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Addressing Canada’s Employment Insurance Gap For Self-Employed Workers
Source: TD Ksenia Bushmeneva, Economist Dated July 15th, 2020
While the pandemic had devastated the overall labor market, workers in more precarious and non-standard work arrangements have been especially hard-hit.
Yet, many of these workers do not have access to employment insurance (EI) or run a higher risk than regular workers of not meeting qualification conditions. Only 64% of unemployed Canadians contributed to EI in 2018, meaning that millions would be left without financial assistance in the absence of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Extending EI coverage to non-standard workers does have challenges. However, there is a growing understanding among many countries that these workers require social protection. More than two thirds of the OECD countries offer at least partial coverage for the self-employed. Their experience offers valuable lessons if Canada decides to follow suit.
The labor market recovery is likely to be uneven and protracted. This is especially true for self-employed and other non-standard workers, since their hours and incomes are more volatile and less protected. Having a more inclusive system with a broader contribution base, which accommodates non-standard workers but also includes a larger number of regular employees would help strengthen the recovery and build on economic gains achieved so far through the temporary CERB program.
The COVID-19 pandemic delivered a sudden and devastating blow to the Canadian labor market. Between February and April, millions of people lost their jobs as employment plunged by 16%. Unlike in previous recessions, the impact this time around has been disproportionately felt by workers in more precarious employment arrangements: part-time, temporary and self-employed, who are less likely to have access to unemployment insurance (EI). These types of work arrangement are more prevalent in the service sector industries, many of which have been hard-hit during this downturn. As of June, year-over-year (y/y) employment in part-time and temporary positions was down by 17% and 24%, respectively (Chart 1). For multiple job holders, employment fell by nearly 40%. By comparison, the 7% y/y decline in permanent positions seems relatively modest.
As dramatic as these declines are, they may still under-represent the pandemic’s toll on employment and incomes. Notably, overall hours worked fell more than employment during the months of lockdown and social distancing. This is especially true for non-standard workers who were more likely to work fewer hours than regular employees. For example, while self-employed workers saw only a 3% drop in employment since February, 43% of self-employed worked less than half of their usual hours in May (Chart 2). By comparison, among all employees, only 9% worked less than half of their usual hours. Moreover, self-employed people who were away from work were more hard-hit financially as they were far less likely to still be paid. Among incorporated self-employed workers with zero hours, less than 1 in 10 received pay compared to 1 in 4 for regular employees in the same situation.
As a result of the significant drop in hours worked, a far larger portion of the labor force was underutilized than suggested by the unemployment rate alone. While the official unemployment rate was 12.3% in June (equivalent to 2.45 million people), Statistics Canada noted that nearly 27% of the potential labour force was ‘underutilized’. The significant gap between the drop in the hours worked versus the more modest decline in employment helps to explain why 8.3 million of people have applied the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (at any point during this crisis).
It is clear that self-employed and other non-standard workers were more impacted by the pandemic. Yet these workers usually have the least access to social safety nets, such as EI. Currently, EI unemployment benefits are mostly accessible to employees in the most traditional sense of the word: those that work full-time in a permanent positions for a single employer. By contrast, self-employed workers are not eligible for EIi, and, while those in temporary, contract and part-time positions are eligible, they might not have a chance to accumulate enough insurable hours to qualify because their work arrangements are less stable. Due to lack of EI coverage and significant loss of hours, nearly 40% of self-employed workers applied for CERB benefits, while only 12% and 5% of private and public employees did (Chart 3).
The reasons why some workers, such as those that are self-employed, are excluded are rooted in the design of the EI program. The program is based on insurance principles, with both employers and employees paying into it through mandatory contributions. The corollary is that those workers who have not paid in, as well as those who have left voluntarily without just cause, are disqualified. Contributions are also intended to make the program self-sufficient in the long-run as has been the case in Canada in recent years. In the case of self-employed workers, there’s also an issue of moral hazard when it comes to determining what represents a valid job separation (more on this in the section below: “What Complicates Offering EI Coverage For Non-Standard Workers”). For this and other reasons, many non-standard workers are currently ineligible for unemployment insurance.
