Hailey Geminesca - Corvus Down

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Pictor
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Hailey Geminesca - Corvus Down

Post by Pictor » Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:00 pm

Originally meant to be posted on the Wiki. Got a little bit too wordy, so I'll post them here. There's little illustrations as well. I'll post them up later, along with the rest of this side story.
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Birth

Hailey was born into the world as the sole survivor of Iteration 15, a phase of the Brimmerman Project that sought to engineer the next step of Panzer evolution. Specifically, the experiments attempted to reverse the order in which the human and animal souls are fused in a Panzer, using the animal body as the base instead of the human one. This was supposed to yield a specimen more viable for future modifications, but the methods used were so harsh and cruel that none of the test subjects survived, except for the infant Hailey.

Unlike the other subjects, she was the only case in which the process was performed in vitro, while she was but a fetus. Somehow this allowed her to survive, but to the disappointment of the scientists, she ended up exhibiting no extraordinary traits. Even with her animal half as the base, she seemed no different from any other Panzer. Not wanting to waste the only surviving specimen, they arranged for Hailey to be integrated into Panzer society through a foster parent; a young but honorably discharged military hero named Grant Geminesca. Grant himself was none the wiser to Hailey's true background, having been told by the officials that she was the orphaned child of a distant relative, and that he was her only family. She would continue to be watched as she grew, in case of any new developments.

Early Years


Despite his initial apprehensions at becoming a single guardian of an adopted girl, Grant came to love and care for Hailey as his own flesh and blood. Hailey - in turn - grew to look up to her "uncle" Grant, idolizing his military history and the lifestyle of a soldier. While Grant did not want to restrict the girl's future, he also became a bit worried for her sake.

"I want to be a soldier like you, uncle Grant!"

"Haha! Reeeeeally, now? Just like me?"

"Yep!"

"You know, Hailey... people like us fight so one day, you might not have to."

"Huh? But... isn't being a soldier what a Panzer is all about? That's what we learned in class!"

"Hahaha... you might not get it now, honey. Maybe when you're a bit older, you will."

Even with her dutiful attitude, Hailey was somewhat of a trouble maker, constantly getting into mischievous altercations with other children and her educators. While this side of her also had Grant scratching his head, he hoped that her playful nature would outshine her fervent obsession with army life. Life continued happily for the family of two for, and had things continued the way they did, Hailey may have grown to become a very different person. But one day, shortly after Hailey had turned twelve, she would come home to find her uncle's lifeless body lying in a pool of his own blood.

Left Alone

Grant Geminesca was reported to have been assassinated by a vengeful rogue. The culprit was never caught, nor did any further events arise from the incident. The Panzer society at large mourned for the loss of a decorated war hero, but scarce few seemed to pay much heed to the one he left behind. As Hailey stood before the grave of her uncle, whom had loved her as a daughter, and she loved as a father, something within her changed forever.

"I promise. No matter what it takes. I'll make them pay... the people who did this to you. I'll become a person who can, for certain, prevent things like this from happening ever again. I swear to you... dad."

As reparation, the girl was given a choice to become a ward of the state, but it was an offer she turned down. Hailey refused to rely on that sort of convenient crutch. During her year's MPUD Assignment Ceremony, while all the other children were surrounded by loved ones showering praise and joy, she walked up to the stands alone. The loneliness only served to strengthen her resolve. The former mischief-lover buried herself in her studies and graduated into Basic Military Training School at the top of her class.

Adolescence

After graduating from Elementary School, Hailey bid farewell to the humble home she had spent her childhood in and moved into the boarding residences of her secondary school. She had no qualms about demonstrating the fruits of her efforts, almost immediately excelling in all academic fields, and showed particular promise in the applied sciences. So impressive were her grades that she was able to skip two years of education. Her ever-vigilant Iteration 15 observers at first thought that her intellect was a result of late-blooming special abilities, however this proved to be untrue. Hailey remained an ordinary Panzer girl; her genius was earned through sweat and blood

In the process of dedicating herself to fulfilling her sacred promise with her uncle Grant, Hailey had traded off almost all aspects of social life. While many tried to approach and get close to her, they all eventually found themselves left in the dust. Because of this, Hailey became known throughout her school as a prodigy, but also an aloof loner, earning her respect of some and animosity among others. It took one extravagantly determined character to finally crack her shell.

