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Emergence (Concertverse) Chapter Cover

Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 38
[]

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Circle of Death[]


Warriors Preparing for Battle[]

Martenholm
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (Disputed)
1st February, 3143


The ravaged, empty city of Martenholm loomed ahead through the canopy of Eva's Paladin as it tromped across the border laid out by the Clans, displayed for her benefit as a red wall on her holotank.  She moved at a leisurely pace, allowing the slower family-owned Awesome Allison insisted on piloting.  It reminded her of her older cousins Mirabel and Isabella and their insistence on still piloting the century old PLD-2S Paladin 'Mechs, Killjoy and Huntress, that their family founders Sir. Alexander and Lady Rachel piloted during their careers.  Even when they'd served in the Eighth Strikers alongside her parents they'd continued to pilot the older 'Mechs.  Though they did at least accept upgrades to Royal weaponry, Say Your Prayers — what a name for a 'Mech — still uses the old Kreuss PPCs with the minimal range issue!

Granted, the AWS-8Q was arguably one of the best designs around, at least among the older generation of 'Mechs that the broken Successor States could still manufacture and maintain post-collapse.  It had the heat sinks to deal with the heat output of its three PPCs, and they still packed a wallop.  A pilot good enough to deal with the short range targeting issues could maintain a steady output of damage and the head-mounted small laser gave it an extra sting if someone got close.  But given the caliber of their opposition, even accounting for Allison's experience piloting her family machine, Eva worried that having a newer 'Mech would've been better for them.

Still, at least we've got some synergy going. Given the PPCs' slight range deficiencies, Eva's 'Mech was outfitted for a combination of long-range fire and short-range punching.  Each arm was fully fitted with actuators, the right adding an extended range large laser — a Vickers-Armstrong Mk. 16 — while the left had a Defiance P6M pulse laser, a second of the same on the middle of her 'Mech's chest.  The right side of the chest had one of the newest pieces of kit in the AFRF, Defiance's V1200 PPC, a Variable Focus Snub-Nose that auto-adjusted the focusing hardware for bolt formation to allow for the same extended range as the powerful Terran-designed ER PPCs, but at the cost of doing less damage than even a normal PPC unless the enemy came closer while putting out the same heat.  When they did, she could also rely on the weapons mounted opposite of the Variable Focus PPC; two six-salvo SRM launchers with Streak pre-lock technology, economizing her ammo load.  Ammunition.  Now I have to be careful with the heat levels, and how much I use my jump jets.

A projected blue marker on her display told Eva she was approaching their starting point.  She made the final distance and drew in a breath.  So this is it.  I don't think I can live through this, but if I give Allison the chance to win, it'll be worth it.  I'm not a hero, but I can do that much.

“Hey,” the private laser-link from Allison’s Awesome blinked live. “Look, don’t know how much this is gonna help you, but it sure helped me before my first fight. Something one of my instructors said.” Allison paused for a moment, probably marshaling her thoughts. “Remember that the other guy’s as fragile, and as scared, as you are, and don’t think about winning the whole fight. Just concentrate on winning each minute of it.”

It was good advice.  Eva nodded, though Allison wouldn't have seen the gesture, and triggered the link in reverse.  "Yeah, that's good advice.  One step at a time.  Win each minute until we've won the whole thing."  With that said Eva glanced at the clock.  They were minutes from the appointed hour, and while she could see both observation vehicles on the scanners, the Falcon 'Mechs had yet to arrive.  It's too much to ask that they're deciding to just give it all up… no, they're on their way.  C'mon, push away the fear.  Winning matters.  Winning.  For the people who used to live and work in this town.  For the people you saw homeless in Cirenholm, or those prisoners we liberated on Morges.  For the Second RCs that fought to save this world.  For Allison, for Mom and Dad and everyone… for yourself.  I want to go home.  I don't want to die here.

She drew in a breath to steady herself.  As she released it, her scanners lit up with new contacts in the distance.  Two BattleMechs of heavy or assault tonnage, approaching at a sixty kph clip.  There they are, she thought.  Remember the battleROM footage, remember the training.  We fight as a team.


