Editor: Thor’s Stone
Perhaps the pilot of the Saber IV wasn’t expecting my sudden all-out charge. His reaction was one step late. But the delay was just for an instant and within moments he also gunned his thrusters and headed straight for me as well. It looks like he’s up for a head-on clash too.
“He’s got some pretty decent firepower.”
It looks like the Saber IV’s main armaments are two heavy-caliber laser cannons. They aren’t as powerful compared to Krishna’s own laser cannons, but they still provided ample firepower to a small-class craft. They’re either procured from the military or state-of-the-art prototypes from a weapon manufacturing company.
“He’s certainly far better than your average pirate.”
However, it only took mere moments for our ships to close the distance with each other. We exchanged a few volleys of laser cannon fire, and the moment the Saber IV came into my shotgun cannon’s range, it immediately pulled out and took some distance. It looks like he’s done his homework, as expected.
“He’s wary of the shot-cannons huh.”
“Well, of course, he is.”
“Suits me just fine though.”
Because the other party veered off and pulled away, I calmly gave chase. The shot-cannons can be quite deadly to opponents unaware of their existence, and even if they did, the cannons will still serve as effective deterrents against head-on clashes, just like this. It would also make it easier to target their behinds when they pull away.
Combat between fighters not employing shield tech can be settled in an instant with one well-placed missile or a couple of direct hits to the power generator, but combat between starships employing energy shields is a whole different ballgame. Combat between starships primarily consists of neutralizing the enemy’s shield first and damaging the hull.
Normally, the usual method is to use laser cannons or seeker missiles to saturate the shield first, blow the armor open, and then deal fatal damage to the hull. But some weapons were made to eschew this process entirely. The shot-cannon is one such weapon.
The effective range of shot-cannons was quite short, but the submunitions have the effect of easily penetrating an enemy ship’s shield by almost instant energy attenuation. They can also easily penetrate even some of the toughest armor plating that allows them to deal great damage directly to ship hulls. It looks like the cannons employ some specialized tech to achieve such effects.
Well, the trade-off is that if you fire them from long range, their power will be greatly reduced. They’d turn into shitty small fry weapons that’ll earn you endless amounts of scorn if you use them wrongly. Even with that shortcoming, they still serve as excellent defensive weapons that could be used to intercept incoming seeker missiles and other live projectile weapons.
“Hahaha! Where do you think you’re going, pal!?”
“Hiro-sama is really fired up.”
“It’s been a while since he piloted the ship, so he’s probably quite excited.”
That’s exactly it. We’ve been confined inside the imperial palace all this time after all. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this sense of oneness with my ship. It’s incredibly exhilarating.
“Well then, what’s your move now, bub? If we continue like this, you’ll just end up eating laser cannon fire on your behind y’know? Can’t have that, right?”
I then turned my attitude auto-correction system off. The moment I did so, the Saber IV piloted by Sir Weisel pretended to make a turn and suddenly decelerated as if responding to my taunt.
Yeah, I thought you’d do something like that. You want me to overshoot with that maneuver, right?
I fired up the attitude control thrusters and made Krishna’s bow point downwards right on top of Sir Weisel’s Saber IV the moment our ships overlapped and hammered him with consecutive shot-cannon shots. The shots fired in quick succession pierced Saber IV’s shield and caused sparks to go off all over its armor instead of piercing it like normal.
We’re using training ammo after all. If we weren’t, the Saber IV should have already been torn to pieces and exploded to bits. The buzzer signaling the end of the match rang within Krishna’s cockpit.
“Whoaah!? Just what happened there!? The instant Captain Hiro’s Krishna overtook sir Weisel’s ship, it’s already gotten shot down!”
“Let me check the data… Huh? This–”
“Ms. Miroku, just what happened back there? Can you give us a detailed commentary?”
“At the start of the match, Sir Weisel’s Saber IV ended up getting one-sidedly chased down by Captain Hiro’s Krishna. In order to reverse his precarious position, Sir Weisel pretended to make a turn and then immediately decelerated in an attempt to make Captain Hiro’s Krishna overshoot. In other words, he intentionally wanted Krishna to overtake him. Once that happens, Saber IV would freely be able to aim at Krishna from behind.”
“I see. But how come it was Saber IV that was judged to be shot down?”
“Captain Hiro should have already predicted Saber IV’s maneuvers. The moment he passed by the upper side of Saber IV, he turned off the attitude auto-correction system of his ship and had Krishna stand vertically mid-flight by using its attitude control thrusters, with its nose pointing straight downward, right on top of Saber IV. And then, he fired continuous shots from his ship’s large-caliber shard cannons directly on the defenseless upper side of Saber IV. Shard cannons are only effective at extremely close range, but they can easily tear through shields and armor at the proper distance. In that distance, small-class ships have no chance of surviving. Captain Hiro’s battle awareness, predictive abilities, and piloting skills have reached the realm of the divine.”
“I see…… Ah, we’ve just received footage from another angle folks. I see. You can easily determine what actually happened in this footage. It’s like a big and bulky starship had transformed into a skilled acrobat and did a stunning performance in space. And it even launched attacks during such a maneuver. Truly breathtaking.”
By the way, even if the shot-cannons were to fail at finishing off the opponent, I could easily switch to a salvo of laser cannon shots. Since Saber IV’s shields were down for the count, it would have been child’s play to bring it down with those. If by some miracle, Saber IV still manages to survive all of that, I can smoothly transition to strike mode and chase it down all over again. Either way, it would still be my win.
