/sim/ - simulacrum

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>Paris Dead Zone, 2015
>6 minutes into mission time
>ETA: 2 minutes until Strike Point

>Several L-B0 Aurora Strike Craft, the pride of Industrial Paragon Motor Corporation's Fighter line, speed over the scarred remains of Northern France, flying high above the drained land dotted with strange mechanical structures. At an cruising speed of 1550 MPH, these fighters require the most elite of pilots, often hooked up to neural interfaces, to properly fly into battle - and the markings on this squad reveal that these pilots are among the best of even those.

>Each fighter is marked with a different bird, the calling card of Panopticon Security Solutions's Elite Raptor Squadron, pilots that have been practically raised from birth to fly, each member of the squad has been selected, and modified, to fly in the name of PSS's interests.

>As they fly to their target, a nysterious tower construction that has recently emerged in the Paris Dead Zone, radio chatter is scattered between the squad.

<<What do you think it is Phoenix, some kind of launch station?>>
>A feminine scottish voice rings through

<<I don't know, Anqa, and to be honest I don't care, what matters to me is if it'll fall or not.>>
>A feminine english voice replies

<<Typical Britanique, so brutish, not caring about the->>
>An accented voice begins.

<<Oh can it Chakora. We may not have culture, but there's a reason why Euro-City 1 is on the isles. You're culture means frack when->>

>The communication chatter is interrupted by a masculine voice with a Californian accent cutting through.

<<Cut the chatter ladies, we're entering the radio silent zone, any false moves and we'll have them all swarming on us.>>

>All three voices reply:

<<Roger, Wren.>>


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>With communications silenced, the fighters fall into formation, crossing a non-physical, but still very real barrier. With the fighter designated as 'Wren' taking the lead, the aircraft begin to prepare missiles for a quick strike. . .


>Paris Dead Zone, 2015

>4 hours into infiltration mission time

>A small red ball bounces against a wall.

>Across what remains of the observation deck of what was one the Eiffel Tower, a slender figure, calves replaced by some kind of hard light construct, kneels on top of a quadrupedal machine, hand reaching between several armour plates. Their eyes are glazed over as if in a trance. . .

>The red ball lands in the hand of another figure, this one looking like a teenage boy, his features looking similar enough to the other figure that they could likely be related. Shrugging, the boy throws the ball at the wall again. . .


>Paris Dead Zone, 2015

>7 minutes into mission time
>ETA: 1 minute until Strike Point

>With their missile payloads locked, the fighters begin their swift descent to ensure they're hitting the right spots of the tower to bring it down totally, moving in unison with the precision of veterans. The fighters dive down. . .

>A projectile fires through one of the fighters, turning the cockpit as a fireball, the fighter spins out of control and hits the one designated 'Anqa'.


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>Paris Dead Zone, 2015

>4 hours into infiltration mission time

>A small red ball bounces against a wall.

>The boy puts up his hand to catch the ball again, only for the ball to be intercepted by a hand, which then procedes to crush the ball, letting the deflated remains drop to the ground.

>As the boy rolls his eyes at the action, the newcomer, another girl who looks like an exact clone of the first one up to the hair and having compelte legs, walks to the quadruped, taking a step up and looking out over the dead city.

"Ni, [status report.]"

>The girl on the machine snaps out of her trance, pulling her hand out.

"[I kicked the hive, looks like there were some jets flying in, sent them after them - not like anyone'll miss them.]"

"Rei [said she wanted us to minimize damage.]"

>The boy speaks up.

"[To our property], Ichi, [we're not going to get in trouble if some other corp's stuff get's trashed, it's not like Olympus Corp was ever here, right?]"

>The new girl, 'Ichi', turns to face the boy.

"[I didn't give you permission to speak], San, [and a riled up hive will make it harder for us, they'll be patrolling and. . .]"

>'Ni' jumps down from the machine, landing silently.

"[We'll be invisible, I've scrubbed us from the databanks, they won't even see us - we'll get in and get the info out like ordered.]"

>'San' gives 'Ichi' a smug smile

"[See?] 'Ni' [is well ahead of you.]"

>'Ichi' rolls her eyes.

"[Curb the attitude, it's bad enough that I have to manage you two already. . .]"


>Paris Dead Zone, 2015

>The Firefight

>As 'Chakora' plummets to the ground in a spectacular fashion, the rest of Raptor Squadron scramble into action, separating out to avoid hitting each other.

>The fighters are soon joined by a swarm of drones, moving with coordination far beyond what the squadron represented earlier - even with enhanced coordination from being linked up through neural interfaces, the pilots can't hope to match a single controlling intelligence.

>As the drones split out to engage each pilot, the neural link between the pilots begins to work against them, without a proper disconnection, the rest of the pilots can feel the fear of 'Anqa' as she plummets to the Earth, being pulled in by gravity's cold embrace. . .

>>Raptor Squadron, disconnect from the network, flush drivers, and retreat. . .<<

>The order comes in from Wren, and the fighters break off, both physically and mentally.

