Here's the next installment!
A barrel of a gun-weapon was forced into my back. ‘Move slowly toward the blue transport on the side street.’ It was a deep, dangerous voice. I had no choice to obey, and was about to walk towards a sky blue vehicle until a shout arisen from the entrance to Croon’s secret club.
‘Drop it canker or I’ll open a new face-hole for you.’ The burly beater, Vid-slate boy from earlier, had followed me out – making sure I made it to my speeder safely I guessed; Emperor bless Jebidius for his thoughtfulness – and now stood yards away, aiming a small handheld las-pistol at the man pushing a gun into my ribs.
Some unseen beam or bullet suddenly hit vid-slate boy in the head, his body crumbling under the shocking impact. As he fell, the loiterers around the scene screamed and yelled, realising someone had been shot.
The distraction was all I needed.
I twirled around, punching the weapon out of my assailants’ hand, and pushed him to the ground. I caught a glimpse of his tough exterior and combat-bodyglove, signs of a tough gakker that was not to be tangled with, and bolted towards the mass of bodies that made up the night-streets of Emodora First.
Chaos and confusion reigned as I belted through the crowds, using them as shields against my attackers. Suddenly my breast pocket heated and glowed out of the folds of my long coat. The nullifier seemed to be reacting to psyker-force. I know now that without it, I would surely have perished there and then.
I sprinted along a thinning concourse looking for escape routes. My speeder was surely watched, and probably trapped, so I ignored that avenue and decided to find another mode of escape.
A laser-beam singed the tails of my coat as screams arose behind me. The original assailant had taken up the chase. My heart lurched as my breathing suddenly became laboured and panic attempted to burn into my being. I had lost control of the situation and I was being hunted through the very streets that had been my arena for generations. It felt alien, out of place.
It was then that I decided to fight. This was my world. My city. Whoever chased me would not force me into a corner like a sludge-rat.
Whatever alcohol left within my body seemed to evaporate as my mind cleared itself (as best it could with the nullifier so close), preparing itself for the action ahead. I pulled out my auto-pistol from its holster as I ran, and thumbed the activation switch on its smooth gunmetal side.
I turned into a small lane – not unlike the one I had started my day in – and jumped in behind a rusting waste-container. Its load light blinked red, indicating it was full and ready for pickup. It’s funny the things you remember under stressful situations.
My assailant skidded to a halt at the entrance of the alleyway, a dot at the feet of giants, the surrounding buildings standing miles high around us. He was clever, I thought, as he dodged into the ceremite shadows, giving me an impossible shot. I fired anyway, just in case I was lucky.
‘Imperial Inquisition!’ he yelled at me. ‘Stand down and repent, heretic!’
As I have said, I am many things, but I am not a heretic. The Emperor is my guiding light. I may have given in to the man then and there, under differing circumstances, but when he labelled me a heretic my mind closed. Heretics are generally shot rather than brought in quietly, which also decided my thoughts for me.
I edged slowly backwards, away from the waste-dispenser and towards the dark recesses of the lane. My pursuer poked his head out of the shadows and I shot at him, my pistol barking echoes in the thin lane. I missed. I knew more of the waste-units lay dotted amongst the shadows, and so I used them to hide my escape.
But the man chasing me would not be undone; like a haunting spirit he followed my every footstep, never truly losing sight of me. This man was a high-grade Inquisitorial operative and he was always going to the hard to shake.
Soon I was running out the other end of the dark lane, moving once again into the main street of that sector.
Shots clipped the paved ground next to the transport-lanes as soon as I sprang into the street light. I jumped this way and that, hoping the unseen sniper would become confused and miss me. Now not only was I being hunted down on foot, but an unseen foe was watching me through crosshairs. Suddenly, a man in front of me crumbled to the ground, and something splashed across my face and jacket. Blood. Instead of hitting his mark, an innocent in front of me had been gunned down by the sniper. Maybe the sniper thought it was the right course of action - possibly in the hope that I would become one of the fallen.
The Imperial Inquisition will have its way. No matter what.
I was lucky. I survived the torrent of shells. The sniper had turned into snipers, from the amount of shots that sprayed around me, felling anyone unlucky enough to be close to me. Scores fell before me as I scrambled onto the lower vehicle-lanes, ducking hostile fire and swerving between ground mobiles.