Stephanie kept her Jade Hawk at an even fifty kph stride as the jade-and-gold colored machine entered the opposite side of the circle around Martenholm.  Beside her, Isaac Roshak piloted a Shrike from the 9th Talon, painted in a black-dominated color scheme to declare his adherence to the Mongol Doctrine.  If I am fortunate, perhaps my opponents will end his life before I defeat them, Stephanie thought, though she chided herself un the unworthiness of it after a moment's consideration.  No.  He is still a warrior under my command.  I have a responsibility, as unappetizing as it is.

Their machines gave them the stop points.  A light scout vehicle, a salvaged Swiftwind, drove past them, bearing Star Colonel Raquel Hazen, the Delta Galaxy reserve commander Stephanie picked to be the Oathmaster for this duel.  While waiting for Raquel's vehicle to reach its central point, Stephanie took the time to examine her foes' machines.  One, which her updated systems identified as a Paladin OmniMech, reminded her of a Royal Black Knight, though it mounted missiles on the chest and bore something of a crown or tiara-like formation on top of the head.  It matched her in speed and weight, at the very least; this battle would come down to skill.  Hopefully the Arcadian ristar piloting that machine will prove a worthy foe for my codex, beyond her role in Malvina's defeat.

Standing beside the Paladin was the familiar shape of an Awesome-type BattleMech, not just any type, but the initial AWS-8Q.  That color scheme, I believe I recognize.  That warrior has been fighting through the invasion, and even now, they bring that machine to this fight instead of a newer one.  I like this warrior; they are wise enough to trust their skill and a machine they know, rather than an unproven one.  They will prove a worthy foe, I believe.

"I feel insulted that they meet us with less weight, as if we are brats fresh from the sibko."  Isaac's voice had its usual harshness.  "I look forward to killing them."

"Do not get overconfident, Star Colonel," Stephanie warned.  "Their machines are as deadly as any other.  And do not expect our enemies to engage us under the limits of zellbrigen."

"I have no such expectations, nor do I wish it either.  We should concentrate fire on the slower target then."

"Or perhaps the foe who is clearly geared to provide close-range fire support for the enemy?" Stephanie proposed, keeping the edge in her voice out of both frustration and reminding Isaac he did not frighten her.  I would be perturbed about not honoring the Clan Way, but I know our enemies will not, so it is a moot point.  "We can deal with the heavier 'Mech at our leisure once we are assured SRMs are not blasting our armor apart."

"Do what you wish, Galaxy Commander.  I know how to fight foes."

Star Colonel Raquel's voice crackled in.  Her Swiftwind was now at its assigned point.  "Are all in their places?  Challengers, are you ready to face your foes?"

"We are," replied a new voice for Stephanie.  Undoubtedly the young Arcadian pilot who'd landed a couple days before.

"To the challenged, are you prepared?"

"We are." Stephanie replied.

"Then all is ready.  In this solemn combat, let none interfere.  Fight with honor, warriors."

"Seyla," Stephanie murmured, drawing in a breath and letting the familiar rush fill her.  She put the Jade Hawk into a run.  Beside her, Isaac's Shrike went into motion.  With this battle, we win the planet.  I will be Khan, and the reform of the Jade Falcons shall begin.


The Battle Begins[]

The moment the Falcon "Oathmaster" cleared the fight to start, Eva leveled her crosshairs on the larger assault 'Mech.  She felt a chill at seeing it was the same model as Malvina's machine, giving her mental images of that fateful day half a year ago when the world stopped working right, when that assault machine moved like a light 'Mech and took the lives of Captain Kincaid and Lieutenant von Krager.  Keep it together, Eva.  She sent her 'Mech into motion to avoid the autocannon fire the Shrike was capable of while her fingers stroked the triggers for her long range weapons.  A thick sapphire beam shot out from her right arm and slashed armor from the wing and shoulder of the enemy machine.  Beside it, the variable focus PPC whirred to life, concentrating the resulting bolt enough to reach the distance.  The hit was glancing and caused insignificant armor damage, particularly as the bolt lost much of its power at that long range.

Allison's 'Mech was already in motion, lumbering ahead and looking to gain the range.  Her PPCs fired in sequence, causing superficial damage only given the range and the loss of intensity in the bolts.  Her target, likewise, was the enemy Shrike, who doggedly continued on.  The Shrike's arm came up and autocannon fire responded, the shells tearing into the Awesome's armor but causing no further damage.  Laser fire streaked through the air and missed from a last second rightward shift by Allison.

Eva fired off her long range weapons again, to no effect as this time the Shrike turned enough to evade completely.  These pilots are good.

