Livia cursed herself for a fool. Scrounge was going to kill her, if the Atlantean morons on her tail didn't do it first. How could she have been so careless? She had been so caught up in watching the battle below, looking for good salvage opportunities, that she allowed herself to be marked as an outsider by these two dragonfly pilots, and had not even noticed them until they were almost in missile range.
It wasn't hopeless. Between being male, and their armor, and their field packs, the Atlanteans probably had twice the payload that she did. That meant that she should have the edge in performance, assuming the 'flies were the same to start with. She could only hope that they were.
Her first move was to run the wingbeat and wing chord to maximum, and try to get some distance and some altitude. She crouched low over the 'fly, both to make a smaller target and to cut wind resistance.
After a while, she had not been shot at, so she sat up and took a look back; the Atlanteans were falling behind, and she was gaining altitude on them, but they were still too close. She couldn't take the risk of them reporting that a non-Atlantean had captured one of their dragonflies, and that meant she couldn't just lose them; she had to kill them. It almost made her wish she had a weapon.
She had been watching the Atlanteans fly for years, and had really started to pay attention since Scrounge decided he wanted to capture a dragonfly. And she had REALLY paid attention since they had gotten one, and she had become the primary pilot. The Atlanteans pretty much rode the 'flies like they were horses, or maybe horses hung from cranes; they seemed to have no imagination at all. But that was the Atlanteans all over; brilliant engineers, mediocre generals, and soldiers that were just a notch or two smarter than the golems they fought alongside.
The Atlanteans had only been flying for a couple of generations, and still hadn't figured out most of the subtleties. The Draconum, on the other hand, had been flying for centuries, and had forgotten more about flying than the Atlanteans knew. Of course, the Atlanteans would never admit that; they were the master race.
As for herself, Scrounge had come up with a Draconum book on aerobatics and aerial combat from somewhere (Who knew how Scrounge got his claws on anything? He was Scrounge. After two years, that was still the best answer she had.), and she had tried every trick in it, once she and Scrounge had discussed how it would translate from a Draconum to a dragonfly. This might just be fun.
Livia judged that they had wandered far enough from the battlefield, and that she had enough altitude for her first gambit. She eased back on the chord and pushed the nose down a bit until the Atlanteans were level with her, then leveled off. She waited for them to catch up a bit; she didn't want to be in missle range, but she wanted them close enough that they tried to follow her move for move.
Now. Maximum chord, beat to zero; the 'fly lurched upward and forward as the air drained all of the energy out of the wing flywheels, then Livia pointed the nose down and the 'fly went into a steep dive. Livia leaned backward until the top of her head touched the flies tail; it looked silly, but it was the easiest way to look straight back. She was pleased to see that both of her pursuers were still running at full beat; a 'fly with still wings could out dive a 'fly under power by five to four, but no one had ever bothered to tell them that. She trimmed her 'fly to draw them in closer, and then...
Nose straight into the greenery, half roll, nose up, level out, then look back and assess damage. Livia grinned; one of the Atlantean 'flies was several hundred feet below her, trying to recover from being inverted under power; its pilot was lower still, tumbling toward a very unpleasant impact. The other 'fly was heading the opposite way at high speed; its pilot had refused the vertical dive. Livia took off after him at full speed.
This was going to make things a little more difficult. If she couldn't goad the fool into something stupid, she was going to have to find another way to take him out. And he still had... he had been second in line, that was the lightning gun. Oh, joy.
The Atlantean turned toward the battlefield, apparently intending to make his report, then saw Livia bearing down on him and turned to intercept. Livia saw him turn, and turned just a bit to make sure their courses didn't intersect. She did NOT want to go head to head with him, not when he was armed and she wasn't.
They were close, now. Livia had kept turning slightly away from the intercept point, so that now the Atlantean was tailing her again. She went through another long climb, then stilled the wings and led the Atlantean on a series of falling leaf banks while he closed on her. When she decided he was close enough, she held a left bank a little longer than he expected, and then jerked the control to the left and rolled out..
Livia didn't wait to stabilize on the level; she made a decent guess and then ran in full beat and full chord and charged straight for the other 'fly. The Atlantean saw her coming and started to both turn his 'fly and reach for his weapon, but he was slow on both; Livia came in over his 'fly's wings and hit him square in the chest with the nose of her 'fly. The impact knocked him out of his saddle, and he spent his last moments sprawled over the nose of Livia's 'fly, groping feebly for a handhold and looking at the strange woman who had just killed him. His eyes went dim, and he slid out of Livia's sight.
Livia stabilized her 'fly, then looked around for the Atlantean's craft. It was still following its last command, climbing in a slow spiral. Livia turn to approach it, and dug the tow cable out of a storage bin. As she flew up beneath the unmanned fly to attach the cable, she saw that the lighting gun was still in its scabbard.
Livia grinned. Maybe Scrounge wouldn't kill her, after all.
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