'I Will Fear No
NOTE: Just to make things blatantly clear, during the fight and whatnot, everything in < < > > brackets is heard over the radio by the pilots back at the base.
"What's that?" Wufei asked, leaning closer to the radio and frowning.
Christy's voice could be heard, muttering something under her breath. She was drowned out for a second by gunfire, then returned, louder.
< < ...aritu-na auset em uaa hru t'a neter; sesep-a em-bah Ausar em ta en maaheru, en ka en Ausar Ari... > >
"Oh dear," Quatre said, paling slightly. "She doesn't sound very confident." At an inquiring look from Trowa, he explained. "She's speaking a very old form of Egyptian-- or whatever it's called here-- and saying something like, 'may there be a seat for me in the boat when the god goes forth, may I be received into Osiris's presence in the land of triumph'. It's sort of like a prayer."
"Shit," Mel muttered, dropping her head into her hands. "She's quoting from the Ta-Resu-Meht Book of the Dead. All hell's going to break loose, and I don't mean animated mummies."
"Does she normally--" Quatre started.
"No," Asuka said flatly.
"Oh," Quatre said weakly, glancing at Heero and Wufei.
< < Holy shit, guys, > > one of the pilots drawled, sounding surprisingly calm, < < it's starting to look like Armageddon out there. > >
< < Yeah, 'cause Armageddon medieval on their asses! > > Duo yelled, punctuated by explosions.
A collective groan went through the crews.
Rico chuckled. < < Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil... > >
< < I will fear getting the shit shot out of me, > > one of his gunners said conversationally, < < but I will fear no evil. > >
That set the rest of them off.
< < I fear getting blown to Hell and back, but I will fear no evil. > >
< < I fear getting captured and subjected to Theo propaganda drivel, > > a woman said, then was joined by a chorus of voices on < < but I will fear no evil! > >
< < I'm the meanest bitch in the valley, so I fear nothing! > > Christy growled, eliciting catcalls and whistles from the crews.
< < I fear I'm surrounded by yahoos, > > the lead pilot said dryly.
< < But I will fear no evil! > > his subordinates yelled back.
< < I fear getting shot in the ass like Stan, > > Rico put in.
< < Hey! That was your stupid fault in the first place! > > Stan objected.
< < Yeah, that's why I fear it! You'd never let me live it down! > >
< < But he fears no evil, > > someone snickered.
< < I fear hitting that tree. Can we PULL UP NOW?! > > someone yelped.
< < Oops! Sorry! > >
< < ...but I fear no evil, > > he finished shakily. < < I don't have to fear evil. I fear my damn pilot! > >
< < Well, I fear that rocket launcher, > > his pilot replied. < < Could you do something about it? > >
< < Yeth, mathter. Thertainly, mathter. > >
< < *BOOM!* > >
< < Good Igor. > >
"And you thought we were flaky," Jay said cheerfully.
* * * * *
< < They're still pretty thick on the ground, > > Duo reported, < < but I think we've whacked most of the launchers. > >
< < Looks that way to me, > > the lead pilot agreed, < < and just in time. Here comes the dust-off. > >
< < Yep, delivered safe and sound by the best pilots in the squadron, > > a new voice carolled. < < Didja miss us? Leave any Theos for us to shoot? > >
< < Oh, great, it's Teague, > > Christy groaned. < < The Tir na n'Og Terror has arrived. > >
< < Acushla, darlin', surely you were just waitin' for me to arrive before startin' the real fun, > > he sang, laying on the accent thicker than Jay ever did with hers. < < Why don't you give that skinny Tatar boy wi' the funny name the push and walk out with me? > >
< < I'm not dating Sergei! > > she yelled, relieving her feelings with a few well-placed shots at a tank. < < I'm not dating anybody! Isn't my private life private any more?! > >
< < NO! > > most of the personnel on the mission yelled back.
