Don’t forget, all but chapter one will be removed from my blog when Light Tripper is released for sale, so enjoy juicy freeness while you can!
Sal had been trying to think up an escape plan. There was a short period where she thought about Dorkin’s Chocolate Fudge Bars, but she never proclaimed herself to be focused to a fault.
Morgan spoke at last as if reading her mind. “Even if you get out of those cuffs, even if you get out of this room, we’re in Moby’s compound and we have no clue where Light Tripper is. Sorry, baby, but we’re screwed.”
“I think I prefer it when you’re wasted. You talk less.”
“Don’t talk to me like that, Sal. I’m still your dad.”
Sal frowned. It was hard not to look her father in the eyes when their faces were a nose hair apart. This seemed like as good a time as any to ask an obvious question. Morgan had nowhere to hide.
“So. You going to tell me what all that Class Two clearance stuff was about?”
Morgan spent awhile contorting his face through various expressions of shock and bemusement. Sal guessed he was stalling.
“You’re going to believe a word that fashtapa says? It was bullshit, Sal. He’s just trying to stir up trouble.”
Sal glared. “He knew you were P.A.”
Morgan rolled his eyes. “It’s not a secret.”
Sal was unconvinced. “Why would he bother making that up? He was going to kill you anyway.”
“Gees, Sal. Whose side are you on?” Morgan growled tersely. “I’m telling you there ain’t nothing to tell. Now how about you rest your yammering and figure us a way out of this mess?”
Suddenly there was a thunderous boom that shook the floor. It was followed by another, then another and a blaring siren added to the din, as Sal heard raised voices and frantic running in the halls.
“What the hell,” Morgan said with concern. “Is that canon fire?”
“Why would Moby be firing on his own compound?” Sal sighed.
Morgan slapped the back of her head. “And you’re supposed to be the smart one? It’s not Moby, dummy. He’s under attack.”
“I’m the dummy? Who in their right mind would attack Max-freaking-Moby on Lotus of all places?”
“Somebody who’s not scared of him.”
Sal was sure she felt Morgan shiver.
“Sounds like the Planetary Alliance have made the jump to Morpheus,” he managed.
He was talking crazy, he had to be. It was most likely some disgruntled debtor with a death wish. Maybe even Trick getting his revenge on Moby. She feigned a guffaw at Morgan’s little joke, but his returned silence made her nervous.
Sal cleared her throat. “Well if we were praying for a miracle than this is it. Time to go.”
Sal began to shuffle towards the door, dragging Morgan with her. She kicked at a wall panel until it fell away, revealing a mess of wires and blinking lights.
“I’m gonna blow it.”
Morgan cocked an eyebrow. “Have you forgotten that my head is cuffed to those laser beam hands of yours?”
Sal shook her head casually. “Nope, and that would be a problem if I was trying to melt off the cuffs. Just hold still, ok?”
Sal wrestled with Morgan for longer than her patience would allow. He had quite a bit of fight in him for a man in his inebriated state. Still though, a swift knee to the bread basket and kick in the shin subdued him and Sal was able to grab hold of the control panel. A tiny spark of energy was all it took before the panel fizzed out and the cell door slid open.
As Sal had hoped, the chaos overtaking the compound had left them completely unguarded. They hid behind a wall when a group of armed henchman came running past.
“Now what?” Morgan groaned.
Sal kicked him again, but this time it had nothing to do with her escape plan.
“You can either help or stop being so damned whiny. Geez.”
Morgan looked around the hallway and his ears pricked at the sound of a familiar voice.
“Lock down the top floors,” Cora screamed. “Blast everything on the storage level into space. The P.A. must not get those files.”
“Kinda pushy for a receptionist isn’t she?” Sal asked.
“I think she’s more than that,” Morgan replied. He grinned. “I’ve got a plan.”
Sal was surprised, even a little excited, until Morgan stuck his head around the corner and screamed, “Hey, you with the ass. We’re escaping. Come stop us.”
He pulled his head in, laughing and thinking himself very clever. Sal stared at him blankly in disbelief.
Sure enough, moments later Cora came charging into the room with two henchman at her side.
Sal high-kicked the first in the face, then dropped low to ground sweep the second. When he was down, Morgan was quick to drive a knee hard into his throat until he passed out.
It all happened faster than Cora could draw her gun. Morgan kicked it out of her hand and quickly she was sandwiched between them, with Sal’s arms tightening around her neck.
“Alright, gorgeous. How about you let us out of these cuffs?”
