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Tales of the Phoenix:

The Red Dragon

© 1999-2002 Strata Drake of TWZ.

Chapter Seven: David vs. Goliath

(Original Draft)

The research team fired another salvo of minirockets across the test range, using the large salvaged device as their target. The rockets impacted and exploded, but when the dust cleared, the device was unscathed. They fired another salvo of minirockets with the same result. One of the researchers shouted out, "Commander on deck," and the research crew turned off the weapons and stood at attention to Sheridan and Nigel.

Sheridan looked at the device with a puzzled expression. "What on earth... Exactly what are you doing?"

One of the researchers walked up to Sheridan. "How do you like it?? Took all night to figure that thing out and power it up--"

"What is it, exactly??"

The research member pushed a few buttons on a hand console and one of the minirocket launchers fired a single rocket at the device. "Watch closely, Sheridan..."

The rocket impacted, but after the dust cleared, the device was still undamaged. Sheridan blinked.

The research member filled him in. "You can call it the Dragon Shield. It was the Sea Dragon's EMF generator. And it works, although it does put a large drain on the power reserves. We had to build a spare generator just for it--"

Sheridan realized exactly what it was. The Sea Dragon's EMF generator; the very technology that rendered their cannons and missiles useless when they fought the Sea Dragon. By disrupting incoming shells and warheads, it spared the Sea Dragon from their attacks, forcing them to use lasers alone against it. "Have you tested all weapons systems on it?"

The research member nodded. "The constructor team put together a few micro-caliber rocket launchers and other things. The Dragon Shield won't block machineguns because their warheads are too small. Railguns don't block either because they have no warheads. Won't work on lasers, obviously. Probably won't protect against flamers, either; but we didn't take the risk of testing that. Against anything else; mortars, howitzers, cannons, missiles, rockets..."

Sheridan nodded. "Can you hook it up to something?"

"Not yet. We're still analyzing the schematics for the remote possibility of duplicating it. After all, it'd be a pain if we lost the only EMF device we had. And all those warheads and other compounds you brought home. They're good stuff; we put a few of those compounds into our similar weapons and now they pack a good 40 percent higher power. We're almost fighting with Project-caliber weaponry, now. And this..." The member picked up a handheld rifle weapon. "Infantry rifle; smaller version than standard cyborg weaponry, but it's better than nothing, firing a good 10mm microcannon shells. We gave the blueprints to their arms-construction factory team. Still working on those cyborg weapon schematics you brought with us--"

"I...?" Sheridan looked at Nigel. Nigel smiled and shrugged. "I thought we might need them. Besides, you can't get a more portable laser unit than them..."

Sheridan shook his head. "Nigel, you..."

The research member interrupted them. "Commanders...we've tested the hand-held weapons already; they work just fine for what we have. It's just the matter of the Dragon Shield device. Scavenger vehicles don't provide enough power for it. In order to make a mobile shield out of it, we'll need a heavy chassis type to place it on--preferably Python class."

Sheridan shook his head. "And we can't just build a Python-class tank with the facilities here. We'd need a larger type of factory for that. And that would ruin our cover from the Red Dragon's forces."

Falco stepped into the testing facility. "Perhaps this might help. That island base you guys used to have? Our morning scouts saw one genuine Red Dragon vehicle factory built there. No signs of defenses, though. If we're lucky, we could take it out and scoop it up."

Sheridan looked at Falco. "That's a large risk to be taking. Are you all right?"

Falco responded. "I was just thinking about your strategy. Nigel briefed me last night on your situation. It's a risk, but if Red Dragon factory schematics work for you, they'll work for us."

"What about Red Dragon retaliation? Surely, they'll..."

Falco shook his head. "Nah. We've taken out a few Red Dragon outposts before. Mostly remote power sources and light defenses, but they've treated it as a mere nuisance and no real threat. How else would we get our rocket launchers? We're arming our jetboater group with artillery rockets right now. That'll give us the weapons we need for the job."