< < Can we just fight here? > >
< < Sure, darlin', > > Teague chuckled, then whooped a war cry as he dove at a cluster of Theodorian vehicles.
Most of the rocket launchers might have been gone, but the Theos still had plenty of guns, and the Firehawks were fully occupied keeping their attention while the rescue choppers hovered low and winched up casualties on stretchers.
< < Firehawk One to Zinder Base, what's the status of your flights, over? > >
< < Zinder Base to Firehawk One, > > a new voice answered, < < we've only got two flight worthy Asps at the moment, and one can fly but it can't shoot. Our Vipers just got in from a bombardment down south and are switching crews and refuelling now, over. > >
< < I hope you're planning to send them our way to cover the firebase while we're escorting the medevac over to you, Zinder. Over. > >
< < That's the idea, One, > > Zinder Base's radio operator replied calmly. < < We set it up with Firebase M by landline; didn't want to clutter the airwaves, over. > >
< < Was that a subtle hint that we talk too much? > > Rico asked innocently.
< < We know you guys by now, > > Zinder Base said dryly. < < We don't do subtle when we're dealing with you. Firehawk One, the firebase reports that it will take two trips to get all the wounded out; our Vipers can hang around until you're through, and by then the reinforcement column should be there. Sound okay to you? Over. > >
< < Roger that, Zinder, sounds fine to me. Out. > >
The rescue choppers couldn't all land at once; there wasn't room, for one thing, and having them all stationary targets, at the same time, would have been an unacceptable risk. Instead, they loaded two at a time, then lifted into a holding pattern at the rear, shielded by the Firehawks, until the others had loaded. This gave the Vipers from Zinder Base time to arrive, and also gave the Theodorians time to start pecking away at the Firehawks' armour.
< < WHOA! > > Rico yelled as his chopper took a sudden swoop to the right and down. < < Shit shit shit-- > >
< < You okay there? > > Christy asked, sending a volley of shots at a couple of enemy groups that seemed to be taking an interest in Rico's wobbling chopper.
< < Uh, yeah, I think so-- everyone okay back there? > >
< < Yeah, we're fine, > > a slightly shaken voice replied. < < Interesting to see you revert to Firman swear words when you're really twitchy... > >
< < Cállese, el idiota! > > Rico replied in haughty Vaterean. < < I don't think we're going down just yet. Uh-- yeah, I can take this baby up and down okay, and turn right, but she doesn't want to turn left. I think the prick hit something in the tail rotor controls. > >
< < Is it going to be a problem? > > the lead pilot asked sharply.
< < Nah. Watch this! > > The wobbly chopper stabilized, then lifted slightly and started to circle the firebase again... flying sideways. < < Just put me on the right when we gotta fly formation again. > >
< < You want to pull out? > >
< < ...No, > > Rico said, humour suddenly gone from his voice. < < We need everyone on this, right? I know I can handle it until we reach Zinder, and I'll see what we can do about the problem while the medevacs are unloading... but whatever happens, if the guys are still willing to fly in this thing, we're coming back with you. > >
< < I'm with you. > > < < No problem here. > > < < Rico's a hotshot idiot, but I trust his flying skills at least, > > the crew put in.
< < I don't get no respect, > > Rico sighed. < < Well, boss? > >
< < All right, but I want a look at your tail, too-- > >
< < Why sir, I didn't know you cared! > >
< < Go to hell, Rico, I'm serious. If your chopper's tail looks too bad, > > the lead pilot said with heavy emphasis, < < you're staying at Zinder. > >
< < Yes, sir, > >Rico said seriously. < < I might argue about the definition of 'too bad', though-- FUCK! Launcher! > >
Duo saw Rico blast the launcher to bits, saw the rocket it had already launched heading straight for one of the medevac choppers as it lifted with a full load, and made a split-second decision.
< < Swing left and drop! > > he yelled into his microphone, yanking his gun up.