"Jade Hawk getting close, Eva." Allison warned.

"I see it."  She turned her attention to the other winged humanoid BattleMech, its shoulders and sides mounting six-shot missile launchers and a number of visible laser ports built into it.  At its speed it was drawing into weapons range quickly and needed attention.  Eva focused her crosshairs on it, confirmed no solid SRM lock was possible, and fired her long range guns again, in the company of two of Allison's PPCs.

All four shots missed.  The pilot spun around, evading them.  A third bolt from Allison's arm-mounted PPC found the leg, but only did surface armor damage.

WIth her mouth dry and her heart pounding, Eva's checked the range and added her P6Ms into the next barrage, just for all but the large laser to miss again.  The blue beam did do something, slicing over the right hip missile launcher and melting the weapon enough to knock it out.

This didn't deter Stephanie Chistu.  With that practiced skill Eva recognized from the battleROM footage they'd viewed the last two days, Galaxy Commander Chistu's 'Mech maneuvered deftly around the incoming fire until it was at maximal range for SRM shots.  Eighteen SRMs raced from the launchers, all locking on to Eva's 'Mech.  Out of habit she twisted and presented the 'Mech's left side, using the left arm to take much as the barrage as she could.  Ten missiles out of the salvo struck there, blasting away much of the armor on the limb and, going by her warning light, damaging the elbow actuator.  The pulse laser mounted in that limb would be harder to keep on-target now.

Of course, now her launchers were in range too.  She twisted her torso towards the Jade Hawk and triggered them.

Nothing.  No lock was confirmed and the missiles didn't fire.  Now that they were in the thick of Martenholm's ruins, the Jade Hawk was moving through the wreckage of one of the commercial buildings, throwing off the targeting systems on Eva's 'Mech and avoiding the lock.

Her machine rocked hard, a barrage of autocannon shells tearing into her Paladin's right arm and chest.  This brought her focus back on the distant .  She brought her 'Mech's right arm up and, after a moment to make sure she had a good shot, triggered her long range weapons.  This time she caught the Shrike pilot mid-jink, lasing armor from his torso while the particle bolt blasted a little more from the autocannon arm.

The Jade Hawk soared into view on plumes of fusion plasma, bound for Allison's 'Mech.  Particle bolts fired at it, two hitting, but the maneuver was carrying Chistu into the minimum effective range of Allison's PPCs.  She'd be at a severe disadvantage.  Eva turned away from the Shrike and, to throw off the enemy's aim, triggered her own jump jets.  She rose into the air, plowing through the ruins of a streetside billboard, trying to hold her crosshairs gold over the Jade Hawk as it came to a landing.  She triggered her missiles.

This time both of her missile launchers had solid enough locks to fire.  Eight of the missiles hit home on vulnerable rear armor and the 'Mech's readied arms, stopping the pilot from an attack with the sharp claw appendages designed for ripping 'Mech armor to pieces.  Eva's fingers squeezed trigger after trigger.  The PPC blast went wide, unfortunately, especially as she was at a range where the full power of the shot would have hit, and her right arm's damage made the pulse laser only manage an armor-scorching glancing hit.  The large laser did its work, though, melting a gash of armor from the Jade Hawk's hip and side while the chest pulse laser's emerald darts drilled a fresh wound into the left arm at the elbow.

Her cockpit turned into a sauna.  The combined heat of her jumping and all of her weapons firing in sequence so rapidly left her heat dangerously high.  The myomer muscles were slowing, which would reduce her speed and throw her aim off.  Got to watch the heat, don't need my SRMs exploding on me.

She'd done the damage she needed to, at least.  The Jade Hawk's attention was entirely on her now.  Three ruby beams played over her 'Mech's chest and side, melting away sky blue armor, and SRMs raced across the short distance to hammer home, even as Eva forced her 'Mech low and twisted, this time taking the damage to her right arm and side from the missiles that successfully hit.  The Jade Hawk rushed forward and brought its right arm down towards her, the claw raking through the armor on the right shoulder and arm of her Paladin, exposing some of myomer muscle with how deep the wound was.  Both arms damaged.

Regardless of her heat, her fingers stroked her triggers again, leaving out her arm-mounted weapons.  The PPC struck home this time, its full power at this range scourging a score of armor from Chistu's Jade Hawk, while the SRMs battered away above the waist of the winged killing machine.  The pulse laser on her chest burned away the Jade Falcon insignia on the breast of Chistu's machine.

