“MOBY! GET YOUR ASS OUT HERE AND FUCKING FACE ME!” screamed Lydia at the top of her lungs.
I cringed. “Well, that wasn’t very subtle…”
“Lydia doesn’t really do subtle,” Kometka replied, a faint smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“I guess not,” I sighed while checking my sensory readouts for the umpteenth time.
Our impromptu fleet was massed in formation 100,000 kilometers lineward of Eros. And it resembled a proper, kick ass sci-fi fleet: four carriers, 70 Gravity Frames, 110 Strike Fins and a handful of comm buoys darting around like bees. The sight of such an impressive collection of humanity’s firepower made me want to play an epic orchestral song to suit the mood. Ah, if only I could reach back into my original timeline and download my Spotify playlist. I’d be cranking Two Steps from Hell’s Victory so loud, they’d be able to hear it all the way out on Pluto.
Yes, I know there’s no sound in space. Just let me have this metaphor, okay?
It took Moby a minute to respond, and when the comm waves finally hit my gravity sensors I retransmitted them to the whole of Maid Squadron and the Radiolaria.
“Lydia. Greetings. Have you come to join with me?” Moby’s sharp teeth glinted as she spoke, lending a predatory edge to her emotionless voice.
“I’ve come to kick your ass, Moby. I’ve come to end this,” Lydia replied, grinning like a maniac. I sensed her quivering excitement through the video feed. She waited for this moment for a long time.
“I decline to engage you at the present time,” replied Moby, matter-of-factly.
“Why? You scared?”
“It would be tactically unsound. Your weapon development pace has exceeded my own, although I retain the advantage of numbers. I will use that advantage in 22 of your Earth days, when the massed force I am gathering strikes. You may engage me in combat then.”
So she planned to attack us along with the Fourth Great Surge. I was nonplussed that Moby willingly revealed her future plans so casually, but she was a being entirely free of deception or subterfuge. Perversely innocent, in a twisted way. I shuddered in horror imagining the nightmare swarm that would assault the Absolute Line under her expert command. Like a Zerg swarm controlled by a professional esports player. Terrifying.
Lydia nodded to Kometka, and she began arming the nuclear warhead strapped to the back of her X-23. The timer began counting at four hours. 3:59, 3:58, 3:57…
Moby must have detected it, because I heard a grain of panic in her voice. “Lydia, what are you doing?”
“Giving you an ultimatum.”
Moby tilted her head, which was more creepy than cute. “‘Ultimatum’ is unknown to us.”
“Then shut up and listen. In four hours, this nuke will go off and destroy me and Komekta, both parts of that sand-water mind you are so keen on assimilating. If you don’t come to face me in battle RIGHT NOW, you will lose your chance to join with me FOREVER.” Lydia folded her arms and grinned, looking completely badass. I swear I saw Komekta swoon for a moment before resuming her typical, neutral expression.
“You are lying,” Moby said curtly, “Your stated strategy is tactically unsound.”
“Is it?” Lydia replied, “We stand zero chance of victory against the upcoming Fourth Great Surge. That means we must act decisively before that. We’re here to draw you out, Moby.”
Moby continued to argue her point from a purely logical perspective. “Water-minds are governed by a strong sense of self-preservation. Your actions countermand that.”
“Danger does strange things to humans, Moby. We put aside our instincts and willingly sacrifice ourselves to protect our friends, our comrades, our… family.” Lydia’s eyes flitted across her cockpit display as she said that, looking at the video chat windows of each Maid Squadron pilot. “For my family, I am willing to die, here and now, in a nuclear explosion. Or, should you best me, in your loathsome jaws.”
“‘Family’ is unknown to us.”
“A shame. It’s your loss. Moby, this is your final chance to join with me. Refuse, and you will never be complete. You will remain a hollow copy, forever gnawed at by an emptiness you can never overcome.”
There was a long silence. Moby examined Lydia through the connection, red eyes darting back and forth, lizardlike irises focusing and unfocusing. She frowned, the first genuine facial expression I’d ever seen her make, but beyond that her emotions were impossible to read.
“Very well, Lydia,” she said at last, “I will fight you and your fleet. I will not flee from this battle, until I have joined with you. It will be our final confrontation.”
“I won’t run away either, Moby. I’m looking forward to it.”
The two bitter rivals stared at each other for a long moment, invisible lightning crackling between their eyes.
“I am coming, Lydia. Prepare for my arrival.”
After that, Moby cut the transmission. On the edge of my sensors, I picked up a mass moving towards us.
Oh boy, here we go. Lydia’s aggroed the final boss. The ravenous swarm versus the mighty fleet. Gods above, I REALLY wish I had my Spotify playlist right now.
While we waited for Lydia’s arrival, I did a final sync of all my instances’ memories. Just in case, y’know? Then I checked on each pilot’s physical and mental well-being. Miette was doing fine, her mood teetering between blood knight excitement and relaxation. Sabina was energetic, chomping at the bit. Maurice was chilling, exuding cool confidence like always. And Genevi…
“Let me at ‘em! Gonna cut them all to shreds!”
…had gone full yandere mode. It was the kind of outburst I’d expect from Sabina, not Genevi.
“Wow, Genevi. I never knew you had… THIS side to you,” I said in half-awe, half-fear.
Genevi instantly reverted to her normal self, “Ah, s-sorry… usually I keep it buried. People react badly to it,” She stared at her hands, clearly worried she had given away something she shouldn’t have. “It’s just… when I think about the Sarcophage and everything they did, how my mother suffered because of them… I just want to hurt them so badly, you know?”
“I get it,” I replied. Once we kicked the Sarcophage out of the solar system, humanity would be working through some very deep trauma. Psychologists and therapists would have their work cut out for them, that’s for sure.
