52: Joanna

Joanna

After the pilot retracted the windscreens, the Tasuithan flyer bore a vague resemblance to a WWII Higgins boat, an effect mostly created by the assault ramp at the bow. Because they skimmed the dense forest canopy, it became easy to imagine the Gireidil soldiers around her as Allied troops in an old war movie, speeding across choppy waves toward an amphibious landing. As long as one did not look too hard at the uniforms and weapons. And the ‘sea’ of trees.

The massive fortress at the center of the Liocei Highlands, once the lynchpin of the defense of the peninsula named Liocethim and the ancient city at its tip, rose ahead from the treetops like the island to be assaulted. On an unseen signal, the two flying frame pilots who had been holding a formation with the flyer raced ahead, to scout the structure. Their hang-glider-like craft had good maneuverability, but Joanna hated seeing the girls operating them get so far from the protective fire of the flyer’s weapons. They seemed so vulnerable, hanging unprotected in mid-air like that.

As the flyer drew closer, the girls returned, giving their all-clear reports, then ascended to begin orbiting and watching for approaching danger.

Tehilintirith gave orders to the pilot to circle the fortress. The walls were intact, save for a massive breach where the primary gate had once been. It appeared that all the stone used in its construction still lay where it had fallen, more than fifty years in the past. A short distance inside that breach, the corpse of an Ilidi-designed war construct sprawled on the paving stones of the great marshaling court, where the Dhan of this place must have organized his troops before the last great battle to defend his clan’s territory.

She watched Tirith observing the ground as the scanner operator worked her equipment. Her Trohthoan was also her military commander. The job of escorting his widowed Dhan having fallen to him due to the clan’s lack of aristocratic blood. But right now, he was doing his proper job, as the commander of the clan’s military strength, and he was applying his experience as a long-time veteran of this broken planet to the task of ensuring the safety of his troops.

The thought woke a concern in her mind. In her most aristocratic Bruxilan, she stated, “Tirith, this one desires for the soldiers in flying frames to return. One’s gunners cannot support them once the flyer lands.”

Dhan’ryo, this one desires eyes above to spot any enemy approach,” he answered.

The pilots flying the frames were both teenage girls. The idea of leaving them up there, so exposed and without the intimidation factor of the flyer’s guns, continued to gnaw at her.

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“Can one not do the same with soldiers on the walls?” she wondered.

Caught off-guard, the Gireidil commander turned slightly widened eyes at her. She knew he didn’t expect tactical judgment from her, but she was a little wounded by his surprise.

He recovered quickly. “Dhan’ryo is correct, of course.”

They first deposited clansmen with telescopic sights on the walls to observe each of the four cardinal directions, then landed in the massive marshaling yard. The two flying frame operators came in to land beside them.

As she waited for the scanner equipment to probe the corpse in the yard, she made a scan using her own senses as well. The unit had been a horrid mess, clearly long overdue for maintenance. It was certainly dead; flies were beginning to make use of the corpse. All the standard weaponry was there, although inoperative in most cases. However, the one object she wanted to find was gone.

A strange specter had continuously attempt to steal the ‘rock’, the precious template from which they manufactured their secret weapon, and escape with it. After many failed experiments, Benjamin had found a successful way to secure it, by attaching it to a powerful Rhyuin that was under their control.

Such might have been possible through an Ondakjai such as herself, but none with enough strength of spirit had been available. So, they had made use of an Gireidil warbeast, after breaking its mind and then applying ancient control techniques that Benjamin had unearthed from old military records.

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Nobody would be able to touch it. It would remain secure in the beast until such a time came that they needed to use the same control techniques to immobilize the beast and retrieve it. That is what Benjamin had believed.

Using it to guard his precious direct path to St. Louis had been a side benefit, and it had worked well for years. He had been utilizing it this way since long before he brought the harvest of slaves, as his handy passage back to his home town.

Until the impossible had happened. Somebody slayed the beast.

- my thoughts:

Eighth of eight mass-posted advance chapters. And first part of a two-part scene.

Check out my other novel: Substitute Hero

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