MachMan's frame materialized in a cyan flash a few feet above the familiar sharpened crags and dust-choked skies of the Hades Rogue Network. His enclosed helmet kept him from dealing with any blowing dust or debris, while his nearly vertical engine nacelles calmly shrilled at near idle speed as they kept him perched in the air.
Obscured by his cockpit-like helmet, Mach's eye scanned the field to see if any other programs had located to his ingress point to meet him. He half hoped Prez was there to give him more details on TerrorMan MkIII, but he wouldn't hesitate to act if he "stood" alone.
Peace (or Prez, whichever name MachMan preferred) was standing outside of the cave in her commander's garb; it had been quite some time since MachMan had seen her that way, as opposed to her disheveled hippie look. Complete with parachute pants, a cap with a gleaming gold skull on the front, and a long-tailed coat, it gave her quite a different look, but one that was almost humorous after seeing her in her other persona. Thankfully, MachMan had shown off his new look already (and Peace had helped design it), so she wouldn't be shocked seeing him descend towards her. "Thank you for coming quickly, MachMan. I read your e-mail, hopefully I can give you some more information that will help you in the mission before you get started," she greeted him, no-nonsense from the get-go.
"First off, although I certainly value my Terror Girls more than I do my ship, I don't think there is any need to destroy the ship. And do not take this as a challenge, but I don't believe it's likely to work out well for you if you try, without the aid of your allies. The weakness of the ship, at least unmanned as it is, will be close in. Ordinarily, the pin-field across the surface of the ship is the best defense against that, but there is indeed a weakness there: a landing strip, intended for use by Cruz. To hit it, you'll have to land flush with the center of the ship, down the flat on the front and towards the bridge. It's going to be a little tricky to hit, but frankly, if Cruz can hit it, so can you. If you can get that landing strip, then the pin field shouldn't be a bother."
"Again, don't stay at mid or long range too long... I'm not sure if the cannons are going to be operational yet, but they are essentially the same strength as the elimination laser you've seen TerrorMan use before... only, the fire time is quicker, the range of the neck is greater, the neck is reinforced to prevent it from being severed again, and there are seven total, three across each side of the ship and one in the front. So, again, I encourage you to get close to the ship and land to proceed. The cannons obviously won't fire on you there, since they would damage the ship."
She produced a small data packet and handed it over to him, then crossed her arms back across her chest. "That map will show you everything you need to know about the interior of TerrorMan Mk. III. Obviously... I would prefer that you not distribute those. From the landing strip, you will see two entrance points: either through the bridge, or down into the inside of the ship. The bridge is less involved than you might mean, it's mostly consoles inside that are used to toggle automated defenses. If whoever took the ship is smart, they'll be in there... that controls all of the cannons, the pin field, and security cameras. That one room gives them control over everything in TerrorMan. The downside, at least where we're concerned, is that it locks down to become nearly impregnable, which is necessary because it sticks out like a sore thumb. This means that it can't be pierced from the outside, but also, it can be locked down. Once in lockdown, only my verbal command at close range will open it. That means... I may have to come with you. If that's even possible. If you think it's best that I don't, you'll have to lure out the perpetrators some other way."
"Deeper inside, there are habitation areas, more than we need really, and laboratories where I can conduct my experiments. There's a gym... mostly for Load... and there is an armory. The armory is only full of tools we use to eliminate the weapons of others, of course. This will eventually include more of the disarmament bombs, whenever we have the chance to produce more, but for now, none of those are inside. Machinery that controls the flight systems is deeper inside. All of it's automated; we set the course from the bridge and the flight is handled automatically. The bridge can perform a manual override, but it's not a very mobile craft regardless. The power supply is also in there; it isn't designed to be shut off, so if you want to take out the power, you'll need to destroy it. Doing so would ground the ship and would not be comfortable for anyone involved, but you may want to keep it in mind as a last resort. I suspect you won't have much reason to go in there, unless you can't spot one of the Terror Girls near the bridge. Remember that your objective is to rescue all of my crew and retake the ship, although ejecting or eliminating whoever is taking it over will likely be integral to that effort."
Finally, she finished, bringing out her pistol and checking the cartridge. "If you have any more questions, you should ask them as we approach. I don't want to lose any more time, since the girls could be in danger."
Thankfully Prez was as business-focused as her ally, and gave many significant details about how to approach and what weaponry TerrorMan could bring to bear to stop said approach. Better yet, she produced an interior map as he requested in the email. Either she thought he was too injured to be a threat, or is actually trusting him for once, Mach thought to himself. He took the data packet between the spindly index finger and thumb of his right hand before he reached up and pressed it "into" his canopy and integrated the data into his HUD.
He continued to listen and pulled up the interior areas Prez mentioned on his HUD as she spoke, almost like she was giving him a guided tour of the ship. He already had his eyes on the bridge, and was considering taking the girl with him in case said bridge was locked down. He also considered simply recording her voice and playing it back to fool the security, but having her along would provide quick and accurate feedback when navigating, and an extra set of eyes to find clues of who or what caused TerrorMan and her compatriots to go AWOL. He knew there was a risk by bringing her to a possibly hostile area, but she wouldn't be of much utility to Mach if she remained on the ground.
After Prez began to inspect her sidearm and commented on the need for haste, Mach stepped closer to Prez and opened his hands. "Fine with me," he replied before he barely crouched down and his arms swung towards Prez. His left arm moved behind her knees then attempted to sweep her feet out from under her, while the right crossed over her shoulder blades with the goal of holding her steady in his metal arms in a sort of "princess carry." Old habits still appeared to die hard, though it looked very out of place for a Navi of his design, it was the first carry that came to mind. He should be able easily cradle her small frame, but she would be left with nothing to hold on to other than maybe his waist, due to the large flattened nosecone that jutted out from his chest (though his arms, significantly longer than his uninjured form, allowed for enough room to hold her securely without pressing her face up against he underside of said nosecone).
