I am unit I-433-THY 'Ifreet' of the Line. That thought is one of the few clear ones as I come back online, I start a diagnostic that takes an embarrassingly long time to finish but a few seconds later I clear most of the corrupted sectors and thinking becomes easier. Error reports flood my consciousness as I try to assess my state, Hellrail #1 is inoperable and #2 is badly damaged, my cartridge system is jammed and it looks like the cartridges have corroded too much to be of any use at any rate. Backup reactors #2 and #3 are offline and my left rear side has been crushed. On and on the litany of woe goes, but I focus on what is important, I can still fight and there is an enemy inbound.
I spend a whole 482 microseconds clearing out corrupted data and analyzing where I am. My navigation system indicates that I am underneath Outpost #723, more commonly known as Laide, home to about two million Imperial Citizens. My sensors can readily confirm that I am indeed buried in rock, presumably my hangar has collapsed, but I do not detect any of the signs that the industry to support two million people would normally generate.
Without my commander and cartridge system my options are limited, it does not help that I am buried underground but at least that will give me the element of surprise. From the power output of the enemy I calculate that I will be able to kill or at least seriously injure the enemy if I can strike by surprise with a 92.34% confidence interval, but if the enemy gets a shield up that chance drops below 5.63%. Even as I move Hellrail #3 into position I prepare backup plans.
The lance of superheated plasma melts a way out of my rocky prison at nearly the speed of light, at the same time I divert power to my drive-train and AMF, and surge forward heading to the surface ready to follow up if needed. It is good that I did because as the interference clears I can see that the enemy managed to get a shield up. It's staggeringly strong, I quickly rule out all plans that would require a long distance duel, without cartridges or my commander I have nothing that can penetrate this shield at range. However the shield is optimized against energy weapons and is relatively weak against a large mass hitting it at speed.
Making my decisions in nanoseconds, in sharp contrast to my earlier sluggishness I jump, my infinite repeaters chattering, the railguns forcing the enemy to keep their shield up. In the 1.34 seconds it takes me to cross the distance between us the enemy attempts to dodge but my AMF disrupts the enemy enough so that it doesn't quite succeed, while the enemy clears my main bulk I manage to hit her with Hellrail #1, the two meter wide barrel impacting at 432.74 km/h shatters the shield and punts the enemy towards the ground.
Since I have limited mobility in the air I take some of the next 0.974 second until I reach the ground again to run a detailed analysis on the enemy. Female, nearly twelve years old and a power output of roughly 1.325 million lu, her linker core is clearly under heavy strain but not enough for it to give out in this battle. It has been a long time since I have seen a mage that old with that much power on the front lines, most either provide critical support services or where killed early in the war. One oddity I note is that while her magic signature is clearly of the enemy, she is using a cartridge system, I had wondered how long it would take for them to adopt our superior system.
I spend the remaining 0.971 seconds contemplating the blasted landscape and ruins of what was once a thriving outpost. So many dead by their hand, so many dead for this senseless war. I am ashamed to note that I have failed them, and I have failed the Imperial Dinochrome Brigade. Now the only thing that I can do is take vengeance so as to deny assets to the enemy, it is my duty, but I can't take any joy in it.
I finally land with a suspension jarring thud and new damage report flood in from my rear left side, but I ignore them, with power cut to that section and most of the insides crushed it is a total loss already. Amazingly she is already getting up, most mages, even veterans, would at least be stunned for a few seconds. With more and more of my infinite repeaters going offline due jams or problems with the ammunition feeds and my one remaining operable Hellrail still taking 4.32 seconds before it can be safely fired again I instead direct more power to my drive-train, as I spin around my bulk bearing down on her.
Her using a spell to detonate the ground between us, sending her tumbling away and diverting my course, is unexpected, and I downgrade my chances of wining accordingly. Overriding the locks on my Hellrail I fire again, striking the mage. Unfortunately her device acts in time to erect another shield, and I am forced to cut the beam short as the focusing system starts to melt. The Hellrail also wasn't meant for attacking targets that close and my front left armor has sustained damage, greatly exacerbated by the few nanoseconds where the relativistic plasma beam from the Hellrail lost focus.
She returns fire, lacing out with a pink beam that withers in my AMF but a clever system of multiple layers insulates the core of the beam sufficiently to let it strike my armor, leaving a sizable hole, but not damaging anything vital.
