Chapter Twenty One
The Osprey came through the haze in the sky like an angel. It was crimson and gold in the livery of the Amaranthine Conservators and for a moment Raylene thought it was a hallucination. Its cargo doors opened in midair and a dark shape plummeted out. As it fell there was a distant half-heard popping sound and the shape began to fly under its own power. Raylene assumed it was a missile and thanked Enoch for taking her foe with her into death. A moment later the shape resolved into that of another Imperatrixian wearing far less ornate armor than that of Maximillian.
The newcomer slammed into Maximillian just as he half-turned towards the sound. Raylene felt the pain in her scalp as a handful of her hair tore free, but it was a pain muted by shock and half-lost amid defiant amusement.
"Axion!" Maximillian grunted in surprise.
"Yes, my Lord." Axion replied in mock deference and smashed a huge gauntlet into Maximillian's face. "My service to the Empire is unending."
Maximillian levered the slightly smaller Imperatrixian off of him with his legs and lashed out with his flail. The green tendrils scored Axion's forearm armor and brought thick bubbles of ichor to the surface. Axion ignore the pain and hammered a rapid series of powerful driving blows to Maximillian's cuirass. The chest plate was dented and deformed and Maximillian choked with pain and staggered backwards. Axion came in again to rain more blows on his former master but Maximillian lashed out again with his flail. Axion rocked back in an attempt to avoid it but his hand instinctively flew out for balance. The flail sliced through two armored fingers with a gunshot crack of cooking bone. More ichor sizzled and dripped from the stumps.
"You are contractually obligated to stand down." Maximillian panted and deflected a slow haymaker from his former subordinate. "In the name of commerce!"
Axion ignored Maximillian's mouth and side kicked him in the groin with enough force to send him crashing through the too-small doorway.
"Kill him!" Maximillian howled to the Jerlemain Bondsmen in the hallway.
"Don't even think about it." Axion glared at the bonded warriors and they remained stock still.
Maximillian sucker-punched the smaller Imperatrixian in the cheek, easily shattering the hollow bones there. Axion grunted and barely brought his guard up in time to block the following blows. Maximillian shoved hard and unbalanced Axion just long enough for him to bring the flail around again. Axion ducked but the energy whip still took a thin sliver of flesh from his head. Maximillian swept with a thick leg and Axion fell, smashing the parquet wood flooring with his weight.
"You came all this way just to die by my hand." Maximillian laughed.
Axion was stunned by the blow. Maximillian reared the flail back to strike as his former lieutenant attempted to move out of the way far too slowly. The hummingbird bullet struck Maximillian in the cheek, burrowed into his skin, and detonated with percussive force. Maximillian's eyes rotated down to the blood suddenly pooling beneath his gorget. A second hummingbird bullet buzzed into his forehead and popped in his brainpan. Still he lived, his mouth trying to form words. Suddenly confused by the neural impulses it was receiving the energy flail flickered madly around, slicing a dozen times through Maximillian's head, arm, and torso.