(In honor of an air show that my Navy girly-mate is helping out with)
The alarm was blaring! From where they were sitting on the landing deck, everyone looked up.
“All hands, combat alert! Enemy mechs incoming!”
Flt Lt Frost looked up. “Well, that ain’t good.” He remembered the base commander telling him about all their stationed pilots being out on shore leave. This far into Directorate territory, no one could have imagined the enemy attacking. It was brazen, to say the least.
Quinn sneered, quietly slipping out the door. Kate saw her go, immediately following.
As they raced down the halls, everyone on base was moving fast. Their defensive guns were online, but against mechs that only went so far. Since this base was airborne, it could only be flight models coming to attack. That meant they had infinitely more maneuverability than the guns could reasonably handle.
Busting into the hangar bay, Quinn saw what she was looking for. Four flight model mechs, in flight mode, waiting to be deployed. Running over to one of them, she hit the sensor to open the cockpit. The machine recognized her biometrics as military, so it opened. Cuing up the main computer, she ran through the system.
“Let’s see. Fuel is full. Ammunition is full. Mech is in good order.”
Kate popped into the entrance, giving her a stern look.
“What the fuck are you doing, Quinn?!”
“Checking to see if this thing is fit to fight.”
“We aren’t this base’s pilots! We’ll get in a heaping pile of shit if engage the enemy with their mechs!”
“Yeah, and if we just sit here, we’re gonna get blown the fuck up! I’d rather take my risks in the air. I have years of experience in atmosphere, so I say let’s do it!” She had that look on her face that meant she was not going to be dissuaded. In a flash, she was on her feet, stripping.
Kate blushed heavily. “Why are you getting naked here?”
“Because I can’t fly in my uniform.”
From her bag she pulled out a flight-suit. It wasn’t a g-suit like they used in space, but it would work for this.
“Dammit, woman!” Hiding between the machines, she stripped down as well, grabbing her own flight-suit.
“What happened to ‘we’ll get in a heaping pile of shit’?”
Giving her a cold look. “Like you said, if we stay here we die.” Heading over to another mech, she also keyed up the system. “Alright. Ready to go. So, smart woman, did you stop to think about how we’re going to get up to the launch deck if we’re using mechs that aren’t ours?”
Quinn frowned. It was a good question.
A voice behind them called out. “We get the flight crew to move the mechs up there, then get clearance from the tower to launch.”
Both of them looked to see the Flt Lt there, also in a flight-suit. They were shocked.
“Lt! You’re cool with this?” Kate asked.
“Like she said, we’re all fucked if we don’t do something. You two know how to fly in atmosphere?”
The Killer Bee’s pilot got her devilish grin back. “Hell yeah! Years of experience.”
Her more sensible compatriot nodded. “Not as much as her, but I did some training in sim during my time with R&D. I know what to expect.”
“Alright. I’ve got years of experience myself, so we should be good.”
The sound of footsteps coming in behind them. Sojiro and Windsor came in.
“That’s crazy!” Windsor said. “There’s a lot of them! You all are going to get yourselves killed!”
Sojiro looked around the bay. Something caught his eye. Ground model mechs! They were in transit mode.
“We can back you up in those!”
Frost looked at him. “You have experience with ground models?”
“Yes sir! At the start of the war I was stationed on the ground. And these aren’t the relics that I was using. Those things were damn-near falling apart! Will be nice to fight in a proper mech this time.” Sojiro took off his service shirt, tying it around his waist on the undershirt.
Looking at Windsor. “You?”
“I know the basics. So long as I can get me a proper gun with some range, I got this.”
Two base personnel came over as well.
“Hey! We heard you guys are planning on going out. If you’re gonna do that, we can get you launch clearance. And I wouldn’t mind grabbing one of the ground mechs and backing you up. I wasn’t cleared as a pilot, but I know what I’m doing.”
Frost grinned at him. “Sounds good, son.” Keying up a display on his band, he motioned for the others.
“Everyone, gather ’round! I’m gonna go through the mission plan.”
The map showed the air platform base, with the couple airships they have on defense.
“Alright, the enemy consists of eight mechs. We have four regular models, and four heavy armor models. They’ve engaged with the airships in support of the base.” Looking over at the men from the base. “No offense to your air force, but I’m not anticipating them to last long against them.”
One of them shrugged. “None taken. I’ve been saying we might as well have a big sign out welcoming the enemy to attack.”
