Ariel’s hair was now wet. So was her shirt, and her arms, and the nape of her neck. She didn’t mind much, or frankly at all. There was no way she would be bothered about being a little damp or sore. Not while she could feel Amy’s heart: even now, when she was no longer being held so tightly.
“Take things at your own pace. There’s no need to rush.” Ariel let a little chuckle of her own escape. “I’ll be with Phi, in front. Come join us whenever.”
Hugging and crying it all out seemed to have helped a bunch. It was really only a psychological dressing; but it would keep Amy’s wounds at bay until they could follow up in the quiet peace and comfort of a chaise longue and a cuppa. Excusing herself with a little nod, Ariel returned to the consoles, where her omni-tool had finished booting up all the programs and plugins she’d be needing very soon. She waved to her fellow bridge bunny, saying, “I think we’re all set now. How are things going?”
Seraphina indulged in a sort of tunnel vision, knowing she would need to be fully focused on several tasks once the operation officially started. The conversations around her became background noise as she decided on the primary and backup encryption methods. With that done she made sure the main console would manage all data and synchronized everyone's omnitool to it. After making sure there were no problems with a few tests, she moved on to assigning each fireteam a unique name. This was not an essential task but in her experience it helped, and she put a fair bit of thought into the overall theme as well as specifics. The placeholder numbers and letters for teams and individuals were updated as soon as she decided on the last name.
>>>Horus- Tactical support
>Ariel, Amy, Seraphina (Loren Scheer)
>>>Fireteam Gryphon- Decoy 1
>Tarak, Avelyn, Trajan (Melchor Dreyfus)
>>>Fireteam Harpy- Decoy 2
>Laurey, Finbarr (Leo Mills), Dr. Millard
>>>Fireteam Mujina- Infiltration 1
>Navi, Flame, Ashton
>>>Fireteam Lamia- Infiltration 2
>Nero, Iris, Samuel
"Hm?" She muttered, glancing at Ariel after pulling herself out of that single minded focus. She looked at Laurey again but still didn't raise the questions nagging at her.
"Ah, yes actually. Please do. I can manage but it's not exactly a specialization of mine. I'll primarily be coordinating the data as it comes in and checking the integrity of our encryption. If the two of you can support the teams directly as the need arises I'd greatly appreciate it. Almost as much as Nero." She added the last bit with a smirk.
The dull thud of Amy's head hitting the wall went largely unnoticed as Phi continued to double-check that omnitool tracking was not lagging. However, the distinct sound of sniffling did catch her attention. Searching for the sound of distress Phi was surprised to see Amy of all people crying into Ariel's embrace. Phi realized she should have seen this coming, the signs were there, and she suddenly felt terribly guilty for not noticing. She nodded solemnly as Ariel stood, offering Amy a shoulder to cry on literally. She wanted to help as well but the others seemed to have things well in hand. She would probably just get in the way, and with the mission starting soon she wouldn't be able to devote her full attention like Amy deserved.
Resolving to pay her another visit soon Phi offered a reassuring smile as Ariel and Amy separated. Inclining her head to the other seat near her Phi invited their troubled counselor to join them.
"I think we're ready to go, since I'm starting to check some things for a third time now."
Amy stayed in the back of the room for a bit, blowing cool air onto the coffee that Avelyn had brought her to really cool it down to a temperature she could comfortably drink while the rest of the crew slowly disappeared from the room as they formed their own groups and head down to planetside. She offered a small smile towards the aforementioned girl at the pat, smiling warmly up at her as her gaze scanned the girl’s face. “You’ll always be the most amazing people in my eyes. Stay safe, okay?” As the others left, her eyes began to slowly scan the room while she took a shy sip from the cup, until her eyes finally rested on Ariel and Phi who were sitting at the consoles and getting busy with the comms equipment. Really, Amy had no clue why she was up here still… Tarak clearly wasn’t aware of her troubled thoughts before he assigned them to the teams, but he must’ve known already from Iris that she wasn’t exactly the most useful at a distance. So what was it? Were they… trying to protect her? The thought warmed her heart as much as it pained her, seeing that the kids she felt so protective of were the ones putting her into support duty. Then again, there could’ve been a myriad of other reasons for Tarak’s decision, possibilities she didn’t feel like exploring at the moment.