Sheridan sighed. "Nigel. You go with them on this mission. I'll keep up with our team here."

Nigel nodded with a slight smile on his face. "Right. You probably just don't want to have to toss Drake overboard again."

Sheridan remembered how his pet feared the water. "It's not that..."

"At any rate, you're staying and I'm going, right?"

Sheridan nodded. "See you when you get back."

Nigel left with Falco with a group of eight boats. Two large cargo boats and six smaller boats, each armed with light artillery weapons. Mine warheads on the rocket launchers, plus a few assorted napalm rockets. If all went well, they should have enough rounds to level one factory, scrounge up the remains, and take off. Once again, the sky was clear and Sheridan watched as the group left the shoreline. Nigel kept an eye on the horizon as the group sped northwards.

Fifteen minutes passed before their old island came into view. The Red Dragon power derricks were clearly visible, and one level two vehicle factory was prominently constructed in the center. Two construction vehicles were at work putting the finishing touches on the factory. Falco relayed an order to a one of the smaller boats. "Scout out the area and keep an eye open for Red Dragon hovers. The rest of you...take out that structure on my mark."

Falco drove the boat closer to the shoreline, at a position obscured from view of the Red Dragon trucks. The leading boat returned in a moment and signalled to Falco that all was clear. "Mark!"

The attack boats activated their engines and approached the shore at slow speed. They fired one salvo or rockets into the island, impacting and damaging the factory. Relative to its total structure, the damage was minor. The recoil from their salvos countered their forward movement as they fired another salvo. More damage to the factory. The trucks responded to the action and began working light repairs on the factory. Falco modified the attack order toward the trucks. Two complete salvos of light rockets destroyed the trucks, one salvo apiece. Thanks to the Project upgrades, the minirockets were proving half as potent as the Lancer-class rockets recovered from the New Paradigm in 2100 (sans upgrades of course). Once the trucks were levelled, Falco's units resumed their assault of the factory. Four more rocket salvoes, and the factory's walls were collapsing inwards and its main frame beginning to fall. One more rocket salvo levelled the factory's structure into the ground.

Falco waved at the units and drove his vehicle onshore before hopping off with Nigel. Working as a team, and with Nigel helping them better differentiate between scrap and useful pieces, they quickly loaded all significant remains of the two construction trucks and factory. It took fifteen minutes to load all the salvage into the two cargo boats. After loading the last piece of debris, they climbed back into the boats and prepared for liftoff. Nigel was worried that the Red Dragon might retaliate, but Falco re-assured him that they would be safe. Falco himself seemed a bit hurried, and even though he said 'safe' with no implications, he was giving his orders quickly. Even with the heavy loads, the return trip back to home took only ten minutes, a clear indication that Falco's group was pushing their boats past their normal speed limits.

Upon arrival at home base, Preybird crews immediately began unloading the cargo from the boats for transport to the testing facility so that Sheridan's research crew could piece it together and hopefully get something out of it. Sheridan was quick to meet again with Nigel. "How'd the mission go?"

"Without a hitch. Not one piece of interference from the Red Dragon army. Actually, the lack of their interference scared me a bit. But if these parts are enough to get the EMF generator on-line, that will do."

Falco nodded as well. "Nothing to worry. All they know is that we attacked a remote outpost of theirs. We've done that before. Besides, given their late-night patrols and that skirmish with the Phantoms last night, they've got other things to be worrying about."

Sheridan looked as the research crew began digging through the pieces of factory salvage. He thought to himself, other things to worry about, all right--things like us.

Falco turned to Sheridan again. "Sheridan. Your team was working on some hand-held weapons when we left. What became of those?"

"They gave a copy of the blueprints to your weapons factories. Should we need to go toe-to-toe with the Red Dragon, we'll be able to do some damage before getting killed."

Falco smiled. "Very funny..."

