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Frontier Skies, Mission One: Surprise Skirmish


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System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt, Nashoba Sector
Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt
In Medias Res

"Specters, regroup and engage! We need to push back and take control of this fight!" Chūsa Elendriel Val’ethir’s, preternaturally calm, commanding, melodic voice rang out clearly over the comms, clarion above the klaxons— that din of screeching incoming alarms, through the chaos and providing a rallying point for the 52nd Squadron of the Second Expeditionary Fleet.

Mere moments prior, the intrepid pilots of the 52nd Squadron “Screaming Specters,” on routine patrol from the YSS Teisenjou, had just slipped into the orbit of the outer asteroid field of the newly discovered XR-8 system, dropping out of FTL as they approached the gravity of the system’s primary, XR-8a, a warm, yellow distant sphere not to dissimilar from Yamatai itself. Enjoying a moment of camaraderie in the starlit black of the unknown frontier, the banter and jokes and laughter on the comms led the tension of the duty to dissipate, if only for those mere moments.

Laughter and banter were cut short by the hail of fire from a massive number of incoming hostiles that were, an instant before, not there, yet now were. In its place was the disorienting cacophony of alarms and lights and screams and explosions. The jovial calm was no more, there was only fight, flight, and death.

“Specter Nine, Specter Twelve, Gone!” Several of the Mozu 1B, the latest ultralight fighter in the Star Army’s inventory, were barely able to maneuver away from the explosions in front of them as the ships before them were lost. They were seemingly out of nowhere, a great swarm, of everything from the latest Kuvexian fighters, to ancient designs from back in the Kikyō Sector decades out of date decades before Yamatai was even founded, to unknown models never before encountered by the Star Army.

The once orderly formation was now a churning, seething mass of maneuvering and counter maneuvering, as Mozu and pirate danced around one another in deadly, whirling, elegant waltz at adrenaline-pumping tempo. The weaving, helical patterns of plasma exhaust trails hung in space, slowly fading behind as each pilot twisted and turned in every direction, along every axis, each pilot dodging the relentless onslaught in a desperate attempt to regroup and counterattack.

Specter Thirteen down!
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The big bastard, Shoi Jessie-117 was currently performing an evasive maneuver as he pulled away from the incoming debris of the downed Specter Thirteen. The large Half ID-Sol was cramped inside the cockpit of the Mozu 1B, his designation was Specter 17 and he was quick on the comms as he dived into the asteroid belt to lose his tail. "Specter 17 here, had a lone bastard nearly grab me by the short and curly's. Swinging back around, how did these fucker's know we were coming?" 117 said as he pulled up back in the fold as the Ensign shot down one of the Kuvy ships that were tailing one of the Specters. "Sasquatch has got your back Specters, let's work hard to make sure none of us are getting new shells today." He said as he pulled off and provided suppression for another member of the squadron that was looking to be in danger. His warnings were annoying the hell out of him and he wanted to hit something, but the big bastard just could not do that now.

It was like someone switched the music from a simple emotional waltz into something like a damn blitzkrieg bop and 117 was able to quickly pick up the tempo, coming in with a sweet bass line as he breathed calmly and got into the zone. He continued to fire upon all enemy fighters that were within the grasp of the autocannons, his eyesight adjusted as the canopy adjusted the flares so they did not blind him. "Chūsa you see the ones that bolted past our frontline? These bastards have held back on us for some time it looks like. Shall I take a small group to try and find a flagship?" He asked as he nimbly dodged a missile that he barely caught in time, the warning klaxons were getting on his nerves even more as his radar looked like a colony of ants had infested the electronics.
Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

"Specter Seven here, still alive." A high-pitched, feminine voice breathed out over comms.

Araya Mikasa couldn't believe it.

She had only narrowly jinked her Mozu just out of a particularly tenacious missile’s blast radius, having leveraged the craft’s Integrated CFS and thrust vectoring systems to do so. The blonde Nekovalkyrja silently thanked Chiharu for saving her, as she had never dodged a missile like that in training or a simulator. In her mind, it was a miracle that a C-ranked pilot like her was still alive amidst such a deadly ambush. Nevertheless, Mikasa didn’t let the thought distract her for longer than a few processing cycles. It would demand all of her skills to survive here and far more than that to not be dead weight in such a chaotic, fast-paced battlespace.

Sweat beading across her alabaster brow beneath the helmet of her aerospace flight suit, Mikasa willed her digital mind to its maximum output—overclocking her organic processors as she zoomed her craft back towards the chaotic furball. However, the blonde Nekovalkyrja had yet to reach the furball before a second bandit locked onto her, the target lock warnings prodding insistently at her awareness as she threw her craft into a sequence of dizzying evasive maneuvers, the mere act of trying to survive demanding every fiber of her being. Once more, it was the grace of Chiharu that saved her, this time in the form of one of her squadmates—Jessie-117. The hulking ID-SOL’s suppressive fire had forced the bandit to break off their pursuit, giving Mikasa the opportunity to seize the initiative whereas before, her callsign might have been the next to be blacked out in her squadmates’ HUDs.

Mikasa didn’t hesitate to lock onto the breaking bandit as she pulled her Mozu in a tight chandelle, attempting to lessen the aspect angle between her craft and the enemy as she did. The lower it was, the higher her chances of achieving a missile hit. From there, the blonde Nekovalkyrja shifted her heading in a pure pursuit relative to the bandit, before willing a pair of mini-missiles to fire, unleashing a pair of anti-mecha compressed aether plasma warheads from her craft’s launchers that screamed towards their target on wings of hot, fiery aether plasma!
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

Akaris Tenui had little time to utter more than "Unya preserve us!" before the incoming fire forced him to roll his Mozu hard to port. The Norian had barely completed the manoeuvre when he had to corkscrew the ultralight fighter back to starboard and throttle up. This was a dust-up like he hadn't experienced outside the most savagely sadistic training scenarios and he was very aware that this time it was very much real. Trying to find a vector that would free him from the chaos, Akaris barely even registered the pirate that jinked across his sights, the young pilot triggering a stream of autocannon fire that crossed the void and punched a series of holes across the enemy fuselage and engines.