These gaps in coverage have been growing as the job market has steadily tilted towards more non-standard work arrangements. In 2018, only 64% of unemployed Canadians had contributed to EI.ii Even among workers who have contributed, only 88% had accumulated enough insurable hours to qualify for benefits, which, depending on the regional level of unemployment, ranges between 420-700 hours in the 52-week period. The combined influence implies a relatively low EI coverage ratio for Canadian workers – out of 1.1 million Canadians who were unemployed in 2018, only 56% were eligible for EI.1 The share of unemployed workers who actually received EI benefits is even lower, averaging slightly above 40%.2 This is considerably below the median coverage among developed counties, which is around 60%.3
Due to data limitations and because non-standard workers include many different types of employment arrangements which may overlap, it is difficult to know with precision the prevalence of non-standard work in Canada. About 15% of Canadian workers are self-employed, while 17% work part-time. In 2016, Statistics Canada estimated that gig workers (self-employed freelancers, on-demand online workers and day labourers) accounted for roughly 8%-10% of Canadian workers. About half of those workers were relying exclusively on their gig income and had no other employment, making them ineligible for EI benefits.4
The low coverage rate and other limitations of the current EI system have been highlighted extensively in other research literature.5 For example, the fact that benefit eligibility and generosity varies geographically across Canada implies that there’s significant variability in coverage rates across provinces. EI coverage ratios are particularly low in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta – all three provinces which also have above-national prevalence of self-employment (see Charts 4).6
In order to mitigate these shortcomings in the near term, the Canadian government rolled out the CERB program. Compared to EI, CERB qualification rules are very straightforward and were a quick means to provide financial assistance to an extremely broad and large number of applicants that included previously uninsured workers. CERB’s eligibility replaced the insurable hours threshold with a low and uniform income threshold, with anyone over the age of 15, having earned more than $5,000 in income in 2019 and who have lost their job or hours due to COVID-19. This had provided a helping hand to millions of non-standard workers in Canada. However, it has come with a steep price tag: in just three months since it was launched the government had already paid out $55 billions in benefits (as of July 5th) – nearly three times last year’s annual spending on EI and $28 billion more than it had predicted at the conception of the program.
CERB coverage was originally offered for 16 weeks, and was recently extended for an additional 8 weeks. However, it will start expiring in September for the earliest recipients, long before the labour market and certain industries are back to health. Unless adjustments are made to the EI program to accommodate non-standard workers, many of them may suddenly find themselves without unemployment assistance.
What Complicates Offering EI Coverage For Non-Standard Workers
Limited social protection for self-employed and other non-standard workers is not an issue unique to Canada. In most developed countries, non-standard workers have lower social protection compared to regular employees, with unemployment benefits being the least accessible benefit (Charts 5-8). Why is that and what makes implementation of unemployment insurance coverage for self-employed workers challenging for policymakers?
First of all, providing unemployment insurance for self-employed workers (and other non-standard workers) raises the issue of moral hazard. Put another way, presence of EI coverage may change behavior of self-employed workers making them less likely to take on work and more likely to remain unemployed. Non-standard workers tend to have more variable income, and they are far more likely to have lower future earnings than regular employees due, for example, to smaller assignments and contracts, or flexible pricing on various labor platforms (e.g. Uber). Lower expected future earnings could prompt them to quit in favor of EI benefits. More volatile earnings also make it more challenging to determine the appropriate income replacement rate. However, one solution to this could be to use income averaged over a period of time.
Secondly, for regular workers, reasons for leaving a job are transparent and can be verified with the employer. This is difficult to achieve in the case of non-standard workers. For example, if they avoid smaller assignments, then they will lose work but this will be impossible for government agencies to determine.
Some countries (e.g. Sweden, Austria, Slovakia, Spain) offer a voluntary option for self-employed workers to enroll into an employment insurance plan. However, a voluntary arrangement raises the issue of adverse selection. Workers with the highest risks or those that are most likely to make a claim have the greatest incentive to join, which limits the risk-sharing aspect of the program.
