By Max Fauth, William "Logan" Jordan, Mathieu Roy, Jeff Skagen, Mike Schiedel

They all sat in a small room arranged as an auditorium in the heart of Fort Dixie. For a Zero Zone room, it was quite well-appointed—the chairs, though spartan, were reasonably comfortable, and they not only matched each other but also the desk on the short stage. Out of place was the latest addition to the room—a large, foldable screen on a tripod, hooked up to a minicomp laying on the desk.

The man on the stage was a short but athletic man who looked perhaps 40. His face displayed no emotion but somehow, rather than cold and machinelike, he seemed merely to be cool, calm, and collected. He wore a nondescript black business suit with white shirt and black tie, a manner of dress that seemed to have become the uniform of Spycorp personnel in the Zone. It was stereotypical, perhaps, but surprisingly practical; Zoners with any experience knew to fear the combination of an expensive suit, too pricey and too clean for the Zone, and the confidence of someone who was not out of place in the urban wasteland.

"Ah, there we go," said the man, as the screen lit up with the satellite picture. It depicted a familiar landmark to anyone who lived in Neo York—the Williamsburg bridge, more specifically the Zone side of it. Visible were the security checkpoint, the dilapidated buildings, the cleaner shape of the Edge of Night nightclub and the newest addition—the reinforced-concrete form of the Jinsei command bunker.

"As you most certainly are all aware, the Jinsei Corporation has recently launched an operation into the Neo York Zero Zone," the Spycorp man recited. "As part of this operation, Jinsei security personnel have seized personnel from other corporation who were in visit in the Zero Zone, and are holding them captive at the emplacement of the Edge of Night nightclub. There are many parties who are incensed at this behavior from Jinsei, and have contracted the rescue of their personnel."

The Spycorp man looked away from the screen and at the assembled freelancers. "Given the amount of defenses in the area—it is, after all, Jinsei's field headquarters—none of those offers were taken. Spycorp saw an opportunity and negotiated the combining of all the rescue offers into one pool from which a team of elite freelancers could be hired, one that would stand a chance of performing this operation and rescuing all the personnel. This team, of course, is you."

"You are all highly regarded freelance operatives, and each and every one of you is considered capable of operating effectively in a team. This is the best team Spycorp was able to assemble given the timeframe, geography, and resources available. And if you allow me to interject my own opinion, this is a very impressive team." He said it on a casual tone, as if he were merely stating fact and not trying to flatter anyone.

"We are also going to be providing you with all the equipment necessary for the operation. We have prepared a default load for each of you, but we are well aware that you will want to make customizations and are prepare to handle them. Like yourselves, everything we will provide you with is top-notch, the best we can lay our hands on. We are not going to be cutting corners anywhere."

"I won't lie to you; as you've probably guessed already, this is very much a bet-the-farm operation for Spycorp. The sums invested already are impressive and if this mission does not pan out, it will be a severe blow to both the finances and the reputation of the company. There is little incentive for corporations to employ the services of Spycorp instead of their proven networks of street fixers, except that no fixer could set up an operation like this one. In a very real sense, Spycorp is validating its existence with this operation. The sums we are spending on your employment, equipment, and logistical support should make clear how seriously we take this."

"On to the mission. The primary objective, needless to say, is the safe rescue of all corporate personnel held by Jinsei." He had a smile. "We expect there to be non-corporate personnel, and we will not be able to perform a sorting until everyone is safe, so go ahead and rescue everyone that is detained. Liberated non-corporate personnel will be released to a location of their choosing after their identities are determined."

The smile faded. "You are authorized to cause as much damage as you deem necessary on Jinsei assets. This is not a stealth mission. We expect it to be impossible to corral the expected number of prisoners out of the site without alerting anyone, so we recommend you do not even try. And since many of the interested parties have expressed strong displeasure at Jinsei's activities... let us say that there may well be contented smiles from our clients if significant damage is caused to Jinsei's assets."

"Our tactical analysts have come up with a basic plan which you can adopt or use as a base. Or toss entirely if you deem it unsuitable. We have some excellent tactical planners on staff and we would like you to at least consider our mission plan, but you are professionals. You are well-aware of your own capabilities, and we trust you to come up with something that will work, though of course we will want to approve the end result."

