A/N: Coalition Military doctrine is heavily influenced by the prewar cultures of The British Commonwealth, Japan, and The Russian Federation, who were not hit so hard during the initial bombardment during the Day of Ash, and, of course, The Great War itself. On the grand scale, military units can be grouped into varying specializations: Light Infantry; mostly relegated to scouting and low-logistics roles, Heavy Infantry; the standard, power armoured workhorses of Force Command, Armour; which encompasses wheeled and tracked combat vehicles and act as a sort of modern cavalry, and Superheavy Infantry; A rapidly-trainable urban reactionary force. Military GEARs were an interesting subject when they first made an appearance in the EU's United Armed Forces in the mid 2040s, before rapidly gaining traction in the entertainment industry for reasons unknown to anyone who hadn't heard of anime. Nowadays, however, they are a most common sight in Earth's city centres, their imposing presence and ease of use making them a great choice for law enforcement.
"Core's hot! We're ready on your mark, Johansen!"
The blond pilot smiled as the familiar warmth of the newly-remade Empyrean Core surged to life within the belly of the experimental Superheavy Infantry Unit, his father's light casting through the synapses of his second skin. While it didn't show on any detectors, Johansen always imagined that the suit became more responsive, glowing with the power of the hyper-condensed fusion core at its heart. Eagle had felt that way, before he vapourized the prototype and tucked the data away in the hope that humanity would become better in his lifetime.
That hadn't happened yet, but the world had gotten worse, and with the greedy corporations out of the picture, there was no real choice. He couldn't knowingly hold onto a breakthrough like his father's when humanity's life itself was on the line.
Beside him, Shou, Mayu, and Kaori started their GEARs, only they weren't theirs exactly. The flashy, tall, and brilliantly powerful showpieces had sadly been disassembled for the war effort, and in exchange they had received more sensible weapons of war, dressed in the greys and blacks of urban camouflage and much smaller than Eagle, or any of the other's GEARs. Aside from their serial numbers and armament, each of their suits were identical, the paint and angles exquisitely designed to deny enemy sensors of every variety, which was one of the main reasons that the Empyrean Core was so well received by the manufacturies in Japan. While it did also allow for a few minutes of truly extraordinary performance, it also ran exceptionally cold when on standby or even just not in combat, hiding the precious shell of cenorobotics from Their thermal eyes.
He smiled. Regardless of circumstances, it was good to be in a GEAR.
"ACE-2064-11, sound off. 1-1 reporting."
Mayu had been even more subdued than usual of late. Johansen was very glad his old friend at least still had Shou to support her.
"1-2, reporting. All systems show nominal readings."
She unholstered the massive Solar Cannon from the back of her suit, testing it. Designed to create an area of heat damage via a high-powered laser before following it up with a large-calibre sabot round, that weapon was one of the few in its class that could manage enemy light vehicles. Another gift made possible by his father's work.
Kaori was next, calling crisply through the connection.
"1-3 ready for action, 1-1."
Kaori's suit integrity blinked onto his hud alongside Mayu's, clearly labelled in a way that wasn't quite regulation, but no one had cared enough to call Johansen on it yet.
Next, Shou, his voice a strange combination of light banter and military decorum.
"1-4 at the ready, Red Leader, 1-1."
Johansen could feel Yuuna roll her eyes through the audio-only channel.
"1, standing by to assist anyone except Shou."
She keyed in Local Command.
"GEAR Section Bravo reporting ready status. Time to operations is ten minutes, thirty-seven seconds, mark."
The voice of the Platoon Commander came through the comm. He had such a sweet voice, why couldn't Johansen have been born with that sort of commanding presence?
"Received, Bravo. Other sections report ready up as well, as well as infantry formations, so we're on schedule. Move out to grid 476124 and await supporting elements for the beginning of Operation Daybreak at 0913 Local Time. Out."
Johansen spoke into the comm.
"You heard the Lt, move out to the designated gridspace. We have to be in position five minutes from now, so let's make it there in two."
The servos in Aquilon tensed as he flexed his arms, and his sword flickered out to catch on the chassis of a Jorogumo, Empyrean plasma fields biting hungrily into it's unnatural perfection and cleaving off one of its legs after straining the engines in his suit for some time. The thing's turret turned towards him, barking a sizzling cataclysm at his armour. As critical hull damage warnings rang throughout his suit, a bolt of invisible energy tore at the mount, followed by a hypersonic mass of depleted uranium that completely amputated it.
"Good shot, 1-2! 1, we have an intact specimen at grid 514490. Give the signal to move to Phase Two!"
Her voice rang out again, this time on the global channel.
"Target marker down, move to Phase Two!"
Johansen then looked at his section as he filled the enemy walker with burning napalm to stop the manual self-destruct sequence from being triggered by it's occupant. He winced. They had all taken severe damage. Even Mayu had been hit by enemy countervehicle armaments, bringing her left arm below operational thresholds. She had made the last shot only with the support of a large pile of rubble.
Kaori had taken the worst of it. She was a close-combat specialist, after all, and her GEAR, Bureidopansā, would need an extensive refit when they returned to base.
Rifles around him crackled as the human lines held barely while the scientists worked on the carcass of the alien warmachine behind him. He peeked out from behind the crumbling building, raining a barrage of high-calibre rifle fire on Their position, one of his bullets cracking a suit. It was followed up by fire from the smaller light infantry accompanying him, who cheered as the creature went down.