Meeting Noco and Be-Prepped

Hailey met Noco Sue during an outdoors school excursion into the human world. The two were assigned the same tent, and Noco wasted no time in immediately "getting to know" her shelter-mate. Noco turned out to be a rambunctious person, not unlike Hailey was as a child. At first, she only served to get on Hailey's nerves, but as time passed, Noco's never-say-die persistence to befriend her eventually broke through. The two have remained inseparable friends ever since.

Hailey graduated with her best friend Noco into military academy together. Their close relationship lightened the raven girl up to other friendships, including a precarious one with Noco's eventual boyfriend, Palmarr Berry (albeit only by proxy). The trio remained close during their first few years of Be-Prepped, until eventually their career choices set them upon separate paths. Hailey would remain close with Noco and Palmarr, accompanying them into nights out in the town on their days off (though she was mostly just a third wheel to what was otherwise a date between couples).

The Black Talons

Despite having learned to be more open to others due to Noco's intervention, Hailey still remained diligent to her work. Even after graduating into armed service, she remained at the top of the charts. Eventually, her stellar performance opened the door that she had been seeking; a recommendation into an elite military unit called the Black Talons.

The Black Talons were a special operations team that specialized in dealing with threats too sensitive for ordinary troops. Most of their missions involved the extinguishing of rogue activities. It was exactly the opportunity that Hailey had been waiting for. Joining the Black Talons, she became the youngest member of the unit to ever have been inducted, earning her official commission early. At first wary of her age and relative inexpertise, the others of the team soon warmed up to her after several missions in which she played key role in claiming success.

Operation Highwire

A year after her induction into the Black Talons, Hailey was given the chance to take point in an important undercover mission, dubbed Operation Highwire. The High Command had gotten wind of activities from a dangerous rogue organization in the human world. The objectives were straight forward; stake out a designated area and locate the whereabouts of the rogues' base of operations. Hailey's specialized skillset, her keen avian form, and her exceptional capabilities of controlling her transformations made her ideal for the job.

The directives of the undercover mission was made clear.
  1. Hailey would be sent to an English-speaking human town named Hamlin Falls, located in the United States.
  2. The mission would last for as long as deemed necessary.
  3. She would not be continuously monitored, in case the enemy could track the source of the signals, and she was to make a single summative report at the end of each day, no more and no less.
  4. She was to do all she could to blend in and remain inconspicuous, but is otherwise to avoid unnecessary interactions with the human inhabitants.
  5. Most importantly, due to the nature of the mission, she could not expect backup until the presence of the rogue organization has been confirmed.
Although now a thoroughly experienced soldier, Hailey had sight apprehensions about heading what was basically an extended solo mission. That was, until, the High Command let slip another tidbit of information; that the target organization was suspected of being the same one that had been responsible for her uncle's assassination.

Hailey accepted the mission without another second thought.

Meeting the Itaharas

As planned, Hailey was transported to a remote location on the outskirts of town, and rode her way in by motorcycle to a single-room apartment prepared for her as a station. However, even before she could get settled in, she proceeded to break directive #4. As she turned into the street of her resident, she witnessed a small boy being ganged up on and bullied by several other children. Something propelled her to intervene, and she stepped forth and chased off the boy's assailants.

"Hey, kid. You okay?"

"... Yea."

"Wait a sec, no you're not! Your knee's all bloody! Are your parents around? C'mon, let's get you home."

As it turned out, the child was the son of Hailey's next door neighbor, a third generation Japanese American woman named Laura Itahara. Laura was a widow whose husband had been a police officer, having died in the line of duty while shielding a civilian from an armed criminal. As a result the boy, named Kit, grew up without a father. Due to his timid and meek nature, Kit is often teased and bullied by other local children. The busy Laura, overworked with part-time jobs to provide for her family, is not always able to keep Kit safely under her watch.

Hailey attempted to follow her orders and leave the Itaharas to their own devices, but as time went on, she found herself unable to ignore their plight. Almost against her own better judgement, she grew close to her neighbors. Alongside her mission, Hailey found herself standing in as a big-sister figure for Kit, not only fending off his bullies but also spending quite a bit of time with the boy. She spent time with him in Laura's absence, took him out to play, and defended him from his bullies. In turn her personality seemed to rub off on Kit, and in Hailey's presence he slowly became a more confident person willing to stand up for himself. It wasn't long before the two apartments seemed to merge into one, and Hailey was welcomed as a fourth member of the Itahara family.

"Hailey, I know this might seem out of the blue, but... I wanted to thank you."

"Hmm? For what, Laura?"

"For everything...! Everything you've done for Kit... for me... for this entire family. If my husband were still around... I think he'd have loved to meet you. I know it might not seem like much, considering how little we have but, I just want you to know that you'd always have a home here. With us. You're family now."

