"Charge! Um... run
Commander Otrepiev thought his expression was well controlled as he watched the fleeing OZ Alliance forces on the viewscreen in his command car, but his gloating grin was clear for anyone to see. The Theodorian Empire might have made huge strides elsewhere in the war, but this front had been static for long enough that the High Command had begun asking pointed questions about whether or not the troops really had their hearts behind the Manifest Destiny of the Theodorian People. The general in charge of the area had quietly let it be known that impressive rewards would be coming to any local commander who managed to push through any sort of offensive... and it was Mama Otrepiev’s little boy who was doing it.
Well, the idea hadn’t been his, but nobody would care about that when it was his section of the attack that was having the most success, would they? He’d been careful to show the right amount of approval at the staff meetings, mixed with enough questions and objections so that he could be remembered as either supporting it (if it succeeded) or opposing it (if it failed), and if he played his cards right in the after-action debriefings, he could work things so he was hailed as the man who’d Taken A Flawed Plan And Made It Work. He’d say all the proper things about it all being due to his men’s bravery and teamwork, of course, and the news services would eat it up, but it would be him getting the medals and the promotion. And since he was holding his command track at the rear of the force, where he could ‘properly observe and evaluate the flow of battle’, he wasn’t even in weapon range of the retreating OZ troops.
Yes... everything was going very, very nicely.
“What is it now, Grozny?” he snapped, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“We’re coming into an area of ridges and large dunes, sir, which will restrict our sightlines. Also, the faster suits are beginning to outrun the support elements. We should pause to regroup, in case--“
“If we pause, some of the enemy will be able to get into that area of ‘restricted sightlines’ and get away. I want that force annihilated! Continue the pursuit!”
“If the OZ forces mount a counterattack, sir, we could take serious damage before the slower suits and vehicles can catch up to our forward elements!”
“And what the hell do you think they’re going to counterattack with?!” Otrepiev snarled. “We’ve got them on the run, and they haven’t had a chance to bring up reinforcements. Keep up the pace!”
“We’ve already driven past the point where we were supposed to stop and hold ground!”
“One more word out of you, Grozny, and I’ll have you court-martialled for insubordination! I’m going to do what we should have done months ago -- drive those OZ cowards so far back they’ll never be able to recover their footing! Now shut up and obey your orders!”
“...Yes, sir,” the lieutenant said stiffly, turning back to stare at his own displays. Behind Otrepiev’s back, his two gunners exchanged speaking looks.
The bastard thinks he’s a military genius, and he won’t believe otherwise until he’s got half his command killed. Let’s just hope that half doesn’t include us...
Hades and Deathscythe charged up the ridge just as the first of Cobra 6’s APCs nosed over the crest and tipped down, starting to skid down the steeper side in what was more like an avalanche than any sort of controlled progress. Duo was lucky, coming to the top of the ridge between two of the large near-tanks; Christy hadn’t picked her path quite so well, and leapt up the last several feet of rock and sand to find one heading straight for her.
< < Blyad! Guys, please, do not run over your reinforcements! > > she yelped, taking one more jump upwards and bouncing over the APC, not quite high enough to avoid kicking an artistic new bend into the barrel of its turret gun.
< < Jay-sus! > > came the reply, and Duo could have sworn he saw a fist waving out of the driver’s window as the vehicle started down the slide. < < No fair trampling the escapees, Two! > >
< < Is it my fault you were right there? > >
< < It sure as hell ain’t our fault that you were right there, little missy! > >
< < Hey! Nobody gets to call me that except-- hang on... Henderson?! What the hell are you doing here?! > >
< < What’s it look like? I’m runnin’ away! > >
“Smart man,” Duo put in, snickering. “Can we focus here, Hades? I think the Theos have noticed we’re here now!”
< < Naaaah, they aren’t that observant, > > Christy snorted, turning back to face the oncoming enemy and aiming her rocket pods. < < This’ll make ‘em notice! > >
* * * * *
< < On top of spagheeeetti~~~ All covered in cheeeese~~~ I trashed the poor Theeee-oooos~~~ Before they could sneeeeze~~~! > >
< < Will you cut that OUT?! > > Wufei roared, smashing his way through brightly-coloured Theodorian suits as they scrambled to surround him.
“It is rather distracting,” Trowa agreed mildly, standing on a low hill and picking off anything that looked like a command suit. Antennae for lots of different types of communications gear were usually a good indicator.
< < Oh come on, chaps, join in! We can give them a rousing chorus, eh wot? > >
< < I don’t think so. > >
There was an offended sniff over the com system. < < You’re such a wet blanket, Handsome. I don’t know what Pretty Blue Eyes sees in you... well, apart from the obvious. > >
There was a pause.
