“Flight and Fight to the Atmosphere!”
“The captain sends his congratulations, Brigand.”
“As well as an order for me to give you a few new toys.”
“Free of charge, I am to give you the upgraded Fighter. The Fighter 2.0. This heavy champ has an extra twenty protection and one extra energy regeneration. Best of all—the energy cell is protected, so you won’t have to worry about it being shot.”
“The emergency backup has 40% more power. Not really much else—you have one shoulder slot because of the design flaw that wasn’t fixed ‘til model three. Unfortunately, we don’t have a model three. Anyway, don’t bother asking about customization—I made sure that it already was customized to your tastes. Black mecha. An interesting choice. Anyway, the inside has been perfectly replicated to be the same as your old mech.”
“Sweet. What about weapons?”
“For your left shoulder, I’ve installed the military repeater. It’s the best I’ve got right now. For your right hand, there’s the Crusader’s Shining Repeater, or just CSR. You won’t find anything better for a while. I heard about what happened, so I also made a modification—if it jams or overheats, it doubles as a blade. So you can cut at your enemies as well. If, for any reason, you need to discard it, there’s a rocket booster contained within that will launch it into a nearby foe. However, it leaves behind a hand. So you can still use your right hand when you eject the weapon itself.”
“And then there’s the last modification—your left hand has the dragon tooth gun. It’s the best I’ve got and it has the same functions as the CSR. So you’ll be able to use both hands when, if you ever need to, you have to eject the weapons.”
“Thanks. But unfortunately, I hear we’re currently out of range of those enemies.”
“Yea, well…just wait. I’m sure you’ll find something.”
Brigand leaves, briefly admiring his new mech. He keeps on walking, going until he finds Dooder. Another who is entering into the same university as Brigand. “Did you hear? Those enemy forces that we narrowly avoided are actually heading for Lore! At least, that’s what they say. It’s a UFO, so it’s impossible to tell if they are the same. But the rumors say they are the same. Out of all the places to go…”
“Interesting. It appears we’ll be busy at the university.”
“Nah, they’ll never puncture our defense grid. Oh, and look at this! The Kingident is making an announcement soon!”
Brigand turns the screen on, curious to learn of this announcement. The transmission had already begun, but he could guess what was said before. “…identified a large, unidentified flying object on a collision course with the planet.”
Brigand thinks to himself. I bet that UFO is where the things I encountered came from. It doesn’t matter, though. It is unfortunate, but Dooder’s right: they’ll never get past Lore’s defense grid. He had spaced out through another part of the message.
“"All your base are belong to us. You will not survive; make your time."” Brigand chuckles at that part.
Obviously, they have poor grammar. Someone needs to teach them Our Tongue! Again, he had spaced out on part of the message, but caught the most important part of all.
“Therefore, I have no choice but to declare war! I can assure every citizen that all our base do not belong to them! We shall survive make our time! Our military is the greatest force of mecha power in the galaxy. These aliens don’t stand a chance!”
The transmission continues, but Brigand loses interest. “Too bad that we won’t see that action.”
“Brigand, you should be glad! I mean, that kind of thing could affect our classes!”
“You really are insane, you know.”
Brigand walks towards the sleeping quarters and takes a night’s rest. And goes through several more boring days. “Still nothing, captain?”
“Well, we should arrive at Lore in approximately five days. We’re running on empty, so that’s the best we can do.”
“Anything new about the invaders?”
“Not yet, Brigand. I know you’re just dieing to fight them in your new toy, but we have yet to—”
An alarm blazes. Brigand knows what that means. “See you later, Brigand.”
Before the captain is done, Brigand is already suiting up in his mech. Final checks completed, he drops to a moon, where the enemies are waiting. New enemies await him, thirty showing up on radar. He reads the designations on the ten closest to him: Grunt. “Ten Grunts, eh? Interesting.”
While extremely similar to the Hunters, the Grunts have two major differences: the first is the fact that they use a Gatling gun. The second is that they have a free arm and can punch. Brigand fires a few shots from his Crusader to taunt them to come down to the surface. Ten more are Hunters V. 2. The Hunters2 have—in their left hand—a pistol. In addition, their protection has an extra ten. “Time to put this new mecha to the test,” Brigand mutters as those twenty descend. Joining them are ten Whelps, exactly the same as before.
He begins bombarding them as they land, hitting them with everything he’s got. The dragon teeth puncture defenses fairly quickly. The military repeater blasts away their remaining defenses. The crusader mows down any remaining defense. Within ten seconds, all the Whelps are destroyed, along with half the Hunters2 and Grunts. Ten left. They surround him and bombard him with rockets, Gatling guns, and plasma pistol shots. He merely ducks and rolls the mecha, watching as their shots take each other down. One grunt left and three hunters. Four total.
Brigand fires a round of his crusader, denting the Grunt. He fires his dragon tooth gun, allowing a dozen shots to embed themselves within. A blast from his military repeater later and the enemy is crippled. But not defeated. Brigand charges and slashes at the chest of the Grunt, tearing it to pieces. Three left. He blasts them with every ounce of his strength, managing to kill one and disable another. The remaining Hunter2 fires ten rockets and dozens of blasts. But Brigand dodges them all, countering by firing three clips from his military and crusader repeaters. Stunned, the Hunter2 can do nothing as Brigand mercilessly cuts it to shreds with the crusader.
