Kids N' Vigs

Tales of the Interstate

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Fnork
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Postby Fnork » Wed Dec 10, 2003 11:17 am

*********Chapter 45*********


Armor piercing fifty caliber bullets and explosive thirty millimeter shells pounded the thick hide of the Moth cabover as Death Machine?s yellow Palomino raced toward it. The modified tank turrets on the trailer opened fire, but even the undamaged one was too slow to hit the rage-fueled attacker.

The semi turned to meet the car head-on, but at the last possible second Death Machine cut to one side, leaving a small patch of oil in his wake. The semi was too heavy and moving too fast to avoid it, and for the next few seconds it was in an uncontrollable skid. Death Machine came about, and hammered the rear turret until having to swerve to avoid return fire.

Owen finally glanced into his rearview mirror to see if his plan had worked, and was relieved to see that it had worked perfectly. The creepers fell for his trick and made the fatal mistake of firing upon the yellow Palomino. Seeing the two vehicles circling each other in a dance of death, he couldn?t help but slow down to watch. Colleen called him on the radio and urged him to keep going, but he was so mesmerized that he didn?t respond.

Death Machine left another patch of oil in the large vehicle?s path and sent it into another skid. His guns were having difficulty cutting through the considerable layers of armor, so he began probing for weak spots. Oni continued to scream orders in his head, but he ignored them. He had a taste for blood, and would not stop until his hunger had been satiated.
He sent another stream of metal into the rear turret with little effect, and maneuvered to drop another patch of oil. He was ever so slowly herding the semi to a series of rock formations nearby, where it could easily become entangled and disabled. He never got the chance, because this time the operator of the harpoon weapon was ready for him as he passed in front of the cab.

The harpoon struck the back left quarter panel of the Palomino and locked into place. The semi driver steered straight through the new oil patch, believing that the fight was about to come to a quick end. Under normal circumstances a karpoon hit would be responded to by turning away from the attacker to gain as much separation as possible. Death Machine, however, had witnessed the destruction of Cole?s Royale and did the opposite.

He made an impossibly tight turn around the back of the trailer, and came abreast of the cab on the left side. The cable was slowly unspooling from the launcher, and the slack bounced haphazardly on the dry ground behind them. The driver of the semi looked down at the yellow car, and his smug grin turned to a look of terror when he saw the gleaming white skull with red eyes staring straight back.

The semi swerved to the left in an attempt to ram the car, but Death Machine shot ahead and dropped another patch of oil in its path. The front wheels had just begun to turn back to the right when they hit the oil, and the entire cab began to slide sideways. As the driving wheels of the semi spun freely on the oil, the slackened harpoon cable bounced underneath and wrapped around the rear two axles on the left side of the cab. The tires finally cleared the oil again, and re-gripped the ground. The cable wrapped itself tighter around the axle as Death Machine passed back in front of the semi. The slack between the cable spool and the axle ran out, and the back wheels locked up.

The cabover lurched violently to the left and jackknifed with the trailer. The entire semi skidded momentarily, until the coupler between the trailer and cab snapped. The trailer tipped on its side and slid straight ahead to a stop, while the cab started to roll and break apart. All the while, Death Machine raced perilously close, making sure to keep the length of cable still connecting them from becoming taut.

When the ruined semi came to a stop with the yellow Palomino directly alongside, Death Machine backed up and carefully maneuvered so the tether was stretched tightly across his hood. A quick burst from the fifty caliber machine gun severed the cable, and another burst several seconds later struck the now exposed fuel tank on the underside of the semi, causing the wreckage to erupt in flames. Death Machine waited long enough to ensure that neither man could climb out of the burning cabin, then drove toward the trailer where several men were climbing out of the inverted turrets.


?OWEN!? Colleen yelled through the radio.

?Good god, did you see that? This guy can?t be human?? Owen replied slowly, still staring fixedly at the yellow car.

?Come on, he?ll be after us next. We have to get away while we still can.?

?Yeah? Right, good thinking. Let?s go.? Owen responded, finally taking his eyes off the grisly scene. He stepped on the gas, and they were off.

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46

Postby Fnork » Thu Dec 11, 2003 2:29 pm

*********Chapter 46**********


Two men were standing near what was left of the rear turret, while a third was reaching inside the front turret to extract an injured comrade. The Palomino accelerated to run them down where they stood, and both standing men moved away from the trailer to open fire with their handguns. As the car approached, one dove to the right while the other sidestepped left. The man that sidestepped turned to take a shot at the car as it passed, but didn?t realize the harpoon was still embedded in the back of the car. It caught him in the upper torso at more than 75 miles per hour, and his ribcage exploded from the impact. He was dead long before he hit the ground.

The second man fired off a few more shots at Death Machine, who responded with an E-brake assisted 180 degree turn, and another charge. A single fifty caliber bullet flew from the nose of the car and struck the man in the thigh, nearly severing his leg. He fell to the ground writhing in agony, as Death Machine stopped next to him and stepped out of his car.
A heavy boot crushed the man?s wrist as he crawled for his gun, and he rolled onto his back to look Death in the face. He opened his mouth to plead for his life, but he was so filled with sheer terror that no sound could escape his lips. The last thing he saw was the cloaked form remove a small, flashlight-sized object from his cloak, and raise it above his head. The arm swept down, and everything went black.

Black cloak billowing in the light breeze, Death Machine strode purposefully toward the overturned trailer and the two remaining creepers. One had blood running down his face and a broken arm tied loosely against his chest, and both had drawn their pistols to take aim at the man who had destroyed their semi.

They opened fire, but Death Machine did not flinch. Several of the shots found their target, but simply ricocheted off the body armor hidden underneath the cloak. As he reached them, the man with the broken arm stumbled backward, and continued to pull the trigger despite his gun having made an empty ?click? sound the past eight times. The other man squeezed off one last point blank shot, as the cloaked arm holding the small weapon swept through the air. The cylindrical device extended in mid flight to almost three times its previous length, and struck the man in the temple, shattering his skull. He slumped to the ground as Death incarnate turned upon the final creeper.

The glowing red eyes bored into his soul as he tried to back away. He continued to reflexively pull the trigger on his gun, but despite his best efforts more bullets did not appear in the chamber. A single swing of the Sipo stick sent the gun hurtling away, and doubled the number of bones in the hand that had held it. The man raised his arms in front of his face in a pitiful attempt to shield himself from another blow, but instead of striking, Death Machine stopped his approach. With the press of an invisible button, the Sipo stick retracted into its handle, and disappeared into the folds of the cloak. The man on the ground was now so paralyzed with fear that he did not move as Death Machine turned and walked back to his car.

Death Machine opened the trunk, and slowly extracted the blood-covered harpoon still attached to his car. Once it had been dislodged, he carried it back to the man laying on the ground. Several feet of cable dragging behind left a trail in the dirt.

The man on the ground lowered his arms, but did not attempt to get back up. He was a dead man, and nothing he could possibly do would change that. Death Machine raised the harpoon over his head, and slammed the tip down into the man?s midsection with so much force that it passed through the man and embedded itself in the dry ground underneath. The impaled man screamed in pain and flailed his arms helplessly, but did not die immediately. Rather than wait, Death Machine paced back to his Palomino, and drove away.

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Postby Fnork » Fri Dec 12, 2003 2:41 pm

*********Chapter 47*********

--Are you finished?--, an irritated voice in Death Machine?s head asked.

His bloodlust had been satiated for the moment, and Oni was once again able to assert his influence over Death Machine. As always, his presence was accompanied by a faint buzzing sound at the edge of perception that helped to slowly erode the mind.

?Go away. I?m through listening to you.? Death Machine replied, but even as he spoke his will to resist was fading.

--You want more blood, don?t you? Yes, I can feel it in you.--

Death Machine didn?t respond for a few moments, as he fought a losing battle in his mind.

?Where are they??, he finally asked.

--Not far from here. They are running from you, but you can still catch them,-- Oni said.

?Where are they?? Death Machine asked again, much more forcefully this time.

--Due East. They think they have escaped, so they have slowed in their flight. Go now, and you can still catch them.--

While Death Machine was dispatching the men in the turrets, Oni had linked with Redline Fox?s mind. He could tell the Sun?s position by the shadows in the car, and knew their heading. He had returned to Death Machine?s mind just in time to see the final creeper being impaled by the harpoon. He was very displeased by his hired mercenaries, Omega in particular, but they had all received their punishment for failing him.

Death Machine turned his car to the East, and was soon pushing the engine to it?s limit. Owen and Colleen had indeed slowed when they were out of radar range, and within minutes he picked up a target at extreme range, directly ahead. He was less than a mile away when Owen noticed the phantom blip rapidly approaching.



Owen finally understood that Death Machine had been following them since they left the airport the previous day. The Fiarello had a much more powerful sensor suite than Collen?s Catamount or Cole?s Royale, which is why neither had detected anything earlier, despite having been much closer to the source numerous times.
The yellow Palomino steadily gained on them as they tried to accelerate away. The Fiarello was more than a match for the Palomino in a race, but it?s speed was held in check so the dark blue Quicksilver wasn?t left behind.

?Don?t wait for me Owen. Get yourself to safety and don?t worry about us.? Colleen pleaded over the radio.

?No, I?m not leaving you behind.? Owen replied.

?You?re faster than he is. I?m not. At least you?ll be able to get away if I can draw him off long enough.?

?Damnit Hellcat, I already told you! I?m not leaving you behind and that?s final,? Owen said angrily.

?Then what the hell are we going to do? You saw what he did to that semi back there. We?re no match for him in a fight.?

?Just? I don?t know? Just don?t shoot at him, and maybe he?ll leave us alone or something.?

?And just what makes you so sure that?s going to work??

?Well, he didn?t attack us back at that complex when he had the chance. Maybe if we just keep going he won?t shoot.? Owen said, but he had no idea if it would work.

?So he?s just going to chase us then, huh? We can?t run forever Owen. I?ve only got a quarter tank of gas left.?

?We?ll have to think of something then.?

?I?ve got nothing?? Colleen said.



Oni listened to their conversation using Redline Fox?s ears, then returned to Death Machine.

--Kill them now!--

?They will not fight me. I will not attack them.?

--You are mine. You will do what I say,-- Oni said. His frustration was almost palpable. No matter what he did, his rider still refused to attack someone that didn?t fire first. It was some residual part of Death Machine?s psyche that had remained intact, but even after months of work he still hadn?t found it.



Death Machine came within weapons range of the two cars, and slowed to match their speed. He fired a few tracers between them to entice them into firing back, but they didn?t respond. Several seconds later, a reply came back over the radio.

?I?m not going to fight you, man. We?re no threat to you. Just leave us alone. Please.? Owen said.

Before Death Machine could reply, Oni spoke. --He lies. They will try to kill you the first chance they get. Kill them now, before they can attack.--

?No.?

To further illustrate his refusal to attack them, Death Machine slowed to just beyond weapons range.

--I command you to attack! Destroy them!-- Oni was furious.

?They refuse to fight me. I cannot destroy them? Death Machine stated. Even he was unsure why he was resisting.

--Destroy them now or I will?--


WHAM!

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Postby Fnork » Mon Dec 15, 2003 5:07 pm

************Chapter 48**********


Oni?s eyes jerked open and he found himself laying spread eagle on the floor. He immediately jumped to his feet and drew his sword, thinking that some external force had attacked. Aside from the fact that all the members of his meditation circle were now lying on the floor gasping for breath, the room was exactly as it had been when he first entered. The door was still locked from the inside.


A single twenty millimeter shell had struck the Palomino in the roof and punched a hole through the floorboards on the passenger side. The unexpected attack startled Death Machine so much that Oni was forcibly blasted from his mind.

The abrupt loss of the mental link left Death Machine dazed and confused, and he slammed on the brakes. He skidded sideways several hundred feet before coming to a complete stop. He looked around slowly to determine the source of the attack, but couldn?t find it. The two cars he had been pursuing were already disappearing in the distance, but the attack didn?t come from them, because he would have seen it.

He stared after the cars as they disappeared over the horizon, but he could no longer remember why he had been chasing them. He wasn?t even sure where he was right now. The last thing he could remember was waking up from a bad dream to find himself outside a large complex. There was wreckage everywhere, and he saw three cars ahead of him. Two of them looked like the cars he had just been chasing, but where was the third? The only other thing he remembered was driving away from them at full speed. He turned the car around to go back the way he had come. Perhaps if he found that complex, he?d have some answers?



Owen kept checking his rearview mirror, still not believing what he just saw. One minute Death Machine was hot on their tail, the next he had slammed on his brakes and stopped. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity to escape, they had kept on going.

?Uh, Hellcat? what just happened?? Owen asked over the radio.

?I was just about to ask you the same thing,? Collen replied.

?I wonder what made him stop like?? he was cut off in mid-sentence by a roar that overpowered the sound of the Fiarello V-12. ?What the hell?!?