Betrothed

One day, Kit came up to Hailey looking particularly pleased.

"Hey, big sis! Guess what today is?"

"Today...? It's Wednesday."

"No, silly. It's my birthday! I'm turning eight years old!"

"Huh?! I didn't know that! I didn't get you anything! It's not too late, right? I'll go now. What do you want?"

"Can I pick?"

"Yea! I'll get you whatever you want... as long as it's not something messed up or too expensive!"

"Reeeeaally? Whateeever I want?"

The boy smiled cheerfully, but his expression seemed to pack a bit of mischief.

"Then... I want..."

The boy promptly got down on one knee and produced a shining silver ring from behind him.

"I wanna marry you, Hailey!"

"Wha..! I...! You..! Whaaa...!"

Hailey was stunned speechless for a moment. However, her shell shocked expression quickly turned into a stern, pensive look. Then, giving resolute sigh, she knelt down firmly in front of Kit and placed two hands firmly on his shoulders.

"A few more years."

"Eh?"

"Wait a few more years, until you're all grown up. Then come back to big sister, okay?"

"Really? Promise??"

"Y-Yea. It's.. a p-promise."

"... Big sis... are you okay? You're breathing pretty hard."

Target Confirmed

Using the superficial alibi of a "studio artist", Hailey was able to make her rounds without rousing much suspicious from the locals, nor the Itaharas. She felt a certain degree of guilt for deceiving them... but it was enough that she had given them her real name instead of the fake "Zana Ariere" that she was given to use.

Hailey hadn't forgotten about her mission. Locating the rogue organization was still her primary objective. She was, first and foremost, above all else, a soldier. She was a Black Talon. Failure was not an option. As per orders, she would spend her daylight hours making rounds through the town. First, it was important to get to know the layout of the entire area. Every alleyway, every underpass, every nook and cranny. Then, you get to know routines. How things operated. Where people came from, and where they went. The town was bustling, but not large. If you're familiar with the status quo, then it's all the easier to spot when things are out of place. As much as they might try, a Panzer can't blend long amongst humans. Unless you're a certain specialized trained raven.

It wasn't long before traces of suspicious activity began to make themselves apparent. A year and a half into her extended stake out, Hailey was not only able to fully confirm the presence of the rogue organization, but also reveal their headquarters as well; a local mall. The members of the rogue organization masqueraded as employees in the shops. They communicated entirely in code, inserted into everything from mundane requests, to customer orders, and even the amount of payment and change received. They were clever, Hailey had to give them that... but not clever enough. A few nights after Hailey was able to ascertain an approximate estimation of their forces, she patche the report through. Orders came through almost right away.

The rest of the team would be assembled the following night. They would strike hard, they would strike fast, and they would take the enemy out before they were even aware anything was amiss.

The Unexpected

The were the Black Talons. They were a unit of the finest. A team of the elite. Succeeding generations of others before them. A force that had never faced failure. Failure was not an option. Failure was not in a Black Talon's vocabulary. Yet in the face of mere rogues - rebellious thugs that they can taken down time and time again before - the peerless Black Talons were halted in their tracks.

Everything had gone according to plan up until the moment of the actual strike. Then, just as they waited for the mall to clear, the entire population of the building, every man, woman, and child, suddenly collapsed into a catatonic state. It was an Ether Fluctuation Pulse, a weapon that utilized timed shockwaves that distorted the natural ether in the air. The rogues had programmed it to emit a resonance that disturbed the life-force of human targets, rendering them unconscious instantly for a short time. Even Panzers, with a fundementally human base, were rendered virtually paralyzed. Not even the Panzer High Command could have anticipated that the rogues had such an ace up their sleeves. In one fell swoop, not only had the enemy incapacitated the entire strike team, but also gained themselves a building full of meat shields. All of the Black Talons were caught completely off guard.

All of them, that was, except for Hailey. As a twisted side affect of her Iteration 15 origins, Hailey's reversed souls meant that she was less affected by the EFP. Daunted, but not out, it fell to her to infiltrate the enemy ranks and shut down the device. And so she did.

The rogues may have caught them by surprise with their secret weapon, but beyond that, they were still the thugs they always were. They wore simple suits that served to shield them from the harmful effects of the EFP, but that simply meant that Hailey only had to put a chink in their armor, and their own weapon would do the rest. After cutting off the mall's power supply, she slid freely through the darkness, taking out one rogue after another all the while avoiding civilian casualties. The EFP ground against her human half, pounding against the inside of her skull and distorting her senses more and more the closer she got. But she was a Black Talon. And failure was not an option. Against all odds, Hailey made it to the distortion emitter.