“I think I’m going to regret asking this...” Trowa began carefully.
< < I know I am, > > Wufei muttered.
“...but what do you mean by ‘the obvious’?”
< < Must you encourage her?! > >
< < Yes, he must, > > Jay chirped happily. < < Not that I need it or anything, but it is appreciated! Listen well, Grasshopper; by ‘the obvious’, I mean-- oops, hold on a sec-- > > After a short violent interlude, involving half a dozen Theodorian suits and a light tank trying to gang up on her, she came back online. < < Well, to start with, there’s the fact that he is ravingly good-looking. You all are, and it’s bloody annoying that none of you can be tempted to consider a fling with us girls, don’tcherknow. Then there’s his butt. > >
< < My what?! > >
< < Your butt, > > she repeated patiently. Trowa made sure his com was not transmitting, and settled back to listen, grinning. < < Buttocks. Tush. Gluteus maximii, you get me? You have an absolutely wonderful butt, and we want to get you in tighter pants and map the effects on the Richter scale. Duo also seems to appreciate the bits of your anatomy I haven’t had a chance to see myself, though believe me I’d love to. I don’t suppose you could be convinced to adopt Asuka’s ideas about body modesty, also known as ‘What the fuck is that?’, could you? Stripping for charity? We’d tip you a lot! > >
There was no response other than a few incoherent sputtering noises.
< < You’ll have to speak up, old chap, I can’t hear you. You know, it’s not fair that Christy got a damn good look at said butt and won’t let me peek at the memory. She won’t even describe it. I was asking all sorts of questions, you know, wanting a mathematical description of the roundness factor and speculating on the existence of dimples, and all she would do is leer at me. Dirty rotten stopout. > >
< < Remind me to thank her when we get back to base, > > Wufei gritted out through clenched teeth.
< < I don’t think she had any sort of altruistic motives, wot. I think she was leering just because she enjoys knowing things I don’t. Anyway, there’s all that, looks, muscles, Buns of Steel, flashing dark eyes, ludicrously long eyelashes that I personally am dead jealous of... oh, and the fact that you’re obviously devoted to him. That helps. > >
There was another pause, punctuated by occasional explosions.
< < It’s nice to know that something other than my physical attributes gets a mention. Now can we please get off the subject and concentrate on fighting?! > >
< < Wot... you mean you can’t multi-task? > >
“Oh look,” Trowa said innocently, switching his transmitter back on, “here come the Serpent suits.”
< < Yoicks! Reinforcements! > > Jay carolled, successfully distracted. < < Not that we couldn’t handle things just fine ourselves, chaps, but it’s nice to have extra players in the game; makes it more chaotic! Er, I mean interesting. Tally-ho and let’s get the dickless bastards! > >
“Are you used to Four-speak, or should I translate?” the European pilot asked politely.
< < I’m assuming that means ‘circle around and trap them before they can run’, sir, > > a laughing woman’s voice replied. < < Did I get it about right? > >
< < Spot on, wot! Charrrrge! > >
A new com window appeared on Trowa’s screens as Wufei opened a private channel... though how private it could be with Jay around remained to be seen. < < Thank you. > >
“No problem,” he said, waving one hand dismissively. “You’d do the same for me.”
< < If and when she decides to victimise you for a change, I will, > > Wufei promised, and moved to cut the channel.
“She’s right, though.”
< < ...About what? > >
“You do have a very nice butt,” Trowa smirked.
< < Go to hell, Barton. > >
* * * * *
< < Asuka, I know you’re good, but if you insist on going all the way over there by yourself, the Theos are going to be able to shoot you in the back no matter how hard Heero and I try to cover it. > >
< < Hn. > >
Dan sighed and gazed pleadingly out of the com window at Heero. < < Heero, my fellow warrior and dearest friend, you sometimes speak the same language as mon cher sauvage. Do you suppose you could convince him of the wisdom of mutual support? Backing each other up? Not getting killed, and therefore not leaving me alone and sexless? > >
“Hn.” Scowling, Heero did his best to ignore the Gaulish pilot’s expression. As if it’s not bad enough that we get Duo and Quatre doing the ‘big blue eyes’ trick, I have to get Dan doing the ‘big brown puppy eyes’ at me as well!