Yes, in the confusion, I had stumbled onto the main vehicle-lane along with many other Emodites, causing several street vehicles to swerve away from myself and the unfortunates before me, who in their panic rushed this way and that.
One grav-car, some private vehicle, leapt into the air above the streets and into the sky-lanes and collided with a bulk-carrier. The screech of metal on metal still scratches in my dreams. I am sure I saw the fear in the private vehicles driver (or it could be my imagination playing tricks; I like to think so) as he swerved passed me and upwards to his doom. Sparks burst from the colliding vehicles as they clashed and tumbled towards the opposite building in a rolling mid-air death-dance. The final collision into the building – some Administratum office – sounded like grating flicker-glass and was followed by a deafening boom. A bright ball of fire erupted from the crash scene, suddenly lighting the sky-lanes and street.
I am glad I had the nullifier at that point. The images of such close deaths would have been too much to bear.
I fell to the ground, praying for survival, as the heat of the blast tore across me. As you may have guessed, I did survive, with a few burns, as the sky-lanes and street disintegrated around me.
I feel this was my fault. Had I not ran into that street, maybe this catastrophe would not have occurred? No, I know it would not have happened.
Still, the human instinct is to survive, and that was all I was trying to do.
I lifted my head, then body, and looked upon the destruction. The flow of traffic had stopped there, with several smaller crashes ringing out across the cityscape in the distance as the backlog of vehicles tried to evade the crash. The fierce collisions had seemed to put off my attackers for the time being, the snipers losing their target in the explosions and with my on-foot-attacker seeming to vanish into the crowds. I decided to make my escape as quick as possible, hoping my luck would hold.
Amongst the screams of the dying and the screeching of the shocked, I ghosted through the apocalyptic smoke that belched from the main crash site, which caused the street to dampen into a choking darkness.
I coughed and spluttered as I ran through to the clearer parts of the street. A young noble, draped in rich off-world leathers appeared before me in his slim, charcoal coloured motorbike. Its long, eloquent hull screamed creds and power. And speed.
I moved towards him, holstering my pistol, as the man tore off his flight-goggles. ‘Wow, did you see that?’
‘Yes,’ I said, as I pushed him off his ride.
‘What th-,’ he mumbled, surprised, as he fell.
‘Sorry, important planetary business.’
I was on the bike instantly, my arse barely touching the padded seat before I turned the throttle, accelerating the bikes jet-like engines to full power away from the mess caused by my flight.
Suddenly, a military-type land speeder burst out of the smoky-haze and darkness around me.
It seemed I had not lost my enemies after all and so the chase began in earnest once more.
Air slammed across my face and eyes as I sped through the night streets of Emodora First. My sight was blind due to the whipping wind that whistled across my senses. Luckily, my augments helped me perceive my whereabouts: digi-implants within my wrists communed with the bike-machine’s spirit, thin fibre-tubes that attached themselves to connectors on the bikes control panel, focusing my outer senses to the stark environment around me.
I thrust through the road-lanes at break-neck speed, determined to outpace my foe that followed within the landspeeder – the speeder itself seemed to be equipped with linked assault weapons that fired hundreds of deadly projectiles minutely. I’m sure the biting death that spat from the cannons clawed at my end-wings, aiming to disable the motors that powered the bike. Alternatively, they could just be aiming to kill me, which seemed more likely. I gunned the bike forwards, its costly engines growling fiercely as I weaved in and out of the ground traffic. Luckily I had fled into a quieter part of town, with less vehicles and barely any sky traffic. Yet really, that only meant that my enemies had a chance of hitting me.
On que, a shot slapped across the bikes slick side, narrowly missing my tight gripping leg. I banked left, dodging a lumbering PDF truck, riding the hit. My digi-senses picked up damage; the bike seemed to be losing power.
I find it hard to describe the images that were fed to my brain from the implants – if you have not experienced it yourself, it is hard to explain. I’ll try my best. It’s like seeing everything while also looking at a control-screen. Within a green haze I could make out the blurry images of the street before me, as if I was looking through night-binocs, all the while data was streamed down the left side of my vision telling me how the systems of the bike were working. Harsh, dream-quality images.
A red blinking on the right-hand side of my vision tried to put me off my flight. The warning sign that there was a fuel leak. There are times I wonder at the Holy Emperors humour – does he intentionally make life hard for His own amusement?
I was indeed losing power and the traitor-forsaken landspeeder began eating up the ground between us.