Just in case the pirate ship decided to be thoroughly unsporting and attempt to explode him to death, Akaris cut in the thrust vectoring, brought the nose of his ship down hard and punched forward. Right about now, Akaris would love to utilise some of his defensive systems, but as the Norian couldn't guarantee that such wouldn't do just as much harm to his squadron as the enemy, he refrained. Regardless, it seemed that last manoeuvre had earned him some small respite.

"Specter Four, still kicking... Oh no you don't!" The last was aimed at the Kuvexian fighter that had just engaged one of the other Mozu's. Akaris immediately rolled out and began steering his fighter in pursuit, pushing his systems to lock on to the enemy craft. The Norian had a pair of mini-missiles that were eager to make friends with the Kuvexian. Mere moments before he could lock on, fire filled his vision and Akaris was forced to once more throw his Mozu into defensive motion.
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

"Specter Five checking in. Copperhead is green." Thankfully, Menelaos had been given plenty of time to acquaint himself with the workings of the Mozu 1C, both through the manuals and the simulation that Mikasa had run. Being he was Separa'Shan, he had to fly the 1C as it was built with his race in mind.

He barely had time to juke to the left and out of the explosion radius. It looked like their test flight had become a dogfight with unknown assailants. It was time to see what the Mozu could really do, this felt like the simulations, but unlike the simulations this was for real. They had already lost three squad members, and damned if Menelaos would let more fall while he was still alive and flying. It seemed that Squatch, Bubbles and Akaris were all fighting their own fights.

El, short for ELECTRA started beeping at him as one of the bogeys was working to get a missile lock him
, Juking first to the left and then throttling back hard on the stick, to put the enemy fighter in his crosshairs. "Two can play you sons of bitches. Hardtop was a friend." Hardtop was the callsign for Specter 9. He depressed the switch to fire his Yu-W6-W4308C Light Autocannons into the fuselage of the enemy fighter. "Specter Six, bogey on your six. Juke to your right, I got your back."
Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

"Any time now, Huginn!" a voice called out over comms, originating from the Sabre labled Warwolf Two, one third of the Nepleslian observers attached to this fleet. Warwolf 2 committing a series of rolls both tight and loose as a foreign fighter of unknown make chased her, purposefully keeping her movements sloppy enough to keep the bogey on her tail without becoming an easy target.

Warwolf Three's IFF signature closed on the trailing bogey from an aggressively perpendicular angle, a Marlin ripping through their airframe, reducing it to a plume of plasma and twisted debris in an instant. Warwolf 3, the second Sabre assigned to the squadron, made a wide arc around that ionized wreck to meet up with their twin. The two fighters spiralling around each-other in perfect unison, close enough to make their IFF signatures briefly merge and fight for control over who was listed on top of who.

"Warwolf Three got 'em, don't leave me hanging so long!"

"Fine, sis, I'll be the bait next time - we'll herd stragglers back towards the main battle until then," came Warwolf Three's voice, maybe an octave deeper than Warwolf Two's but otherwise indistinguishable, the two Sabres flared up their afterburners and ripped away, moving to chase bogeys back towards their Yamataiian allies.

The two were good, that much was clear, but compared to them Warwolf One sat in a league of her own.
It was hard to tell where she was at first, IFF signature disappearing behind a bogey's shortly after the skirmish had started, but anyone who craned their gaze over to one of the gold-plated bogies would see the distinct green shape of Warwolf One's Shashka practically glued to her target's tail, the large craft overshadowing its gilded foe. There were no quips, no angry remarks, her cockpit was dead silent besides her measured breaths and the smooth sounds of her Skusten-cored controls flicking around - perfectly mimicking the foe's own movements.

The target lock indicator blared in her helmet, the Shashka's back-seater AI advising its pilot to end this already, Midas opted to ignore this, continuing to keep her nose practically glued to the enemy's thrust nozzles, the Shashka's powerful sensor suite able to take all sorts of readings from this distance. The bogey finally opened up his thrusters and flared his afterburners, Warwolf's lead letting up on her own propulsion just a hair, baiting the enemy pilot to do something ballsy.

As predicted, this fuelled the bogey's ego, and the gilded fighter pulled up. His engines vectored to throw himself around in an attempt to roll and reverse positions, definitely ballsy, and exactly what Midas was betting on.

The Shashka's wings quickly sprung open from their lower-profile delta formation, pivoting backwards as an array of vernier thrusters maxxed their output - main thrusters vectoring to throw the Shashka's tail back at quite the extreme angle. Midas maintained tight control of her joystick as her nose swung around to point into the enemy's cockpit, drifting around just fast enough to keep herself out of their crosshairs. With the squeeze of a button a hail of 20mm rounds tore through the pilot, sending that golden frame spinning off into the unknown, so Midas levelled out and angled herself to fall in behind Spectre Seven.

"This is Warwolf One, splash one bogey, marked largely undamaged airframe for recovery post-battle," came Midas' deep, husky voice, a single bead of sweat rolling down the side of her face before her mono-eye'd helmet wicked it away.