< < You see what I mean? You two talk -- or don’t talk -- the same way! Merde! Why do I, the most eloquent member of our combined teams, have to get stuck with the two Wordless Wonders as my partners?! > >
< < Because you insisted on coming with me, and if I had to be stuck with two partners I wanted the other one to be somebody who wouldn’t bend my ears the whole time, > > Asuka growled, now halfway across the battlefield and wading deeper into squads of Theodorian suits with every step. < < Shut up and shoot things. > >
< < Mon Dieu, Heero, I think he actually approves of you... > >
< < Trowa would have been better. > >
< < Ooh, that’s harsh! > >
“Trowa’s personality might suit working with you better,” Heero said bluntly, “but having Morkeleb and Heavyarms in the same group would be a less than optimal division of capabilities.”
< < Eh? > > Dan looked blank, and Heero allowed himself the luxury of an exasperated glare before he explained... made more exasperated by the fact that he was fairly sure that Dan already knew exactly what he meant, and was just playing dumb. As usual.
“They might run out of ammo at the same time.”
< < Oh. Ye-esss, I can see how that might be a problem. > > Dan blinked, seeming to consider something. < < I don’t suppose it’s a problem having you and me in the same group, is it? > >
“Not as long as our beam sabres keep working, any more than having Deathscythe and Hades together is a problem so long as they have their scythes. Having two out of three Gundams most effective at long range, and then losing all long-range offensive capability when they ran out of ammunition, reduced to having nothing more impressive than a knife each--“
There was a wordless snarl from Morkeleb’s com channel, and Heero and Dan smirked slightly at each other.
“--would be a serious problem. Energy weapons don’t have ammunition restrictions until they overheat or your suit’s main power core has been compromised... in which case you have other problems to worry about,” Heero finished, continuing to slice through enemy suits as fast as they came within range.
< < You’ve got to love good batteries! > > Dan leered, backing up slightly and bringing up his buster rifle, aiming at a nicely concentrated group of Theodorian suits. < < Useful in so many aspects of my daily life: radios, electric toothbrushes, vi-- > >
“Stop right there.”
< < You’re such a prude, > > Dan pouted, pulling the trigger and looking in satisfaction at the results. < < Still, I guess that’s only to be expected from someone who comes from a place called Dirt. > >
“Earth,” Heero corrected him pointedly.
< < It’s the same thing... or close enough for government work, anyway. I consider it my duty to broaden your mind, as a favour to Christy. > >
< < He doesn’t want it broadened, > > Asuka put in, taking the words out of Heero’s mouth. < < And how would it be a favour to Christy? > >
< < Well, she and our other personal Deity of Death are getting to be great friends, yes? So anything that makes Duo happy is certain to meet with her approval, yes? Therefore, if Duo’s two obsessively mission-oriented lovers get the stiffness out of their spines and loosen up a little, > > Dan explained happily, < < his sex life improves, he’s happy, she’s happy, and Dan gets points for being a helpful little gay boy. Q.E.D.: Queers Eat D-- > >
“We do not need your so-called help!” Heero yelled, picking one of the smaller suits attacking him up by one arm and throwing it bodily at Starthrasher. “Stay out of it!”
< < Oh come on, > > Dan snickered, dodging, < < you can’t honestly say you aren’t interested in learning about a few new positions, now can you? > >
“Yes I can! Practice them on Asuka if you must, just leave us out of it!”
< < Asuka won’t let me. > >
< < Um... we hate to interrupt this fascinating conversation, > > a new voice cut in, sounding rather uncomfortable, < < but... Serpent Unit 9, reporting in. Orders? > >
< < Get in there and start killing things, > > Asuka said flatly, as Heero seriously considered beating his head against one of his viewscreens. < < And if any of this conversation turns up as base scuttlebutt, I will find out your names, and next Free Fire Day I’ll be using live ammo. Understood? > >
There was dead silence for a moment, and then a very quiet: < < Fuck... that’s Three. > >
< < Um. Ah. Yes, sir. Understood. > >
* * * * *
< < You know, for people who attacked with what should have been overwhelming numbers and the advantage of surprise, this bunch are doing absolutely bupkis, > > Mel sent, sounding disgusted. < < Zilch. Zero. Nada. > >
“You sound almost disappointed,” Quatre said mildly.
< < I am disappointed, Golden Boy. I think we got the reject Theos. If they absolutely must cut into my reading time and drag us out here to kick their asses home, I expect to get some exercise out of it, damn it! I thought for once I might actually get to have a fight where I didn’t have time for witty mid-battle repartee. Talk about a washout. > >
“I have to admit that they aren’t exactly charging into battle...”
