In Ruins

A place for stories beyond the gates of Rhy'Din
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Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:24 am

In Ruins

Post by Ruin » Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:24 am

The vast forest northeast of RhyDin was all but silent that day: most creatures sheltered in hollows or under heavy branches once the rain started, and few travelers braved the treacherous paths of the Wilds in bad weather.

The silence was shattered by the low warble of a spacecraft engine echoing through the clouds, followed by the high, menacing whine of a second engine. A small, boxy civilian freighter broke through the heavy gray bank, painted a chipped and faded red and brown that looked all the worse for wear now with scorch marks all over its rattling hull. The vapor plumes coming through the gaps in its plating looked bad enough already; then a red laser blast erupted from the clouds and scored a hit, and the freighter began belching thick black smoke and listing hard to starboard -- closer to the city.

A sleek white starfighter dropped in no more than two hundred meters behind it, a crab-shaped vessel bristling with forward armaments on either side. While the freighter bucked wildly, correcting the list to give the city a wider berth while it lost altitude, the starfighter moved fluidly as it settled in to line up another shot.

All the while, from the first moment the engines could be heard, a distress call went out over available comm channels: "Mayday, mayday, mayday, all stations -- Lucky Bolt, light freighter, under attack and losing altitude -- attempting," explosion, static, "away from the city -- five klicks northeast of city, heading south-southwest -- altitude, nineteen hundred meters -- shab! sixteen hundred..."

* * * * *

Endless nights -- that was predominantly how Cade's time was spent now. Not what he had in mind at all when he signed up but beggars can't be choosers, can they? The daylight was a rarity and one he bathed in languidly. Outside the shop he rested in the brief and succulent respite from the tour de isle. Like all good things he could feel the weight of his eyelids starting to weigh down before the phone in his lap began to violently tear him from that whispering dreamland.

The smoke billowed out against the greyscale sky -- the kind set to a dead television. The sight was impossible to miss and as the crab-esque vessel in pursuit drew closer to that of the rustic shedding snail the radio crackled once over the air. Indistinguishable between the sound of that futuristic weapon firing -- the glare of red lasers piercing through the lush greenery only drew more concern from the eyes behind his tinted visor.

As they began to draw nearer to the tree line, the glistening sheen of clouds reflected off the mirrored plates of his vessel rising from the forest. Not much for subtlety, the older model had been stripped of its paint long ago. Out he shot from the tree line, abandoning the cover the canopy had lent him. Whipping around, the antiquated targeting system locked on the freighter's red and brown hull. Directly in front of him the crackling display on his glass gave him some kind of idea of the closing gap between them.

"Lucky Bolt, how many are there in pursuit?"

The freighter and the Starfighter were two hundred meters apart and holding steady as one ship limped and the other glided past the lake. They couldn't have been much more than a kilometer above the ground now "Just one fighter, think it's--"

The Lucky Bolt was listing dangerously again, almost but not quite over the outermost suburbs of New Haven, and abruptly it turned hard to correct -- at the same moment that the cloud-colored starfighter smoothly halved the distance and stayed on it. A rattling plate flew off the dilapidated freighter, whirling through the air and nearly striking the fighter, and intercepting most of a flurry of red laser fire.

The pilot of the Bolt had timed it as perfectly as the pilot of the starfighter spun to narrowly avoid the large pieces of shrapnel hurtling around it.

Orange brackets in Cade's display fixated on the shrapnel flinging itself mercilessly from the vessel and the second pair of brackets warped about the pursuing craft. The hum of the water skirting from his engines, no doubt lacking compared to the two craft incoming was the little known reminder to him of how real this was.

"Keep from the coast if possible, Lucky Bolt. In roughly two clicks, slam the brakes." Was he being serious?

The way he began to accelerate left little indication or breathing room. ARMED. The single word blinked across his visor as he ran his index along the grooves of that stick. The other disabled the automatic targeting as those brackets fizzled out from the screen.

"I should mention, I don't know about this." That's what he wanted to get across. What came out instead was:

"I know about this."

"Stay out of this or die." It was a new voice on the channel, but it could be felt a fraction of a second before it arrived. It sounded like death itself, like cold water all around you and ice growing over the only way out.

There was no answer from the Lucky Bolt, and sparks came off of where its sensor array had been moments ago. It was unclear if the freighter had heard him, as it weaved and lurched unsteadily around another hail of fire that scored a hit off of its port side.

Another explosion, another great plume of smoke, and then they were two klicks out.

The Bolt slammed up on the brakes, and something violently backfired; the next shots from the starfighter went blindly through a cloud of smoke and vapor, and suddenly the freighter was behind them -- and falling fast.

