The Angels of Death were limping back from a well fought but hardened battle with the Loki resistance. Since the end of the Galspan/Bora war the ships from both sides became available on the open market and all the clans of the Fringe took advantage of the strengths that each manufacturer had to offer. The combination of the two technologies proved to be lethal and the alliance of Sol grew stronger than ever. But alas there is no rest for the weary, for just as one peace is founded another threat will always be waiting behind the curtains.
The Loki were slowly being crushed by all the forces of the Fringe but the new campaign was not without difficulty. Many good pilots were lost and new factions of evil doers were taking advantage of the disruption caused by the resistance. The Fringe, it seemed, would never be a safe place to fly alone.
The AoD, lead by commander Scythe, consisted of three Hammers and a Peggy but from the damage they incurred, it was doubtful they had three complete ships between them. Wildfire's Peggy was only held together by the dirt and grime that he'd let build up on it. One more shot would have done the cleaning he often neglected to do and now it paid off. Or so he liked to think. The hull integrity alarm was driving him crazy, and he couldn't shut it off because the main coupling array was fused to his life support generator. The throbbing grew deafening and he wondered if people back on Neechi could hear it.
Val and Maximus brought up the rear with their damaged hulls facing inwards towards each other in case of stray debris, all forming a protective circle around Wildfire as they slid their way towards home. One sector was all that remained as a barrier to safety and comfort... and the victory party with all the CoME groupies and live Industrial. Yes everyone's thoughts were well past the last two tachyon gates and rapidly pre-living in their minds what they would be doing tonight. A hero's return was always guaranteed to get you laid.
"AD 1 I've been painted," cried Val. At first no one heard him so he had to scream it over the comm. "Damn it guys wake up! I got bright eyes. We're being targeted."
"Full stop!" Ordered Death Scythe. Any thoughts of celebration quickly evaporated for them all as they focused on the new developments.
"I'm going after them!" cried Val as he jammed his afterburners.
"Stand down AD 2! That's an order." came Death's reply.
"WTF?!?" No way Hosé. I'm going down fighting!"
"Don't you think your in deep enough water with the Hierarchy as it is?" asked Death in a more civil tone. "Don't add disobeying a direct order to the list."
"A lot of good it'll do me if I'm dead," he complained, but nevertheless he was falling back into formation.
"Umm, this is AD 3," stammered Wildfire. "I got four small craft at just over 120 clicks. Undefined, must be pirates. They know were hurtin', too."
Despite the undesirable odds, Commander Scythe was suddenly and genuinely relieved. He'd take on a band of vagabonds over an organized assault squad any day. The four new ships were advancing, but slowly. Perhaps they would just go on by but that was highly unlikely. The pirates in this region kill for sport and salvage any undamaged parts that remained. He had to act fast.
"AD 3 prepare to board me!" he shouted.
"Umm, sir?" asked Wildfire.
"You heard me, get that helmet on and seal up. Your going for a walk."
"With all due res..."
"Now Wildfire! We don't have time for this. Drop your shields and pop your hatch on my command. Stay strapped in until you have the grappling band in both hands. Copy?"
"Roger," said Wildfire a little unconvincingly. "You better not drop me."
"I have a plan but I need your ship. It's our only chance with our ships as banged up as they are," explained Death Scythe as he maneuvered into position. "Remember the fun we use to have at the end of our training sessions when we first started out?"
"You mean the light show?" asked Wildfire.
Death chuckled at the memory of that name Wildfire had given it. "Yeah, that's the one"
"AD 1, Bogies at 100 k," reported Val as he and Maximus held their positions and monitored the approaching threat.
"Roger that AD 2, OK Wild, transfer all flight codes to remote and send them to my ship."
Wildfire flipped a few switches and keyed in the commands on the console. "Done."
"Double check your harness and pop the hatch. I'm right above you," prompted Death as he popped his own hatch and started at the sudden temperature change despite the protection of his flight suit.
