Day 5 of the Lumijaa Campaign
Thorne pushed hard on the sticks and the feet of his FU09-FANG frame slewed across the snow. Without conscious thought he adjusted his feet in the stirrups to keep the massive machine balanced. An angry red and grey fireball exploded only meters away, and shrapnel from the near miss spanged off his frame's armor. He brought his frame to a knee, stabilized his weapon, and paused. Despite the subzero temperatures, he shook his head to clear the sweat away from his eyes.
A Conscript class frame, a grenade launcher cradled in its manipulators, rounded the ice-covered rocks only fifty meters away, belatedly bringing the weapon up. Too late.
His first 80mm round blew the hand holding the launcher into a splay of shattered pistons. The second hit the Conscript in the knee, seizing the joint. The pilot had skill, Thorne gave him that. The Conscript didn't fall, and even managed to start limping backwards. His reticle stayed glued to the frame's knee, and put another round through it, sending the lower leg spinning into the snow.
This time the Conscript did fall. Powdery snow puffed up as it impacted with a dull thump. Explosive bolts blew the pilot's hatch clear and a kid barely old enough to fight scrambled from the cockpit. His wide eyes searched wildly for an escape as his breath clouded into the freezing air.
Thorne already had the FU09 on the move, scanning for threats even as he bore down on the disabled Conscript. Its young pilot froze as 30 tonnes of frame bore down upon him. Silly boy, he was playing soldier with the wrong people. Thorne released the frame's grip on it's cannon and used the manipulator to swat the young pilot to one side. He flew a several meters from the force of the blow and landed in a snowbank upslope. Thorne then bought the FU09's foot down on the Conscript with crushing force.
Hydraulic fluid from crushed pistons sprayed into the snow, staining it purple, welds cracked and failed, makeshift armor buckled. It would never walk again.
A proximity alarm suddenly screamed for his attention, two new icons flashing to life on his heads up display.
Well, well, well. Junior had friends.
With agility unexpected from something so large, Thorne sidestepped his frame into the snowbank, crouching to reduce his silhouette, and took aim on the same point where the Conscript had appeared.
In a spray of snow, a Commissar crested the slope 10 meters above his point of aim. Its chain cannon was already firing blind, the pilot hoping that he could walk the weapon on target after clearing the ridge. Even so, his first shots were not far off, and Thorne sprang up out of the snow, moving laterally away from the stitched spray of impacts as he brought his own weapon to bear.
He grimaced in silent frustration as his first round impacted at the Commissar's feet. The chain cannon found its mark, ricocheting off his frontal armor, momentarily crazing his heads up display. He fired blind. The shot exploded off the Commissar's shoulder, spinning the frame and spoiling its pilot's point of aim.
Thorne pounded up the hill, closing the range. He fired another shot, but the Commissar was moving as well. It went wide and exploded against the rock face in a spray of stone and ice. The chain cannon chattered into action again, rounds impacting across his FU09's legs. He ignored the flashing red warnings of pressure loss and placed one last round into the frontal armor of the Commissar as he drew his frame-blade.
The Commissar tried to get clearance for another shot with the chain cannon. Too late again.
The edge of the massive blade shimmered into a bluish heat distortion as the power field energized. Thorne hammered it into the torso of the Commissar, splintering armor in a shower of sparks. Another slashing blow severed something critical and the Commissar fell back against the icy rocks, grey smoke from an electrical fire seeping from its joints.
An explosion blew him sideways, his feet madly working the stirrups to stay upright. The other bogey. His blade arm hung limp, piston fluid running freely dripping off the inert manipulator as he turned, searching for a target.
Another Commissar, camouflaged in grey and white, leveled an anti-frame missile at him. The spent launcher from the first shot lay discarded in the snow beside him. A halo of flame from the base of the missile told Thorne he was too late. It corkscrewed on a white tail as gyro stabilizers activated. He could see the proximity fuse on the warhead in absurd clarity as its terminal boosters fired.
Too late to dodge, he kicked the stirrups and fell forward. The missile adjusted a fraction of a second too late, curving down sharply into a red-black cloud of detonation.
Hanging against his harness, Thorne brought his weapon around one-handed, kicking a knee forward to give clearance off the icy ground. The reticle centered on the Commissar. It discarded the second launcher and drew a large-bored weapon from the mag lock on its thigh. Thorne fired first and the weapon exploded into scrap.
The Commissar rocked back on its pistons, turned, and zig-zagged away. Thorne fired another round, but it burst in the snow. The other pilot was good, and had clearly decided to fight another day. Within seconds, it had disappeared into the snow.
Thorne rocked his frame to its feet and activated the electromagnets for his own mag lock. Weapon stowed, he reached down and picked up the frame-blade that his inert manipulator had dropped to the ground.
"Thorne to C-3."
There was a pause and then a hiss of static. "C-3, standing by."
With his frame-blade stowed, Thorne pulled the 80mm back off of its locks and set his frame moving with a limping stride. "Encountered three bogeys, tally two, no joy on the third." He set his sensor arrays for broad spectrum, wide sweep, slightly distracted by compensating for the limp. "Frame damaged; returning to the Garden."
Another hiss. "Acknowledged, Thorne, you're cleared to the Garden."
He'd figured out an abbreviated pace in the stirrups that seemed to minimize the limp. "C-3, get a FLITTER out here to take a closer look. I want to know what they're so interested in protecting..."