Welcome to an episode interlude for Fireteam Freelance readers! The interlude is beyond the jump to save anyone from spoilers, so hit it to get started! A list of all episodes can be found at the Fireteam Freelance page.
Interview Excerpt – Ursa
The following is a transcript of a vocal interview with the mercenary Ursa, currently in the employment of the Fireteam Freelance private military company. This interview was conducted by Samantha Stiles on behalf of Mercenary Monthly, and has been edited for clarity and security purposes.
Samantha’s portions of the conversation will be in bold.
I have to say, Ms. Ursa—
Ursa, then, that you I believe, are quite simply the tallest woman I’ve ever interviewed, and it’s all the more apparent after the interview with your colleague, Anvil.
Yeah, she’s a short little thing isn’t she?
And you by comparison are just … how tall were you before you were augmented?
I was … pretty much the same.
Great stars, you must have been a massive baby. Is that from your heritage as what I assume is a Pacific Islander?
If it’s all the same to you though, Ms. Stile, I’d prefer to avoid talking about my past.
Call me Sam. I had expected that. You’re known for it. Fortunately, I’ve come prepared. I thought we’d talk more about your role within the team both on and off the field.
All right. Where do you want to start?
How about with your armor? Now, most mercenaries are known to customize their armor with cosmetic adjustments, but yours are … Well, they’re unique.
Not that unique. Unless you’re talking about the claws.
Yes, those. Are they really that functional?
Not really. They’re mostly for show.
Don’t they get in the way?
Not really. They’re not as bad as they look. They’re real, yes, but there’s actually a subtle bit of paint under them to look larger than they really are. If they were too large, they’d get in the way. It’s mostly just edging and etching.
Interesting. So they don’t provide any real advantage?
Not really. Unless you count psychological. It’s one thing to see someone pull a knife on you. But when they come at you with claws? It triggers something instinctive.
Hence the nickname you go by …
As I understand it, there’s another one you’re not of fond of.
Witch? Eh, it’s not what I’d pick, but at the same time, I can’t blame them. You’re sitting here in a firefight and suddenly there’s smoke everywhere, your FoF is going haywire, and then someone almost seven feet tall sweeps out of the smoke, covered in tribal tatau and attacks you with clawed hands? I can see why they’d call me that. I still prefer Ursa myself.
Why hand-to-hand combat?
Because I like it. But I’m also the team’s CQB expert. I’d rather get close and personal.
Now, you’re all capable of fulfilling each other’s roles on the team, correct?
Yes, that’s right. I can handle a rifle just like Owl can use a shotgun. We just—Well, everyone’s good at their own thing, you know? And mine’s fighting. Close and hard. So when there’s anything that’s going to be close and dangerous, then it’s on me.
Hand-to-hand, or just close?
Depends on what we’re going up against, really. I mean, if it’s something like an exoskeleton or heavy armor, then obviously I’ll want to keep my distance. But up close against another skinsuit user, it’s really like any other engagement. Once you’re close enough, if they can’t shoot in time and you have the advantage, you press it and that’s it.
And you prefer that close style of engagement.
It gets the blood pumping.
Back to those armor alterations then. Some are cosmetic, surely, but some must be for your role?
Of course. Every little bit helps. When you’re going to be in close, you don’t want edges that can be easily grabbed, and you have to protect different parts of your body.
Some parts of your armor look reinforced as well.
Yes, they are. Some of it is heavier, other parts just have better cover. Mostly over vital areas or weak spots in a traditional set of skinsuit armor.
Like the neck joint.
Right. The edging around the base of my helmet and the slight angle to the inner bits of the armor is designed to help deflect blades away from my neck. The skinsuit I wear is also thicker and stiffer than normal.
Does that stop a composite blade?
Not at all. But it can slow one. Might mean the difference between life and death.
Has that happened before? To you, I mean?
Well, if you look right here on my neck …
Is that what that scar is from?
Yep. Composite blade. Came at me from behind while we were clearing out a crime den in Chile. Turned, and the blade cut, but not enough to take out one of my arteries. Skinsuit slowed it just enough. I’ve got similar reinforcing in my skinsuit in a few other places. Makes it a bit thicker and stiffer, but that’s the best I can do. Flexibility and speed versus protection.
So are just small patches of your skinsuit reinforced then?
Yes. Otherwise it’d cease being a benefit and start being a hindrance.
All right then. Well, let me ask a question I know will be on many of our reader’s minds, since it’s part of the eternal debate—
Mossberg versus IUA?
Exactly. Or do you prefer another manufacturer.
Nope. IUA all the way. Mossberg’s nice, but I’ll take my Rezzer any day.
Any modifications you’d like to brag about?
Not brag, but it’s tooled up the way I like it. Started as a standard Rezzer R7-M. Expanded internal magazine, double tube. Speed-feeder. Target PoV system. Custom paint job. Nothing complicated, but all I need to get the job done.
How did you handle the speed-feeder with two internal magazines?
Separate loading port for the second.
Ever considered a magazine?
More than once. Standard mag just adds and ungainliness to it that I don’t like.
What about a horizontal mag, like on the new Jiden Hammer? I’ve seen some modifications to Rezzers to use that system.
I’ve thought about it, but not had a chance to try it yet.
Last question: full or semi-auto?
