that could use tending to but nothing that can't wait until they make it back to the Yggdrasil.

"This went good." Fei says. "Didn't kill anybody, city not entirely on fire, pretty great, Cecilia not murdered by killer robots, woooooh..."

But those words.

'A repeat of your performance in Elru I'm sure'.

Fei doesn't want to think about that right now.......................

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

For someone who was initially happy (in an admittedly odd way) to see another person with ceramic (cybernetic) parts, Gwen's tune has changed drastically since then. Somewhere inbetween that moment in the next, it went from a sort of optimistic curiosity to harsh conflict.

And somewhere, Gwen made the decision to aim for Tolone's head. She couldn't blame Lily's words; she just took the situation to that level, taking the threat Tolone presented all that seriously.

And now, as Tolone howls, Gwen can see the damage her round made, and the cybernetic workings underneath the wound she'd made in Tolone's skull. "...!" Gwen shrinks back, her heart beating out of horror than the adrenaline her ARM supplied. .... Is that how some people see her, the way she's seeing Tolone now? Sure, her friends don't; they know her well enough to know better. She made sure to assure them with the chipper attitude, the can-do spirit, the humility, the open admittance of human emotion- especially the positive ones.

A stone pillar crashes overhead, Gwen's ARM managing to deflect it just enough to keep its full weight from crashing upon her body. Afterwards, her ARM hangs crooked from the blow, jittering every few minutes from out-of-sync body commands.

People are pulling back. Looking around to see everyone is getting away, Gwen returns to Jack, holding out her left hand. "That's, uh, a big drop." Her poncho is cast over the occasionally shaking ARM, its movements causing the poncho to flutter. "... Let's get someplace safe. Not sure if I can help you any further until I repair my ARM, but at least I've helped you this far."

<Pose Tracker> Cassidy Cain has posed.

She is no stranger to bloodlust.

 It lives inside her and she tends to draw it out from others when she really gets going - her last two opponents in a fight can attest to that. She can feel it now from the Gebler captain, who seems to realize rather quickly just what he is that he is facing, clad in the trappings of an ally's war machine. If nothing else, there's acknowledgment there at the man's situational awareness; whoever is sitting on the chair isn't an idiot and he reacts in the defensive. She expects that also, not just to protect himself and his badly-damaged cohort, but so he can force her to draw out whatever trump cards she might be hiding. Every little thing she does, he will remember...and he will be much more prepared later, if they ever face one another again in the field.

 The odds are even on that.

 Her radio crackles - she doesn't miss the communications filtering in from inside of the castle, and outside of it. The title addressed to Bart doesn't escape her notice, and Leon is ordering a withdrawal of the Alliance's forces. As far as everyone knows, she is an independent entity; she simply cannot leave just because the former Black Wolves captain says so. It'd be too telling.

 I see you like to win. Something we have in common.

 To her, nothing about this is amusing. There isn't even a hint of grim satisfaction. She hates everything about this.

 But she can't help it either. She can't. It's bone-deep, embedded into her very nature.

 The Hauteclaire moves, and she's ready for it. It attempts to crush its foot into her abdomen; the flat of its heel simply meets its free, open palm, blocking the strike utterly, and even shoves the white gear into its other foot in hopes of sending it stumbling towards Loren's damaged gear.

 "In this?" says the heavily modulated voice, leaping backwards. The sword is put away, and it looks like she's about to leave.

 But there's a gun - the massive cannon points towards Kahm.

 ...and past him.

 "I do."

 She pulls the trigger, the blast of power surging forward, attempting to draw a bead through Kahm's defenses...

 ...and towards the smoking shell of his poor lieutenant's machine.

 She doesn't wait. She moves, thrusters engaging and peeling away. It would be foolhardy, to completely throw away her window of escape. Though she does not follow the rest of the Alliance's forces.

GS: Cassidy Cain has attacked Loren Voss with Baby Driver!
GS: Cassidy Cain has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

If there's a silver lining in all of this, it's--

--that the anti-phenomenon interference field does exactly that: stop the phenomenon.

The crackling, disgusting field of miasma that the Rephaim had opened below the ground -- and do not stare too long and gaze into the depths that it has opened, for it might very much rob you of something irreplacable.

Just as when something hideous and awful had wormed its way from the Depths, as claws start to take hold of the rim from the spiritual nether--

--it is shut.

And with it, Lunata's look is distant as she's suddenly struck within the field... and-- and--

She's suddenly stopped.