“Alright, here’s how this is gonna work. Pierce, you and DeMills are to stay on my wing! I don’t want any heroics. That goes double for you!” He was looking right at Quinn.
“Aye-aye, Lt. I got you.” She looked annoyed.
“The enemy has us very outnumbered, and I would wager that the enemy knows what they’re doing. Our tactic is going to be to use our own forces engagement to our advantage. They’re attacking the defending ships, so we can use that to buy time to get in the air, and once deployed we can keep the fight there as much as we can. Meanwhile, ground mechs, you will be tasked with taking out any who break away from the battle. The platform has limited mobility, so you’re going to have to be good at hitting mobile targets while being pretty much stationary. Coordinate your attack with the base guns. Only focus your attack close range. I don’t wanna worry about friendly fire. Hooyah?”
“Hooyah!” They all shouted in unison.
“Then let’s get moving.” Looking at the second guy who wasn’t going out on a mech. “Get the command tower ready. We can’t afford delays launching!”
The man saluted and took off running.
Kate looked at Quinn. “Be careful out there.”
Giving her a wink. “Aren’t I always?”
Heading over to the ground mechs, Windsor keyed up the system.
The first guy came running over. “Hey! Our system here can change weapons on these mechs in under a minute. What are you two thinking?”
Sojiro immediately chimed in. “I need artillery, and lots of it! Enemy is gonna try and send the heavy armor mechs to hit the base, and they are armed to blast.”
“You got it!” He keyed sensors on a tablet and overhead machinery went to work undoing couplings and moving the standard rifle and gatling cannon away. Down came several missile pods. “You got your choice of heat-seeking, anti-air cluster bombs, and slammers.”
The man grinned darkly. “If you were a woman I’d kiss you. Ready to move out!”
Looking over at Windsor. “What about you?”
She thought for a moment. “What do you have in long-range weaponry?”
Queuing up the arsenal on his tablet. “We have M649 Carbines and LSDG Lasers.”
That took her by surprise. “You can use laser weapons in atmosphere?!”
Sojiro chimed in, “you’re thinking of particle beams! Those things can’t be used in atmosphere. Lasers can.”
“But the weapons require pin-point accuracy. Not joking, you have to be incredibly precise. They will blast rockets, missiles, and torpedoes to bits, but armor is trickier. The heavier it is, the less damage the weapon does.”
Windsor grinned. “Sounds good. I’ll take them both.”
“Roger that!” Hitting more sensors on the tablet, and the mechanism got to work.
“Alright, you’re both fit to fight! Good luck!” He ran toward the third mech, getting inside. All three shifted from transit mode to fighting. They stood not especially tall. The mechs were squat, for the purposes of being able to change direction on a dime. On Sojiro’s mech, the missile pods were loaded on to the shoulders. There was a rifle on one arm, but that might as well have been window dressing. Both of the Crimson Squadron pilots knew what his weapons of choice were.
On Windsor, one arm had a large attachment that looked like a shield, while the other hand the large Carbine. On the shoulder where the shield was stood the laser. A strange weapon, with a very long, yet small barrel. The power supply seemed to be connected directly to the engine. Looking at the system, she concluded as much. Normally that would be a bad thing, but since you couldn’t use barriers in atmosphere, her power supply could take it. She wasn’t the type to waste shots.
“Control,” the first man said, “We’re ready to go!”
“Copy that, crewman. Flight mechs are launching now. Once they’re out, we’ll bring you up.”
Sojiro looked determined, cracking his knuckles. This was the kind of battle he started this war with. A lot higher in the air than those days, but still. Windsor clutched her necklace, praying to the Spirits.
On the flight deck, the mechs were in position. Kate was going through everything, as she had done before she was the tactical support for Killer Bee. Making sure all systems were exactly where she wanted. It had been a long time since the sims. She took that for granted. Quinn cracked her neck, eager to get moving. Frost was his usual quiet and pensive self.
“Alright, pilots!” It was Control. “Everything is ready, you are clear for launch. Transferring timing over to Flt Lt Frost.”
“Aye-aye, Control, I have control.” He took a deep breath. “Crimson Squadron, launching!” In a blast, they jetted forward. So much like in space, but different. Getting to the end of the runway, they had to immediately bank up to maintain altitude.
“Let’s hit it! Straight towards the enemy! Remember – stay on my wing until we engage, then stay within knife-fight proximity. And if the enemy breaks off for the base, do NOT give chase! Understood?”
