We had the reagent in hand, and the briefcase was in place and counting down. The main entrances were booby trapped (I love that phrase, booby trapped), so we escaped the nuclear facility through an emergency exit. The sky was not as dark as it had been. That freaky mana storm had passed. It was raining, but this seemed like natural rain. The magic was still there, though. The plants were greener, more vibrant. Too vibrant, like all of nature was throwing one huge rave party. Ruin joined the rave, shining like a glow stick.
My watch beeped and I looked at it. Four minutes to detonation. Null sweat.
Flit went to Walker’s truck and got it started. Foolish me, I was hoping we’d have a clean getaway. Then a headless body fell from the sky. Well, maybe not from the sky, but from above the first floor. Two dudes shot at us from windows on the top floor. We returned the favor. One guy took so much lead he was cut in half. The other guy took a hit and retreated, smart fella.
Flit got all fancy and jumped to the top of truck cab. The rest of us loaded into the truck and raced off. At least, that’s what we intended to do. But something weird was happening. Some kind of magical beings were forming everywhere. They seemed almost invisible, like ghosts. They slowly transformed from ethereal to physical. Zig Zag did his best to drive around them, which slowed us to a crawl. My watch beeped. Three minutes to detonation. We needed to move.
As if we didn’t already have enough problems, some VTOL was dropping packages like a seagull dropping shit. These turds fell to the ground, an outer shell broke open, and then some kind of machine started to initialize. From out of nowhere, a dozen Amerinds appear and engage the machines in a firefight. The machines were running laser scans at the same time they were shooting the Amerinds.
A magical tree-like creature swung its branch into our windshield, shattering it. Zig tried to speed things up by seeing if we could move through these translucent creatures manifesting everywhere. An earth elemental thing came up out of the ground. Zig Zag drove into it and it was solid enough to damage the truck and bring us to a stop. Then one of those machines scanned us, and the beam landed on Davina. We heard through a speaker. “Subject identified. We have found her.” All the machines turned towards us simultaneously and surrounded our broken truck. Beep. Two minutes until detonation.
New plan. Ruin summoned an air spirit who could speed us up by a factor of six. We got out of the truck and planned to make a run for it. This was an excellent strategy. Then the plane descended and fired on the air spirit. Only Zig Zag was able to speed away before the spirit was destroyed (banished?). Typical elf—Zig ran off and disappeared into the woods.
The Amerinds were no longer the target of the machines. They stopped shooting and paused, taking it all in. I think they were trying to figure out what was going on and who we were.
Ruin and Davina recognized the pilot. Some troll from New York named Alicia. Was this revenge? That’s so unprofessional. Davina shot at the pilot, but the armor on the plane was far too strong, and the bullet just bounced off.
The machines on the ground started to shoot at Davina. We retaliated, but we were seriously outclassed. Flit went down first. Then Davina falls. Then Ruin. Zig Zag is nowhere to be seen.
I’m standing there, alone, with all of these machines now pointing their guns at me. The VTOL circled and came towards me. Another beep. Only a minute before detonation, and we were not clear of the fallout zone. We would be hit by chunks of cooling tower and we would breathe radioactive dust. This was assuming we would still breathing in a minute which seemed unlikely.
Then the Amerinds launched grenades at the machines. High explosive grenades. These guys are alright.
Just when it seemed the tide of battle was turning, the ground shook. What was going on? It was too early for the explosion. The earth ripped open, and another, much larger toxic dragon starting clawing its way out of the crevasse. Oh, come on! Seriously?!
I smacked a stimpatch on Flit. She woke up quickly, and we slapped patches on Ruin and Davina. We were almost out of time.
A giant loogey flew through the air and landed on the plane. Remember the classic movie Alien, where the alien’s blood is a super acid and it melts shit on contact? It was like that. The VTOL fell to the ground, crashing in front of the toxic dragon. Trolls are tough, so it was only a small surprise to see Alicia still alive.
This troll takes out a hand cannon and shoots the dragon. The bullet bounces off as if it were a pebble. The toxic wizworm hocked up another loogey just for her. Remember how the Wicked Witch of the West melted when Dorothy threw water on her? It was like that. The blast was only seconds away, but I took a moment to relish the scene.
The Amerinds were now waving us to follow them. Could we trust them? Not many options, so we followed them as they headed underground.
