Battle of Haibi Chapter 13
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 12: Precursors
Chapter 13: Air Strike
Samurai puts his hand on Roku's shoulder as she looks at a kiosk in the Central Tower's first floor lobby, "SCD+76yr Dec 17 06:42:31"
"What are you up to?" Samurai asks.
"I'm getting used to this Arabic/Latin stuff," Roku reflects, "It looks so familiar, yet so alien. It's agonizing," she sighs.
"What is?" Samurai asks.
"The life I've left behind, I somehow know," she says, "How can I explain this? ... It's like I've left my life behind, but I still have a job."
"A Final Warrior," Samurai says. "It's agonizing for me too. Somehow I know, that the war of my first life," he shakes his head. After a long moment, "It meant nothing. I lived a meaningless, empty life, having taken meaningless, empty oaths that I can't even remember the words to." He looks Roku in the eye, "And now ... the Saviour himself is holding me to those oaths ... to defend Haibi with my life."
Roku glances again at the clock. "Oh, my!" She switches it to Japanese, "For real!" she gasps, grabs her bag and says, "I'm late for work!"
"Roku, wait!" Samurai orders, "Kabocha is not expecting you today. I want you on the gate for the Toga's arrival."
"What?" Roku gasps, "I've only been here six weeks, and you want to put me on such an important post."
Samurai puts a finger firmly on her shoulder, "Rok'hyaku Rokujuu Roku," he says with conviction, "you are the best gunner in all of Haibi. By far."
"Really?" she asks.
"Really," Samurai says, "Like I said before, I've been keeping you off the wall so that the enemy doesn't discover how good at this you really are. But today-" He pauses, "I have a really bad feeling about this. The enemy has been building forces up just outside where ... they think we can see them. We can see farther than they know, and have carefully hidden that fact from them. Our sensors penetrate the weather, as you know, but they don't know that, obviously or they wouldn't be doing it in sight of us."
"Uh," Roku says, "There's a trick I remember. There's a special layer in the atmosphere you can bounce radio waves-"
"Sssh!" Samurai says. He looks at her with a deep admiration, "That's how we know, Roku ... God, is there anything she doesn't know about warfare?"
"I could never forge that sword of yours," she says, "It's beautiful."
"Let's get you on the gate tower," Samurai says.
Roku settles into the turret. Subtle details in the scope reveal to her that it is not a simulation. There are no wraiths. She scans the path for mines, using half a dozen search modes that nobody else knows.
<Roku-san> Samurai says, <Remember, we have a covenant to protect the Toga from the enemy. If we betray it, it's the end of Haibi.>
"Acknowledged, Master," Roku says.
<Air strike,> she hears, but it is not Samurai.
Roku cups her hand over her ear and listens. Activating her radio with a flick of her wing under the battle robe, she whispers, "Zero-nine-five here, say again?"
<Negative, Roku-san,> the sector commander says, <No traffic for you.>
<Air strike,> it's a quiet whisper.
Without keying her radio, she whispers, "Christ Almighty."
Her heart skips a beat, and she realizes that she's pointed the wrong way. She reaches for her track control and pulls the lever to "Air Defense" The turret immediately starts moving back away from the wall's edge, as she pulls the plasma cannon above the horizon.
"Electronic support measures," she says on the radio, "Enemy emissions outside of Sector 2? I need codes for C, S, X, and Ku bands to display in my turret HUD, acknowledge?"
<Uh ... sure zero-nine-five, coming over your procedures,> the sector commander replies.
Roku reads from her procedures monitor, keys in the modes, and adjusts them. The band that penetrates the cloud bank out east shows her ... shimmering shapes. One of them flaps its wings.
"Spectre cloak!" she cries in English. Not knowing how to say it in Japanese, she says instead, "Incoming, zero-nine-five!" and starts shooting into the fog, from one cloaked batwing to the next, Cacoe. "Bearings only!" she reports.
As Roku's blue streaks course into the grey, a fireball comes back at her and misses her turret by four metres, blowing a shallow crater in the stone of the wall.
"Zero-eight-five copy my scope settings, code Alpha-Charlie-nine-seven-five," Roku says. More fireballs tear at the wall around her, unable to find the mark. Roku shoots out of the air the ones that air aimed accurately at the turret. "Hurry zero-eight-five! I'm barely hanging on!" she cries.