By the time she collected her thoughts and felt ready to finally talk with the others, the cup in her hands was long empty and she quickly placed it down on the cabinet next to her. Standing up and dusting off her dress she walked over to the two girls at the consoles with a small smile, sitting down besides Phi at the offered chair. “Thank you Phi. Thank you Ariel. I’m not sure how much help I will be, but I’ll try my best to keep my eyes open, if that helps.” She explained with a soft smile on her face as she reached out with one hand to gently pet Phi’s head. It was hard to tell if she did that because she wanted to ease Phi’s worry over her or to get some comfort for herself, but there it was. With a small nod she turned towards the row of panels and placed her index finger onto her lips as a small hum escaped her. “So... what am I supposed to do? What do we look for? Just wait until something happens, oooor…”
"Ariel and I are good for most of the technical work, but don't underestimate yourself, Amy. An extra pair of eyes and hands helping out goes a long way. But your support in other, less obvious ways may count for more than you think. A lot of operations need you to play things by ear, and adapt as the situation changes. The saying 'no plan survives contact with the enemy' is pretty apt. For now, just help Ariel with whatever minor tasks she needs, while I keep things running smoothly in the background."
The messy brown hair Phi was sporting as Loren Scheer almost looked better for the ruffling from Amy's hand. She didn't complain, since it didn't last long and everyone was mostly distracted by their preparations. Besides, Amy seemed to need the contact more. Along that reasoning Phi gripped Amy's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. Then, as the teams started moving out, Phi put on the bored, mildly irritated look her persona had displayed when he was alive. She didn't expect to interact much if at all with anyone from the Ascendancy, but maintaining the act from here on out would be preferable. Just in case.
Her first order of business involved the management of real time tracking and the three dimensional map for the various decks. The green markers for allies appeared first, represented as triangles with a line through the middle to determine orientation. Next came the more involved task of trying to mark Ascendancy personnel, since even their own people didn't have tabs on everyone else but a team or a few teams at best. Still, she eventually managed to tag most of them with red T symbols. This would have to be constantly monitored and updated. Finally amber dots began appearing with tiny numbers next to them. These were the trackers on the main prison population, exceptions where the trackers themselves had been destroyed. Most of these were not moving. This data was encrypted and transmitted to each team member's omnitool before Phi moved on to the groundwork that would seize control of communications on the ground.
Damn, I really wish I had Laurey here. All it's gonna take is one tech on their side being better than us…
With the ground teams having made planetfall, it was about time for Ariel to begin her own work too: hacking into the ship. Or, at least trying to. There certainly wouldn’t be any better opportunity than now, while the majority of the crew was distracted. Sure, if things went awry, there would be no bluffing out of it — but that was an issue for the future. The Ariel of right now had no such predicament to face!
Though she had more wartime experience busting into Rau’ve computers, code of human origin still felt more familiar. Perhaps it was differences in their fundamental psychology, or simply a matter of her training. Either way, infiltrating the ships’ systems wasn’t as difficult as she had imagined it being. Being able to plug in directly into the target’s systems was a privilege rarely afforded to those on the battlefield, but any competent support Star Marine would have learnt to cope either way.
The Ascendancy’s prison ship security wasn’t actually that bad, as expected of vessels meant to keep the likes of dangerous rebel AGIs imprisoned. The same was true of the Circle of Hell. At least, it had been — until the crash and the accompanying damage did away with a good bit of that. Take, for example, the surveillance cameras all around the ship, which were now relying on what had to be a jury-rigged system to connect to a central monitoring room. Normally they’d be linked up directly to the screens, but with those wires damaged, the engineers had cobbled together a primitive mesh of remote connections so insecure that even a mere code monkey could easily intercept their hastily-encrypted transmissions. As such, a few minutes of scanning the airwaves later, every last camera in the ship had become Ariel’s own eyes and ears.