It was the sound of a powerful engine, and it was coming from directly above him. Owen leaned against the window and looked up. Hovering directly above him was a slate gray airplane, but not just any airplane. It was Fnork?s F-38 Reaper.

He picked up his radio, but a hundred different questions popped into his head and jumbled together into an unintelligible mess. The first ones that reached his lips were, ?Where the hell have you been? Why weren?t you at the airport??

?I couldn?t land with Death Machine waiting so close by.? Fnork stated in a flat tone.

?But how did you know he was??

?I can track him. You too, for that matter. When I detected him so close to your position, I knew I couldn?t land safely, so I stayed well out of range. I?ve been tracking you both since, and finally saw an opportunity, so here I am.?

The F-38 was starting to drift ahead of the Fiarello, and Owen saw that the flaps were partially deployed. They were travelling at a very high speed for a car, but it was very close to the stall speed of the plane.

?You can track him? How?? Owen asked.

?Ask me again sometime. This channel isn?t secure.?

?But??? Owen knew that there was a lot Fnork wasn?t telling him, but he also understood that it wasn?t a good idea to be discussing that sort of thing over an open frequency.

?Head on to Dante?s. You can regroup there.? Fnork said.

?But Dante?s store??

?I know, but he?ll be nearby, I assure you.?

?What about you? Do you want me to pick you up at the airport??

?No, it?s not safe there anymore. Don?t worry about me, I?ll catch up to you later. Goodbye for now, Owen.? Fnork said.

The sound from the twin engines dramatically increased in volume, and the plane accelerated up and away so quickly it made the cars look like they were standing still.


They arrived at the remains of Dante?s Inferno approximately twenty minutes later, and began searching the debris. Though they had driven by the previous day and saw that the building was destroyed, they had been unable to stop at the time. They didn?t expect to find much left in the ruins, but Owen hoped that Dante was somewhere close by, watching for anyone to return. He walked over to the burned out car to make a closer inspection, and his heart sank. Certain features of the frame identified it as a Picard Pirahna, and the blood red paint still visible on a few body panels could only mean one thing. It had been Redline?s car. After spending so much time painstakingly restoring it, it saddened him greatly to see it so casually destroyed. He let out a painful sigh, then scanned the horizons again in the hopes that Dante?s car would be approaching, but he didn?t see anything.


* * *


Three miles away, on the same plateau where he watched the Germans burn down his store, Dante stood watching through his binoculars. Two cars he didn?t recognize had pulled into the parking lot, and a tall man and a woman had started searching around. He thought that the tall man might be Owen, but at this distance it was impossible to tell. He turned to the small girl sitting in the passenger seat of his Phaedra Rattler, ?Blue Streak?.

?Well Jade, what do you think we should do? Want to head down there and hope they don?t kill us like everyone else seems to want to do??

She was playing with a small electronic game he had given her, and didn?t respond immediately. ?Can I look, Mr. Dante??

He handed her the binoculars, and said, ?Sure, knock yourself out.?

She had barely lifted them to her eyes, when she turned to Dante with an excited look on her face.

?Mommy!?

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49 and 50

Postby Fnork » Wed Dec 17, 2003 8:02 pm

*********Chapter 49*********


Wind gently buffeted the F-38 as Fnork continued circling in a wide arch about a thousand feet above Death Machine?s now stationary Palomino. Ever since Fnork had attacked, Death Machine had began driving erratically with no apparent purpose or destination. Having once again come to a complete stop, the Palomino?s lack of progress towards any goal frustrated Fnork. He could only stay airborne for so many hours. As opposed to his quarry which could simply stop, the Reaper?s endurance was measured in flight hours not mileage. The Palomino had parked under a lonely tree out in a sage brush laden field, and Fnork could still see the car?s paint reflecting sunlight through the tree?s sparse foliage. Fatigued from the constant watch, Fnork looked out the front of his warbird?s canopy and admired the expansive view he had of the surrounding mountain ranges separated by hilly valleys. The sun was beginning to dip behind the tallest peaks, even though it would be hours before nightfall fully set in, huge shadows fell across the hill, while clouds cast their own drifting forms against still bright mountain sides. Fnork felt that the only other person witnessing such a sight was god himself.

Glancing back towards the lonely tree, Fnork made sure Death Machine was still parked. He was. Fnork then looked off to his port side and traced his vision along the two lane highway that sliced the landscape in half. His eyes fell upon a small gas station, that had two pumps and small garage. He saw the silhouette of a pair of what looked like large black sedans, but from a thousand feet up and perhaps a half mile away he could not be sure. The cars had to be large for him to even be able to see them from such a distance. Numerous photographs of cars where taped to various sections of his cockpit, the names of the drivers written below them. Some had been kept inside the cockpit as reminders of notable kills, like the photo of the burgundy Sovereign with the name Stormbringer crossed out underneath it. Fnork smirked, as he always did when his eyes wandered over that photo. The only photos he had for large black cars, where of the federal issue Royale and Pheadra Queen E. Once more making sure Death Machine was still in place, Fnork decided to investigate the gas station. He had noticed the wreck of a federal Royale back at the site of the semi battle. Had Owen and this, Hellcat (the name reminded Fnork of the Navy aircraft from World War II), could they have been working with or against a federal agent?

Slowly he eased back on the throttle as he brought the Reaper down to just under five hundred feet. As the aircraft slowed, Fnork had to pay more attention to his throttle adjustments as the engines where barely generating enough thrust to punch through the air. Without a propeller and engine cowl directly in face, like most single engine piston driven aircraft had, he had a good view of the ground in front of him. He could clearly see a small fire pit with smoke rising up from it directly in the middle of the two parked sedans, as he roared overhead he quickly recognized the cars as a pair of top-of-the-line Morgen-Bernzes. They both had massive thirty millimeter cannons fixed on their roofs. He found this odd as such expensive luxury cars where rarely procured by creepers or vigilantes and the government sure as hell would never spend that much money on anything for their agents, especially not a foreign manufactured car.

His thoughts where jolted as he saw tracer fire in front of him. He instinctively applied full throttle to both super-charged engines and pulled back on the flight yoke. With a groan of protest from the sheet-metal the aircraft shot skyward as Fnork heard whum-chat-whum-chat and pating-patinga, tell-tale sounds that he had taken hits while other rounds and skimmed off the Reaper?s ventral armor. A lesser pilot would have cursed and perhaps punched something in the cockpit, but Fnork remained frosty and calmly continued to climb as he searched for the source of the tracer fire that continued following him upwards. Sitting off in the field adjacent to the gas station was a small sports car, while another one was coming down the road. The one on the road slammed on it?s brakes so that the gunner would have a more stable platform to continue firing from.

He leveled off as he found enough altitude and distance to be safely out of range. These where defiantly not federal agents or creepers, Fnork?s logical conclusion was that they where working for the man who was controlling Death Machine. If that was the case, then Fnork thought he should do something about it. Dante?s Inferno was only fifteen miles away and the battle group below him was probably waiting to ambush anyone who had gone back to the store. Even if he was going against Ax-L?s prophecy, he had to take them out. Confidently he swooped down in a gradual turn in order to make an attack run on the pair of sports cars.

Both of the Messernachts had been doing their best to chase him down, but where surprised to see the Reaper heading back towards them. Inside the passenger/gunner seat of the leading Messernacht, the German adjusted the tracking on his optical targeting device as the aircraft approached low and fast.

Fnork squeezed off his machine guns as the cars came into range, they immediately took evasive maneuvers, and began firing back. Line after line of white-hot tracer fire streaked past the Reaper. A few shots went between the fuselage and forked tail section, but missed or had lost to much velocity to be effective. But Fnork could not hit the nimble sports cars as they dashed out of his cross-hairs. He pulled back on the flight wheel and once again rose into the sky, with the Messernachts continuing to fire back.

If the Messernachts stopped, they would have a more stable shot, but would also give Fnork a clear shot. He had to assume they where smart enough to keep moving, and if that was the case, this could quickly become a stalemate. He suddenly noticed that Death Machine was moving again.

?Bastards!? He said between clamped teeth.

The Palomino was heading deeper into the desert, but Fnork was doubtful any of the cars below had picked it up on radar. Checking his fuel load made him suddenly feel impatient. Checking for damage the Reaper?s wings pitched left and right, everything seemed all right except for a slightly sluggish roll response.

?Come on Lightfoot, wake up.? Fnork said as he eased into a comfortable pursuit pattern.

Already forgotten by the Messernachts, Fnork hoped that his friends where prepared.

The parked sedans which had begun moving towards Dante?s Inferno where quickly rejoined by their escorts.



**********Chapter 50***********


Fumes from the small plastic gasoline can made the little girl wrinkle her nose. A few drops of fuel ran down dark blue paint.

?Careful sweetheart, don?t spill any.? Colleen said warmly.

?Oh, I, oh sorry mommy.?

Colleen finished helping her daughter empty the contents of the gas can into the Catamount?s filler neck. There had been less then a gallon left in the container when she found it laying in the parking lot, but right now every drop of fuel she could scavenge was critical.

?All gone...? the child said with a mix of disappointment and satisfaction with a job finished.

Colleen took the gas can from her and placed it on the ground. She looked into her daughter?s eyes and felt as if tears would well up again in her own. Colleen held up her hands, palms facing towards the child who in turn played an impromptu patty cake until her mother grasped the child?s small hands tightly and pushed gently.

?You ok mommy??

?Yeah...? Colleen smiled, ?Yeah, I?m okay Razi.?

Owen had been leaning on the Fiarello?s hood talking with Dante and his niece Jessie. He overheard Colleen use what he thought was Jade?s real name.

?Her name is Razi?? Owen blurted out.

Colleen stood up and shook her head patiently while still holding her daughter?s hand.

?No, that is the nickname that her grandmother gave her,? she paused. ?No one needs to know her real name, you understand Owen? So, if you want to call her Jade for now, then go ahead.?

With a shrug Owen?s curiosity waned. He thought about saying something flirtatious to Colleen but felt it an inappropriate time with her daughter present. He instructed Dante to continuing telling him what happened to his store. Visibly distraught, Dante explained that it was the same group of Germans that had taken Redline Fox and killed Snake. The next day, not long after he had finished packing Snake into a temporary grave that was insulated so his body would be kept cold until he could be buried properly, he saw the battle group returning on one of his security cameras that he had mounted a few miles up the road from his store. Knowing they would be looking for a fight, Dante decided he had no choice but to escape into the hills until they had finished destroying his store and went away. All of this was made worse by the fact that, as Dante continued to emphasize, he wasn?t even supposed to be working that day.

Owen could not help but find Dante?s flustered story telling amusing, ?Ok, but look at it this way man, if you had not been there, who would have? Not someone that could have gotten Jade...err..Razi...out safely I bet.?

More used to receiving insults then compliments, Dante looked back at his pristine Rattler and then at the charred wreck that used to be his store. He signed, his body language indicating that he accepted Owen?s kind words.

Dante said, ?So what is the deal with this Fed you?ve got? And, I still don?t understand what happened to Redline Fox? Are you sure he?s all right??

Owen looked behind him through the Fiarello?s windshield where Redline was still strapped motionless in the passengers seat. He turned back to Dante and shook his head.

?I already told you all that?s happened man, I can?t explain it any better if I don?t know myself.?

Jessie said thoughtfully, ?Have you considered giving him any medicine or water??

?No, well, yeah I tried giving him some water but he wouldn?t swallow it. He just started foaming like he had rabies or some damn thing and we can?t give him any medication, for the same reason...?

Owen noticed that Jade had been looking at the Fiarello for the last few minutes, Colleen was asking her what she was looking at.

?He?s goin, maybe wake up soon.? Jade stated.

Everyone looked at each other while Jade?s mother kneeled down next to her and asked her if she was sure about that.

?Maybe, he is trying to not be sick.?

Owen stared with his mouth open, ?What? How could she know? Is...??

Puzzle pieces started falling into place in his mind and he realized why everyone was after the child. With everything moving so fast, he just never had the time he needed to take all of the factors into consideration until now.

?She? She can do all of that crazy mind stuff? Like Cole??

In the passenger seat of the Catamount, Agent Cole was stirring, he opened his door and stepped out. Still finding it arduous to stand up straight, he just leaned against the Catamount and stared across the hood.

?No, not like Cole! My daughter is not a programmed robot!?

Agent Cole raised his eyebrow at the comment but remained silent.

?Ok, ok, I apologize Colleen...sorry...?

?No, its, I know you didn?t mean that, but just the thought of the insinuation alone...?

?Mommy??

Colleen knelt down.

?Yes? What it is sweetheart??

?Mr. Fox is going to be very angry when he wakes up...?

Cole watched Colleen, who looked up at Owen, who in turn looked back into the Fiarello. If Redline Fox was going to wake up from his drug induced coma, then Cole would need to be ready to use that as an distraction in order for him to make his next move. It troubled him though, that the child seemed to know what was going on inside Redline Fox?s mind. He had his own suspicions that someone was attempting to influence Redline, but Cole?s own abilities where not advanced enough for him to know who or exactly how. If it was Akihido Tan, Oni, then how?