But as she did, a new order came down from the High Command.

Failure

The call was made. Instead of disabling the device, Hailey was to overload and detonate it. The resulting explosion would cause a massive fluctuation that would not only destroy the mall, but also kill every living thing in the immediate vicinity. The paramedics had already arrived and taken the rest of her team to safety. Hailey was also to time the detonation to allow herself enough time to escape.
"But... the situation is under control, sir! I've brought it under control! So why...?"

It was simple. The situation had gotten out of hand. The humans had seen too much. If left alive, suspicion would grow. There could even be Crossers among the crowd. This was the most efficient way to cover up the incident. On top of that, the rogue headquarters would be extinguished with extreme prejudice, demonstrating the might of the Panzer militia to other would-be insurgents. Two birds with one stone, as they say.

An order. An absolute command. This was the new directive. She was a Black Talon. Failure was not an option. The side of Hailey that believed that, the side that held onto the unbreakable promise she made that day, as a child, upon her uncle's grave, pushed her forward. Made her fingers move. Before she knew it, the detonation sequence had been prepared. All it took was a simple flip of a digital switch.

But... what was she doing? What was she about to do?! Was she really about to kill, hundreds... perhaps thousands of lives for the sake of obeying an order? As she stood, nearly buckling at the suddenly realization of the weight she bore, a voice cracked over the radio.

"... Do you copy?! What are you waiting for?!"

"But, sir! I.... But there are...--"

Trembling uncontrollably, a hand hovers out over the activation module.

"I... I just can't!! I can't do that, sir! Those are innocent people! They have nothing to do with any of this!"

"Fucking hell! This isn't a pity party, this is the God damned battlefield! You are a soldier, Red Six, and before that and anything else, a Panzer. What would you do? Turn your back on the High Command? Betray your own kin?!"

"I.... I...."

"Do it! Do it now!! That's an order, Geminesca!!"

A hand came thundering down upon the control panel of the emitter device... but at the last minute, diverted and slammed itself against its edge. Hailey stood panting, bracing herself against the device. She couldn't do it. There was no way she could do it. How could she do something like that? Then, at that moment, a sharp pain exploded against her sides.
"Ungh...!"

Whipping around, she saw that one of the rogue guards she had taken out had somehow recovered enough to prop himself off the ground. In his hand was a gun, pointed in her direction, still smoking at the muzzle.

"You HQ bitch..."

The rogue uttered through his broken protection suit as he strained to squeeze the trigger. Steeling through the pain, Hailey dodged to the side and narrowly avoided incoming fire. She quickly drew her own sidearm and returned the favor, shooting the rogue in his hand, causing him to drop his weapon. The pain was enough to send him into unconsciousness once more.

"Tch... Don't shoot... at the fucking bomb... idiot!!"

[Danger: Fluctuation Overload. Adjust settings below safety thresholds.]

"... What?!"

It was either fate, or sheer misfortune. The rogue's missed shot had ricocheted directly into the emitter's control panel. The impact was enough to set off its haptic feedback interface. The detonation sequence had been started.

"... You've gotta be shitting me!!"

Three minutes. That was the time she had been alloted to get herself out. But there wasn't time for that right now. She had to disable this. She had to stop this device from going off. Otherwise...

"No. Can't think about that. Calm down. I can... I can do this."

Demolitions. That was her specialty. Even with the control panel destroyed, Hailey believed she could disarm the thing. She had defused countless bombs, under even tighter situations. This was the first time she had to defuse something she had set herself. That didn't matter. She could do it. She had to do it.

Failure was not an option.

She quicked cracked open the underside of the emitter's control systems. Even that much effort caused her wound to burn. The sickly sent of iron filled the air, and she could feel her uniform beginning to matte against her skin. Not good, she was loosing blood. It wouldn't be a good time to pass out. But there wasn't time to treat herself either. She returned her attention on the machine's innards. Her eyes darted. Her fingers worked.
Two minutes and thirty seconds left.

Some wires were cut, others were crossed. Yet the machine kept on ticking.

Two minutes left.

It was getting harder to stay focused. Her was still pounding from the aftereffects of the EFP. The adrenaline rush was making her physically sick. Hailey shook it all off. Failure was not an option.

One minute, thirty seconds left.

Failure was not an option.

One minute, fifteen seconds left.

Failure was not an option!

One minute left.

Failure was not an option!!

