Kids N' Vigs

Tales of the Interstate

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Fnork
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Chapter 30

Postby Fnork » Thu Nov 13, 2003 8:07 pm

*********Chapter 30***********


They had gotten drunk quickly. The five Germans whooped loudly and sang Russian folk songs in reverence for the communist regime while odd heavy metal techno music boomed through the car?s speakers. Their Morgan-Bernz weaved back and forth across the empty stretch of two lane road. Little green needles leaves from a bush that they had ran over and was wedged between the forward mounted 20mm cannon. The sun was offering it?s last rays of warmth, light bent and undulated across the prairie, this was the time of day when illusions appeared.

The car rolled down hill, its headlights off, so the German driving was able to spot something in front of him blocking the opposite lane just soon enough that when he slammed on the brakes and the car skidded slightly askew, the car was pointing towards the object. This was pure drunk luck of course. Everyone in the car cursed and berated him for the sudden motion until he turned on the headlights giving everyone a clear view of the pretty looking women leaning against her dark blue car. She expressed a flirtatious coy with her body language and smiled while running her hands through her long hair.

The exchange of words inside the Bernz went more or less, ?waoow, Actuuunnng!?

Conversation was cut short at the sound of a loud clang followed by a choking green gas filling the car?s interior. Choking and coughing from the caustic smell they all opened their doors and frantically climbed out of the Bernz. On the driver?s side the driver along with two of the passengers where holding their shirts over their noses trying to breath. A human form moved in front of them, the driver even in his drunken state could tell that it was a person and swung his fist in that general direction.

The German suddenly felt something grab his arm and pull him forward upside down and over onto his back, Cole then swung his left arm backwards and pistol wiped the other German upside the head sending him sprawling against the smoking car. Having manage to regain his vision and breath, the third German lunged towards Cole with a straight punch. Cole blocked the punch with his forearm and deflected the other?s arm away then slammed his fist into the German?s gut. When the drunk German leaned forward Cole hammer punched him in the back of the head knocking him out cold.
On the other side of the car, the other two Germans never even heard someone approaching but where suddenly sent into a searing blindness. Owen had wanted to try out the pepper spray he had found in the Fiarello, the results where very satisfactory.

Owen laughed, ?Wow this stuff is potent! Double burn after that gas-poon I bet!? He put the bottle back into his pocket.

He punched one of the Germans hard in the head with his right then quickly retracted it shaking a sting out. A bastard sword he held in his hand gleamed against the Fiarello?s headlights, he raised it over his head and brought the hilt down on the top of the second German?s head. Owen was satisfied he had finally gotten some more use out of the archaic weapon.

?Oww damn it,? Owen said still feeling a sting in his hand, ?you guys have some thick skulls.?

Colleen put her cowboy hat back on and walked over towards him, ?Your a strange one kid.?

In response Owen just gave the most evil smile he could manage, being Owen and all. Cole was busy tying up the Germans he had laid out while Colleen did the same to the pepper sprayed ones.

?So, Hellcat, how did you know they?d stop?? Owen inquired while leaning on the sword?s handle.


?It was obvious what they intended on doing when they walked into that saloon.? She pulled a tight knot with satisfaction then stood up. ?Also, it was highly doubtful that their superiors would have allowed them out past sundown with the wolf pack gone, since that would have been one less defensive weapon. So, they probably wanted to get as drunk as possible quick, cause some trouble then get back before anyone could reprimand them. And, how did I know they?d stop for me?? She shrugged, ?I didn?t for sure, but sometimes a little luck is worth more then a lot of planning.?

Owen found that explanation very agreeable. He was impressed with Cole?s ability to fire off a karpoon before the German?s could pick up the Royale on their radar. Now, Owen realized he could not see Cole and was about to walk over to the other side of the car for a look when Colleen held him in place with a firm press on the shoulder.

She shook her head, ?Better let Cole do his interrogation thing.?

?What?? Owen said unsure.

Colleen taped on the side of her head and said, ?Mind tricks kid.?

?What? What is he a Jedi?? Owen said jokingly.

?Not quite...? Colleen said.

A brief explanation was provided for Owen about Cole?s physic nature and how that related to the current situation. This caused him to realize what had happen back in Laramie when Cole had distracted him.

Many government agencies had been pouring money into psyonic research programs since the start of the cold war, the US government was far ahead of the Russian programs in terms of agents in the field, but the Soviets had more test data and a larger pool of potential test subjects. Communism?s spread had far greater implications then the proliferation of a political ideology. With the United State?s internal instability and loss of prestige on the world stage, many democratic nations had lost their strongest ally and that left them in a poor diplomatic situation when it came to dealing with the Russian-Sino block. NATO and the UN are having trouble maintaining stability but neither have offered help for the United States which had burned too many bridges since the end of World War II. As it was, some in the military and CIA looked at the emerging field of psyonic sciences as a trump card, however, others saw it as a waste of money and time that would never bear fruit. Then there was the moral issue, which neither side would touch.

He was starting too wonder if these people were for real. This pair seemed to have very serious power, skill and information at their disposal and Owen was still unsure of what they would do with it all. He hated feeling like things where about to blow up in his face even if he had the explosives...

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Chapter 31

Postby Fnork » Mon Nov 17, 2003 3:27 pm

**********Chapter 31************


Bored, a warehouse guard sat in his sentry post at ground level with the main gate. He leaned his head on his hand keeping an lazy gaze on the dull green radar screen. Green dots moved about the screen in a the recognizable pattern of patrolling Warendorf Schlachtlastwagens. A loud BEEP woke him back up, for a moment he thought something exciting might be happening until he looked at the screen and saw another green dot. All of the friendly cars had a transponder that the warehouse?s security system would recognize as green, enemy cars would show up as red dots. Those damn Germans where probably drunk by now. The guard wondered why his boss, Oni, kept them around. Annoyed, the guard radioed over the CB for confirmation. He got back a response that was just barely intelligible, the response was slow and the channel remained open.

?Clear the channel Betas!? The guard said

With the CB broadcasting from their end, he could not get through. Curses and crude explanations came over the CB, who ever was talking sounded completed wasted.

?Damn drunk asses...? The guard mumbled as he opened the gate.

Lumbering inside the warehouse yard at no more then five miles per hour, it continued rolling forward until it ran into the side of the building with a gentle crunch. Looking out of his sentry station, the guard eyed the car suspiciously, it?s engine stalled. The CB channel was still open, so the guard walked towards the car. How anyone could be that drunk eluded him. When he approached the car and opened the driver?s side door his thought process froze for a moment. No one was inside, a piece of duct tape was over the CB?s send button and the steering wheel was tied into place. A tape recorder was on the seat loudly broadcasting poor accents and shouts. He saw a amber light blinking off and on. When he leaned in closer, he noticed the light was on top of a smooth rectangular box under which a clay like material was jammed. The light suddenly stopped blinking and remained on, the guard?s brain finally figured it out, then he was blown out of the car and across the yard as an explosion blew out the Bernz?s windows while the roof turned into flaming shrapnel.
Up in the sentry towers the guards swiveled their guns around in confusion thinking that the car had been attacked by the air. A pair of red blips appeared on their own radar screens but they could not see any targets in the early night darkness. Both towers fired into the general location of where the radar read a target.
On top of a rise in the road leading towards the warehouse, Colleen sat inside the blacked out interior of her Catamount adjusting the inferred tracking on her DS-Bloodhound missile launchers. Streaks of weapons fire appeared as intermittent flashes on the screen, she could see the muzzles of the sentry guns heating up. Manual targeting was difficult and dangerous in the middle of a fire fight, but she had a clear field of vision while Cole and Owen ran decoy. A solid tone emitted inside the car and the words ?Linked? read on the infrared screen. She pressed down on the fire button on the center console. Duel streaks of exhaust gas launched the Bloodhound missiles from the front of her car with an favoomp, the Catamount?s suspension rocked slightly but it maintained a solid stance. She watched the contrails curve slightly in mid-flight as they each oriented themselves towards the target.
A sentry guard saw another blip on his radar appear suddenly, he swiveled .50 turret towards the blip?s direction, a white cone shape filled his vision. The missile tore through the gun mount and exploded just as it was about to pass through his body.
As the first tower exploded, the guard on the opposite tower had just enough time to feel a faint draft of heat before the second missile exploded up into the floor sending twisted metal and fire straight up like a roman candle.
Cole?s black Royale was the first car into the warehouse yard, he brought the car to a stop against the warehouse wall so the two remaining guard towards would not have a clear shot. A guard suddenly appeared from around the corner with a shoulder mounted launcher, a spear point stuck out of the barrel indicating it as a karpoon weapon. Unable to bring his car?s weapons to bare, Cole was a sitting duck. Just as the guard fired Owen slung his Fiarello in between them. The karpoon?s tip stuck briefly into the Fiarello?s rear quarter panel, a blue light cascaded over the car then the karpoon fell off without having done a thing. The guard dropped the launcher and ran for his life.

Owen squawked over the CB, ?Ha! Surge shielded ta boot!?

With a snicker Cole maneuvered his car so that its rear end lined up with the docking door, and he was sure that he had plenty of distance between himself and the dock.