If she didn't try to squirm out of his grip, or show visible discomfort through the view from his "chin" cameras on the underside of his nosecone, he'd start to get airborne again and turn towards TerrorMan's location. If she chose to remain on the ground, he'd instead open a channel with the Navi. "Confirm the airstrip extends from bow to stern of the ship? What direction would Cruz normally approach from to land?"
The wind was fierce as they approached the ship; it was probably a good thing that MachMan had chosen to carry her the way she had, or else she might be in danger from the various small debris whipping around them in the stale air. She attempted to continue instruction, though she had to raise her voice so he could hear. "We are almost past the cloud cover for the ship. Once you see it, you must approach very quickly," was all she could say, before MachMan got past aforementioned cloud cover. The tremendous ship came into view: it easily dwarfed the size of any other TerrorMan model before it and where the last had looked like a flying tank, this one more closely resembled some kind of aircraft carrier. The shape was vaguely like a wedge or shoe shape, oblong but slightly elevated in the back, with the bridge visible as a small tower on top. The jaw of the ship's skull insignia gaped open persistently, with a cannon inside, and several other large skulls lined the ship, three on each side as she'd warned him. Each of them likely housed a cannon on its own. Right now, each was slotted into the ship's hull, except for one near the back, which appeared to be slightly extended and had sparks trailing from its jaw, which was creaking slightly open and closed. It was hard to tell more from this angle, but maybe it had already been attacked by someone?
As he got closer, he'd see other points of interest. While the ship had appeared smooth from the underside, he could see that there was a large bed of spikes raised just a little to the right of the aforementioned landing strip. He could make some guesses as to why, but he'd have to get closer to figure that out. Doing so would mean lingering on the outside of the ship for a while, which could be dangerous, although according to Prez the cannons wouldn't attack him for now. As for the landing strip, there was no visual indicator for it, so he'd need to use the elevated bridge as a guiding point and land as close to center as he could manage. The skull heads on the sides did indeed appear to be active; two were already beginning to extend their necks out from the ship. If the main cannon on the front was powering up, it was hard to tell for now, but it would be pretty surprising if it tried to take him out with that regardless, considering the aim on that one didn't appear to be adjustable apart from moving the whole ship.
The details provided by his frowning passenger gave him a better mental picture and allowed him to develop a better "game plan" to approach the vessel. The internal map of the ship gave him a small sense of scale, but only once he broke through the cloud layer did he truly realize how massive TerrorManMkIII was. ["Wow, they really went all-out,"] Mazer commented aloud from his seat in front of his PET and computer screen.
Heeding Peace's advice upon breaching the cloud cover, he responded with a simple "Understood," immediately followed by sudden acceleration that would've likely pressed Prez down into Mach's forearms and up against his abdomen and lower chest. His ruddervators, legs, and thrust vectoring paddles actuated in a smoothly mechanical chorus of movement to angle Mach and Peace up and out towards what he figured to be TerrorMan's bow.
More details came into view, including what appeared to be a damaged cannon and activated spikes, but the Navi's focus was on the landing strip. He angled his climb to approach TerrorMan head-on at speed, then rolled inverted and pulled "up" sharply towards the ground to abruptly halt his climb and try to line himself with the runway's surface as he rolled back wings-level. His intent was to change directions rapidly, while keeping positive "G" to have Prez feel like she's being pressed down into his arms rather than risk floating up and out of his grip.
"Hold on, coming in hot," he warned before accelerating and careening directly towards TerrorMan's bow with the intent of reaching the landing strip before its defensive systems could react. He kept his eyes peeled and his throttle forward in case he needed to immediately abandon his approach due to incoming fire. If he was able to continue his approach, he attempted to touch down on the first foot of the landing surface and immediately cut his throttles. He expected his feet to skid, and used his splayed out control surfaces to act as air brakes. He would normally use his thrust reversers, but in this case he'd cook his passenger in the process.
For that, he had a backup plan. If it looked like he had too much momentum and too little runway remaining, he would've used his ruddervators to have him spin 180 degrees to continue his skid facing backwards. With the risk of catching Prez in the exhaust blast eliminated, he would've gone full throttle for a few seconds to kill his momentum. To keep steady, he would've shifted his right forearm to go more or less down Prez's back and cupped his hand under her butt, so he wouldn't drop her as his left arm swung away and extended towards the ground in an attempt to assume a three-point stance.
If he made it to a complete spot without slamming into a wall or perforated by spikes, he angled his right arm straight down lower Prez to the ground. Upon dropping off his passenger, Mach stood up straight before his upper torso turned towards the raised bridge. "Let's retake the bridge," he ordered before he began to walk towards any obvious routes to the tower-like structure.
Once she was recovered a bit, she nodded in agreement. "Yes, it only makes sense. If we can retake control of the ship, then finding the girls ought to be a piece of cake," she concurred, making her way to the large hatch at the front of the bridge. There didn't seem to be any knob or handle, so presumably, it only opened by voice command. In lockdown mode, that voice would have to be Peace's, judging by what was said earlier. "TerrorMan Mk. III. This is your leader, Prez. Open the door," she commanded, already seeming perturbed that the hatch hadn't begun to open as soon as she spoke.