The cost of this barrage was to keep her heat high, however, high enough that her machine didn't move fast enough to avoid getting pummeled yet again by the SRMs of the Jade Hawk.  She took the whole hit on her left side this time.  The weight balance of the Paladin altered as the sheer number of explosive impacts literally tore the left arm completely away.  Four more missiles blasted apart much of the armor remaining on her left side.  One of the small lasers raked over her head module, melting armor along the crown piece and the face plate.

I'm losing.  I'm losing this fight. Her hands tightened on her joysticks as she forced her overheated machine, now denied two of the heat sinks it sorely needed, to keep moving and plow into an empty office structure, giving her a brief respite from any more incoming fire.  No.  No fear.  I knew I was going to die today.  But this isn't over!

The Jade Hawk lunged forth, its armored claw coming back up to rake her again.  Eva moved the 'Mech's right arm forward.  The tactile sensors on her joystick commanded the hand to clasp just as it reached the elbow of the Jade Hawk.  Myomer muscle strained against myomer muscle, her one-armed machine trying to hold back the enemy limb.  The other limb came up while ruby light played over her 'Mech, erasing the sunhawk patch on the chest.  Eva let go and stumbled her machine backward, hitting her jump jets and carrying herself just out of range of the claw swipe that might have otherwise ripped into her weakened left side.  In mid-air the shrill tone of a solid lock prompted her to squeeze the missile triggers yet again.  Both weapons confirmed their locks and fired.  A half dozen missiles scored damaging hits, taking more armor from the Jade Hawk, while her pulse laser found another of the missile launchers and disabled it.

She landed her Paladin and jinked to the left, covering her weakened side and taking another SRM barrage on the right instead, clearing the remaining armor from that limb.  "Allison, you okay?" she asked, aware she'd lost contact with her comrade in her wild maneuverings.

"Busy, but alive." came the strained reply.

Eva tried to get a lock but had no time, not with the Jade Hawk charging forward yet again, wicked claws looking to slice her to ribbons.  Faced with her relentless foe, she dodged and continued her struggle to live out the day.


Heat of Battle[]

But maybe not alive for long, Allison added to herself

The Shrike, black as death, seemed to drink the energy fire she and Eva were hurling at it, lit only by the sullen glow of the radiator panels for its solid-state heat sinks. Beam fire lanced from its shoulder mounts, cutting glowing scars across armor and heads-up display. Allison cursed, shifting up to full speed as she moved down a ruined side road.

Shrike (Firing on Battlefield)

Shrike Assault 'Mech firing in combat

Explosive shellfire shattered the wreckage of buildings, Roshak’s Shrike pacing her — no, pulling ahead. Fighting back another curse, Allison twisted Say Your Prayers’ torso as far right as it could go, blazing out lightning bolts..

More buildings flew apart in bubbles of dust and shrapnel — tiles, bricks, mortar — from the lacerating crossfire as the two war-engines strode forward, their paths converging. Less than two blocks apart, they crossed onto the main road. Now..

Allison locked the right leg’s brakes on full, letting momentum swing her machine around. Sparks flew from its slab-like boots, gyroscopic stabilizers screaming as they fought to keep the eighty-ton titan from toppling onto its face; Allison leaning back as far as she dared to keep it steady..

Something gave, a knee actuator flashing yellow as metal and myomer cried out in protest, but it worked. She was at a dead stop, facing Roshak’s Shrike barely a hundred meters away, still trying to steady itself from its sudden halt. Her thumb flicked the switch tying everything to her primary triggers, and her trigger fingers clenched..

Beam fire — the lurid sapphire arcs of her particle cannon and the thinner, pale laser beam — hammered at the Shrike, blowing semi-molten craters in its armoured shell. Driving it back one step; two..

In answer, Roshak fired back with everything. A blitzing hail of neon-bright laser beams, tracers that flickered like comets and shrieking missiles tore across the intervening space; too close to miss. Shattered and molten armor panels tumbled to the tarmac, stabilizers groaning and stuttering briefly put of sync as they fought to compensate for the loss of tons of armour. Allison bit her lip as she held Say Your Prayers upright by what felt like willpower alone, tasting copper and salt as yellow and orange swathed her armor readouts. But nothing punched through, and the charge readouts for her particle cannon flashed green..