Adverse selection is something that Canada experienced first hand when it introduced the Special Benefits for Self-employed Workers (SBSE) in 2010 through the EI system, which allowed self employed workers to opt-in to gain access to maternity and parental benefits, sickness benefits and compassionate care and caregiver benefits. A 2016 program review study found that the characteristics, such as gender, age and income, of the self-employed workers who participated in the SBSE program were considerably different from the general sample of self-employed workers. In focus group studies, participants also indicated that the likelihood of making a claim was an important consideration for their decision to register for the benefits.7 Other issues with the voluntary scheme included a relatively low take-up rate, which in turn led to relatively high administration costs and required significant government subsidies to cover benefit payouts. Longer-run, low coverage is problematic for voluntary, contributions-financed, unemployment insurance schemes, as adverse selection could lead to a vicious cycle of rising insurance premiums and falling coverage. Meanwhile, achieving high coverage may require significant public subsidies because individual willingness to voluntarily pay for unemployment protection appears to be low.8 For those reasons, voluntary coverage schemes do not appear to work well in the case of non-standard workers.
Lastly, the current EI system is based on contributions from both employees and employers. In the case of the self-employed, it is not clear who will pick up the tab for the employer portion of the contribution. If the government subsidizes the employer portion, it could create adverse incentives for employers to hire a self-employed worker to reduce non-wage related labor costs. However, a lack of coverage for non-standard workers could also lead to this outcome, contributing to a rise in non-standard forms of employment. For example, in Italy, para-subordinate workers (self-employed but highly depended on one or very few clients) used to pay significantly lower pension contributions and were not eligible for unemployment and sickness benefits, resulting in significantly lower non-wage labor costs and a rising number of para-subordinated workers. In response to this Italy had gradually increased their contribution rates and expanded coverage. Levelling the playing field led to a significant decline in the prevalence of this type of employment. Austria had a similar experience with independent contractors.
Some Solutions Based on The International Experience
Despite the challenges in expanding unemployment insurance to non-standard workers, there is a growing understanding among many countries that the growing share of non-standard workers need social protection. As a result, more than two thirds of the OECD countries now offer at least partial unemployment benefits to self-employed workers. There’s a great variety of schemes, ranging from mandatory to partial and voluntary coverage, and no two are exactly alike. Still, their experience offers valuable lessons for Canada if it wishes to incorporate self-employed (and potentially other non-standard) workers into its EI system.
So what are some of the solutions of dealing with the higher moral hazard issue for non-standard workers? Lower level of EI benefits or a more restrictive access could be imposed in order to incentivize individuals to search for work or to keep their current job, and to offset higher level of moral hazard. In Sweden, for example, the moral hazard issue is mitigated through more restrictive access, allowing self-employed workers to claim benefits only after 5 years have passed since the previous claim. There is also a requirement that the firm has been shut down, which acts as an additional deterrent.
To mitigate adverse selection, upon starting a business, self-employed individuals in Austria have six months to decide whether they would like to participate in the voluntary unemployment insurance scheme, and that decision is binding for 8 years. In Canada, only half of startups survive to their eight-year anniversary, so there is a high likelihood EI could be used at least once by many self-employed business owners during this time period.10
Generally speaking, based on the OECD review,11 there appears to be a consensus that voluntary coverage schemes, particularly the ones with little or no commitment, such as Canada’s EI SBSE for the self-employed, are quite rare and do not work well to accommodate non-standard employment due to prevalent adverse selection, low participation and the significant public subsidies required to operate them.
On the other hand, mandatory EI contributions and coverage, like the one that currently exists for regular employees, would resolve the issue of adverse selection, hold more closely to the principle of risk sharing within their peer groups, and help to lower program costs. However, results from past surveys conducted in Canada found that there was little support among the self-employed for a mandatory contribution scheme.12 Due to the nature of their work, many self-employed workers indicated a preference to minimize their absence from work (to avoid the risk of losing clients etc.) suggesting that, unless their contribution rates are significantly lower, self-employed workers may get less “value-for-money” from EI programs, such as for example maternity/paternity leave, than traditional employees. The less predictable nature of their income means that they are likely more in need of an income protection program rather than employment insurance.
Indeed, based on surveys, their preferred financing option for temporary work/income disruptions was a tax-sheltered savings account.13 This is another viable alternative to contributions-funded EI, however, the downside is that individual contribution rates would need to be significantly higher in order to generate sufficient savings because there will be no splitting of contribution between employers and employees. There is also a risk that individuals, particularly those in part-time or low-income jobs, may not be able to accumulate sufficient savings to weather the unemployment or low-earnings spell.
