Hidden 16 days ago Post by Catharyn
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Freyr could feel herself blushing as the Speaker once again unpacked her emotions like an overstuffed suitcase. It wasn’t bad advice, just heavy-handed. She nodded politely and then listened to Roth’Orsa summarise what they knew. Eventually, she got the gist of the Rothian’s thinking.

“You think something is controlling them remotely, is that it? Like the Cradle?” Freyr pouted, eyes down and left as she considered the possibility. “I suppose theoretically it could be done, but that’s why we have the biosphere. It’s like a thick blanket insulating it from the rest of the universe. All external signals have to go through Human tech, and we’d be able to spot that kind of activity right away. ”
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“We did not say they are being actively controlled.” Roth’Orsa clarified. “Depending upon the Cradle’s methods, it would not strictly be necessary. As we mentioned, you have known that the Cradle can influence your artificial intelligence. However, it has been an assumption that the Cradle cannot influence an organic mind. There are no laws of physics that prevent an organic brain from being rewritten against its own will.”

Again, there was just a brief delay before Roth’Orsa continued. Her expressions and tone were essentially unreadable, but considering the fact that she generally seemed to be exceptionally prepared for any topic, any delay seemed to imply that she was considering some part of the issue heavily. “The knowledge of the Rahn’Saki on the interaction between organic and artificial neural networks is greater than you may assume. “It is true that an organic consciousness can not simply be drastically rewritten, then returned to the body in a different state. The brain would reject such obvious differences. Even if the brain could be made to adapt, the process would be obvious to any observers. However, smaller, iterative changes over a longer period of time could certainly be both effective and subtle. The brain will adapt to small changes in a neural pattern, so targeted changes over time could rewrite an organic consciousness to accept the Cradle’s goals as their own. Given enough time, an organic consciousness could even be replaced entirely.”

Roth’Orsa lifted up one hand and gestured towards the table. With a simple thought, she brought forth holographic copies of her own people’s files on the Director-General and Agent 595. At least what was being shown came from intelligence gathered in recent months, by whatever means they had available. “Vreta’Sori considers you someone to trust. He believes the motivations you express outwardly are your genuine motivations. As well, you are young, with less time for potential influence to your mind. We know disappointingly little about the respective backgrounds of Director-General Smith and Agent 595. The scenarios we are expressing to you now we believed to be less-likely than the alternatives before, but data gathered during the meeting has given us cause to re-evaluate. We believe that the Cradle Institute seems too willing to re-unite the device on Rothia with the Cradle, in the context of our observations on Human psychology through the centuries. It is not common behavior to willingly give up one’s influence unless there exists no other reasonable choice. The options you suggested during the meeting were what we expected from the majority of Human leaders with influence over the Cradle. Your people did question the fact that the being within the object did not provide evidence of its claims regarding the Hegemon, but we noticed that Agent 595 was quick to speak up in its defense, and to make excuses for it. We are now considering a possible future in which we are being deceived, there are no Hegemon, and the motivations of these Cradle beings is unknown.”

The Speaker quickly returned her stare to Freyr’s eyes. “You spoke of rumors of an organization potentially controlling aspects of your society from beyond the Border. Could you tell more of these rumors?”
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“Hmm, i don’t know. If the Cradle could do that, why not convert everyone? Why not convert me?” Freyr speculated, receiving the folders from Roth’Orsa and glancing distractedly at them. “The Cradle has been producing organic strains for months now, but nothing as sophisticated as this.” Some of what the Speaker said next surprised her, but Freyr didn’t have much to add until the end.

“The rumours could be nothing more than people creating excitement where there previously was none. However, I did suppose it could stem from those mythical stories from the very beginning of our society’s interaction with the Cradle. There is no surviving footage of the first year, so we could only rely on their word. I had to recite this particular story for my Outremer citizenship test.” Freyr chuckled absently, looking distantly into a corner of the conference room.

“When the very first Humans accessed the Cradle simulation, most of them were confronted with a yawning abyss of blackness, featureless except those veins in the sky and the ashy material you find floating in parts of the Cradle not yet terraformed. But a few of those colonists saw lights blinking in the distance, like a city shrouded in fog. They argued - most thought some of their number were hallucinating, and begged them to stay with the group, where it was safe. But the few who saw it were convinced that they weren’t alone in this simulation. Eventually, they snuck away from the camp, presumably to go to these lights.”