Nigel looked at them. "I'm going for a walk outside. Let me know if something happens."

Sheridan nodded. "We will." He watched the research crew as they sorted out the construction unit debris from the rest of it. Not much could be carried in two cargo boats, so Sheridan could only hope for the best.

As he thought about it, an outside walk was an appealing idea to him as well. Drake followed Sheridan as he walked outside, while Falco continued to monitor the research crew.

Sheridan caught up to Nigel quickly, and as they walked across from the testing facility to the quarters areas, Nigel turned to Sheridan. "So, assuming we can get the EMF operational, what's plan A??"

Sheridan looked back. "For starters, our research team's been trying to adjust the EMF's settings. Under the Sea Dragon's use, it shielded an area of perhaps 100 feet spherical diameter. But given its outer armor plating, that was just to avoid impact damage. Splash damage was nothing. For us, it'll be different. We need a somewhat larger area for the vehicles and safety. When we attack, we can't let the Red Dragon forces get inside of the field. Same thing with defenses. Long-range attacks, for us anyway, would do best; nothing less or we'll risk getting nailed with their fire. Even with Paradigm-strength armor, our vehicles are going to be fragile. Flak jackets are common knowledge for the infantry, but of course that's no substitute for armored cyborgs."

Nigel responded. "That's a given. Falco briefed me last night. There were three Red Dragon bases in the country, but only one remains now. We levelled one of them--base Wyvern--two days ago. The second base was a bit smaller; their neighbor clans gave word that the Phantom Army levelled it--perhaps a week ago. Their last base, from Falco's description, is a big one. Even with the EMF generator, we need a plan."

"Did Falco mention any signs of infantry or soldiers in the base?"

"No, he didn't. They probably couldn't get close enough for a good look, anyway. Their negotiations with the Red Dragon give them safety from Red Dragon perimeter defenses, but only while they--and we--remain on the outside. If inside the base, anything goes. And I suppose it will."

Sheridan looked around as they rounded one of the corners in the base, now proceeding to the boat docks and garages along the shoreline. "Our mine rockets can do a good job against their ground units, but their air units will take a bit more work. We could bring along my command tank, but that would require a bit more calibration of their weapons. We're better off aiming at their jets ourselves."

Nigel nodded. "What about our targetting routines? Surely we could implement them into at least a few of their vehicles."

Sheridan got an idea. "Perhaps..." Given the knowledge of a target's velocity and one's own weapons system, basic physics calculations would reveal an aiming trajectory in about 10 seconds. By hand. Their automated targetting routines could perform such math a good hundred times per second and allow the pilot to aim the turret for all they're worth. "Their weapons use a simple cross-hairs and other manual aids for aiming. Scopes would work the best for alterations--an HUD telling the pilot where to aim their gun would be a great accuracy boost."

Nigel stopped. They were standing near one of the Preybird quarters buildings. Nigel looked around. "Sheridan...this way." He walked up into one of the buildings, opened the door, and entered while Sheridan followed him in. The inside of this building was not the typical sleeping-quarters that Sheridan was expecting. It was a war room of sorts. Nigel looked at the table, where a mass of maps were laying. He leafed through a few of them, and after a minute, pulled one out and laid it on top. "This is it."

Sheridan looked at the map. It was drawn by hand from Preybird teams, and was of the large Red Dragon base that Nigel spoke of. Its western border was probably the weakest, due to a few foothills leading back into forests and roads. The other three sides were heavily defended. Mostly hardpoints of varying, unspecified types, but a few markings on the map clearly indicated fortresses of some sort. Prelimnary sketches of the base's inside layout were apparent. According to them, there were a good six factories (two of which were most likely VTOL factories), a number of repair and research facilities, and many of the other standard base features--HQ, air pads, command relay center, and a few fortified power resources. Sheridan analyzed the pattern of defenses. Although perimeter defenses were lightest on the west side, interior defenses--the real problem--were lightest on the south side due to the air field. Judging from the map, there were no Sky Dragon- sized airpads or facilities, just the typical military base size of structures. Sheridan looked at the map. "We should approach from the south with the EMF generator. There are a few holes we can dig into to protect from some fire and launch artillery at their defenses."

