Jump to content

Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)


Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, Shania_L said:

Ok, I know who Mary Poppins is, and apparently cheetos are a breakfast cereal, but I'm going to have to *blank stare* your *blank stare*

Good, then the interwebz have not fully corrupted you yet. It's about the closest I can get to a very not-forum-safe catch phrase. :blush:
they... they don't have Cheetos in the UK? The puffed snack... thing?

2 hours ago, Shania_L said:

Anastasia is wearing a Munstone necklace just like Vals, IIRC Val has recieved some form of protective ability from said necklace.

Just to clarify here Val has a Münstone, which is a rare but definitely-not-actually-Münar gemstone. Anna has an actual Mün rock, and given that the only other examples of which were returned by Chadvey some years ago, is very unique indeed. :wink:

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Just to clarify here Val has a Münstone, which is a rare but definitely-not-actually-Münar gemstone. Anna has an actual Mün rock, and given that the only other examples of which were returned by Chadvey some years ago, is very unique indeed. :wink:

Ahh so Val has the slightly more common Kerbin originating (yet magical) necklace, wheras Anastasia has a plain old rock that came for the Mun?

I thought the whole reason Billy-bob brought it back for her was that it was all twinkly and shiny, I cant imagine she would wear a dusty grey rock that actually looks like a rock? Cant really expect a blast of octerine light to smoosh a snipers bullet out of the air then?

As for the other thing, I'm still confused but meh I'm corrupted enough as it is I rekon I can live without this added bit :)
Cheetos however were banned in the UK when they were first imported because of all the evil stuff Americans put in food, they have recently however been re-introduced (like within the last year or so) however Wotsits are practically identical and have the market pretty much cornered here ... even though Pepsi owns both brands .... because capitalism huh?

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Shania_L said:

Ahh so Val has the slightly more common Kerbin originating (yet magical) necklace, wheras Anastasia has a plain old rock that came for the Mun?

I thought the whole reason Billy-bob brought it back for her was that it was all twinkly and shiny, I cant imagine she would wear a dusty grey rock that actually looks like a rock? Cant really expect a blast of octerine light to smoosh a snipers bullet out of the air then?


 

Oh it's very sparkly. The idea is based on an actual moon rock I saw at, I think, the Boeing Museum of Flight. I can't find a picture that does it justice, but my reaction was about the same as :25 in here: 

I did not expect moon rocks to be sparkly. As to this particular Mün Rock, well, for now let's just say Billy has a very good eye. :wink:

Quote

Cheetos however were banned in the UK when they were first imported because of all the evil stuff Americans put in food, they have recently however been re-introduced (like within the last year or so) however Wotsits are practically identical and have the market pretty much cornered here ... even though Pepsi owns both brands .... because capitalism huh?

SMH. Europe bans American food for what it puts into your body, America bans thrifty European diesels for what they put into the air. Politics. :mad:

Quote

I hate politics!

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Omegagoldfish said:

Yeah, sure. So, what kind of gun shoots knives? In Shadows Anastasia was allegedly STABBED to death. So either this isn't a laser pointer of deathy death, or flying knives will appear. Sorry for derailing the thread. I promise I won't do anything here until next chapter.

Or Val foils this assassination attempt but can't prevent that stabbing for whatever reason. Heck, given the tone of this story to date, it could be Val herself that does the deed, after finally losing her battle with the darkness inside.

Then again, this is also a CatastrophicFailure story - that dot could equally well be a cat distracting laser pointer, or a reflection from a totally-not-Pokemon toy.

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, KSK said:

Then again, this is also a CatastrophicFailure story - that dot could equally well be a cat distracting laser pointer, or a reflection from a totally-not-Pokemon toy.

In before a cat glues itself to Anastasia's head.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 75: Shattered

"Get down!" Valentina screamed, as she reached out and slammed Anna's head into the table a bare instant before the wall tile behind it shattered. 

"Ow! Hey, what's the big i--!"

"Down!" Valentina pushed them both to the floor, upending the table, and then... all the Nine Hells of legend broke loose. 

The glass wall panes shattered one after the other in crystal cascades of shards, to a noise like crashing cymbals. A zig-zagging line of destruction racked back and forth across the wall, the display cases along the counter disintegrated, soda bottles in the upright cooler exploded. The air was filled with pings and whizzes, splinters and sparks, punctuated by the muted, gut-churning sound of lead hitting flesh. And all around people were screaming, bleeding, dying.  

Valentina raised her head for a moment, then quickly dropped it again as something split the air just centimeters away. She wanted to scream too, to cry out, but no voice would leave her throat. Patrons who had only moments ago been talking and smiling now lay sprawled on the floor, slumped against the walls, or crumpled over their tables. Nearby, curled into a ball and clutching her head, Anastasia was screaming, a shrill, piercing shriek that bored into the base of Valentina's skull like a drill. A fresh line of jagged holes appeared in the overturned table above them, showering them with fragments. 

