Fictober Day 3 (Late): “You Did This?” (Lamenting City)

Could it be ??? An original fic using the prompts ??? It sure is! And it’s for Lamenting City, too! *sips chocolate milk thoughtfully* I haven’t heard that name in a thousand years…

This is a flashback story (so, before the first chapter of the web novel), but I didn’t think I could fit it into the main story so I wrote it for this prompt.

Some characters I haven’t introduced yet in the novel proper appear here, as well as some mechs, so I’ll give brief descriptions before we start:

Sky, a pilot who is good at thinking fast and seeing things others might not. He pilots a Crackle Hyena, a mech designed primarily for electronic warfare.

Rain, who is similar to Snow in that she’s very friendly and earnest. But because this is a Zoids-inspired apocalyptic/dystopian hellscape, she also has the ability to kick your ass. Her mech is a Lightning Jaguar, designed for speed and agility.

Dagger, someone who would never pass up a chance to fight. She’ll fight you over your McDonald’s fries. She pilots a Fire Hawk, an aerial mech with a powerful flamethrower as its signature weapon. Which isn’t used in this fic because I forgot. Oops.

Crystal, more of a loner but still manages to work well with others. She pilots a Sword Eagle, another aerial mech with a back-mounted sword that I also forgot to use in this fic. I’m doing great in the signature weapon department.

The other mechs that appear are the Spear Tigon and the Emperor Serpent. The Spear Tigon is the second tigon-based mech to be designed. Whereas its predecessor, the Armour Tigon, is a bulky, heavily armoured mech, the Spear Tigon is a bit leaner, its signature weapon being spears that are attached to mechanical arms mounted on its back.

The Emperor Serpent is a rarer mech. Only a few were made because, despite being a devastating force on the battlefield, it was too costly to build and possessed some glaring weaknesses.

Anyhow, I think that’s everything?

A dim sky, and a cacophony of gnashing teeth, screeching metal, thunderous footsteps against the cracked concrete, the sharp whistles of laser fire and the explosive roars of missiles and plasma rounds.

A rumbling beneath the earth, growing in intensity as the fight above continued unaware.

Renegade mechs battled against a unit of new, pristine mechs that proudly displayed the flag of renegade hunters on them. They had been sent to destroy the renegades, thereby stamping out the fire of rebellion that Axel had lit.

They hadn’t been the only mechs to be sent after the renegades by a fallen army still grasping for breath in the apocalyptic world brought on by the very same war. They would not be the last, if they failed like those who came before them.

Axel locked the Gun Ripper’s wing-blades with the Spear Tigon’s larger spear, the crackling hum of the energy blades filling her senses. The Spear Tigon pushed down, the Gun Ripper’s entire body trembling under the weight. Axel noticed it angling the shorter spear to stab right through her.

The rumbling was getting closer, almost directly underneath them, unbalancing the Spear Tigon. Axel took advantage, leaping back and falling to her side as a truly massive serpentine mech burst through the ground, large chunks of concrete, dirt, metal piping, and water flying up into the air. The Emperor Serpent snapped the Spear Tigon in its jaws, crushing it in half with a horrible shriek of torn metal.

Axel watched in horror, the fight between the renegades and the Russian mechs forgotten to assess the newcomer. It didn’t take them long to realize exactly what the Emperor Serpent was: a deadwalker.

That complicated things.

The Emperor Serpent’s rusted plating still glimmered from the touch of the pale sunlight, and the large mech’s long body continued to emerge from the underground until it couldn’t balance itself, falling over and smashing into the side of a building before crushing the remains of the Spear Tigon under its weight.

The reaction from the others was immediate: Axel’s fellow renegades quickly rejoined her side as the unit of renegade hunters fled.

“Um, what do we do?” Cloud asked through the comm link, his voice drowned out by static, the city ruins still full of electronic interference. The Armour Tigon stood in front of the others, but inside Cloud didn’t think he could block an attack from the Emperor Serpent.

The Emperor Serpent’s body twitched, but it didn’t move towards them yet. Axel looked beyond it, finally piecing together the state of the city, where deep craters dotted the roads and buildings had caved in. She looked up at the squirming deadwalker.

