The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #6

by | Oct 31, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories


“Any ideas on who it might be?” Fran asked, barely able to keep up with Valencia’s pace. “A Cordaean assault team maybe?”

“I have no idea, but we’re going to deal with them all the same,” Valencia said, “According to the sensors, the alarm was triggered over by the warehouse.”

Valencia grabbed her radio as they entered an elevator that would take them back up to the surface. “This is Silver One. I’m taking command of the garrison. Authorization comes from the top. Relay that, make sure the draques are ready, and head up the search for intruders until I arrive. Over.”

“Acknowledged, Silver One,” a voice came back, “Relaying and resuming the search. Over.”

“I’ll be there shortly. Silver One out.”

That call reminded Fran of Audaz. She wasn’t keen on taking another draque so soon after what happened, but it was going to be necessary. She couldn’t do nearly as much on foot. “Are there any more draques free, or does this warrant me grabbing the closest one and heading out with you?”

“Oh, that’s right,” Valencia brought her fist and palm together, “You lost Audaz in the field.”

Fran still felt ashamed of it, losing her draque the way she did. Those machines usually outlived their riders. So long as their runic brains were in tact, they could be placed into a new body and serve as if nothing had happened to them. With that kind of resilience, draque scouts and fighters normally kept the same unit throughout their entire career. Fran didn’t have time to retrieve Audaz’s runic brain, and whether it had survived the Cordaean bombing run was anyone’s guess.

“I let my guard down and now I’m paying for it,” Fran sighed.

“Only for tonight,” Valencia soothed. “We heard back from the rest of Jinete before you woke up. Audaz is in no shape to fight. His body was damaged beyond repair, but his runic brain is in perfect working order. By tomorrow, he should be fitted with a new body.”

“Really?” Fran didn’t even realize just how happy she looked to her older sister.

Valencia placed a hand on Fran’s shoulder. “I cherish that smile of yours, you know.”


“Hahah. Don’t lose your nerve over one little comment.” She was all business again a second later. “We’re almost there. Be ready to run. I’m going to get them things started, then I’ll meet you in the hangar.”

When the elevator arrived, the Sandoval sisters bolted through the doors. They split up at the first turn; Fran ran for the main hangar, and Valencia made a beeline for the command center. Dozens of troops funneled out of the main building while others moved between buildings. It wasn’t long before wheeled vehicles were on the move and a dozen riders were in the air. The guard towers turned on their search lights and began sweeping the area for any unexpected movement both in and out of Fort Baldi.

Personnel were even busier inside the main hangar by the time Fran arrived. Jinete Team consisted of only a handful of riders, and many, many draque units that supported them in the field. From their own section of the massive hangar, they were already preparing plenty of the draques for combat, giving Fran her pick of the units. “What’s the situation?” Fran said as she arrived. She was already settling in on one of the draques as her temporary partner. Its nighttime gear was already fitted and it looked like it was eager to fly.

“Could be a whole lot worse, I guess,” Lazo said, “We’ve got two separate problems: an intruder in the fort, and a huge group of Cordaean arma coming straight for us. They’ve got artillery, so the walls won’t help us much.”

At least they were on top of a large hill, so the armas wouldn’t be able to shoot them directly until they breached the walls. It sounded like whatever was happening had been in the works for a while. At first, Fran worried the Cordaeans had tracked the Cordoba here somehow, but if they already had a man on the inside, then that might not be necessary. The bigger question was how the Cordaeans managed to blow past all their outer defenses and get this close without anyone noticing.

“I’ll head up the search for that intruder,” Fran decided. She also picked out one of the draques and climbed up into the saddle. “Perspicaz, huh? Bear with me for now.”

“How much backup do you need?”

If there were only one or two intruders, Fran didn’t want to overdo it. More importantly, Valencia could use the extra firepower to deal with the arma threat. “Two is enough. I want you and Flora to help defend the base while I help track down the rat.”

“You can count on us, Captain,” Lazo saluted her.

As soon as Fran had gotten herself situated, the fighting began. High explosive shells struck the HQ building, sending guards running for cover. Several other structures were hit, including a water tower. Fran took Perspicaz and two other draques and left the hangar just in time to see an entire volley of ignis shells pass overhead. The explosions rocked the entire base, even sending men on the far side to the ground. “Are they trying to blow everything up?” She didn’t want to think about the airpower that was likely on the way. Cordaean vehicles were always backed up by air assets as well.

