Border Skirmish

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A veritable storm of metallic slugs tore past the Ocelot's head, their trajectories would be taking them out of the milky way sometime between now and the heat death of the universe. To the pilot, who's senses were linked to his combat frame, it seemed as if they barely missed his head, and he fought down the reflex to jerk away, instead keeping silent in his own focused way. What had been a standard patrol of one of the sparsely inhabited star systems between his own Esperança and Che had turned into a fight for survival against what was at last count a full squadron of Coyotes. That made along with the nearby carrier-wherever it was- twelve enemies all looking to kill him against his single Ocelot. Any reinforcements were still too far away to do more than recover his body for burial(what would be left of it), meaning that for Michael Arbuela, he would live or die based on his ability to survive.

And if he was going to die, he was going to take some of those fascist bastards with him! Michael felt his entire body be thrown forward as verniers flared, deceleration the Ocelot as it turned around in one swift motion, raising the pulse gun it carried.

The year: 2186, Common Era. In the Pacific Arm of the human sphere, war has broken out, between a group of independence minded colonies, the Zodiac Outworlds Colony Union; and the aligned forces of the Pacific Arm Colonization Treaty. However, this story is not about that war, not yet. Instead, on the opposite side of the Pacific Arm long boiling tensions between the descendants of deported colonists, the militaristic government of the planet Che, and the quasi-democratic government of the loyalist colony Esperança, are beginning to boil over. After years of numerous border skirmishes both factions glare angrily at each other, and the air is filled with the fuel of war. All that remains is for the spark that will ignite it to start.

The first of the pair of chasing Coyotes didn't think to try to slow his speed to match Michael's sudden challenge, or perhaps it was an attempt to flank him. It became an obvious flanking move a second later when his companion decelerated and made a slight course correction. It didn't matter to Michael though, dealing with these two would be simple enough.

Simple. Just like this mission was supposed to be. The light carrier EFE Nana Buluku had a "simple" mission: that was to patrol the space border with Che for a period of two weeks, and to leave when the Marcenas arrived to relieve her. That, naturally, went horribly wrong on the fourth day of the second week. Taken by surprise, the Nana Buluku was floating dead in space and venting atmosphere; she had been taken unprepared by those new drone-derived weapons the Cheians had. As for Michael's three squadmates, they were gone, hiding somewhere while they waited for the Marcenas to arrive. Someone had to distract the pursuing Coyote's and Michael had volunteered, silencing the protests of the rest of his squad by changing course and buzzing the Coyote's, giving the others time to escape. The Nana Buluku hadn't been able to launch any additional craft for support before getting taken out of the fight either, so that left only Michael against twelve Coyotes.

Actually, Michael against ten Coyotes. He had made his move against his closest pursuers at the exact moment the closer one started to decelerate and draw his alpha-edge axe. Acting quickly, Michael fired two bursts of three pulses each from the Ocelot's pulse carbine, before replacing it into the recharge rack on the Ocelot's waist and drawing the beam saber from its back. Based off of a particle accelerator, the Pulse Carbine was long ranged and capable of spitting out anywhere between a single 'bolt' to spraying bolts off at fully automatic speeds. Although not as hard hitting as the railgun-based weaponry being used by his pursuers, Michael's pulse gun was more than sufficient for him.

The first burst impacted in under a second, the near-lightspeed bolts of charged particles hammering into the Coyote's head almost all in the same spot, burrowing into the complex sensors located in it's head and knocking off it's monoeye sensor with the second bolt before the entire head was taken off by the third, sending the Coyote tumbling backwards... and leaving it's underside open. The second burst went directly up the frame's armored skirt into the vulnerable systems there, causing a sympathetic detonation that left Michael with only his companion to worry about.

The companion who was bringing a fairly sizable axe down at Michael, most likely aimed at the head or chest of his Ocelot. Michael responded by raising up his frame's shield to deflect it out of the way. While it kept him from being killed easily it also locked him in close combat with the Coyote, its axe embedded in his shield. Guided by reflexes and the assistant AI of the Ocelot, Michael's beam saber flashed into activation for a brief moment of time before disappearing inside the chest of the Coyote, and again slicing the axe out of its grip.