"Aww man, it's freezing out here," complained Wildfire as he wrestled with the grappling band and finally got a good grip. "OK boss, here I come."
He unbuckled the harness, the only thing holding him down, and when he began to rise he instinctively pressed his feet down but failed to get the desired results. He rose a little faster than he expected so he tried to grab the edge of his hatch and dropped the grappling band. It drifted just out of reach and taunted his clumsiness.
"Damn it Wildfire!" said Death.
Inside his helmet Wildfire looked hurt. "What the hell are you complaining about? I'm the one floating here."
"Please hurry. Pull yourself back in. Your just gonna have to jump for it. I can't unstrap now."
"Hows about I pull myself in and stay in. I'll take my chances," said Wildfire.
"That wasn't a request AD 3. Do it, now! I'll..., catch you," he said and almost laughed at the absurdity of it. "Let's go pilot, they're closing fast."
Without further argument Wildfire launched as hard as he could and drifted aimlessly in the wrong trajectory. He was going to miss the Hammer all together. He'd hardly begun to curse himself when Death boosted a lateral thrust to his left and caught Wildfire like a game saving pop fly. Wildfire hit the deck with a clump and Death slammed the hatch control like it was some kind of bug.
"Nice catch commander, but what now?" It was Maximus. "Those mine grubs will be here in less than a minute."
Scythe immediately started barking orders, possibly his last. "AD3 Take my helm. I'm on the Peggy!"
They quickly swapped places as Death took his position at the main computer and continued with his plan. "Alpha Recoil X21 Execute on my mark. Desired coordinates 0437 mark 5291. Copy?"
"AD 2, I copy."
"AD 4, I copy."
Their fate was closing in to just over 10 clicks when Commander Scythe barked to commence. The crippled yet agile Peggy shot backward at lightning speed as the three Hammers split off and engaged the laser throwing guest that had just arrived. The skilled pilots of the AoD were quickly able to lead their dancing partners in a ballet of evasive maneuvers . Holding their fire to gain speed, they needed only to avoid any direct hits and simply lead their prey in the waltz of death. Their commander would take it from there. He'd promised, so it would be.
Val, Maximus and Wildfire, now in Death's Hammer, shot around and through the four pirate ships and converged within half a click of each other and latted in a three point circle. What seemed like minutes was only seconds before they were surrounded and under fire, and heard the crackling command saying "NOW!" coming over the comm. Death had counted on their gloated overconfidence and smiled as they closed in on the Hammers. He watched as the scene turned 90 degrees and fell away behind them in a rushing blindness. The AoD squad executed textbook moves and shot their relatively harmless medium lasers in a shower of diversion. Seeing the weak lasers and being momentarily confused about who's target shot where, the pirates regrouped in the spot that they had been lead to.
Death had programmed the auto pilot in the Peggy to travel to the same spot at the same time doing 1196 kpm. The same speed as Solaris Torpedoes. He transferred all power to weapons and did some fancy engineering to the core emitter transfer route. Now here she came, out of nowhere surrounded in the bright blue light of twelve fully charged sols. A fiery projectile wrapped in a blanket of destruction, she hit the first ship and it blew up immediately, taking the pirate with her. Seven Sols hit the next two targets and they were space dust. The last ship escaped the brunt of the assault but caught one Sol on his starboard shield. He ran, but didn't get far as Wildfire closed in and scraped up enough power to fire one last rail to blast him out of the galaxy.
The threat was gone but not the adrenaline. The others were hooting and hollering and remembering the party that awaited them but Wildfire was silent.
"What's wrong bro?" asked Death.
"You didn't tell me you were gonna blow it up. I still say we could have taken them, and I would still have my ship."
His squad mates just laughed and assured him Dragon would make sure he got another one. Then Death looked at his longtime friend and said, "That was one hell of a light show though. Wasn't it?"
This made Wildfire grin and say, "Come on, let's go party!"