Porter, flying past the others to the front of the wind carrying them skyward, held out Hasami’s sword. That wind rushed in his ears as the broadside of the ship sped towards him.
He broke through the hull. His sword tore through the shield and into the metal, punching a hole which the wind widened, sucking in the others. The entire ship turned on its axis with the impact.
Porter crashed into the walls of the hall where they’d penetrated. The spell girl and Smith landed as well, with Babba the only one hitting her feet. She sent bolts of lightning down the dark corridors, the flash of light showing armed androids sputter and drop dead.
The environment is hostile, Porter thought. “We need to find the control deck, Smith?”
The gaunt man replied. “That would be the place to gain control, yes!”
“I’ll find the way,” the spell girl told them. She threw out a handful of marbles which bounced along the floor and set rolling in the opposite direction they should have. With the ship tilting and turning, balance was hard to keep, but they still got running. Babba kept the lead.
“Hey!” a male voice came from behind them. Porter was at the back and quickly turned to see, running out of the dark, an Eidolon. He was young, his helmet missing and a gun in his hands. His face had black fluid on it. He illuminated them with a shoulder lamp. “Aku is in the system,” he said, catching up. As he spoke, what sounded like a gunshot echoed down the hall. “The core is set to meltdown. Everyone’s getting to the escape pods, sirs. They can still be manually launched.”
“If this ship goes nuclear, we lose.” Porter pushed Smith to keep moving as Babba started back leading. “You’re with us, now!”
Red lights lit down the corridor, a horrible siren beginning to blare.
We don’t have time. We won’t be able to save the ship and the Eidolons.
The ship was massive. They’d pierced it closer to the front than the back, but it would still take time. Porter kept the rear as cracks of lightning felled more machines ahead. He felt how lightly he stepped, as he went. He realized, they were still descending.
If the ship was going to hit the ground, he thought, they’d be lucky to get it back up again. Going fast enough, the impact would wipe everyone out.
Babba hit a door she couldn’t knock down. The soldier ran up to the thick steel gate’s keypad. He punched in a code.
“SCREEEEEEEEEEE!” the intercom screamed.
“Jesus,” he swore, shooting a hole through the speaker.
Porter moved for the door, fixing his eyes its surface. He sped up, hitting with his hands before bringing his head at full force into it.
“Goddammit,” the soldier cursed again, jumping out of his way.
Porter bashed his head against the metal again, putting a dent deep enough to work his hands into the surface. He breached in and ripped the doors apart, blowing out the hydraulics in the walls.
Smith and the girl ducked under his arms as he pushed. They rushed in. The main deck of the ship, a massive glass wall before a long walkway and rows of terminals, a number with corpses seated. They climbed up to the captain’s station, pushing his body out of their working space. Smith cracked out a drawing implement, speaking quickly to the girl. He needed her to amplify the area of effect.
Porter walked slowly onto the deck, regaining his bearings. His saw red that wasn’t there, shook his head to clear it. As he looked up and out the glass for the Martian sky, he shouted, “Brace!”
It was the surface flying towards them, the ship tilted face down. The gravity engine had fooled him. Rushing towards the glass was the valley a half mile down. He saw the dragon take flight, out of the safety of the shield they’d erected, only to be swarmed by drones.
He heard a crash, sensed a metaphysical snap.
The ship’s power completely died. Every light went out, the reactor meltdown ceased. He looked back, not seeing Babba but seeing Smith, who raised his fist triumphantly, only for his eyes to widen in horror. Porter followed his line of sight, over his should and back to the glass.
Red rock flew to meet the ship head on.
Kyle’s eyes opened, too blurry to see. He startled back into consciousness, his waking mind hit with icy hot pain lancing up his spine.
He rubbed sweat drenched blond hair from his eyes. He grasped at the top latch of his suit, snapping it open trying to free up his chest. He tried to breathe, but everything was wrong.
As he opened his suit, he caught a glimpse of his shaking hand. Where the interconnected circles had been, the skin and meat were tattered.
“Oh man.” He looked to his left, across the rocks. The legs of one of the Beaulieu brothers were dashed against them, severed by laser fire. “Oh, dear.” He could hear somewhere nearby, the other brother was screaming.
Kyle’s eyes cleared enough to look up at the sky. The ship which had taken them down was falling nose first towards the ground. A hurricane of wind was suddenly encircling it. A speck of a woman in the sky pushed the wind, sending the entire thing off course, in his direction.
He rolled over, trying to crawl. He let out a shout of pain.
Watching it come down, he thought of Jillian.
Porter stumbled out. The whole world was on its head as the gravity changed in his inner ear. The ship had turned over on its back after hitting. Babba had steered them away from the Utopians, slowing their descent. He’d not been crushed in the wreckage because of her.
Wherever she is.
He stepped down from an outcropping of rock, coming to an overlook.
The Utopians were in the valley, still holding against the onslaught of drones.