"You could have done that sooner, Warwolf One," Warwolf Three piped up, breaking off from his twin to chase an airframe of unknown origin down the middle of the fight.

"I want to understand the enemy," Midas replied, offsetting herself to Spectre Seven's portside before drifting further from the epicentre of the skirmish.

"They might be mercs, that one was cocky enough to fit the bill~"
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

Coconut kept her distance behind the squadron of Mozu that her and her sister's Nagamaki had been assigned to, so when they dropped out of FL and the massive furball erupted, she had a slightly better view of what was going on. The Nekovalkyrja pilot took mental note as some of the friendly IFF Blips on her scanner started turning red, which was not a good sign this early into a fight. "Harpy two checking in, We're good back here, sending a couple of little buddies in to help-" and with that announcement two large drones - and their associated IFF signatures (Reading Buddy 1 and Buddy 2) separated from the Nagamaki's. The two Spade Drones each carried a pair of Baby Torpedoes and 12 Space Missiles, while their mothership carried a pair of KE-Z1 anti-starship missiles as well as four more Space missiles.

"I've got an incoming descrambler packet that I'm pushing out to everyone," Hazelnut communicated from the backseat, the EW setting packet being sent to everyone to ensure that their systems wouldn't be affected by what was about to come, "In ten seconds I'll send out some heavy jamming! Be sure that thing's ready before then or you'll be blind!"
The Nagamaki's systems began to spool up, the heavy duty sensor dome switching from receiving mode to broadcast mode. As it readied to go, the two Spade drones made their way into the scramble. Rather than separate, the two microfighter drones had been ordered to cooperate, their AI's going after a target that Hazelnut had picked out for them- one of the Kuvexian fighters as their commander had ordered them. Heavy lase pulses sprayed out from two different locations, trying to triangulate the target and then lead it to a particular area- where a space missile from Buddy 1 was already on an intercept route.

As it waited outside of the furball, the Nagamaki wasn't out of notice- it stuck out like a sore thumb on sensors and a few enemy fighters took notice. "Well, guess I gotta earn my keep," Coconut muttered, diving away from an incoming stream of fire before tilting the Nagamaki up toward its target, sliding her fighter to the right with the verniers before unleashing a stream of heavy laser blasts while the wing-integrated mini-missile tubes popped off a couple of rounds to intercept an incoming missile.
"How prompt for a flight of the fastest interceptors in the sector," the Xiulurian-accented voice of the commander was somehow both deadpan and musical, emotionless but yet demanding emotion in reply. Specter One: Chūsa Elendriel "Starstrike" Val’ethir rolled longitudinally and spun laterally at the same time, firing constantly with both her autocannon and the fearsome, near-instantly omnidirectional Plasma Projection System that weaponized the reaction control verniers, working in tandem with ICFS for inertial control, made the Mozu so agile that it could keep up with unreal Elven grace of the pilot. Those magnetic thrust vectoring systems shifted the geometry of their powerful electromagnetic fields, turning the very maneuvers themselves into deadly jets of searing, focused Æther-plasma. For some of the pilots, the soundtrack to the dance was the brutal strains of Nepleslian metal. For the commander, it was flamenco.

From Elendriel's hardpoints, as the craft backflipped along its pitch to face the center of the grand melée, "Blazing Comets" EWAR missiles leapt and screamed into the darkness, adding to the havoc wrought by the Nagamaki's massive radome antenna, doing their part so that the screeches of hostile target lock in the earpieces of any of her surviving subordinates in proximity to the thick. Following them was a barrage of compressed Æther plasma from the integral minimissile pods, in a classic "Shake and Bake" one-two strike to add enemy casualties to the mix. "Specters, guidance from Teisenjou-KAMI has arrived after telemetry analysis, prioritizing threats by identification. Just shoot the shiny ones first, then the less shiny ones, then the..." it was only finishing the sentence that finally moved Elendriel's immovable composure, "...the 'rat rods,' last."

"And, Harpy, do be sure my communications remain static free. Thank you."
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

This kind of space dogfight was a long shot from how they showed it in holovids. Space fighters had sensors, but the targets were all impossibly far away, glimmering motes in an endless void... Until they weren't, and your tiny one-seat rocket was decimated by the kind of blow that would split an ancient castle in half. If you could physically see your enemy within the black hail storm, you were probably already dead.

And thus, it was a dance of intuition, a game of constantly staying one step ahead- Of visualizing a dozen interconnected vectors and trajectories- Of feeling out those faceless little spark's emotions before they knew what they were doing themselves.

Just as Midas completed their maneuver, they were pinged with a proximity alarm, a split second before a vibrant blur rocketed past. The intended attack vector was obvious, but so was the distinctly indistinct profile of the craft that flashed them.

"...You're bunching up too much. Their fighters are muddled, and you can't pull chaff at this range." Their voice slippery and quiet over the squad coms. It wasn't so much a position of authority as contempt for those 'trying to get themselves killed'. "We are flying interceptors. We should get out the melee, hit and run..."

Specter Eleven. The Octopus, as flight academy had bestowed the nickname.

A golden fighter launched a missile at the cascading ripple, sending the projectile twitching and struggling along it's flightpath- struggling to keep up with a heat signature that was constantly changing at oblique angles- The hull of the Mozu rippling with black and white parallel lines, like mobile razzle dazzle camouflage.

Pulling out further and further, the last tug of wear was provided by a friendly Nagamaki's ECM, so that Specter Eleven could finally get the distance to pivot along their trajectory, and take out the missile with a concentrated spat of autocannon fire.

She quite clearly, brazenly used that bubble of cover to slip around her assailant and pick up speed again, darting back past Coconut in a matter of seconds- And then dumped a OI-Z3 Armiore Missile into the path of her gold-hulled aggressor.

