Fairlight Tale by Paul M. Carhart
night through the hole above him was freckled with stars and, in
stark contrast to the evening's earlier events, it was calm.
pulled himself up from the inside of the cavern. Beneath him, he
could feel the rocks slip... hear the rustle of small stones
as they tumbled away, ricocheting randomly into oblivion.
oblivion he had not entered alone.
winced as he dragged himself along the craggy surface. His hands
were scraped and bloody and, from the warmth of the wetness on his
forehead, he was certain there was a free-flowing gash there too,
trickling blood down his face and matting his closely trimmed goatee.
The cave dust that had been blinding him inside the cavern now caused
the cut to sting.
glanced back down the hole, half expecting his friend to climb up
from below him. But he knew that wasn't going to happen.
Enforcers, he thought to himself. Damn them all.
he hoisted himself to his feet. He had just left one feeding frenzy.
If he stuck around too long, he knew he would be the main course
pulled the laser pistol out of his belt and quickly checked the
charge. Empty. He tossed it aside.
the witless are truly unarmed anyway.
the rendezvous point wasn't far off. With any luck, he figured
he could get there with little trouble.
where you are!" a voice ordered.
much for luck.
froze, lifting his hands in order to assure the newcomer that he
was not armed. He had heard only one voice but he had no idea how
many there were. Enforcers rarely traveled alone.
ahead, Chance. Think ahead.
suppressed a grin before turning his body around in a graceful arc.
He cocked an eyebrow at the gray and blue clad Enforcer before him.
So far, he could perceive only one of them. Glancing down at his
chest, he spotted the red dot of his captor's laser site hovering
over his jet-black jumpsuit.
can I help you, officer?" Chance knew as he asked such a mundane
question that his battle-worn presence probably looked completely
ridiculous to the soldier.
are you? What are you doing here?"
Chance grinned, a perfectly timed reaction. "I heard shooting.
I came to see what was going on."
no way they're going to believe me.
Enforcer trotted up to join the first. "Who is he?"
first soldier shrugged and mumbled something.
Chance decided, absolute rocket scientists.
see some ID," the newcomer ordered.
you like fries and a drink with that?" Chance asked as he reached
into his back pocket.
remarks, mister. We could take you in for having a unique sneeze
and call it creative piracy, you know."
was well aware of the Enforcement Corps' liberal interpretations
of the law, especially where the banning of creativity was concerned.
In fact, it was the whole reason he had lost Marc in the caverns
to begin with.
first soldier fired off another question. "If you just came
to see what the shooting was about, why are you so beat up and dirty?"
lost no time. "I fell in," he replied, gesturing to the
rough, nearly vertical cave he had just emerged from. "That
first step is a doozy."
Enforcer was amused. "The ID?"
extended a thin wallet to his captors. The second soldier reached
out to take it. Just before his fingers could close around it, however,
Chance let it fall to the ground.
Sorry guys," he said with a mock wince.
two Enforcers glanced at each other. The second soldier stepped
forward, in front of his partner, and bent down to pick up the wallet.
was Chance's cue.
a blink, Chance lifted his knee into the face of the crouching soldier.
The impact elicited a crunch accompanied by a cry of anguish. As
expected, the other trigger-happy Enforcer reacted without thinking,
firing three shots into his injured comrade in his attempt to respond
to the situation.
the now dead Enforcer crumpled the rest of the way to the ground,
Chance snatched the pistol from his belt. He rolled onto a bruised
knee, winced, and fired two shots, one into each side of the remaining
second man fell to his knees, then folded onto the ground.
the fact that these members of the Human Debris Club or their ilk
had just done the same to his friend, Chance had a hard time feeling
sorry for either of them as he watched the smoke twist off of their
won't get any apology from me.
hobbled back up to his feet as he stuffed the pistol into his belt.
