Canto 24 – Attack on White Palm
White Sword Corsairs were long, stiletto-shaped vessels with a wicked array of pulse lasers, microwave beamers, and contact missiles. Two hundred of the deadly craft led by Arkin Cloudstalker himself had joined Tron’s own one hundred and eighty Pinwheel Corsairs in high orbit above the desert planet, White Palm.
“Cloudstalker? This is Tron. Do you see any sign of space forces?”
“None,” came the quick reply. “Amin would be here if he intended to oppose us.”
“Do you think we took the Count by surprise?”
“Not a chance. He knows we’re here. If he’s not laying for us in space, he has a trap set up on the planet.”
“Do you have ground assault vehicles aboard your corsairs?”
“Sorry, Brother Tron. We didn’t come prepared for that.”
“We have two aboard each Pinwheel. Can you at least provide air cover?”
“Oh, most definitely. We’re the best you’ve ever seen.”
“You fly like a bunch of girls,” said Tron with a snort of laughter.
“Women, Blastarr! That makes all the difference!” asserted Cloudstalker.
The Pinwheels began spiraling down into the hot, cloud-free atmosphere of the desert planet. Elvis the Cruel led the way, lasering the desert below out of sheer spite and meanness. Sheherazade flew her pinwheel right behind. The King of Killers was on her tail with Courtney Blake right behind him.
Cloudstalker led the White Swords in a classic “V”formation, with his only male ace, Apache Scout, on his wing. The Lady Knights all followed smoothly in ground attack formation, spreading out in a slowing double chevron.
It became obvious what tactics Count Nefaria had chosen to employ. The desert was covered by huge robotic walkers, some on two feet, some on four, and even a dozen or so of the six-legged battle platforms. Plasma beams sprayed out in a flytrap pattern that took out seventeen Pinwheel Corsairs on the first volley. The beams were hot enough to burn directly through energy shields and leave wide swaths of glass on the deserts of White Palm when they fell to the planet.
“Tron Blastarr, you are outmatched,” came the effete voice of Count Nefaria over the general com channel. “A wise corsair would count his losses and fly away!”
“Nobody ever accused me of being wise, Old Dracula!” shouted Tron. “I’ve come to stake you once and for all before the fall of darkness.”
“Big words!” said Nefaria, apparently commanding another volley of plasma fire. The words had actually been normal-sized, not big at all, but Nefaria had a reputation for being very cruel and not terribly bright.
Apache Scout was hit, though not fatally. His White Sword and crew of four arced down into the palm trees near Nefaria’s Oasis City. A Lady Knight named Stella also caught a plasma beam, but it struck the cockpit, vaporizing all aboard.
Cloudstalker’s deadly corsairs attacked with heat-seeking contact missiles. Four hundred missiles made four hundred separate hits. Two six-legged battle platforms went down along with the 398 walkers. Robot parts were splashed all over the desert. Tron could picture Nefaria’s monocled face turning pale as he witness the robotic death and carnage.
Elvis the Cruel flew over the Oasis City shield tower, burning it with a sheet of laser fire and causing a series of explosions that caused the building to fold down into the ground, smoking and spewing debris. Elvis’ Pinwheel curvetted and landed two cliques outside the city wall. He was the first Pinwheel pilot to deploy his two ground vehicles. They were tracked ATV’s with pulse laser cannons, the kind that corsairs referred to as “killer campers”.
As Elvis personally drove towards the walls in his first vehicle, he was hailed by a downed pilot coming out of the palm trees near the reservoir.
“Hey, stupid white man! I am Apache Scout. Give me an ATV and I will slay these metal men for you!”
Elvis knew his old enemy, and gladly surrendered command of ATV 2 to him. Apache Scout was a full-blooded Pan Galactican Indian, and known for his combat piloting abilities. He could fly or drive anything on the battlefield.
Tron successfully landed his two ATV’s as well. His beautiful wife and young son rode with him. If they were going to die in battle, better, Tron reasoned, to all die together. He knew he could never live without either one of them. After landing, a battle walker with four legs, called a Road Warrior, smashed in the side of Tron’s number two ATV. The four crewmen were killed instantly as their own missile battery gutted their vehicle.
Tron, taking offense, cut the head and front legs off the robot, pitching it sideways into the blazing wreck of Number Two.
Sheherazade’s lead ATV, the one she piloted herself, was caught between a two-legged Desert Rat, and a six-legged battle platform. The plasma energy burned off the back half of her ATV.
In the next few moments, King Killer flew into a supernatural rage, driving down the Desert Rat and pumping the underside of the battle platform full of hot laser fire. As the platform burned and toppled to the desert, King leaped out of his ATV and plunged into the wreckage to find Sheherazade. Tron was certain he had just lost two aces from the Pinwheel Corsairs. Suddenly King emerged from the smoke and flames carrying the still living dark beauty in his arms.
Elvis and Apache Scout had fifteen kills between them, the highest of any ground pilots in the battle, when they finally breached the walls of Nefaria’s Command Bunker. The Battle of White Palm had officially ended in a victory for the raiders. All that remained was the fox hunt for Nefaria within the tunnels of his own complex.