Future Nerf: Chapter 4

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This is being added to the beginning of every chapter of the former "Future Nerf" series that I wrote several years ago. While the story is available for nostalgia purposes, it must be understood that the story as I've understood and developed it is a far cry from what you'll find here. Please do not modify or construct any prequel/sequel/alternate stories of your own based on these. One day when I've put all my thoughts into words there may be a re-release...not only of these chapters, but of the entire story, beginning to end, which no one has seen yet. Aside from this, enjoy :-).

February 9, 2012

Ace looked around at the airport as he left the plane, but didn't see Duncan or Custer in the sparse crowd. He knew there were others in the team, but he didn't know their faces. He decided finally to just walk to the baggage pickup, and see if anyone followed him. He was picking up his bags when Sharpknux walked up.

"Hey, Ace, good to see you. We're in a bit of a hurry today, so let me help you with those, and let's get out of here." Sharpknux said hurriedly. Ace stared at him blankly. "Oh...I'm Sharpknux, by the way." "Sharpzorz!" Ace exclaimed, shaking Sharp's hand. "And I always thought you were black. Okay, that's the last one there. Let's go."

West rode to the Luna Labs, where he met Starbuck and Boom. In a few minutes they were joined by Mir and Crystal. The group walked into the large building, through the ornate, plant-adorned lobby, between the tall, angular pillars and up to the front desk. Mir ordered security passes for everyone, and led them to the elevator. In minutes they were on the twenty-ninth floor, at the door to lab three. Mir entered a code into the door's lock. The lock clicked, the sound echoing down the long hall. Mir led them in with Crystal bringing up the rear.

Dr. Kim was working at the other end of the lab, and looked up. She recognized West and Mir imediately, and went to meet them. "Glad to see you finally got in, West," Echo said, "What can I do for you?" "West is attempting to track down some people that may be working against the government," Mir told her. "Like I said last week," West began, "I need you to tell me everything you know about the man I met with in the bar."

Echo shifted uneasily. "Can you trust them?" She waved a hand at Starbuck and Boom. We're going to find out, Crystal thought as she slipped in beside Starbuck. Her left hand went to her combat knife. "They're working with us in an anti-gang operation," Mir said, "They can be trusted." Crystal gripped the knife handle tightly and began slowly pulling it out of its hidden sheath. I have to do this... Boom, standing forward and left of Crystal and Starbuck, began to look back. "Okay, I'll tell you what I can, but..."

Boom heard a sudden motion behind him, and swung back, weapon up. Crystal had slashed the knife back to her right, where Starbuck was standing. Starbuck looked down slowly at the knife. Boom paused for a moment in disbelief. Starbuck teleported out, Crystal rushed forward. She leapt toward Dr. Kim, on the way smashing an uppercut into a stunned Boom's chin that lifted him off his feet and landed him unconscious in the middle of several rolling tables. Crystal landed, and was about to rush a fatal strike at Dr. Kim, when a sharp explosion rang out. Crystal's right knee collapsed, and she fell. Mir kicked Crystal's pistol out of its holster, and hauled her against the wall in an arm lock. West stood there, and pumped a second round into his Larami Hunter.

West and Echo both looked to Starbuck, belatedly. They went and pulled Boom from the mess of broken containers as he was waking up. As he stood up he yelped in pain as he looked back. He pulled a syringe, an emptied syringe, out of his right thigh, an held it up.

"What was in this?" Boom asked quietly and calmly, turning a little pale. "I don't know, the label's ripped," Echo replied "Sit down over there, I'll find out."

Echo took the syringe and squeezed the last drops of the substance into a microscope. Luna security burst through the door, and took Crystal away just as Echo finished her examination. She sighed and turned back to Boom. "You'll probably be okay," Echo said, "It wasn't any poison or chemical." "Well what was it?" Boom asked, a little color coming back to his face.

Echo hesitated. "Nanobuilders. It's something we developed, and were reluctant to test. Looks like we don't have a choice. Chances are, nothing will happen. In case something does..." she reached inside a drawer, pulled an emergency beacon out, and handed it to Boom. "...press the button on here. You'll be taken to a special section in the hospital. Like I said, probably nothing will happen, but..."

"Got it," Boom said standing up. He pocketed the beacon, and wiped his hands over his face. "You want to tell me more about this?" "No...not right now," Echo answered slowly, "later, if it's necessary." "Excuse me, this is all very regrettable," said West, "but I've still got a bit of work to do. Echo, what can you tell me about that man?"

