The Scimitar, it turned out, was almost comforting to the former power armor pilot. Having more hands on controls, and being smaller compared to the other fighters in use, it made her feel closer to her old life, while at the same time it was quite obvious it was a different beast altogether. The way it moved, the speed behind the microfighter, its small size allowing near instantaneous changes in attitude, it behaved less like a flying craft that the other aerospace fighters were designed as and more like the battlepods that they had fought against in the Mishhuvurthyar wars- Not that Coconut had actually been around for those, but she had dealt with some remnants, and participated in numerous simulations against them. She knew she could use this to her advantage, even if the small size, lack of armor, and limited load options made her feel quite undergunned against the Hayabusa, Kawarime, and Mozu.
This, of course, she took as a test, a challenge, to see how well the pilot could deal with disadvantages. Coconut was sure, of course, that the cobbled together test Mozu that Minas was using came with its own disadvantages, but there was no way the Separa'shan would have fit in a Scimitar, so pitting the two best against one another in a matchup of underdogs had been off the table from the start.
When the day came, the actual makeup of the final competition was announced. Instead of a group competition, a tournament, or a free for all, it was a simple one on one contest, with the pairs matched up based on skill and grades. All the weapons had been changed out or adjusted to be non-lethal, and points would be awarded by scoring hits on your opponent, with your points added as bonus to your grades, and the resulting scores would of course be the final class ranking. The next day would then be graduation.
Everyone was given an hour to choose a load for their craft's hardpoints or weapons bays, and then each pair would be given 30 minutes of combat time, then the next would go, starting from the lowest ranked, and finishing with the highest ranked. This meant that Hazelnut would go first, and Coconut and Minas would be the finale, and it promised to be a show for the class, as the tension and animosity between the two at this point could be cut with a knife.
Hazel's loadout was quite simple. all four of her hardpoints contained Origin Mini-missile pods
, which gave her plenty to dissuade attackers, and could also be used to 'damage' her opponent. The actual damage output per munition didn't matter in this competition- each 'hit' counted as a point, and 400 sub munitions that could guide themselves were much better than the 8 larger missiles her opponent had chosen. This was of course, part of her strategy. Points were points, and you didn't lose any by getting hit, so she just had to hit her opponent more than they hit her, and she would win the round. So when the time came, the two Hayabusa fighters made their way to their starting points, and waited for the signal to start.
When the light flashed in both their cockpits, the small fighters lurched toward one another, turrets and primary cannon firing with reckless abandon, the craft were equally matched. Shield counters ticked down until they were 'exhausted' and then both fighters broke from one another sharply. Hazelnut's opponent fired off a missile, but it was quickly countered by a volley of four mini-missiles, with a fifth sneaking in behind to score the Bob-cut Neko's first point. It was clear she lacked the refinement and skill of a better pilot, but it looked like she was making up for it with creativity. The slugfest went on similarly, until the opposing fighter had run out of missiles, and Hazel still had plenty left. Their points sat at almost a tie, though the other pilot seemed to be a little better, and had scored a couple more. At this point, Hazel had taken to evasion rather than attack, whiling down time without losing ground, until the clock started ticking down. At the last minute, the former bridge bunny unexpectedly whipped her fighter around, and charged. All guns ablaze, she took hit after hit but gave everything she had gotten, and then the volleys of mini-missiles started. it ended up being handily more than her opponent could quite deal with, and points started racking up as the soda can sized munitions bounced off the opposing Hayabusa's fuselage one after the other. this attack however left her open, and she took more hits than any fighter would have survived against a real enemy, but when the buzzer sounded and their cockpits flashed to signal the end of the fight, Hazel took count of their final scores and blinked several times. It was risky, and stupid, but her last minute blitz had done it. She had won, by about ten points.
That first bout ended up being one of the more exciting, as nobody else had thought of as gutsy a plan as the unassuming Hazelnut. One after the other, rounds were decided. Some ended up being close like Hazel's, some incredibly one-sided, and one match ended up with a dead even draw. But to those who weren't actively flying, this was all just a pre-show. Not only their own class, but another pilot class, as well as some of the other more technical course classes, had been given permission to come and watch the competition. The hangar they had been based out of was chock full of people, and they had been promised a show. And before long, what they all considered the finale was upon them.
Coconut's scimitar had quite an unorthodox loadout. In the inner, medium duty hardpoints, were mounted matching Decoy Launchers
, and its outer hardpoints sported Origin Autocannons
that had been dug up from who knows where, likely the same place the fighter itself had come from. Minas' Mozu sported a pair of mini-missile pods, as well as four larger missiles, on top of the missiles the ship already carried, and its additional weapons options.
