“I’ve taken the liberty of recharging you chasers, and my lovely wife packed away last night’s leftovers for you. A damn sight better than rations, I’d wager. I also checked the Ronisgald weave for any signs that they know you’re coming, and came up clean. You shouldn’t have any problems, but if you do … well, I’d imagine between One and Teria, you should be able to get out of it.”
“Thanks, Alex.” said Mikaen, shaking the Dreamer’s hand, “You’ve been a great help.”
Alex waved him off. “You don’t have to thank me. Just remember what I said, okay?”
Turning to One, Alex said, “You and Mikaen take care of my nieces now, y’hear?”
“Got it.” One jokingly saluted his brother Dreamer.
Leaning into the seat, Mikaen said, “Let’s get going. We should try to reach Ronisgald before night falls.”
As they sped off, Mikaen heard Alex’s voice in his head. “Make sure you stop by again, okay? I’d like to hear how this turns out.”
They crossed into Ronisgald proper as the evening fell. The Galden moved most of their country underground centuries ago, during which time, the forests had retaken much of the continent. The trees weren’t anywhere near as massive as chronoan trees of Ircandesta, but they still towered over the chasers.
In fact, the trees were all anyone could see. After a few hours seeing nothing but greenery, Teria asked, “This is Ronisgald, right? The technological superpower?”
“Most of Ronisgald is underground, sis,” Tirinia told her sister. “The only remains of above-ground settlements date back to Pre-Calliban days, and are probably overgrown.”
“Yeah, most of it, not all of it. I mean, we haven’t seen so much as a paved road!”
Jek snorted over the intercom. “Ronisgald hasn’t used wheeled vehicles in over a century.”
Teria rolled her eyes, even though no one could possibly see her while she was encased in the chaser. “Fine, but shouldn’t there be some sign of ... I don’t know, something other than trees?”
“Like those blips that just showed up on the scanners?” One suggested innocently.
Teria glanced down at the control panel. Sure enough, there were several blips on the edge of the scanning screen. Even as she watched, more blips appeared behind the others, moving rapidly toward her group.
“Heads up, everyone,” she said in a grim tone. “We’ve got company.”
“Hmm. Jyle’s shadows coming to catch us, maybe?” Mikaen muttered.
“I doubt it,” replied Jek. “We wouldn’t be detecting them.”
“Meh.” One’s chaser began to gather more speed, “Let’s leave ‘em in the dust.”
As the group accelerated, the blips on the radar fell back and eventually vanished altogether.
“All right!” Jek said, “Ronisgald, here we come!”
Teria opened her mouth to reply when the blips reappeared on the scanner. They weren’t closing in on the group particularly quickly, but they were definitely getting closer. “Maybe not.”
“Hoo-boy.” One said, “Definitely not Jyle’s boys.”
“What makes you say that?” Teria asked.
“Do you think that Jyle would build his personal chasers to be slower than the regular ones?”
“Probably some sort of booster,” Jek reasoned. “They can’t keep it up forever.”
The dots continued to grow closer, slowly but surely. They weren’t within sight yet, but it was only a matter of time.
“I knew I shoulda brought the Final Fantasy,” One muttered. “I don’t suppose these things have weapons.”
Tirinia moved alongside Teria. “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’, sis?”
Teria grinned. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
Teria gripped her controls and pulled them toward her chest. Instantly, the chaser’s form shifted: the canopy angled up to act as a windshield, the seat moved forward so that Teria could sit up, and the display screens raised so that she could still read them.
“What the … how did you …” Mikaen stuttered.
“Don’t worry,” Tirinia said, as her chaser reconfigured itself the same way, “We can take care of the border patrol.”
“Just a minute!”
She leaned over and kissed his canopy. “Trust me, love. We’ll draw them away and meet back up with you at the rendezvous point.”
He started to argue, but One cut him off. “Don’t worry about it, Mikaen. The border patrols aren’t usually more than five or six riders. Teria and Tirinia could ride circles around them.”
Mikaen’s sigh could be heard through the intercom. “Fine … but please be careful, Tirinia.”
Teria snorted. “Don’t worry, WE will.”
The Myssohn sisters quickly spun about and headed straight toward the approaching border patrol.
As they sped back the way they came, Teria chuckled. “I guess you’re ready for a little action too, huh?”
Tirinia smiled at her sister.
The chasers couldn’t move quite as fast in upright mode, but they were much more maneuverable. Still, it didn’t take them long to spot the approaching Galden.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought: the Galden Security Force’s Border Patrol.” Teria let out a snort. “Oh, look! They’re on spinners.”
The Syntek R-9K4 light chaser, commonly referred to as the ‘Spinner’, was the standard vehicle of the Ronisgald Border Patrol as well as several minor gangs on the nearby strands. What it lacked in maneuverability, it made up for in speed, pickup, and an excellent booster system that allowed the spinners to move twice as fast on straight-aways.
