Lance Corporal Ladin of 2nd Battalion, Falcon Company, Platoon 3, Section 4 laid low in his concealed foxhole, watching the appearance of the first Imperial river barge being paddled by slaves coming down the river before him and his section.
His company Lieutenant hissed urgently, "Keep your heads down! If those Blue Boys spot you! You gonna get toilet cleaning duties for the whole damn month!"
The men instinctively ducked their heads lower, no one wants to clean the toilets for a month! Ladin gently parted the drapes of foliage before him and slowly slid his M1 Magelock forward and leaned against the buttstock.
"Make ready!" The Lieutenant whispered and the NCOs echoed slowly down the line. The men checked their weapons, removing safeties and aimed at the fast approaching river ships.
Suddenly, a soft low buzz slowly roared louder and the water around the leading ship churned up with water splashes and smoke. The roar of several biplanes screamed over the hidden Marines and the Air Force Cobras timed their attack perfectly.
The Imperial soldiers on board the river barges were on alert after experiencing the sudden attack before. Almost immediately, thunder cracks of lightning streaked from the ships to connect with the fast evading Cobras.
Loud cracks, smoke, and sparks erupted from one of the Cobras but the lightning spell did not appear to affect the Cobras, much to the surprise of the Imperial soldiers and sailors.
The Cobras were built with a static wick which was a piece of metal electrically grounded, to the frame of the aircraft, with one or two spikes or needles on the end.
It was housed in a fiberglass rod to insulate it from the biplane and the spikes concentrate the electric charge around them, and since they are connected to the airframe, they allow the airplane to dissipate any static electricity it may build up out into the air. The lightning spell slammed against the airframe of the biplane only to go through the dissipator and was discharged safely away from the plane but minor damages were still dealt on to the wooden airframe, causing it to catch fire.
The pilot of the smoking Cobra hit by the lightning bolt hit his fire extinguishers, which wreathed the plane in a white cloud which doused the burning embers on its wooden frame. The pilot spun the agile fighter in the air to further douse any remaining embers before circling back to engage the Imperial fleet.
The Cobras broke formation and focused their attention at the middle and rear of the Imperial River Fleet, their .50 cal and 20 mm cannons punching holes easily into the fat and slow river barges.
"Platoon Three!" The Lieutenant yelled. "Target the forward vessel! Platoon Four! Aim for the next vessel down the line!"
Ladin had his sights over one of the deck ballista where several sailors and soldiers were crewing it. On hearing the order to fire, he squeezed his trigger, feeling the sharp kick of his rifle against his shoulder and he vaguely saw the figure he was aiming at fell.
He quickly worked the rifle bolt and switched target, aiming for the confused ballista crews and fired again and again.
Titanna cursed as she instinctively ducked when the strange flying creatures roared overhead. She flung her hands out and chanted, "LIGHTNING BOLT!"
To her surprise, she clearly saw her Level 3 Lightning spell hit the belly of one of the flying creatures but it just wagged its strange body and a puff of white smoke covered its whole body before the creature looped back and started roaring back in anger and spitting some kind of spells at her ships again!
"What manner of monsters are they?" Titanna clenched her fists tightly. "Ballistas and bowmen! Take them down now!"
She raised her hands up and a magic circle started forming in the air as she readied another spell to repent the dangerous flying monsters when suddenly the narrow banks on both sides of the river erupted into fires and thunder!
Mills had looped his arms around the harness of Blue Dragon and clung as tight as he could to the dragon. He could smell a strong musky and earthy smell coming from its glossy blue reddish scales. The rest of the Marine Raiders, fourteen in total including him had all similarly hooked themselves onto the harness of the dragon on both sides of its belly.
"The mid and rear of the fleet is tangled up by the Cobras!" Stamford yelled from the top of the dragon to Mills. "Your Marines have engaged the forward elements of the fleet! The smoke from the burning ships will provide cover for us!"
"You guys ready?" Stamford yelled again.
"ALWAYS READY!" The Raiders cried back. "HOOO RAAH!"
"Let's go kick ass!"
Blue Thunder gave a growl and he leaped into the air, flapping his wings mightly and the Marine Raiders hooked to the side of his belly yelled out in excitement.
"There! You see her?" Stamford yelled at Blue Thunder who without a word, aimed towards the river barge where he could see a sad curled up red dragon.
"RASTRAZZZZZ!!!" Blue Thunder roared out as he closed the distance to the ship easily through the smoke. He flapped his wings hurried to a hover, barely a couple of meters over the deck of the river barge where the sailors and soldiers looked up in shock and horror at the sudden appearance of a heavyweight dragon!
"GO GO GO!" Stamford yelled once he was certain Blue Thunder was directly over the ship, just as the dragon's aircrew manning the three MGs fired into the crowd of Imperials.
Half a dozen lines were thrown down when they saw they were over the ship and the Marine Raiders hit the quick release on their restraints when they heard the order.
They fast roped down the lines in two waves midsts the surprised and dying Imperials and whipped their weapons out to finish off those still standing while the aircrew detached the lines off.
Blue Thunder flapped his wings and leaned forward, flying away to provide air cover as he was too big and slow a target for the ballistas if he remained hovering over the ship. "Ras! Hold on! I will be back!"
Mills shook his head at the dragon which vanished into a plume of black smoke and concentrated on his mission. The river barge was built in a wide rectangle shape with a squarish castle like top at the back portion almost like an ancient Chinese or Japanese warship.