"In this folder, you will find the tactical information we have gathered, as well as the plan we have developed. The gist of the plan is to deploy the team stealthily by aerodyne, and then form two teams—an attack/distraction team led by Ms. Doubet, and a rescue team led by Mr. Faldo. Go ahead and spend some time reading up; I'll be available to answer any questions. Our timetable leaves us with several days for planning and preparation."

Lora took a copy of the folder as the man handed them around and started flipping through it. Members of her team and a brief overview of their specialties and abilities were in one section. A list of assets available and recommendations on how they were to be used was in another. A list of targets and potential opposition was detailed in another section. And so on and so on, etc. It was a well laid out little info dump. Ideas for her part of the mission were already presenting themselves to her.

Raven, of course was on her team. She didn't know the others, but as the Spycorp man had said, they had some time to get to know each other and train before the mission.

Standing up and looking around, she picked out the people who were to be her team members. "Raven, Gem, Shoko, and Adler. Why don't you pick up your chairs and come over here to this corner and let's get the intros out of the way." So saying, Lora matched deed to word and moved her own chair over a few paces away and set it down facing the center of the room. "Here, in a circle. Raven on my right, here. Shoko, next to her. then Gem and Adler on my left there."

The man who made his way to the spot indicated for Adler wasn't known to any of the rest of the assault and distraction team, and looked more like a university professor in his forties, who somehow wandered into the wrong meeting than an 'elite' anything.

Moving a bit stiffly, he brought his chair into position beside Gem and took a seat, glancing curiously at the young Oriental girl as he did so. His neatly cut blonde hair was going silver at the temples, and an equally neatly trimmed beard covered the lower half of his face. He was dressed in a slightly rumpled three piece tweed suit and oxford shoes, which mostly but not entirely concealed the fact that he appeared to be in quite decent shape for his age.

"Good day," he said, his first words showing his Germanic origins in those recognizable, clipped tones. "You vill forgive me if I am a bit slower to pick up vat must be done. Despite the glowing reassurances by yon korporativ, I am not vell experienced at this sort of briefing. However," he said precisely, "I am sure that my military experiences vill serve to come back to me soon enough. I am Hans Adler, and I am pleased to be vorking with all of you."

Lora nodded with a polite smile, "Good to be working with you as well. Würde es bequemer für mich sein, Ihnen Anweisungen während des Kampfes auf Deutsch zu erteilen? Oder würden Sie Englisch bevorzugen? Wenn etwas nicht in den Planung Stadien hier klar ist, kann ich Sprachen schalten und sie wiederholen, wenn Sie das möchten."

Adler's face broke into a genuine smile, a fine network of wrinkles showing at the corners of his eyes.

"Überhaupt nicht ist Englisch fein. Ein kann nicht im korporativen Sektor ohne mindestens einen Arbeitsbefehl von Englisch und von Japaner arbeiten." Switching back to English, he continued.

"I do not vish to hold up the proceedings, I shall be fine." He gestured for—the cyborg, his experienced eye picked out—to continue.

Gem spoke to the rest of the group. "Well, if introductions are the order of the day, I'll take my turn. My name's Aoi and I've been doing this sort of job for a while now." She glanced between Shoko and Raven. "I've already met Raven and Shoko, uh..." She scratched her head, looking slightly embarrassed, "Often in less than friendly ways," she added with a nervous smile, "But this is the first time I've worked on a team for quite a while. But it looks like quite a team."

"My name's Raven," said the black-haired beauty in the scruffy jeans and sweatshirt. "I might not look like all that much, but I'm an esper weapon, and a recent addition to the freelance market. I've got some combat training, but my strong suit is the telekinesis, as you can imagine. Not to toot my horn, but I'm pretty much world class in my biz—just like the rest of you, I figure.."

"Well, I guess that just leaves me," said the flame-haired Puma, her cat-like ears and bushy tail twitching nervously. "My name's Shoko, and as Aoi mentioned, she and I've met - and fought together - before, though I don't know anyone else here. This being a combat mission, I guess it's pretty obvious why someone wanted me along." At least I hope it's obvious, thought Shoko. Admittedly, in the shiny and embarrassingly skintight under-armor bodysuit she was currently wearing, she probably looked more like a sextoy than a combat model. But the only alternative at the moment was her suit of CBA, currently folded up and propped against the back of her chair, and that somehow seemed even less appropriate.