Spinners served as an excellent military asset to the Ronisgald Military Force during several skirmishes with Longshore… that is, until the tigreth found out how spinners had earned their nicknames. The casing on the sides of either of the two drive units is quite thin. If one of the drive units is damaged, the other will make the unit spin wildly out of control until the rider is thrown off of the spinner or the spinner crashes into something.
The radio crackled for a moment. “You are trespassing in Ronisgald territory without permission. Bring your vehicles to a halt immediately.”
“Yeah, like that’s going to happen.” Teria said, either forgetting or not caring that her chaser’s intercom was still broadcasting.
“I repeat, bring your vehicles to a halt immediately. Failure to reply will be interpreted as an act of aggression.”
Teria and Tirinia exchanged glances before bursting into laughter.
Clearly annoyed, the voice said, “This is not a game! If you do not stop your vehicles, we will open fire.”
Still chuckling, Teria tapped the button that she felt reasonably sure would activate the weapon controls. To her surprise, a set of thrusters extended from the rear drive assembly.
Teria barely had enough time to tighten her grip before the boost thrusters blasted her chaser forward at an alarming speed. She passed right through the center of the Galden patrol, winging a spinner in the right turbine as she passed. The Galden soldier fought to regain control, but crashed into another spinner in the process, taking both of them down.
The boost fizzled out, giving Teria a chance to recover. Turning her chaser around, she saw several of the Galden were now heading her way.
She shot toward the nearest Galden as fast as her chaser could take her. To his credit, the soldier she had targeted did not deviate in his course in the slightest.
Grinning wider, Teria muttered, “This should be interesting.”
Only a dozen feet or so away, Teria leapt off the chaser, flying over the Galden’s head. The Galden swerved, narrowly missing the chaser as it zoomed ahead, sans rider.
Teria hit the ground rolling and sprang toward the stalled spinner, catching the rider completely off-guard. With a well-placed jump-kick, she knocked the Galden clear off his vehicle. She climbed on the spinner before he could so much as push himself off the ground and quickly left him in the dust.
After a quick search, she found the Galden’s pulse rifle in a holster on the side of the spinner. Drawing the weapon and disengaging the safety, she blasted a few shots at the nearest spinners.
She managed to send one into a spin before the remaining Galden managed to regroup. Order restored, the Galden Security rushed toward Teria as one.
That was when Tirinia sped through the group from behind, Justice in hand. With a few well-placed jabs, she managed to disable another two spinners before stopping just behind Teria.
As the remaining spinners regrouped, Teria hopped off the spinner onto Tirinia’s chaser, wrapping an arm around her sister’s waist as she continued firing her stolen weapon.
Revving the engine loudly, Tirinia shot into the group again amidst a hail of energy fire, damaging a few of the enemy spinners but not disabling any. Of course, as Teria suspected, that wasn’t her goal.
Zooming past the spinners, Tirinia guided the chaser into the deeper part of the forest, Teria’s chaser automatically following shortly behind thanks to Jyle’s programming. The entire group followed as well, which meant Mikaen and the rest of the group were in the clear.
Teria hopped onto her chaser and pulled up beside her sister. “Let’s see if we can’t separate them a bit.”
Teria veered away from Tirinia’s path, leaning forward. As the safety harness reengaged, the chaser’s speed increased greatly.
From the blips on the radar, the spinners were miraculously keeping up. No doubt they had activated their boost systems to avoid losing her.
“Yeah?” said Teria, “Well, let’s see how you like this!”
Lifting her chaser’s front hover array, Teria drove up the trunk of a fallen tree. Using it as a natural ramp, she flew through the air, and soared straight through a small opening in a dense cluster of tree branches.
As she suspected, her pursuers followed her up the ramp. Four of the three made the jump, but the last clipped thick branches around the opening and crashed into a nearby stream.
Sitting up again, Teria fired the energy rifle behind her blindly until the ammo cell was depleted and tossed the now-useless weapon away. Although she didn’t hit any of the spinners with the energy blasts, the thrown weapon hit one of the Galden in the face and made him veer into the spinner beside him.
The final spinner swerved around the other two and sped forward. Apparently, whatever procedure had been restraining them so far had just given out. The nearest patrol officer drew his rifle and opened fire.
A stray blast caught Teria’s chaser in the side thruster. Although the other thrusters automatically compensated for the lost speed (Teria thanked the Creator that Jyle had been more careful designing his chasers than the Galden), she slowed considerably … so abruptly, in fact, that the final spinner zoomed ahead of her. As it fell back, Teria leapt from the chaser and tackled the rider.
Teria and the Galden fought furiously for control of the spinner, but their strength was evenly matched.
“Let go, you stupid cat!” the Galden shouted, still struggling to remain in his seat.
Teria opened her mouth to retort when she noticed a large stump directly ahead. Without another word, she leapt free and hit the ground rolling.