Nigel pointed at the western side. "What about here?"

Sheridan looked at it. "Lightly defended. We could have a second group of vehicles attack from that angle, but they had better be careful--with only one EMF generator, we can only use it on the bulk of our forces."

"But the mine launchers. Red Dragon perimeter defenses won't target scavenger vehicles. They could use that for a quick strike..."

Sheridan understood. "Attract their attention towards the west, while flanking from the south... With the mine launchers, by the time those rockets detonate, our small group will be gone and back into the hills."

Nigel looked out the window. "Besides, their defenses might not attack us at first, but after a few minutes of assault, they'll consider us a threat and start attacking us. If we need an unprotected group to attack them, they should do that before the defenses start firing."

Sheridan nodded. "Gotcha. Once inside, it should be standard enough. Power resources and reserves first. That should disable anything that doesn't have its own individual generators."

Nigel turned back. "Communications, too... Once they start hurting, they'll call in reinforcements."

Sheridan looked out the window across the base. "HQ first, power, if only we had some truly long-range weaponry..."

Suddenly, Falco burst through the door. "Aha! Thought you guys might be here. Your research crew wants you again. Mentioned something Howie, do you know him?"

Nigel and Sheridan looked at each other, each clearly thinking, Howitzers? They left the building ahead of Falco, and Drake followed behind at his top running speed.

They could see the action as they approached. Light howitzer mounts, freshly produced by their construction crew and Preybird factories, were carefully mounted on a few of their jeeps. A few more produced vehicles were armed with anti-tank mine launchers and Project-caliber light but rapid cannons. A group of scavenger jeeps and cycles were approaching from the eastern entrance. Falco looked at Sheridan. "Lionel volunteered to give a hand or two."

Sheridan looked back. "We'll need it." A large, Viper-sized vehicle drove up and joined the group. "What's that?"

One member of the research crew walked up to Sheridan. "EMF device fully operational, Sir!


The research member saluted Sheridan. "Already, sir. The factories are putting the finishing touches on the hand weapons, just in case. Are you ready?"

Sheridan nodded. "We'll tell you the plan en route to their fortress." Sheridan looked around once again at the group. "All these units...I suppose I should dust off my command tank and bring it along, too?" Drake perked up at the sound of the words 'command tank'.

The research member pointed to two of the jeeps. Heavily armored by scavenger standards, perhaps as durable as a Viper-class chassis, yet fast for scavenger purposes. "Not necessary. We took the liberty of wiring a few more targetting and radio systems into those jeeps. You can drive them."

Sheridan smiled. "Command ... jeeps?"

The member nodded. "Besides, we don't want to tip our hand, do we?"

Sheridan looked at the jeeps with a puzzled expression. "Now any more than we already have. When everyone's ready, we're ready to strike back."

Nigel nodded. "Even with the EMF, it'll be a gamble. But we can't afford to lose."

Falco looked at Nigel with a slight smile. "If we lose, there'll be none of us left to pick up the pieces, you know..."

Sheridan awlked over to one of the command jeeps and climbed aboard. Drake jumped aboard as well. "There are no other options. We'll strike. Get ready!"

Falco climbed into the other jeep with Nigel and the group was good to go. Handheld weapons were distributed to everyone in the groups while the construction crews put the finishing upgrades on Lionel's group of vehicles that had just arrived. In ten minutes, Sheridan, Nigel, and Lionel led their respective groups out of the base towards the southeast. Destination: Red Dragon home base.