< < Hell no. Dickless bastards, to borrow one of Jay’s insults. They put on a textbook-perfect softening-up artillery barrage, charged the outpost shoulder to shoulder, got into heavy fighting all around the defensive perimeter... and passed up half a dozen opportunities to drive spearhead attacks through that defensive perimeter. None of ‘em wants to be the first to step out of the pack and make themselves a bigger target. > >
Quatre sighed. “I have to admit, that would explain how they’re acting now that we’ve arrived; but have you considered that it may not be cowardice?” he mused, striding forwards and trying to find a target in the mass of suits frantically backing away from him.
Mel snorted. < < What else is going to explain them acting like a bunch of featherless chickens?! > >
“A slightly higher IQ than is normal in the Theodorian ranks?” he suggested innocently.
There was a sputter of laughter over his com -- from more people than just Mel, he realised.
< < You may have a point there, pal, > > came the voice he was beginning to recognise as Cobra 9’s main radio operator. < < Emperor Torovha does have a tendency to name ‘Heroes of the Theodorian People’ posthumously. Maybe this lot have decided it’s better to be a live chicken than a dead hero? > >
< < They’re still getting killed, > > someone else pointed out.
< < That’s ‘cause they haven’t worked out it’s a bad idea to turn their backs to us while they’re looking at the big guys, > > a woman said gleefully. Quatre thought he knew where she was; a second after hearing that, he saw an OZ sentry suit pop up out of a foxhole holding two disposable rocket pods and fire their full loads at a group of Theodorian suits that were concentrating on Taniwha -- and, sure enough, had their backs turned to the threat that ended up killing them.
“Oh dear,” Quatre sighed under his breath, shaking his head. Even though the Theodorians had initiated this attack, and their side had started the whole pointless war that had brought the world to this point, he still found it to be no consolation when he looked at their casualties. Killing was wrong, he believed that whole-heartedly, and he was only willing to do it because he knew that without him in the equation, more innocents would die... and yet, he had to admit, part of him agreed with Mel. The Theos were acting just plain dumb.
< < Y’know, > > Mel said thoughtfully, < < maybe you’re right. Maybe the average intelligence level in the Theo forces is increasing, just a little bit. Hell, we’ve killed enough of their idiots that it’s got to be having some sort of effect! > >
“Gundams as a Darwinian evolutionary force?” he asked dryly. “You may have something there. I know Duo once printed up a bumper sticker saying something like ‘We are the chlorine in your gene pool’...”
< < Maybe we ought to let the really dumb ones go, > > she riposted. < < I mean, we don’t want the herd to get smart enough to start coming up with tactics that actually work! > >
< < How are you going to work out which ones are which? > > the Cobra radio operator asked curiously.
Quatre missed whatever response that question got as a series of clanging noises announced the high-speed arrival of half a dozen of the smaller suits, swarming him from behind. He let out a startled yelp as the impacts pushed him further off balance than Sandrock’s systems could handle, and the Gundam landed flat on its face in the sand.
“Awk! --um-- oh-- darn it-- get off-- uh. Help?!” he squeaked uncertainly, trying to get loose and not having much success. They seemed to be sitting on him, pinning Sandrock’s arms, and there were more nasty metallic bangs and thumps as they started battering away at the Gundam’s back...
< < Okay, we’re definitely not throwing those ones back, > > Mel sent grimly.
* * * * *
Otrepiev reared back in his seat as the two looming black suits leapt out of nowhere, nearly hitting his head in the confined spaces inside his command track. “What the hell--?!”
“I think they called for reinforcements, sir,” Lieutenant Grozny said snidely. “Looks like they got them.”
Then and there, Commander Otrepiev decided that Grozny’s career wasn’t going to survive for more than ten minutes after they’d made it back to base. Damned told-you-so supercilious bastard... let’s see how he likes being posted to the Dai-Nippon front! His racing heart steadied a bit when no other suits followed the first two, steadied a bit more when he saw that the fleeing Cobra 6 personnel were keeping on going instead of turning to strike back -- and then gave a peculiar sort of skipping hop when he stopped just staring at the Gundams and started noticing details.
“There’s only two of them,” he said, starting to grin again. “We’ve got more than enough firepower to swarm them under. And one of them is only using one arm! Those damn OZies must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to push us back, and it’s not going to work! Send the word to all units to keep up the pressure, and designate the Gundams as prime targets!” Up ahead, as the last stragglers of Cobra 6’s forces disappeared from view, the all-black Gundam fired one more volley of rockets before following them; its black-and-white twin followed without firing a single shot.
“We’ve got them right where we want them,” he whispered, grin widening.
