"Trust me."

It took a moment for the semantics of BT-7274's words to set in. Beneath the pilot's helmet that he had inherited from his mentor just a matter of days ago, Jack Cooper's eyes widened in realisation, struggling in the iron grip of the Vanguard-class Titan he shared a neural link with.

It couldn't end like this. Though they had been pilot and Titan for just barely a few days, the bond they shared transcended mere friendship. Together, they had taken on Special Operation 217, traversing the dangers of both wildlife and IMC forces of Tython, and pursued the IMC and the Apex Predators as they raced to deliver the Ark to the Fold Weapon.

Now, they were about to complete their mission - prevent the IMC from activating the Fold Weapon, in order to save the millions of lives that still lived on the Militia stronghold of Harmony.

In that instant, as BT-7274 hurled him from mechanical limbs tens of thousands of times stronger than any pilot, the last communications from his Titan echoing through his mind even past the screech of energy of the charging Fold Weapon, Jack Cooper acted on pure instinct. Assailed by both the gravitational forces of the Fold Weapon and the momentum of his throw, Jack twisted his body, eyes narrowed, searching for the perfect angle that only a pilot could find.

True, he was only a Riflemen Third Class, promoted to Acting Pilot by the dying words of his mentor, not yet having officially earned his Pilot Certification. Certainly, he was far less experienced in piloting a titan than the veterans of countless battles and skirmishes that comprised the Special Recon Squadron.

But here and now, he was BT-7274's pilot - and that meant something. They shared more than just a mere neural link.

They were a team. Inseparable

He may not have been programmed to follow the three protocols that the Milita's Vanguard-class titans had, but he had his own set of rules to follow. A pilot never abandoned his Titan. The two of them were one and the same.

And so, in mid-air, he reoriented himself, and acted.

"Cooper, what are you doing?"

"Sorry, BT," he said, his pilot's jump-kit blazing as he corrected his course. "I've got my own protocols to follow! Protect the Titan!"

He launched a grappling hook forward, the line coiling around his Titan's extended arm, just barely making contact at its maximum length. Momentum halted, he braced himself, gnashing his teeth as he swung forward BT and the very centre of the Fold Weapon that now blazed with energy.

"Pilot-"

A blinding flash of brilliant light erupted from the charged core of the Fold Weapon. The Heads-Up Display of his pilot's helmet stalled for a moment, a staccato of light and dark cycling across his vision. A flare of energy erupted from the Ark.

Funny. Jack had thought that it would have felt intensely hot, as though being thrust into the core of a star, but there was no such change in temperature. It made sense, he supposed - however it was that the Fold Weapon worked, it bent space-time itself, folding it against its own axis, scattering the crushed jigsaw pieces of reality across all existence itself.

He knew he was being very stupid. There was no need for them both to sacrifice themselves here.

But if there was a chance - even the slimmest chance - that BT might survive the imploding Fold Weapon in one piece, then he - Jack Cooper, Pilot - could not abandon his Titan.

Space was rent apart, matter sent simultaneously collapsing inward toward the imploding Ark, while paradoxically propelled outward. Time slowed down to a crawl - just as it had been at the test firing of the Fold Weapon prototype in the past.

Then, with a rush of energy, the collective laws of reality twisted, and Jack Cooper knew no more.

-x-x-x-

WARNING: REACTOR CORE SUPERCHARGED.

Booting energy dump sequence.

Venting… completed.

Initialising root systems… completed.

Initialising core programming… completed.

WARNING: Internal navigations disabled. (REASON: Saptial reference not found.)

ACTION: Reset spatial reference.

WARNING: Unable to calibrate present time to internal reference.

ACTION: Tempoarilty reset system time to default value.

Verifying…

Rebooting… completed.

BT-7274 stirred. Data streamed in at a trickle, each of his separate modules activating in turn, having been disabled by the sheer vastness of energy that had been released from the detonated Fold Weapon. He could not yet move - motor systems were still offline - but he could access the most fundamental segments of his programming.

Protocol One: Link to Pilot.

The neural link was still active. Jack Cooper was alive.

