The Den Games Network Forum RPG
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce
Damocles raced after the van on the motorcycle. It was geting away, due mostly to his lack of training on the bike. He'd never ridden one before, but some kind of buried knowledge had told him what to do to make it work.
Polt would have been pleased to have stripped away the emotional and social areas of the brain to make room for these 'inbuilt memories'.
A small farmstead loomed on the right side of the road. The van swerved off, and took the dirt track off to the side.
Raven looked back, through his mirror.
"We still have one tailing us."
"Don't worry, the guards will get him".
Fardel sounded very sure of himself, and flipped on his wristcomm.
The doors on the barn swung open, on huge mechanical arms.
Damocles saw the doors open. The van went inside, and dissapeared into a dark hole in the ground.
He didn't see the two automated guns that destroyed the bike.
Landing on the centre carriage, Crystal hurried forward and wrapped a length of det-cord around the SAM turret as it jarred and rattled, attempting to swivel and get a lock on the swooping aerobus - It swooped under the roadway, now around 500ft in the air, suspended.
Jogging back to a safe distance, Crystal, Chance, Ash and Zizz took cover behind the 'hump' of the carriage. Crystal pulled out a radio detonator, extended the aerial and gave the detonator lever a savage twist. The lump of C-12 attached to the det-cord and linked by a detonator went up with a WHUMP! of air and shrapnel. The weapon emplacement was neatly decapitated and flung over the edge of the roadway, leaving a large hole in the roof of the carriage.
"DON'T STOP! KEEP MOVING!" Chance yelled again, rushing forward, rifle levelled. The train's front turret 30mm had given up trying to hit the 'runners when they had moved behind the SAM turret, out of its line of site, firing at Redwing's bike instead.
Carriage 3 still under threat. Guards alerted. Beginning pre-arranged operational emergency procedure. Transferring...
The IWS Rigger's body, strapped in at carriage 1, shuddered against its restraints as the man's consiousness was transferred to the remote console. It took him several seconds to override the safety locks and crisis protocols, but he was efficient.
Within seconds he was in a completely new body.
Redwing felt fear for the first time since he'd gotten onto the bike. The forward 30mm was firing at him, the relentless 'THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP' of the autocannon deafeningly loud in his ears as the shells tore gaping holes in the roadway, some of which went all the way through.
He side-slipped again, positioning himself to the left of the train. He raked the side of the vehicle's front carriage in nothing but frustration.
The APC pulled out in front of him again, and neatly throttled back until it was alongside him. He was between the armoured vehicle and the train. And they were getting closer...
One chance - He opened the throttle full, wheelieing ahead at top speed.
At that exact moment, the Nuovo Inzio that had been front pulled out in front of him, avoiding the road-train that was powering towards it.
Redwing smashed into the back of the six-wheeled sportscar. The impact flung him onto the rear of the canopy, the bike twisting, spinning into crumpled metal and plastic that the APC ran over, agged shrapnel flying over the edge of the road.
Epona stared at the hugely-muscled amerindian man clinging to her car - He wore camoflauge trousers and a bandolier of ammunition and rifle grenades, but was naked from the waist. His sweat-covered torso glistened as he grined at her, baring brilliant white teeth, before recovering his rifle slapping around on his injured arm on a sling. He fixed a grenade to the muzzle of the rifle and winked at Epona, before firing one-handed back at the APC.
The projectile sailed true, impacting against the vehicle's glacis plate, leaving a moderate-sized hole, which smoke poured from.
In revenge, the vehicle's turret opened up agian: Bullets stitched across the Amerindian man. He cried out in pain. More thudded into the rear engine compartment. There was a small explosion, and black smoke started pouring out. Engine power dropped rapidly...
Cy flicked the Aerobus onto autopilot and yanked out his Rigger jacks. He fought back the pain and nusea of dump-shock, and quickly unstrapped himself from hs seat.
Illidia was clnging on by a thread.
Cy threw himself across the crew-floor, grabbing her finely-manicured hand.
"I'VE GOT YOU!"
Then Cy looked out the open door, into the clearing, blue morning sky. It hadn't looked so blue for years...
The IWS Kommando pulled out from underneath the roadway, support-spars flashing past at 300mph.
Twin chin-mount 14.5mm MGs opened up. Heavy bullets tore into the Tilt-Wing. Heavy impacts saturated the cabin - Cy kept his head down, then tried to frantically claw Illida up.
Illidia shrieked. With a sickening crack, her left leg was clipped off by one of the IWS machine's explosive shells...
Just as Chance was preparing to drop down into Carriage 3, the ground shook under a tremendous force.
