After making our preparations, we made our way to the cockpit block and sat in our corresponding seats. I sat on the main pilot seat, Mimi on the operator seat, and Elma on the sub-pilot seat. Each had a newly bought high-tech juice bottle filled with our favorite drinks floating around beside us.
“Geez. We’re about to go for a one-ship blitz assault deep into enemy lines, but the atmosphere isn’t tense at all.”
“Better than being all nervous, right?”
“I trust Hiro-sama, so I don’t feel nervous at all.”
“You sure are calm, aren’t you, Mimi?”
“Of course. I believe in Hiro-sama after all.”
“Man, you’re giving me lots of pressure. Well, I’ll try my best not to let you down then.”
I smiled wryly as I reached out to my juice bottle and pulled out the straw.
“Yes! Ah, Hiro-sama, we’ve received a transmission request just now. It’s from the Imperial fleet heavy cruiser, the 『Glorious』. Should I patch it through?”
“The Imperial fleet? Sure, patch it through.”
Man, and I was just about to enjoy my non-carbonated cola… As I thought that, Lieutenant Serena’s visage appeared on the main cockpit display. Lieutenant Serena was just about to say her piece, but froze up when she caught sight of our gravity spheres ー or rather, our high-tech floating tumblers.
『I was just about to say some words of encouragement, but it seems you’re actually rather relaxed.』
“Well, we’re quite confident in our success after all.”
We’ll close in as far as we can via the hyperspeed drive, fire those torpedoes and get the hell out. It’s a pretty simple job. I’m feeling pretty confident enough to enjoy some non-carbonated cola on the side with practically no worries.
『Is that so… I was a bit concerned because we’ll be starting the operation soon, but it looks like it was unwarranted after all. I do hope you aren’t all talk, however.』
“Of course. I’m a pro, y’know.”
Lieutenant Serena froze up again after hearing my reply and displayed a daring smile a few moments before she cut the transmission.
“That princess sure looks like she has a lot of free time on her hands, doesn’t she? We’re just your average mercenaries but she still went out of her way to send a transmission to check up on us.”
“I wonder how old she is?”
“No idea. Doesn’t matter anyway. Cut the comm lines, Mimi. Initiate comm silence.”
“Yes, initiating comm silence now.”
“Elma, increase engine output to maximum. Initiate hyperspeed drive sequence.”
“Aye, aye, sir. Engine output to maximum.”
“Hyperspeed drive, charging start.”
“Charging start… Activating hyperspeed drive in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Hyperspeed drive, activate!”
Krishna’s hyperspeed drive activated with a *dooon sound echoing out akin to an explosion. The countless lights in the far distance of space visible inside the cockpit immediately turned from stationary dots into bright lines akin to shooting stars.
“Keep an eye on the radar. Don’t miss the timing for the Fed ship’s warp-out.”
We’ve already gotten a fairly accurate approximation of the Fed fleet’s warp-out coordinates. The tech known as hyperdrive uses a time-space pathway called a hyperlane that connects one spacial coordinate with another in order to achieve super-long-distance interstellar travel.
In the process of fixing the exit point coordinates of a hyperlane, a certain area with unstable space 『fluctuations』 would inevitably appear, which could then be triangulated in order to approximate the warp-out coordinates. That’s why, as long as one knows which particular star system the enemy will be warping in from, an approximate warp-out point can be narrowed down to an extent.
The plan’s basically to skim through the approximate warp-out coordinates in hyperspeed until the enemy fleet warps out.
“We’ve caught some readings on the radar. Multiple warp-out responses confirmed!”
“Alright! Begin deceleration.”
We immediately headed towards the Fed fleet’s warp-out point and deactivated our hyperspeed drive at the same time as they exited from the hyperlane.
“Activate the emergency cooling system. Cut the generator output.”
“Activating the emergency cooling system. Cutting the power.”
At the same time as Krishna’s hyperspeed drive deactivated, its generator output was reduced to the bare minimum, and the emergency cooling system was activated. We entered thermal stealth mode.
“Great. Let’s proceed to sneak up on those bastard.”
“You sure can come up with some very nasty methods…”
“Using your noggin in order to take advantage of everything at your disposal is necessary in order for you to survive in this business. If you can’t at least do that, you’ll probably die.”
“As expected of Hiro-sama.”
We turned off the flight assist mode and approached the Federation fleet using only inertial propulsion. The Federation ships continued to warp-out one after another as we approached the center of the fleet.
“That’s quite a view. It’s actually kinda cool.”
“I guess. Seeing all those military warships in formation sure is quite the sight.”
“You’re right. There’s a sense of majesty to it.”
Seeing all those battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, and corvettes neatly lined up in a tight formation really was cool. But there’s no sense in being immersed in such a spectacle.
“Looks like that’s the flagship.”
I gazed at the ship in the center of the formation. There were transmissions coming from that ship that were being sent to the rest of the fleet. There’s no mistake then. That’s the enemy flagship.
