The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #7

by | Nov 5, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories

Fire and Fury

All Fran knew for certain was that one of the draques was standing over her and bracing against the incoming gunfire. She could feel the bullets ricocheting off her protector’s head and wings. The intense flash left Fran seeing nothing but white, but even as her sight slowly returned, she couldn’t make out anything clearly. Worse, her ears were still ringing, almost drowning out the panging of bullets and the draques’ shrill hissing. Fran couldn’t even steady herself, not even while down on all fours. Whether it was a stun grenade or  some Calig equivalent, it must have gone off right next to her.

Just how many of them were there anyway?

Suddenly the gunfire stopped. Fran’s ears slowly stopped ringing and the sound of artillery fire, allies calling out to each other, and Fort Baldi’s sirens became louder and clearer. “What a mess,” Fran groaned, crawling out from under the quick thinking draque.

Perspicaz was her savior. He lowered his wings to inspect the damage while Fran, still dazed and off balance, tried to look around. No one was near the containers where they confronted the first of Calig’s ghosts. Fran and her three draques were alone for the moment. They were anything but safe, however.

“How is it?”

Perspicaz tilted its head back and forth, assessing the nicks and scratches in the dark as best it could. From what Fran could tell, he was fine. At the very least, he could continue the mission. They were going to need backup, though. Calig special forces were far more than a scout and a trio of flying automata could handle. Fran had to warn her sister and the others.

One radio call after another saw Valencia and the rest of Jinete warned about the Calig commandos. Fran also learned that the situation in the northeastern corner of Fort Baldi had deteriorated rapidly since her search began. Several heavy arma had directly breached the wall and brought a few squads of automata foot soldiers with them. Fran wasn’t given a choice on the matter; Valencia ordered her to join the defense and leave the ghost matter for later. The risk was great, but it was a calculated one, as Fran was already incapacitated once. She didn’t have the experience or the firepower to beat Calig’s best at night, and while under the threat of indiscriminate artillery fire. They were here for something else, Cordoba, Fran suspected. That was why they didn’t press their advantage and kill her. If she and her sister was fast enough, if they could repel the Cordaeans, then they could turn their full attention to protecting the Cordoba. The plan couldn’t be get any more straightforward, so Fran mounted up and led the draques toward the breach.

Fran soon arrived at the breach, and what she saw infuriated her. The first heavy arma was well inside Fort Baldi, laying waste to the top floor of the command center with high explosive shells. It was covered in black splashes from where rockets had struck but failed to penetrate, and its two heavy machineguns were partially melted from the battle. The arma was surrounded on all sides by automata armed with rifles and grenades. Every Munican soldier bold enough to try and ordnance at the heavy tank was quickly suppressed by the mechanical soldiers. The ones who hadn’t taken cover fast enough, and the ones who were caught out in the open when the wall was first breached, all lay dead and strewn around the battlefield. Several draque units were disabled and being used as cover by the garrison.

Fran couldn’t keep staring at what was left of the command center. Her sister might have still been in there, and just the thought of Valencia dying in a surprise attack, barely able to coordinate the battle or fight the enemy herself, it was just unbearable. For now, she had her orders: Help defend Fort Baldi. Fran wasn’t sure she could contribute much to this lopsided siege, but she was going to try.

The automata saw Fran and the draques coming and forced to scatter in all directions with a hail of bullets. That was when the second arma came lumbering through the breach in the northeast wall. It immediately fired a round from its main gun into the HQ building, striking the second floor and sending concrete and dust spewing out. Fran evaded the automatons while Perspicaz and the other draques began charging up the haze guns hidden in their jaws. Just as the second arma’s heavy machineguns began to track her, Fran pulled back on Perspicaz’s control sticks and brought them both into a hard turn. The draque released all of the energy it had stored up in one concentrated beam of energy, sweeping across the arma’s flank and melting the automatons that had just joined the battle.

The other two draques fired their haze guns at the heavy arma’s machineguns, causing their magazines to explode. They had followed standard procedure to the letter, taking out the heavy machineguns first since the main guns couldn’t track them in such a close in fight. With those taken out, the only protection the armas had were the soldier drones they brought with them. The second arma began to move backward in retreat, but soon realized its mistake and drove away from the breach and toward cover, leaving the hole wide open for the next arma to come through.

“We can’t take them down fast enough,” Fran grimaced. She could strip away some of their weapons at most on her own, but the draques were light aerial automatons. They couldn’t deal with heavy armor, and certainly not Cordaean heavy armor. They needed much more firepower to destroy or disarm the arma.

“Fran get back,” Valencia ordered. Her voice came over the radio, reverberating as if she was surrounded by metal.

Fran and the three draques heard something coming from above. They looked up just in time to see an enormous draque come diving down. Valencia was inside, guiding the assault draque toward the first arma. Fran knew what would happen next, and ordered the draques to get clear. Even the soldiers were running to gain distance as Valencia’s draque opened the bomb bays on its abdomen and revealed several large bombs. One of them detached as soon as the bay opened up, and Valencia pulled her draque out of the nosedive. A few seconds later, the first arma was blown apart. The Munican soldiers had gotten clear in time, but the arma’s automaton escorts were caught in the blast before they noticed the danger. The entire area was covered in dust and black smoke.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Valencia,” Fran said into her radio.

