Point of View:
A scream rises up in my throat, and I'm about to shout for Drake to floor it, but Jace leaps from his seat and claps his hand over my mouth.
Drake places a finger on his lips, again telling us to be quiet. He telepathically slides a few things around on the Quad Interface Screen. It's only then that I realize that the Feds don't know we're even here. Suddenly, I hear faint voices on the Quad Sound System. Fed voices. They're engaged in conversation.
"But sir! What happens if they get away"
"They won't. We've got this."
A pause, and the sound of the "sir" man lifting heavy machinery.
"What's it do?"
"It detects quantum cores with their specific DNA traces. We would have built this sooner, but back before the Announcement, some rogue scientist destroyed our knowledge of their cores. We had to start from scratch. Then we found Viera, and simply created a machine to detect her core."
"What, are you thick? The prototype we found three years ago!!! How long ago were you hired?"
"Four months ago, sir."
"Well, you better keep your trap shut until you do some homework."
Another pause, and some noises that sound like walking and heavy machinery being moved.
"Men! Secure the area! We don't want any nosy civilians around when we activate the device."
Jace looks up from his notepad where he has been scribbling notes, and motions wildly for Drake to floor it in reverse. We silently back up and take off down the road, back into the city.
Drake looks back and forth between Jace and his driving.
"What was that?!"
"Heck, how should I know?" Jace sputters frustratedly.
"Were they talking about us?" I ask before I can stop myself. I'm not really sure I want to know the answer.
"Not sure. It could have been a coincidence, but with what we have to go off of, I wouldn't think so."
"What about what they said with quantum cores?" Asheik asks. "Our DNA signatures? What the crap does all that mean?"
"I'm not psychic, okay?" Jace yells.
I sit back hard in my seat and cross my arms irritatedly.
"Jace, can you tap back into their conversation?"
Jace flips a switch and voices return to the sound system.
"Alright, everyone, back up! Be at least 100 yards from the structure!"
"All ready sir. Fire?"
And then static.
Our Quad becomes thick with silence as we listen in total awe to the static that we know is simply a cover for...whatever has just happened.
Asheik turns her head to look out the rear windshield.
"Oh, God!" She screeches.
Drake hits the brakes and brings the Quad into a 90* swerve that ends in a full-on stop. We gape at the distant remains of Jace's house: now a fiery ball of quantum energy.
Drake continues along the road, Asheik ranting at me crazily, Jace with his head in his hands, and Drake and I driving on in a completely stunned silence. Our last place of refuge is gone. The staticky feedback from the speakers clears away, and we again hear those cursed Feds' voices.
"We've got a reading sir! About three miles straight down the road. Four of them in a Quad."
"Send in the Consequences."
"Floor it!" Jace exclaims, and Drake does just that.
We speed down the deserted road at 40 miles over the speed limit, and slow down only to join with the freeway. About a mile of passing and speeding later, we turn into a nearly deserted skyway. Above a huge wall cloud begins to close in, nearly engulfing the northern half of Hathrax. All ads and bulletins switch on to weather warnings, and command civilians to get indoors. Soon, we are the only Quad outdoors at all. Lightning strikes the rods on buildings, harmlessly being transferred into the ground. But we are not as safe. One bolt strikes nearly 40 feet away from us, and I hug myself to rub off the hair-raising static effects.
Jace messes with the old fashioned frequency surveillance dial, and we again pick up the Fed's signal.
"Is the device charged?"
"Fire in 60 seconds--"
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck bristle, and the air becomes thick with energy.
My heart rate picks up dramatically, and I am suddenly too scared to scream
"Lightning." I whisper.
Then a flash of light, sound, and darkness consumes all.
I awake probably 30 seconds later. My hazy vision takes a few seconds to clear. What I see is definitely not what I was expecting.
First, the entire top half of the Quad is gone, zapped to shreds by the lightning bolt.
Second, everyone is unconscious, and covered in severe burns.
I look down at myself and see blackened patches of skin all across my arms, legs, and torso. Strangely, I don't feel a whole lot of pain. At first, I think the lightning just zapped me silly. Then I realize that it must have fried the nerve endings in my skin on the burn sites.
I reach weakly out to Asheik, but my wavy vision still doesn't let me see much.