BT-7274 would not profess to understanding much about how the human mind worked. For all the ways that the two pilots he had been linked to conducted themselves in missions, executing flawless maneuvers and strategies that his programming would of never considered, the human mind could act in strangely illogical ways.

BT-7274 could not fathom why Jack Cooper had turned back. He had done the math - judging by Cooper's average reaction time and physiological state, there was no way that he could of returned to the Titan's cockpit before the Fold Weapon detonated. It was simply impossible. BT knew that, and it was why he executed what was to have been his final fastball, hurling his pilot away in order to satisfy Protocol Three.

But humans acted illogically. He should have remembered that. He filed that into his internal memory log, making a note to learn from this mistake.

If the neural link was active, though, that meant that Cooper was still alive. That was good. He had not yet lost his pilot.

Protocol Two: Uphold the mission

The Fold Weapon had been successfully neutralised. In the final few moments before his systems had been disabled, BT-7274 had confirmed that the Ark had been destabilised, causing a premature detonation. Harmony had been saved.

That now left him without an active mission. In which case, BT-7274 defaulted to Protocol Three.

Protect the Pilot.

Jack Cooper was alive. From the thermal, kinetic, and visual sensors that were now reactivating, however, he could see no sign of his pilot. That was unacceptable.

Analysing the datastream stemming from the neural link more stringently revealed that the link had been distorted, almost the same as how it had been during the exploration of the IMC Fold Weapon research facility on Tython. There, BT-7274 had managed to subvert the issue of communicating with his pilot across the two timestreams by transferring several of his AI functions to Cooper's helmet. Now, the link was active, but would require recalibration in time and space before he could once more communicate with Jack through the link. That necessitated physical contact between them both.

Assuming, of course, that Jack had already been ejected from the tangled mess of space-time. With the way that the neural link worked, Jack could potentially not exist in this current iteration of time, but still register as being alive through the link.

His motor system were now being brought online. With the whirring of motors, and a screech of steel as he forced his limbs into motion, a chunk of heavy debris weighing several tons had found its way onto BT's torso was forced aside effortlessly.

ACTION: Initialising radio communications... completed

There was nothing but a buzz of static as he cycled through all accessible frequencies. Even with his attempts at deconvolving the signal, to search past the stream of noise for something coherent, he could not parse any decipherable signal across the multitude of active frequencies.

The reason why was readily apparent. Something was jamming electromagnetic communications. He searched for its origin, triangulating the location of the signal jammer.

Then, he turned skyward. In the distance, as his ocular systems automatically adjusted to provide better visual acuity, he could see a swarm of small mechanical drones, each of them barely a couple centimetres in length. They were shaped as insects, broadcasting across a wide range of frequencies in both radio and microwave wavelengths, blocking any means of long-range electromagnetic communication.

That alone was not troubling. What BT-7274 could not understand was why there was no record of such drones among the Militia's database.

Was this a new IMC invention? If so, it made his situation all the more dire - if deployed on a mass scale, the guerilla warfare tactics that the Militia excelled at in planet-side assaults could be heavily crippled.

He struggled to process where his current location was. The Fold Weapon had twisted space-time itself through the generation of hypergravitational waves, causing him to be displaced to an unknown destination that his internal navigations and orienteering circuitry could not interpret, and forced that sub-arm of his programming to reset. Because of the inherent unpredictability of the Fold Weapon's mechanism, BT and Cooper - along with whatever else had been present close to the epicentre of the detonation - had been scattered to random locations within a geographical location.

Cycling through the math, refining his calculations based on what he had recorded in the instant before the implosion, and accounting for conditional probability based on the fact Cooper was still alive, there was a ninety-percent probability that his pilot was now somewhere in a three hundred kilometre radius. A large search radius, but they had braved worse dangers together across the duration of their mission. There was, however, no guarantee as to when he would be sent in the aftermath of the Fold Weapon's destruction - localised space-time collapse could easily have separated them across time, and he would need to meet up with Cooper and re-calibrate their link to rectify that.

Looking skyward, he attempted matching the stars in the sky to known constellations in order to pinpoint his location, but this unknown planet he had hurled to was not a place in the frontier - or, indeed, within the Milita's astronavigation database at all.

