0500 Hours: AC Garage in VR Program

Sparks and static filled the air as a young Raven breathed heavily from inside his cockpit. Outside, only the debris of a once formidable adversary remained, the AC turned into a heap of scrap metal.

Despite the obvious victory, it came with a terrible "cost:" the Cougar2 legs were rendered into an irreparable state, and the S2 head was completely destroyed by the aerial assaults the Raven's AC was forced to endure; the repurchasing of the parts in question would be extremely expensive.

"Hey! I thought you were in trouble for a while, but you managed to pull it off perfectly, Ajax!" The two VR employees cheered as they lauded his efforts. "While we are not usually happy to lose bets, most of the payouts we give are compensated by exceptional performances by proficient pilots such as yourself!"

"Thanks." This was all Ajax could say in his exhaustion as he stroked his short black hair. "Well, I take it then that the 300,000 credits will be wired into my account later today?" He asked expectantly.

"Yes sir! Not only that, a video recording will be sent to the masses to see your degree of skill!" The employees exclaimed with enthusiasm. "Anyway, have a great day, Ajax. We hope to see you soon after the attack is over, so that you can test out our new AI models!"

"Yes. I will be looking forward to it." Ajax responded as he signed off from the Virtual Reality program.

0545 Hours: Circ City, Vertex Headquarters

Jack-O stood at the window of his garage, his piercing eyes causing even the stoic sky to shudder. He knew that although the declared time of attack was just a little more than 24 hours from now, the combined activity of the 20-ish Ravens still alive could cause the conflict to settle before the next dawn.

He sighed at the turbulent change of events: just months ago, the Ark… no… his Ark was thrown into disarray as the suicide bombers hounded through every area with a decent power source. Despite the almost instantaneous requests of the corporations to draw power from the Ravens to protect the major cities, many had perished and the cities inevitably lay in ruins.

Now… the corporations merged and began a totalitarian world order, while Ravens were then made as expendable assets. This angered Jack greatly as he slammed his fist into the metal wall, creating a sizable dent. "Ravens were not meant to be slaves to the corporations!" He shouted to himself. "They were independent mercenaries that placed a good check on the corporate balance!"

As Jack calmed down, he noticed another Raven approaching to his side.

"Hey Jack," the Raven said with a hint of seriousness. "You should take a look at this."

Jack sighed as he faced his most trusted associate. "This had better be important, Crow."

"Don't worry, Jack. Just watch it," Crow said as he showed Jack a video of Ajax's battle with Daemon in the VR arena. While Daemon initially had the upper hand, raining LGLs on Ajax's AC, Ajax turned the tides when he dropped his Shade and Gast and revealed a ROC4 and a Handgun before boosting backwards and firing accurately.

"He did have a bit of trouble against that dirty cheater, but beating Daemon is definitely nothing to scoff at." Crow established as the video reached its conclusion.

"Hmm…" Jack muttered as he stroked his silver beard, deep in thought. "While his combat skills are definitely exceptional, we haven't seen him as a Raven for very long. It seems like he suddenly had a jump in proficiency, which is quite suspicious." Jack said while folding his arms.

"Yes… that is true," Crow agreed. "There are two more Ravens that you told me to keep tabs on… one of them has definitely been hiding under the radar for an extended length of time. The other, it seems, has also beaten Daemon."

"Ah, yes…" Jack-O said. "Zinaida is definitely another potent Raven. However… she doesn't seem to be very deeply affiliated to either side-one can never tell whether she's working for us or the enemy. Anyway, we must hurry. I will find a way to convert those three to my side."

"Alright, then," Crow finished. "I'll be heading back to prepare for our imminent attack."