>Inside of her cockpit, Phoenix sees the pilots disconnecting one by one from the network, and goes to press the button to do so within her own cockpit when a warning flashes up across all screens, telling her of an incoming projectile.

>Grabbing the controls, Phoenix spins her fighter to avoid the attack, but the warning has come too late, and more errors flash up across the screen as the jet is hit, and then everything goes dead.

>With no power, the jet begins plummeting towards the city below as well, heading nose first for a shattered glass pyramid. . .


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>The Pyramid

>Sparks fly out from the twisted remains of 'Phoenix', the red highlighted fighter held up a few meters from the ground by a wretched mass of metal, made up of the remains of the pyramid the jet hit. Altogether, the image of the jet almost looks like a fly caught in a spider's web, hanging there ready to be killed and drained.

>And without power and a way to get up, it practically is.

>Inside the cockpit, the eponymous 'Phoenix' shifts, consciousness returning to her body. Letting out a groan, she slowly looks side to side, her helmet reflecting the web of metal above her - and right in front of her. Right in front of Phoenix's head, roughly two inches away, a spear of metal has pierced the cockpit, and hangs in front of her - if the fighter had hit the pyramid with just a bit more force, or the cockpit had been destroyed, she would've lost an eye.

>Or worse.

>Bringing up a hand to the metal, Phoenix tries to move it, but gets little luck, while her body has been conditioned to make her a pilot, brute force generally isn't the most useful of skills in the air. Slumping for a moment, the pilot thinks to herself, then taps the side of her helmet, hoping to bring up what remains of the jet's nueral interface.

>When that fails, she carefully reaches behind her and twists a cable plugged into the back of her suit, removing it while being absolutely certain not to move any closer to the metal in front of her. Then she pulls herself in, dropping her head below the metal, her rather small form proving useful as she starts digging in a side compartment, eventually settling on taking a sidearm from it - it won't help her if any major units come, but it's better than having nothing, at least.

>Finally, with a transhuman level of coordination, Phoenix pulls herself up past the metal, carefully bringing her head above the shattered line of the cockpit and looking around to see if anything is waiting outside of the aircraft.

>When she sees nothing, she pulls herself up, and slides down, setting her feet on the ground. . .


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>With her feet on the ground, Phoenix begins carefully scouting around the room, pistol first.

>Starting with her immediate surroundings, the pilot traces her gun over everything, looking through the sights on it to see if they pick up anything that her eyes miss.

>Once she's satisfied that nothing is going to abandon her, the pilot lowers her gun. . .

>And clutches her head as the remnants of the neural network activate, flashing images of another pilot in a fully black flightsuit, mechanical arms replacing what was once flesh and blood.

>The images end as quickly as they started, but Phoenix's helmet flashes up with new information, showing her the location of where the message came from.

>Letting out a groan, Phoenix pulls herself back up, having been brought down slightly by the sudden assault of information, and looks around the room for an exit to the surface.

>As she takes a step towards the exit, a warning flashes across her helmet:

<<Warning: Unauthorized rescue attempts of personal is a class three offense.>>

"Shut up. . ."
>Phoenix says, before taking another step forward.


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>Stepping out into the open air, Phoenix looks up, getting a good view of the tower from the ground, its cold edifice revealing nothing of its purpose from this angle either.

>With a quiet grunt of general annoyance, Phoenix carries on her journey, heading through the dead streets of what was once a grand and bustling city.

>With little need for humanity amenities, the machines occupying the city have strewn them aside, left chairs and tables to rot, galleries to slumber. . .

"Odd. . ."

>Phoenix notes as she passes some of them.

"They usually scrap this kind of thing for resources, so why haven't they. . ."

>Before she can finish the thought, Phoenix is forced to dive into a corner, a quadrupedal machine marches past her. . .

>Staying deathly silent, Phoenix can feel her heart beating her chest as it walks through the street, stopping for a moment near her. . .

>Then walking away.

>Letting out a sigh of relief, Phoenix continues to her destination


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>30 minutes later. . .

>Phoenix comes the coordinates the last message to her specified - a plaza in the heart of the city. Abandoned, like all things in the dead zone, but unlike other areas, nature appears to be reclaiming it, instead of fading away and dying like everything else - an experiment, perhaps, or simply somewhere the machines have no interest in. . .

>At the base of a building, Phoenix sees her, Chakora, the pilot named for the Hindu bird of the moon, her helmet smashed open to reveal her silver hair, and her robotic arms laid bare for all to see.

>Giving the plaza a quick scan, Phoenix carefully creeps over to Chakora, kneeling down behind her to check for a pulse.

"Sorry. . ."
>The silver-haired pilot croaks out from the ground as Phoenix looks over her.

"It's nothing to worry about, fighters get taken down all the time, besides, they were alerted when they shouldn't have-"

"Not. . . that. . ."

>Phoenix stops, looking down at Chakora

"Then what?"

>Chakora slowly looks up at Phoenix, a pained expression on her face, and then, suddenly, like a viper leaping out, a robotic appendage flies from her eye, snaking towards Phoenix's helmet. . .

[The End]

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