Leon's order comes on deaf ears; it's as if Lunata's just vanished off the face of Filgaia. The Rephaim's powered down to its regular state, the sheath of miasmic armour vaporised in the wake of the field.

The cockpit is entirely still, inert in the face of that which defies phenomenon...

...and in the wake of this unearthly silence, a single flame burns. With her host stymied and stilled -- perhaps because of her state, for what she is... it was up to her now.

The lich immerses herself, descending upon Lunata's petrified state-- and snarls softly, as the Impure Princess once has.

"... ... so, we meet again."

There's a conflicted look as she ruefully chuckles, and whispers, "We shall be retreating. Lunata will be fine once this field stops influencing her," towards whatever comms she believes still works.

And with that, the Rephaim rises, relying on its verniers to pull it out of the depths of the battlefield.

"... just what will you do in this new age, Ataraxes?" she questions as she peers towards the all-white form of the Hauteclaire with a long look.

"You and I... we are mere relics of the past. We are not meant to be awakened once more..."

GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Guard!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Cassidy Cain's Baby Driver for 58 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

The wavefront of, quite literally, death rolls over Loren, still in the midst of pouring his will through whatever remains of the etheric systems at this point, the red wash of diagnostics reports still continuing to scroll fown the screens.

His breath catches. He opens his eyes, his gaze straight ahead of him.

Of all things, his mind careens towards the recollection of a song, sung in the depths of a ruin shaped like a wheel. Of the sense of foreboding, trepidation, and rot.

Death...

"There was an accident."

He sits up straight, shoulders tight. Even the ache in his arm is a distant afterthought as he reaches for the controls. Both hands shake, freezing there as he locks up.

"Your brother's dead."

Do something, do something, do something--
It might as well be a pointless mantra.
--Until something damn well does happen.

Kahm deploys a large-scale version of what -- he thinks -- must be the same trick he used on Keil. It's not focused.
The low-level thrum of etheric connection Loren is so familiar to cuts out entirely... as does the inexorable deathly presence.

"Captain...?"

His hands still grip on the controls, locked into position so tightly his knuckles have gone white beneath his gloves, the sharp-clawed ache burning its way up his right arm making its presence ever-more known.

He finally exhales, breath following breath. His hands unclench, and not without a wince. "...Understood. Moving off the field."

Blue eyes shift, catching a certain motion from across the Square. The cannon, directed at Kahm--

--not at Kahm--

--and Loren doesn't so much think as act, left hand retreating from the controls to reroute all current power to the shielding. The damaged shielding, a part of his mind reminds him at a remove, the shielding he currently can't enhance or do anything whatsoever with etherically, that--

REROUTE SUCCESS: 75% ARM SHIELDING ACTIVATED

The barriers burst into full life, shining brightly where they catch the incoming cannonfire, deflecting and slowing it to a mere scratch across one shoulder.

A moment of silence on the pilot's part follows.
Then he cuts the power to the shielding. Loren once again seizes the controls, urging the heavily damaged and smoking Gear back before launching skywards to join the reinforcements.

"Don't be a liability."

<Pose Tracker> Kahm Yugh has posed.

With the enemy retreating, there was little reason to maintain the field. Kahm relaxed his 'grip', and the Hauteclaire's horn ceased its discordant tune, confident that whatever foul power the Rephaim had called up was at rest...for now.

"A child...with powers she can neither comprehend or control." Kahm said, and could have spat. Par for the course these days, it seems.

For whatever reason, the Avehan gear did not take the opportunity to attack him, and instead targeted the Lieutenant. "Tch..." Of course-by threatening his life, the pilot made it impossible for Kahm to give chase. Assuming they had right bead on him.

"Lieutenant, look out!"

Seems they did. But the warning wasn't needed-either through luck or a developing awareness of his surrounding, Loren was more then prepared to content with that fearsome blow. There's a degree of what felt like relief as Kahm lifted the Hauteclaire silently into the air, following on the other gear's heels.

"Well done, Lieutenant. You're getting a head for battle. Just see that you don't lose it." Kahm said, surveying the damage to Bledavik and frowning. "A farce...but a necessary one, to learn the Princess's true goals. You played your part to the heel."

There was the matter of Keil escaping, but that could be dealt with later.

"Come then, there's little else we can do here." Kahm muttered. "Much as I hate to say it, all our hopes now rest on Kent Hauch."