Freyr squeezed her bottom lip between thumb and index finger. “Supposedly, they were never seen again. Over the years the Border expanded, but the mirage that group swore they saw weren’t detected again. Which makes it perfect bait for conspiracy theorists and gossips to latch onto and say they’re still out there.”
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This time, there was actually a rather substantial delay in Roth’Orsa’s reply. She was almost unnaturally still while consumed in her thoughts, before continuing just as if nothing was amiss. “We believe it is important to understand the origins of this Institute and its members. Stories may simply be…stories, but their actions are too strange for us to ignore. The capabilities of the Cradle are an unknown. It may be able to rewrite minds, it may not. It could have established agents in the physical world through simple, mundane persuasion. Or, it could have done none of these things, and all could be as it seems. It has been long since the Rahn’Saki have been forced to act through such uncertainty.”

Roth’Orsa brought up a holographic representation of the device under Rothia between them. “With the information currently available, we now calculate that studying the device ourselves in greater detail, as you suggested, l is the most likely path to a positive outcome, by a margin of 2.86%. However, by the time we made that determination, it was too late to change our recommendations without arousing suspicion. Given what you know about the Cradle, and what you know you do not know, do you believe it is possible that any or all members of the Cradle Institute could be acting in the interests of another entity aside from Outremer’s government? Are there any who can account for its members’ history or backgrounds? Indeed, we do not have a complete picture of how the Cradle Institute came to be a part of Outremer’s leadership. If you do not know the answers to these questions, then who in your government might, in your opinion?”
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Freyr shook her head in small, rapid movements and stuttered as the questions continued to roll in. “I, I don’t know, I just don’t know. I’m only a scientist, not a government official. No one will talk to me about these things. Same goes for you. Even if I cut the Director-General open right now and studied his brain, I couldn't be sure without historical benchmarks.” Freyr punctuated her remarks with a vicious chopping hand motion before stopping to think again.

“I’ll try Masgard. He seems to know things. In the meantime, I agree with you. We should try to learn as much as we can from the object in the week before the move. I’d like to insert myself this time with a team, if the entity will allow us. I know Datius ‘Jharn is keen for me to stay out of harm’s way… But I’m useless on the outside, and we know what we’re up against now.” Freyr appealed to the Speaker. “It’s not a decision I take lightly, and I'm terrified even thinking about it, but I’m most effective where the action is.”
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“We can approve your plan to enter the device.” Roth’Orsa answered, this time without hesitation. “We know, without a doubt, that the simulated world within is dangerous, but we can give you our support. We have, of course, been studying the technology you use with the Cradle in-depth since you arrived. We have gathered enough data that we believe we can improve it. It will be a…brute force solution, granted, but we can produce a smaller, prototype transit station for you. One that will be more convenient for you to transport. We will also make the proclamation that no individual who has entered the device once may enter it again without full medical scans and treatment, citing the observed negative health effects of some members of the first group as justification. This will not be a problem for most of you, but we expect, based on her prior behavior, that Agent 595 will not submit to detailed scans by Rothian devices. This will give you natural justification to enter the simulation without her watching over your shoulder, at least for as long as it takes for us to debate over the disagreement.”

Roth’Orsa once again brought Freyr’s attention to the files of the Cradle Institute members. “But we should be cautious in the investigation of this organization. Based on our records, the lawyer Masgard was assigned to you at the same time as you first met Agent 595, correct? Likely by her organization. He may not be trustworthy, so you may wish to look elsewhere for assistance. We must make ourselves prepared to act in the event that our investigations bear fruit. If we discover evidence of deception, this plan we have in motion regarding the device may yet be halted. We know you are an outsider to the Institute, and many factions of your government, Dr. Lang, but we ask you again to try and think of any information that may be helpful. You may know more than you think you do. The Cradle Institute, the Director-General, the Agent, who can you think of among your people who have acted at odds with them? Are there any people or groups who you would see as being outsiders to the Institute? In the event that there has been misbehavior on the part of the Institute, we will need to be able to convince the rest of your people to act against them. Although, we are cognizant of the potential risks this might bring. Do you believe that this path may lead the Institute to bring harm to you?”
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“Nice!” Freyr nodded. She was impressed by the Speaker’s ingenuity, but her mood dipped again when she realised Roth’Orsa was right about Masgard. He’d popped up immediately after the incident in Boycott Park and declared himself to be her representative through some obscure bylaw.