It panicked and dumped chaff- as expected- dodging into the same flight line as Specter Eleven-

Trying to counter, to retaliate- too close-

Flying straight into the scattering white plume of plasma the Mozu 1C dumped into their mutual path, overwhelming the enemy shields and melting through the cockpit window in a matter of seconds. The uncontrolled wobble quickly ripped the bejewelled craft apart, exploding into a spray of glimmering debris whilst the octopus cackled at their demise derisively.

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As their peaceful cruise turned into a fracas, Argyle gave a half-hearted "well, what do you expect" grin. He wasn't on this mission to stay out of the frying pan. If he wanted to be an ace one day and become a knight, he'd need a list of accomplishments long enough to merit it.

He pushed his Sparrowhawk's thrusters to the max alongside the others, dodging and weaving through incoming plasma, missiles, and whatever other oddball weaponry the dregs of the sector could pull together. He'd taken his shots where he'd seen them and tried to provide cover where he could as the fight began to unfold, waiting for the battle to turn into the sort of organized chaos that he could take advantage of.

In the periphery of his awareness, he tracked the fighters he was most familiar with - Bubbles, Copperhead, and Harpy. He had a vested interest in their safety. Outside of just liking them, they were an opportunity for group dynamic efficiency gains. Stronger together and all that.

Argyle twisted his fighter around a drifting lance of aether, close enough that it sent neon bands of reflected light across his hull.

"-shoot the shiny ones first, then the less shiny ones-"

That earned a smile.

He sent a simple ack response to Specter 1, then took the data from his sensors and the Harpies' Nagamaki. His awareness expanded to the space around him, now full of red and green streaks of trajectories and projected paths. Priorities were assigned to the blips he had friendly-foe data for. It was time to hunt.

His thrusters roared as he streaked towards the source of the aether fire, a shining golden fighter. Others shot at him and were shot at by him as he zeroed in, but they weren't important.

One fighter was insistent about getting in his way. It fell in behind him, spraying bullets towards him. He juked and rolled, then suddenly he was behind the other fighter. At the speeds they were moving, it was like he teleported. Before the enemy pilot could figure out what happened, a halo of bullets pushed him into a straight flight path - and then a missile closed the distance before he could react.

Argyle deftly flew through the expanding cloud of debris.

Another fighter shot towards him from one side. Argyle tsk'd and spun his fighter to face the newcomer. He cancelled the system that made his movement non-relative, sending him screaching sideways across space. His torrents opened up, directly in the path of the oncoming fighter, and it was soon just another cloud in the sky.

The Sparrowhawk's engines did something, their thrust coming out of the fighter at what looked to be the wrong angle for just a split second. The fighter was back after its golden opponent right after, ignoring conventional dynamics again.

A flash of worry struck him as one of his tracked allies was in trouble. He was too far from her to help - something he'd have to weigh against his current, greedy piloting - and he felt a pang of guilt as the data told him that Bubbles was about to be taken out. A well-timed assist by someone - Jessie 117, he noted - got her out of the situation. He made a note to buy the pilot a beer (a common natural bonding technique, he had read) next time they ran into each other.

At last, he reached his target. Other dross had met their end on his approach, but they weren't the sort of thing he could claim as a worthy contribution. The one in front of him was clearly a different breed; he'd seen it tag more than a few of his fellow pilots before he could get close enough to intervene.

His approach wasn't unnoticed, of course. Just as he got a weapons lock, the gold fighter made a dramatic, tight loop that left the two fighters facing each other at an astronomical range considered "way too damn close". A split second later they'd exchanged the first round of weapons fire, juking and rolling until they nearly rolled over each other on passing. Argyle was almost sure he could make out the pilot in the other cockpit. He'd review it later.

The Sparrowhawk burned into a tight U-turn; his earlier trick wouldn't work if he wanted to catch back up to the enemy pilot any time soon. The enemy's fighter streaked in back around in the distance, a mirror of Argyle's own, a brilliant energy figure-8 in the stars. They each launched missiles this time, then fired off chaff and bullets to intercept.

Again and again they clashed, dodging fire from distant opponents and lighting up the sky with ordnance.

Another warning flashed in Argyle's mind. Another ally back in the thick of things, removed from his exhilarating dance. He sneered at it, but he was part of the flight first. He might have found a fantastic whetstone for honing his skills, but it meant nothing if they lost the battle - or lost anyone, really.

The next time they passed each other, closer than even before as the two pilots pushed themselves to the edge, the golden fighter's belly was unexpectedly lit up with a clean line of bullet holes from tip to tail. It should have been an impossible angle for a fighter to shoot at, but the evidence was there.

The gold fighter exploded in a long streak, a gold and purple brushstroke of cirrus.

Argyle's Sparrowhawk stood in its humanoid form, its Torrent held in one hand. The change from fighter to mecha was something most pilots outside of NDC space simply didn't expect. He had decided to keep it as a hidden ace for situations like this, only using the fighter's transformative properties when he'd get the maximum effect.

The mecha spun about as parts flipped back into the fighter configuration. It drifted for a moment as Argyle gave his defunct dance partner a two-fingered salute, then the thrusters flared to life and he was on his way towards his training partners.
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"Keep it up Specter Seven, we have lost too many good ones already...no more deaths today..." Ensign Jessie-117 said as he pulled up into a rather chaotic area of the asteroid field...which for someone that just told one of the pilots that there would be no more deaths today...was hilarious. That was when Starstrike came in over the comms as the remaining pilots received the descrambling packet, their commander was giving further instruction and Jessie could tell that losing the fighters and pilots that they had already seen was affecting her even if he could not see her face. "Roger Starstrike, time to make these stars go dim." He said as he initiated the protocols for unpacking and activating the pack as he dodged one, two, then three missiles as they zoomed past and hit two of the larger asteroids. The blasts were not exceptionally large, but they still caused more chaos in his vicinity as a rain of the blasted chunks pelts his craft. Thankfully everything was still reading optimal, but he was worried about the squad...he really did not want to see any more of his friends meet their end today.