For other non-standard workers, such as those with flexible hours or doing work for an online platform, one solution would be to introduce a wage premium for employees doing flexible work. This would compensate workers for the added income uncertainty. In Australia, for example, casual workers are entitled to a wage premium or have a minimum hours guarantee.
Lastly, if the goal is to make social protection more universal and harmonized across all forms of employment, a means-tested social protection system financed through general taxation, similar to that of Australia and New Zealand, could be adopted. However, moving to these systems would require a complete overhaul of Canada’s current contribution-based EI.
The labor market recovery is likely to be uneven and protracted. Even those workers that were able to return to work could remain underutilized and continue to face lower earnings due to social distancing restrictions and weaker consumer demand for a considerable period of time. This is especially true for self-employed and other non-standard workers, since their hours and incomes are more volatile and less protected. The rollout of CERB during the pandemic has been very helpful to address gaps in coverage within the current EI system. However, looking ahead, a more sustainable and permanent solution is required for workers outside the EI system. Having a more inclusive system with a broader contribution base, which accommodates non-standard workers but also includes a larger number of regular employees through more inclusive qualification criteria would help strengthen the recovery and maintain economic gains that were so far accomplished through CERB.
The traditional EI system is based on a binary choice of whether or not someone has a job. It is clear that with non-standard forms of employment becoming more prevalent, fewer people fit into that box. These workers need some form of insurance against joblessness as well as income volatility both during the current economic recovery and in the future to address the changing nature of employment relationships. Many OECD countries now offer various options for non-standard workers to participate in unemployment insurance systems, and their experience offers valuable lessons if Canada decides to follow suit.
Since 2010 self-employed workers can voluntarily participate in EI Special Benefit for Self-Employed Workers (SBSE) to gain access to many life event-type benefits accessible to regular employees, such as maternity and paternity leave programs, leave due to sickness or to care for an sick family member. In addition to this, current EI system allows certain exceptions for some non-standard workers. For example some individuals who work independently as barbers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, drivers of other passenger vehicles are eligible to receive benefits through the regular EI program. Fishermen are also included as insured persons under the EI Fishing Regulations. In the case of the self- employed fishermen, EI qualification is tied to income. In order to qualify for up to 26 weeks of benefit, they need to have earned between $2,500 to $4,200 in the last 31 weeks.
The two main reasons for not contributing to the EI program were not having worked in the previous 12 months, and non-insurable employment (which includes self-employment).
Classified: Compiled Intelligence On the Lost Dolls Reclaimer Faction (OC Reclaimer Faction)
Condensed intelligence overview detailing currently known information on the Reclaimer faction known as ‘Lost Dolls.’ Information contained therein has been compiled by Sky Union Intelligence Officer ‘MB.’ Sources consist largely of Sky Union’s own records, as well as shared intelligence reports on the matter, compiled battle data, and found footage shared by Orbital. MB was also able to covertly interview the pilot ‘Port’ directly, though it’s believed that she understood the general purpose of MB’s questioning, and so her testimony must be accepted with a degree of scrutiny. OVERVIEW Unit Name: Lost Dolls
“Bringing you the bleeding edge of technology from thirty years ago, today. Let’s get started.”