"Not much, except that he seems to work like a placement service. He finds groups or individuals that need someone with specific expertise in an area, then he finds them and hires them like consultants. I've watched him from time to time, kept tabs on him, for lack of anything better to do. After his meeting with you, I followed him, and I think I know a place he works out of."

Echo rolled on her chair to a computer and printed out an address. "It's way down below. Not a nice place to be." West took the paper and memorized the address. Then he put it in his pocket. "Thanks, this is what I was looking for. I'll let you know what I find out from him," he said to Boom and Mir. West put his shotgun back in the hidden leg holster and left with two other Luna security guards escorting him back downstairs. Once he was outside, he climbed onto his bike, but before starting it, pulled the paper back out of his pocket. He smiled. Echo had left her home number for him along with the message "Here's for you saving my life." Putting the paper away again, West started his bike and headed home. He had a big mission to prepare for. This time, he would find his target.

The minute Boom walked in the RADHQ door alone, Curt knew there had been trouble. He, Cam and Ace kept working. "Starbuck bought it," Boom said with his head down, "Mir's bodyguard sold out. She zeroed him, and almost hit West's contact." "And where is she know?" Curt asked regarding Boom's latest bruise. "The Lunas have her in custody," Boom replied, finding a seat. He didn't even notice Ace sitting at the table. 'Not the best time to introduce myself, I guess," Ace said. Boom looked up, "Hey, finally here. You're a little late, so you didn't get to meet our tactical leader, Starbuck." "So I gather," Ace said quietly, "Anything I can do?"

Curt stood up and went into the weapon closet. Before he entered, he turned and said "Take over for me at this station, Ace, I'm going out for a bit." He entered the locker, and come out a moment later with a silenced SecretClip.

Cam stood and said, "What are you doing?" "I'm avenging Starbuck," Curt said angrily, "I'll be back soon" "Don't get involved," Cam warned, "the Lunas have her, there's nothing you can do. Besides, we'll learn more from their interrogation. Just put that away and sit down. Let them take care of it." "No," Curt said simply, and walked out the door. Ace looked at the door. "He hasn't changed since we've known him online, has he?" "No," replied Boom, "No, he hasn't. I better go after him. Maybe the Lunas won't shoot him on sight when he tries to break into their security facility."

Ace looked excitedly at his new workstation, eager to get started. Loading a few of his own programs, he happened to look over at Cam. You know, she's not too bad either... he thought. She returned his glance a moment later. He fumbled a disc off his desk in an attempt to save face. "Uh...Unreal?" he asked.

Boom went downstairs, intending to get to the Lunas' security center where Crystal was most likely being held. Instead, he found Curt sitting in the lobby. "Why Starbuck?" Curt asked with out looking back. "He knew too much," Boom answered, "We'll know for sure when we hear from Mir, but I think Crystal must have been working with the Green Hats." "The Lunas hate the Green Hats," Curt said, "Why would she be working for them?"

"Maybe it was another gang," Boom suggested, "I don't know what it was, what I do know is that we'll find out. Curt, you'll get a shot at her someday, but now's not the time." "I know," Curt said, "but when I do get the shot, there is nothing and no one that will be able to hold me back." They sat in silence for a long time. The silence was broken by a growl. Curt looked down.

"I'm not sure, but I think I just voted for pizza," Curt said with a half smile. "Go upstairs and see what the others want, then call me and I'll pick it up," Curt stood up and headed for the door, then paused. "And take this back up," he tossed the silenced SecretClip to Boom.

An hour later, the five RAD members still in town were gathered at the central table in RADHQ eating pizza. All of them knew this had been a bad day. With Starbuck gone, and Duncan and Custer away, their abilities were cut considerably. Curt was the next in line for command according to their chain of command, and at the moment, Curt didn't like it at all. For the moment, Curt was just glad that it was after one in the morning in England so he didn't have to tell Custer the bad news right away.

Finally, Ace spoke up. "Curt, you said you found some servers that were really well protected. Have you gotten anywhere with them?"

