[ Main ] [ Magespace ] [ Updates ] [ Fiction ] [ Character ] [ Campaign ] [ Commentary ]

It all looked like it was happening in slow motion.

One second, we were standing next to the car and 'Hawk was getting ready to open the door; the next second, the Americar erupted in a column of flame that sent pieces of flying glass and shrapnel and little chunks of flaming car flying in all directions. A thunderous, muffled boom split the quiet air of the neighborhood.

The force of the explosion sent us reeling. 'Hawk was flung several meters out into the street; I was thrown head over heels into the scraggly yard of the apartment building we'd parked in front of, finally fetching up against a tree about five meters from the object formerly known as 'Hawk's car.

I got up slowly, testing for broken bones. Fortunately, I found none. I silently thanked my armored jacket for saving my life. I looked for Winterhawk: he was still in the street, struggling to his feet, his face bleeding in several places where shrapnel had struck him. I could feel blood tricking down my face and neck from more shrapnel wounds, but they didn't feel life-threatening. Had to ignore them for now.

"'Hawk!" I called. "You okay?" I started toward him.

The gunfire began.

I didn't hear the one that hit 'Hawk; it must have been silenced. I was heading toward him when suddenly he cried out and dropped, clutching at his shoulder. My combat experience took over my reflexes—I was a sitting duck out here in the middle of the street. Moving at full speed, I vaulted out into the street, grabbed 'Hawk, and dragged him back behind the flaming hulk of the car. Something whizzed past my head, but I ignored it. "You with us?" I hissed at Winterhawk.

He nodded, teeth gritted. "Yeah." A dark stain was spreading rapidly across the right shoulder of his armored duster. No time to deal with that now, though. More shots slammed into the car.

"Well, think of something," I told him. "One of us better, or we're dead!" Damn! My best weapon, the SMG, had been in the trunk of the car. It was history now. How were we going to hold off a gunman with a Predator, a monowhip, a stun baton, and an injured mage?

Then things got worse. "Oh, shit!" I yelled to nobody in particular as the sound of non-silenced gunfire commenced. I peeked up from behind the car (which wasn't going to be good cover for very long, at the rate it was burning) and saw two big, buff-looking dudes emerging from their hiding place behind the apartment building. One of them carried an assault rifle (which was making the noise); the second one had an SMG in one hand and a katana in the other.

The air around us lit up as a spell formed. I felt the heat, but no pain. "Did you do that?" I yelled to 'Hawk.

He nodded. "Looks like they've got a mage too. I don't know where he is. I'll try to find him."

"Take out one of those guys!" I said, pointing toward the oncoming gunmen. Both wore armored coats and military-style pants and boots. It was hard to tell how fast they were, but I guessed I was faster. We needed all the advantages we could get. "We have to find new cover!"

The guys were firing again, taking up positions behind a large tree and a parked car three down from where we were. We kept our heads down while I drew my Predator. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. If I could get close to them, I'd have a better chance with my monowhip. I risked a shot, and was rewarded only by nearly getting my head blown off by the guy with the assault rifle. Quickly I ducked back down behind the diminishing car. Things were beginning to look pretty bad for the good guys.

I looked over at 'Hawk. His eyes were closed; for a moment I was afraid he had passed out, but then I noticed that his hands were moving. I held my breath, hoping he could do something to take out at least one of those guys before they got brave enough to storm our inadequate hiding spot. Another round slammed into the car, right in front of us this time, sending little sparks up in the air. I rose up again and squeezed off another shot with the Predator, in the back of my mind worrying about the sniper. He hadn't taken a shot in awhile, and I wasn't about to give him a clear line. Not if I could help it, anyway, since I had only a vague idea where he was.

'Hawk raised up a bit and pointed his finger at the two samurai. The spell swirled around both of them, causing them to stagger backward, reeling like they were drunk. Unfortunately, though, they didn't drop. As both of them recovered most of their bearings, I yelled at 'Hawk, "Move! We can't stay behind this car!"

He nodded, looking white as a sheet, and took off for the adjacent car. By the time he realized I wasn't following him, he had reached it, gunfire chattering around him from the woozy samurai.

I pressed my advantage, stowing the Predator and drawing the monowhip as I went, trying to stay on the far side of the big tree, away from the sniper's line of sight. Since 'Hawk had fallen backward when struck by the sniper's bullet, I figured I had the right direction. I hoped so. The tree also afforded me a little protection from the second sam, the one with the SMG.

I don't think Assault Rifle Boy was quite ready for how fast I could be when I wanted to. His eyes (solid-silver chrome—how original) widened in surprise as he swung the gun around and pulled the trigger, only to find that I wasn't there anymore. Cat-quick, I ducked in close and swung my whip, aiming to remove his head from his body.

It didn't quite work out that way, but the results were satisfactory anyway. The sam dodged, but not well enough. The whip dug into his side, opening a long slice through his armor. Again, he tried to bring the gun around, but between 'Hawk's spell and the monowhip wound, he wasn't firing on all his cylinders anymore. I easily evaded his aim and swung the whip again. This time I hit him in the neck. Blood spewed everywhere as he screamed and dropped, his head only halfway attached to his neck. One down.

But the others hadn't been idle. The sam with the SMG had circled around and was firing at me from the other side of the tree. Bullets slammed into my armored coat as I ducked and rolled, trying to get back on the right side of the tree so I could make a break for the car. One got through my armor and grazed my hip, throwing off my roll. Ironically, that might have saved my life: a bullet from the sniper slammed into the ground less than a meter from where I'd been.

From behind me, the samurai grunted and clutched his head again, dropping his gun arm. He was still mobile, but barely. "Thanks, 'Hawk," I muttered, leaping up and taking off in a full combat-crouched run for the car where he'd taken refuge. I almost made it. I was barely two meters from where I could dive behind the car when I felt a burning pain lance through my left calf. I cursed inarticulately, desperation driving my last ungraceful leap and slide that put me behind the car where 'Hawk was crouched, watching the action and looking for a target. I spared a quick glance at my leg: it was bleeding hard where the sniper's bullet had struck me.

The remaining samurai was reaching into his pocket for something, but seemed to be having trouble finding it. "Any other ideas?" I asked 'Hawk. I felt the faint tendrils of fear starting to claw at my mind: three of them were still up, and we were hurt. We didn't know where the sniper or the mage were. It was starting to look like we weren't going to win this one. I drew my Predator again, scanning the tops of the buildings in the sniper's direction, trying to spot where he was hiding. Far in the distance, I heard the sound of a vehicle approaching, but ignored it. If some idiot wanted to blunder into a combat zone, that wasn't my problem. Maybe they'd draw some fire.

The samurai had what he was looking for now. He pulled it out of his coat and began fiddling with it. I drew a quick breath as I realized what it was: a grenade. Shit! If he threw that at us in our present state, we were dead! I raised up a bit, trying to get a good line of sight with the Predator before he could throw that thing—

The sound of screeching tires directly behind us broke my concentration. I wheeled around, certain that whoever owned the vehicle was trying to run us down, the sound was so close.

A dark green van skidded to a stop next to the car where we were hiding, and the back door flew open. "Get in!" yelled a voice. Female.

"You're crazy!" I yelled back. We were in enough trouble already.

"Get in, you idiots!" the woman yelled. I couldn't really see her because of the darkness inside the van. "I'm a friend! A friend of Tommy's!"

[ [