It took forty minutes before the Red Dragon base slowly rolled into view. Lionel's group adjourned from the rest towards their position to the west of the enemy. Sheridan and Nigel led their groups to a position 1/4 of a mile south of the base's perimeter. As was instructed, Lionel's crew quickly set up a communications post on their hill to relay Sheridan the attack data. The data appeared on Sheridan's radar screen. The perimeter line of the Red Dragon base, the patrols inside, the major structures and communications HQ; everything except the airfleet docked at the pads, and the Nova Sky Dragon, who--even if in the area--wouldn't appear on radar anyway. Sheridan waited as his group formed for their attack. The artillery men parked their jeeps and set up stabilizers for the inevitable recoil of their howitzer guns. As one of the Red Dragon in-base patrols veered towards the western section of the base, Sheridan gave the signal and watched on radar as Lionel's group attacked the Red Dragon's western flank. "Activate the EMF."

Through a pair of binoculars, Sheridan watched Lionel's group approach the perimeter, halting at a good 200 meters, and let off a large salvo of mine rockets. Many of them impacted the perimeter, inflicting slight structural damage in it but not detonating. Sure enough, within half a minute, a few Red Dragon construction units apeared through one of the gateways to check on the damages while Lionel's group launched another salvo, hitting more of the walls and the construction units. When Lionel's group launched their third salvo, the first salvo, thoroughly buried in the walls, detonated, rocking the western perimeter and turning the walls' concrete sections into pieces of Swiss cheese. As ordered, Lionel's group quickly retreate towards the west, in order to swing around and join Sheridan's forces. The second salvo of mines detonated, sending more smoke and some debris into the air. Blank sections of the wall were falling down now, and the Red Dragon's interior patrol of tanks left the base through the western gate. Sheridan took a deep breath before giving his next order. "Attack!"

The EMF generator powered up to 200 meter range and Sheridan's group, now protected by their Dragon Shield, moved in to attack. He relayed trajectory coordinates to the howitzer group as they began raining shells down upon the Red Dragon HQ. Nigel held his portion of the group somewhat west of Sheridan's own in anticipation of the Red Dragon's interior patrol approaching from the west. Lionel's group finally arrived and set up around their artillery group. The artillery group kept raining shells down onto Red Dragon HQ as Sheridan's group fired volley after volley of mines, rockets, and shells into the southern perimeter wall, inflicting widespread (but minor) damage on every square foot of reinforced concrete. The mine launchers were proving most effective with their delayed detonation, and as the Red Dragon airfleet rose into the sky for an attack run, Sheridan held his breath in anticipation of the air strike.

The enemy VTOLs flew overhead. Several of Sheridan's group members aimed at and fired mines in the direction of the Red Dragon VTOLs, largely missing them but successfully hitting two. The VTOLs swung around and fired a wide volley of high-caliber cannon shells toward Sheridan's group. Fortunately, the Dragon Shield worked, and as the shells came into contact with its barrier, they destabilized and detonated, raining little more than small debris and a cloud of smoke down upon Sheridan's group. Sheridan himself breathed a sigh of relief.

Sheridan's launched mines began to detonate, punching serious holes through the Red Dragon perimeter as the perimeter defenses began activating and turning in Sheridan's direction--fortress defenses included. They fired, but being cannons and missiles, all detonated (powerfully) against the Dragon Shield EMF. Sheridan ordered the group slightly forward as they continued firing.

Nigel's group sprang into action as the Red Dragon tanks appeared from the west. Mines and missile flew back and forth like cars in time-compressed freeway footage. Nigel's group was damaging the Red Dragon units, and the Red Dragon weapons were detonating against the Dragon Shield.

Sheridan watched as the HQ's sensor dish shattered under Howitzer fire and the building itself started to crumble, and its signature began fading from radar. Nigel's group continued to attack the Red Dragon's patrol while Lionel's group was busy firing at the Red Dragon airfleet, now on its second attack run. The Dragon Shield continued to protect them, and Sheridan's group (EMF unit included) slowly approached the edge of the perimeter.