"Haven't scratched the surface," Curt admitted, "It's some of the toughest stuff I've seen. The weird thing is that the outer defense is relatively average. I got into that no problem. The thing is, different sections are shielded differently inside. Some of them are nothing, and contain nothing. There are some...there are some that seem non-descript, but have the meanest security I've ever seen. A couple defenses even sent counter-hack commands. If we weren't using a protected MLRC, my machine wouldn't have woke up"

"Wonder what's in there..." Sharp said quietly. "We'll find out," Curt declared, "One way or another, I'm getting in there. I want to see what's that important to the military." "Don't we all," Boom said, "Just be careful. The military may be a little smarter at tracking you than we think." "Don't see how they would," Curt replied. "Ah, well, this has been a long day," Sharpknux said, stretching, "Anyone for Unreal, or is there something else we need to do?" "Just unwind," Curt said, getting up and heading to his station.

Boom felt something tingling at the back of his head. He scratched as he walked to another station. He didn't know what it was, but he didn't pay attention to it either. A moment later, the five of them had started a LAN game, and for the next four hours, put the problems of the world aside.

Boom went home refreshed but tired. He changed into new clothes (He had almost forgotten about the chemicals and liquids that covered what he was wearing before) and went to bed. He couldn't sleep. He keot looking at his clock, watching the time fly past, On this clock, it did. Unlike most clocks, this one showed on a display the hours, minutes, seconds, hundredths of seconds, and thousandths of seconds as they passed. The two right-most ones continued flying so quickly, he could barely read them. Finally, he closed his eyes, and tried a relaxation technique that Duncan had learned and taught him. Several moments later, he had made himself relax.

Several seconds after that, there was a strange sensation. Boom felt as though his breathing had slowed. He felt no need for more air, and he couldn't figure out why. His breathing also sounded louder, and, in the silence, he began to hear his heartbeat. That began to sound slow as well. Not sure if he was dreaming, Boom opened his eyes slowly. The first thing he saw was his clock.

Boom could read the hundredths number clearly before it changed to the next hundredth. Sure that he was dreaming, he continued to relax. Everything just kept slowing down. The clock's speed decreased until it seemed an eternity between hundredths, and finally, he could clearly see each thousandth of a second. Boom could hear, see, and think faster. He kept relaxing, wishing he could have a dream like this more often.

In an instant, he took it back. A jolt of pain shot through the back of his head. He jumped and fell to the floor. The clock was flying once again, and Boom laid there for a moment until the spike had passed. There was still a constant pain and slight buzzing in the back of his head, right above his neck. Finally he crawled to the door where he had left his jacket. He fumbled in the pocket, and brought out the emergency caller Echo had given him. He pressed the button, saw the activity button light up. Then he waited. Within five minutes, he heard sirens outside, and several medics rushed in and brought him out. Before he knew it, he was at the hospital. He must have fallen asleep after they brought him in because the clock on the wall showed the time as about half an hour later. Echo walked in with two other doctors reviewing an x-ray.

"I didn't think it was possible," Echo said, "but there it is. You can see the mass in this one," she indicated one sheet, "and the nanobuilders are visible in the detail scan. I can't beleive they actually worked, much less built this." She walked closer and sat by the hospital bed. "Do you know what happened?"

"I don't know," Boom said, "I thought I was dreaming." "Tell me what you thought happened," Echo requested. "I don't know...everything seemed to slow down, and then...I don't know, it just stopped happening, and the back of my head..." "What were you doing before things started to slow down?" "Just...relaxing. Duncan taught me a relaxation technique, and I decided to try it because I couldn't go to sleep." "And the more you relaxed your mind, the slower things became." "Exactly. Earlier today, I felt sort of a tingle inside my head, the same place where the pain is." Echo nodded, "That was the nanobuilders. I would have sworn they wouldn't work."

"What are these nanobuilders anyway?" "They're a technology we designed. They're like nanobots. You can only see them with a microscope, they can work inside the body, and be administered by an injection, which you had. Nanobuilders are different. We designed them to work together, build onto each other, and use their own materials to construct into whatever they're programmed to. If some are missing, they'll improvise, if there are too many, they'll store the extras for later use. Sort of a shared consciouaness. The tingling you felt earlier in the day was the group of them assembling exactly where they were supposed to. The pain you just experienced is, I think, the finished mechanism being locked into place by its first use." "Can it be removed?" Echo shook her head. "In this version, we didn't program disassembly routines. That was our next bit of work. It's bonded to the front of the cerebellum, right below the cerebrum."