“I don’t know... I think I can trust most of my team? The old guard at least. What about...What about…” A thought suddenly occurred to Freyr, spurred by remembering her first contact with Masgard. “What about the Skinner’s Guild? They’ve been around since the beginning, and they hate the Cradle, maybe they know something? Come to think of it, that probably means they hate me too, perhaps that's a bad idea...”
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“The Skinners are the terrorist group with the naive views on societal and technological advancement, yes? That is to say, your government considers them to be terrorists.” Roth’Orsa replied after doing a quick review of the relevant intelligence on the Skinner Guild. “We find it unlikely that they would make for useful allies, but still, it is possible that they have gained useful information regarding the Cradle Institute throughout their existence. It may be worth performing an investigation on them. It would not be difficult to justify the attempt publicly. We intend to propose a long list of contingencies to handle any unforeseen effects of our plan, and to prevent anything from disrupting it. Including assistance with a counterterrorism investigation into any organizations that might interfere with our plans would blend in perfectly well with the rest of our propositions.”

Roth’Orsa closed all of the current holograms she had opened. She did not want to hold Freyr too long in this private meeting. Every minute longer it lasted likely meant more questions the Agent would have for Freyr. There was one more issue yet to be resolved, but she understood that Freyr may not have had any relevant answers. It was not Freyr’s political knowledge that made her help valuable. “In the weeks and months ahead, it will be important to know our potential allies. Perhaps the Cradle Institute is not hiding its motives; perhaps it is truly acting in the interests of Humanity. But, in the event that it is not, we will need to have those with influence in your government who can overrule, or at least resist, the decision-making power of the Director-General. Your president…she serves in an elected position, yes? It would not be likely for a clandestine organization such as the Institute to confide in a high-profile position selected by the common citizens. She may be an outsider to them. Manipulated by them, perhaps, but not a part of them.”

Suddenly, Roth'Orsa turned around and stepped back towards the door without warning. When she did turn her head back to look at Freyr again, she had more haste in her tone. "But we should not keep you here for much longer. As we said at the start, it is your choice what of our conversation you hide, and what you share. We only ask that you act in the interest of preserving the lives of both your people, and ours. Should you believe it necessary to speak to us again, then simply speak that desire on any Rothian world. We will contact you."
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The Speaker left Freyr alone in the conference room with a mildly surprised expression. She sat down in one of the chairs to catch her breath and regain composure. While thinking back through what they’d discussed, she idly nibbled on the nail of her little finger. After a dozen controlled breaths, Freyr got up and exited the room as well.

Agent 595 was waiting down the hall. She called out “There you are! I was wondering if you’d been absorbed into the hive mind.” Freyr didn’t return her jovial grin. “Oh no, someone’s grumpy. Come on, a shuttle to the Barb is waiting. We’ll have a good old debrief and get some rest. You must be exhausted.” Just mentioning the word made Freyr yawn, so she nodded pliantly.

595 patted her back encouragingly and led her quickly toward one of the docking pans, where an empty Human military shuttle purred on the deck, raring to go. Freyr stopped and looked back one last time to see if anyone was overtly watching. There was no one. 595 clanked up the ramp beside her. “Wakey wakey, let's not keep the DG waiting.” Freyr gulped and trudged to her seat.

595 strapped in next to her, the ramp close up and the transport shot back toward orbit.
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As much as Vreta was glad to be able to stretch his legs after the end of the meeting, he still wished Roth’Orsa would have stuck around longer. The reality still had not fully set in for him that he had just met a member of the Rahn’Saki themselves. Even though he had not spoken to her directly, he still felt honored just to be in the room. And Freyr…he could not help but to admit to himself some jealousy towards her. He doubted that she truly understood how much of an honor she had received. It was not the same as meeting one of the Human leaders in person. To a Human, he doubted there truly was a good analogy to describe what such a meeting would mean to a Rothian.

Vreta did miss Freyr before she departed the building, but he needed only ask Nirann to find out where she went. A Human shuttle heading up into orbit could only be heading to one place. He supposed he should not be surprised. Whatever it was that Freyr and Roth’Orsa had discussed, she had been the first Human in history to get a private audience with the Rahn’Saki. They would likely have hundreds of questions for her. He had his own questions he wanted to ask, though certainly for quite different reasons. He did not have any secrets he was trying to learn, but rather his own personal curiosity to fulfill.

