The Den Games Network Forum RPG
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce
Silvia looked at the 'runners. She knew that she wouldn't go with either one of them. Even though she liked the throught of hanging out with Tank and Mary some more she really had to go back home now.
But Dorodo was a bit of a problem... she could probably fly to Terganon on her own by now, but there was no way she'd be able to do it with her little friend. And she had not enough money to pay for a plane ticket.
Also, she realized that Dorodo would probably not be allowed to live in the city.
But if I go alone he'll be completely lost here. He probably won't even leave the city. And if the vortex is indeed getting bigger...
And then there's Kaim...
Silvia had made her dicision. She got up and walked towards Tank and Mary.
"I'm coming with you. After all, I speak fluent Orkish. You'll need an interpretor, and I'm afraid Tank won't always be sufficient."
Tank nodded in agreement. He knew his problems with pronouncing English would be a problem.
Mary looked a bit unsure.
"What about your parents then? I don't know if you're fully aware of this, but we're practically going to a warzone."
"I'll survive. Besides, I've been V-mailing with another half-dragon that lives there. I'd be crazy to pass a chance to go and meet another one of my kind."
Silvia looked very serious. She had a determined look in her dragon eyes that Mary hand never seen before. Apparently she was very keen on meeting the other half-dragon...
Most of the 'Runners had made their choice.
Crystal, Cy, Chance, Ash, Crash and Firearm would travel to Britsprawl courtesy of Cylinder Head's Aerobus, whilst Mary, Badjimmy, Silvia, Dorodo and The Binman would travel East in Raven's van.
Mary was still unsure.
"Raven, thanks for your help and all... But is that... van... really going to make it all the way? I mean, it was in that crash the other day. And it'll be uncomfortable for us all. Its a long journey... And you didn't clean up the blood from when Lora got shot..."
"Ah, no worries. It'll be fine." Raven said with a twinkle in his eye. For some reason, mary wasn't reassured...
After that, Mary and Crystal made their farewell.
How should I say this? Crystal thought. Look, Mary, I kind of feel responsible for dragging you into all this... No, thats not right...
Frag, I sound like its the last time we'll ever see each other...
Will it be?
Can she really handle herself there, even with her companions?
In the end she settled for
"Well, see you in a while."
"Yes, you too." Mary replied, somewhat curtly.
"Look, Mary, if anything happens, stay with Raven's van. Cylinder Head can locate the van by it's (fake) license transponder code. If you need me... I'll be there. I promise."
"Hey, I'm delivering something to a dead friend's wife. What could possibly go wrong?"
They gave each other a hug, and turned away, taking their own path.
The North Atlantic Ocean, 0900 hours GMT
The floating city of Terganon, like any other city in the world, existed on trade. The fact that it was owned and populated with Dragons scarcely changed this. Built by an amalgamation of Corporations to designs by several Greater Dragons - Including Dunkelzahn, UCAS Presidential hopeful - The main base of the building work had been done by (meta)human workers sworn to secrecy using magic, but paid handsomely.
Dragons, due to their mindset being incomprehensible to humans, and their impractical physiology, did not like doing 'The dirty work', it seems.
Up until this day, a large proportion of mundane city work was still carried out by (meta)humans - Witness the case of a young Dwarf of Egyptian origin: Air traffic control assistant Mareban Bashir. His job was so simple, it was too boring to be left to a Dragon or computer. He was basically a watchman, overseeing routine air-traffic - technological or biological - coming into the city.
Given the 0.0001% possibility that the system should fail, Mareban was tasked with diverting any aircraft safely to the airport on nearby Ascension Island Airbase.
Mareban looked at his screen, swictihing off his portable simsense - He never tired of 'being' Sir Anthony Taylor, single-handedly beating up five trolls in a bar fight in 'An Englishman in Orkistonia'.
A twin-engined jet airliner - Not even a hypersonic flight - Just plain ol' twin jet engine - was on approach vector. Nothing new there: It must be carrying Corporate Execs coming here on business. he thought.
So why hadn't it been picked up by the automatic router?
Mareban took another look: The Aircraft had a blank transponder signature. The transponder was there, but where it should have said 'UCAS Air 359' or something, it just said 'xXx'.
Mareban scratched his head. There was nothing scheduled in for this morning, anyway. He picked up his radio handset.
"Unknown flight triple-X, This is Terganon Air Command. Do you read me? Over?"
"Unknown flight triple-X, This is Terganon Air Command. Do you read me? Over?" He repeated, and then added "You are on an unauthorized approach vector. Turn away now. Over."
Still no reply.
He challenged the ever-approaching plane again. When a reply finally came, it was Orkish-sounding voice, with a hint of CAS accent. It said:
"Unknown control towa', dis is da triple XxX. Move outta my' way!"
What? Some kind of Ork cowboy? Mareban thought. He repeated his challenge for the aircraft to change course. The reply came back:
"Nah, you move!"
"Unauthorized flight!" He yelled, "This is your final warning! Change course now or we will be forced to use lethal magical force!
"Suck my big one, fragface!". Click.
Mareban contacted his boss without another word.
Up on his citadel, the lesser Western Dragon Firewing received word of the situation mentally from one of his magically-active human underlings.
Oh, the ultimate indignity. He thought to himself. It feels like I'm at the beck and call of those insignificate little pests. Oh well, C'est la vie.
Almost lazily, the red-gold dragon rose from his perch and launched himself into the sky in a shallow arc.
Using his astral senses, Firewing saw further than his physical eyes could ever see.
One of the noisy, filthy air-machines the humans insisted on using for air-travel was indeed on its way here.
Almost like they want to create their own pale imitations of our great selves. Firewing mused. If I weren't so annoyed at being woken up, I may be inclined to flattery.
He also noticed that the craft was giving off life-readings, at a level something less than would be normal for a packed airliner.
Well, we warned the fools. Let them crash. No scale off my back.
With a magical thought, Firewing activated the spell-lock magical barrier of remarkable strength that was the cities first line of defence.