The pilot obeyed without question, dropping the Firehawk directly into the path of the missile, and Duo squeezed the trigger and held on, spraying large-calibre bullets at the target. Come on come on come ON--
The rocket exploded barely ten feet away, throwing the chopper violently sideways and spinning it. Christy let out an anguished grunt as her gun swung and rammed her in the stomach and her head hit the gun shield. The pilot wrestled the chopper under control, stopping the spin, and it was Duo's turn to spin as his gun slammed over to the limit of its traverse, yanking on his safety harness and taking him with it. For just a second he was exposed, out from behind the gun shield, and that was the moment when a line of bullets stitched across the Firehawk's side and into the gun bay.
< < Damn, kid, I'm glad you knew what you were doing, > > the pilot sent back, laughing shakily. < < You can fly with us any time! > >
< < Kid? > >
< < Kid? You okay back there? Kid? Guys?! CHRISTY?! > >
A faint, strangled wheeze was his only answer.
* * * * *
The pencil Dan was fiddling with snapped in his hands, and Asuka missed his catch, dropping the knife he was idly tossing into the floor between his feet. Jay and Quatre froze, concentrating; Trowa and Wufei stared at the radio, narrow-eyed; Mel's hand froze in mid-air as she lowered a card towards the roof of her latest construction, and the arm of Heero's chair snapped off as he grabbed it and twisted.
< < Shit, > > the pilot muttered. < < Guys, cover me; I don't think I've got active gunners at the moment. Uh, Joe, could you go back and check on them? See if, uh... > >
< < I'm on it, > > the co-pilot answered. There were a few thumps, then his voice returned, sounding worried. < < She's kind of out of it, but I think the gun just knocked all the wind out of her. Looks like the kid's been shot... it's okay, the jacket stopped all the bullets. I think they'll be fine. > >
There was a cough and a pained wheeze. < < Good flak jacket, > > Duo's voice croaked. < < Ow. I gotta start remembering I'm not in 'Scythe. > >
< < Gotta love Gundanium chain mail, > > Christy answered woozily. < < Oh, man. Now it's two black eyes and a black stomach... > > There was a slithering noise, then the sound of her being violently sick.
< < Good shot, Christy! Didn't even hit the wheel. > >
< < Get bent, Joe. Urrrgh... > >
< < Maldiciòn, girl, don't scare us like that! > > Rico grumbled.
< < You okay to shoot, still? > >
< < Gimme thirty seconds of deep breathing, > > Duo wheezed.
< < Yeah, > > Christy mumbled. < < If I see double I'll just aim in the middle. > >
< < Right, the Vipers are here and we've got a full load, > > the lead pilot snapped. < < Let's book it for Zinder. Rico gets to fly right flank, so nobody rams him if we have to turn left, and Six goes in the middle of the formation until his gunners stop throwing up. > >
< < Hey, no fair. I didn't hurl, > > Duo complained.
Back at Assiut Base, everyone slowly relaxed.
* * * * *
Once they were all on the tarmac at Zinder Base, the lead pilot stayed with his chopper just long enough to see the ground crew start checking it over, refuelling and rearming, then headed off to check on all the other Firehawks. The first one he paused by brought him up short; the crew and a group of maintenance personnel were clustered around it, bending down to peer at its belly.
"Damn," one of the gunners muttered, straightening up. "Gives me goose flesh just looking at it. You sure you never felt it happen?"
"Well, she did kind of jump after we got hit with all that tracer fire," the pilot said, looking slightly green. "I thought it was an updraft."
"They must have hit you just right, and popped all the rivets out of the frame," one of the ground engineers suggested. "Never saw it happen before, but I guess it's possible. You're lucky they didn't hit you there again."
"The important thing is can you fix it?!" the pilot asked, waving his helmet for emphasis. "I don't want to fly back into that mess with two plates of belly armour missing!"
Shaking his head, the lead pilot moved on.