Spotting a few flamethrower bunkers, Sheridan relayed a careful attack order, and his group fired a good salvo of mine-rockets into several bunkers. One jeep drove too close to one of the bunkers and it launched a searing ball of plasmite fire in the jeep's direction. Paradigm-class thermal armor aside, the jeep was soon toast. Sheridan's suspicions were confirmed, that the Dragon Shield did not protect against flamers, and their first casualty was drawn. Nigel's group moved closer to Sheridan's in order to remain inside of the Dragon Shield while still keeping the Red Dragon forces outside. Sheridan ordered the artillery group to attack the air pads, and within moments, a small rain of light Howitzer shells began bombarding the Red Dragon airfield while the jets were busy re-arming.

As if some cue had been struck, a wave of Red Dragon cyborgs appeared from the northern area of their base, walking out of several storage buildings and towards Sheridan's group. Each cyborg was the typical size of about ten feet high, moderately armed and armored. They walked closer and Sheridan sprang an idea. This group was moving, so therefore it should be vulnerable to mines. A dummy attack order to his mine launchers quickly created the minefield, and the group of enemy cyborgs began moving across it. Detonation after detonation knocked several cyborgs down and out of commission, while the rest of the cyborg group stopped for a moment and fired. Their shells fell short of Sheridan's group, thanks to the Dragon Shield, and Sheridan's group retaliated with machinegun fire and a few handheld lasers (aimed at the cyborgs' visual sensors). As the artillery group finished pounding the air pads, Sheridan kept firing at the approaching wave of cyborgs. Slowly, the cyborgs began falling, but that was no relief as more were coming, now having to climb over and walk around a two-foot high , 30-foot wide pile of cyborg debris.

Nigel's group fired a final salvo of mines into their oppoent Red Dragon tanks, and those tanks fled the scene back to the western section of the base. Nigel drove his group forwards to Sheridan's own to assist. With Nigel's group adding to their firepower, they were now able to hold back the wave of approaching cyborgs. Destroying the cyborgs' leg propulsions was easier said than done, but hitting the visual sensors with lasers provided a quick way of disabling them. Sheridan looked around for some sort of recognizable structure. He found one--a power generator. He ordered the artillery group to attack the generator, and they did so.

The view of the battlefield was slowly growing thicker, as smoke clouds and debris were filling the area all around them. Sheridan found himself increasingly relying on his radar scans for potential targets as his group carried out his orders. Occasionally, and enemy cyborg or tank would walk inside of the Dragon Shield barrier and begin attacking the vehicles. Nigel was quick to destroy any invaders, but Sheridan realized that it was possible for the Red Dragon's forces to figure them out in a similar way as they had figured out the Nova Sea Dragon. Starting with a good one hundred scavenger vehicles, Sheridan had lost ten. And with ten lost vehicles, there were eleven casualties. Some of Sheridan's soldiers, losing their vehicles but not their lives, were helping out with their hand-held infantry weapons.

Sheridan kept an eye on radar for any invading Red Dragon units. Lionel's group was still busy picking at the Red Dragon's airfleet, now seeking refuge while airborne because their re-arming pads were destroyed. The artillery group continued firing shells at the power generator, and it was starting to shut down from the stress. Nigel's group began firing their way westwards, nearest-targets first, in a general and steady devastation of Red Dragon perimeter and construction crews. Sheridan relayed a few trajectory orders to the artillery group at their discretion--the locations of a second Red Dragon generator and three factories.

The cyborgs were slowing now, as Sheridan's group was apparently inflicting a substantial damage on the entire group as a whole. The Dragon Shield was still protecting them, and they had received little more than smoke damage from all the Red Dragon defenses. The incoming enemy fire continued to destabilize and detonate prematurely, and Sheridan's group continued to attack. As Nigel's group moved westward, closer to the perimeter of their Dragon Shield, Sheridan moved his group slightly eastwards with a different focus of attack--Red Dragon base factories, one by one. As their howitzer artillery continued pounding the assorted Red Dragon generator and factories, Sheridan lent a helping turret to the action to level one class 3 tank factory.