"I have all the usual combat capabilities you'd expect of a Puma-class synthetic," she continued, "although my actual combat experience is limited to a few casual brawls and only three or four real combat situations. Still, Aoi's seen me in action and I think she'll vouch for me if you ask."

Lora nodded, "Okay, that leaves me then. I'm a full body milspec combat cybergraft, with all that that implies. Both Raven and I have worked extensively together, first under Shiroko-Tsuhi, and now independently."

She looked around again at them briefly until her gaze fell back on Adler. With sudden amusement in her eyes, she said to him, "Guess you're the odd man out in more than one way. You're our only mech driver, you're the only non-native English speaker in the group, and you're the only male in the group. How'd you get to this party anyway?"

Adler appeared a bit abashed at being singled out, his fair complexion betraying a faint flush.

Lora chuckled, "Relax, I'm just kidding with you. But seriously, I --am- curious about your background."

"Vhile I am not an 'elite mercenary' as the rest of you clearly are," he said in his clipped German accent, "I am not vithout my talents, and Spykorp appeared to be quite impressed with the specifikations of my vehikle that I provided for them. I find myself in the unenviable position of being short on resources and having little means to recoup them. This job vill go a distance towards solving that problem, for a time, at least. As for being the only male amongst all these dreadfully competent females, all I can suggest is that schicksal is finally looking favorably upon me," he said with a touch of a smile.

Lora chuckled, "So it's your lucky day, huh?" In a slightly more serious tone, she asked, "So, what kind of mecha are you driving anyway?"

Adler's expression became faintly wary, and he stroked at the short beard covering his chin with one hand.

"It is not any kind of mecha that I can specifikally name," he said after a moment. "It is somewhat... customized. Suffice to say, it is small but powerful for its size, und should have no trouble keeping pace for the insertion. I believe ve should be able to provide sufficient ablenkung—your pardon—distraction to cover for the recovery team."

"Well then," Aoi interjected, "If he's providing a distraction, I assume Lora and Shoko are the foot troops here - no offence," she added, raising a hand. "Where does that put Raven and I?"

"Well, Raven is one of our 'big guns', so to speak." Lora replied. "She's probably our most versatile member in this group—defense, offense, emergency extraction, you name it. And yes, I figure Shoko and I will be the most straightforward fighters in the group. Adler is probably going to be heavy fire support. You're probably going to be on sniper overwatch and skulking, if we need it."

"Sounds like a plan. I get the distinct impression we're all meant more or less to be front-liners—the rescue team are going to be the sneaky, avoid-confrontation types. Or maybe they're supposed to blast their way in?" She looked into her folder and read a couple paragraphs. "Oh right. Once we're inserted there's no subtlety at all."

"Right. Well then, I have a question," injected Shoko. "Just what kind of gear are we going to be supplied with? It sounds like we're going to need a lot of firepower to do this job. I suppose Mr. Adler already has his mecha and Raven her...uh, esperness. But the rest of us need more conventional firepower. I've already got my CBA and a pulse rifle, of course, but I doubt the others even have that much. And I need more ammo, at a minimum."

Lora flipped briefly to the back of the folder and checked. "According to this, you'll definitely get the extra ammo. Basically, whatever you can carry that won't slow you down is what you'll get for the mission. Not total carte blanche, but it's close enough as to make no real difference. They've got K-2 Gasium and Orc protector suits available. I think I'll put myself down for a K-2 myself," she made a notation in her own folder. "I'd recommend at least a K-2 to you as well, Aoi. They're flexible and they've even got a light feedback power-assist function that you can tune to your needs. Plus you can modify the carry harnesses and integral holsters for almost anything you'd want to carry with you."

She glanced at the equipment list again, "As for guns... Well, we've certainly got a wide assortment available. Everything from revolvers, submachine-guns and assault rifles to a couple of auto cannons. We'll also have several types of munitions available. Fragmentation grenades, smoke bombs, flash-bangs, s-mines, you name it. That's good to know, actually..." Looking over at Shoko, she asked, "Anything in particular you're looking for?"

