The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #3

by | Oct 15, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories


“1700 hours,” Ricard checked the time as he followed his compass to Alice and Casey, “We don’t have a lot of daylight left.” Once night fell, the situation could shift in their favor. They would be a lot harder to pin down in the dark. Like any good two-edged sword, however, the survivors of the 203rd would have to make their way back to their allies through the pitch black desert. That perilous journey was going to have to be made on foot if Nicholas wasn’t able to fix Chaser’s damaged tread in time. If the dust storm happened to let up before they were underway, the Municans might spot them immediately. One well placed artillery shell later and it would all be over. Then there was the colossus. The longer this storm lasted, the more likely they were to run into it again, and Ricard couldn’t stand the thought of that. He had to hurry. They all did.

Minutes ticked by as Ricard searched, and more and more he began to worry he had passed his friends by without ever noticing. He reminded himself that he shouldn’t panic until he saw Blitz’s remains or the colossus. “It’s fine,” Ricard said, “even if I missed them, Casey’s still heading in the right direction, and he’s got the repair kit.” He looked all around him, checking for any signs of movement. Above and below him were distinct shades of orange that blended together at what should have been the horizon. Without his compass, Ricard wouldn’t have the slightest indication of where he was or which direction he should head in. He had seen everything save what he was searching for since he left Nicholas and Chaser, from shallow dips where a shell had exploded, to twisted and burned metal plates, fingers and other bits blown off of the mechanical arms of their scouting armas, and even a half buried sprocket.

“Sergeant Silva.”

Ricard winced. Lieutenant Rog was still trying to contact him using the Commune technique. He thought the lieutenant had given up by now, but that was Rog’s voice echoing inside his head. At this rate, he was going to have to stop playing at being unreachable and answer. He knew there were orders coming, though. Those orders would almost certainly involve that colossus the 203rd had recklessly lured out of hiding. Answering and receiving them might put his own plans for escape in jeopardy.

“Sergeant Silva, if you’re done building sandcastles out there then respond. I know you’re receiving. What’s your status? Over.”

Ricard bit back a curse and stopped dead in his tracks. Maybe if he just explained their situation again, that they couldn’t help pinpoint the colossus’ position on foot in the Munican dust storm, the lieutenant would agree and let them focus on escaping, on survival. “Sergeant Silva here. I copy. Status is … awful. Attempting to rendezvous with the survivors of Intrepid 9 and 20. Over.” The words left his lips with frustrated resignation. Even so, he had to plead his case before Rog said anything more. He couldn’t dance around any pending orders this time.

“Are there any working armas left in Intrepids 9, 18, or 20? Over.”

Ricard’s words initially caught in his throat. The temptation to lie was almost overwhelming; the temptation to twist the truth into something inconvenient for Lieutenant Rog, even more so. “Just one, sir, but Chaser is badly damaged. We’re trying to get him moving again, but he’s not combat or recon capable. Over.” Not a lie, Ricard told himself, but hopefully discouraging enough to make the lieutenant reconsider whatever he was thinking.

“Orders from command,” Rog began, and it sounded like the sympathy in his tone from their last exchange was long gone, “Any Intrepid teams still inside the storm are to attempt to locate and track the colossus. Echo.”

“I knew it,” Ricard hissed. He knew they wouldn’t be retreating if any new orders reached them. “Lieutenant, what makes you think we can find the colossus in this mess, much less track the blasted thing? If we get spotted again, we’ll be slaughtered.”

“Echo, Sergeant,” Lieutenant Rog replied expectantly.

“Sir … locate and track the colossus. Orders received. Over.”

“I won’t lie to you, Rick, things are about to heat up,” Rog warned, “Sifter 4 found the storm device and the mages and a strike package is inbound. When the dust clears, be ready to move. Over.”

“Oh crap.” So his plan to fix Chaser and escape under the cover of the sandstorm had been compromised from the beginning. No one he could get a hold of could delay the attack, and they only had a couple of minutes left at most. After that, the skies would clear, and the Municans would have as clear a picture of their targets as the Cordaeans would of theirs. “Crap!” Ricard took off running after a brief glance at his compass.

As if the world itself was conspiring against him, Ricard quickly came up on a blackened husk that greatly resembled an arma. If this wreck was Blitz, then Alice and Casey had passed him a while ago, possibly during that exchange with the Lieutenant. Ricard shook his head, realizing that he should have been paying attention. Now he had to get a hold of Casey and figure out whether to keep looking for him in this area, or head straight back. He knelt down again, giving the area a quick scan before committing to another commune. “Casey, it’s Ricard. I think we passed each other.”

“Yeah, I was afraid of that,” Ricard heard back, “but I can’t stop to check every little thing that might be a person, you know? Better to just keep moving. Try to catch up, alright?”