"Well, since I'm stuck with it, what does it do?" "You didn't notice? It's triggered by mental relaxation. It manufactures and releases a brain catalyst. It speeds up the brain in such a way that sense are enhanced, and everything seems to happen more slowly. It was intended to give an advantage in combat by allowing the patient to see things happen long enough to counter them. In theory, a patient could move faster to block a blow, caluculate the best spot to return a blow..." "And dodge enemy fire?" "Yes...I suppose if the individual was relaxed enough you could dodge as well. Anyway, I brought a device that will let me monitor the nanobuilders."

"What are they doing?" "Looks like...looks like they're still building just a little bit more, and...oh...I just realized something. The device wasn't secured. It was used, and then slipped out of place because it wasn't secured well. That's what caused the pain. They haven't even locked into place yet, and that's bound to be more painful than a slip."

"Great. Can I just sleep through it?" "You may have to. Because it slipped out of place from premature use, it's probably going to take...several days to set it right again and lock it into place." Echo stood up and faced the doctor. "I think we're going to have to keep him anesthesed for the next few days until the nanobuilders are done. After he's out, administer this," She held out a small vial. "It's a compound that will simulate a small amount of mental stress. It will keep his mind from relaxing too much so the device won't be accidentally triggered again," She looked back to Boom and smiled "You can count on some very active dreams."

Boom didn't answer, he just laid back, and waited for the doctors to lower the anesthesia mask onto his face. His vision blackened at the edges as he fell asleep. There was blackness for a moment...

...and in a blur of motion, Boom was standing in a field, a wide, seemingly endless field of tall grass. The wind whipped past him in gentle gusts, stirring the grass. He looked down at the grass, and expended bullet shells. They were everywhere, some still steaming in the early morning chill. Several spots in the field smoked, as if they had been blown up with something. He turned, and saw the warriors. Two different uniforms, but hundreds of men and women on the field, all on the ground, either dead or dying silently. He listened carefully, and could hear the sounds of a battle far away. He wasn't sure how long he was standing there, but it seemed an eternity. Finally, he heard a distant crack, and felt an impact in his chest.

Is this what would have happened? Boom wondered, recalling a time when he almost joined the Marines. As he fell to the ground, his surroundings changed.

He was in some sort of fighting ring, on his hands and knees, a pain still in his chest. He stood, and saw his opponent. Or rather, didn't see his opponent. He was aware of the enemy, could see his stance, and assess his strength, and yet could not see his face or make heads or tails of his skin color or any other physical trait. Before he knew it, his opponent rushed him. Boom used everything he knew, everything he had learned. Every block was counter attacked, every attack and counter attack was blocked. The opponent was invincible...or so it seemed. Boom remembered one quote from his training: "No opponent is totally invincible." He hit the floor with this thought in his mind, and he was gone.

This time, instead of laying on a fighting ring floor, Boom lay on the concrete of a parking lot, surrounded by ten street thugs, standing out about ten feet. He saw the situation, and knew this was a fight he could win. Leaping off the ground, his pain vanishing with the promise of a berserk fight. Grinning, he signalled the enemies to come and get him.

Curt was on the verge of sleep when the phone rang. It had been a very busy day, and he really wasn't up to staying up late, especially since he was in command, and would have things to take care of the next day. He picked up the phone, which he had moved conveniently to his workstation. "Hello."

"It's Dr. Kim," said the caller, "I thought I should let you know something has happened with Boom after all." "Wait a minute, wait a minute," Curt said in annoyed confusion, "What do you mean 'after all?' Boom never told me anything was wrong." "He landed on a syringe earlier today that contained nanobuilders, and he took all of it. He's at the hospital. I don't think he's in any danger at all, but he'll be asleep for, I think, three days." "Three days. Great," Curt said, "Where is he?" "Room two-twenty-seven, Memorial Hospital, in building three." Curt hung up imediately, locked everything in the room down, grabbed his coat, and left for the hospital.

Twenty minutes later, Curt was at the hospital, and Echo had explained the situation to him. "Like I told you," Echo was saying, "he'll most likely be out for three days." Curt sighed. "I'm short four people now. Custer and Duncan are both away, Starbuck was zeroed today, and now Boom is down with this...my life sucks." "I'm sorry about Starbuck," Echo replied, "I saw Crystal do it. I saw her stab him, and...she almost got to me." "I heard." "I'll be watching him whenever I'm here, but I've got to leave for tonight. You can see Luna security's everywhere in this section, so he's safe, and they'll let you in any time." "Thanks. I'll keep in touch." Echo regarded Boom. "I wonder what he's dreaming now."