?Thanks Owen, this Royale has surge suppression to protect it?s weapon systems, but the government still hasn?t given their agents an acceptable shielding system...it?s not ?cost effective.? Cole flipped a safety switch on his center console. ?Clear out, this is a nasty little mortar.?

A small ceramic canister launched out from the Royale?s trunk, the canister spun end over end then shattered against the door. For a moment nothing happen. Slowly the door began smoldering and a sizzling sound would have been heard by anyone on the other side. The door slowly contorted as acid ate through steel.
Two loud explosions in succession indicated that Colleen and blown the other two guard towers away

Cole called out on the CB, ?Owen cover me, Hell Cat will be along shortly.? He jumped out of the car and ran around to the trunk where he pulled out what looked like a fire-extinguisher.

Warendorf Schlachtlastwagens came bouncing clumsily into the compound. Owen gunned the Fiarello?s engine and began doing donuts, creating a dust cloud that would mask Cole from site. Bullets whizzed over the Fiarello?s rear cowl, Owen straightened the car out as one of the Warendorf?s came driving into the cloud of dust. The little buggy fired it?s thirty caliber machine gun in the direction he thought the sleek sports car had been. Duel beams of red light cut through the dust and clean through Schlachtlastwagen?s thin chassis. The car collapsed in a heap of electrical fizzle, both occupants killed by the laser beams.
Roaring through the main gate trailed by a Schlachtlastwagen, Colleen dropped a proximity mine directly in the middle of the entrance. When she saw an explosion in her rear-view, she could not help but think how stupid people could be. Immediately she realized Owen was handling the Warendorf swarm with ease, the small sports car avoided enemy fire with a graceful dance, every time the lasers fired they hit their mark.

?Owen, this is Hell Cat. You look like you?ve got these guys numbers, keep the watch out here, me and Cole will take care of the who ever is inside?

?Sure! No problem! Remember you guys owe me though! Perhaps a kiss?? He said slyly.

?Maybe from Cole, kid.? Colleen said with a chuckle.

She slid her car sideways to a stop. The Catamount?s trunk popped open as she jumped out and ran around to the back of the car. Securing her jacket around it?s new found weight, she slammed the trunk shut and ran towards Cole who was spraying a misty foam all around the edges of the door.

He explained, ?This will neutralize the acid, once inside, well expect the unexpected.?

?Always do.? She checked the chamber on her C-18 Glocks. ?Ready??

He dropped the canister and pushed a fresh clip into his own Glock. ?Ready!?

Neither said go. Cole went first taking a careful step up onto the dock, he crouched low keeping his gaze above him, making sure no one was in the upper rafters, the warehouse was poorly lit inside, except for a bright portion that was clear on the other side of the dock. With a dull thump Colleen landed behind him after jumping up onto the dock. An impressive feat that caused Cole to shake his head. Behind them, Owen had just blasted the last Warendorf into little pieces.

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32

Postby Fnork » Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:55 pm

*********Chapter 32**********


Down under the dock?s floor, in the circular wooden room, Oni watched with intensity as his assistants probed into Redline Fox?s mind. They had succeeded in nothing more then pushing Redline?s mind to the edge of insanity, how he was resisting them vexed Oni. The ground shook followed by muffled explosions. He noted with satisfaction that his meditation circle kept focused even with the interrogation and obvious battle ensuring over head. A man dressed in a gi came running into the room to inform Oni that they where indeed under attack by unknown individuals. After whispering a few commands, Oni sent the man on his way. Quite and still, Death Machine stood back watching the scene unfold.
On the floor, Redline Fox struggled against his chains. He clawed at the wooden floor with such force that splinters where cutting the skin under his finger nails. All he could see was a red glow and a shadow of motion pass in front of his eyes. Muscles tense with rage and fear Redline continued instinctively resisting the mind probes. Walls continued building and collapsing in his mind as the combined will of the two interrogators crept into the recesses of his thoughts. Whatever they did, he would lock away the thought of Jade so deep into his thoughts that even he would probably forget where she was once this was all over. The only other conscious thought he had was that of a furious indignation at this incursion into his most private sanctuary. Clouds of shadows suddenly colluded into coherent images. He saw the two purple clad individuals that where torturing him clearly, they stood staring straight at him with a back drop of black void behind them. Cold hands pressed against his neck, initially in thought he was about to be choked, then he realized they where his own hands. There was no chain around his neck, but he could still feel a tight pressure against his throat. Redline Fox stared at his hands, flexing them, no fetter cuffed wrists but they felt strained and painful. He wasn?t breathing either, but that did not seem to matter.
What is going on, am I dead? No, I can?t be dead...this isn?t like any death I could ever imagine.
From out of the void, a swirl of amber light rose up around him, the light felt soothing and empowering.
You are in your mind calm down this is your world. Did I just say that?

An image phased in and out of focus around his body, he saw himself, behind and around all at once. He felt a surge of discarded energy, the image phased into the form of fox sitting in front of him with it?s back towards him. Small floating balls moved slowly passed his body. Images of his memories played out like movies across their round surfaces, flickering across the entire span of his life, the images suddenly disappeared as they formed a circle around the fox sitting in front of him. Redline looked back at the image of the two interrogators, he saw that they where looking at each other attempting to figure out what was going on, both seemed on the verge of flight. The balls of energy hovered still, Redline?s body felt easeful so he stood up flexing his arm wondering if this was all real.

Slowly the balls of energy seemed to move in all directions at once, there was a pulse of force around the fox that manifested in a apparent copy of it?s image, then with a sound like the fabric of reality was being ripped apart as it?s one tail multiplied indefinitely in a ring around it?s feet a golden light exploded from it?s body, the balls of energy swirled around at incalculable speed then hurtled towards the interrogators who fearfully attempted to shield their faces. Rings of intense energy swirled around them as they felt a intensely painful sensation as if they where being burned with electricity. Redline thought he heard one of them scream that they where dying.

Fire exploded out from the bamboo fire stalls and the urn at the center of the meditation circle. Oni saw the fiery image of an animal burst out of the urn as the model car of Death Machine?s Palomino was sent smoldering into the air, the toy bounced off a wall and landed at Oni?s feet. All the members of the mediation circle opened their eyes in shock. They began talking to each other in Japanese attempting to discover what had happen. Both interrogators had fallen to the ground writhing in agony and screaming that something was burning them.

?What is this!? Oni demanded, ?What, how...? He froze in place once he looked down at the melting plastic model.

Stiff, ever so stiff he turned around, any moment he felt like his body would snap as he forced himself to look at Death Machine. The glowing disks of light in the visor where almost enough to strike him dead. Death Machine lowered his arms to his side and looked at the floor, meanwhile the mediation circle was frantically trying to reorient the room, one of them grabbed what was left of the plastic model the others tried focusing their thoughts. Redline Fox was motionless on the floor. Death Machine took a step forward towards Oni.

?Stay back, you are mine!? Oni held his fist up and put his hand to his wakizashi sword attached to his belt.

Sensing conflict above him, Death Machine looked up at the ceiling, then turned and walked methodically out of the room. Stunned for a moment, Oni could do nothing but stare after Death Machine until he disappeared around a dark corner. He continued staring, half expecting the creature to come back. Relieved that he was not in fact coming back, Oni stood straight again and sneered. He turned and looked at the meditation circle that was still broken and his two interrogators laying on the floor sweating in pain. An assistant came running into the room. Oni looked down on Redline Fox with contempt and bafflement about how the vigilante had resisted the mind probe. That basterd had no psyonic potential, he was sure of it, so how! Recalling the image that rose out of the urn sent a chill of unacceptable fear down his spine.

?No...? Oni whirled around on the assistant that had entered the room, ?Get him out of here now! Now I said.? He grabbed the assistants shoulder and shoved him forward.

Bullets skipped across the warehouse floor as Oni?s henchman emptied their sub-machine guns into whatever cover Cole and Colleen would take. One of the henchmen stood up from behind a steel drum for a better look and was sent sprawling onto the floor dead by a single precise shot from Cole?s gun. The numbers where not overwhelming stacked against them, but with main objective being the capture of Akihiko meant that mindless shooting would only get them so far. Numbers seemed concentrated around a office at one end of the warehouse, so Cole kept watch, while Colleen went investigating into the darker sections of the building. He could see Owen?s Fiarello occasionally pass by the dock door they had come through, so if things got out of hand he calculated he could make a run for the door. Stray shots pinged off the steel support columns, Cole turned and fire another shot towards a forklift, the target barely getting down in time to avoid being shot in the head.

?Damn...? Cole pressed the talk button on his hand held CB. ?Owen?? There was no response. ?Damn it kid where are you??

Two glowing trails appeared in one of the far docking doors, they started at ground level then arched up towards a point where they meant and disappeared. The sheet metal stayed in place, but there was visible slices through it. None of the henchmen had noticed this, until something on the other end gave the cut out section a nudge sending it smashing to the floor. The black Fiarello waited for the door to fall before it burst into the room, it?s rubber tires squealing for traction on the smooth concrete dock floor. Cole ducked and covered his eyes, flare and chaff ejected into the room blinding anyone who was looking at the car.

