IT, the Mother, spread her wings wide in ecstasy, instinctually fanning the flames before her. IT knew that such an event happened once every few millenia, and in the ways that Karnakians just knew about soullight or Dorarizin just knew their family’s scent or Jornissians just knew about libertarianism or Humans just knew where the vents were in every building, IT knew that the fire had to rise.
Of course not a single terror-beast decided to tell the other sapients that were alternating between fear, terror, and grim determination.
All save for one.
The pilot of UNIT ZERO-ONE was feeling a feel that had very rarely, if ever been feeled; some as-of-yet undescribed feeling that mixed “being in the right place at the right time” with “dying in glory” and a side of “damnit, the gypsy was right, this is how I go” plus “my ancestors smile upon me imperial” with just a dash of “my last meal was cheerios. Really?!”
“Breaking the seals; all weapons are go-” Lt.Heinz aka. CHICKPEA’s fingers danced over consoles and switches, rapidly preparing his not-a-mecha for combat. Somewhere in the back of his mind he realized he joined an elite and unfortunate group of soldiers who battle-tested new equipment for the first time; he wondered how many of them never made it to the second engagement.
“CHANCLA has dropped all payloads; CHICKPEA you’ll have backup in 10 minutes.”
“-go for thrust, weapons hot. ATC can’t fire SWARM – get these stupid fucks out of the air-”
“Working on it CHICKPEA. You are go in the AO-”
“CASINO, HUMMUS?” Lt.Heinz asked as his Automatic Targeting Computer screamed at him, multiple overlapping warning signals about “danger close” this and “civilians” that being hastily ignored.
“Bunkering in first – DEALER’s coordinating, but systems are coming online. Don’t want to play our hand lest the locals want in on our table – you’re on your own until re-enforcements break atmo.”
CHICKPEA growled a response, his triple-linked GAU-18 weapons system rapidly spinning to life. UNIT ZERO-ONE, officially known as the Boston-General-Electric-Dynamics-Hasbro Multi-Terrain Mobile Suppressant System Production Set Model 01 with optional matching cell phone charm attachment was an extremely niche system meant for a battlefield where at almost every metric known to man, mankind fell short. It had no real close-quarters defense systems; it could deploy smoke and chaff, but other than physically moving had no way to clear enemy soldiers who were a little too close. The pilot sat behind almost 2 meters of exotic composite armor, mixing in metallurgy, ceramics and plastics in a way that before the uplift would have remained out of reach for centuries, if not millenia.
The official redacted specs said even that would only buy the pilot a minute or two of time before a combat-suited xenos would just burrow – or shoot, or rip or mine – it’s way through.
UNIT ZERO ONE had no esoteric weapons systems, no planet-crackers, no secret dark-matter hyperdrive to explode in a fit of spite. It was an insulated metal coffin, dotted with microscopic cameras, sensors and speakers, with a couple welded-on hives of sensor/shield drones to delay the inevitable; hell, if you cut the wireless power the damn thing basically had enough energy to pop open the cockpit and shut down. Speaking of, the single pilot sat in his cockpit – if it could be generously described as such, for there was no emergency escape, no cushioning, no space for emergency kits or personal effects – there were even height and weight requirements to pilot the damn thing, and not an insignificant amount of pilots got stuck and had to be vasoline’d out. The pilot had access to only two weapons: A triple-rack of upgraded BM-21’s which he couldn’t use for danger-close reasons, and the main gun, which Lt.Heinz was currently pointing at the giant fuck-off hive-mother. It was his best, and only bet, because UNIT ZERO-ONE was built very much on the same philosophy of the (still in service) A-10 Warthog:
This is a really nice gun. LET’S BUILD A MACHINE AROUND IT.
However, the limitations of the A-10’s main gun are obvious; at 3,900RPM it would take only 18 seconds of sustained fire to empty it’s 70K round magazine. UNIT ZERO-ONE had an even more egregious handicap in that it’s magazine was only 50K rounds of Thermogenic Hardened DU 50mm shells, each GAU-18 spun at a blistering 6,500 RPM and at any given time two were firing at once while a third was cooled – which meant for a cool 3.8 seconds you could be an absolute badass.
Really, by almost any metric you lined humanity’s weapons up to, we fell short.
The only saving grace was a small, charged box that sat at the top of the Magazine drum, behind the pilot’s head, underneath the zero-point energy coolant device. It was no bigger than an iPhone XXXXL; the window of the machine was roughly the size of an 8 1/2’ x 11’ sheet of paper, and the machine itself not much larger than that. The mecha was wirelessly linked to La Chancla’s power source; this device had it’s own, separate dedicated link as well. The technology behind it wasn’t truly understood – at least, not well enough to manufacture on Mankind’s own – but it was a gift, and gifts are meant to be used.
Because, honestly. What kind of species would attempt to weaponize a quantum teleportation gate that small? The amount of energy it takes to move matter from point A to point B in just a handful of planck lengths is ridiculous, and there are much better ways – both economically and mechanically – to move things around. To keep a gate this small open for any amount of time would take at least half of a starship’s reactor output, and you’d have to keep that energy sustained for as long as you wanted that gate to remain open!
And so, La Chancla, a 5KM-long orbital drop barge, now devoid of her 5 mechs, spun up her reactors to full output. Within her 5km x 1km x .5km hold, 5 small gates – all gifts – crackled to life, and automated machines began preparations to funnel roughly 4.35 * 10^14 bullets through a gap in space and time, and directly into the enemy’s position.