And even now, even now, in this place where Death walked with impunity, some part of Valentina's conflicted mind whispered to her that none of it was real, all just a mistake, surely some reasonable explanation. All of this, every moment since that draw of her eye floating high above Kerbin, everything before and everything to come, surely just a misunderstanding. After all, this, we do not speak of. 

Because the truth is far, far worse. The truth... is too horrible to consider. 

...all my fault...

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. That the shadow didn't move. That we didn't hear what we think we heard. That there are no such things as monsters. 

...this, we do not speak of...

What's really there, what's really hidden in the shadows, watching, waiting, whispering... taunting before the inevitable revelation... this, we do not speak of, this is too horrible to consider, to even envision lest by doing so we give it leave to leap from the shadows and devour us. This is what we tell ourselves, even while it does move from the shadows, unhindered, unhidden, to stand before us. We deny it, helpless, even as its jaws close on us. 

Valentina heard the whisper, saw the shadows shifting as if behind a veil, and still denied it. 

Because there was one more lie, wasn't there? Hiding behind the guilt that paralyzed her.

...all my fault...

...they died... they all died... because of me...

And now, finally, as bullets and shards and splinters zipped and ricocheted around her, even that began to crack. She looked over to the wailing young girl beside her. 

They've come for me... because I saw what I shouldn't have... because I spoke of it...

The incessant, deceitful whisper prattled on, but the truth had already sunk into her bones, chilling them like ice, her eyes still locked on the girl. 

Not me. 

Her.

Never make noise... do what you must to survive... and never, ever take sides...

A silken whisper, from a fleeting shadow... how could she fight that?

A forgotten blood vow by Münlight spoken long ago chided from her memory... I. Will. Break. You.

But how could she? A shadow whose reach spans oceans and borders? A monster that strikes without care at helpless young girls?

How could she? 

How could anyone?

Because, Valentina thought with grim realization, I believe in monsters.

And with that, the veil was shattered, the darkness rent, the conflict was gone... and the monster stood before her. 

In those silly Foreign movies, the hero stood before the monster, and punched it in the face. But Valentina was no hero. She was a simple girl from the taiga, and the people of the taiga knew monsters well. Everyone knew, punching it in the face never worked. 

Everyone knew, you had to take it by the throat instead. 

Beneath her rags, the Münstone blazed into the fire of a thousand suns. 

No more.

No more!

NO MORE!

"We have to go!" Valentina yelled, but the girl was still curled up and screaming.

Magazine change. There will be a pause. You must move quickly.

"We have to go, now!" she shouted and shook the girl. Anna looked up for a moment, her eyes wide with panic, but went back to screaming. With a curse, Valentina grabbed her. She looked around the dusty, ruined cafe, watched the impacts, analyzed their paths.

There. By the counter. Cover. Then through the kitchen and out the back door.

The big, burly clerk stood by the kitchen entrance, his face pale as a sheet, lost in his own horror. Valentina tensed, waited... the fusillade ceased.

Now!

Shoving with all the strength she had, she pushed the terrified girl, sending her tumbling across the floor to refuge next to the counter. A line of erupting powdered cement and linoleum followed after her, then chased Valentina back behind the table.

Wait for it again....

"Be ready to move!" She cried out. 

Anna seemed to shake herself from her stupor, pawing frantically at her neck.

"My... my münrock!" she pointed, pleading, "please! It's all I have left of my brother!"

PЦTIЙ.

Valentina dared a peek around the table and felt something flick her hair for her trouble, but there it was, lying in the middle of the floor in full view of the attacker outside. A small, grey, sparkly rock. 

With another curse, she readied herself.... NOW!

Chaos ebbed, and Valentina darted from behind the table. Or tried to. She slipped and skittered on blood and melting ice cream and broken glass, making awkward progress, slipped again, slid right past it. She flipped around, feet scrambling for purchase, grabbed the rock, and--

Why is the pause so long?

A sinking feeling growing in her gut, Valentina spared a glance out the ruined front windows... there

Building across the street, third story, open window.

The she saw the flash, and a finger of grey smoke reaching out for her. 

Oh, PЦTIЙS. LЗFT. ЭДЯ!

Time seemed to dilate and stretch out. Her feet scrabbled in the mess, fought for grip, felt like lead. At last she found traction and began to move, but slow, and dream-like, as if running underwater. People still lay scattered all around, some dead, some clinging to life. 

I can't help them. I can't help any of them. It was both a lament and acknowledgement. 

The girl. Save the girl. Deny the monster, if only for now.

She charged towards Anna, still huddled and sobbing on the floor. In one fluid motion --fluid, because all her motions seemed languid and weak-- she scooped up the girl with one arm and pressed for the kitchen doorway. Just ahead, the shocked clerk gaped helplessly. 

You. I can maybe save you.

