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Krayzikk

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About Krayzikk

Year 12
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    BZPRPG Staff and OTC RPG Judge
  • Birthday 05/09/1997

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  1. OOC: Yumiwa courtesy of EW IC: “It wasn’t an accident.” I waved my hand slightly, brushing off the first initial protest I’d come to expect. There wasn’t time for it, Rora or not, not even to wait and see if it came. To get through it I can’t wait, or stop for questions, or allow her to interrupt. Time enough for all of that afterwards but right now… The day appeared before my eyes as though real. The way I felt, everything I heard, the way the bright sun illuminated the Yards that had become my personal demesne. No longer the Daikura’s but mine by right of undefeated conquest, earned through every hard day of work. Memory is a malleable thing if you don’t put it to record immediately, events revisited in the mind will be a little different every time. But not this one. This one will be fixed in my brain for all time, no matter what anyone might say. I saw again the dust kicked up from the dry, sun baked earth with every step. Heard again the instructor call for the match to begin. “My opponent was a First Son. Closest to a rival I had, but he hadn’t won a bout with me since the first week of training. Despite his head start I blew right past him. And he’d been so abrasive I relished in it. The Daikura rotated our matchups, putting us up against each of our classmates for their benefit and against instructors for our own. And against each other, sometimes. Almost like an exhibition. To show our classmates what they were striving for.” I felt an urge to get up and pace, to move about somehow. Give my agitation an outlet. The world was ending and I was revisiting old scars, between them I wanted to scream. It would almost have been worth letting her into my head to see for herself, but that was one thing I did not trust anyone to do. It’s the last truly inviolable place I have, and over the past few days I’ve had enough of being whammied by Willhammers. “I don’t know what was getting to him that day, but he was coming at me like he meant it. Everything he could bring to the table and still stay within the rules. I wasn’t worried, but…” I paused and ran my hand over my face, letting out a sigh. “You’ve been trained a little as a Soulsword, your Majesty. Would your teachers ever let you use yours during a bout, let alone against someone of a different discipline?” “No, not for a spar,” I said, although the truth of it was that I wasn’t sure what my tutor had wanted after all. “Neither would mine. I never trained as a Soulsword, I can’t tell you exactly what they’re taught normally. But none of my peers were permitted to use their Soulsword in a spar against another discipline. Maybe at the higher levels, where true masters face one another. But at mine it simply was too great a risk.” I paused, bringing to the surface an even older memory. “They taught us rules at the Yards before anything else. And the first rule was that here there are no enemies. And we do not hone our Power to harm our friends.” “That’s an unshakeable tenet for those that go through the Yards, your Majesty. I’m sure your private masters taught you something similar. Accidents happen, but a match in the Yards is never for real. It’s practice. That’s so ingrained that when it comes time to fight for real it can be hard to let go of. And it was why I never saw it coming when he raked his Soulsword across my face.” I nodded once to show I was still listening. My mind wandered slightly, wondering about the battlemaster I thought I knew who had taught in the very same schools as Masa had apprenticed in, but the thoughts were still nebulous and hadn’t coalesced to ideas. I refocused on Masa’s story. “It started here,” I placed my finger on my right cheek, just below my cheek bone and drew it across my face, crossing my eyes and ending by my left temple. “And went across. If I hadn’t been wearing a Calix I believe it would have been worse. But those reflexes didn’t save my eyes. I can’t tell you what happened after that. I dropped on my back and I screamed, and I blacked out. I don’t remember anything else until I came to in a hospital that night.” “I woke up, and I couldn’t see anything. Only a little gray where there was light and black where there wasn’t. I almost screamed again when the nurse spoke without telling me she was there. She told me the healers at the Yards and there at the hospital did everything they could,” My own tone said more about how much I believed those words than I ever could have. “But that I would probably never see again. And she told me how sorry she was that I had such a terrible accident.” “And that was where I got confused. Because there was no accident, I told her. I was attacked. And she got quiet. And she told me that some people were here to see me. My instructor came in, as did my Toroshu, and they explained…” I took a deep breath. More than the memory of my maiming itself, this is the part that stings. The dagger’s tip that broke off in my back and stayed there, agitating me when the weather is just right. “They explained, your Majesty, that what happened had been a terrible accident. One the First Son felt horrified over, and that his clan had already agreed to pay a weregild for my trouble. I was going back to Oki to recover and they would send me the best healers they could find to see if something could be done. But my Toroshu had heard of me, they said, and she hoped that I could provide that discipline for her groundskeepers during my stay.” I frowned a little, I could feel it. “And the more I tried to tell her it wasn’t an accident, that my instructor could vouch for the rules being broken, the more she reiterated that it was. Until she finally sent the Daikura instructor away and told me privately that she knew that. But prosecuting the First Son of another clan was no small step, especially with so much tension. And it just wouldn’t be possible. She reminded me to take comfort in the Order of the Empire, and in the compensation she would be sure I had.” “I was betrayed three times in a day. First by the peer who was bound to cause me no harm. Then by our teacher who should have expelled the offender. And then by my Toroshu, who should have delivered me justice. I can show you my eyes, your Majesty, if you wish to see. I can answer any questions you have, too. But the purpose of this story is to show you I know what it is to be betrayed. To deserve justice, and desire vengeance.” I met her gaze again, settling once more into a more resolute posture. “And I assure you my Rora. I wanted revenge for the justice I was denied.” “I still do. Not a week goes by I don’t think that I could use the power of my office, of Lord Rayuke’s trust in me, to start an investigation over again. And his honor would force him to see it through. With the world falling apart around us right now I can’t help but think to myself that I will never get a better chance to settle the score.” “I deserved justice, your Majesty, but I do not deserve revenge.” My voice has gone calm, but there’s a hint of warning in it. Even for the Rora. “Nor do you.” I let the story and its attached moral lesson linger in my mind. It would be so easy to fall to the easy lure of vengeance, made even more tantalizing because I possessed the power to do so with ease as well. At my behest, the traitor could be made to suffer to balance the scales of justice and recompense the damages inflicted upon me and my family. The traitor could be executed with the same ease and ruthlessness as when he murdered the unnamed saihoko in the Markets to so much as touched me; then, it had been to teach me a lesson, and this time it would be a lesson given in return. Death and punishment was a tool so quickly resorted to and even Masayoshi, a lifelong dedicated follower of justice, could still feel the temptation eat away at her as well. She was right to educate me against it and righter still to not wish for me to take a darker path. "My thanks to you for the story. You speak truly, Menti Masayoshi," I said slowly, respectfully, and thought on how to answer her unspoken question. Masa was as much