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Area 51

Postby Fnork » Fri Dec 19, 2003 3:18 pm

**********Chapter 51**********


The F-38 Reaper touched down at a small military base and taxied to one of the secondary hangars. The propellers slowed to a halt as a ground crew carefully pushed the plane into an empty space at the end of a row of J-4 Ghosts and chocked the wheels.

Fnork was in a foul mood as he climbed down the retractable ladder. It wasn?t because he had run low on fuel and could no longer follow Death Machine. He could pick that trail back up at any time, thanks to the homing device that Ax-L had been secretly building into the Palominos for years. Most of the people who had served as Death Machine never knew about it, and the current one was no different. He wasn?t in the bad mood because of the pack of German cars either, or the fact that they had taken a few shots at his plane. Even with their unusually accurate turrets, they were never much of a threat. The damage they could have inflicted was minimal, an annoyance at best.

Fnork?s bad mood was, in fact, because he should never have allowed himself to get into a position where they had a shot in the first place. He had been so focused on stalking Death Machine that he had neglected his two greatest assets: speed and altitude. Low and slow was the worst possible place a fighter aircraft could be, but that was exactly where he had put himself. He shook his head in disgust.

The accuracy of those turrets was another matter entirely. They were certainly not automated turrets, because those required an active lock on the target, and even then they were horribly inaccurate against moving targets. There was little chance of hitting a car moving at 60mph, much less a plane passing over at more than 200. That meant the turrets on those Messernachts were being controlled by someone inside the car. The high tracking rate ruled out a camera and video screen setup, which left one option: helmet mounted optics, not unlike those built into the mask of Death worn by Lightfoot. The inherent flaw of such a system was that it was limited by the operator himself. A human being sitting down in the seat of a car can only turn their head so fast and so far, which meant there was a considerable dead zone that the turret could not easily reach.

The next time he encountered those German cars, if there was a next time, he would be prepared. He grinned wickedly as he approached the base commander?s office and stepped inside.


Fnork had been forced to call in a few old favors to get permission to land here, but as he was no longer willing to risk leaving his plane in an unsecured location, he didn?t have any other choice. In an ironic twist, this was also the last place the Reaper had been stationed before being retired from military service almost forty years earlier. It had been scheduled to be stripped down and taken to a salvage yard when Fnork happened upon it. He had saved the base commander?s life several months earlier from an unprovoked creeper attack, so the commander had been willing to let the aircraft go for a mere fraction of what it originally cost the government to build. Instead of sending it to the scrap heap, Fnork had it shipped North to Wisconsin where he had it restored and repainted. Now, years later, the warbird had returned to its old roost.

Several minutes later, after they had agreed on a deal to have to plane repaired, refueled and loaded with several underwing racks of anti-tank rockets, Fnork left the office and made his way to the parking lot.

An average sized man with a brightly colored shirt stood looking extremely bored next to a compact car painted to resemble an old Japanese Rising Sun flag. The armed soldiers at the gate eyed him suspiciously, and only momentarily glanced up at Fnork before returning their gazes to the unknown man. It was against base policy for armed civilians to be allowed inside, but the base commander had given special permission after Fnork repeatedly assured him the man would cause no trouble. His ABX Strider carried no visible weapons, but holstered to the man?s waist was a large handgun gun that had been so heavily modified that its original make was impossible to identify.

Fnork approached, shook the man?s hand, and said, ?I didn?t think you would show up.?

The man shrugged, ?It?s not like I had anything better to do. Now let?s get out of here before I have to shoot some of these grunts. They?re staring at me like I?ve got the plague or something.? He made a fake lunge at the nearest soldier, who nervously clutched his gun and took a step back.

Mustardfoot let out a cynical laugh, then he and Fnork climbed into the car. The guards were relieved to see that he was leaving, and had the main gate open well before they reached it.

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Postby Fnork » Mon Dec 22, 2003 3:34 pm

**********Chapter 52*********


After having been thrown from Death Machine?s mind, Oni had frantically began attempting to reestablish his meditation circle. Without anyone in control over the horseman?s reigns, his behavior could become completely unpredictable. But now the circle had rejoined. Oni had trained them all very well and he was satisfied with their focus. He was confident that the anchor he had established in Death Machine?s mind was secure, but he had to give his circle time to create a safe pathway, for Death Machine?s mind was chaotic. Sitting down on a soft pillow, Oni breathed in the scent of burning oils. In front of him on a small alter was a burning candle floating in a bowl of water. He had put more personal effort into influencing Redline Fox, so even if the toxin had worn off, he would still be able to project his will over the kitsune without help from the circle. Death Machine was just a means to an end, expendable just like everything else. But Redline Fox could be his pet, and it was much more satisfying toying with him than with Death Machine whose mind was already degraded. If they had found the girl, then Oni would soon know where she was. He focused, drifting inwardly into his mind. Momentarily flashes of light where followed by the vastness of the void all around him. All that existed besides himself, was two small swirling vortexes, part of the anchors that he had created in the minds of his targets.


* * *


Impatiently the fox trotted back and forth near the lake?s edge. Above, the fog still hung thick and motionless. He should be ready soon, but there was still the very likely chance that whatever he was finding in himself was to much for him to handle. If that was the case, then he may not be able to escape his subconscious in time to save himself from the demon?s influence. She felt an ominous presence lingering nearby and stopped pacing. On the opposite bank of the lake stood the demon?s anchor. A part of Oni?s spiritual essence that had been secured in Redline Fox?s mind, which manifested itself as simply a mirror image of Oni himself.

The fox flattened her ears back and growled, ?Not belong here do you!?

The image of Oni did not respond. Instead it looked around, as if trying to discern where it was. As Oni had not been projecting himself in Redline?s mind for very long, Oni had not yet explored to entirety of his target?s mind. With her fur bristled the fox considered that if the anchor was exploring on its own, then it must be acting as a recording device as well. As it was part of Oni, it had the same motivations, but lacked desire or reason for its actions.

?You will leave this place now! That you will!? She commanded.

But again, the image gave no response. Without Oni?s direct focus, his anchor was nothing more then a program running a routine. That did not make it any less dangerous, and the fact that it had found Redline?s subconscious was unsettling. Oni could never break through the barrier, the lake?s surface, but that would not matter if he simply seized control of Redline?s mind and chained his spirit.

As a guide, she could not destroy the anchor, not like this. Only by entering into someone else?s mind could she attack, and if Oni had given her the chance she would have extracted her own vengeance but that opportunity had never arisen. She watched as the anchor continued looking around. It was infuriating. She had to do something, even if that meant causing damage to Redline Fox?s mind. Even if it killed him, that would at least end this disgusting insult.

Oni?s anchor had stepped to the edge of the lake, and it stopped just before taking a step onto the surface. It looked across at the furious spirit guide and smiled.

The fox narrowed her eyes. This had gone on long enough. Her image began to blur and rolling waves of heat were rising from the ground she stood on.

?I apologize...? She thought, knowing that Redline Fox probably could not hear her anyway.

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Postby Fnork » Tue Dec 23, 2003 1:38 pm

***********Chapter 53**********


Thunder rolled across the fog above the valley and the ground rumbled angrily. Oni?s anchor had been focused taunting the spirit guide across the lake, but its attention was suddenly turned to the rising noise. At its feet, the snow was melting. The fox herself was surprised, but she smiled knowingly, relived. The lake?s glassy surface exploded upwards like a geyser, an ascension of incandescent cascading crystal that absorbed the light refracting and reflecting off the translucent surface into a swirling cyclonic mass.

Unprepared for any complications with maintaining control over the target, Oni?s anchor began taking steps back from the unanticipated scene. This was not a consequence of anything that Oni had instructed. The anchor looked down and saw a hand protruding from it?s chest. A heavy blow forced the image of Oni forward as the hand retracted back into and out of its body. Emotionless, it turned around in order to locate the complication. Behind him holding an indigo orb in his hand was Redline Fox.

Five balls of amber-gold light floated in patterns around Redline Fox?s body, his eyes burned with rage as he slowly applied pressure to the small indigo orb in his hand. Cracks appeared on the orb?s surface and the image of Oni?s anchor began disintegrating at the edges of its form.

?Oni!? Redline Fox growled.

Oni watched as the vortex that connected him to his anchor began to deform and collapse. He could do nothing but watch and listen. Attempting to project his will over the target now would prove too dangerous. Attempting to maintain his link, Oni chanted a desperate incantation, but could not maintain his focus.

Oni sneered, ?Kitsune...?

His target?s voice boomed in his ears.

?A promise is solemn, binding the parties involved until that promise has been full-filled. Honor dictates that the one whom was given the promise welcome that time when payment is rendered. Yet, this insult, has given me course to increase your reward. Not only will you have the honor of being killed by me, but I will personally escort you to the gates of hell.?

Oni felt a sudden pull of energy, then the flow reversed back on him. He yelled his angry frustration into the void around him.

When Redline Fox crushed the indigo orb in his hand, the image of Oni?s anchor distorted grotesquely as it imploded with nil a sound. Smoke swirled around the space where the image had once been. The cyclic storm collapsed back into the lake which instantly reformed into its former smooth surface. Overhead in the fog, thunder and lightning rumbled and cracked the sky. Everything began spinning and phasing between two fields of images. He saw the fox running up towards him, the mountains, a prancing horse emblem blazed on a dashboard, and muffled voices. Anything that could happen at once seemed to be happening right now. It felt like he was going to fall into the sky. An uncomfortable pressure circumferenced his head.

?You are going to wake up!? The fox slid to a stop in front of him, ?Can you hear me? You need to calm down!?

It felt like he was being torn apart and pressed together at the same time. The boiling storm above shook the valley, water flowed down from the mountain sides as snow continued melting.

?Pouncer, what, is happening, I still feel Oni?s presence!?? Redline Fox gnashed his teeth trying not to scream.

?I know, you must kill him! If not, the imprint of his spirit will forever linger in yours and poison both of you!? The fox was frantic and tried to say it as simply as possible. ?Do you hear me? Do you hear me!?


With a tortured roar Redline Fox closed his eyes and fell to his knees.

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54

Postby Fnork » Tue Dec 23, 2003 10:37 pm

*********Chapter 54***********


Coarse warm pavement scratched against the palms of Redline Fox?s hands as he fell out of the Fiarello and forcefully vomited. He heard the sound of a voice he trusted but could not make out any words. All he could do was choke and cough between surges of intense nausea. Everyone had heard him screaming and was now standing looking down at him. Owen had undone the straps holding Redline Fox down as he had managed to rip one of them off as it was clear that keeping him bound would have proven more of a danger then letting him get out of the car.

Owen had his hand on Redline?s back, ?Fox? Fox are you ok man? Come on, just relax ok.?

Knowing that once Redline Fox came to his senses that she may have to confront him about the past, Colleen sighed, relived that he was awake but worried about what he would say.

?He needs to eat something, I?ve got some food and water in my car.? She said casually then walked towards her Catamount.

?Ok,? Owen said.

He noticed that Cole was standing at a distance behind Dante and Jessie. Jade clung to Jessie?s pant leg, peeking out from behind.

?Hey, Cole. Is he going to be all right??

The agent took a moment to consider then nodded.

Cole said coolly, ?Yes. His body is ridding itself of the toxin.?

Owen did not like Cole?s change in demeanor. Perhaps it was just a result of having been almost killed in the ambush, but regardless, trusting him at all had always been in question. Giving one last strained heave, Redline Fox was finally able to stop vomiting, though he continued to choke on residual fluid in his throat. Owen patted him hard on the back, doing what he thought could be helpful.

Meanwhile, Colleen had been rummaging around the interior of her car, trying to find a canteen of water. A military ration pack was in her free hand as she opened the center console and found a canteen wedged next to the cradle for her stun-gun and a few shot-gun shells. She almost closed the compartment before realizing that the stun-gun was missing. Carefully she traced back all of her actions since the last time she checked it this morning. She was sure it had been put away properly, but... how could she have, lost it. Then?

?God damn it! Cole!?

As she pulled herself out of the car, she heard someone cry out in pain, then a shrill scream. Colleen drawled her gun and the barrel immediately locked onto Cole?s head. He was pointing his own gun back at her, and even with his shattered arm in a sling, he held the gun steady. With his other hand, he held Jade?s arm tightly as the child tried to pull herself away from him, tears rolling down her face. At Cole?s feet was Colleen?s stun-gun. Dante was on the ground after having been shocked from behind, and Jessie was bent over him trying to make sure he was still alive.

?Cole you fucking bastard! Let her go or I?ll blow your shit-eating head off!? Colleen threatened.

Quickly Cole swung his gun in Owen?s direction, he winced from the pain in his arm as he did so. Owen had drawn his own gun ready to take a shot. Cole measured the situation as the child continued trying to yank away from him.

