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Ataraxy

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

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"We could have made it." 

Lilith sat in the commander's chair of her airship Clockwork, spinning magic around her fingers. Her frown had increased little by little at the Cult fleet fell back away from Nede. No, they retreated. Like ants beneath a foot. The foot was supposed to be her, not the insects crawling around her. 

"You're not all power, Lilith," Aedos responded. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "You saw the Peacekeepers and Zodiac Knights lined up there. Maybe you would have gotten through, but everyone else would have been slaughtered." Lilith's expression was clearly responding with a so what, but she'd listened to him so Aedos wasn't keen on pressing the issue lest she turn the ship around and they all die.

"I still think we could have made it," Venus said, still standing to the right of and slightly behind Lilith. "The Commander may not be omnipotent, but some ex-soldiers who had their program canceled couldn't have stopped us. With only the gauntlet the Commander matched two Peacekeepers." Clockwork shook as projectiles crashed into its barrier. 

"Perhaps." Lilith ended the argument with a look to Venus. "My order was not based on raw fire power. Something is... off." The powerful necromancer drummed her fingers along the chair's armrest. "For a while I've had a feeling of something being wrong. Regardless of the power of the soldiers who blocked our path, how could they have set up so quickly? It's almost as if they knew we'd be there. And then they managed to secure such an area without Ankou noticing intruders into his section." Her fingers drummed louder, each tap leaving an indent into the metal armrest." 

"Perhaps it was the oracle. She crashed her ship into Clockwork," Aedos offered, having been on the ship during the collision. 

"It's possible. I am curious how she managed to snap the Mark's power without any real kickback." Betrayal was not something Lilith particularly cared about, but her power increased with each mark. An easy removal of the mark could cause rapid shifts in her power. Even more so, what if it was easy because it involved a third party? Having someone going around forcefully removing her contracts with others would need to be addressed, if it was true. It shouldn't be possible, but the events today weren't going as they should have. She turned to Venus, "how far are we from the Ascension's territory?"

"At our current speed we'll arrive in a little under an hour, Commander."

"And our enemies?"

"They're keeping pace, but not engaging as hard as I'd expect from those dogmatized warriors."

"Okay. Continue scanning for incoming airships. Even just chasing us is rather aggressive considering the equality of each side's strength. If they knew we'd be there, I can't tell how far they might have planned this out."

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Ankou sat in a darkened corner of the room from which he could see and hear every bit of the conversations that were taking place. He had remained silent thus far, affectionately stroking the hair of the young vampire Mercury in a manner meant to comfort her as much as it was to soothe his nerves. Things had not gone to plan; which wasn't cause for alarm in and of itself. Even in a group as powerful and competent as the Cult's inner circle, miscalculations were possible. Sometimes a situation just went wrong; and no amount of planning beforehand would have made a difference. But this was something different...

Through some as yet unknown means, their enemies had found a way to not only predict their movement; but also move unnoticed, even in places where such things should not be possible. More than that, one of the Paragons had managed to remove her Mark without any kind of repercussions. Until now it had seemed that the power of the Marzana had been unshakable; but now appeared disturbingly fragile. A palpable sense of unease had settled over the remaining crew; and Ankou could sense that some were beginning to have doubts.

Lilith herself seemed largely unconcerned; and given how the mantle of The Lunar Daughter influenced its host, perhaps she truly was. Ankou however couldn't help but worry. There were too many unknowns at play; and their forces were too scattered. If something were to happen to her...

What? 

During the time he had followed her, he had come to look upon the young woman with a fondness unfamiliar to him. Now as he contemplated the possibility of her coming to harm, he could feel a great void in the pit of his stomach. It inspired him to stand, and offer his opinion.

"If you so desired, you could regroup in my sector. While I do not know how the enemy has managed to set foot there undetected, I know that my stronghold remains unbreached. All that I have is yours to command; you need only give the order."

Edited by danzilla3

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@Tenkai Matsumoto

Aboard the OFM Imperator Bellum:

 

"They've been keeping steady. Projections remain their path will remain so for at least half an hour" came the report from an officer. Master Knight James Eredas accepted the report with a nod, and turned to the comm display of his colleague, "You heard that from my navigation officer Tenkai? I expect yours will have a similar answer. Our enemy is before us, firing lanes clear. Hard to get more ideal conditions for your Totsuka cannon. What do you think? We press them and cover for your main gun?"

