We are the darkness, and as the sun sinks in a bloody streak to the crux where the land rises up to touch the bottom of the sky, we ride. Like razors cast from liquid steel, our wings flex against wind and our engines cry out with the roar and the fire of a thousand ravening furies. Alive, we tear a streak across the sky that divides the heavens into darkness and light. We are the gozen, lieberstoter, honored dead. We carve our names in the bosom of the night with knives and nails of light and liquid fire.

Headfirst, we plunge into the darkening clouds. Tonitura and Fulgura prowl close at my sides, Tomoe and Hangaku burn rigid at my flanks, and the Boanerges dominates the sky high above. Izanami shudders around and beneath me on the prismatic wake of wave cascades that flay themselves in their vain attempts to rip us out of the sky. With electronic clarity, we pick out our targets one by one, dozens flagged in the darkness within fractions of a second. The machine grows tense around me, around each of us. The unspoken command bounces between neuron and steel, reverberates through mind, machine, blossoms clear in the fleshy centers of us all.

It is time.

Reflexively, we loose our payload, and in the sudden storm of angry warheads, there is a scream; the sound of death’s own seraphim ripping from our wings like the hunting fingers of skeletal banshees. Plumes of fire and white fly from vectored thrusters, and for a moment the night is endless cloud and billowing ash, a fimbulvinter of burnt fuel and tortured sky. We lose ourselves in the moment, watching scopes and feeling the feedback as the machine reaches into our minds to show us what we’ve come to see, images that burn on wires and leads into and through the inner bodies of meat and bone that crouch within an exoskeleton of windborne steel. In the distance, the lines and jutting teeth of our targets burn brightly, reduced to rubble so suddenly, so precisely, that the streets below have yet to be scorched. In the darkness, the Boanerges speaks, and we obey the call, folding ourselves into the night like ghosts. There will be nothing to betray us when the sun rises– only the testament to our wrath will remain.

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