I surge forwards again ignoring the complaints of my drive-train at the strain, I must keep the mage within my AMF if I am to have any hope of victory. Yet even as I begin to surge forward I can detect several boulders that probably each mass as much as me lift into the air. Clever using their own linker shadow where my AMF effect is lessened. I franticly divert power from the AMF to increase power to my more intact right side drive-train, making me slew forwards and to the right, dodging the worst of it and taking the impacts of the supernaturally hardened boulders on my more intact right side. Each of the multi thousand ton rocks closing in at several hundred km/h hits with the impact of a nuclear weapon, but my armor was designed with that kind of abuse in mind. The impacts still disrupt my systems for a precious 3.54 milliseconds and when I come back online to a new litany of error reports including a hydrogen fire near my personality core. I override the automated eject sequence since I still have my vengeance and that of the millions of people that once called this home unfulfilled.
To keep the mage occupied I launch my four remaining drones, mainly to keep her within an AMF so she can't open the range. It takes me a precious 2.31 seconds to dig myself out of my rocky enclosure, during which time all my drones have been eliminated and the enemy is backing off. Luckily my long range sensors detect reinforcement inbound, I don't know what a Belkan Knight is still doing here, but if I can just keep the mage occupied for a bit longer I'll be able to ask myself.
Judging the complete loss of the weapon worthwhile I fire Hellrail #3 to keep the mage focused on me. True to form the mage hunkers behind her shield as I struggle to make progress against the recoil of my main armament. I keep firring for the entire 1.48 seconds before the barrel melts over my glacis plate due to the damaged focusing mechanism. In the meantime the fire has welded the emergency core dump shut, I'm well and truly trapped as more and more of my processing nodes go offline. My mind is steadily disappearing as my memories burn up one by one. I have already moved my most precious memories as far away from the fire as possible, tactics for fighting Midchildian mages and everything else of value in the current tactical situation, such as the drivers for my drive-train. The drivers for my inoperable infinite repeaters I have already consigned to the flames. And, selfishly, a holo of my commander, I do not want to forget her even in my last moments even as it marginally reduces the time until I will start losing tactically valuable data.
Barreling through the dust kicked up by my last shot I reacquire visual contact with the target, her eyes widen as she catches sight of my battered hull, still glowing cherry red from the melted Hellrail. I may be out of drones, railguns and other conventional weapons but I still have my AMF, most of my drive-train and I do mass 32'421 tons, minus some for the bits that fell off. Ramming is my only option, but without the ability to fly that is going to be hard. Luckily she's close to the ground, having attempted to duck under the Hellrail beam. I estimate I have a roughly 80% change of hitting, and with so many nodes down I struggle to get even that rough of an estimate. But then that is not my true intention, I am merely trying to keep her attention so that the Belkan Knight that should be in visible range in 0.271 seconds can end this quickly with a surprise attack, hitting her would just be a nice bonus, a final act of defiance against the enemy. It is a pitty that we must fight in this senseless war, she would probably have gotten along great with my commander.
I am distracted from my musing as I am suddenly blasted off course, and it takes me a second to realize that it was the Belkan Knight that hit me. Did she miss? I frantically try to reacquire the other two combatants and find the Belkan Knight helping the Midchildian Mage to her feet. I struggle to understand why one of the Knights would turn on me. The concept of treason is foreign to me, but traces of it still remain in my databanks. Focusing on the potential traitor I am nearly knocked offline with shock, I know that Knight, her likeness is stored in the safest place I have left, that is my commander. Obedience and honor routines struggle to determine what to do. With so many computational nodes down it actually takes me a moment to consider interrogating the Knights device for more information.
Laevantein turns out not to classify me as a friendly unit, no surprise considering my commanders actions, but it is willing enough to answer my queries. At first I don't understand the answers. While treason might be a hard to grasp concept for me peace is even more foreign to me. A union between our polities, or what remained of them after the war was honestly less surprising.
I am ashamed to note that I have attacked a legitimate Imperial officer, on an legitimate Imperial archaeological expedition, well such as it is in these times. It saddens me that I, probably the last of my kind am such a stain on the honor of the Imperial Dinochrome Brigade. However I can do at least one small thing to make up for my errors, I send Laevantein and Raising Heart the codes to shut down the guardian drones. Even with all that I am glad to have experienced peace, even if it was for just a short time. And so it is that I can surrender myself peacefully to the roaring flames, with my commander next to me and the world finally at peace.