Chapter 7: Fiora
I lost track of time spending only a few minutes away from the book to grab a snack. I vaguely noticed that the others had woken up and were doing a final inspection of the mektons. Just when I finished the chapter before the documentation of the war that the threat of a dying sun an alarm sounded. I almost fell back in my chair in surprise. "We are about to enter the atmosphere." Tammis reported, "Prepare for landing."
A quick glance at the clock told me that it was almost noon! Where had the time gone? I could feel the temperature rise slowly. It began to get warmer as we entered the upper atmosphere. With a shutter the drop ship sheds its heat shield and we get a good look at the ocean. No big whoop. Just a large expanse of blue only broken be a small island straight ahead of us. Larani gave the order to suit up and prepare to jettison. With practiced ease I put on my armor and got all my weapons ready. Most of my stuff went into the mekton's storage compartments.
Cedric did a quick check of everyone's systems and blew the chamber. The lot of us flew out seconds before our ship crashed into the water. What a waste, to see a perfectly good ship like that be used once then discarded like garbage. I hoped they had a salvage program. Dropships couldn't be cheap. The parachutes deployed and we were able to glide a good distance before we ourselves were in the water. The island was about one mile north. There was a pillar of steam rising near it. Aleoi said it was a sure sign of reentry. That bitch had only beaten us by mere minutes.
Celine recognized the island as the ruined city-state Fiora. We were in the right spot. She said that it was blown off the map in the early days of the recent mekton war. "Well thanks for the history lesson, Celine. But we have a job to do." I said and began heading toward the other shuttle.
Fortunately our robots could float and it wasn't long before we reached the hijacked shuttle. It was lying in fifty feet of water and badly damaged. Through the canopy I could see the pilot was dead. Killed by a single gunshot wound through the head. There was no sign of Marci. We then went over to the beach. Karin got there first and noticed that there were a set of footprints leading toward the city. We followed the trail and found a discarded space suit. The trail continued into the city. This was too easy. Why wasn't Axis here trying to obtain the information. We approached a ruined villa and there she was.
Marci was sitting at the base of a pool making circular patterns in the water. Tammis was about to charge into the clearing when I noticed them. A group of Badlanders were hiding in some other ruins. I warned the others it was a trap and fired a blast from the blade/blaster at them. Instead of hitting Axis, I hit a corner of a building some them were hiding behind. I'd say at least two of them were buried in the rubble. The other eight come out of hiding and fired their grenade launchers. Most of them missed, but Karin took a hit in her left arm. "Fox! Cedric! Capture Marci! The rest of you cover them!" Larani barked over the radio.
I hit the transform button as I ran toward her. The mekton seemed to fall apart. Limbs slid into stiff positions and the click and whir of machinery could be heard. In seconds the change was complete and the two of us were headed toward the fountain. Marci tried to run away, but I fired my grapple hand before she had the chance to get very far. I got her in the left breast. She screamed in surprise and embarrassment. This was one of those time I wish I had tactile sensations when I use the grapple hand. I made large circles with my arm looping the wire around Marci pinning her arms. With the final loop I had a finger snag the cable, preventing her from escaping. With the grip that hand had, the only way to get it off was to cut the wire, and that would be hard to do without a weapon. Bad news, she had one. Good news we were going so fast, she was yanked off her feet dropping the pistol in the process.
One of the Badlanders tried to fire at us, but Larani chopped off the offending mekton's arm with her energy blade. I yelled to Cedric to go back, that I would find a place for her. He gave me the thumb's up and did a quick U-turn. I heard him fire a missile then the boom of its explosion as I turned behind a building. I think I took it a little too fast because I had accidentily knocked the traitor into a wall. Bummer. I stopped the motorcycle and got a good look at her. She flew into the wall leading with her right shoulder. There was some bleeding along the arm and a nasty bump on the head. She was knocked cold for a while. I got back my hand and contemplated just what to do with her. The sounds of battle were calling me back. To answer my question, Laian's mekton crashed into the street near me. Her vehicle was badly damaged and was missing an arm and a leg. I heard a few more shots of the blade/blaster as I got back into the Stallion and sped out into the thick of it. Laian was ejecting and I told her to watch over the prisoner. To help her guard, I tossed out one of the SMGs from the lab. She looked like she only had the faintest idea what to do with it.