In his small, dark, warm room, Mareban shivered. They were just going to let the plane crash into the barrier?.
Then he saw more contacts on the radar screen...
In moments, the airliner crashed into the magical barrier.
It looked like an invisible hand grasped the aircraft and rolled it into a ball as if made of paper and dropped it into the ocean, in a blaze of jet fuel.
Yet, it did not contain just fuel: The Aeroplane was in fact, a converted tanker aircraft. Its interior was filled with a sludge thick with algae and other microscopic life. This was, in fact, what Firewing had mistaken for human passengers.
That was the first purpose of the algae. The second purpose was to serve as the living link for a spell.
This was not just any spell. This had taken a team of thirty mages over six months to create. Quite possibly no-one - No-one human - had done ritual magic on such a scale since the Great Ghost Dance that sundered North America.
The ritual group had eventually 'anchored' their spell to the algae, as it contained enough life-force to support the magic in a way that 'dead' materials never could.
The spell was the most powerful shield-breaking spell in the world.
And it worked.
Just behind the airliner, twelve unmanned jet aircraft swept forward in formation. Their timing was spot-on - They swooped in over the city just as the barrier was rent apart in a furious aurora of scintillating magical tendrils so bright that the witnesses were blinded for several days.
Of course, the machines were unaffected.
The aircraft split into two formations and criss-crossed the city, dropping bombs at will - A variety of Fuel-Air Explosives that turned entire sections of the city into infernos, EMP and Tesla Bombs that electrocuted and shorted out many of the city's systems, and finally Dual-Purpose munitions - cluster bomblets with proximity sensors that would remain lodged on the ground and in wreckage waiting for some unlucky slag to walk near before exploding.
The city wasn't completely unprepared: One railgun and several 30mm rotary guns, as well as a battery of SAMs survived the initial electrical and explosive assault. The railgun picked off two of the attacking drones in quick succession, whilst a SAM downed another - It only added to the carnage, spiralling into a human tourist centre, annihilating over fifty people.
By now, several dragons were in the air. Firewing himself, beating his wings furiously, unleashed his fiery breath, engulfing on drone in flame and setting the engine of another afire.
Just after that, four drones came at him from four different directions, blazing away with nose-mounted miniguns. Firewing howled with rage, batting another of the drones down as shells raked his entire body. He fought on, but spiralled into the depths of the sea, a wing sheared off.
He was not the only dragon that died that day.
The drones were apparently on a one-way mission - The surviving drones used all of their remaning ammuntion up strafing the city, before diving into it and detonating high-explosive warheads.
Another dragon - Rhiannon - was about to give chase back along where the drones had come from, when a barrage of cruise missiles streaked in. She never stood a chance: She was blown literally into bloody chunks, along with yet more of the city.
That was the last of the attacks, although with the extent of the destruction in the city, not to mention the unexploded munitions
left in their wake.
By the time any of the other dragons had gotten airborne and free of the wreckage, there was no sign of any of the attackers.
Great howls of rage and pain echoed across the Atlantic Ocean.
Studio in red war-like lighting. Presenter speaks in cod-Charlton Heston tones:
"The world was shock today by an outrage of the kind never before perpetuated upon dragonkind. The Floating city of Terganon was attacked at 9'o'Clock this morning by an undentified fleet of drone aircraft, with the loss of at keast five dragon lives and over 125 humans.
Footage of non-marked OCU Commonwealth Aerospace 'Wandjina' ground attack drones strafing and bombing. Footage is unedited - We see people and lesser dragons blown gorily into pieces. It looks like it has been enhanced to show even more blood.
"Oh my fragging grud! This is Kurt Stockman for - JEEZ! Did you see his head come off? FRAGGING HELL! GET A CLOSE UP OF THAT-" (Static for three whole seconds) "FRAGGING MAIN TOWER TOOK A HIT! DeBRIS FALLING EVERYWHERE! Oh man! i'm gonna get award for this!"
"Hey Kurt! Watch that..."
News reporter is exploded by a delayed-action cluster bomblet. 3D Camera fades to static.
"The city structure itself is said to have suffered grievous damage. Only by the heroism and skill of human and dracoform magic users, as well as the timely appearance of several Sikorsky-Bell Behemoth Heavy-lift helicopters was the city able to remain from ditching into the sea. This reporter can only imagine what rati-uh, sorry, what carnage would have come from that 'undesirable' situation."
Cut to scenes of Dunkelzahn - in Human form, speaking at emergency conference.
"To quote one of your leaders, this truly is a day of infamy. To attack an entirely peaceful city without warning, with the obvious intention to kill and injure humans and Dragonkind alike. Your basic inconsequential language's words fail me. Let me just say, when we find out who did it, there WILL be vengeance. And you humans have no concept of the veangeance that Dragonkind can bring to bear."
"As far as I'm concerned, the fr(Censored) had it coming. Its not like they were humans, is it?"
"Actually Mr Featherston, around 200 humans are reported missing, too."
"So? They were dragon ass-licking traitors. They deserved it. And no, before you ask, I didn't do it. Okay?"
A man jumps forwad to whack Featherston with an umbrella. A fight ensues with Featrherston's military-style guards
Cut to Queen Antoinette.
"It is fortunate that no Greater Dragons were in the city at the time. Fortunate for the attackers, I must say, for Earth and all the Metaplanes have not healed the scars of the last time a Greater Dragon was angry.
Yet again the world sees the encroachment of madness. Now is the time for a cool head, straight thinking and co-operation. As a matter of fact, I have already sworn Dunkelzahn the use of my elite Templars and Special Air Service for his investigation."
Cut to tonight's feature simflick: 'I Had Sex with my Best Friend's Ally Spirit'
Raven had driven his van up to the 'gift' motorcycle and was helping Tank hook it up to the roof pylons while listening to the radio playing in the van.
"Hey, listen to this guys! Holy frag! Some nullnuts attacked Terganon with assault drones!"
