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Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2004 8:06 pm
by Fnork
********Chapter 69*********

Oni watched the Morgen-Bernz disappear into the distance, and finally broke his gaze when a moaning sound at his feet caught his attention. He looked down, as the man lying on the ground rolled over and looked up at him.

?Ahh, Agent Cole. What a pleasure it is to see you again.?

?The pleasure is all yours I?m sure, Akihiko Tan, Cobra, Oni, or whatever the hell you?re calling yourself now.?

?How dare you speak to me like that, when I can so easily strike you down,? Oni said.

?Haha. You?re going to kill me either way, so what difference does it make?? Cole replied sarcastically.

?Fair enough. I will allow you to live a few minutes longer, because you were kind enough to deliver this child to me.?

Cole propped himself up with his good arm. ?Why don?t you just let her go, and use me instead? I have the exact same abilities as she does.?

?If only that were true, Agent Cole. I would thoroughly enjoy breaking you down and using you instead, but next to her your abilities are little more than parlor tricks. They are of no use to me.?

Cole didn?t speak for several seconds, then finally said, ?Just what the hell are you going to do with her anyway??

?Is it not obvious? Her power far surpasses anything that has ever been unleashed upon this world. Through her, I can control any man on this planet, any time I wish. Much like I have done with my rider,? he gestured toward Death Machine, ?except, with her there will be no complications. There will be no resistance, nothing to prevent them from following all of my orders.? He glared momentarily at Death Machine, then turned back to Cole.

?And just who do you plan to control?? Cole knew full well what the answer would be, but he wanted to buy himself more time to think of a way to escape, and if he could gain more insight into Oni?s plans in the process, all the better.

?Do not play the fool with me. I have not the patience for it.? Oni was about to say more, when a beeping sound came from Death Machine?s car. ?What is it now, Horst returning with his tail between his legs to beg for forgiveness??

Death Machine turned and walked toward his Palomino, as the two remaining Germans moved back to their Messernacht. Almost immediately they spotted a small dust cloud approaching on the ground, and could hear the low hum of an aircraft engine overhead.

One of the Germans pointed to an odd-shaped speck high above and yelled, ?Der Gabelschwanz Teufel!? He and his partner ran to their car, as Death Machine turned the ignition of his own. The Palomino and Mesernacht starting moving toward the approaching dust cloud, where three cars were now visible.

?You?re in trouble now, Oni?? Cole said with a forced chuckle.

Oni turned to his assistant who was still securely holding Jade. ?Bring her here, then prepare our vehicle for departure.?

The assistant pushed her to Oni, who clamped one hand around her neck and drew his Wakizashi sword with the other. He pressed the side of the blade lightly against the her face, and finally acknowledged Cole?s remark.

?I believe you are now as much their enemy as I am. You would be wise to lose that attitude when they find that you have allowed this child to fall into my hands.?

?I took her away to keep her safe from people like you.? Cole said as he shakily climbed to his feet. ?They?ll understand that, even if they don?t agree with my methods.?

?People like me? Your government wants to use her abilities just as much as I do. Don?t try to delude yourself into thinking you did something noble.?

?You?re not going to get a chance to use her. Last time your mercenaries had superior numbers and barely escaped with their lives. This time you?re the one that?s outnumbered.?

?I do not need superior numbers, Agent Cole. It is not wise to underestimate my rider. They will not defeat him.? Oni said.

?I guess we?ll just have to watch and see. The battle has begun,? Cole replied.

The turret on the Messernacht opened fire on the nearest car, a silvery-white Ransom Marshal.

the real chapter 70

Posted: Thu Jan 15, 2004 2:39 pm
by Fnork
********Chapter 70*********

Dante swerved as tracer fire from the German car sliced through the air where his windshield had been.

?Well I?ll be damned, Fnork was right. Death Machine lead us right to ?em!? Dante said as his eyes traced the line of fire back to its source.

Colleen?s battered Quicksilver Catamount turned and launched a pair of rockets at the Messernacht, which dodged the long-range shot easily. Mustardfoot dropped back in his unarmed ABX Strider, and reached for his handgun.

Death Machine fired a few random shots at the Catamount and the Marshal but none found a target. He was trying to provoke them into opening fire on him, but they knew the danger and didn?t take the bait.

The Messernacht?s turret gunner started firing at the Catamount, while the driver launched a few EMP Spikes at the Marshal. Dante avoided most of the shots, but took a hit causing the V-6 engine to shut down and sputter back to life. He looked back at the pursuing car, flipped the weapon selection switch to the rear, and pressed the trigger. A pair of high explosive mortar shells catapulted out of the car?s trunk, but completely missed the target as the Messernacht veered to the right. Dante was unaccustomed to using arc-fire weapons and was having a hard time adjusting to the odd angle that Redline had set the launchers to, so he circled around to use the more traditional thirty caliber guns up front.

Colleen fired another volley of rockets at the Messernacht, and scored a glancing blow that detonated against the armor plating. The Fire-Rite rockets she was being forced to use had much smaller warheads than the Fire-Tru rockets she preferred, so it would take several more hits to do an equivalent amount of damage. The man operating the fifty caliber turret must have realized she had no homing missiles, as he was primarily aiming for her roof in the hopes of disabling the rocket launchers.

Incendiary thirty caliber shells peppered the other side of the German car, but were unable to penetrate the thin layer of armor. The gunner rotated the turret to retaliate, and fifty caliber shells bit into the heavy armor of the Ransom, forcing Dante to turn away. Death Machine circled around and through the group, as if he was daring someone to shoot at him.
The Messernacht swerved abruptly as a single, perfectly aimed bullet punched through the side window and was deflected into the driver?s arm. The gunner realized the shot had come from the Strider, and returned fire. The Strider quickly sped away, as another volley of rockets hammered the back of the Messernacht. The turret turned back at the Catamount, and once again fired toward the rocket launchers on the top of the car.
The launchers on Colleen?s car had been designed to take a serious beating, and had required only minor repairs after the collision with the other Messernacht, but the electrical wires that controlled the launchers were not as durable. A stray shot from the turret severed a control line on the right side, causing a short. The resulting blast caused by several dozen rockets igniting at the same time spun the Catamount roughly to the right as Colleen fought to regain control, and rockets sprayed out in a wide arc. Several struck the side of the Messernacht causing minor damage, but the real damage came when a single rocket exploded against the armor of the yellow Palomino. The response from Death Machine was instant, and he opened fire with the full force of his front weapons.

?Oh, god,? Colleen mouthed as she skidded violently to avoid Death Machine?s assault. He flew past her, and she slammed the gas pedal as far to the floor as it would go. She knew she didn?t stand a chance against him in a firefight, especially with only one half-full rocket launcher left, so she prepared to use the only other weapon she had.

Dante attempted to draw some fire, and thirty caliber shells hammered the Palomino, but Death Machine ignored them. They were only slightly more effective than bee stings against his armor. Mustardfoot fired a high-powered bullet that struck the window next to Death Machine?s head, but at such extreme range it lacked the force to fully penetrate the thick, armored glass, and only created a small spider-web of concentric circles. The Messernacht turned both its weapons on the Ransom Marshal, and forced Dante away from the Palomino and the Catamount.