He limped over to the two dead Enforcers and disarmed them, adding
another pistol and two rifles to his personal arsenal. The new pistol
joined the other one in his belt and he shouldered one of the rifles,
preferring to keep one of them in his hands.
ought to hide these Einsteins, he thought to himself.
another minute had passed, both Enforcers had been tossed over the
rim of the passage he had previously emerged from... an unmarked
grave for two unremarkable loyalists.
oppression and pay for it, Chance rationalized. We reap what
he turned his attention to the rendezvous point and headed in that
direction. News of Marc's death would most certainly be all
over the Enforcement Corps Net. If he arrived late, Chance figured
he would probably be left for dead. If that happened, he would have
to find his own way back to the resistance cell. He didn't
particularly like that idea. There were enough obstacles for someone
who wasn't injured. In his condition, he would stand out like
an Easter egg on Christmas morning.
there'll be plenty of uniformed maniacs getting in line to
crack my shell, he figured.
quickened his pace, hoping he would not miss his pick up.
he goes!" someone cried from behind him.
They're like bees! What? Am I dripping a trail of honey from
was sprinting now... at least trying too. He was also limping
and most likely leaving behind a trail of blood for his new assailants
guess I'll just end up running myself into the ground so these
clowns can finish me off.
bolts erupted in the air around him but he didn't dare turn
around for fear of catching one right in the face. He also didn't
really want to know how many were on his tail... in case he might
just decide to surrender.
I'm not going to make it that easy for them. I'm armed
and I'm smarter than they are.
rendezvous point was in the center of a park, a run-down relic of
a site from the distant past that now served as a place for businessmen
to meet for lunch during the day. Of course, no one in his or her
right mind went there at night.
Chance was entering the park, the laser shots from behind him lighting
his way like a strobe light.
the hell are you, Nik?" he said through clenched teeth.
laser bolt shot past him... too close this time. He could feel
the heat of the energy stinging his irritated and abraded skin.
feinted to his right, then dove behind a bush to his left. Even
as he touched the ground, he positioned himself so he was facing
the spinning web of encroaching laser bolts, Chance could see that,
although he wasn't about to attempt to get a precise number,
there were far too many Enforcers for him to fight off alone.
he knew surrendering would serve no purpose. Besides, he had made
a promise to Marc... a promise he intended to keep.
took mental stock of his arsenal. Two rifles. Two pistols. At the
rate his enemy was closing, he figured he would have little use
for rifles within seconds.
a grunt, he hurled the rifle he had been holding out into the middle
of the charging soldiers. Quickly, he slid the other rifle from
his shoulder. With a flip of his thumb, the rifle charged itself.
Another flip activated the laser site.
goodnight, guys," he whispered as he brought the rifle to bear.
laser site not only put a red dot on its target, but it also utilized
a powerful digital scope. Within a fraction of a second, Chance
zeroed in on the power cell of the weapon he had thrown out onto
squeezed off two shots, but the first one had done the job. The
rifle exploded brilliantly, flinging Enforcers out in every direction.
Chance knew that the force of the explosion would only kill the
soldiers in immediate contact, but it might damage or blind others.
His main reason for doing it was to create chaos.
the looks of things, he had succeeded.
brought the site in on the first confused Enforcer he could find
and punched a hole through his neck. Then he moved on to the next
one, picking targets as if he were at a shooting gallery. He didn't
expect his diversion to last long, so he needed to take down as
many as he could before they could regroup.
drilling a hole through the next Enforcer's helmet, he moved
on to another. He knew he wasn't as good a shot as Marc had
been, but the laser site helped. He would be at a definite disadvantage
once he was forced to move on to the pistols.
behind him, he could hear the whine of a hover field fighting with
the planet's natural gravity.
it Nik or was it enemy reinforcements?
pressed his lips together in thought. He would have better odds
heading toward the whine, he decided, than sticking it out with
these clowns. The sheer numbers alone would eventually suffocate
fired another three shots. By now, the remaining Enforcers had taken
cover behind park benches, garbage disintegrators and other bushes.
They were no longer such easy targets.
shouldered the rifle and removed one of the pistols from his belt.