When my sight clears, I see an ashen-faced Asheik, peeking warily over the edge of our stationary-and-barely-aloft Quad. She's clutching her small bag of belongings like a long-lost love, and begins to rummage through it. She pulls out her Sky-Rider disk, but before she can activate it, her face wrenches in a startled agony. She clutches at her chest, and falls against the side of the Quad. I leap to my knees, ignoring the burns, but I can't do anything. So I simply scream as she barrels over the side, tumbling the 300 meters to the ground.
Point of View:
Falling. Pain. Excruciating pain. As though my heart wants to dig its way out of my chest. I'm twisting head over tail, instinctively balled up into the fetal position. I can't scream. I can hardly move. Phaiara's screech continually echoes in my ears, and everything is a white blur. I fall in slow-motion, and it seems unnatural. But I know the ground is still rushing up to meet me, still waiting hungrily to engulf me in itself.
I suddenly become angry. This is not my fault. It's not supposed to be this way. I'm only sixteen: too young to die. It's those dasked Feds' faults. No matter how little proof we have, I can't deny the feeling in my bones: someone is after us. And if I die, I'm leaving my friends to fend for themselves. I'm failing them. And the one thing I've resolved never to do in my lifetime is fail. Fail where I could have--should have--succeeded.
I thrust all my pain into a box and push it into a disused corner of my mind. In my palm I feel something. A disk. My Sky-Rider. Now approximately only thirty meters from the ground, still falling full speed, head over heels, I insert the disk into my WI, projecting it to just below my feet. I land on it, bending my knees dramatically to keep from hyperextending them. The force of my fall cancels my Sky-Rider's anti-grav propellers, and my fall continues another 6 meters. The propellers kick back in another two meters from the ground. It takes all my strength to keep my pain at bay and pilot the Sky-Rider back up to the Sky-Quad, which is sti wobbling and tottering around in the air, trying desperately to stay afloat.
I sail up and drop myself into the Quad, now running purely on adrenaline. Jace is still waking up, but Drake and Phaiara are gaping at me in awe. Phaiara's face shines with relief, and I rush in to hug her. She buries her tear-stained face in my shoulder. But our happy moment is torn to shreds by the sudden sputter and jerk of the quantum engine shorting out. We fall two meters before stopping.
"Guys." I shout. "Quick, get your Sky-Riders!" Phaiara leaps for her bag, but the force of her landing throws our helpless lifeboat down another three meters.
"Can you put us on the ground?"
"Without crashing?" He asks sarcastically, walking light-footedly back to his seat. He fiddles with the fried remains of the controls, and shakes his head grimly.
I sigh angrily. There's gotta be a way to get out of this.
I scan the surrounding buildings, searching for something to help us escape.
Then I see it.
"Jace, do you have your Sky-Rider?"
He holds it up.
I turn to him, a certain light sparking on in my chest. I haven't felt this way before. Am I...enjoying this?
"I know how to get out of this." I say. "Follow me."
I activate my Sky-Rider and leap over the side, resting my hand lightly on the blackened side of our "aircraft" for balance. Jace does the same.
"You see that balcony over there?" I say, gesturing towards the other side of the Quad, about 100 ft. away.
"Help me push the Quad over there."
I thrust my weight into the Quad, lifting and pushing harder than I've ever had to in my life. People are always working out or at least keeping in shape, but I've never had to lift a 700 kilogram block of metal before. With only a little traction, ungraciously provided by my Sky-Rider.
These were the longest fifteen seconds of my life, fearing that the tiniest movement in the wrong direction, or the slightest slip of a finger might send the whole thing careening off onto the ground. That would be some fireworks I'm not really interested in watching.
We successfully "land" our damaged aircraft on the balcony, and the force of its landing kills off the rest of its engine. Now that we're relatively safe, the adrenaline leaves me, seeming to have decided that it's work is done. I take one wobbly step off of my Sky-Rider, and collapse to the ground in a fit of coughing. Phaiara climbs out of the Quad's burning husk and rushes over to me, as do the other two. Suddenly, the boxed off pain floods my mind and body, forcing a gurgled cry from my throat. My vision blurs dramatically, and I can feel every atom of my body scrape painfully on the synthetic ground as Phaiara drags me to a sitting position and props me up against the Quad.
"Asheik..." Phaiara begins to inspect some of the more severe burns on my back. "We've got to get out of here. We need doctors. Medicine."