No. Not the ground. The roof.
The plated roof buckle and dented like cheap aluminium foil. A huge metal and plastic fist in desert camo ripped up through the damaged roof, throwing Chance aside. He clung onto a roaing on the side of the Train, the road rushing by, and the ground, hundreds of feet below that.
A figure emerged from the carriage, rolling back the roof like a sardine can. It was huge, about as tall as a battle tank was long, humanoid, desert camouflaged.
One arm was a fist, one arm was a 30mm rotary cannon. On one of the two huge shoulder sections was a rack of SAMs. The machine was marke with the OCU symbol.
"Shit!!! The FRAGGING VANZER'S OPERATIONAL!"
The massive machine turned it's head towards Ash an Crystal, its one eye-lense focusing on them, with deadly intent.
Servos whined and metal screamed as the monster was born from its metallic cocoon.
Epona, seeing the large mass which was the APC closing in, was prepping to bail from the Nuovo Inzio, which was now spewing sparks. However, as soon as a side door opened, the APC had sucessfully caught up to the Y-8 and sent it into a uncontrollable spinout. The car came to a rest laying on its size, with Epona and Redwing suspended from the roadway hanging on by a seatbelt. They both were successfull at getting back on the roadway, but still had a APC to deal with, which had stopped as soon as the six-wheeled sportscar begin its roll-overs.
Epona started mumbling under her breath and started going to the wreckage which was her prized possesion. Her pace was quicked by the bullets from the APC. As bullets were punching holes into the Nuovo Inzio, Epona managed to extract a military-issue PPC (particle projection cannon) from the hatch. The magazine was destroyed by gunfire, but a single round was left in the chamber. The PPC spooled up to full-charge, and Epona took aim from behind the wreckage. It was now or never...
The APC was transfixed by a briiliant blue-white stream of light that caught it in the side. Alumalloy armour melted and boiled. Soke started pouring from the metre-wide hole as everything inside burst into flames: Seats, electronics, paint, the crew.
Within seconds the whole vehicle was roaring with fire. Somehow, someone inside evidently still had control of something: The vehicle lurched forward, grinding it's gears. It picked up some speed, crunched off the wrecked Y8 and drove towards the edge of the skyroadway, the driver blind -
And then it was gone.
Epona imagined what it must be like, in tons of metal screaming towards the ground, on fire...
Redwing groaned, lifting his head from the tarmac. Electricars and light vans screamed by along the road, wheels inches from his head. He looked at his legs. All he saw was red. Red. Red. Red. Flesh. Splintered bone. Both legs were torn, tattered and broken.
Redwing wondered if he'd ever walk again, as he passed out...
Both Ash and Crystal fired at the same time... Crystal's burst of fragmentation rounds and Ash's blast of blowtorch flame shattering the lens in the Vanzer's "eye". Its optical capability was instantly knocked out of action.
"Time to go, sister!"
Both the women fell over the side on the train in a controlled topple and ended up clinging to the same roaing as Chance.
On hindside, it would have looked extremely funny... three mercenaries clinging like monkeys on a wire onto the side of the train as an enraged and blinded metal gorilla spewed 30mm fire over their heads.
But of course... it sure didn't seem very funny to the mentioned mercenaries.
Zizz had taken off the moment that that Vanzer-thing had punched through the roof... now he kept pace with the train as Ash screamed something at him.
"Carry Crystal and Chance away from this thing! Bring them to the front of the train! This Vanzer's mine!"
Chance exchanged a look with her, wondering if he would ever see her again. She mouthed the words Trust me to him, Crystal feeling rather ridiculous as the two soulmates exchanged looks with her in between them, all three of them hanging onto the side of a speeding train, with a beserk giant robot firing blindly into the sy around it.
Something tells me that I should have taken a safer job instead... Say, high-wire tightrope walking without the rope. The demowoman wondered.
Zizz had a better idea. Alighting on a nearby open-top convertible, he commandeered it with a light pistol to the driver's head. He couldn't tell who was more nervous, the driver or him, but with a whole lot of yelling and hand gestures, succeeded in driving the open-back next to the train.
Crystal and Chance dropped in, and Zizz ordered the pickup to catch up with the front of the train. With three possibly crazy mercenaries in the back seat with him, the convertible driver (a used car salesman taking his latest stock out for a ride) found it remarkably easy to follow orders.
Ash barely understood what she was doing, but something told her that only her unique fire skills would suffice for this particular job... both Chance and Crystal couldn't use their explosives without killing themselves at such a close range.