“Moby will kill me,” she coughed.
“Looks like he has enough on his plate,” Sal snickered. “He’ll never know and I won’t have to break your neck.”
Cora wore a wrist control panel that didn’t complement her outfit in the slightest. She tapped a few of the keys and the cuffs snapped open, falling to the ground.
Morgan’s hands immediately went into his pants, digging around the crotch. Both Sal and Cora observed uneasily, but Morgan’s hand soon emerged holding the Deal Breaker.
“That shrapnel is great for getting this baby past scanners.” He took Cora from Sal and spun her around, holding the tip of the knife to her back. “You’re going to take me and my girl to our ship now.”
“The P.A. are everywhere. Lotus City is locked down. You’re not getting out of here, none of us are.”
“You’d be surprised what my little girl can do,” Morgan said. “You just get us to Light Tripper. We’ll handle the rest.”
As soon as they stepped into the hall, the compound was hit by more heavy weapon fire. The building was becoming unstable now, with windows shattering and debris falling from the upper levels. There had to be a battle-cruiser out there packing some serious energy cannons. Moby’s compound was no fragile pile of sticks. It was metal and slate and built to withstand any onslaught. Of course, Moby probably never expected to be under siege by the Planetary Alliance.
Sal and Morgan weaved their way through the halls and levels, avoiding patrols and falling ceiling panels. Cora was taking them to a storage deck on the upper floor where they kept smaller shuttles. It was on the southern side of the complex which seemed to be garnering the least amount of P.A. interest. If they timed it right, if Light Tripper had enough speed in her, they could make a break for it and get lost in the pandemonium.
“Did the P.A. blow the shield?” Morgan asked
“No,” Cora grunted, tired of being pushed and pulled every which way. “They hacked into the mainframe and opened a portal. Disabling the shield would be suicide, everyone in Lotus City would choke to death on slate.”
“Oh, poor criminals,” Sal said sarcastically.
“Lotus City is bigger than that, sweetheart. There are families living here. Kids. No way the P.A. would risk that.” Cora snarled. “They’re the good guys, right?”
Morgan breathed heavily. “Depends who you ask.”
They reached the storage floor and unfortunately a handful of Moby’s henchman were the first to greet them. Beyond them though, and close to the landing deck, was Light Tripper. Sal ducked behind a container, returning fire on the henchman while Morgan restrained Cora with some wire he pulled from a cargo bin.
“What are you doing? You can’t leave me here!”
Morgan sighed. “Damn it. I knew this would happen. You’ve fallen in love with me.”
Cora grit her teeth. “My other options are Moby selling me to one of his business associates or spending the rest of my life in some P.A. facility.”
In the meantime, Sal had managed to take out three of the henchman but was quickly running out of ammo. What she wouldn’t give for a PEP revolver right now.
“Sorry, legs,” Morgan started. “I’m a space outlaw. The stars are my home, sure, it gets lonely…”
Sal moaned loudly, then hit Cora over the back of the head with her gun, knocking her out cold.
“Legs is sleeping now. Stop talking!”
Morgan looked disappointed.
“It was her or you,” Sal said quickly. “Now can you help me clear a path here?”
“I have to do everything,” he grumbled. He glanced around and noticed several sealed barrels. He smirked as he read the label. “Ah. Fresh H2O from the core of Lotus 5.”
He stabbed the lid of one barrel, then gave it a shove, clear water pouring out and streaming towards the henchman a few metres away.
“Nice plan. Their feet are all wet. Now we’ve got them,” Sal said, deadpan.
Morgan tugged Sal’s ear. “Charge up your magic and stick your hand in the water, smart ass.”
Sal smiled when she realised that sometimes, just sometimes, Morgan wasn’t a complete waste of space. She waited for him to get off the floor before placing a balled up fist of glowing energy into the stream of water. Immediately, the stream became electrified and the henchman were soon little more than smoking husks.
Sal and Morgan steered clear of the water and ran to Light Tripper just as another canon blast rattled the building. They opened the airlock and climbed aboard, Morgan smothering every inch of steel with kisses on his way to the cockpit.
Before joining him, Sal went to her bunk and retrieved her revolver, also sneaking it a kiss. As she hurried back, she noticed two boxes of Dorkin’s Chocolate Fudge Bars stacked against the wall.
She tore open a box and snatched out a bar, stuffing it greedily into her mouth.
“You’re such an asshole, Benny,” she mumbled between chews.
