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The Edge of the World [IC]


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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

5:56 PM


The ship hung up in low Earth orbit, suspended in the ionosphere. Solar winds soared high above, with the stray "gust" blowing into the strata around them. At times like this, Cavalier was very glad he had the suit. 


Close to an hour ago, he'd been getting off of work. He and the rest of the team had been making heady progress of the engine project - it wasn't going to be a stardrive or anything, but it would certainly produce standard output without burning quite as much fuel. That was when the message had come in from Mentor, and he'd had to break off from the rest of the group. Apparently a Lor ship had been found floating dead, lurking over the planet. 


"Any distress calls?" he said as he ducked off into a back alley, calling the armor up once he was sure he was out of sight. 


"None. Your planet's military intelligence has been trying to hail it for some time, but there's been no response. Nor can I find any record of such a trip in the public manifests of the Republic. In addition, the ship appears to be on a decaying orbit, and --"


"Yeah, I've got an idea what that means." After all, his return to Earth had been on a crippled ship in a decaying orbit. He hadn't been the one to decay it, but he was still the one who had to struggle to keep it from plowing into anywhere inhabited. "Make contact, establish if crew needs help, then get the ship out of there before bad things happen. Got it. Should be simple." 


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No sooner had Yves started preparations for dinner had the call come in.  She knew the job left no rest for the weary.  But their impeccable timing  in trying to make her come across as the most irresponsible mom in her neighborhood was amazing.  Slipping into the attic when no one was paying attention and donning the Argonaut suit.  Also known as the MEGA-MAX armor for those brass that wanted to pretty up using Terminus technology with their own for the sake of natural security.


Perhaps that was why the call came in.  A Lor ship hanging in the orbit was cause for concern.  Especially for interstellar diplomatic relations.  But any knowledge gleamed could also be taken as a scientific expedition.  Helping them, by helping oneself, that was Politics 101.  A career path that had long passed Yves by.  She had learned long ago the Lor in this world weren't anything like hers.  The government and even technology were comparable, which was doubtless more familiar than something as archaic as a car, but the rebublic far and large was not comparable.  Leaving her just as curious.


"Argonaut reporting in.  I'll have a sitrep shortly.  If the crew are in need of assistance, I will provide what I can on behalf of AEGIS"  Her voice carried through the radio calmly.  The ionosphere would likely be out of the range of any radio contact.  So Yves wasn't likely to be reporting in any time soon.  But it kept her ducks in a row to act as if she would be.

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The ship was within spitting distance when Cavalier got the sense that he was far from alone. He turned to see someone else soaring up to meet him. The armor seemed to ring a bell somewhere deep inside his head, but he didn't quite recognize the paint job. Maybe it'd come to him in time... 


In any case, the approaching individual didn't seem to have weapons deployed - or at least, they weren't actively firing on him. That was the best indicator at this range. As such, he settled for trying to open up his communicator and sending word along once she got within range. 


"Ho, there!" he said. "Guessing you're a friendly, and until you do something to send that notion down in flames, we're gonna keep operating under that assumption. Name's Cavalier, of the Star Knights." 


He turned towards the ship. "I'm also assuming you're not up here for sightseeing, and you know as much as I do about this thing. And since I don't really know crap, I might venture you know a little bit more. So. You wanna crack open this tin can together?"

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"Argonaut.  Of AEGIS."  She pointed to the logo emblazoned upon the chest of her armor.  Yves took the fact that he didn't try to blast her out of the sky as a positive.  Giving credence that he was in fact part of the interstellar police force known as the Star Knights.  Not that she knew much of the Star Knights to begin with, an outdated government database was woefully inefficient for keeping up with cosmic affairs.  


Still she knew to be cautious around the man.  If her armor was pierced, in the ionosphere of all places she'd be in a bad way.  Something that Yves would rather avoid at all costs.


Argonaut then followed Cavalier's example as he turned to face the ship.  "Better two heads than one.  Especially if the crew, or whatever we find inside, aren't friendly."