I think I panicked slightly. I don’t usually lose my nerve, but then again, I didn’t normally have the Imperial Inquisition on my tail as I raced through the night streets. I pulled the speeding bike to right, straight into one of the busiest streets in the sector. Maybe I could evade them in the busy vehicle-lanes, i thought – also, sky-lanes were situated above here, so there was a chance the landspeeder could not pass. The forces grappling my unprotected face etched pain across my skin, the strong wind and ice-cold rain adding to the terrible sensation. My mind was already foggy due to the nullifier and at that point I almost blacked out. I did lose control of the bike, however, over-steering its engines and banking wildly across the lanes.
I was lucky not once, but twice, within seconds.
Had I not lost control within that very moment, I am sure the Imperial agents behind me would have blown my ride apart. The assault-cannons fire kissed my flanks, a hairs breath from a kill-shot. Also, with my too-sharp manoeuvre, I managed to narrowly miss a second landspeeder that had been bearing down on me from the higher sky-lanes.
My bike doubled back on itself and I was suddenly charging through the night against the flow of traffic. Fear fired my senses once more and finally,clarity returned.
The chase had brought us into a busier street, as I have stated, and there was still large amounts of traffic flowing through the dark streets of Emodora First at this late hour. A tall ground-carrier emerged out of the gloom – a dull green image to my digi-connected senses – heading directly for me. Its square hull promised a messy end for my fragile craft (and body), and even though I was losing power, I was still throttling along the avenue at a frightening speed.
I looked at the digi-screen: now two speeders were on my tail, the front one firing its rapid weapons. I pushed the bike to its limits and careered towards the large carrier. Suddenly, the front cabin of the carrier was riddled with bullets and it veered out of control. The avenue was broad, three lanes wide, with a thick ceremite divider between the opposite street. The ground-carrier bucked, its front tires blowing out, and it swayed over in its side, crossing into the middle of the street. It was going to hit me.
Adrenaline and fear pumped through my veins and my brain tried to figure out a way to survive. Mere seconds later I saw a small space between the road divider and the tumbling vehicle in front of me. Would I fit through? Seconds later I had no choice, so swerved up to the barrier, my knee a hairs-breath away from being torn to shreds. The carrier turned over and over towards me as I gunned the bike into the opening. As I belted through the carrier exploded, putting off the landspeeders chasing behind and almost throwing me off the bike.
I had made it through! But only just. Then I came face to face with the wall of the traffic behind the ground-carrier who was trying to stop before hitting the flaming ruin. I skidded to a halt and wheeled the bike around – back towards the ground carrier and with the flow of traffic. The transport crashed into the ceremite wall and ripped through it into the oncoming traffic on the other side. Before I was hit by traffic coming towards me, I hit the throttle switch and accelerated forwards, the bikes engines rattling worryingly. A car skidded to a stop behind me, stopping in the space I had sat in moments earlier. Suddenly, the second landspeeder appeared in front of me through the smoky haze of the carriers’ demise.
The street ahead branched off to the left, opposite to where the transport had crashed through the dividing barrier and the giant buildings around me opened into another broad avenue. The speeder flew forward, guns blazing. I gunned the bike towards salvation, while trying to evade bullets and burning debris littering the road.
I roared down the exit ramp onto a quieter avenue, the Inquisition speeder still hot on my tail. Suddenly my top-end bike started bucking, swaying and stuttering out of control. The digi-senses flashed in warning: the engine was low on fuel and damaged. With what power was felt I rushed past the traffic and took a tight turn into back street, a turn the bulkier landspeeder was unable to do. Swiftly I edged my damaged ride down a deserted ally. The night’s dreadful sounds reached my ears – the almost deafening roars of the crashes within the other street, the rain now pelting down around me, and the aching beat of my heart. So close. Too close.
Suddenly another military landspeeder fired around the smoke-obscured corner in the street. It eased off its speed, and then angled toward my position. My subconscious clicked in recognition: the first speeder from earlier.
I sighed, yes, sighed, before jumping off the bike, my digi-augments instantaneously slipping out of the crafts control panel. Rain hissed off the over-heated engines, I remember, as they slowly powered down. I turned away from the bike and bolted through the curtain of polluted water, down yet another dark side-lane, bullets peppering the road behind me
It would take more than luck to escape the Imperial Inquisition it seemed.
... part 4 coming soon...