“We’ve lost good people here. I won’t be joining them, but I will avenge them. Fran, run interference.”

Just like always, Fran thought, appreciating the sudden turn of events more than she could put into words. “I’m on it.”

The Munican assault draque, Jubilosa landed on the wall and opened her jaws, exposing a massive haze gun. The barrel extended out of the draque’s mouth and released a violent burst of mana against a group of arma gathering just outside Fort Baldi. The return fire from the automatons and heavy machineguns barely amounted to glancing hits and scratches. As Jubilosa turned, she swept the field, slagging the automatons and forcing the armas to fall back far enough to use their main guns. By the time the farthest arma could raise its gun high enough, Valencia stopped the attack and took to the night sky.

The Cordaean advance was halted for the moment, which meant they just had the heavy arma already inside to deal with. With no infantry support, the Munican defenders were able to come back with a vengeance. As they readied an entire volley of armor piercing rockets for the second breaching arma, a third hurried through the breach in the wall. The Municans decided to focus on it first, sending seven rockets past the husk of the first arma. The automatons were shattered by the blasts almost as soon as they leaped into action. The third arma fired one shot at the garrison and then started to back out through the breach.

The second arma tried to take advantage of the reprieve by leveling its main gun at the rocket bearers. Now it was time to run interference. Fran flew Perspicaz toward the remaining arma, attempting to flank it while the other draques chased the third. She made it just in time, slamming Perspicaz and herself into the barrel, throwing the shot completely off target. The second arma’s arms deployed in response, trying to grab them. Unlike the light armas, Cordaea’s heavy tanks had four arms at their disposal. Perspicaz couldn’t get clear in time, and was jerked down by the tail. The arm on the opposing side took the draque by the crown and held them down over the barrel of its main gun. Then the two remaining arms in the back started beating Perspicaz’s body over and over. Fran didn’t know how to save them both from the arma.

“Hang on! Just hang on,” Fran pleaded, leaping from the damaged draque onto the top of the turret. She had no way of breaking in and taking out the crew, and she had only seconds before the rear arms were turned on her. She wouldn’t fare nearly as well as Perspicaz if she was caught the same way. Instead of going after the crew, Fran decided to keep moving and jump down to the back of the arma. She didn’t find anything unsecure enough to force open and damage with just her pistol, certainly not with the time she had. The rear arms were after her almost as soon as she hopped onto the back of the arma. That gave Perspicaz time to fight back, which it did by blasting the arma’s right wrist with the haze gun, the same one holding its head down.

Fran barely avoided being crushed as she dove clear of the arma’s reach. Then she saw the rest of Jinete coming. Not just the two draques she brought with her, Lazo, Flora, and everyone else were almost on top of them.

“Ready concentrated burst,” Lazo shouted. The draques surrounded the heavy arma while Flora approached to help Perspicaz.

That was enough interference, Fran thought, running for cover as all of Jinete’s draque’s mouths began to glow a bright blue-green with burning hot mana.

Perspicaz spent most of its energy melting off the arma’s grasping claw with its own haze gun, and when Flora arrived, her draque used its claws to rip Perspicaz free. They both flew away as fast as they could. The arma managed to raise its gun toward Lazo and fired a shot. The shot narrowly missed him.


The arma was struck by over a dozen beams of light from all directions as the survivors got away. The heavy arma’s armor was thicker than anyone could have imagined, but Lazo ordered the attack to continue. The armor could only use its shields to guard in four directions, and the draques kept the assault up while moving to overwhelm it.

“Keep it up!” Lazo began to worry as his own draque’s energy reserves began to run low. Several others depleted themselves entirely and fell to the ground, weakening the barrage.

The Arma’s turret was still in tact, but turning more slowly as it struggled against the heat. It was trying to acquire Lazo one more time, but he drifted out of the way before the arma could open fire. Slowly but surely, the arma’s drive system was reduced to slag, its treads glowed a bright orange, metal began to drip from its armor plates under the withering barrage. The arma’s crew were surely dead by now, and only the arma itself was fighting back. Finally, the arma gave up on shooting Lazo and turned its turret around to attack Fran, the only one left the turret could reach.

Fran tried to take cover behind one of the downed draques, but she knew that wouldn’t save her if an arma round came her way.

“Just die,” Lazo bellowed in desperation.

The half melted arma didn’t hesitate. As soon as it had Fran lined up with its gun, it tried to take one last defiant shot, and fire and dust erupted from behind its treads and out from the turret ring as the whole thing went up in flames. The turret was blown away, sailing through the air as fire rained down all around them.

“We did it.”

As she came out from behind the disabled draque, Fran knew it wasn’t over. Not only did the Cordaeans have air power in the area, but the Calmens were sneaking around somewhere. She had only laid eyes on one of the unlucky ones. There was no telling how many of them there were, or what kind of damage they could inflict in the middle of all this chaos.





  1. Fleeing Victory #6 | The Praedian Records - […] To be continued […]

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