“It’s perfect,” he mutters to himself. “I love it.” Switching the intercom on, he reports, “Targets eliminated. I am heading back.”
“Brigand! Get out of there! Now! There’s a huge, unidentified blip approaching you! It is…I don’t know WHAT it is, but it is big and it is nasty!”
“Sorry, but I’m gonna ignore your advice on this one—I’m still at 100% and my energy just finished recharging. They barely left a scratch before, so I’m going to take that thing out!”
Brigand switches the intercom off, much to the captain’s chagrin. “Brigand, you idiot,” he mutters, putting his hand on his forehead and shaking. “Can’t you see those stats? You’re outclassed.” The pilot steals a glance at the blip, terrified of the numbers appearing onscreen.
“H…He can’t beat THAT!”
“I know. But what can we do to stop him?”
Brigand had noticed the stats—100 protection, 50 energy, and regeneration of 5. Equal to his old mecha. And now, he is going to take it down. The mecha lands with a huge thud. Brigand can read its designation—Rifle Master. “Bring it!”
The rifle master fires from a triple barreled blaster. The speed is too much for Brigand to handle; instantly, his mecha drops to 80%. He smiles and unleashes his arsenal. The two exchange blows. Though the rifle master is a huge brute, it still is fast enough to throw off the aim of the dragon teeth, preventing them from hitting. The crusader and the military repeaters hit their marks, but barely seem to dent the thing. The rifle master, however, is doing much better. Brigand’s speed dodges the triple cannon. But the rifle master has just that—a rifle. That rifle is always hitting and is piercing Brigand’s armor.
60%. 40%. He continues to get worse. The counter-clockwise motion the two are in never ceases; the death spiral continues. Another shot. 20%. His systems get dangerously low. He takes desperate measures—he launches the crusader as a projectile, puncturing the rifle master. It seems stunned, but far from defeated. He takes advantage of this by launching his remaining two weapon’s full power at the rifle master. Again, his repeater fails to even dent the armor. But his dragon teeth cause damage. The rifle master regains movement and attacks again. Brigand dodges the triple barrel assault and grabs the disabled Hunter2 as a shield. At a stop, he has a clear shot. He fires his dragon teeth.
They puncture, but do not cause damage. He launches the rockets and pistol shots from the Hunter2, both not even causing a dent. The rifle master shoots his rifle. The Hunter2 is destroyed. Brigand is unnerved. He shoots a dozen dragon teeth. They all hit and make their mark. Yet the rifle master still stands. What did launching my crusader do that my teeth are not?
Then he sees it—the crusader had punctured a black box. Energy! That has to be it! I hit his energy tank! The crusader punctured all the way through the Rifle Master. My teeth are hitting and getting into the heart of the beast—but they do not go all the way. But what other attack can I do to get that? That’s it!
Brigand smiles. He charges full speed at the rifle master, shooting his dragon teeth as a distraction. Another hit. The emergency armor prevents the mech from being destroyed. 1%. His mech begins to shut down. The controls take every ounce of his strength to move. He charges forward and aims his dragon tooth gun for the energy box. It cuts through the flesh of the beast and continues through. It succeeds. The box is punctured and the rifle master shuts down.
But for how long? Brigand knows that it is only a matter of time before the unit fires again and he is finished. He pushes his hand up, using his adrenaline to pump raw strength through his arm, overcoming the sluggish control. The arm moves up, slicing through the head. Brigand’s left arm is aching. It can’t take the stress. The acids build up in his arm; his strength fails. He drops the control and the arm drops with him—slicing the rifle master in half in the process. He wins. Again.
Switching on the intercom, he asks, “Brigand reporting in. Surprised to see me alive? I’m waiting for transport.”
“Brigand, we’re coming. Just give us a minute.”
The intercom is switched off. The pilot asks, “So, how do you explain this?”
“That kid is good. Really good. When he transmits—in this case, to be picked up—he allows me to take a scan of his mech. I took a good look at it. He had 20% of his energy left. He had only ejected the crusader. He still has plenty of ammo. That is impressive. Sure, another hit and he’d be dead. But I don’t think I could do that good. Again.”
Warning lights blaze again. “Ten blips approaching at a rapid speed, captain!”
“Do I need to repeat myself? Ten enemies.”
“Prepare the defenses!”
“We’re not their target.”
“It appears so!”
“Tell the technician to prepare Brigand’s old mech! I need to borrow it!”
“Brigand, watch out! Enemy units are heading your way. We’re still five minutes away.”
“I thought the captain said, ‘just give us a minute’!”
“Yea, well, ‘second’ equals a minute or more, so ‘minute’ can equal up to an hour or more.”
“Oh, that’s just great! I may be crazy, I may be insane, but I’m not THAT crazy! I’m not insane enough to take on that many. What type are they?”
