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    Arrowheads

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    Bad John
    Freelancer Operative

    Posts : 1217
    Join date : 2013-01-17
    Location : A box in the United States.

    Arrowheads

    Post  Bad John on November 4th 2017, 7:04 pm

    This'll be a self contained story regarding a mission gone wrong, and Unit 21's struggle to defeat an unprecedented enemy.

    It starts with a rite of passage. Enjoy!




    "Sir, you're grinding your teeth again." Etechnia's floating reminded jarred Alalonn out of his habit. He was still fuming after being given his orders, but he snapped out of his angry funk at his younger squad mate's prompting. With his two fellow First-Classers at his sides, he marched through the hallway, his right hand pushing a dolly cart of heavy metal boxes. "Are you angry?"

    "No." He put the word forward firmly. He could feel a hard look from Sophron behind him; his brother always noticed when he lied. "My apologies. That was shorthand for hell yes, but there's nothing we can do about it." Etechnia reeled back a step, lagging behind him. "Listen, kid; the rear-echelon guys will always jerk your chain the moment you find something to do. I'm not upset we're putting in some work, I'm just pissed that they're pawning off unnecessary formalities on us when plenty of larger units are available."

    Etechnia said nothing for a moment, before speaking up. "While the mission parameters seem inappropriate, I'm excited. Today is still a special day, even if we had to rush it." Taking off her helmet and tucking it under her arm, she smiled up at her superior. "I know how hard you worked on these, and I know you'll be thrilled. They've all been working hard; Hybria has five special weapons certifications. Apatet's summoning abilities have taken a quantum leap."

    "You're both right." Sophron finally offered. Even as he walked, he was skimming a book; he was halfway through Immortal Beloved, an ancient text he'd spent months hunting for. "Our Seconds will be thrilled, brother. Be happy for them. However, the SOLDIER Public Relations Department is overstepping by pulling us in for a photo-op when they could be training with their new gear. Alalonn, do you agree?"

    "Yeah. Don't worry, I'll cheer up when I see the looks on their faces." Alalonn beamed.

    "Etechnia. Do you agree?" Sophron always ended a conflict in this way; by driving home an agreeable compromise, without leaving things to chance. He'd learned that after years of breaking up fights between his rowdy juniors.

    "I think the SPRD is really damn annoying." The way she cursed was a bit tentative and stilted; Alalonn used to scold her for being foul mouthed. However, the huge blue-eyed man nodded with approval. "But we all know Gaeira and Hybria. They'll like the chance to be photographed with their new toys."

    "Good enough." Sophron returned to his book as they reached the doors to Unit 21's common room. Etechnia pulled out her key-card, holding it up to the panel. The door slid open.

    Fortunately, the group were all sitting still. Sophron averaged the odds of them falling to infighting after twenty minutes alone was close to 60%.

    "Commander on deck!" Hybria shouted to her teammates, and the seven young SOLDIERs jumped up from their seats. The seven of them lined up in front of the briefing table, chairs pushed in and heels together.

    "SIR!" Speaking in unison, the seven saluted. Their superiors saluted back, and the Second-Classers fell into a formal parade-rest position, hands neatly tucked behind their backs.

    The sight always warmed Etechnia's heart. She'd known them since they were kids; now close to twenty, they'd become a force to be reckoned with. To her, they were Second-Classers in name only; she considered them her peers.

    Now, they were about to live out her fondest memory; they were getting their personal weaponry. Weapons that would hopefully serve them long and well. Weapons that Alalonn (and in Apatet's case, Sophron) poured months of work into. When the iron had cooled and they were deemed complete save for some fine-tuning, every day Etechnia polished and stress-tested them.

    Alalonn spoke. "At ease. But not too at ease. Before the briefing, I've got something for ya." Standing tall over his students, he grinned knowingly. "Most SOLDIERs consider this the end of their journey; the day they fall into their niche. However, those SOLDIERs are doomed to never grow. I want you all to keep training and learning every day you can; don't let this be the end of you."

    The Second-Classers looked at each-other, confused. Alalonn reached down and hauled up the first box. He walked through the crowd of Second-Classers, shoving Gaeira and Annie out of the way. "Hybria. Get over here." Hybria approached, standing just behind Alalonn's shoulder. "Open it up."

    The box was wide and long. Hybria pondered what was inside, popping her knuckles. Nearby, Lioke offered a quick theory. "Maybe it's money."

