Forty-Six: Lion's Den

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“Blast it,” Martin growled. “I'm sorry, Jax, they must have reverse-engineered the ones left behind at Yamantau.”

Each Erebus mech flew across the sand at a frightening speed, and under the harsh desert sun it was much easier to see just how much each mech resembled my Prowler. Draco's engineers had copied the design nearly perfectly. 

Good.
It meant I knew exactly what to expect.

“Let's hit them hard!” Kitt called. 

“Wait,” I responded, “don't break formation!”

The Erebus drew closer.

“Steady…” I said.

"Commander," Kitt hissed.

My Valkyrie's HUD lit up, announcing it was locked on multiple targets. 

“Steady…”

"Commander!" Kitt shouted. I could see his Excalibur twisting as he looked back and forth between the enemy and I. "I can't shield you all if they get too close!"

"Leave him, Kedrick," Martin responded. I could hear the smile in his voice. "He knows what he's doing."

The Erebus drew closer. I could see every detail of them now. Stolen technology, all of it.

I was going to enjoy breaking them.

"Martin," I said, allowing no small amount of mirth to enter my voice, "shall I fire a welcoming salvo?"

Martin chuckled.
"I think they're close enough to say hello, yes, and they look like they spook easily."

I smiled, tapping the trigger once.
"Greetings away."

The Valkyrie lurched, and a single salvo of missiles leapt from one of it's launchers. The rockets arced across the sand, heading full speed towards the first Erebus in line.

Every single shot missed.

I couldn't help myself. I laughed aloud.

"You can steal technology, but you can't steal experience!"

Every single Erebus had disappeared from my Valkyrie's targeting computer, courtesy of their built-in radio deadeners.

"I don't get it," Kedrick said, "what's so funny now that we can't hit them?"

Martin was chuckling now as well, the stress of battle making the moment all the more humorous.

"Well," he sighed, "the radio deadener only lasts so long, and Jackson just made every single one of them use it too early."

He paused.

"Wait for the moment they realize, it'll be priceless."

The squad of Erebus mechs powered forward, each now effectively untouchable. They would've been a terrible threat to us, had they activated their stealth five seconds later than they had.

When the Erebus at the head of the pack was a mere half-kilometer away it paused for a moment, run slowing slightly. 

I'd like to think that every single Erebus pilot realized their mistake a moment too late. Every single pilot discovered that their stealth had run out when they were close enough to fight, but too close to run away.

Realizing their mistake, many of the Erebus mechs turned tail, beginning their escape. However, they'd pushed too far and too fast. They were now without cover or stealth.

"Commander," Kedrick gasped, "that was genius."

"Let's mop 'em up," Martin chuckled.

I unloaded my rocket launcher at the fleeing Erebus mechs, slicing the air with spears of fire. My first target made it five steps before the missiles caught it, bending the mech like tinfoil under the explosive impacts. It stumbled and fell forward, command capsule rocketing away.

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