“Shadow Hounds. Estimations place them at a protection of up to fifty and energy of up to a hundred.”
“We cannot see their exact stats. That is the worst-case scenario.”
“So, how do you plan to get me out? If I were to eject now, they’d kill me.”
“The captain’s borrowing your old mech.”
“He’s doing WHAT?”
“Your old mech is all that is available. Remember, he’s one of the best pilots in the galaxy! He’ll be able to stall for enough time for us to retrieve you.”
“Alright. See you in five.”
A Hound appears. Brigand is able to get the reading—40 protection and eighty energy. Under normal circumstances, easy to beat. Brigand lies low, pretending to be dead. He shuts off all systems, even the Oxygen. He relies on what is already in the control—about a minute’s worth of Oxygen. The temperature takes a rapid fall. He is freezing, but invisible to any sensor. His black hull hides him well. The only way to find him would be a lucky sight on visual. The other nine hounds join in the search—they are there to destroy him.
He waits. Thirty seconds of Oxygen left. The units get dangerously close. Ten seconds left. Then, he spots, out of the corner of his eye, a Fighter Mech. Five seconds left. The Carbon Dioxide builds up and he can no longer breathe. A blast from the machine gun and he knows that their attention is focused on the new arrival. He turns on the Oxygen and takes in the air. He, however, keeps the heat off—the less systems on, the better.
The captain fights them all at once. With great skill, he outmaneuvers them, not allowing the circle to be formed. He keeps on firing, getting behind the hounds. He destroys one and disables two before they manage to spin around and see him—too late to realize that he had punched and kicked another, disabling it. Four down. They unleash a beam from their mouths. The captain is hit.
50%. The blows damaged him severely. He fires another burst to distract them, running a safe distance and avoiding their blows. He keeps on firing and they keep on missing. But then, he realized to his horror, that their blow had hit his power regeneration cell. 50%, but with 20% energy and depleting. He desperately charges at another and delivers a solid punch then rams it with his mecha’s head. Five down. Five left. Another wave of beams. 10%.
He showers them with bullets. A critical blow in one. Four left. He grabs one of the downed hounds and uses it as a shield. Throwing it, he tackles down another and pistol whips it. Three left. A hound bites his left arm, destroying it. He kicks it and pulverizes it with his pistol. Two left. They unleash their beam weapons. 2%. Energy depleted. The captain struggles with the controls and allows the backups to kick in. He throws the machine gun at one of the hounds, killing it. One left. Yet the captain is defeated. Time until his ship arrives: thirty seconds. Far too much. He is defeated.
Brigand sees this. He powers up his mecha, finding the controls still not responding. His energy backups are already nearly depleted. He launches himself forward. The hound expects him to launch his dragon tooth gun at it. But Brigand aims the gun at the ground and fires. It creates an earthquake. Brigand is thrust forward and the hound is caught off guard. He punches. The controls refuse to respond. He forces his right hand to move and delivers another punch to the hound, knocking it to the ground. Tired, exhausted, out of energy, and nearly defeated, Brigand leans his mech forward and allows it to land on top of the hound—crushing it. Zero left. Much to the captain’s surprise, he had been rescued by the man who he was supposed to be rescuing. They win.
The ship comes. They are both rescued. But they are far from safe. “Captain, I know you’re badly injured, but we’ve got an emergency! A hundred units are approaching us! And at least ten of them match the blip size of a rifle master!”
“So much for rescuing you.”
“Don’t you have ANY way of speeding up?”
“No. Like I said, we’re out of gas. The only reason we were able to run away—twice—and come and get you just now is because of the maneuvering thrusters. But they can’t increase our speed.”
“Don’t you have ANY thing? A hyper jump or something like that?”
“Yea, we can jump. But if we jump, we’d end up practically inside of Lore. As in, we’d crash land inside of the atmosphere.”
“Got a better idea?”
The pilot gulps. “Y-yes, captain?”
“O-okay!” he responds. Oh, great! I couldn’t maneuver through ASTEROIDS, and now they’re asking me to keep us from completely crashing into the planet? Oh, brother. I’m doomed.
They jump. The speed is enormous—they leave the enemy units behind. But once they jump, there’s no stopping until they reach the destination. And the speeds are not so pleasant. Everyone who is in a seat is glued to it, their eyes in the back of their heads. Everything capable of moving is thrown backwards, slamming into whatever wall greets them. But they arrive, five minutes later, at Lore. Or more accurately, in Lore. They arrive already partially in the atmosphere, their entry angle way off.
“I can’t do any better, captain! Don’t blame me if we crash; it’s out of my control!”
The ship spins. They are entering the atmosphere—in a death spin. The ship keeps on rolling, over and over again. From the university, the people can see the ship heading for the city park, just next to them. They all ask the Dean what’s going on.
“Oh, that? It’s just THE captain’s ship. The entry angle seems a little off, though they are scheduled to land here.”
A student there already asks, “You mean…HIS ship?”
“Yes, the same captain. Send a recommendation to clear the park for their arrival.”
The ship crashes. Half the people in the ship may need medical care, but there is one very important thing to note: They are home.