Blood – Of War (1.1)
“Sigma Six, we would have seen something by now.”
“Negative One-Five, keep a lookout. over.”
“By Luke, who put him in charge?”
“Not me, Narran is out tonight. He's being honored with the Aviator's Badge.”
“All sorts of fancy, whole brass is attending.”
“They have some good parties,” Eddie said from behind Morgan, slapping him on his shoulder. His aviator mask loosely fitting, his eyes peering behind from submarine lenses that set the world over in an emerald glare. “You know, they always invite those nice Hoosiers....short, tight dresses...nice silk underwear...”
“Every man's wet dream.” Tonco spat over the zip-line.
“Dromassi and brandy. Aged of course.” Devi made it sound eloquent, as if the tongue of a Drom Bull could taste so admirable. Devi was right though, they never got more than goulash and cheap whiskey that caused the stomach to bleed and twist. Morgan had seen, at one bad flush of that convulsive syrup, Tonco's retinas flash red, and his stomach perch about the helm of his abdomen until he was forced to recite the nicknames of the commanding officer while retching black from his mouth. It was something that Morgan wanted to put in the back of his mind. “You'd really like that wouldn't you Tonco?”
“I quit drinking.”
“So let me get this straight....they go ahead and award Narren for a squad job? I mean, that's unheard of. I'm pretty sure Tonco knocked out just as many.”
“In the act of duty....”
“Shut up Devi,” Eddie piped.
“Listen here men, it's all about....rank....truthfully. Have you looked at your shoulder lately Tommy? I have yet to see your third bar.”
“You'll see Morgan. You'll see.”
“Right, just about the time I'll see me and some cute hoot chowing down dromassi and sipping brandy, you'll still be a flaming two-bit.”
“Go to hell Devi.”
“Please resume radio silence!” Sigma-Six barked over radio static.
Eddie pulled the reigns of his radio about the width of his head. “Shit, who let him off his leash?”
“Ah, did I ever mention how much I hate him?”
“We're circling back for another go around.”
“Hey Sigma-Six, we've been around this block eight times now. Mind telling us what we're looking for?” Devi asked.
“Negative, dog-zero-eight, negative. I have no conformation on our visual objective...” a long winded pause, “keep your wit about you, over.”
“Morgan?” Eddie said from in the co-pilot's seat.
“I got something on my radar.”
“Tell squad lea--...”
“Two pings, really small, moving fast. Might just be static...but....I don't know.”
“We had that problem yesterday.”
Eddie switched over to the local broadcast, “hey, uh, Sigma-Six, I gotta—uh, shit I don't even know.”
“Copy, over. Stay in formation.”
“Whatta ya think it is?” Morgan said, looking back at Eddie, who testified to the god upon the ornament fastened about his chain. “And why do you keep kissing that shit?”
“Gives us good luck.”
“Sure it does.”
“I'm just reading static, over.” Tonco stated.
“Eddie? Eddie? What's up?”
“Morgan, flip on your auxiliary....”
Morgan flipped a switch on his dashboard. A screen in front of him lit up but was blank save for five friendly signatures.
“What....what is it?”
A blimp, that filled his entire screen with a dark green light, settled...then disappeared.
“We've got a bogey all around us.”
“I'm observing all thoroughfares, I see nothing, over.”
“There it is again....”
They flew in close formation, steadied near each other and pressed on. Morgan was nearest Sigma-Six, who studied the brilliant orange and yellow explosion just outside his canopy. After the longest of spectral silences he looked to Morgan and shrugged.
“We're nearing the fifty percent threshold on oxygen and fuel, squad leader six, over.”
“I copy you. Continue radio silence.”
A sudden and blaring static, pressing against the eardrums. Morgan let the sticks fall away from his hand and the plane jerked forward. He pushed the headset from his ears and hit radio silence. “What the hell was that?” They continued past pale and motionless wisps of clouds that obscured their vision.
“This isn't good.” Eddie said from behind.
Their propellers pushed through the murky desolation of those lone formations, until at last they found themselves in a great valley of spinning clouds, a nebuli and cluster of granite giants and red dwarfs. And all the same time a great terror, poached and suspended about the middle of this awesome beauty. A mountain of metal and steel and teeth, higher than a thousand mountains, moving slowly...a great god slamming against the sky.
Suddenly, as if the heavens had coursed a thousand arrows through the sky, a great gnashing and grinding sound coursed the air, drowning the ears with a sorrow no greater than the sight of a thousand sound sparks arced upwards, across the bow of the great leviathan and into the pitiless sun, coming, crashing, spinning down, speeding with great intensity.