Then I heard the sweet music. The initial crack that transforms into an echoing, melodious rumble. The tremors beneath my feet. The brief reduction in decibel followed by the sound of debris raining down like the wrath of an angry god. It gives me goosebumps every time. I kinda wish I could’ve been closer so I could hear the glass breaking and the tower cracking, but oh well.
Zig Zag located his car and drove back. He found the underground complex and joined us. At first, we weren’t quite sure if we were guests or prisoners. Their shaman healed us and they gave us place to rest. They fed us meat and potatoes. Real meat and real potatoes. This is when I knew we were guests of the Salish-Shidhe and not captives.
They led us through their underground complex, to an open field where we met Chief Littlefeet. He thanked us for saving the Salish dudes that were up there fighting the machines. Mostly it was them saving us. They were our saviors. This guy thanked us anyway, and he meant it sincerely.
Littlefeet said the troll woman was their enemy. Zig Zag showed him the video of her melting. The chief asked if we had anything to do with the explosion at the power plant. We denied it. Well, it turns out he was glad it blew up and he was grateful to whoever was responsible.
The chief offered us some gifts and opened up the tribe’s resources for trade. Zig Zag asked for more meat and potatoes. He traded his ring for a bone and feather necklace. Flit asked if they had any mono-filament devices to trade, but they didn’t. Ruin went into full greed mode, trying to barter a rock-bottom price for reagents from the people who saved our lives. I think we won back some goodwill when we agreed to take the VTOL with us when we left his country. Littlefeet also arranged for us to have no hassles crossing the borders.
I disassembled the plane and put it on Walker’s truck. Meanwhile, Davina worked on a side job, harvesting the reagents that can be found after a mana storm. Finally, we head back to Seattle to deliver the product and get paid.
Ruin called Mr. Johnson, who wanted to meet us on the docks. That’s an odd location, especially open to ambush. Sounded fishy to us. The fences we called didn’t answer, but not surprising, as I think they were not especially beholden to us.
Davina called Wall to let him know she had the reagent he asked for. No answer. Not even voicemail. Something to worry about?
We decided to park the truck with the VTOL someplace less conspicuous. We put our heads together and came up with Thule’s safe house. Then we called Mr. Johnson again.
He was still resistant to change locations for the meetup. We asked him to meet us at the Hole in the Wall, the place where he offered us the job. He agreed to meet us outside the bar.
We knew Mr. Johnson was planning something shady. Flit went up to the roof of an adjacent building, with a nice view of the parking lot around the Hole in the Wall. The rest of us went to the meetup. We parked the car and found Mr. Johnson waiting for us next to a Ford Americar. We could tell there were others in the car. Johnson wanted to hear about what happened on the run, and Ruin told him. A dude in the back seat gave the credstick to Zig Zag. When I went to hand over the goods, two thugs jumped out of a 2nd car and opened fire. Mr. Johnson betrayed us, the fragger.
Zig Zag did a fancy move, sliding over the top of the Americar. He pressed his gun into the back of Mr. Johnson’s skull and said, “Call off your men.” Mr. Johnson said, “Uh, okay. Stand down.” Only he said it like he was asking a question, not making a command. Three men surrendered. Then the back window of the Americar lowered and a spray of bullets ripped through Zig Zag. He collapsed, blood pouring out of him like a faucet.
Flit started taking out the tires of the 1st car. We followed suit with the other tires, then the windows. Mr. Johnson ran to the 2nd car, blasted me with a burst of lead, and got into the car. I fell to my knees, then my side. As I lay there bleeding out, I saw him drive away. The bastard escaped.
The other car was in bad shape, but they still tried to drive off. Flit swung herself down from the roof of the two-story building and started to chase after the car. Davina wasn’t going to let the other fraggers get away. She tossed a grenade through the car’s broken window. The last thing I remember seeing was the car lighting up like a Roman candle. I thought, if I were dying, what a beautiful sight to behold as my last image on earth.
I woke up to find myself alive and considerably richer. We found a fence to sell Walker’s truck and the damaged VTOL. We each scored over 68K for those vehicles, plus the 7K we got for running that shit job. That’s one hell of a haul. Considering I almost died—we all almost died—I’m not sure I’d do it again.