Boom's face was tightened slightly, as though he was fighting or about to fight. In fact, he was nearly smiling. "From what I've seen of him these past weeks," Curt surmised, "he's fighting, and enjoying it."

Boom was smiling, but not fighting anymore in his dream. Ten thugs lay on the pavement all around him. With a short leap, he flew from the pile of sleeping bodies, and onto the pavement again. He headed for the sidewalk, and began walking.

There was a flash, and he was floating above the city, just after nightfall. At the altitude, it was quiet, and the city seemed a rested, serene picture. Suddenly, his attention was drawn to a building, the building that RADHQ called home, and where Custer lived. He watched it curiously, trying to find out what it was that made it so different from the other buildings.

His question was answered in an explosion. The fifteenth floor, the one where RADHQ was based, burst out several windows in flame. Sirens were heard almost immediately, he saw vehicles with flashing lights rushing toward the building.

West decided to go back topside of the city. He had gone to the location Echo had given him, and found out that his target had moved his business somewhere else. He was given several possible locations, and finally a codename: The Interdictor. He'd done well for the evening, and now it was time to go home and rest. Two more days, maybe three, he guessed, and he would finally find who he was looking for.

Once he was home, he considered calling Echo to see if everything was okay, but it was late, and he decided instead to call her first thing in the morning. He slipped his coat off, and folded it over a chair. He was about to go to bed, but he started thinking about how close he was to his goal. He pulled out one of his shotguns, and slid his finger across the barrel impatiently. He wasn't all that tired. Finally, he put the shotgun back in his breakaway pants leg, threw his coat back on, and headed out the door. He wasn't going to wait this time. This ended now.

February 10, 2012, 0700 hours

Morning came, and Curt decided that it was finally time to call Custer and fill him in on the events of the day before. Slowly, he picked up the phone, and dialed Custer's mobile number. It rang three times.

"Custer here," Custer said over the background sound of a crowd. "Hey, is this a good time?" Curt asked. "Yes, hold on," Custer yelled. After a moment the background noise was gone. "Okay, it's fine now," he said. "I...ah...just wanted to check in and tell you how things have been," Curt began hesitantly. "Good, it's about time." "Yeah, well...You're not going to like it..." "Oh yes? What've you done?" "Well, it wasn't me, but...okay. We were helping West meet a contact at the Luna Labs. It was about that convoy job, and...I assigned Starbuck and Boom as escort because of the Luna's restrictions. Mir's bodyguard was a traitor, Custer. She zeroed Starbuck. Indirectly, Boom's in the hospital because of the incident."

"What?!" Curt frowned. "You heard me." "But...how? Crystal's been with the Lunas for years. She's been Mir's bodyguard for over two years, from what I hear. She's been loyal all this time. What happened?" "We don't know yet. She was captured, thanks to West, and if Mir's going to tell us what they find from the interrogation, I guess we'll find out." "Alright, well, what happened to Boom?" "Well, it's a long story, but it's not serious. He'll be down for a couple more days, but they say they're no threat. The effects will likely be permanent though, they say the nanobuilders are setting in well." "The nanobuilder project," Custer whispered, "How did this happen?" "He kind of...sat on it, you might say." "And...it's working?"

"According to the Luna doctor in charge, and to Boom's own admission, yes. But how do you know about it?" "Mir introduced me to the concept some time ago, and mentioned that they were starting the project. I never knew that they had it to the point that it would actually work." "Yeah, neither did they." "Well, I'm assuming that if the construct is setting in and Boom experienced some effect, that they were programmed with something specfic. What was it?" "Something that speeds up the brain, faster responses, that sort of thing." "I see. And he is expected to be alright?" "Yeah, should be okay. A couple more days, and the doctors say he'll be recovered." "Good. But Starbuck is gone...We needed him. He had learned so much, and now we don't have that." "We'll manage." "Start managing then. I've got some business here as well, so I need to go. But I'm getting a flight booked right away to come back."

"Well, no, you don't have to do that, I can take care of it..." "And tell Mir I'm glad the project was a success." "I will, but we really don't need you to come back yet..." Curt realized he had been hung up on. Sitting back in his chair, he knew for sure now that this wasn't such a great day. He felt that he shouldn't have called. Custer didn't seem to really trust him with command, and was rushing back to make sure everything was set back right. He had also been hoping to go to a computer show that was starting the same afternoon. Because he was in charge, he wouldn't be able to make it. He hated being in command more than he did the day before.

