Twenty-Five: The Storm

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It felt like a piece of heaven had fallen to earth, so thunderous was the impact. My feet were thrown out from under me and the wind blinded me with snow. I struggled to stand up against the wind that now whipped across the mountaintop. Wiping snow off my face I stared up at the source of the impact.

The mech was massive, easily three storeys high.
Snow sloughed off it's flat armor in miniature avalanches. This bastion of power was unlike any other robot I had seen before, and it owed it's uniqueness to Dan Stonewood. It was a Barricade, deployed in battle for only the second time in history.

The mech, much like the many others that were now dropping across the mountain, activated it's frontal shield and charged like a rhino, intent on ramming as many enemies as it could.

I was a safe distance away, but someone wasn't. Draco Fisk, who had somehow avoided the impact when his soldiers had not, leapt aside to avoid being flattened by the Barricade's massive angular legs.

He glared at me and whipped out a radio.

"Deploy level one defenses. I repeat, level one only."

The facility sprung to life, massive doors grinding open. Countless bulky Goliath mechs appeared from the darkness, ready for war.

I couldn't focus on that right now, though. I was too preoccupied with surviving.

Draco glared at me as he put away his radio. He stalked towards me like the grim reaper, raising his arm to shoot. His hand came up empty. The gun had been lost.

Draco realized this as well and, with a growl, spun around and scuffed his boot through the snow, searching.

This mistake gave me enough time to continue my mad dash to cover. I slid down a rocky embankment just before a spray of bullets perforated the stone above me.

Fisk marched towards me with one of his soldier's rifles in hand, leveling it and firing short bursts of gunfire at the edge of the slope. I scrambled along, keeping my head low so I didn't receive a new hole in it.

Meanwhile, the siege of Yamantau was in full force, a massive platoon of Barricades and Predators having been deployed. They stormed the bridges, bottlenecking them as they chewed through wave after wave of the TCC's Goliaths.

As they fought I noticed a Galatine, one of Britain's shielded mechs, leading the charge, rocket launchers barking at it struck down mech after mech. It was painted to look like a skeleton. Laura Lehman, pilot of the Exodus, had entered the battle.


The rock just above me shook, sending a small pile of pebbles tumbling down the mountain face like a miniature avalanche.

An avalanche. It was a wonder that the sounds of weapon fire hadn't caused a real one yet.

"You know, Jackson," Draco called out, "I was hoping we'd meet like this."

His voice grew louder as he slowly approached me. I couldn't leave my cover. Draco had me pinned down!

"I was expecting a siege all along," he continued. A short burst of gunfire punctuated the remark, spraying my face with snow. For a bureaucrat he was surprisingly accurate.

"It's just better this way," Draco laughed. "I can only see what your little Canadian insurgency is worth if it's an all-out battle."

Another spray of bullets.

"All of you," Draco shouted, "versus all of us!"

"You're going to regret that decision!" I hollered, not caring if my position was given away. "Our forces are stronger than yours!"

Draco laughed in my ear.

"Did you really think I wasn't listening to your comms?" he whispered.

How had he gotten that close?

I whipped around. Sure enough, Draco Fisk stood above me at the apex of the slope. I lashed out and pushed the rifle away before he could fire. Grinning, I spun and kicked out with my heel, catching Draco's leg and sending him tumbling down the rocky slope. He landed on his back in the snow with a grunt, the rifle falling further down the mountainside.
The snowstorm had picked up considerably and the wind ripped at any exposed skin. The wind howled.

A moment later my boot slid against the icy rock beneath me. Balance lost, I slid down to join Fisk at the bottom of the hill. My boots found traction as I skidded down the slope, and I landed upright. Draco stood, wiping blood off a small cut on his forehead. He winced and held the shoulder that Martin had shot. Now was my chance. Draco Fisk was dazed and injured. This was for my father. I leaned back and swung my fist forward, leaning my weight into a powerful haymaker.

Draco grinned.

The blow, meant for his head, slid off his outstretched arms and was caught in his hands. My eyes widened. Draco wasn't defenseless without a weapon. He knew martial arts!


A hand struck my neck, robbing me of breath. Draco reared back, swung me around and tossed me in the snow like a child's doll. Snow seeped down the collar of my parka, freezing my back. I struggled to breathe.

A shadow fell over me. Fisk. He had recovered his rifle and held it with only one hand, the other clutching his shoulder.

"I was just going to end you," he sneered, "but valuable or not, I'll take pleasure in watching you suffer."

I smiled up at him.
"You're just mad we broke your little yellow bombs in Zolotoy."

I spun myself around, attempting to sweep Draco's leg again, but he tensed his legs and the blow to his ankle did nothing. Draco swung his rifle wildly, hoping to strike me, and I used the opportunity to roll to my feet in a boxer's stance. I had only ever been in a real fight once, against a soldier during my early days aboard the Firmament. Even then Lucas had shown up to put an end to the battle.

I was on my own now.

Draco tossed down his rifle, shaking out his arms.

"Some may see it as a waste of my precious time," he snarled, "but beating you barehanded is a pleasure I cannot deny."

He came at me fast, one arm outstretched. I raised my arms to block and too late did I realize that the telegraphed punch was a ruse. Draco surged forward and planted a knee in my gut, tossing me over his leg.

Through no small miracle I managed to remain upright, breaking the impact of my fall with a tight combat roll. My back left an imprint in the snow as I stepped out of the roll, just in time to evade a blow aimed for my head. I returned the favor, throwing a straight punch, but it was met with empty space. My arm slid across Draco's forearm as he neatly deflected the strike. He rolled his arm over mine, trapping it.

I brought my other fist upwards, aiming for the most painful spot I could find. Draco hissed in agony and released my arm as the blow struck his injured shoulder.

It was all the opportunity I needed.

I raked my knuckles across his chin with a wild haymaker, catching his leg and pushing him off me. The wind howled as Draco stumbled, clutching his shoulder. I pushed in close, pistoning a fist into his stomach.

Two hands caught my head, holding it down.


Fisk's knee rushed to hit me. The next thing I knew I was lying on my back, staring up at the storm clouds that whipped above us. I could still hear the sounds of battle.

Something cold pressed against the top of my head. Draco stood, shaking out his shoulder. How long had I been out? He'd had time to recover his rifle, which was now pressed against my temple.

"That was fun," Draco sighed happily. His expression soured.

"You're awake," he frowned. "Impressive. But we can't have that yet, now can we?"

I felt a blow to the back of my head. The storm howled. Darkness overtook me once more.

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