Fiction Friday: Space battles, giant robots

The Xenosaga fic continues with anime-flavored nonsensical space-battle fun, including visible lasers and piloted, human-shaped fighter craft.

By the by, if you’re avoiding reading this because you’re not familiar with the Xenosaga series/universe, that’s understandable, it’s a bit obscure. However, please note it’s set centuries later after the events of the series have been mostly forgotten, and as such knowledge of the series shouldn’t actually be necessary to follow this.

The engines of the Isolde flared, barreling the ship ever more swiftly toward the distant flashes of battle. Once her speed relative to the distant combatants was high enough, she cut thrust and rolled over. Three vaguely humanoid, albeit quite a bit larger, craft launched in rapid succession from her belly and moved quickly into a simple arrow formation, then commenced accelerating toward the ever-closer battle. The Isolde swung back around to point toward the combat, but no longer accelerated, keeping its distance from the pirate cruiser.

“Captain!” called Wehj. “They’ve seen us. Six pirate AMWS headed our way.”

Seth grinned tightly. “Ignore them. Keep accelerating straight for the pirate ship.”

The three craft continued their plunge toward the battle. The two flanking AMWS units were squat and broad one-seat mecha, steel gray with colored markings, green for Wehj and blue for Vix. In between and ahead of them was Seth’s taller, sleeker mech, black with red markings. It was a two-seater model, but Seth didn’t bother with a co-pilot; sensors were Wehj’s job.

“Open fire with beam weapons,” Seth ordered. At this range, they stood no chance of hitting anything, but it would keep the incoming AMWS unit on their toes without wasting ammunition. “Start evasive maneuvers once we’re a light-second away, but don’t cut forward thrust.”

Seth grinned as they passed the light-second mark. He and his crew were far from military precision, but they nonetheless managed to dodge and weave around one another without colliding, firing intermittent bright-red bolts at the invisibly distant mecha. The simulator he’d rigged up had been more than worth it.

The occasional answering shot from the pirates flashed past, but never close enough to be a concern. Soon, though, they would be in actual effective combat range. Seth knew the commander of the pirate squad must see the classic tactical blunder Seth’s crew was making. On paper, we’re screwed. Outnumbered two-to-one, the Isolde can’t fire without risking hitting its own mecha, and we can’t just blow past the pirate mecha because that’ll give them time to swarm and board the Isolde.

Seth watched the proximity sensor counting down the distance to the enemy mecha. Their shots were tracking closer and closer now; a little too close, actually. “How the hell do pirates get this good!?” demanded Vix as a laser blast winged her AMWS.

“You okay?” asked Wehj.

“Nothing a little paint can’t fix.”

Seth barely paid attention. He was focused entirely on the distance to the enemy group. Almost… almost… there! He pulled the trigger, and the missile battery on his left shoulder erupted. At this distance, the enemy had plenty of time to dodge out of the missiles’ paths, turn and blow the missiles out of the sky with lasers or bullets. But it also meant, for a few seconds, the pirates couldn’t fire at Seth’s crew.

A lot can happen in a few seconds. In this case, it was plenty of time for Seth’s group to pass through the combat zone and beyond, continuing on their way toward the ever-nearer ship battle. Behind them, Seth knew, the pirates were laughing at him. Seth had just ceded the Isolde to them, and once they were done they could come back and pick him off at their leisure.

They no doubt kept laughing right up until the moment that a pencil-thin blue light stabbed out of the darkness and one of them exploded into flame. Five more shots from the Isolde‘s bow cannon lanced out with impossible–no, merely superhuman–accuracy, and the pirates were gone.

“Thanks, Izzy!” called Seth.

“No prob, boss.”

“We’re coming up on the battle,” said Seth. “Vix, Wehj, board the transport, take out anyone inside. Your lack of maneuverability won’t matter as much in there. I’ll handle things out here.”

The other two mecha broke off and streaked toward the beleaguered transport, decelerating hard to match velocities. “Wow, will you look at it? It’s been chewed apart!” said Wehj.

“I guess we’re not going to have to worry about survivors,” commented Vix.

“Cut the chatter, you two!”

Then Seth was in the midst of battle. Two defenders of the transport remained, military models both, surprisingly. Seth could see some fairly heavy damage toward the rear of the pirate ship; it seemed the transport was not entirely the defenseless merchant vessel it appeared to be, which helped explain the lack of distress signal.

However, it was silent now, and two heavily damaged mecha could not last long against four pirate mecha and the pocket cruiser’s cannons. Bullets sprayed and laser light flickered, painted red across his displays even though actually invisible. The other two mecha were fighting valiantly, but they were doomed, and there was nothing Seth could do to save them.

He could, however, avenge them. His mech hoisted its laser rifle and opened fire, fusing the leg joint of one of the pirate mecha. Another pirate launched a swarm of missiles, but Seth spun, firing a spray of bullets from the smaller gun in his craft’s other hand, destroying them and peppering the firing mech’s armor.

One of the transport’s mecha zigged when it should have zagged and plowed straight through a particle cannon blast from the pocket cruiser. Nothing but debris and fire emerged from the other side. Seth was momentarily distracted by the flare, but soon spotted something important: the missile-launching mech was trying to withdraw.

“Oh ho. Out of missiles, hmm?” Its only other weapon, foolishly, was a vibro-blade, useless at the distances of space combat. Seth gave chase, firing his laser rifle repeatedly. The pirate was an excellent pilot, and dodged well, but Seth had personally repaired, replaced, or tweaked every circuit and servo in his own mech. Three shots tore open a hole in the mech’s armor. The next few shots missed, but finally Seth struck true, and the mech exploded.

Seth spun under the blast, dodged a shot from the pirate cruiser, then another from one of the pirate mecha. A burst of small missiles erupted from the cruiser, and Seth skipped behind the pirate mech on his tail. Three of the missiles, confused by the similar profiles of the mecha, turned to track him instead, and after a moment, Seth was rewarded by a second explosion.

He twitched the flight controls randomly while running a quick scan–the one downside to not having a copilot–and found only one other intact mech, one of the pirates. The last defender and one of the other pirates must have killed each other while he was busy.

The last pirate shot toward him, firing its own laser cannon, but something was clearly wrong in its engines. It spun wildly as it flew, unable to hit, and Seth was able to take his time and blow it away with two well-placed shots.

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