“Listen,” Ricard urged, remembering the planes Cordaea was sending to put an end to the storm, “Rog just told me they found the mages putting up this dust cloud. They want us to find the colossus after they take them out and keep track of it.”

“A colossus seems pretty hard to miss, don’t you think? Isn’t that why they’re using the sandstorm? To hide it while it goes around stomping on everyone?”

Casey had a fair point, but Ricard figured the rest of Intrepid was half a dozen kilometers east by now. Probably farther. Their friends in the air would need help to strike the colossus now that it was nearly sundown. It was an awful job, an insanely risky job, but someone had to be close by to help coordinate the attack.

“I’ll try and catch up, but use your radio to get in touch with Nick if you have to. Don’t just rely on the bearings we took.”


Ricard rose to his feet and prepared to move. That was when he felt a rush of mana pass through his body. It disturbed the air and the dirt around him, moving east almost faster than the eye could see. “Was that a kite burst?” That the wave of mana was heading west to east was a bad sign. While a commune booster used a special form of mana known as Vigor to facilitate long range communication, a kite burst or a kite ping was a method of using that same type of mana in a manner similar to sonar. In the old days, golems were able to use these pings to orient themselves and pinpoint every nearby entity. The drawback of such a technique was that it let everyone know you were there. To say a kite ping was easy to back trace with modern equipment would be an understatement. If the Municans were pinging for them now, then that could mean only one thing.

It was a mop up.

“Run,” Ricard said, checking his compass once and then bolting to the southeast. He was standing out in the open when the mana touched him, so whoever or whatever sent that ping out didn’t just know that he was there, but also that he was a male tanker, around 180 centimeters tall, and armed with only a pistol. He could hear a pair of high pitched motors whirring away back at the destroyed arma, the distinct sound of a Munican draque. One of those metal lizards was already on his trail. Ordinarily a draque wouldn’t concern him too much; the 203rd had shot down plenty with their anti-air guns in the last couple of weeks. Ricard was alone and on foot now. A draque was dangerous enough to lightly armored men with its jaws and claws but these Munican machines were always armed with at least a haze cannon inside their mouths and a pair of machineguns bolted on somewhere. He had to escape.

Ricard could hear the draque getting closer, but he couldn’t maneuver. His only chance was to somehow make it back to Chaser before he was gunned down. “Come on! Come on,” he pushed his legs as hard as he could. Ricard could picture himself reaching the others and waving frantically as the draque closed in on him from above. He could see Chaser turning its turret to meet the incoming threat and blowing it to pieces as Ricard dove for cover. He could easily make out Alice’s smile even in the storm. A last ditch save was just what he needed. It was a comforting lie for the moment.

No matter how hard Ricard pushed himself, he could hear the draque getting closer. He could feel the blasted thing getting closer. It was a wonder he wasn’t already under fire, but there was no use questioning it now. It was no use questioning anything. If he was caught here, he was dead. Ricard cringed reflexively when he heard the draque shriek at him. The sound was so loud it made him want to hit the dirt; the draque wasn’t just close, it was right on top of him now. Chaser and the others were nowhere in sight, and the draque was almost close enough to bite his head off. There was no chance at all of him escaping now. Ricard leaned forward as a precaution, even though it was beginning to slow him down, and weighed his final options.

I’ve got a pistol, but that thing’s got a hazer, machineguns, and enough bulk to crush me as soon as I turn around …. Was this it, then? Was he going to die here no matter what? Couldn’t someone somewhere help him? Anyone?

It was too late; Ricard could feel the heat from the draque’s mouth on the back of his head and sense an attack coming. On instinct, he dove to the ground and the draque passed right over him. As he picked his head up, Ricard heard engines, plane engines, passing overhead and heading westward. It was probably the strike package, he thought, but it was too late for any of that to help him. The draque turned around to face him, and Ricard could make out someone riding on its back. Some draques had riders and some didn’t. The ones with riders were the scout group leaders and helped coordinate their movements. Ricard was armed, so maybe he could shoot the rider and actually accomplish something before the draque got him.

“Back off,” Ricard said, raising his pistol to shoot. The draque was surprisingly quick to respond, generating momentum out of nothing and rushing toward him like a speeding train. Ricard told himself to shoot the rider on top of the draque, but he couldn’t help but try to fend off the bigger threat when it came right down to it. He got off one shot that barely nicked the draque’s left optic before he was thrust to the ground. He hit the ground so hard that there was no doubt in his mind that he had a concussion. Worse still, he didn’t know where his pistol or his compass had gone in the fall. Hope was in short supply, but Ricard still had to take note that he wasn’t dead yet.