“Managed to get into the cams.” A few of the bridge’s displays flickered to life, showing the intercepted camera feeds; all muted at the moment, of course. Even without sound, their visual fidelity was high enough that Ariel noticed things had already gone awry for one of the fireteams. “Phi, I see action at the armoury, with Lamia. Could you handle that? Amy — just point it out if you see anything troublesome happening. I’ll try and find our prisoner.”
Amy would nod slowly at the request and with all the enthusiasm of a little kid leaned forward to keep her eyes on the computer screens, scanning for any possible activities that might occur. At the same time she kept an eye out on the action already unfolding: watching with anxiety as the events began to unfold so far away from them, yet so close through the screens of their computers. If only she could do something and be helpful from up here…
Closing her eyes, she would look deep inside of her and the psychic powers which she normally kept at the back of her mind. Of course, her telepathic abilities and illusions were useful or at the very least entertaining in her everyday life, but some other techniques she had to master for scenarios when she felt threatened and needed a way to get away from people who would do her harm. None cause pain, something which Amy felt opposed to from the very bottom of her soul, but she also didn’t think she could look into the mirror if she let anyone on her team get hurt. ”Just like Iris told you, you can do this Amy. Don’t let the others down…” Her breathing slowed down as she reached out with her mind, trying to tap into the flow of information that she was receiving through the displays.
At first it was nothing. No matter how hard she was trying to focus on it, she couldn’t feel anything, not even a single thread that she could follow to get to the tangled mess that was a person’s brain. She opened her eyes for a moment and gave an angry stare at the screen as if hoping it would intimidate it into co-operating. Just as she was starting to get frustrated she spotted Iris on the screen, and the faintest tingling sensation resonated in her brain. Her heart skipped a few beats as she dwelled on this revelation for a second before she would close her eyes once more and decided to focus on Iris instead of the display. A few moments passed and then… bam, there it was. Reaching through the aether, she could feel the faint but distinct presence that was Iris’s mind. Then the mental image became clearer and clearer as more of the surrounding people were picked up by Amy, all those Iris could see. She could hardly begin to think about all the reasons that now of all these times she could finally manage to make a connection, though she had a feeling that the twins enchanting the comms earlier had some sort of an effect on it. But she could be wrong, and maybe it really was just because of the motivation she received from Iris back during their last action that got her to overcome a mental barrier inside of her.
“I got it!” She would exclaim loudly as she turned over to the others with the biggest smile that her face could possibly fit. “I-I think I can connect with the people down there! I-it’s faint, but… I might be able to use some of my abilities! If you can keep our teams in the feed, I-I’ll try and help in some way!” Amy’s excitement was clearly visible and audible in her voice as she looked at the other two girls happily. “It’s time for support team to give some support!”
>>>Are you really going to eat that?
Phi made a face somewhere between a smirk and a grimace upon catching Avelyn's feed.
She nodded acknowledgement to Ariel without saying a word or looking away from the screens. Most of the data Phi was checking was reliable, with the exception of a few expected blind spots. Much of the corrupted or unreliable data seemed to be near the secondary armory and consequently fireteam Lamia. At first she was not concerned for two reasons: it was expected with the extensive damage and the trio were competent infiltrators.
So of course things went wrong.
Phi noticed the unwelcome surprise even as Ariel pointed it out. An involuntary grimace later and she was already assessing the situation, following the engagement as it unfolded. If it had just been the Ascendancy forces she might not even be worried, but the fact that this was a third party was a problem. An unknown on the field, and the things she was quickly learning caused no small amount of anxiety.
>>>Fireteam Lamia engaged by unknowns in armory. Target is human male with possible interference magic, supported by mechanized troops.
She sent out the alert to every team and then immediately killed the lights and sealed the door behind Crow. The effect might not even be helpful for more than a second or two assuming their enemy had countermeasures, but a second or two of total darkness might be enough for Nero. She turned to Amy, surprised to learn she could reach the people on the ground with her abilities. An asset that might further tip the scales in Lamia's favor.
"Can you keep Iris and Sam oriented in the darkness? Might be better than having to rely on omnitools."