"Shut up Raven, we're listening to it!" Complained Silvia. She was terrified. Her family had moved there just before Geneva went up. Were they OK? Should she go to them? Mary needed an interpretor though... Decisions.
Extra! Extra! Last Survivor of a brood believed to be extinct appears!
Mike Irvine, Terganon
I can't believe it! Looks like a Royal Brood Dragon in full rampage!
Camera footage of Sky. Several remnant aircraft of the attackers are thrown useless into the ground by an unknown spell
At first we did believed that no Greater Dragons were at the city, but this reaches out of our comprehension. Holy (censored)!
Roszondas stared at the ruins of the city, he could not have prevented the attack. He reached the city too late, just in the aftermath of the attack.
Footage of the unknown dragon, now in human form, making an Improved speech.
"Comrades, servants, and every free will of the world, listen. I Roszondas, last Prince of The Greater Dragons, am still alive. I wanted to prevent all of this madness but i failed. I did not expect anything. Closer into the camera. Whoever of you made this... atrocity, be aware. The rage of Greater Dragons cannot be measured, but the rage of a Royal Dragon is an entire cataclysm!"
Cut to Queen Antoniette
No comments. I am shocked.
Cut to Dunkelzahn
I can't actually believe, that after all this time, the "visionaire" is still alive!
This can't be... First Geneva, and now Terganon?!? I hope mom and dad are OK... well they probably will be; I don't think there was much damage in their area. But I have to be sure.
Silvia adressed the group. "Does anybody have a phone with a direct sat connection?"
"I don't think so... but I can make a sattelite connection with my deck, if I find a telecom point somewhere." Mary said.
"There was one in the bar" Raven remarked. "I saw Crash looking at it when we were there."
Silvia and Mary walked back to the bar. Now that the two groups of 'runners had left it was a lot calmer there. The barkeeper looked a lot calmer too.
Silvia walked to the telecom point and tried to use the normal vidphone number. As she expected, it didn't work. She tried another number; the central Terganon tech support line. It was dead too. Apparently all the city's internal communications had been disrupted. The Tesla Bombs had shorted out the main telecom distribution center.
"Yep... we'll need your deck." she said. "The entire internal network's down. We'll need a sat uplink to my dad's computer and then link it through to the phone. I got the adress."
Mary plugged her deck into the telecom device and started making the connection.
"OK. I've got a link to the satellite. Here you go."
Silvia typed on the number.
Oh man... this is taking too long.
Connection established. Waiting for reply...
Yes! The house computer is not damaged! Now let's hope they're at home. Come on dad... pick up that slegging phone!
"Yes? This is Miranae Ulane, Serthedal's house."
"Mom? It's me, Silvia!"
"Silvy?! Finally! I hoped you'd come to Teranon, but with the current situation... well, you understand. We were planning to leave too, but now Roszondas arrived I'm not so sure anymore."
"Mom, I told you not to call me 'Silvy'. I just heard about Roszondas in the news. Anyway... I won't be coming to Terganon after all. My friend Mary is going to Orkistonia. And that's where Kaim lives..."
"Heh... your half-dragon mail friend. Yeah... I understand. Be careful, Sil. Orkistonia's a lot rougher than the Geneva Ork district."
"Don't worry; I'll survive. Is dad with you?"
"No... Roszondas asked him to help with the repairs. I was a bit surprised he came to us, but apparently they had a lot to discuss... and I won't be surprised if that includes you."
"Hmm. Well if you decide to leave after all, do you have any idea where you would be going?"
"London, probably. We'll send you a message. Just don't lose your MP5 player."
"I won't. Bye mom."
Wow. She didn't even try to talk me out of it. But then again, in this time of war Orkistonia might be one of the safest places I can go to. After Geneva and Terganon... who knows what's next?
The remaining runners bound for London had retired to their houses for the night, each one trying to sneak in some sleep before the upcoming trip the next day in Cy's Aerobus.
At an hour to midnight, each of them received an urgent conference call from Chance on their wristphones. The call was similiar to an invitation to chat on the ancient ICQ Internet messaging system; The runners met up in a virtual cyber-meeting room, their wristphones giving miniature images of the people in the conference call.
Chance's voice was tense and clipped.
"I just got news from Mary's group. Terganon has been hit by unmarked drones. Badly. The attackers were using OCU equipment, but the corporation or faction at fault is still unknown. From what I have gathered, an unmanned aircraft full of organic spell-transfer material was used as a suicide rammer to trigger off the shield overload on Terganon.
This means that the air security of every single country is going to shoot through the roof by tommorrow. The most likely scenario will involve the stopping of every single incoming civilian plane to check for terrorist intent. I'm sure that Cy's Aerobus is going to be just another 'bogey' to them.
Cy's aware of this... I just called him and he's making plans. Entering Brit-sprawl tommorrow might be a little trickier than we thought."
It was, of course, a classic British-styled understatement.
"Do you sense it, my old friend? The world wants war..." said quietly Roszondas to Serthedal.
"I know--- I am worried about my young daughter, she's a half dragon, or a "halfie", as you used to call in your dreams of equality, where hybrids could live alike."
"Do not worry, after all, she was not the first hybrid... Arcturus the Medium."
Serthedal gasped. Roszondas continued.
"Yes, i knew you were Arcturus, the hero of the Medium dragons, hybrids between lesser and Greater dragons, the day you come to offer your loyalty to me."
"Will you tell the truth about that?
"The secret will be kept as long as you like, since you kept the secret of my simulated death."
They both continued. The reparations would take too much resources. Finally Roszondas spoke.
"I had the liberty to pull a few strings and bring the services of one of my inconditional allies, the Catholic Empire. Their Crusaders will soon arrive with materials to rebuild this city."
The other dragons that were with the two did not believe that.
One of the most powerful, and perhaps more influential government of the world, that owned Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and a great chunk of South America, agreed to help Roszondas.
"The deal is, they help me with this, and I shall lead their fearful Crusaders into victory against the forces of N'zar."