The Coyote's single ominous monoeye went dark and Michael kicked it away from him as he replaced the beam saber into its recharge rack, once again the equipping the pulse carbine and firing it at the closing enemies. Drifting backwards towards an asteroid large enough to use as cover, Michael's shots did nothing at this range besides deflect off of their scattering fields. The Coyotes broke into two groups, beginning to decelerate to match his speed whilst returning fire with their railguns. Unlike Michael, they had waited until they were close enough to have an effect with their fire. Tungsten rounds hammered Michael's flash field as ovoid shields of energy popping up to block or deflect them. Some broke through to impact against Michael's Phase-Shift Armor, only to have their kinetic energy sapped by it. Others were more lucky, punching through armor and components; Michael's left leg suddenly became less responsive as artificial muscles were severed and pulped.

Wanting to get out of the line of fire, Michael ducked into a small alcove on the Asteroid's surface and waited, gripped with fear and shaking with adrenaline. He had expected to see some combat, but never this.

Whoever the pilot of that Ocelot was, he couldn't see what she saw from her vantage point on a nearby asteroid. A relatively junior assault frame pilot, she had been ordered to take refuge here while the more experienced pilots of the four man flight tried to deal with whatever was launching these enemy frames. That had been at-least a half-hour ago, and they hadn't returned. The Ocelot and its pursuers had appeared on her passive sensors ten minutes in the past, and she had been watching them with interest since. Her vantage point also afforded her a better viewpoint than the Ocelot's pilot, which is why she could see the two Cheian Badgers crawling along the asteroid's surface to pop down into the alcove and blast the Ocelot within with high-temperature plasma from their Bazookas. Unfortunately for them, they were within the range of the beam-cannon on her Black Bear's shoulder, and she had no intention of watching a fellow pilot get killed.

Activating the long-range targeting computer, Juliana Margange took aim at the first of the Badgers, ready to fire as soon as the moment was right.

The Ocelot's assistant AI notified him of their presence at just the last moment as two Badgers in staggered formation popped up over the rim of the alcove he was hiding in. Their deadly Plasma Bazookas were aimed directly at him and there was no way he'd get his pulse carbine up in time to stop them. Instead, he raised his shield up and huddled behind it, hoping that it would ablate some of the bla-

The first Badger's cockpit and reactor were pierced in a single shot, causing a small explosion that rocked it's companion. Not that its companion would be able to feel it, as a second particle beam pierced his own cockpit. Michael blinked in surprise at the sudden fire support, lowering his shield and moving to the rim of the alcove to search for any nearby allies or enemies. While he certainly saw the ten Coyote's that had been chasing him vectoring in towards his position - they had seen the death of their comrades- he saw no sign of any allied presence. Until his unseen friend radioed him.

Juliana was simply surprised at being able to neutralize two enemy frames in as many shots. Not that it mattered now. There were still twelve enemy frames all vectoring in on the lone Ocelot pilot: ten Coyotes, and two more badgers. Readjusting her position, Juliana introduced herself to the Ocelot pilot. After all, it was the friendly thing to do.

"Ocelot pilot, do you hear me? This is Segundo-tenente Juliana Margrange, of the EFE Nana Buluku. Please Identify!"

Michael initially gave a grunt of response as he focused on dodging the oncoming fire from the Coyotes that were chasing him, returning fire with his pulse carbine. He found it much harder to get killing blows in a situation like this, porbably because these enemies were much more competent and were attacking in much greater numbers. Still, Michael was proving adept at keeping himself alive, and had managed a third kill when a Coyote had closed in to attempt to finish him off with its axe and gotten its torso filled with particle bolts.

"This is Segundo-tenente Michael Arbuela, EFE Nana Buluku. Some supporting fire would be nice please and thank you , Julia!" Michael practically shouted and grunted the entire thing, and was now engaged in close combat with two Coyotes while the Badgers lined up to fire on him.

Juliana was a nice girl, and she started firing as soon as Michael asked. Realigning her beam cannon she began raining down streams of high-energy particles on the enemy forces, starting with both Badgers. This gave the other pilot-Michael, it seemed- the distraction he needed to pull out of melee with the two Coyotes and spray one of them with his pulse carbine at the fully automatic setting before darting away, piercing through the Coyote's frontal armor with sheer weight of fire and setting off explosions inside of its chassis. The second Coyote found itself lanced through with a second beam from Juliana.