a barrister as a detective, and despite being in close proximity to me she had never had the reason or opportunity to take a deposition from me before. Like my uncle, she needed to know what drove someone to do what they did, based on the legalistic philosophy that the answer to many crimes lay in the motives behind their execution. What are you here for? she asked of me—and, even more subtly, What are you made of? Masa, it seemed to me, justly wanted to know the real mettle of her empress. "Would justice give your eyes back to you?" I asked rhetorically. My voice wilted in melancholy. "Of course it wouldn't because justice doesn't change the past or bring back what we have lost, no matter how much we want them to. We have to build our own fortitudes, recoup what we can, and grow stronger in other ways. Enacting vengeance for what we have lost would be like striking the sea for the lack of wind, it's an act of desperation wrought from an inability to effectively cope. That is my understanding of it." I thought of my beloved mom felled by an assassin at my own ball, of my doting dad murdered by pirates on his way back from seeing the people he cared about, and of the whole archipelago being ripped away from all of us by an enemy we had no hope to match, and I felt a tear coalesce under my spectacles and slither down my Miru. If there was ever a way to get them all back I would do it in a heartbeat, but it would never be that way. "Am I correct?" I asked, genuinely this time, sitting there with humility in my heart as a supplicant asking a sage. There were few others who had license to judge my knowledge on the matter, and in that moment... I wanted to know if the path I was going to set myself on was right. “I suppose that’s half true. Justice, real justice, isn’t a solution. It’s a promise.” I tilted my head, and my voice became more gentle. In her own way she’s heard the lesson and the question, and now she needs to know if her solution is the right one. It’s not, not entirely; but her answer doesn’t have to be the same. It never would have been, and her job is different from mine. Her considerations are different. They have to be. “Justice, your Majesty, is a promise to the powerless. That a wrong inflicted will be punished. That the wrong they suffered won’t happen again. No, justice wouldn’t have brought my eyes back. But it would have soothed my heart. It was our Toroshu’s chance to make good on the fealty she owed me as her clansister, just as I owed her as my Toroshu. It was her responsibility to redress the wrong.” “And she declined it. Peace is not always strength. And what is right should never be at the mercy of what is convenient. Justice exists only because we have decided it is so, your Majesty, and it isn’t less important for that fact. It’s more important. Because every time we fail to uphold it we tarnish ourselves and our own sacred honor. An ideal is only worth what you’re willing to pay to uphold it.” My head tilted the other way, and I took a deep breath. “Which is why I can’t believe what I’m about to counsel.” “If you decide the man in the room beyond me should die, I will swing the sword myself. He’s in my custody and Lord Rayuke is busy with other affairs. That is for me to do. But I don’t believe that’s the right decision. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, because he most assuredly does. But without him your sister would be dead, the Fursics would be preparing to strike, and I would not have been able to stop it. In exchange for his help I gave him my word that I would speak on his behalf.” My hands tightened on my knees. “Strip him of his title. Strip him of his clan name, his citizenship, banish him from our lands and society. What little of it we have left. It’s all but a death sentence now, anyway, but he can have the chance that he doesn’t deserve.” “He will have his chance,” I said, a mellow fire rekindled behind my eyes suddenly. “If barely. I am not here to pass judgement, though I will accept a confession all the same. No... I don’t think I have come to extract justice to soothe my heart. I came to hear what happened, to understand the how and why.” I let my words linger a moment and moved my jaw as if to speak, trying to urge the thoughts to manifest. I wanted justice, oh goddess how I wanted it, but I fought it back with effort, wrestling it down so that I could focus on the bigger picture. “For while I am the most singularly aggrieved party...” I reflected, “my own comfort and heartaches are not where my duty lies. I know there are systemic flaws in our society and I know we have reaped the harvest of our hubris. My priority as empress is to preserve the realm and prevent this treachery from happening again. And to do that, I must be wise, listen, and learn, most of all from those who wield their desperation as a weapon.” “You’ve spoken time the traitor at length by now, I am sure. Tell me—and let no detail be too intimate—what have you learned of the man I once loved as blood-family? “I hate him.” I said flatly, my very lack of inflection screaming my sincerity. It wouldn’t do to call him the names I can think of in front of my Rora, even if she has asked my opinion. “I always have, long before I knew him to be a traitor. He is sanctimonious and arrogant. Not more than I’ve ever seen, but more infuriating from a man who should be skilled enough to have learned humility. Confident. Ruthless.” I paused, almost unwilling to say what I had to. For the sake of honesty. “But I’ve met few more dedicated to their principles. The lie was what those principles were. The pursuit of power, of martial prowess, is his reason for existence. The chance to rebuild the Empire of his ideals, paid with the chance to become the only man to know all four disciplines? It doesn’t shock me at all that he took the deal.” I made myself meet her eyes without apology or remorse, because the next truth could be… Problematic, if taken the wrong way. “I can’t blame him for his motives. We had long enough to talk, and Zuto Nui knows I don’t think he’s wrong about the state of the Empire. But justice is the mistress I chose to serve, and his crimes are unforgivable. Even with that said… I feel a grudging respect for the man. He’s not unlike who I might have been, in some respects. He could have stabbed me in the back on that island, and I’m sure he considered it. I’m sure he did not stay his hand out of any loyalty. But he could have held back, tried to play both sides of the issue. He didn’t. When he committed to my aid, he gave it everything he gave his own cause.” My frown deepened, and I shook my head. “It’s not the respect I give my ward. Your Uncle, rather. Or that I give to you, or to your sister, or that I once gave to my Toroshu. I respect him as another warrior, one without a moral compass but possessing a purity of motive reserved only for the zealot. Not that I can speak of zealotry.” "Thank you for your deliberation and candor, Menti Masayoshi," I said and ceremonially bowed my head in gratitude. A small tear fell to my folded lap. I wondered if the justicar could hear it's patter but also hoped she hadn't. I breathed deeply as the complexity and gravity of the matter fell on my mind more with each passing second, but I steeled myself knowing the puzzles of yesterday and today will be no more meaningful than a vase turned to dust in the tomorrows we are headed towards. I exhaled sharply, realizing as I did that I'd been holding my breath, and my eye twitched uncontrollably for a second. I had to do this, though—we needed weapons if we were to survive, and I'd learned that there were few weapons greater than our demons. "I would like to see Battlemaster Inokio now." "Of course, your Majesty." I inclined my head to the door beyond, tone returning to a more formal measure. A distinction drawn between the conversation then and the professionalism now. With a thought I turn the lock inside the door, not bothering to do so with a key. To find the key hole would have taken more time than was reasonable, or necessary. The lock itself was a formality; Inokio could have done what I just did as easily. No, I was the real deterrent. As were the Hogo posted further outside. But there was no need to make a point of that. "Through there. We will be outside, if you require anything." "I hope you find your answers."
