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"CONTACT para 414, 154, 854, 345, 5..."
"I CAN READ DATA STREAMS, USE THEM XI BRONDON!"
His fingers hovered into many different imaginary buttons and controllers. To the outside observers, this simian would have appeared insane. Inside his goggles, it all made sense. The strafer did most of the work, its multitude of sensors and embarrassingly fast comp systems gave the gunner only on true vital role. Selection, prioritization, ejection. Strafers were named as such because they did not so much directly engage target as they did lash out and a complex collection of competing angles. The strafers payloads were often devastating mixes of homing rays and energy splashes. But their runs could even leave behind a decoy drone or sentry turret to harass the victim until the next swipe by. If the strafer was fitted for such abilities. As the FDR class so happened, it excelled at drone warfare. Jor had always loved this old boat because of its pack. Bron was just hoping his masters confidence was well placed.
The Xi was nervous but training was overriding his fear now. The battlefield they had been thrown into was a cacophony of madness. Strafers and loopers were sparring with there counterparts in cream. The stars gained a thousand cousins as all sorts of armament went off in the void. Every mammal out there had a mission and they were trying desperately to carry it out. Many were simply tasked with breaking the Enemy's will, a blunt instrument of the Alpha's scheme. Jor's FDR was a surgeon, its pack all instruments. They would not be so callously broad with their approach. Their goal was to avert the attention of the defenders.
Strafers were a deadly instrument of torment for any enemy. Their namesake hinted at their potency. Strafers assaulted their prey at outrageous speeds. The craft would first distance itself to an appropriate degree, then swoop across the target again and again. A constant barrage from multiple vectors from a flash on the horizon was in store for any opponent that dared line itself against a mammalian strafer with a competent pilot under the helm. While fast, strafers also carried an arsenal that would devastate anything caught in the cross hairs. Matter cannons, Energy splashes, Atom-splitters, homing rays and a multitude of other ways to wreak havoc. And these ships could also carry drones.
Turret platforms, sapper drones and zoning mines would only serve do frustrate and distract a bewildered foe. Jor loved his FDR because of its pack.
The FDR was the bulkiest strafer variant ever conceived. Its two massive thrusters, capable of obscene amounts of power, were attached behind two even more monstrous pod bays. These pods allowed the FDR to at least three times the normal payload. The result was a bloated monstrosity that be filled to an absurd amount of equipment. This addition in design was in true hog fashion, the novaswime had developed and lobbied vigorously to get the vessels into wider use. For one thing there was the handling. Though skilled fliers could adjust, most common pilots were hopeless when trying to get the beast to properly enter an atmosphere. The pods also seemed to make the name strafer a misleading title. They didn't allow for accurately controlled vector changes. Each strafer's, traditionally single, engine was suspended on a rotational axle, allowing for quick realignments against a objective. The two massive engines and clumsy bays didn't allow for such fancy rigging. The a couture mons were firmly locked into place. That meant maneuvering was an entirely different spectrum for the FDR. And there was the look. The look, with the stander equipment of cannon and armament all leading up to the small pilots capsule at the head, gave the FDR class strafer a slightly...phallic appearance.
Half the reason the FDR was never adopted into full service was its clunky design and paradoxical nature. The other half was the constant ribbing a designated pilot would receive from his peers. Chatter banter and perverted call signs were one thing. But a bored diabolical pack mate with guard patrol and enough time at a Thoughtcaster could be mortifying to even the strongest chested. The requests for transfers or new craft upon availability was almost laughable in itself. And so the FDR class faded into nothing, with only one left in the entire Mammalian fleet. And no mammal dared speak ill of Jor Shegdund. Hero of the False Door and the Ladder of Strife. Holder of the line. The Hammer. He had earned nothing but respect or silence.
Xi Brondon could barely believe the being masquerading as himself. His internals were screaming at him, his brain was hardly registering. As the young apprentice performed his duties, somehow his arms were doing what his mind couldn't. The Learners had burned their lessons deep, as the hands of this primate moved as if preordained. Instinct was the only explanation for the movements that Bron was getting from his ligaments. The Leaners had talked of a state when one could do without doing, when there was no need for a contemplation. When the proper action was already manifested inside your being. Bron wondered if this was what they were talking about. Then again, the Learners had also been extremely thorough. At Academy, there had been no room for error. At the Learners there had been no room for thought.
Confidence began to build as the young Xi addressed readings and potential threats. His heart raced with his gestures. Bron breathed, placed his thought on a calming idea. He remembered the gift he had received upon graduation from his time at Learners. A single onyx rod that levitated just off the ground lazily. This rod suspended 14 tiny marble leaves around it in orbital patterns. The leaf petals would slowly swing around the rod in lazy circles. The device had been soothing and relaxing, though not very useful in it own right. Bron had watched the tiny petals. They calmed him then as the thought of them did now.
Confidence began to build. As his lessons guided him, the novice accepted his abilities and began to catch up with his muscle memory. Every move was instantaneous, floating different input beams here and there. Xi Brondon began to get it.
Jor was moving with a honed mastery of his surroundings. His arms maneuvers were blinding, hoofed hands expanding and retracting while constantly readjusting to give the FDR entry into the brainwork of its pilot. The ship responded with familiarity, every dodged piece of ship and debris had been synapse responses only moments before. As the FDR flew away from the battlefield and out into more lonely space, its did begin to gain some attention. A few Enemy units broke away to respond and contain whatever this new ship was up to.
" Ban that's you."
The loopers of delta squad Ban Kre lashed out from their hiding. These smaller vessels provided a major advantage to the pilots that were assigned them, beautiful handling. Thanks to micro-boosters, literally in the hundreds, strung along every inch of the craft, the drivers could at any moment change axis and direction without any need to slow down. While the lack of true fearsome power didn't give loopers much in to say in a heads on race, bull rush speed isn't much use when your opponent can simply side step your attempt and fire and throw a gaggle of rounds back at you. So when an adversary finally does tries to face the looper in a proper dogfight, the loopers can do circles, literally, around this woe some being.
"Engaging both, you keep that thing straight on, Kappa. We got this"
The Enemy's two vessel immediately responded with several beams at multiple trajectories. The hail of energy was constant, disrupting and overbearing a number of the squad. Ships darted back and forth in an effort to avoid getting caught by these beams, the relentless persistence of the assailants did render a few casualties though. The loopers would respond in kind. The squad split apart, surrounding the two Enemy units. Immediately, the loopers went into varying orbits with the two. Then a barrage came pouring from the synthetic satellites. The crafts constantly moved, but all pointed inwards, never interfering with each other. They had trained hard and learned one another's angular tendencies. There were no issues with such sloppy things as crossfire. The ferocious onslaught slapped the Enemy shielding imp. The vessels behind it soon crumbled.
"Jor, jealousy doesn't become you."
"Thank you. Form up we got steps ahead to worry about."
submitted by rok1099