By now, the eight remaining Cheian frames had taken notice of the Assault Frame firing on them, and had split: Three for the Black Bear, Five for the Ocelot. They had also taken to maneuvering more erratically and staying behind what cover there was when they could to break her line of fire. Not wanting to be a sitting target for the faster and more manueverable Coyotes, Juliana took off and raised her backup weapon: an anti-ship bazooka.

Now that the tables had turned, Michael was hunting the Coyotes. Knowing that they were on his trail he slid up behind a small rock, grabbing it and using it to change his direction without much flaring his thrusters or verniers. As the five Coyotes moved past, chasing his previous course, Michael was on their tails and firing at their asses. Taken by surprise the Coyotes broke and split, Michael chased after the one who seemed like the leader. He tried seemingly every move in the book on frame-on-frame dogfights, but it wasn't enough to get Michael off him.

Finally lining up his shot, Michael started with burst fire, AI-assist keeping it accurate and on the mark. A fourth Coyote down. A swift roll and a switching of weapons later, Michael was diagonally slashing at a Coyote's main thruster assembly. A fifth down. Michael's pilot suit injecting a stream of endorphins and combat drugs into his brain and bloodstream, egging him on. The beam saber stayed out as Michael rushed head on at a Coyote. This one had seen his friends die and was ready for him, tungsten slugs impacting Michael's shield and armor and flash field. He did a barrel roll to avoid most of the rounds, going up and over and around the line of fire before kicking his microfusion thruster into high gear for the last few meters. Trying to knock Michael away, the Coyote kicked at his frame only to miss and get a beam saber pushed and drug up from the groin to the upper chest. Disengaging, Michael spun and kicked off of the dead Coyote's chest and started zig-zagging in three dimensions to avoid the panicked fire of the two remaining Coyotes he was fighting. Off in the distance he was roughly aware that Juliana, the friendly pilot who had assisted him, was possibly in need of help, but he had to deal with the enemies directly in front of him first.

Juliana was quite capable of taking care of herself, it turned out. The three Coyotes who had taken chase after her had found out that she was just as good a pilot as the one in the Ocelot. And tricky too: Instead of being where they thought she would be, three anti-ship rounds from her bazooka detonated in the middle of their formation, scattering them to the space-winds. One was slammed into the asteroid Julia had been sniping from, and had a hole burned through his cockpit from her beam cannon. The other two quickly righted themselves, barely dodging more beams from Julia. They split up, attempting to flank her from both sides... which was exactly what she had expected.

The first one coming from her left attempted to chase after the assault frame as it rushed away from him, trying to herd it with his railgun into the killzone of his wingmate. He was stopped when he ran dead-on into a bazooka shell that Juliana had dead released directly behind her as a sort of space mine, his cockpit crushed from the force of the explosion. The second Coyote pilot climbed over the asteroid's horizon only to be rammed head on by Juliana's Black Bear, the heavy frame barreling through the flimsier Cheian frame.

Oh yes, Juliana was quite capable of taking care of herself.

Even though you wouldn't be able to tell it from his expression, Michael was having a good time. It had turned out that the two Coyotes remaining were actually Cheian Wolves, wich were providing much more of a challenge. Michael had actually lost his shield to them just a few seconds ago, and had replaced it with one of the Coyotes' alpha axes. Using the axe to parry, Michael caught and countered their moves. Seeing an opening, Michael lunged and hooked his axe onto the axe of one Wolf to wrench it out of his hand while lunging with his beam saber at its cockpit. It worked as planned, Michael swinging the now lifeless hulk at the other Wolf. The Wolf raised its shield to bock his companion, leaving itself open for Michael to come in from below and push his beam saber up into its torso.

That was it. The pursuing frames were destroyed, and all that was left were Michael's Ocelot and Juliana's Black Bear. The Nana Buluku was still dead in space, and the Marcenas wasn't due to arrive for another two days. The only way to survive that long was to hook what life support the two had together and huddle together for warmth. But in space, two days was a long time. Inside the asteroid cave that the pair had found, Michael was as aware of this as anyone.

(To Be Continued.