There was a similar cluster around the tail of Rico's craft, Firehawk Four. An engineer was up on a ladder, doing something, and Rico was in the pilot's seat, leaning out and looking back.
"Now?" he called.
"Not yet," the engineer grunted, wrenching at something. "Come here, you--"
The 'something' gave way suddenly, and he staggered backwards with a yelp. The ladder went one way, he went the other, and he ended up sprawled on a pile of groaning bystanders, clutching a jagged chunk of shrapnel in his gloved hands.
"Uh... try it now!" he yelled.
"Get the fuck off me," Rico's co-pilot snarled.
Rico ducked back into the cockpit, and a second later the tail rotor waggled, changing its angle and blade pitch. "YES! It works!"
"This was jammed in the control runs," the engineer explained, stumbling to his feet. "We'll have to check the main cables, but I think everything's okay--"
"Arrrrrrrriba!" Rico howled, leaping out of the cockpit and starting to dance. "Ha! I'll show those Theo bastards they can't keep me out of a fight! La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ay yi yi--"
"Great," one of his gunners muttered. "He's going to be doing loops, just to prove he can. We got any airsick bags?"
"Nah," his friend sighed, suppressing a grin. "We gave 'em to Six for Christy to use. You'll just have to wait 'til we're over Theos, and aim out the door."
"Chemical warfare's illegal," the lead pilot told them, strolling over for a closer look. "Hm. Messy."
"Yeah, but it all works, so we can go back, right boss?" Rico asked anxiously, breaking off his dance and jogging over.
"If the engineers clear you, you can fly," the squadron leader nodded, walking off with a wave.
The engineers seemed to be happy with Firehawk Six's condition; the crowd there was medics.
"How about here?"
"OW, dammit, all right?! Just assume that if it's on my chest it hurts!" Duo snapped. "I got shot! Hurting is normal!"
"Well, nothing seems to be broken, and you can obviously take deep breaths when you want to," the doctor said dryly. "Move your arms around. I want to check your range of motion... uh-huh..."
"How many fingers am I holding up?" the one concentrating on Christy asked.
"Three... two... four... put it away before I break it off, bint."
"Your vision's fine," the doctor grinned, folding her middle finger down. "Do you still feel nauseous?"
"I never did feel nauseous. I just had to toss my cookies," Christy growled. "I don't have any cookies left to toss, so I'm not going to upchuck again. Can I go?"
"What's their status?" the lead pilot asked, walking up behind the doctors.
"Well, this one may have a mild concussion, but she should still be able to shoot straight," Christy's doctor told him, starting to pack up. "Severe bruising to the sternum, but nothing broken; she's still wheezing a little, and her voice may be funny for a while, but she's good to go. I'd keep her here if we had anyone to send in her place," she added, "but I'm told we don't have anyone available who's qualified on these guns, since our whirlybirds use something different."
"Same with this guy," the other doctor put in. "Nothing bad enough to impair his ability or endanger him in a fight, but he isn't going to be comfortable."
"Right. Okay people, let's get back in the air!" the squadron leader yelled, striding back towards his Firehawk. "We've got another run to make before we can relax!"
* * * * *
< < You sure you're okay, Mort? > > Christy asked, checking over her gun to make sure the ground crew had loaded the shells in the right way. < < You can sit this out, if you have to... > >
< < Yeah, right, > > he snorted. < < We already took off, in case you hadn't noticed. I'm fine. > >
< < Mort? That your name, kid? > > their pilot asked curiously.
< < Damn, your parents had a weird sense of humour, > > Rico chuckled.