The two Order of Force Majeure airships had been on the outskirts of the earlier engagements, but now they were positioned near the vanguard of the chase. They were smaller ships, frigates by classification, but each was a uniquely overhauled and customized design off the base chassis, resulting in the one of a kind Belisarius-Sinistrum class line of air vessels.

Hailing Knight Tenkai Matsumoto on the Susanoo from aboard his Imperator Bellum, James made plans to begin to harry Lilith's larger, grander vessel. There was only so much the allied fleet could do at long range, and there wasn't much sense to him in holding their cards any longer. Even if Tenkai still wanted to hold in reserve, James would at least contribute. The Imperator Bellum was a vessel excelling in knife fighting distance, like its master, but it featured a main turreted pair of cannons of ample power for line battle. 

Edited by Fierach

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On 10/29/2020 at 12:59 PM, Fierach said:

You heard that from my navigation officer Tenkai? I expect yours will have a similar answer. Our enemy is before us, firing lanes clear. Hard to get more ideal conditions for your Totsuka cannon. What do you think? We press them and cover for your main gun?"

 

"Negative. It's too risky."

Tenkai gave his brief reply while standing on the command bridge of the Susano’o, surrounded by hard light holo-screens upon which one of them displayed the communication feed coming in from the Imperator Bellum. Like that selfsame flagship of the Order’s Master Knight, the Susano’o was a heavily modified Belisarius-Sinistrum class frigate originally of Kadian design albeit in a different fashion than its older sibling. Through cooperation between the OFM and RAKAN Industries, additional changes had been made to the weapons array, hull layout and engine configuration. On top of this was the addition of the Totsuka WMG Mk. 1, the ship’s aptly-named main gun and brainchild of Chief Engineer Kazuo Ishiyama. It was a high-density energy converter that fired a condensed particle beam powerful enough to punch a hole through an entire mountain range. It had been designed with penetration and precision in mind rather than sheer destructive power, with the intention of reducing collateral damage as much as possible. No doubt James thought that using their best guns against the Cult's flagship was their best bet, but Tenkai did not agree.

The Clockwork Grind was one of the most powerful Genesarian airships, if not the most powerful airship on this star. There was no telling how a blast from the Totsuka could react with its defenses, of which they only knew so much about. That wasn't even factoring in the additional defenses afforded by the powers of both Lilith Reiter and Ankou Lethe, both of whom were on that ship. Even if the shot was successful, the most they could theoretically do is damage one of the engines, if even that. Taking such a risk where there were so many opportunities for it to backfire just to clip its wings a bit wasn't going to be enough. It was a flying fortress, and even at a slower pace it would be able to withstand a prolonged aerial assault. The only way they could corner the Cult would be if they could force them to land, and until Order and the other allied forces knew the extent of the enemy's defenses, any drastic measures taken would be a dice roll with poor odds on their end.

And Tenkai was not a big fan of gambling.

"We can't do anything without first knowing what they're capable of," Tenkai continued. "We need to probe their defenses. If there's a simpler way to force them to land, we should pursue that instead of using a weapon that hasn't even been battle-tested yet."

"Battle" was the key word here. The Totsuka had been tested before, to the point that Tenkai understood what it was capable of. That knowledge was part of what gave him pause about using it. Their enemy were two of this world's most powerful magic users. Nothing could be taken as a certainty where sorcery was involved. Sometimes using sheer brute force to overcome magical resourcefulness didn't always pan out well for the former, especially when the latter also had force on their side. Tenkai understood that more than anyone else in the Order. The only way to turn the tide was to outsmart them, and outsmarting a mage was always a tall order.

"We should press them with our other long-range weaponry for now. Our firing lane may be clear, but we don't have an opening. Yet."

@Fierach

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High above the cloud cover, seventy-thousand feet above the surface of Valucre, floats one lone, small aerostat. More precisely, it's an aerostat without a rigid frame, with the internal pressure of hydrogen gas keeping the envelope inflated; pressure which is stretching the envelope much larger at this altitude. Fortunately, this craft is designed for it, made and normally used to track and study large weather patterns that can only be observed and measured this far above Valucre.