Again, he fired a couple of random shots to let them know he was
still there. The enemy returned fire. He waited another minute and
fired again. He knew it would be pure happenstance if he actually
managed to hit anyone now. Still, he fired once more. Then he darted
out from the bush, heading straight back, so his enemy might not
know that he had gone... at least not right away.
the distance, a hover car listed on its coils, its running lights
turned off so Chance wouldn't become a silhouette. Such a courtesy
could only have been extended by Nik... and none too soon.
laser fire began to pick up again. Chance figured that his pursuers
had discovered his departure. The shots were coming closer. Soon,
however, Chance would be in the hover car and Nik could spirit him
away to safety.
a hiss, the passenger side door slid up. Chance dove in head first
and the door slid shut behind him.
car rocked as shot after shot buffeted the vehicle.
winced as he looked up at the grizzled old driver.
them at cards again, old boy?" Nik asked.
funny. Can we get out of here?"
older man flipped a switch and pulled a lever while keeping one
hand firmly on the steering yolk. Chance peered out the window.
The car lifted up several feet above the soldiers outside. However,
they were still firing at the vulnerable hover coils. If they made
a direct hit, both he and Nik would join Marc in his fate.
they're aiming at the coils."
so. Hold on."
HAVE been holding on!"
flip of a switch brought up the running lights to full intensity.
grinned as the Enforcers below turned their heads and shielded their
the soldiers were gone... replaced by the blurred buildings of
the city at night.
released a sigh before turning to his companion.
they got Marc..."
know. He knew the risks better than anyone. You know that."
doesn't mean I can't mourn him though," Chance snapped.
agree. However, you might want to save your mourning until he is
Chance lifted both eyebrows and forgot all about his cuts and bruises.
A grin spread across his face.
I've been monitoring the EC Net," Nik confirmed solemnly.
"Seems they've captured him and are putting him on so-called
public trial. The NewsNet predicts an execution by morning."
got to what?" the older man interrupted. "Storm the impenetrable
Government building and sweep him from the clutches of General Starrk?
Maybe you ought to just keep on mourning and forget I said anything."
got to do something!"
we indeed?" Nik asked as he banked the car down a side street.
one of us. We can't just let them kill him."
also one of them... an Enforcer. Starrk will feel the need to
show his men what it means to betray the Corps. They'll make
an example of him."
can't give up without trying!"
give you that. You ARE trying."
There will be no way in and certainly no way out. It's suicide
and I can't believe that Marc would sanction it."
not the leader. I am."
would be more concerned with his wife than his own safety. Perhaps
there's a lesson there."
gritted his teeth. He knew Nik was right. Marc had said as much
on many occasions and Chance had promised Marc that he would take
care of his wife if anything were ever to happen to him. Now it
had, and it would seem that Chance was more concerned with chasing
after Marc than fulfilling his promise.
I wish Marc had trusted me with his residence, he thought. We
could be killing two birds with one stone right now.
Chance knew that Marc had been protecting his wife from both the
Enforcement Corps and the resistance... a fine line to walk when
you're an officer for one side and an informant for the other.
A finer line still when your wife is participating in the very same
activities you are sworn to put a stop to.
course, Nik was still lecturing... "And as the leader of
our cause, you should be more concerned with the overall security
of the resistance than your own personal vendettas."
Nik was right. Chance hated it when Nik was right. However, no matter
how he viewed the situation, there was no way Chance could justify
letting his friend die if there was something he could do to prevent
you know I have to try."
old man let out a sigh and nodded his head. "I know. I figured
as much." Chance grinned at the old man, who ignored him. "I've
put together a few things for you. They're in the back seat."
and Nik had only been together for a short time, but the older man
had always seemed to have the uncanny ability to predict Chance's
behavior... and even prepare for it, a trait that Chance had
become increasingly grateful for.
the back seat, Chance found a black cloth satchel, which he pulled
up into his lap.
usual?" Chance asked as he rummaged through the pouch, pulling
out a fully charged rifle cell and hefting it in his hand.
nodded. "And some additional goodies. You might want to familiarize
yourself with the contents before we reach our destination.
sure I'll get by. Where are we going?"