Since he was not sure when exactly she would be done with her meetings, Vreta simply sent a message to Freyr asking her to contact him when she was able. In the meantime, he supposed he did have a few things he could accomplish that were relevant to his job. The expedition into the simulation had not come without cost, and now that the meetings and other “professional” obligations were finished at the moment, Vreta could do his part to show that the Rothians were not cold to the Humans’ loss. He set out to find where the rest of the Sacred Band had gone. Again, with Nirann’s help, it would not be difficult to track them down.
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The Sacred Band had rested for a few hours before heading to the Barbarossa’s biggest MilSim room. Thebes had them drill room clearing first, before transitioning to area defence and VIP protection. Each member of the team had a slightly different idea of how to absorb Memnon’s role into their own, which often left the team leader resetting the sim like a nitpicking dance teacher.

The Barb’s AI was strictly programmed not to use the full breadth of it’s creativity when controlling enemies in the simulations. So Thebes had invested in an aftermarket chip with especially brutal combat programs to pit the Sacred Band against. Ideally, FleetComm would synthesise the monsters they’d faced within the mysterious object and they could practice against them. But he’d been informed that wouldn’t be possible right now, so he pushed the team to crush Yakuza snatch squads and other merc aug teams instead.

Thebes checked the spectator numbers after an hour or so. Forty five people were watching them perform. After they’d finished that sequence, he disabled the sim. He could see people dotted the observation gantries above and crowded into the control pod. “Would anyone like to join us?” He amplified via loudspeaker while the rest of his team returned to starting positions. Carthage audibly groaned. “We haven’t even figured out how to cover Memnon yet, do we really need to involve the casuals?”

“We’re guests on this ship, and this room is for everyone. Besides, I see some drop troops.” Knossos replied, watching some of the assembled personnel making their way down to the room.
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Once he had returned to the Barbarossa, it had not taken Vreta too long to track down the Sacred Band. It was not as if they were trying to hide themselves, after all. Vreta was still assigned to Freyr’s team, and so he was still an official guest of the Barbarossa with access to some of the facilities. As he had no intention of interrupting, he simply observed the combat simulations along with the crowd of other Humans that had taken up positions as spectators.

Vreta had drawn a few eyes when he arrived, but his weeks spent on the ship on the way to Rothia did mean that much of the crew he commonly encountered were used to his presence by now. Most of them quickly returned to watching the much more interesting display skills unfolding in the simulator below. Vreta had already seen in the recordings how these Humans fought in truly dangerous situations, something that simulations could not ultimately replicate. The danger would never be the same.

Vreta hummed to himself for a moment in thought when Thebes opened up the simulator to the other soldiers in waiting. It had not been his intention when he came here to join in a combat simulation, but a part of him felt that there might be opportunity in it. There would probably be few other ways to establish the kind of connection he wanted. As such, he too joined the soldiers in making his way down to the simulator. “Is that an open invitation?” Vreta asked once he was in a position to speak to Thebes.
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Thebes regarded Vreta closely, scanning his biometrics. It turned out he’s seen this Rothian hanging around the laboratory before they’d entered a much more deadly simulation than this. “I don’t see any reason why not. These sims can get rough, do you think you can handle it? You’ll need to scan in a weapon over there.”

“Ah! Looks like a fight! I’m in!” someone bellowed throatily from the giant room’s staging area. Thebes looked past Vreta and saw a heavily armoured, very tall man with a bushy yellow beard barging through the crowds of marines. “Hail, Sacred Band!” He waved at them before pushing past a line of soldiers waiting to grab their weapons. The giant placed a five foot hammer with a long handle and a menacing pellet shaped weight into the machine to get his sim-equivalent before coming toward Thebes.

“Kjartan, we have an agreement. Stay clear of us and we’ll stay clear of you.” Knossos growled, stepping in his way. “The agreement stands, old man. I’ve transferred from the Varangian Guard to the Sacred Band as of today. Captain’s orders. I’m one of you now! Seems Memnon bit off more than he could chew-” Saddam appeared behind the giant, and between them, they brutally kicked Kjartan’s feet out and forced him to his knees. He was still nearly face to face with them.

The Norseman spread his palms to either side of his body, still clutching his hammer. He chuckled jovially. “Hey. Relax. We’re on same side now, remember?” Thebes came over and leaned over the man. “Prove it.” Kjartan quickly produced documentation that hovered in the air between them. “Transfer papers. Temporary - until you find new gunner.”