-MB, initial debriefing. Time of Operation: Officially, only four hundred and seventy three days. Compiled intelligence suggests that the group has been active in the Oval Link for far longer, with upward estimates reaching as high as twenty years. At the very least, all members were alive at the time of the Moonfall. Pilots: Five Affiliations: No known Consortium ties. Joint operations alongside other Reclaimer factions are uncommon, though Steel Knights show up most often with Bullet Works and Immortal Innocence tied for a distant second. Preferred Mission Profile: Lost Dolls’ mission profile trends toward humanitarian missions. Primarily defensive or retributive actions against Corrupted A.I. incursions, particularly those concerning civilian populations within the Oval Link. It’s generally accepted that this is one of the primary factors contributing to their work alongside Steel Knights. They are less likely than average to pursue high-risk, high-payout missions such as deep-dives into A.I. territory or the escort of VIPs, such as political or military personnel, out of high risk areas. Conversely, they are more likely to take on high-risk missions with lower pay, such as escorting civilian evacuation caravans in the event of a Corrupted A.I. incursion. This behavior matches with the Dolls’ preference for humanitarian work, as missions fitting these criteria tend to be posted by lower level governmental officials, or even civilians with pooled resources, who have come under sudden attack. Quirks: All five pilots typically show to missions, in violation of the four-per-squad standard. Normally this would be in violation of the Consortium Treaty, but so far Orbital has refused to take action. It is theorized that this is due to the Dolls’ reluctance to hit military targets, and that Orbital may be letting the behavior slide in the interest of protecting civilian lives. The Dolls have no known home base. Port has made reference to a ‘bus’ in interviews that she says they use for field repair and transportation; it’s possible she’s referring to an old rapid deployment Arsenal carrier like the ones that were used before the Consortiums established proper infrastructure in the Oval Link, but it’s hard to say where a group like the Dolls could have found an operational one, much less one capable of fielding five arsenals. It’s almost more likely that they actually have two, puttering somewhere around the Neutral Zone. Even that’s a hard pill to swallow, since the old carriers have been out of production for almost thirty years now. Very little of the Dolls’ equipment is up-to-date. Their plugsuits are all defunct prototype models and in varying states of disrepair; most of their pilots don’t even use the actual connections in the suits themselves, opting instead for permanent ports connecting directly to their nervous systems. I’ve never seen any of them sporting a Blitz, either. At least one, Port, has been observed with what appears to be a traditional slug-throwing sidearm. The Lost Dolls claim to be a family unit of five sisters. The physical differences between them would imply that this is in a purely symbolic manner (excepting Protoca and Hope. Possibly Port if our facial analysis data is reliable), but the effect is the same. Their loyalty to each other is hard to call into question. Every one of their pilots has had their age frozen by Outer Syndrome. It should be noted that all pilots, excepting Earwax, have pilot rankings that do not properly reflect their overall level of competency. The Dolls’ propensity for low-sensitivity missions and unwillingness to work closely to further any Consortium goals aside from preservation of human life has left them low on the leaderboard. In cases where this information is used for planning operations against or alongside the Lost Dolls, assume all pilots are at the level of A rank or higher. PILOTS/MECHS
“I’ll start off with saying that the Dolls have the most ‘ware I’ve ever seen packed into a unit of this size. Two pilots are almost entirely cybernetic. And I do mean entirely.”
-MB Callsign: Tachi Real Name: Tachi Hanamura Age: Unknown. Appears to be in her late teens. Height: 197cm outside of Arsenal, 76cm while embarked, 167cm when utilizing her ‘emergency legs.’ Rank: C Handed: Both Family: Four sisters Outer Ability: Unknown. Though she is remarkably receptive to cybernetic augmentations and displays an unusual level of synchronicity with her Arsenal, hovering at anywhere between 91% and 95% at any time. Piloting Tendences: Aggressive. Highly aggressive. Tachi’s typical M.O. involves charging directly into an enemy formation and smashing the thing to bits before moving onto the next cluster. She often acts as the Dolls’ line breaker and attack dog, flushing high priority targets out of the press or just bowling down the chaff so that the other pilots can focus on more important things.
“The armor is 600mm of over a dozen different laminates and they didn’t include a single thermal dispersion layer for laser fire...”