Colleen was accelerating past seventy miles per hour as Death Machine fell into position behind her and lined up a shot. She glanced up into the rearview mirror as her finger found its way to the mine dropper button.

Thousands of feet above, the Lockhart F-38 Reaper rolled onto its back and dropped like a stone.

The Catamount swerved from side to side as tracer fire from the Palomino streaked past on either side, and in between pounded the rear armor plating. She dropped a single mine, but Death Machine saw it fall and dodged it effortlessly. She released a second one almost immediately, hoping that he would hit it as he avoided the first, but he dodged that one as well. The dashboard indicator told her she only had one left.

Knowing that she only had one chance, she slipped the car into neutral, yanked the emergency brake, and cranked the steering wheel hard to the left. The nose of the Catamount spun around, and she straightened the wheel as the car made a perfect 180 degree turn. She pressed and held the trigger for the remaining rockets, and as soon as the air between her and the Palomino was filled with smoke trails, she dropped the final mine.

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2004 3:03 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 71********

Death Machine charged through the smoke as several of the small rockets harmlessly impacted his bumper, but with all smoke and explosions obscuring his vision, he never saw the landmine slide out from under the Quicksilver Catamount. It went off under his left front wheel, and lifted the nose of his car a few feet off the ground before it slammed back down.

The powerful mine did very little structural damage, but had a much greater effect on the wheel itself, and bits of rubber flew out of the wheel well. The exposed rim dug into the ground, and Death Machine had to turn to the right to continue moving straight.

Colleen released the trigger for the rockets when a buzzer went off to indicate the launcher was empty, then she turned the wheel sharply to spin her car back around. Realizing that she had traveled away from the old Spanner?s Truck Stop where they had first seen Oni?s car, she turned back. Death Machine made a hard left turn to use the damaged wheel to his advantage, and fired a quick shot as his car swung toward Colleen. He straightened out to follow her, but every time he lined up a shot she cut slightly to the right so he couldn?t hit her. She didn?t dare to give him a clean shot, because her heavily damaged and now unarmed car was no match for him, despite the fact that he was now having difficulty turning to the right.

She was keeping a close watch in her rearview mirror to keep herself out of Death Machine?s sights, and didn?t see the F-38 Reaper diving head-on at her until it was almost on top of her. There was a brilliant flash from the nose of the plane, and she instinctively ducked as dozens of armor piercing shells streaked past mere feet above her car.

Death Machine swerved violently to the left, as the Reaper?s guns tore open the back of the Palomino. The plane roared past and climbed away for another pass, as Death Machine recovered and tried to pursue Colleen again.

She was pulling away from him as she caught sight of the Messernacht chasing Mustardfoot?s Strider, but there was no sign of Dante in the Ransom Marshal. The Germans spotted her approaching and abandoned the badly smoking Strider to attack her instead. Streaks of silver from the mini-karpoon launcher flew toward her car, but the tracers from the turret were missing by a large margin over the top. As she turned the wheel to avoid the EMP spikes, she realized why. The turret was firing at Fnork?s F-38, which was making another attack run from behind.

Colleen looked to the side as a very large rocket launched from the right wing of the plane. The nose guns fired again, as the rocket exploded into the ground alongside Death Machine?s car, sending it hurtling into the air. The plane?s guns hammered into it as it rolled over several times in midair, slammed back to the ground, and burst into flames.

Colleen watched the car burn in her rearview mirror for several seconds, then looked back toward the truck stop, when a flash of sun on a silvery-white car told her that Dante was there. Her mind spun at the implications of what that could mean, and she stepped on the gas to save her daughter.

The F-38 climbed away from the wreckage of Death Machine?s car, and the Messernacht followed as best it could with its turret blazing away. When the plane was out of range, the driver of the German car turned to prepare for another attack run. As the Reaper dove down in another attack, they were already moving away, and the turret gunner was leaning out the window to open fire. The nose guns of the plane flashed, as tracer fire from the Messernacht streaked back in return. The driver swerved to avoid the fire, the gunner lost his shot as he struggled to keep himself from falling out of the car, and the plane climbed away yet again. The Germans made a wide 180 degree turn to keep their speed up, as the F-38 dove once more.

This time, Fnork drifted slowly to the left, forcing the driver of the car to veer right so the gunner could maintain a clear shot, which in turn forced the car onto rougher terrain.

Fnork?s voice crackled over the radio in the German car, ?Remember me? You?re not getting away this time??

The gunner held on for dear life as the car bounced wildly over the bumpy ground, and the driver had no choice but to slow down. An anti-tank rocket fired from the left of wing of the plane, and the car swerved to the right to avoid it. The driver realized a split second too late that he had steered directly into the path of a second rocket.

The words ?Mein Leben!? screamed over the radio as the Messernacht was ripped in half and exploded in a ball of fire and shrapnel.

?Auf Wiedersehen,? Fnork said, as his F-38 cruised past the burning wreckage.

Posted: Sun Jan 18, 2004 6:59 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 72*******

Fnork flew in a wide arc to get a good view of where Colleen, Dante, and Mustardfoot were, when he noticed a red light go on in the cockpit. The oil pressure in his port side engine was dropping rapidly. The turret on the German car must have managed to hit his engine during one of the attack runs before it exploded. He quickly cut power to the engine, feathered the prop, and reset the rudder and aileron trims to account for the missing engine.

The plane rolled to the right in a clockwise turn to avoid any chance of a stall, and almost immediately Fnork caught sight of the old, abandoned truck stop. There was a small black car parked near the garages, Dante?s silvery-white Ransom Marshal was parked about 20 yards away, and Colleen?s dark blue Quicksilver Catamount was heading toward them at high speed.

Fnork hit the microphone button on the flight yoke, and called Colleen. ?Hellcat, I?ve taken a few hits and need to bug out. Death Machine and the German car are destroyed. Can you handle it from here??

Colleen?s reply was immediate, as she clearly had other things on her mind. ?Okay. Do whatever you need to do.?

Fnork hit the button again, ?Hey Musty, I?m heading back to the airbase. Be there to pick me up as soon as you can.?

?Sure, but next time let me kill a few??

Colleen shut off her radio, and didn?t hear the rest of the conversation. She spotted Dante?s car up ahead parked near a black car that could only belong to Akihiko Tan. Dante wasn?t the kind of person to sell them out, but something about the situation just wasn?t sitting right with her. She pressed harder on the gas, and prepared to ram the Ransom Marshal into Dante, but as she approached she realized that he was not betraying them. He was standing next to his car with a gun pointed directly at a shorter man, who was holding her daughter.

She skidded to a stop near the Marshal, and jumped out with her own weapon drawn. Oni was standing directly behind Jade, and had a short sword pressed against the side of her face. Cole was standing a few feet away looking like he was having difficulty staying upright.

?Let her go, Cobra, and I might let you live!? she yelled.

?Ahh, the lovely miss Colleen. I had hoped I would see you again.?

?Colleen, I?m sorry?? Cole said softly.

?Cole, shut the hell up. I?ll deal with you later.? She turned back to Oni and said, ?Let her go you back-stabbing son of a bitch. You killed my husband, but I?m not going to let you harm my daughter.?

?If you do not wish to see her harmed, I suggest you lower your weapons.? He pressed the sword harder against the girl, and it started to cut into the cloth that bound her mouth. Colleen nodded to Dante, and they both reluctantly lowered their guns.