Her hands and legs were braced in a death-grip around the handholds on the carriage's side... it was either that or be splattered on the ground hundreds of feet below her.
Time to take on the monster...
The Vanzer was recovering from its blinding... with the rigger occupied with both controlling the train and the war machine, the mech was having a hard time figuring where the runners had gone. The Vanzer switched from its shattered optical pickups to thermal.
Ripping her glove off with her teeth, Ash planted her hand on the metal side of the train and imagined a mental thermostate in her limb.
She turned the device up to 100% power.
The metal glowed white, then gave way under her push. She parted the steel like putty, instantly drilling a fist-sized hole in the train's side. Then she shoved in her flamethrower's head and squeezed the trigger, spewing hellfire into the carriage.
The flame spewed into the compartment, instantly turning it into a cauldron... IWS guards that had responded to the rigger's call for help were engulfed in seconds, burning survivors pulling themselves into the 2nd compartment screaming in pain. The unluckier ones were fried at the Vanzer's feet... screaming their last as skin and muscle melted and ran.
Ash pulled the flamethrower clear of the hole. Then with an powerful flip, flung herself into the blazing carriage.
She landed and rolled at the feet of the Vanzer, which was stumbling about blindly. Getting to her feet, Ash spewed flame liberally at her feet, knowing that the Vanzer would have trouble picking her up with it's thermal sights.
In the first carriage, the rigger mewled in frustration in his zombie-state... The Vanzer had no optics left, it's thermal pickups were being blinded, it couldn't fire at its feet or risk blowing the floor out from under it, nobody could help the machine due to the fires...
He didn't notice the clang as Chance and Crystal leaped onto the side of the 1st carriage.
The Rigger knew the situation was critical. But he still had an option left, one asset that may yet save the Vanzer convoy:
Cy managed to haul the screaming Illidia up into the Tilt-Wing, cruising on autopilot away from the sky-road. Blood fountained from her missing leg, and from many shrapnel wounds caused by the exploding shells. It washed over the floor panels, soaked Cy's flight suit. She was going cold, numb. Her screaming trailed off.
He was losing her.
He stared out of the bay at the IWS Kommando that had done this. He dared it - no, willed it to fire again, finish them both off.
"Go on, you fraggers. Do it."
He looked at Illidia, in his lap.
Put her out of her misery.
The IWS machine lifted, then moved forward, into a banking turn, back to the roadway.
"Running away? RUNNING AWAY! YOU CAN'T RUN FROM ME! YOU CAN'T LEAVE US LIKE THIS!
He laid Illidia down as gently as he could and reached over for the GPMG. He snapped the trigger-guard off, pulled the mount over, depressed the trigger so hard his knuckles went white.
The gun bucked and jolted like a fragger, even on the recoil-absorbing pintle. A stream of tracers lashed out. Cy fought to control it, swinging it wildly back and forth over the retreating helicopter. He saw sparks and flashes as rounds hit home. He kept firing. Something exploded out of the side of the Kommando's engine housing.
Just as the IWS Pilot was nearing the roadway, catching up with the road train at the pilot's request, he suddenly lost all hydraulic pressure. For the Rigger pilot, being hit by the machine-gun fire felt like being stabbed with needles over and over. Now he felty he was bleeding to death, and like his legs had been cut from under him.
The copilot, smartlinked into the weapon mount had only a split-second to realise what was going on. He screamed, firing. Now flying over the skyroad, directly towards the road-train, heavy 14.5mm shells impacted in a long line raking towards the train, shattering armour, cars and tarmac.
And then the helicopter crashed straight into the top of carriage 3.
The Vanzer was almost sheared in half. In a panic, it started fring it's 30mm arm wildly into the air. It also launched a SAM, which trailed off into the air unguided, plunging below the sky-road and out of sight, leaving only a white pulme of smoke.
Shrapnel and shedded blades shot across the roadway. By now, most of the civilain cars had steered well-clear of the raging highway battle, but even so, a goods lorry was impaled by a blade and went crashing off the edge of the road.
Crystal rigged up a shaped charge grenade and clamped it in place over the driver's access panel. Nodding to Chance, they both braced themselves as best they could.
The grenade jetted a searing stream of molten metal into the engine compartment. There was a deafening crack of thunder, a huge explosion that shocked the whole road-train. Carriages rocked back and forth. Carriage 3 was close to being torn off.
What the frag was that grenade? It was only a breaching charge! No you fool! That explosion was behind us - Carriage 3...
"Chance! We HAVE to get inside HERE!" Crystal screamed. She swung herself through the whole the grenade had mae, taering off the panel.
