Herod moved to the right, corkscrewing as she did so to face the dragon above. It moved as soon as she did, talons out, ready to rip her apart.
No way to hurt it with her hands full. No time to dodge. Only one thing to do.
Herod dropped the wounded woman and raised her rocket launcher, firing a trio of missiles at the diving drake. She was too far away for a lethal hit, but she was at least able to drive it off.
The dragon below caught the wounded legionnaire in its gaping, rubbery mouth. The poor girl let out a choked cry and then was silenced as the monster crunched through her armor to brutally rend the flesh underneath.
Nothing left to do. Herod flew past, her attention still on the ground. Some of the dropships were still intact: a defensive line of Beowulfs had been erected around them. Tamar, unmistakably larger than any of the others, rained bloody death on any dragon stupid enough to get close.
Tamar! She might be able to help. She would have access to a boosted officer’s comm channel. “Colonel,” Herod said with as much urgency as she could muster. “I’ve lost track of the legata.”
“Bit busy here!” came Tamar’s frantic reply as she pumped round after round into the air. Most of them missed- but the pressure was crucial. The dragons swarmed around the dropships, eager to destroy them. Only Tamar’s savagery kept them at bay.
“A quick message to her, please colonel!” Herod pled.
“Ugh, okay!” Tamar was silent for a moment. “Above you! Just below the clouds! I’ll paint her for ya!”
“Thank you,” Herod replied, flying upwards as fast as she could. Tamar’s intel was good: there was Lucifera… drifting blankly through the air as though she were asleep.
A dragon was heading straight for her. As it reared its head back to tear her apart, Herod slammed into it at speed. Even a 190-pound woman wearing 40 pounds of armor became a lethal projectile at 800 mph.
Again, though, Herod didn’t kill the damn thing. She knocked it aside, but by the time she got her rocket launcher up to blow the dragon apart, it was retreating. The rider thought better of a two-on-two fight.
“Good timing,” Lucifera observed. “You’re better at guarding my body than I thought you’d be.”
“Thank you? Ma’am, this isn’t sustainable.” Herod gestured below.
The legata nodded calmly. “I’ve seen that, yeah. Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. 119th!,” she cried, switching to the universal channel to speak to the entire legion. “I’m above the fighting and I can see that we’re screwed. All legionnaires, converge on the marked point and I’ll call for air support.”
The 119th disengaged and fell back to around the dropships. As the dragons surged in, Lucifera connected to BEACON’s fleet orbiting above. “This is Legata Lucifera Humol, 119th legion,” she yelled. “Requesting fleet support. I repeat, we are under attack and require fleet support!”
A cool woman’s voice answered. “Request granted, legata. Be advised that heavy rainfall has reduced the efficacy of orbital disruption attacks.”
“Fine, sure, just kill the bastards!”
There was a surreal moment of quiet, and then the sky caught on fire. Pillars of light and flame flew past Herod and Lucifera, then curved and changed direction in mid-air. The air was filled with these beams, which avoided BEACON birds like they had the plague but instead went straight for the dragon riders.
Upon contact, the dragons and the Neighbors on their back simply ceased to be. They vanished, leaving behind nothing but a cloud of pinkish vapor.
Herod watched in horrified awe. Death was omnipresent, thousands of riders turned to nothingness instantly. To her shock though, there were many survivors. The beams only killed about half of the dragon riders- the others broke into a hasty retreat.
“Superheated replicating plasma filament with nanotargeted guidance,” Lucifera said softly as she watched the carnage from high above. “When only the Wrath of God will do.”
“A choosy god,” said Herod, pointing at the survivors.
“That’s this damn rain’s fault. Where did it come from? Scanners said drizzles, not this.”
At least a hundred prone BEACON birds lay dead or wounded across the mesa, along with many more dragons. Those still breathing were safe… for now.