Hand armaments: variable energy cascade shotgun, stored on back, powered by reactor contacts in fingers, hand-carried in use; shield, attaches to left forearm.
Special equipment: Ion field generator, integrated into armor
Though the Zwei Dolph had shown great promise, even rivaling the performance of the legendary XSeed Prometheus, association with Megami’s Kazoku had tainted the Dolph brand. Even BEC managing director Tesla Browning had disowned the Dolph CFs he’d helped create.
Sullia acted quickly to secure the necessary Dolph-related patents. She recommissioned the manufacturing facility at her family’s Astraea asteroid and brought in a team of engineers to develop a new model Dolph to serve as the resurrected Zeklov Corp’s flagship CF.
The AZZ-003 emerged as a late-stage prototype for Astraea’s new Dolph concept. The unit represents the final extreme of one design team’s internal wager to find out how much hardware they could pack onto a single combat frame.
The Heavy Team, as they came to be known, started with Eiyu Masz’s infamous YCR-015-1 Zwei Dolph Custom. They then took a full set of laminar graphene armor–enough to cover an entire CF–and stacked it on top of the AZZ-003’s existing armor. In addition to the standard Dolph shield, an articulated armature-mounted shield controlled by the unit’s A.I. rounded out the new Dolph’s physical defenses. A revolutionary new ion field capable of deflecting weaponized plasma offered better protection from energy weapons than carbyne laminar armor. The results looked rather bulky but offered protection on par with an XSeed.
As the final argument in the design team’s internal offense vs. defense debate, the AZZ-003 settled the age-old question by taking the best of both. The unit carried a dizzying array of weapons, including three missile pods, a plasma cannon more powerful than any CF rifle, a stacked volley gun capable of firing over a million carbyne-coated slugs per minute, and a small armory’s worth of plasma swords.
Nagging doubts remained that the AZZ-003 might not render a target completely atomized. To allay this concern, the Heavy Team returned to a weapon concept shelved by Browning himself for being too unstable. Sullia Zend somehow managed to furnish the team with early plans for the variable cascade energy shotgun designed for the XCD-100. Armed with a hand weapon capable of turning large carbon masses into bombs, the AZZ-003 effectively became an XSeed killer.
Loading on armor and weapons to shame the XCD-103 Eisenpferd came at a high cost in weight. The aptly named Heavy Team doubled down on their doubling approach and built a second complete set of drive and maneuvering thrusters into the unit’s outer armor.
Drastically increasing the number of thrusters added another wrinkle. Not even the one-series equivalent generator that served as the AZZ-003’s main powerplant could keep up with the new unit’s energy demands. The Heavy Team fell back on their go-to solution and installed a second generator commandeered from a standard Zwei Dolph.
The final result proved utterly terrifying. The AZZ-003, dubbed the Heavy Armor Dolph Z, boasted nigh impenetrable defenses, unmatched destructive power, and speed theretofore only seen in the XCD-102 Emancipator. By pushing their design philosophy to the breaking point, Heavy Team had beaten the odds to produce a combat frame that excelled in every category.
For all their considerable skills, monetary price turned out to be the one cost Heavy Team couldn’t surmount. Zeklov/Astraea was looking for a new front line CF, and the Heavy Armor Z’s astronomical per-unit cost left mass production utterly out of the question. However, many of the AZZ-003’s advances would be featured in the AZC-104 Grand Dolph.
Always loath to let great potential go to waste, Sullia Zend personally intervened to spare the Heavy Armor Z from the dustbin. The Transportation Secretary selected the only extant AZZ-003 prototype and its two predecessors for her executive CF team, with the Heavy Armor Z serving as Zend’s personal combat frame.
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