Roszondas walked towards the core of the machines that make Terganon float over the seas.
"These cities were made expecting the return of the royal brood."
No one figured what Roszondas was about to do, entering the core.
Mary had packed up most of the stuff from her apartment. The bed had been sold, along with most of the kitchen apparatus and 3DTV. The books from the bookshelf were packed into a crate, along with various magazines and personal trinkets. Some of her clothes were with them, the rest in a suitcase with her deck, and various other important items. She was now awaiting Raven's van, her bads against the wall. They were going to drop off the crates at Brittaco transit, to be shipped to her flat in London.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was brisk and cut though the still air like a scream. Mary got up. It didn't sound like Raven, or indeed any of the others, with the possible exception of Silvia. It was a woman's knock.
Mary flipped the door of the latch, and opened it.
The woman on the other side was a little taller than herself. Pointed ears revealed her to be an elf, although with a somewhat of a heavier build than most. Infact, she would have passed for a human woman without the ears, or the slightly exotic elven eyes. Her face was pristine and perfect, artistic features, typical, now she came to think of it, of elves, framed with red-gold hair, of which several strands were braded with beads threaded, hanging down over her face. She was dressed in a wildly out-of-fashion green dress, on which a small yellow badge with the words "Stormcrow Saves" was pinned on the left breast. In her left hand was a wooden, twisted staff, and the right what appeared to be a pile of leaflets, secured with an elastic band. The elf smelt strongly of popourri. But she stank of magic. She was obviously a powerful Shaman.
"If this is some crazy religious thing, I'm not interested", Mary began, half closing the door. The elf halted her with a smile, and spoke up.
"You are the..." she paused, and regarded a card she was holding. "... Doctor Turin, sister?"
"Yes..." Mary said, beginning to feel tentatitive. Visitors at the door whom you'd never met before were NOT supposed to know your name.
"Sarah Westwind", the Elf said, thrusting the card into Mary's hand. It was a business card, with the visitor's name on it, and the logo of the Church of Light, and a vague slogan scribbled in Elvish. Mary's own name and address were writtin in longhand below.
"What do you want?"
"You are travelling to Orkistonia, sister."
It was a statement, not a question. Mary stammered an affirmative reply, wondering if she's made a big slip in revealing it to the stranger.
"Great. I assume a woman, of your calibre has secured adequate transport for yourself and any", she paused, "henchmen, you are travelling with. I require passage with you."
Mary stared dumbfounded.
"What? I don't even know you! I can't!"
The redhead tossed a credstick from a pocket. It landed on the floor between them. It read ¥5,500.
"Are you trying to bribe me?"
"Never, sister!" The elf raised a hand to her chest in mock disbelief. "Merely travelling expenses"
"I can't.... who are you?"
"Priestess Sarah Westwind, the holy and glorious Church of Light. I am wishing to travel to Orkislaiva to spread the holy word, but with the airpost shut down to civillians after the Terganon incident, I cannot use my flight. I require urgent alternative transport, and learn that you are travelling with others to my destination. Am I not allowed to try and secure my travel?"
Mary paused, and thought. The woman did have to have good intentions, despite the strange and frontal manner, and also did want to pay for her travel - something that would be very useful with minimal cash reserves. Also, it would be nice to have another woman with them, to balance out the sex ratio. It would cramp the van slightly, although Mary doubted most of the men would mind given the ample figure and looks of the newcomer.
But - "How on earth did you get my adress and details?"
"The church moves in mysterious ways, sister. I cannot reveal my sources, but rest assuered they are neither sinister nor malevolant to one such as yourself." The Elf - Sarah, wasn't it, stepped in through the doorway, propping her staff against the blank wall.
"Ok. I'll have to talk to the others, I'm not really in charge",Mary began, and the elf put her arm around the doctor. She smiled, and beamed through perfect features - "I'm sure they won't mind".
Just then, Mary's wristphone rang. It was Raven. The van, and everyone else, was outside.
Mary was now resigned to the other woman's accompanyment. She sighed, and picked up her bags, one in each hand.
"Help me with these crates, will you?" The redhead smiled in reply, grabbed her staff in one hand, and, whispering in an arcane language, levitated the two packing crates infront of her, which floated in midair as if floating on water.
Inter-vision newsflash :
Reports are coming in on the recent attack on Terganon, with many dragons, including Dunkelzahn. [cut to shot of Dunkelzahn delivering statements]. Blame currently is focused on the Imperial Japanese Empire, although many other factions are suspect. We'l bring you a report on that shortly.
Moving on, it is uncomfirmed whether the palace security around Queen Antoinette of Great Britian was due to a rumoured assassination attempt on the young monarch. Sources say that she only recieved a minor cut on one arm, and the assassin escaped uninjured. [shot of Buckingham Palace, surrounded by elite military guards]
In other news, tensions in the Orkish state of Orkstonia are increasing, especially due to the recent announcement of a joint Transys-JadalBiotech development in the region. Jadal troops are currently reported to be moving state-of-the-art equipment to the new facility, on the outskirts of Orkessa [cut to shot of Transys and Jadal troops alongside each other as heavy trucks full of machinery move past]. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the troubled state.
That's all for now. See you after the match, sponsored by Dunkelzahn the Dragon.
The morning Geneva mist carried with it a stench of burning.
The streets were virtually deserted now. Crystal had had an uneasy sleep - There had been sporadic gunfire around the city. Crystal didn't want to hang around to see who was shooting at who, or what, and why. At first light, she bundled her worldly posessions - Everying she owned, from her small flat into her minicar. She left her home without a backward glance.
Cylinder Head was just where he said he'd be, at the private airfield where his IWS Aerobus tilt-wing was currently sitting.
"Hoi, Crystal. Up bright an' fragging early, aren't ya?"
"Couldn't sleep. You ready?"
"Yeah. Me bird's fixed. I sorted out with a mate a way to get into Britain."
Crystal leaned forward.
"You get us shot down, I'll frag your face into a million pieces."