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"Don't think they're here to declare war on us," said Cavalier, "Otherwise, we might have heard by now. Either that, or there'd be more ships." 


Mind you, I've never really done well with ships around Earth, have I? Or with Lor ships. So, yeah. There's probably a good chance of risk... 


The two closed with the ship, keeping their eyes and ears open for signs of recognition. But there was nothing - no movement, no lights, no signals. There wasn't even the buzz of radio static, or the tone of an open connection. Silence all the same. 


"Never a fan of silent ships," he said as he tried to crack open the airlock. "Have you done rescue ops like this before?" 

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"Like this?  No, I cannot say that I have.  Haven't had contact with the Lor in years personally.  Here's hoping it doesn't turn into a salvage operation as well.  A ship on a collision course for the planet.  There's only so many new experiences to fill in on one day.  Let's not check off national disaster to the list too."  Rescuing and assisting the crew as best she could sounded feasible.  If there was anyone to rescue and assist.


The prospect of being on board a Lor ship again was an odd one.  A rush of anxiousness and excitement bubbling in the pit of her stomach.  She knew it wasn't likely to be anything like being board one of the vessels she knew.  Well perhaps some passing familiarity.  Difficult to pinpoint.  She wasn't afraid of the silence.  It was like watching a horror movie.  Nothing was as scary as the Terminus by comparison.  Softening the spooky unknown by proxy.  


Not that visiting the Terminus would jump to the top of any sane psychologist treatment list.

Edited by HG Morrison
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"Yeah, not really a fan of the salvage idea," said Cavalier. Especially since that meant thinking about what might have happened that would've had the crew bail out and point the ship straight at Earth. "But whatever the hell's going on, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to take care of it."


Besides. There's only so many times I can take care of a plummeting ship in one year. Right? 


The airlock gave, eventually. After taking care to seal up the door once Argonaut was inside, they were able to proceed to the interior of the ship. It was of Lor design, as Kyle remembered it - and, to a certain extent, how Yves remembered it. Austere and pristine, with design that was somewhere between a highly-detailed fresco and an Apple Store. The designs on the walls served as an indicator of rank, just as the colors on any Earth general's suit jacket might. This one looked to be one of the lesser ships, but still with some degree of firepower - perhaps a destroyer. 


"Think we're dealing with military here," he said. "Which is gonna raise some interesting questions..."

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Yves ran her armored fingers over the wall.  A smile forming on her face from behind the grim visage of her helmet.  "Military.  Perhaps.  But it doesn't seem likely that a military expedition would send a single ship into foreign space for warfaring purposes.  It could be a military exploration vessel.  But then they're well within what I assume is known space for the Lor."  But if they weren't there to explore or invade, then the possible military ship might not have intended to be there at all.  Until they ran into whatever problems stranded the ship there.  And judging by the markings indicating how much firepower they were packing those had to be some grand problems.


Looking around Argonaut visually scanned the corridor for a working map or intercom system.  Something that indicated that indicated to how the lacking signs of life operated on the vessel.  "I could try and broadcast a radio message into the ship and see if someone picks up.  Assuming they don't answer with blaster fire after assuming the worst of us.  If someone answers at all."

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"Works for me," said Cavalier. "Here, I'll feed you into my database. We might be dealing with a language barrier here..."


Cavalier threw open his signal band, and began the preparations to loop Argonaut's system into his - with her permission, of course. But he paused as he heard a telltale hum - there was already an open connection. Somebody was listening in. 


"Sounds like we've got company," he said. "Get ready to --"


That was when the third band flew open. There was nothing intelligible at first - just the harsh discord of static. But then the first distinguishable noises started punching through, wrestling out of the chaos. They sounded like harsh jumps, spikes in the frequency - and suddenly, they became clear. 


There was screaming. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of people, on the receiving end of things Cavalier didn't want to ponder. It was clear, pitched, and horrible. And, five seconds later, the band shut off entirely.


