: "I am the 'old' Hugo, not that you'd believe me right now."
:”Seeing is believing, so let me see it, the terror technomage in action.”
: "Well, I guess I'll start testing these waters then and see how they hold up! Take notes Hugo!"
Katherine’s missile flies right through the enemy formation to hit the flagship’s bridge and producing a massive explosion that engulfs both it and the nearby escorts!
:”A perfect opening shot! Against a lesser opponent, our victory in one move! but against the Aether Phantom fleet...”
The smoke clears and FC class is still standing, an energy field still flaring from the explosion and the bridge still in one piece even if there’s significant damage all accross the hull. Even the nearby escorts are still hovering although they are in even worst shape, large tears in their structures.
: "Can't we go with firmware or hardware updates and not backups? I'd rather avoid the problem than have dozens of me going around because of a copying mistake,"
: “...But there already should be dozens of you going around because of a copying mistake, Ammy. Or will be? It took us some time to find that out. Wait, nevermind I said that, Ammy!”
Arodatam’s squaddies meanwhile appear awed at the massive ball of energy forming over Amaterasu.
:”Danger! Nearby radiation levels escalating 3817% over safety bounds and increasing!”
: “Oh shut up you, Ammy knows what she’s doing.”
:"Hate to break it to you, but combat skill wouldn't prove anything either"
:”Wouldn’t expect a scholar like you to understand, ‘Stephanie’. Sometimes the best way to understand each other is through direct battle, the clash of beams, the roar of missiles.”
:”Some friendly competition is nice now and then, but this seems like way too much!”
Meanwhile Stephanie’s lighting rock succeeds in causing sparks to jump accross roughly 1/3 of the Aether Phantom ships. Although their hulls seem fortified against energy and don’t suffer much damage, nevertheless they are left entangled in coils of electricity.
"Its normally my job to provide support fire in mech battles. I'll be watching your backs."
:”And you still keeping that old doll around? Better than nothing I guess. Arodatam, Wildraubtier Schnabel MK III High Mobility type, attacking!
:”Roger! Engaging targets!”
Arodatam and her squaddies power up their boosters, burning the vegetation behind them and quickly closing in the distance with the closest FS class ships. The immortal steel troops efficiently surround one of them and fire machine guns at point blank range to overwhelm its shield then blowing up its reactor, while Arodatam almost simultaneously draws twin beam blades from her mecha and slices multiple times through another FS class, in a style quite reminiscent of Katherine’s own but somewhat colder and more brutal. Torn to chunks, the crippled FS class explodes virtually simultaneously as the other.
Then Nei pops out from the jungle in her mecha.
“Light damnit Hugo Lotushand, I take my eyes off you for some nanoseconds and you already got yourself in a new fight! Wait, those are the bad pirates Katherine’s supposed to fight? A common enemy between us and Arodatam Neikapool, attacking!”
Nei starts flying towards the Aether Phantom fleet too, and unable to reach them yet instead unleashes a barrage of missiles from her machine’s chest that manage to damage some more ships.
:”A Nei here too? As long as she's fighting the Aether Phantom Fleet too, she's welcome for now."
:”Calculações acabadas. Alvos identificados. Iniciando cumprimento dos objectivos.”
As its escorts release repair nanomachines to patch it up, the FC class’s hull opens up, revealing a massive cannon inside that starts charging a ball of white energy that quickly becomes even bigger than Amaterasu’s own. For a few moments things seem to both be going faster and slower at the same time.
:”Canhão de degenerância protótipo-Fogo.
The ball of energy is fired right at the middle of the party before bursting out, then collapsing in a single point, pulling everything in the area! The trees and the ground itself are pulled and disappear. Katherine’s combat instincts allow her to turn on her boosters fast enough to escape the pull, although she’s left out in the open as all the nearby terrain is gone. Similarly, Hugo had Murakumo prepared for something just like this. Amaterasu and Stephanie must contend directly with the attack.
:”Destruir a caçadora! Reparar o passado! Processar o futuro!”
The remaining Aether Phantom fleet ships start fighting too, one FL class and the FS classes entangled by Stephanie remaining in place while unleashing long-range beam barrages from their deck cannons, while the remaining ships move forward while unleashing barrages of missiles and anti-air fire at all of you! Nei and Arodatam expertly dodge or parry all attacks going her way but the Immortal Steel troops take significant damage.
:”98%-99%-CRITICAL LEVELS REACHED UPLOADING DAT-”
One blows up in the sky but there’s no eject pod, neither a reaction from Arodatam or the other squad members.
:”You just lost one of your own! And they didn't-You didn't-”
:”Clearly she was defective. But also just a redundancy so victory is still well whitin our calculations.”
Amaterasu and Stephanie are pulled towards each other and take 77 force damage (1 for Amaterasu because Invincibility). Succeeding at both a Reflex and Fortitude saves with DC 30 halves this damage, affects objects. Failing by 10 or more means being erased.
Katherine takes 107 damage from a beam (Rending, DC 38 bullrush, DC 44 trip) + 59 damage from a missile (Pinning, DC 45 disarm against her own missile).
Stephanie takes 49 damage from a missile (Pinning, DC 37 disarm against random Accessory).
Amaterasu takes 62 damage from a missile (Pinning, DC 34 disarm against random Accessory) +99 damage from a beam (Rending, DC 46 against Bullrush, DC 38 trip).
Hugo takes 66 damage from a missile (Pinning, DC 54 disarm against Disk Launcher)
: "That was not quite the story I was expecting, but it is an important part of who you are. I cannot begin to imagine how it must have felt for you to go through all that. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry you went through it.
But listening to it I came to realize something. You are still trying to find your place in this world. And that place goes beyond your 'function', Murasaki. It goes beyond what you are, and is a part of who you are. I get the sense that you haven't been told this before, so here it comes.
You matter for who you are. Not how others respond to you. Not as NM-1153 or as Murasaki, answering to Master Lotushand. You matter as the newman who overcame her destiny from a place of love, who learned to be more than your 'fate' and 'function'. You are far, far more important than that.
However, you still need to find your place in this world. Yes, perhaps something deep inside you still compels you to fight. But as of right now, you're fighting for a contract. Your heart goes beyond that. If you ever run into someone fighting for something greater than their duty, no matter how many years of experience you have on them, there's a chance you could lose. And then die. And that would be a horrific loss, an undeserved destiny.
If Nei doesn't yet know who you are, I suggest you show her. She certainly will have a place for you in her heart. And you could teach her much about not falling in with the wrong crowd.
I feel like you've placed yourself at a disadvantage compared to me. So if you'd like, I will tell you a little about myself, as well."
There’s a long moment of silence, followed by a longer moment of Murasaki just purring like a cat much like Nei does when Hugo pets her, then she stops and speaks:
: “Heh… You don’t need to to worry about me fighting to the bitter end out of duty, I’m not one of those ‘follow contract to the death’ girls, I've already learned when to turn tail and run when things start getting too ugly even if means breaking a contract. As for Nei, to be honest I’m not sure if she did recognize me. She did call me sister, and her hearing’s in a completely different level, Nei may’ve been able to tell it from my voice alone. But then she was never one to play around, why didn’t she just call me out for who I was? If she’s fine with my maid persona, should I still show what’s underneath? And if big sister didn’t recognize me, will she really accept me if I reveal myself? The memories I have of her… Nei already fought to the death with another of her sisters. ”
: “But enough about me, let’s talk about you now. Not everyday we get a chance to hear Hugo Lotushand reveal his own secrets.”