Shoko hesitated a moment, her brow furrowed in thought. "Well...I'm not sure. Auto cannons, huh? I gotta admit, I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I had something that could quickly take out a vehicle or a cyberdroid. On the other hand, a gun that big might slow even me down a little. And between Raven's capabilities and fire support from a mecha, I'm not sure I can really justify it." She sighed and shook her head. "I guess I'll just have to think about it a bit more."

"So it looks like we're going to be the big distraction—make as big of a ruckus as possible and smash things left, right and center." Raven read up. "It's pretty skimpy on the details. Any special tactics you all can think of?"

"The veaponry of my mecha is not ultimately as destructive as an autokanon," Adler admitted, "although with time there are few defenses it cannot breach. The overall emphasis is..." He trailed off, looking a bit nonplused for a moment.

"I vill share with you for the purposes of this operation," he said reluctantly, "although I vould consider it the greatest of favors if you were to not use this information outside these proceedings. My mecha is geared towards stealth operations. Vhat this means is it can approach the target relatively unobserved and deliver precise damage vithout immediate detektion. It also possesses more widely applicable weaponry to be used vhen stealth is not an important a consideration, but I believe ve might be able to make great use of this capability." He hefted the folder containing tactical data in his hands.

"Once ve have gone through this, perhaps such an opportunity vill make itself known."

The door swung open to reveal a large, open-aired courtyard. Parked ahead of the group was the stealth aerodyne, an eye-hurting collection of odd angles and dark panels. Lining the walls and scattered across the floor were racks and crates of weapons in all shapes and sizes imaginable. The Spycorp representative stepped through ahead of the group and nodded to them. "We have arranged a few supplies and choices of equipment for the mission. Please feel free to arm yourselves with whatever you find to be appropriate."

Aoi was the first one to step out into the courtyard. She gaped at the sheer variety and size of the weapons. It reminded her of her visit to Nabiki Tendo when working with Shion, only on a much larger scale. She remembered the massive cannon Shion had walked away with, and decided that was the sort of thing she needed. And indeed, she spotted an array of over-sized rifles and cannons, spread out on a mat by the aerodyne's rear. "Perfect," she said, rubbing her hands in anticipation as she stepped over.

Shoko followed close on her heels, tail twitching eagerly. She glanced over the assorted heavy weapons laid out before them, looking for an appropriate cyberdroid-killer. "Going for the big bang-bang too, eh? You're starting to think like a Puma, Aoi. Just don't pick something too big - remember what happened when you fired my Stormbreaker?"

"This time I'll be braced somewhere. Besides, I think they've got some recoilless weapons here, like railguns..." She trailed off, her eyes falling on one particular item. "Perfect," she muttered.

"What, find something you like?" asked Shoko, glancing over to see what weapon Aoi had chosen. The shorter woman bent down and hefted a long, boxy device that tapered to a narrow muzzle at one end and had an indent towards the other.

"If I'm not mistaken, this would be a new model of railgun," she said with a smile.

Shoko raised one eyebrow. She had to admit, a railgun did seem a wise choice for her rather petite friend. "Yes, it is. Um, have you ever used one before?"

"Well... I've trained to," she replied while struggling with the weight of the weapon. "But I'm pretty sure... I can..." She sighed and awkwardly let it down.

"Too heavy?"

Aoi nodded, ashamed.

Shoko thought a moment. "Don't feel bad. Even if you could lift it, it would slow you down too much, I think. Maybe a grenade launcher? Biggest bang for the lightest weight I can think of."

Aoi shook her head. "I'm on the sniper post, so I need something precise. I wanted the railgun to take out 'droids, but..." She shook her head.

Shoko placed a hand on her friend's shoulder and smiled. "I understand. But someone's gotta deal with the regular soldiers. Why don't you let me worry about the 'droids?"

Aoi sighed. "I was hoping to plug them from safety. So you wouldn't be at risk."

"Thanks for the thought, but one way or another this is gonna be a risky mission." Shoko's ears suddenly twitched and she glanced back at the railgun. "Of course, as long as you were safely distant, you could use a tripod to support the railgun..."