"...that is... not reassuring." He shook his wrist, and the armor slid back, coalescing into a blaster that slipped easily into his hand. "Whatever the hell it is, we've got cause to shut it down." 

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Argonaut had just about opened her mouth to explain that she didn't need assistance when it came to language barriers.  Deterred when Cavalier paused all of a sudden.  And she was soon clued into why.  It was like listening to a bad foreign horror movie.  The wails and screams left much to the imagination.  None of it pleasant.  "Not reassuring does not even begin to describe that.  Whatever that was"

Argonaut's eyes jet all around the corridor.  "If the layout is similar to Lor ships I've been on before..."  Yves was referring to the ships back to the home she lost as far as the comparison was concerned.  "I may be able to try and lead us to the cockpit, in case the invitation was transmitted from there.  Or possibly whatever amounts to a cargo hold on this craft.  From federal agent to stewardess then."

Edited by HG Morrison
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"Hey, that's better than me," Cavalier said. "I think I'd qualify for baggage crew, if anything." It was a lame joke, but it was the best he could muster under the circumstances. This was not a place to lose one's nerve - if that was the opening salvo, he didn't want to think of what was waiting in the wings. 


There was one thing both parties noticed as they made their way to the cockpit - none of the doors were opened, nor did they show any clear means of opening. Cavalier may not have been familiar with military vessels, but he still knew there was usually some room left open on a ship - barracks, mess hall, lavatory... He leaned in to one door, as if to see if there might be some sort of sensor response. Nothing. "Looks like things are on lock down. We may need a crowbar when we get to the bridge."


The bridge, however, lay wide open, a clear arc leading into the room. But it was hard to tell where they were at first - the only thing it seemed to have in common with a typical bridge was the wide window out into space. There were no seats, no computers, no consoles, no obvious means of operation. There were, however, little wells, set into the floor by a few inches. And dangling over them, from the ceiling, were long strings of metal, folding links suspended from strange devices like steel jellyfish. 


"This... really doesn't look standard issue." 

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Windows were a funny thing.  They served a real purpose, but there was a very minor need for them in space-faring vessels by advanced races.  The instruments on board often covered And yet practically every ship she had ever seen had them.  Regardless of the species origin.  Some races had the same romantic notions about space faring as Earthlings.  Some just liked looking at the ocean of stars.  And some just wanted a last resort view in case things went completely wrong even if there were other methods.  Still it was a common unifying element.  It was sweet in a way.  But above all else.  It was a much easier thing to focus on than the steel jellyfish-like thing.
That on the other hand was not common.  For any vessel she had ever seen.  "Standard...no."  The lack of visible instruments in piloting the ship made her curious as her eyes followed the metalic folding links around the room.  "How did this thing get around.  Even if they had a neural probe system there would still be controls.  Right?" The question was rhetorical even if there was an answer to it, she had to be aware enough to listen to it.  The vast emptiness they had passed along the way made that far too difficult.


"Speaking of that.  Where are they?"

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"I don't know," said Cavalier. "Psychic navigation isn't exactly my wheelhouse." He poked at one of the dangling sensors, content that his armor was quite thick. Even for equipment that was supposed to support a direct connection to the nervous system, those phalanges looked quite sharp. There were contact sensors, and then there were acupuncture needles. "Maybe the captain just guided it with their head. They'd have someone for navigation, someone for weapons... all forming a complete circuit..." 


He ran his fingers over the thin needle. "But, yeah. They'd still need some sort of interface, and probably a set of manual controls for if the psychic connection went down. There's got to be some sort of manual connection somewhere. I mean, unless..." 


The screams echoed in his head, distant and faint. 


"...unless it wasn't supposed to be controlled if the psychic link was out of commission." 

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Argonaut let that last statement sit for a moment.  The possibility was just so out there.  It didn't sound like any sort of proper security feature she had ever considered.  If it was in fact only piloted by some sort of psychic navigator and they somehow lost access to the controls.  Then they effectively abandoned the crew if no one else could run it.  Using and abandoning one's fellow Lor wasn't a concept that sat comfortably with her.  In her mind there had to be a backup control system, she just couldn't believe any Lor SOP was to actually leave a crew to rot with no chance of escape.