?If either of you miss, you could hurt the child.?

Owen spat back, ?If you hurt that kid, you?ll be dead ten times before you hit the ground.?

?No one needs to get hurt.? He clicked the trigger back on his Glock. ?But, I?m willing to make an exception in your case, so just calm down cowboy.?

Owen looked down at Redline Fox who was still so out of it that he could not even figure out where he was. Owen was a good shot, he had to do something, Cole was dragging Jade back towards Dante?s Rattler. He now had some cover, making a shot even more difficult. But Owen suddenly felt himself feel day-dreamy, but no thought of particular interest passed through his mind. A momentary lapse of concentration was ended with the sound of gun shots. Cole had played another mind trick on him.

Booming pops came out of both of the Catamount?s driver side tires. Cole had shot the tires flat while pushing Jade into ?Blue Streak?. In a smooth practiced motion, Cole allowed the ammo clip to fall out of his gun as he reloaded another clip into it. He then pointed the gun at Owen and fired five quick shots, four of which hit Owen square in the chest and knocked him backwards to the ground. Cole slammed the door and found the keys in the ignition, which he had watched Dante leave in the car earlier. He applied full throttle, the engine?s torque instantly snapped the little car around one-hundred-eighty degrees, and the tires left a pair of thick one hundred foot long skid marks as Cole rocketed away.

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And here it is... 20 minutes early!

Postby Fnork » Wed Dec 24, 2003 8:41 pm

********Chapter 55********

Owen had stopped breathing, he stared up at the sky, comprehending the fact that he had just been shot. He had been shot few times before, once he had even been shot twice, but never four at once. There was no sensation of pain, which seemed odd, because at least one bullet should have hurt. He could feel the warm pavement on his back soaking through his shirt. Colleen suddenly appeared looking down at him with contempt.

?You?re fine! He shot you with rubber bullets, get up and help me!?

He felt around his chest as he sat up. A the points the bullets had hit him, he felt a pinch, but she was right, there was no blood and he felt fine.

?Oh shit, shit...? Owen was still shaken. ?Let me catch my breath.?

Colleen gave him a dirty look then walked towards her car, where she had already removed the roadside jack and spare tire. Considering that her child had just been kidnapped, Owen could not blame her for having checked on her car before checking on him. She started jacking up the rear of the car at breakneck pace. The tire was already off by the time Owen managed to stand up and walk over to help.

Without looking she barked out an order, ?Go check that burned out ?Ranha! I only have one spare, that car should have the same size, if any of the tires are salvageable!?

?Colleen, you can?t catch them with your Cat...?

?Go check the fucking car for a tire!?

Owen ceased arguing with her. He felt horrible about what had just happened. Even if he gave chase with the Fiarello, running down ?Blue Streak? would take more time then he had gas in the tank. But, he couldn?t tell Colleen not to pursue; it was her child, and no logic was more powerful then maternal instinct. After he checked with Jessie and made sure she was kepping watch over Dante and Redline Fox, he then went over to the scorched frame of what used to be his friend?s car. It still pained him to look at it, and with Redline Fox having had to go through so much recently, this would only cause more pain. He noticed that the rear of the car had faired better then the rest. Owen recalled his friend had been having trouble with the new model fire-droppers that had been introduced. Fox had developed a habit, in hectic situations, of accidentally running over his own fire shortly after releasing it. Being that the fire dropper had always been one of Redline Fox?s favorite weapons, instead of getting rid of it he had installed some fire-proofing under the rear of the car until he got used to the new systems. That was years ago, but, low and behold both rear-tires had survived the blaze. Redline must have thought that removing the fire resistant material was more trouble then it was worth. For once, that stubbornness had proven fortunate.

In short order, Owen had managed to remove one of the rear-wheels and rolled it over to Colleen. She mounted the wheel and tightened the lug-nuts in under half a minute. After lowering the car off the roadjack, she kicked the jack away and got into her car.

?Colleen, you?re almost out of fuel, I...? Owen felt like a complete jack-ass trying to talk sense into her. ?...I understand how you feel but, you can?t catch them like this.?

She paid no head to his words. As soon as the Catamount?s 429 had roared to life, she pulled away and headed in the direction that Cole had fled. Owen kicked the ground.

?Damn it!?

He immediately turned and sprinted back towards Jessie and the others while wiping grime from the tire off his hands with his shirt. Dante had come to, but was still shaken from being electrocuted with the stun-gun. He did manage to speak a continuous flow of obscenities while Jessie shook her head in distress. Leaning against the Fiarello, Redline Fox would cough sporadically between shakes. Quickly Owen dug under the passenger seat and removed a blanket, he practically threw it on top of Redline Fox then moved him away from the car.

Jessie asked, ?Is he going to be all right? What should I do??

?I can?t deal with that right now!? Owen shot back. ?Just make sure he doesn?t do anything stupid.?



*********Chapter 56*********


Owen climbed through the passenger side of the car and into the driver?s seat. Without even shutting the door, he pulled away, and the door slammed shut from the force of the acceleration. Glancing in his rear-view mirror he noticed Dante getting to his feet and shaking his fist, while Jessie moved Redline Fox to a safer location away from the burned out store?s parking lot. The little Italian sports car was pushing a buck forty by the time the radar finally picked up a tone. He could not see the dark blue Catamount yet, but he was starting to catch up. What could he do once he caught her? Nothing, Owen thought. He would just have to hope she ran out of gas.

Up ahead he caught sight of the glare from sunlight reflecting off the Catamount?s chrome bumper. Beep-Beep. Distracted with his thoughts, Owen did not notice the first two radar warnings. Beep-Beep, the second pair caught his attention and when he looked at the screen he saw four blips approaching from directly ahead of him.

?Oh hell, I hope they are friendly...?

Flashing light and contrails confirmed otherwise. There was no distress call over the CB however until he was right on top of the hornet?s nest. He saw a pair of missiles streak from the front of the Catamount, loop into the air and then dive at a pair of huge black sedans. Both missiles found their mark and exploded in a smoky black fireball in front of each sedan. Owen?s first thought was that whoever had just attacked Colleen had made a big mistake. Colleen?s voice came over the CB at the same instance both big sedans drove out of the smoke unharmed.

?That?ll give them something to think about, but it?s not going to stop them! Owen, watch your ass, two fast movers are trying to flank you!?

He was about to reach for the CB and respond, but saw in his peripheral vision two small jet-black Messernachts zeroing in on him from each side of the road. Owen slammed down the accelerator as the turrets on top of the Messernachts swung in his direction. Leading their shots, they fired in front of Owen so as he pulled away, he drove directly into the line of fire. Bullets tore into the Fiarello along the entire length of both it?s sides, but having quickly realized what was happening Owen slammed on his brakes and purposefully fishtailed the car. While laying down a thick wall of fire, he spun the car into a one-eighty as the Messernachts over-shot and passed him. A few quick bursts from the Fiarello?s lasers completely missed. Hitting such small fast moving targets with lasers was difficult enough, when they where this accurate with their own guns it could be almost impossible without taking a good deal of damage. As he accelerated back in the opposite direction to put some distance between him and the Messernachts, he continued laying down fire hoping it would provide a distraction. More rap-rapt against the car indicated that the Messernachts where not being fooled.

Meanwhile Colleen, who was well aware of the Morgen-Bernz defensive superiority, had been carefully dodging shots from the 30mm cannons, which cracked the air as they streaked by her car. Driving through the shrub laden field into the setting sun was providing her with a minimum amount of extra help, but as soon as she made a movement to attack, the Germans would find her range and narrowly miss. Flipping a safety switch on her dashboard, she pressed the button for her mine dropper, a whir-click indicated the mine had deployed. She looked back to see what would happen. The leading Bernz drove directly towards the mine and it exploded about six feet in front of the car, the big sedan bottomed out in the hole it had created, but regained it?s balance. A bright orange light on her fuel gauge stared at her in warning. She flipped a switch above her and pressed the CB?s optional talk button which was on top of the hand-brake lever.

?Hellcat to Owen, come back!?

When Owen replied she could hear clearly hear gunfire, ?Holy shit, Hellcat these guys got, kind of damn super accurate turrets! Closed the distance, so they can?t line up a shot, but this car isn?t designed to bounce off other cars!?

A loud whaawummp! over the CB was indication of Owen sideswiping one of the Messernachts. Then the Fiarello?s engine sounded like it suddenly died then refired.

?We need to switch targets Owen. Disengage from the Messers and head straight towards my location, be prepared to evade then attack the heavies with your lasers got it??

?Yeah yeah, any plan is a good plan right now! I?m getting hit with a swam of karpoons, what the hell!? Owen replied.

Colleen swung her car around and headed back towards the highway, as she did so she dropped more mines behind her. They might not do any damage to the shielded sedans, but the holes they?d blow in the ground would provide the Germans with another obstacle when the electromagnetic shield touched one off. Loud explosions went off behind her as she scanned the horizon for the Fiarello. Her car leaned from left to right as she zigzagged to avoid taking a 30mm shell in the ass.

?Alright, Hellcat I see you, I hope this isn?t one of those wait and see plans!?

She spotted the Fiarello a moment after Owen had spotted her, the low slung car had a very small profile compared to the full-size Catamount. Going up against Messernachts, that advantage of maneuverability and speed was essentially nullified.

?Owen. Drive right at me, on my mark turn away to your left, then attack the sedans behind me. Got it??

?Roger!?

Dust billowed up in a thick brown-yellow cloud behind both cars as they approached each other head on. The Catamount floated over the bumps. Fighting for traction as Colleen applied more throttle, the car leapt forward like a predator homing in on it?s prey.

?Move!? Colleen shouted into the CB.


*********Chapter 57********


Ahead of her, the Fiarello aggressively dug its tires into the soft yielding earth and dove away to the side sending up a wall of dirt and rocks that dinged against the Catamount as Colleen fired off round after round of Fire-Tru rockets into the cloud of dust. Light dimmed as the view out of the front windshield vanished. Rockets exploded everywhere and the distinct sound of flat-six turbo-charged engines howled past her. She caught a glimpse of one of the Messernachts as it barely missed colliding with her driver?s side door. The Catamount roared out of the cloud of dust and immediately began turning back towards the same Messernacht she that had barely missed. It had veered off in the general direction of Owen but slowed to a crawl, the driver apparently having been spooked. She heard a frightening knock from the engine; she was about to run out of fuel. She couldn?t see the other Messernacht, but she could see Owen moving to attack the large sedans. A pair of brilliant red beams lanced out from the little car?s front end, and the Messernacht in front of her swung its turret in Owen?s direction. Without giving it another thought, Colleen allowed the last drops of gasoline to settle out of the gas tank?s bafflers, then nailed the throttle.

Both occupants of the Messernacht where yelling at each other to hurry up and take out the Fiarello before it attacked the sedans. The gunner was accusing the driver of foolish driving while the driver accused the gunner of being as blind as a soccer referee. Neither saw the dark blue Quicksilver Catamount until it had plowed into the front of their car, even then, all hey saw was a flash of blue then darkness.

The left front of Colleen?s car slammed into the Messernacht?s front quarter panel crushing the bonnet like a soda can. What two-plus tons of Detroit iron did not instantly shatter, was twisted and bent along with the unibody as the Catamount drove through and over top of the Messernacht?s sloping front end. Suspension components scattered in all directions along with a wide performance tire still attached to its wheel. The Messernacht had its fuel tank mounted up front, and this too was wrenched free from the force of the impact. It caught fire as it went airborne and continued smoldering once it landed. The angle of the ram sent the Catamount up on two wheels, almost flipping it completely over before it came crashing down on its suspension. Clunking to a stop, the car?s fuel ran dry.

Owen saw the terrible collision out of the corner of his eye, but ignored it as he slid the Fiarello sideways while firing intermittent laser bursts into one of the big black German sedans. His shots where searing the thick armor plating, but had not been concentrated enough to punch through. He continued maneuvering around the sedans, being sure to keep close enough to prevent them from lining up an advantageous shot from the massive cannons. He searched around, making sure the other Messernacht was not on his ass. Tracing a cloud of white smoke he found it and noticed that the smoke was pouring out the rear of the car. In a Messernacht , the engine was mounted in the rear. Colleen?s rocket attack had caught the enemy off guard, but if that Messernacht recovered he would be in big trouble.

Both big sedans desperately tried to repel the Fiarello. The shields where useless against lasers, something they never expected some common vigilante would have. Of course, neither Owen nor the Fiarello was ordinary, something that they could never have been prepared for. One of the sedans suddenly turned away and headed back towards the road. Owen instantly locked onto the fleeing car, but was forced to disengage when shots from the other sedan began coming too close for comfort. He turned the wheel gently and applied more throttle sending the car into a wide drift back towards the second sedan. Grime and sweat on his finger tips made adjusting the calibration on the lasers a frantic action. He saw a light indicating he was locked onto his target, though of course a laser did not exactly lock and the slightest deviation would throw the whole damn angle off.