“EVASIVE MANEUVERS!” Morgan bowed to the right, the bullets snapping beside his plane and lighting up in an instant Sigma-Six. “Fuck, fuck.” He entered a nose dive and descended towards the thin transparent gauze below, reflectance of the great culmination above.
“Morgan, what are you doing!?” Eddie panicked. He slammed his fist against the dome of Morgan's helmet.
“Tommy don't---” Devi's plane plane lit up with the ripping metal from that hurricane of thorns. His left wing snarling clean from its metal bindings, then smoking, tumbling, tumbling and finally burning out, the cockpit ignited and Devi's singed form slapped out all too late. His Vector exploded sending a wall of flame crashing into the ejected figure, and engulfed his paper thin body. Morgan pulled up on the sticks, slowed the throttle and became a parabolic sling shot, spinning up and towards a mountain of flame and steel grit. He spun his plane wing left and continued to climb. From the distance he could see Tommy's plane's spinning out of control, an ashen ember, white and phosphorus and drifting out of view and into The Rift.
“Morgan! Morgan! We need to get out of here!”
Morgan climbed up, the propellers of his plane chugging to a rheumatic stop. “Morgan!” Morgan applied pressure to the throttle and the plane leered gently into the fall, bowing back to its stomach and the propellers resuming their fanatical spin. Again the great gnashing, drone of those gargantuan Titan guns, spraying millions of bullets in every which way, spreading out over the thin haze of the tangerine sky. Morgan put the throttle to near full capacity. Then the snapping and crackling of those bullets slapping and skimming the sides and edges of his plane before fading off and in front of him, red and white and dying insects.
“Fuck yeah! Go Morgan! Go, go!”
From the great mouth of the Titan Destroyer a bright light, and from that light a praying mantis, long coiled and spinning through the air like the judgment of death incarnate. The plane extended its wings out and spun forward, the round and cylindrical barrels attached to its wings igniting in a singe of fire, sending it veering off and into the sunset.
“Whooo! Go, go Morgan go!”
“Hey boys! You still lookin good?”
“I broke off from formation after Sigma-Six was lit up.”
“Tonco, I'm glad to hear your voice.” Eddie exclaimed.
“You have no idea.”
“I don't think this is over.”
Tonco pulled his plane to fly near and close to Morgan, wingtip to wingtip.
“Me neither, keep on the look out.”
“Hold on, I see something.”
A blur, a winged raptor spinning past and into the sky, its great white flagella coiling about its various skeletal spin, and the lurid turn of its entire body spreading in the sky the great white filled smoke.
“What is that thing?”
“That's the fastest thing I've ever seen!”
It neared from a distance, opened a portal from the nose of its great spout, and lit up in the orange glow a red and sudden flash.
“Take evasive maneuvers!” Tonco screamed, both he and Morgan budding to the left of the great and tumultuous burst of metal. The great winged beast slung past them, pushing their planes into a near catastrophic spin.
“We can't let that thing get close again!” Eddie suggested. “It's coming back around!”
“Tonco, do the Tayo Waltz with me!”
“I copy loud and clear.”
Tonco elevated the nose and pitch of his plane and rose up ever so slightly above the plane from which Morgan flew. Morgan shifted his plane into place, stacked one over the other. From behind Eddie could see the red nostrils of the great beast flare once more, lighting up the clouds and parting them with a shower of fire and ice.
“Now!” Tonco screamed.
Morgan and Tonco twisted right at the same angle, the bullets passing by without striking a single splinter, and soon after those rounds came great red falcon. Tonco and Morgan accelerated, turning on their machine guns and staying in perfect formation, following the red beast at every turn and bank of its great and agile features.
“This bitch is fast!”
A bullet skimmed the wing, sending the creature on a slight and gradual spin. It lit its thrusters and bowed down and out of sight.
“Where did it go?”
Eddie and Morgan peered about the horizon. Eddie checked the radar. “Up ahead, one o'clock!”
The manti religiosi rose at the heavens, then stopped, twisted midair, unfolding its wings and igniting the sulfuric and hellish glare of those barreled thrusters, and set into motion at great speeds its barrage of machine gun fire.
“Eddie get down!”
“Morgan!” Tonco screamed before the hail of that metal fury cut his plane to shreds and there he incinerated and the debris remained a cloud of black smoke and crimson that fell, fell, fell.
“Tonco!” Morgan shouted, but the radios had gone to static. His plane jarred back and forth, attempting to feed off the last of the gas. The praying mantis flew over the wreckage and returned through the barrier of clouds and disappeared.
“Eddie, I guess this is it.” Morgan said, turning his eye to look back at his co-pilot. Now dead. His mask torn open from a single shard of metal, splintered through his forehead and out through the white cushion of the seat behind.
Morgan slammed his hand on the steering complex and buried his head against the glass and listened to propellers begin their slow stutter.