“Are we really heading straight for that?”
I nodded in reply to Elma, whose face was now slightly devoid of color. C’mon. We’ve come this far, so there’s no sense in turning around anymore.
“The warp-out responses have stopped. All the Federation ships have arrived.”
“Alright. It’s about time. We’re already in effective range. Deactivate the emergency cooling system. Raise the generator output to maximum.”
“Ah geez… Emergency cooling system deactivated. Generator output set to maximum!”
The emergency cooling system was deactivated, and pieces of ice started peeling off the ship’s hull. I punched the ship’s thrusters to maximum and rushed straight towards the center of the enemy fleet. My target was the battleship in the middle of the formation. It was most likely the enemy fleet’s flagship. But it’s not like we did actually confirm it was.
『…? What? There’s a response on the radar…!? Bandits, coming in fast! They’re right above us! They’ll close in soon!』
『What did you say!? Was nobody manning the radar!?』
『That ship’s heat signature is abnormally low! The bastards disguised themselves as normal debris!』
“Hahaha! They’re panicking! They’re absolutely panicking!”
The Federation ship was hastily making some evasive actions, but we were already right in their faces, so it was too late already. They can’t shoot us recklessly due to the danger of friendly fire. I weaved through the escort ships and opened the lower weapons bay.
“Gahahaha! Eat this, bastaaards!”
I fired off the two anti-ship reactive torpedoes and raced through the flagship’s flank. Moments after, a huge explosion went off right in the middle of the enemy battleship. The ship was practically torn in two.
『Battleship – Tiger Eye, shot down! The enemy fired off anti-ship reactive torpedoes!』
『Goddammit! Mercenaries!? Don’t mind friendly fire. Shoot them down with the multi-cannon turrets! But hold off on the laser cannons, ballistic cannons and seeker missiles!』
“Yahooo! Now that’s what I call giant-killing folks!!!”
“H- Hey! Don’t ‘yahoo’ me! Let’s hurry up and get out of here!”
Lots of lock-on warnings went off one after another inside the cockpit. Looks like they were determined to shoot down the enemy even if their flagship was destroyed. They were able to reorganize their chain of command faster than I expected.
“Hey, wait a minute!? What about those crystal monsters!?”
“It’ll take about thirty seconds before they materialize!”
“Haa!? Thirty seconds!? So what the heck are we supposed to do now!?”
“We’ll evade like heck, of course! We’re in the middle of their fleet so they can’t use their more powerful weapons anyway. We’ll be just fine!”
“‘Just fine’, my foot! You damn idiooot!”
The enemy fleet’s multi-cannons released a concentrated volley at the same time as Elma’s scream. Countless numbers of bullets rushed towards Krishna, aiming to take it down.
“Release the chaff and reactivate the emergency cooling device!”
“I’ve done that already!”
“Release comm silence, Mimi! Send the data to the imperial fleet!”
We activated all emergency evasion devices and systems and weaved through concentrated enemy fire by a hair’s breadth. We couldn’t avoid each and every round, of course. But Krishna’s powerful shield did its work and prevented us from taking damage.
Energy shields were originally developed to deal with space debris and were more than capable enough to defend against live rounds. It won’t budge just from taking a bit of enemy fire.
“The energy shield is holding out well.”
“Use shield cells if needed! There’s no need to hold back!”
『Dammit! Their energy shield is tough for such a small ship…!』
『They’re reading our cannon’s effective ranges! Try to cover for each other’s blind spots!』
『They’re sticking too close… What the- !?』
Ignoring Elma’s protests, I suddenly aimed towards the wide-open bottom of the heavy cruiser I’ve been using as a shield from the rest of the enemy fleet and fired the shot cannons in succession. The submunitions penetrated the heavy cruiser’s shield that had already taken some friendly fire earlier and tore through its hull, riddling it with lots of holes.
“That’s two down! Man, I’m on fire!”
After disabling the heavy cruiser, I turned the ship towards the next prey. But at that moment, it finally happened.
In the wake of a shrill cry that penetrated straight through one’s head, multiple tears in space began to appear.
“They’re here guys! We’re getting out of here!”
“Uwawa! So much came out!?”
“Ah geez! You’re absolutely crazy!”
What came out from the cracks in space were objects shaped like bullets – or perhaps fangs would be more appropriate. They were made entirely out of crystals. Their ends were pointed and seemed extremely sharp. It was as if their shape was specifically for the purpose of piercing through objects. They effectively made use of their shape, as their favorite means of attack was to charge ahead and pierce through all that stood in their path.
But it wasn’t their only means, as they could also fire off high-speed energy bullets from their bodies.