?The hell with it! How about some hot chocolate!?

He fired both lasers at once, and the beams struck the car at the point where the hood was connected to the front windshield frame. Heat deformed then burst the windshield. It continued busting window glass as twin rays of light focused into a single beam and sliced the sedan?s roof off from front to back. Blood gushed everywhere as the two occupants had their heads severed by the laser beam.

A quick glance at the radar showed Owen that the two remaining enemies where fleeing. He looked towards the road and indeed, the big sedan and wounded Messernacht where disengaging. Chasing them down entered his mind, but with Colleen?s car down and the Fiarello not doing well on gas either, he quickly dropped the thought. He tried radioing his comrade over the CB but she did not answer. He was worried the impact could have knocked her out. The Catamount itself looked driveable but that did not mean she was uninjured. Owen parked next to her car and leaned out his driver?s side window.

He called over to her, ?Hey! Colleen, are you alright! Hey!?

She slowly turned and looked at him. She shook her head and opened her car door.

?No, I am not all right.?

Owen was about to ask her what sort of injury she had, then realized her thoughts were with her daughter. Not sure what to say, Owen attempted to be pragmatic.

?Ok, Colleen, get in, there is a gas station just up the road. I?m sure we can find a can to bring back to your car, then we can drive back so you can fill up.?

She did not say anything or make a motion to get out of her car.

?Come on, I don?t think it is safe for you to stay here by yourself.?

With a deep breath she shut her door and put the window down. Draping her arm out the window she just looked up at the ceiling of her car.

?I?ll be waiting right here, go get the gas kid, be quick about it.? She said without much emotion.

Looking down then back at her, Owen relented and drove off toward the gas station up the road. With the late day sun pouring into her front window, Colleen closed her eyes and felt the last warm rays of light against her face. She attempted to suppress tears, but they came anyway, intensifying the light?s burning ether against her eyelids.


*********Chapter 58*********


Owen was on his way back with a portable gas tank, when a single blip on his radar screen caught his attention. He stared at the screen for a few seconds, then realized it was within a half mile of where he had left Colleen, and wasn?t moving. He got a bad feeling in his gut, and pressed harder on the gas pedal. He was still at least a minute or two away from her position.

Colleen opened her eyes in response to a cold metal object pressing against her left shoulder. She turned slowly, and came face to face with a German man pointing an AK-47 at her. His face was covered in blood and bruises, and he appeared to have had several teeth knocked out.

?Out of ze car, fraulein!? he screamed at her, as blood leaked from the side of his mouth.

She stared him down for a moment, then said in a flat tone, ?Where is my daughter??

?I said get out of ze car! Now!? he said, then poked her hard with the barrel of the gun.

Colleen let out a sigh, then slowly climbed out. As she stood up, she saw a faint trail of blood leading from the wrecked Messernact to the man?s position.

?Hanz in ze air!? He jammed the point of the AK-47 into her back, and with his free hand removed her gun from its holster. He tossed her gun over his shoulder, and clamped his hand around the back of her neck. She was so distraught over the recent loss of her daughter that she didn?t put up any resistance. His grip tightened slightly, and part of her wished that he would kill her, just to make the pain she felt go away.

She choked back more tears, and asked in a quiet voice, ?Where is my daughter??

?She is?? the man started to reply, but was cut off by the sound of a powerful engine approaching at high speed.

A pitch black Fiarello quickly closed on their position and skidded to a stop with its nose pointed directly at the pair.

?Let her go, you fuckin? Commie!? Owen yelled as he jumped out of the car with his gun drawn. He lined up for a shot, but the German turned Colleen to use her as a shield.

?No, you drop ze gun and back avay from ze car, or she diez!?

Owen hesitantly started to lower his gun, when he heard a muffled thump. The German?s grip abruptly released Colleen?s neck, and he dropped to the ground, dead.

Colleen spun around to see what had happened to the man, and saw a hole in the center of his forehead where a single bullet had pierced his skull. She turned back to Owen, thinking he had made some sort of miraculous shot, but the confused look on his face told her that it hadn?t come from him. They both looked around to try to find the sniper, when Owen caught a glimpse of the Fiarello?s radar screen. The single blip he saw earlier had started moving toward their position. He looked in the direction indicated by the screen, and spotted a red and white ABX Strider moving quickly in their direction.

The car stopped about thirty feet away and a man dressed in a bright orange shirt stepped out. He was holding a large handgun, which was pointed directly at Owen, who had his own gun pointed back.

A passenger started to get out of the Strider, and in the split second that Owen?s attention was diverted, the man fired. Owen felt a sharp pain in his gun hand, and his weapon leapt away. Colleen reached for the German?s machine gun, but a second shot knocked it out of her reach. Owen looked at his hand, and realized that aside from a painful stinging sensation, he was unhurt.

The passenger ran around the car, ripped the gun out of the other?s hand, and yelled, ?Damn it Musty! I told you not to shoot them!? It was Fnork.

?Ye-ouch! What the hell??? Owen swore, and shook his hand to numb the pain.

Mustardfoot turned to Fnork, looking hurt. ?The best way to get the measure of a man is to shoot him.? He shrugged.

Fnork ignored the comment, and turned to Owen and Colleen. ?Are you two okay? and what the hell did you do to my car?!?

Owen replied, ?Uhh, yeah, sorry about that, couldn?t help it. I think we?re both okay though,? he grinned sheepishly, then something Fnork had just said came back to him. ?Musty? wait, you mean this is Mustardfoot??

Fnork nodded, then Colleen spoke up. ?Owen, do you know these two??

?Yeah, him at least.? He pointed at Fnork, then continued, ?he was in the plane that got Death Machine off our asses earlier. But him?? He pointed to Mustardfoot, ?him, I?ve only heard about. I?ve never actually met him before.?

Colleen opened her mouth to say something, but Fnork spoke first. ?I brought him along because he can help. He promised not to cause us more trouble than he?s worth?? Fnork glared at Musty, who shrugged once again.

?Do you know what those Germans did with my daughter?? Colleen asked.

?No, but we saw two of them leaving in a big hurry. The Messernacht looked pretty beat up,? Fnork said. ?We found a disabled Rattler not far from here. Was she in it??

Tears started running down Colleen?s cheeks again. ?Yes, she was.?

Owen suddenly remembered that they had forgotten about Redline, Dante, and Jessie. ?Uh, not to change the subject, but we should get back to the Inferno. The others are waiting for us.? He walked over to recover his gun, holstered it, then returned to the Fiarello to retrieve the tank of gas for the Catamount.

Once Colleen?s car had been refueled, all three vehicles left the battle scene and returned to the ruins of Dante?s Inferno.



Happy Holidays!

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59

Postby Fnork » Mon Dec 29, 2003 9:56 am

*********Chapter 59*********

?Get away from me Dante, I am not angry with you but I would prefer that you keep a distance for now.? Redline Fox growled.

He sat in the parking lot near what was left of his Picard Piranha. The sound of gunfire had echoed from the East about half an hour ago, but he had not been paying enough attention to care as he could not have done anything about it anyway. A tug on his mind made him look towards the North. Frustration and anger resonated in his throat as he let out deep breaths.

Dante shook his head, ?Look man, I?m sorry about your car...but I couldn?t do anything about it!

?This isn?t about my car.? Redline Fox said calmly, even though anger seethed within him. ?As I previously stated, I am not angry with you. I will be if you don?t shut the hell up and let me think.?

Jessie put her hand on Dante?s shoulder and shook her head to prevent him from saying more. They looked down the road as three pairs of headlights approached. One was obviously off the road and driving through the tall grass. Both tensed unsure if the approaching cars where friendly or not. Redline kept looking towards the dark north sky until the pair of headlights that was approaching from the grassy field came directly at him. An ABX Strider slowed as its headlights flooded the parking lot. It came to a stop a few feet from where Redline Fox was sitting and flashed its high beams on him. He closed his eyes annoyed but did not bother trying to move.

The other two cars reached the parking lot of Dante?s Inferno at the same time. Someone was yelling from inside the Strider, RLF could clearly make out Fnork?s voice.

?Stop it, don?t be immature!?

The car started flashing its lights.

?Come on big disco party!?

Redline Fox immediately recognized the second voice and wrenched himself to his feet. The world spun around and a sense of nausea washed over him as he attempted to walk towards the Strider. He saw Owen run over to the driver?s side of the car and reach in.

He could hear Owen yelling, ?Knock it off! He has been through enough as it is! Don?t make it worse for him you...!?

?So lame!? Mustardfoot yelled as he turned the Strider?s lights off. ?I suppose you were going to say some sort of lame insult pertaining to physical anatomy or perhaps the relationship I have with my mother? Whatever, go away, you're boring me. You guys are no fun at all.?

Redline thought he heard the conversation continue, but his vision blurred and everything briefly sounded very far away. He realized he was loosing his balance. As he stumbled to the side he felt someone gently grab him, preventing him from falling over. Looking at the ground made it easier for him to focus, he saw the flowing hemline of long tan jacket. The next thing he took notice of was an attractive waistline, with a handgun holstered on the belt, then long flowing dusty red hair waved into his vision. Closing his eyes, Redline Fox braced himself for the face he knew he?d recognize. When he opened them he intentionally looked over the brim of the cowboy hat she wore before looking into her face.

?Colleen.? Redline said then looked down to let out a labored breath.

Colleen steadied him more securely, ?Yes.?

It was like how he felt over ten years ago, before he left her on the beach. There were several things he could say and wanted to say, but held back and shoved down. Able to stand on his own, he carefully removed himself from her support and stood straight.

He looked into her face. Even in the darkness he could see the puffiness and moist red strain in her eyes illuminated by the fiery brilliance of her spirit behind the lens and retina. Redline Fox mentally checked himself and looked away.

?I know, that the true purpose of an apology is to allow the person who made the mistake or caused the pain to feel better about themselves, it is a selfish thing, but, it is the only thing I can say...I am sorry.? Redline Fox felt empty inside, it scared him, because he thought he should feel something.

She looked away from him and crossed her arms. In the background Fnork and Owen argued with Mustardfoot about his attitude, while Mustardfoot continued to blow off the criticism.

?Is that all you have to say to me?? Colleen said after five minutes of silence had passed between them. Her tone sounded acidic yet calm.

?No,? Redline Fox paused, ?I will get her back.?

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Postby Fnork » Tue Dec 30, 2003 10:20 am

*******Chapter 60**********


Colleen unfolded her arms and slowly turned her face to him, then slapped him across the face with her palm. The sound was loud enough that everyone stopped arguing and stared at Colleen and Redline Fox.

?You should have never let her out of your sight! You should have protected her you bastard!?

Her words were venomous but it didn?t matter to him. Not because he did not understand how she felt, because he thought she had every right to feel that way. Feeling anything for her, for her pain or for his own, would just get in the way.

?I will get her back.? He said again.

Owen and Fnork had pulled themselves away from berating Mustardfoot. Both wondered how Redline seemingly knew what had happened as they walked closer, and Colleen just stared at him.

Always impatient, Owen inquired first. ?Fox, you, do you remember everything that happened? I mean, when you where in a coma??

?I was not in a coma.? Redline Fox looked at both Owen and Fnork with a vague sense of disinterest. ?Everything that has transpired around me, that I could have perceived if I had been in control, I remember.?

?What do you mean, control?? Owen asked.

Fnork shifted uneasily on his feet. Redline Fox noticed this and spoke to Fnork directly.

?Something disturbs you.? Redline stated.

Fnork, ?What do you mean by control??

A small cloud of condensed moisture formed in front of Redline?s face as an early night chill blew across the parking lot.

Fnork asked again, ?Redline Fox, listen, if you know something tell me. What do you mean ?control???

?You shot up Death Machine?s Palomino??

Fnork shook his head frustrated, ?Yes, I did.?

Dante called out, ?We should not stay out here guys!?

Everyone heard him and agreed, but no one made an effort to show it. Owen was becoming especially nervous as his friend seemed very out of it. Redline Fox was always a bit weird, for lack of a better description, but the tone of his voice and body language indicated something was not well with him.

?You should tell us what is wrong, if you know something is, so we can help you,? Owen said quietly.

Redline Fox turned away and looked towards the North again, he could feel the pull on his mind, it did not hurt, it was more of a tingling sensation that raised the hair on the back of his neck.

?You can not help me anymore. We all still have our parts to act out in this play, but, the final act, my final act will be my own.? Redline Fox lowered his head and looked at the burned wreck of his car. He felt eyes on his back and sighed. ?Time to rest and think, the audience can wait.? Redline Fox turned back to his allies. His gaze lingered a bit longer on Colleen then anyone else. ?Follow, when I?ve had a drink, my thoughts will flow out with the contents of the bottle.?

Gradually, the air was becoming colder. Thin wide clouds overhead could not completely prevent starlight from shining through. There was only a sliver of moonlight leaving the stars to shine at their full potential. Mustardfoot looked away from the sky and expressed his boredom with Redline Fox?s words.

