Dwer's plan worked better than anticipated. The continued impacts against the asteroid drove the 'Bolts out of cover, the rock eventually splitting and breaking apart. They were so focused on his missile attack that they hardly noticed Rod slide under their formation. Blazing up from beneath, the beam cannons clipped his target at the knee joints. Flailing, the pirate 'Bolt tried to bring his gunpod around, but Rod sent another blast his way, searing the arm off at the shoulder. One of the bandits turned to fire as Rod rocketed through their formation, only to catch a blast from Dwer. Caught dead on the mecha plumped and exploded. Dwer continued his advance.
Rallye was leaping forward even as Kes pushed her decoy into the line of fire. Already doomed, the pirate exploded from the point blank assault. Kes danced away as the Nightmare brought the gunpod in line and fire. The beam lanced through the debris cloud and sliced through the space Kes and briefly occupied. The Nightmare pilot tried to put the beam on target, cutting through the rocks and debris and chasing Kes with the hellish energy of the beam lance. He was about to connect when Kes responded with her own beam cannon. Discretion being the better part of valor, the pirate ace threw himself out of the line of fire and at the same time negated his own attack. Taking advantage of the enemy's momentary loss of awareness, Rallye bracketed the lead fighter, sending volleys his way. The Nightmare proved more competent than the minions he led. Dropping the gunpod he rocked back on his thrusters and pulsed shots down at his assailant. Old model met new model as the -17 and -171 both evaded fire. Rallye's last shot clipped the right hip on the Nightmare. In return, the pirate stitched several beams down Rallye's starboard side, coming close to the cockpit before relative velocities broke sustained fire lines. Rallye rolled past the Nightmare as Eric's tailing drone slashed in at a ninety degree angle and speared it with a triple beam pulse. Taking it on his left arm, the Nightmare lost the beam cannon there but shrugged off most of the fire. It pulsed a shot back, but the drone deftly dipped behind a rock and powered around to place the Nightmare between itself and Rallye's position. The pirate Thunderbolts regrouped with their comrades. The group of six seemed intent on Kes' Rhea, but none of their fire reached her.
Olga's cat and mouse with the Rau denied it a clean shot at the second drone. Tactical programming kicked in, and the drone cut its engines. Allowing its current vector to carry it clear of the enemy Thunderbolt presence, the drone started spraying fire back at the Q-Rau. Seemingly inaccurate, the fire was easily dodge by the Rau pilot. The real point of the barrage became apparent. Driving the Rau between a dual rock formation, the power armor briefly exposed itself to Olga. While not completely vulnerable, Olga did catch it with a burst of fire and savaged its left shoulder, blasting apart the missile launcher located there. Cursing her mistake, the Rau pilot boosted into a full acceleration spiral, looping back for the cover of her squad. The Thunderbolts made individual soft landings on rocks, peppering Olga's position with fire. Olga was forced from direct pursuit of the Rau, but blood was in the water.
Quola led Natalya in on the run on the pirate cruiser. The fire intensified as they closed, the main turrets coming dangerously close on more than one occasion. Threading the needle, Quola hit the ship first. Racing down the spine from aft to bow, she hit the AA turret line first. Missiles corkscrewed onto target as she took the first missile launcher. Fire ran along the hull as she blew apart three of the smaller beam turrets. Pulling under the barrel of the forward capital beam turret, she gave it a good kick in passing and then threw herself into evasives as the ship vainly tried to swat her from the sky. Natalya raced along the same path, holding fire for the big score. Coming in tight she let loose at near point blank with the forward turret. Beams and cannon fire chewed enough armor for her missiles to penetrate. With a dual heaving the beam turret broke from the deck of the cruiser and exploded. Natalya used the cover of the explosion to race back for the safety of the rock field.
Eric's suspicions were confirmed. Even as Quola ducked beneath the edge of the cruiser, enemy power armor pounced from the cargo pay. Two Renegade armors, similar to the earlier attackers, opened fire. Three of the large beams missed. The fourth barely touched the top of her armor. The impact cannon melted away at the beam's kiss, Quola's armor immediately showing a power loss and structural integrity warnings not a few feet from her head. The suit already sealed the breach, but another hit there and she'd be exposed to hard vacuum. Eric sighted his target and let loose with both of his wing mounted missiles. It would take a few seconds for the warheads to cross the distance, but Eric was firing more to cover Quola than do any real damage. His real attack came in the form of the remaining two drones flashing past Quola to hit the lead Renegade head on. Six beams converged on the armor and perforated the pilot inside. The suit blew apart as the two avenging angels moved on to cover their living companion.
With the damage to her bow caused by the loss of her forward weapons array, the Bonney started to list. Secondary explosions tore the heart out of the starboard side weapons array. The shuttle now had its opening. It was time to decisively end this fight.