?Hope you don?t mind I got bored outside!? Owen said over the CB.

Cole cursed under his breath, then stood up and picked off anyone that he could see. Owen jumped out of the car, his sword strapped on his back and fired a net launcher at a henchman that was running towards his car. The man fell flat on his face as the net wrapped around him.

Owen whooped, ?Man, I do love Fnork?s toys! Whoops!? Gun fire bit into the concrete near his feet as he dove back into the car.

Back in the darker recesses of the building, Colleen carefully made her away amongst the maze of freight skids and shelves. Cold clammy air permeated everything, her hands felt the handle of her guns dropping in temperature, other then that she was kept warm by her chosen attire. Footsteps pounded against the floor, stopped then began moving in a new direction, they stopped again, she froze waiting for another sound, hearing a tapping above her she twisted around raising her left gun up and fired into the shelf above her. A body thumped against a box laden skids, she crouched low and fired shots into a dark crevice between two freight skids and heard someone cry out in pain. A horde of footsteps began approaching her position, she took off and ran straight towards an intersection on the dock floor. Before she reached it she stopped suddenly and swung her right arm capturing a man holding a sawed-off shotgun in a headlock, the man struggled as she pressed her forearm into his throat and yanked him towards the edge of the shelf row. A another pair of men stopped in surprised in the opposite intersecting corridor with their sub-machine guns pointed at Colleen and their comrade. They both looked at each other unsure of what to do, Colleen aimed the gun in her left hand at them prepared to give them a chance to make a smart choice.

?Drop em?? Colleen said.

They both looked at each other again then yelled, ?Do not...!?

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33

Postby Fnork » Wed Nov 19, 2003 9:26 am

***********Chapter 33************


Two quick shots prevented both men from finishing their collective sentence. She let the man she was holding go, thwacked him in the back of the head then kicked him hard in the back. Holstering her handguns, she knelt down and checked the now unconscious man?s sawed-off for ammo. There was only one shell in the chamber which she removed and put into her pocket. She threw the shotgun away then found cover behind a crate full off floor tile. Carefully she listened for any sound while checking the ammo clip on one of her Glocks. A odd putrid odder filled her nostrils, she heard gun fire down on the other end of the dock as she scanned her surroundings. Her gaze stopped on a mahogany coffin that was sitting in front of a line of sheds. Carefully making sure the coast was clear, she stood and walked towards the coffin. As she got closer the smell intensified and she noticed that it was a very traditional coffin with the type of lid you had to nail shut. The lid was leaned on it?s long end on the floor against the pedestal the coffin was on top of. Keeping her senses alert she crept up and looked inside. Laying there with a huge gash in his neck was her daughter?s step-father. She drew in a shocked breath that carried with it the smell of rigor mortis that almost caused her to vomit. Bags of ice where packed around the body, water was dripping occasionally down into a tub that was under it. The tub water was pale red. Colleen?s hand trembled as she removed her hat and leaned in closer thinking that possibly it could be a mistake, but it wasn?t it was Noman. Twisted lungs found breathing unacceptable, her heart wrenched itself into a knot.

One of the shed doors opened with a creak, Oni strode out with a sheathed katana in his hand, two of his lackeys struggled with a body they carried as he berated them with instructions. Colleen removed her other Glock and pointed both guns straight at Oni.

She clicked the hammers back on the guns, ?You motherfucker!?

Both the assistants froze in place as Oni slowly turned as if he had just been given nothing more then a causal greeting.

?Aaah, Colleen my dear...what a pleasure it is to see your radiant face again.? He smiled wickedly.

Colleen fired a shot past Oni?s head that shattered the shed?s window.

?Back-stabbing filthy bastard!? Colleen was breathing hard.

?Actually...? Oni said as he folded his arms behind his back, ?I stabbed him in the throat.?

A deafening rancorous din filled Colleen?s ears as her fingers squeezed back on the indifferent triggers. Now that Oni had taken a side step she recognized the face of the person his assistants held as Redline Fox. His eyes where wide open but he did not make any movement that indicated he was aware of what was going on around him. Noticing Colleen?s hesitation Oni looked back and forth between her and Redline Fox.

?Do...you...know this man?? Oni said as the katana appeared from behind his back unsheathed.

Colleen had never seen him make the slightest movement with the sword until it?s polished surface shimmered a reflection of Redline?s face. It?s tip was pressed against his neck. She narrowed her eyes as Oni yelled out a short phrase in Japanese. A single gun muzzle appeared out of the windows of the sheds on either side of the one Oni hand came out of it.

?If you hurt him, I kill you.? Colleen spat out.

Oni retorted, ?If you kill me, they kill you and him.? He smiled, ?Everyone dies.?

From behind the shed, Cole appeared and pressed his gun against Oni?s head.

?No one has to die just yet Akihiko.? Cole said coolly, ?Back away.?

Briefly Cole looked down on Redline Fox whom stared back with wide blank eyes. Oni took full advantage of the seconds worth of distraction, he swung his katana behind him. Fortunately Cole reflexively jumped back, but not fast enough to prevent his tie from being severed off. He fired a shot, but it reflected off Oni?s sword as the criminal dashed away. Colleen fired her guns into the shed door hoping that if Oni tried escaping that way she?d get a lucky shot but he instead made a break for one of the guard sheds to his left and disappeared inside. Both guards began firing at Colleen from inside their sheds as the assistants that had been holding Redline Fox dropped him on the ground and attacked Cole.

Continuing fire, Colleen dropped on her back and slid behind Noman?s coffin. Bullets ripped into the mahogany wood sending splinters, ice and body matter everywhere. She could not bear this and dropped both her hand guns on the ground, she reached into her coat for another weapon.

Cole?s first assailant threw a straight left punch that he dodged, then a straight right which grazed his ear. As he side-stepped left, Cole jammed his left fist into the man?s ribs then gave him a right uppercut which send the man reeling backwards blood pouring from his mouth. The second man immediately picked up the fight and attempted to kick Cole?s right leg in, Cole blocked but the man had pushed his momentum forward and brought his left leg up in a straight kick which connected with Cole?s chest. The agent was forced back a few inches, Cole responded with a solid punch to the man?s face that stunned him just long enough that Cole could grab him and throw him head first into the shed wall.

From the guard sheds, bullets continued firing into the coffin, thinking they had her pinned down, in short succession, both guards ran out of ammo, their guns went click-click-click but they felt safe behind the kevlar reinforced walls that they took their time reloading. Colleen appeared from behind the coffin and threw the flap of her trench coat back, in her hands she held a single shot micro-rocket launcher, the gun sight calibrator popped up from the cylindrical casing as she pointed the rocket at the shed to her right and fired. The guard had just clicked his ammo clip into his gun when the rocket left it?s launcher and exploded against the shed?s window sill. A large portion of the shed?s front was blown off and the guard ran out screaming with burns and lacerations on his face, he fell over and stopped moving.

?Cole get him out of here!? Colleen yelled as she ran away from the coffin for more acceptable cover behind a motorcycle crate.

Unsuccessful in getting a response out of Redline?s blankly staring eyes, Cole picked him up in a fireman carry. Cole could not tell if he was breathing or not.

?Go!? Colleen yelled as she pulled her second rocket shell out of holster on her belt, pulled the safety cap off the back of the thing and loaded the launcher.

As Cole took off running the remaining guard was thrown off by the new target and fired sloppy shots until a rocket streaked into the shed and blew the back off the small structure off. Satisfied that the coast was clear, Colleen looked down at her belt and slowly removed her third and final shell. When the rocket clunked into the barrel she heard a faint thump in front of her. She pointed the launcher at the remaining shed, Oni stood straddling the roof holding his katana across his back with the hilt pointing at Colleen.

?You fucking coward!? Colleen mocked, ?Still too afraid to sully your own hands with blood?

?Your boyfriend had a prime view of my willingness to use my hands.?

She knew it was a mistake allowing him to incite her, but she didn?t care, it did not matter to her anymore what information he might hold all she cared about was that he pay. A strange engine sound came from outside the warehouse which caused Oni to look away as if startled. Colleen noticed this crack in his confidence.

?What are you afraid of?? Colleen spat out.

Oni glared back at her, ?Not.you...dear.?

From a distance it seemed as if he was perfectly still. Colleen noticed his hand holding the sword move, his thumb pressed down on the spacer between the blade and the handle.

?Fuck!? She yelled.

A small flash emitted from the top of he hilt as a gunshot echoed throughout the warehouse, Colleen could not move out the way fast enough to avoid the bullet, it ripped a hole through her trench coat and grazed the side of her midsection. There was no hesitation on On?s part after he fired the shot, he jumped away as she fired her last rocket and blew the roof of the shed off. He disappeared out a side door that slammed shut behind him.

Over her hand held CB Cole out, ?Colleen get back here now, Owen just picked up a car out in the yard!?

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34

Postby Fnork » Thu Nov 20, 2003 4:40 pm

**********Chapter 34**********


She threw the micro-rocket launcher to the ground as tears threatened to well up in her eyes; looking at the casket from a distance was hard enough, she knew seeing it up close after it had been torn apart by gunfire would destroy her.