The pair made their way to the designated starting points, and waited for their signal. As soon as it went off, Coconut's fighter took off- straight 'up' relative to its original position. Minas was taken aback for a second as none of the other pilots had done anything remotely similar, and in that moment of hesitation, Coconut scored the first hit. Her fighter spun around on its axis, and then disappeared, leaving a telltale streak behind from the older generation TAP drive the smaller craft sported. Minas took chase, firing after the dimming sparkles that were the contrails of the Scimitar's powerplant. However, something odd would be noted though she should have expected it. Instead of one target showing up on her sensors, it had split into five. Minimissiles streaked, chasing after each signature, the Separa's deadly cool nature turning swiftly into frustration and anger at having been outsmarted so quickly. Giving chase to what looked like the original signature, a pelting of solid objects started knocking down her shield counter and gave away that Minas had been chasing the wrong signature, and rather the one just below and to port of her current heading was her actual target. She changed course, and pursued, bringing her superior firepower to bear on her smaller opponent.
Coconut reacted as quickly as she could, and recalled her decoy drones, changing course to converge on their position and try to lose her foe in the sensor confusion. Minimissiles continued from both sides, and Coconut quickly found her shield counter depleted and one of her four drones marked as eliminated. Juking and jerking her craft, she spun around in place and hit max thrust backward, plunking away with her autocanons against the oncoming opponent. after a couple shield hits, the mozu's shield counter depleted and Coco found her point counter increasing, before she had to break off and accelerate with her primary thrusters in a different direction to avoid a barrage of fire from the Separa. She managed to get away, but not cleanly, as Minas scored a few points of her own. And so it went, a serious game of cat and mouse where the cat was a snake and the mouse was a cat, the Mozu showing itself to be a clearly superior craft to the old Scimitar, but the Scimitar's pilot showing herself to be better than the Separa. The points racked up, but only one or two at a time, and their scores ended up remaining close, Coconut edging ahead one moment, only to be hit several times the next and falling back a point or two again. After the majority of the time had been used, the two pilot had gone through all of their expendable munitions, and Coconut's drones had all been taken out, the fight turned into a real slugging match. The fighters were staying closer to one another, trying to take potshots and attacks of opportunity, neither letting the other get the edge.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, something happened. It took onyl an instant, as the two fighters made close passes toward one another, but the Scimitar Coconut flew suddenly buckled. Probably due to a decade of neglect followed by a pilot suddenly flying the fighter at the limit of its capabilities, one of the latches on its folding wings came undone, throwing the fighter completley off course and out of control, and before Minas could do anything, it had collided with her Mozu, causing the hastily extended fuselage to break apart, the two fighters spinning uncontrollably away from one another, to the collective gasps and not a few screams from those watching. Instructors started shouting, and people called emergency services, all the student pilots were ordered to stay put, but one, one didn't listen.
Without hesitation, with more surety than at any time before in her life, Hazelnut ran. She ran to the nearest shuttle, and started it up, despite repeated shouted orders from the instructors to stand down. She didn't care, she needed to save her sister. And, yeah, probably the Separa, too. Her T8 took off, the exhaust blast buffeting those on the deck and just adding to the sudden chaos, but she wasn't worried about those safe on the deck. Her comms flashed almost immediately, once again with an order to stand down, but she politely declined and continued. she started hailing the frequencies of the two whom had just struck each other, trying to get a response. Minas didn't respond, but Coconut did.
"I- I'm okay, sis, go get the other one" Coconut replied, though from the sounds of it she had taken quite a shock in the impact. But still, Minas didn't respond. Putting the shuttle on autopilot, Hazelnut threw on one of the AMES suits in the shuttle and made her way to the lazily spinning wreckage of the Mozu prototype. Making her way out the back, Hazel stepped out into vacuum and found the form of the pilot-suited Separa'shan floating in the middle of the ball of twisted debris, appearing to be unconscious. She grabbed the Venis, and using the Ames' thrusters, brought her into the safety of the T8 shuttle.
"I got her, how you holding up?" Hazel asked, worried about Coconut. A reply did not come immediately, which gave the younger of the two Neko some unnecessary anxiety, but then the familiar voice crackled over the comms.
"Don't worry about me. I'm managing. Though, I think they'll have to cut me out, the cockpit won't open."
"Just, Just stay safe, okay?" Hazel demanded, and was met with a chuckle of relief from the other end of the comms.
"Aren't you supposed to be the comms expert? it's like you forgot it all of a sudden," Coconut joked.
Hazelnut frowned, a bit mad that Coco could be joking under these circumstances, but she held back and flew her shuttle back to the hangar, watching the emergency crews rushing past her to retrieve the two wrecks and get the remaining pilot secured.
As soon as Hazelnut landed her shuttle, it was swarmed by two groups. First, EMT's to take over care of the unconscious Minas, and MP's, in to detain Hazelnut for disobeying the direct order to stand down. Not regretting a single thing she had done, the Bob-cut Neko went willingly to the brig. Needless to say, the graduation would have to be postponed as this whole mess was sorted out.