Semi, actually. I’ve only got so many shots. I prefer to make them count.
All right, now before we move on to questions about your personal life—nothing to do with your past, I assure you—I did want to ask about your preference for smoke grenades.
Ha! Owl owes me some yuan! There’s nothing to it really. They’re just really good for closing the gap and bringing things into my range.
But it blinds you as well, doesn’t it?
Yes. I mean, it’s standard blocking smoke, so heat, comm signals, all that sort of stuff gets messed up by it. Sound can still make it through though.
So you use an ultrasound system?
No. Have one … don’t use it. For starters, it’s not as helpful as you’d think. The smoke does a pretty good job of muffling it and—Have you ever used one?
Well, they’re not as good as most people think. Most people think that it lets you see in the dark, or when there’s something blocking other forms of visor-tech. But in honesty, it’s like looking at a flat world.
I’ve heard that before.
Well, for the readers who’ve never tried one, imagine that all you can see of something is just the outline. That’s your world. They colorize it, and the system tries to put hard lines on things so you can see depth, but you’re just seeing computerized shades of blue and grey. You can see sounds, like footsteps and loud noises, but shapes are boxy and often indistinct. It takes a lot of practice to make good use of it. Plus ambient noise can make it really difficult for it to work.
Sounds like it’s not that effective.
Only in certain situations. It’s not a common system. But that makes my smoke all the more useful.
So are you saying that more soldiers should use visor systems to defeat your smoke?
No. I’m saying they shouldn’t fight me in the first place. Long odds on needing a visor system at that point.
I see. Well then, if we could switch away from your team role for a moment and talk about your life with the team … From what you’ve said before you’re a fan of esports, correct? Any particular series?
Ultimate. I watch a couple of leagues off and on, but Ultimate is my favorite. When the Tigers play, you’d better believe I’m going to watch that game as soon as I can.
You’re a Tigers fan then?
Think they’ll have a good season this coming year?
I think so. Good enough to take them all the way to the finals? I don’t know. They lost one of their best players when EyeBilal retired. That guy had an air game that really kept them in the running.
Can I ask a somewhat unusual question?
You’re a professional soldier for hire, and yet your favorite sport is a game that is about two teams competing against one another with guns in a virtual setting. Doesn’t that strike you as a little—
I get that. But no, it couldn’t be further from it. Those games may be full immersion, but there’s nothing real about them. At least, not yet. No one could carry half as many bullets as those players do in game and be that fast. Or fly like they do when they get a jetpack. And the guns? We’ve got some cool toys out there, but nothing like what Ultimate offers. Real life tends to be a bit more practical. Watching Ultimate is … well, compared to what we do it’s a bloodless fantasy.
Isn’t there blood though? At least, on the mature streams?
Well yes, but it’s not like real blood. It’s all fake. And it’s fun. Two teams competing to steal the other team’s flag or the neutral flag? There’s just something prime about it. A flow, you know?
Is three-flag your favorite mode?
Yeah. For large teams, anyway. Twenty-four on Twenty-four. You can do three-flag with fewer, but I think it loses something. And when you’re down around sixteen on sixteen, just regular CTF is the way to go.
Well, I’m sure some readers will be happy to know you’re rooting for the Tigers.
Woo! Go Tigers! Make it to the finals!
Very nice. I’m sure they’ll also be glad to hear you’re cheering them on. Now, we didn’t really have time to get to it with the other members of the team but … what do you all do when you’re not on missions? What’s downtime like?
Downtime? Pretty normal really. Fix up the gear, keep everything up to date …
Do you all live together? I know your headquarters is something of a secret, but—
Well, not “together” like that. We share a place, though. We’ve basically got our own apartments. Plus a gym, garage, armory, firing range … the works.
So what do you do when you don’t have a mission for a while?
Whatever we like. We’re not soldiers all the time. There’s training to keep our skills sharp, but we’ve all got hobbies and lives.
So what do you like to do?
I like movies. Old movies. Like, twentieth century era and early twenty-first. I like swimming. And cooking. Love cooking. My apartment has a nice kitchen, and it’s always nice to get back from a mission and swap out ration bars for some Kale—Um—well basically chicken curry, or some fresh made Otai. A little expensive, but what’s life without the nice things, right?
Do you cook for the whole group?
Sometimes. Adah can cook too, though very different from most of the recipes I know. We’ve swapped once or twice, but we’ve got our own strengths. It’s fun to spend time together with the team when we’re not out trying to do a job though, you know? Watch something, play something, cook and eat something.
So you’re all pretty close?
In a way, I’d say we’re all our own little weird, secondary family. Valerie—Sorry, Commander Castillo—she’s like the mom. And then we’re the four weird sisters. Adah’s the responsible one, I’m the responsible oldest, Anvil’s the loud one who’s always getting into trouble, and Owl’s the one who looks quiet but you don’t have to worry about her because the last few people that bothered her are all in shallow graves somewhere.
That’s hyperbole, by the way. I think. If any of us have bodies in graves that didn’t have to do with this job, it was long before we came together.
Still, bodies in shallow graves is a good note to end an interview on. Thanks for your time, Ursa.
You’re welcome. Nofo a e.
End of our interview with Fireteam Freelance’s Ursa! Be sure to subscribe for more military news delivered to your feed each day from Mercenary Monthly, a subsidiary of Icon News Media.
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