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Gratuitous Mecha Carnage 3: Dragoons

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MegaCorps were given the closest thing to absolute autonomy as possible. They were allowed to build massive machines of death and destruction without having to abide by any labor laws (even though the process was almost fully automated, humans are indispensable overseers) or pesky regulations. However, it is human nature to want what one can’t have. So when the Luxembourg Protocol ruled that the creation, possession or utilisation of kind of orbital weapon was outlawed due to the destruction of large parts of Southeast Asia (with Singapore being wiped out in its entirety) it was only a matter of time before one of the MegaCorps finally decided to see how far she could get with the creation of a new orbital cannon.

To be exact, Sabanci Space and Defence was a shell company without any official ties to the twelve MegaCorps, but despite the efforts Kilimanjaro Orbital Conglomerate put into ensuring that they could plausibly deny any involvement with Sabanci’s orbital cannon; no one would be dumb enough to believe that KOC was unaware of what was going on on the territory they let Sabanci ‘rent’. No one except for the law, but she had a reputation for being easily misled.


Luckily Aegis wasn’t that easy to mislead. Raymond Montano Nagato, along with a fifty unit platoon, was sent out to invade and put an end to Sabanci’s operations. The higher ups had given the operation A-rank priority, which in this case meant that the situation was urgent, required immediate intervention and heavy resistance was expected. Of course no less than fifty Dragoons would be sent out on an operation as important as this.

“All units, call in,†a voice resounded within the Highlander’s cockpit. Raymond knew that voice belonged to Andrew Carlson, the commander of the Blue Squadron given the callsign Blue Leader. One by the nine members of the Blue Squadron called in and reported that they were ready for action.
“Blue Seven, standing by,†Raymond said, once his turn arrived, and the roll call continued up until Blue Nine. Raymond couldn’t help but feel excited. He had been in combat before, but never had he gotten the chance to face KOC’s Leopard Dragoons.

After pressing one of the dozens of buttons inside of his cockpit and the Augmented Reality interface of his cockpit pulled up a schematic of the Leopard, the most common KOC unit and the one that they are most famous for; cheap yet deadly in the right hands, it had become the standard for ‘disposable’ Dragoons used to overwhelm enemies with numbers instead of superior technology. The bipedal unit’s most distinguishing traits were the square heads with a single lens, a large round shield attached to their left arms, several progressive knives scattered across various limbs and underneath the shield and a large caliber burst rifle attached to their right arm.


Raymond didn’t doubt for a moment that the Highlander could easily beat a Leopard in a one on one battle, but the idea of a battle on such a grand scheme excited him. When he remembered that there were also several alternate, advanced versions of the Leopard his blood starting pumping at the promise of facing them in glorious single combat. This was going to be amazing! His fantasies were cut short when another message by Blue Leader resounded inside the cockpit. “Operation Sword of Damocles commences in t-minus 5 minutes.


Several miles outside of KOC territory occupied by SSD the fifty Dragoons of Aegis waited as the seconds counted down to the commencement of the operation. Raymond activated the Dragoon’s VR piloting program and immediately his senses were overwhelmed with a sensation that remained unfamiliar no matter how many times he underwent it. The Dive was a process that used a VR program in order to allow pilots to take control over their Dragoons with their thoughts. The technology was mostly developed in order to eliminate the chance of piloting errors leading to failure, but also because piloting a giant robot with your mind was insanely cool.


The SSD Manufacturing plant was located in the Syrian desert, being far removed from the curious gazes of unwanted onlookers and easy access to solar power made it a decent location for a large factory performing acts that could be considered war crimes.


In an instant the silence underneath the hot Syrian sun disappeared when the rumbling sound of fifty tall mechanical monsters running with their weapons at the ready echoed through the area. Among the ten members of the Blue Squadron was the Highlander; shield and rifle still both attached to its arms and the Zantetsuken resting at its hip. It did not take long before sentry guns spread out across the KOC’s perimeter started firing at the advancing Dragoons, but the wide spread of bullets was little more than an easily ignorable inconvenience. A few rounds of their cannons and most of the sentry guns had been blown to bits.