He pulled up and looped around one of the larger rocks and was able to get behind two of the pirates that were looking for the Sasquatch. He turned his autocannons on one before locking on and firing one of his mini-missiles as he focused the two fighters he fired upon were hit savagely and turned to aetheric plasma as they collided with two rocks that moved into their flight path. He came out of the belt and spun in a tight barrel roll as he engaged thrusters toward a small contingent of fighters, he proceeded to open fire as they were all labeled as shinies and as he grew closer he spun faster as he took slow breaths and continued to lay down fire. There was one explosion, then another as the fighter contingent took measures to pull away as the crazy half-ID Sol jetted right past them.

He then quickly maneuvered as he took a sharp turn, turning his thrusters off immediately as the force made the pilot's stomach rattle. "Specter Seventeen engaging a group of jackals that are trying to pick off stragglers. Who wants to give these bastards a taste of their own medicine?" He said as he continued to follow the fighter wing that was starting to form up again, he was inside the cockpit and he was fine-tuning a few of his instruments as he was reading the interface to see who all was left in the squadron. This test flight ended up becoming a practical test and he was quite pissed about it, but he could lose his cool once they were back and could take a moment...for now, there was plenty of work to do.
Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

"Just creating lanes, Spectre Eleven," Midas retorted through gritted teeth as she split her throttle, maxxing out one side as she reached the edges of the conflict, power-sliding with her vernier thrusters and gravitic propulsion system to swing around into a better angle of approach while her AI worked on verifying and applying what the Nagamaki had sent through. The Nepleslian lead let herself drift a moment longer, Warwolf two and three zipping past her nose in pursuit of their own targets as she watched all the vessels chase each-other, then it happened.

There was the briefest of windows were a perfectly Shashka-sized corridor opened between her and the bogies Specter Seventeen was chasing, Midas quickly flicked into action, firing off her afterburners and tucking the Shashka's wings back into their delta-wing formation, powering forwards as her grip slowly tightened. She kept up the speed, making fine adjustments to maintain that winding corridor between fighters while trying to keep her thrust vector as straight as possible.

A proximity warning blared and Midas' ripped her control stick back while cutting her engines, wings flaring out once more to maximize the airframe's supermanoeuvrability potential, barely managing to bring her interceptor's nose out of the way of a wildly off-course bogie's heavily damaged fighter. A small bit of paint being scraped off the one of her missile bays was the extent of the damage, and to avoid over-steering in her adrenaline-addled state Midas committed to a roll, managing to snap back onto her previous flight path has her helmet worked hard to wick away a not insignificant bit of sweat.

"Specter Seventeen I'm coming in on your starboard, let's clean this up," the Shashka pilot huffed without missing a beat, flying wide of the half-SOL's airframe before letting loose a row of self guided high-explosive mini-missiles into the crowd of bogies, coralling them and trying to keep the pack tight with her pulse laser - taking one's wing off with her gun's opening volley.
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

As the world outside continued to explode in various directions, Coconut drowned out the myriad noises and warnings, imagining the unheard bangs and crashes as missile met metal, laser met shield and life met death. She gritted her teeth and Scoffed as Specter 11 rushed past and stole her target in a flash "Hey, that was mine!" she complained in a direct line to Minas, her rival from flight school come back to haunt her in the operational field. Kicking in the Aetherburners to give her Nagamaki a burst of speed (A small "Eep!" came from behind her as the sudden acceleration took the communications specialist by surprise while Coconut took off after another target. Another of the gold Kuvexian fighters had made its way out of the furball, looking at the temptingly large seeming target on their scanners, it hurtled toward Coco and Hazel's ship as the duo wended their way around trying to stay out of too much of the mess. Heavy lasers blazed out, peppering their enemies' shields as the Kuvexian fighters' own armaments did the same to the protective field around the Nagamaki.

"Three... Two... One! Blackout!" Hazelnut called out over the comms, a pulse of sensor-scrambling output was broadcast from the huge dish atop the Nagamaki, everyone's displays flickered for a fraction of a second but ultimately held, while suddenly the enemy had nothing but their Eyeball Mark I sensors to go by, at least until they were able to deal with the huge outburst of random stuff sent out by Hazelnut.

"And now, you're mine!" Coconut gloated, launching a missile a moment after the jamming signal went out, which streaked toward its target with aplomb, turning it into so much glitter on the battlefield.
"Bandits sighted, Specter 17," came Argyle's cool voice. The simulated adrenaline of his last dogfight was still very much present, but it didn't have to reach his voice or rationality. His head felt warm as the mental matrix within pushed itself to track everything in his vicinity, projections upon projections lighting up his sky with narrow corridors of safety. It was an afterthought; right now he was the fighter. His mind and senses fully pushed into the Sparrowhawk until it was him. He was an Operator; this was their path.

He was pleased to help out the unknown pilot so soon. More pleased to see a few others responding to the same call. As he drew near, approaching from a tangent to the battle's temporary plane of engagement, he deployed a storm of mini-missiles. They'd either hit or pass through, posing little danger to his allies. And hit some did! They were too small to get a kill in a single hit, but wounding them had been his first priority.