  2. GM IC: My children, Zuto Nui told us. I give you Power, Order, and Honor as the tokens of my love. Your guiding virtues and your reward for faith without reservation. I give you the Power to enforce Order. Crystal shatters. I give you Order to preserve your Honor. Gates give way. And I give you Honor to understand and preserve them both, that the Virtues may cost you your life but never lead you into error. And fearless warriors scream. We had so little warning. Lord Rayuke arrived with six Dashi in tow, bellowing a warning across the mental plane from the moment he came into range and hollering with all the urgency that could fit into his mountainous voice as soon as he could. He ordered gates barred, defenders readied, and couriers sent to the Toroshu the moment anyone could hear him and if any of us had doubted his authorities those doubts evaporated with the first, roiling chorus of shrieks that swept through the air behind him. We barred the Imperial City barely in time. And it scarcely mattered. One of the small Dashi called them ‘Rahkshi’. The word is so ugly that I suppose it’s as good as any. It was laughable to think that anything could threaten Sado. I admit it. I would have laughed anyone but Lord Rayuke out of the room if anyone had suggested it. Maybe the Fursics could have done it at their prime, but they would have been hard pressed. The island is the city, and the city is defended. Even if it wasn’t, the Imperial Navy was second to none and an enemy would have been forced to cross the water between the islands. I did feel fear for the clans on Odaiba, below Koshiki’s shadow. And then even that fear became horror. Clans that had lasted for generations decimated. Homes held since time immemorial razed, and a tide of Menti and Dashi alike desperately seeking safety behind Sado’s walls. Worst were those closest to the mountain, those nestled in the foothills. From some of them there has been no word at all. Even so, I thought, Sado would hold. Until they began crossing the water. Many flew, some simply strode across it as though weightless, but they simply followed their fleeing victims to the sea and beyond. Every one we brought down was replaced by ten more, and our own cost.... I’ve never witnessed the power these creatures possess. Control of elemental forces, corrosive influences, shapeshifting, density, I can’t possibly identify them all let alone remember. And they have refused to die alone. More Menti have died in battle, I suspect, than in the last true Fursic rebellion. When they were done sweeping across Odaiba they turned their eyes on us. Pouring beast after beast at our lines, our gates, and breaking through with the delicacy of a cudgel. And I can’t stop them. Everything my Chojo did to stop the Fursics, everything Korae Inokio and I accomplished, for nothing. There is no stemming a tide brought forth by a goddess unseen in countless generations. Nothing but a goddess of our own, and from Zuto Nui? Silence. Not that I really expected an answer to my prayers. She never has before. But for her people, for the entire Empire, I thought maybe. But no help has come, no divine intervention, and for the third night in a row I stand guard to my leaders while wave after wave of monsters hurl themselves at people that I would give anything to protect. And I can’t do that, either. Not from this. No one can. Which is why I’m as shocked as anyone, sitting here away from the fighting, listening to the screams and the crack of weapons as the announcement rolls through the city, relayed from citizen to citizen as soon as one of them had heard. .:Imperial Citizens,:. The inconceivable proclamation began as my hands tightened into fists. I already know the words. I was there when they were decided upon, when the Royal Family and their advisors quibbled over every chosen word. I thought knowing would help. It doesn’t. .:You all know the threat facing our great Empire.:. .:At this time it is insurmountable. All we can do is fight to defend our honor, but to condemn the loyal warriors of this Empire to a fight they cannot win would be unforgivable. This is not surrender. We do not, will not, surrender. Not now, not ever.:. .:But we must survive. Tomorrow the Imperial Navy begins a strategic withdrawal to join its commander on Mata Nui, with the Rora, her family, and any citizen who wishes to seek refuge there aboard. Pack nothing more than you can carry. Be at the Imperial Docks before sunrise. The ships will not wait. Anyone with their own seaworthy vessel is asked to carry anyone with them that they can.:. Of course they are. Not even the Navy could move the whole population if they all wish to flee. .:This is a dark hour. You have questions. The Rora will address you all directly, if possible. In the meantime you have decisions and preparations to make.: It ended there. Of course it did. What else was there to say? Tomorrow the Royal Family would flee the Archipelago for the first time in history, to an island few Dasaka had ever been to, with no idea of when they would return. If they would return. Strategic withdrawal. I wish those ‘Dashi’ had never come here. If my Lord had known what they would unleash he would never have helped. I don’t know how he’s going to live with that. And I can’t protect him from that, either. Spectacular track record Masa.
  3. IC: Near death experiences are Kane Ra dung. No slowing of time, no sudden recollections, and certainly no conversations with the departed. Maybe Mata Nui couldn’t think of anyone. No sight, no sound, only the feeling of an ever heavier gravity pulling inexorably into the dark. Not even conscious enough to dream but he could feel the crossroads at which he hovered. It would be so easy to let go. Even now without a conscious thought he was hanging on, clinging to the last threads of life that bound him to the cold beyond his mind. He almost didn’t want to. For all that he wanted to live that abyss called to him and promised rest. Exhaustion threatened as much as hypothermia, even more than his injuries. Without complaint he had pushed and pushed for days; placed the mission above his health. Now at the end of the worst week of his life, Krayn hit a wall. There wasn’t any strength left. Why should he have to fight so hard? Why did he have to dig deeper still for enough will to hang on a little longer? It was never enough. All of the energy that he could put into the world and it was never enough. It just demanded more. It taxed his will by the minute, the second, and for diminished gain. He was never enough. Nothing he could do was ever enough to fill the holes he saw in the world, no matter how hard he tried and how much he pushed he never seemed to get anywhere. All he could do was keep his head above water, never reach the shore. He could labor until every breath hurt, and he had. But he was no closer to anything at all. Everything had a breaking point. Everything had to end. No supply of energy was inexhaustible. He just wanted to rest. In the snow, jostled with every step despite his rescuers care, his resolve slipped, and slipped, and slipped. Every whisper made it a little easier. There was no reason to struggle, it was all out of his hands. There was nothing more to be done, he would make it or he wouldn’t. All he had to do was let go of that control. All he had to do was rest. … What then, another thought whispered, had been the point?. What had been the point in fighting at all if he was willing to surrender here? They had come for him, risked everything to carry him out of that alley. What would it do to them to know he had died minutes shy of safety? To rest now was death, there could be no doubt. He could feel it even through the insensate haze of his mind, the thick mire every thought had to fight through. Every breath was shallow and his heart beat with the weak, fevered pace of desperation. His whole world had shrunk to those feelings, those sounds. He could not see, not without the strength to open his eyes. He could not hear, he could not even think. But if he could focus on those feelings, if he could still feel that weak pulse, he was alive. That was all he had to do. Just hang on a little longer. The slide towards eternity slowed and stopped. "You're safe now." The words were muffled and distant, barely perceptible, but he heard their sincerity. The words were tense under the calm, tired and drven. The cool energy that flowed through his body brought the fuzzy world into far flung focus, snippets of conversation breaking through the haze. She said he was okay but still he fought, struggling to pull himself out of the haze. The danger had passed, but what if it hadn’t? He needed to do something, he had to find out what happened. He needed to tell them what was wrong with him, where to focus. If he couldn’t, they might… … They’d get it right. They had not brought him so far to let him die now. It didn’t make any sense. He’d have to ask them, when he could. But they wouldn’t let him fall. These foolish, stubborn people had refused his choice and made their own. Choosing to give his life for them had been easy. He could trust them to preserve it instead. When the darkness rose, gently this time, he didn’t fight it. * * * Dehkaz sat across from the unconscious form