    Gaeira latched onto that theory with vigor. "That'd be fun. Why's Hybria get the biggest box?"

    "Shuddup. I'm opening it." Hybria snapped her fingers at her friends, then unlatched the clasps and opened the box. Her eyes widened, welling up somewhat. Behind her, Alken whistled, impressed.

    It was a war-axe. With shaft almost as long as Hybria was tall, the weapon had a long, curved blade. "Pick it up," Alalonn folded his arms. The young woman's face was exactly what he hoped for; it was almost like childlike wonder. She grasped it and picked it up, gripping the leather handles. Loosening her grip, she let the weapon roll in her hand. The blade stopped with a low, vibrating tone.

    "...That sound." Hybria murmured. "Is this...pure mythril?" She placed the pommel against the floor, gently flicking the blade.

    "Only the best for our northern powerhouse." Etechnia chimed in, giddy. "Do you like it?"

    Hybria opened her mouth, but nothing came but a muted stutter. It was the first time that her voice had ever failed her. She went to a chair, sitting down with the axe. She had the face of a new father holding his child for the first time. Her slack-jawed mouth was pulled up into a grin.

    "It definitely suits you." Annie inspected the weapon, looking up when Alalonn pointed to her. "Me too?"

    "'Me too?'" Alalonn seemed almost offended. "All of you! Did you think I was playing favorites? You're next up, so come to the table." Annie walked forward as Etechnia placed a smaller sized weapon-crate on the table. Annie opened it, finding a pair of long, curved knives inside. "You've always favored stealth. These are the last word in covert close-quarters combat." Annie grasped them, raising the twin daggers and gently rotating them between her fingers. "Your first weapons-specialization was in knives, and you nearly took my neck in a training exercise with one. The way you move, and how well you conceal yourself...knives seemed to be the only choice for you."

    "You know me well. I am humbled by this gift, sir." Annie bowed.

    Etechnia fished through the crate, drawing something out of it; a pair of straps with magnetic nodes. "Put these on underneath your pauldrons. They'll act as holsters. We noticed that drawing cross-body or from the belt tends to slow you down a bit; drawing from your upper arms should give your initial swing that much more power."

    "Thank you, Nia." Apatet took them, scurrying to a corner of the room to try them on.

    "Next up is Lioke. Get over here." She darted over without a moment's hesitation, opening the long thin crate that Alalonn set down. Inside, she found exactly what she was hoping for; a katana. She snatched the weapon, taking a stance with it. "It's shorter than your typical Wutai saber, and the metal wasn't easy to track down. Mono-spring steel alloy. It's lighter, and more durable."

    "Hell fucking yes." Lioke sprang forward and hugged Alalonn, her arms barely fitting around his huge shoulders. "You're the best, boss." She jumped over to Etechnia too. Before 'Nia could pull back or escape, Lioke overtook and yanked her into a hug as well. Lioke admired the weapon; from its dark-magenta handle to its silvery-blue hamon, she was pleased with its appearance and weight.

    Alalonn gestured Kydo over. He marched towards the table, saluting. "Whatever you give me, I'd like to thank you in advance, sir." Dropping a box on the table, Alalonn grinned as Kydomis opened it and pulled out something none of them truly expected. It was a shield; a round shield with a razor edge. Kydo reached back inside the box, finding a longsword with a forest green handle.

    "You take hits better than any of your peers. Not even a full-force boot from me could put you down. The sword is high quality, but that shield will see you through anything." Alalonn knocked on it. The metal was deep blue, matching Kydo's uniform, with a silver outer edge.

    "I've always loved the classics, boss. Doesn't get much more classic than a sword 'n' shield." Kydo latched both to the magnetic clip on his back. "You guys, check me out!"

    Hybria was still lost in looking at her newfound axe. Lioke was standing alone, swinging her blade and testing simple maneuvers with it while Annie did the same. Gaeira, Alken, and Apatet eagerly awaited their gifts. "It's like my fuckin' birthday..." A tear fell from Hybria's cheek onto the blade. Alalonn looked away.

    "Goddammit SOLDIER, if you're gonna cry, face the wall. You're gonna make me start." Alalonn prematurely wiped his cheek. "Gaeira! You're up, ya little wiseass." It was a term of endearment for the smartest Second-Classer of Unit 21. Gaeira walked up, the snark having drained from his body. He was filled with pure excitement. "Your sword-handling is bold. Precise. I wanted to make something that capitalized on that, so I came up with this."