Back behind the Fiarello?s wheel, Owen was staring at his motionless friend in the passenger?s seat. It made Owen feel sick to his stomach looking at Redline Fox?s blankly staring eyes.

?What the hell is wrong with him man?? Owen asked Cole.

Cole shook his head, ?Zombie toxin. The short of it, there is a certain combination of chemicals that exist in some cultures that can be used to mimic the results of zombification through a neurotoxin that paralyzes the individual. Oni probably used the toxin from a blowfish or at least some combination of chemicals that included said toxin, which, considering just how highly deadly the fish can be...I hope this does not prove fatal. Oh, and he can probably hear and see everything that is going on around him.. If he?s alive he is aware.?

Colleen came running towards them as Owen leaned over his friend and squeezed Redline on the shoulder.

?Your going to be alright man, you?ve saved my ass so many times I still owe you a few, just, don?t die...? Owen hated when he got all emotional in front of people, ?..please bro.?

From behind the slopping windshield, Owen watched the two agents exchanged heated words. He was not sure what they where talking about and they needed to get out of here. The blip he was tracking would disappear from radar every other sweep and Owen was not sure if that was due to him being inside a building or something else.

Owen leaned out the window, ?Guys lets go ok, I want to get my friend help and from what I can see there is not anything else good we can accomplish here.?

Cole, ?He?s right Colleen, lets go, we need to complete the mission before we can afford ourselves mourning and I fear without fast action we may mourn another.?

?Your real name is Colleen?? Owen interjected.

She did not answer. With a swirl of her coat she turned and walked towards the hole in the dock door. After letting out a breath, Cole shook his head then told Owen they would meet him outside.
With a confirming nod Owen spun the Fiarello around on the slippery dock surface and drove back outside. Once outside, he thought that the blip he was tracking would stop disappearing, however instead it disappeared completely. Concerned, he leaned over and gently shut Redline?s eyes.

?If something happens we don?t need you getting your retinas burned out right?? Owen said out loud so his friend could at least hear someone?s voice.

Idling the car around the warehouse with caution, Owen kept a close eye on his radar screen, two blips appeared on the screen indicating that Colleen, or Hell Cat yeah, and Cole had started the engines on their cars. Turning into the front of the yard, he held his button on the CB talk button ready to suggest a place for everyone to hideout for the night. All he could get out was.

?Holy shit!?

Both Cole?s black Royale and Colleen?s dark blue Catamount where pointed directly head on with a black on yellow Palomino. Warendorf Schlachtlastwagens littered the yard, the cars looked as if a massive can-opener had torn them apart, every wreck was a product of Owen?s handy work. Admiring the result of his skill though was the furthest thing from his mind.

Cole crackled over the CB, ?Owen? Do you know who this guy is??

Such a question was comparable to a asking someone how to take a piss. Everyone should just know who was the driver of that car, usually if you had to ask, you?d already be dead three times over because you where not prepared. But Death Machine himself was dead after all, everyone finally had scene he was not some immortal god. Could it just be coincidence someone had that special edition paint scheme? Owen looked closer. No, it had to be him, Owen could see, illuminated in the grill, the tips of a pair of fixed gun barrels. All Death Machine impostors had been known for using missiles or mortars and none of them had lasted even a fraction of a second.

?Don?t fire! That is Death Machine!? Owen?s hand slipped off the CB mic ?Shit..? He fumbled for the mic and finally managed to hit the talk button with his palms sweating. ?Guys don?t fire, just let this guy pass if he isn?t giving us any trouble!?

?Indeed...? Cole said.

A strange screaming wail filled the air as the Palomino?s engine gunned with threatening agitation.

?Cole, Hell Cat, just back off ok...trust me ok.? Owen switched to the main vigilante CB channel, ?D-Death Machine, if that?s really you, hey...uh...long time no see??

Again the Palomino?s engine revved, and this time it sounded even more threatening.

?Ok ok, I, we are going to move...no one here is looking for trouble from you.? Owen kept the CB in hand as he backed the Fiarello away.

Both Cole and Colleen backed away but did so in a way that allowed to keep their weapons trained on the Palomino. As soon as they had created enough space the Palomino spun it?s rear wheels and accelerated away, almost clipping the front end of Cole?s car in the process. Owen noticed his radar screen flicker as the car passed him and out of the yard. He breathed a sigh of relief and felt anxiety melt away from his stomach. Concerned washed back over him as he looked at Redline Fox.

?We really need to get him some help, come on, follow me north west for awhile, then we can turn south once we are well away, those local fuzz are going to be all over this area. I know plenty of places for us to find some refugee.?

Owen waited patiently for a response, he noted the Colleen had not said anything since they had gotten back into their cars. Her car?s headlights shone brightly against the Fiarello as she turned and faced the gate.

Cole turned his car around in a similar fashion, ?Roger that Owen, at my disposal are some resources that may prove helpful for your friend.? There was a pause. ?He will be alright I think, lead the way, over.?

?Yeah...just follow and try to keep up. Those local fuzz boys are going to be all over this area? Owen put the car into gear and drove out of the yard.

Waves of minute light undulated across the meadows as the three cars drove away from what was left of the warehouse complex. From Laramie came the patrol with their blue-red light?s flashing. Jet-black, with its turbo eagerly awaiting spool up, a Yamato RM3 rolled out from the cover of a nearby cliff face and with all-wheel drive traction stormed off into the night unabated.

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35

Postby Fnork » Fri Nov 21, 2003 9:09 pm

**********Chapter 35**********


The front window of Dante?s Inferno exploded in a shower of flying glass. A large man wearing a black trenchcoat and matching black military boots stepped through the gaping hole, carrying a gigantic maul.

?Come out, come out verever you ahr!? he mocked. He raised the maul and slammed it into the cash register, sending it hurtling across the now glass-covered floor. He then reached over to the front door and undid the lock. A pair of similarly dressed men entered, each holding a nasty looking mace the size of a baseball bat.

The man with the maul went to the nearest wall and pulverized the wood paneling with a single blow. Finding no hidden rooms or compartments behind it, he moved a few feet further and took another swing.. The two men with maces went through the aisles, smashing anything and everything, pausing occasionally to stuff a food item into their mouths or deep pockets.
Outside, leaning against his heavily armed Morgen-Bernz, Horst took a long drag from his cigarette.

In German, he spoke to the man sitting on the hood next to him. ?Oni thinks he can make us do anything, just because he has given us his technology.? He spit, and ground it into the dirt with his boot. ?That arrogant fool. The technology is as much ours now as it is his. If it wasn?t for us, HIS weapons would still be worthless drawings on paper and prototypes that do nothing. WE are the one who made them work!?

The man next to him replied in the same tongue, ?You talk big now, but what will you do when he sends his monster after us? I have seen what it can do.?

Horst took another drag, then said, ?Monster, ha! You worry too much, Guenter old friend. He has tethered it with a mere thread. Soon it will break free, and when it does, he will become its next meal.?

?And when it finishes with him, it will come for us. What then?? Guenter asked.

?It is just a frightened animal. If we do nothing to make it feel threatened, it will not try to harm us,? Horst answered.

The man carrying the maul strode out the front door of the store, and came to a crisp halt in front of Horst. The two men with maces soon followed, now with pockets full of junk food.

?Sir, there is nothing hidden inside the store. There is a red Picard Piranha in the garage, but no sign of any occupants. They have all fled.?

Horst turned to Guenter, and said, ?Bring the car out here, then burn everything.?

Guenter pulled a metal gas tank out of the back seat and began dumping its contents over the interior of the building. The two with maces went back to the garage, put the flawless car in neutral and began pushing it into the parking lot. Guenter walked out of the building, dumped the remaining fuel onto the seats of the car, then discarded the empty tank in the back seat. He and the three men that had been inside returned to their cars.

Horst took one last puff of his cigarette, spit again, then said, ?If your monster does not destroy you Oni, I will.? He used his cigarette to ignite the fuel in the Piranha, flicked the remains into the gas-filled store, and with a wicked smile he turned towards his car.

* * *

Three miles away on an overlooking plateau, Dante lowered his binoculars as four dark cars drove away. A plume of thick black smoke was already pouring from the front windows of his store, and tongues of fire were lighting up the pavement around the burning car. He sat down behind the wheel of ?Blue Streak?, and said to himself, ?First Redline, then Snake, now this? how many more lives are these people going to destroy before they have what they want??

For a split second a dangerous thought flashed through his mind. If he were to give them Jade, maybe they would release Redline and leave everyone else alone.

He dispelled the thought immediately knowing that it wouldn?t work, but it frightened him that he had even considered it.


* * *


Owen sat on the ground near his new Fiarello, staring up at the sky and listening for any sounds that might indicate an aircraft approaching. Colleen and Cole were over in the hangar having a heated discussion about something, but Owen couldn?t hear clearly so he ignored them entirely. He was at the airport where Fnork told him to meet, and the reddish sun had almost disappeared below the horizon. It would be dark within minutes, yet there was no sign of Fnork or his Lockhart F-38 Reaper.