"I'll hold you to that." Cy grinned, revealing yellowing teeth. He was unsufferable. As they both walked into Cy's hangar, she noticed how tired he looked. He must have been working on his aircraft all night. His steps faltered, he had bags under his eyes his shades and hair didn't hide.
Chance and Ash arived bare minutes earlier. The one security guard left didn't so much as take a second glance at Chance's bundled rifle and Ash's flamethrower, as well as their concealed ammunition and supplies.
"You're definitely sure we can smuggle all this stuff into the country?" He asked. The question definitely sounded like it had a 'If not I'll pin you to the wall and let my trigger-finger do the talking' kind of tone.
"I'm sure, I'm sure. Don't worry mate, I've got a plan, don't worry..."
Chance got his and Ash's gear stowed on the tilt-rotot. Worryingly, Cylinder Head seemed to have had it repainted during its downtime. It now sported a purple and black 'camouflage' pattern (as if purple and black could camouflage you anywhere outside of maybe a pimp's house) and had 'Santangelo Airways' painted on the side in big Green letters.
"My Cover company." Cy grinned, obviously proud.
Crash and Firearm turned up next.
"Soz I'm late guys. Firearm he, well..." He motioned with his head.
"Where'll I put these?" He said, meaning the armful of 'Dunkelzahn's Finest' Brandy bottles. He dropped one, smashing it on the tarmac.
"Oh, frag it all!"
A few arguments later, involving a threat with several powerful handguns and a spanner, Crash and Firearm were safely onboard, minus the Brandy.
"Powering up." Cy said to himself, flicking switches on the cockpit roof. He wore a flight suit now, with a helmet that left his rigger jacks accessible. He strapped his head and body into his rigger-seat.
"Jacking in." He said, unnecesarily. He plugged a tough-looking lead into his skull. Instantly his head lolled to one side - or would have, if it wasn't strapped in, as he surrendered control of his body for the Aerobus instead.
A digital representation of his voice issued from the intercom as he taxied out toward the runway:
"Tower, this is Santangelo Air 00001. Check my transponder. Requesting permission for take off, over."
The tower replied:"Roger Transponder code SA 00001. Please wait for clearance."
"Frag you tower, I'm taking off now and their's drek-all you can do about it. Bye, over." Then, clicking off the radio and speaking jauntily for his passengers' benefit, Cy added: "They never do anything, you know."
The engines powered up, drowning out the sound of Crystal's hand slapping her forehead. To conserve fuel, Cy chose a normal take-off instead of vertical.
A few hours later, having safely passed the airspace of the Allied German States and the Toxic waste of the North Sea, Cy switched transponder codes. The code he switched to had cost him a pretty penny, bought days ago from The Binman. The same Decker had also entered that code for a flightpath in the British Air-Traffic control nets. Crystal would have been surprised at the level of planning this little operation had received. In fact, anyone who'd ever met the Rigger would have been.
Passing into British airspace, the Tilt-rotor inevitably came into range of an RAF Radar net airship. They hailed him.
"RAF Aerobus Juliet- seven two, be advised you are on-course and authorized to enter British Airspace, Over." Then more informally, the RAF controller added "That you, Watkins? You got that £500 you owe me?"
"Uhh, no mate. This is Wilson, I'm a transfer from the RAAF. Tally ho, old man!" Cy replied.
The reply was indistinct, but sounded like 'fragging auzzie cowboys', as said by someone with a hand on the mic.
You never cease to amaze me. Crystal thought, shaking her head. But no missiles were fired, the Aerobus was left on its course. Cy seemed completely oblivious to any threat.
Wish we'd kept that brandy. Crystal sadly pined.
An hour and another Transponder-switch later, the 'Santangelo Air' Aerobus was in the insanely crowded, smog-filled wrecking arena that got called 'Britsprawl Airspace'. The Aerobus lurched this way and that every couple of seconds. If any of the passengers could have seen through the smog, they would have noticed the helicopters and passenger 'planes wheeling about kamikaze like, with the occasional Royal Panzer Force panzer blasting through, scattering all in its wake.
Somehow, the tilt-rotor made it down in one piece.
The bemused 'runners walked out onto the tarmac of the IWS-Westland private Heliport in Docklands. The first thing that struck them was the air.
"Gak! feels like I'm walking behind a troll at the soy-bean world championships!" Crash spluttered, trying to cut through the pollution.
"Rubbish." Crystal sneered. "This is nothing - You can still make out some light. We'd better get some breathers quick, though.
Although still morning, the entire city was clad in deep-grey, with visiblity reduced to only about 50 metres. Through the murky light cut the roars of literally millions of cars as London's commuters took the elevated sky-roads to work.
The next thing was the dampness.
"Britain has always been pretty damp, even when it isn't raining - acid rain, that is. But now, with the flooding..."
Many parts of London were flooded in at least two feet of water. So much so, that electric grid-guide vehicles constantly failed, so many commuters opted for hydrogen and even polluting petrol cars instead, and of course Air-Cushion hovercraft.
After Cy had safely stowed his aircraft and unpacked everyone's gear, they took one of those Hover-taxis to the address Mary had given Chance. Cy fell asleep the instant he sat down.
On the way, they noticed the smoke-wreathed London domes.
Of course, no-one called them the domes anymore...
The ambitious 2045 project had been to create the world's first domed city, by completely enclosing the main London sprawl with a network of huge breathing biofabric domes to filter out pollution and bad weather. However, the project had been a disaster from start to finish. Even before the covert virus strike by Euro-terrorists (believed to be French intelligence agents) that had eaten away at the domes' fabric, parts of them had collapsed due o stress miscalulations. Now, the domes were almost skeletal, homes to sky-shanties. There were always reports in the news of some clown trying to jump from the monorail onto the domes, or falling from the domes to a flat death on the pavement.
Crystal got off at her flat first - She'd maintained the place for a while as a kind of hideout. It was a cheap room not much bigger than her Geneva one, but the building it was situated in was actually on of the dome's huge support struts.