?Now throw them across the road, so there will be no heroics.?

Oni?s assistant stepped out of the still running Yamato, and was carrying an AK-47. He waved the barrel at them, indicating that they should move away from their vehicles. Cole casually shifted toward the building behind Oni, and leaned against the rusty garage door to prop himself up. Colleen tossed her handgun as instructed, and slowly moved around the front of Dante?s car to stand next to him as he threw his own weapon away.

?Much better now, do you not agree?? Oni sneered.

Colleen and Dante glared back at him. A tear ran down her cheek, as their best chance to rescue her daughter slipped away.

?Please don?t hurt her?? she said quietly.

?I have no intention of hurting her. She is much too important for that.?

?What are you going to do with her then?? Dante asked.

Oni laughed, as it was virtually the same question Cole had asked earlier.

?I have seen too many movies to reveal all of my plans, but as I am going to kill you before I leave here, there is no harm in telling you a little bit?? He began to tell them his plan to turn the major World leaders into his puppets, and how he planned to use them to gain immense power and wealth for himself. He spent several minutes explaining his all-consuming lust for power and how his plans would make him unstoppable, when he suddenly trailed off and gave an evil grin. Cole?s jaw dropped, and Jade?s eyes went wide with terror.

Colleen turned to look at Dante, as he grunted and dropped to the pavement, unmoving.

Posted: Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:44 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 73*********

A strong pair of hands shoved Colleen away, and she fell to the ground, scraping her cheek on the hot asphalt. She quickly rolled over and looked back at her assailant. She instinctively reached for her concealed knife, but stopped when she saw what had attacked.

Death Machine stood where she and Dante had been seconds before. His cloak was badly singed and covered in ash, and wafts of smoke drifted silently into the air. He looked like a ghost. Breathing heavily from the long run back to the truck stop, he reached down and fastened his hands around Dante?s exposed throat.

Oni shifted to watch closer, and inadvertently moved the blade of his wakizashi sword a few inches away from Jade?s face. The pressure of the razor-sharp blade had cut clean through the cloth that bound her mouth, and it fell away.

Jade, knowing that Death Machine was about to kill Dante, screamed. ?NOOOO! DON?T! KILL! MY! FRIEND!?

Death Machine abruptly stumbled back as if he had been struck by a hurricane-force wind.

Cole, sensing a chance for redemption, made his move. He lunged forward, and pulled Oni?s shortest sword from it?s sheath, a dagger-like tanto, and stabbed Oni?s assistant in the back of the neck. The man fell to the ground dead as Cole turned the blade on Oni, but was too slow. Oni made two lightning-fast slashes with his own sword, faster than the eye could see. The first severed Cole?s hand at the wrist, and the second cut across his midsection, eviscerating him. Cole?s right hand, with the blade still gripped between its fingers, flew away as Cole fell back against the building howling in pain.

Jade was still screaming at Death Machine, who dropped to his knees and clutched his head as if he was in immense pain. His head tipped back as if he was letting out a silent scream. Oni turned back to look, and his eyes were filled with a mix of intense anger and sheer terror.

?YOU STUPID GIRL! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!? he yelled at Jade as he clamped his hand over her mouth, ignoring her attempts to bite him.

Death Machine fell forward to the ground, and started reaching for something.

Oni quickly dragged Jade to his car, threw her into the passenger seat, and vaulted over the hood. Tires squealed as the Yamato RM3 spun around, and rocketed out of the parking lot.

Colleen lay there stunned for several seconds, and watched as Death Machine grabbed his sipo stick and the tanto with Cole?s hand still attached, and finally climbed to his feet. His head jerked around rapidly as if he was looking for something, and his gaze settled on the silvery-white Ransom Marshal nearby. He fired up the engine, and with a similar squeal of the tires raced away from the building in a different direction.

Colleen slowly got to her feet, still trying to figure out everything that had just happened. She spotted Dante, and rushed over to him to check his vital signs. He was still breathing, and had a nasty gash on his head where Death Machine hit him, but it didn?t look serious. She looked over at Cole, and saw him slumped against the building in a slowly expanding pool of blood.

She pulled a knife from her boot, and walked over to him. As she approached, he painfully lifted his head, and stared up into her hatred-filled eyes.

Posted: Mon Jan 19, 2004 10:34 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 74**********

Oozing into cracks in the parking lot?s asphalt, Cole?s blood was being dried by heat as fast as it left his body. The blood seeped between the variations of Colleen?s shoe sole as she looked down at him.

Cole wheezed out, ?Don?t...look at me like that.?

Restraining herself from performing euthanasia on him with the knife in her hand she spat on the ground next to him.

?You stupid bastard! Death is what you deserve!?

Cole nodded weakly, ?That judgment may yet be proven justified.?

?Why?? She lowered her voice, ?Why couldn?t you just leave us alone. I thought that is what you wanted.?

?No,? Cole shook his head, ?That is what you wanted...? he coughed and hacked up blood, ?...of agreement on how to raise her was one of the central reasons we could not be together. I thought I could separate my job, from my family...always I have only wanted what I felt was best for our daughter.?

Feeling her rage subside, she looked away from him not wanting to feel sorrow for him dying. But she could not deny the empathy they had for each other, no matter what they had thought of each other?s character. He was the father of her daughter, yet the child only knew him as a friend of the family.

?Matthew...? She whispered.

?Will you ever tell her?? He said. His vision started to darken and the pain of the sword?s blade had numbed.

?...I, no.? Colleen?s voice wavered.

?Aahh, it is better that way...yes...? He laid his head back and took in deep breaths, ?She has already lost one she thought as her father to the demon. Losing another, not worth it.?

She could not help condemning him, ?You brought this on yourself!?

?This, I know. But I our nation...that she?d be safe with me, you and the nation. We?d all be proud.? His usual well structured articulation of sentences took to much effort now. ?Love was always fleeting for unfair for her, for you.?

No tears came to Colleen?s eyes, but her insides strained against tightening knots. Everyone was dying, this fucking world never found satiation, no matter how many blood filled tears soaked into the soil to be erased from existence. She looked at his face which was turned skyward.

Using every ounce of her will to keep herself together, she said, ?Don?t die Matthew. I hate you, but if, without Noman, without my daughter, you?re all that I?ll have.?

?You?ll get her back. Don?t you worry. The fox, the fox of the redline...can not be killed...he told me himself...?

?What?? She asked somewhat confused.

?Remember...Redline the person you used to know and treat him as such...he?ll be there for you if you want him to...? Cole had closed his eyes and savored the taste of air. Oxygen?s rush of life overwhelmed the smell of burning cars.

Unsure if he might know something more about Redline Fox then she did, the need to ask him a question distracted her from realizing that he had stopped breathing. She knelt down, the fabric around her knee soaked in blood. With her hand she caressed his still warm face. Even if she hadn?t loved him in years he had always helped, albeit indirectly, in the raising of their daughter. Even though she constantly pushed him away.
Agent Matthew Cole?s eyes were gently closed. When the FBI closed his file, she would be sure they honored his dedication and patriotism, no matter how misdirected his pride was.

Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 7:09 pm
by Fnork
*******Chapter 75********

Emotionless towards the Suzuka 250cc propped up against it, a Joshua tree soaked in the afternoon sun. A dusty breeze swirled around the dirt bike and Redline Fox. He was standing in the middle of a seldom used dirt road far into the Colorado wilderness. Fresh tire marks indicated a vehicle had recently passed through. Taking a few sips from a water bottle, he bent down and poured some tepid water over his head. He placed his hand over the tread marks which where of an odd pattern. The depth of the impression meant that it had been a light weight car, not a big four-wheel drive truck, but the road was rutted and rocky, very few passenger cars could have made it this far. Having had no trouble loosing Owen, Redline was confident that the Fiarello could not possibly have followed him over such rugged terrain. Grasping a handful of dirt, he brought it up to his face and sniffed at it. Sensing a residual energy that he found most foul, he allowed the dirt to slowly sift out from his palm as he stood up and looked off up the road which continued to gradually climb in elevation.

The dirt bike grudgingly climbed a slippery slope, it had been almost half an hour of constant ascension and the air had cooled with the change in elevation. Saliva had increased production in Redline Fox?s mouth as he could feel himself drawing closer to Oni. As he came nearer, his thoughts focused more on how he would destroy the demon. He could feel aches in his neck and a pressure on his mind. If what the fox had told him before he woke up was true, then Oni should be feeling something similar. If Redline knew where Oni was, then Oni knew where Redline was.

Having turned off the road, he was taking a less direct path in order to stay hidden from sight. Swerving around the sporadic trees in his path, the dirt bike crested a ridge and rocked to a stop. Nestled on a more expansive ridge below him was a unassuming building with purple accents on each of the roof?s four corners. At each corner a guard was stationed. The road which he had previously been riding on led into the field that surrounded the building where it dissolved into the grass. Access by car seemed possible only from that road. One spot of the tree line was a rather open area, most likely where the ridge sloped down on the other side. Most of the field was wild and untouched, with only a utilitarian landscaping for paths and a garden at the back of the building. One path led around to the side of the building where a small garage door was, and the trail marks looked fresh. Another path led between a pair of golden statues.

He backed the bike down the ridge and laid it down then climbed back up. Lying flat he removed a small pair of binoculars from his jacket pocket and analyzed the situation closer. The statues where some sort of gargoyle looking things, neither of which Redline Fox found very pleasing to look at. Shifting his gaze upwards he noticed each guard had a rifle on their back and walked casually around their station. Something suddenly got their attention. They put a walkie-talkie up to their ears. The message they received was evidently not very pleasing as they all became very tense and started searching their surroundings with binoculars.

?You are afraid.? Redline Fox snarled as he started digging at the ground with a sharp rock and covering himself with dust.

His best option would be to slink around the ridge and approach from the open end of the field where he could hide in the tall wild grass. It would take him some time, but as long as he brought the dirt bike closer to where he entered the grass, he should be able to pursue Oni if he attempted to flee. But Redline was afraid as well, he could not physically stop Oni?s Yamato and what exactly the demon was capable of in hand to hand combat was not fully known. He knew Oni would not engage in a fight with the Yamato if he could avoid it, but the latter was what really bothered him anyway. Moist soil scratched against his skin as he began talking to himself, mouthing incantations of destruction on his enemy?s house.

The guards paced more and more uneasily as the time slowly passed. They continued to scan the surroundings with their binoculars, but as the sun sank toward the distant mountaintops, their frustration steadily increased. A fox hid nearby, waiting for something. It was only a matter of time before it pounced.

Posted: Thu Jan 22, 2004 2:12 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 76********

Mustardfoot stood watch with his high-powered gun at the ready. He had it in a sniper configuration, with the extended barrel and long range scope. The weapon?s exceptional range was wasted in the thick wooded areas of Colorado, but in his hands it was every bit as potent.

Colleen and Dante stood nearby, looking over Fnork?s shoulder as he studied a small portable tracking device. With Fnork?s help, they had been following the Fiarello as it attempted to follow the elusive dirt bike.
Owen surely knew they were following him by now, but he didn?t seem to care. Catching up to Redline Fox was his primary concern, and he didn?t want to stop for fear of losing the quickly fading trail. Periodically they would see him stop on the radar before moving on again, but a few minutes earlier something completely unexpected had happened. The Fiarello disappeared.

Dante started to get agitated, ?What the hell just happened? Where?d he go??

Fnork remained silent for a few moments before responding. His first instinct was that Owen had activated the ECM system again, but when the car reappeared thirty seconds later, he knew that wasn?t the case.

Something had temporarily jammed the homing signal, and whatever it was must have been extremely powerful. Much too powerful to be carried by a vehicle. Whoever was doing the jamming was going out of their way to not be found, and there was only one person that could be.

Finally, Fnork replied. ?It means that Oni is near.?

Dante and Colleen were speechless. They were both expecting a completely different answer.

Fnork continued, ?That was definitely a jamming field Owen passed through, and assuming it is a normal, circular field, that means the source is either here, or here.? He pointed on the screen just left of where the Fiarello had disappeared, then to a similar position on the right. ?Owen seems to have driven through without noticing the field, so he?s on his own for now.?

Colleen opened her mouth, but Fnork knew the question before she said a word.

?He shut his radio off. I?ve already tried contacting him??

?Oh?? Colleen replied.

?These woods are laced with old logging trails, so it?s likely Oni?s current place of hiding is along one of them. We?ll start searching along the main road in this area. Watch for any fresh tire tracks. Oni?s Yamato has a very distinctive tread pattern, and if Redline can really sense his presence, we?re likely to find a track from his bike as well.?

He stood up, walked back to the Strider, and sat down in the driver?s seat. Mustardfoot was about to object, but Fnork noted that if they met any opposition on one of the trails, firing accurately from the driver?s seat without losing control of the car would be extremely difficult. Colleen sat down in her Quicksilver Catamount, and Dante quickly climbed into the passenger seat.

They drove for several minutes before spotting the first logging trail. It was overgrown with weeds and appeared to have gone unused for a long time, so they continued on to the next. It was in a similar condition, as were several others farther down the road. Finally they reached the edge of the jamming field, but found no roads at all within it.

Just as they reached the other edge of the field, Mustardfoot spotted a small stream running parallel to the road. There was a thin line of trees and brush separating it from the road, but it was easy enough to see that it had a very fast moving current. After a few minutes of staring at it, Mustardfoot demanded to be let out of the car before his bladder exploded. Fnork slowed the car to a stop and pulled over opposite a break in the treeline that allowed direct access to the stream.

Mustardfoot jumped out of the car and ran to the nearest tree to relieve himself, and Colleen picked up her radio.

?Does he have to make such a show of it? For chris?sakes he could at least face away from us!?

Fnork didn?t respond, because something about the stream had caught his attention. He stepped out of the car and walked across the road to examine it more closely. This part of the stream was only a few inches deep, but was nearly ten feet wide. The gap in the trees on the near side was just as wide, and the slope from the road to the edge of the water was very gentle.

Colleen stepped out of her car and walked closer. ?What?s going on? What do you see??

He responded by simply pointing at something just under the water?s surface. Colleen peered into the water, but it took her several second to realize what she was looking for. When she finally saw it, she let out a soft gasp. There were two faint ruts in the mud that appeared at the slope and turned against the current. Tire tracks.