That, however, did not matter. A human may have panicked - their minds were illogical, after all - But Titans did not have to worry. It was simple - in the absence of an active mission, with an active neural link, all he needed to do was to follow Protocol Three.

With all his systems now primed and ready, he performed a quick cycle through his active loadouts. Excellent. Everything was still present and accounted for.

A quick visual scan of his immediate surroundings revealed dilapidated industrial-looking buildings. It was not an unfamiliar sight - the IMC had built many similar facilities as they exploited the resources of the Frontier planets, leaving them in similar states of ruin after their work was done, the people who once lived there either forcefully suppressed or displaced from their former lives.

Closer inspection, however, revealed that this had not been a passive process. Scorch-marks blackened concrete and steel, and there were spent shells discarded across the ruined cityscape. If it wasn't obvious that he was no longer in the warzones of the frontier before, that fact was now clear - the ammunition were not of IMC or Militia make, or those utilised by active mercenaries.

It would appear, then, that he would need to engage in surveillance. that was unfortunate. The pilot was always the one meant to specialise in infiltration and deep surveillance between each Titan-pilot pair.

Still, he could manage. Vanguard-class Titans such as himself were created for the purpose of adaptability, even though doing so had accrued significantly greater costs of production to the Militia. Much like their pilots, Titans such as BT-7274 scavenged what they could find, cannibalising fallen enemy titans for parts to keep them going during prolonged engagements in the field, well adapted to any scenario against overwhelming forces of the IMC's Remnant fleet and ARES Division. Unfortunately, that frugality meant that his firepower was reduced compared to what it could be, had he the appropriate ammunition and equipment.

Information was what was truly essential at the moment. If they had both been thrown across realities, he needed to ascertain for enemy threats, and determine whether they had any allies to count on. A mission could come later - without directive from higher command, Cooper was now the sole member of the Militia who could alter Protocol Two. Investigating these unnamed drones that were intent on blocking the use of long-range electromagnetic communications would be a good start.

Several iterations through his logic subroutines later, BT-7274 nodded to himself, rising to his full height as a Titan on the battlefield. He cycled through his available loadouts, weighing their strengths and weaknesses, before settling on the most adaptable. He could switch it at a later time, depending on what the situation demanded.

ACTION: Initializing Expedition loadout..

Running subroutine 7-A…

Restructuring weapons systems…

Calibrating…

Verifying… completed

XO16A2 chaingun withdrawn, a lone Titan scoured the desolate wasteland, every bit of processing power dedicated toward searching for his pilot.

-x-x-x-

"You think it's true?" Kujo asked, eyeing the others speculatively. "Does it really exist?"

Theo scoffed. "Come on, now," he said, lazily embellishing his latest sketch. "A twenty-foot-tall, giant armoured legion unit that walks on foot?"

"The Dinosauria units are bigger than that -"

"One that no one has seen before?"

"Until we met Shin, none of us would have ever thought that Black Sheep or Shepherds ever existed -"

"Who, for some reason, destroyed other Legion units?"

"That's what I'm saying!" Kujo chattered on excitedly, ignoring the look of exasperation on his friend's face. "I mean, we know that Shepards exist; what if one of them somehow broke past the Legion's programming? What if one of us Eighty-Six died years ago, but instead of the legion units gaining his intelligence, he instead overcame the Legion and is using their own technology against them?"

"Why not just ask Shin?" Theo turned to face their leader, who was quietly reading yet another one of his books. "Hey, Shin! Hear any legion voices saying they want to become good friends with us good little Eighty-Six piggies recently?"

Shin gave no reaction, remaining as stoic as he usually was. "No," he gave a curt reply, not bothering to turn away from his reading. "Sorry, Kujo."

"Well, maybe Shin only hears the voices of those who the Legion assimilates? Maybe this good Shepard doesn't know Shin can listen in?" Kujo protested hotly. "Come on! You must admit, there's a possibility of that!"