“Help!” a voice called.
He turned back, running into the mouth of the wreckage. They, Porter and the girl, dragged out the body of Master Smith, pulling him until Porter stopped.
Fuck, he realized. This is screwed.
“Smith’s dead,” he told her, letting go.
“There’s a… healer in the valley,” she said, catching her breath. “She can resurrect someone shortly after death. The brain, it stays active…”
He shook his head. “No. You saw his ritual for separating the ship’s essence from Aku, didn’t you? We’ve got to get you into space.” Porter craned his head up, trying to figure out the problem. “We’ve gotta… get Aku out of their system, before things get worse. We need control.”
The ships were a shadow in the firmament.
“Oh, my God,” she realized, letting go of Smith. “He’s dead. I have to do it?”
“Yes!” Porter snapped. “What’s your name?”
“Wanda,” she answered.
“Where’s that soldier?” He brought his attention back to ground level.
“He has to be inside,” Wanda knew.
Porter ran back into the dark interior of the captain’s deck. He found him, trapped beneath a detached computer console, against the upturned wall. Porter tossed aside the console and pulled him up. “Clyde,” he said, finding his name. He shook the Eidolon by the shoulders.
“Fuck… my arm! Sir?” he answered, coming to, pulling off Porter’s grip. He stood by himself, grabbing his broken bone. “What are we doing?”
“We still need to get into orbit,” Porter told him. “Where’s the hangar?”
Clyde looked back down the crushed ship interior. “I know the way if it’s clear.”
“I can make it clear.” He started ahead, rending metal. “Come on!”
They went quickly with him at the helm. He tore through anything in their way. They came to the hangar bay doors after a few minutes, Porter pushing through them. Immediately they saw a problem.
The small crafts were tossed about the hangar, on their sides piled at the back wall.
Porter caught his breath, sizing up the problem.
The heap of ships couldn’t be flown like this.
I’m going to have to He-Man it.
“We can do it,” Porter told them. He walked up to the top of the pile and grabbed hold. “Get in the cockpit, soldier.”
Clyde ran up the mound and pushed up onto the top ship’s wing. He popped the hatch and jumped in, starting the engine.
“When I get you level, go for a vertical takeoff.” He braced and lifted.
The metal under his feet bent as he raised the backside of the jet.
Porter groaned. He flipped his hands, bringing the ship to chest height, trying to work his way underneath. He had to get it up, he had to get it over his head. He tapped his power and dug deep to push himself.
The underside thrusters kicked on. A blast of heat hit Porter. His suit was melting he could feel, but he could take it.
Nothing can hurt me, he told himself.
“Give it some more!” he roared, stepping fully under the many ton ship and extending it high over his head.
Finally, the weight was relieved. It lifted, floating to put some distance between them. Porter stepped down, his blue suit charred black. He rubbed his scorched face.
Clyde set the ship to hover, stepping out onto the wing. “There are only two seats,” he said. “That’s all I’m good for, sir. Good luck.”
Porter let Wanda go first, jumping from a peak on the pile to the jet’s wing.
“Join the fight, Clyde. Find the other Eidolons,” he ordered.
Clyde nodded, still holding his arm. “Yes, sir.”
Porter climbed on, Clyde hitting the ground. He didn’t look back as he slid into the pilot’s seat. Wanda was already in as the hatch came down and pressurized.
The jet thrusted up and out of the wide-open doors of the hangar bay. Immediately as they came out into the smoky sky, a swarm of drones broke away from over the valley. A black cloud from the remaining assault.
Aku was ready to take them down.
Porter buckled in, taking the controls, bringing up the display.
“It’s been years since I’ve flown,” he said to Wanda. “But I try not to rattle.”
“Yes, Master,” she replied, catching a glimpse of the swarm approaching as they turned. Her breath hitched. “Don’t rattle,” she repeated.
“Man the guns,” he ordered her.
“I know you know.” Don’t rattle. He was in control.
The approaching drones fired out a rain of red beams.
“Here we go!”
Porter punched the throttle, turned on the shields and piercing the swarm’s mass. The spheres broke against them, bouncing off. Cracks formed in the cockpit glass with the impacts. The jet’s guns blasted in his ears.
The drones had perfect turning ability, instantly on their tail again as they broke through the machine’s front. But Porter knew what these ships were made for, what they had over the drones.
He kicked it up, driving his head back into the seat.
They left the drones behind. Their fire damaged the ship’s wings as they ascended, but the shields held. The air outside thinned as they accelerated into the vacuum.
“Easy,” he said, putting on a grin.
“I guess so…”
The armada became clear over the planet, sitting dead in the water.
Now in the emptiness of space, he could make out something he’d missed from the surface. Squadrons of unmanned fighters which rocketed between the ships. They took formation as he left Mars behind, climbing high into orbit where the ships hung still in the sky. It was a trap.
Porters grimaced. The squadrons closed in.
“Wanda… man the guns.”