The fighter flicked into some kind of hybrid form before it made it all the way into the furball. It had arms and reversed legs now, but otherwise still looked like a fighter. Argyle took the targets that had already been painted, chose the ones his missiles had hit, and used the Sparrowhawk's arms to turn his fighter's cannon into a turret. It sprayed rounds at each of the wounded craft, ripping into systems and sending a few spiraling off into the distance.

Before he could get too comfortable, a bevy of missiles picked him out as a ripe target now that his speed had slowed. He shoved the transformation stick back into fighter configuration. Thrusters flared back to full a moment later, shoving his body back into the seat at G's that would have brought him close to black out- if there'd been any blood to get shoved around.

He fired off his flares, catching a few missiles off guard. Others still pursued him, drawing nearer as he lost speed to dodge incoming fire. Argyle grit his teeth as he arrived at the asteroid pocket. Missiles trailed like streamers behind him, swirling to dodge each other and stay on course. A few were lost to the drifting rocks, but there simply weren't enough of them close enough together to do much.

The fighter jolted upwards as he vectored his thrust, angling him back towards the battle. If chaff wasn't working and the rocks weren't either, then he was running low on options. If he turned to shoot them down, he'd give up too much speed and get hit. The mixed enemy forces weren't all trash, as he'd discovered in his last dog fight, and whoever had fired these at him had cash to spare. They were clearly a cut above the junk he'd been toying with.

As his varied projections dwindled his list of options down more and more, taking barely a nanosecond but feeling like forever, a burst of opportunity presented itself before him. The path was shit, but it was a path. He selected it and all the other projections fell away from his view. There was the single line of destiny, stretching out before him, and no room for anything else.

That line took him straight to Spectre 117 and the Warwolves.

"117, Warwolves," he said, his voice still calm but clearly strained, "Just keep doing what you're doing."

What they were doing was destroying enemy fighters. He needed them to keep doing that, even as he approached them from an oblique angle at maximum speed.

As their combined fire took out one enemy, then another, they streaked past their new kills and Argyle flew right into the resulting debris. Shrapnel clashed and chipped at the shell of his Sparrowhawk; he felt like a kid falling down a hill. But the debris was hot and he was in there somewhere. The missiles had no choice but to follow; a moment later they deleted the debris clouds upon their detonation.

Argyle took a deep breath and calmed his systems, out of the heat for now. He fell in a respectful distance from the 117 and the warwolves, ready to participate as part of the group once more.
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Yujin was laying within a type 32 pilot pod in full immersion mode just trying it out as he flew alongside Spector 9, moments before the explosion ripped out before it he hit the reverse thrust on his fighter as something was picked up by his sensors a fraction of a second before the missile blew up. His craft was rocked by the exploding Mozu starfighter of his wingmate, then another mozu was ripped apart. Seeing a ton of fighters of the rag-tag force before him he replied "Spector 18 going dark!" flipping on his scalar pulse disrupter, energizing the Xiulurium stealth armor on the Mozu he was in and the ICFS systems dropping him pretty much off the sensors of the enemy as he flips around and looks at the collection of craft before him.

There were all kinds of them some he has never seen before but the ones that interested him were the large newer class Kuvexian fighters that took his attention as many of them bite at the formation of hes wingmates. Kicking his fighter up to speed as he moved to activate the gun pods on the outer hardpoints of his fighter and with the PPS system in full anti-missile form he flew out between them taking down a good part of the incoming missiles, flipping around to chase after a rather large Golden fighter of Kuvesian design. He held his fire till all four of his pods and main autocannons took hold of the fighter, then triggered them all to fire as his fighter came into view for the brief seconds that it took to rain fire down onto the gold fighter till be burst into a golden coment full of fire and gases as it came apart.

The PPS was still on anti-missile duty as it lashed out at incoming and enemy missiles that passed close enough for it to target and destroy them. Spotting Specter 17 he pulls alongside in a protective cover position as wingman as that missile screamed in from no where the pps was blocked from firing by specter 17's own ship but as soon as it was cleared the missile was no more as it got aethered into nothing but plasma. Pulling off as he dove into the more chaotic part of the asteroid belt the dust there would make his stealthed fighter easyer to be seen.

Hearing a high-pitched voice saying that she was still here, still alive he looks for the mark of Specter 7 taking notice of her position to his own. spotting a wingmate help her to finish off a fighter that was tailing her. Spotting a pair of fighters closing in on spector 4 he called out " Spector 4! You got a pair of fighters on your tail, I'm engaging now!" he only hopes that his soft-spoken voice will let him know who it was. Firing off a burst of his Suzukaza mini-missiles at the first fighter wingman and closing in to finish him off as the gun pods targeted the lead fighter trying to rip it apart as his light autocannons barked into the wingman's fighter.

Hearing and receiving a ping as his fighter got the package for the e-war about to be cast over the battlefield he started to take it apart and put it into place as he moves out of the wreckage of the two fighters he just ripped apart. "Specter 4, your tail has been cleared!" seeing more e-war in the form of Blazing comments fill the battlefield he rocked his fighter around and looks around for more of them nice shiny Kuvesian fighters. Taking his fighter is a long arc upward over the current plane of space that the fighting was taking place to try and get a better picture of the battle and locate more of the enemy assets that are in the fight, or lurking nearby. "where the hell did these guys come from..... shit!" He was thinking but some reason had cued the coms in his immersion mode.