“Sal, come on!” Morgan called from the cockpit, stirring her from her chocolate trance.
Sal jumped into her chair as Morgan powered up the engines.
“Did the thrusters get fixed?”
“Looks like. We got full power. I’m going to pump everything we’ve got into them, give us a nice burst that should take us right out of here. Then we just use the P.A’s portal and get our behinds back into the big starry dark,” Morgan said.
It was a good plan in theory, still, Sal was savouring her fudge bar just in case it would be the last thing she’d ever eat.
Morgan slapped his cheeks, smacking the last traces of shine and dust from his body. The thrusters screamed as Morgan poured everything Light Tripper had into them, then with a flick of a switch, she surged forward.
They sped along the landing bay, through the narrow opening, then burst into the atmosphere like a cork from a bottle.
Sal gasped. “Oh. My. God.”
She had just caught sight of her first Planetary battle-cruiser and its massive perfection was frightening. It stretched across the lightning streaked sky, a colossal shard of steel lined with pulsing blue lights. Rapid-fire plasma cannons blasted mercilessly at Moby’s compound while several short range cannons picked off attacking cruisers. Sal noted several small P.A. starfighters circling, taking out the defences of Moby’s compound and returning fire from the turrets on the roof.
Beyond the deafening laser blasts, Sal could make out a woman’s monotone voice sounding from the battle-cruiser and through the city.
“Citizens of Lotus City. There is no cause for alarm. By order of the Planetary Alliance, you are instructed to remain in your homes. Please alert ground troops if you require medical assistance. Thank you for your co-operation.”
Cora was right, Lotus City wasn’t just Moby. Ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives existed here too, way down there, below all this madness. The attack continued and Sal spared a thought for those people caught in the cross-fire. She hoped the P.A. were the good guys, that they would not risk innocent lives. Morgan was less concerned.
“Alrighty. Let’s get out of here.”
Morgan manoeuvred Light Tripper through the bedlam and as anticipated, the P.A. and Moby’s crew were far too busy bombarding each other that they didn’t notice the ship weaving its way towards the portal.
Sal held her breath as they dodged plasma bolts and debris tumbling from the compound. She wasn’t worried they’d get hit, Morgan was far too good a pilot for that. What had her nervous was the sound the thrusters were making and the familiar smoke rising from the engine room.
“Didn’t Benny say he was waiting on a casing for the thrusters?”
“I do recall him saying something like that,” Morgan said nervously while at the same time pushing the thrusters even harder.
There was a crackling through the comm as it picked up a transmission. Sal made out two words, ‘Planetary Alliance’, it was enough to pique her interest and she made an effort to tidy up the signal.
“This is Commander Archon of the Planetary Alliance. You are ordered to cease fire and surrender.”
There was another transmission from the same location. Sal guessed that to be the battle-cruiser. She changed frequencies just in time to intercept the message.
“All scout ships report. Have you located the anomaly?”
“Slate storms are interfering with all systems. Can’t pin point the location.”
“Keep searching. The Commander has seized control of the Moby compound where the anomaly was first detected. Keep communications open for further instructions.”
Sal looked to Morgan. “Anomaly?”
Morgan turned off the communicator with a pound of his fist. “Don’t listen to that garbage.”
Light Tripper raced through the sky, clearing the P.A’s portal with ease and making for the stars.
Sal strapped into her seat and seeing Morgan wasn’t doing the same, did it for him. His eyes was focused straight ahead, his mind however was somewhere else, his bottom lip wedged between his teeth, his hands shaking on the levers. It was an expression Sal didn’t see too often. Morgan looked scared.
Suddenly there was an ear-shattering bang, as loud as the canon fire they had left behind. The smoke from the engine room was thicker and pouring onto the upper levels. Sal grabbed two oxygen masks from a side compartment, putting one over Morgan’s head as he tried to keep Light Tripper under control, before pulling on her own.
“They’re gone,” Morgan said. “Not just the thrusters… the engine too.” Light Tripper began to nose dive. “We’re going down, Sal. Hang on.”
Light Tripper was aimed straight for the outlands and clearing hundreds of feet in seconds until they were only seconds from impact with the craggy, ashen landscape.
Alarms blared, sounding their imminent crash landing, the panels sparked and the cockpit filled with black smoke. Sal reached out in the dark, her hard breathing echoing in the confines of her mask. She closed her eyes in search of calm and found it when she felt Morgan curl his fingers around hers. He squeezed them tightly and she squeezed back as Light Tripper continued to descend.