Finding the intruder in this chaos was going to be extremely difficult, Fran realized. She suspected that was the point, whether or not the Cordaeans intended to reduce Fort Baldi to a total ruin. She had the two supporting draques fan out while she checked a nearby storage building. A squad had already cleared the area, but this was where the alarm was triggered, so Fran had to see for herself. A pair of exceptionally brave men were still searching when she landed, neither of them had any clue who their unwelcome guest was or where they could have run off to. Fran had no choice but to broaden the search, even as artillery shells continued to rain down.

How was she supposed to find what was likely one odd individual in all of this? She wasn’t one to give up so easily, but whatever the Cordaeans’ plan was, it was working. The odds of finding their intruder like this were effectively zero. Even so Fran couldn’t leave it be. Valencia had given her this task and she wasn’t going to just give up.

“New plan,” Fran muttered, an idea that was punctuated by a nearby shell exploding and sending a hot gust of air over her. She landed and called her draques back. “I don’t think the Cordaeans would be hitting us this hard if the intruder was in danger. They held back even more fire than this to spare just one of their people. That means the intruder is somewhere the shells can’t reach him, or he’s not here anymore.” No plan was foolproof, but Fran couldn’t count on the enemy messing up their timing. Her target was either already outside the walls of the base, or they were inside a fortified area.

“I can’t go outside,” Fran told herself. The arma were charging toward them at that very moment. Any draques caught out in the open at long range would be plucked out of the sky by their guns. If the target was already outside the walls, Fran couldn’t risk chasing them. For now she had to assume they were in one of the safer parts of the base. “There isn’t anywhere safer than the underground facilities. But that means the intruder alarm gave us the wrong location. Or there are at least two. Maybe? One to purposely trip an alarm and the other to-”

Ack! One of the draques let out a shriek and jutted its neck out toward the side of the storage building. Its spotlight grew brighter, and the beam became narrower as the draque got Fran’s attention. That was when she saw him, a man clad all in black, injured and crawling for the safety of the large containers. She didn’t recognize his uniform, but she knew it wasn’t one of theirs. She drew her gun, but the injured man was already shooting. He was an incredible shot, managing to take out the spotlight one of the draques’ head, cloaking himself in darkness.

“Get him!” He couldn’t have gotten far if he was crawling on all fours, so Fran and the draques rushed over, with Perspicaz in the lead to shrug off any surprise gunfire. As soon as they reached the containers, Fran knew something was wrong. The intruder absolutely could not have gotten away in five seconds it had taken them to catch up. There was just no one here now. Neither Perspicaz nor the other draque could find anything with their spotlights. A displacement spell, maybe? To her trained senses, that would have been as subtle as lighting a flare. For him to even attempt that while injured would be just as impressive as his shooting.

“Cordaean Special Forces, then,” Fran concluded, “This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”


Fran swiftly aimed her gun at the voice, but she was only able to keep the intruder from shooting her first. Both of them had clear shots and so much as a flinch would see at least one of them killed on the spot. The draques knew well enough not to endanger the captain by overreacting, but they were incensed, looking for any opening to rip the injured gunslinger to pieces.

“I can’t believe this,” Fran hissed at him. She was looking at that very spot a moment ago and no one was there. If he hadn’t used a displacement spell to get away, then just one possibility was left. His black clothes, his damaged mask and helmet. Even his pistol gave him away now that she could see it up close. “You’re a vas pureblood. They’re the only ones who can do what you just did. That mean’s you’re not Cordaean Special Forces. You’re a Calman.”

“And you’re a Sandoval,” the injured vas smiled. For someone who had just been ruined by friendly fire, he seemed a little too happy to see her. “Maybe my luck isn’t so bad, ja?”

“What are Calig’s Blue Ghosts doing here?” This was even worse than they imagined. Cordaea’s neighbor and greatest economic partner, Calig, had some of the best special forces units in the world. Calmans didn’t like to get mixed up in border disputes like these, so Fran hadn’t even suspected them. If they were involved, then they had some very high profile targets they were after. Cordoba was likely one of them. Could the other be Valencia and the rest of the high ranking officers in Fort Baldi? “What are you after?!”

“A little of this and a little of that,” he shrugged.

A brilliant flash suddenly blinded Fran as intense ringing bored into her ears. She shielded her eyes, but the damage was done. She felt herself being dragged to the ground by metal claws as faint gunfire rang out in the distance. “I let my guard down again,” she muttered, hoping Perspicaz and the draques could protect her from the ghosts until she recovered.





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