This is your death wish, Daredevil."
smiled sweetly. "I wouldn't dream of asking you to join
me, Nik. I know that you don't like to get your hands dirty.
Besides, you know what I mean: Where are you taking me?"
We've recently purchased a building across the street from
the Government Building. I'll drop you off on the roof. When
you're ready for pick up, signal me with the transmitter embedded
in your wrist chrono."
rendezvous point will be?"
much wherever you signal from. I don't expect you to be able
to get to a specific place. In fact, I don't expect to ever
see you again. Funny thing about roadkill: It has a hard time moving
around, much less signaling for pick up. Reconsider, Chance. Even
Marc would agree that you are crazy to attempt this."
Nik. I have to do this. Another thing, and this is priority one:
I need you to look up Marc's address. Hack into the Government
systems if you have to. We're going to have to move quickly
to protect his wife. Even if I succeed, both of them will be in
danger from now on. We'll have to absorb them both into the
had already considered that. We're running a search right now.
Chance, the cause needs you. Marc recognized this and put your safety
above his on every occasion. Don't throw everything away on
this fools errand. You'll just wind up with an empty sack."
you stop with the begging and pleading? Don't worry. I always
come back. Besides, I'd do the same for you."
nodded, almost smiling, reminding Chance of the older man's
usual jovial demeanor. There was nothing humorous about this night
though and Nik let the smile slide back away.
know," Nik agreed. "However, your responsibilities should
prevent your actions."
come on, Nik. Admit it. You'd do the same for me, wouldn't
silently tilted his head at Chance as he brought the hover car to
a stop in mid-air.
probably never know, will we?" Finally the older man's
grin appeared in full. "Goodbye Chance," he said as the
passenger chair opened up and dropped Chance onto the roof of a
seconds, the hover car was gone.
stood up and dusted himself off, shaking his head in astonishment.
see that coming... crazy old coot.
the street, the brilliantly lit edifice of the Government building
stood against the night sky. Government activity seemed to be at
an all time high as a parade of hover cars entered the main compound.
Nik was right. Maybe there was no way in.
still didn't mean that Chance was going to give up on Marc.
the traffic inch into the Government building compound below gave
him an idea.
was well aware that he would not be able to hide underneath a hover
vehicle. The hover field would paralyze him completely. However,
that wasn't what he had in mind...
on his heel, he slipped the satchel over his head and shoulder as
he headed for the lift door. If the resistance owned the building
as Nik had suggested, the lift should be coded the way everything
passed his hand over a dark window in the wall. The lift door opened
and he stepped inside and punched the keypad for the third floor.
the lift descended, Chance opened the satchel and removed a pair
of gloves that he immediately donned. Perhaps his bruised and cut
hands would not hurt so much with the added protection, he decided.
He also removed a belt that had a larger-than-usual buckle and grenade
slots along either side. He replaced his old belt with the new one
and populated the slots with an assortment of weaponry.
he checked the charge on the rifle. It was up to full power again.
Both of his pistols were still tucked into his belt. It was time
for action and Chance was ready to make the best of the circumstances.
lift stopped; the door opened. Chance stalked down the dark corridor,
his rifle over one shoulder, his satchel over the other. He came
all the way up to the front of the building and peered out of the
the traffic had come to a complete standstill. Civilian hover vehicles,
although it was nearing one in the morning, were being stopped by
Enforcement troops as well as being just plain caught up in military
Starrk expect a rescue attempt?
held his breath, searching the traffic with his eyes. He was looking
for something specific and it only took him five seconds to find
the other side of the street, facing the entrance to the Government
building's compound, was the Enforcer equivalent of a paddy
wagon. It was tall, drifting slightly in the traffic on its hover
coils like a small building in an earthquake.