In the control room in Defense Tower Two, well to the south, just north of the river's exit aqueduct into the base of the wall. The sector commander looks at a situation display and sees nothing. He calls up Roku's scope and sees her shooting at barely distinguishable flapping distortions in the green haze. As she hits each one, it decloaks, recognizable as batwing and cacoe creatures. Suddenly two alarms go off and looking over at his situation display, hundreds of red arrows appear. The teamug slips out of his hands and shatters on the floor at his feet. "Rifle sections three and four to ramparts zero-nine-two," he says calmly, "Power boost zero-nine-five and zero-eight-five."
"Zero-eight-five has been hit!" somebody cries out. The sector commander stares agape at the fireball that was once the turret falling to the ground to the left of the main gate. The same voice cries, "Section Three! Get on your fliers, she's all alone up there!"
Roku, shooting furiously as the force decloaks in front of her, adjusts her turret position within the track system. Fireballs are coming down all around her. <Roku-san, how many?> Samurai asks. Roku, far too busy to think about anything else but her weapon, dances her left hand over several switches. Her weapon switches from firing one beam every half second to a nearly continuous stream of bursts thirty every second.
<Roku-san!> Samurai's desperate voice cries.
"Master, standby one," she says.
Samurai, in Defense Tower Two's secret backup control room hidden in one of the shops in the Three-Mid industrial area, makes a call, "Hi, Kaiyou (海洋, Ocean)? I need you to get to the Level Six look-up kiosk and translate this call for me." He plays the recording of Roku's voice in English, <Spectre cloak!>
Roku suddenly starts slowing her fire. A couple more bursts. She empties her lungs in a relieved sigh, "They're retreating." She reaches for her position lever and pushes it forward. A buzzer sounds. Her procedures screen displays the message "Track damaged: unable to reach 095-glacis."
"I can't reach the ground support position for the Toga," she says.
A flying rifleman passes over, near her turret over the mildly damaged wall. He hangs on the invisible suspension effect of his dimly glowing hikarinium buckles, zooming over the edge of the wall with his big rifle in his hands, <It's too late,> he reports, <The Toga convoy is destroyed, all forty carts.>
Samurai slumps in his chair listening to Defense Tower Two report, <Acknowledged, how many casualties?>
<Twelve,> comes the reply, all dead. Samurai's eyes pop open as the report continues, <There are a lot of scooter tracks in the snow, Master. It looks like a lot of them must have gotten away.>
Roku pulls the action open on her turret's gun, looking at the glowing blue and dangerously hot circuitry. She pokes at the brightest blue glowing part with a screwdriver. With a spark, it flies out of the action and bounces off the cramped interior's roof. She slips in a replacement part with her fingers. Then she pops open the grey box, inserts the screwdriver into a mode switch and turns it from "A" to "B", then slaps the control box shut and pushes the entire glowing blue action back into battery.
<Master Samurai,> Roku says, <That covenant means a lot, doesn't it?> Samurai looks up as Roku reports, <The enemy are pursuing the Toga uncloaked. I can help them out. Current range is twenty-four kilometres>
"Roku-san," Samurai warns quietly, "The wall turret can't shoot that far."
< I looked up that grey box I asked you about when you first showed me,> she says, <Mode B ... is it worth that secret to save the Toga?>
A flyer reports in, <There are about four hundred, Master, under about twice as many Cacoe. We could use some help, sir.>
Before Samurai can speak, his Sector Two commander, orders, <Do it, Roku-san. Mode B is authorized.>
Roku's thumb pushes the red button home. Out of the muzzle of her gun moves a very fast green projectile, cutting a path through the fog as it flies. Two seconds later, another.
"I'm glad we've finally worked all the bugs out of this thing," Roku says. She can easily track her two BFG missiles. In its ultimate form, the projectile can be steered for minor course corrections, and travels at four kilometres per second.
The streaking green fireballs each cut loose several lightning like pulses, avoiding the weaving haibane fliers and targeting only the floating round monsters. Each missile takes out forty of the Cacoe hellspawn before it even explodes. Both explode at the same time, etching beautiful green spiderweb patterns into the sky. Well over half of the attacking enemy force is falling upon the fleeing Toga in little flaming cinders as they tear off on their motorbikes through the snow. The other half decide their best odds are to dive and retreat.
Having just switched her turret weapon back to Mode A, Roku returns her turret's action back to battery.
<Master Samurai,> the Sector commander's voice greets a weary ear, < I vote that this new redhead of yours never gets a desk job!>
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 14: Siege