As she passed, she reached out and punched him in the face as hard as she could. Her fist moved slowly, drifting like a leviathan, the bones of her arm having plenty of time to perfectly align to absorb the impact. It connected with his chin, splitting it open. His cheeks remained still for a moment as his head began to snap back, then ripples of slow-motion shockwaves cascaded across his face. He slowly arced away, sending a few droplets of spittle flying from his mouth. The last Valentina saw of him, he was floating behind the safety of the heavy counter, and then she was past and into the kitchen. 

Here, more terrified faces looked to her, crouching under tables or hiding behind equipment. The inside wall was paper-thin, she couldn't help them, she couldn't help any of them, she just focused on the door ahead. Twisting around at the last drawn-out second, shielding the girl, she drove her shoulder into it, sending up a silent appeal that it opened outward. 

It did. 

The two glided out into the brilliant sunlight, Valentina twisted her body once more, forcing the girl ahead of her. Sound beyond sound abruptly slammed into her, driving all sound away, and raking a thousand red-hot teeth across her back. Reality wavered. 

She blinked slowly, in a silent world, unaware of how she wound up on the ground on top of Anna. Trying to stand simply brought her back down, her reeling brain convinced every direction at once was up. Her entire body felt numb, pulsating. Anna knelt next to her, gripping her own head once more, her mouth moving soundlessly. Valentina tried to stand again but only rolled onto her back. Buildings loomed over her like twisted faces. 

Distantly, sound slowly began to return, led by a deep, thrumming ring. Valentina managed to force herself to her knees, the whole world still spinning. 

Beside her, Anna sounded a thousand miles away, "I can't hear! I can't hear!"

Valentina crawled to her, took her arms, tried to calm her. She felt her own mouth move, her vocal chords vibrate, but couldn't be sure if the hoarse whisper was real or imagined.

"It will pass! Be calm, be calm!"

The two could only sit there hanging on to each other lest they fall off the very face of the world. Days went by, perhaps years... but in truth it was probably only minutes, before Valentina's brain began slowly sorting out the fraudulent 'ups' her ears were sending.

"Are you all right!" it felt like screaming at the top of her lungs, but only a trickle of voice came out. Yet it was a trickle more than before. 

"I... I think so!"

"Can you stand!"

"I don't know!"

"Let us try!"

Awkwardly, they pushed each other to their feet. The world still seemed to be trying to shake them loose, but with less ferocity, now. Not far away, grey and brown smoke wafted from the open door.

Valentina looked the girl over, forcing her own eyes to focus. She was scraped and battered, but didn't seem injured. 

"We cannot stay here!" it still felt like screaming.

"What... what happened!"

Giving her head one more shake, trying to clear it, Valentina was reminded of the pain on her back. With a barely heard groan, she sloughed off a couple of stiff, ragged layers. A sharp twinge in her shoulder screwed her face into a grimace. 

"Wait, are you ok!" Anna asked.

"Is not bad!" Valentina wished she felt it, "enough crusty PЦTIЙ on clothes, must be like armor!" With another wince, she also noticed her hair seemed shorter. 

Anna pointed towards the building, "should... shouldn't we help them!"

Black, oily smoke was now pouring from the open doorway. More of it seeped from two nearby emergency exits. 

"I do not think we can," Valentina gave her head one last shake, "not from here." She looked around, finally really taking in their surroundings. They were in a mostly empty parking area behind the cafe, flanked by a wide back alley. "We have to go." The low ringing was slowly being replaced by the distant wail of sirens, and right on cue, a police VTOL swooped down out of the sky with chirps and whoops of its own. The lone occupant was out before the craft had even fully settled on its landing gear. 

"Are you two all right?" The officer said with concern on his face, "the fire department's on its way."

"We are fine," Valentina said, clutching her throbbing shoulder. 

"What happened here??" he asked, staring up at the rising smoke. 

Valentina looked at the officer, looked at his nimble-looking cruiser. Her aching shoulders fell. 

"Ma'am?" he raised an eye... bulge, "are you all right?"

Still holding her shoulder, Valentina approached him, and let out a long sigh, "I am terribly sorry about this," she said with a resigned look. 

He blinked, "sorry about wh--" thump "goodnight, Mommie," thud.

Anna screamed again, quite possibly the only sound Valentina wished she couldn't hear, "you-you-you just punched out a cop!"

"He'll live," she said flatly, unfastening his helmet, "put this on," she pushed it at the girl and herded her toward the VTOL.

"You're seriously gonna steal a cop cruiser?!" Anna said incredulously. 

"We need to get out of here, quickly," she shrugged at the spot between her shoulders, "this isn't over, yet." 

Valentina more or less shoved Anna up into the diminutive back seat, thought for a moment, then retrieved the unconscious officer's sunglasses as well.

"Are you sure you can fly this thing?" 

"I can fly anything," Valentina said calmly as she plunked into the pilot's seat. She looked over the incredible array of switches and buttons, and began working them.

BEEP!

HONK! 

BEE-DO! BEE-DO! BEE-DO!