?Absolutely brilliant,? Fnork said quietly. ?These tracks are only a few hours old, and the current has nearly erased them already. If we hadn?t stopped, we never would have found it. Good work Musty??

?How can you be sure they belong to Oni?? Colleen asked.

?That?s why.? Fnork pointed a few feet upstream, where a single, nearly invisible trail cut across the stream and up the opposite bank.

They returned to their cars, and carefully drove into the stream to follow the tracks. After a few hundred yards the stream gently curved away from the main road, and after another hundred yards an unmistakable set of tire tracks drove up the bank and onto a rocky and rutted path.

As they slowly traversed the road, Fnork thought about how much damage the Fiarello would have taken if Owen had found it first. The car could survive most off-road travel, but a surface like this would have torn it apart if it moved faster than a crawl. Fortunately, an ABX Strider was much better suited for the situation.

The road twisted and wound its way several miles into the woods, until finally they reached a point where the trees began to thin out. Fnork crested a small hill and came to an abrupt stop. He immediately dropped the car in reverse, and Colleen had to swerve to avoid running into the Strider.

Directly ahead, less than a quarter of a mile away, was a building. The tracks they had been following lead straight to it.

dead kid

Posted: Thu Jan 22, 2004 9:05 pm
by Fnork
*******Chapter 77*******

As soon as the Strider had stopped moving, Fnork climbed out and moved closer to the hill on foot. He had spotted the armed guards almost immediately, but it was obvious that they didn?t see the car cresting the hill, because they were still fixated on the long grass near the building. They were searching for something or someone, and if they were indeed working for Oni, it most likely meant they were searching for Redline Fox.
Fnork turned to Mustardfoot, who had approached carefully from behind with the others.

?Musty, do you think you could hit those guards from here??

Mustardfoot studied the scene a moment. ?Maybe, but I don?t like the angle. The two on the far side might be able to hide before I got them all.? He looked towards the woods on one side of the building. ?But from over there, it would be a lot easier to get them all at once.?

?Okay, we?ll get in position over there, then,? Fnork said. ?The only problem is, if any of them gets a message out before they go down, they could alert anyone inside. We don?t know how many of Oni?s creepers are hiding in there. It could very well be a hornet?s nest.?

Musty quickly ran back to his car and started rummaging for something under the seat. He pulled out a small black object and handed it to Fnork with a look of triumph on his face. ?Here, try this. It?s an IR scope for my gun.?

Fnork flipped a switch on the side of the scope, and pointed it towards the building. The armed guards on the outside lit up bright red against the darkening sky, and several fuzzy shapes could be recognized on the inside. In one corner, there was a cluster of people kneeling around an elevated flame. Several feet away stood two others, and between them was a smaller figure that could only be a small child. Jade. On the far side of the building, inside the garage, a single figure could be seen. Nearby, the outline of two vehicles could be seen, along with a large mechanical shape that caught Fnork?s interest. It had a powerful heat signature, and appeared to be a large generator that was likely supplying power to the entire building.

?Very interesting?? Fnork said, then turned back toward the others. ?Hellcat, when I give the signal, you and Dante will drive over this hill and try to make contact with Redline. Musty and I will circle around into the woods and take out the guards.?

Colleen objected, ?I only found a few extra rockets. We won?t stand a chance if they get any cars out.?

?That won?t be a problem. There are only two vehicles inside, and one of them is an unarmed cargo truck. The other is the Yamato, and once we start picking off guards Oni will probably try to flee again. All you have to do is slow him down long enough for the rest of us to catch up to him. Plus, if Redline is down there somewhere, we can trust him to make whatever move his is planning too.?

?That doesn?t sound like a very good plan?? Dante said.

?What do you expect? I?m making this up as we go along,? Fnork shrugged. ?If you have a better plan I?m listening.?

No one said a word. Dante looked down at the ground and kicked at a few small stones.

Finally, Colleen spoke. ?But we don?t know what that Yamato is capable of. If that thing has even half the firepower of Owen?s Fiarello, we won?t stand a chance!?

?All Oni cares about now is Jade. His entire plan depends on keeping her alive, and if he stays to fight he?ll be putting her life at risk.? Fnork replied. ?Now let?s get into position before it gets too dark to see.?

The sun was touching the tips of the distant mountains as they stashed the Strider in the woods far enough off the path that it couldn?t be seen by any passing vehicles. Mustardfoot pulled a large case full of weapon attachments from under the seat, then moved on foot with Fnork to the position he had pointed out earlier. Colleen and Dante returned to the Catamount and got into position just below the top of the hill to wait for the signal. The inside of the building filled up with light, and several floodlights began sweeping the clearing and surrounding woods.

Once they were in position, Mustardfoot opened up the case, removed a long range barrel and a night vision scope, and quickly attached them to his gun. ?Armor piercing? he said as he held up a different ammunition clip and connected it to a slot on the side of the weapon. He leaned up against a fallen tree as Fnork picked up the Infrared Scope again to get a good view of the scene.

From this angle, he could clearly see Redline?s body heat as he hid in the tall grass near the closed garage door. He was in a crouched position, as if he was ready to go into a full sprint the instant the door opened. The guards continued to scan the area, but were looking towards the woods. They couldn?t see their quarry because it was much closer to them than they realized.

Fnork was distracted by Mustardfoot muttering something to himself.
?Come on, just a small step to the left? that?s it, a little more? gotcha!?
His gun let out a muffled bang and kicked back slightly. Through the IR scope, Fnork watched two of the guards drop simultaneously, both killed by the same bullet despite being several yards apart. The gun fired twice more, and the other two guards dropped one after the other. Mustardfoot gave Fnork a huge grin.

?Nice shooting,? Fnork said, as he saw a pair of headlights appear on top of the hill where the Catamount was waiting.

?Hey, I?ve got another shot, through one of those small windows?? Mustardfoot said suddenly.

?Can you see who it is?? Fnork asked.

?Yeah, it?s the kid. I?m taking the shot.?

He squeezed the trigger.

Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 1:02 pm
by Fnork
********Chapter 78*******

?What the hell do think you?re doing!?? Fnork yelled at Mustardfoot as he knocked the barrel away. The shot sailed over the building and into the woods on the opposite side. Mustardfoot turned and was looking upset because his shot had been ruined.

?You said yourself that Oni?s entire plan depends on her, so the best way to stop that plan is to take her out.?

?No, damn it. Keeping her alive is the only reason we?re here!?


?Would you like to be the one to explain to Colleen why her daughter is dead??

?Well? no, not really. That woman scares the hell out of me sometimes.?

?Good, then it?s settled. You do not kill the girl.? Fnork said.

?Fine. Then do I have your permission to shoot that Japanese guy standing next to her??

?What? Yes! If you have a shot at Oni of course you should take it!? Fnork shook his head in frustration.

Mustardfoot lined up a new shot, and fired. Through the IR scope, Fnork watched the taller man next to Jade drop to the ground. The shorter man froze, then reached for something at his belt and quickly pulled Jade away from the window. The people kneeling in the circle didn?t move.

