Chapter 27: Absolute Power
quot;Thatapos;s a nice mech you got there. Shame about the armor though.quot;
quot;Itapos;s the Marc Antony, designed by someone I know. Itapos;s supposed to be a more affordable alternative to what youapos;re riding.quot;
The Caesar Augustus pilot let out a contemptuous snort. quot;The mere thought of cheapening any of this frameapos;s components is abhorrent. It goes against everything this august mech stands for. You and your friend have no idea how much you sullied its grandeur.quot;
Like an unstoppable tide, the Caesar Augustus kept closing the distance as it exchanged laser blasts. Melindaapos;s laser cannons were running hot, but the only thing she managed to achieve was to heat up the top layers of her opponentapos;s shield, causing only a fraction of its mass to melt. Its defensive power was a testament to National Aeromotivesapos; heat-absorption research.
quot;Itapos;s useless! Face the inevitability!quot;
quot;You talk too much!quot; Melinda yelled as she abandoned her laser fire for a close-in approach. Like a nimble gorilla she threw her mech forward while juking as much shots as she could. The Marc Antony strained against the sudden turns even as the incoming fire heated up a lot of portions of her mech. It made the Marc Antony seem like a demon from hell, with its dark armor, glowing red spots and the ever-present water vapor leaking from the crest of its head.
quot;Thatapos;s a funny gimmick, the Roman helmet design. But Iapos;m afraid youapos;re going to lose it when I HACK OFF YOUR HEAD!quot;
The Caesar Augustus came into melee range, but despite the pilotapos;s words the Augustus continued to charge forward like a train. Melinda only belatedly dodged to the side, suffering a glancing blow from the Augustusapos; quick slash.
The two came together again and engaged in a furious exchange of blows interspersed with opportunistic laser blasts. The Augustusapos; shield was virtually indestructible as Melindaapos;s dual weapons lacked sufficient weight or sharpness. The white sword struck with measured, disciplined strikes that followed a mysterious pattern. It successfully held Melinda at bay.
The pilot of the Caesar Augustus must be an elite. His formal piloting skill overwhelmed her own as he moved the Augustus fluently like it was his own body. From his sword style to his movement pattern, everything the pilot did only put Melinda in a tougher position.
quot;Give up. Iapos;ve seen what your mech is made of. Youapos;re an inferior copy.quot;
quot;Shut up.quot; Melinda replied as sweat poured down her face. She tried her best to hang on, but the opponent kept chipping away at the HRF plating that kept her mech protected.
quot;I can understand why you pilot such garbage. After all, if you donapos;t have the money, youapos;ll never pilot a mech as magnificent as the Caesar Augustus in your lifetime.quot;
quot;Not everything can be measured with money!quot; She hissed as she surged forward, risking a deadly stab which she parried with her borrowed sword. Her weapon cracked and broke in half, but it succeeded in taking the wind out of the strike.
Her mace already pounced from above, the heavy rounded end travelling in a straight arc towards the Augustusapos; head. The enemy pilot hastily raised his shield, bouncing the mace back with a heavy vibration.
Melindaapos;s eyes sharpened as she used the brief moment to do something unorthodox. She engaged the emergency release catches that kept the Marc Antonyapos;s shoulder launchers attached to its armor. Using the remnants of her mechapos;s forward momentum, she caused her mech to bodily fling the launchers at the gobsmacked Augustus.
quot;No matter how much money you have, you canapos;t spend your way to victory.quot; Melinda grinned as she waved goodbye with her mechapos;s free hand.
She activated the overrides that caused all the missiles to explode their payloads at once. Twin suns appeared in their midst, blasting the Marc Antony backwards. The explosion further cracked her mechapos;s armor, but she was able to get it to stay on its feet.
As the smoke and fire cleared, the Caesar Augustus looked much sorrier than before. Its armor surprisingly only sported a few cracks and craters despite suffering two concentrated magazine detonations.