-Tachi, picking over the husk of a disabled Genbu Physical Description: Where to start? First, brown hair, cropped into a messy bowl cut. Wide build for a girl. Her entire right arm is cybernetic. Her torso ends above her hips, which have been replaced by a massive version of the nerve-interface hubs found on standard plugsuits. Outside of her Arsenal this is plugged into the top of a massive set of ‘spider legs,’ complete with abdomen, which she uses as her normal mode of transport. When embarked on a mission, she’s lifted off her leg hub and simply plugged into a custom seat in her Arsenal, with a secondary connection at the base of her neck; the normal shoulder connections aren’t used. The arm and leg hub don’t match any known manufacturer of prosthetics, and the connection format at her hip is dated by at least a full twenty years. A pair of more modern legs are integrated into her piloting seat and act as part of her ejection system should her Arsenal be put out of commission in the middle of combat. She has a set of rocket thrusters implanted into her back. Actual rocket thrusters; the vents are mostly flush with her shoulder blades, protruding perhaps 5-6cm. Footage loaned from Orbital demonstrates her leaping almost one hundred meters utilizing them while under full load (read: attached to the massive spider leg assembly). Using her Arsenal ejection system, combined with the lighter weight of her backup legs, it’s estimated she could travel as far as three hundred meters on a burst from the thrusters. Arsenal: Arachne Weapon Compliment:
HAW-M05L Silver Raven II
HAW-C16 Ogre Break II
HAW-GR01 Hand Grenade
SAW-L22 Agni Flame
HAW-R02 Grim Reaper II
Arsenal Characteristics: Beat half to death and heavy. Arachne’s one of the two Arsenals in the Dolls’ employ that we have a decent technical read on, mostly because Tachi’s a shameless showboat and likes to show off all the tinkering she’s done on the thing. A decent example of the Dolls’ construction strategy, no two armor components on Arachne are from the same model. The left arm is optimized for melee strikes (both the base model, and the aftermarket modifications that have been made by the pilot) while the right is oriented for handling firearms. The unit is sluggish in the air and has middling mobility on foot for it’s durability; fine enough for Tachi’s preferred method of brawling. Combat footage shows she’s the type of pilot that tries to stay grounded anyway. Tachi’s normal plan of attack is to get in close and personal with the Raven II and Ohabari and shred whatever’s in front of her. The Reaper II is typically reserved for plinking Strais or aerial targets that have gotten spread out. The Agni Flame appears to be used purely as backup. Frankly, the Reaper II and Ogre Break II are squandered here. With a maximum lock range of only two hundred and one meters, Arachne is right on the edge of it’s rangeband with the Reaper and hopelessly short of the Ogre. That hasn’t stopped the pilot from eyeballing slower moving AI from farther out, but the Arsenal really shows the slapdash nature of the pilot.
“She doesn’t stop. Not for anything. While pouring over the combat footage I actually stumbled onto a sequence where she took a Failnaught round right through the cockpit and all it did was make her angry.”
-MB. Callsign: Protoca Real Name: Protoca [no known surname] Age: Unknown. Appears to be in her late teens. Height: 182cm Rank: B Handed: Left Family: Four sisters Outer Ability: Rapid regeneration from injuries, as well as being prone to physical mutation. She can apparently recover from injuries that even most Outers would find lethal; we have combat footage of an ejected Protoca taking a cannon round to the legs, obliterating everything from her hips downward. I met her face-to-face in my interview with Port and she had made a full recovery, complete with a set of genuine flesh and blood legs. You wouldn’t even know it’d happened. Her mutations appear to be a side-effect of her regeneration, and do not directly benefit her while piloting outside of her absurd physical strength and enhanced reflexes. Piloting Tendencies: Measured and deliberate, but outrageously dogged. She keeps a wide engagement profile and usually plays mop-up alongside Port when dealing with traditional corrupted AI forces, otherwise she’s running interference when facing off against Arsenals. She’s particularly skilled at close urban combat and swaps between playing rifleman and melee roles fluidly. She also rarely retreats from engagement, regardless of the tactical situation. On at least one occasion, her Arsenal was reduced down to it’s torso, head, and one leg in an engagement with a hostile Arsenal pilot. Instead of withdrawing, Protoca engaged afterburners and tackled her opponent, which bought enough time for Lost Dolls’ other pilots to reach her position and disable the enemy. Generally speaking, it seems she simply will not withdraw from an engagement unless one of the other pilots is under direct threat or Port herself calls for an immediate withdrawal.
“You don’t take one step further. Not one.”