It wasn't as if there were enough mentats running around to fill multiple crew slots from her understanding.   Admittedly Yves did not have any sort of demographics to be sure.  And it was just one working theory.  It might not have even been a proper neural probe system.  The one in her suit worked off Terminus technology but AEGIS science made for cyberpunk spiderweb like interface inside the helmet that did not have to pierce her flesh to connect to her brain waves.  Whereas the jellyfish like thing in front of her looked like something one would find in an 80's sci-fi flick with all sorts of invasive painfulness.  


If it really didn't have alternate means for controlling it.  Perhaps the design philosophy never intended for even that system to be used.  "It strikes me.  Are we looking for a crew...or prisoners?"

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Cavalier didn't like the prospect of that. There were places in the Cloud that had such things - "bastard ships," they were called. Insubordinate soldiers, radicals, and the occasional complete asshole who liked the taste of blood, all turned loose with (often minimal) state supervision and sent to bring glory to their representative government or organization through underhanded deeds. The intersection of privateering and black ops work. But the Lor Republic wasn't the kind of place to do such a thing... was it?


Something tells me their black ops would be a lot more charming and regal. And without the psychic dentist equipment. 


"That makes more sense than I'd want it to. So... assuming our skeleton crew abandoned their posts, where would they go next?"

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"Seeing as a distress call was placed.  I would assume their intentions would decide that.  In the case of it being a trap.  This would be the ideal location...to ambush."  Argonaut's armored hand stretched around the room.  Pointing out the relatively vast emptiness yet again.  "Limited area to exit.  Absolutely no cover.  It's the perfect place to trap your target inside."
"If it is a legitimate one.  Then either a med bay or cargo hold would be my assumption.  The former to treat the injured.  The latter for a large space to hide from the unknown.  Keep in mind this is all an educated guess.  I can't even begin to imagine your Lor's standard operating procedures. I expected to be greeted by a welcoming committee. Not this"

'This' was the only term she had for the situation.  Even skipping over the faux pas of saying 'your' Lor, the mystery was throwing her for a complete loop.  She had twenty years to adjust to the cultural differences between not only her time in Lor-Zul but that of her time in the Terminus with that of Earth.  And she had done a bang up job by her estimation really.  But, the cultural differences between her Lor and this one.  That was murky waters, and it was stressful.

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"Don't necessarily think they're 'my' Lor," said Cavalier. "They'd probably have words about that. But, yeah. I'd say we start with the medbay first."

Despite the somewhat uniform structure of the rest of the ship, the medbay was fairly easy to find. The color palette on the door was familiar to Argonaut, and Cavalier had seen the same blending of colors in his time in the Cloud - a familiar pattern that indicated both wounds and healing, the same way a Red Cross evoked blood and charity. Of course, like nearly everything else on the ship, it was locked down.

"Yeah, I've had enough of this." Cavalier shook his hand, and the blaster that had slid into his palm now began to grow narrower, almost resembling a shock tonfa. Before he did anything else, he ran his hand over the door, and nodded. "This is gonna be a bit more crude than a lockpick, but..."

He swung the wand at the door, being very careful to focus on the particular locking mechanism and not... everything else. With a dying hum, the magnetic locks on the door powered down, and with a little effort, the door receded into the ceiling.

What lay on the other side was strange, even by his standards. It resembled a medical bay in that there were things that people could lie down and instruments that could, theoretically, be used for healing. That was where it stopped. Hanging from the ceiling were a number of hydraulic arms that looked like they came from a car assembly line. At their ends were syringes, scalpels, bonesaws, electric paddles, and things he couldn't even name. The beds were more like altars, set into the floor of the medbay, with cuffs to hold the wrists, ankles, and neck. And resting on the ground was a broken robot, its arms torn off and its head caved in.

