Blood dripped from his nose; drops of it slowly fell on the controls before him. The vast war machine he was strapped into shuddered and heaved as it slowly crumbled onto the ground. Without his input, not even the immense multi-ton gyro could keep it afoot.

The sun's rays started to poke through the window, its light mixing with the thin sheets hanging over the window, filling the room with a soft green light. The morning sun was enough to rouse him to out of his half sleeping state, and he rolled over to look at the woman that lay beside him. She was beautiful, and the soft green rays playing over her face and auburn hair only made her more so. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close, feeling the warmth of her skin against his own; he planted soft kisses along her neck. She smiled and reached back, stroking his face as she murmured her love for him.

Explosions rocked the valley around the fallen machine. A number of armoured personnel carriers around it scattered, seeking to evade the barrage of long range missiles. Two Jenners approached from the front, while Dragons and armoured vehicles moved into position or fired their missile packs along the ridge lines.

"Get up," a voice whispered urgently over the comm., "please, get up."

"Get up" she chided him playfully as he lay sprawled out in the bed. She was getting dressed, crushing his hopes for a morning continuation of the previous night's activity. He had other plans. He sat up and reached out for her, and she came to him. He pulled her in close, harder than she expected and kissed her deeply. Their mouths opened and tongues met; all thoughts of getting out of bed left the both of them. Her hands reached behind her back and she let the bra fall.

Every inch of his body raged against him, his head felt like a thousand knives carving through it. Blood continued to pour from his nose, and his vision was blurred, both by tears and overwhelming pain. He could smell ozone, much of his console was burnt out, the canopy melted away and cracked in other places. The hoses that connected his cooling vest to the command console were severed. He could feel vomit rising in the back of his throat. The darkness threatened to envelope him in its sweet embrace, free him from the pain. He couldn't think, couldn't concentrate, didn't even know where he was, all he knew was the pain that filled every fibre of his being.

They lay in bed together, panting, a bit sweaty, but satisfied. They rolled towards each other and embraced, planting soft kisses along each others necks. She buried her head into the nape of his neck. He could feel her breath against his flesh. He closed his eyes and held her tight, wanting nothing more than to stay like this forever.

It couldn't last however, and after only a few minutes she whispered to him, "you need to get up."

"Get up! Please, I'm begging you, get up!" the comm. screamed at him.

The voice shook him from the sweet soft embrace of darkness. He raised his head ever so slightly. Despite the damage some of his instruments still worked. There were a handful of green dots, and many more red ones all around them. An arrow pointed north, towards salvation, if not for him, than at least for those with him. He didn't quite know what was going on, but bits and pieces flashed back into his mind, made themselves known through the pain and the haze.

"We need you!"

He felt like he should know who it was that screamed at him, but he couldn't place it. He just knew that something stirred inside him, something ancient, something primal. An instinct passed down from the days a man would stand with a fire hardened spear between a sabre toothed tiger and a makeshift lean to so many years ago. He shifted in his seat, raised his hands to the sticks and placed his feet on the pedals of the metal beast he commanded. He didn't think, not consciously, just acted the way he had so many times before. The machine shifted, but its mass, the shattered structure of it, and the pain all fought against him.

From deep inside him a roar emerged, could be heard even over the sounds of battle outside if you were close enough. He pushed hard against the sticks that resisted him, forced the pedals to work. The machine shifted, slowly at first, its arm pressing down on the ground for leverage. It rose, stood upon its feet, its right arm raised, particle cannon at the ready.

He was up now, dressed too. She had raised herself from bed as well, gotten dressed and stepped out. All he had left of her at the moment was a cup of tea she had made him and the lingering sensation of her body pressed against his. There was no time for that now though, he had a mission. A simple but necessary duty to perform and though he wanted nothing more than to return to that bed and bring her with him he forced himself forward. He stretched his arms, worked his shoulders and neck, forcing himself awake and alert for the day ahead.

Though it had seemed like an eternity to pull his machine to its feet and get back in the fight, it had been only seconds from when he fell to when he rose again. The arm mounted cannon spat forth manmade lightning, slamming into the torso of the Jenner on the right. A massive explosion tore through the torso, violently splitting the black and red machine in two and spraying the area with debris. It continued forward for a few meters before both pieces of wreckage fell to the ground.

The fallen 'mech's partner responded with a barrage of missiles but despite the pain and the damaged state of his machine he managed to dodge to the side and open fire with his lasers and missiles. Only a couple of missiles struck, and a laser went wide, but having so much armour flayed off in a single salvo and its partner struck down made the Jenner reconsider and it ran to the side, seeking the cover of its ridge top comrades.

With the cooling vest severed and some of his heat sinks destroyed, the heat of his weapons fire flooded into the cockpit. Blood still dripped down from his nose and he choked on smoke and ozone and the thick oppressive air around him. Not even the split open canopy could wash away the ever increasing heat that seemed to burn the very air.

The sun was up, but it wasn't the soft warmth that crept through the barracks windows, but a harsh heat that made him sweat even though he wore nothing more than shorts and a cooling vest. The shade offered by the makeshift 'mech bay did little to help. A couple of techs finished off on checks for his machine before he set out, and he headed to the ladder that would take him up to the cockpit of the massive war machine that stood before him.

"She's all set sir, should be a nice easy patrol," the tech nodded as he cleared away the diagnostic equipment.

Sweat poured down his face, stinging his eyes and blurring his sight. He wiped it away and tried to focus. The Jenners were dealt with but they weren't the only threats about. Contacts came in from behind, and the Dragons on the ridges poured long range missiles and autocannon fire down onto both him and the personnel carriers around him. The small tracked vehicles couldn't take the punishment he could, but they could move faster and were able to avoid most of the attention.