?Yawn!? Musty said out loud. ?Lets get some food or something, damn it. I?m tired of standing around!

No one was very happy with the comments. Redline Fox pushed Fnork aside and began walking towards Mustardfoot, who had uncrossed his arms and smirked as his old rival came closer.

Mustardfoot mocked, ?You want some? Or maybe you?re just going to talk a lot and try to make me fall asleep so you can touch me in an inappropriate manner?

He waited for Redline Fox to respond or make a physically threatening motion, but Redline just stood there quietly looking at him. This made Musty a bit more cautious.

?What, do you see something you like??

?No,? Redline?s voice came out in very low rasp at first. ?I do not like you. As I don?t know where I?ll be tomorrow, I?d prefer to have everything off my chest.?

?Yeah? Well, out with it ya fleabag dog.?

?As I stated previously, I do not like you. However, I respect your skill, competence and courage. That is all I have to say to you.? With that Redline Fox started to walk away.

Mustardfoot was stunned for a moment as he tried to figure out Redline Fox?s angle. Not in the entire course of knowing the other existed had either said anything positive about the other.

Redline stopped, ?There is one more thing, actually, that I think it is important for you to understand.?

Mustardfoot realized Redline Fox had turned around just as Redline kicked him hard in the crotch. As Musty fell forward, stopping himself from doubling over by pressing his palm face down on the asphalt, Redline Fox leaned down.

?Don?t ever call me a dog.?

As Redline Fox walked away, Mustardfoot regained his composure and lunged towards his back, but something grabbed him and held him fast. It was Fnork, who had predicated that something like this would transpire between them.

?Get back here you coward! Don?t you walk away from me! Dog! Doggy!? Mustardfoot spat on the ground.

Fnork cursed under his breath.

?This is not getting us anywhere!? Colleen suddenly yelled, causing Mustardfoot to stop thrashing about. ?All of you can fuck around with your personal relationship problems some other time! I was a damn fool to think a bunch of insipid fools like you could help keep my daughter safe.?

She waited to see if anyone responded. Everyone except Redline Fox avoided looking at her.

?Hey!? Mustardfoot said, having recovered from Redline?s sucker punch. ?The sexy woman is right! Lets get the hell out of here, anytime now.?

Fnork leaned in and whispered to Mustardfoot, ?Forget what Fox did. I?m serious, don?t fuck around anymore.?

?Hmm, you must be serious if you said the ?F?-word.? Musty said sarcastically.

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New Year's chunk

Postby Fnork » Wed Dec 31, 2003 10:36 pm

*******Chapter 61*********


Air whistled through the battered front end of the Catamount as Redline Fox aimed the car down an old two-lane concrete road that was overgrown with weeds and had large chunks missing at random intervals. The car?s engine purred softly, even with the damage it had suffered, it continued running strong. He knew where all of the holes in the road were so it was easy for him to avoid them. However, the headlights from the two cars behind him would occasionally swerve or flash up as they tried to navigate the forgotten highway.

?This is bullshit doggy, where are we going you insipid...?

Colleen reached overhead and switched the CB off then once again sat motionless in the passenger seat. She had allowed Redline Fox to drive her car because he was the only one that knew where they were going and giving him the wheel stopped the argument between him, Fnork and Owen about driving the Fiarello. Fnork had been flabbergasted by the amount of damage Owen had managed to allow to happen to his very expensive exotic only a few days after trusting Owen with the keys. It was a good bet that Fnork was still giving Owen hell as they followed the Catamount. Dante, Jessie, and Mustardfoot were all crammed into the Strider. Dante was given the dubious honor of hanging on to the roll bars instead of being able to sit down. Redline Fox had wanted to drive and he would not be persuaded otherwise. It was suggested that Jessie also go with Musty, as Redline?s mood was making everyone nervous.
Besides all of that, after spending enough time in silence, maybe one of them would say something. But Redline just kept driving, easing the car around potholes without slowing down. Her patience with him was thin, but she did not say anything. Finally, he started talking, but in a very mechanical way.

?Colleen. It is very nice to see you again.?

She did not respond, but instead she waited to see if he?d continue talking. He did, which made her feel relived, as it meant he was not going to hold back if she needed to ask him anything. Redline Fox slowed the car, turned down a gravel road, and the Catamount drove over two swing gates that were laid out flat on the ground as if they had once swerved a purpose but had been knocked over for the sake of convenience.

Redline coughed, then cleared his throat. ?Fear, that I may say more then I can handle telling you, prevents me from doing that very thing. I have apologized for the mistakes I have made that have put you and your daughter in danger, so, I will not do so again. I apologize for leaving, when I was a stupid kid with no sense of how the world...how people would have to suffer the consequences of my actions...I apologize for the person I was and the person I have become, neither person is good enough to even have slept under the same stars that you have wished on.?

Colleen felt the air escape her chest with a short, sad laugh. She looked at his face which was partially illuminated by the headlights behind him, while he continued staring forward.

?You still cover your emotions with difficult phrases and self-deprecation. That, is one thing that has not changed about you.?

?I have never been the best judge of my own character. I?ve often thought that was up for other people to decide.?

The Catamount crested a hill then slowly started down the side of a sharp embankment.

?Why? Are you still afraid of giving yourself any credit for anything? Do you not want to think you?re a good person, because of the responsibility that you know that entails??

He went to say something but coughed again. Colleen handed him her water canteen, and he took a few sips.

?Thank you...?

She sighed and put the window down a crack to let some fresh air in. ?From what I see, you?re not all that different. Maybe you can pull that off with these people you?ve associated with for the last decade, but, not me. Your regrets are what eat you alive, they always have, they still will...unless you do more then just keep running.?

The Catamount cleared the embankment and rolled slowly along a smooth section of dirt road towards a collection of craggy rocks.

?I know,? He admitted to her. ?But, I won?t run again. I?m going to make things right this time, and I?ll keep the promises I?ve made.?

She was about to respond but he parked the car and continued talking.

?No other choice is presented to me now anyway. But, I still would have tried even if I did not have to.? He looked at her. ?I?m not a coward and I want to do the right thing.?

The sincerity in his eyes seemed overwhelming. If he was looking for forgiveness, she would give it to him, but she was not sure if saying it would ease his uncertainty. Before anything else could be said he got out of the car and walked towards the rocks. She got out of the car and went around to the driver?s side. A relatively flat section of the rocks gave her a rough idea that there was probably a concealed door. After she sat down in the driver?s seat she put her hand on the wheel and felt something warm and wet on the finger grooves. She retracted her hand and looked. A tiny smear of blood was on her palm.

Redline knelt down next to a small rock and turned it over. Under the rock was a small keypad which he punched codes into. Owen had come up behind him and stood quietly while everyone else kept their distance. A loud whir came from the rocks, along with clangs and the groan of machinery.

?Fn..rnok....whatever, he needs to cool it about his car, I don?t know what he expects.? Owen said while he stretched out his back. ?You fix this place up since last time I was here??

?Not really.? Redline said flatly

The door rose up like a sheet metal type downtown stores have, and the camouflage paint undulated with motion until the door completely opened. Owen began walking towards the door. Having been there before, he wasn?t hesitant about going inside. Just as he was about to step under the door frame, Redline Fox grabbed him on the shoulder and prevented him from placing his next step down.

?Remember...?

Owen?s face went white, ?Oh! Oh hell man, I almost forgot.? He started laughing, ?Aah damn, that would have been a fun surprise!?

A loud bang followed by clacking indicated that it was now safe.

?Well, I hope you have some food stocked up and clean towels.? Owen sniffed himself, ?Not fresh.?

?Yeah.? Was all Redline replied as he waved everyone forward.

Usually Owen?s ridiculous behavior was guaranteed to get at least a good natured smirk out of his friend. Owen was now just more worried, so he decided to wait for Redline Fox to go inside before he followed.

After Colleen?s Catamount drove inside, its headlights flooded the short tunnel with light revealing another security door ahead that looked to be made of a thick steel. Fnork followed in the Fiarello, then came the Strider with Dante practically hanging off the back. As the buggy entered the door, Dante noticed the tires making a strange sound. He looked over the edge of the car and realized that the surface was made of steel grate. Not only that, they where driving across a bridge spanning a pitch black chasm.

?Holy shit man!? Dante shouted.

Musty leaned out the side and looked down. ?The bridge must retract when the door is closed as an added security measure. Nifty.?

?Nifty!?? Dante said terrified.

?Oh relax man, jeez.? Musty said annoyed, ?Hell, you don?t hear her complaining.?

Jessie replied, ?Just because I don?t say anything don?t mean I?m not a bit afraid.?

?Whatever people.?



********Chapter 62*********



As the heavy steel door slid shut behind the Strider, the three cars were directed into parking bays by Redline Fox. The main halls of the complex were only ten feet tall, but when Fnork backed his car into a bay alongside the Catamount and got out, he noticed the bay?s ceiling was twice as high. Soft white light illuminated the interior of the complex, there was a subtle scent of fuel and oil mixed with the rich smell of soil. Redline Fox hit a switch on bay?s support beam and the air circulation system kicked in with a low hum. He directed Mustardfoot to park in a smaller bay across from the large one. He was about to walk away when Colleen confronted him and instructed Redline Fox to show her his hands. Glancing down, he considered resisting, but seeing a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a towel in Colleen?s hand eased his restlessness. Opening his hands as he held them out, Colleen saw four small curved gashes in the palm of each hand where finger nails had broken the skin.

?You shouldn?t just ignore this.? Colleen said as she poured rubbing alcohol onto the towel.

The wounds seemed like they could become easily infected, as fresh blood would weep through any that had dried when Redline flexed his hand. As Colleen washed his hands clean, she hummed to fill the void that his silence created. Her eyes flickered up into his, and she noticed a slight smile on his face. After cleaning the wounds, she pulled out a roll of bandage tape and wrapped up his hands to prevent infection.

Bandaged, Redline Fox flicked another switch as he began walking away deeper into the complex, lights slowly came on as he disappeared from sight. Fnork was eager to investigate the layout of the place, but he needed repair some of the damage Owen had done to the Fiarello. The bay appeared well stocked with tools and equipment, so repairs would not be difficult. He heard someone typing on a keyboard and turned to see Owen in front of a kiosk.

?What do you have there?? Fnork asked as he walked up behind him.

The computer responded in a vaguely feminine digital voice.

?Welcome to the Nitrace Multifunction Vehicle Scanner System. Please enter your user identification and password.?

?Nitrace!?? Fnork said with a bit of shock.

Owen typed in the required information to be allowed access to the system.

?User identification confirmed. Welcome Owen, how are you feeling today??

Owen smirked, ?I feel like I?ve been shot at and missed, and shit at and hit.?

?That sounds most unfortunate. What programs would you like to run??

Fnork leaned in closer, forcing Owen to adjust his stance to keep from being knocked out of the way.

?Hey man, give some room...? He pushed Fnork back. ?I?m going to run some diagnostics on the cars...Colleen.? He said loud enough that he was sure she would hear him, but did not turn around. ?You and Fnork need to make sure any scramblers are switched off if you got them, or else this thing will identify your cars as potentially hostile. She is a very sensitive lady, isn?t that right??

?I do not have feelings, if that is what you wish to imply. However, my sensors are highly powerful and accurate.?

Owen rolled his eyes, ?Such a stone cold bitch.?

?That expression?s meaning can not be processed. Please select the programs that you wish to use.?



*********Chapter 63*********



No one was sure where Redline Fox had disappeared to, but he obviously had no concern about his guests moving freely about the complex. Fnork and Mustardfoot continued inspecting rooms looking for anything of interest while Dante, Owen and Colleen remained in the bays repairing the cars. Jessie had found a small kitchen near the middle of the base and volunteered to make everyone a meal with whatever she could find.

The floor was polished concrete, except for narrow passageways that no one had decided to investigate yet,. Those had plywood or dirt for a walking surface. Redline Fox had either collected or found a large assortment of equipment and vehicles, all of which had seemingly been placed at random in the complex. They had already passed a silver-white Ransom Marshal which was parked in the middle of the main passage way and a Pheadra Pony covered with junk in addition to an AVA banner on the front windshield. A sign with the words ?Research and Development? appeared above a metal door. Fnork immediately went to open it and found it unlocked, and Mustardfoot followed him inside with disinterest. Fnork found a light switch and turned on the florescent over head lights. Most of did not come on, providing only a dim amount of illumination. Large state-of-the-art banks of computers lined one end of the wall. In the far wall was the window of an observation room, the windows where filmed over with grime, and they glowed eerily from the light shining behind them. Opposite of the computer banks was a smooth metallic looking wall, but Fnork was most interested in what was in the center of the room. Something that looked like a gigantic radio controlled car motor that had been hollowed out was fixed on a platform that widened at the base. The platform was attached to a solid oval shaped metal ring with copper wires serpentining around it. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust, as no one had used the room for much of anything in years.