He leaned back and closed his eyes, confident that he would be able to hear the plane when it arrived. It was getting too dark to see much anyway. Weary from his long drive South and the recent battle, he was asleep as soon as his head hit the ground.

He dreamt of when he was young, before he knew or cared anything about being an auto-vigilante. His life was so simple back then. All he ever had to worry about was when to wake up in the morning, how to waste his lazy afternoons, and which girl to chase next.

When he awoke, the partial moon was floating overhead, and the sounds of night in the desert had come alive. Colleen was shaking him gently, and Cole was looking over the still unresponsive Redline Fox. Owen checked his watch and discovered he had been asleep for almost two hours. He pulled himself off the ground, and took a quick look around. Seeing no indication that a plane had arrived while he slept, a feeling of dread overtook him. It was well past the meeting time, and Fnork was nowhere to be found.

Owen reluctantly walked back to his car, while trying to decide where to go next. Redline Fox was comatose, Dante?s store was in ruins and he was nowhere to be found, and now Fnork was missing. He said to himself, ?Just when I thought things couldn?t get any worse??

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Postby Fnork » Mon Nov 24, 2003 6:44 pm

**********Chapter 36**********


An image faded into view. It was a celebration of some sort, and he was surrounded by smiling faces. Redline Fox was chatting with Owen, a woman in a cowboy hat, and a man wearing a suit. The latter two he did not know, but he recognized them from somewhere. The woman beckoned for him to join them. They were his friends and allies, so he approached without hesitation. Then the light shifted, and they were revealed for what they truly were. Demons, all of them. His friends. They turned to face him, vicious claws and teeth bared. He tried to flee, but as he moved away a dark shadow enveloped him from behind. Everything went black.

The man once known as Lightfoot awoke to a world bathed in blood. He had been asleep only a few minutes, but it did not matter. Since he became Death incarnate, he rarely needed sleep.

He attempted to regain his bearings. He did not know what time it was, but it did not matter. His optically-enhanced vision was permanently a dull crimson color, and the only difference between night and day was a lengthening of shadows,and a faint brightening of the sky. Then the voice returned.

--They hate you--
?No! They are my friends!? he replied to the voice in his head.
--They want to kill you. You must kill them--
?No. I will not listen to you.?
--You are mine. You must obey--
?I do not belong to you. I will not obey?
--I can help you. Help you to destroy them all before they can betray you again--
?They never betrayed me. They are my friends!?
--They betrayed you and left you to die. Now you will have your vengeance--


Something shifted in his mind.


?Yes,? he hesitated, ?Yes, they did betray me. They left me for dead! I will destroy them!?
--Yesss? you will kill them. You will kill them all--
?They are powerful. How will I defeat them all??
--You are Death. They cannot stand before you--


Death Machine was fully under the spell of the voice again. It first came to him months earlier as nothing more than a whisper against the wind, but it had grown louder with time. As it grew louder, it became stronger and more insistent. It was too powerful to ignore. He had no choice but to obey.

For a few moments he had been free. The voice had lost its hold over him, and he had fled from it. Now it was back, and in control again.


* * *


Akihiko Tan opened his eyes, and leaned back with a mix of exhaustion and relief on his face. His followers were in a circle around him, still in a state of deep meditation. He rested for several minutes before standing up to leave the circle. Controlling someone?s mind was an exhausting task, even when the mind was as pliable as that of Death Machine.

His concern over recent events diminished some, now that the rider was under his control again. He was pleased that Death Machine had fallen back under his spell so quickly, despite having had a taste of freedom. Oni had briefly lost control when the three vigilantes assaulted his compound, but he quickly restored the meditation circle at a new location. Everything depended on it.

He spoke to an assistant that entered the room. ?I am moving up the timetable.? He grabbed the assistant by the collar. ?Tell that German scum I want the girl now. We must have her for the plan to succeed. I will not accept another failure.? Oni released the assistant, bowed quickly, then shoved him roughly out of the room.

He walked back to the circle, knelt down in the center, and closed his eyes. He spoke softly to the others in the circle. ?The toxin should be in full effect now. This one will present no resistance.? He took a deep breath, and fell into a state of deep relaxation. It took only moments to establish a link to the other mind.



Many miles away, a comatose form bolted upright and turned to face Owen, it?s eyes still staring blankly.

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Postby Fnork » Tue Nov 25, 2003 7:21 pm

**********Chapter 37*********


Owen was so startled by his passenger?s sudden movement that he at first though he had fallen asleep again. He shook his head violently, and the resulting discomfort assured him he was still awake. He stared open-mouthed for a few seconds as Redline Fox turned his own head slowly from side to side.

?Redline! You?re awake!? Owen stuck his head out of the Fiarello and called to the others.

?Colleen! Cole! He?s awake!? He turned back to Redline, and noticed that his friend was thrashing his arms around as if he was trying to escape from invisible bonds. Thinking the other was confused and disoriented, Owen climbed out of the car and rushed around to the passenger side to help him as Cole and Colleen left their own cars to investigate. Owen opened the door and eased Redline out of the seat and onto the grass next to the parking lot. Redline continued to move uncontrollably, but soon his movements slowed, then stopped entirely.

Thinking Redline had dropped back into a coma, Owen reached toward him to check his vital signs. As he did, Redline leaned back up. He stood up slowly, and the others saw that his movements were very wooden, as if he hadn?t used his muscles in a very long time.

They helped him to his feet, and Owen continued to hold on to steady him.

?Redline, you?re safe now. We?re at the airport. We rescued you from that psycho Japanese dude.?

Redline faced Owen with a blank stare, but didn?t respond. His pupils were dilated and out of focus.

?Redline? Are you okay man?? He waved his hand in front of the other?s face. ?Come on man, what the hell is wrong with you? Say something!?

Owen turned toward Colleen and Cole with a questioning look on his face. Cole was the first to speak.

?It must be the zombie toxin still in his system. This must be what they meant when they said it made people act like zombies??

?What do you mean, ?they said?? I thought you said you?ve seen this before??

?I said I?d heard about it. I?ve never seen it myself.? Cole said, defensively.

?You?ve never seen it? Then how the hell were you so sure what it was when we found him?? Owen said, angrily. He took a step toward Cole, who raised his hands in a non-threatening manner.

?Easy there Owen. It was in Tan?s file. He?s reportedly used it before, even though it?s not supposed to exist. I never believed it myself until I saw the look on Redline?s face. It was exactly as described, and there was no other explanation.?

?Okay, then how the fuck do we get him back to normal? Was that in the file too??

?I don?t know. In all the other cases, the victim was completely paralyzed and couldn?t move at all. Not like this.? He gestured toward Redline, who was now walking drunkenly in a circle. ?I have no idea what?s going on here.?

Redline started to wander away, and Colleen quickly went after him. She guided him back to the cars with a firm grip on his right arm, and as she returned, said, ?Let?s get him someplace safe. We?ve been sitting out here in the open for too long, and someone might have spotted us.? She turned to Owen, whose facial expression clearly showed that he disagreed with the suggestion. ?I don?t think your friend is coming, Owen. I?m sorry, but we just can?t sit around here all night.? Before Owen could object, she continued, ?If he?s anything at all like how you?ve described him, when he comes back he?ll find us. Now help me get him back into the car.?

She reopened the passenger door of the Fiarello and gently slid Redline into position. He was no longer resisting her efforts, but he wasn?t doing anything to help either. By the time he was back in the seat his body had gone completely limp, but his eyes were still wide open and staring.

Cole went back to his Royale, but before sitting down he said, ?Let?s head to that hideout of yours nearby. We should be safe there for the night.?

Owen gave him a sharp look of surprise. ?How do you know about that??

Cole laughed. ?I read your mind.?

?Yeah, right. And I?m Luke Skywalker??

Cole gave Colleen an odd look, then said with a sigh, ?I took the liberty of reviewing your file when you were taking your nap over there. You?d be surprised how much information we have on all the vigilantes still operating in these parts.? Something about the way he said it, and look in his eye, told Owen it wasn?t worth arguing about it anymore.

They each got into their respective vehicles, and once Owen made sure that Redline was securely buckled in to the seat, they followed him down the road toward the hideout.



A pair of blood red eyes watched as they disappeared down the darkened highway.

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38

Postby Fnork » Mon Dec 01, 2003 4:16 pm

**************Chapter 38**************


They made the journey to the hideout without incident, but there were several times when Owen could have sworn there was an extra blip on the radar. He never saw more than an afterimage that could have just as easily been static, but something in his gut told him it wasn?t. As a precaution, he lead them on a circuitous route that would have shaken off even the most skillful of trackers, and didn?t take them to the destination until he had driven a full fifteen minutes without seeing the mysterious blip. Finally, confident that any tail had been lost, they pulled up to the hideout.

Owen knew something was wrong the moment he pulled up to the main gate. It had been left open, which was something Snake never did, despite his typical carelessness with everything else. The tire marks in the dirt were very faint and had been blurred by a heavy rain, meaning no one had been there for several days. This was their only hideout in the region, which meant Snake either had a very good reason for not returning, or something bad had happened to him.

