WINGS OF FLAME
By Matt TALON Kirkby
Razorwing was standing on the command deck of his
flagship, Aviary, when his seven-ship task force-his personal combat
unit, known as the Feathered Furies-emerged from hyperspace. "ETA at
"Ten minutes at our current speed."
"All ships report combat-readiness, Commander."
"Stand by to launch fighter escorts." Razorwing
frowned as a slight flicker on one monitor caught his optic. "What is
that reading in sector seven?"
"A minor radiation distortion...nothing harmful.
Fledgling has scanned the area thoroughly and detected nothing."
"Keep an optic on it anyway." Razorwing turned his
attention back to the main display. His Tarn-class frigates were in a
standard layered attack formation, now proceeded by seven full
squadrons of fighter-mode Decepticons. "Any communications from the
"Just what I've intercepted so far," she replied.
"Standard planetary stuff...mainly entertainments, and a few boring
reports on civilian channels. No challenges to us, or requests for our
Razorwing smiled. "Hail the planetary government."
Surely they had seen his fleet by now...if they hadn't, it was too bad;
even if they had seen him, reports indicated the planet had only a
limited military force available with which to defend itself. "Open
message, all frequencies: attention, leaders of Lithone,.. in the name
of the Decepticon Empire, you are hereby ordered to surrender to us.
Resistance will be dealt with by maximum force." He nodded to an
officer. "Target the asteroid at bearing one five seven mark
A brief burst of energy fire from Aviary's forward
particle beams turned the asteroid into glittering dust.
"Incoming signal, Commander...the duly elected
government of Lithone surrenders." Chirp grinned from the
corn-station-that reply had been so fast! "Well an official cease-fire
at any rate. They wish to discuss terms of any occupation, pending an
official surrender, but they ask that you refrain from bombardment
during the negotiations."
Razorwing chuckled. "A bombardment would make them
agree to our demands even faster, but an intact world is far more
valuable to us than one which has been blasted into rubble."
"Continue along current course...standard parking
orbit. Have the Raptor and Fledgling proceed to the far side of the
planet. Prepare ground troops for deployment. Secure all major military
outposts and population centers." Just like standard procedures
dictated. "Sub-commanders have permission to return fire if attacked.
No pre-emptive strikes though."
"Yes, Commander." Chirp began issuing the orders to
the rest of the task force. It was pretty standard stuff, really, given
that the planet had surrendered without even offering the pretence of a
Razorwing turned back to staring out of an armored
viewport. "Megatron wants this world claimed by the Empire...I will not
hand him a war-torn ruin." He would prove his ability and show the
Supreme Commander his true worth...then he might get assigned to a task
worthy of a Decepticon warrior. "Inform Lithone's leaders to prepare
for my arrival. When I have proof of their loyalty, I will see about
selecting a suitable governing council to advise the new planetary
governor." Which would probably be himself, he thought with a pleased
smile. And governing a world was a small step towards the next
Feeling smug, and confident with the ease of his
success, Razorwing turned to his sensor officer. "Yes, Eagle-eye?"
"Sensors detect' several vessels emerging from
"Unknown." Eagle-eye sounded mildly alarmed. "Fifty
vessels detected. Scanning them now."
"Incoming signal.. .trying to pinpoint it's origin,"
Chirp said. "It's coming from all the ships!"
"On speaker," Razorwing wondered what pathetic and
empty threat these new arrivals would make, blustering and trying to
bluff an obviously superior lifeform. Perhaps, he mused, they would
pose some mild threat and have to be taught a lesson...and that would
increase his own standing among the Decepticons. A grin pulled at his
mouth...either way he would gain prestige.
Chirp finished adjusting the corn-system.
"All mechanoids within the Lithone sector," a harsh
voice announced, "please be advised that by the will of our Lord
Primus, all ships, weaponry, and equipment present will be rendered
inoperative. Do not resist, or you will be harmed. We repeats all
"'Lord Primus'?" Razorwing tilted his head in
puzzlement. That message was the last thing he had expected to hear,
and now he was unsure how to continue. "Tactical analysis."
"Fifty vessels, all identical designs. Length of
twelve hundred metres, numerous weapon emplacement-they're powering
up!" Eagle-eye finished in a shout.
"Battle stations!" Razorwing felt his frigate
shudder under enemy particle beams. "Return fire!" The lightpanels
dimmed slightly as more power was transferred to the weapon systems.
"Report, all stations 1"
"Shields are down fifty per cent...several emitters
are badly damaged."