of the gunmetal-armored Toa hands clasped together and chin resting on his knuckles. All things considered, Krayn looked at peace where he lay, though that fact alone was still slightly disconcertingly close to looking too peaceful. It was difficult for Dehkaz to shake the resemblance between his comrade’s current state and the state which they had left too many of those out on the frozen streets of Ko-Koro in their desperate escape from the citadel from his mind. With effort he had to remind himself to take it down a notch, the Commander was still far too on edge. Dehkaz felt his brow relax, unaware that it had furrowed in concentration. He had been at Krayn’s side for some time now, lost in his own thoughts. The initial rush of activity as refugees had been moved into the village, some injured some not, had died down in the following hours. They had made it. While the future was still uncertain, those within the confines of the small mountain village were safe from harm. After making certain that Krayn was no longer in danger of drifting away completely from the land of the living, Dehkaz had done what he could to assist the rest in need. Unfortunately that… wasn’t as much as he would have liked. He was a fighter, a guardsman, but that wasn’t what was needed at this point. Sure, he could patch up a wound well enough, as he had done to his own while waving off others to help those more in need, but his area of expertise was far more firmly planted in taking beings apart rather than pulling them back together. No, for now those in danger needed healers, not fighters. So, Dehkaz had resigned himself to making sure to not get in the way of those at work, as well as watching over a friend. Here, alone with just the familiar comforting chill of the mountain air, his thoughts, and the resting Toa that they had worked to get back to safety, he stayed. Waking up was a surprise but the pain was not. The first thing, by long habit, the former officer’s brain did was take stock of the damages. There wasn’t much. The discomfort was almost everywhere regardless, but it was muted; the muffled echoes of injuries already healed. Not perfectly, there wasn’t enough energy to spare for him alone. It was sufficient to get him out of danger but the new tissue was fresh, tender. His muscles were worse. Even stationary they burned. The slightest move brought a fresh wave of fire in every fiber. But the worst- Oh, the worst was his shoulder. The slightest move, even further down the limb, was agonizing. No, that wasn’t quite right; he just thought it should be. It hurt to be sure, but it wasn’t the white hot lance he expected. Slowly, carefully, he clenched the bed’s blanket in his fingers. They moved when he commanded, he could feel the material between them. So his arm was there after all. He hadn’t been sure they could salvage it even if he survived. It was a relief to know he was wrong. Even so he could tell it wasn’t… Perfect. Something still felt wrong. Perhaps it needed more time to heal. But Nui, was his throat dry. It was like trying to inhale the entire Po-Wahi desert. The first sound he could make was a wracking cough, which in turn only made his torso burn. Someone had left water on the table next to his cot, and with great difficulty he propped himself up enough to grab it and swallow a few, precious mouthfuls. “Commander,” He rasped out, breath more ragged than he would have liked. “Where?” Krayn’s ragged cough snapped Dehkaz out of his reverie and the Toa of Magnetism moved to stand before it was clear that Krayn was, for the most part, not in any serious danger of keeling over. “Ihu-Koro,” he explained, sitting up straighter and folding his arms to address Krayn, “We pulled what refugees we could here.” “How’re you holding up Krayn?” “I’ve been better.” The De-Toa coughed again, but his voice was a little clearer. Actually, his head hurt more than anything now. The cough seemed deafening after his hearing loss, and mustering the focus to reduce it was… Difficult. He’d never experienced it before, managing it with his element had always been enough. “No disrespect, but I’ve had better stays in the Wahi. Fewer injuries. Less loud.” He grimaced, rubbing at his head and trying to clear his throat. “Actually sir, really, quietly please.” With an understanding nod Dehkaz continued, lowering his voice to a quieter volume, “To be expected, you gave us quite the scare there, glad to see you’re all still in one piece. Surprised to see you up so soon.” The Toa of Magnetism paused, giving Krayn a look of appraisal, before shaking his head slightly in almost disbelief. “You’re crazy, you know that?” His tone was equal parts respect and weariness, “Not many would be willing to pull off what you did… not many would be able to pull off what you did.” Krayn cocked his head a little, a gesture that unlike the rest had nothing to do with his condition. This one was born of confusion. He was thinking slowly. That at least was part exhaustion even if it was still frustrating. Everything a little after the Madu dropped was a little unclear, hazy and incomplete. It only got worse as time went on until he woke up here. He could remember the highlights, but… “I’m not sure what you mean, sir,” He said slowly, quietly. That was half true; he had an idea of what the other Toa meant, but he couldn’t begin to understand why. “And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but what the Karz were you thinking?” “Krayn… they all made it out,” Dehkaz explained, “Kale and the rest, they made it here, they’re safe. From what I heard things were looking bad, and something had to be done if any of you were going to make it out of that citadel in one piece. You made sure of they did.” The Commander stopped to let Krayn process that for a minute. Well, that, and also for- “And, ah, apologies for the arm,” he gestured to the Toa of Sonic’s shoulder, addressing what he thought was Krayn’s second point, “Didn’t exactly have much choice. You were bleeding something fierce. Healers did their best with it, told me it should be fine in a week or two.” “No, not the-” He broke off the remark with a grimace, feeling the way it moved when he tried to hold up his hand for emphasis. Krayn rolled the joint almost unconsciously trying to find what exactly didn’t feel right, where in the motion it just felt wrong. The muscles ached from being knit together where they had been cut, the flesh was tender and new, but still something didn’t feel right. An imperfection in the muscles or in the bones where none had been before. “Not the arm.” The thought continued while he experimented slowly. “If you didn’t stop it I would have died.” “Which I was prepared to do.” Krayn’s eyes wandered back up from the foot of his bed where they had lain unfocused to meet the Commander’s gaze. Beneath the fatigue there was an element of puzzlement, the look of a man trying to turn the question around in his mind. “I’m glad it didn’t come to that. But it was going to. Kale and Four, the others, they were going to make it out. It was close, there would have been a little fighting. But they would have made it. I stayed behind because I was injured. If they stayed to get me out we might all have been killed.” “Like you could have been. You and the Lieutenant both. I could already have been dead, probably should have been. You both could have died trying to haul out a body that no one needed to bury.” Comprehension hit Dehkaz in pieces as Krayn spoke, and the understanding caused his brow to furrow in mixed amounts of concern, thoughtfulness, and mild confusion. Probably should have been. The words resonated in his mind for a moment. They were all too familiar, the meaning and sentiment behind them all too well known by his unconscious for it to let them go so soon. It was a headspace he’d found himself in before. It was, if he was being quite frank with himself, unnerving to hear the words spoken aloud by another being. “Ah.” He replied eloquently. “Maybe. Maybe we could’ve. You know as well as anyone else; better I think, after all this; that’s just another risk.” Dehkaz inclined his head towards the Toa of Sonics, “If it was anyone else we would’ve done the same. And you can’t tell me if you were in our position you wouldn’t have done the same.” “It was risky, sure, but there was a chance. Not one of us, you, me, Kale, Naona, Fourth… none of us would have let that chance slip away.” His tone, while no louder than it had been a moment earlier, had taken on a firm note. “You might’ve hung up the badge but you’re sure as Karz still one of us, can’t get rid of that. We don’t leave anyone behind.” Krayn wanted to argue. He half opened his mouth to do it, an objection already on his lips, before he made himself stop and think. Not an easy feat when someone had cheerfully been stomping all over his skull, at least it felt like it, but he did anyway. Not just listen to what Dehkaz had to say but consider it. He didn’t know the Commander particularly well. That was part of the problem. It was difficult to take what he was saying at face value, hard to consider that someone he had only worked with would take that sort of risk. But broaden it out and he began to concede the point. Naona, Kale, Four, Skyra, Praggos… For slightly different