Marc was in the vehicle or not, Chance did not know. But even if
the esteemed passenger was not his friend, the vehicle itself would
still serve his purposes.
removed the old-fashioned modular window. Then he reached into his
satchel and pulled out a small, squarish pistol. He pushed a three-pronged
harpoon into its barrel. Attached to the dart's head was a
thin fiber cord.
stepped back several feet to minimize the sound of the gun's
report to the people outside before squeezing the trigger. The harpoon
launched out into the night, the fiber cord spiraling out behind
it like a comet's tail. It tore through the air with a whimpery
whistle before lodging itself in the building just beyond the hover
jerked the cord tight before connecting it to another, shorter,
three-pronged attachment. He placed the small device up against
the wall and pressed the button in the middle of the prongs.
the small object reeled in the cord, tightening it enough to play
music on had he been so inclined to strum it. Then the prongs extended
and embedded themselves into the building's wall, securing
nodded as he pulled a small towel out of his satchel. He daubed
his forehead twice before climbing into the window. Then he tossed
the towel over the cord. Taking each side of the towel in each hand,
he pushed himself out of the window and began his descent along
the length of the fiber cord.
looked down as he went, but could see no sign that he had yet been
discovered by anyone below. In fact, the passengers in the vehicles
seemed to be more concerned with the source of the traffic jam than
his activities above them. Chance turned his attention to his target.
The hover van was still precisely where it had been a few moments
one thing you can count on in life: Traffic is probably not going
knew the tricky part was still to come, however. He couldn't
very well leap onto the top of the paddy wagon. The hover coils
beneath the vehicle would surely make for an amiable enough landing,
but would also rock the van like a boat in choppy water, most certainly
alerting those inside to his presence. No, he would have to exercise
a bit of finesse, which would give him a lot less room to play with.
was now more than halfway to his destination. It was time to begin
the slowing process, which was why he had used a towel to slide
with and not something that would provide less resistance.
tightened his grip on the towel, which succeeded in slowing him
slightly. Smoke poured out of the cloth, a result of the increased
friction. Now, as the heat began to envelop his hands, he found
that he was thankful for his new gloves. Unfortunately, he was not
slowing enough. At the rate he was going, he would shoot right past
the van and smash right into the building on the other side.
had a choice to make. He could panic or he could do something about
pressure is required, he decided.
bounced up and down on the cord, praying it wouldn't snap and
drop him into the traffic. The increased pressure of the gravity
seemed to do the trick. Chance came bounding to a stop just over
the hover van. He extended his legs and smiled as his toes made
contact with the top of the vehicle. Slowly, he lowered himself
onto the hover van without even rippling the hover field beneath
bad, he decided.
he pressed a blue button on his wrist chrono. Above him, a small
charge went off in each of the three-pronged ends of the fiber cord.
The effects of the charges traveled the length of the cord, disintegrating
it. He could barely feel the dust-like particles of ash as they
floated down onto the traffic. Then he turned his attention back
to Marc's predicament.
course, it would have been nice if the hover van did, in fact, have
Marc in it. If that were so, Chance could just hijack the paddy
wagon and be done with it. Upon further reflection, however, Chance
realized that there was really no way that Marc could be the prisoner
that might be sitting out in the middle of traffic... especially
if Starrk was expecting a rescue attempt. Besides, Marc had been
captured a good hour and a half before Chance had even been able
to find an outlet from the caverns.
Marc was certainly well within the bowels of the building by now.
If there even were a prisoner inside this paddy wagon, it would
be someone else.
that person deserve the punishment he or she would receive?
put that out of his mind. He had to focus. He had to purge such
thoughts from his consciousness. He had made it this far. With or
without Marc inside, this vehicle would still serve his purposes,
if the traffic ever moved.
if reading his mind, the hover van lurched forward. Chance flattened
himself against the rooftop, hoping the van didn't take a fast
corner and slide him off onto the fibercrete like bacon from a frying
concerns were unwarranted, however. The traffic was not moving very
fast and riding the hover van to its eventual destination quickly
became an exercise in patience for Chance.
after scenario of Marc's demise danced through Chance's
head as he lay stretched across the hover van's roof...
all of which ended in Chance arriving just as the enemy had executed
psyching yourself out, Chance. Get a hold of yourself.
the hover van stopped and Chance heard a voice.
you doing out this late?"
know, the usual late night beat. Rounding up pirates."
first man chuckled. "Yeah, these painters and musicians...
what are they trying to prove? Well nobody you're gonna bring
in tonight will top what the general's got going on."
you listen to the comm? They finally got the traitor."
kidding? Who was it?"
