Chapter 18: Storm Waters

Nuanced violent moments of extremity”

 

The Sanice Rochelle lived to do the right thing. Held close to her seat by the Redeemer’s seatbelts, she knew she would be of little use to anyone if she were dead. She let her desire to live take over her thoughts and they did not fail her. The Iron Beast she was fighting eventually collapsed under the power of her rock walker and control of her consciousness completely returned to her.

The armor of the fallen self-repairing Varentra goliath continued to remold as the Beast struggled about wildly on the muddy hill. It had lost control of some of its vital functions.

She checked for damage to the Redeemer. It was all superficial at best. Rochelle always believed in the best. She decided to ignore her mechanized attacker and move on; every second counted. An hour and a half before Jon-Azon would fall prey to Valkyrie, two hours before humanity would face its greatest fear; Rochelle reminded herself that someone was sure to need her assistance.  

As she swung her damaged machine around, she saw another Iron Beast bring its fist smashing down into the canopy of the War Manger. To her horror, Mona's status indicators went offline.

"Oh, Mona, no!"

The Beast was already approaching another downed Death Walker. She looked at the walker's radar ID. It was the Wicked Bitch. The sanice accelerated as she moved in to assist. It had been a long time since she had experienced such intense combat; actually, she had never experienced such intense combat. She remembered how much she hated its nuanced violent moments of extremity, but she also remembered how necessary for calculated and complete glory such moments of heightened alertness provided. It had been difficult to convince the powers that be to let her fight. She made a note to thank Bran Meredin for making this possible for her.

The Beast had now reached the other Death Walker. It positioned the young Rochellean's machine for the most devastating punch through its blast shield. There would not be enough time to reach it; the sanice had no choice left but to use the Redeemer’s supremely powerful, yet cumbersome industrial dual lasers. It won't be enough to knock it off balance, the thought made her heart skip a beat. She only had seconds left. As she squeezed the trigger, Sanice Rochelle’s ex-mining vehicle was violently rocked by an unexpected and powerful explosion. She had just been furiously hit - by what? She did not know.

Her canopy blew inward, smashing against her specially armored body and faceplate as flames engulfed her cockpit, seat and self. She felt a familiar sensation in her stomach as her fully protected body seemed to burn, one she had not felt in ages and she knew what it meant; she was falling.

The Sanice Rochelle's rock walker crashed hard into the ground. "Vanny!" She screamed even as her cockpit was quickly becoming a deathtrap. Smoke and electric fires raged over the sound of alarms as she unfastened her restraints and began to crawl into the acidic rainstorm outside.

The sanice fell a few feet into the soft mud below. She had landed in a world she could never have imagined. It was raining much harder than she expected and it was near impossible to tell the difference between actual thunder and the sounds of the still distant battle on the other side of the mountain.

She checked her bodysuit for breaches, but her scanners reported 100% integrity. She sat in the mud for a while; her back leaned on her enormous, wrecked machine. She had failed Mona and Vanny. She had failed everyone and so she had failed Sanice Meredin. She had failed herself. She didn't care that she could not wipe the tears from her eyes because of her protective faceplate. What would be the point?    

She thought of Brucer and hoped he would survive. She hoped the world would return life to him and no longer hold him hostage.

"Clear visor." All graphics disappeared from her visor's HUD. She wanted to see the world as it truly was. The rain obscured most of her vision, but she could still make out the electric bolts snaking like cracks in the clouds. Distant aircraft exploded with the rapidness of machinegun fire and dotted the clouds like twinkling stars. Aircraft parts of all sizes continuously came down with the already deadly rain.

She wondered how Captain Jimmo was holding up. She was so proud of him; he was the first ranker she had ever graduated. Captain Eagle Eye Jimmo of Rochelle. Shrapnel laced raindrops continued to hit her visor loudly.

Then once again, she thought of Brucer. What would he say about what she was doing?

Get a hold of yourself, Rochelle.

She still had her sidearm, functioning limbs and a beating heart. Even if she didn’t feel like it at times, she was still a Terranian with fight in her veins.

That's the point.

She got back on her feet and pushed on through the ankle deep muck to the edge of the wreck. Around the corner, Vanny's fate would be revealed to her. Rochelle felt that she might go deaf from all the explosions. The constant shaking of the earth hurt her knees. She turned the corner hoping – no, believing that somehow Vanny was still alive. What she saw shocked her.

A few hundred feet away, she could make out the enormous shapes of an Iron Beast wrestling a rock walker through the rain; the same rock walker that had once been piloted by the great Over-world Commander. It was Major Cammy's General Westmark. Rochelle could also barely see Vanny's fallen walker, but could not tell if it had been damaged. The sanice activated her radio, "Vanny, are you still alive?"

Amazingly, Vanny responded, "Sanice Rochelle!"

"Vanny, just stay where you are, don't leave your walker." The sanice wondered if she could run to Vanny while the Iron Beast was occupied and distracted, but she knew it was probably nothing more than the cover from her own wrecked walker that was keeping her from being killed by some falling piece of debris. The metal clanked hard on the Redeemer’s smoldering hull, pounding it. Damaged fuselages embedded themselves in the surrounding mud. She decided to focus on how she might help Cammy. An idea suddenly came to her. She remembered her military informant.

"Relay to Birds of Prey, this is exposed Death Walker Commander Rochelle Meredin, I'm in Major Cammy's vicinity. We need your assistance at my coordinates."

"Birds of Prey receive. As you wish, so will it be done, my Sanice," responded the calm, calculating voice of Captain Jimmo who was back in his element, the burning sky. "But you're going to have to get out of there now; I'm reading multiple Skeetos within 100 meters and converging on your location."

That was terrible news. If she was going to have to run for cover, it might as well be to Vanny's walker. It was the closest one to her, anyway. She tried to find the courage in herself to do it, but wondered how much time she had to look for it.

"60 meters and closing." Crackled Jimmo's voice.

Rochelle immediately pushed off the wreck and sprinted into the metal shower.

****

"Now that dad's famous, I think people have started looking at me weird at school. I really hope Jason doesn't think like the rest of them. He's a really nice guy." - Melissa Adamson, from her diary (2023)

 

****

Vanny's cockpit was now almost completely dark, lit only by the occasional lightning or explosive combat flash. Clunks of metal and water continued to barrage her canopy. She could also hear the crunching and straining of tons of metal in physical combat just outside. The Skeetos seemed to have given up on her; she could no longer hear their tiny metal feet walking on her walker.

She looked to her side where the Sanice Rochelle’s Redeemer was downed, but could only see rain. Suddenly, a laser beam flashed across the field. It was soon followed by another and another. Soon, there were dozens of them. Skeetos were shooting at something, or someone.

"Vanny, I am making my way to you. Prepare to open the hatch."

A new surge of adrenaline began to pump through Vanny. Do not let her enter! She could not understand why the voices said such things, especially at such times. The field outside was momentarily lit by a flash, that's when Vanny saw it.

The figure of a fully protected woman making her way through the thick mud was surrounded by converging Skeetos. Hovering above her, absorbing most of the hazardous downpour and blowing away several of the small robots with its powerful machine guns was a Dragonfly.

Suddenly, there were a dozens of the Dragonfly attack craft hovering over the area, five of them were circling the Beast and firing on it. It was fierce, there was no way the Iron Beast could survive the rocket barrage. Its metals could not heal fast enough. Two other fighters joined the Dragonfly protecting the sanice. Vanny wondered if they were the Birds of Prey, Eagle Eye's advanced fighter squadron.

They were.

 

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