“Then let’s do this.”
Looking ahead, it was clear that he was right about the supporting ships not being capable of handling the enemy. Their faster models were going after their guns, while the heavy armors were going after their engines. All they had to do was cripple them. Gravity would do the rest.
Bringing her targeting sensors online, Quinn cycled through her guns. Her heart beat so fast. This was the kind of challenge she lived for. Wind resistance. It had been so long since she had to factor for that. Not since her racing days. Some chop, no worries. On a vehicle this small, it wasn’t a huge concern.
Frost took it all in. The enemy was like a swarm. They were taking on each ship one at a time. They were putting up a good fight, but this was almost over. Finally, they noticed them coming in. Two of the smaller mechs broke off.
“Alright, ladies, this is it! Keep it tight, but show no mercy!”
“Aye-aye!” Quinn shouted, shifting to combat mode. This mech had a primary rifle with single-shot capacity, and an integrated four-barrel gatling cannon on the other arm. Fighting with mechs in atmosphere is tricky. While they have engines to sustain altitude, those drain fuel much faster. Any mech pilot worth their salt knows that it’s more about the fighter battle than the mech one. At least this far above the ground. She took aim at the first one approaching. This guy was smart. Staying in flight mode, moving fast. They kept gaining and losing altitude. Clever boy, she thought. Going back to flight mode, she decided to fight him on his terms. The gatling cannon .was the primary weapon in flight mode, so she decided to come right up on him.
It was tense. The two were continually dancing around one-another, each trying to get a bead. She let loose a volley, but kept it short. The enemy shifted to combat mode, but she didn’t. It had a much larger gatling cannon on its arm, with a shield on the other. Flying right at it, she got within its targeting straight in front. The enemy would have to move if it didn’t want her to smack into it. Cutting its stabilizers, it let gravity do the work for evasion. That’s what Quinn was waiting for. As it fell, she opened up. Blasted through both legs, trashing the stabilizers. When it tried to go back to flight mode, it couldn’t maintain altitude. He was done.
Meanwhile, Frost and Kate were right on the second.
“DeMills, cover me!”
He hit the accelerator and went right at him. The enemy was good, but not great. Shifting to combat mode, it took some pot-shots at him, but with all the maneuverability in atmosphere, it couldn’t touch him. Kate shifted as well, blasting out with her rifle. The enemy saw it coming and moved, but it had to divide its attention. Flying straight up and stalling, Frost shifted to combat mode and took out the heated ax that this unit had for close-range. He threw it straight down. The weapon was like a shot, flying straight down and smashing into the enemy’s cockpit. Hitting his accelerators, Frost went down, grabbing it and locking it back in place. He chuckled to himself.
“These kids are good, but we’re better.”
The air forces ships took notice of the odds looking not so grim and started firing with renewed vigor. Seemingly realizing the strategy, two heavy armor and one regular mech cut off from the battle and went as fast as they could toward the base.
“Dammit!” Quinn swore.
“Let them go! We have base defenses for that. Focus on the battle here!”
Seeing the enemy coming, Sojiro locked and loaded. As did their base support man. Windsor brought her laser up. Three enemies. Not great. Three of them, along with three gatling turrets, and two rocket turrets. The base defenses opened up immediately. The armored units shrugged off the gatling rounds. They moved around the rockets. Aligning the guns was slow. Too slow to be a threat.
“Damn targeting sensors!” The base man said.
Windsor didn’t let herself be distracted. The laser was her ace in the hole. A weapon the fires at the speed of light, with a round that can blast through most small armor. Two of the enemy were heavy armor, but they had to have a weakness, right? Then she remembered – they can blast right through missiles! Did that mean they could blast through them while they are still in the pods?
One of the enemy opened up its pods, preparing to fire. Taking a deep breath, she zoomed the scope in. It would have to be manual. No way the system could get as close as she wanted. A little more, just a little bit. Then, time stopped. She fired. Brilliant blue, it lanced out at the enemy. It was right on target! Hitting the missile she was aiming at there was a split-second as it hung there. Then it blew up, detonating the rest of the missiles in the pod with it. Two-thirds of the mech was blown to bits, with the rest falling to oblivion.
“Nice shot!” the first man said in amazement.