Fairlight. He's supposed to be executed in a few hours."
was seething. General Starrk had decided the course of a man's
life just like that... Even before the trial, the sentence had
been determined. It was enough to make Chance want to just stand
up on the roof and empty his rifle into the both of them... but
that wouldn't save Marc...
hover van again moved forward. Chance held his breath. There was
no turning back now. He was within the compound. As the vehicle
moved forward, Chance took in the spectacle of the Government building.
Armed guards were interspersed along the perimeter of the building.
Along the face, he could see security cameras and even small laser
turrets. Soldiers going into the building were scanned both from
their palm and their retina.
had never seen so much security in one place. His stomach sank.
is crazy. Nik was right! Even if I can find Marc... even if I
can get to him... I'll never get out alive. Instead of one
man dying, it'll be both of us.
knew that Marc would not approve. In fact, he knew what Marc would
want him to do.
hover van pulled around into a parking structure. A low hum told
Chance that the hover coils had shut down.
cab doors swished open. Then Chance could hear the boot falls of
the driver and the passenger as they marched to the back of the
holding his breath, Chance slowly turned himself around to face
the rear of the vehicle.
on. Let's go," one of the Enforcers said.
poked his head over the rooftop. A dark haired, dark skinned man
was being prodded out of the vehicle by one of the soldier's
guns. Chance's heart went out to the man, who had probably
done nothing more than draw a picture with some crayons or hum a
tune from his childhood.
glanced left and then right. The parking structure seemed more or
less deserted. Most of the soldiers would certainly be ordered to
watch Marc's execution as an example of what happens to traitors.
had been right all along, he realized. Marc didn't stand a
chance against the forces gathered here and the odds for Chance
to succeed in his mission weren't any better. Marc was going
to die and there was nothing Chance could do about it.
guy, on the other hand...
clenched his jaw.
one liquid motion, Chance bounded from the hover van's roof
with his arms stretched out wide, taking both Enforcers around their
necks and dragging them to the ground in a clatter of boots, helmets
one that was furthest from the prisoner was the one Chance focused
on. He punched him in the gut three times and then kneed him in
the groin. The man curled up in a fetal position and just lay on
his side, rocking back and forth.
turned to face the other man, but he was also on the ground in a
similar position. The prisoner smiled at him and Chance found that
he was returning that smile. He also knew that he had started down
a path that he could not return from. Marc's fate was now sealed.
Escape now had to be his primary goal.
go," Chance said as he leaned over and palmed the driver's
key card. Then he headed along the structure's parkway to the
hover car wing. "You're my shadow," he ordered. The
man nodded and kept up the pace.
stopped at the first high-pursuit hover car they came across that
had a roof-mounted laser turret. Chance tried the latch. It was
you just luck out.
inside, uh..." Chance found that he didn't know his
new companion's name.
nodded as they climbed inside. He inserted the key card. With any
luck, the paddy wagon's key card and the patrol vehicle's
key slot would match.
hover car roared to life.
grinned. So much for luck!
he shunted power over to the turrets.
offense, but how do you plan on getting us out of here?" Franklin
We're in this together."
you've got a plan, right?"
plans here, Franklin. I'm making this up as I go. But I'm
open to suggestions, Partner." Chance smiled but Franklin didn't
seem to have any ideas of his own. "Well, then it's time
to get a little creative."
grinned back. "I like the way you think!"
spun the car around and headed back toward the entrance gate. One
of the guards held up his hand to stop them. Chance figured that
no one was probably cleared to leave during such important proceedings.
That was okay with Chance though. He didn't intend to get clearance.
fire a laser turret?" Chance asked calmly.
those crosshairs on that guy's chest and squeeze that trigger."
raised both eyebrows. "Are you serious?"
you hear a punchline?"