"Sure." Theo rolled his eyes, already turning away from the conversation. "There's also a possibility that the white pigs would welcome us all back with open arms, join hands with us around a campfire, and fight the Legion themselves. Wouldn't that be something?"

Kujo sighed. Convincing Theo was going to be a lost cause. "What do you think, Daiya?"

"Well…" He scratched at his cheek. "You've got to admit, it sounds a little far-fetched…"

Maaan. Well, at least Daiya was tactful enough to not shoot down the idea directly like Theo had.

"Where did you even hear about this nonsense, anyway?" Kaie asked curiously, munching at her dinner.

Kujo's grin widened at that. If she was willing to interrupt her food intake to join in the conversation, that had to mean that she was interested!

"See, someone from the Sixth Ward said that this Legion unit showed up right when they were about to be overrun, and bought them enough time to regroup! They say it ambushed a Löwe units that was pinning them down, and then fought off against a squadron of Ameise and Grauwolf units when they retaliated!"

"But who did you hear this from?" She pressed, eyes narrowed.

"I'm just getting to that," he said eagerly. "So apparently, they managed to contact someone from the Western Front's Twelfth Ward, who then told the Eighth Squadron of the same Ward, who then relayed it to the Third! And get this - one of the Aldrecht's guys from the maintenance crew heard about it from them!"

She shook her head, giving an exasperated smile. "To put it in simple terms… you don't actually know where it starts at all?"

"But -"

Abruptly, Shin stood up, and all the chatter in the room halted immediately. The atmosphere grew tense, all joviality faded.

"Legion?" Raiden spoke.

Shin nodded. No further words were needed. Dinner left unfinished, the members of Spearhead Squadron rushed toward the hanger.

An illusory heat grew by Kujo's ear as he activated his Para-RAID. Shin was the first into his vehicle, stirring it into motion even before Kujo made it to his Juggernaut.

"Rescue mission," Shin's voice echoed just by his ear. "A second Legion force is moving to ambush the party at the Third Defensive Squadron. We need to intercept before they get there."

No one raised any argument. Technically, now that yet another one of their Handlers had resigned from his post, they were not obligated to assist. Still, they could not simply let their fellow Eighty-Six die when they could do something to prevent that. Each of them trusted in Shin's leadership.

"First and Second Platoon, we're heading to point 103. Third and Fourth, cover point 201. Fifth Platoon, take out the group moving from 424 toward 324. Sixth Platoon, position at 112 and provide fire support."

"Understood, Undertaker."

A wave of affirmations rang out across the Para-RAID channel. Kujo - Personal Name 'Sirius' while out in the field - steered his Juggernaut away from the base, the entire Squadron fanning out in formation. Haste was essential here - if this ambushing force reached Third Squadron, there was no way they could defend themselves while flanked. It was not uncommon for the Eighty-Six to lose members with each engagement, but situations like these very often resulted in the loss of entire Squadrons.

Kujo eyed his display, keeping tabs on the locations of Spearhead's Juggernauts and the enemy positions. He stayed close to Kirschblüte - Leader of the Fourth Platoon, whose role was to provide suppressive fire for the First and Second Platoons - piloting their crafts toward the ambush point that Shin had indicated.

Spearhead had already lost two of their number since their roster had formed two months ago. Kujo gripped tight on the controls, his gaze never wavering from the Legion forces now approaching within sight. He would not let any of his closest friends die today.

"Black Sheep at bearing 030, distance 1200," Shin suddenly said. "Legion units are redirecting! Kirschblüte, Sirius; reroute to 203 and assist the Third Squadron!"

"Got it!"

Kujo cursed. Just his luck. Black Sheep were nowhere near as intelligent as Shepherds, but they still had the ability to alter standard Legion programming and tactics.

"Engage!"

From the sounds of cannon-fire, he knew that Shin and Raiden would be engaging at the vanguard now. Kujo gritted his teeth, pushing his Juggernaut forward at maximum speed. In the distance, he could see the Third Squadron being boxed in - if this force reached them before he and Kirschblüte could intercept, they would be in serious trouble.

He fanned outward, piloting his Juggernaut to leap into the air, before climbing up a building for a vantage point. "Firing!"