Meanwhile, Sojiro was trying to get a bead on the regular mech. This guy was daring. It was dodging and weaving around the base’s defenses, while firing rounds at their guns. It had taken out one of the gatling turrets, and was looking to go after the rockets. If it took them out, they were toast. He queued up the heat-seeking rockets. This mech was definitely a sight better than his last time on ground. It had so many rockets that he could cue up several at a time. That was exactly what he meant to do. This pilot clearly had enough skill to evade minor weapons fire. This would take good timing.
Letting loose a volley, the enemy went back to flight mode and immediately shifted to javelin rockets. Slammers, as they were more typically called, only firing straight ahead. The enemy was good. Very good. It danced around the missiles beautifully. He took aim. Had to gauge how the enemy moved. He could afford to be patient. Watching, learning the pattern. Finally, the last rocket exploded, but didn’t hit him. The enemy would always make a turn to the left when it was going to come about. That was it! Targeting just slightly to the left, he let fly. Predictive powers were a great thing. As the mech came about, it shifted back to combat mode. That proved to be its doom, as flight mode it might have had the rocket come in under it. Instead, the round hit dead center and blew the machine to bits.
The final heavy-armor mech had its sights on the stabilizers. Just like the other airships, the airbase was even more dependent on them to maintain altitude. It was trying to fire missiles, but their defenses were keeping it busy enough to not be able to get a good bead. The enemy was clearly getting agitated, as it was now being sloppier about where it struck. There were several large holes in the hull near the engines. Finally, it decided it had to destroy the rocket turrets if it was going to be able to do anything against the enemy.
Sojiro hit the other two up on the comm. “Alright, here’s the plan – Heather, I need you and the other pilot to coordinate with me. This guy is too smart to let me blast it with cluster-bombs, so I need you two to push it into a firing zone. I’ve marked a spot on your display I’m aiming for. Coordinate base artillery as well! Hooyah?”
Windsor opened up the carbine. Its rounds were powerful, but there were only so many before the weapon had to be reloaded. The first man had a gatling cannon on his arm, which he opened up with as well. He saw the point to draw the enemy into, keeping the targeting matrix focused to move the enemy. Base guns also came online. So much artillery flying, it was a spectacle to see.
Sojiro had his guns ready. Close. So close. He would have to time it so right as the enemy is going to come into his point. When it has nowhere to run. It made a boost up, and that was it! He fired away with several bombs. They were all around the enemy, seeming to clothe it in smoke. Even more smoke after a second, as the mech started falling straight down.
“That got him!”
Everyone started breathing again. Now it was all up to their air support.
The next enemy was blasted to bits. Kate came from below and hit it with a rocket. That just left two enemies left. One heavy armor and one regular. Quinn was already on the heavy armor. She came in right at its backside. The thing flew like a brick, so she had all the maneuverability over it. It was too thick for her cannon, but she had another idea. Pulling out her ax, she went right at the engine. Smashing the arm right inside, it ripped the engine parts out. Like guts out of a body. Smoke was billowing out, but the enemy was still in flight.
While its attention was on Quinn, Kate came in from the left. In flight mode, she went right at it. The enemy shifted to combat mode, but that was a bad move. Its eye-piece was right there. With her rifle, she blasted away, blowing the whole thing to bits. Now the enemy was blind and could barely maintain altitude. It broke off. Smart move. Quinn decided not to let it run away. She aimed a rocket at the other engine as it went back to flight mode. She let fly and it landed. The enemy started falling to the ground.
Frost was tangoing with the last one. It was an ugly battle. This guy knew his stuff, and their dance was all in flight mode. Above, below, each trying to get a bead on the other. Neither one appeared to have the upper hand. Just then, there was a beam of beautiful blue light. It came from all the way back at the base! It hit the enemy right in one of its engines, causing smoke.
That was all the distraction he needed. Frost shifted to combat mode, opening fire with his gatling cannon right into the backside. It was ripped open, and time stopped again. Suddenly, something igniting. The whole thing then blew up in a beautiful shower of sparks and flaming metal. The battle was over.
Heading back to base, Quinn cued up Kate on the comm.
“Admit it, that was fun.”
Breathing heavily, she smiled to herself. Was it? She could feel it. Lately, every time Quinn was feeling good, it was like she could feel it too. Like being back in Killer Bee, with their minds linked to the machine. There were days, when they were close together outside of the machine, and she wondered if she could hear her thoughts. This was one of those moments. It felt good.
“Yeah, it was fun.”
Until next time, a quote,
“Okay, so it’s not dull.” – Isamu Dyson, Macross Plus