He instinctively drew his gun and cautiously stepped out of the car. Cole and Colleen were momentarily surprised by his reaction, but quickly responded in kind. He slowly approached the front door and found it locked. Retrieving a spare key from his pocket, Owen unlocked it and pushed the door open. A quick search of the rooms and garage told them that the building was unoccupied, and the fact that it had clearly been tidied up further showed that Snake had not been present for some time.

Owen went into the garage to open the doors, then indicated to the others to pull their vehicles inside. Once they were parked, they helped him carry Redline in to a bedroom where they laid his limp form on a bed. His eyes still stared blankly ahead, but as far as any of them could tell he had dropped back into a coma.

Cole made a comment about being hungry, and went to the refrigerator to find something suitable to eat. He immediately found the discarded beer can with the from Redline, and read it aloud to Owen and Colleen.

Colleen was the first to reply. ?That doesn?t help us much. Dante?s Inferno burned down, and we already know where Redline Fox is.?

?I guess not, but in the morning I think I?ll head back over there to see if I can track down Dante. If he got out of there alive, he?s probably hiding out nearby in case anyone comes looking.? Owen yawned. ?For now, I?m going to bed.?


* * *


Redline Fox felt the soft, warm grass between his toes. An endless sea of green surrounded him, and the azure sky above was devoid of clouds. On the distant horizon he saw a small dark shape move, and instinctively started walking toward it.

As he traversed the field of grass, he caught glimpses of ghosts floating around him. He paused to examine them closer, and realized they were not ghosts at all, but were more like afterimages, as if he was looking at a double-exposed photograph. He could recognize one of the images as Owen, because his lanky form was unmistakable. The other two most prominent images were more difficult to identify. Both were familiar to him, but he could not quite recall from where or why he knew them. They were from a distant past, perhaps.

The images faded abruptly to almost nothing, and he spotted the dark shape in the distance again. He walked toward it and covered the distance quickly, only to watch it vanish before he could identify it. He slowly peered around in an attempt to spot it again, and found it immediately, sitting behind him.


Just beyond an arm?s reach away, watching him intently, was a fox.

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39

Postby Fnork » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:35 pm

***********Chapter 39***********


Looking around made Redline Fox feel as if he was taking in a dizzying three hundred sixty degree view at any given point he looked. Only when he focused on the fox in front of him was he able to concentrate on what he was looking at. Could he actually be dead? Soft grass, azure sky and a almost euphoric feeling gave him the notion that he had fallen into Elysium. But Redline did not believe in a heaven or a hell, at least not in the sense that any religious dogma taught. Even if he was dead, he was not ready to accept it. He sat down in the grass and took in a deep breath, but no air entered his lungs nor did his body seem to care.

?There is nothing here to breathe.? the fox spoke without moving it?s mouth.

Redline looked off across the fields watching the tall grass sway about in no particular pattern.

The fox stared off at the grass with him. ?Yes, that is indeed wind, but as I said there is nothing here to breath.? The fox turned to look at Redline, ?Do you know where you are??

Slowly Redline Fox nodded and looked away from the grass. When he spoke he did so without forming verbal words same as the fox had spoken to him.

?My mind?? He asked.

?For all intensive purposes that is accurate enough.? The fox said.

Rubbing his hands against his face Redline tried to make sense of the situation. Wind gradually was picking up speed swirling the fields angrily and the sky was gradually becoming cloudier. Far off in the distance he thought he heard thunder, then the sound of a familiar engine echoed across the prairie.

?Pouncer?? Redline said reflexively.

The sound continued rising and falling around him as if it was stuck in a time loop. Suddenly it disappeared completely.

?That is a sound you will always recognize instantly, the chaos is spreading and creating random thoughts.? The fox gave an anxious look at the sky. ?I wonder if you named me after the car or the car after me?? She smiled.

?I well...? Redline started to say.

She interrupted, ?Regardless it is just a name. A way for you to identify me and what is more powerful, the name we take or the name we are given??

?Really, I just said that to mess with my enemy?s head.? Redline Fox said flatly.

?Yes, but now the enemy is in your head, or more specifically your body.?

Uncomfortable with not fully understanding what the fox was saying he tried thinking of what questions he could ask.

?Pouncer, is this real?? He asked.

?Oh, very much so. But this reality is formed out of what your mind needs to see in order for you to understand.? She stood up on her hind legs for a brief moment her muzzle pointed skyward. ?Soon, if you are not ready, this reality will become someone else?s and your spirit will be separated from your body. If that happens, you will loose yourself.? She dropped back down on all fours.

Redline closed his fist in anger, ?Oni...?

?Yes...? the fox confirmed.

?What about you? I...sense...that your waiting for me...but who are you? Until, now I had always wondered what your presence meant...? Redline was frustrated and couldn?t find the right words.

The fox smiled, ?I am you and you are me. But I am also me and you are you.?

Thunder rolled across the sky which was turning a sick burnt green. A flash of images briefly filled his vision, the images passed in an instant with it a great amount of energy seemed to leave Redline?s body.

?Come, we do not have time for further semantics right now, you must face this demon and repel his spiritual attack but you can not do so without first facing yourself. You must be able to separate the physical you from the mental, from the spiritual, just as this Oni has. He has broken down your body so that he could break down your mind so that he could break your spirit. It is a logical progression, the body is the vessel in which the spirit can interact with the world. In order to save yourself and your friends you must destroy the part of this Oni that has invaded the body which your spirit has claimed. To do this you must free your mind.?

She fell silent and waited for Redline Fox to understand. Storm clouds continued to gather.

?Show me how.? Redline said.

?Follow.?

As the fox walked past him, small orbs of light similar to the one?s he saw used to attack the two interrogators that had previously invaded his mind, floated in towards him from all directions including the ground and the sky. They floated lackadaisical around his body. Warm calming energy glowed from the seemingly conscious objects. Periodically two or three of the orbs would float towards the fox and dance around in intricate patterns.

The fox said, ?They are pure energy, not conscious but active and responsive.?

She circled the orbs in front of her face, bouncing them up and down like her own personal playthings. With a push of thought she sent one floating back towards Redline with the intent of satiating his curiosity. He raised his hand unsure if he should touch it or not, it slowed as it moved towards him then bumped into his forehead causing him to give a startled laugh. Reaching out he closed his hand around the orb but could not grasp it as the energy ball passed through the palm of his hand, shocked he retracted his arm feeling the residual warmth leaving the tips of his fingers along with a subtle amber glow. Squinting his eyes he raised his hand again palm facing out at the energy orb. With a thought and a small exertion of will he managed to push it ahead of him then into a loop-de-loop.

?We are here...?

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40

Postby Fnork » Wed Dec 03, 2003 6:19 pm

***********Chapter 40************


Redline Fox looked away from the ball he was playing with and gasped. He had been following the fox but not paying attention to where they were going. There did not seem to be any need to do so. Now, they where standing in what appeared to be a narrow snow covered valley, ethereal flakes swirled about the valley, he noticed that they never touched the ground. Above him on all sides where immense craggy mountains, from the bottom up to the mid slope was covered with snow, past the mid sloop the mountain side became lush green until disappearing into the fog shrouding the peaks. Redline wondered if the mountains even had peaks or just ascended into infinity.

?This is amazing. What a dream.? Redline thought to himself.

?Not a dream, remember that.? The Fox replied.

He had forgotten the link they shared and that made him feel silly. After removing his gaze from the mountains around him, he looked ahead of him to where the fox was sitting in the center of a what appeared to be a frozen lake. Her paws had left a trail of prints in the snow which Redline followed. Snow packed in with a muffled crunch with each step he took until he reached the edge of the lake. Tentatively he continued forward expecting to slip on the smooth looking surface. When he stepped out onto it he found the surface stable and more grippy then asphalt. Making his way towards the fox, he looked down through the transparent surface. All he could see was a deep murky blue, which appeared to be water, but without any waves it was difficult for him to tell. In fact he wasn?t sure that he was walking on a layered surface. From the shore, all he had seen was a icy grey, but this was not ice. But he could not be walking on water, right? As he finished the thought he finally reached to spot where the fox was sitting and stopped.
She looked up at him intently, judging his measure. Five of the orbs had begun circling the pair as they remained silent in the center of the lake. They serpentined up and down leaving soft trails of light behind them.

?This, is your subconscious. More specifically, this.? She stamped down with her paw to indicate below them. ?You must face yourself. There is no way for me to prepare you other then to say be calm, be still and do not fight against the current. This is your mind remember that. Even this Oni can not enter your subconscious, it is the impregnable fortress of your mind that only you hold the key to opening. You do so everyday, but once something is brought out of the subconscious it is within conscious thought, therefore retrieving thoughts from it is a simple affair, but entering it is another matter. Even I can not fathom it?s depths. As I said, you are you, this is you.?

Closing his eyes he considered the words and prepared himself for what she was going to show or ask of him.

?I understand, but, how??

?You must discover that answer for yourself.?

The balls of energy slowly floated down into the solid surface and formed a ring around Redline?s feet.

?I apologize for what is about to happen, but I?m afraid I do not know of any other easier way for this to be presented to your perception of this reality.?

Skeptically he raised his eyebrow. He could not help feel a bit nervous.