It might occur to MachMan that the door wasn't entirely free of decoration: a skull emblem was sitting nearby, almost looking like it might be a control panel or at least a buzzer. There was no button to indicate such, however. Instead, a voice came from inside the skull, while the jaw moved open and shut, not quite matching the nuance of the words coming out, but just the recognition of volume. The voice coming out would sound vaguely familiar to MachMan: deep, slick, and with what could generously be called confidence, less generously arrogance. "Huh... So there were more TerrorGirls left, huh? I knew I missed the president, but look at you... damn, girl, you're even odder to look at than the muscle women. What the hell happened to you?" he chuckled darkly. "Anyway, look... I can't really call it 'taking over your ship' if I leave the bridge open, can I? Already changed the codes, president. So you're all outta luck..."
Prez seemed to bristle; she obviously hadn't expected to end up tangling with a foe technologically advanced enough to reprogram her security systems. "Who are you?" she requested, clenching her teeth and her fists in frustration. "And what have you done with the crew?"
"I'm under no obligation to tell you who I am, little lady. Though, I do like to make a deal... maybe we can get around to that. From what I know about your organization, though, you girls aren't too much about deals, are you? So let me answer your second question, free of charge: they're all accounted for. I've got an interest in keeping them all alive and intact. Also got an interest in keeping you alive and intact. Sisters, this ship of yours has got you trapped... I know the way you Terror Girls work and I know that you're the only one that can jack out, president. And with that in mind, I know you aren't going to leave your crew. Now... I've got a great cell down below where you can lock yourself in."
The girl's brow was twitching in aggravation, but she kept her cool enough to describe the change of plans to her ally. She kept her voice low. "MachMan, I can still run the diagnostics on the ship... The door has been reprogrammed to answer to two voices. I have no way to tell who those two are, but one of them must be the owner of the voice we're hearing. If there's another voice, that's either his operator or possibly a cohort on the ship. We should keep our guard up as we look for the other girls..."
MachMan would notice that the skullheads all seemed to have unhooked themselves from the ship and extended out on their necks, except for the back-left one that was sending out sparks earlier. They cast great shadows over the deck of the ship as they leered down at MachMan... As Prez had said, they couldn't quite reach the bridge of the ship and didn't appear to be charging their guns, but their jaws were open. It was clear they had some kind of intent to attack anyone who tried to fly back off the vessel.
"I can also tell the number of passengers, but only those inside the bridge or inside the rooms below the deck. I detect two figures inside the bridge and two down below, seemingly in the laboratory. However, it bothers me that that number doesn't account for the intruder, his cohort, Cruz, Load, Scavenger, and Dr. Pin. We're two short... that means the other two have either left the ship or are somewhere on, but outside, the ship..." she murmured, increasingly concerned. "What should we do? It's inadvisable that we split up until we know what kind of power they have... at the very least, he's assured us for now that the others are safe, for as much as we can trust his word..."
At this point, there was seemingly no way to access the bridge unless MachMan had practiced his impressions lately. There was always a chance it would respond to a recording, maybe? But if the guy was smart enough to reprogram the thing, he was probably smart enough to guard against that. MachMan's other options would be to inspect the outside of the ship for some sign of the unaccounted for girls, or head below deck and to the laboratory, or possibly to another room if he could think of something that might help him. He'd also want to be very careful if he did step around the deck of the ship, as, according to Prez, the rest of the surface was supposed to be defended by the pin field, though it seemed flat enough apart from the elevated parts slightly off from the landing strip.
He also realized it was a smart idea to remain silent; the unknown voice obviously had eyes and ears trained on the pair, but his comments suggested he assumed Mach to be another TerrorGirl. Mach immediately intended to keep it that way, to maintain a possible leg-up on what's going on. However, that did restrict his ability to communicate directly with the hijacker; even if he tried to assume a female voice, his lack of experience combined with his injuries would likely produce an unconvincing imitation. He also considered giving the skull "the finger" in response to the insult regarding 'her' appearance, but playing the part of a Cruz-like automaton *could* further conceal his abilities from the hijacker.
[[i]So he's well-connected intel-wise, wants the ship and the crew intact, and is willing to strike up a deal? Hm, what's his angle?[/i]] Mach pondered to himself. It wasn't certain if he wanted to simply absorb their organization and equipment, or deliver them to a client on a silver platter for a hefty price. The former idea sounds like something PantheonMan would have; and ArmoryMan, the latter. Mach's head tilted upwards in his opaque helmet and looked at the looming skull cannons, but didn't move to bring weapons to bear; it was clear the hijacker wanted them all stay put, and alive.
Peace's quick data gathering helped somewhat in the process of elimination; the two voices didn't reveal that much due to the possibility of a NetOp being the second voice, but the passenger count likely ruled out Boss Oni, it sounded like he always had an entourage of women to hoist him about. They could be lurking outside of the vessel, however. In the back of his mind, he had a nagging suspicion it was a pair of Navis, and almost wanted it to be ArmoryMan and Memora. He could possibly knock him down a peg, and maybe find out why she got blown up.
He tried to open a private line to Prez with Mazer courtesy-copied; she mentioned the bridge controlled security cameras, and he assumed there were mics as well.
He thinks I'm one of your female comrades. Play along with that, it may give us an edge. I don't care what you call me, just not "Mach;" this program's voice sounds familiar, we might've met before.
With that, new plan: I need you to cut their connections to the security cameras at a minimum, as well as their cannon controls if able. If we can't open the door or blast our way in using TerrorMan's cannons, then I'll just destroy the power supply. They want the ship intact, but I don't care either way. They'll have two choices: open up and try to stop me, or go down with the ship. As such, keep the cameras in the power core online; I want them to watch as I call their bluff and pull the plug.