Musty whistled. ?Quite the collection of junk this guy has.?

?If this is a former Nitrace base, this would have been one of the most important centers of technological advancement outside of the United States military,? Fnork said thoughtfully. ?In fact, I would not be surprised if most of this is former government property stolen by whomever operated within Nitrace.?

Musty began walking around the room, ?Now if we could just find a damn bathroom!?

Fnork chuckled. His friend, if anyone could be friends with Musty, could be annoying but at least he said what was on his mind. Not much really impressed or got to Mustardfoot for the most part. Fnork went over to the wall and rubbed his hand inquisitively along the surface, noticing scorch marks and large holes. The wall did not have the cold metallic feel of iron, and he rapped his knuckles against it.

?This is some sort of composite material, perhaps kevlar??

?Who cares?? Musty replied as he opened the door to the observation room. ?Finally! A bathroom!?

He disappeared into the room as Fnork continued to inspect the room. With the lights being so dim, he almost didn?t notice the long bar of steel protruding from near the top of the wall. Taking notice, he took a small flash light out of his pocket and shined it above him where two feet of steel bar was protruding from the wall. He looked around the room and spotted a pile of five foot long bars on the floor near the odd machine, then back at the bar embedded in the wall, and finally back at the machine. Fnork had only heard of rail-drivers in rumor and science fiction novels, but he never thought one could actually exist. He made it a point to ask Redline Fox about it once they found him.


********Chapter 64********


Leaving Musty to his own devices, Fnork decided to do some more looking around. Owen was jogging down the hall as Fnork emerged from the research room.

Owen yawned before speaking, ?Figured that Dante and Colleen could handle repairs for now, I?m done running the diagnostics anyway.?

?How long have Redline Fox and you been using this place?? Fnork asked.

?Well, since right before Vegas. RLF found the place when he was off on some vision quest or one of his strange adventures. He was having trouble hacking into the security system, so when he contacted me about it I got a hold of...uh, someone who will remain nameless for obvious reasons...so anyway, yeah, I helped RLF get this place up and running again. Some of the stuff we found we ended up selling off, other stuff we decided was to dangerous to be allowed into the hands of anyone that might be able to figure out how to use it. It has been over a year since I?ve been here though.?

Fnork nodded and looked down a hall at an area that seemed a bit brighter.

?What is down there?? He asked.

Owen stared down the hall and shrugged, ?Not sure. I know he has another car down there and some other stuff, but the light is new. His room is somewhere back there as well. Do you think he is okay to talk to??

Considering Redline?s behavior, Fnork could not answer that with a positive response. He tried to calculate a neutral response, but the end product was not what he really wanted.

?Talking to him would be a better idea then leaving him alone right now, we don?t really know what he might try to do to himself or anyone else.?

?He just needs some time to get his head together. You don?t trust him, do you.?

?I did not say that.? Fnork said slowly.

Owen countered, ?But your tone and language imply it.?

Fnork stood silent for a moment then began walking towards the brighter end of the hall without responding. Owen followed without trying to force the issue. As they rounded a corner they came upon a comfortably bright bay that was large enough for four cars to be parked, but had a ceiling just as low as the hallway. It looked more like a mini-museum then a garage bay, and photographs of race cars and motor-sports artwork hung on the walls. A blue Piranha with a single white offset racing strip was parked in one corner. It was cleaned but not shined up. In the other corner was another vehicle of similar proportions under a car cover. The centerpiece was a well-polished, race prepared Courcheval Manta that was painted with a somewhat disorienting fox motif. It was an early ?70?s model. A set of fat race tires just stuck out from the fenders, helping add to its aggressive, low profile. A pair of eyes with slit amber pupils and two curved black lines for eyebrows was painted on the lower hood near the Manta?s pop-up headlight covers. The eyes were set on a backdrop of bright red that flowed down over the front bumper where a row of white teeth had been painted. On the middle hood a splash of white mingled into the bright red of the lower hood and spread down over the front fenders and stopped on the doors. Red continued along the bottom sides of the car and over the rear fenders where the hindquarters of a fox was painted to give the impression that the car was crouched and ready to pounce. Black covered the car from the very top of the hood, over the roof and onto the trunk where another splash of white buffered the black from another section of bright red on the rear bumper.

?He really likes foxes doesn?t he?? Fnork said, amused, as he admired the car.

He walked closer and ran his fingers along the car?s long,smooth hood. Redline?s real name was signed over top of the driver?s side window sill, which made Fnork second guess himself about his opinion of the man. Briefly recalling that all of them, including Redline Fox where not just a fancy name attached to a romantic persona. Walking around the back of the car he noticed the initials A.P. He knew they stood for Arsenic Pants, the artist who had created the Manta?s paint scheme. On the wall near the car, a set of shelves with photographs and trophies proudly showed the car?s race history. One of the trophies read, ?1983 British S-GT Championship Winner Round #3 Brands Hatch?. Next to it was a small photograph of Redline Fox trying to climb out of the car with his crew chief grabbing his face and kissing him on the cheek. Ace English was recognizable as the crew chief, and Redline Fox had a big smile on his face but seemed at bit overwhelmed by all of the excitement around him. In the photo the car had the number #44 on the side and a banner along the window that read A.E.Mo.Co. Other photographs that showed the car in action racing against much newer Leopards, Aaron-Marvins and VMWs were placed around other trophies that had been won with the car. It seemed odd to Fnork that they all where dated 1983, but maybe not so odd as he thought about it more. Perhaps Redline Fox had gone to Europe searching for a normal life, one that would take him far away from his sad memories. But, no matter how far he traveled, he could not escape himself. Even Fnork knew that. It was what kept him coming back to the thrill and fear that battle provided. The hell you know is better then the heaven you?ve never understood. Fnork wasn?t about to get all emotional at that moment so he shook off the chill that ran down his spine and turned around to see what Owen was doing.

Blood red caught Fnork?s eye before he could identify the source, as his brain just would not process what he was looking at. Owen was leaning on the hood of a Picard Piranha with his mouth wide open. The car?s blood red paint was a bit faded and it looked like it needed a good running. Bullet holes and scratches marred the car?s body, no weapons were mounted on it, but it gave off the impression of having been through hell more then once. A loud boom echoed in the room as Owen slammed his fist down on the car.

?Goddamn him! All the work I put into this car and he makes me think it got destroyed!? Owen cursed.



*********Chapter 65*********



Redline Fox appeared from around the corner just after Owen had banged on the hood of the car. In his hand was a small glass filled with a clear liquid and crushed ice. He leaned against the wall and took a sip from the glass.

Redline admonished, ?Hey, take it easy on Pouncer, she wouldn?t appreciate that!?

With a exasperated look on his face Owen turned on Redline and voiced his ire.

?Where do you get off not telling me you retired this car after I put so much effort into restoring it for you!?

Redline Fox leaned his head back and emptied the contents with a gulp. From the way RLF was drinking the liquid, Fnork surmised that it was of an alcoholic nature. He took a last glance at the collection of memorabilia and began walking over to where Redline stood.

?First off...? Redline began, ?Pouncer is my car, I will do as I deem appropriate with her and my actions need not be justified to anyone.?

Owen said, ?Bullshit man, without me she?d still be a wreck, I have a right to know!?

Fox shook his head. He did not seem mad, just annoyed and tired.

?All of us have needed help in the past, whether we asked for it, had been given it or needed. How many cars have you wrecked over years? How many of them where given to you? Case in point, do you have any right to that beautiful machine Fnork was kind enough to lend you, only to have torn to pieces??

Owen was shocked, as Redline Fox was never one to hold things against him like that.

?That is not fair at all man!? Owen sounded stressed.

?No, there are many things that are not fair, but are truth. So wipe that look of indignation of your face, cease treating me like I am indebted to you because we?ve all done for each other in the past, friendship isn?t based on score cards, and come have a drink.?

With that Redline Fox began walking away leaving Owen stunned. Fnork walked up beside Owen and told him that RLF did not mean what he was saying. But Owen knew Redline well, he rarely said anything that he didn?t mean. Usually, Redline just held most of what he thought back.
They found him in a small dimly lit room as he was pouring tonic water into his glass. A tapestry served as the doorway into the small room, which was well kept, with a dresser and wardrobe, a medium sized TV and a book shelf. Besides the mini-wet bar that Redline Fox was standing in front of, it looked very much like a bedroom. A little space heater hummed on the floor. Fnork gravitated towards the book shelf as Owen took a seat in an old but comfortable looking chair. A bottle of Gin emptied into Redline?s glass and he stirred it with a small knife.

?Owen, a drink will take the edge off my words.? Redline took a bottle of Jonnie Walker and filled a small glass. He brought the glass over to Owen and bowed his head, ?The breath of the dragons will breath new faith into your constitution.?

Owen sighed and took the glass, ?You?re scaring me man, this isn?t you.?

Redline Fox just turned back to the bar sipping his gin and tonic. Perusing the book shelf, Fnork noticed the names Bradbury and London.

?Such a contradiction.? Fnork said out loud.

Redline smiled slightly intoxicated, ?Thank you...?

?What did you mean by control?? Fnork said.

?Aah, I expected you to get to that. But, my senses are not blind, you do not trust me.? Redline replied.

?I trust the person who is Redline Fox.?

?You look like a White Russian man to me.? Redline joked. ?Let me mix you one.?

As RLF went about finding the correct ingredients for the drink, the conversation continued. Fnork was a bit suspicious and watched Redline closely to make sure nothing special was added to the drink.

Fnork said, ?Drinking is not something I do often, so please do not pour heavy. It would also help if you?d answer my question, which should not prove overly difficult for you considering this rash streak of honesty.?

Redline laughed but conceded Fnork?s point. He explained what had happened to him over the last few days, starting with when he first found Jade in the car. But when Oni?s meditation circle was mentioned Fnork found himself drinking more as the information he gathered increased. A vivid and detailed explanation of what Redline saw when he was under the influence of the toxin and Oni?s spiritual attack made Fnork immediately put his glass down and rub his eyes. Finishing his gin and tonic at the same time as his explanation gave Redline Fox an excuse to go back to the bar and place a Neil Young record in the stereo?s player.

Owen was looking down at the ground unsure of what to say. The tall young man was actually very drunk, as his tolerance for alcohol was very low but he did want anyone to know.

Redline pressed a finger against his lips, ?sssh, life is changing in so many ways...I don?t know who to trust anymore...there?s a shadow running through my doors..? He began singing along to the current song.

As Fox was singing out loud for his own solace, Mustardfoot walked in on the scene and immediately took notice of the bar. He raised his eyebrow as Redline Fox whirled around and lifted his glass to him. With a wave of his hand Redline indicted that Musty was welcome to take what he wanted to drink. A smile creased across Musty?s face and he forget about Redline?s earlier transgression.



********Chapter 66********



Pounding blood boomed in Owen?s head as his eyes flickered open. Seemingly far off in the distance he thought he heard the fabric of space being ripped apart. Forcing himself up on his elbows he tried to gather himself and figure out how long it had been since he passed out drunk. When he did move, the soreness in his chest from where he had been shot with rubber bullets helped him feel awake. He looked at his watch, which reflected red, it had been perhaps three hours? It was 4:32 AM. Realizing he was laying on the hood of Redline?s Piranha made him feel like he should move. No one else was around. Managing not to fall off the car, Owen found his feet and began walking towards the source of the engine sound. As he got closer the sound made his head feel like it would explode from pain. When he saw Redline Fox straddling a Suzuka dirt-bike he quickly sobered up.

250cc was displayed on the gas tank and the exhaust gave off the unmistakable scent of a two-stroke. Redline was leaning over adjusting the mixture and did not take notice of Owen?s presence. Confused Owen looked around for some sort of confirmation of what was going on. Dante was standing with Fnork near the entrance. He saw Colleen still working on her Catamount.

?Fox, what, what are you doing?? Owen asked, concerned.

?I?m going to keep my promises.? Redline said flatly and revved the dirt bike?s engine.

?What? Wait, wait...? Owen searched his memory for an answer to his own questions. ?You?re, you?re not going after that Japanese dude are you??

Redline Fox switched the bike off and sat silently for a moment. Colleen quietly made her way over to them and handed Redline Fox a 10-gauge, auto-loading, single barrel shotgun. He checked the chamber as Colleen dug a shell out of her pocket and handed it to him. She placed the shell in his hand and closed his fingers around it. Owen watched, dazed, as they looked into each other?s eyes without saying a word. Colleen then turned and went back to repairing her car. Redline Fox loaded the shell into the gun then slid it into a holster on the left side of the bike?s front forks. He then checked the ammo clips and the 9mm Berettas he had under his over coat.

?Fox, what are you doing?? Owen asked again not wanting to think he already knew.

Redline looked down at the bike. ?I am going to kill the Oni.?