When the floodlights stopped moving, Redline Fox quickly ran through the tall grass toward the building, and stopped right next to the closed garage door. He was close enough now that the instant the door started to open, he could duck underneath before anyone would have a chance to drive out. He looked to where Colleen sat in her Catamount, wishing she would run away to safety, but knowing she would never leave until her daughter was safe. A new sound appeared at the edge of perception, and he looked beyond the battered, dark blue car to see what it was.

Seconds later the area was filled with the sound of a V-6 engine running wide open, and a silvery-white Ransom Marshal flew past the Catamount and skidded to a stop directly in front of the building. The driver stepped out and looked up at the building. Even in the encroaching darkness, Death Machine?s form was unmistakable.

The buzzing in his head was agonizing. It had been increasing in intensity the closer he came to the building, but he fought it with all of his remaining willpower. His only goal now was to destroy Oni, no matter what the cost.
He looked up at the dead guards, then at the wall. It connected with the roof approximately eight feet above the ground. He turned around to look at the woods behind him, then the sky above. A dark colored car with two occupants sat a dozen feet behind him, but he ignored them. They no longer matter to him.

Death Machine reached into the passenger seat of the Ransom Marshal, removed two disc-shaped metal objects, then placed them side by side on the ground several feet from the wall. He carried them with all the care and subtlety of a mother holding a baby.

What he did next was anything but.

He returned to the car, spun it around, then shot back down the access road. Several seconds later he stopped, turned around, and revved the engine. It was a warning to Colleen, who quickly moved her Catamount out of his intended path. The instant she was clear he dropped the clutch and came rocketing back.

?What is that maniac doing? Those looked like landmines!? Mustardfoot said, as the car raced toward the building.

Fnork was only half listening, and had a strange smile on his face. ?He?s going to make one hell of an entrance??

The front of the Ransom Marshal hit the pair of high explosive discs, and the entire clearing was lit up by a fiery explosion.

Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 9:34 pm
by Fnork
*******Chapter 79*******

A ball of fire rose from the ground with the force of a Saturn-V rocket launching and slammed down onto the building. Everyone in the surrounding area stared at the ruined car now perched awkwardly on the roof, which was starting to protest under a weight it was never meant to support. A resounding crunch echoed through the trees as the wooden beams of the roof snapped, and the car above was swallowed whole.

On the inside, Oni scrambled back to his feet, and swept his Katana sword out of its scabbard. First his lead assistant had been felled by a sniper, then the very building he was in began to collapse, and with it, his plans. He could still sense the presence of Redline Fox outside near the garage, but now the life force of Death Machine was on the inside. His best chance to destroy the rider was to strike him down before he recovered from the crash.

He kicked open the door to the now ruined storeroom, and came face to face with Death. The glowing red eyes burned with an unmatched fury. Death Machine lunged at him with a dagger-like short sword, and Oni spun away to avoid the unexpected attack. He felt the cold sting of metal as it grazed his forearm, and he counterattacked with the Katana. The blade cut through the tattered black cloak, and struck the metal plating hidden underneath. Death Machine?s other arm came up, but Oni dropped to the ground as the sipo stick lashed through the air above his head. His leg swept out and Death Machine fell backward.

Oni jumped to his feet and lifted the katana above his head to make a killing blow, then hammered it down at Death Machine?s neck. One cloaked arm swept up, and the blade was stopped by a metal plate. The sipo stick swung out at Oni?s side, and he did a back-flip to avoid it.

Death Machine rose to his feet, and followed Oni out of the storeroom into the adjoining hallway. Jade was leaning up against one wall, and looked at both men with fear. She would have tried to run, but her arms and legs were tied together and her mouth was gagged. In the split second she drew Death Machine?s attention, Oni attacked.

The katana slashed downward, but was caught by the middle of the sipo stick with a loud clang. The sword snapped around to another angle, but again it was deflected by the sipo stick, which bent in the middle and would no longer retract. Death Machine lunged with the short sword again, and Oni was able to get a close look at the weapon as he dodged it. It was the same tanto that Cole had stolen hours earlier in a failed attempt to kill Oni.
Death Machine?s bent sipo stick swept toward Oni?s head, but made contact with the katana sword as it cut an opposing path. The resulting impact snapped the sipo stick in half, and the tip of the katana continued through and embedded itself in the nearby wall. Death Machine hurled the broken handle at Oni, who was forced to release his grip on the katana to avoid the projectile. The tanto swept forward again, but Oni ducked under it and grabbed on to the arm that held it. He swung his body under the cloaked arm, and used Death Machine?s own momentum to catapult him down the hallway where he smashed through a wooden door and into a room filled with people. Oni charged after him, drew his wakizashi sword, and in the same fluid motion brought it down upon his opponent?s head. Death Machine blocked it with the armor plate on his right arm, and lashed out with the tanto.

Oni took a quick step back, and called out, ?Hold him!?

The men in the meditation circle started chanting in response.

Death Machine?s head felt like it was going to explode. The painful buzzing in his head had steadily increased as he drew closer to the room, and when the men began chanting the pain increased tenfold. He tried to resist and fight back but he was moving in slow motion, as if he was being held by invisible bonds.
Oni started striking out relentlessly at Death Machine, who was now powerless to stop him. The wakizashi sword slammed repeatedly into the body armor, probing for weaknesses.

Outside, Fnork watched the spectacle unfold through the infrared scope. It was only a matter of time before Death Machine?s extensive armor failed, and he knew something had to be done.

Mustardfoot sat nearby with his weapon aimed toward the other end of the building, and his finger was tapping lightly on the trigger. He was muttering softly to himself again. ?Foxy, Foxy, Foxy? so many times have I wished to have you in my sights. Now my wish has come true, but I can?t enjoy it yet??

?Hey, knock it off. DM is taking a beating in there, and we need to even up the odds a little.? Fnork said.

?Sure thing. Who should I shoot? The Fox??

?Not ?who? ? ?what?. See that generator behind the building? If you can take it out, the lights in the whole building will go out.?

?Can do, but how will that help??

?Death Machine can see in the dark.? Fnork said.

Mustardfoot stared at him for a few seconds, wondering how Fnork could possibly know that. The look on Fnork?s face told him it was pointless to ask, so he stepped a few paces to the side to get a clear angle, and lined up a new shot.

He fired one quick shot that punched cleanly through the fuel tank, then ripped the clip of armor piercing shells from the gun and immediately replaced it with a different one. His next shot sent a white hot incendiary shell into the pool of freshly spilled gasoline, which instantly erupted in flames.

Within seconds the interior lights began to flicker, and Oni paused momentarily in his attack. The flames raced up into the fuel tank, it exploded, and everything went black.

Oni looked around frantically when he heard the explosion. The only remaining light source was the small flame in the center of his meditation circle. He looked back at Death Machine, and saw streaks of blood that flowed from numerous wounds in his sides, arms, and legs. None of the injuries was life threatening by itself, but combined the man would quickly bleed to death unless he soon received help. Death Machine did not even feel the wounds, as his pain receptors were overwhelmed by the extreme mental pain he was suffering.

Oni gave Death Machine one last kick to the chest, then spoke to the chanting men. ?Hold him here until he dies. Then all of your previous failures will be vindicated, and you are freed from my service.?