Inside, on top of the huge throbbing engine, Crsytal came face to face with five men and two women - Three men and a woman in armour, two men in technician's overalls,a female officer, a Captain, wearing an IWS uniform with a heavy vest.
And to the side, in his own alcove, the rigger - a Lieutenant, though he was still plugged in. He seemd to be writhing in pain.
"Get her! Kill, bitch!" The Captain yelled. Shots rang out - Submachineguns. Crystal rolled across the floor. Two heavy thuds in her back winded her. She'd been hit, but herheavy jacket held.
She came up, leapt over behind the rigger, using him and his command chair as cover. Two bullets punched into his inert form. He didn't move, apart from the writhing from the pain he already felt elsewhere.
"Drek! Stop firing, idiots!" The lieutenant screamed.
Crystal raised a hand over the Rigger's chair. In that hand was a frag grenade, the pin pulled but the lever held down.
A deadman switch.
The guards stopped firing.
All was silent, bar the roar of the engine and the gasping breaths of the guards, sweating heavily, fingers tensing and releasing on their triggers, ready to fire at the slightest provocation.
Zizz' commandeered convertible had only just managed to avoid the destruction of the helicopter. Now, carriage 3 was burning merrily, top to bottom. He couldn't tell if anyone was alive in there.
Crap, what an inferno! Still, if anyone can survive a fire, it must be a fire elf, right?
He desperately tried to convince himself.
Though fatally damaged, the advanced combat machine was still receiving commands which it couldn't carry out. Its legs pulled at the restraints holding it in the carriage. Flames licked up around it, scorching the paintwork. It's torso, leaning at an angle it had never been designed for bled hydraulic fluid, and the 30mm arm still rattled shells off into the sky.
When the heli had crashed into the carriage, a huge section had caved in. The burning heli's mangled cockpit lay embedded in the train, it's tail jutting out upwards, dangerously overbalancing the vehicle.
Ash was trapped in the wreckage. Her vision swam - She'd taken a nasty blow to the head. She could distinctly smell petroleum and cordite, and wondered how much fuel and ammuntion for the Vanzer this carriage held...
Redwing awoke under bright lights and men wearing labcoats. One of them spoke; "You should thank this young girl for bringing you here. If she waited a few minutes later, you may not be able to walk again. But luckily for you, everything's going to be OK."
Redwing rolled over his head on the pillow and saw Epona walking out the door through squinted eyes. "You there" he muttered, "who are you?
Epona looked back, and said "You can call me Papi. My real name's not important. "
Redwing watched as she dissapeared around the corner. He went back to sleep under the faint noise of automatic gunfire, shouting through a megaspeaker, and sirens.
Despite her jarred vision, Ash found out through a combination of intution and feel that she had been pinned from the waist downwards by collapsed material, with her flamethrower muzzle jammed at her ankles between her legs.
Throughout her life, Ash had had a unique partnership with fire... now as she lay there, she somehow sensed that a massive flareup was eminient... meaning that an explosion would occur soon. In their wordless way, the flames spoke to Ash... and she understood.
She had to get out of the 3rd carriage.
Sitting there, she thanked her luck for her free hands as she came up with an idea of what to do to get out of the mess. Pulling the hood of her chainmail down over her face to protect it and using the armoured backpack of her flamethrower to cushion her neck, head and back, Ash looked back to scope out the 2nd carriage, irritatedly wiping burning flamethrower fuel out of her eyes and nose.
It was clear... everyone inside having evacuated to the 1st carriage when she flamed the 3rd compartment.
Ash took a deep breath, uncaring that the air she breathed was hot enough to instantly char the lungs of any normal being. Then she grasped her flamthrower as tightly as she could... braced, half-tightened the muscles of her back and legs to absorb the shock, and squeezed the trigger for a max-power blowtorch burn.
The crushed metal pinning her legs couldn't deal with the sudden heat... they slagged, easing their hold. At the same time, the ubrupt build-up of gas had but one result...
With a powerful Poommpphhh! Ash rocketed out of the 3rd compartment into the second with an afterburning trail of flame and gas streaming out behind her...
There was a tremendous detonation in the 3rd compartment as fuel, ammunition, and Vanzer exploded... Ash's eyes widened... then she received an additional and powerful shove as she rode the shockwave precious meters ahead of the blast, the power of the detonation such that she virtually took off from the fuelthrower fuel-oiled floor like a jet from a runway.
She hadn't planned for that extra boost... instead of landing in the 2nd carriage, Ash became a fire-elf cannonball that rocketed down the entire length of the 2nd compartment.
At the end of it, her armoured backback encountered the mag-lock door...
