Okay, I’ll come clean. I was teasing Spider-Sveta with the whole ‘yandere’ thing. Just a bit.
I felt like I owed her some payback. Granted, everything she’d done in the past few days had been for my own benefit, but she was especially brazen in how she went about it. Sveta was charming, but she also tended to piss people off without realizing she was doing it. It was a small downside to her forceful personality.
Well, I can’t complain too much; the net effect on me was positive. I’d always been so skittish about revealing my quirks to anyone except those I trusted most… namely, Sabina and Monica. But now, I felt like I was blossoming. Sveta was the primary impetus for that, although my recent conversations with Miette also helped. Everyone else in Maid Squadron also encouraged me in their own small ways, and they were starting to feel like one big, happy surrogate family.
So when Lydia, fire in her eyes and heart, proudly proclaimed she’d be willing to die for our found family, something clicked into place. For almost our entire adult lives, Sabina and I threw ourselves headlong into battle, seeking a glorious end. Our motivation was nothing more than revenge for the death of our dearest mother. But now I had a new family, a messy and dysfunctional one composed of maids, pilots, AIs and mad scientists… and I would gladly die for them too.
Not that I wanted to. No, for the first time in nearly twenty years, I didn’t want to die. I wanted to LIVE.
And I’d happily go full yandere mode to make that dream come true. I had to protect those closest to me, as Sabina had protected me time and again. Even if I had to cut down every Sarcophage in the solar system… no, every Sarcophage in the GALAXY, I would protect them. I would dance through the stars, an untouchable whirlwind of blades and positrons and alien viscera. I would become a blood angel of righteous fury and cut a path of peace.
I don’t know if that’s what it means to be a yandere, but that was the answer I found. And with a warm feeling in my heart, I charged into battle.
As we expected, Moby began the battle by shooting at our cruisers using the gravity railguns from her six Defiled. Sveta’s impromptu defensive plan worked a treat, and the Strike Fins warped space around our carriers to send the kinetic projectiles wildly off course. We crossed into the Belphegor’s defensive gravity barrier, Frames vibrating all the while, and were instantly confronted by two Beelzebubs between us and the Defiled, plus a surging mob of Frame-class creatures.
Lydia directed Maid Squadron and our accompanying escort to begin suppressive fire. “Stay in formation. I’ll take out the Beelzebub at 000 mark 312. Sabina and Genevi, handle the one at 002 mark 021.”
Both of us confirmed her orders. Lydia had been training the entirety of Maid Squadron on her specialized techniques for fighting Beelzebubs, and she was a peerless expert. Now we were going to put that simulation training into practice. I throttled up, my sister at my left, ready for my first real taste of combat in my new X-23.
“My, you’re eager.” Spider-Sveta said as she cleared the path in front of me with fire from her Strike Fins.
“I was grounded last time, remember?” I reminded her while opening up with all four of my mech’s hardpoint-mounted quad cannons. “And just being out here on the battlefield, with my sister and you by my side… it feels RIGHT.”
“It does. It really does.” Sveta replied.
The Beelzebub darted towards us, blade-legs trying to slice us apart, but I easily dodged through them. It seemed more focused on me than Sabina for some reason, so I blasted it right in the face to provoke it further while my sister looped around behind. With the superior acceleration and inertial dampeners on my X-23, I was untouchable. I cackled in delight as I weaved through the storm of blades; having all this power at my fingertips was a heady rush.
“Genevi, don’t get showy,” Sveta cautioned me.
“Aww, but it’s so much fun!” I replied with a tiny pout. I obliged her warning, however, streamlining and simplifying my movements. The Beelzebub whipped around wildly trying to catch me, it’s big spider-body twisting like an insectile exotic dancer.
My sister opened a comm channel. “Oy, Genevi. Can you try to hold this thing still? All your fancy maneuvering is making it thrash around a lot, and I’m having trouble latching onto the weak spot.”
“Roger that.” I blasted backwards from the Beelzebub a bit and held my position, luring it into a straight-line charge. Sveta arrayed a sun-formation of Strike Fins in front of us, raising an impromptu gravity shield, and I added the output of the X-23’s drive fins to the mix. The Beelzebub slammed into the shield head-first, tentacles desperately searching for some purchase but being deflected. The critter then bellowed a roar of broad-spectrum electromagnetic radiation and pushed against the shield, its own wings flashing sanguine as it built power. One of the Strike Fins in the shield shorted out and exploded… then a second… then a third…
“SABINA!” I shouted, “Hurry up and kill this thing! We can’t hold out much longer!” A blinking red error message informed me of transmission failure; the radio signal bounced off our own gravity shield. I grit my teeth and poured all the power I could into the X-23’s drive fins to shore up the shield.
Just then, there was a bright flash. When it faded, the Beelzebub was no longer moving… and was missing its head. Sabina floated there triumphantly, hands on her hips. That is to say, she was putting her giant robot’s hands on her giant robot’s hips. It was a garish bit of showboating, and I groaned.
“Took you long enough,” I said to Sabina once the comms cleared.
“Took BOTH of you long enough.” Lydia scolded, arriving beside us. “I thought I’d have to come over here and take out the second Beelzebub myself.”
