The Mecha Monogatari, Chapter V
Posted by Doug on November 26, 2008
<All units, the Eschatos assault force has entered our territorial waters heading 337. Landfall is predicted at the southeastern coast of Chiba prefecture between Katsuura and Kamogawa. ETA six minutes, thirty-eight seconds.>
<Hayabusa-1, this is Shikijo-72, move your unit east to Kazusaokitsu, fast!>
Hijū was already moving, the other five titans in her unit close behind her. <Damn it, nisa! That’s where we were! You told us to move to Ubara!>
<Move it, Hayabusa-1.> Suda Hikosa nitō rikusa snapped. Suda was the 29th Battalion’s operational commander, but he wasn’t a titan pilot—he had rose through the ranks in the armored cavalry divisions, mostly as a staff officer. <I don’t get to pick where the Eschatos land.>
<Well, don’t send us running all over the prefecture if you don’t know!> Hijū shot back.
<This insubordination will go in your record, ittō rikui,> Suda said.
<Put verbal abuse in there, too, chikushome,> Hijū replied. <Now clear the channel, Kosa-chan, we’re trying to defend our country here.>
Suda did not reply.
<I think I pissed him off,> Hijū said to the rest of her team, earning a half a laugh as they ran back across the southern Chiba countryside.
<What that make?> Kokawa-juni in Hayabusa-4 asked. <The twentieth time?>
<At least,> Sakamoto-nii in Hayabusa-2 replied.
<Does he ever follow through on his threats?> Katō-juni in Hayabusa-5 asked.
<Nope. Never.> Hijū broke in on one of the regional channels. <Hey, this is Hijū. Who all is still in Kazusaokitsu?>
<Kuroguma-1 here. We were there fifteen minutes ago, but the nisa sent us north. We’re going to be late to the show.>
<This is Hayabusa-2. Why did he send you north?> Sakamoto-nii asked.
<Who knows what that kuso bakayarō is thinking,> Kuroguma-1 replied.
Hijū smiled. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one that had issues with Suda-nisa’s leadership. <Okay, Kuroguma-1, we’ll save some for you.>
<Uh, you don’t have to…> one of the other Kuroguma pilots cut in, and everyone laughed.
Hijū and her team made it back to Kazusaokitsu in under two minutes. <Sakai, Katō, get back on your hill! Sakamoto and Kokawa, set up at the shield towers here!> Hijū ordered, flagging a spot near the beachfront. <Inoue, you’re with me.>
<Hai,> they all replied, running to their designated spots.
<Hayabusa-1, this is Sierra-44, awaiting target designation.>
Sierra-44 was the call sign of one of the ground-to-ground missile batteries situated about fifteen kilometers north of Kazusaokitsu. Despite their distance, slow rate of fire, and limited ammunition, they could prove devastating to the Eschatos, especially since they did not have to worry about collateral damage when their targets were out over the sea. <Okay, stand by, Sierra-44,> Hijū replied, but they would not need to wait for very long at all.
Katō and Sakai, situated up on a hill overlooking the beach and armed with long-barreled 105mm autocannons and enhanced targeting systems to match, were the first to make visual contact with their foe. <Hijū, I can see them,> Katō said.
<Me, too,> Sakai said. <Heading 155, range eleven thousand meters.>
Hijū’s targeting system began filling with markers representing Eschatos that were too far away for her to see, flying four or five meters above the ocean. Of course, she did not need to see them directly. She designated every one she could with a thought, and then sent it to Sierra-44. <Here you go, Sierra-44. Katō and Sakai, you can open fire once they get within four thousand.>
<Hai, Hijū,> they replied.
<Sierra-44 here, we have your target designations but we are not authorized to fire at this time.>
<Why not?> Hijū demanded. <I thought you said you were waiting on us!>
<Orders from the top. They’re saying hold fire,> Sierra-44 replied.
<Of course,> Sakamoto sighed.
<It would be different if they were out here on the front lines,> Kokawa said.
<But they aren’t and there isn’t anything we can do about it,> Hijū said. <Okay, Sierra-44, let us know when the generals get their heads out of their asses. Guys, it’s just going to be us this time.>
<Well, that’s a surprise,> Katō said. It would have been difficult for him to put any more sarcasm into his voice.
<Don’t forget about Kuroguma!> Kuroguma-1 chimed in.
<Move your ass, then!> Hijū laughed.
<And we got a news helo coming in,> Sakai said.
Hijū could see them approaching from the northwest. <No rude gestures this time. That means you, Katō.>
<Okay, okay,> Katō replied.
<Nine thousand,> Sakai said.
Hunkered behind a shield tower, Hijū looked over at Inoue in Hayabusa-6. The seventeen-year-old pilot always got the jitters in the moments just before a battle, and today was no exception. <Hey, Inoue-kun, you okay?>
<Hai,> Inoue replied.