Chest. Squeeze. Got it."
Enforcer with his hand out splattered in a million directions. The
laser turrets were far more powerful than hand-held weapons. Chance
steered the hover car right through the airborne carnage. As he
passed the other soldiers gathering about, he swiped a handful of
grenades from his belt and tossed them out the driver's side
window. The car rocked and twisted in the wake of the explosions
as he spun it out into the traffic beyond the compound.
was still grinning.
was well aware that most hover cars had a maximum pre-set altitude
that they could attain. He was also quite aware that the military
vehicles, and certain specially modified ones like the one Nik had
been driving, had a much higher range.
the flip of a few switches, Chance had them soaring high over the
seemed amazed. "How are we..."
of rank, apparently. Look for a car we can swipe."
This one is so much better than the civilian models."
we're being traced, that's why. This was merely a means
of escape, not transportation."
Franklin glanced around. Then, noting the rear view screen, he spoke
up. "Uh, I don't know about cars we can swipe, but we've
got two just like ours right behind us!"
glanced at the screen for himself. Sure enough, they were being
isn't a chest!"
it's bigger than the guy's chest! It's just an easier
target, that's all!"
stared blankly at him.
sighed. "Will you improvise a little? Crosshairs! Anywhere!
it! Crosshairs," Franklin said, as the targeting sensor chirped,
"anywhere," there was an anxiety-pregnant moment, "SQUEEZE!"
The guns gave birth to multiple laser bolts that ripped through
the buildings to left of the pursuing hover cars.
faced Chance. "I missed!"
Franklin fired, this time, probably more by luck than by skill,
he winged one of the assailants. The enemy vehicle spun to the side
and wound up as a fireball on the side of the street.
could just as easily be us, Chance thought. And it could
very well already be Marc's wife. Damn! I should have lived
up to my promise! I should have gone after her all along!
brought up his wrist chrono. "Nik, are you there?"
How did it go?"
looked over at Franklin, who was spraying the entire city with destructive
laser fire in an attempt to finish off the remaining Enforcer vehicle.
"Not exactly as expected."
stand a chance. But his wife... Do you have an address yet?"
do. It is 21869 Shady Haven, a suburban community. I was just about
a team over there immediately, Nik. I mean now!"
your pick up..."
worry about me. I'm on the move. There's no time to waste!
I'll meet you there."
it's good to hear your..."
flipped off the mini-comm in his wrist chrono and turned his attention
to the matter at hand. Marc's trial and execution was apparently
more important an event than he had originally thought. Of course
the Corps would come for Marc's family if for no other reason
than to use their testimony in the trial. Chance was well aware
that Marc's wife secretly practiced the illegal activity of
painting. It was the whole reason Marc had come to the resistance
in the first place. She would be doomed if the Corps contacted her.
He should have thought about that earlier and he had to get there
before they did.
was I so damned selfish?
kicked himself mentally. What had he been thinking? He should have
known that Marc was doing everything he was doing feeding
the resistance top secret information, volunteering to go on raiding
missions, recruiting new members to protect his wife. Now,
in his foolhardy attempt to rescue his friend, Chance had endangered
everything Marc had held dear.
him!" Franklin cried.
time," Chance commented. "Is there any city left back
glanced back out behind them. "I don't think I... I
mean I was careful not to..."
worry about that later," Chance said as brought the car back
down to a more respectable level. Up ahead and along the right side
of the road, a young woman was getting into her hover car.
you see what I see, Franklin?"
too. But I'm talking about our new ride."
flipped on the sirens and the red and green lights.
thing I've learned: If you've got clout, you might as
well use it.
woman froze, putting her hands up in the air as the Enforcer hover
car pulled up along side her.
decent, law-abiding citizen, Chance marveled. He hadn't
believed there were many of those left. Of course, as soon as she
saw he wasn't EC, she would probably not be so cooperative.
after all, that's what laser weapons are for.
keyed the driver's side door, which obediently slid up. He
poked his head over the top of the car, careful not to show her
that he wasn't wearing an Enforcer uniform. "Ma'am,
we'll need to confiscate your vehicle."