And the door gave way.
Chance had frozen outside upon hearing the detonation... his training and discipline failing him for once as the shock of possibly losing Ash rocked his mind.
The gunfire from inside the 1st carriage tore him back to reality... Crystal!
He hurled himself into the compartment. In the midst of his mental turmoil, he didn't notice the sudden ceasefire... His aim automatically selected a target, his finger tightening on the trigger...
The 3rd carriage's Vanzer-and-ammo detonation took everyone by surprise... Weapons lost their aim as nearly every single person (save the strapped in rigger lieutenant) was knocked off off their feet.
Only the IWS captain had maintained her balance... With cat-like reflexes, she aimed and readied herself to shoot the off-balance Chance.
Only to spy Crystal's hand grenade falling from the demowoman's grasp as she fell sprawling.
The bonk of the grenade hitting the floor was heard by everyone...
...milliseconds before another much louder BONK was heard as the compartment door was knocked open... a flaming missile from the 2nd compartment screaming in for the IWS captain.
Pow! Ash slammed into the captain's back, the force of the impact hurling the officer face-first into the engine block. There was an awful crack of breaking bone as the captain's nose crumpled... the officer collapsed in a unconscious heap, with the senseless Ash draped over her.
Crystal recovered first... she lunged for the grenade to try to throw it out of the train, forgetting that her legs were still tangled with the seated lieutenant's. The demowoman crashed down, her chin banging against the metal floor and flooding her vision with pretty coloured stars...
The grenade, nudged by Crystal's fingertips as she fell, bounced merrily off the helmet of the female armoured IWS guard as she dived and fell prone, the latter going cross-eyed as she tried to track the little green bob...
The two other armoured guards crashed head-on as they lunged for cover... unfortunately in the same direction... the grenade caught between their helmets momentarily before rocketing out to smack into the groin of one of the male technicians. The tech howled and dropped, tripping the other engineer as he grabbed for, missed and gave the grenade another change in direction...
Chance leapt desperately for the thing, slamming at full length onto the deck and winding himself... but missed as it cheerfully pipped him on the forehead and rolled to a ticking halt two inches from his eyes... and came to a stop against the armoured fuel tank of Ash's flamethrower, resting right in the middle of everyone.
Everyone in the carriage gulped, the eyes of everyone fixed upon that innocent little bob of green.
The grenade sputtered, then died....
There was an astounding period of silence, just all of them staring at the prone figure of Chance and the small green orb that would have been their destruction.
Seconds passed... Or minutes?
No-one could be sure. Sweat beaded of taut faces, breaths were shallow, trigger-fingers itched.
Suffering from dumpshock already at the destruction of the Vanzer, the IWS rigger's consiousness reeled again from the painful fiery death of the still-connected carriage 3. He was forced back to his meat body with a jolt.
He bolted upright, screaming, from the pain in his head, and the gunshot wounds...
And was promptly shot just over 70 times.
Crystal fired three bursts into his torso from her submachinegun, then ducked the crossfire from the IWS personnel. Bullets spanged and sparked from the bulkhead behind her, over head as she kissed the floor. Submachinegun and heavy pistol rounds, as well as Chance's APDU high-velocity rifle rounds tore through the hapless rigger from three directions. His scream turned into a choking, obscene gurgle. Blood spattered over Crystal and Ash, the Rigger's arm fell to the floor, twitching, and his unrecognisable corpse slumped in it's couch, finally embracing the peace of death. In pieces.
And then: Out of control, the autonav disengaged just before his death, the Roadtrain interpreted his neural death-spasm as an erratic left turn.
The road-train - Dragging the shattered mess of Carriage 3 behind it, swung bodily into Zizz' convertible, and knocked it flying off the edge of the roadway, before hurtling after it.
Cylinder Head had tied a tourniquet around Illidia's leg as best he could with a piece of load-bearing harness. He'd found a mix of painkiller's in the Aerobus' medkit, which he'd jabbed into her leg. At least it made her stop screaming.
Now, rigged back into control of the tilt-wing, he swopped back in the direction of the road-train.
No sign of the IWS Kommando, but the huge plumes of oily black smoked looked ominous.
Zizz had leapt clear of the convertible moments before the road-train plowed into it, the collision crumpling the fancy car into a flaming crushed lump of roadkill. The used-car salesman disappeared... knocked bodily from his seat to plummet a thousand feet down the side of the sky-road. His convertible followed him down.
The road-train had its velocity slowed by the collision, but it was not enough to stop it. Zizz watched with painful apprehension as the massive engine block crunched through the barriers and slipped over the edge...