< < No, my name is not Mort, > > Duo said, rolling his eyes, < < but I'll answer to it for now. > >
< < So what's your real name? Or is it too embarrassing? > >
< < Duo. > >
< < ...'Duo'? > > the pilot said slowly. < < Like... 'two', or 'a pair'? > >
< < Uh-huh. > >
< < Now there's a coincidence, > > he mused. < < Eh, Christy? > >
< < We noticed, > > she drawled. < < And if you only knew the rest of it... > >
< < Ooo, ooo, there's more? > > one of the female pilots squealed, managing to sound about three years old. < < Tell us a story, Mama Christy! > >
< < Yeah, we'll be good! > > Rico chimed in. < < You tell the best stories. 'Once upon a time'... > >
< < Sorry, > > Christy told them. < < Classified. > > Then she and Duo glanced at each other, grinned, and chorused, < < You're not cleared for that! > >
< < Spoilsport! Not even a hint? > >
< < Put it this way, > > she said, looking at Duo and getting a nod. < < There's another full set of numbers all of a sudden. > >
< < DUDE! > > Stan yelped. < < You mean-- coming on to the base this afternoon-- I really did see what I thought I saw?! > >
< < If you think you saw what I think you think you saw, then yes. > >
< < Man. And at the time I thought I'd just picked up a contact high in Luigi's bar... > >
< < Are they all as cute as Mort? > > the female pilot asked hopefully.
< < Yes, Helga, but they're too young for you. > >
* * * * *
"Does that woman have no idea what 'classified' actually means?" Heero roared, throwing the broken chair arm across the room. "'Need to know'? 'Security'? Any of those words?!"
"Give it a rest, stretchy pants," Mel said disgustedly, watching her three-storey house of cards go 'flop'. "I didn't hear Duo telling her not to."
"Besides, how long did you think it was going to stay a secret?" Dan asked. "He wasn't the only person who saw us come in, and the engineers are going to be in the hangar tomorrow, same as usual. Not to mention that you five have appeared out of nowhere and moved in with us. She just nipped one batch of false rumours in the bud."
"And lost her chance at seventy-five credits, probably," Jay pointed out. "She did bet on one week before the real story gets out, after all."
"So you don't care that she put it out on an open channel for anyone to hear?!"
"Open channel my ass," Asuka snorted. "That thing is scrambled and encrypted every way we know how. It hops frequencies every three seconds, and gunnery helmets transmit on the local band only. We heard it, the Firehawks heard it, the bases heard it, and everyone else got fuck all."
"And knowing that there's two Gundam pilots on Firehawk Six will make the rest of them very determined that nothing's going to touch that chopper, Eh, what?" Jay smiled.
* * * * *
If the other pilots were being extra protective of Firehawk Six, it didn't show when they got back into the storm of bullets and explosions around Firebase M. The Vipers Zinder Base had sent over-- smaller than Firehawks, with smaller guns, but carrying a lot of nasty little rockets-- were buzzing around like angry bees, and a thick column of fire and smoke showed where two of them had gone down in a tangled mess.
< < Welcome back, > > the Viper squadron leader sent to the arriving Firehawks and rescue choppers, sounding very angry. < < Keep your eyes peeled and don't let the bastards get a shot up your tail! They've got a few launchers and they're getting smarter about how they use them. > >
< < Roger that, Viper One. Everyone who can pull off Rico's trick, do it. > >
< < Hey! I invented a manoeuvre! Is that cool or what? > >
< < All together now, > > Stan sent. < < One... two... three... > >
< < *SIGH* Shut! Up! Rico! > > the Firehawk pilots and crews yelled.
< < Bastardos, > > Rico muttered. < < I tell you, I'll swap squadrons and find some people who appreciate me! > >
< < We appreciate you all right. Now shut up and fly sideways. > >
Things went fairly well while the medevacs loaded the remaining wounded on board. Some of the Firehawks took damage, ranging from minor to fairly serious; the pilot of Firehawk Two swore viciously as a Theodorian LAV managed to shoot off the jury-rigged plate Zinder Base's mechanics had patched his belly armour with, and started flying lower and faster. Several gunners reported minor injuries from bullets or shrapnel, and Firehawk Eight's copilot howled as a section of his armoured window shattered and stung him in his 'pride'.