The second line of defense didn’t come until the platoon reached the premises of the factory. A large group of Dragoons stood armed and ready to face Aegis, as if someone had warned them that Aegis was coming. Surely it wouldn’t be Kilimanjaro Orbital Conglomerate! That would be crazy. Nevertheless it was time for them to deal with the Leopards.


Most squadrons spread out, dividing the battlefield among them in order to eliminate the enemy as efficiently as possible. “Scanner reads 81 Bandits,†Blue Three announced, confirming the suspicion that KOC would be providing SSD with their trademark numbers advantage. Raymond paid little attention to that fact. He knew that being reckless would cost him his life, but as he raised his cannon at the first enemy within range all he could do was think about how lucky he truly was to have found his one true calling as several bullets fired by enemy Leopards were stopped by the Highlander’s ARES.


Raymond needed to do little more than visualize it for the Highlander to raise it’s right arm and fire several rounds of the Avalanche in retaliation. The exchange of bullets between the Blue Squadron and the various Bandits in their section continued as the Squadron slowly advanced, closing the distance between them and their enemies. It did not take long before everyone was close enough to cease fire and dash towards the Leopards with their melee weapons in hand.


The feeling of drawing the Highlander’s sword and charging into enemy lines had always been something Raymond was particularly fond of. Firing the Avalanche at a distance was satisfying in its own way, but nothing beat the sensation of using a gigantic, insanely expensive sword to destroy mechanical giants with a fell swoop. As the Blue Squadron got closer, many of the Leopard forsook their cannons for the progressive knives that functioned a lot better at melee range.


Despite a quick scan Raymond couldn’t see any modified Leopards, so he decided to isolate a pair and take them down two-on-one to make it a bit more interesting. One of the Leopards used its thrusters to hop back, while firing it’s cannon to keep the Highlander away, and the other drew a pair of progressive knives and accepted Raymond’s challenge.


Despite the Leopard’s inherent clunkiness, the machine was obviously operated by a skilled pilot that knew how to beat superior Dragoons. The way the Leopard’s pilot used slashes and dashes in various directions in conjunction with the covering fire provided by its ally demonstrated his experience to the point that Raymond admitted that he would have lost the battle if he had a lesser machine. The pressure applied by his opponent was enough to keep Raymond from being able to safely switch over to the offensive. Forced to quickly think on his feet, he waited for the melee combatant to go for another strike and attempted to deflect it with his shield.


While the opening he had created wasn’t enough for him to swing the Zantetsuken before the Leopard had the chance to dash back, it was enough for him to raise his Avalanche and fire several rounds at the Leopard in the back, destroying its cannon arm and effectively eliminating the support it provided. After creating enough leeway for him to act and fully engage on the Leopard who had so arrogantly decided to try and pressure him. Without the support of his backup the inferior specs of the Leopard weren’t enough to keep it from being crudely cut in half by the blade of the Zantetsuken.


As expected, this mission was going to be a lot of fun.

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Arthur noted his Dragoon’s display as it flew through the air, the sky turning a dark grey as if heralding the battle that would come. Already, Blue Leader had given the order to engage, and the battle had already started on the battleground below him, explosions and callsigns surrounding his screen. Still, it wasn’t his role to fight in this battle. His real goal however, was the destruction of key targets in the supply bases behind the frontlines. With a full scale battle raging on, it would prove easy to take out the targets, as most of their forces would have been dedicated to the main battle. Readying his Dragoon’s laser rifle, he motioned to the Hayate flying next to him. “Yashiro,†he called out, “We’re approaching the target area in 5 seconds. Get ready to overwatch and spot targets.â€


“A-Ah, yes sir, McDouglas-san!†The pilot of the other Hayate nodded as he drew his assault rifle, its laser designator highlighting all the targets as blips on Arthur’s screen. He simply smiled wryly as he aimed the laser rifle down range. Yashiro Kudenai, one of Aegis’ young recruits that he had the privilege of training, was a fresh greenhorn out of training, and this would be his first time experiencing an actual battle. Designated as his spotter, it was a role that would allow Yashiro to experience a battle firsthand, while still managing to keep out of harm’s way. Eager, thought Arthur as he activated his Dragoon’s Dive system, his movements almost becoming one with the Dragoon, but a little too enthusiastic.


