There it was, the raw edge that had been absent until now. He now understood who he was facing. Reacting almost before his opponent had begun her attack, his fighter lurched forward as if it had a will of its own. Missiles inbound he threw the Songbird into a tight barrel roll spewing countermeasures in his wake, causing them to overshoot. Snap shots from head lasers skewered two but the other pair escaped the resulting explosion, resuming pursuit.
“Denise…” he let out a sigh over comms “Disappointing.”
She didn’t shy from the head-on pass. Beams lanced out from both mecha as the distance rapidly closed, both did what they could to evade but neither was willing to give ground. Dwer’s shot pierced the larger fighters right intake cowling, Denise’s return shot slagged his left wing. Both pilots felt the effects of the damage instantaneously. A fuel explosion ripped into the larger Phoenix. Denise swiftly shut the effected engine down, there was no damage to the transformation linkage so she kicked the legs out in an attempt to stabilise.
Suddenly bereft of a primary control surface the Songbird span violently. Grimacing against intense g-forces Dwer instinctively initiated a battroid conversion. His ears were treated to the screeching sound of metal tearing as the fused wing root connection tore from the fuselage. Thinking fast he rolled the battroid 360 degrees, grabbing the dismembered wing in the right manipulator and gunned the engines toward the Genius’ unstable Valkyrie.Realising what was about to happen Denise opened fire, gunpod and lasers blazing. But the Songbird was moving erratically from the spin. Several shots found their mark, tearing deep gouges into the battroid’s armour in a savage fusillade.
It wasn’t enough, the Songbird slammed the broken wing section into the larger VF as if wielding a blade. Denise wrenched the yokes in an attempt to evade, having the sense to throw her cockpit away from the strike. Pin-point barriers pushing forward as the left arm bore the brunt, but they weren’t configured to take such an attack. With a sickening crunch the makeshift club struck home, barriers flared but the arm beneath buckled and twisted as the former wing wrapped itself around the limb like a ribbon.
Then the missiles struck home.
Both the missiles that Dwer had missed had found him again. Two warheads detonated right on top of the entangled duellists, blowing them apart as both pilots threw themselves away from the blast.
Alarms were blaring in Dwer’s cockpit, one of the missiles had impacted directly on the Songbird’s dorsal thruster unit. Flashing red on his MFD’s indicating the thrusters were non-functional, he couldn’t rely on them for power anymore. Denise had fared better, her heavier mecha had been shielded from most of the blast by Dwer.
Dwer checked on his stores, his gunpod was nearly empty and he had only two missiles in the leg bays. FAST packs had long since run dry of both ammunition and fuel, best to jettison them while he had the chance. That last exchange hadn’t been a good, without the dorsal thrusters maintaining altitude in battroid was going to be difficult and without a wing fighter mode would be all but uncontrollable in a dogfight.
“Well, at least she’s hurting too. Hold together for me birdie.”
In the distance scintillating energy tore through the falling ship, explosions rippling across its surface. Neither pilot had time to watch as they found each other again, the fight began anew.
Denise was now in battroid mode, her left arm a tangled mess of scrapped joints and VF-19 wing. Her single engine was insufficient for her to maintain altitude and she was descending toward the coastline below. Dwer pushed his own battroid toward her. Radar warnings blared as a flight of six missiles bloomed out from the Phoenix, the final missiles in her bays. She was clearly firing them defensively, trying to buy her enough time to make landfall. She filled the air with laser fire as she descended.
Forced to respond and low options Dwer brought his gunpod to bear and let loose with its last gasp, the distinctive screaming whir of the GU-15 filled his cockpit followed by a loud series of clacks as it ran dry. Blossoms of fire filled his vision as the missiles were swatted from the sky. Opening the throttles the Songbird rushed towards Denise and her Phoenix. Dwer would get one slashing pass at her before she touched down and he was going to make the most of it. Laser fire arced up towards him, Dwer juked to the left and pirouetted right. More and more and more came, each time he evaded by a whisker’s length, the paint on the Songbird’s hull cracked and bubbled as white hot death came within inches.
“No gunpod fire. Must be empty.”