"Medbay's a bust," he said, "and I think they took out the autodoc. This is the last place I'd go for healing, though..."

Cavalier didn't recognize the robot lying on the ground - but Argonaut did. She'd seen them running through the darkness, and even without the crude mockery of a contented face, it was obvious what it was. This was one of Physician Friendly's old drones.

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Horror movies gave insight to what most Earthlings considered frightful.  They could vary from gore fests to psychological thrillers.  But to Yves objectively they had one thing in common they were all wrong about what was really scary.  Real horror was staring her right in the face.  Anything that had the touch of Physician Friendly now that was the stuff of nightmares.  A gasp escaped her lips as she took a step back reeling at the sight momentarily.


"No...just no.."  Argonaut wasted little time in extending her retractable Blast blade.  Now on guard.  Friendly.  "This isn't a place for healing.  I fear this is where they were reconditioned.  I regret to inform you we may not be dealing with anything as simple as prisoners or an injured Lor.  No this ship, it stopped being Lor.  It has been claimed by the Terminus"  She wasn't sure where the ship came from but very much doubted it had approached from the fringes of space.  And that was just terrifying to think of.


The question of who they were on board with still lingered in the air.  But now it was being weighed heavily against how much 'care' they had received.  Even Steelgrave didn't bring out that same primal question of fear.  And the lucidity of how dangerous it was to be caught up in such fear was the only thing stopping her from having an anxiety attack on the spot.  As soon as she finished reminding herself the likelihood of finding the man who brought about such uneasiness was zilch.


She couldn't avoid the fact that a new question had been posed.  Just 'whose' Lor did this ship originate from?  The Lor had been conquered time and time again in many different realities.  And while Physician Friendly was always 'accommodating', Yves doubted the man was going to go out of his way to an unconquered land to play around.

Edited by HG Morrison
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The Terminus. Growing up in Freedom, you had the thugs you knew to avoid, the boogeymen you hoped weren't under the bed... and the sheer existential threats, the things that you couldn't so much protect against as pray would never befall you. Kyle had barely remembered the Invasion, but he knew enough from his parents' accounts, the TV specials, the lectures in class. And he knew that this was the last place in the galaxy he ever wanted to be.

But, he was here. It was something that had to be dealt with, before it unfurled into something worse. He kept his grip on his blaster, which unconsciously shifted back to a weapons array. "Terminus," he said. "I didn't know they had... designs on the Lor. Rescue's still a priority --"

Though at this point, it may have to be a mercy killing.

"--but first and foremost, we need to neutralize this vessel. First thing we do is --"

A strange groan rang through the ship. At first, Cavalier mistook it for metal fatigue, and wondered if the ship was starting to collapse under some outside pressure. But no - metal fatigue wasn't this baritone. Before he could place it, he registered a twitch. Before he could react, the drone rose up from the ground, its tendrils twitching and its blank head rotating.

"Let's see what's wrong with you!" it said, in a voice like a kindergarten teacher on a three-day meth binge. There was a hint of green light, and then a friendly ding. "Oh, you're improper material! That just won't do!" The tendrils snapped open, revealing a wide array of sterilized, horrible surgical equipment. "But we'll find a very good use for you!"

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One of the tendrils opened to reveal a strange metallic proboscis. The familiar electronic hum told Cavalier it was likely a laser of some kind. "Patients are supposed to disrobe before they enter," said the machine, as if it was a preschool teacher reminding a child to wipe their feet. "Let's get you out of those suits so we can see everything!"

"Great," said Cavalier. The blaster in his hand slid back into the shock tonfa configuration. "I can just feel the childhood traumas piling up. Why don't we --" Midspeech, without even breaking posture, Cavalier swung forward, the tonfa aimed right for the robot's midsection. But the drone managed to dance - with unnatural grace - out of the way of the attack, avoiding the blow.

"Naughty, naughty. Don't worry - we'll have you relaxed juuuuust fine."