?What?? Owen said horrified, ?You can?t fight a car with a fucking dirt bike you drunk son of a bitch!?

In a dark tone Redline said, ?I do not plan on fighting his car.?

Owen backed away from Redline Fox and ran over to Fnork, trying to convince him to help change Redline?s mind. Fnork shook his head. He had already tried to talk sense into Redline, but when he did, Redline became very upset and started yelling at everyone saying things like, ?None of you have a fucking clue.? Fnork tried to explain that he thought Redline?s mind was somehow linked with Oni?s still and with that, Redline Fox could somehow feel where his enemy was. But, it also was causing Redline?s mind to deteriorate.

?So?? Owen said frantically, ?We?ll make him lead us to the guy and we can help Redline stop him!?

Fnork sighed, ?He won?t listen. I don?t know, I really do not know. He is making his own choices, so you trust him Owen. That is all he wants from us and it is all we can give him now.?

Owen refused to accept this and walked back over to Redline Fox with a look of rage on his face.

?Who the fuck do you think you?re kidding Fox! You?re not some super-hero or the greatest outlaw in history!?

?I know.? Redline said.

Owen?s eyes burned with angry fear, and he closed them trying to think of a way to stop him.

?Owen, my mind is more clear then it has been in the last ten years.? Redline tried to have a soothing tone so his friend would calm down. ?I have to decide to wait for tomorrow?s sunset or meet it head on. Either way, if I see another morning sun rise after today, that I am not sure of.?

The uncertainty made Owen feel like crying. Redline Fox looked away and down at his right thigh. What was happening now reminded him of the day he tried to stop Lightfoot from going after Death Machine. Lightfoot had shot him in the thigh after he had tried to prevent Light from doing such a foolish thing. It was not exactly the same, what was happening now, but perhaps he could understand why the old veteran had done what he had done. But, Redline could now see that same fear and confusion in Owen that he had himself felt about Lightfoot.

?Owen,? Redline said. ?Listen to me. No matter what happens today, I want you to go home. You have your entire life to live, this world of ours has changed, it needs to finish changing. Just go home, find one of them pretty girls you?re always chasing, find life again.?

?What business do you have telling me what to do with my life! I?ve been out here in hell as long as you!? Owen choked out. ?Has it all really been that bad bro??

?No, Owen, it hasn?t. I have met some of the most honorable human beings that a man could ever possibly know. We?ve had some good times.? Redline replied softly. ?But all that will be over soon, it should have been over a long time ago. Go home...?

Owen kept shaking his head trying to block out the words that stabbed him like knives.

?Dante! Open the door!? Redline called out.

Codes had already been inputted into the security system, so all Dante had to do was press a button which he did with hoped-for competence. As the door slid open, Redline gave a mock salute to Fnork.

Dante suddenly said, ?Hey, what am I supposed to do??

?I don?t care if you burst into flames, take one of my cars if it makes you feel better Dante!? Redline Fox shot back. ?You?re a good person Dante, just try not to be such a pain in the ass.?

With that, Redline Fox re-fired the Suzuka, waited for the sound of the bridge to lock into place, then sped off out of the complex. Owen immediately ran towards the Fiarello and yanked the door open. Colleen did not react as Owen ran past her, the face shield of the welding hat she wore reflected cascading sparks as she continued repairs on her Catamount. As Owen adjusted himself in the seat Fnork ran up and tapped on the window glass. The window rolled down and Owen immediately asked if the car?s sensors could track a dirt bike.

?No, Owen, I do not think so. You should not go after him.?

Owen ignored him and yelled at Dante to keep the door open. Before Fnork could reach in and hit the kill switch he had installed, the Fiarello?s engine howled and Owen peeled wheels on the concrete surface. As the car disappeared into the night, an incredibly intoxicated Mustardfoot, holding a bottle of rum, came walking along the middle of the main corridor. He lifted his arm and pointed two fingers at the gradually disappearing taillights. Mouthing the word ?bang?, he retracted his fingers like a gun that had just fired a bullet.

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The beginning of the end...

Postby Fnork » Mon Jan 12, 2004 4:02 pm

********Chapter 67********


Oni stood next to his Yamato RM3 as a pair of battered German cars rolled to a stop nearby. His highest-ranking assistant stood a step behind, holding a metal briefcase. The Messernacht had one entire side torn up from sideswiping another car at high speed, and it had considerable rocket damage to the rear, though it was no longer smoking. The Morgen-Bernz was in much better shape, but it had several long scorch marks across the armor plating where a high intensity laser had burned into it. Two men stepped out of each car and approached Oni. The passenger of the Messernacht was still wearing his helmet with the optic targeting system attached, but the turret it was linked to was pointing to the front of the car, in standby position.

They were at the meeting place that Akihiko and the Germans had agreed upon. The Germans had refused to meet Oni at his compound, and as the Germans did not have a base of their own in the region, they had found a place suitable to both parties. It was a small, abandoned gas station situated along a dusty road that ran for miles in either direction. The faded sign on the building once read ?Spanner?s Truck Stop?

Oni glanced at the digital clock in his Yamato, then growled, ?You?re three hours late. How dare you keep me waiting.?

The lead German, Horst, replied in a similar tone, ?Ve had to conduct repairs. Ze vigilantes protecting ze girl ver much better armed zen your so called intelligence claimed. I lost four of my best men.?

?They are nothing to me. Do you have the girl?? Oni demanded.

Horst spit, then said, ?Unlike you, ve have respect for our dead. Ve vill??

Oni interrupted him, ?I said, do you have the girl??

Horst glared at Oni for several seconds. ?Yes, ve haff her. Do you haff vhat you promised uz??

?Give me the girl first, and the blueprints for the weapons are yours.?

?That vasn?t the deal, Oni. Give us ze plans, then you get ze girl.?

Oni gripped the handle of his katana and started to slowly pull it free. Horst gave a quick nod to the man wearing the helmet, who tapped a button on the optic device. The turret on the Messernacht snapped to life, and turned to point directly at Oni. Akihiko Tan paused, then dropped the sword back into it?s scabbard.

Horst gave a triumphant grunt. ?Now, you little fuck.?

Oni?s eyes narrowed, then he grabbed his assistant by the shoulder and shoved him forward. The assistant regained his balance, then handed the briefcase to Horst. The German opened it to inspect the contents, and once he was confident everything was in order, he handed it to the man standing next to him.

?Guenter, put zis in ze car, and bring zem here.?

Guenter quickly moved to the car and set the case on the front seat. With the help of the Messernacht driver, he dragged a man covered in dried blood out of the back seat and threw him to the ground in front of Oni. The man stirred slightly, as if he was starting to wake up from a long sleep, but did not get up. Guenter then returned to the car and pulled out a small girl who had been bound and gagged. Her eyes were filled with fear as she was pushed roughly toward Oni.

His assistant grabbed both of her arms to prevent her from moving, while Oni crouched down so he was eye to eye with her. She flinched as his hand reached out and brushed her cheek.

?Tell me, little Razi,? he spoke in a gentle, patronizing tone, ?how is your mother??

She kicked at him and tried to turn away.

Oni let out a small chuckle. ?Such spirit is rarely found in one so small, but you?ll learn to respect me soon enough. Now,? he stood and looked back at Horst, ?I have something further for you and your men to do. I would like you to??

?Nein! I vill not let you sacrifize any more off my men vith your? gamez. You haff killed dozens already. No more!?

?We had a deal, Horst.? Akihiko?s voice was calm, but his eyes betrayed the rage he was suppressing.

?And ve haff honored zhat deal. You haff ze girl. That vas the deal.? Horst crossed his arms in front of his chest, and started to turn away.

Oni stared back at the German, his grip tightening on his sword. A sudden flash of sunlight down the road caught his attention, and he released his grip again.

?Perhaps we will see, Horst. It would seem that my rider has arrived.?

Several pairs of eyes turned to look, as a yellow Phaedra Palomino glided in as silently as a wraith.

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Postby Fnork » Tue Jan 13, 2004 2:34 pm

************Chapter 68************


Death Machine?s car slowed to a stop with the soft crunch of gravel. The engine was not running, which explained his perfectly silent approach. The door opened, and a large cloaked figure stepped out. His skull for a face shined pure white in the sunlight, and his eyes glowed a deep red. In his right hand was a short, cylindrical object. Oni smiled as Death Machine walked closer.

?Ahh, excellent. You are just in time to destroy this back-stabbing scum.? He gestured toward the Germans. ?They tried to kill with that semi, and if not for your formidable skills, they would have succeeded.?

Oni knew his control over Death Machine was slipping away, so rather than simply order him to attack Horst and his men, he was instead using a gentler, more persuasive method. Death Machine was staring at him, taking in everything he said, but did not show any response.

?Destroy them before they have a chance to destroy you.? Oni urged. ?The turret on that car is active, and if you do not strike now they will use it against you. Even your thick skin cannot protect you from that.?

Death Machine finally responded and turned slowly toward Horst. The turret was in fact pointed directly at him, but only because the German wearing the helmet was looking at him. The other Germans started reaching for their weapons, but Horst did not move as the cloaked man approached. Both men were of a similar build, and almost exactly the same height.

?Good? see how they react to your presence? They will kill you if you hesitate.? Oni said.

Death Machine faced Horst, then raised his Sipo stick. The German man did not flinch, and kept his arms crossed. He stared directly into the crimson eyes, but showed no sign of being intimidated.

?I vill not fight you.?

?Kill him.? Oni said, but Death Machine did not attack. He stood facing Horst with his weapon in the air, as if he were a statue.

?KILL HIM! I COMMAND YOU TO KILL HIM!? Oni yelled. He was becoming infuriated by Death Machine?s apparent refusal to kill Horst.

?No,? Death Machine said. He lowered the weapon slowly, and Horst started laughing. The sudden change took even the other Germans by surprise.

?Iz something ze matter, Oni? You claim to control zis man, yet he vill not follow your order. Vhy not?? Horst taunted.

Oni growled, ?I told you to destroy him. You will obey me!?

Horst responded with more laughter, but stopped abruptly.

?You do not understand vhat is happening, do you Oni?? Horst said. Oni stared, but did not speak. ?You can control zis man, but you cannot change what he iz. He kills for you becauze he vants to kill, not becauze you tell him to.?

?And how can you be so sure?? Oni?s eyes were filled of hatred. The only thing that prevented him from striking out and killing Horst himself was the possibility of finally learning what had caused him so many problems. Had Death Machine been willing to kill indiscriminately, his plan would have succeeded months ago. There would have been no need for the Germans or the creepers, and the vigilantes that were fighting him so fiercely would have been dead long ago. ?Tell me.?

?He vill not kill for you, because he iz an honorable man. Unlike you, little fuck. He vill only fight those who vill fight him. He vill not harm the innocent, like zis little girl. He iz bound by rules that even you cannot break vith your mind control.?

?Lies. You know nothing about my rider.? Oni said, but even as the words left his mouth, he began to doubt them. What the German had said made perfect sense. There was no other explanation. Only one matter remained.

?How could you possibly know this?? Oni finally asked.

?It iz quite simple, Oni. My comrade in ze Volfteam, Lexi, vas Death Machine. Vhen he returned to Germany, he told me everyszing I needed to know about zis man.?

Oni?s mind was reeling from this new information. How much more did these Germans know that they weren?t revealing? The rider had been ultimately expendable, but if his will could finally be broken completely, perhaps he wouldn?t be so expendable after all. A new plan began to form in Akihiko?s head.

?If you stay and tell me everything you know about my rider, I will pay you more than you can imagine.? He spoke softly.

?No. I have had enough of you. Auf Wiedersehen, little Oni. I hope your death iz slow und very painful.? Horst spit at Oni?s feet, gave a respectful nod to Death Machine, then turn and started walking to his car.

Oni?s anger returned. He swiftly drew his sword and said, ?Come back here you Communist scum!?

Horst stopped in mid-step, and spun around with a look of sheer fury on his face. Oni had struck a raw nerve. ?I am NOT a Communist, you Schweinhund! Ze leaders of my country are arrogant fools, just like you. Zis new technology vill help us drive zem from our country forever. I only vish zat once zhey are gone I could return to kill you, but I do not think zat you will live to see anoszer day.?

Horst turned back to his car, sat down, and started the engine. Guenter quickly stepped around to the passenger side, but the two men from the Messernact had stopped and were discussing something in hushed voices. Oni glanced at Death Machine, and realized that he was staring at the drawn katana sword and was clenching his fists. Sensing imminent danger, he quickly sheathed the sword, as one of the remaining two Germans looked up and spoke.

?How much vill you pay uz for ze information??

Oni looked back at the man, and was pleased. ?I will pay you one million dollars in U.S. currency if you give me all of the information.?

?Make it two million, and ve vill stay, for now.?

?Very well, you have a deal.?

Horst glared at the two men with contempt, then took one last look at Oni and spit out the window. He stepped on the gas, and with a roar of the Morgen-Bernz engine, he and Guenter drove away.


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