reasons maybe but not one of them would have left him behind if they could help it. He had seen even through his confusion the look on Kale’s face when he had to, and he couldn’t imagine how Skyra had reacted. No, he really couldn’t. That was something of a blind spot that Krayn had to admit to himself. The two of them had spent so long butting heads, then quietly adversarial, that it was difficult to comprehend how her opinion had shifted. But if she had been there she wouldn’t have agreed to leave him behind, either. Naona had to have been there. She had to have at least carried him, maybe him and Dehkaz, or he would never have made it to Ihu-Koro in time. Even that hike would have been fatal if he had waited so long for medical attention. And there could be no doubt which two had put him back together, pulling him back even from the brink. The surprise was disproportionate to so simple an answer. It shouldn’t have been, the thought was almost chiding, but had he held onto his problems for longer than they had? He would have run the same risk for any of them. Even Skyra, and he had run that risk for her and Kale. It wasn’t like Ga-Wahi. … Had he been carrying around that day for so long? Karzahni, he had some apologies to make. The low, weak laugh sounded more like a cough as the De-Toa found a less tiring way to prop himself up and shook his head. “I owe you an apology, Commander.” Another cough and a long drink of water. “I owe a few of them. What I should have said was ‘thank you’.” Dehkaz let out a short breath of... not quite disbelief so much as patience. He shook his head once more, though it seemed as though it was more to himself than from anything the Toa of Sonics had said. “Apology accepted,” He replied nonetheless. “I have a feeling however, call it a hunch from parallel lines of thinking, that you shouldn’t forget to apologize to yourself as well.” With that, the Commander rose from his seat, his tone slightly more upbeat than it had been moments before. “Now that you’re awake, I’ll get someone to come and make sure you’re all in good shape. Went through an awful lot to get you back here in mostly one piece, not going to let all of that go to waste.” He paused at the door, a hand resting on the frame as he turned slightly to address the recovering Toa. “And Krayn, you can drop the Commander, it’s just Dehkaz.” With that, he stepped out of the room. Krayn managed another rough and weak laugh, carefully propping himself up against the wall behind his cot. The bustling sounds around him were almost too loud even muffled by walls, but he could tell there were many more wounded and recovering people in the building than him. He couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed. Even if he could it would be a bad idea. But his friends were out there, somewhere, and someone needed to pass the word. “Excuse me,” he managed, catching the attention of a Bo-Toa walking briskly by to her next crisis. “Somewhere in this building is a bunch of fools waiting for me to wake up. If you could let them know I have before I fall asleep again, if you see them. Please.” The medic seemed to look him over, thoroughly displeased by the notion, but relented and nodded. It was probably his seraphic smile. But he still slouched heavily as soon as she moved on, deciding not to fight sleep too hard if it came. Any visitors would have him up as soon as they stepped near the door.
  4. IC: "... just pack my box with PT gear. 'Cause early one morning 'bout zero five, the ground will rumble there'll be lightning in the sky." The opening volley had been a blood bath, the sort for so long the Covenant had visited upon humanity exclusively. Six Banshees and a Seraph by his count, nearly half the corvettes' expected capacity of parasite craft. But with the element of surprise lost Nik was forced into a disadvantageous position; the Martian wasn't actually a great pilot.He could get from point A to B and he could coordinate just fine but the truth was dogfighting wasn't really in his wheelhouse. He'd been an enlisted man when he was till in the Navy, and since then he'd ridden pods to the ground like a stone cast from heaven. Not a lot of room for fancy maneuvering. He'd gotten some catch-up training as a Spartan sure but that didn't make him an ace overnight. The truth was, one to one the Covvies over there might actually have been better pilots. So it was important not to play fair. Banshees were faster, more maneuverable. He didn't trust himself to fight them, so he focused on harassing the Seraphs. He flew inverted to the plane to present a small target and overshot the corvette rapidly as its shields fell, burning hard to hug its curvature and loops back around 'below' it; and behind the ship's formation of remaining Seraphs and Banshees. "Don't you worry, don;t come undone. It's just my ghost on a PT run." Nik immediately flushed four of his MITV pods at the formation, specifically peppering the Seraph with his guns just to salt the wounds, and immediately broke off to hug the corvette's length. In doing so he presented Vali her choice of targets, and ensured no Banshee would take a shot without getting into close pursuit; at any other angle they could hit their own ship. And with the hangar opening dead ahead and coming up fast, there were minimal firing angles for the ship's turrets between him and his objective. <<Nova Two One, making a run for the hangar. Godspeed, Olympian.>>
  5. IC: <<Good. I like a target rich environment.>> Space is really, really big and you can't get a clear idea of it until you set foot outside your ship. Suspended from the rail below the 1.8 million ton destroyer's belly the void yawned to welcome them, spreading as far as the eye could see in any direction. As soon as the clamps released there would be no up or down within that expanse, nothing universal to orient against at all. "Below" would become meaningless in moments. Within that vast nothingness there were two Covvie corvettes, twelve Type 27 Banshees. and four Seraph fighters. Infinitesimally small but they were nevertheless the only specks within the vastness that mattered. They were targets, targets he would destroy by fire and maneuver. "When I die, please bury me deep..." Nik muttered, frowning at his HUD. Silence had descended, not even the umbilical that still connected him to the ship carrying any vibration. That was more alien than the nothingness; the complete absence of sound had been known to send unwary cadets into a real panic the first time. You learned to live with it, but it could still strike you when you had half a second to think. And he had that, if only barely. He returned Miguel's two finger salute with an added; <<Nova Two-Three, solid copy.>> Cheeky guy. "Place my MA5 down by my feet." Fireteam Nova in truth was nothing of the sort. With seven Spartans an Elite, and an ODST flying point and Hammer bringing up the rear they were an undersized squad, and split between two objectives it wasn't how he would have formulated the ops plan. He'd done what he could by designating the frames bound for Bandit Alpha as Nova Two, but it could've been cleaner. At a thought his HUD rearranged the information on his allies, relabeling his own little band as Alpha and Myra's as Bravo. Quick, informal, but it would help keep track of who was who when things started getting frenetic. And they would be, as the count on his display ticked from four, to three, to two, to one. The clamps released and his fusion drives came online, rocketing him forward on silent wings. For a given definition; the OF-9's 'wings' were retracted, pulled in close for storage. And they would stay that way for a minute longer. "Don't cry for me, don't shed no tear..." <<Gauss charging.>> He reported to the Elite at his six, something that didn't inspire confidence. As much as he didn't expect her to turn the turret on him he still couldn't quite shake the picture. His solace was that if she did, Miguel would make certain she didn't get to gloat. Collision warnings blared occasionally within his helmet, HUD marking objects within the edge of the asteroid field large enough to pose a risk. Piloting wasn't really his strongest suit but he maneuvered around them deftly, the frame's narrower profile letting him skirt danger with close, precise handling. Smaller pieces pinged harmlessly off of his armor, the only sounds he registered from the outside world. The twisting line towards his objective remained a slender thread of fate urging him inexorably onward towards the fray. And then like that he was free, emerging from the asteroid belt that Madrigal had lain doggo in for nearly a week. But all of that was about to change and Madrigal would be lighting up their sensors any second. The Seraphs in a holding pattern were within range of the Gauss that lay between his knees along the length of the frame, but he waited. Waited, and waited, and waited as he cleared the field and drew closer. He knew what the ops plan called for, knew when it would happen, and by his estimate.... <<Extending pods, Nova Two-One weapons hot in three.>> He stated over TEAMCOM as his 'wings' extended, the twelve MITV pods running on their rails out to his left and right for unobstructed launch and increased maneuver. At the cessation of his countdown he thumbed the Gauss cannon's trigger and a single accelerated round lanced into the void in time with Madrigal's opening shot. The Seraph he had chosen would have no more than a breath's notice before it slammed into its shields, and more likely than not, into its armor. It might live, it might not, but it'd know it had been kissed either way. The pirates knew they had arrived now. <<Recharging, Sakuai, hang tight and watch our six. Nova Two victors our priority is the hangar bay but let's make it easier for Olympian on approach.>>