And then there were no more enemies. The alien skirmishers, wearing suits of powered armour that could take on a lone GEAR, or the scuttling Jorogumos like the one that was dead behind him, having dismantled a detachment of tanks with attached infantry with ease before it ran into his ambush and he removed one of its legs with proprietary technology. Glancing on the technical readouts on the sword showed that it was useless now: biting through apothiem took a toll even on plasma-sheathed weapons, which was why the torch sword was still sharp and strong underneath the conduits of fusion heat. He discarded it, not needing the extra weight, then dialled up Yuuna and Valerie.
"Enemy forces just disappeared all of a sudden. What's going on?"
There was a pause, as 1 was no doubt manipulating the image of the battlefield, trying to find out what They were planning. Then, she gasped.
"Readings show a large, unidentified power signature closing on your location from the north. Just one."
"Does Local Command know about this?"
There was quiet for a moment. When it returned, her voice was breaking.
"Yes. All units except those on its approach arc are to withdraw from the city. Remaining units are to form up and hold its attention for the next five minutes."
Johansen winced, and though he could guess what happened next, he decided to ask anyway.
"There an evac plan for us?"
Johansen was silent, and so was the comm, though likely only through Yuuna having turned it off.
"Bravo Section, recalibrate your 'links. We've got a bogey, and we need to handle it for the next five minutes. Air support is on the way, so we only need to hold until then. Don't let it get the shuttles."
Behind us, he heard the sounds of aircraft landing and taking off rapidly, moving tanks, soldiers, GEARs, and everything else. Meanwhile, several companies of infantry, half a squadron of tanks, and a handful of GEAR sections moved into position.
The thing rocked as tank shells plowed into it.
"1-2, that leftmost sensor cluster! Can you get it?"
In answer, accurate cannon fire lanced forth. Once, twice, thrice, and the small LIDAR package fell off of the metal behemoth. In retaliation, plasma and kinetics snapped out at the position Johansen knew Mayu occupied.
The massive shotgun in Aquilon's hands boomed, shearing off a layer of plating from a monstrous foot. As a small proportion of the thing's guns swivelled his way, he heard the answer.
"Cannon's toast, 1-1. I am no longer combat-capable."
"Can you run?"
She signalled affirmative.
"You have two minutes, twenty-two seconds to make it a kilometre from the combat zone. Mark."
Disconnecting her from his feed, Johansen returned to the battle. Fusion fire ate away at his cover, and the armour on the GEAR was starting to glow faintly as paint sloughed off like some sort of chemical soup. Steel and titanium just wasn't enough to stand up against Their weapons.
As Johansen watched, the last tank detachment fired again, shots coming in from every direction, their violent staccato trying to topple the behemoth. In response, tracer fire licked out, and an explosion from one direction told him that another tank had died.
He glanced at Shou's GEAR readout.
"The fuck are you doing, 1-4? Only your legs are working properly, as far as I can tell!"
"I can still fight with one arm. Watch me."
"Out of the combat zone, now. That's an order."
A mechpistol round soared out from the place where Shou was hiding, bouncing off the unbreakable hide of the thing.
"Shou. Mayu needs you. Leave the combat zone. ...please."
Johansen breathed a sigh of relief as Shou's reticle began to move away.
One minute, fifty-one seconds. His shotgun hammered into the damaged shoulder of Aquilon again, earning nothing except the attention of the alien machine. Even as its shots chased Johansen between cover locations, another GEAR went down, its fusion core taking out a small group of infantry.
Eventually, it made its way to the carcass of the Jorogumo, and a cannon shot seared away anything valuable that remained. Johansen smiled. If she got clearance, Val would have a field day with all the data those techs had managed to strip from the alien vehicle.
Thirty seconds. He could see the flyboys on radar the tiny reticles on the horizon signalling the end of days.
Finally, enemy plasma fire swarmed into one of his joints, and he collapsed behind a pile of rubble. Bureidopansā surged over to him, dodging fire from the machine before sliding into position, all while snapping return fire back at the thing.
"1-3, get out of here! Aquilon is nonrecoverable."
"No, idiot! It… doesn't matter anymore. The planes are here."
"That's sir, Kaori."
She began to drag his GEAR behind her, moving past several wrecked buildings before stopping, and positioning her back towards the enemy machine. Then, her cockpit opened, and she popped the hatch on Aquilon. There wasn't very much room, so when she closed the hatch, she sat on his lap.
The two of them would've sworn up and down that it was out of necessity.
As they embraced, waiting for the end, Kaori spoke up.
"Well, sir idiot. Do you have any regrets?"
On his hud, Johansen saw several dozen missiles separate from the bombers. Not all were nukes, it was a shell game. The decoys were packed with the right combination of radioisotopes and circuitry so that they appeared identical to the real True Fusion warheads for a fraction of the cost, and each of the real ones were powerful enough to level a city.
He looked into his friend's eyes.
"You never got to finish teaching me how to cook."
Despite the situation, she laughed a little at that. He looked at the lines of smoke tracing their way across the skies, as point-defense fire poured from the metal behemoth. 46, 41, 34, 29, 28 were left.
And then, it was as if the entire world became one of light.
A/N: I swear I'll get around to writing in a time period that isn't the Great War eventually.