Eh? Don’t I account for being on the losing end of an exchange just in case? Of course, I do. But worrying about stuff like in the middle of combat ain’t good, and it’s not like an opponent can easily get the drop on me anyway. I’ve tried to minimize the chance of landing myself in a disadvantageous position to as low as possible when I customized my ship after all. For me at least, Krishna’s current configuration is the best one possible that covers for most, if not all, of its weaknesses.
The announcer and the guest commentator were still busy about my move to turn off the attitude auto-correction system, but I ignored them and headed straight for the imperial military dock. This dock was built adjacent to the training sector of the imperial military, which was the venue for today’s event, and is a facility used to maintain the training ships employed in the training sector. There were also several other participant’s ships parked within the dock.
“My ship’s not damaged, but do a full check just in case. And please replenish the shot-cannon ammo.”
I relayed my instructions to a mechanic of the imperial military and sank my body into the pilot seat.
“Are you tired?”
“Nah, it’s not that. It’s been a while since I engaged in starship combat, so I’m just feeling a bit lethargic.”
“Well, that’s better than staying nervous all the time.”
I drank a cold beverage from my pointlessly high-tech space coordinate-locking tumbler and took a nice breather.
“How many more do we have to win before becoming the champions?”
“If nothing unexpected happens, we’ll need to win five more matches.”
“Five matches huh. Lesser than I expected.”
“Few people would have been able to prepare both a suitable pilot and craft and send them to the capital on such short notice after all. Even with the presence of gateways, the speed of information dissemination is still a factor.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
It still takes time for information to reach all the corners of the empire even with the use of gateway and hyperspace communication that’s faster than any ship. Thus, the participants here were the only ones who could make it to the imperial capital on schedule after receiving the news and making the necessary preparations.
If there was adequate time given after the announcement, I bet the number of participants would have increased by several-fold compared to right now.
And so, I fought another two times.
The second match was against a pilot of the imperial navy who had a different piloting style from Ensign Nielsen who fought with that missile-crazy merc. His combat maneuvers were quite outstanding and our match turned into a fierce dogfight, but I’m not one to lose in close range battles. I peppered him full of holes once he entered shot-cannon range.
The third match was against another Mobile Knight. His ship was equipped with six high-caliber laser cannons and two seeker missile pods. It was evidently customized with heavy artillery blitz tactics in mind. Unfortunately, all that equipment slowed his speed to a crawl. I just flew at it at full speed and unloaded my weapons once our ships overlapped, ending the match in a flash.
And then, at the semi-finals, I finally got matched with a Gold-ranked merc.
“A Corvette huh.”
“Yeah. And it’s actually a military model.”
Within the classifications of small-class, medium-class, and large-class ships, the Corvette can be said to be a part of the large-class. It’s virtually the largest combat-focused starship that mercenaries employ.
Ships larger than it – meaning destroyers and larger battleships – aren’t adopted by mercenaries due to the operational costs, cruising speed, and because their imposing size isn’t suitable for use in shoal zones and asteroid fields which were the main battlefields of most mercs. It’s a different story when it comes to ships that function as motherships such as Black Lotus.
By the way, Black Lotus is nearly comparable to standard heavy cruisers in size.
Well, let’s just talk about Black Lotus later and get back to the Corvette. Basically, Corvettes-type ships aren’t suitable for one-on-one ship duels. It’s a large combat ship with respectable speed and more than enough firepower, but its turning speed pales in comparison to small-class ships. And since it was quite large, it had a lot of blind spots you could exploit.
Therefore, it’s also not suitable to bring in shoal zones where there is a lot of debris and obstacles, and basically, the mercenaries who employ it are those who engage in escorting mercantile fleets and don’t go anywhere near shoal zones.
“It looks like we got the short end here.”
“There’s almost no obstacles present in this area after all.”
Yep. There’s next to no obstacles present in the training sector. That’s because imperial military ships don’t usually engage in battles in shoal zones after all. Facing a Corvette in this kind of environment is disadvantageous due to its firepower. It can equip a large number of artillery and has an equally large ammo carrying capacity. And of course, it carries a high-output power generator that allows it to employ an energy shield way tougher than medium or small-class ships.
“Well, I think we can manage as long as we get in up close.”
The previous contestants who went up against this Corvette must have been blasted to kingdom come before managing to close the distance. Overwhelming firepower and a tough shield in addition to thick armor was a hard combination to beat. The Krishna was powerful due to it pursuing these points without compromise as well.
“So what should we do?”
“We’ll immediately close the distance. I’m a guy who’s managed to distinguish himself in bringing down large ships like this one in intermediate-level PVP battles y’know?”
“I kinda feel like my impression of versus battles and the versus battles Hiro-sama is talking about is actually quite different.”
“What a coincidence. I feel the same way.”
There was a lot of research done on strategies designed for small ships to take down large ones in SOL. We called it Giant Killing. Of course, many strategies for large ships to take down small ships were devised as well, but whenever they actually fought for real, small ships were generally regarded to have an advantage.
The strategy would change again if I was fighting against a medium-class ship, but let’s leave that aside for now.
Even so, large-class ships still held an advantage when facing NPC enemies, and you could also carry more stuff and loot with them after the battle, so a lot of players preferred flying large ships as well.
Well, apart from PVP performance, large ships had a lot of advantages after all. Some large-class ships could also remotely operate ship-based fighters as well. It’s somewhat similar to f*nnels or b*ts.
“The opponent’s a Gold ranker, guys. Let’s keep our wits about.”
I gripped the pilot stick and headed to the waiting area in preparation for the start of the match. Now then, I’m looking forward to how our opponent will come at us later.
 TL Note: Mimi and Elma are using the terms in a more literal sense while Hiro is using video game lingo.
 Funnels and bits. Remote weapons from the Gundam franchise. Extensively used in the UC timeline by Newtypes and Cyber Newtypes