WOOP! WOOP!

SELF DESTRUCT, ARM--

She flipped that switch back and sat very straight for a moment. 

Foreigners!

Another switch, and finally the welcome sound of the two big engines spooling up greeted them. Valentina looked over the panel again, finding the knob to close the plexiglass bubble canopy. A check of the vector nozzles, nudge the throttles forward... and the craft sprung daintily from the ground.

Need to get up high, out of range. There's an abandoned airfield on an island not far from here. Should be deserted. We can hide there and--

Valentina felt it in her chest, at first. A deep rumbling that grew in intensity until the instruments began to blur. Just about the time the little VTOL crested the roof of the nearest building, that vague memory that had been orbiting around just out of reach plunged down like a shooting star. A moment too late. 

Cerima was generally thought to be a chaotic, mad place, but pockets of relative stability did exist. They existed, because they had thriving economies supported by building and exporting some of the most fearsome weapons of war known to Kerb. 

Like this gunship, here. 

 

 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hehehe.

Getting better and better. The gunship part reminds me of the scene in MI:3 when they are trying to escape in that wimpy UH-1 helicopter and the AH-1 comes into view flying through the building :D

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18.8.2016 at 1:28 AM, Omegagoldfish said:

Cerimian gunships? Well, that's a problem, to say the least. They probably didn't put amateurs in those things...

No need to worry. Good ol' Val is a true ace of spades ...

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/17/2016 at 3:14 PM, SpaceplaneAddict said:

heheheheheheheh, i see whatcha did there eh

Can't take any credit for that one, the guy who created the map I've been using, @Pds314 came up with it. I've simply been blatantly ripping off er, borrowing what he started and running with it. I see the OP needs a link to reflect that here, too. :blush:

On 8/19/2016 at 0:14 PM, lodger said:

No need to worry. Good ol' Val is a true ace of spades ...

 

Oh, perfect, I needed a good soundtrack. :cool:

 

So, sorry for the delays in replying. The real world has taken me from "looking for a house" to "trying to buy a house." If you've never been thru the process and want to know what it's like, go beat your head against the nearest wall until there's a good-sized hole in it, then contemplate how much that just cost you. :confused: Then repeat a couple times. The next chapter promises to be very technically challenging (action sequences always are), so between everything I think it's gonna be one of those long gaps again. :(

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of life's great stresses combined with a technically demanding chapter. Definitely sounds like that one will need to ferment for a while. But, like a pickled mosquito head, it will no doubt surprise, then tingle, then delight. And I never yet heard of no pickled mosquito head that wouldn't improve if you left it a bit longer in the jar.

Take all the time you need and best of luck with the house buying! We'll still be here when you get back.

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, what I am about to say, I mean in a good way:

You, sir, are brutal!  
A true master of brutality!

I thought I was pretty good, but now I'm sitting here taking notes from your last chapter... Outstanding!!!  :wink:

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Just Jim said:

OK, what I am about to say, I mean in a good way:

You, sir, are brutal!  
A true master of brutality!

I thought I was pretty good, but now I'm sitting here taking notes from your last chapter... Outstanding!!!  :wink:

Indeed. :sealed:

That last one was a definite departure from my usual... well, pretty much everything (there is a reason for that)Given the current state of the world, I was hesitant to go that route at all. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Given the current state of the world, I was hesitant to go that route at all. 

I understand completely.  

But I've said this many times, and I'll say it again. In the words of the great Stan Lee (paraphrasing): 

The best adventures are the ones in which the audience thinks all is lost, the end is inevitable, and there is no-way... no-way at all... our heroes are going to get out this time... 

I would say you just headed down that road quite nicely....and I think Mr. Lee would approve.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, vsully said:

Moar?

I'm sure the sentiment is appreciated but...

12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

So, sorry for the delays in replying. The real world has taken me from "looking for a house" to "trying to buy a house." If you've never been thru the process and want to know what it's like, go beat your head against the nearest wall until there's a good-sized hole in it, then contemplate how much that just cost you. :confused: Then repeat a couple times. The next chapter promises to be very technically challenging (action sequences always are), so between everything I think it's gonna be one of those long gaps again. :(

Moar looks unlikely to happen for a bit.

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Just Jim said:

 

I would say you just headed down that road quite nicely....and I think Mr. Lee would approve.  

Oooooohhh does that mean he'll do a cameo??:D

11 hours ago, KSK said:

I'm sure the sentiment is appreciated but...

Moar looks unlikely to happen for a bit.

<_< quite. Had a good day today, tho, put down a good thousand words or so without anything overly emotionally devastating from the other end. Maybe by the end of the week, if the research doesn't sink me too far into wiki-land. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Oooooohhh does that mean he'll do a cameo??:D

<_< quite. Had a good day today, tho, put down a good thousand words or so without anything overly emotionally devastating from the other end. Maybe by the end of the week, if the research doesn't sink me too far into wiki-land. 