< < Damn it, Stan! Keep your buttshot-attracting bad luck to yourself! > >
< < Blame it on Rico, > > Stan yelled back, triggering his last two rockets at a Theo tank. < < It was his fault last time, it's probably his fault again somehow! > >
< < That's slander, I'll have you know-- mierda! Teague! LAUNCHER! > >
A single armoured vehicle crested a dune half a mile away from the firefight, popped its rocket pod open, and fired everything it had. Swearing under his breath, Teague somehow managed to make his Firehawk 'hop' and spin out of the way of the first missile, but the second impacted on his tail rotor and blew it apart. The third rocket shot over him as he started to go down, and slammed straight into the medevac chopper that was just lifting off with its full load. The last three missiles vanished into the fireball, but they didn't make much difference.
Three Vipers shot after the Theo vehicle as it hastily reversed course and dove behind the sand dune again, and a few seconds later another fireball rose into the night.
< < Express elevator, going down! > > Teague yelled, punching through the heavy plastic cover over the engine cutoff switch instead of taking the half second to flick it open. < < Bail out, you two! > >
< < Way ahead of you, man! > > one of his gunners called as they leapt out of the gun bay doors. Half a second after they'd hit the dirt and rolled, Teague's chopper landed on what was left of its tail, trailing smoke and burning hydraulic fluid.
< < Take us in and I'll get them out, > > Christy snapped, undoing the clip holding her safety harness. < < We got room on a dust-off chopper? Anybody? > >
< < We've only got two on board and there's no more wounded to pick up, > > the pilot of the last medevac chopper reported. < < We'll take them. > >
< < NO! > > Firehawk One's pilot bellowed. < < It's bad enough that you're on this mission! You are not risking yourself on the ground! > >
< < I've got the best flak jacket and I'm trained in ground ops, > > she snarled, voice gone totally flat and cold as her B2 personality took over. < < They're outside the perimeter, so firebase personnel won't reach them before the Theos do. Do I have to pull rank?! > >
< < You-- shit! > > he hissed, seeing that Firehawk Six was already plunging towards the crash site. < < Damn it! Odd numbers stay on the medevac choppers. Even numbers cover their dumb asses! > >
Half of the Firehawks (and half of the Vipers as well, without orders) descended on the area and started shooting at everything that moved.
< < You stay here, > > Christy said to Duo, dropping out her door as the chopper hovered about five feet above the ground.
< < Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? > > Duo snorted, leaping out his side. < < Banzai! > >
* * * * *
Back at Assiut base, all the listening pilots stared at the radio with expressions ranging from disbelief to horror.
"I said all hell was going to break loose," Mel groaned, flopping face-down onto the table, scattering cards everywhere.
"What the hell do they think they're doing?!" Heero almost wailed, jumping to his feet and starting to pace again.
"Hn," Asuka said, smirking faintly. "They have a point."
End 'Warped Mirrors'
 aritu-na auset em uaa hru t'a neter; sesep-a em-bah Ausar em ta en maaheru, en ka en Ausar Ari. (and Quatre's translation): Actual transcription from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (The Papyrus of Ani), E. A. Wallis Budge version.
 Ta-Resu-Meht: Our AU name for Egypt. Taken from the actual Egyptian 'Ta Resu' meaning Upper Nile and 'Ta Meht' meaning Lower Nile.
 Dust-off: Military slang for a rescue/evacuation mission.
 Tir na n'Og: Literally, 'Land of Youth' from Celtic mythology. Our name for AU Ireland.
 Acushla: Gaelic endearment. Literally, 'beat of my heart'. Used as a casual endearment here.
 Cállese, el idiota: 'Shut up, idiot' in Vaterean/Spanish.
 Bastardos: 'Bastards' in Vaterean/Spanish.
 LAV: Light Armoured Vehicle.
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