She said her goodbyes to everyone, arranging to meet at a pub called 'Synner's Redoubt' later in the day.
It started to rain - Instantly red flecks appeared on Crystal's skin where the rain touched it.
"Bloody Acid rain." Crystal muttered, as the others hovered their way to Mary's flat.
The building once had an intercom and security camera system. Being Britsprawl, it had lasted about a month before someone ripped it out, probably to sell for BTLs or Novacoke. In the lobby of the buidling, Crystal walked quickly over the piss-stained marble tiles. The Fat Ork on guard duty barely missed a snore, so attentive was he.
Taking the battered old lift up to her room, she was surprised it hadn't been smashed-in by bored BTL junkies and was reasonably intact. She took out her belongings and set-up her 3DTV set first of all.
Strangely, there was almost nothing of the Terganon bombing story. All that had been said before was that someone had implicated the CAS, who of course denied the claims, blaming the UCAS. The UCAS blamed Imperial Japan. They blamed the Neo-Soviet Union, who in turn blamed Aztlan, who then blamed the 'Dragon Terrorists' who had destroyed their Geneva pyramid
It was pointed out by OCU however, that their 'Wandjina' ground-attack drones had been sold all over the world, but in this instance seemed to be attacking from the Western Atlantic, incidentally out of range of any land.
They also made the claim that, if it was in fact the dragon who had attacked Geneva, surely he would have attacked in person?
And since the 'assassination attempt' on Queen Antoinette, it was as if all the NewsNets had suddenly stopped posting any news on the subject. Even the aircraft and airspace restrictions had been rescinded, though she would have bet that government and corporate militaries would be on alert, despite the obvious pressure being put on to stand down...
Someone, somewhere, was trying to make the public think the incident had never happened...
There was however, one interesting story on BBC News:
The year was 2061. There had been hype at the start of year, been the year that Halley's comet was due to return.
Not only that, but this year was also the 50th anniversary of 'The Awakening' - When magic had arrived - or returned - to the world...
Cut to presenter Benedene Wyrekul, an elven woman.
"Good evening, I'm Benedene Wyrekul, and here is the One'O'Clock News from television centre."
Cut to scenes from a jubilant parade in the rain and smog. Banners says things like 'Bring It On, Halley!' and 'Worship the Comet!':
"London today saw the largest ever gathering of Halley's comet worshippers in British history. A crowd of as many as one hundred thousand people braved the smog and acid rain for the parade, consisting of as many as150 seperate cults. Many of the attendees were also from the Church of the Undying light, who also set-up a free-food tent for the city's homeless. However, this kind yet naive gesture rapidly became a riot and Metroploitan riot police were forced to call in personnel from nearby Corporate buildings for assistance. The incident has led to renewed calls tha Bristish police should also be privatised."
"In other news, Luton Town FC beat Birmingham city in the final of the Transys Neuronet Super-Cup. Hat-trick scorer Bobby Numann had this to say:"
Cut to jubilant short, ugly football player with an Elven girlfriend on his arm, being mobbed by fans and reporters:
"I owe my victory to my Transys Neuronet 'Shadowfax' cyberlegs, innit?" The pretty yet not very bright footballer said, grinning.
Teenage girls - Many of them Orks - fainted at the sound of his voice.
Cut back to newsroom:
"Yes, quite, Bobby. Now, here is Krysti Chambers with the Acid-rain count."
"Hey hey! Who's your lovely friend Mary?"
Raven looked the newcomer over, 'Nice, nice... very nice'
"So what's a gal like you doing in a place like this? No offence Doc."
Sarah Westwind replied:
"Looking for transport to Orkislavia, brother."
'Brother?' Raven was confused. He continued:
"It'll cost ya, I mean with all the weirdos and fraggers you pick up these days I'm gonna need some cred if you wanna go crusiin' wit me. Insurance ya know..."
"I have already sorted out the payment details with sister Mary Turin, brother."
Raven's face fell. He looked over at Mary. Mary shrugged and pulled a 5,500 nuyen cred stick out of her pocket. Raven's mood changed immediately.
"Well pack your bags sis cuz you are going to Orkislavia courtesy of RaVAN Transport!"
Tank just looked on amazed, what were the 'umies doing? Was the new lady Sarah related to everybody? Silvia was looking over the newcomer too. She didn't know what to think of this Westwind woman...
The doctor was evidently an excellent house-keeper... Despite the room being left unattended for so long, Mary had covered the furniture with plastic sheets and carefully sealed every nook and cranny to prevent vermin moving in. Stepping in, Chance was taken back... He had gotten so used to the sight of filth and disrepair that Mary's place seemed almost like a 6-star hotel in comparision. Ash, meanwhile, was delighted at the excellent state of the place.
The men moved in their luggage and heavy gear while Ash scouted around in the apartment for a place for Cy to crash. He ended up sprawled and fast asleep on the only bed, but not before Ash had insisted on him removing his boots. She hated to see the neat little apartment being dirtied by footprints.
A while after settling all of their gear in various corners of the small house, they decided to take a trip out to buy a cyberdeck for Crash and breathers for everyone. The teen was looking distinctly unhappy without one... afterall, one of his virtues was his excellent ability in the virtual world. Such a long period offline, especially after the clash with Shadow the previous day, was beginning to make him feel inadequate. Chance left a message for Crystal, wondering if she would be available to show them around. Getting lost in London didn't seem like a good idea... the last time Chance had been to the place was when pigeons still existed (and weren't shot and eaten at first sight) in Trafalgar Square.
Chance couldn't decide what to feel about Firearm... That guy was about as foul-mouthed as Cy (although the soldier noticed that the rigger's language had tapered off when the man was exhausted.) but evidently his gifts inclined towards the gun rather than the rigger jack. As Chance watched, Firearm carefully cleaned one of his twin Uzi's and checked it for defects, ending off with a kiss before he returned the weapon to a lovingly maintained neo-leather holster.