Awesome, sorry for the MOAR spamming but this is a great story ^_^ and i want to see Valentina kick the gunship's butt XD

Perfect timing, I have a film event going on, this will be good for a break.

Edited by vsully
Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, normally my verbal verisimilitude is exacting in efforts to instantiate the correct level of descriptive verbosity but...

 

WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! I Dun run outa stuf ta reed!

 

Yeah, I've finally caught up to all of Valentina's shenanigans.

You're doing magnificently lad, keep it up!

Edited by Patupi
Tablet messing with font size when writing originally
Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 76: McQueen, She Ain't 

Valentina chopped the throttles, and the little jet dropped out of the air as white-hot tracers streaked by centimeters above the canopy. Dazzled by the muzzle flash, she jammed them forward again, but it wasn't enough to stop the craft from smacking back into the pavement with a spine-cracking jolt before bouncing back up again. She shoved the nozzles forward with a curse, pirouetted the cruiser around, and shot off down the alley. Behind her, Anna was screaming again. 

Have to stay low, no chance up in the open.

"Is all right!" Valentina called back, "he can't possibly keep--"

More tracer fire shot past the windscreen, tearing chunks of concrete and glass out the buildings ahead. Glancing in the mirror, she saw the gunship bearing down on them with alarming speed. Its glazed dome of a cockpit was flanked by a pair of expansive round intakes, covered in heavy wire mesh screens. The bulk was slung below long, drooping wings, giving the distinct impression of a raptor diving at its prey. A raptor, followed by a billowing trail of choking, black smoke. 

And, of course, guns. A really silly amount of guns all firing at once. 

Valentina narrowly jinked out of the way of the barrage, and saw an opportunity just ahead. With a grunt, she made a slight right down a narrower alley. 

"Is alright, now!" she yelled back, "he cannot possibly fit through--"

Bits of building exploded to her left and right, the gunship still right behind them, its wingtips tearing long, undulating gashes in the walls. She jerked the agile cruiser up and down, but this was even worse. She didn't have any room to maneuver in here, either! The alley opened up onto a street, she banked into a hard right turn. 

Right!

Left!

RightRight!

LeftRight!...RightLeftLeftRightLeft!

Then she rolled the stubby wings nearly vertical, pulling into a crushing left turn onto a another street. The airframe groaned in protest, the opposing wall charging up at a frightening pace while G-forces pulled both of them down into their seats as the landing gear scraped along the wall that was momentarily more like the ground. 

Hurtling down the road pulling out of the turn, Valentina flipped up the gear handle, only to be greeted by three flashing red lights. She frowned, but this time checked the mirror first. 

"Now is alright," she breathed, "he cannot possibly maneu--"

In the mirror she saw the gunship seem to skid around the corner, fishtailing wildly in the air. It slammed right into the building they had just scraped against, tearing a hole in it and causing a rain of debris. Huge chunks bounced harmlessly off the intake screens as it burst through and charged after them faster than ever.

PЦTIЙS ЗДЯS!

Valentina rolled away from another hail of fire and dived toward the road. 

Think! ThinkThinkThink! Surely there was some strategy recorded for dealing with Ceriman gunships. She'd spent time around fighter pilots, must have absorbed something...

Of course, she was usually fighting with them at the time, and otherwise the only phrases that drifted up were things like "engage beyond visual range" and "expedite egress" and something about nuking from orbit but that might have been a movie and--

Anna squealed her back to the present, "fruit stand! Fruit stand! Fruit stand!"

Valentina looked up, too late.

ZOOM!

Fruit salad. 

Anna screamed louder than ever, "somebody's guts are all over the nose!"

Peering at the chunky red smears, Valentina frowned, "no, is just strawberries."

The girl screamed again, "cardboard boxes! Cardboard boxes! Cardboard boxes!"

ZOOM!

Confetti.

A small 'FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE' sticker remained plastered to the windscreen just long enough to get the point across. 

And because these things always come in threes, "plate glass window! Plate glass window! Plate glass window!"

Oh for PЦTIЙS sake!

They saw the onslaught coming, of course. Knowing from years of experience that resistance was futile, the two glaziers simply sighed and tensed. 

ZOOM!

Glitter.

One of the pair rolled his eyes and handed a bill to the other. They had just turned back toward their truck, where they had stocked plenty of spare window glass, when the gunship came along, caught it with a wing tip, and tore the whole truck in half, too.

Meanwhile, Valentina's eyes frantically scanned over the switch panels as more tracers flew past, "doesn't this thing have any weapons??" she called out. 

Anna briefly interrupted her screaming, "cops with guns, are you nuts?! What'd you think this is, Omork?"

Valentina just grunted and did a tight barrel roll around a flurry of shells. Makes no difference, she wasn't combat trained anyway. A quick left, then a dodge back to the right, and another hard right onto... what was this, Market Street? She noted this wasn't exactly combat anyway. This was running away from something big and mean, and growing up in the taiga, she had plenty of experience with that.

