The Fox and the Wolves
Olsein had held the car at a speed well above four hundred kilometres an hour, the mag reactor whining with such intensity that one might have thought the composite helices within might have been torn asunder if demanded any more of. He swerved through traffic as if they were currents of water. He constantly saw the cars and pedestrians as obstacles, took quick reads on where the drivers intended to go next, drew a line where he could fit the nimble little car through, and followed it. Both hands gripped the yoke only so lightly, so as to allow for the minute adjustments to course that were needed.
Still, fast was not fast enough. Olsein spotted more Behraanese signatures on his armcomm display, some of which he recognized immediately as Alpha-wolf fighters. Three of them, followed perhaps by smaller aerial judiciary forces. The car had no sensors in itself with which to grant a better idea, and his arm display could only discern so much with its far smaller processor, but what it meant was clear enough.
“That’s a lot of red dots, old man,” Savath warned as his hands gripped his seat for dear life, “definitely onto us. Remind me never to buddy up with you again!”
“Afraid of a little adventure, I get it,” Olsein grinned, slamming on the mag brakes and letting the car oversteer a little, the tires screeching and letting off smoke as he drifted the car around a corner, switched down to a high-torque differential and planted his foot in the throttle again.
“Shit man, you’re gonna get us killed!” Savath shouted, gritting his teeth.
Instead of Olsein answering, one of the Wolf fighters did so for him, unleashing its four-cannon plasmar array at, around, before and behind the car.
“This thing go any faster!?” Savath looked back, watching the plasmar bolts eat into everything they touched. Cars, the road, curbs, buildings.
“I think it flies,” said Olsein, still focused on dodging everything while maintaining what he considered a healthy speed.
“And why aren’t we flying!?”
“Wolf fighters would lock onto us with missiles and that’ll be the end of it,” said Olsein, “being down here makes them work harder to hit us, and not their own citizens.”
“Lousy job they’re doing,” Savath commented.
“Wolves are notorious for poor ground fighting,” Olsein grinned, as he goosed the brake and forced the car into a partial spin around a long cargo vehicle, then spun the other way to dodge a two-wheeler.
All seemed to be under control.
And then the dots appeared in front, in a perfect line from left to right. Olsein looked up, seeing almost a dozen wolf fighters, hovering in a row, all narrowing in on the car.
“Down!!” Savath cowered, hiding under the dashboard as best as a giant like him could.
Olsein’s eyes widened, but instead of panic like his passenger, he flicked the switches necessary to start the lifters under the wheel points and ignite the ion engine mounted in the back of the car.
Just as the fighters sprayed green death at the car’s spot on the ground, Olsein jumped the car up and over the confined point of fire, and over the traffic as well. As the fighters adjusted their targeting, he throttled the engine and began a speedy roll, weaving left and right until he shot right past them. Savath started a scream as the weapons fire became cacophonous.
As the car evened out of the roll, one stray bolt of plasma scored the roof of the car, puncturing the thin carbon structure easily and biting through the back seat, clearing through the undercarriage of the car. Smoke emitted from the punctures as the metal seared red-hot, the flow of air feeding the heat more. The open wound whistled as air rushed by it. The car listed to the left, likely since one of the lifters had failed.
Olsein glanced back, swearing silently to himself and resuming the frantic dodging.
The car did have sensors enough to alert the driver it was damaged, by way of forcing itself towards the ground. The precious owner of the vehicle had no recollection of this, and so neither did Olsein.
“We going down!?” Savath shouted.
“Just hitting the road again,” said Olsein as he kept an eye on the red dots on his arm display, as they grouped behind the car.
“By hit you mean crash right?”
As the car descended, it levelled out just before hitting the ground, then touched down and reactivated the wheel motors. Olsein then continued weaving through traffic. Savath continued freaking out.
And then, instead of a line of dots ahead on the sensors, there was one solid red line, clean across the road ahead. Traffic had all but come to a stop, and out the windshield, it very quickly became apparent as to why.
A Behraanese shielded road block. Olsein knew them well. Quick to deploy; covered wide roads; heavily armoured and littered with cannons.
On one side.
Olsein tried to jump the car again. The car simply refused, complaining that it was unsafe to do so. “Unable to comply due to compromised structure,” it continued to say.
“Grahaamut!” Olsein shouted aloud, slamming the yoke, the brakes and the back of his head against the back of his chair as the car screeched to a stop.
Savath peeked up and saw the block, leaning back as well, “well, shit.”
“Now would be a fine time to freak out,” said Olsein as he gritted his teeth, “we’re plugged.”
Out from behind the block, soldiers flooded the scene, armed with plasmar rifles and the gall to use them.
<Power down your engine and step out of the vehicle!> said one soldier over a megaphone from behind the block, <we will only ask you once!>
“They really will,” Olsein slammed the yoke again before motioning to open the door.
Until a larger, green blip appeared on his sensors.
Olsein simply powered down the reactor first, slowly as he could. As it was, it was his first time driving the car.
He knew that blip.
That blip could not have shown up at a better time.
<Good! Now step--> the sentence was cut short by something Olsein could not see from behind the block—until the fires of an explosion came up and over it.