As he gave Prez a moment to respond, he turned back towards the landing strip, and attempted to get eyes on the raised spikes to the right of said landing strip. It stood out, and he tried to see if there were any clues as to why they remained active, specifically if anything was amongst/speared by the spikes.
Okay... I'll call you Mekka for now. Don't laugh.
What you're asking me to do is not easy. I need to, at minimum, get to my laboratory to get the proper tools. If we can get to my laboratory, disabling the cameras shouldn't be too hard, but disabling the turrets will be a bit harder. Disabling the security at the bridge will be difficult, but chances are I can analyze whose voices are controlling the security now and simulate one or the other so we can get through.
Also, let's not destroy my ship if we can help it, okay? I'd prefer to exhaust our other options first.
Prez didn't seem particularly frightened of the looming, tremendous skull heads above the two of them, and neither did MachMan, for that matter. Perhaps both of them were just so used to seeing giant golden skulls by this point that the imminent threat didn't do much to them. Regardless, the skulls were all in holding position, hanging with their jaws open. She noticed him inspecting the group of spikes, then squinted her eyes. "You know, those spikes generally only come up when they're 'tripped' by movement from an entity that it recognizes as 'inorganic.' That's basically code for 'it thinks it can stab it without injuring it.' That means that somebody's probably in there... but who? I know it isn't Cruz, she could simply fly out. Scavenger too, as long as she isn't stuck. Load would probably just break out..."
From an angle, MachMan could see a hand grasping hold of one of the spikes, occasionally releasing to try to feel its way out. Being covered in a copper-colored skinsuit and seemingly regular sized for a woman's hand (and not made of metal), it probably didn't belong to Cruz, Load, or Scavenger. If he approached and looked harder, he could follow the arm in a bit further and see that it did indeed belong to a woman... judging by the fact that the woman was stuck with her outfit ripped to shreds, revealing a yellow bra and panties set with white polka-dots across it. Her body was rather thin, without much in the way of breasts, but very, very tall. Her back was craned over from where she'd tried to snake her way out through the spikes, which hid her face from view. She'd stalled for an obvious reason: a series of three spikes had lodged themselves into her panties, such that the back was pitched over one, the side was torn, and the other side was nearly yanked away, basically preserving her modesty only by means of another spike that was riding between her legs.
Her toes peaked out from another pair of spikes, feeling for some way to free herself and making very little progress. Prez gave MachMan a withering glare, as though he'd done something rather than her perverse security system. "Is this one of the intruders?" she asked. "I can't believe they got themselves stuck like this." She was still speaking quietly so that none of the invaders would hear their conversations.
"Curious about that, huh?" the deep-voiced man laughed. "Yeah, that's one of yours. Got herself stuck there. You might as well get her out and take her to downstairs to a holding cell. Then the three of you can catch up, hm hm hm..." It might sound like he was just handing them another card to play against him, but if MachMan thought about it, he could easily see why the voice's owner might want them to step out onto the automated pinfield to attempt a rescue. Flying over the spikes might make it easier to reach the captive, but it could have its own dangers. If MachMan didn't feel like the navi could help, he might also consider just leaving them for now and grabbing them once they'd resolved the situation on the ship.
Fine. We'll hit the lab first. If we can't break in, threatening to destroy the ship might coax them out; TerrorMan's well-being is a bargaining chip we can use. In the meantime, looks like the pin field caught someone.
Mach moved a bit closer, without attempting to sneak up on the "victim" of the spikes; if they didn't notice him from his high-speed landing, his metallic footfalls would've been a whisper in comparison. He also didn't prepare any weapons, a decision he wouldn't regret for now, the woman mired by the spikes was barely able to move, let alone fight. He tried to identify the woman by her color scheme and body type, but he drew a mental blank in the absence of a good look at her face. He stopped a safe distance away, and placed his left hand on his hip before he sent another message to Prez and Mazer
Hm, I don't recognize her either. Find out who she is; I can't speak without blowing my cover, unless you have a voice modulation program handy. Mazer, get one for me if Prez is empty-handed. If she's an ally, just tell her to swallow her modesty and get out regardless how little of her clothing survives. The spikes would tear my body apart if I attempted to retrieve her, unless they have a maximum range and I'd be possible to "airlift" her out.
Mazer still wasn't quite used to Mach's gruff attitude and demanding orders, especially towards him, but the wound was still raw and he had to pick his battles. ["On it,"] Mazer replied directly to his Navi, then shifted to his mouse and keyboard to begin his search for Navi voice modulators or some easy-to-install female vocal files.
While his NetOp searched and his comrade attempted to communicate with the unknown woman, Mach remained on the landing strip. As he waited/listened, he went over TerrorMan's internal map again to relocate the Lab and identify available routes from his location. He didn't expect the woman in the pin field to be a more insidious trap, but until the occupant was ID'd as a friend, he wouldn't risk needlessly damaging himself.
"Can't you see the state I'm in?" a familiar voice came from inside; MachMan had heard it enough to know that it must be Pinpoint, ironically trapped in her own invention. "If you know my work, then you must now how difficult it is to pull yourself out from these spikes, with or without regard to modesty. Especially when you have one stuck through your skull!"
"Ah, Dr. Pin... Yes. I didn't recognize you without your pantie- um, your... pants... on," Prez murmured, looking to MachMan awkwardly and shooting him a message.
Can you turn the other way or something? She's going to freak out if you see her naked. Also, if her skull is stuck, then getting her out is going to be considerably more difficult. I'll do my best...
"Can you detach your head?" she asked, keeping a droll frown on her face.
"What kind of a question is that? No, I can't detach my head! My brain is in there," Dr. Pin responded, offended.