A dozen things kept fighting for attention in the back of her mind as she jinked and swerved. The other pilot, he was good, but... he should have had them by now. He wasn't used to this either, that was a gunship, not a fighter plane. 

Keep moving, keep dodging. Break his line of sight, then hide.

There was something else, too, drifting around in that infuriating fog just beyond recollection. Something, she'd heard something about those beasts, some Achilles' heel, but what was it? And something else, too, but--

Loud pings and sparks off the left wing jerked Valentina back again. That was close, nothing serious--hard bank to the left, feint right-- but where are we, Third Ave? Fourth, now?-- There!

Break his line of sight...

End of the street... the glassed-in lobby of a skyscraper--must be downtown, now--oh, why not? What's a few more plate glass windows, at this point? Anna screamed over the engines as they roared ahead. Impressive set of lungs on that girl.

Time had the odd impression of stretching out again as the little VTOL smashed through the window, turning it into tiny, glimmering pebbles that flew in every direction. Startled business professionals in their tailored suits and skirts gaped at her, and Valentina seemed to have plenty of time to gape back and consider the bewildered looks on their faces. She did a slow roll around a support column and mulled over the very attractive marble mosaic on the floor. Quality workkerbship there, all right. Must've cost a fortune. Oh, they have a coffee cart, too! She could really use some coffee right now. And one of those delicious pink cookies. Pity Tercella didn't patent her machine like Valentina told-- plate glass window!

The cruiser crashed back out onto the street again, pulling up abruptly to miss a concrete support column for the elevated train track. They found themselves hurtling along another narrow passage between the track columns and dozens of store fronts. Valentina backed down on the throttles. 

He'll have to go up and around, only have a few seconds, at best. Stay low, find a parking garage or alley before--

Through a cloud of brown dust and black exhaust, the gunship burst from the now-ruined lobby, smashed through the support column, and shot forward on the other side. As the cement beams raced past between them in a grey blur, it pulled even with Valentina. Sneering, she raised a hand, and, in the way of the Foreigners, gestured to the other pilot that he was 'number one.' All her snark disappeared, however, when he grinned beneath his black, bug-like visor.  

PЦTIЙS ЗДЯS, his teeth...!

They were filed down to sharp, interlocking points like shark's teeth. Then, with an equally vile grin, the gunner opened up with the side-mounted autocannon. Stout cement pilings simply disintegrated before the onslaught, and a ragged gash chased Valentina along the facing structures. She dove down out of the way, scraped the dangling undercarriage along the pavement, dodged honking kars left and right. 

Madness! This is madness!

In the mirror, she saw the trackway begin to collapse behind them in a ribbon of chaos. And of course, the train was just up ahead. Snapping the wings vertical again, hearing more unsettling pings, she turned off down the next alley, hoping the remaining track would hold. 

Think! Think! There must be some way to--

The pursuer was on top of them in an instant. More brilliant white tracers flew past. This time one caught the right engine with a metallic thump, followed quickly by--

"We're on fire!" Anna screamed. 

Valentina spat a curse, turned down the next street, the VTOL now trailing oily black smoke to match its hunter. She struggled with the controls as the airframe shuddered and groaned, red lights popping on all over the instruments.

Extinguisher! Extinguisher! her eyes raced over the unfamiliar switches, where is the STДLIЙSКI--

They shot wide open. 

Extinguisher.

She flipped the switch and called back, "Anna! We need to get to the river!" Anna, however, was cradling her head and screaming, always screaming.

"Anna!"

Shells whizzed by, leaving faint trails of smoke in the air. 

"Anna!"

Left, then another right. Valentina had no idea where she was anymore. The wounded engine spewed an ever louder cascade of grunts and bangs. 

"Anna, I know you are scared," she pleaded, "but I need you right now!"

A large chunk of concrete, dislodged somewhere high above, fell against the canopy with a resounding crunch, leaving a snaking crack in the plexiglass. 

"You know the city better than I do--"

Something took a piece out of the tail. 

"--we have to get to the river!"

An alarm began buzzing. 

"R...river...?" Anna's face strained against her own panic. 

"Yes, yes, the river!" bangTHUD! "how do we get to the river?!"

Somewhere in Valentina's head, she realized she was tiring.

"Um... the... the parkway..."

Can't keep this up much longer, "which way?"

Anna's wide, terrified eyes darted about, for a moment she seemed sure to lapse back into shock, but then--

"No... NO! We'd be sitting ducks up there!" she cried out, "the tunnel! We gotta take the tunnel! Go left!"

Ungh!

"Right!"

Mmmf!

"Another right!"

Guh!

"Crap!"

They shot out onto Tunnel Street, and there it was all right. All four lanes jammed with rush-hour traffic. Instinctively, Valentina pulled back the throttles. Something in the bad engine let go with a shudder.

Nowhere to go, now...

"No, faster!" yelled Anna, "must go faster!"