– – – – – – – –
Persimmon tapped his ear as he waved to Wiggles, the Karnakian doing her damnest to help shepherd the terran livestock back to their cages. The Terror-beasts themselves were enough of a hassle to deal with, the lone brother-pairs sometimes flying into ship engines or bonking into skyscrapers when the wind tossed them about, but this current swarm was unbearable. Every few seconds he had to stop whatever he was doing to swipe more of these things off of his body, their inquisitive chitinous limbs grabbing at anything that wasn’t nailed down and dragging it along. He waved again, finally getting Wiggles’ attention, and very obviously jabbed his fingers near his ear. Within a few moments, an indicator popped up on his crowded vision:
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Do You Accept a Call from [Best_at_Tech]?] [Y/N]
[Poet of Stars]: [Direct Call] [Y]
[Best_at_Tech]: “[BY THE FIRST LIGHT THEY’RE EVERYWHERE-]”
Wiggles flinched at the volume coming from his friend, and with a thought turned her down.
[Poet of Stars]: “[We need to get off of this platform!]”
[Best_at_Tech]: “[YEAH, I KNOW. I’M trying to get to the warm-cuddles, but they’re more interested in saving their livestock! Not to mention these [avians] keep giving me the side-eye-]”
[Poet of Stars]: “[FOCUS. Ignore the livestock, grab the warm-cuddles – it doesn’t matter if you end up giving them minor injuries, remember your CQC training – Close, Quick & Cuddle-]”
[Best_at_Tech]: “[OK I don’t think you understand everything is fighting everything right now-]”
Persimmon thrummed deeply in frustration, his tail whip-cracking a few of the beasts off of his body. A moment later over the din of chaos and the low droning of the Human weapon he heard the rapport of energy-fire – and he hastily began spamming a call attempt to his other friend.
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 18
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 19
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 18 Rejected due to network load
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 20
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 19 Rejected due to network load
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Line 21
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Calling [Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her] – Call Connected
[Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her]: “[Where even are you I can’t see you and [Zngrer] is giving us orders to retreat back into the shuttlecraft-]”
[Sub.Sys.8.112][Direct Call]: [Conferencing Initiatied]
[Best_at_Tech]: “[-and they keep judging me like I’m the one who’s undeserving of-]”
[Poet of Stars]: “[Please, whatever Gods exist, not now! Wiggles, I need you to get the other warm-cuddles and move them to the shuttle-]”
[Best_at_Tech]: “[Shuttle?! I thought we were moving off this platform!?]”
[Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her]: “[Wait, there’s more warm-cuddles outside of the ship!? That’s why they keep trying to run out-]”
[Stole_yo_girl_and_dumped_her]: [Muted by User]
With another bat of his tail Persimmon slammed a few very determined Terror-beasts into a group of unmarked crates, hundreds of hard-light disks scattering about the landing-pad. A few happened to land activation-side up, their clamps gripping into the tarmac as they crackled to life; damaged and warped images of warm-cuddles in a default handling pose quickly getting mobbed by the ever-present horde. What few they could dislodge ended up being battered about by the mindless wind and the witless beasts.
[Best_at_Tech]: “[What is the PLAN, Swipressnssren? Or am I just going to keep dancing until the First Soul claims me?]”
[Poet of Stars]: “[We round up the warm-cuddles, we go to the ship – follow the sounds of the weaponsfire-]”
[Best_at_Tech]: “[You mean whatever that thing is shooting that was threatening us earlier?]”
[Poet of Stars]: “[No, the energy weap- GET OFF OF ME ALREADY-]”
Persimmon/Swipressnssren paused after a mighty upheaval, his body finally free of the beasts to allow him to think. The ever present, loud droning of the Human war-machine drew his attention away from the immediate danger in the few moments he had to himself. The weapon had not ceased to fire an impressive amount of ordinance for the past few minutes; indeed, it was single-handedly pushing back against the queen-Mother’s advance towards the flame. The creature would give an impressive flap of it’s wings, scatter anything loose about in a cacophony of wind and material as it surged forward, and then would be slowly pushed back by the force of the weapons system itself. It was human ingenuity versus a beast of legend, and if Persimmon had the chance and time to gather his thoughts, he would be impressed.
But turning his gaze forced his attention to something that turned his blood to ice; for there, crouched over and crying, sat little Juan Esteban, clutching Eggsmerelda for dear life. Somehow, in the confusion, he had been missed – Every time the Queen-Mother would flap he would cry out, being forcibly lifted just a few inches off the ground, the force of the wind making him tumble backwards a few feet each time… closer to the edge.
With grim determination Swipressnssren sprinted forward, angling his body down to gain as much traction as Jornissianly possible –
Juan cried out once more, rolling onto his back as terror-beasts picked at him, confused as to what he was but curious to see if he was flammable. With tiny fists and determined legs he beat them back, all the while crying in fear –
– “It’s going to be close,” Persimmon thought, as he literally snaked his way around debris, plowing through what he thought would yield and ignoring the damage to his body of what didn’t. A few dozen more yards and –
With a mighty gust of wind, possibly borne out of frustration, the Queen-Mother pushed as much as she could, the wave of air pressure rocking Persimmon’s own body. In mute horror he saw Juan Esteban lift and tumble, rolling from the flat surface of the landing-pad under the guard rails to the gritty service-pad. With a thought he reached down mid-sprint, pulling a hard-light disk from the ground and flinging it to the human child.
With luck, it would land near enough to him that it’s clamps would engage; he could grab it and live.
With luck, it would turn on and distract enough beasts to push him down against the mat to buy Persimmon more time.
With luck, it would do something, anything than what it ended up doing.
With absolutely no luck, the disk landed squarely against Juan Esteban’s arms, locking onto them, and providing the last bit of momentum to push him off of the edge. With shared visages of horror and sorrow their eyes met, until they met no more.
And Abuela woke up.