-Protoca, staring down three fresh Strais after dispatching their forward wing. Physical Description: A real mess. For the basics; brown hair, trimmed into an angled bob cut. She’s wide shouldered, but nowhere near as broad as Tachi. Her torso and leg profiles are slim, arguably emaciated. Musculature is extremely visible, as if she’s constantly tensing her entire body with every movement. It’s possible that’s the case, as her movement patterns have a habit of being twitchy and erratic. As for the aforementioned mutations: her right leg is covered in dark, hard scales. An atrophied wing, like that of a bat, shares a dual joint at the shoulder with her right arm. Numerous scars, some clearly surgical in nature. There’s a kind of plant-like symbiont that wraps around her left arm, up her neck, and ends in her hair, sprouting into a pair of green, bioluminescent flowers; it’s unclear if this is a mutation to her person or if it’s a separate entity. A note about the wing and scales: they’re proofed against small arms. How Protoca’s body is able to produce organic compounds capable of standing up to Femto weaponry is currently a subject of heated debate in R&D’s breakroom. I’m sure more than a few whiteboards have been broken over it, considering how loud they get. Arsenal: One More Weapon Compliment:
OAW-BL74 Cronus Break
HAW-CF22 Chaff Flare
HAW-R26F Guilty Throne
Arsenal Characteristics:One More is the type of Arsenal you could smack upside the head with a Buster Doom and it would ask for seconds. True, it doesn’t have the bulk of a true heavy-weight, but the chassis itself is strong enough to take a hit and keep on coming and the Splendor repair system means the Arsenal has fantastic staying power over the course of an extended engagement. And the Aegis shield in the off-hand gifts the pilot considerable bulk in the context of a contained duel. Like Arachne, One More has a lopsided chassis with a horrendously overengineered sword arm while the other is optimized for handling firearms. Unlike Arachne, One More has access to a far more advanced set of weaponry. Between the Guilty Throne, Aegis, Cronus Break, and Stargazer, Protoca is running a veritable buffet of high performance, low availability equipment. The manufacturers of the Cronus Break and Aegis models aren’t even public knowledge, so it’s an open question where the Dolls could have procured such serious tech with their relatively bare income and (reportedly) spartan operational facilities. Operationally, One More often acts as the anvil to Port and Tachi’s hammer; a hard to remove obstacle for any conventional AI force and a dogged pursuer for most arsenal-based forces.
“The team’s tactical leader and designated marksman. Methodical, cordial, and a complete horror show like all the others.”
-MB Callsign: Port Real Name: Samantha Thampson Age: Unknown. Appears to be in her late teens. Height: 167cm Rank: B Handed: Left Family: Four sisters. Outer Ability: Port’s brain is innately capable of understanding binary code which allows her unparalleled levels of synchronicity with her Arsenal, fluctuating between 99%-100%. It also allows her to eschew the traditional connecting ports in her plug suit (which is good, because they’re all visibly broken) and instead opt for a surgically installed plug that connects directly to her brain stem. Connected this way, her Arsenal effectively becomes an extension of her physical body. This ability also extends to binary converted into other formats other than a direct electrical feed; Port has often been caught having verbal, and apparently quite in-depth, conversations with the AI unit of her Arsenal via the unit’s external audio systems, with bursts of static standing in for the unit's speech. How coherent/intelligent this ‘dialogue’ from the unit is still up in the air, but analysis of the few samples we do have shows definite patterns in the unit’s ‘speech’ and in how it reacts to Port herself. Piloting Tendencies: Port’s preferred method of engagement appears to be skirmishing at distance; she fits the rifleman archetype to a T. Unlike Protoca, Tachi, and Lily, Port has no measures for melee combat installed on her Arsenal aside from its fists, and even the one shotgun she keeps on the rear pylons is a choked down, longer range model. Her usual M.O. when deployed amongst her sisters is to hang back behind Tachi or Protoca and plink. Well, ‘plink.’ The DMR and high performance assault rifle she’s managed to scrounge out of the Neutral Zone could blow through a Rebellion’s kneecap with sustained fire, and her sisters are good at giving her the required openings. While going over the combat footage, I saw her put a round down the barrel of a Slay Dog more than once.
“Oh, we’re just a merry little band of misfits, Sergeant. Looking out for each other, trying to make the world a better place. I’m sure you’ve heard the old song and dance.”
-Port, early in her interview with Intelligence Officer MB. Physical Description: The most immediately striking thing about Port is arguably her albinism; snow white from head to toe except for her eyes, which are pink from lack of pigment. After that might be the fact that she’s a quadruple amputee with a full suite of military grade replacement limbs (or rather, Port claims that they’re military grade). The hardware itself appears very dated, to the point where our intelligence teams have not actually been able to pinpoint a make or model. Aside from being old, they’re clearly several size