"You think?" Aoi glanced around at the equipment spread out in front of her, and quickly spotted a tripod. A smile spread across her face. "Perfect." She looked back up at Shoko, now grinning broadly. "Now all I've got to do is get it in place," she finished, and begun to chuckle.

Shoko smiled in return. "Sounds like a plan to me. Now I just need to pick out my favorite 'droid-buster..."

"Looks like they've got everything here," Aoi commented, glancing around again.

"More goodies than even I can carry. And I want them all, darn it." Shoko said, picking her way through the vast selection of weaponry. "I don't see a Steyr ACR, oddly enough. Have to find an alternative I guess."

Suddenly, the Puma smiled and evil smile. "Oh, that is too perfect," she said, reaching down. Lifting her prize, she chuckled. "How could I resist turning another of Jinsei's own weapons against them? This, Aoi, is a Jinsei ACH Anti-Mecha Cannon. It fires 30mm shells, in either single-fire mode or three-round bursts, and it will turn most any cyberdroid into scrap metal in
no time."

Aoi stared in blank amazement at the weapon in Shoko's hands. "That... That is gorgeous," was all she could say.

"Isn't it?" Suddenly, Shoko grunted a bit and shifted the massive weapons position a bit. "And a bit heavy, even for me. Worth it, though. I'm gonna have some fun with this baby."

Meanwhile, Lora walked out into the middle of the collection of weaponry spread out on the floor and along the walls and whistled high to low softly. "Impressive. Almost scary." She reached over and picked up one of the two Stormbreaker pistols lying atop one of the crates. It was the same caliber as her Earthshaker, and had a similar break-open cylinder arrangement, but the two were significantly different otherwise. The Stormbreaker was a slightly longer barreled weapon, with a counterweight above the barrel and a more or less standard looking handle. Her own Earthshaker, with its counterweight below the barrel, shroud and a handle curved more like a rifle grip, looked like a newer design, even though the first of them had come out three years before the Stormbreaker. Maybe she'd get a chance to test-fire it soon and compare. But she'd stick with her own weapon for now.

Surveying the weapons around her, she debated with herself. Stopping power or volume of fire? What would be better? Decisions, decisions. Her eyes ranged over the selection and she did a double-take when she saw the absolutely enormous cannon with a box of shells next to it in a caliber she couldn't quite believe. She knelt down next to it and saw the markings on the side of it. "Halcannon? Yikes..."

Raven strolled in behind Lora, eyes scanning a rack of heavy rifles. "Really impressive," she said, looking over the selection. "That can't be just for us, can it?" She selected one of the weapons in the rack, a bullpup, heavy-barreled rifle featuring an underbarrel grenade launcher and a telescoping shoulder stock. She shouldered the weapon experimentally, judging from the weight that it was designed for use by Puma-strength combat replicants and cybered troops—and from the stock, that it must have one heck of a kickback. "That one's nice," she said absently. She wrapped her fingers around the barrel to judge the caliber and quirked an eyebrow—it seemed more like a shotgun or even a cannon than the rifle she was expecting.

Picking up the enormous Halcannon, Lora said absently, "I don't think this is all just for us, no... must be one of their safe-houses. We're not the only ones who'll be in here tonight shopping, that's for sure." She sighted along the barrel, holding the massive gun with relative ease. Then she shook her head and said, "No... it just won't do."

"Is something wrong with it?" Raven asked, shouldering her big rifle.

"The weight's not an issue, I can carry it just fine. And I'd love to try it out. It'd punch through just about anything, I think. But it's just that it may be too awkward for the type of fighting I think I'm going to be doing. The numbers we're going up against... I want to be able to keep moving at all times. A Jinsei M-100 with a grenade launcher would be better for my purposes, I think. Or an anti-material gun. Maybe both."

"Perhaps I can suggest something?," said the Man In Black, stepping in from his position at the door.

Lora nodded, "Sure. What've you got?"

As he guided Lora to another rack of weaponry, a tentative voice came from behind Raven. "Um, excuse me? Can I ask you a question?"