The draque’s arm had just enough weight behind it to keep him pinned down as the rider briskly hopped down and approached him. Even in the storm, even with his most recent injury, Ricard could see the rider clearly enough now that she was standing over him. Her gear was loose enough that, if not for the long black locks blowing in the wind, he could have mistaken her for a shorter man. The draque riders only ever consisted of shorter, slender men, and their female counterparts. Ricard did note that she was somewhat tall for a rider. He also took note of her pistol, wondering if she planned to shoot him herself. Maybe the plan was to threaten him for information. Or was he being taken prisoner? Questions Ricard had tried to push out of mind earlier were starting to force their way to the forefront. Whatever this rider wanted, it was the only reason he was still alive.

“You’re my prisoner,” she said. She had a faint but distinct Munican accent, something Ricard hadn’t heard in a long time despite fighting these people on a regular basis. “All of you are.”

“All of us?” Ricard echoed, trying to understand. It took him a moment to remember, but when he did, he could hardly keep it to himself. “The ping.”

“Four survivors,” the rider confirmed. Ricard, Nicholas, Alice, and Casey. “If you don’t resist, it can stay that way.”

This draque scout clearly didn’t know Cordaeans very well, Ricard bitterly mused. “Casey, they caught me. Get Chaser fixed and run. Just run.” One last ditch effort to save the others. He could do that much.

The woman quickly knelt down and put her hand on Ricard’s forehead. “Stop that!”

“Just run!”


Suddenly the ground shook beneath them. A rumble in the distance was forthcoming, and Ricard knew the ‘package’ had been delivered. This sandstorm would begin to clear any second now. The rider noticed and stood back up. They both watched as the storm began to lift. Part of Ricard expected to see more draques flying around when the dust settled. Instead, he saw red lights in the distance, behind the rider that captured him. It was walking toward right toward them. Its steps were far too quiet. That’s why they never seemed to notice it coming until it was practically on top of them. Ricard could see the big red light and the four little ones approaching as a dark silhouette formed around them. He knew with a grim certainty that he wasn’t escaping, not with the colossus there.

“Blast it.” Ricard closed his eyes and reached out with his thoughts as far as he could. Hopefully he’d saved his friends by warning them, but there was still one more thing he had to do. Follow his orders. Lieutenant Rog, this is Sergeant Silva. Colossus located. My current position is unknown. Please advise. Over.

“Sergeant, we almost have your position. Just keep talking. Over.”

Colossus is one hundred meters and closing. Can’t tell the direction. Maybe northeast. Just carpet bomb the whole area to be sure.


Do it. If you don’t, they’re going to get the others. You have to hit that thing now.

“We have your position. Can you withdraw to a safe distance?” Lieutenant Rog asked, clearly dreading the answer.

No, I’ve been captured. You ordered us to track this thing, Lieutenant, and I’m doing that! Now kill it! If you’ve got my position then you know where to shoot!

“We can’t order a strike yet … standby, Sergeant. Over.”

Of all the times for them to be hesitant. The storm was clearing, visibility was coming back, and the colossus was right there. Ricard couldn’t let this mission fail just because he got himself caught. First you put the colossus above our lives and now you’re getting hung up on this?! Where was this care and concern when we were trying to get out?!

“This is a friendly fire situation, Sergeant. Command isn’t going to authorize a strike until you’re clear. We’re working on a solution, so standby. Over.”

I already told you! I’ve been captured! I’m as good as dead, so level this whole area before the colossus pulls out!

There was no response this time.

Lieutenant! Come on, Lieutenant! Lieutenant!

“Please stop,” the rider said, lifting up her goggles and pulling down her scarf. The turned back to face him as the colossus drew ever closer to them. “Don’t try to be a hero. It’s over.” She could tell he was using the Commune technique even though he wasn’t speaking. If she could sense the mana leaving with his thoughts then she was likely a mage, and not just a rider.

“I’m not trying to be a hero,” Ricard scoffed. It figured that the one time he put his own survival out of mind for the sake of the mission, his superiors would do just the opposite. A part of him was somewhat grateful, but he also felt as if he was being betrayed. They would rather let him be captured than risk friendly fire. He couldn’t argue with that stance, but for him, it was humiliating. If the colossus escaped now, it would be his fault, because he couldn’t outrun a flying motorcycle with teeth. Why couldn’t he have just stayed put with Nicholas?

“It’s not like that,” Ricard told the rider, “I’ve got my orders.”

The rider nodded, knowing all too well. “We all do.”





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Recent Pinned Posts

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2023 ended weirdly abruptly for me, but I got the shot in the arm I needed in order to hit the ground running in 2024. This year's going to be absolutely crazy, but for me personally, I feel my worst years are finally behind me. I'm ready to stop drowning in a sea of...

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