Now though, instead of large instrument clusters ready to drop out of its airlock, Thurgood and Aveline sit in the hold, with full combat gear, three full-size airfoil canopies each, bottles of 80-20 nitrogen-oxygen mix (and the necessary gear to breathe it), plenty of anti-materiel items such as thermite, explosives, caps, and detonation cord, pressure-based altimeters, a few magazines for their assault rifles, but plenty of 12-gauge shells for their shotguns, and communication to the rest of the Allied Fleet, ready to step into the airlock, and out into a freefall towards any aircraft in this fight, to either help defend a vital allied craft, or much more likely, board a craft under the Cult of Power's control to either capture it or take it out of the fight.

It takes massive balls to take on the Cult of Power in the first place, but to drop out of a tiny blimp, fall between forty to sixty-thousand feet, and rely on a relatively small assemblage of nylon to take the fight right to the enemy is just completely fucking INSANE! The Singlance Siblings hope it's insane enough to blindside the Cult of Power, and most importantly, work.

"We should be right above the fleet," the pilot shouts back.

"Call it," Aveline replies.

The pilot activates the secure communication device, and transmits just a short phrase to any allied fleet craft connected: "the hornets are in position."

Edited by notmuch_23

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Somewhere to the side of the paragon fleet, a lone airship made an appearance. It was moving at a rather frightening pace in hopes of joining the larger fleet. Atop the airship stood two shady figures. Both wore similar looking long coats with the hoods covering their heads and most of their facial features. While their haphazard positions were greatly inadvisable for the common man, it never bothered the pair. Their attention were more focused on catching up to their fellow paragons and perhaps even aid their benefactor to escape this rather cumbersome predicament.

"Well that was fucking weird," the taller one was the first to break the silence. The voice was definitely female despite the rough quality. "Them fuckers up there be sending these goddamned signals everywhere. It's grating on my nerves. Like fuck!"

"Eh? What does it say?" the shorter one replied barely attempting to hide the sarcasm in her cutesy yet monotone voice.

"No fucking idea. Bloody cunts prolly be doing some shady shit. Or maybe I'm just a bit tired from flying this fucking ship we stole from that bitch."

The shorter paragon responded with a chuckle. "Let it go. We came here for Lilith and Uncle Ankou. Just focus on that.." the she paused to take a long swig of spirits from her flask of alcohol. "Anyway, heard anything from Sagittarius yet? Even Aquarius had been silent recently."

"Got nothing on my end either. These fucking bitches be going silent when we need them the most. Well, fuck that-"

The two suddenly paused for a moment as if suddenly noticing something wrong. Then they faced each other, both with worrying expressions.

"The younger sister is here. Shit's gonna go bad for us."

The shorter one just nodded but kept her mouth shut. SIlence fell on the two as they eagerly anticipate the ensuing battle. As the stolen airship continued its journey, one could not help but notice the matching symbols at the back of these paragon's coats. A woman pierced by spear...


Inside the Imperius Bellum, a blonde woman stopped in her tracks. It was a faint yet familiar feeling that Shishi Ravenbush was taken aback. Then it was gone in a heartbeat. Shrugging it off, she returned to her quarters to prepare for the operation. She was just excited at the prospect in chasing after the Lilith, her cult and her paragons. These villains had been left at large for a long time. This operation should put an end to that vile group 

Entering the room that the Order provided, her gaze instantly fell at the aged and faded cloak draped over the chair. it was probably a gift since she received it together with that sentient armor from that package her older sibling sent a few weeks ago. The last time they met was in Dougtom after that Aleth incident. She hasn't heard from her older sister since then. Still, it was the thoughT that counts.

"I should prolly give her a visit once this is over," she mumbled to herself as she put on the coat. "But only if I survive this time."

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"To all Force Majure aircraft in Nu Martyr space," another voice added to the ever growing chorus of cadences in the vox communication network. "This is Sir Nathaniel Jameson, leader of the Watchers team commanding the Stormbreaker. Our ship is ready to do its part."