"What?!" Valentina did it anyway. 

"Faster! Aim for the middle. And hit the lights, center switch!" Anna pointed. 

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

"Just trust me, give it everything you've got! Balls to the wall!"(actual asterisk)*

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

There were only a couple of meters to spare between the mass of kars and tunnel entrance. 

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

Now craters began to appear in the decorative bas-relief surrounding it. 

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

This was going to end badly. 

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

Valentina resisted the urge to shut her eyes, and just plowed for the center of the tunnel. 

Suddenly, as if by some miracle, the flood of vehicles simply parted, like the waters of a certain colorfully-named sea. The ragged cruiser rocketed into the tunnel in its own little tunnel of space. Just behind, Valentina saw the gunship pull up and away at the last second. 

She stared in disbelief at the blur of steel whizzing by on either side, "how... how is this even possible?"

"Running code," Anna slumped against her seat, "lights and siren. It overrides the AutoPark systems in heavy traffic and makes everyone pull over."

Bee-doh! Bee-doh! Bee-doh!

"Auto-park?"

"Um, yah!" She rolled her huge, pretty, tired eyes, "MechJeb DriverAssist's been standard equipment for a couple years now, on everything but--" she pointed, and screamed again.

"Trucks!"

There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it was mostly blocked by a pair of tractor-trailers that hadn't quite managed to pull out of the way. As they crept forward, angled away from the middle, the gap between the back of their trailers actually got smaller.

"Duck!" At the last possible instant, Valentina snapped the wings vertical again and tried to kiss the instrument panel. This time, she did shut her eyes. 

With a screech and a crunch, the plucky little craft burst back out into daylight. Valentina looked up just in time to pull a hard turn and avoid the building looming in front of them. Squinting against the windblast, she took stock. The canopy was gone. The mirror was gone. Because of that, she couldn't see what else might be gone but since they were still going more-or-less where she was pointing, she figured it couldn't be anything that important. 

By some inviolable rule of the cosmos, she still had her sunglasses. 

She craned around to Anna, "are you all right?"

"I'm ok," Anna poked her head up, then more surely, "I'm ok!" She'd had the good sense to lower the helmet visor. 

"But... where is river?" They were hurtling down yet another nondescript urban canyon. 

"We went under it!" Anna called back, "it's just on the other side of those office blocks, to the left. There's a gap coming up in another kilometer or so." She turned around and looked behind, "but it's ok, I think we lost--"

"NO, DO NOT SAY--!"

The wall just ahead exploded, the gunship came roaring through the hole trailing fire and smoke like the proverbial infernal chiropteran, and turned right at them, eponymous guns blazing.  

Valentina joined Anna in screaming. 

She yanked back the stick as hard as she could, the weary cruiser groaned in protest but darted upwards just missing the attacker. Arcing high across the sky, it left a dotted trail of smoke as the right engine coughed and wheezed but somehow kept going. It sailed over the row of office mid-rises, and finally the greenish waters of the river beckoned. The edge of the city was visible just beyond. 

Valentina swooped down over the water, zig-zagging back and forth. At each turn, she could look back and see the gunship making its own high, drawn-out pirouette. Still trailing thin ribbons of smoke from its wings, the black exhaust belching from its huge engines seemed thicker, the turn not as fast. She plowed straight ahead down the middle of the channel. On either side, the banks grew higher into a shallow canyon as they left the city behind. 

"He's gaining on us!" Anna squealed. 

Valentina spared a quick glance back, causing the VTOL to wobble and threaten to flip over. 

Cannot look back, too low now, have to concentrate.

They skimmed among just above the river, their slipstream throwing up a faint wake of widening mist. The riverbanks seemed to close in as they raced further into the countryside. 

"Wait, why... why isn't he shooting?" Anna gave voice to the thought in Valentina's head. 

"Out of ammo," she yelled back, "or flying through building made guns jam."

"He's--he's getting closer!"

"Good!"

"What?!"

Concentrate... have to guess his approach...

Anna glanced back, "he's gonna ram us!"

"Counting on it."

"Are you crazy?!"

"Probably."

Closer... need him closer...

But... there's something else... something I am missing...

"He's right on top of us!"

Almost there... almost there...

Distantly, probably just a hallucination brought on by fatigue, a voice whispered in Valentina's head...

Apply the product of mass and acceleration...

She brushed it away, she didn't even know anyone named Luke.

Closer... closer...

In her mind's eye, she could practically see the pilot's horrible, eyeless grin.

NOW!

She jammed the engine nozzles down, and the cruiser shot up like a rocket in a titanic eruption of spray as the gunship passed underneath it. Valentina struggled, fought with all she had to bring her destabilized craft back under control and keep it reaching skyward. 

What?? What am I not remembering??

She looked back in time to see the gunship lurching back and forth just above the river, white smoke now pouring from its engines. A drooping wingtip caught the surface, sending it cartwheeling across the water shedding parts and flames. It came to rest upside-down, and immediately began to sink. 