“Fuel depot, 2 kilometres!†Yashiro called out as Arthur squeezed the trigger, the Widow’s laser beam striking the fuel tank head on. There was a small shower of sparks before a large explosion rocked the area, the fuel tank catching the rest of the tanks in a massive chain explosion that took out the building next to it.


“Radar tower, 1.5 kilometres!†Arthur fired his rifle yet again as it cut cleanly through the support struts of the radar dish, the entire tower collapsing in a spectacular fashion as it took out an unfortunate Leopard below it, crushing its head straight in.


“Good job, Yashiro,†complimented Arthur as he opened the cooling vents on the Widow, a loud cloud of steam hissing from the barrel, “Nice spotting out there.†Honestly, it wasn’t much, but he knew how much a simple compliment meant to a fresh recruit like Yashiro. As important as it was having the best training and equipment, it was just as important to keep morale up. Too many times had he seen his allies suddenly break under mission stress, completely exposing themselves to the enemy.


“Ah, thank you, McDou-“ A stream of heavy caliber cannon fire interrupted Yashiro as the Hayate Kai’s scanners picked up 3 Dragoon targets moving towards them at high speed, most likely Leopards modified with flight packs. An adequate aerial Dragoon response team, but they were no match for a dedicated aerial superiority Dragoon like the Hayate. “Yashiro!†Arthur yelled out as let loose a spray of Phalanx fire, “Prepare for close ranged combat! I’ll take the two on the left, you handle the one on the right!â€


“Roger, McDouglas-san!†Affixing a progressive blade bayonet to his assault rifle, Yashiro’s Dragoon released of blast of plasma as it flew towards the lone Leopard, locking it in melee combat as Arthur turned to face the other two, stowing the Widow as he evaded bursts of cannon fire. The Widow’s size would make it cumbersome in close range combat, and he doubted Aegis would have liked it if he used it as a club. Letting loose another hail of Phalanx fire, he thumbed through the Hayate’s Kai’s weapon selection, before stopping on the smoke grenade launcher. Selecting airburst mode, he fired a volley of smoke grenades, the area around them filling with thick smoke as the Leopards opened fire blindly. A far cry from the adequately trained soldiers of Aegis, the K.O.C’s soldiers were pretty much poorly trained recruits with no sense of discipline, relying instead on their sheer numbers to overwhelm enemies. Unfortunately for them, a 2 to 1 odd wasn’t enough to dissuade Arthur. Diving through the cloud of smoke, he approached a Leopard from below, a swift punch smashing the assault cannon out of its hands. Before it could draw its blade, Arthur brought his Dragoon’s hand to the Leopard’s face, grabbing its face and effectively blinding it as he brought the Phalanx to its chest. Squeezing the trigger, the Phalanx tore through the chest armor of the Leopard in seconds, the ARES proving no match for the 100 rounds-per-second fire rate of the Phalanx at point blank.


 Tossing the disabled Leopard aside like a ragdoll, he flew towards the second Leopard, the smoke cloud now wearing off as it regained its sight. Drawing its progressive blade, both Dragoons slammed against each other, their ARES reacting violently to each other as shrapnel sprayed everywhere. Pulling back, Arthur pulled his vernier thrusters into reverse as they rotated forwards, spraying the Leopard with a blast of blue-hot plasma, sending it reeling backwards as he lashed out with the Hayate Kai’s blades, its armblades slamming into the Leopard’s visor in a shower of sparks. Stunning the enemy pilot, he circled back around, grappling the flight pack and in a swift motion, severed the connection cables with a sudden tug, sending the Leopard spiraling downwards, slamming into the ground with a glorious thud. Turning, he saw Yashiro pull his bayonet out of the enemy Dragoon, before he waved happily at him. “McDouglas-san, I did it!’ he yelled happily over the comm, “My first k-â€