Prez pressed her fingers to her temples, then glared back at MachMan. "Mekka, perhaps you can find somewhere else to be right now, while I climb into this spike bed and attempt to get our mutual friend free?" With that, she reached one hand tentatively towards the spikes to grab the hand of her ally, but the spikes came up just as quickly, piercing her glove and causing her to reflexively draw back her arm. The index finger ripped off from the glove when she retracted it. "Dammit... Why did I pick a mechanism to defend my ship that repels every soldier I have and also humiliates me?"
"Ha ha ha ha! I think they call that 'hoisted by your own pittard,'" the voice over the intercom laughed. "Why don't you give it a try? It's getting a little boring just watching you all stand around. I'm half tempted to go outside and wrestle you two down myself..."
The leader of the Terror Girls took off her gloves and set them over at the landing strip. Ash she began unbuttoning the jacket of her uniform, she shot MachMan another glare. "I insist, please go ahead and begin searching below deck. Remember that because of the communications jammer, we won't be able to speak once you move even a short distance away from me, as long as we're on the ship and the jammer is still up. I can continue to track your position with my limited access to diagnostics, so I'll meet up with you afterwards." By this point, she'd unbuttoned down to her naval, revealing a short-cropped gray tank top, lightly covering her shapely bosom and failing to cover her slender belly. "I can never tell where you're looking with that mask... Mekka," she grunted, lowering her eyebrows again as she began to shrug off the outerwear. Presumably, her plan was to avoid being locked in by the pin field by going into it as Dr. Nihl had once suggested her own trap was best handled: nude.
MachMan might want to go on below, using the hatch located just in front of the bridge itself but in the floor, or he might choose to stay, sensing danger in splitting up. If he had any ideas on how to save Pinpoint without risking life and limb, he could try to employ those as well.
Why, did you brag to her about your "handiwork," or did she spy on me when I was unconsc- you know what? Don't care. Once you get her out, find out if she got a good look at the attacker(s).He started to look around to locate any hatches to the lower levels, referencing his internal map. To everyone else; however, it looked like he was just standing there like a threatening statue.
Prez spoke up again and chastised "Mekka," who met the uniformed Navi with an unseen glare of "her" own. [[i]I'm not here for a damn peep show... and we're wasting time,[/i]] Mach mentally grumbled to himself. It made sense to split up and cover more ground, and though the hijacker teased the idea of going outside to deal with them both, it would be foolish to risk losing the ship to sate one's hubris.
He began to pivot his upper torso and ease into a steady walk upon finding an access point, but paused when Prez addressed him one more time. She was also disrobing; as voyeuristic as it was, it was also one way to "defeat" the spikes.
Noted. Watch your back, in case the hijacker acts on his "temptation." You assume too much, by the way.he replied and turned away before he clunked away. As he attempted to move towards a hatch or doorway to the ship's internal rooms, he received a data upload notification. ["Found a basic set of compatible female voice mods, labeled 1 through 5,"] Mazer explained directly to Mach, who very briefly looked at the files. [[i]"Thanks,"[/i]] Mach said in a monotone reply over direct comms. At least he was saying thanks...
He didn't bother installing or testing the modulator for now, since he was going to strike out on his own. If the door or hatch was a good distance away, he'd use his engines to zip to his destination. He hoped the entrance was large enough for his large frame, but if Cruz could fit through, theoretically he should be able to as well. Upon reaching the hatch, he'd attempt to make his way towards the laboratory.
She's practically one of the TerrorGirls now, of course she knows who you are. She wouldn't want you- or any guy- seeing her in this state. I don't want you seeing me in this state either, as a reminder. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the bridge in case he comes out. And I'm at least a little offended if you aren't thinking about looking. Spending time with those feudal warlords must have set your standards a a little too high.
it was probably more jokes from Prez, given that she had already confirmed first-hand that MachMan didn't really have the ability to act on any such fascination he might have in the first place, due to his... technical limitations. She'd begun to work on her belt as he left. The ship speaker's voice laughed again, before the one behind it said, "You're going all the way out, huh? I'm not complaining, but just remember that I've got cameras across every inch of this ship... Nothing's every really gone off the internet," they taunted.
The hatch was easy enough to find and opened as he approached; either it couldn't lock or otherwise hadn't been. Regardless, there was no visible tech on it that would allow it to do so. The inside of the ship was clearly designed to offer more comfort than the cramped, over-heated, tank-like body of TerrorMan Mk. II had been. It had actual hallways, still steel, but with enough arm room for MachMan to fit his wide frame through easily enough and even hover a bit if he liked. Cruz could probably spread her wings in here as well. Though, the turns will pretty angular, so anyone flying would need to go at only a slow speed or else they wouldn't be able to hit the turns. The laboratory was not too far down in the ship, according to the map he'd downloaded earlier. Interestingly, there was no sign of a struggle or anything here... most of the Terror Girls would probably leave behind some form of damage if they struggled, given their physical strength. Skull-shaped cameras were placed at corners inside here, but they didn't seemingly line every surface like the ones on the outside did. They might double as speakers, but it'd be hard to tell unless the intruder said something.
As he turned the next corner, he would find someone that might surprise him, but more likely wouldn't at this point: Memora, although this time, wearing the caped, gray uniform that MachMan had seen lying over the chair in her room. If it had a skull on it somewhere, one might think she was a member of the Terror Girls. She was carrying a small sidearm and pressed against the wall just in front of the door to the laboratory, which had a steel rim but a panel of plexiglass (or something similar). Notably, she was standing outside of the camera's visible range, though if she'd snuck past it earlier, that would be quite a feat. Regardless, she must account for one of the others Prez had noted earlier. Could she also be the second the intruder had given access to the bridge? it would be somewhat surprising, given their supposedly adversarial relationship.
