Artaxus pulled himself entirely on to the ledge before I’d worked out a plan for our dive. I knew I didn’t want to get in reach of the dragon’s claws or in range of his breath.
“Laser?” I asked Haley.
She muttered the word, “Aiming,” only barely loud enough for me to hear, followed by the crackle and hum of the laser firing.
It hit the dragon’s back like her other shots had, destroying the creature’s scales, and cutting into its hide, cauterizing the wound even as it made it.
Artaxus’ head whipped around and he blew flame at us, but we were too far away and moving too quickly for the fire to do any real damage.
While the dragon’s neck was twisted upward, its eyes locked on us, a blue blur passed through the fog, and then stopped above the masses of goblins and fae. The goblins fired arrows at Izzy, doing no damage to her at all, hitting her and shattering.
I knew that technically it wasn’t her body that was invulnerable as much as protected by an invisible force field that she maintained unconsciously. The big clue was how the arrows didn’t damage her uniform either.
Not that it really mattered. She wasn’t flying in to punch the dragon. She opened her mouth and screamed. She’d been kind enough to aim her sonic blast so that it didn’t hit us directly, and I was grateful.
The whole mech shook anyway. I’d designed it to resist sonic attacks, but we could still hear the scream as a dim noise.
Artaxus took the blast directly.
His whole body stiffened in obvious pain, shaking, extending his shredded wings seemingly without realizing it and retracting them almost as quickly, giving a screech of pain as he did.
At the same time, he twisted his neck around, letting loose the most targeted blast of flame I’d seen so far from the creature. It hit Izzy full on, completely surrounding her.
I half expected her to shrug the blast off like she had so much, but she didn’t. She fell.
The blast passed into the fog, burning a hole through it near the top. It closed almost instantly. Hopefully no one else had been in the blast’s path.
Behind me, Haley gasped.
I brought the mech around in a tight turn that left my stomach queasy, and dove again. This time, I realized, taking Artaxus on claw to claw, and fang to fang, might be the only way to stop him from finishing Izzy off.
Below us, lightning flashed within the fog, and goblins and fae fell. As amazing as it was, Vaughn had to be getting tired. Artaxus strode toward Izzy, his own troops running to get out of his way as he walked, extending his neck and opening his mouth to bite.
Haley fired again, hitting him in the neck. At that he stopped walking, jerking his neck toward us, failing to hit us with his flame as the mech’s rockets gave the mech a speed the dragon couldn’t have anticipated.
Unfortunately, it was faster than I was comfortable with too. I’d aimed the mech toward the base of the dragon’s neck, hoping I might be able to bite into it. As we closed, I realized that I wasn’t going be able to do it. I had too much momentum to do anything but smash into Artaxus.
I slowed enough to rake across the back of the dragon’s neck, failing to paralyze him, but creating eight parallel bloody lines on the base of Artaxus’ neck.
Then we were past him, but making another stomach twisting turn as I readied myself for another pass.
Even as we came around Haley said, “They got her!”
They had. Even as the mech came around, and I swerved to avoid another blast of flame, Amy had stepped out of the fog with Travis, the red gem in her armor shining, casually knocking aside goblins and fae to get to Izzy. She even took out one of the trolls. Behind her, Travis avoided spears and arrows while still wearing jeans and a t-shirt. His claws cut through the armor of anything stupid enough to stand in front of him.
They pulled Izzy’s unconscious form out of a mass of fae, and disappeared into the fog.
Travis’ voice came over the comm. “We’ve got practically everyone inside. Get out of there!”
The fog began to fade away, leaving an empty park filled with the bodies of the fae.
At that moment, two different things took place. The first was that I felt relief wash over me. I hadn’t even been aware of how worried I’d been about Izzy, and how easy it would be for Haley and I to die.
Between fighting a dragon and not fighting a dragon, not fighting won every time.
I began to turn right and abandon the current pass when the other thing happened: Artaxus jumped. You don’t expect a dragon the size of a three story apartment building to be any good at jumping, but you’d be wrong.
I’d seen him jump much of the way up the cliff to the park, but I hadn’t realized we were already in his range.
Artaxus caught the mech in the crook of his right forearm, and pulled it in toward his chest, grabbing the mech’s front legs with his left front claw.
We sank toward the ground, landing with a thud.
Over the comm, Rachel said, “Nick, are you there?”
Artaxus’ voice vibrated through the wall of the mech. “Let’s see what they’ll bid for you.”