But friction from the wreckage of the 3rd carriage refused to let the train die that easily... It held up the momentum of the road-rail, the train stopping with it's 2nd carriage stuck half over the edge. With a groan of crumpling metal, the 2nd carriage was bent into a U-shape by the weight of the engine. The train shuddered... friction fighting against the might of gravity.
Things had gone to hell in the 1st compartment as everyone and everything went sliding down the length of the compartment to crash into the front (now the bottom) of the carriage. The 2nd compartment door crashed loose... the huge chunk of metal crunching helmet and skull of a guard. More boxes and assorted supplies came tumbling down, raining onto the luckless people stuck at the bottom.
Chance found himself jammed painfully into the engine block. Working himself loose, he grabbed Ash, who had awakened from her temporary stunning episode. A yell and crump of a breaking jaw indicated a still-alive Crystal putting paid to a stupid guard that had tried to grab her. The demowoman scrambled around the massive engine block, joining Chance and Ash on the left of it when a powerful low bellow of crumpling metal froze everyone...
They suddenly realized that they were in a wrecked train hanging a thousand feet above empty air.
Chance looked around him in desperation, then realised that the boxes of supplies from the 2nd compartment weren't so useless afterall.
Glidewings... IWS military-issue gliderwings.
Chance had used those things before. A faster method of air delivery as opposed to parachutes, gliderwings were designed to be strapped onto and worn on the back like cyberwings. However, being unpowered, their utility was limited to gliding, as opposed to the powered cyberwings.
Crystal came to the same conclusion as Chance... The demowoman prised off the top of one of the gliderwing containers without any hesitation. A maze of straps came out, but she arrowed in for the two biggest ones that were worn around the shoulders. Chance and Ash did the same, racing against the clock as they strapped on the things.
Cylinder had seen the train go over... now as he buzzed around the head of the train, concern divided between Illidia and Crystal, he saw the shape of a woman appear at the blasted doorway of the 1st carriage.
Cy yelped as he saw the woman leap out into space... then relaxed as twin brown-camoflaged IWS gliderwings erupted from her back. The girl's flight path was less than ideal, but Cy had no time to see more before another figure jumped clear, this time a blue-haired one.
Her wings unfurled, then she glided down, spiraling in a dizzy looping path down towards the ground.
Then came Chance... the trooper strangely hesistating at the door. Cy had the impression that he had height phobia. The pilot watched him make a couple of false starts... then fall ungracefully out of the train as it gave a sudden lurch and heaved on its unsteady anchor. His wings unfurled, and Chance followed the other two women down.
All three were going much too fast for a proper landing, but Zizz saved them... Flitting like a guardian angel from one rookie wingglider to another, the wing-man corrected flight paths and kept them under the bare minimum of control.
All three newbie gliders made big splashdowns in the middle of a duck-filled pond. The acid content in the water stung, but it wasn't strong enough to burn. Yelping from the stinging liquid, all three mercenaries scrambled out of the water as Cylinder hovered his Aerobus nearby, Zizz swooping down immediately after.
The wing-man was yelling something, but distracted and shell-shocked from their narrow escape, none of the runners responded until Zizz flung himself to the ground and curled into a ball.
Everyone understood the implications... dropping into fetal positions as the last two carriages of the road-rail train plummeted a thousand feet and bombed into the muck-filled duck-pond a mere hundred meters away.
"You fraggers are going to having lick all that frigging mud off the floor when we get back!" Cylinder fumed.
There were yells of complaint and "Do it yourself!" from the back of the Aerobus... a particularly wet blob of muck smacking with amazing accuracy into the back of the rigger's head. Crystal's doing... no doubt. No one else had that good an aim! More mudballs from Ash and Zizz thudded into the back of his seat.
Then things turned serious with Chance's voice.
"Cy, we need to get to a hospital quick. It's Illidia... I'm losing her."
The Aerobus lifted laboriously from the rancid pondland. The jubilant, victorious mood qucikly broken once the 'runners saw Illidia's devastated form.
The ride was not an easy one either - The damage to the tilt-wing from the IWS chopper's guns was painfully obvious in the juddering airframe.
Chance, Crystal, Ash and Zizz did what they could for Illidia. What they could do wasn't enough.
"What'll we do? We can't just drop her at a public hospital! And don't tell Cy but I don't think this flying wreck will make it anywhere but Merseysprawl St Tanya's central." Crystal wiped some of the mud and blood from her face.
"Doc Wagon could..." Zizz let the words trail off as everyone stared at him. DocWagon ONLY EVER took registered clients as patients.