1300 hours

The RAD team was at RADHQ. Curt still probing Orthanc Tower's server, Ace reviewing company websites for upcoming computer gear, Cam running maintenence on another workstation, and Sharpknux building some custom weapons. None of them were prepared for the door to burst open, revealing Custer, still in his coat and carrying his travel briefcase.

Curt looked up frowning. "That was fast." "It had to be," Custer said, "I'm going to go talk to whoever's watching Boom. What's the doctor's name?" "Echo Kim," Curt informed him, "She's probably there right now." "I'm off then," Custer said, turning for the door again. He paused. "You've all been working hard lately. Probably too hard. A lot has happened. Let's close up shop for today. Get out of here, go do something, anything, else. Relax for today." Without another word, Custer left. Gradually, they all left the headquarters. Sharpknux went home to bed; he had been very tired that day. Curt went to the computer show he wanted to see. Ace and Cam stayed for a moment finishing what they were working on. Finally, Ace said "Want to go out?" Cam stood up, but didn't answer. Smiling, she grabbed his hand, and led him out the door.

1500 hours

West rode his bike to the last place on his list of locations to check for his target. As he leapt off his bike, he evaluated the area. His final spot to check was a bar. It was deep, several tiers below the surface. He walked into the dimly lit, smoke-filled establishment, deciding that even if he didn't find his man, he was getting a drink.

He looked to the back corner of the room, and thought, looks like I'll be passing on that drink. His target was in the corner. Sitting down at the bar, West used his glasses to zoom in and make sure the match was exact with his records. It was. As the bartender approached, West waved him away. He stood up, and made sure his shotguns were loosened in their hidden leg holsters, just in case. He slowly worked his way past the bar crowd to the back corner of the room. There sat the Interdictor, talking to a client. West moved in, and when he was within ten feet, the Interdictor saw and recognized him. Standing up, he moved out of his booth and toward the bathrooms. He threw a nod to a man standing near the booth, and suddenly, not one, but five huge men with Wildfire Carbines turned to West. Suddenly, not feeling confident about talking to the Interdictor, West changed his plans. There was a small group of people right behind him, and behind them a clearing. He executed a quick backflip, pulling out a shotgun in flight, and landing behind the group. The minute they saw his shotgun, they dropped to the ground, leaving West open once. The five men hit the pins on their guns, and prepared to fire. The rest of the crowd dropped, leaving only West and his attackers. Apparently, no one wanted to be a human shield. West made one final dive for the door, and barely made it with his hands on the door's push bar. Throwing the door open, West stumbled out as a shower of minidarts barely missed him. He glanced back as he dashed to his bike, and saw that they bodyguards were pursuing him. He leapt on his hoverbike, and punched it into full acceleration. When the bodyguards left the bar, he expected them to shoot at him.

Instead, they mounted their own hoverbikes, and went for his tail immediately. The underground of Nerf Central was deep and wide and dark. Dark, but lit harshly by lights in various places. For most pilots or hoverbikers, it could be a nightmare to negotiate at high speeds, not to mention during a chase. But the city surrounded West for now, and there was no immediate way to the surface. West began working a course to the surface, with five angry henchmen on his back.

West led them on for several block, about fifty stories from that level's suspended streets. West wasn't sure what that building was, but he saw that the first several stories were actually built into a parking deck. Without warning, he dove toward the street, and pulled up in time to slip into the topmost of three parking deck levels. The bikers managed to stick with him, and chased him past the concrete pillars as he wove through. West saw the end of the parking deck coming up, and there was no outlet. Just a concrete wall. He slashed his bike left toward the ramp to the second level. The ramp, however, went down in the opposite direction. Gunning his airbrakes, West turned left another ninety degrees, and, rather than following the ramp down, ducked his head and slipped out the side of the ramp. The other bikers either weren't able to pull that off, or weren't willing to take the risk. Except one. Four of them turned straight around and followed the ramp, giving West a slight lead. The fifth decided to try his trick. He ducked his head, but also ducked his bike too low. It struck the edge of the ramp and bounced into the ceiling. The bike emerged from the opening without a rider, and slid to a halt, hovering obediently in the parking lot.