Bang. The smokescreen did little for him nor the new voice on the line, although it had complicated this story slightly less than its absence. A mayday and a threat were about as polar as it could get. His grasp on the stick tightened and soon he was back in space. The gliding craft slipped from the mirror image of itself on the water and he ran his fingertips over the squared buttons on his console.

Feel it out. He had to remind himself as beads of sweat slowly slicked along his brow. The vessel was far more maneuverable than his own but it was stuck between a freighter and a dinosaur.

Three. The linear design with horizontal wings, perpendicular to the body allowed for little x or y axis adjustments. No, this was never going to be a dexterity check.

Two. The houses on the coast of New Haven began to slow their rapid ascension. No longer were they and the faces on the beach blurs or just inanimate ants. Everything around them slowed to a halt.

One. He flipped the red painted caution guard and pressed it. Turbines roared and that red flame turned blue. The release was instantaneous. His ship shot the distance between himself and the fighter to a hair. The angle was less than perfect. The turbulence sent him careening off, nigh jettisoned into New Haven himself before his dangerous tactic had him well beneath safety guidelines.

In the reflection of those mirrored plates, the red of fire danced like an imp fresh from the sulfuric hell it knew and loathed and loved. Just before entry he had pulled the trigger, only a few rounds, far less advanced than the opposing craft's own or its defenses. They got caught in the slipstream wherein as soon as he exited, they did as well. You can't dodge or dip or duck; but he'd be damned if he was going to lose out in a race.

Just one round. The fighter was ray shielded, but its designers hadn't accounted for ballistic projectiles, and one of three tore into its plating and out the other side. Static erupted from the one-in-a-million hit, slicing through one side of a heavy power coupling to the ship's computer.

The starfighter had been somersaulting through the air, in a prime position to retaliate by taking this dinosaur out of the sky for good, and in that frozen moment of time Cade could see a visored face staring at him through the cockpit.

He could feel the pilot wishing for his death.

But the maneuever never completed. With a burst of electricity from the vessel it fell almost all the way out of the sky, stopping itself less than a hundred meters off the ground. Then it was veering away across the lake, as the comm channel filled with the voices of an RASG squadron joining the fray.

Boom. Only a few klicks south of the city, another explosion sounded, and a plume of smoke rose from the dry southern plains.

The archaic rounds were harder to obtain, harder to maintain and reliably unreliable. His heart slammed itself into his chest as he saw that visor. Stay out of this or die. He had felt the unknown before. He'd seen things; this was different. So close to that visage, that promise, and he felt as though the noose were tighter around his neck than the opposition. And then it was spiraling out of control. The whiplash was knocking his helmet against the controls before his hand slipped from the stick.

The aged hardware still had enough going to where the autocorrect fired in and the vessel returned above, going round-about as he did his best to keep himself awake.

"Lucky... I'd ask to borrow that one for a day." His numbed fingers struggled to find a grip on that rigid stick before he shook himself out. "Do we have eyes on the freighter?" He tried to hear any one voice in that cacophony of chaos in his ears. The comms were all over the place in discord.

"Stargazer, this is dispatch, freighter has been spotted three-point-five klicks south of your position; calling fire and medical en route to crash site. Over and out."

As Cade's craft drew closer, the shape of the crash site became clearer -- like a great bonfire in the plains, the remains of the freighter all but invisible in the billowing smoke, save for a few rusted, burning metal plates hanging out of the wreckage.

It had been a nosedive.

"Roger." He could feel the resistance against his grip and he knew even if it was minor, which his suspicions were, there was going to be a hell of a repair.

Slipping lower he began to slice through the clouds, looking for anything that resembled the pilot. All that was there for him was fire and rusted metal.

There was little in the way of debris outside the immediate crash site, such that the few pieces around stood out. Among them, if one slowed and went low enough for a closer look?

A jacket, miraculously spared from incineration, though the right sleeve was burned and still smoking.

The lag in Cade's port turn caused a grinding screech to fill the air, muffled by his helmet but soon the craft landed. At first the cockpit fought back, unable to open. Then with a smack of his fist the hydraulics hissed and he was out, coughing up a lung as he removed his helmet. The roar of the squadron could be heard overhead as the jumbled comms continued. He set down his helmet before leaning down to stomp out the flames from the jacket.

Who are you? He couldn't keep the thought from creeping in his head.

There was a nametag on the front of what was evidently a work shirt, and only the leading character remained intact: three lines intersecting at the lower right, one broken, forming a letter in an unfamiliar language.

Easily lost in the roar of the RASG fighters and the rapid approach of emergency vehicles was the now distant drone of a speeder bike, leaving a plume of dry dust as it raced away from the scene, towards the solitude and sanctuary of the desert.

((Adapted from play with Cade Washington, with thanks!))
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