Hijū switched to a private channel. <You think you’re going to get sick?>
<Already did,> Inoue said. <I’m okay, Hijū.>
Hijū felt sorry for him—it was not uncommon for a pilot, even a veteran pilot, to get sick in their titan, but it was always horribly embarrassing. Typically, a pilot who had vomited in their cockpit would blame it on ‘bad sashimi.’ Hijū had never had to use the ‘bad sashimi’ excuse, although she had ‘spilled her coffee’ once, long ago, during her very first battle. <Ganbare yo, bōya.>
She could see the Eschatos on her own sensors now, dozens of them, mostly Hoplites, with some Matadors and Vikings, the closest at about seven thousand meters. One of the Viking-types looked odd—whereas most were armed with an axe and shield, this one carried a battle rifle instead, and its paint scheme was yellow and black. Hijū flagged it. <Hey, guys, look who decided to pay us a visit!>
<Yellowjacket,> Katō said. <Want us to target him first?>
Hijū considered it for a moment. The Yellowjacket of Darwin was an elite Eschatos, like the White Demon of Khabarovsk or the Wolf of Calabarzon. He would be difficult to take down, but not impossible… <No, target the other Hoplites and Matadors first. Katō, you take those to Yellowjacket’s right. Sakai, you got the ones to his left. But once Yellowjacket crosses three thousand meters, both of you switch to him, and stay on him until I say otherwise.>
<Hai,> Katō and Sakai replied. Then Sakai added: <Six thousand.>
<This is Kuroguma-5. Hayabusa, did you say Yellowjacket’s coming to the show?> This pilot’s voice had an edge to it. It sounded like hatred, bordering on rage.
<Yes, he is,> Hijū replied.
<Whoever takes that bastard out, the drinks will be on me,> Kuroguma-5 said.
There was no need to ask why Kuroguma-5 would make that offer. Yellowjacket had caused more than a few Rikujō Jieitai pilots to move on. <You better have saved your paychecks, Kuroguma-5. I don’t like the cheap stuff.>
<He’s good for it,> one of the other Kuroguma pilots replied.
<Never doubted it for a second,> Hijū said.
As the Eschatos closed in, Hijū tried to count how many she could see, and failed. At least sixty of them, one an elite, and we are six. She smiled and shook her head. How typical. As the Eschatos approached four thousand meters, Hijū called out, <Hayabusa engaging the enemy at Kazusaokitsu! Weapons are free, fire at will!>
Sakai opened fire first, and took the head off of a Hoplite from a little over four kilometers away. The body of the Eschatos yawed to the right, and plunged into the ocean. Katō fired his first shot a second later, with similar results, but the Eschatos began evasive maneuvers. It would be harder to hit them now, but Hijū knew that Sakai and Katō both would switch their point of aim to the center of the Eschatos’ chests.
The Eschatos returned fire, but they were too far away for their energy beams to effectively target anything. Still, it was very difficult to resist the urge to cower behind the shield tower, even for a veteran pilot with a shikona like Hijū.
She glanced over at Inoue, who was completely behind his shield tower, holding his rifle around the side. Hijū was reminded of Seki during the simulation she had ran with him two days ago. No time to think about that now! Focus!
Hijū watched as Sakai and Katō alternated their shots, working like clockwork, taking out a dozen before the Eschatos were within Hijū’s range. <Now, Inoue!> Hijū’s 60mm rifle could not be expected to take down an Eschatos in a single shot like the big 105mms, but it fired faster, and had more ammunition. Sakamoto and Kokawa opened fire, too, and after taking a second to steady himself, so did Inoue.
The Eschatos’ aim was getting better and better—Hijū’s shield tower was starting to take some hits, and patches of the earth to either side were melting to glass from the bolts of pure energy.
She could see that Yellowjacket had slowed, letting the AI-controlled Eschatos go ahead of him, but as he crossed the four-thousand-meter line, Sakai and Katō immediately switched to target him, and one of them—Hijū couldn’t tell who—scored a hit, clipping Yellowjacket’s knee. But that was not nearly enough to disable the elite machine.
While they chased Yellowjacket, Hijū kept her attention on the rest of the advancing Eschatos. Her earlier count was an underestimate: they had destroyed at least twenty-five so far, and there were at least fifty remaining. And they were getting close. Too close. Targeting the closest cluster of Eschatos, Hijū called for fire support. <Sierra-44, fire on my targets!>
The soldier manning the radios at Sierra-44 sounded genuinely apologetic. <We’re sorry, Hayabusa, but we haven’t been given—>
This was not the response Hijū needed. <Just fire, damn you! I’ll take the heat!>
There was silence from Sierra-44 for what seemed like days. <Sierra-44, commencing fire support.>
Yes! Hijū thought. <When the missiles hit, we pull back and regroup with Kuroguma!>
<Hayabusa-1, this is Shikijo-72,> Suda-nisa’s voice came across the network, nice and calm and relaxed, <Move west to Ubara. There’s reports of an elite—>
<Urusai, kono bakayarō!> Hijū shouted at him, and then the missiles from Sierra-44 screamed by overhead. <Pull back! Go, go, go!>
The moment Sakamoto stepped away from his shield tower, he was hit, the energy blast from a Hoplite hitting him almost squarely in the back of his titan’s neck. His titan stumbled, and staggered backwards, and fell leaning up against the shield tower.