  6. IC: Nikolai Markov laughed, a proper sound that began deep in his chest. <<Are they letting just anyone on board now?>> Leave it to the hijo de Toledo Nueva to make such a properly timed entrance as deliverance in urban camo. Not even hearing an Elite over his own TEAMCOM was enough to dampen his spirits now, and in an instant he could almost reevaluate the whole plan. It was always good to see another New Alexandria alumni. Despite his mirth it was time to be prompt, and Nik climbed aboard his own craft with perhaps a little less flair than his gunner. The 'cockpit', such as it was, was barely more than a cluster of screens and controls atop an I-beam. That wasn't entirely fair, there was a clear place for the pilot to lock in; the hardpoint was necessary for HUD integration. He settled into it easily, letting his HUD update with the OF92's current status. It'd get more complicated in a couple minutes, but for now the view was nice and clean. Pre-flight checks seemed a lot more dignified than it deserved but ensuring system operation was key. Didn't want to get out there and find out your shields didn't work, now did you? <<Fusion thrusters green. Recursive thrusters green. M92 online. MITV fully stocked, rotary cannons loaded. Shields green.>> He recited over single-beam to Vali, then switched channels for wider reception. <<All systems green. Madrigal, Nova Lead, designating Nova Two One through Nova Two Five.>> No point in getting Madrigal all confused over who's who. His HUD updated, LOCUS allocating new designations to the sensory data he received. <<Ready for launch.>> Switching again to single-beam he added, <<You're more familiar. Any guesses how our corvette will be flying its birds?>>
  7. IC: Youth. There was an unmistakable feeling of youth. It was clear the two Spartan IIIs hadn't paid much attention to his intent, and Nik wished they had. It wasn't a lecture, it wasn't even a warning; it was experience, and it was concern. The two clearly worked together perfectly but they weren't going to be the only two on the ship. It was important to work as a unit, especially when you hadn't cooperated before. Even for Spartans, all trained with the same standards since the legendary IIs, there was no substitute for knowing someone. Knowing how they thought, how they reacted, and knowing that they'd have your back if it came down to it. Maybe it was his experience showing. Much of the Spartan III program was classified but what was available lined up with the older IIs, and it was likely they'd never seen a combat mission without their augmentations. They had met the Covenant, sure, but never below eye level. They had never had to go up against the Brutes, or worse Elites, without being able to fight on an even footing. Unit cohesion was for their group, and their group was the best. Why worry about how to work with anyone else? No wonder Jumpers didn't get along with Spartans. "See you on board." He said simply, recognizing futility of pushing the issue. And that he'd already been a little slow to say anything. The two got a genuine nod and a smile, with an added "Good luck." His demeanor seemed to change in an instant as he pivoted in place, beckoning for Vali to follow with a tilt of his head. "It's not the enemy's cannons we should really worry about. You do know why these are listed as ammunition, don't you?" The Martian grinned irreverently at her, green eyes daring her to ask if he was joking or not. It was the last expression she would see for a while, his black helmet lifted, lowered, and twisted into place. Two Spartan IIIs and a Sangheili. He really did get the short end, didn't he? "We've gotta get them off the ship somehow, and the things are magnetic..." Two TEAMCOM connections greeted him when his helmet finished booting, and he familiarized himself briefly with their data. Very briefly. It only took the breaths between finishing his joke and reaching the OF 9 he'd staked out for himself. It wasn't actually any different from the others, it was just... The right one. Pretty nonsensical reasoning, right? Not like any one of these flying death traps was better than any other. He was rated to fly one. They were covered in training for this very reason, seeing as Spartans were the only people who could safely operate one. As heavily armed as they were, and even with partial shielding, they were a lot like flying a gun. You'll do damage, but there's not a thing between you and the enemy. And if they hit you... Well, all those munitions will make a nice firework for your sendoff. It was insane to take one up against a proper ship, even with fire support. It was practically begging to be blown to pieces and that was from the guy who'd gotten used to a drop pod. Well. Nik'd just been thinking he was better suited to being David. "That'll be you," He commented to Vali, glancing over his shoulder and pointing at the turret atop the rear of the craft. "You haven't got the hardpoints to fly one of these yoursself. Maybe something can get rigged up for next time, but this time we'll get you strapped in good and secure. Your gear's EVA-rated, right?" She was his other concern. He had never dropped with an Elite in support, and he didn't really know what to expect.. She wouldn't stab him in the back, even if that was her plan it wasn't the Sangheili way. He'd learned that well enough fighting them. But with an Elite on one side, and a Spartan III duo on the other... Man, where was a proper wingman when you needed one.
  8. IC: "Bet you are." The Martian nodded slightly, almost approvingly. They'd all see how the mission went, and he'd have a little time for chit chat on the ride over. In between evasive maneuvers, anyway. But for now there were some more immediate issues to take care of now that they were getting into their sub-units. Firstly.... "Artur, Julia," Nik started, waggling his helmet slightly. "I'm gonna need battlenet links, please and thank you. LOCUS can handle 'em and it'd be good to have access to your sensor data. Sakuai and I can handle the computer, she'll point out anything different I need to know about Covenant systems. You two do what you do best. Be careful, though. Kig-Yarr aren't much alone but they can be a pain in larger groups, especially with the home field advantage. You get into trouble, you fall back and we regroup. You're not a duo on this. Alright?"
  9. IC: Mostly the ops plan he was expecting. Nik turned his helmet over a few times in his hands, thinking. That wasn't entirely true. He wasn't expecting to be running with the IIIs or the Elite. The Spartan IIIs were workable; whatever his concerns personally they were Spartans and they'd been trained on the same signals and comm discipline. Maybe there'd be a little friction integrating such a practiced duo into a larger unit, but honestly? He could smooth out the rough spots. Maybe a drop like this'd help ease them all into the same team mentality. It was still a little strange to think about the Spartans' rank structure. Namely the fact that they didn't have one, aside from designating an overall head and a fireteam leader. All of that could get ironed out just fine. He nodded slightly to Artur and Julia, keeping one eye fixed on Vasquez and without disrupting the briefing. He didn't have any questions but keeping the floor open for those who might was important. And it gave him time to think about the more problematic inclusion to their little subunit. Vali 'Sakuai. It had gone unspoken but he'd felt the assessment that went down; the brief second where their intentions were laid bare. The Elite had tensed. Nik was a professional and he'd worked with people he didn't like before but he couldn't quite keep his discontent at her presence off of his face. As a liaison he could accept it. Not enjoy it. but accept it. Actually taking her out into the field with them, against a species hers used to be allied with, was entirely different. She wasn't completely brought up to speed on the Spartans' process the way everyone else was, he didn't know the first thing about Sangheili comm discipline or strategy and there was no time to drill any of it. More than that she'd be strapped into the gunner's seat on his OF in a few minutes. That could be a recipe for a whole lot of trouble. But someone had to help bring her into the fold, if it was gonna get done, and you like the challenges don't you Nikky? So ease up. Drop the hackles. Try and make her a little more comfortable. Offer a hand, just keep the Magnum in your other one. "Guess we'll be riding together, Miss 'Sakuai." He muttered out of the corner of his mouth to the Elite next to him, regarding her with one expressive eye. "Probably a first."