“Thebes, this isn’t a good-” Thebes cut Knossos off with a raised finger, reading the mandate. Finally, he leaned out. “Welcome to the team. You don’t get a cut.” Kjartan laughed heartily. “That’s the spirit! I am on retainer with Captain anyway. Let’s fight!” The Sacred Band let him get to his feet.
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Thebes did not outright deny Vreta, though he did keep his pistol holstered instead of scanning it in. “I…think I will just use a Human weapon. I’m not actually allowed to scan Rothian technology on Human equipment, you understand.”

Before any other simulation could begin, however, there was another, apparently less-welcome Human that intruded in on the simulation. He was loud, boisterous,and he seemed to have some kind of history with the Sacred Band. And not a pleasant one, by the looks of things. Vreta doubted it was going to put them in any better of a mood, so he hoped this new development did not end up impeding him from doing what he sought to accomplish.

“I will admit, I am not entirely familiar with how your team fits into the Human military’s rank structure. But, if you are assigned to the science team’s protection, I suppose I should introduce myself to your newest member as well.” Vreta remarked, casting his gaze over to the strange, bearded man. “I am Vreta’Sori, Rothian liaison to the Human science team.”
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“You don’t have to do that-” Thebes advised, too late. “Lizard man! Well met.” Kjartan boomed. He was in front of Vreta in a flash, grabbing his hand to give it a vigorous shake. “Kjartan - valued member of Sacred Band.” The man flashed a smile full of filed metal teeth down at the Rothian; a tattoo of Mjolnir rippled on his neck when he moved. “Such sharp claws! We’ll be fearsome team.”

“Alright, you two are Blue Team co-leaders.” Thebes smirking under his visor. “Knossos, Athena, you’re with them.” Athena opened her visor and spat on the floor. “Carthage and Saddam, you’ll lead the Red Team with me.” Thebes quickly counted the number of regular warriors that had now assembled around them. Thirty nine. “The rest of you - we need twenty people on the Red Team and nineteen on the Blue Team.”

“Room for one more?” Someone called from the staging area while the marines sorted themselves into two groups. Thebes spotted Agent 595 clacking toward them across the empty space, holding an assault rifle. “Yes ma’am that works perfectly. You’ll be with me on the Red Team.” Thebes confirmed, before beginning to explain the game.

“Ok listen up! Capture the flag - one for each team. Grab your opponent’s flag and return it to your base for a point. Shields will be uniform at 1.1 standard. You have three respawns, use them wisely. Any questions? No? Alright - good luck everyone.”

“LETS GO!” Kjartan bellowed, lofting his hammer and jogging toward the Blue Team’s end.
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Vreta was honestly not sure how this was going to go, but he figured he could give it a try. He was surprised to see the Agent wander in at the last minute, and he wondered if it was coincidence, but he still planned to participate. As he moved to his team’s side, he reviewed the layout of the arena they would be fighting in. It mimicked an urban environment, with two main lanes of approach between two, mostly symmetric objectives. Given the terrain and his team composition, he was satisfied with his weapon choice. Since he could not use a Rothian weapon, he had chosen a Human-designed, high-powered marksman rifle. Vreta did not have the same degree of physical augmentations as a Rothian soldier, but the one enhancement he did have that exceeded the specifications of a Rothian soldier was his neural implant. Quick thinking, reactions, and exceptional accuracy were the best of what he could bring to the table in a firefight.

Before the round began, Vreta felt it prudent to try and devise some kind of strategy with his teammates, particularly the members of the Sacred Band. He approached Kjartan and brought up a projection of the arena between them. “Given the layout of the arena, I think it is important for us to make sure we win the opening engagement. There is a position here, in the middle of the right lane, that would be very strong to hold. It gives good sight lines with strong cover. If we can claim and hold it, we’ll have a firm advantage in that lane. Just based off of my…impressions of you, Kjartan, I think our opponents are going to expect you to go in aggressively. I think we can use that to bait them into a trap. You can take a small force and push out into their territory straight away on the right lane. Make them think that you’ve overextended that your positioning can be punished. But, let’s stay myself and Athena take up positions here and…here. If you push to this spot initially, then do a fighting retreat back to the middle when they push you, then we will have clear sightlines on your pursuers. If we hold our fire for just a little bit to let them chase, then we can catch them out in the open and deal a heavy blow in the first fight. They won’t be expecting us to have two oppressive snipers. And if for some reason they don’t chase, that will still give us a chance to claim the center position.”
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“Good plan, Lizard Man!” Kjartan boomed, whacking Vreta on the back. “It’s best plan yet, but I have better idea. I take ten CQB into tower block here, rush first floor. When we see the enemy, WE RIP THEM APART, HUH?” Kjartan used his hammer to mime slitting his own throat, staring around at the assembled troops with wild eyes and spittle bubbling at the corners of his mouth.