<Nii!> Kokawa yelled. <Hijū! Sakamoto’s hit!>
<Cover Sakamoto!> Hijū ordered. The missiles from Sierra-44 exploded out over the ocean, wiping out at least two dozen Eschatos, but there still seemed like there was forty or fifty left. <Shikijo-72, Hayabusa-2 is down! I repeat, we have an Atlas down!>
For once, Suda-nisa wasn’t a jerk. <Confirmed. We’re sending a SAR team in.>
<This is Kuroguma-1, we’re almost in range!>
<It looks like we’ll be buying for you guys!> Hijū said, <Sakamoto, respond! Sakamoto, talk to us, please!>
Hijū saw Yellowjacket closing in on Kokawa, who had moved up to the shield tower next to Sakamoto’s inert titan. No, you don’t! She took off at a dash towards them, leaving the security of her shield tower behind. <Focus all fire on Yellowjacket!>
Yellowjacket saw her approach, and as one, the Eschatos focused their fire on Hijū. As energy bolts scorched the air around her, she ran, rifle up, firing nonstop bursts of 60mm discarding-sabot rounds at Yellowjacket. The elite Eschatos ducked and weaved away from the shots, seemingly unstoppable—
And then, Yellowjacket was peppered with hits, coming from inland. Four kilometers away, the eight Kuroguma titans charged into the fray. <Kisama!> one of them shouted—
Hijū was hit, her titan’s right arm melted off at the elbow. Her rifle fell to the ground, along with her titan’s forearm. She staggered, momentarily disoriented as everyone began shouting at once—
Inoue stepped in front of her, firing wildly, but then he, too was hit, square in the chest—
Yellowjacket collapsed to the ground, its flight engines crippled, but it was still able to fight. It raised its rifle, and fired a blast off that passed a mere meter above Hijū’s head—
Sakamoto’s titan raised its rifle—he was still alive. Firing a long burst at full automatic, he shredded Yellowjacket’s chest armor—
Inoue knocked Hijū down, and she grabbed his rifle and began firing left-handed. Shooting left-handed, her aim was terrible—
Yellowjacket fired again, and hit Hijū and Inoue both, melting the armor off of Hijū’s chest and side and Inoue’s arm—
Kuroguma-5, charging full-speed, slammed into Yellowjacket—
Inoue grabbed Hijū’s arm, then tossed it aside and picked up her rifle, and began firing into trio of Viking-types that were approaching from the sea—
Hijū turned her rifle on the Vikings just as one fell under Inoue’s marksmanship and a second one landed his axe into Inoue’s leg, embedding it in his titan’s knee. A five-round burst into the Viking at point-blank range ended its threat, and then Hijū turned to the third one, but it was already getting knocked back by shots from the Kuroguma titans. It collapsed to the ground, and then—
It was quiet.
There were no Eschatos left. None that were still active, anyways. Burning and collapsed wrecks of destroyed Eschatos were scattered about the shallow waters off the beach.
<Is everyone okay?> Sakai asked.
<I think so,> Kokawa said.
<Sakamoto?> Hijū asked.
<I’m okay,> Sakamoto replied. <I think I blacked out for a second there.>
<More than a second!> Kokawa said.
<Inoue? You still with us?> Hijū asked.
<Yeah, I’m fine,> Inoue said. <My baby’s wrecked, though.>
Hijū had to chuckle about that.
<It’s just a machine,> Kuroguma-1 said. <It can be rebuilt.>
<True,> Sakamoto said.
<What about Yellowjacket?> Hijū asked.
Yellowjacket’s Eschatos was a shredded, crumpled heap. The head, where the cockpit had been located, was caved in, crushed by Kuroguma-5’s fists. Kuroguma-5 stood over the wreckage of the elite Eschatos, holding his rifle against his hip. His voice was soft; he was not addressing anyone in this world. <I did it, Namie. I finally did it. I got him. I got him, Namie.>
Hijū switched to a private channel to ask Kuroguma-1: <This Namie… Was that…his girlfriend?>
<Kinda, yeah,> Kuroguma-1 replied. <It was right after I took command of this outfit. She was older, and they never dated or anything, but he was in love, and she treated him special, too. Then that bastard killed her at Tōgane last year. Maybe if they hadn’t been pilots…you know. At least she’s avenged now.>
Hijū nodded. <It’s a pity revenge doesn’t heal the pain.>