I looked over to the Beelzebub Lydia had been attacking, only to find scraps of flesh and chitin floating in a rapidly expanding cloud of debris. Damn.
“Still, not bad for your first time fighting one solo.” Lydia flashed us a thumbs-up, and we both grinned.
With the Beelzebubs out of the way, she gave the order for everyone to move in. Next target: the Defiled cruisers, which were still pounding our carriers with kinetic projectiles.
Just as we blew up our first Defiled, I saw something blurry whiz towards me at incredible speed. I twisted my mech to the left, just barely managing to dodge it.
“The Defiled!” Sveta shouted, bringing up an image of one of the five remaining Sarcophage cruisers. “They’re targeting US now!”
The Defiled were apparently not bothering going after our ships anymore, instead focusing their kinetic artillery fire on us attacking Gravity Frames.
“They’ve improved their firing time to every fifteen seconds,” Sveta reported, “so with five cruisers remaining…”
“One shot every three seconds.” I said, twisting to avoid another one. The X-23s were just barely maneuverable enough to dodge the shots, but the Velocipedes were sitting ducks. Those kinetic projectiles came FAST.
“All Velocipedes, retreat to waypoint beta and lay down suppressive fire! Maid Squadron, each one of you take a cruiser!” My tactical display received a ping from Kometka and updated to indicate which Defiled I’d be responsible for destroying. “We need to take them all out quickly before we lose any Velocipedes!”
Each X-23 had the firepower of an entire squadron, so that plan made sense. I licked my lips and throttled up towards my designated Defiled, with fire from Sveta-controlled Strike Fins clearing a path through the swarm. The cruiser began targeting us with spinefire, and I responded with quad-cannons. It was like two miniguns having a martial arts duel… complete bedlam.
I didn’t need to go up to the Defiled and kick it or anything so gauche; I just needed to clear enough of a path through the spinefire for Sveta to hit the thing with an accelerated Strike Fin. To that end I tried to aim a few shots at the spiked tentacles wrapped around the cruiser, the source of the spinefire. None of those shots hit their mark.
“Damn it!” I groaned. “I’m having a hard time getting through…” Even with the X-23’s firepower, the amount of spinefire coming from the cruiser was insane. Just then, a volley of positron shots whistled past me from behind and slammed into the cruiser.
“The Velocipedes!” Sveta cried out. A quick scan of the display revealed our backup squadron had retreated to their waypoint just inside Moby’s gravity field and were now laying down suppressive fire, supporting us from afar. That extra boost was EXACTLY what I needed. I turned my attention back to the cruiser and spotted an opening.
I aimed the shoulder cannons and fired, then fired, then fired again. Three of the cruiser’s tentacles seared off, and its spinefire dropped precipitously. Sveta took advantage of the lull and swooped in with two Strike Fins, smashing the cruiser in half with the blinding light of unleashed kinetic energy.
“YEAH!” I cried out, clenching my fist in victory. “That’s what you GET, you MONSTERS! WE’LL CRUSH EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!”
“Sheesh. Settle down with the yandere mode, Genevi.” Sveta lectured me, but she was smiling too.
I quickly scanned the display and let out a whoop when I realized I was the first of Maid Squadron to destroy my assigned cruiser. Lydia’s went up right after, followed by Miette’s. Three down, two to go! This battle was going extremely well so far.
Suddenly, my vision was filled by something massive, wriggling and writhing. “What the…”
“THE BELPHEGOR!” Sveta shrieked in a panic. “BACK OFF, GENEVI!”
I shifted into full reverse as the huge tentacle-scorpion closed in with frightening speed. Why was that thing coming directly for ME?! I thought Lydia was the primary target! I shifted my mech up to full throttle, fleeing the creature as fast as I could. No way I was getting into fisticuffs with a kilometers-long monster without the rest of the Maid Squadron to back me up.
I heard a broken transmission come through, sounding a lot like Lydia’s voice. “G…vi! R…..yp….fi…..gra….”
I looked at Sveta, and she shook her head. With that monstrosity so close, even the short-range comms fizzled out. She brought all her remaining Strike Fins between us and the Belphegor, simultaneously pouring positron fire into the monster and establishing another gravity shield. Every positron shot bounced off its impenetrable hide, and suppressive fire from my allies had the same effect. I shuddered as I looked at the grotesque mass of limbs and tentacles bearing down on me; then I took a deep breath and centered myself while throttling up to back away from the horror. If I had one advantage, it’s that my acceleration was superior and I could put some distance between…
Suddenly, the whole cockpit went dark and started shaking violently. There was a loud hissing sound, followed by a brief ringing in my ears, then complete silence. I exhaled raggedly, as if someone had slammed me in the chest.
“Sveta?” I tried to say, but no sound came out. I couldn’t breathe, either. Did something happen to the atmosphere?
I looked down, and my eyes widened in horror. My Gravity Frame had been cut in half, right through the cockpit. And my body had been cut in half as well.
I watched my lower torso and legs drifted away from me, blinking in detached amazement. My blood spilled into the hard vacuum of space and boiled away instantly. I felt pressure on my eyeballs, but strangely there was no pain.
As darkness closed in, I mouthed a single word.