    Gaeira opened the crate and fished out a rapier. With a deep purple handle, a thick iron hand-guard and a dense, slender blade, the weapon felt like part of his arm. He switched from a forehand to a backhand grip quickly, snapping the blade around, then holding it forward in a fencing posture. "...Elegant," he murmured.

    "Elegant," Lioke parroted teasingly.

    "What's wrong with being elegant?" Gaeira took a few jabs at the open air. "With this, I could have the eyes out of a Grand Horn's sockets before it could even blink. Not even Titan's skin could stand up to the elegance and piercing power of this bad boy. Alalonn, you've truly outdone yourself!" Gaeira, unable to resist, slapped Alalonn on the back. Alalonn swatted Gaeira, nearly doubling him over.

    "High praise, boy!" Alalonn's laugh was booming. "Alken. You're last." Apatet seemed to freckle a bit at that, but Sophron gave her a wink, and she calmed down. "Don't worry, Apatet. I didn't forget you; Sophron just demanded that he make yours. You wizards stick together, after all." Apatet smiled, staring at her teacher as he walked across the room with a wooden crate. Sophron set down the rose-wood box, gently unlatching it and opening it before Alalonn could retrieve Alken's metallic crate. Inside was a weapon that Apatet didn't recognize at first. When she realized what it was, she snatched it up.

    "It's a vajra." Sophron explained. A handle with a triangular bayonet on both sides, it had a small gap in the center for Materia. "I used a metal of my own invention; a rose-mythril composite that conducts magic easily. Casting by hand is one thing, but a true wizard should always carry a wand. Of course it will be effective in melee combat, but I advise you carry a sword as well as a side-arm."

    "Thank you, teacher." Apatet bowed reverently. Sophron didn't smile; stoic as ever, he radiated pride in his student.

    Alalonn placed the last crate on the table as Alken stood in front of him. "Open it up, boy." Alken did as his commanding officer bid, and found two short swords in the box. One was single-sided; he grasped that one first, then took the other in his left hand. The first was quickly his favorite.

    "They say a brave arm makes a short sword long. You have the bravest arm I've come across, boy." Alalonn patted Alken's shoulder pauldron as he tested the blades in his hands. The one in his left was double-edged. "I advise you use them one at a time. Keep your free hand open for punching. The second will be the squad's back up weapon. You've always been a generous sort of kid; if any of them loses their blade or gets caught with their pants down, they can rely on you to arm them."

    Alken latched the single-edged blade to his back. It reminded him of Etechnia's buster-sword; he idolized her, and resolved to use that one as his main cutting weapon. "Thank you, sir."

    Before he could react, the second blade was gone from his hand. Lioke had darted by and snatched it. "So, this one's all of ours to share, huh?" Lioke grinned. "Maybe I should hang onto it."

    "What?" Alken furrowed his brow. "No, it's mine. I decide who gets it. Give it back." Alken made a grab for it, but Lioke slipped out of the way, holding it out of reach. "Give it!" Alken grabbed at it again, but Lioke's hand moved quicker, pulling it safely out of his reach. "Sir! Lioke took my sword!"

    "It's half mine now." Lioke tested the quality of the weapon as Kydo and Gaeira chortled. "You got two swords. Now you have one and a half. That seems fair to me."

    "Sir! She took my property! That's against some sorta rule isn't it?" Alken looked to Alalonn and Etechnia for help. Sophron buried his nose in his book; he wanted no part of it.

    "Lioke's stolen close to forty-thousand gil from be over the years, dude." Gaeira moved towards the table to sit down, giving Alken a soft elbow on the shoulder. "I didn't hear you coming to my rescue then."

    "Sir," Etechnia tapped Alalonn's shoulder. "Should we do something?"

    "...Nah." Alalonn merely grinned, deciding not to intervene. "Gather up. It's time for the briefing. We have a formal mission, and we're leaving tomorrow at zero-eight-hundred hours." Alken rolled his eyes as Lioke shot her tongue out at him, the ten SOLDIERs of Unit 21 sitting down for the briefing with their new armaments.
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    Bad John
    Freelancer Operative

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    The Talk

    Post  Bad John on November 6th 2017, 2:22 pm

    A short intermission chapter before we get to the meat of the plot. Tried to make it a little funny.