"But we've got nowhere to go. We'll get caught." I groan.
While Jace and Phaiara are busy activating Sky-Riders, Drake kneels down next to me.
"Here." He says quietly, handing me a bottle of water. I try to gulp some down, but after the first swallow, I can feel it rushing back up.
I place my head in my hands. "I'm scared. Oh, I'm so scared." I cry weakly.
Drake pauses. "I know. I'm so sorry." He offers me his hand, and I take it gladly, pulling myself to my feet. "I'm scared too."
The dizziness overtakes me once again, but I ignore it. Jace glances over at us, and I hastily dust my dress off. I try to straighten my posture. I don't want them slowing down on my account.
He nods slightly, and hands Drake his Sky Rider. "If we're going we better go now. They're probably minutes behind us."
I wobble onto my Sky Rider, and immediately fall to the ground.
Phaiara comes over. "Maybe you should use the disabled setting."
I nod hopelessly. I really wanted to never have to use that. It's pretty dasked embarrassing.
I telepathically link to the Sky Rider, and enable disability mode. The back and sides of the Sky Rider extend upwards into a sort of seat. I sit down on the barely suspended Sky Rider and it "straps" me in.
I redden in the face, but it's probably completely countered by my paleness, burns, and bruises.
I link it onto Phaiara's Sky Rider, and she takes the controls. Soon, I'm being pulled behind Phaiara in our little refugee train, forcing all my energies into not falling out. I'm not feeling very dignified at the moment.
After several minutes of tense but silent driving, Phaiara finally speaks up. "Where are we going now?"
I look at her and shrug, then point to my ear. She understands, and we join chat room again.
FAERAH: Where are we going?
ASHAED: I have no clue.
DEEJAY: Isn't it nice out today?
YOTASHIS: You bet. Let's have a picnic at the park.
I look at Drake weirdly. He gestures back at me, making a zipping movement on his lips.
'Oh,' I think. 'Radio silence. I forgot that the chat rooms are bugged.'
I get Phaiara's attention and repeat the gesture. She nods back. I guess we just have to trust Jace this time.
The clouds are beginning to roll in the opposite direction. I'm glad the storm is finally over. I won't be seeing those things the same way ever again.
The sky behind the clouds has become a beautiful canvas of purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, and reds, splattered across the sky in a beautiful array of light and color.
Perfect. It's just perfect.
I don't remember ever appreciating the sunset so much. I guess I never thought that any one of them might be my last.
"Where are we going?" I ask Jace, sweeping my board up next to his.
"Somewhere far, far away." He says blandly.
"Is there medicine there? Asheik needs treatment, like, right now."
Jace looks at me and smiles teasingly. "Since when did you care about anybody else?"
I roll my eyes. "It's you who doesn't care, remember? I have a sliver of heart left." I pound my chest to emphasize my point.
Jace takes a sharp left, and heads towards the city limits. I hope we can get over the border without any hassle. With our luck, though, we won't get within 15 meters of it.
We slow down as we near the highway. A 6-meter tall wall surrounds the city, interrupted by a main entrance and a main exit, plus a few small travel roads. Jace studies the wall for 5 seconds, analyzing its height, width, and countless other factors that I couldn't pick up if given 10 minutes at half the range.
He turns and gathers the four of us up together in a floating ring. He reaches into his bag and pulls out two chips. Once materialized, we see that one is a pain reliever, while the other is an energy injection. He flies over to Asheik and hands her the syringes.
"We'll need all hands on deck for this mission."
She hands them to Phaiara. "Needles frekking scare me."
Phaiara laughs at Asheik's pained cringe. "You can handle a 300 meter drop but not a little needle?" She pulls out the syringe, and gently pats my arm. "There, you poor dearie. Feel better now?"
"Yeah, much. Thanks, granny." She sighs. "I'm used to those advanced needle patches." She laughs. "Needles seem so rudimentary, it's almost scary."
"So what are we doing?" Phaiara asks.
"First, getting over that wall without being caught." Jace says, pointing at a section in the wall with only two guards.
"Oh, so we just beat them up and ride across? This isn't a frekking action vid, Jace."
"You're right. It's not a vid. But you're gonna have to get used to the 'action' part of it"
Jace and I exchange a pained grin at the girls' horrified expressions.
"This'll be interesting."