Raven turned to face the voice—and saw Shoko, the Puma, toting a massive autocannon rivaling the Halconnen in size. She gave her a friendly smile. "Yes?"

The Puma's ears twitched nervously. "Well, I was just wondering why you're carrying a battle rifle. I mean, aren't your weapons...well, built in, so to speak?"

Raven chuckled at that. "Well, I might need all my power for defense. I might be just out of a teleport and want to plug someone quickly, before I can shift. Or I might brainburn and need to shoot someone in a hurry." She looked at the Puma intently. "Esper weapons aren't invulnerable, even though they sometimes act like they are. Remember that if you ever face one—first step to beating them."

Shoko nodded. "Thanks for the advice. Of course, the only other esper I've ever been face to face with, besides you, is Ran. I'm pretty sure he really is as invulnerable as he seems."

Raven winced. "For all practical purposes, I imagine he is."

Shoko nodded again. "Yeah. I basically got lucky. He was in a good mood." She glanced down at the weapon Raven had chosen. "Hey, is that a Konachi FR-21? Those weren't even in production yet when I went into the Zone. Good choice, if it lives up to its hype."

"A Konachi FR-21? What's that?"

"Oh, you don't know?" Shoko asked, surprised. "Konachi calls it a 'battle rifle'. It's a single-shot weapon mostly for use against moderately hard targets - armored infantry, small vehicles, and so forth. Usually loaded with armor-piercing rounds, but it can also fire special frag grenades, if they're available."

Raven grinned fiercely. "Perfect."

"Um..." Shoko's ears twitched down a notch. "You do realize this is a very big caliber gun, right? The bullpup design makes it look small, but the recoil's gonna be fierce. It's really designed for synthetics and the like to use. Can you handle it without using your TK?"

Raven shrugged. "Since I've gotten my body fixed, I've become very strong. It's not muscle though. I think it's the Power helping me out but it doesn't seem to drain off over the stuff I have conscious control over, y'know?"

Shoko cocked her head slightly to one side. "Fixed? Do you mean you're a genetic upgrade too? Many upgrades do include enhanced musculature. Or maybe it is some sort of unconscious use of you TK. Either way, you can probably handle the gun. But if they've a range around here, you might wanna test fire it first, just so you know what to expect."

Raven nodded at that. She looked Shoko over and was struck about how different from Elisa the vivacious Puma was. Suddenly an idea sprang to mind, and she smiled. "Thanks. Say, I'd like to talk to you about something, later, okay?"

"Uh...sure," said Shoko, surprised. She wondered what could a human esper possibly want to talk to a semi-rogue synthetic about. "No problem. Whenever you can catch me free."

"Thanks a lot. I appreciate it."

Hans Adler watched the young ladies run amok amongst the munitions racks, a slight smile upon his face. He has known many people with equal enthusiasm for high-grade personal weaponry, but few were female and even fewer so young—or at least having the appearance of being young. Technology had indeed advanced significantly over the past decades.

He made his own way across the room, heading over to the cleared area where the stealth aerodyne was parked. Its eye-twisting jumble was regarded with professional disapproval for a moment before he turned back to the rest of the room.

"I suppose I should be showing you vat it is that I vill be bringing to the party," he said to the ladies before him. They each looked up from perusing the weaponry before them to give him their attention.

"It does not perhaps 'pack as much punch' as some of the larger veapons here, but does make up for that shortcoming in other vays." He removed a small remote keypad from his pocket and input a passcode.

The air behind him appeared to ripple, then cleared to reveal a hulking piece of machinery standing beside the aerodyne. It was a mech of unfamiliar design. Humanoid, it stood about ten feet tall and half that wide and deep, the rounded slopes of its armor giving it a burly appearance. Yet at the same time, the overall placement and articulation of the joints suggested agility and speed, rather like a linebacker. The single glowing optic in the head gave it a sinister aspect. As the camouflage system de-rezzed, the mecha became an odd iridescent gray in color.

"This," Hans said with a certain degree of pride in his voice, "is the Shattenjäger," he said. "The vorld's first fully functional stealth mecha."