Together, he and Kirschblüte unloaded a volley of cannon-fire, eliminating several of the Legion units in the back line of the ambush party. Now that they had revealed their position, however, retaliation was forthcoming, and Kujo scrambled for cover.

He just barely leapt off the building in time, as a Löwe's heavy cannon blasted a hole through where had been scant moments ago, sparks and flares contrasting starkly against the dark of night. Kujo allowed himself a grim smile, pushing onward -

A flicker of movement over there, by the road -

Adrenaline surged through him, as he changed his course once more before he knew what he was doing. There was a ruined Juggernaut there, and in that instant of mulled thoughts, he had wrongly concluded that the Processor had escaped from his cockpit in time, even though the flimsy machine had no eject mechanism, and fell to a clean shot of a Löwe's cannons.

"Sirius, get back!"

Time seemed almost to slow down. Kujo heard Shin's sharp warning, no doubt realising just how stupid he had been. In the darkness, he had thought that vaguely humanoid shape to be a downed processor, even though he should have known what it truly was.

Under the lights of his own Juggernaut, he saw the self-propelled mine approach with its spherical head and rod-shaped limbs. It was already in motion, scrambling in a mess of limbs, and with how fast Kujo pushed his own Juggernaut driven by pure instinct, he could not correct his course.

As he stared death in the face, all he could do was utter a helpless cry, paralysed with fear and panic.

"Ah -"

Then there was a cacophony of light and sound, as the concrete wall to his right exploded toward him.

"SIRIUS!"

-x-x-x-

BT-7274 had traversed this wasteland for six weeks, twelve hours, fifty-two minutes, and twenty-nine seconds now.

During that time, he had learnt a great many things. There existed an autonomous force comprised solely of self-replicating unmanned drones known as the Legion, which had been created by the now-defunct Giadian Empire before turning upon them from within. He had been deposited somewhere in lands formerly belonging to the jurisdiction of the Republic of San Magnolia, who practiced systematic discrimination against an entire racial group known as the colorate of the Eighty-Six, forcing them to pilot doomed machines while the Alba hid safely behind their walls.

The existence of the Legion was troubling. Even though the IMC may have arguably developed more advanced forms of artificial intelligence in the form of their Spectres, Wraiths, and Reapers, as well as the associated technology of simulacra, a truly self-replicating force had never been made before. If the IMC ever got their hands on such technology, the Frontier War would be as good as lost.

He knew of the standard varieties of Legion units - he had already engaged them several times, having either been forced to fight after having concluded that there was no means of veiling his presences from them, or to render support to the Eighty-Six in the rare instances when their paths crossed. As a Vanguard-Class Titan, he had been able to scavenge the downed Legion Units for supplies, which had kept him able to continue roaming and fighting for as long as he had out in Legion-infested lands.

The weakest models that served as the Legion's scouts were only more dangerous than the mechanised infantry Spectres of the IMC, but inferior to the Reapers that blurred the lines between infantry and Titan. Though the Grauwolf was a force to behold with its anti-tank rockets and high-frequency blades, it was no Ronin, and despite the powerful cannon-fire and heavy armour of the Löwe, it paled in comparison to the Quad Rockets of a Bruteor the Plasma Railgun of a Northstar.

He knew of the Para-RAID system employed by the Republic. That bit, however, was not new information - it was, in fact, how he had learned all this information in the first place. It was similar in theory to the neural link between Titan and pilot, only where the latter case was a unique link between the two, that utilised by the locals of this unknown planet was far more rudimentary. Transmissions were poorly encrypted - and in many cases, not protected at all - and tapping in on their feed was easily done.

What impressed BT-7274, however, was the fact that multiple minds could be bridged through their version of the link. The range in which their technology worked was also impressive, enabling a phantom handler safe within the Republic's Eighty-Five districts to communicate by sharing the senses - primarily hearing - with the Processors under their charge. The distance the signal could be propagated surpassed that between himself and Jack, relying on an elegant neurological pathway that he would have never considered tapping on.

"We're pinned!"

"Firing!"

"Löwe approaching; bearing 055!"