Seeing two juicy Kuvesian fighters throwing missiles into his wingmates he calls to coms, "Tagging two Kuvesian fighters that are firing missiles targets are alpha and beta anyone with anti-ship missiles fire at them if able to. Call out your shots so that not everyone fires at them. " Locking his targeting system at the two fighters and starts to move to tail them from a distance.
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

"I've never seen a Dusker do that up close before, that shit's cool!" Warwolf Three gushed, the twins both letting out a giddy cackle over the comms network, their flight patterns becoming even more erratic after Argyle's flashy manoeuvre was witnessed, continuing to loose swarm missiles at every solid lock they got on the recuperating enemies, aided by the Nagamaki's flood of additional sensory data.

"Warwolves two and three, splash three... I think. We gotta track him down when we land, Huginn~" The other sabre pilot reported, trailing off into mumbles as they rolled into a tight two-bird formation once more.

Their flight lead on the other-hand took a wide berth of the debris-field their combined fire had created, putting a wide margin between her Shashka and the predicted trajectories of various bits of shrapnel spiralling off into the void. Despite the opaque skin of Midas' windowless cockpit Argyle would could feel her dark brown eyes picking him apart through the proxy of her ship's sensors, the sensation lingering for a long moment before her flight-path tightened, vectoring back towards the main battle.

"Always appreciated, Argyle," she piped up, giving chase to one of the higher-priotity and scarier-looking fighters of the pack. Midas could feel her backseat-ACE at the edge of each pitch and roll she used to stay on the enemy's tail, after all the flights and simulations the two had found a nice middle ground, the ACE knew better than to put too much restraint on the controls and Midas knew it could juggle optimizing her various methods of propulsion while she focused on the dogfighting.

It was a constant tug of war but worked incredibly well, Midas alternating which of her primary weapons were firing as her angle of attack continued to change wildly, afterburners flaring on and off with enough variation to confuse the hell out of any enemy trying to lock onto her. The bogey's thrusters were reduced to scrap metal and Midas loosed a swarm missile into the airframe before its pilot could eject, flaring up and away from the wreck as her AI confirmed the kill.

"Warwolf One, splashed one of the shinier targets, has anyone managed to find where they were coming from?" Midas threw to the other pilots, her backseater already committing a fraction of its immense processing power to re-running data from the start of the skirmish in an attempt to calculate the origin of the enemy pilots.
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Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Asteroid Belt

As the surviving members of 52nd Squadron began neutralising the enemy units, the volume of incoming fire had dropped commensurately. This in turn allowed Akaris to focus less on purely defensive action and the Norian gradually became more aware of the larger situation around him. A part of his mind heard the report from Harpy Two and registered the new IFF signatures of the Nagasaki's drones showing up on the sensor feed. Before he could factor the presence of the drones into his potential actions, his comm system piped the soft-spoken warning from Specter 18 into his awareness.

Akaris immediately took advantage of the mozu's nimble nature to juke and jink his ship around to disrupt targeting locks. Even as he began his evasive manoeuvring, the pilot acknowledger the transmission from Hazelnut and, only moments later, his sensors registered the two hostile contacts being neutralised. "Appreciated, Specter 18" he transmitted after the pilot confirmed the Norian was now in the clear.

His CIES notified receipt of a priority data packet and Akaris was quick to order ELECTRA to assess and implement the update, but only if it passed the E-WAR system's stringent protocols for dealing with such. The Norian would have to seriously doubt the competence of anyone who just accepted an EWAR update mid-battle without performing due diligence in first verifying its authenticity. By the time that thought had completed itself, ELECTRA had verified and accepted the data packet, the notification of such was immediately followed by the revised target priority orders from Specter One. Akaris was highly appreciative of the succinct directive, but knew he needed to gain some distance before being able to contribute effectively, as Specter 11 had pointed out.

Fortunately, his Mozu's CIES, having followed his earlier thoughts regarding an escape route, now projected a course into his mind that would vector him away from the initial ambush location. "Thank you, So-Mozu." Akaris offered even as his hands flickered across volumetric controls, the actions supporting the telepathic acceptance and initialisation of the provided course. The Norian heard Hazelnut finish her countdown which was immediately followed by the Nagamaki compromising the enemy sensors and in that moment, Akaris acted.

Plasma vernier's flashed to life in rapid sequence as the mozu's plasma projection system dumped aether plasma into the void, spinning the nimble spacecraft around all three axis'. Aided with vectored thrust from the plasma drives and shifting inertial fields as the CIES manipulated the mozu's anti-gravity system, Akaris' ship was able to follow the complicated course projected into his mind even as it was being updated. This sort of instrumental flying, if not the most fun, had always been the biggest challenge during his training.

It took only moments for his complicated flight path to carry him clear of the battle. Akaris sent a quick instruction to the CIES before priming the integrated field system and plasma drive to deliver a brief pulse of power that shot his mozu forward at .2c. The bright plume of plasma disappeared just over a second later, having done the job of carrying Akaris almost a hundred thousand kilometres away.

A line that widened into a cone drew itself into his vision as the CIES provided the requested analysis. The near point of the line represented the ambush location and switched to a cone where the computer predicted the enemy ships had first fired from. With any luck, the origin point of the enemy fighters would lay somewhere within that cone and Akaris' mozu was carrying something that would hopefully help identify said point. With gentle grace, the Norian used gentle bursts from the plasma projection verniers to direct the nose of his craft towards a highlighted point about half a million kilometres beyond the start of the cone.

The guidance data was uploaded to the OI-Y4-E3700 drone that was attached to the fourth hardpoint of his mozu and, once the ship was aligned, the 'whisker' drone was launched. Once the CIES confirmed successful deployment and strong telemetry, Akaris called over the comm. "Harpy, Specter 4. Be advised, have launched an E3700 recon drone. Am sending recognition codes and telemetry frequency... now. Hope it helps. Specter 4 out."