In less than a second, there was a flash of red, before there was nothing more than a molten hole in Yashiro’s Dragoon where its cockpit was supposed to be. 20 years ago, Arthur would have been too stunned to react, but now he knew better than to be shocked on a battlefield. Veering his Dragoon to the side as another laser beam shot past him, he turned towards the ground, the source of the shots. There, he could see several large laser cannons pointed upwards, towed by trucks. Shit, he thought, so those three Leopards were just distractions? Turning on the Kagami’s energy shield as a beam slammed into it with a crackle, he yelled over the mic as shots filled the air. “Blue Leader, can you read? This is Blue Eight reporting, Blue Nine is down, currently taking enemy laser AA fire, send support, I repeat, send support!â€

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The air grew thick with the sounds of battle as the operation commenced, and the ground trembled with the impacts of cannon fire and Dragoon feet slamming into the sandy ground. Hiro tapped a series of buttons on a keypad, frowning as the opaque visor of his Dive helmet closed over his eyes. Then, with a jolt of sensation surging through his limbs and spines, he Dived, his consciousness seemingly merging with his Dragoon as torrents of telemetry and sensor data poured into his mind.

It took longer than usual to get oriented this time -- even the average Dragoon skirmish at the squadron level was already a chaotic frenzy of movement and action; this was on a far larger scale, with over a hundred Dragoons engaging across a sprawling area the size of a small city -- any inexperienced Dragoon pilot would have balked at the riot of information and stimuli this battlefield subjected its combatants to. Hiro was no greenhorn at Dragoon combat, having served with the JSDF and Aegis for the better part of a decade, but the spectacle unfolding around him still made him grateful that most Dragoon subroutines were automated. Nevertheless, it only took a few seconds for him to reach full speed as he sped towards the perimeter of the KOC compound, declaring, "Grey Leader, commencing flanking maneuvers." The rest of his section followed suit, the four other Shimakaze units forming a loose wedge formation as they advanced.

It didn't take long before they were sighted -- even with the stealth features built into his Dragoon, charging a heavily-guarded compound over flat ground at full tilt wasn't exactly a stealthy maneuver. Warning signs appeared in his field of view as the perimeter defense turrets locked onto him -- however, there was a series of thunderous reports, and twenty-three turrets erupted into flames as a hailstorm of high-velocity cannon shells obliterated them, courtesy of the five heavier Dragoons of Grey Squadron's fire-support section covering their advance. It wasn't as though the turrets posed much of a threat, anyway -- they were lightweight things built to intercept insurgent rockets or shells, and at that range, it would have taken several seconds to chew through the armor of even a lightly-armored Dragoon like the Shimakaze.

A series of blips appeared on Hiro's sensors as he advanced -- a squadron of Leopards, currently trading fire with the assault forces of Red and Blue Squadron. They hadn't noticed him yet amid the chaos -- the perfect opportunity for a first strike. With a thought, he signaled his section, and a great cloud of dust formed with a thunderous roar as the five Dragoons' jump jets ignited, launching them over the roofs of the KOC compounds' warehouses -- and giving a direct line of fire at the Leopard squadron in his sights. A thunderclap shook the entire frame of his suit as the compact yet powerful assault cannon in his Dragoon's hands opened fire -- followed near-immediately by a series of booms as ten Leopards collapsed to the sandy ground, completely bisected by the barrage of armor-piercing slugs his team's assault cannons spat at eighty rounds a second. Immediately, the Dragoons cut the power to his jump jets as they dropped back to the ground, four pairs of armored feet touching the ground with grace unusual for machines of that size.

Wait, four?!

One of his section mates had been taken down, his machine slamming clumsily into a warehouse and caving through the roof as plumes of smoke and flame trailed from its ruined head. He noticed a new blip on his sensors as an escape pod shot into the air, and sighed in relief -- at least, the pilot, a fresh-faced young maverick named Kidd, had managed to bail out in time. Good for him -- he was a brave soldier Hiro was proud to have on his team, even if he worried about him at times. Then, his heart seemed to stop as a beam of ruby-red light lanced through the slowly-descending escape pod, blasting it into a cloud of free-falling shrapnel. Hiro felt bile rise up in his throat as realization struck him -- the KOC bastards had gunned down his ejecting wingman in cold blood. Immediately, he spurred his Dragoon into action, his jump jets already restarting before he stopped short.