"Wait, that's Spearhead Squadron!"

He was tapping on multiple feeds at once, racing towards the intersection of multiple battlegrounds. He had come into range of Para-RAID communications channel belonging to the Third Defensive Squadron of the Eastern Front's First Ward's some time ago, and decided to turn back from his scouring of the latest sector of his search for Jack. His pilot would undoubtedly have moved in to assist if he were here, and in the absence of an active mission, Protocol Two was dictated by what his internal modelling of Jack Cooper's profile predicted as the likeliest course of action he would take.

Knowing him and how dedicated he had been to the Frontier War, Jack would have dived in head-first into tackling the Legion threat. Temporary reassignment of Protocol Two was easily performed early during his arrival to this planet.

He had provided cover for Third Squadron in the past - not that they knew, of course, since he had intercepted and eliminated the Legion units before the Eighty-six were even aware they had been coming. Thus far, he had only kept up long-range support or indirect cover, having had insufficient data to conclude on whether the Eighty-Six would be amenable to an alliance.

It was also the far more effective plan on many counts, since he was fundamentally the opposite of their Juggernauts - shielded and heavily armoured, far more cumbersome than the spider-like crafts of the Eighty-Six and the Legion, but with more versatile combat options. They relied on guerilla warfare and ambush, while Titans thrived on meeting foes with overwhelming force.

He was nearing firing range, now. Once he cut another corner, there would be a group of Ameise and Löwe directly in his sights. At close quarters, the Ronin loadout would have the highest combat effectiveness rating, in the absence of a pilot assuming direct command.

Initialising…

Abruptly, new data fed in. His sensors indicated that one Juggernaut was moving in a direct line toward a Legion mine, one of those humanoid variants that were oddly reminiscent of the Ticks used by the IMC in how they functioned. From his analysis, they appeared to launch themselves at their designated targets before self-destructing. There was poor visibility, and combined with what his sensors fed him of the Processor's vitals and physiology, it seemed likely that he had mistaken the mine for an injured soldier.

ACTION: Simulating Scenario 1 of 24…

Simulation complete.

The math was sound. His original course of action would be far too late to assist the Processor. By the time he cleared the corner, even if he fired directly at the mine, accounting for projectile travel duration would mean that the craft would be caught directly in the blast radius. His analysis of destroyed remnants of the many Juggernauts outside the Republic's walls indicated that the pilot would suffer severe burns, multiple compound fractures, exsanguination, potential dismemberment, extreme concussive forces, and a ninety-nine-point-eight-three probability of death.

It was simple - the shortest distance between two points in Euclidean space was a line joining them.

He pivoted, dozens of tons of armoured hull grinding to a halt, dashing in a rapid sprint directly into the wall.

Loadout change cancelled.

"Sirius, get back!"

The so-called 'Undertaker' was a curious Processor. Until now, BT-7274 hadn't yet crossed paths with Spearhead Squadron, but their reputation was well-known across the many communications channels he had been eavesdropping into. Though each of them was individually a veteran of this theatre of war, almost all the discussions surrounding the fame Squadron was directed toward their leader.

Now, BT-7274 could understand why. Some of Undertaker's decisions were not mathematically perfect - but from the feed he was drawing from, it was clear that he displayed brilliance in tactics, individual skill, and an uncanny ability to predict Legion's movement.

It would be a pity if Spearhead's combat effectiveness would be reduced by the loss of one of their own.

Zero-point-two-six seconds to collision.

His shields absorbed the brunt of the impact, a sizable drain making itself apparent as he bulldozed his way through the flimsy resistance offered by steel and concrete. Aiming and firing for the mine would take too much time - from his simulations, there would be a thirty-point-one-six percent chance that the Processor would be killed regardless, and potentially greater if he continued to act in ways that defied rationality.

The moment he cleared the barrier, BT-7274 twisted, left foot outstretched backward and right knee bent forward, intercepting the explosive self-propelled mine where the armour plating was thickest on his back. His shield dipped, but was still within acceptable limits.

"SIRIUS!"

Thermal sensors indicated the Processor was undamaged. Excellent.