Raven's eyes were wide as she watched the Shattenjäger appear from thin air. "Invisible mecha... wow, that's just so wrong." She grinned fiercely, somewhere halfway between a mischievous smile and a cheetah about to pounce. "Somebody's going to have a biiiiiiiiig surprise when we get there..."

"Whoa," said Shoko softly, eyes wide. "I think my concept of 'state-of-the-art' needs to be revised upward."

Hans chuckled at the reactions being displayed by the rest of his 'team'. Very satisfying, yes, even considering his current circumstances.

Lora stepped forward from where she had been discussing assault cannons with the Spycorp representative. "Oh now --that's- going to come in handy. Full therm-optic camouflage?" She asked. At his affirmative nod, she looked the mecha up and down, "Sweet... I've heard rumors about this sort of thing, but I thought if it existed, it was Fed-Gov deep Black-Ops stuff. I guess it would be too much to ask where you got this, I take it?"

"I'm afraid I cannot give any spcifiks, no," he replied. "Other than I had access to it because I vas the chief projekt designer. This is the only one in existence," he said with a touch of sorrow in his voice.

"Any integral weapons on this thing?" Lora asked, "Or does it just carry whatever's appropriate for the mission?"

Hans smiled. They may indeed look like girls, but they were clearly consummate professionals.

"Oh yes, the Jäger comes complete vith an onboard veapons suite," he assured the cyborg. "A highly accurate maser for use during stealth operations, a rapid-fire plasma ejektor, and a particle beam veapon for use against foot troops." His smile widened at their responses to learning the Jäger used energy weaponry.

"Fully powered from the internal fusion-arc generator," he went on, warming to his favorite topic, "the veapon systems never need fear running out of ammunition. The Jäger is also fully flight capable, posesses a sealed life support system, sensor suite, and an advanced onboard computer." Tapping out a series of codes on his keypad, Hans stepped aside as the Jäger abruptly straightened slightly, then turned in place and paced three measured steps before turning back to face the others, settling back into its passive 'parked' stance.

"The Jäger tends not to carry any additional veaponry," Adler went on, "vhich vould comprimise its stealth capabilities. In situations vere stealth is not an option, however, conventional meccha hand veaponry can be carried."

Raven nodded with interest... then stopped and turned as something caught her eye. She walked over to a rack hanging against the far wall, looking over the weapons there, and smiled fiercely. She selected one, and pulled it out of its sheath.

She gave the sword a few experimental swings, halting the motions in full control, as Kasuko had taught her. The weapon's balance was exquisite; it felt *right* in her hand as she went from one form to another. There was no flaw along the blade's length, a testament to modern science and metallurgy, exacting precision superior to any medieval swordsmith's. The weapon did not look like much, the blade and its handle were both possessed of a military plainness; but she looked at the edge, and noted the characteristic shimmer of a monosword. Her smile never faltered.

"I think I'll take this one, too," she said.

"Hopefully that one will hold up better than the previous few swords you've tried." Lora said.

Raven looked over and saw that Lora was holding an almost organic looking submachine gun with a bottom-mounted helical feed magazine and a heavy assault/anti-material cannon was slung by its strap over her shoulder. She grinned. "Hopefully, yes!" She slashed the air with the sword. "That's a good weapon that never runs out of ammo."

Lora nodded, "A sword always works. It may not be appropriate for _every_ situation. But a sword always at least _works_."

"Well, until it breaks," Raven pointed out, grinning. "What have you got?"

"Seburo C-25A sub-machine gun for close in work, and a Remington AC-205 anti-cyborg rifle, for the big stuff at range. Mono-edge combat knife as a 'just in case' back-up." Lora hefted each gun in turn and pivoted her hip slightly to indicate the knife handle at the small of her back as she spoke.

She turned to Hans, "I know that the Jager doesn't—and shouldn't—carry anything to break its stealth silhouette. But I'd like you to select some weaponry your mech can carry, just in case. We'll drop the stash with us as close by as we can, with a ping beacon on it so you can find it if necessary. If your stealth gear gets damaged, or for some reason the inboard weaponry gets disabled. I'd like the option for you to take up some non-energy using weapons and still be able to support the mission, if possible."

"As for everyone else," She pitched her voice where it would carry across the room, "as soon as you choose your gear, let's get this show on the road!"

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