"Wolf..." Illidia gasped, beginning to come down from the drugs high. "Wolf can..."
Crystal immediately took Illidia's wrist-com, and though it was password and fingerprint-protected, managed to get Illidia to choose the number for a call.
Crystal made the call to the Wolf herself.
Chance wondered where this Wolf guy was. If he wasn't pretty damn near, they'd have to do something to stabilize Illidia: Either full medical care, or (shudder) magic...
RedWing woke once more. He couldn't seem to feel his legs for some reason, and all was impossibly dark. He felt on his hip for the comforting weight of his knife.
He couldn't feel it. He could hardly feel anything.
He managed to sit up, though it felyt like he was trying to lift a truck.
He remembered the pain in his legs and lower back. He remembered a car, and some kind of road-train.
He remembered a name.
"Papi?" He said, aloud.
The tunnel was lit with white lights running along the roof. Grey stone walls lined the sides, the distance between them about wide enough for three vans to pass abrest. Fardel North explained that this had been built by mountain Dwarves, at Delori's request, to serve as an escape route from his palace.
Damocles was lying on the ground. He was dazed and bruised, and hurt from the impact.
A shadow loomed over him. He couldn't seem to focus on it.
It was. Damocles groaned, and tried to move.
"Stay still". Sorrow's voice sounded urgent. The necromancer muttered something under his breath, and Damocles's body was lifted into the air. Sorrow then moved him between the closing doors and down into the tunnel, his powers of illusion concealing him from the sensors.
Hive and his two remaining Bikers watched the Necromancer and Bio-Assassin enter the barn. That must have been where the van had gone. With the half-dragon inside.
Hive reached down to his belt, and removed a grenade. His cyber-enhanced strength allowd him to lob it against the doors from outside the range of the sensors.
The doors blew inwards, revealing the tunnel.
"Damn, Illidia was one of Dragon's best friends. But I can't reach London in time, even with the Concorde 3!"
"How about a nice teleport trip?"
"But, Miss Tyarodon... how do..."
"I can read minds. And I owe you one for accomplishing and taking care of my Brother Draco."
"Ok, just make it quick."
"Miracle! It's a miracle!" Crystal shouted as the light faded out. Wolf appeared from the light.
"how did you do that?"
"One of my bosses helped me. Okay... Let's see... HOLY FRAG! I don't understand why she's still alive!"
Crystal didn't know much about magic, but she'd never heard of anyone being teleported before. From all she knew, such a spell would be extremely draining to the caster, whoever it was.
But Illidia seemed mollified by the stranger. Crystal had to make Chance put his weapon down, shaking her head. He nodded at Ash and she followed suit.
The man went to work with his sohisticated automedkit, cauterising the horrific, brutal stump where Illidia's leg had been.
Halfway through, he screamed at Cy:
"Put this fragging bucket down RIGHT NOW! I can't work in these conditions!"
Cy brought the Aerobus to a halt in the car park of an abandoned town just north of London.
In the now closed cabin, the stranger went back to work on Illidia. She seemed out of immediate danger now.
"We have to get ther to my place." The man asked.
"Where is that?" Cy asked. "I don't think this Aerobus will make it further than London Heliport."
Meanwhile, Crystal had jumped down to strecth her legs. She looked around the car park, full of rubble and wrecked cars.
She recognised this place: Dunstable, Bedfordshire. One of the towns abandoned due to a 500ft toxic chemical spew around 15 years ago. 20,000 people had been killed or croppled, the town abandoned as a monument to Zeta-Impchem corp's arrogance ever since.
There was movement.
A young kid - half his face scarred terribly, clad in rags, ran towards the landed 'chopper, clutching a bottle with a rag stuffed in the top...
The people in the van heard the explosion.
Fardel looked at the wrecked tunnel doors in disbelief.
"Frag... all this trouble for that girl? This is gonna cost me! Why don't we just dump her?!"
Raven looked uncomfortable, not knowing what to say. He couldn't just give up on Silvia... she was a good addition to the group, even though she was a bit reckless.
Revealing the fact that she was a half-dragon would probably make her worth more to the old fragger, but then they'd be in even more trouble, since she'd be put separately and under strong magical protection once they'd arrive.
Silvia understood the implications of the situation.
I don't like where this is going...
Finally, Raven spoke.
"We can't dunp her. She paid me."
"What?!" Fardel looked surprised. "Why?"
"She is a half-dragon... but she's not really a slave. She paid me a great deal of money to keep her safe from a Dragon that was trying to capture her. I didn't know it was going to be this dangerous. She knows that he'd probably not find her if she was a slave somewhere. It's her only chance."