  10. IC: "I tell you, it's hard being so popular. I'm comin', I'm comin'. Have to keep the fans happy." He'd already been in motion, more or less, when the comment came through. He'd given the other Spartans a head start. The one with his helmet on already, Artur, had taken the bump well enough but he'd also bolted quick. No reason not to let him have a little space on the way, and it gave him a chance to run one last check on his software. The LOCUS helmet... It really wasn't like anything he could have expected. It was artful, almost. And it'd make his job a lot easier. Not to mention the fact that a Hunter could stomp on it and he wouldn't even get a headache. He tucked the helm under his arm and walked to the hangar, quick enough to be punctual but not so fast as to imply a rush. There was no need, an extra thirty seconds wasn't going to matter much. Gave him a minute to consider the mission briefing so far. Open Frames were a real nailbiter, someone was on a lot of drugs when they came up with it. Nik still wasn't sure that someone hadn't been pushed to see what sort of cheap solution they could pass off, honestly. Professionally or on a bet. Oh, yeah, sir, they probably said. All those suits are sealed up, we don't need a chassis, or armor, or life support. Trust me, sure, this'll be great. Lunatics. And speaking of... 'Jumpers, Spartans, aaaand... The Elite. The Sangheili, properly speaking. He had no idea what the brass were thinking with that. Her. He could recognize the Elites weren't enemies anymore, at least most of them weren't, He was thankful for their help in ending the war, he knew it couldn't have happened without the Schism. But something about seeing one here, on deck in a UNSC vessel, just set him on edge. The rest were all solid whether he could back it up yet or not. And no ship with a contingent of ODSTs could be too bad. "Gunny! I didn't know they were letting fossils re-up." He said cheerfully to the (much) older man, shifting the charcoal, vaguely skeletal helmet from one arm to the other. Despite his cheer, one eye stayed on the Elite. His posture was fluid, but somehow wary; infused with the awareness that for the first time in his whole life, he didn't have to look up to regard one. The balance had shifted, and even though this one was an ally he would be ready. A lifetime of war took time to undo. He wasn't ready to trust her yet. Still, he held the other hand out for the ODST to bump while he nodded his head in Myra's direction. "Present company excluded, ma'am." He grinned. "Miss Elite. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
  11. IC: "Trust a marine not to tell time. You're fine." Nik gave her a wider grin as she passed, something to show the humor. A little inter-service rivalry never hurt anyone as long as it was good-natured. And that was all he meant; most of these people he could recognize by name or face, but that didn't mean he knew them. That took time, and he hadn't had a whole lot of it with the Madrigal's compliment yet. Breaking the ice was important, especially with... The III with his helmet on had tensed up for a second. Not a lot, nothing conscious, but there was just enough of it in his voice to accentuate the shift. He knew there were a few on board, they pretty much all seemed to be in the Armory with him. But a whole lot of information about them was still classified, and they seemed a bit... Twitchy. He had no qualms about their confidence, only their ability to play nice in a team. But he couldn't expect them to go bridging that gap all on their own, now could he? "Appreciate the heads-up." He nodded to the helmeted Spartan, extending his fist to bump. Shaking hands never seemed right in a suit like this, bumping fists worked out better in his opinion. "Don't think we've had the chance to chat. I'm Markov." "Covvies makes more sense than Innies ever did for me. Long as that SPNKr stays pointed down range," He raised his voice a touch, just to be sure the third SIII heard. "I'm happy." OOC: @Pteronura Brasiliensis@FarflungWanderer@The UltimoScorp
  12. IC: "'Scuse me," a voice came from Artur's left, its owner plucking the same carbine off of the rack. The larger Spartan had been in the room all the while; truthfully he had been for the last hour and a half. Check, recheck, and check again. Always. Your gear was your responsibility, and if you dropped with something that didn't work? Who was going to offer you a replacement? The Covenant? ODSTs lived or died on the back of their discipline. You maintained your gear like it was your religion, learned to field strip your weapons like your life depended on it, and treat chance as the enemy as much as any Brute. Diligence was practice, practice was habit, good habits keep you alive. Simple as that. You couldn't plan for a lucky hit taking out your pod, but you could make sure nothing'd surprise you when you got down. "Gonna need this." And it was a ritual. A superstition, just like everyone else who lived to deploy twice. Some people joked, some people sparred, and some people prepared. Which was why Nikolai had been hunched over a workbench for nearly an hour meticulously disassembling, inspecting, and if need be cleaning his gear. The shotgun and carbine he was willing to trust the armory officer on. Mostly. The shotgun had already been inspected, and as he stood in place he gave a cursory evaluation of the MA5K's mechanical actions. Satisfied he nodded at the other Spartans; two already in their armor, one only just arriving. The last he shot a knowing grin, clearly recognizing a latecomer when he saw one. He'd been in the position often enough. Nik at least was already in his tech suit, just waiting to step onto the Brokkr. His armor had been the first inspection on the list. He'd had to enlist the same poor tech the 'Jumper had harassed about her armor to check on the software, but everything came up green. Did he trust those little lights? No. Did he have any proof they lied? No. But never bet on it. It still felt... Wrong. He'd dropped in the ODST gear so often this new, sleek, black-tinted, humanoid MBT just didn't feel quite right. But he couldn't complain about the specs. A little fruit basket, he suspected, from the job he'd turned down. Spooks did play the long game, didn't they? "Fine morning to you, folks." He flashed the other three a quick, friendly wave with his off-hand. Not that Nik stopped moving; he took a few sideways steps back to his bench and laid the carbine to rest next to the other goodies liberated from the Madrigal's armory and his own M6H2. That wasn't quite familiar yet, either. He could have field stripped and reassembled his old SOCOM with his eyes closed, but the M6H2 just wasn't that familiar yet. He'd resisted swapping over for an age and a half. It kicks, he used to argue. The SOCOM had an integrated suppressor and brake, it didn't move a hair when you fired. Made the next shot right on target. You could compensate, sure, but why bother? What good is that much extra range without a scope? You might as well switch to your primary if you're taking a shot that far. Nik, someone finally had said, how long's it been since you felt a gun kick at all? Take the extra range. Point taken. "Munroe, isn't it? Late start?" He asked, finally stepping onto the mechanism. He couldn't quite keep eye contact while the whirring armature installed the smoky plate on top his tech suit, but the casual air was unmistakable. The conversation was just as forthcoming despite his mandated stillness. It didn't take long, and he stretched languidly as he stepped off. Gear found magnetic strips with practiced ease, the same friendly smile fixed on the small gaggle of Spartans to which he spoke. "Sleep in?" OOC: @Pteronura Brasiliensis @Dane-gerous @FarflungWanderer