With his contribution to the unfolding strategic situation completed, the Norian focused once more on the battle and began accelerating back towards the rest of his squadron.
Just before the Sensor scrambling signal had been sent out, the space around Coconut and Hazelnut's Nagamaki started to become crowded. their already large sensor signature had started growing, and as such, some of the more savvy pilots had been alerted. cannon fire and missiles had been incoming, and Coconut had found the need to focus on keeping the ship out of their paths. The three defensive turrets barked out fire, and the occasional mini-missile was launched as the multiple computer systems tracked prioritized, and dealt with incoming threats. Coconut continued a wending path, juking and diving as needed as the large fighter displayed a much greater agility than its heft should have allowed. In the Back seat, Hazelnut continued to monitor over a dozen screens, Her pilot seat's controls neatly tucked away as they weren't needed, but comms, sensors, drones, targets, and status of friendly fighters were all alight, the information being quickly processed by the veteran communications specialist.

"Alright Specters and Warwolves, you've got about thirty seconds of confusion remaining, give or take thirty seconds depending on the enemy. The shinier they are, the less this will last, and I'll need another minute to create another packet, so don't waste it." Hazelnut's comment was relayed to everyone in the squadron, before she received a message herself from specter 4. The new drone quickly popped up in her periphery, and she grabbed the signal and slaved it to her system, displaying it below Buddy 1 and Buddy 2 as Eyes 1. "Thank you four, I've got it and I'm watching to see what it gives, anything relevant I'll patch on to everyone!"

Buddy 1 & 2 continued their tag team, though the small drones had been splashing lower priority targets to thin the herd while the Mozus took on the bigger threats. The dozen or so missiles carried between the two drones had swiftly dwindled to just a few, but they plugged on, saving their Baby torpedoes for more worthy targets.

"Harpy 2 here, I've got some goldy who seems to have shaken the scramble pretty quick. I'm too busy dodging stuff to grab it, anyone want dibs?" Coconut squawked over the comms, the Nagamaki sliding through space and doing a bit of a pirouette in an attempt to avoid the now blindly flying munitions launched by enemies as well as get a lock on the Kuvexian fighter that was giving her trouble. She didn't want to waste too much time or ammunition on it just yet, but she would if she had to.
With the dogfight dragging on Sasquatch was joined by various other pilots as they took down the contingent together, seeing the work of another fighter that was new to their expeditionary force, the Sparrowhawk, and of course, there was the pilot he saved earlier that came in to lay down fire...they had managed to turn the tables on their attackers with minimal losses. "Great work so far everyone, looks like we can finish this out sooner than I was thinking. Specter One, I see less than half the enemy forces remain...shall we give chase if they flee?" He asked as he input a flight plan that the onboard A.I. corrected and put into action. The words from their support came through with a warning about the jamming as the enemies were illuminated once again as they shone a bit brighter on the HUD as they seemed to be the biggest targets remaining as a prominent threat as the warning said that they would be affected by the jamming even less than the others.

"I read you loud and clear Harpy 2, here comes the Sasquatch!" He called out as he locked onto his ally and accelerated, pushing the yoke in the direction of Coconut in the Nagamaki. "Smile big and wait for the flash, you bandit bastard." He called out as he engaged his autocannons and lit the Kuvy fighter up like it was some sort of retro action film. When the Kuvy fighter disintegrated and blew up, he pulled up and flew by Harpy 2 and continued on with his original course, two fighters were at the edge of his HUD so he looked out into the field through his canopy, trying to locate any more potential hazards.

When he did not see any others near him to give him trouble he opened up the missile pods and moved forward to get accurate locks on both of the fighters that were just a few ticks away. When in range the A.I. set up one target lock as he manually moved to correct the trajectory and lock on the second one. When the HUD's target locks went a solid green and both fighters were within range he fired his own munitions as he smirked. The Kuvexian fighters were unable to shake the mini-missiles and both were destroyed as debris became one with the battlefield, that is when his shields were peppered with fire as there was a fly-by and he looked out and saw the ship shimmer for a moment before it disappeared off of his radar along from the naked eye. "Fuck...Specter 17 here, I have a shadow and it has already peppered me once, if anyone sees this bastard at my tail...give him a shot..." He said as he heard a warning klaxon as he was targeted by a missile. "Damnit!" He said under his breath as he managed to narrowly roll out of the path of the incoming missile and he tried to actively engage in some short-range electronics jamming to try and figure out where the bastard was.
Nashoba Sector
System XR-8 Outer Orbit

YSS Teisenjou - Fleet Command Center

Interesting. Misaki sighed inwardly.

The main volumetric display was monitoring the battle against the pirates, only a pair of minutes or so even passed since the combat began. Less than a second passed between the data hitting her and the ship and the shift in readiness to 2-B. On board the 18th's massive flagship the normal buzz of activity was a frenzy to get more support to the patrol.

"Taisa, the alert fighters are away."

"Satisfactory." Misaki and the rest of the crew were in their encounter suits. "Continue preparing the rest." They would get backup, but the Teisenjou was on the other side of their patrol from them. If the ship had been made, she reasoned they might be trying to get a hit and run before they arrived.

"Specter-Actual: Support en route. Engage at your discretion." Misaki sent along through the communications relay. All of her musing about where they were going next with their admiral on board. Other than the battle at Xylar, she had not had a lot command of so many non-armor assets for at least a war or two.

Now to test her out in combat. It was a dangerous start though a respectable battle, as far as the Eihei was concerned. They needed a chance to put the wing through actual combat.