“You stupid oaf! Carthage will be in there; she’ll tear you apart if you run in, just like she did aboard the Songnam, remember?” Knossos sighed. “SHE CHEATED!” Kjartan roared, surging through Vreta’s projection to confront the rifleman. Athena loaded her railgun at waist-level, stepped in front of Knossos and jabbed the barrel against the norseman’s breastplate, keeping him on the end of her gun. “Keep calm, you fleck of human waste.” She snarled.

Just then the shield emitters on the ceiling of the sim room activated. Soft bubbles appeared around everyone, and turned everyone’s armour the colour of their team. The bubbles tightened and eventually disappeared, giving everyone the same level of in-game protection. The sim environment began building up around them. “Unless you’re happy with just two lives? Please say yes.”

Kjartan slapped the barrel of the gun away from him, stepping back. “We’ll run CQB with you, Specialist.” A drop troop squad leader offered, perhaps impatient to get things back on track. Kjartan looked at the man, standing in front of a team of six drop troopers. They were part of a specialised fighting force that was trained to insert into combat zones from space and also for ship-to-ship boarding. They were plausibly the best of the regular troops on the Blue Team Kjartan beamed. “Good! You choose glory too! Anyone else?”
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Vreta crossed his arm and looked at the map. The simulation area was building around them, so it would not be long before they would start. Kjartan had taken his suggestion…as expected, based on Vreta’s impression on him. But, he still wanted to try to contribute his tactical wisdom to the team. “The apartments are a complication, but I do have an idea to deal with them.”

On the map, Vreta zoomed in onto the three usable floors of the apartment building. “The windows do give strong sightlines onto the street, and while that would certainly be an advantage for snipers, we cannot guarantee that we can keep them out of the building. It would be safer for us to position back down the street where they can’t reach us, but we can still reach out and touch them. Do we have any explosives? If so, I say you take them into the apartments and just collapse its hallways on top of one another. Just remove the apartments as a viable path. Both teams have close-quarters specialists, but I am confident that we have a firm advantage at range. If we can just remove the apartments from the equation, then our team will win a straight up fight.”
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“Ah, I LIKE IT!” Kjartan pointed a massive digit at Vreta. “Get the nuclear warheads and STRAP ONE TO MY HEAD! I’ll headbutt Carthage to atoms!” Foam sprayed everywhere as the berserker shouted and paced about, waving his hammer. His eyes had become bloodshot over the course of a few minutes.

“As much as I'd love to do that, I don't think we have sufficient ordinance.” Knossos cut in. “Taking inventory, we only have anti-infantry grenades. We might be able to collapse a few areas, but there’s no guarantee it’ll all come down. “It’s settled then! We go with my plan.” Kjartan boomed, turning to survey the area as the map finished generating and the countdown to begin the round appeared. Thirty seconds to go.

They were in the loading area of a tall apartment building. The fire escape doors had been blocked with metal clamps and were scorched with burn marks. In front of them was the war torn remains of a two-laned avenue and another apartment block across the street, with another loading area. Crashed fliers, military blockades and fallen masonry presented a maze of barriers through the middle of the arena.
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At the very least, Vreta had tried to contribute to the battle plan. Still, it was not as if they were doomed. If Kjartan could at least keep Carthage sufficiently occupied in the apartments, then the rest of them could gain an advantage out in the street. Vreta’s best position would still be the one with the best ranged sightlines.

The countdown was nearing its end, so with a sigh, Vreta drew his marksman rifle and got ready to move. “Well, any squad who isn’t going with Kjartan, push to hold the center position. Athena, let’s set up overlapping fields of fire down the street. I see a few spots we can climb onto to get some elevation. Let’s make it suicide for them to poke their heads out. I’ll keep an eye on the windows, you focus your scope down the street.”

“Knossos.” Vreta continued. “I suppose you’ll be the one leading the squad taking point in the street. I think I can trust your instincts. Thebes decided to make me a team leader, for some reason, but I know better than to try and micromanage you. I’ll just say that, If you end up getting pressured too much, try to take cover that would force them into our sightlines if they wanted to push you.”
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