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"I'm sorry I don't think my government approved healthcare covers robotic disfigurement."  Raising the arm housing her blast blade, Argonaut squared her body and assumed a firing position.  From beneath the shield the blade would protrude the tip giving off an effulgent green glow.  Lining up her shot dead center Argonaut would fire off an entropic blast at the drone's midsection. 


The shot managed to nick the drone, barely hitting the edge of its metallic frame.  Doing absolutely nothing to slow its momentum as the machine did not even acknowledge the assault.  Yves had a policy against killing to an almost pathological degree.  However, the machine wasn't alive.  There was urgency in fighting that little voice whispering in the back of her head reinforcing the mixed murder arts.  Because it was just a bunch of wires in a tin can.


A terrifying thought.  But not enough to held her back from widening her stance.  Argonaut prepared to close the distance and make another pass at the machine lacking in bedside manner.

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The drone looked down at its scuffed outer casing, then raised its tendrils high. "I'm sorry that you're hurting," she said, "but it only hurts worse if you won't let me treat it! Now, let's get you nice and peaceful..."

"Y'know, that sounds like the last place I want to - YEAAAAGH!" The spike on one of the drone's tendrils proved sharper than Cavalier had been expected - it went right through his casing, plunging deep into his skin. He managed to shake it off before it could deliver most of his payload, but he could still feel the narcotics seeping into his system. He tried to keep a level head as he charged forward, aiming once more to incapacitate the drone - but his blow once again went wild, as the alien drugs started screwing with his system.

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"Are you alright?" It seemed silly to ask after hearing such a pained scream.  There was just no appropriate alternative having seen the tendrils strike Cavalier.  Prompting Argonaut into action hoping to strike before the drone went in for the repeat performance.  The thrusters on Argonaut's boosts were earning their keep as the wingless Omegadrone dove in.  Moving in a zig zag pattern she actively performed evasive maneuvers.  Encircling the floating creepily enthusiastic sounding machine.  Waiting for the slightest sign that she had overtaken an exposed blind spot with her mobility.  


A task that would have been far better endeavored to be performed against a living being.  But Argonaut assumed she could take advantage of the drone's rotation not being quick enough.  Pushing forward she attempted to lunge blade first into the drone.  Instead it moved out of the way and Argonaut found herself stabbing into a bedpan completely missing her target.

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Cavalier struggled to remain on his feet as the effects began to take hold. "I'll let you know when I can stop tasting purple," he said.

"Now, then." The drone turned its faceless head towards Cavalier so that he could receive the full barrage of its saccharine facsimile of care; Argonaut, meanwhile, had to deal with its tendrils, which flashed out with blinding speed. Then again, splitting its attention between patients meant it didn't have the greatest capabilities when it came to landing a blow. "If we can get you off your feet, you'll feel muuuuuch better in time."

"Yeah. Don't think I want to see how long that takes." He placed his hand on the drone's articulated shoulder, as if trying to support himself. It brought a tendril around, as if trying to lead him to bed - and that's when he moved, driving the tonfa into the thing's midsection. It delivered a concentrated, directed pulse that, with proper application, could bring down a spaceship.

But the drone remained standing nonetheless.

"Oh, you're kidding me."

The drone leaned in. "Physician Friendly made us to uphold standards of care under all conditions," it said, "even the fluctuations of the Terminus. We are the most determined doctors around!"

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Yves smiled at the tasting purple crack.  Not that her expression was visible from behind her mask.  But her understanding was if the man could still manage to crack a joke or two Cavalier likely still had enough fight in him for them to rally.  Circling around she barely managed to avoid being struck by the parade of tendrils that was the area around her.  Keeping a keen eye as Cavalier attacked to no avail.


She didn't show an ounce of concern when the tonfa failed to break through the machine's midsection.  Instead taking the opportunity to line up her shot.  Firing once Cavalier's arm was fully retracted and hitting a picture perfect entropic blast with her blast blade in the exact same spot her ally had struck.  The midsection began to crack and give way.  But even as sparks burst forth from the drone it was clear that it was still somewhat operational.


"If you would do the honors."

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