Like two pre-space — hell, pre-fission, even — battlewagons on Terra’s oceans, the two BattleMechs stood and hammered at each other. Armour splintered and flowed in molten runnels; a laser beam punched clean through her torso, shattering a titanium rib and bursting a heat sink in a gush of blue-grey coolant. Her own weapons lashed coruscating fire along the clawed right arm, reducing the targeting computer nestled in the shoulder joint to so much burnt out deadweight..

“Fall!” Roshak snarled over the general address channel. “Fall!”.

“You … first.” Allison panted, blinking sweat from the rising heat curve out of her eyes..

Then one of her cannon — the one mounted low on the left — fell out of the circuit. It didn’t vanish, but the power linkage icon burned red. And the loss of that was all it took to unbalance things..

Fire pounded her backwards, with no time to stabilize a firing solution. An autocannon shell burst low against her cockpit..

The next thing Allison was aware of was coming to, slumped in her command couch. Say Your Prayers had fallen — against what had been an apartment building, at a guess — reactor stuttering as it struggled to rebuild enough power for drive start. And Roshak’s Shrike was stalking forward, aiming for an up-close kill..

“Eva,” Allison called, her voice a dry rasp. “Any backup you can give.”.

The running fight had brought Eva’s Paladin and Chistu’s Jade Hawk into view, glowing on thermals as they battled it out without care for heat curves. Eva didn’t respond — not in words, anyway. Her machine’s torso snap-twisted into line so fast it was like it was on magnetic bearings, and unloaded everything. Snaking missile contrails blasted chunks out of Roshak’s rear armor, and beam fire sheared away one of the high pseudo-wings jutting from the Shrike’s back. A second round of beam fire — a dangerously fast followup — shredded the chain-feed mechanisms for Roshak’s autocannon before ripping the arm itself away at the elbow. At the same time, the Paladin seemed to jerk, blowout panels flaring as ammunition detonated..

Christ, she must’ve pushed her heat so high her SRMs blew, Allison realised, trying to force her probably concussion-addled mind to work through the restart sequence faster, and curse Say Your Prayers into moving. Come on ****** you old bitch, you’ve never failed when I needed you before, don’t do it now!


Battle Nears its End[]

With her heart pounding from the thrill of imminent victory, Stephanie pounced on her wounded foe, letting out a determined shriek in the heat of the moment.  Her enemy turned, chemical smoke still rising from the damaged engine and the hollowed out left partition of the Paladin's body.  The Paladin's right arm rose to fire her remaining laser, joined by the PPC and pulse laser still intact on the torso, but Stephanie was ready for the attack and already had her Jade Hawk airborne, evading the sapphire beam that cleaved a broken department store in two while the two other weapons only took armor from her legs without effect.  Her small lasers and remaining SRMs fired as she swooped down.  A couple low-flying SRMs hit the Paladin's left leg, removing the remaining armor and blasting away half of the knee actuator.  The remaining weapons fire all found the battered chest of the knight-like 'Mech, savaging its remaining armor.  Sparks flew as one of the ruby laser beams found the barrel of the Paladin's snub-nose PPC, destroying key electronics within to leave the weapon inoperable.

The combination of leg damage, armor loss, and overheated myomer brought her foe down.  The Paladin started to tip to the side, but Stephanie's foe had enough skill to roll and lay on her back instead.  Stephanie righted her own machine, getting her momentum back after landing, before advancing to finish the fight.

It was going to be a kill.  In ordinary circumstances, I would take this warrior, this Lieutenant Evangeline, as isorla for my victory.  She has potential and would serve well as bondswoman and warrior of the Falcons.  But that can never be.  Isaac Roshak and the dezgra Mongols would ensure her death with as much cruelty and malice as they could muster, and I would be unable to protect her from all the ways they might act.

No.  All I can give this warrior for her bravery is what all warriors deserve: a death with honor and the memory of their valor being passed on.  A place of respect in the Remembrance, for falling the bloodfoul Khan and her courage this day as my foe, so all Falcon warriors will remember the importance of our traditions.

Indeed, her enemy, despite her predicament, didn't give up.  Her right arm rose and the large laser there flashed to life, joined by the emerald light of the surviving torso weapon.  At this range Stephanie couldn't hope to avoid in time.  The laser cut cleanly through her armor, a sapphire lance that found her 'Mech's engine with precision.  Her systems lit up with damage warnings as extra heat filled her machine from the damaged shielding on the fusion engine.