Back to his previous task, then. His unorthodox method of arrival had attracted the attention of his intended targets, their cannons and heavy guns whirring around to face his direction.

Too late for them.

The 40mm tracker cannon that was standard to the Tone class of Titan chassis launched a volley of armour-piercing rounds, destroying the lightly armoured Ameise units in a single direct shot. The significantly more durable Löwe remained standing strong, although three of its eight spider-like limbs had been blown cleanly off. It staggered, cannon adjusting its trajectory as it attempted to lock on BT-7274.

Unfortunately for the Löwe, the explosive shells of the 40mm were hardly the truest threat that the Tone posed.

Given successful confirmation of target position from where the shells had struck, he cycled through his available weaponry, deployed the Acolyte Pod mounted on the back of his right shoulder, and activated the combat ordinance that made the Tone a force of reckoning upon the Battlefield.

ACTION: Initialising Tracking Rocket Module…

Verifying target location…

Verifying tracker…

Verifying guide sequence…

SALVO LAUNCHED.

Six missiles were fired, curving through the air toward a target struggling to regain its footing. All of them met their marks, leaving no trace of the destroyed Legion Unit.

"Sirius!"

"W… what?!"

"Sirius! You're… you're still with us?!"

Others of his squadron were chattering on the line. BT-7274 turned back to the Processor who he assumed bore the 'Sirius' moniker, focusing his single ocular unit upon the opaque screen of the Juggernaut, visualising the likely physical profile of the Processor that lay within through thermal scans.

ACTION: Scanning…

Aligning against database…

Matching features 1 of 1024…

No match found.

He had expected that - Jack would never have been so easily caught off guard as this Processor nearly had, unfathomable though his actions may be at times. Still, BT-7274 would scan - had scanned - any vaguely humanoid-looking figure he had come across thus far, if it meant the zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one percent chance of reuniting with his lost pilot.

"Vitals determined to be within acceptable limits. Reverting to Protocol Two - Eliminate Legion."

"H-hey, did I just hear what I think I heard?"

"Sirius, what the hell is going on over there?"

BT-7274 judged that staying in his position would be inefficient. There were no nearby threats to the Processor - who, incidentally, really needed to get himself back into the fight soon - and his presence was no longer warranted.

"What are you?" 'Sirius' asked over his vehicle's speakers.

Interesting. They had not yet uncovered the fact that he had been tapping into their communications. That was useful information. He could, technically, communicate on their channel as well, but his analysis suggested that doing so would have a ninety-point-eight-three percent probability of reducing further information he may have otherwise gleaned if he kept them ignorant of his knowledge.

ACTION: Initialising Northstar Loadout…

Priming VTOL Hover…

"Designation: Vanguard-Class Titan BT-7274 of the Frontier Militia's Special Recon Squadron."

Charging Plasma Railgun…

Completed.

With that, he ascended into the air, landed atop a building, and began sniping at the remnants of the scattered Legion units one by one, bursts of accelerated plasma puncturing molten holes in the hulls of Legion units. If his pilot were commandeering him, they would have been eliminated far more quickly.

Within moments, they retreated, having suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the combined might of the Third Squadron, Spearhead Squadron, and BT-7274.

-x-x-x-

"What even is that?" Haruto spoke, awed. "Shin, are you hearing anything from it?"

Shin concentrated, listening in to the haunting voices of the Legion that only he could hear. Far in the distance, he could still hear him. Closer to their location, numerous Black Sheep were still active, masking the mindless words of the rank and file of the Legion units.

Of this new arrival, however, he could hear nothing.

"No," he confirmed. "It's not Legion."

"What did it say its name was? BT-something?"

"It said something about a Frontier Militia… you don't think that other countries out there survived the Empire's collapse?"

"You mean that the crap that Sirius was talking about was actually real?"

Shin piloted his Juggernaut up the side of a building, scaling it with ease. BT-7274 was still in a sniping position, his single glowing blue eye aimed down the sight of an elongated rifle that surged with energy. The arrival of this 'Titan' had not only saved Kujo's life, but also eliminated the Black Sheep and its escort of Ameise units, and maintained a chokepoint through which Legion units could not retreat. With that alone, mopping up the remainder of the Legion units had been trivial, with no losses suffered on both their Squadron and that of the Third.