She hadn't noticed him yet... there was probably no way he was getting past that camera unseen, but then, the intruder on the bridge must have already figured out that's where he was heading, considering there was nothing to mislead him. From this distance, there was no way to see inside the laboratory.
If you're trying to be funny, cut that shit out. And if you're serious, grow the fuck up.Mach snapped back as he continued to walk away. The hatch opened automatically, and thankfully the corridors were wide enough for his frame. Said corridors appeared undamaged, but monitored by multiple cameras. He assumed the hijacker had already tracked him this far, so attempting stealth at this point seemed useless. He could use his Invis chip and decoys, but he felt it was still too early in the game to show his hand. Appearing oblivious or apathetic to surveillance, "Mekka" continued to follow the map at a determined, yet comfortable pace.
Mach paused shortly after he rounded the corner once he got within eyeshot of Memora. He froze up like a mechanical statue, and remained as quiet as possible as he assessed the situation. Instead of focusing on the fact she was "back from the dead," he was more interested in why she appeared to be hiding from the view of the cameras. Was she on the TerrorGirls' side, a third party capitalizing on the situation, or attempting to sneak something out from under her ally's nose? Regardless, there was allegedly another program in the Lab area, and he fully intended to find out who.
He resumed his course with metallic thunking footfalls as he walked towards the laboratory door. He decided to not physically show any reaction to Memora's presence; Mach assumed he was being tracked by the cameras and the hijacker likely knew where he was (if he wasn't completely distracted by Peace's nude attempt to extract PinPoint), but that didn't mean he needed to reveal Memora as well. He didn't even turn towards the Navi and instead examined the door in an attempt to figure out how to open it. However, he did send a private message her way, which read:
Who are you, and why are you here? You have 3 seconds to comply.He obviously knew the first part, but since he doubted she'd recognize him, he had an unique chance to find out if she'd choose to lie right off the bat.
Below the bridge, he encountered Memora, although rather than revealing himself or speaking, he decided to send a message. Oddly, Memora craned her head to look inside the glass from another angle, before thinking to turn around and notice him. She smiled, then tilted her chin for a moment to indicate that Mekka should continue coming over, away from the camera. She then returned an answer:
My name is Memora and I'm here to save this ship. Is that good enough for you? Now the question is... who are you? I don't recognize you as one of the Terror Girls or their known associates. A deviant named ArmoryMan has set his sites on this ship and is aiming to take it for himself. I, on the other hand, followed him here to help "preserve" the Terror Girls, as I intend to preserve the history of combatants across the net. Doing something as cheap as stealing their ship and selling it is beneath me, but it's how ArmoryMan makes his living.
Inside this room is one of the Terror Girls. The door is locked, but there is a button here that opens it on the wall; presumably something similar is on the inside. I was going to save the girl in there and try to retake the ship with her help, but unfortunately, I am lightly armed and the ease of accessing this place feels like a trap. If you'd be willing, would you mind entering first to assist your comrade? I can guard this room from the outside. I should be able to alert you if there's danger.
The only question now was whether Mekka was willing to trust Memora. From this distance, he could see inside, where Scavenger was strapped into a long device like a metal gurney, similar to what Peace had used when she installed his new parts. Interestingly, she appeared to be naked except for a white tarp draped over her body, covering from the top of the breasts to her metallic thighs, but perhaps more surprisinglly, she still had her mechanical arms and lower body. Whatever was being used to restrain her, though, it appeared to be effective enough that her arms and legs were entirely incapable of movement, or else she'd be struggling, given that her eyes were open and staring angrily at the ceiling of the room. Her snarling mouth full of fangs was similar as well, vaguely similar to her sister's, though her lips were a bit thicker and painted deep red, almost black. Either she'd grown tired of watching the door or she was incapable of turning her head.
"Damn! That's a pretty nice white booty, Prez," a laughing voice reverberated down the hall; its origin point seemed to be the camera in the corner, reaffirming that it also doubled as a sound system. It sounded like MachMan was missing quite a show (not that he'd shown any interest earlier). "Now, are you gonna lift your leg up to get around that spike? Do it for your friend..."
Good enough. I'm Mekka. "ArmoryMan" is holed up in the bridge, and has it coded to open for another voice other than his own. If that voice is yours, this is your only chance to fess up. It's in your best interest to comply and remain on my good side; if I don't get what I want, I'll be more than happy to bring this ship down in flames."Mekka" replied, putting *most of* the cards on the table and established his position on this deal.
["Who is that? I don't recognize her,"] Mazer asked Mach through their private line; he didn't see the communications that bounced between the two Navis. [[i]"If you were paying attention, you'd know that's Memora, and I've met her before on the cruise ship. By the way, she literally exploded last time,"[/i]] he replied in a condescending tone. Mazer did his best to bite his tongue, but his patience was starting to run thin as well.
Mach continued to not show any sort of physical reaction to Memora, he partially believed her story, and preferred to have her as an ally for now. He reached to the button that Memora claimed to open the door, after he'd gotten a good look inside. Memora felt like it was a trap, but Mach had seen how "ease of access" seemed to be a theme for the TerrorGirls' bases of operation, and Scavenger's situation seemed off for a trap. The Navi appeared to have been "prepared" for some sort of procedure, not fallen victim to some previously hidden device... though her angry expression suggested it wasn't her idea to be there in the first place. Regardless, it didn't seem to him to be a trap, and "ArmoryMan's" voice made it seem like he was distracted by the antics on deck.