?What do you...?

The fox looked up and opened her mouth, ?KON!?

The sound echoed off the mountains and reverberated like a tuning fork through Redline?s body. Amber beams of light shot up from around Redline?s feet and he suddenly fell through the surface. He felt a surge of panic as he splashed into dark water. Ripples moved across the once solid point which he had fallen through. Instinctively he began swimming back up but the surface had already solidified. He pounded against the once again solid surface, drowning was one of the most frightening things he could image. When he looked at the fox staring down at him with a calm gaze he relaxed and remembered that there was no air anyway, he couldn?t drown. Extending his arms, he leaned back and tried to relax. A smile crept across the fox?s face as she saw him begin to understand. She watched as he slowly sank deeper away.

Water sloshed against his ear drums, there was no external sound nor internal. No breath, no heart beat, no blood flow, only thought. The surface slowly faded away as he sunk deeper into the water, looking around he saw no air bubbles or indication of current. The water was dark and he could only see his own body, but he had the impression that he was suspended within a gigantic ocean instead of a small lake. It was not long until the surface disappeared entirely. A sense of apathy was washing over him, he thought it odd, was he supposed to feel that way? Rationalizing the feeling, he considered that was objectiveness, he could not remember or form a self-concept, he was here in the dark and this was his vision of the world but who he was he could not consider emotionally.

Off in one direction, up, down, he could not discern, but in that direction was the ghostly glow of a moon in it?s full phase. He saw an ocean crashing on a beach. The crashing waves within a field of water would have made Redline Fox nauseous if had any sense of pain or orientation. Two images sat together on the beach, it was a memory that he had pushed down in the hopes of forgetting. And he had forgotten, what he saw, he could not identify yet. He looked away, his gaze fell on more images and sounds began booming through his perception of thought. None of which he heard or saw made him feel anything. He recognized the outlines of cars and people. Battles between swarms of automobiles where far off at the edge of his sight. Music underplayed voices that he heard.

Rotating his body so that he was now ?falling? face first he saw a white light below him. Curiosity replaced the apathy and he began purposefully swimming towards it. As he did so, the light became brighter but stayed only a pin-prick in the field of blue darkness. He squinted as he felt the light?s brightness, but his lungs still did not demand air. Just as he felt like he would have to shield his eyes from the light he dropped out from the water with a thudmp. Quickly he found his feet and stood up. Above him was the rippling surface of water he had fallen down out of. It was only inches from his face, around him in all directions below the water line was absolute white void. He could not even judge if he was standing on a surface. The proximity of the water to his head made him feel claustrophobic even though below and all sides was nothing but pure space.

?Whoa...? Was all Redline Fox could say.

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Postby Fnork » Thu Dec 04, 2003 1:33 pm

*********Chapter 41***********


Owen, Colleen, and Cole awoke at first light and made a quick breakfast using what little unspoiled food they could find. Once finished, they prepared to make the trip back to Dante?s in the hopes of finding him and the girl. Owen strapped a motionless Redline Fox into the passenger seat of the Fiarello, and carefully bound his arms and legs to prevent injury in case he went into convulsions again.

They set out with Owen leading, followed closely by Colleen, while Cole was hanging back a few extra car lengths. He had been unusually quiet that morning, but every time they asked why he?d just say he was tired. Several times Owen thought he spotted that phantom blip following them on the radar, but since the other two hadn?t picked it up he dismissed it as nothing more than a glitch.

They passed a large clump of dried bushes, and for a instant Owen though he saw a glint of morning sun reflecting off something metal. He radioed the others, who once again hadn?t seen anything, but about twenty seconds later a definite target appeared on the radar at extreme range directly behind. At their current speed it was swept out of range almost immediately, but there was no mistaking what it was. There had been a car hiding in that mass of scrub brush.

Colleen spoke into the radio, ?We appear to have an uninvited guest??

Owen radioed a quick ?Follow me? to the others, cut his engine, and coasted to a stop behind a faded old billboard. Colleen and Cole did the same. They rolled their windows down and turned to look at Owen, who was intently staring at a display on the dashboard. The radar in the Fiarello had been modified so that it could still be used when the ignition was shut off, which he had discovered only by accident earlier that morning when he hit the wrong switch upon startup.

The blip on the radar quickly reappeared, but began to slow as it approached their position. Whoever was trailing them must have realized that they had pulled off the road to hide. Owen continued to watch the blip until it was almost on top of them, then looked up just as a dark green Courcheval Manta cruised by at about thirty miles per hour. There was a large blower protruding from the hood, and it had at least four different missile launchers mounted on the sides and roof. Dead center in the middle of the roof was a karpoon launcher, the very karpoon launcher that had once been mounted on Owen?s own pink Potomac Pan-Am.

Owen yelled to the others, ?Let?s get him!?, and all three cars roared back to life. The creeper responded immediately by accelerating down the road with a squealing of tires and a cloud of smoke, with the Fiarello, Quicksilver Catamount, and Courcheval Royale in hot pursuit.

The Manta?s engine had been heavily modified, so it was nearly a minute before Owen approached weapons range. Colleen?s Catamount was fast, but couldn?t keep up with the Fiarello or Manta and was starting to fall back. Cole?s Royale had fallen even further behind.

Owen was about to open fire on the creeper when he spotted a lone semi up ahead in their lane. He didn?t want to risk injuring any civilians, so he decided to hold his fire until they had passed it. The creeper released a stream of oil as he overtook the semi, and Owen was forced to slow down to avoid skidding into the side of it. He pressed his foot back down on the gas as he cleared the oil patch and passed the semi, but out of the corner of his eye he spotted a most peculiar object on the roof of the cab.

He grabbed his radio to warn Colleen and Cole of the possible ambush, but it was too late. The instant Colleen was even with the semi, the trailer exploded.

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Postby Fnork » Fri Dec 05, 2003 2:25 pm

***********Chapter 42***********


The dark blue Catamount shot out of the cloud of smoke and veered off the road to the left. The car looked undamaged, but the driver had been badly shaken by the unexpected blast. Owen watched in his rearview mirror as the semi cleared the smoke, and realized that the explosion hadn?t been a bomb at all, but merely a means to remove the outer shell of the trailer. Inside, mounted to the flatbed, were two gigantic weapon turrets that looked like they had been taken directly from Soviet tanks. One rotated to track Cole?s position, who swerved just in time to avoid the smoking crater that appeared in his path, while the other lined up for a shot of its own.

The Manta temporarily forgotten, Owen turned back to help the others. Cole dodged a blast from the second turret, then cut in front of the semi to avoid another shot from the first. Owen got a better view of the object on the semi?s roof, but didn?t have time to warn Cole of the danger. It was a karpoon launcher, but the design was unlike anything he?d seen before. There were four identical karpoons with oversized heads arranged parallel to each other in a rack, and there was a large cylindrical drum underneath.

One of the karpoons fired as Cole passed in front of the semi, and caught the front right quarter panel of the Royale. He instinctively lifted his foot off the gas pedal and turned away from the semi to prepare himself for whatever aftereffects the karpoon might have. He turned to look at the object embedded in the front of his car, when a spike abruptly poked through the hood where the tip of the weapon was. He couldn?t see them, but three identical spikes had extended inside the hood in other directions. His eyes traced the length of the weapon, when he noticed a thick steel cable attached to the free end. Cole had just mouthed the words ?What the??? when the slack in the cable ran out.

The front end of Cole?s car was wrenched around so violently that it twisted the entire frame like it was made of aluminum foil. The driver was slammed against the door with such force that, had he not forgotten to roll his window back up after leaving the temporary hiding place, the impact between the window and his head would have killed him instantly. Even so, all the air was blasted out of his lungs and he blacked out from the sudden lateral G-force.

Owen could only watch as the Royale spun away like a top. The semi released the cable, and was now circling around with the clear intention of ramming the ruined car. Owen didn?t know if Cole was even alive yet, but if he was, he needed time to get out of the wreckage.

He stomped on the gas pedal to accelerate in front of the semi, and pressed a button on the steering wheel for a weapon he hadn?t had the chance to use yet. A spray of flaming oil shot out the back of the Fiarello directly in the semi?s path, and the truck was forced to momentarily abandon its attack to avoid the wall of flame.

The semi turned to make another pass, which Owen again cut off with a wall of fire. The turrets on the trailer were firing angrily at the small black car, and Owen was having such a hard time avoiding the exploding shells that he didn?t have the opportunity to make an attack run. The semi circled around again, and pointed its heavily reinforced grill at what remained of Cole?s Royale. Owen was too far behind to cut it off this time.



Cole opened his eyes and felt a surge of pain throughout his entire body, telling him that he was still alive. Through the elaborate white spider web that only minutes earlier was his windshield, he could see his hood bent up at an awkward angle. He reached over to unlatch his seat belt with his left hand, and winced at the new burst of pain. His arm had been broken in several places from the collision with the door. His right hand found the release, he kicked the battered door open, and fell onto the ground as even more pain washed over him. He could hear the sound of a large engine approaching at high speed, and knew he had to get clear quickly if he wanted to live.