< < We've got them right where we want the bastards, > > Christy sent, smirking nastily. < < Did you see how they reacted? > >
“You’d have to be blind not to,” Duo snorted, most of his attention on Deathscythe’s controls as the Gundam half-ran, half-slid down the slope. “They all slammed on the brakes as soon as they saw us... and thirty seconds later, they all stepped on the accelerators again. Guess they decided they can take us.”
< < Oh, what fools these Theos be, > > she chuckled. < < They probably could take us, if we were all they had to worry about, but why the hell would we come all the way out here into a situation like this without friends to back us up? > >
“I dunno about you, babe, but we used to do just that on a regular basis.”
< < Well, yes, but you didn’t have friends to back you up. > >
“Good point. And speaking of friends... didn’t you say something about rockets and/or beam rifles for me?”
< < Ooh yes, so I did. Yo! Six-type people! Did you bring my subcontractor here some nice toys to play with? > >
< < I got a whole heap’a toys for him, in good condition. No thanks to you, little missy! > > a familiarly-accented voice replied. < < Nearly squished the lot of ‘em right along with me! > >
< < Ah, give it a rest, Henderson! You know me better than that! > >
“You have some nice zapguns for me in your APC?” Duo asked eagerly, heading off the exchange before it could get too rancorous.
< < I got nothing but zapguns in here. Made for sentry suits, so they’ll be a little small for your tinker-toy’s hands, boyo, but we thought ahead and busted off the trigger guards before we loaded ‘em in. Got enough beam rifles for you to burn ‘em all out with rapid fire an’ still have ‘em last nearly twenty minutes. > >
“Exxxxcellent,” Duo purred, angling sideways to run alongside the APC as Henderson decelerated to meet him. Cobra 6’s personnel kept moving away from the ridge as fast as they could go, while the first enemy suits appeared on the crest and started down after them. “Hand ‘em over and we’ll see if I can hit the broad side of a barn.”
< < Don't scare the pigeons off too soon, > > Christy warned. < < We want them all down on this side of the ridge before we start putting up a decent defence, remember. > >
< < That ain’t gonna take long, the way they're pushing, > > Henderson warned. < < We intercepted some of their unencrypted com traffic, an’ their commander sounds like a real fire-eater. Nothing special as far as tactics goes, but he was makin’ up for that by throwin’ lots of force at us, head on. > >
< < Ah, classic Theodorian strategy, > > Christy sighed. < < ‘If at first you don’t succeed, use a bigger hammer’. Sounds like he’s a guy after Torovha’s heart. > >
The main doors at the back of Henderson’s APC swung open, and hands inside pushed the first beam rifle out to where Deathscythe could grasp it. It was a nicely compact weapon, nothing like the awkward length and weight of Wing or Starthrasher’s buster rifles, and Duo found a comfortable balance with it almost immediately. “Okay, just tell me when I can start making pigeon pie.”
< < Any minute now, > > came the voice of Cobra 6’s commander, sounding far happier than he had at the beginning of the whole situation. < < We got a good count on their numbers while we were running like rabbits, and almost all of them are over the ridgeline and committed to following us. Looks like they bunched up some while they were coming up the far slope; they were pretty strung out, before. > >
< < In that case, it’s time for Mama Persephone to teach her famous class, ‘How to Identify the Brass Hats 101’, > > Christy said cheerfully. < < Since we’re not supposed to get into the thick of things this time-- > >
“Awww, do we have to stay out?” Duo mock-whined.
< < We promised, Mort. Wellll, you promised, and I don’t want Dot to drug me again. > >
< < Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes. Since we’re not wading right in, we should concentrate on sowing confusion and discord. Shooting the officers does this very nicely, and you can usually identify command tracks and suits by the number of communications antennae sticking out of ‘em. > >
“Like that one that just reached the top of the ridge?” Duo asked, eyeing it in the image from his rear-view camera.
< < Exactly like that one. Well spotted, Mort. Now fry it. > >
“Hold here for a minute so I can assess the situation,” Otrepiev ordered, eyeing the masses of suits and armoured vehicles below. The OZ forces weren’t as far ahead as he’d expected, and his command track would definitely be within range of their weapons if it descended from the ridgeline now. Still, things looked good; the two Gundams were still at the back of the main enemy force, within range of a sudden swarming attack from his mobile suits. He’d lose a lot of them, of course, but that was what they were for, and--
Wait a minute, that one just turned around. What’s it holding?
“Oh, shit!” Lieutenant Grozny yelped, and there was a bright light--
< < Score! > > Christy cheered. < < Ten points for our team. You have learned well, Grasshopper. > >
End of Warped Mirrors
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