She notified Larani that she lost her mekton and was taking over guard duty for me. Larani instructed her to get to someplace safe from the battle and suggested a shelter that survived the attack. With a mental command my speedware warmed up. I returned to humanoid form and grabbed her own blade/blaster (hey, she won't need it anymore) and drove it through the back of a Badlander. It fell over and exploded in the dirt road. Things were not going well. Eiran and Cedric were pinned down behind a fallen building which was still erect when we got here. I couldn't see the others. Eiran had lost his blade/blaster in the fight so I tossed him mine before I slashed at another Axis stooge. Without the element of surprise, I could only get a good chunk out of the torso. It pushed my back and I fell over the remains of the other badlander. The blade/blaster was knocked from my hand. The metal monstrosity raised its mace to pound me into scrap. Desperate, I fired my mauser at the melee weapon shattering it in a cloud of shrapnel. To my right was another mace which survived its owner's death. Just then the familiar warm sensation of the speedware activating came upon me.
Time seemed to slow down as I made my move. I picked up the mace and charged. With a mighty swing I hit my attacker. The steel bit deeply into the wound I made earlier and I felt its power generator crumple under the force. I left the defeated mekton there, almost torn in half, and went searching for more prey. I was retrieving my blade/blaster from the ground when I heard Larani's call for assistance. She, Tharis, and Tammis and were trapped between the mektons I buried and four others. The three of us ran to help them.
The remaining members of Fireflight had wound up protecting Laian who had ran into a shelter for protection from the other two Badlanders. Actually, Laian said that they were after her since she was without a mekton, and not Marci who was still unconscious. Axis was putting up a good fight. I let loose a couple of missiles at the building next to the four Badlanders attacking Larani while Eiran and Cedric took care of the two buried ones. We got there just in time as they were almost free. Almost. They were destroyed without any trouble, just a quick stab between some back plates and there you were. History repeated itself as bits of wall came raining down on the Badlanders. But this time it wasn't as successful. But it was enough to give us some leeway. The others fired rapidly into the could of dust which hid our enemy. When the smoke cleared, three of the four were down, missing various limbs. The forth was retreating. Larani ordered myself, Tammis and Cedric to help Karin when she, Tharis, and Eiran went after the coward.
I changed into the motorcycle and zoomed to the shelter with my teammates close behind. The only weapons available in cycle mode was the missile launchers and my cannon. The three of us almost ran into a fleeing Badlander. With my enhanced reactions, I used my cannon to knock it back before it could raise its weapons. The fight was lasting too long. The warmness which flowed over my body from the speedware cooled down and time returned to normal. It would take some time before I could activate it again. Chances were that this fight would be over by then.
Cedric stepped over me in human mode and stabbed the badlander in the gut with his blade/blaster. The hum of the generator died down and its lights went dim as it deactivated. An explosion occurred a few blocks from us. Larani's voice appeared over the radio, "Well I think that's the last of them. Good job everybody! Laian, how's the prisoner?" "Still out of it. I fear she might need medical attention. But it doesn't look like she'll be any trouble."
The remaining nine of us transformed back to cycles and returned to the beach to wait for a ride back to land. In the distance we could see the light of mekton sized lasers. Soon there was a small explosion. Cedric strained his eyes to see the fight. After a few seconds he heaved a sigh of relief. "They are the Grey Squadron of Elara. They'll be able to take us back." he said.
Sure enough within minutes the Grey Squadron (piloting a type of mekton called Vantage) was hovering above us. The cockpit opens and an attractive brown haired woman leans out and tries to yell at us. However the roar of the engines is too much and she switched to speaking over the loud speaker. "Hiya! I'm Eliza. My brother, Kerion, asked my to stop by and pick you up! IF you would be so kind as to transform into humanoid mode, we'll give you a lift to Arcol. You don't know it yet, but you've got a dinner date with Dr.Tal!"