Oni sheathed the wakizashi sword, and strode down the hallway. The blade of his katana flickered orange from the firelight. He pulled it from the wall, returned it to its scabbard, then pulled Jade off the floor from where he had left her. The light from the fire rapidly faded as he dragged her down the hallway toward the garage. He kicked open the door at the end of the hallway, and found his other assistant waiting near the Yamato RM3. The engine was running and the headlights were on, casting eerie shadows against the walls.

He threw Jade into the passenger seat, then turned to the other man. ?You have served me well. You bring great honor to your family and to our homeland.? He bowed quickly to the man, then said, ?As soon as you open the door, be prepared to fight. The kitsune is waiting to pounce.?

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2004 1:44 pm
by Fnork
********Chapter 80*******

Just outside the door, Redline Fox tensed his muscles to spring. He could feel Oni?s unmistakable presence on the other side of the door, and knew he was about to flee. There was a metallic clank as a latch released, and the garage door started to rise. A pair of blinding white lights appeared, leaving Redline momentarily dazed. He recovered, then dove at a man?s torso that had appeared in the opening. He bowled the man over, and they both tumbled onto the smooth black hood of a car.

A loud screeching of tires filled the garage area, and the Yamato launched out of the building. For an instant Redline locked eyes with Akihiko Tan, and saw they were filled with fear. The car skidded sideways to aim toward the access road, and both men were thrown from the hood. A volley of small rockets exploded harmlessly against the Yamato?s front armor, and the car swerved to avoid a collision with the Quicksilver Catamount. As Oni?s car passed Colleen?s, something flashed out of the wheel hub, and the front left tire of the Catamount exploded.

A pair of arms wrapped around Redline?s head from behind, and started to choke him. He grabbed the arms and rolled forward, sending the man tumbling away. He pounced immediately, grabbed the man?s jaw from behind, and wrenched it to the side with such force that his neck snapped with an audible crunch.

Redline leapt from the ground and sprinted to where he had stashed the dirt bike.

Colleen called out after him, ?Fox, come back! You can?t stop him on your own!?

?Then I?ll die trying!? he yelled back, as he swung his leg over the bike and gunned the engine.

A shower of rocks and dirt sprayed out from under the back wheel as Redline Fox disappeared over the hill in pursuit of the fleeing car.

* * *

Owen sat parked in the entrance to an abandoned logging trail, and was watching the radar screen. He had stopped the Fiarello there out of frustration when he lost Redline Fox?s trail, and had been beating his head against the steering wheel when suddenly the radar screen lit up. He had been sitting inside a jamming field and never even noticed.

There were two distinct targets on the screen. One was sitting a few miles away, out in the woods, where it had first appeared. The other was moving rapidly away from the same location, but was taking a circuitous route that could only mean it was on another old logging trail. As it neared his position, he activated the Fiarello?s ECM system to remove his own radar signature, and waited for it to pass. In the darkness of the woods, the pitch black Fiarello was all but invisible.

A set of headlights burst out of the woods a quarter of a mile away, and turned in his direction. He did not recognize the design of the car as it sped down the road, but as it passed him he saw a terrified face staring out at him from the passenger seat, and he knew he had to act.

It was Jade.

* * *

Death Machine could feel his consciousness slipping away. With a final burst of willpower, he swept the tanto in his left arm out in a desperate attempt to break free from his invisible bonds. The razor sharp blade struck something soft, someone screamed in pain, and the chanting abruptly stopped. The buzzing in his head dropped to a more tolerable level, and he began to regain his senses. He fell to the ground, and heard a flurry of movement around him. The man he stabbed collapsed and knocked over the center pedestal. The fire went out, and darkness flooded into the room.

Death Machine pulled the dagger-like tanto from the fallen man?s back, and stood up to face the others. The others were running their hands along the walls, searching frantically for the only exit from the pitch black room The complete lack of light was meaningless to Death Machine, because he could still see as clearly as day.

He stood motionless, and one by one the men turned to look at the only remaining light source in the room, a pair of glowing, blood red eyes. Once all eyes were upon him, he raised up the tanto, and waded into their midst.

When he finished with them, the entire room was drenched with blood. No one was left alive. He stepped out into the hallway, and leaned against the wall as his own strength began to fail him. His legs collapsed under him from the injures Oni had inflicted, and he dropped to the ground with his back against the wall. He could still feel the man?s faint presence at the edge of his mind, but he no longer cared. The buzzing had finally stopped, and his mind was clearer than it had been in years. He was free.

He released his grip on the bloodied tanto and it clattered to the ground. He reached up and painfully lifted the helmet from his head.

Death Machine took his final breath, and the gleaming skull he had worn for so long slipped from his fingers and tumbled to the floor. The hallway went as silent as a tomb.

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2004 2:43 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 81*********

Accidentally having stared into the Yamato RM3?s headlamps, blobbish blurs of after flash now hampered Owen?s vision as he tried to focus on the fleeing car. Road debris skittered loudly under the Fiarello?s low-slung chassis, the high-revving rear wheel drive car finding the current surface less then ideal. His radar screen showed no other cars in the area, which gave Owen the notion that it was up to him to save Jade. If Oni was still alive, did that mean Redline Fox was dead? Owen shoved that thought away, he would not accept that. WHAM! The Fiarello suddenly bottomed out, nearly causing it to fly off the road into the trees. Regaining control he tried lining up a safe shot on the Yamato, but had to be careful not to cause it to crash or else Jade could be hurt. Brilliant red light briefly illuminated the dusty night, but the laser beams only singed the Yamato?s gigantic rear spoiler. With a burst of power driven by it?s rally engineered all-wheel-drive system the Yamato accelerated and began walking away from the Fiarello.

What Owen found to be odd were muffled pfffft-ssstt sounds that kept audibly coming from the Yamato which suddenly pitched forward, flicked to the right, then cut back to the left and slid around a sharp ninety degree corner. Owen reacted with skillful calm, managing to slow his car down enough to make the turn., but it was clear that the Fiarello was completely out of it?s element on these rough logging roads. The car entered the corner wide and just barely clipped a tree as the back end slid out. By the time he had gathered the car up, he could just make out the Yamato?s taillights disappearing down the dark road.

This road was even rougher then the one he had just turned off. Large rocks could clearly be heard grinding against the under chassis, but Owen continued to slam the suspension mercilessly through the ditches. He paid no heed to the rattling coming from the engine compartment behind his head. All he cared about was the radar screen, as long as he could track Oni he?d make the Fiarello keep running through sheer force of will. A double beep came from the radar, he looked down expecting to see at least another car and for a moment his hope soared thinking it was an ally. But his heart sank when he saw nothing but the sweep bar of the screen. Oni had disappeared.

Shaking his head he tried to cool down. It was not unexpected that the Yamato could have a radar jammer, but without a visual Owen could do nothing but continue hell bent for election and pray for a stroke of luck. The Yamato?s taillights suddenly appeared less then a hundred feet ahead as he rounded a long sweeping corner. Owen considered himself a highly skillful driver for having managing to catch up.