  13. For your consideration, as promised. I may have some rewriting to do when I reread in the morning. Name: Nikolai Markov Species: Human Gender: Male Age: 29 Appearance: Before three weeks vacation at a little bed and breakfast on Mars, Nik Markov had been a little taller than your average grunt and built lithe. Skinnier than you’d really expect for special forces, not that you could tell when he was suited up to dive feet first into . Now he’s only really lithe if you stand him next to another Spartan and at 6’10” he’s taller than even many other IVs. For his old squadmates it’s a bit like talking to a tree trunk, not that he noticed during the PT to get used to his new frame. The Spartan IV augmentations gave him a whole new lease on life with combat capabilities that could extend well into the next century, but they didn’t do anything to hide a lifetime of injuries big and small. Outside his armor, Nik’s hands are calloused and pockmarked by well-healed scars. Without a shirt you could see similar marks across his body, along with a pale line tracing a path across his shoulder and the skull-and-comet tattoo on the left side of his chest. As much as some things change, though, plenty stays the same. It might be almost a foot higher than it was but Nik’s face definitely stayed the same. Pale skin, sharp facial features, and deep green eyes could easily look unfriendly (especially with his new build) but they’re softened by a friendly, irreverent demeanor. He smiles a lot more than you’d expect from an ODST, let alone a Spartan. Nik keeps a clean shave aside from the occasional five o’clock shadow depending on how busy he’s been, and his brown hair is kept medium length though not always tidy. Rank: Spartan Personality: Friendly, laidback, self-assured, and easygoing; all of the words you would not expect to apply to someone who’s been among the most effective operatives in the UNSC for the better part of a decade. But nine times out of ten, before his augmentation, Nik’s first impressions ran contrary to preconceptions. That’s a lot harder now, but he would say all the more important for it. Don’t want to become as frightening to the guys on your side as the ones against, you know? In another time and place he would have lived a pretty peaceful life, but born five years into the Human-Covenant war didn’t leave many options. It’s when he becomes focused, on whatever has his attention, that it becomes clear why he is where he is. Nikolai can be driven in the extreme when he sets his mind to something, and considers success an inescapable fact. It’s only a matter of how you have to get there. Nonetheless Nikolai is more capable and much more intelligent than he tends to let on despite his informal education, and maintains the utmost respect for his colleagues and peers. He never had the institutional distaste for the Spartans his fellow ODSTs tended towards, maybe because ONI had been using them to boost morale by the time he joined the outfit. He does, however, have an intense and occasionally problematic mistrust of former Covenant species and soldiers. Nothing that discipline doesn’t curb, but the Martian finds it difficult to remember that they were trying to kill him for his entire life. Background: Nikolai Markov was born on June 19th 2529 on Mars, and knew nothing but war until it ended. Papers will probably be written about the psychological impact of growing up under the shadow of a war for survival on such a massive scale, but Nik didn’t understand any of it. But he grew up scared because in the shipbuilders’ neighborhood he was raised everyone was scared. Under the weight of such existential dread the young man acted out, getting into all sorts of trouble. Nothing serious, Nik was a good kid at heart. But he would break into places he wasn’t supposed to, get access to information he wasn’t supposed to have, anything he could do to benignly try and draw attention to himself. It went on for years, until he broke into a supposedly secure office (and server) at his local UNSC office and nearly got himself a juvenile record. Cutting it that close finally nudged him a few degrees back onto the straight and narrow, and more importantly finally gave him a focus. On June 19th 2547 Nikolai Markov enlisted in the UNSC Navy. After a long night of celebrating, drinking, and saying goodbye to the neighborhood he grew up in he shipped out to UNSCN basic training the next day. Almost on day one he lobbied for a shot at the grueling, volunteer-only recruitment process for the renowned Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. About two years later he got it. No matter how tough he expected it to be he couldn’t have prepared himself for the reality. The training was designed to push him to the absolute limit, and it succeeded. Not everyone who applied made it. His own standards and the humiliation of being Returned to Unit kept him going and at the course’s end Nik was among its graduates. Then-PFC Nikolai Markov was initially assigned to the 105th Shock Troopers Division, serving under a former special forces marksman for his first few drops. He showed a real knack for sabotage and reconnaissance, remembering his youth and gathering any additional information from behind and between enemy lines that wasn’t nailed down. His career brought him to the defense of New Alexandria during the Fall of Reach, and later operations during the Battle for Earth that truly proved his mettle. At the war’s end a good many problems still needed the none-too-gentle touch of an ODST fireteam, and Nik was happy to oblige. Many of those solutions took a liberal application of black ink and Nik found himself co-opted by ONI’s own plans on occasion. Four years after the war’s end, the Office of Naval Intelligence offered to put his talents to permanent use. A free ride through university, and a guaranteed job with a hefty security clearance attached. Spartan Operations, around the same time, offered him a chance at augmentation. The choice wasn’t hard. Equipment: A charcoal suit of Recluse armor topped by a LOCUS helmet rounds out Nikolai’s only permanent set of equipment. A M6H2 Tactical Magnum is usually attached to the magnetic strip on his left thigh, but his primary (or tertiary) equipment rotates depending upon mission specifications. The helmet’s passive cyberintrusion package, battlenet cache, and multiple video feeds make for unparalleled battlefield awareness. Skills: Nikolai excels in neutralizing hostile entities and hostile technology, by force or subterfuge. The former is really pretty simple. Nik’s first ODST fireteam leader drilled the unit on marksmanship endlessly, and it stuck. He’s versed in the operation and proficient in the use of almost all UNSC firearms, and he was a crack shot before augmentation. After undergoing the procedures it would be more notable if he missed. The latter is more nuanced; Nik has spent his professional career building on the intrusion skills he learned as a youth, and may be among the better cyberintrusion specialists in his current branch of service by now. His armor assists, of course, but the Martian has a certain innate knack for turning enemy or unaligned electronics to suit his own purposes. And after a stint doing asymmetrical warfare as an ODST, a learned proficiency for simply blowing up resources he can’t utilize. Flaws: As dedicated and effective an operative as he is, Nikolai has two evident flaws. His mistrust of the Elites and other species formerly a part of the Covenant and an unrelenting perfectionist streak. For all his laidback mannerisms Nikolai allows himself no slack or quarter and it impacts his ability to effectively delegate tasks that don’t require his personal attention. Any failures become personal failures, and personal failures he struggles to let go of. As a former enlisted man he also is of minimal use on the bridge of a ship, or in the operation of small craft. He can fly a Pelican in a pinch, but don’t expect an air show. He’s used to gravity doing the work for him, what do you really expect?
  14. Looks solid. All the necessities seem to be in place, and seeing as the only RPG running right now seems to be Interrugnum I have no qualms about approving a second. Looking forward to seeing how this goes. x1
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