as narrated by Sophie “Spaceshot” Lamarr
Outflying the speed of sound used to be something I dreamed about. These days though I kind of dread it. No one gives you a supersonic aircraft to have fun with. If I’m called to sit in the cockpit of a Fury Fighter it’s because someone, somewhere is having a catastrophically bad day. Or is about to.
“Control, we are thirty miles from target site. ETA one minute. Please advise on state of local assets.” I called into my headset. I glanced out over my wing and could just make out the rest of my squadron. Back in the days when my father flew for the Air Force the formation would have been a lot tighter. That was before we started fighting things with mile-wide area effect attacks.
“Target remains in close quarters combat with local assets.” Brassport’s ground control replied. Meaning the local heroes were still punching it out directly with the giant monster.
“Please confirm viability of heavy ordnance strafing run?” I requested. In other words could we light the giant monster up with some heatseekers and stay safely out of its attack range.
“Heavy ordnance deployment is approved. The targeting solution is being linked now.” the ground controller said.
I glanced down at the readout that listed the parameters for the strafing run.
“Control, this is not showing a strafing path for us.” I said.
“That’s correct Spaceshot. We need all the help on the ground here we can get. You’re going to follow the ordnance in and mode shift for ground deployment.”
I gritted my teeth. A bad day was when I had to do a hot scramble into a firefight. A really bad day was when I had to scramble into a firefight and then hang around to slug it out afterwards.
“Copy that control.” I said and keyed in the confirmation codes to unleash the AIs that controlled the weapon systems. It was always a human decision to use our weapons but implementing that human decision was something we’d turned over to machines a while ago. I was a good shot and a two hundred foot tall monster is a big target but from twenty miles out my chance of landing a bullseye was next to zero. The Fury Fighter on the hand could handle trimming someone’s beard from that far away if I asked it to.
“Target locked and weapons discharged.” I announced as the Fury rained a few million dollars worth of death down on the giant monster that I could barely see in the distance.
“Beginning aero-braking and conversion to close quarters combat mode.” I said before the missiles impacted.
If was terrifying in a way to be following that kind of destructive power into a confrontation. That we had to engage after the attacks landed meant the thing we were fighting was insanely powerful. To be fair though, the Fury’s weren’t exactly slouches either when they were in ground mode.
As high speed aircraft went, a Fury Fighter was unmatched in the skies. With top speed well over Mach 5 and quantum pulse engines that could keep it in the air indefinitely it was one of the best fighters ever built. Or at least one of the best that didn’t incorporate all sorts of mad science. There were better individual aircraft but none that were capable of being constructed as a fleet.
The Fury Fighters had another benefit though. When they weren’t using the quantum pulse engines for propulsion, the output was channeled to a series of force shields that could screen out most attacks. Jets aren’t particularly agile on the ground so for land based combat the Furies had the ability to reconfigure their geometry to match the pilot’s body shape. Neural interfaces allowed the pilot to control the “LEF” (Land Engagement Form) as easily as though it were their own body. In short we could switch between airplanes and giant armored warriors to kick butt in a variety of ways.
Walking around as a sixty foot tall giant robot was something that took some getting used to but, in the situations where you need to do so, it never felt unfair or overpowered somehow.
“Local assets are reporting direct hits on the target.” ground control said and the rest of my squadron and I finished our aero-braking and reconfiguration maneuver.
“Any effect?” I asked.
“Negative. Target is still active.” ground control reported.
The squadron touched down in the flatlined wasteland to the south of the monster and took off at a run. Ahead of us I saw the battle that was unfolding.
I’d assumed when they said we were clear to fire that the heroes on the scene had fallen back to avoid the blastwave from the weapons we deployed. Despite ten years in the service,I still wasn’t used to how crazy the FBMA’s operatives were though.