The turrets on the trailer continued to fire as the semi charged toward the wreckage. Sunlight flashed across the ?MOTH? logo on the grille. When it struck, it crushed what remained of the Royale like an eggshell, sending shrapnel flying everywhere. Owen was searching frantically for any sign of Cole?s body, when a loud klaxon filled the interior of the Fiarello. The Manta was locking on with a missile.

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Postby Fnork » Mon Dec 08, 2003 4:55 pm

************Chapter 43*************


Owen swore under his breath and swerved to avoid another shot from one of the semi?s turrets. The beeping was increasing in pitch to indicate a lock was imminent.

?Shit shit shit! Where is that switch?!? he yelled as his eyes quickly searched the dashboard for the switch marked ?ECM System?. He found it just as the beeping became a solid tone, and flipped it. The sound abruptly stopped, and he looked up just as the now unguided missile streaked overhead.

?What the hell kind of trick is this? Why can?t I target you?? screamed an angry voice over the radio.

Owen laughed into the radio, but stopped abruptly when he realized who was on the other end. ?Omega? Is that you??

?It sure is, now prepare to die shithead! I don?t need to target you to kill you!?

?You son of a bitch. You fucking sold us all out to The Wraith, and still have the nerve to show your face around here?? Owen?s voice was suddenly filled with rage. ?I was just going to disable your car, but now it?s personal!?

?Oh, boo-hoo. It was just a job, and so is this. Surrender now and I might let you live.?

?Get bent.?

Owen dodged another shot from the semi, then pressed his foot down hard on the gas pedal. His finger reached up to the firing button for the front mounted lasers.

He charged at Omega, and bright red beams of energy lanced out from the nose of the Fiarello when the Manta came within range. Omega had been expecting it though, and swerved out of the way at the last possible second. Owen continued past and began turning in a large arc to put as much distance between himself and the semi. Omega turned to chase, and tried to line up a shot with his missiles. He couldn?t sustain a lock, but that didn?t prevent him from firing the missiles like dumb-fires. He fired a single shot, but Owen spotted it at the last second and narrowly avoided it.
The semi was bearing down on their position, but the Fiarello kept moving farther and farther away with every maneuver.

?Run Owen, you sissy! You were always such a pansy. I should have killed you all those years ago when I had the chance!? Omega taunted over the radio.

?You aren?t the first person to tell me that, and you sure as hell ain?t gonna be the last. Come get some, asshole.? Owen taunted back.

They made another head on pass at each other, but each swerved at the same time so the twin beams of light and a missile sailed wide. A red blinking light on the dashboard of the Fiarello indicated to Owen that he had held down the trigger for too long. He had completely discharged the lasers, and it would take a full ten seconds for the capacitors to recharge.

?Is that all you?ve got Owen? Come on, you barely even have to aim!?

?Ha! This coming from the guy loaded with missiles. You haven?t exactly hit anything either, so fuck off!?

?Well, why don?t you try this on for size!? Omega said as he fired the karpoon launcher. Owen?s timing was thrown off by the slower moving projectile, and he just barely avoided taking a direct hit. The karpoon skipped off the side of the car leaving a long scrape mark, but the angle of impact was too flat for it to penetrate the thin layer of armor. Omega saw it hit, and immediately fired all four of his missile launchers.

He yelled in rage when all four flew straight and missed the Fiarello entirely. ?You lucky son of a bitch! Let?s see you dodge THIS!?

Omega flipped a switch so the MaGMA karpoon would be active the instant it left the launcher. It was a trick that Owen had used to great effect numerous times in the past.

The Manta circled for another attack and Owen went defensive. Omega lined up a perfect shot and pressed the trigger. Without missing a beat he switched weapons and launched a volley of four missiles. He reached for the radio to gloat as the missiles followed the karpoon right to Owen?s position, when he heard a strange pulsating beep.

The karpoon?s attractor had activated, but something had malfunctioned. It never left the launcher. Omega?s eyes went wide as four identical smoke trails curled around to seek their new target.

The combined blast of all four warheads striking simultaneously created an earth-shattering explosion. Owen gaped as the green Manta was enveloped by a fireball and turned to ash. When the smoke cleared, all that remained in the charred crater were a few scattered bits of blackened metal and a single smoldering tire.

Owen?s wish had come true. He?d had a front row seat when the creeper that took his modified karpoon launcher tried to use it. The fact that it had been Omega made it infinitely more rewarding. He thrust his fist in the air and gave a whoop of triumph.

His celebration was cut short when something exploded in the dirt directly ahead of his position. The semi had caught up to him again.

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44

Postby Fnork » Tue Dec 09, 2003 5:02 pm

*********Chapter 44**********


Oni watched Omega?s Manta explode through the eyes of Redline Fox. Yet another one of his hired mercenaries had been destroyed, and the only useful information he had gained was the location of an abandoned hideout and the capabilities of the black Fiarello. The location of the girl was still a mystery, and that was what mattered most. No longer interested in what Redline Fox saw, Oni withdrew from his mind and switched over to that of Death Machine.

The crimson colored world faded in quickly, and what he saw surprised him. Death Machine was parked, and directly ahead of him was the dark car belonging to that woman. She was next to the car trying to drag a motionless body into a seat, and all the while Death Machine simply stared, but did not attack.

?Destroy them! Crush them like the insects that they are!? Oni commanded.

?They are not a threat.? Death Machine responded, but the car began to creep toward their position as if it were guided by unseen hands.

The woman finally noticed the approaching yellow car and froze. Without taking her eyes off the Palomino, she slowly finished lowering the unconscious man into the seat and cautiously walked around to the driver?s side. She sat down and reached for her radio. Knowing who she would contact, Oni returned to Redline?s mind to listen?


Owen swerved to avoid a shot from the aft turret on the semi, then swept the pair of laser beams across the cab. They cut through the armored shell leaving a long scorch mark, but failed to penetrate to the inside of the vehicle.

?Damn it! They must have a layer of armor that?s resistant to lasers.? Owen swore. He glanced over to the blank-faced Redline half expecting a reply, but the passenger gave no indication that he was aware of anything that was happening.

He avoided one of the harpoons fired from the front of the semi, then circled back for another pass with the trailer as his new target. A massive shell missed by inches to his left, and he opened fire on the front turret. The red beams cut into the hull of the tank turret, but the armor was so thick that it would require a sustained hit to get through. One of his wheels hit a small crater on the approach and the front end lifted into the air. His finger was still on the firing button, and the beams sliced up and severed the barrel of the turret at the midpoint. The lasers abruptly shut down because he had held the trigger too long again, and the instant his wheels returned to the ground he turned to avoid a collision.

He thought for a moment that the Fiarello might have a SuCCLeR installed, but then he remembered something Fnork had once told him about how rocketing a car into the air and slamming it unceremoniously back down to the ground often caused more damage than the devices could possibly prevent. It was highly unlikely that such a device was installed on the car, so there was little chance of him getting another shot like that.

The damaged turret took a shot at him, but with half the barrel missing the shot was wildly inaccurate. Owen was lining up for an attack run at the other turret when his radio crackled to life.

?Owen, come in? Can you hear me? We could, ah, really use some help over here?? a frightened female voice said.

?Hellcat? I?m a little busy right now? where the hell have you been?? Owen demanded.

?That explosion in my face knocked me out for a little while. I?ve got Cole, but there?s someone else here. I think it?s that same yellow Palomino we saw at the warehouse??

?Shit. He?s here too?? Owen paused, ?Whatever you do, DON?T attack him. I don?t think he?ll hurt usif you if we don?t provoke him.?

?Then what should I do??

?Just drive away slowly, maybe he?ll leave you alone?? The lasers had recharged again, so Owen fired another burst at the trailer. They cut into one of the rear wheels, slicing it to pieces, but it wasn?t nearly enough to disable the semi. The undamaged turret fired but its shot sailed wide. He risked a glance toward where Colleen was, and saw the dark blue Catamount being closely followed by the yellow Palomino. It looked like a cougar stalking an unaware deer.

He got a sudden idea and abandoned his attack on the semi to head in the direction of the two cars. The semi followed, and the turrets stopped firing because they couldn?t fire through the cabover pulling them. As he approached, he grabbed his radio again.
?Hellcat, I?m heading your way. When I get there, floor it and follow me as best as you can.?
?Okay?? Colleen responded hesitantly, not knowing what he was planning.


Observing from Redline Fox?s mind, Oni realized what was about to happen. He quickly withdrew from Redline and attempted to reestablish control over Death Machine. By the time he had established the link, it was too late.


Colleen accelerated and fell into position behind Owen, and Death Machine quickly followed. Owen turned to lead the convoy toward the semi, making it appear he was attacking again. Thinking that the cars following the Fiarello were reinforcements, the semi opened fire on all three.
The Fiarello and Catamount sped past and continued away, but the Palomino instead turned to attack.


Oni screamed into Death Machine?s head, ?NO! DO NOT RETALIATE! IGNORE THE SEMI!?, but it was useless. Death Machine had been attacked, and his rage and bloodlust had risen to a point that they overwhelmed even the voice in his head. Oni was little more than a helpless passenger at this point.


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