Phew... that was close. Quick thinking, Raven. Now let's hope he buys it.
Fardel looked at the Silvia. "So... who are you then?"
"They call me DemonEye. That's all you should know, except for the fact that I can turn you into a blazing fireball this instant."
The bluff worked. Fardel looked very uncomfortable.
"I made a deal with Raven." she continued. "I advise you not to do anything that might get in the way of that deal. Don't tell anybody what I am."
"Okay then." Fardel said. "I won't."
Too close... I don't trust that Fardel.
The Binman had no interest in their conversation: As far as he knew, he'd only come here for the sights, maybe to see some Ork 'Kulcha'. With all this, and without even getting paid for it...
He got up to walk away.
"Thats it. I'm fragging leavin youz. I ain't no slave, an' I ain't no freebie neither. No-one paid me for this crap."
He turned to Fardel, attempting to impress the older Ork with his size and boldness.
"Tell uz how ta get outs, old man!"
Badjimmy turned to Sarah, still cradling his arm, though he'd lost the bottle in the chase. It lay smasehed somewhere, on a lonely road.
"He doesn't speak for us both, mon cherie." he winked. His black eyes sparkled in the darkness.
Oh no... he's gonna spoil it all! I gotta do something!
Silvia shifted to her Dragon form. Without the wings; they'd only hinder her now anyway.
The Binman looked at Fardel, away from her.
She quickly grabbed his neck with her right claw, roughly turned him towards her and put her other claw on his throat. The shackle didn't bother her much; she didn't need much space between her wrists.
"Listen slegger. I put too much effort into this to let you spoil it! You're gonna sit down right now or you lose your neck."
The binman looked into Silvia's dragon eyes in disbelief. "But..."
"No way you're gonna spoil it." she hissed at him. "It's too important."
The Binman gave up his resistance. He seemed to be confused by Silvia's actions; somehow he still seemed to consider her his ally.
Silvia scanned his thoughts and understood his confusion. She quickly whispered into his ear: "Ally to the group, not just to you. It's too important."
She made sure Fardel didn't understand what she said, and scanned his mind, just to be sure. But he seemed to be too impressed by her dragon form to notice what she was doing.
OK. We're safe... for now. But he's getting too suspicious.
The Binman sat down.
Sleg it... why does everything have to go wrong?!?
Silvia sighed and sat down again, shifting back to her Elven form.
There's no way we're gonna pull this off.
'When it rains it pours....' Raven thought. 'Why did I tell Fardel about Silvia? Why? Why? Why?' The steering wheel looked awfully tempting. Raven really wanted to smack his head against it over and over again. Silvia, having read the minds of everyone in the van felt this self destructive urge in Raven's mind, she soothed him and telepathically told him everything was going to be alright. He didn't believe her but the soothing sounds of the ocean were nice.
Fardel looked over at Raven. 'What has the boy gotten himself into? A half breed dragon-elf? Master will be pleased...'
Raven drove up to another checkpoint. The armed guards talked quickly to Fardel and let them through.
"So...Tyarodon, you are still alive." N'zar commented. The teleport energies had warned him. Tyarodon knew it. She was daring him to find her.
"But I have no time. I need to find out that lich. And although it is very draining, i will teleport MYSELF inside that country. These wimps had spoiled too much of my resources."
"I do remember Dragon hiding one of my machines in a warehouse in the port."
"Warehouse 34?" asked Ash.
"Why does it not surprise me?" she said sarcastically.
Damocles's enhanced hearing picked up the sound of the explosion, and the roar of the motorbikes, despite the aural supression wards which lined the tunnel.
He grunted inaudibly to Sorrow, who looked around awkwardly.
"What?", he snapped.
Damocles mored to the side of the tunnel, and began to prise off a grating on the wall, with urgent efficiency.
"Damocles? What is it?"
The bio-assassin wrenched the covering off, and crammed himself inside, what appeard to be a air vent head first, squeezing along the passageway. In all this he had not said a word.
Suddenly, Sorrow heard the bikers.
They had passed the checkpoint. It was only a mile more of tunnels to the vehicle station of Delori's estate.
Raven was sweating prefusely. One hand wiped his brow, the other held the wheel.
Fardel was talking into his wrist again. He turned to Raven.
"Ok. We have Gorogoron, a centuar, to collect the slaves at the gates. You can leave your van afterwards, and the guards will take you to an audiance with Delori to discuss payment."
Raven blanced. Mary did the same in the back. This was not how anyone had planned it - they were meant to stay togeter. Being dragged off by a centaur could easily blow their cover totally.
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