    Etechnia bristled with anticipation. Her commanding officer wasn't particularly pleased, but she'd always rather liked the more glamorous aspects of SOLDIER. Alalonn preferred the din of battle, and the satisfaction of inspiring fellow warriors; she always admired that about him.

    But their mission had nothing to do with battle. The three main arms of Shinra were meeting today for a media event. The Roboguard's new line of combatant droids, the troopers of Shinra's paramilitary force, and SOLDIER, were going to lead a parade and photo-op. While it wasn't as thrilling as going to war or exterminating monsters, it served a purpose. It was a display of strength.

    Winning fights wasn't everything; resonating with the common person was just as important as physical bravery.

    Plus, Nemsis was coming along. She'd always been curious about Etechnia's work; this seemed like a good, no risk opportunity.

    Putting on airs for her guest, Etechnia was in the rear car of the train. She'd polished her armor, vest and boots rigorously to bring out their shine. Now she was working on a head-to-toe cleaning of her beloved sword. She grinned at her reflection in the metal, giving it a winning thumbs-up before raising the huge weapon and latching it to her back.

    The eager First-Classer always felt there was something there, despite Nemsis' insistence on remaining at a distance. Glances from afar. Unrequested hugs. Invitations to her home, and requests to visit hers. At certain times, the civilian grasped her hand when afraid or talking seriously. All of her squadmates attested to the fact that Nemsis was closer to her than any of them, and opened up in a way they'd never seen.

    Now, Etechnia aimed to go in for the kill. Armor shining, crowds cheering her arrival. She'd show Nemsis her absolute best.

    "It's odd," a voice made her jump and turn. Sophron was pushing the door open, stepping into the car. "You may not be Alalonn's daughter, but you act like him when he was younger." Sophron sat down as Etechnia waited patiently for him to continue. "Not just in the ways you'd see normally; the superficial, bombastic ways. You do little things he used to do when he was your age."

    "Is that so?" Etechnia folded her arms. "How?"

    Sophron sighed, shutting his book and placing it on his knee. "Polishing your armor before meeting a pretty girl, for starters. That gross habit of licking your thumb and smoothing down your eyebrows when you think nobody's watching. Practicing, and I know you do this, one-liners for when you corner an enemy."

    Etechnia nodded, mulling it over. "Is that a compliment?"

    "Exhausting as you both can be...yes, it is a compliment." Sophron stared out the window. He rarely made eye-contact while speaking. That extra connection might muddle his thought process or shift his judgement. "Now, you're not going to make any progress with that girl by preening back here. Go join your friends so I can read in peace."

    "Thanks, Uncle Soph." Etechnia approached for a hug. Sophron stuck his boot out, pressing it against her gut-guard and keeping her back. She stepped back, a bit dejected, but glad he'd paid her a compliment regardless.

    "One more thing." Sophron turned a page, staring down at his book, eyes smoothly scanning text. "Your father is afraid to have this talk with you, but I'm not. You may not be interested in intimacies with the opposite sex, but you should still use protection. You can buy dental dams at drug-stores in any of the Sectors. Check with Nemsis beforehand to see if she has any latex allergies. Silicone is also viable." Etechnia nodded politely, then hustled out of the room as fast as her feet could carry her, terrified of continuing the discussion. Sophron sighed with satisfaction. "Peace and quiet."
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    Bad John
    Freelancer Operative

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    Re: Arrowheads

    Post  Bad John on November 9th 2017, 11:30 pm

    Sophron's peace and quiet was fleeting. His hopes of skipping the parade entirely were dashed by a private communication from the Public Safety department head; he, Alalonn, and Etechnia were to lead the festivities personally, at the head of the SOLDIER column.

    There had been no communications afterwards. In the shuffle of sight-seeing and remaining entertained, none of the SOLDIERs had seen fit to radio ahead; their arrival time was set in stone.

    Units 5 and 14 were in attendance as well; two of the largest units, they were staffed mostly by Third Classers and led by a single First each. With Unit 21's meager ten and their combined forty-eight, there would be a rather large column of SOLDIERs leading a march all the way to the newly built Sister Ray.

    If the parade were to occur, of course.