West went straight out the opposite direction from which he came in. Several seconds later, he shot out of the wide opening between the buildings. Turning left again, he went for altitude slowly. He glanced behind him, and, with one hand, pulled and aimed his shotgun. He fired a shell, but missed the closest biker he was aiming for. Still slowly gaining altitude, he tossed the weapon up, and caught it at the pump grip with the same hand. Pumping in the next round, he tossed it back to a firing grip. Twisting back again, he fired, and was satisfied to see one biker torn from his machine. However, he had missed another bike that had pulled up closer. The biker slashed a whip, and caught West's shotgun, ripping it out of his grip and tossing it back. West slowed slightly, and suddenly slid right towards the biker. Coming in fast, he threw his right fist into the unexpecting biker's jaw. Somehow the biker managed to hold on, even though the impact rolled his bike completely over. Another biker took this opportunity to slide in to West's left. Brandishing brass knuckles, he moved in closer. West saw him just in time to duck a backhanded swing. He tossed his right leg out and kicked the front of the attacking bike, sending it off course for a moment.

After what seemed an eternity, West gained the altitude he needed, and strafed onto the street of the next tier. Three bikers still followed him, and started trying to surround him. On this higher street, there was a little more traffic, and West stayed in it. There was no room for the other bikes, so they had to follow from above. West took a right turn, rising over the traffic when necessary, and headed for a long, freeway-type bridge that joined two sides of a dark chasm. The bikers were still following him from above, about twenty feet up. They weren't prepared for West's next move. The bridge was actualy two seperate bridges, seperated several feet from each other, with traffic going in one direction on each. West rose several feet over the concrete barrier, and slipped through the gap between bridges. A second pair of bridges spanned the distance about fifty stories below perpendicular to the first one. West turned left as his bike dropped, and hovered directly above the traffic as he burst to full speed. The three pursuing bikes, rather than flying through the first gap, just tracked his movement and followed him back down. West saw that his ploy hadn't thrown the off by much, and decided to make the altitude back. Looking up, he saw lights from buildings that were built into the top of the cave, but he saw only one opening. A shaft of spinning light poured from a metal shaft with a fan. Transferring all power to his aft thrusters, Wes pulled up, and flew stright towards the shaft. The speed wasn't everything he wanted, even at full power, but it kept him ahead of the bikers, who were beginning to emulate his move. As he rose, he had to adjust his speed and judge the position of the fan. Finally, he put one more burst of speed and slipped through. The bikers below split up. Two followed West, the third went to find another way up to intercept him. The two following him approached the fan fast. The first one barely made it. The second smashed headlong into one of the blades.

West blasted out of the tunnel, a pipe that extended several feet up on the highest tier below the surface. The pursuing bike close behind him, he began weaving between buildings in an attempt to lose him. West took a turn into a thin tunnel, only wide enough for one bike. He kept his head down until he and his pursuer left the access tunnel, and entered a wider concrete tunnel that led to the surface. The biker pulled alongside West. West slipped his bike from side to side as the biker threw his arm out trying to hit West. Finally, West became tired of it. Pulling a grenade out of his coat and ripping the pin out of it, he waited for the biker to slide towards him again. When that happened, West tossed the grenade into a compartment behind the biker's foot. West took the hit that the biker had aimed, and nearly swerved too far, grazing the wall, but as he looked back, the grenade exploding, splitting the bike in half, and tossing the rider to the ceiling of the tunnel, where he zeroed and teleported out.

As West looked forward again, he exploded topside, welcoming the rush of fresh air and sunlight. He began to decrease his speed, and was almost easing his way into traffic.

Then the fifth biker caught up with him, having found his way through the underground tunnels, he flew out of the tunnel, almost on top of West. West boosted his speed once again, and flew through the city, above the ground traffic, weaving between buildings. Taking a side road, he found himself blasting low into Central Park.

Central Park is where Ace and Cam happened to be out on their first date. Ace had just picked up an ice cream cone from a stand, when he heard an approaching whine in the otherwise-quiet park. He looked at the long distance across the park, and saw two hoverbikes coming in. he recognized West's bike before he even saw West. He had seen pictures of his type of bike, and heard that West had actually managed to acquire one.