Smoke tint on the rear-window kept the Fiarello?s headlights from hampering Oni?s vision as he glanced in his rear-view mirror and lifted his foot off the Yamato?s accelerator. Though he had been given an extensive view of the other car?s interior through the eyes of Redline Fox, he suddenly remembered seeing this same car briefly when his warehouse had been attacked. The vigilante behind the wheel of the troublesome car obviously had no idea what the Yamato was capable of and was probably destroying his own vehicle. Oni still felt the presence of Redline Fox stalking him, though it was a comfortable distance away. Dealing with this current complication had to come first before the kitsune could be dealt with. In the passenger seat Jade was strapped in with the seatbelt locked tightly around her. Sweat and tears soaked her face as she looked at the side-view mirror.

Oni narrowed his eyes, ?Do not worry Razi, such recklessness can be easily dealt with. I will show you how cunning is a much more powerful asset then brute force or righteousness.?

He pushed the accelerator down while pressing the clutch in and downshifted. Air escaping the turbocharger?s atmospheric blow off valve hissed loudly and the Yamato RM3 clawed forward. Approaching a series of winding corners, Oni calmly allowed the car to drift towards the inside of the first right hand corner as he lifted his foot off the accelerator. As the back end of the car began losing grip, he gently began applying throttle again. The inside front tire hooked the edge of the corner as the Yamato began to swing back with it?s own momentum for negotiating the fast approaching left hander.

As the Yamato disappeared around the second corner Owen fought against heavy understeer as he vainly attempted to keep up through the tight sequence of turns. When the Fiarello?s rear threatened to kick out Owen had to frantically feather the throttle and wait for the car to find traction. The road dropped sharply down following the corners. The trees on either side had gradually became shorter, but this detail was not something Owen had the luxury of noticing. The road stopped descending and came to an end in a large field which had a much softer surface then the crushed gravel road. Owen could not comprehend the pair of beams spinning like a fuel-injected lighthouse.

Panicked by the sight he slammed on the brakes to avoid colliding with the Yamato which was now spinning in place like a toy top, while hundreds of tiny projectiles erupted from the wheel hubs. Owen swerved as the tiny spikes riddled the Fiarello, and both of the passenger side tires blew out. The windshield at Owen?s eye level cracked like a spider web as one of the spikes embedded itself halfway through the windshield. The next thing Owen could sense was the smell of burning carbon and rubber as the front end of the Fiarello dug into the soft soil, the wide rear-tires spun uselessly as the front bumper audibly crunched against the ground and the engine stalled.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 6:15 pm
by Fnork
*********Chapter 82***********

The Yamato immediately stopped spinning and a came to a stop with its headlights shining through the dust and into Owen?s face, and he was forced to avert his gaze. He put his hand in front of his eyes and tried figuring out what was going on. A form passed in front of the Yamato, shadowing the light just enough that Owen could look out the damaged windshield. With arms crossed in front of his chest Oni stood in front of his car waiting.

?Remove yourself from that worthless vehicle. Here I am, come die fool,? Oni called out as he removed his katana and pointed it at Owen.

Instinctively Owen put his hand over his own bastard sword, which lay on the passenger seat. Blood pounded in his ears and he considered what to do. The only way he could save Jade now was to kill Oni.

Compared to what he had gone through in the past, this all seemed too easy. Owen assumed that the Yamato did not have enough fire-power to actually destroy another car and that Oni had laid this trap in order to lure him out of the Fiarello?s protective cocoon. He removed his .45 and checked the clip. He could just shoot Oni, but the temptation of crossing blades was overwhelming. For safe measure, he released the gun?s safety and put it back in the holster around his waist.

Sword in hand, Owen stepped out of the car with a less then graceful stumble. His tall frame made exiting the small car difficult as always.

This amused Oni greatly. He sneered and said in a condescending tone, ?This will take even less time then I had originally thought.?

His temper getting the better of him, Owen shot back, ?Listen little man, don?t make me step on you!?

Noticing that Owen was holding a sheathed sword, Oni laughed out loud.

?As brief as the amusement you provide will be, such a splendid one it shall be. That it will!? Oni continued laughing.

Owen unsheathed his sword and threw the scabbard to the ground. ?Scum! Let Jade go and maybe I won?t have to cut your head off!?

Oni smiled, ?This fascination heroes have with attempting to reason with villains. What hackneyed writer pens your lives??

An opening, Owen?s mistake. He had only enough time to block the first sweep of Oni?s katana with his bastard sword, but it was more of a reflex that saved his life then conscious ability. A spark flashed in the dark air as Oni slashed upwards and both blades met. Caught completely off guard Owen attempted to back away but in doing so allowed Oni to press his attack. Allowing a katana to be used against you in an offensive manner was almost always a fatal mistake.

At the moment Oni had brought his sword up at the peak of its swing arch, he immediately shifted his grip to a two hand stance and swung hard horizonantly across the vertex of Owen?s body. In a more controlled reflex Owen brought his sword up to block the attack, but he did not realize that Oni had intentionally given him enough time to do so. The bastard sword was sliced clean in half as Oni accelerated the speed of his horizontal slash in mid movement. Dropping the hilt Owen fell backwards onto the ground and reached for his gun. He aimed it point blank at Oni and fired.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2004 9:55 am
by Fnork
***********Chapter 83**********

A silence impressed upon Owen as the echo from the gun shot faded. Standing above him Oni simply smirked, and his eyes bored into Owen?s. He had missed! The shot had completely missed and Owen was frozen in shock. Had Oni dodged the bullet!? How could he have missed? Shoot! Shoot him!

He attempted to fire another shot, this time aimed squarely at Oni?s chest, but Oni stomped down on Owen?s hand just as he was about to fire. The pain caused Owen?s hand to spasmodically fire three more shots into the ground. He realized Oni was about to stab down with the katana and tried to roll away. He yanked his hand free but was suddenly held in place by a paralyzing pain in his shoulder. Owen looked and saw the katana blade embedded six inches into his shoulder, and at the sight of it he screamed in pain. With his hand pressed firmly down on the katana?s hilt, Oni slowly removed his wakizashi while mouthing his intention to kill.

In Owen?s eye the blade reflected the light from the Yamato?s headlamps. So many times he had been near death, but never was he this frightened. Being blown up in a car was far less horrifying prospect then what was happening. At least he felt like he had a chance before and that someone would save his ass at the last moment. He closed his eyes and held on to the thought that Redline Fox had to be close. There was no way this guy could kill the foxy fox, no way, not while RLF still owed him.

Owen could not hear the Yamato?s engine running, which meant Oni had the foresight to have turned it off so it would not show up on radar. With the Fiarello stalled, no one would find them in time. Every breath Owen inhaled brought another wave of pain through his body, as the rising and falling of his chest created enough movement against the blade impaled through his shoulder to cut more flesh and muscle.

Something dawned on him. He should not have had this much time to think about what was happening. Involuntarily he had closed his eyes as he began considering the implications of his own death. Opening them wide he still saw Oni above him with his short sword drawn and the katana was indeed still stuck in his shoulder. But Oni was looking away from him and back up at the logging road. For what, Owen did not understand. He did not hear anything.

In a purposefully slow motion, Oni gripped the katana and removed it from Owen?s shoulder. The renewed surge of pain brought Owen to edge of passing out, but a high-strung sound reverberating through the forest kept him conscious. No longer caring about the young vigilante?s presence, Oni walked towards the sound which was quickly becoming louder.

Flicking his wrist he slashed the katana above his head and sheathed his wakizashi. ?Kitsune...?