Up from behind the block, a few hundred metres away, the Skyreign rose up, unleashing a furious barrage of torpedoes upon the fortifications on the ground before Olsein and Savath. Those slim missiles streaked through the eternal night, punctured their targets, then violently tore them apart in a blaze.
The block itself was finally riddled with these torpedoes, all of which not only sundered it, but nearly disintegrated it.
Olsein had stopped the car a good fifty metres away, just close enough to see the fireworks and just far enough to not be showered with red-hot shrapnel—or at least not as much so.
By this time, the drivers of the other vehicles in the jam were running for their lives in every direction.
The Behraanese soldiers turned their complete attention to the renegade vessel and fired with severe vanity upon the Noregite hull of the Skyreign. All five turrets swivelled and pegged the retaliating soldiers with only just enough firepower to sweep them off their feet or sweep their feet off them.
Never was there more glorious a sound than that of the Skyreign’s turrets. Music to Olsein’s ears.
Though it didn’t seem right that all five turrets were firing. That would have required five people not flying the Skyreign.
He paid the thought little heed.
From the remains of the block—albeit little more than a wall of fire in its stead—two female figures rushed into the scene, armed and armoured to the teeth, bearing what Olsein recognized right away:
His Marioch rifles.
“Janeth, you little bitch,” Olsein said under his tongue.
“That little bitch is saving our asses,” Savath bellowed, as they watched Janeth and Elsie quickly dispose of whatever soldiers were foolish enough not to run when they stared death in the eyes.
“Yeah,” Olsein leaned back into his chair, letting go of the yoke, “she owes me a few anyway.”
The other fighters rushed over and past the car to meet the Skyreign instead, firing everything they had upon its golden hull. The bolts of plasma absorbed into it, feeding the shields that then thrashed against the missiles, injuring only the confidence of the fighters’ pilots.
The Skyreign then retaliated with its own torpedoes, ones that split into tinier, more mobile swarm missiles, causing a cascade of explosions around itself as they pursued and chomped into the fighters, damaging many, and destroying two before they could even hit the ground.
Amidst the exchange of fire, Janeth and Elsie dashed for the car. Then closer, Olsein could see that both were wearing much heavier gear than when he saw them last. Olsein’s shield belts; Olsein’s silvery carbonmail longcoats; Olsein’s sensor scrambler circlets upon their heads; Olsein’s armour shards on their legs; Olsein’s sunguards.
“Thinking she owes me a few more,” Olsein gritted his teeth.
“Betting she won’t think it that way,” Savath smirked.
As Janeth made eye contact with Olsein, she spoke something into her own armcomm, and the Skyreign promptly descended, rotating so that its stern would face the car. As it descended, its lifters pushed the other abandoned, burning or destroyed cars aside, its two engines still as cold and lifeless as ever.
The ramp dropped, showing the innards of the cargo room, as clear and orderly as Olsein had ever seen it. Before bothering to think of how the limited crew found the time to do the cleanup, he restarted the car and drove it up the ramp and inside the ship, Janeth and Elsie rushing up behind them before the ramp closed and locked.
Olsein then stepped out of the car and stood straight, looking over to Janeth and shaking his head, “throwing caution to the stars, are we?”
Janeth pulled off the sunguards and set them upon the top of her head as she took a good look at the puncture hole in the car.
“Archaic in design,” she said, “yet quite beautiful. Must have cost you dearly.”
“We had a friend pay for it,” Savath said as he stepped out of the car as well, grinning after he was done speaking.
Olsein and the others felt the ship quickly lift off again. “So, we were headed to the prison.”
“No, you weren’t,” Janeth shook her head, moving towards the stairwell, “you must have driven right past it.”
Olsein followed her, as did Savath and Elsie.
“We have some help,” said Janeth as she ascended to the rec room, looking to twelve soldiers in Occupier outfits, “don’t let their outfits fool you. They are Pillarian, and they are rather unhappy with the way Behraan does things here. And so am I.”
Audibly, the ship was still firing all its rounds and audibly, all its rounds hit their marks, the ship being lightly bumped about by the explosions all around.
“So they’re helping us with the break-in, are they?” asked Olsein.
Janeth nodded as she continued onto the bridge.
From the bridge, things got far louder as five more Pillarians in Occupier outfits manned the turrets and fired away at the wolf fighters.
Those fighters were designed to fly much faster than they were, lacking manoeuvrability at the low speeds they had to fly in such a confined environment.
The Skyreign barely had to move at all to have an advantage over them, being practically immune to their particle fire, and using that same particle fire as energy to shield it from missiles.
Darrick micromanaged the controls, lightly tapping controls here, fine-tuning knobs there with one hand, whilst flying ever so precisely with the other hand on the yoke.
“Take us to the prison,” said Janeth as she stood in front of Olsein, Savath and Elsie, “Time we saved your captain, and my daughter!”
“On it,” Darrick quickly adjusted course and hurdled the ship towards the prison, “this ship feels so much livelier now with a full crew. Even if I can’t understand a word they’re saying.”
“Nice to see you too,” Olsein raised a brow, still eyeing his gear on the persons of Janeth and Elsie.