Forty seconds.

FAILURE WAS--

"Geminesca!!"

A familiar voice came from behind her, followed by a familiar figure. It was a man. Her commander. The leader of the Black Talons.

"What the fuck are you still doing?! Why did you cut off radio contact?? Is that... have you been shot?!"
Thirty seconds.

" Jesus Christ, Geminesca. Are you listening to me?!"
The commander hurled an arm around Hailey's torso and attempted to drag her away from the machine.

Twenty seconds.

"Sir?! W-Wait. I can stop this! Just a bit more time!!"
Fifteen seconds

"What the hell's gotten into you? We're getting out of here right now!!"
With an iron grip against his subordinate, the Black Talon commander pried her away from the soon-to-be explosive. With his free hand, he dialed a few keys on his MPUD.
Ten seconds.

"This is Red One! I've got her! Open the channel and get us the fuck out!"

Five seconds.
Hailey struggled against her superior's grasp.

"No! Let me go! I can still do it! I can--"

Four.

A bright pillar of light surrounded the two soldiers.

Three.

The surroundings began to melt away from Hailey's vision.

Two.

Then, in an instant, it was all gone.

One.

Aftermath

The teleportation channel had transported Hailey and her commander to someplace remote and safe, at a remote corner of town. However, as soon as they reappeared, Hailey broke away from her team once more and headed straight for the mall again.

"Don't, Geminesca. Do not do this to yourself."

"I have to."

"I know how you feel. We all had to do it at one point. But this is what it means to be a soldier."

"No... that's... not right! I..."

"There was an order. You followed it. You did what you had to do. You're a Black Talon. Failure was not an--"

"But I did fail--!!"

When Hailey had finally arrived back at ground zero, she beheld destruction the likes of which she had never seen in person. The entire mall had been level reduced to a smoldering frame, and even the surrounding landscape had been utterly devastated. Just when the raven girl was about to succumb to despair, she saw them. Human rescue workers; already in the process of pulling person after person out of wreckage.
... Survivors? There were survivors!!
She hung back and watched. The heaviness constricting her heart seemed to lift with each individual that clambered out of the rubble, but not by much. As the parade of rescued people increased in volume, Hailey a glint of hope lit within her. Nobody was supposed to have been left alive after the blast. Had something gone wrong? Perhaps, what little modifications she was able to make before being forced to retreat had some effect!
People survived. They survived....!
She could only repeat the thought in her head. That was all that mattered. All that mattered... until something else caught her eye.

A woman. Kneeling, nearly sprawled along the ground. She wept frantically. Her haunting wails were audible even from a distance. Against her chest, she was cradling something.

"... Laura?"

The more she watched, the more she was sure. Her clothes were singed and her face was covered in dust, but there was no doubt that the woman was Laura Itahara. Hailey's thoughts raced wildly.

She... was there? Had she been in the mall?!

Hailey left her hiding spot and slowly stumbled toward the scene.

But she was fine, right? She's okay, right? She's unhurt, right?!

It wasn't until Hailey got closer that she was finally able to discern the thing that Laura was holding against herself.

"....!"

Her entire body seized on the spot. Her innards twisted themselves to a pulp and bile rose to her throat.

Half a body.

She wanted desperately to look away. To turn and hurl until she threw up nothing but blood. But her body wouldn't let her. It locked her in place. As if forcing her to look. To look upon this madness she had caused.

Half a boy.

Within Laura's arms was the upper body of her son. Kit Itahara. His hair frayed and crusted. His skin matted with burns and debris. Below his waist, chunks and trails of unspeakable things poured limply out, sticking to his mother's clothes and staining them red. There was nothing else there. Nothing where his legs should be. Nothing at all.

"Ah..."

A sound slowly inched its way forth out of Hailey's paralyzed lungs. Like something terrible had been congesting inside of her, and was finally making its way out.

"Aaaaah....!"

Her legs gave at last, sending her crashing to the crumbling asphalt. She brought a pair of shaking hands and clawed against the sides of her head. A cluster of jet black feathers burst repeatedly from her forearms, only to fall out seconds later, littering the ground around her with black plumes.

A dream. Not real. This has to be... has to be... has to be---!!

"Aaaaah... AaaaaAAAAhh...----!!!"

Suddenly, there was a sharp pain in her neck, followed by a mechanical click. Almost immediately, Hailey slumped over, completely unconscious. Standing over her was the Black Talons commander, holding a tranquilizing injector in his hand.

"Damn it, Geminesca. I told you. This wasn't something you needed to see."
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