The soldier exchanged a look with Ash, who shrugged as she binded her red hair up in a ponytail with a slim metal chain. She topped it off with a cap to protect her face from any accidental splashes of acid rain. According to the weather report, the acid for that day wasn't strong enough to burn, but it would certainly sting. At least the dampness of London weather would prevent the cap from catching fire... she hoped.
The Holo TV faded out.
"Scum... To blame me for destroying Geneva, it's ok, since i did it, but to blame the destruction of a dragon city is stupid lie. Almost all Greater Dragons know that i won't attack my own brood, if i can ally with them. Besides, those attackers were kinda novice. Drones... MPhh!"
N'zar rocked and leapt down his throne, wearing the royal sceptre,and laughed with the irony or the facts.
"If I were about to attack Terganon, I would state clear that I do not forgive.If I made that attack, The only memory of Terganon would be a pile of burnt ashes in the depts of the ocean."
He turned to two of their fellows, lesser dragons the two.
"So, there's someone else behind this... But it does not matter, after all, no one is aware of what i have planned for the future!"
The hysterical laugh filled with revenge and hatred traveled upon the walls of the base, and through the whole desert.
At the Castle of Dark, a new recruit entered within the deepest chamber of the building, that once had been the headquarters of the Six Slayers, now it was were the novice and expert ninjas took the top secret missions.
Mist Lotus incorpored herself, and said.
"Welcome, Eva the Death Angel."
Eva kneeled down. "I am ready for your will, master."
A figure leapt towards Eva. A 2 meter tal humanoid, really bulky, started to speak. Eva looked surprised, what was seeing was an orc, standing up like a proud warrior, not even lowering his head and bending the spine, and speaking fluently.
"Dear recruit, Behemoth is what they call me. I am going to be your supervisor in your first mission. Normally a recruit won't take missions, but the times are dire. We need to find a Greater Dragon and bring it here. A friend of the Lord wants to have her brother here."
"It shall be done, as you say, Master Behemoth" Eva finally said.
The days of training had made a really big change in her.
"The name of the dragon is Draco FireTongue, and it is located in London. Good luck, pals!" said the little goblin that was at the left of Mist Lotus.
"She's weird eh, don't you think?" Silvia asked the big Ork. "And obviously a showoff. I mean, my mother has natural telekinesis; she doesn't even need levitation spells, but she's doesn't act like she thinks she's too good to carry stuff on her own."
"Yu'r mom can do magic?" the ork replied.
"Well telekinesis isn't really magic... but yes, she can. Me too, you know... I simply don't use it."
Silvia noticed the woman was looking at her. And even though Sarah was apparently trying to hide it Silvia saw she looked somewhat shocked to see her.
She must have seen my eyes. And she obviously has no idea what to think about them.
Heh. My turn to play "mysterious lady". The others are all friends of Mary, but she's a stranger. No way I'm gonna tell her my name.
Silvia walked to the woman and smiled.
"Hi. I'm DemonEye. I'm a half-elf."
Mary looked a bit surprised at first, but then she smiled. After the way the woman seemed to know all about her she didn't mind playing along with Silvia.
Raven didn't really looked surprised. He never really caught the girl's name before, and DemonEye suited her. And he couldn't blame her for hiding the fact that she's a half-dragon...
Damocles slipped into the water. It lapped around his pale green form, long, athletic legs submerged in the deep blue of the night-time sea.
His trip across the 'sprawl had been untaxing. The security forces that would normally have intercepted him were on high alert - and, despite the obvious, that had actually made it easier for him - there was no way the forces could cover the entire of Britain, so they had focused on the areas the assassin would most likely take to leave - small private airfields, corp compounds, and deserted stretches of coastline.
No-one expected him to simply walk into the sea. Only a fool would risk the toxic sludge in the channel now.
The small village near Deal, Kent, provided his escape. The agent walked through the village, appearing to all who saw him as a normal half-ork, greasy-black hair and sickly pale green skin.
He had descended onto the seafront, treading in mucky, waste-drenched sand. The polluted sea whipped infront of him.
He stepped into the water, walking out tinto the blackness. As he advanced, lowering into the water, his clothes dissolved, revealing a streamlined body. Two gill-like organs were now visible on his heavy Orkish chest. His knife, the weapon he had wounded the Queen with, also broke up, leaving only a small vial of strained blood in his hand, barely one by three centimetres. He popped this into his mouth, and gen-engineered lips sealed it shut, a small flap closing off his throat.
Secondary eyelids, transparent but working, folded down over his eyes. Fingers and thumb closed, to form perfectly formed flippers. Tough, plastic-like skin protected him from the poisoned water.
The 'assassin' left the British isles, his purpose complete. Half an hour of swimming later, and Float-wing naval helicopter, painted balck and anonymous lifed off from the choaked ocean.
Storm clouds gathered in the night air, and rain began to patter on the toxic sludge of the channel. It was beginning, now, and before long, the thunderstorm would break.
Damocles had completed his mission. The small vessel slid through silent skies, towards it's target.
A small airfield in Orkslavia.
Stage two of the operation would soon begin.
The Eastern Expressway, or 'Road to Hell', as some intuititive politician had once referred to it, was the single greatest road in Europe. It was the third longest in the world, rivalled only by the UCAS North-South Tranroute, and the Russo-Chinese Asialink.
The Eastern Expressway ran from Paris, down through Geneva, and wound through various cities, including Vienna and Budapest, through Eastern Europe, until it reached Orkessa. The road got gradually worse, starting off as a super-highway in France, and becoming a wide dusty track in Orkslavia. A secondary branch ran down through Sofia to Athens.
The Eastern Expressway would get them to Orkessa, one road, all the way, with various checkpoints. Mary thanked the ex-EU for starting it, although it way never completed before the Union collapsed. It would make their errand alot easier - at worst, the transit time would be a week, with driving alternating.