You did this? Axel wordlessly asked.

“It will chase us down if we try to escape,” Axel answered Cloud, watching the Emperor Serpent regain its balance and turn its head to face them. “We don’t have a choice, we have to bring it down!”

She ignored the pang of guilt. They couldn’t do anything to help the pilot inside. Deadwalkers were called that for a reason, after all.

The Fire Hawk and the Sword Eagle flew towards the Emperor Serpent’s face, striking with lasers and plasma shots, flying above before it got the chance to catch them in its jaws.

“And how are we supposed to do that?!” Dagger yelled, maneuvering the Fire Hawk around to fire several lasers at the back of the Emperor Serpent’s head. The shots served only to anger it, and she narrowly avoided getting snapped up by its serrated steel teeth. But she saw it. “The deadwalker’s mouth cannon is damaged!”

Emperor Serpents came equipped with a trump card: a massive cannon mounted in the back of their throats that fired a beam so powerful it could reduce even the most fortified city to rubble and ash.

There was a reason that so few Emperor Serpents had been made during the war.

“I have an idea,” Axel announced, dodging the Emperor Serpent as it dove for her, burrowing into the road. She looked up at one of the buildings that was still mostly intact, and most importantly, the perfect vantage. “Help me reach that building!”

If any one of them realized what her plan was, especially if they thought it was an absolutely terrible plan, none of them told her. Dagger and Crystal continued to attract the Emperor Serpent’s attention, allowing Axel and the others to rush past it.

Cloud and Sky stopped, allowing Snow and Rain to pass them. The Armour Tigon and the Crackle Hyena turned around, both pilots knowing that the Emperor Serpent wouldn’t stay distracted by the Fire Hawk and Sword Eagle for long.

“I have this!” Sky yelled as the Emperor Serpent noticed them, its jaw opening wide as it prepared to strike. It ignored the rounds still being fired at it by the bird mechs, its focus now on crushing the two land mechs. The Crackle Hyena lowered its head, angling its back-mounted cannon up at the Emperor Serpent, firing a crackling blue orb of energy at it.

The Emperor Serpent shook violently from the impact, its shielding against the pulse too damaged to withstand it. One by one its systems shut off, the red glow of its eyes dimming, its body going slack. Before it could fall towards them, the Armour Tigon leapt at it, slamming into the side of its neck and knocking it down in the opposite direction.

The Spectre Fox and Lightning Jaguar, from a safer distance, fired off a volley of plasma rounds into its side, filling the air around it with dust and smoke, masking their escape.

Axel had reached the building by then, climbing up the side of it and standing on the edge of the roof. The Gun Ripper spun around, anchoring itself in place and readying the sniper rifle in the tip of its tail. “Keep running!”

“Are you really sure about this?” Crystal questioned, the Fire Hawk leaving her behind, and the Armour Tigon and Crackle Hyena running to the back of the building and not stopping.

“Yes,” Axel answered plainly, leaving no room for argument. “Now go.”
Crystal sighed, but directed the Sword Eagle to join with the others, hearing the Emperor Serpent reactivating behind her.

The Emperor Serpent roared, slithering towards the only mech it could still see: the Gun Ripper. It reared its head back, poised to grab it and crush it like it did the Spear Tigon.

Axel fired. She didn’t need her laser to be powerful. She just needed her aim to be perfect. And it was.

The laser flew through the crack in the cannon, igniting the power within it, blowing the Emperor Serpent’s head apart, setting off a chain of explosions traveling along its body.

The Gun Ripper charged ahead, leaping off the building and running after the other renegades, dodging debris that went flying at it. Axel took cover behind another building further away, hearing one last explosion and a wave of debris smash into it. The ground shook, and the roar of the destruction filled her ears.

She didn’t know where the others were yet. She hoped they got out in time.
When the dust settled, she made her way down the road, where she could see the footsteps left by the other land mechs. That gave her hope that they were waiting for her somewhere safe.

She didn’t look behind her, at the rubble of the city and the fragments of the deadwalker.

They had done the only thing they could do for it. For the pilot inside.

In the process of editing Day 4’s prompt fic, also.

It felt good to write for Lamenting City again.

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