The mighty beast opened its fanged maw to roar, and the ground shook in response. The Raiju pilots could feel the reverberations in their bones even from inside the hangar, and covered their ears to block out the sound. Even from this distance the giant monster's voice was deafening, their ears ringing for minutes at a time after each of its howls. Klaxons sounded and they ran for their robots, knowing that they were the last line of defense for the mega-city Hell's Mouth. If that thing made it past the cordon it would be all over for the helpless civilians.
Jazz Tark, pilot of the Vance-Class Raiju called Mojo, climbed the ladder to the cockpit and strapped in. The lid hissed closed on its industrial hydraulics and he turned the key. A familiar rumble started up and he settled into it like an old chair. The console in front of him lit up, various screens, dials, switches, buttons, and the two joysticks thrumming to life as he took a comfortable grip. Mojo was an old mech, but she still had plenty of battles in her if Jazz had anything to say about it.
The squad indicators on his screen lit up one by one, and his team called in to let him know they were ready to go. Five in all, including Jazz, Squad 7 was a formidable force. They preferred the versatility mixed-unit tactics gave them, and their team makeup would make most other squads blanch at the uneven distribution of firepower. They'd proven their worth a number of times before, though, unorthodox tactics or no. His radio crackled as they called in, their voices slightly fuzzed.
"Paul here," a strong, quiet voice said. "Vance-Class Raiju Crusader powered up."
"Burkhard here. Howard-Class Raiju Zerstörer powered up." This voice was warm, friendly, with a heavy accent.
"Ricky here. Gibson-Class Raiju Wight powered up." Impetuous, higher pitched, this voice champed at the bit, ready to get out of the hangar and face what awaited them.
"Patton here. Burroughs-Class Raiju Cataclysm powered up." This voice was grizzled, rough, and had seen entirely too many late nights with the whiskey bottle and pipe.
Jazz smiled, his teeth shining through his dark beard. "Jazz here. Vance-Class Raiju Mojo powered up and ready to rock. Let's teach this monster a lesson, boys."
Warning lights flared as the bay doors opened and the giant machines stomped out, their weapons gleaming in the dim, flashing illumination. Now the ground truly shook, and technicians, engineers, and mechanics scrambled out of the way. Wight, being the smallest, took the lead, followed by Mojo and Crusader. Zerstörer came behind them with its heavier armor plating, and finally Cataclysm behind him, loaded up with its apocalyptic ordinance.
The huge bay doors ground open, and Squad 7 was given yet another look at their battleground. It was a blasted hellscape, with rocky crags jutting up from the ground at unnatural angles, lakes of glass from long ago detonated nukes, obsidian formations that could slice through Raiju armor like it was tissue, and always the storm clouds raging above. Lightning spat down from the angry sky, blowing the rocks to pieces and creating craters in the earth. Thunder rumbled without cease, although that was nothing compared to the steady, measured rumbling they had all heard for days now getting louder and louder.
In the distance, a mountain moved towards them.
Its head raised up, and the massive jaws opened to roar again. The sound blasted out over the stormy plains, dampened by their Raiju's external microphones, but they didn't need to hear it. They could feel it. The entire creature was the size of Hell's Mouth in its entirety, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that if it got within striking distance of the city it would destroy it utterly. As it roared, it stretched out claws the size of skyscrapers attached to paws the size of several city blocks, and Squad 7 began to have misgivings about this particular mission.
Jazz's radio crackled and Ricky's voice piped in. "We might need some help with this one, boss. What class is that thing?"
"No worries, Wight. Command is sending out other squads. So far as class..." he paused to consider the abomination on his screen. "I'd guess at least Titan, if not Lucifer-Class. Squad 7, move out."
They began stomping towards the moving mountain. As they did more blips came up on their screens, some in front, some behind. Jazz's hands flew over his instruments and he saw that Squads 6, 8, 9, and 10 had left their hangars.
That's good, he thought. We're gonna need their heavy ordinance for this thing. Wait...
As he watched, more blips appeared behind them. Squads 1 through 5 this time.
Damn, they're sending everybody. This is much worse than I thought it was. This thing is a Spawner.
He heard booms through his microphone as the heavy guns on the side of Hell's Mouth opened up on the thing, and saw the explosions peppering the thing's head and neck. They didn't seem to do much other than make it angry, and it roared again with enough force to rattle the teeth in his head. The blips in front were getting closer.
"Wight," Jazz said, "Head out and see what those things are coming towards us. If this beast really is a Spawner, we need to know. Just don't go too far. We don't need you getting into trouble again."
"Gotcha boss," Ricky said, activating his runner jets. His Raiju lifted a few feet off the ground, thrusters along the backs of his legs flared up, and he sped off into the eternal night to scope out what was coming for them.
Jazz was apparently not the only Sergeant with this idea, as he saw several other Gibson-Class speed off to meet what could only be the encroaching enemy this thing spewed out. The entirety of Squads 1-5 ran out, giving Jazz a little hope that if Wight got caught with his pants down he wouldn't be completely without help.
As the hangar doors shut behind them, the energy shields went up over Hell's Mouth, and he grimaced.
We're out here now, he thought. No retreat, no surrender, nothing to do except kill this thing.
Lights shined brightly on the creature's throat and chest, some kind of bio-luminescence, and Jazz shouted, "Evasive maneuvers! It's powering up for something!" The Raiju scattered away from the city and the thing's line of fire.
It's head tilted back, green rays spilling out from its teeth, then lurched forward and launched a beam of energy at the city. It crackled and hissed, incinerating everything in its path until it reached the energy shields. They flared bright blue, and the beam glanced off them to hit a mountain behind the city, blowing it to smithereens. Looking back towards the creature, they saw that there was an immense trench dug by the thing's attack, glowing green with leftover energy.
"By God," Paul whispered with reverence. "Did you see that?"
"I saw it," Jazz confirmed, "and I'm not happy about it."
This trench swiftly began to fill with minor monsters. To Jazz most of them looked to be about Bugbear-Class, with a few Ogre and Goblin-Class creatures for good measure. Nothing they couldn't handle on a normal day, but this was anything but a normal day.
"Boss! We've got a problem here!" Ricky's voice cut in.
"Fill me in," Jazz responded, activating his weapons.
"Looks like you were right, it is a Spawner, along with being big as hell. There's no end to these things!"
Jazz saw explosions and gunfire blossoming on his screen as the forward units engaged the enemy. "Get back here, Wight. We can't afford to lose anybody just yet, and you're not equipped to take on an army by yourself. But," he smiled," if you happen to take a few out on your way back I won't be mad at you."
"Roger, boss, falling back."
"Crusader," Jazz said, "You and I'll move forward and cover Wight's retreat. Fire up that Gauss cannon and get your blade ready."
"As you command, Mojo," Paul responded, moving forward. This was his favorite part. Much like his Raiju's namesake, he relished close-quarters combat, and was skilled at it in a way that few pilots could match. The Gauss cannon on his left shoulder lit up, throwing off sparks as the electricity raced up and down the barrel. His Raiju's left arm reached towards its back and withdrew a great sword. The blade was made of a special alloy, making it nigh indestructible.
Jazz did likewise, relishing the feeling of wading into combat again. Together they stalked forward to protect their fleeing squad-mate. As Wight raced towards them, they engaged their targeting systems and began firing into the crowd of monsters chasing him.
If you enjoyed this story, you can find many more like it here on my Steemit, or in the anthology Darkest of Dreams from DimensionBucket Media on Amazon. You can also find more of my work at my website, jimfear138.blogspot.com, including my weekly podcast and audiobooks I've produced. You can also throw me a tip if you like at Ko-fi.