"What do we do, Shin?"

He considered for a moment. From the looks of it, BT-7274 was indeed a form of artificial intelligence in the same vein as the Legion. They had only heard two statements from it thus far through Kujo's Para-RAID, but BT-7274 felt different from the Legion - detached machine in some ways, and yet human in others.

It had turned this battle around. Having already faced countless numbers of Legion, and having invariably heard their voices through all his engagements and skirmishes, he was confident that BT-7274 was no Legion.

In the end, he made his mind easily.

"I'll go talk to it."

"Talk to - h-hey, Shin! That's too reckless!"

"It'll be fine, Falke. Trust me."

BT-7274 seemed to be aware of his approach, turning its hulking form that was easily four times the height of his Juggernaut to face him. The Titan tilted its head marginally, before kneeling on a single bent knee, bringing itself level to Shin's cockpit.

For several moments, they simply stared at each other. Given how intensely the robot was looking at him, that glowing blue eye had to be capable of seeing past the opaque armoured canopy of the Juggernaut.

Shin was the first to speak. "Thank you for rescuing Sirius."

"You are welcome."

Then, there was a pause, as BT-7274 did not continue.

"Why did you help us?"

"In the absence of an active mission, I have deemed it acceptable to temporarily assist the Republic's Eighty-Six and eliminate the Legion's forces."

Again, a pause.

"Mission?"

"I told you that it's on our side!" Sirius gave a loud cheer, and Shin could imagine him having a smug smile on his face. "Who's the one laughing now, Laughing Fox?"

"Oh, shut up already!"

For someone who had almost died, Kujo was being remarkably cheerful.

Shin turned his attention away from the Para-RAID. It was risky, and there were still many unknowns regarding BT-7274, but in some ways, it seemed similar to Fido. Though it was clearly a machine, it did not yearn only to destroy as the Legion did. Following his gut instinct…

"Do you want to join us?"

"What?"

"Undertaker, are you sure about this?"

He ignored the chatter coming over the Para-RAID. There was something oddly human in how BT-7274 moved, in the way that eye of his looked curiously at him as though a child studying something fascinating. Its intelligence was of a different sort from those of the Black Sheep and Shepherds, that used the assimilated minds of the deceased only to destroy.

"Negative," its deep mechanical voice came a second later. BT-7274 rose to its full height. "I must return to my previous task. Fight well, Spearhead Squadron."

With a flare of its thrusters, BT-7274 leapt off its makeshift sniper's roost, gracefully landing onto the ground below. It turned, pivoting its head toward Shin - and then to the general direction of Spearhead Squadron, who had been watching their exchange unfold some distance away, tilting its head slightly in acknowledgement.

Then, it trudged off, the whirring of its motors and heavy footfalls of its armoured chassis fading into the distance.

That had been bizarre, but not unwelcome. Shin hoped he could cross paths with this BT-7274 again.

Strangely enough, the Para-RAID was silent. No one knew what to think about this mysterious Titan.

"Let's head back to base," Shin ordered, turning his Juggernaut around. "Good work today, everyone."

"How are you so calm about this?!"

That night, Kujo returned to Spearhead Squadron's home base alive.

In the morning, the countdown message on the blackboard was updated once more -

ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS TILL I END MY SERVICE!

FUCKIN' GLORY TO THE SPEARHEAD SQUADRON!

-x-x-x-

A/N

Welcome to Chapter 1 out of 6 for the Restoration Project for Humanity, Hardwired. The original author, Alternaria alternata deleted their stories without any prior knowledge or warning and I'm afraid I'm not sure how to help besides copying down their stories word for word. I currently have two of their stories which I can repost so you guys can read them. I hoped you enjoyed this since god forbid me this took a LONG while to finish. 6.1k words in the making. Obviously there would be some grammatical errors here and there and I attempted to fix it somewhat and keep the original meaning. And if the original Author wants me to delete them, I would gladly do so.

For now, this was AWACS Freeshipping.

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