Taking the chance to press forward, he pressed the button and hoped for the door to open. If it did so, he'd clunk towards Scavenger. He expected her to recognize him, so he sent her a private message to keep the charade up.
Scavenger, it's Mach, but call me "Mekka." I'll explain later. What's your situation?
Mekka, huh? I don't recall hearing about you when I've followed the news on the Terror Girls... ArmoryMan has a partner, does he? I suppose that makes sense. He certainly has money enough to hire someone and he's cultivated a lot of relationships. If we had more time, I'd ask how you have the authority from Prez, who leads your little group, to scrap her ship, but I suppose I may as well trust you since I'm in a hurry.
MachMan would find that pushing the button would indeed open up the door into the laboratory, allowing him to begin walking over. Memora gave him a two finger salute and a smile as he left her. The door shut quickly after he entered; Scavenger slowly shot her eyes over to meet him, turning her head as much as her position would allow. It seemed like she had enough freedom to tilt her head or crane her neck, but no freedom of arms, legs, or waist.. conveniently, all of her robotic parts. Thankfully, unlike her sister, Scavenger seemed to know her way around a private message and didn't blurt out a response verbally. Her news, however, was not going to be welcome, and the grim expression on her face expressed the urgency of the situation:
Grab the door, quick!
Of course, it was too late for that; it had shut almost as soon as he went in. If he took a look around the laboratory, he might notice several inventions in various states of completion, hopefully including the parts that Prez needed to make the device she would use to hack the bridge open. What he would not find, however, was the other button that Memora had theorized might be on the wall to open it back from the other side. Memora gave him the same dashing smile and two finger salute from the other side of the door, then sent another message.
Sorry, Mekka. If you're not with the Terror Girls, then I apologize, and I'm sure I can make this up to you later. If you are with the Terror Girls then, well, you're a terrorist, so I feel no real remorse in what I'm doing. Well, no... I admit it's a bit personal. It may have been before your time, but the Terror Girls destroyed my war memorabilia museum, you see, along with much of my collection. This comeuppance has been a long time coming. For now, I'm going to just run a routine that will disable any machinery that pesky Prez has installed to help you fight those hypocritical battles of hers. Might I suggest you relax and maybe lie down on one of the tables until its over?
Inside the laboratory, MachMan would see several slots beginning to open along the walls, out of which long, silver nozzles were extending. Quickly, some sort of moist, green mist was beginning to spray out of each of them. MachMan would have to decide how he wanted to react very, very quickly, whether that be trying to destroy all eight that he counted, protect his machinery, or possibly stop the flow of gas somehow. Scavenger rushed to explain the situation, but there wasn't a lot of time to read, so it came as a burst of messages, likely with more to come:
That bitch is the enemy
She's going to disable your prosthetics
Using guns Prez made to neutralize danger in the lab
If enough of that gets onto you they stop working
Mach quickly noticed the gas-spewing nozzles, and mostly tuned out the myriad of messages that came in from both Memora and Scavenger. If possible, he simply decided to relocate to a point directly behind Memora, door be damned. His turbojets barely had time to spin up before he disappeared in a flash of cyan light, and attempted to teleport within an arm's reach of Memora. His sudden relocation and re-materialization in close proximity caused a percussive wave to rocket outwards in every direction.
If the physical shock didn't do much, the visual shock would likely make any normal program's "heart" skip a beat. (Teleport + Stun(Nova2) + 4TCD) Mach somehow activated a cross in the middle of his teleport, so Memora was greeted by a 6-armed monstrous figure instead of Mach's slightly less-monstrous normal form. The crimson-polished black engine nacelles curved threateningly forward like a pair of fangs, and a multitude of purple, eye-like lenses sent a glowing glare directly down at the Navi. He didn't plan to give the Navi even half a second to react, and shot four of his six arms forward in an attempt to slam Memora against the wall and use the claws of said arms to restrain her arms and legs at the wrists and knees respectively. If she was successfully immobilized, he'd further emphasize the precariousness of her situation by wrapping his two free hands around her head and letting his crimson, hook-like craws to rake threateningly over her skin.
If he found the door somehow blocked his attempt to teleport, either by sealing him off from transmission or somehow scrambled his navigation enough to make any movement outside of the room impossible, he would've switched to 'plan B.' [[i]"Burner, BigHammer!"[/i]] he ordered over his direct line with Mazer. His NetOp didn't falter for a moment, he knew the Navi was in the middle of a rapidly springing trap, so he didn't delay or hesitate.
Instead of transforming mid-teleport, Mach started to transform into his SylkCross where he stood, and quickly formed a glowing packet of data over his head. His two arms seemed to rip and tear into two pairs of three, which would appear rather painful if they weren't made of unfeeling metal and flexible synthetic muscles. The packet of unstable data reached its critical levels within a second, and before unleashing its power, he activated his heavy shielding programs (6-hit Shield + 3TCD) on Scavenger in an attempt to shield her from the blasts that were to come. A split second after the nearly transparent dome of energy veiled the incapacitated Navi, a blast of unstable energy surged through the room. The magnetic waves caused distortions in the air around him, to create a white web-like pattern that stretched out from his position. ((Stun + Glitch)Nova4 + Self Slow + 5TCD) His goal was to possibly disrupt or disable the gas vents, or maybe even nullify the effects of the gas with the help of the glitches and bugs that surged from his position.
Almost immediately afterwards, MachMan activated the Burner1Damage: 110 + Nova 2
Description: The area around the user spontaneously combusts, causing anything nearby to be scorched with fire.