    As the train stopped, Alalonn prepared to lead his team off. Nemsis sat down as her superhuman acquaintances stood, coming to attention. "Alright, boys and girls." Alalonn barked to his juniors as they stood formally, saluting him. "Best behavior. There are likely to be cameras the moment we disemba-" Alalonn heard a dull thump from afar. The moment the train stopped, the sound repeated itself. It was coming from outside.

    His days leading troopers familiarized him with the sound. A popping thud, like a tee-shirt shoved through a tube. The whistle that came after sealed it.

    "Sir?" Alken prompted him to finish, his stance loosening. Etechnia's eyes widened when she saw the alarm in Alalonn's face; the uncertain suspicion as he put pieces together in an instant.

    "Down." Alalonn's initial thought was to cover his squad; none of them realized the approaching danger. Before he made a move to shield himself, he reached out. With a wide swipe of his powerful arm, he ripped all seven Second Classers off their feet and onto the floor. Etechnia, however, he trusted.

    She moved towards Nemsis and snatched her off her seat, yanking her to the floor.

    Sophron hadn't been idle for a moment. Thrusting out his hands, he covered the lot of them in a barrier; flimsy, quick work, but enough to guard them from what came next.

    The train was torn to pieces; fire billowing above their heads. "WHAT THE FUCK-" Lioke's voice was drowned out by explosions and the groaning of metal. Shards of shrapnel pinged off of Sophron's hastily constructed shield. The passengers of the train were soon forced against it as the train pitched onto its side.

    Nemsis was jarred worse than any of them; sitting up, she was deafened by the noise and blinded by the smoke. Sophron dispelled the barrier; the shine would reveal their survival too soon. Before the dazed and baffled flower-girl could wander out of cover, Annie grabbed the back of her shirt and yanked her down. "Stay low."

    Alalonn was pleased to see his students were alert and staying down; they hadn't been fielded on many missions, other than monster-slaying and security. Most of their experience was from simulations. Their experience in open combat against insurgent forces was limited, but they were on the ball regardless.

    "Where'd we get hit from? And what by?" Gaeira crouched beside Apatet, who was yanking her helmet on.

    Kydo thought for a moment. "RPGs. I heard the shots goin' off, but I didn't realize what they were. I thought they were fireworks."

    "Voices down," Etechnia murmured. "Or we'll get hit again before we can counterattack." Nemsis felt a cold chill run up her spine; she was caught in the middle of a battle, and could barely follow what was going on. She grabbed her collapsing staff, but didn't deploy it; she wanted room to maneuver and run.

    "Roger." Alken looked around, counting his teammates and their guest. "...I'm going after the conductor. He might still be alive." Before anyone could tell him otherwise, he moved. Keeping low and quick, he moved to obscure himself. Annie followed him without a word, overtaking and leading the way. They'd both been trained to stay out of sight until on top of the enemy, but Annie was leagues ahead of him in stealth; she stuck to smouldering flames and wreckage, using anything she could to keep them obscured.

    Another round came. The team lowered themselves as more rockets flew towards the remains of the train. "Shit. They're double-tapping us." Lioke's teeth clenched as she watched the trails of more missiles coming. However, her eye traced the origin point; they circled and whizzed along from a nearby building. As her eye caught sight of the squad firing on them, she scanned the street below; dozens of figures wearing matching uniforms.

    Alalonn raised his hand. "Cowardly scunners." He clenched his teeth, hand flexing. With gravity magic alone, he stopped all five rockets in the air. Lioke jumped into his field of view, pointing her finger.

    "Boss! Two o'clock! Rooftop!" The commander grinned, jabbing his clenched hand forward.

    The rockets danced inelegantly in the air, like footballs flung by children. However rough, Alalonn's aim was true; the missiles landed atop the artillerymen who'd fired them, collapsing the roof of the building.

    Small arms fire came next. Bullets pinged off of the wrecked train. The flower-girl's horror turned to calm resolution. She would either live or die; either way, she didn't intend to go out quietly. Expanding her staff, she looked for a way to close the distance. However, a hand grasped her wrist, pulling her towards a mostly intact seat. "Nemsis, stay down. We'll handle this." Etechnia brushed a strand of hair from her guest's face. "Sorry I brought for here for th-" Etechnia was cut off by the noisey clang of a bullet ricocheting off the sword on her back. Moments later, Alalonn gave the order.

    "Enough hiding! UNIT 21! ATTACK!"

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    Re: Arrowheads

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      Current date/time is November 19th 2017, 1:27 am