Columns of lightning as wide as buildings were hammering down on the War Beast, trying to follow up on the effect of my squadron’s attack. In between the columns, I saw bolts of silver spearing through the creature over and over. From other corners of the battlefield purple rays and green beams shot forward, joining a host of other attacks in all the colors of the rainbow. The War Beast shook under relentless assault but it continued to push forward.
“Control, advise as to our deployment!” I called. Translation: What the hell are we supposed to do in this mess?
“The War Beast is trying to reach the center of the city. Engage and restrain. We have three shelters there. They’re shielded but we don’t want to test that the shields will hold unless we absolutely have to.”
“Copy that.” I said and accelerated.
It a thing of beauty to see a sixty foot tall robot at a full run. The way the earth shakes under our feet can be profoundly unsettling to our foes. At least when they’re not three times taller than us and several hundred times more massive.
With the AIs in our Furies to guide us, my squad was able to coordinate our attacks without radio chatter. I took the high road, leaping up on the monster’s back and wrangling it around the neck. The other Furies grappled at legs and arms and together we tried to pull the beast down like it was a wild bull in a rodeo. If it had been a rodeo, we would have broken that bull like it was made of china. We were pretty far from the rodeo though and most rodeo bulls lack the ability to release omni-directional waves of force to shake their riders off.
In the face of the blast, we were blown away from the War Beast, as were all of the heroes who were fighting against it, except for one.
Directly in the monster’s path, a brilliant blue force field stood pushing back against the creature’s enormous bulk. Behind the force field, I saw Aegis bent on one knee and directing his team with a series of gestures.
I brought the Fury back up to a standing position and readied the land based weapon systems for a strike against the War Beast when I saw an enormous figure of golden light emerge swell into existence behind Aegis.
Faster than a whip striking, the golden figure lunged forward and began grappling with the War Beast. For a moment, everyone else on the battlefield watched on in awe. The sheer presence of the two titans was enough to put us on our back feet but there was more to the struggle before us than what we could see.
I’d received some training in constructing mental blocks. If you weren’t a full blown psychic your mental defenses would never be unassailable but you could make your mind much more difficult and time consuming to overwhelm if you knew what you were doing. As the glowing figure and the War Beast fought, I could feel enough psychic spill over that I had to throw together the best blocks I could in order to stay coherent enough to pilot Fury.
“All Earth forces.” a choir of voices rang out in my head, cutting past the blocks like they weren’t there. “This is Psi-Lord Omega. The War Beast’s defenses are preventing us from rendering it docile. We need you to weaken the beast or find a gap in its defenses. Please focus all your efforts on damaging, distracting or disorienting the beast. We will hold it back from the shelters for as long as possible!”
“Control?” I asked over the radio.
“Make some holes in that monster.” ground control replied.
“Copy that!” I said and brought the Fury’s primary particle cannon online.
The particle cannon was a problematic weapon. There wasn’t a lot it couldn’t cut through. That was great when you needed something vaporized but less great when you cared about the things behind the thing you were shooting at. With the War Beast though we had one of those a rare occasions where “overkill” might not be “enough kill” so the kid gloves were definitely off.
The heroes we were fighting alongside seemed to feel the same way. I unleashed the particle beam on the War Beast and lost sight of it under the storm of attacks that descended upon it.
The attacks lasted a good twenty seconds at full intensity before the smoke and dust that was being kicked up made it impossible to see if we were still hitting the War Beast and everyone eased off to take stock of the situation.
“We’re beginning to break through!” Psi-Lord Omega said.
The War Beast let out another shattering pulse of energy that carried the dust and smoke away from it. Then it opened its mouth and breathed out a cone of green flames that tore through Psi-Lord Omega’s form.
The golden figure staggered back and the War Beast used the opportunity to bath the entire area around itself in the flames. Buildings, roadways and everything else disintegrated instantly under the breath.
“Control! Casualties?” I yelled thinking that we’d just lost a dozen or more heroes to the flames.