Right now, they were leaving Geneva, Raven arguing with a checkpoint official about the bike on the roof. The other front seat was taken by Badjimmy, with the Binman, Tank and Dorodo sharing the room in the back of the van (cramped, but reasonably Ok. Tank and the Binman shared one side, while Silvia, Mary and the Priestess had the other. Dorodo skittered around on the floor - several days of his fiddling with anything he could get his hands on might get annoying.
Mary noticed the elf casting admiting glances to both Raven and Badjimmy, whenever one of them appeared to be looking. She also saw the redhead looking up and down at Curim's staff - which was ontop of her bag behind the front seats. She'd have to keep an eye on both the staff and the shaman, she thought. So far, neither Sarah nor Silvia had spoken, although she did notice some kind of mutual dislike between the two.
Badjimmy had plugged in an MP5 player to the van's sound systems. It was playing Identity Zero. Good as they were, they weren't likely to fare any better on the 'bearable scale' than Dorodo, after a day or two.
And she needed to get this escapade over over with. She had a thesis to write.
Matthew Zizler pulled out his inhaler of 'rat-race', the new designer drug with the same effects as the 'speed' of the 21st century, he took one big breath of it, and put the inhaler back in his pocket. Britsprawl was a lot smaller than his home town, New York, but there weren't any decent 'glider competitions back home, so here he was, at the first International Wing Gliding Championship in Britsprawl. As Zizz thought this, he felt the effects of the Rat surging through his body, a lot quicker than normal, he acknowledged. Zizz looked around the airport carpark, his car should arrive any minute. That was another thing Zizz came to Britsprawl for, the Rally was meant to be good, and as an amature rally driver, he was more than a little excited.
Ah, there it was, his car rolled through the crowds of tourists.
"Hey, this car is for a Matthew Zizler, is that you?" the driver smiled to a bulky, tall woman. She shook her head, but watched the car closely.
"Yo, I'm Zizler, over here!" Zizz yelled, the car rolled up towards him.
"ID please?" The driver smiled, Zizz pulled his ID card out of his pocket and handed it to the driver, who scanned it.
"All seems to be in order, shall I charge it to your NY account?"
The driver got out of the car, handed Zizz the keys, and walked off. Zizz got in, started it up and checked the rear mirrors, the woman was still staring... maybe she reckognised him? Whatever.
"Yo, Zizzstaa commin throuuuuuuuuuuuuugh!" he yelled happily, hitting the accelerator and dodging through the crowd to the main road.
"Dammit, you stupid GPS, WHERE AM I?!" Zizz yelled at the onboard Global Positioning System on the car's dash twenty minutes later. All it showed was fuzzy lines at the moment. Zizz checked his mirrors in hopes of a car to follow, hey... wasn't that the same woman? Yeah, it was! Was she following him? Zizz looked around at the buildings around him, there was a skyscraper just ahead, maybe he could find away up and look around for the stadium? Yeah, we got a game plan buddy.. let's go look it up! With that he pulled over and parked the car. Got out and started walking towards the 'scraper.
"Hey, Matthew Zizler?" shouted somebody from behind him. Zizz turned around... SHIT! It was the same woman... uh... maybe she was a fan? Yeah, she had to be.
"Yeah, that's me... you've been following me, why?"
"I happen to have a great interest in you, could we talk sometime?" she said, rather forcefully.
"Maybe after the competition, that's taking up a few weeks of my time, sorry" He smiled dismissivly.
"Actually, now sounds like a great idea" She smiled, pulling out a pistol of some sort, it looked real to Zizz...
"Uhh, what would we be talking about?" he shivered, trying to sound less frightened.
"I think we should skip the talking and go straight to the action", she smiled, bringing her gun up.
"I don't like that idea" He grinned, looking braver than he felt, then he kicked her right in the knee. She toppled forward and Zizz took off, deciding he could hide in the 'scraper.
"You son of a bitch!" she cried, Zizz didn't answer, he just continued running, oblivious to the fact that she was only about five feet behind him. He reached the 'scraper and burst his way into the door, just as a shot was fired behind him. Zizz realised that he wouldn't be coming back down the stairs. His mind raced at double the speed he ran, he could hide... but she was too close, he could try to delay her again, but that was WAY to risky, or he could try to charge up his wings now, and attempt a jump. Yeah, risky, but it was what he did. Zizz pressed the POWER button on the front of his chest, he knew he'd need twenty minutes for the wings to power for full use, and it just occured to him that he didn't have that sort of time...
Goran Bzarvitch was having a bad day. Life as a Prime Minister was hard.
Life as the Prime Minister of Orkslavia was harder.
"Whaddaya mean we don't hav 'nuff Panzars left!"
The diminitive Goblin aide squeaked loudly, and ran off the reasons.
"Well why izn't Jorkan dealin wiv it? Eez da army boss, isn't e!"
More squeaking followed.
"Yeh, I know dat e's in ospital! it'z coz of doze fraggin' stunties, izn't it!". The Ork slammed a fist down on a battered desk in anger. "Why'v we not got us's Tanks up dere fitein dem, lik wat we'z ment to do, bein da bossez!"
The goblin cowered.
"Wot! Why don't we av ny Panzaz dere!"
"I know we don't av no Panzaz! Wot do we av!"
"Doze paraktise Panzaz - wot dey called? - we av dem, don't we?"
"Yeh, send em to duff ep da stuntiez! An I wanna talk to dat centaur bloke - da rich one - Moreroads or sumthin - I bet we'z get sum gud Panzaz and guns for blastin dose stupid stuntiez from im!"
The goblin scuttled out, terrified. Aides didn't last long, while Goran was in office. He stretched out in his swivel chair - swivel chairs were one of the perks of this job -, and whistled for another aide. This one brought a tray of food, which Goran proceeded to stuff into his mouth. He then kicked the widescreen 3DTV until it came on, and switched on the handset, phoning his Military Chief.
"Yo! Jork, howz da stuntiez?..."
Raucous laughter followed, as the goblin aide cowered behind the door, too afraid of the huge ork to come in.
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