The cyborg body count was now at 80, and the remaining eight cyborgs were playing a game of hide-and-seek from behind their pile of cyborg debris. These cyborgs were firing a sort of machine gun, which was inflicting the occasional damage upon Sheridan's units, but kicking up another dust layer. Sheridan thought of how to attack, and ordered his mine launchers at the pile. They fired a salvo into the pile. The eight enemy cyborgs scattered backwards before the mines detonated and destabilized the pile, cutting its height in half. The cyborgs resumed attacking, at MG long range this time with low accuracy but deadly firepower. Sheridan's entire forces now stood at 87 units and 15 casualties, while the Red Dragon losses continued to pile up.

The Red Dragon's second power generator, now thoroughly pummeled by Howitzer shells, fell to the ground and exploded. Almost immediately, half of the Red Dragon defenses shut down. They might not stay that way forever, so Sheridan ordered those defunct defenses demolished. It took five mines per hardpoint. The fortress defenses were now in range of Sheridan's firepower, so he ordered an attack while the fortresses activated in futile attempts to breach their Dragon Shield.

Sheridan noticed that a few Red Dragon power resources were still active, and he instructed the artillery group to take them out. The power resources proved much softer than the average base targets, and they destroyed the resources quickly. As the resources fell, more Red Dragon defenses shut down due to a lack of power. Sheridan ordered an attack on the command relay center for the artillery as his group continued to attack the Red Dragon hardpoints, levelling them now, and also to engage the remaining enemy cyborgs.

Nigel took his group on a clockwise sweep around the base. Outside of the Dragon Shield's protection, they would be vulnerable to fire, but they took the risk willingly, and besides, most Red Dragon defenses were now non-functioning. Lionel's group shot the last Red Dragon VTOL to the ground. The artillery took out the last remaining Red Dragon power resource, and the remainder of Red Dragon defenses (cyborgs excluded) shut down.

The Red Dragon cyborgs halted for a moment and lowered their guns. Sheridan's group destroyed the enemy cyborgs before Sheridan could offer them a chance of surrender. With nothing functional left in the Red Dragon base, Sheridan continued the orders to level the last Red Dragon base in the country. Already twenty minutes into this battle, it took an additional fifteen to completely level the base.

When the last salvo of mines detonated and the last cloud of dust had cleared, Sheridan counted up the losses. In total, over two hundred Red Dragon assorted hardpoints had been levelled, complemented by twenty heavy tanks, fifteen large VTOLs, twenty assorted base structures, and ninety enemy cyborgs. Sheridan's entire forces had lost 23 out of 100 units, and 40 of 160 men had lost their lives in the battle. Sheridan kept the Dragon Shield online, but he took a moment to step out of his jeep and examine the remains of the Red Dragon base. As if previously anticipating a major victory, Preybird salvage crews (including several Project research members) were quick to arrive on the base from several directions and pick up the assorted debris from everywhere. It took four equal-sized salvage groups to pick out everything valuable from the base. Falco was walking around on the charred ground, looking at everything.

The final report of Red Dragon casualties soon came in. The Red Dragon lost their largest base yet, but somehow managed to do so without any casualties...much like base Wyvern before it. Sheridan wondered at the reason why. The base could not have been abandoned, but neither could it be controlled remotely when all means of communications (HQ, sensors, etc.) were cut-off.

Sheridan climbed back into his jeep. Nigel drove by and stopped for a moment. "I suppose we should thank the Sea Dragon. It's EMF generator saved our skin."

Sheridan nodded. "That is right. At least the Dragon Shield works..." He looked skywards at the western horizon; first with his bare eyes, then with his binoculars. "And not a moment too soon, either..."

Nigel looked at Sheridan. Sheridan was watching the sky not with gratitude, but rather, with terror . . . .