Despite that speed one of the carriers was slowing, its side armour had been blasted apart by missiles and now autocannon fire raked through the dirt towards it. He pushed his machine forward, putting himself between the vehicle and the incoming fire. It stitched its way up his 'mech's leg, punching through shattered armour plates and cutting into the actuators and myomer bundles within. His machine stumbled, but he kept it upright, swung his particle cannon outward and responded with a blast of lightning.

His machine stumbled forward from the impact, a blast from a particle cannon to his rear right torso. It didn't slow him down and he twisted the machine's torso to face his opponent. His own particle cannon flashed in response, followed by his lasers and missiles. The attacking Panther was already battered by his lance mates, and it couldn't take the punishment. Only a Jenner was left standing of the company that had ambushed them. It would be quite the accomplishment, were it not for the three fallen 'mechs that littered the ground that had been his lance earlier that morning. Over the comm. he could hear the cries for help from base. The cries for help from her, they were overrun, and trying to get everyone they could out in the APCs since they had no heavy 'mechs left to protect them.

He brought his 'mech back around to face the Jenner, brought his sights over the fast moving light 'mech, and promised himself that he'd be there for her soon.

Galleon light tanks roared in from the rear, splashing his rear armour with laser fire, cutting into the structure and knocking out one of his lasers. The rear firing Martells still worked and he fired them out in response. A lucky hit, one of the tracks on a Galleon came apart and the vehicle skidded sideways. The others split formation, trying to avoid the lasers and short range missiles he fired out as he brought his machine around. They shot back, some shots went wide, and others burned away what structure and armour he had left.

A barrage of missiles from the ridge top vehicles and 'mechs descended on him. His machine was slammed to the side, its left leg giving way. He fought the controls, and fought through the pain and the thick fiery air in the cockpit that burned away at his lungs. More lasers fired out, alarms screamed at him, and he brought his machine to rest leaning on what was left of its right leg. Somehow it held firm and he raised his particle cannon, firing out at one of the Galleons it cut right through the armour and the vehicle came to a stop, joining two of its comrades now out of commission as well.

The base was burning, the headquarters was gone, the barracks smashed to rubble. Some of the remaining armour and infantry tried to hold out, but any 'mechs that may have been left were long destroyed. A column of armoured personnel carriers was positioned on the edge of camp, survivors rushed into them. He pushed his machine forward, he was outnumbered, but he couldn't abandon those survivors in the vehicles. A familiar voice came over the comm. and she told him they had saved everyone they could, she would lead them to safety, but she needed someone to protect them on the way.

The man in charge of the tanks cut into the conversation then, the tanks and infantry couldn't hope to keep up with the personnel carriers, but they could hold off the forces attacking and buy them time to escape. The tank commander said that the 'mech could keep up, if only barely, but would be the best bet to see them safely to their destination. He didn't want to leave his comrades behind, but he couldn't abandon her either. He fired off a few shots with his particle cannon and followed the APCs as they fled.

The surviving Galleon turned back and fled. Its crew had no desire to face his firepower by themselves. The short fight had held him back; the APCs were far ahead now. They had given up trying to stay with their protector. The only question he had was whether he had ordered them on or not, the heat was overwhelming, and the feedback from the neurohelmet left his mind hazy.

Missiles came down around them, one of the APCs was a burning wreck, the others scattered, trying to evade. He fired off his particle cannon, and responded to a Dragon getting near with lasers and his six-pack of missiles. The Jenner he had been firing on took the opportunity to fall back, the armour across its torso turned to slag by his energy weapons. This wasn't a regular dragon; it was a newer model, a Grand Dragon. Its own particle cannon blasted away armour from his machine's torso. His response was a full alpha strike, much of it hitting the Grand Dragon's legs as it tried to pull back. The machine came down on its left leg, now devoid of armour and much of its structure. The leg collapsed and the machine fell. He peeled away more of its armour with his lasers and closed in for the kill.

The Dragons and the damaged Jenner came down from the ridges, firing off autocannons and missiles as they came. The arms and torsos of his machine gave way, structure shredded to pieces by the fire. Bits of gyro and engine shielding were ripped away as well and the machine finally collapsed. The screaming alarms ceased, the screens that were left went dark. The once majestic beast of steel fell back, all around it lay scraps of armour plate, shattered steel bones and myomer muscles torn to shreds.

The pain in his head came back like an axe splitting his skull. He couldn't feel most of his body, could only barely twist his head. Coherent thoughts were few and far between the bouts of darkness and sheer torment he was under. Despite all that threatened to overwhelm him, he could tell whole minutes had passed since his fall. It seemed strange that none of his opponents had bothered to finish him yet.

More minutes passed, he couldn't tell where he was anymore. He didn't even know who he was, he just knew pain, and burning, and that there were a few scraps of what had been a canopy of some sort in front of him, with a man peering down at him. The man wore nothing more than a vest and shorts, slanted eyes squinted against the harsh light of the sun. The man held a pistol in his hand, but didn't raise it. Instead the man looked to the distance and he followed the man's gaze. Out there a small dot could be seen on a pillar of fire, rising ever higher into the sky. He didn't know what it meant, but it brought a smile to his face.

The man looked down at him, he looked almost sad, and then raised the pistol to fire.

The Grand Dragon burned, half collapsed on the ground, but it wasn't quite done yet. He pushed his own machine forward, firing his lasers at it, cutting through the structure as he tried to knock out the fusion reactor that served as the enemy 'mech's heart. He fired off a barrage of missiles, but before they hit the Grand Dragon made one last act of defiance, its armed was raised, and the particle cannon flashed one last time. The streak of manmade lighting smashed into his cockpit and it seemed like a star bursting before his very eyes before he was knocked unconscious.