And he was gone again. Other business calling him.
An important weapon had been stolen. An experimental weapon. A secret weapon. Something out of a science fiction book, nearly. A ten-story tall, flying, shooting, suit of armor. All a pilot had to do was enter, slip his finger into a small sleeve, think the directions for the machine, and soon the thing could be raining down bombs from space or crushing planes and helicopters. It needed to be disabled at all costs. The test pilot was called to do the retrieving. Headam answered.
The first version, more thoroughly tested had been stolen. A second version, larger, less tested, and slightly different, was to be used to retrieve the second one.
Headam quickly located this first version of the weapon and the duplicitous soldier that stole it. He was a high-ranking soldier. Very strong and disciplined. Had Native American blood in him and insisted on wearing his hair in a Mohawk. It would be a hard fight. His name was One. They had served in the same unit for two years.
Flying over, Headam saw his face. One recognized who had come after him. It would be a hard fight. He would probably die. But One winked at Headam, ready to die. One ran into his stolen, mobile suit of armor and gave him the thumbs up when he was ready to begin the fight.
Headam honorably waited until the sign. Then began.
Within minutes, the trees and grass of the clearing in which they fought were crushed or burning. The giant machines shot and sliced at each other, threw each other to the ground, the pilots screamed inside, the machines lost limbs and bare wires and tubes crackled and sparked at the shoulder and elbow joints.
"They've gone too far!" One screamed over the pilot-to-pilot radio.
Headam did not respond.
"You know it! You know it, Headam!" he screamed, his great machine's fingers locked in Headam's grasp, each trying to push back the other.
Headam still said nothing. In a swift movement, his mobile suit picked One's up by its fingers and threw him roughly into the air. It landed a half mile away.
"I'm not asking you not to fight me, Headam. I only want you to admit they've gone too far," One growled, ordering his battered machine to its feet.
Headam still said nothing.
The battle shifted. The tide turned in the mohawked pilot's favor. Headam's giant metal suit stumbled, refused to move in some areas, leaked liquids and spouted smoke. Headam screamed as he swung, understanding all fights are to the death. His relatively untested machine was unresponsive yet spastic. His whole body burned with fury and frustration as he swung the giant arm at One's metal suit.
The battle moved. More bushes and trees burned. Patches of land were burned by the green liquid that sprayed from Headam's sliced mobile suit. Both his mechanical arms lay in far off grasses, one cut down to small pieces, the severed fingers hanging in nearby trees. The instant thought transference that operated the machines had the side effect of causing the pilot to feel the sensations of the giant suit. Headam felt all the pain of having his arms ripped off.
The machine just would not listen to him. Or would listen to him too late. He was panting. He was in pain. Adrenaline throbbed in his head and urgent agony swelled his veins.
"I'm sorry to do this, Headam. You know they went too far," One said over the radio.
It would be death. He was panting. His arms felt as if they were ripped off. It would be death. He would die.
One's machine stood over him. Its large metal hand clapped hard on the head of Headam's machine, where the pilot seat was. It would be ripped off. It would be crushed Headam would die. He would be crushed.
I will be crushed. I will die.
He thought the adrenaline and the agony inside him would kill him first.
He felt the great hand's pressure on his head, squeezing.
The adrenaline beat harder. He would die. He would die. He would give up life.
He felt a crack.
Saw a face.
Beautiful, pale, covered in blades of moonlight and shadow, a courageous black eye and an apathetic scar. Terrifyingly courageous. Quietly elegant.
"Ishah!" he screamed in a melted, agonized, monstrous voice he did not control.
The machine sparked to life, stuck its mechanical fingers painfully into his brain like scissors, and roared.
Headam's suit, like lightning, shot up, throwing One's suit backward. Still screaming, Headam charged over to where the other suit landed and stomped once, hard on the head of the suit.
He stopped screaming when he lifted the mechanical leg of his suit.
The head of the suit was crushed flat. The pilot's cockpit was flat. One was dead.
Something had brought the suit to life. Something had made Headam fight again. The agony in his veins was dissipating and he felt deadly tired. Thought he could sleep for a hundred years.
He would not remember screaming Ishah's name, or the tortured, defeated way it sounded as it was pulled from his throat.