But what am I missing?!

And then, she remembered. 

"Shut your eyes!" Valentina yelled, but it didn't do much good. The flash seared through her sunglasses and filled the inside of her head with a reddish glow. It lasted only a moment, the world becoming eerily quiet as the engines and instruments died. Then the shockwave hit, and the intrepid little plane finally disintegrated. She was vaguely aware of the cockpit spinning through the air as reality became a blur. 

Sky........ground......sky....ground...sky..ground.skygroundskygroundskygroundskygroundskygroundskyground splash! 

The impact nearly took her breath away. As Valentina's senses congealed, she was filled with a very clear memory... of being surrounded by murky, green water and ominous forms, and the waiting panic of struggling to the surface. 

Oddly enough, she didn't have to struggle long. Perhaps buoyed up by air trapped in her stiff layers of clothing, her head quickly broke the surface even as her feet kicked at the remains of the cockpit below. 

"Anna!" she called, "Anna!" A tall wave brushed her towards the nearby shore as she craned to see. 

"Anna!"

The waves lapped in pregnant silence. 

"Ptooi! Ew! Ewewewewewewew! Do you know where this water's been?!" Anna bobbed to the surface just a few meters away, "this is so gross! I, like, can't even!"

Valentina quickly moved to her, "are you all right?" That phrase was becoming far too common, today.

"Um... I think so," she pried the flight helmet from her head. It was sporting a large crack now. 

A few moments later, two bedraggled forms crawled up muddy, debris-riddled shoreline, coughing and panting. As mud squelched between her fingers, Valentina mused that finally, she couldn't possibly get any dirtier. She collapsed onto her back in a squishy, lakeweed-covered heap. A deep, penetrating weariness seemed to pull her into the muck. 

The darkness can have me, if it wants, she thought with exhaustion, I could use the rest.

Right on cue, the sun suddenly grew dimmer, and the world was cast in crimson hues. 

Anna looked up, "like... is that what I think it is?? What the flarp just happened?!"

"Sodium." Valentina panted. 

"Huh?"

"I remember now. Molten sodium-cooled reactor fueled with weapons-grade blutonium386," she said with a breathy, bitter laugh, "get spray in engine heat exchangers, and coolant tubes, they shatter. Molten sodium hit cold water, one thing lead to other..."

She sighed, "and you get very interestingly non-linear feedback loop."

"A wha--?"

Without looking up, Valentina pointed to the small but rising mushroom cloud that just blocked out the sun, "big bada-boom."

"Ooooooohhhhh," Anna still looked nervous, "are... are we gonna be ok?"

The weariness felt like it was seeping into Valentina's bones the way the mud was seeping into her rags. That, or she was simply sinking. She didn't much care, at the moment. Her back hurt. Her eyes hurt. Her teeth hurt. PЦTIЙS ЬДLD PДTЗ, when had she done anything to her teeth?

"Low yield, not efficient. Maybe half a kiloton. And wind is blowing out to sea."

The cloud roiled and congealed, casting an ever darker shadow. Or maybe that was just her eyelids. Was she sinking or... floating? 

"Now, I think maybe I just lay here and glow in dark for a while."

 

 

 

 

(actual asterisk)*Historical note: This phrase hails from World War II when running at full power meant pushing the throttle, mixture, and RPM levers all the way forward, to the firewall. They were typically topped with little spheres.

It is not actually as vulgar as it sounds. :rolleyes:

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
Link to post
Share on other sites

Addendum to historical note. But it sounds like it should be which is how fighter pilots like it. :) 

Pulse thumping chapter and I just bet it was 'technically challenging' to write. Describing a long chase without getting repetitive (which you weren't)... yeah that's a real trick.

And nuclear powered VTOL gunships?! Somebody really wants to get hold of Anna - and apparently has zero scruples about such trivialities as 'collateral damage', or 'use of ludicrous overkill.' :0.0:

Edited by KSK
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oo nice! I liked that chase scene and the nuclear bada-boom at the end!

Aw KSK beat me to the punch :(

But yeah, nuclear gunships are a little overkill, but... If they REALLY want Anna, then wouldn't they use someone a little more experienced? I mean, the pilot basically used all his ammo on a nuclear gunship and only damaged the right engine somewhat... He needs to go back to gunnery school!

And interesting word choice KSK, I recently worked on a short film that happened to be named Collateral Damage XD

Edited by vsully
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

*Historical note: This phrase hails from World War II when running at full power meant pushing the throttle, mixture, and RPM levers all the way forward, to the firewall. They were typically topped with little spheres.

It is not actually as vulgar as it sounds

Seriously?  Wow, I didn't know that, but it makes perfect sense!  Thanks, I love learning something new, especially military trivia!

Oh, and somehow I'm already out of likes, so I'll try and catch up in a bit..... 

Link to post
Share on other sites
This thread is quite old. Please consider starting a new thread rather than reviving this one.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...