The second thing he noticed was that West had a pistol out, trying to shoot at another bike pursuing him. Seeing their approach, Ace figured that since West was one of RAD's allies, in a way, he was supposed to help if he could. As West was about to pass, Ace leapt, the ice cream cone leaving his hand. As the biker approached, he was in kick position. By the time the biker saw him, it was too late. The bike continued as the biker took the kick high in the chest. The impact alone zeroed him, and Ace landed on his feet.

West circled back around, and stopped. "Do I know you?" he asked. Ace held out a hand. "You do now. I'm Ace, with RAD." Instead of shaking Ace's hand, West handed him his ice cream cone, which West had caught in mid flight. His hands free, he flicked the melted globs of ice cream from his sleeve. "Yeah, I heard you were coming in. Thanks for the assist," West paused as he heard police sirens approaching: Vehicles technically weren't allowed in Central Park. "But I've got to be going." West gunned his thrusters again, and took off before any police arrived.

Ace returned to the stunned Cam, and said "Well, this has been a more exciting day than usual." "Yeah..." Cam said, "You want to teach me how to do that?"


February 11, 2012

Most organizations resorted to a dark room, a bright central light, and an uncomfortable chair for interrogations. A few others used a simple room with a one-way mirror. The Lunas went for a more elegant method.

Crystal floated in the pitch black. The completely dark room used an antigravity system that created the only tiny sound in the area. Not knowing which way one was facing and not being able to reach a solid object to move generally made one extremely uncomfortable and prone to easier breakdown during the interrogation. Even knowing this method, being locked in here for, she guessed, about two days had started to break her down. However, her employer had given very specific instructions about when information could be given. She had to use guesswork to tell time here, but she knew it hadn't been long enough. So she held on for now.

A sudden blast of light flew from all the walls in a blinding flash. They went out instantly, not allowing Crystal to see how large the room actually was. Crystal smirked in the dark as the interrogation began once again.

February 15, 2012

Two agents burst through the double doors into Commissioner Thomas Howard's government office. "Durst, Smith," Howard addressed them, "What's the report?" "We registered a three hundred percent increase in power at the Hasbro plant this morning," Smith, the higher-ranking of the two said. Howard leaned forward in his chair. "Three hundred percent?" "Yes, sir," Smith replied, "No one on the normal lines to the company could or would explain it. We weren't able to reach the CEO." "Three agents have been dispatched to check out the plant," Durst continued, "We expect them to return in several hours." "Good," Howard said, lighting a cigar, "any guesses?" "It doesn't look like anything has been added to the facility, but that power is definately going somewhere," Smith reported, "WWe'll know when the team gets back."

The team had no idea they wouldn't be coming back on schedule. They had checked every one of the five buildings at the Hasbro complex except the warehouse. As their guide led them in, the leader noticed that there were more Hasbro security guards in the warehouse than in any other area they had inspected. Going in cautiously, they were assisted in opening several crates with weapons and ammo in them. One of the agents broke away from the other two, looking suspiciously at a vent on the floor, which a crate had previously covered. He was known for his exceptional hearing, and now he heard a chorus of machinery coming up from the shaft. Gazing down, he saw several beams of light alternating horizontally far down. He called the other two over. The three stood above the vent gazing down at the moving light. The guide walked with them.

"What's down there?" the lead agent demanded. "Oh, nothing..." the guide said, trying to hide anxiety, "Just the ventilation syste working." The agent that had first heard it looked up at the guide, "That's no ventilation system." He landed a heavy kick on the grille, smashing it and knocking it down the shaft.

He was about to descend when the agents heard the sound of weapons being loaded all around them. The security guards, some having moved in closer and soe perched on the balcony, all had weapons trained on the agents. "Looks like you'll get to see what's down there after all," their guide said with a smirk. He drew his own weapon and disarmed the agents.

The agents were led to the wall where several huge crates were moved, revealing a crude lift. Boarding it with the guide and several security guards, they found themselves descending, farther and farther, as the noise grew. Finally, they reached the bottom, and looked on a cavernous factory, in full blown production of weapons. It was far larger than the factories that were topside. It was no mystery where the energy usage was coming from now. As they walked a long catwalk, they watched the machines, mostly producing military weapons, and some producing Tommy guns. As they reached the opposite side of the factory, they saw the foam machines, cranking out darts faster than any weapon they had seen could use them. Finally, they reached a heavy metal door at the far wall. A smaller, neater hallway met the entourage. Not knowing what to expect next, the agents were led on, and the large doors closed behind them.