woman's eyes widened as Franklin climbed out of the passenger
door. "Don't hurt me," she pleaded.
we look like people who would hurt anyone?" Franklin asked.
not exactly the authorities," she said as she nodded toward
Chance. "Ask your beat-up, bloody friend. He looks like he's
seen some action."
nodded. "Point taken," he said as he came around the car.
handed it over to him, his gun still the prevailing equalizer in
the negotiations. "The one for this car is in the slot,"
he said as he gestured to the Enforcer vehicle. "Go where you
need to in it. You can pick yours up at 21869 Shady Haven. In the
meantime," he smiled winningly, "have fun."
You're not going to do anything to me?"
chuckled. "Not tonight, sweetheart. I don't have enough time
to get your number." He winked. "Besides, the other car's not
so bad. Take it and go somewhere that serves free food to Enforcers.
At least you'll get a dinner out of the deal."
goes higher than yours does too," Franklin added with a smirk
and a wink. "You really should give it a spin."
slid the key into the new car's slot and brought the main coils
online. As soon as Franklin was strapped in, Chance hit the accelerator.
In the rear view screen he could see the Enforcer hover car spin
above the ground like a top and then shoot up into the sky.
If she were a guy, she would have never parted with her car at the
sight of a mere hand-held weapon.
civilian hover cars were equipped with a rudimentary map of the
city. This model was no different. Chance brought the map up and
input the address.
the fastest route," Chance ordered the car's onboard computer.
A red line traced a course through the city streets from where they
currently were to Marc's residence.
only a few minutes, they had closed the distance. Chance pulled
the hover car up onto the lawn but was out before it had come to
a complete stop.
place was on fire... or had been. Smoke rolled up like rain clouds
from the upper windows.
pistol was in his hand as he knocked over the front door and burst
into the living room.
was turned upside down and spread about. In the middle of the living
room, Chance could see the origin of the fire.
one upon the other were the burnt, skeletal remains of canvas frames.
Her paintings had been burned. Whether she had done it herself or
the Corps had done it was not clear to Chance.
Fairlight?" he called out. "Mancy?"
was no answer.
Fairlight?" he cried louder.
not here." Nik's voice said from behind him. Chance wasn't
sure when the old man had arrived. "You look pretty good for
nodded. "You were right, Nik. You're always right, it
yes. Come on Chance. We haven't much time before we're
this place. I don't want them finding any clues."
at the place, Chance. The Corps has already been here."
turned around to face his friend. "Both Marc and his wife..."
don't know about Mancy. Perhaps she saw the NewsNet and escaped
in time. We may never know..."
should have listened to you. How could I have been so foolish?"
tired of being right, Chance. In this case, and in many others,
I wish very much that I could have been wrong. However, we can mourn
those we have lost another time."
stepped past his friend to the front door where he looked out at
the two hover cars that floated there. "Franklin? What of him?"
already moved him to our car. He'll be joining the resistance.
He really has no other recourse now. He's a singer, you know?"
hadn't known. "He sure isn't a gunner."
stepped over to Chance and rested a bony hand on the larger man's
shoulder. "You may not have been able to rescue Marc AND we
may have let Mrs. Fairlight slip through our fingers today, but
you still did good. You've rescued one more soul from the clutches
nodded. "Maybe so, but I'm not any closer to fulfilling
my promise to Marc and I've probably just given us one more
man to die in the service of the cause'."
None of us knows what the future holds. All we can do is our best
in the present... and perhaps remember the past."
knew that Nik was right. He was a wise old cuss.
if young Franklin does die for the resistance, it will be his own
choice," Nik added, "just as it was Marc's. That
burden does not lie with you."
nodded, still not sure if he could absolve himself of the deaths
of so many people who had not come back, including his friend, Enforcer
Captain Marc Fairlight and his innocent wife who's whereabouts
he may never know.
he thought of how green Franklin was. "He'll be killed
But, thanks to you, my friend, it won't happen today."