“Captain Mercury here. I got everyone out in time. I’ve also linked up the FBMA and Air Force communication nets. We need full coordination for this.” I’d heard of Captain Mercury before and silently thanked the heavens that she was here.
Psi-Lord Omega leapt forward and grappled the War Beast again, clamping the monster’s mouth shut. Unfortunately that left him open to a series of raking strikes from the War Beast’s claws.
“Fury squadron, pin those arms!” I called.
We raced forward to hold back to the War Beast and as we closed with it I noticed something.
“Earth Forces, Fury squadron commander Spaceshot here, the War Beast is showing no signs of damage from our attacks, advise please.” I said.
“Helios here Spaceshot, it’s absorbing or regenerating all of the damage we’re throwing at it. Keep it steady for a moment though. I have a tactic that might work.” Helios said.
“Ghost Step, can you get me underneath the War Beast.” Helios asked.
“I can!” a woman responded.
“Aegis, I need you with me. Thundercrash I need need you to bring the lightning down on the creature on my mark. Moonbow do you have another Omnishot in you?” Helios asked.
“Affirmative.” Moonbow responded.
“Furies, Omega, can you keep the War Beast in place?” Helios asked.
“Affirmative” both I and the glowing man replied at the same time.
“All other forces. One my mark, coordinate fire on the main body directly between the center legs.” Helios said.
I was holding onto the lower left arm so I had a line of sight to the spot under the War Beast where Helios, Aegis and Ghost Step appeared.
“This is going to get a little bright.” Helios warned.
“Ready to bring the lightning!” Thundercrash called out.
“All forces fire on my mark. Mark!” Helios shouted.
I didn’t see what happened. Not directly. From what I could tell Helios called forth a beam of pure fire from the heart of the sun. At the same time, Thundercrash dropped a single spear of lightning down onto the exact point Helios was burning up through. I think the silver glow that shown through the metal skin of the Fury was Moonbow unleashing her attack. Between those three attacks however every external sensor on the Fury was fried. The rest of the attacks probably helped some too but all I could tell was that telemetry was confirming an energy discharge that broke its measuring scale.
A moment later telemetry told me that the War Beast was falling into two halves. The whooping cheers served to confirm that other people were seeing it too.
“What’s our situation? My optics and other sensors are toast here.” I said on the combined channel.
“Sorry there Spaceshot, I contained the blast as much as I could but I must have had the containment field too broad on the visible light portion of it. I guess I clipped you a bit.” Helios said.
“If this thing is dead, I think my bosses with be delighted with only having to replace a few cameras.” I told him.
“It certainly looks like we got him.” Helios said.
“No. We have not!” Omega warned.
“Oh hell! It’s still moving! The pieces are rejoining!” Helios said.
I kicked the telemetry function into full tactical mode. It brought up a visual illusion of my surroundings based on the data I was receiving from external sources. It wasn’t the best way to fight but it beat being blind. Sort of. I could say I was happy to be able to see again, but seeing the monster pulling itself back together did not inspire joy.
“We have found the paths through it’s psychic defenses!” Omega said.
Rather than growing docile though, the War Beast shuddered and roared. A wave of red turbulence erupted from the creature and the systems of the Fury instantly powered down.
I fought to get the controls responsive again but there was nothing left in them. In the moment of silence that followed I noticed that even the quantum pulse generator had gone silent. Whatever the War Beast had done, it had drained all of the energy from the Fury and who knew how much else of the city.
I felt the Fury being lifted into the air and heard the creature begin tearing it to pieces. Light suddenly flooded back into the cockpit when the War Beast ripped off part of the armor that was protecting me. I saw the bottom half of the Fury thrown in one direction as the top half that I was in was tossed in the other. Without force fields to cushion the fall, the landing was fairly rough. Even in a state of the art crash couch, I still felt a few ribs break.
Looking out of the ruin of my cockpit, I saw that only the War Beast remained standing on the field. The giant form of Psi-Lord Omega was gone!