"The Fledgling has been completely destroyed. Enemy
vessels are concentrating their firepower on one ship at a time...I've
never seen anything like it."
Razorwing cursed. Tarn-class frigates should not
fall before enemies so quickly. "Signal the Raptor to flank us...lock
all our weapons onto the lead ships and-"
"Raptor has been disabled. They're drifting, though
their weaponry remains functional."
Razorwing cursed even as fresh explosions rocked his
battered flagship. "All weapons, fire at will! Release all ships to
independent control...fight to the death!"
"Enemy vessels are launching fightercraft."
"Launch our own Birds-of-Prey...intercept and
destroy." He was being distracted...his own aerospace forces-highly
trained yet sorely lacking actual combat experience-could surely handle
anything the enemy could throw at them, "Weapon status?"
"We have destroyed four enemy warships, make that
seven. * .most' of the survivors are now concentrating on us. Over half
the enemy are now moving towards the planet, standard englobement
"Priority signal to the Dark Glory!" Razorwing
snapped. He disliked the sense of failure that order gave him, but that
sense of failure was nothing compared to losing his entire fleet' to
some new enemy. 'Victory is easier to share than defeat,' the quote
from the Vos Military Academy ran. "Inform t'hem of our current
situation, Chirp, and request immediate reinforcements." He had little
desire to share the glory of conquering a planet, yet this unknown
enemy was more powerful than he had thought and the utter destruction
of his command would not benefit the Decepticon Empire in any way.
"Message transmitting now...there's some kind of
interference signal, Commander. It might be natural, or it could be
generated from those ships." Chirp stabbed at the controls with fierce
finger strokes. "I cannot break through it or confirm if our original
signal got through."
Razorwing cursed again. "Keep transmitting, Chirp."
Maybe something would get through-
"Hey, I've-oh slag!" Chirp frowned, "I thought I had
something there, but it's only a signal from Lithone...Commander, they
are asking the new arrivals for help in overthrowing us!"
Treachery! Razorwing was incensed-they had been
conquered fairly, after all, and this request for outside help was pure
treachery, "I will see Lithone destroyed for this!" Razorwing vowed. "I
will personally see its capitol razed! Its skies darkened with the
ashes of its civilization-" He broke off as the Aviary shuddered again.
"Launch all jets, even the reserves ...gun crews, fire at will!"
Between the groups of large warships, the Birds
engaged the enemy fighters. The Birds were all identical in
design-forward-swept wings, tipped with laser cannon, though their
colour schemes varied-but so were the enemy fighters. The fighters
attacked in unison, selecting targets and firing energy cannon as
groups...the Birds moved as individuals, some covering one another,
others ignoring their comrades.
Tailfeather, chief flight leader, directed several
of his fellows to intercept a squadron of fighters heading towards the
disabled Raptor, then he personally led another group against a second
squadron. Tailfeather enjoyed the thrill of aerial combat ...he had
studied the exploits of Starscream and the Seekers-on which the Birds
had been modeled-but knew he lacked the actual combat experience which
had honed the Seekers into true warriors. "Now I get ray chance to
stretch my wings," he muttered.
Observing the battle from his flagship, Razorwing
issued new desperate orders. He'd rejoiced as several more enemy
vessels were destroyed, and winced as casualty reports arrived from the
Birds. He saw the battle's outcome clearly, despite his apparent
victories. "Helm, set a course for the nearest outpost in the Empire,"
he ordered grimly even as three more enemy ships blew apart. "All
surviving ships will jump to hyperspace as quickly as possible! Recall
fighters...but abandon them if necessary." He hated to run-even from a
lost battle-and his circuitry shuddered in disgust at being ready to
abandon his comrades, but Megatron must be informed of this new
enemy-which could not happen if all the Furies were destroyed-and then
that enemy must be punished. "And I will be part of the punishment," he
vowed softly. "We will be avenged."
"The Starhawk is hyperspace ready," Chirp reported,
"The Raptor will cover our withdrawal. They'll make the enemy pay for
"Their sacrifice will be remembered!"
"We've recovered fifty Birds, but another
seventy-six are unable to break off in time to regroup." Eagle-eye
didn't mention that over three hundred Birds had been destroyed. "Enemy
fighter losses have been equally heavy."
Razorwing sighed and slumped wearily into his chair.
Almost two-thirds of his command had been obliterated in one battle-in
less than twenty minutes, by the Pit! "Jump to hyperspace," he ordered