Lining up his crosshairs he got solid tone and launched his last two missiles, both were quickly vaporised by laser fire. Using the momentary distraction he charged in, pin-point barriers swirling around the Songbird’s fists as he let loose with a Mach 1 punch. Crackling destruction found only air as the Genius cut her engine, rapidly dropping below him.
Dwer kicked the battroid onto its head as incandescent rage came from below. Dwer pushed both fists out towards the laser blast. Energy clashing with the barriers, a small star erupted between the two mecha. Without hesitating Dwer cranked the engines and set the battroid spinning, pushing down like a 10 ton energy drill. Lasers parting to either side Songbird slammed into Denise. Sparks flying as metal shattered under the thruster assisted corkscrew. Few normal pilots would continue fighting after such a stunt.
The Genius was far from normal. Suddenly Dwer felt gravity reverse, his VF-19 changing places with the larger FA/V-1. Her mecha was torn to shit, but somehow she’d gotten hold of the left arm and reversed position. Dwer desperately tried to get his thrusters in line but it was too late, the ground rushed up to meet them. Sky turned to sand as with both feet firmly planted on his back she drove his battroid into the dirt. All he could see was stars as he was smashed around in his seat. His Songbird fared worse, fuselage sections caved in and visor glass shattered. Head lasers bent and his other wing tore off in a hail of sparks.
Triumphant, the Genius stood over her crumpled foe. Capacitors charged, her head lasers were to finish the job.
“Now Dwer, It ends.” Denise’ voice came crackling over the comm. He almost thought he heard a twang regret in her voice.
Her moment was suddenly interrupted by a loud crunching sound and her Phoenix crashing to the ground, her legs swept from under her. Countless rounds on the mat with Olga meant Dwer had spent more than his share of time on the floor. His mecha complained violently as he pushed it to its knees and turned it around.Battered and bruised Dwer drove Songbird’s fist towards the head of the enemy mecha. Metal and glass shattered under the blow as the fist dug deep. He wrenched it back out dragging a tangle of electronics with him before her thrusters flared, carrying her away.Dragging the heavily damaged VF-19 to its feet he tried to bring the left arm up only to find it was gone, torn off somewhere along the beach. Pinpoint barriers were fried and the right legged was twisted. He readied his one good first as his adversary stood herself up.
Two metal giants stood, the sun setting behind them and the waves lapping at their feet, in the distance a warship fell. Both bereft of armament and damaged beyond reason they made one last push.
He watched as Denise reached over wither her VF’s right arm and ejected the damaged left one into its grasp. She readied her makeshift club and she lunged. Again Olga’s training flashed through his mind.
As she swung he stepped, pushing Songbird into the blow, right fist extended. Both strikes connected simultaneously, Songbird’s head was ripped clean off but his strike hit home. Metal fist connected with the hip structure of the Phoenix, crushing the joint assembly and shattering the structure. Unable to stand the FA/V-1 crashed to the ground beside him. It was at that moment the twisted leg on the -19 gave out bringing the Songbird to its knees.
15 minutes must have passed in motionless silence. Sunset silhouetting the falling warship as it finally crashed into the water. Energy lances could still be seen darting across its surface, Meg and Eric were far from done. Dwer idly watched the spritia meter flare with every lance. He never did understand why Summer had put that system into the Songbird.
Comm reports were flooding in, the NUSA were in full rout and colonial forces were surrendering en-masse. He smiled at a report of the HMDS Gherkin defecting to the UN side, the old Salan class had somehow made it through this whole debacle. He activated his distress beacon, hopefully Skull would see it
“Denise.” his speech was laboured, he’d probably cracked a rib. “You need a better reason to fly, yours is no good.” He took a deep breath and regretted it instantly “My squad is looking for me, you wanna run I won’t stop you. Wouldn’t blame you either, I’ve been on the bad end of an Intel stitch up.” He got no response, not surprising.
Streaks of fire lit up the darkening sky, re-entry trails. Magnification showed a Queadluun- Rhea with Jolly Roger markings, the number 5 was clearly emblazoned on its hull. Looks like Kes had found him. He relaxed into his seat and closed his eyes.
“I’m going home after this. Visit me when you find a good reason to fly. We’ll go another round.”