To all familiar with the Watchers of Genesaris, it was obvious they had decided that now was the time to announce their grand return and finish what was started in the last war.

Since the end of that conflict, both the cavernous ship they had absconded with and its commander had undergone a serious transformation. Previously it was a freighter, the air equivalent of a draft horse, meant for ferrying passengers and cargo. Now it could rightly be called a warship. The engineers and scientists they had evacuated to their new homes in Genesaris had worked tirelessly to reconstruct the ship into another powerful weapon to use against their enemies. The broadside had been fitted and bristled with cannons and anti fighter guns, each powerful enough to shoot down an individual fighter with a single, direct shot.

Armored plates and some additional wind shielding were fitted on both the bow and the upper deck to protect its crew and to allow it the capability of ramming straight through enemy vessels. 

The downside to all its upgrades was that it came at the expense of speed and maneuverability. Unlike others of its kind, the Stormbreaker was rebuilt for staying power and sheer strength above all. It would need to be so if it were to accomplish its mission. Per Nathan's plan, the Stormbreaker would act as the hammer that would smash through the enemy fleet and provide the allies with an opening. If it succeeded in breaking all the way through to Lilith's flagship, all would be well and good. If it failed, he hoped to still influence the fight in whatever way he could.

Nathan himself had changed for this battle as well. Since he had defeated his old adversary, Antares, a near death experience had made him undergo a major transformation. By merging with his ally, Max, he had acquired a far greater power than he had ever thought possible. Quite literally, their two souls and bodies had become one. Now one being, his strength had increased exponentially, possibly even enough to challenge Lilith herself. 

Onboard the Stormbreaker's command seat, he sat, overlooking the unfolding situation with new eyes. Blue eyes scanned the sky, which the crew could not help but notice were glowing. Electricity crackled across Nathan's armor and body in short bursts, as did ethereal blue flames, a telltale sign of just how enraged he was under the surface.

"I come for you, sorceress." He muttered; the glow in his eyes intensifying. "This time, you will not evade me."

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Posted (edited)

"If you so desired, you could regroup in my sector. While I do not know how the enemy has managed to set foot there undetected, I know that my stronghold remains unbreached. All that I have is yours to command; you need only give the order." [Ankou]

"No," Lilith murmured quietly after a minute, "We'd have to wade through whatever trap they hid on Nede first to get to your sector. We'd lose too many Paragons." Not that she particularly cared about the lives of her followers, but their lives were her power and to carelessly toss that away would be unsatisfactory.  "Continue back to Nu Martyr. There's a barrier around Ascension City that will block their advance and allow us to gain footing." 

Part of the knowledge and plan came from Lilith herself, but more came from the voices of the Lunar Consciousness. Years of experience driving their suggestions, in turn influencing the choices she made. As she'd suspected, the two sides made occasional attacks but nothing close to what had forced them off Nede. It was almost as if they were being... herded. 

Lilith frowned at the thought of someone herding her. A mortal thinking so high of itself that it attempted to do it. Believing that it could. She wanted to ignore the thought, but the Lunar Consciousness warned against arrogance in face of objective fact. Before she could more analyze the thought, the Airship passed through the barrier of Ascension City, along with hundred of other Cult aircrafts. The High Magic barrier surrounding the city drew its power from the ground and essence of Nu Martyr, of the blood and bones which built up the earth itself. 

Impenetrable. 

Clockwork landed, but Lilith didn't move from her seat. Something was wrong. Off. It wasn't adding up. It felt like she was being led back to their Stronghold? It would have made more sense if they'd prepared a trap to keep them on Nede or to a different province. Pushing them toward Nu Martyr, Ascension City of all things, didn't make sense. Even as others departed from the ship, running to their stations within the city of begin with defenses of what was no doubt going to be a siege, Lilith didn't move. Her eyes remained aimed outside the barrier to the opposing sides aircrafts that hovered and buzzed like flies waiting for a chance.

Wait. 

Waiting for a chance? 

Her eyes widened as a realization dawned on her but before she could utter a word, the barrier dropped right before her eyes. The golden-silver glow of the High Magic barrier fizzled within seconds and chaos erupted.

There was another traitor among the Marked.

Edited by Ataraxy

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