Trader Rank: D chip, so his energy blast was followed up with an explosion of fire that bathed the immediate area in flames, with the hope of momentarily neutralizing/burning away the debilitating gas and buying him enough time to secure an egress route. He planned to secure said route with a BigHammer2Damage: 220 + Impact + Break
Description: Summons a giant metal hammer to utterly crush one enemy that stands before you.
Trader Rank: C. The massive column that made up the "head" of the hammer would've cut through the flames and smoke before delivering a staggering blow to the door. Unless the door was somehow reinforced by unseen means, he hoped to then stomp through what little remained of it and faced Memora.
Regardless of his method of exiting the room, he would've addressed his newly declared enemy directly.
"How about you make it up to me right now?" he hissed in a venomous tone. He'd abandoned the plan to keep quiet since Memora made it clear which side she was on, but he elected to keep his identity a secret with the help of the voice modulator. He quickly picked one of the 5 pre-loaded female voices before he spoke, so while he heard his voice rumble with gruff hostility, everyone else would've instead heard the voice of a young girl, though the venom he tried to convey wasn't at all lost in this new voice. "Or I can paint the walls with you, your choice." The tone and verbiage didn't at all fit what would normally be a sweet, endearing female voice, it instead sounded unnervingly psychotic. It also helped that said psychotic voice came from a hulking, multi-armed, insectoid program that didn't show any reluctance to bear down on her.
Of course, Mekka had no real reason to confirm or deny Memora's suspicion, seeing as she held all the cards for the moment. "If you're not one of the terrorists, then maybe you'll listen to reason. What you're witnessing here is a victimless crime... ArmoryMan wants the ship these girls own and I want all of the war artifacts, including info from the horses' mouths, if I can get it. It might seem cruel, but these girls aren't blameless. My museum dedicated to the history of net wars was bombed by them, and not with the pretty green ones you may know about. The old-fashioned, smoldering crater kind. Recently they're getting more publicity, and all for bad reasons... making a ruckus at the GNA recruitment center, attacking the more reputable Neo-Shogun Empire, for some examples. We're doing the public a service here. If you'll release me, I'll make it worth your while too... I may not be the arms dealer, but I have a lot of powerful 'war artifacts.' I could certainly part with one, in exchange for your allegiance. And for the freedom to move my neck of, course..."
Memora was still talking tough and fast, through occasionally strained grunts, as her feet threatened to leave the ground under the force of MachMan's leverage. She still didn't seem to understand his real identity. MachMan ought to still be just outside the range of the cameras, from this angle. Scavenger was watching from inside the lab with a tense expression, but that disappeared from sight in a moment, as the whole laboratory filled with green gas. Hopefully, Scavenger would be alright, considering she'd already apparently been sprayed by the stuff before and lived to tell about it. The rest of the machinery in the lab, on the other hand, might be rendered unusable.
The woman MachMan had captured might sound somewhat uncomfortable now, but not exactly as though she'd lost... it felt vaguely as though she might have another trump card in the back of her mind besides just the supposed nobility of her cause.
His angular, mechanical form remained unnervingly still and unwavering while he listened to the Navi explain her reasoning, and her attempt to cut a deal. He didn't put it past the TerrorGirls to cause a disturbance wherever they went, and they advertised their destroying of "a valuable Net-War memorabilia exhibit," in their odd recruitment flier. Though he did get a seemingly straightforward deal from Memora before, she's proven to be a slippery individual with ulterior goals. Regardless, time to find out what she had to offer.
"If you want to buy my allegiance, the vague price of "a powerful war artifact" won't cut it." "Mekka" stated bluntly, and didn't change "her" stance on restraining every one of the Navi's appendages. His glance briefly shifted to scavenger, who was still restrained in the room that rapidly filled with gas. According to Memora's claims the gas would only affect her cybernetics, which appeared to have been already shut down. Scavenger also knew Memora was an enemy, which further suggested the Navi had sprung the trap before. He'd probably have to apologize to Scavenger later...
Shifting back to Memora, he didn't change his grip on her arms, legs, or head, but his upper body leaned closer to hers. His glowing purple pupil-less eyes glared down at her as his unnerving voice demanded, "I want this ship. If you want my loyalty, give me the bridge." Mach doubted his threat of force would bend the Navi to compliance, since she's seemed undeterred so far, but at least they could get everything moving in the right direction.
She waited to see if she'd get a reaction this time, but regardless, continued. "I do too! You might not believe me, but as much as I enjoy my little vengeance here, I also cherish the life of all of the net's warriors. Look... we're not on camera. How about this: I cannot give you the bridge, but I can help you take it. I figure my other option is to have my neck broken here or my legs broken- again-, neither which I'm too fond of. So... I let you on to ArmoryMan's bridge, feigning your capture, you take out ArmoryMan, and you get the ship back. And in return, I ask for a small cut. As your business partner! Just a share of the technology on this ship, the uniforms, etcetera, etcetera. Does that sound doable?" she questioned. "But no more talk about blowing up the ship... It's a priceless war artifact, I couldn't stand to see that. Oh, and more importantly... unless you've located and accounted for the mobility of all of your acquaintances, I feel it will be rather difficult for them to escape the blast. So I'd say we're both at an impasse? There's no way to access that bridge other than my voice or ArmoryMan's now."
It was still a pretty vague offer Memora was giving, but it sounded like she may have just revealed the hand that she'd been holding on to: namely, that she'd figured out MachMan had a stake in the safety of the hostages and couldn't actually afford to blow the ship... Though, whether he was actually considering that to be true was another matter. Of course, if he let Memora free to go along with her plan, there was no assurance she wouldn't double-cross him again in the near future, especially if she thought he really was working with the TerrorGirls.