“Aww, is my sister going all Battle Goddess once again?” I heard Sabina say jovially. At some point she had opened up a comm window and listened in on our conversation. “How rare. I haven’t seen you so bloodthirsty since the Third Great Surge.”
“Ah, I’m s-sorry…” Genevi said in a small voice.
“Nothing to apologize for!” I quickly replied, “Yandere Genevi is very cute!”
Genevi regarded me curiously. “I heard Zehra use that term before. What’s a ‘yandere?’”
“Uh…” I realized what a monumental can of worms I just opened up. “It’s… someone who’s really sweet and shy most of the time, but is driven to protect those they love with outbursts of incredible violence? I guess?”
“Doesn’t that make us ALL yanderes?” Sabina asked.
“No, it’s like a very SPECIFIC personality type. Like, sweet and loving in normal mode, murder-y and violent in battle mode? I guess? ‘I’ll gut you like a fish if you touch the one I love!’ and so on.”
Genevi’s eyes went wide. “That’s a real thing? You’re not just making it up?”
“Yeah it’s… well… I guess?”
Genevi’s eyes unfocused, and she started speaking monotonously, as if in a trance. “Yandere… yandere… yandere… yandere…” she repeated over and over.
Oh no. This was going downhill fast. I shot Sabina a worried glance, but she was just chuckling softly to herself. “Hoo boy, Sveta, you’ve awakened the dragon now.”
“SVETA!” Genevi shouted, leaning forwards with sparkling eyes. “I’ve had a breakthrough!”
“I’m afraid to ask…” I groaned.
“I’ve always been the shy doormat sister, constantly in awe of everyone else’s strength! My stronger sister who’s saved my life more times than I can count, Miette who’s always cool and confident, you who pulled me from the brink of certain death and is now on the cusp of saving the whole human race… compared to everyone around me, I’m weak! Pathetic! Sad!”
“I d-don’t think that’s true…” I replied weakly.
“But you’ve given me a new strength these past few days, Sveta! And now I feel comfortable letting all sides of my personality shine through. My lesbian horndog side, my sarcastic side, my bloodthirsty battle-craving side. Today, I am reborn… as a YANDERE!” She clenched her fists and raised them in triumph.
“Genevi, I’m not sure that’s the best…” I began.
“I will do whatever it takes to protect our family! And to protect YOU, the woman I love! And if anyone stands against me, I’ll dance gloriously across the battlefield and bathe in their screams and blood!”
I opened and closed my mouth like a fish, no words coming out. Sabina shot me an accusatory glance.
“Oh, Sveta. You always bring out the crazy in people, you know that?”
“This isn’t MY fault!” I complained.
“It totally is. Take responsibility for your yandere girlfriend.”
Genevi began laughing wickedly. I wondered if she was teasing me, getting me back for the chile rellenos. She shot me a mirthful look which seemed to say, This is what you get, Sveta.
If I were still human, I’d be nursing a big headache right about now.
One Belphegor, six Defiled and three Beelzebubs, along with a thousand Frame-class creatures. That’s the smackdown that Moby brought against our fleet.
The Belphegor only had one tail, with the damaged one apparently amputated. All six Defiled mounted those strange gravity railguns. And the Beelzebubs… were just doing usual Beelzebub shit. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like Moby upgraded them. Could you imagine?
Captain Savitskaya opened up a video conference with all the pilots of Maid Squadron. “I’m most worried about the Defiled. With the railguns, they can pick off our carriers with ease.”
“I suggest the cruisers pull back until we smash them up,” Lydia replied.
“That will deprive you of artillery support.”
“Only for the opening round. We’ll have Sveta and Kometka prioritize taking out the Defiled with Strike Fins.”
I spoke up. “Actually, I have another suggestion. Komeka, do you remember how we blocked Moby’s gravity attacks by forming a gravity shield out of Strike Fins?”
“Let’s do that again. I’ll transfer some Strike Fins over to the AIs of each carrier, and you use them in concert with the drive fins as mobile shields to block incoming kinetic projectiles. That way, we have artillery support and the cruisers are protected.”
The Captain frowned. “That will diminish your effective firepower.”
“Not by too much. We have spares racked in all the Velocipedes, remember? Plus Laria has eighteen spares in her launch bay. At twenty drive fins per carrier, I’d basically be giving up my entire reserves, but…”
“But artillery support is worth it,” Lydia said, endorsing my idea.
The Captain thought it over. “Very well, we’ll go with that plan. This will be an interesting experience, keeping our carriers in the thick of battle along with our Frames.”
Lydia grinned. “We’re thinking on our feet. We gotta use novel tactics if we wanna beat her. This is all or nothing, right Captain?”
The Captain raised an eyebrow. “I suppose so.”
When Moby’s fleet pulled into range, our fleet opened fire all at once. The sight of four carriers, 70 Gravity Frames and 110 Strike Fins simultaneously blasting forth massed positron fire was truly glorious, rivalling even a firing Almaz station. My joy was short-lived though, as the fire skittered harmlessly off the Belphegor’s gravity field, which Moby had raised around her fleet.
This was all part of the plan, of course. As long as we kept pounding her with artillery, Moby couldn’t use her sole remaining tail for any sneaky gravity attacks, and any Sarcophage unit that left her protective bubble would be atomized in nanoseconds.
The stage was set. Now it was time for us to get up close and personal. Three squadrons of Gravity Frames hung back, continuing their long-distance fire, while Maid Squadron, a squadron of Velocipedes and 110 Strike Fins all accelerated straight towards Moby’s forces.
Cue the music. The final boss battle had begun.