The spinner hit the stump with an ugly crunching sound and fell to the ground. The soldier, on the other hand, kept going for about twenty feet before falling to the ground and eventually smashing into a tree hard enough to make Teria wince.
Teria stood up and brushed the leaves off out of her fur, muttering, “You win, big guy.”
Her ears twitched as she heard the approach of another spinner. She quickly hid behind a tree and waited until she saw the glimmer of the suns reflecting off his front panel.
With what she hoped was an intimidating war cry, she leapt out from the tree, hit the rider full in his chest, and tackled him off his vehicle to the ground.
“Agh! Teria?! Do you mind?”
Teria’s eyes went wide. She had just tackled One.
She leapt to her feet and helped him up. “Sorry, ‘bout that, One. I thought you were a Galden.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.” One brushed the dirt from his clothes. “You okay?”
Teria shrugged. “Do I look like I’m in trouble?”
One glanced back at the column of smoke rising from the wreckage of the spinner, then turned his gaze on the damaged turbine of Teria’s chaser idling nearby. “You want an honest answer?”
Teria pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips. “Yeah, well, I stopped ‘em, didn’t I?”
The unconscious Galden let out a groan, as if to answer her. One raised an eyebrow at Teria.
“Ah, don’t worry. He’ll be back on his feet in no time,” Teria said, waving off-handedly at the fallen pilot.
Teria snapped her fingers, and ran to where her chaser was idling. One followed, and after a moment, began poking around the damaged thruster with Headache.
“Tirinia?” Teria asked through the intercom, “You okay?”
“Just shook the last one. He’s going to be stuck for at least an hour. You?”
“My last admirer just made out with a tree.” Teria glanced over to see One’s response, but he was still tinkering with the thruster.
“Damn idestan tech.” He muttered. “I don’t know if I can fix this.”
“Can’t you just make the parts …” She waved her hand around for a moment. “… coalesce or appear or something?”
“Not if I don’t understand how the part is built. At best, the part wouldn't work.”
“And the worst?”
“The incomplete part could make the chaser explode. Like I said, idestan technology isn’t exactly my forte.” One sat back, scratching his head with a metal hand. “Probably shoulda done some research on that, now that I think about it.”
“Teria?” Tirinia asked from the chaser’s intercom. Teria hurried over to respond.
“My chaser got damaged.” Teria glanced at One, an idea popping into her head. “Go ahead and regroup with Mikaen. One and I’ll find another way in.”
One looked at her sharply.
“Are you sure?” Tirinia asked.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll just slow the rest of the group down. We’ll meet up inside Ronisgald.”
“Okay, Teria. Be careful … and One?”
“I’m here.” One said, flashing an annoyed glare at Teria.
“Take care of my sister, okay?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
One let out a resigned sigh. “I promise I’ll take care of Teria … now get moving before you get Mikaen worried.”
Teria put her hands back on her hips as One shut off the radio. “Shall we?”
“Shall we what?” One asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Well, I don’t know how to get into Ronisgald so you’re gonna have to bring me along with you. You did promise, after all.”
“I promised to keep you safe, and sneaking through the air ducts isn’t even close to safe.” One crossed his arms, a stubborn look in his eye.
She put her hands on her hips. “Oh, so you’d just leave me here to get caught and tortured by the Galden? Gee, some protector you are.” As One opened his mouth to object, she turned away. “No, that’s okay. I understand. I’m sure you’ve got more important things to do … like your new girlfriend.”
Glancing back, she felt a twinge of satisfaction at the sudden look of guilt on his face.
“We haven’t … I’ve only gone out with her once.” he said, his cheeks quickly turning red.
“Sure.” Teria said, deliberately elongating the one syllable word.
His cheeks quite red, One let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. I was going to split from the group when we got inside the Hub anyway. You can tag along.”
She leaned toward him and asked, “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
The kiss was automatic. It was only on his cheek, but she couldn't help but feel a little boost of happiness at the slight smile he was failing to keep off of his face.
Teria started to get back on her chaser, but One stopped her. With a wave of his hand, the chaser revved up and shot back toward Ircandesta.
“Just in case any more Galden are following us.” One started toward his chaser, but Teria beat him to it.
She hopped on and revved the engine for a few seconds before looking back at him. “I’m driving. You sit behind me.”
She could tell he was considering it. Muttering something beneath his breath about power conservation, he gingerly sat behind Teria.
“You’re going to fall off if you don’t grab something. Put your arms around my stomach.”
A sly smile crossed her lips at One's telltale hesitation. She put the chaser in reverse and made it jump backwards. As One fell forward, he reflexively latched his arms around Teria’s bare stomach.
Before he could let go, Teria hit the accelerator. One held his grip, but Teria could feel his skin grow hot. Grinning ever wider, she said, “This is gonna be just like old times!”
“I'll have to take your word for it,” One replied through clenched teeth.