Unfortunately, even if its armor retained much of its effectiveness, the more delicate components underneath suffered worse. The amalgamated explosions radiated the combined shock waves of a full salvo of missiles. Worse, the propellants of the missiles hadnapos;t been expended at all, so they blew up all at once as well, adding an incinerating quality to the explosions that left the bedraggled Augustus half-burning in mechanical agony.
quot;What, what is this.. I canapos;t move my mech..quot; The distressed young man said as he kept trying to take control over his mechapos;s twitching limbs. quot;The Augustus... is...quot;
quot;The Augustus is only mortal.quot; Melinda interjected as she guided her mechapos;s foot to crunch the other hand of her opponentapos;s mech into scrap. The Marc Antony ominously leaned over, bringing its menacing and battle-scarred face close to the Augustusapos; half-smashed and half-burned face. quot;Youapos;re not invincible inside that expensive toy of yours.quot;
quot;At least Iapos;m able to afford one in the real universe.quot;
quot;Youapos;ll get your ass whipped just the same.quot; Melinda noted, then bashed her mace against the Augustusapos; torso. The cracks expanded but the armor surprisingly held up against the blunt force trauma she frenziedly inflicted. By the time her mace broke off from the abuse, the enemy pilotapos;s body had long since fallen apart from the excessive shock impacts.
The Marc Antony raised its appropriated sword, causing the survivors to cheer in victory. Despite not having any advantage in the quality of her mech or her league ranking, she still managed to exude the quality of a leader. Most of the mechs who fought alongside of her were willing to follow her directions.
Please at the deference she enjoyed, Melinda lowered the sword until it pointed towards the exit. quot;We have a base to wreck. Letapos;s go!quot;
The group of mechs squeezed out of the exit and finally reached the surface. Most of the defenders were still stuck guarding against outside attackers, but some of them had already been alerted to the intrusion.
quot;Show me where their control center is located!quot;
quot;Six oapos;clock, the dome by the tower-like structure.quot;
quot;Alright boys and girls, weapos;ve got only one thing left before we can call it a day. To the control center!quot;
Despite the many mechs that turned around to take care of the threat that popped up in their midst, the invaders had initiative on their side and they only needed a short time to reach the control center. The hard-shelled dome protected it against all kinds of ordnance, but when Melinda crashed the lower edge of her kite shield against the surface, it cracked and started to cave in. Some of the other mechs with melee weapons joined in the fun while the rest fended off the approaching defenders.
quot;We canapos;t hold out much longer!quot;
quot;Keep it up! We just need a little more time!quot;
The Marc Antonyapos;s last three shield attacks succeeded in prying open a hole. A light mech with a flamethrower immediately went to her side and fired off a lethally hot stream of flame that incinerated all of the control centerapos;s personnel and computers. Melinda mentally bathed in their screams, feeling gratified that they accomplished their objective.
quot;Uh, Melinda. You might not celebrate so soon yet. Thereapos;s a problem.quot;
She snapped out of her funk. quot;Whatapos;s up, Janet?quot;
quot;Well, you guys managed to destroy the control center, but not before they called in the first wave of their reinforcements. You better look up in the sky.quot;
Her sensors readjusted. She could see a small speck in the sky growing larger. It was an entry pod, allowing mechs to arrive on the surface of a planet with the speed of free fall. The pod grew larger, and larger, and larger, and larger...
quot;Thatapos;s not a normal pod.quot;
The pod was way too big to fit a single mech. From the size of it, Melinda estimated the pod could fit in at least eight to twelve medium mechs, which was difficult to fend off.
Only until the pod engaged its boosters to slow down its downward crash did Melinda feel that something was off. Those boosters released so much force that it rattled the entire comm center. It was as if the boosters were working their assess off arresting the fall of something much larger than a bunch of regular mechs.
An earthquake-like impact rattled everyone in the vicinity as the pod finally half-crashed in the middle of the base. The ramp of the pod lowered slowly, taking its time until it fully extended.
That was until a foot the size of a heavy mech kicked the metal ramp away. The rectangular piece of metal screeched as it bounced off the ground only to crash against the base of an antenna.
quot;Oh shit. Get out Janet!quot;
quot;Iapos;m already on it!quot;
The juggernaut fired, and the entire world turned white.
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