The bastards have lasers, he thought as he fought the urge to charge the laser battery. Lasers were terrifying weapons in Dragoon combat; while a Dragoon's ARES reactive armor stood a chance of deflecting even the heaviest projectile weapons, a powerful laser, if aimed correctly, could cripple a Dragoon with a single, instantaneous shot that their ARES had no means of defending against. While laser weapons fired slowly, requiring several seconds between each shot for their systems to cool down and charge up, they could deal devastating damage in the right hands. Already, the laser battery had taken its toll on the task force -- Blue and Red Squadrons' airborne teams had been forced to go to ground, having lost three Dragoons to laser fire already. Four Dragoons taken down in seconds. We've got to take down those lasers down before they tear us all apart.

"Grey Bravo, do you read me?" he muttered, designating the position of the laser cannons. "Take that battery out, over."

"Negative," a woman's voice crackled over his comms, "Group of Bandits broke away from the main body; they've got us pinned down. Grey Seven's been mission-killed -- ninety mike-mike to the head. Over."

"Grey Alpha, go back and relieve Grey Bravo." Hiro muttered through his comms. "I'll go ahead and nail the lasers. Keep low."

"Roger," his team chorused in unison as they moved out, leaving Hiro alone. His mouth set in a hard line of determination, he moved out, firing a series of smoke grenades ahead of him to cover his path. It wasn't SOP to assault a laser battery alone; but on the other hand, this was exactly the kind of mission the Shimakaze series was built before. Besides, they'd killed Kidd. He wasn't going to let anyone rob him of vengeance, friend or foe. As the smoke grenades went off, shrouding the area with thick white fog, he engaged stealth, disabling the multi-directional sensors with a thought as his suit's armor changed color to match his surroundings. It was a risky gamble -- he was near-invisible as long as he avoided visual contact, but without the ARES, whose active sensors interfered with stealth equipment, his Dragoon would have crumpled like wet tissue even from weapons rendered obsolete a century before.

Hiro's Dragoon found its first victim quickly -- as he rounded a corner, he rammed his combat knife into the back of an oblivious Leopard's head before its ARES even registered his presence, hearing a whoosh as its pilot bailed out and left the now-useless Dragoon behind. He grabbed the vacated, crippled Dragoon, and with a powerful punt, hurled it at a second Leopard and causing both to collapse in a tangle of robotic limbs. It would only delay the second Dragoon, but it would be enough to take his move. With another volley of smoke grenades, Hiro blinded another set of approaching squadron of Leopards before they could engage him, before swerving around a solar collector array and making a beeline for the laser cannons. Moments later, he slammed into a warehouse as he disengaged stealth, then burst out of the other side with his rifle raised, ready to tear apart the convoy of laser-armed trucks that had cost the missions so much...

... Only for his Shimakaze to go up in a huge cloud of silvery, sparkling dust as a laser ripped through Hiro's position. As the blip vanished from the map overlays of his squad members, their breaths caught in their throats, believing that their leader had been struck down.

However, if one had paid enough attention, one might have noticed that the explosion had, in fact, happened a moment before the laser had fired.

Before the battery operators had a chance to rejoice in successfully killing a main character, there was suddenly another thunderclap as a ten-round burst shot out of the cloud, obliterating the truck and laser cannon that supposedly destroyed Hiro's Dragoon. Shouts of alarm echoed over the KOC communication links, but it was too late -- within seconds, the entire convoy of trucks and the hideously expensive laser cannons they bore had been blasted apart by a series of deadly-accurate assault cannon bursts. Then, the cloud of drifting silvery dust thinned, revealing the Shimakaze as it rose from a prone position, ejecting the emptied box magazine from its cannon. Looks like the ARES upgrade outfoxed their sensors as advertised. I've avenged Kidd, and at least for today, I've avoided getting turned into Swiss cheese again...

Then, he almost swore out loud as several lead-lined hangar doors in the area around him slammed open, with nearly a dozen more Leopards emerging, their burst-fire cannons trained at Hiro's Dragoon in a perfect crossfire. Faced by that much firepower, in a lightly-armored Dragoon in the open with an empty magazine in its main gun; in the situation he was in, it wouldn't even be a fight, fair or not, the moment the concealed squadron waiting in ambush decided to open fire. Well, I take that last statement back now...

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