Two ballistas that were larger than the 3" guns batteries sat on the forward side of the flat deck while the captive red dragon was tied down on the bow of the barge. The covering fire from the MGs onboard Blue Thunder had cleared the decks, making it slippery with blood.
"Second Squad! Provide cover!" Mills ordered and he half jogged over to the chained dragon. "First Squad on me! Move!"
As Mills approached the chained down Rastraz, he looked at the hope glowing in her eyes. The Imperials had wrapped so many chains that were as thick as his arm around the dragon that she looked kinda comical.
With her jaws chained shut, Rastraz could only blink her eyes rapidly at the hooman before her, while trying to struggle out of the heavy chains. "MMMHMMMMMMM!!!!"
"Hey, Princess!" Mills teased. "We are gonna get you out of these chains soon, alright? Just hang tight there!"
"Cut those chains!" Mills ordered his men, while he circled around the dragon to see if there was an easy way to get her out. He also noticed the strange markings on the floor and guessed that it should be some kind of spell to restrain the red dragon's power.
"CONTACTS!" The Second Squad Leader yelled. They had piled and stacked up the dead Imperials into a gruesome cover and were hunkering behind the bodies and firing at any Imperials archers or crossbowmen that tried to get to the top decks from the pilot house / castle.
Some of the Marine Raiders grabbed fallen weapons and hacked against the thick chains but were unable to break them. "Fuck this!" Mills cursed as his hand tingled painfully after trying to chop the chains with a borrowed ax.
"Blow it up!" Mills ordered. He winked at the golden wide eyed panicked expression of Rastraz as she heard his order. "Don't worry love, we will get you out!"
The men slapped blocks of explosive all over the chains, they had used the smallest charge to prevent accidentally blowing up the dragon they were supposed to rescue along with the chains.
"FIRE IN THE HOLE!"
A loud crack followed by metallic ringing was heard and once the smoke cleared, Mills saw some of the chains barely broke. "What the fuck is this made out of?"
He picked up a fragment of the chain and it was barely even warm! But the good thing was that at least some of the chains had snapped and they could kinda unroll the chains off Rastraz.
"Sarge! They got Mages!" The Second Squad leader yelled. "They got bloody magic shields!"
"So? We got RPGs!" Mills barked angrily. "We win!!"
Seconds later, Mills heard the telltale whoosh of an RPG rocket followed by a loud clap and the whole barge shook wildly. He turned and saw a large smoking hole on the superstructure of the barge.
"Magic my ass, eat RPGs!" Mills shook his head. "Second Squad clear that structure! See if there is any valuable intel to grab!"
"Aye aye!" The Second Squad stormed into the superstructure and gunfire resumed.
Finally, with the chains loosen enough, Rastraz started squirming and pushing the loose chains off her body. She moaned in pain and stretched out her badly bruised wings and growled at Mills.
"Are you trying to save me or kill me?" She hissed unhappily as she licked her body where the explosives had blown the chains off.
"What? No thanks?" Mills sighed dramatically. "What a bad mannered dragon..."
"You!" Rastraz could only stamp her tail in anger. "THANKS!"
"Alright, alright, just teasing you!" Mills grinned. "Think you can fly?"
"Hmph!" Rastraz snorted and tested her wings. "I think so..."
She narrowed her golden eyes at the spell formation around her before she pointed with one claw at a spot. "Destroy that spot! And here and here too!"
Mills nodded and had his men plant more explosives. After they detonated the explosives, they saw the below decks had some kind of glowing stones. "Woah, are those mana stones?"
"Destroy it or remove it!" Rastraz growled. "It's powering the magic formation and preventing me from using my magic!"
"Got it!" A couple of the Marine Raiders hopped down the deck and carefully pulled the large head sized mana stone out. Rastraz immediately felt some of her power returning and she quickly directed the Marines to destroy and remove another four more mana stones under the decks.
Mills looked at his watch, he could still hear gunfire happening from the front but they had spent almost thirty minutes trying to get Rastraz out. Any longer, it will be hard for extraction. "All done?" He yelled at his men and the red dragon. "We need to go soon!"
"Done!" Rastraz grinned and she flapped her wings happily. The men backed off from her as they felt waves of heat emitting out from her body. "Time for revenge!"
"Revenge my ass!" Mills cursed loudly and fired a flare into the sky."Get your ass to safety! You barely recovered! I won't come and save your ass the second time if you get caught here again!"
Chastised, Rastraz stopped emitting her magic out and lowered her head impishly.
"Blue Thunder is coming to bring us out!" Mills glared at the red dragon twiddling her claws together. "You better be good and follow along, or we leave you here!"
"Alright! Bring those mana stones along!" Mills ordered. "And grab some of those chains too! I think they are quite valuable! And give me all your explosives!"
The Marine Raiders quickly grabbed the large mana stones and a few lengths of chains and stuffed them into their backpacks after emptying them of explosives. The large figure of Blue Thunder suddenly appeared from the smoke and he hovered anxiously over the men, his body too large and heavy to land on the damaged barge. "Ras! Ras! Are you okay?!"
Mills dropped his backpack filled with explosives into the lower deck after lighting the fuze. He grinned as he quickly gathered his men and climbed the swaying ropes back up to the body of the Blue Thunder.
"Never ever mess with the UN armed forces!"