Stephanie reacted by reaching down and running her claw through the weakened armor of the Paladin's right elbow, the blow so fierce that it severed the limb at that joint completely.  She brought the other hand up and slashed the Paladin's chest, cutting the pulse laser port deeply enough to break the focusing lens within the assembly.  With her foe disarmed, Stephanie brought the crosshairs up towards the damaged head.  The indicators turned gold as they solidified upon the visor-shaped cockpit and the small form within, seated in the command couch.

Victory.


Final Blows[]

Eva's final shot, her final hope, was done, and she'd missed.  The slight arm damage kept the large laser from firing into her foe's head module.  That she still landed a pair of direct hits, one of which an engine hit, meant little, not as the Jade Hawk methodically cut her remaining weapons away, leaving her helpless on the ground.

I knew I was going to die.  This is it.  She watched the enemy 'Mech loom, just shy of her Paladin's feet.  Even the remaining small lasers on the other machine could pierce her cockpit, and in her state, she was a sitting duck.

It was enough, wasn't it?  She'd fought as long and hard as she could, she'd left a mark, she'd honored her oath.  She was simply against a superior foe.  There was no shame in that.

I want to live!

That instinctive desire, and with it sheer desperation, drove her mind to consider her position.  Her torso was savaged, her arms gone, one leg hobbled at the knee, and her weapons destroyed.  All she had left were her leg-mounted jump jets.

The idea formed with lighting rapidity, so fast that she'd not even consciously considered the results before her body was already reacting. Her feet shifting on the pedals to manipulate the legs of her stricken 'Mech.

Myomer contracted, expanded, and both legs rose up, as if to kick her enemy.  From four nozzles, installed in the calves and shins of the Paladin's legs, jets of fusion plasma erupted, spewing white-hot flame and energy over the Jade Hawk's form…

…and right into its head.

Force sufficient to lift a seventy-five ton war machine over a hundred meters into the air shattered the cockpit of the Jade Hawk in an instant, allowing the fusion plasma to flood the cavity and the occupant within.  Only later would Eva have time to wonder how horrified, or surprised, Galaxy Commander Chistu had been before she was flash-fried to death.

The Jade Hawk, bereft of its brain, teetered and fell over, smoke flowing from the shattered cockpit.

Laid back in her command couch, Eva drew in several breaths.  I… I won… I'm still alive…  I'll get to go home and—

Her thoughts were interrupted by the warning tone of a hard target lock from an active enemy sensor.  Habitually she tried to stand her 'Mech up, rolling to try and use the stump of the right arm to prop herself into position.  The maneuver brought her face to face with the burnt, damaged visage of the Shrike, its blackened wounds and armor, visible only against the off-hues of the otherwise black-painted machine, reminding her of Malvina's Black Rose in its final moments.

Ha.  Haha. Her mental laughter became real laughter at realizing the other Falcon pilot was triumphant over Allison, and he was about to kill her.  I guess I'm going to die after all.


Say Your Prayers staggered to its feet, reeling like a punch-drunk prizefighter. But she was active, and mobile, and I still have my guns.

The Shrike’s back armour was still intact enough that standard fire wasn’t going to do anything — not in time. Allison punched in one very specific command sequence, one she’d learned from an old instructor at Buena who’d survived the Jihad because he’d learned how to do this — from an instructor at MSMA who’d survived the Clans from figuring it out — as ****** stupid as it was; cutting the inhibitor feeds out of the circuit.

Glowing brighter and hotter than Timkovichi’s sun, both particle cannon fired. The arm mount’s beam cut off after a second, the weapon blowing apart in a cloud of whizzing shrapnel as feedback shredded its safety systems. The other held, long enough to rip through Roshak’s rear armor right on the centreline, gutting engine and gyro in an eruption of molten metal before cutting out. The Shrike froze, helpless, looking like it would tip over if the slightest breeze brushed against it.

"Huh."  Eva's voice crackled over the laser link.  "We did it.  We won.  We're both alive."

"Yeah, Eva."  Allison winced, the euphoria of victory only slightly taking the edge off her aching head.  "We won. Now, I’m just gonna wait for the medtechs, okay?"



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