『A large number of warp-out responses detected! These are… crystal creatures!?』
『Why the heck are those accursed things in this kind of place!?』
『They’re coming!? Uwaaaaaaa- !?』
『Interception fire! Shoot them down! Use every weapon we have and shoot them down!』
『You damn fool! You’ll hit usーー Gyaaaaa!』
『Hiii!? M- My leg!? I’m getting devour…… Nooooo! Stoooop! Aaaaaaaaah!?』
It was a picture of absolute hell. With this, the fleet will fall into chaos. They won’t even have the time or the leisure to chase us down.
“I don’t want to hear that from the guy who actually pulled the trigger.”
Elma sighed in exasperation as she gave a cutting retort. It looks like Mimi was affected by the Federation soldier’s cries of agony. Her face was pale as a ghost and she was trembling in shock.
“Mimi, you don’t have to listen to that if you find it disturbing.”
“I- I’m fine.”
No, you don’t look fine at all, girl. Well, since she insists, then so be it. I’ll just have Elma man the radar later if the situation calls for it.
“Yosh, time to earn some money.”
“Look. The Fed fleet’s running around like headless chickens.”
“T- That’s right, isn’t it?”
“In other words, there’s no better chance to shoot down those delicious-looking prey.”
“You’re joking, right?”
After saying that, I reversed the ship’s heading and headed straight back towards the battlefield where the Fed fleet and the crystal creatures were duking it out.
In my head, I heard the BGM of a certain movie that had apocalypse in the title, and got really hyped up.
“Gya-!? Nooo! We’re gonna die! We’re really gonna die! Idiot! You’re one crazy idiot, aren’t you!?”
“There was once a great person akin to a red comet who said this in the past: It’s no big deal if it doesn’t hit.”
“I bet he’s also a friggin hopeless idiot!!!”
Aw c’mon. Compared to Red Comet-san’s unit, Krishna even has energy shields equipped, so we’re gonna be fine. That guy kept evading enemy fire that could have destroyed his unit in one shot and brought down ships like there was no tomorrow. Compared to him, we have it quite easy.
While avoiding the crystal creatures that attacked the ship, I fired off the two remaining anti-ship reactive torpedoes against two separate targets. They were busy fending off the crystal creatures, so they didn’t notice the torpedoes until it was too late. That was easy, man.
“They’re grazing us! They’re freaking grazing us, idiot! Aaah! There’s a crystal monster heading for the starboard! A large-caliber laser cannon is targeting our portside!”
“A〜nd there we go.”
“You’re really calm, aren’t you, Hiro-sama?”
“Guys who panic in the battlefield are usually the first ones to die after all. You have to do your best to keep your cool at all times as well, Mimi.”
“I heard that y’know!?”
I shot down the crystal monster heading for us and focused on the Federation ship next.
These crystal monsters actually aren’t that strong individually. We still have our shields up, and the crystals making up their bodies aren’t that tough, to begin with, so one shot with the shard cannon is all it takes to bring one down. It’s a bit troublesome to shoot them down with lasers though.
I proceeded with raining down laser and scattershot fire on the ships being heavily assaulted by the crystal monsters and shot down Federation ships one after another. I also aggroed the crystal monsters and baited a large number of them towards ship formations that were defending better than expected.
『That f*cking four-armed bastaaaard!!!』
『I’mma kill that goddamn prick!』
『You four-armed devil!』
The Federation folks were really getting pissed off at me… It’s unfortunate guys, but this is war.
The Fed ships got destroyed successively as their crews let out cries of frustration and agony. I did it, dad. We’re gonna have beefsteak tomorrow.
『T- The Imperial fleet has made its move!』
『Goddamit! Their timing’s too perfect! This four-armed bastard and these crystal monsters were all sent by them huh!?』
Looks like the Federation fleet has managed to detect the movement of the Imperial fleet. It looks like this is it for Bonus Time.
“This is as far as we go. We’re withdrawing from the battlefield.”
“Yeah. I don’t wanna be caught in the bombardment of our allies after all.”
The Imperial fleet would most likely let lose maximum firepower from long range. They were going to wipe out the Federation fleet together with the crystal monsters. We wouldn’t be able to survive their bombardment if we continued to hang around here.
“Prepare the shield cells just in case. Release the chaff and flares.”
“I’m gonna floor it ladies! Be careful not to bite your tongues!”
I increased the thruster output to maximum and swiftly withdrew from the battlefield of the Federation fleet and the crystal monsters.
『That mercenary ship’s making a run for it! Fire! Fire!』
『Don’t let that bastard get away!』
“Start charging the hyperspeed drive.”
“Charging start. Hyperspeed drive activation in 5, 4, 3,ーー”
『The target has started charging their hyperspeed drive!』
『Goddamiiit! You better remember this, you f*cking bastaaards!』
“Sorry, man. I already forgot. See ya!”
“ー2, 1… Hyperspeed drive, activate.”
We retreated from the battlefield with a *dooon sound akin to an explosion. There was no way to chase after our ship that had far surpassed the speed of sound and was escaping at near lightspeed. It’ll be a different story if they also activated their hyperspeed drives. But, under that chaotic melee, I highly doubt they’ll be able to.