A sonic boom cracks the sky beneath the floating city. Tossing to and fro in the wild surf below, the little inflatable raft seems little more than a speck on the ocean’s roiling back. The aging interceptor slows and pulls up twenty metres above it, hovering unsteadily in the wind and rain.
Big Jimmy eyes the jet above, one hand shielding his eyes from percussive rain drops. “This a rescue? Or someone else to wanting to kill us?”
Observing the hovering silhouette, Chun pulls her pumpgun from her back holster and cocks it. The Anvil stares dourly at her. “A bit out of range, don’t you think?”
“Of course. But not for long, I suspect,” replies Chun.
Johnston watches the overhead monitor. The three figures in the boat below are shrouded in downpour and the image distorts further every few seconds. He hits the monitor with his palm. “Damn it, Kanji, can you get this picture any better?”
The pilot turns back, her metal eye pieces glinting in the cabin light. “You have a choice, Boss. We can take a dip in the ocean where you’ll get a better view, or I can keep this jet stable and you can have a crappy one. What’ll it be?”
Johnston swears. “Okay, I can’t tell who’s who down there, so we’ll have to assume they’re all hostile.” Jayle and Sarain smile at each other, activating various arm-mounted weapons: EMP cannon, Ion Taser, Plasma Net. “No fatalities,” Johnston says.
“Boss, we’re professionals,” says Jayle, winking. Her IT and PN mods are visible outside their forearm housings.
Sarain strokes her EMG, her massively oversized arms and chest armour barely fitting in the cabin. “Just open the door and let me have one shot.”
As if on command, the cabin door slides aside and the elements introduce themselves. Sarain leans out and fires a silent pulse at the raft below.
The Anvil’s systems die. She was about to attempt a shot from her MWEs when they both ceased functioning, returning involuntarily to their forearm housings. Chun sees the look of alarm on the Anvil’s usually unmoving masculine countenance.
“Probably an EMP pulse,” Chun says. “It’ll take a few minutes for your systems to reboot. Big Jimmy, time to show us what that antique handgun of yours can do.”
“Shit,” says Jimmy, pulling out his Magnum as he continues to shield his eyes from the deluge.
An amplified voice from above: “Lay down your weapons. We know about the armature. We don’t want any trouble. We can get you out of this storm.”
Johnston has his eye on the monitor; he can see some movement amongst the blur. “Stage two,” he says. He squeezes over to the cabin door, takes out his plasma pistol and uses the infrared viewfinder to target the raft floor between the three glowing red figures below.
The raft bottom shreds: it immediately collapses and the three occupants go down into the surrounding waters. Jayle and Sarain speed down into the chaos on droplines.
Water clouds her senses. The Anvil’s bulky male form drops like a stone, sinking, sinking. She flails her arms and legs uselessly, a string-less marionette. The jet above recedes as the cloying darkness consumes her. She glances to her back capsule to see Violet, thumb in mouth, but calm, protected from suffocating and the changes in pressure as they sink lower.
Above, an immense black shape collides with the surface and shoots down, some sort of propellant system in its boots. The Anvil sees a huge, hulking black woman, tube-like hair flailing like angry, radioactive snakes. The woman’s massive torso and oversized arms close around the Anvil and drag her up, up, up to the surface and away from the sea’s cold embrace.
As the Anvil’s head breaks the water she sees another woman, with sharp blonde hair and shining, metallic legs, suspended via dropline from the interceptor above and lifting two unconscious bodies in a glowing net.
The droplines retract and the Anvil and her companions are pulled up to the hovering jet.
The cabin is very cramped. Johnston eyes the Anvil warily. The armature is still restrained by Sarain from behind, the EMP cannon pushing into her temple. Chun and Jimmy are unconscious, the depleted plasma net hanging loosely around their forms as Jayle awkwardly takes her place on the bench.
“We won’t harm you,” Johnston says. “But try anything stupid and you’re all on a one-way trip back to the bottom. Are we clear?”
The Anvil nods.
Sarain glances at Johnston. “The asset is safe. Looks like she’s gone to sleep.”
“Where are you taking us?” says the Anvil. “Do you work for Bester?”
Johnston laughs. “You think we’d be travelling in this piece of crap if we had the backing of the world’s richest man? You’re in the waveruins. The Chao Triad wants a chat with you.”
The Anvil stares blankly.
“And Lady Chao isn’t very happy about losing a plane and a fire team. I guess you’ll have to explain that to her once we get back.”
The jet arcs and weaves through the surrounding skeletal buildings that extend from their watery resting places like broken teeth.
The Anvil’s systems are back online. She scans the surrounding cyborgs, noting armaments and calculating potential firing patterns and escape vectors. The EMG pushes hard against her head. “You’re not the only one here who can classivise,” whispers Sarain. “I suggest you sit back and enjoy the ride. I wouldn’t want the little girl or your friends to get hurt in an unfortunate crossfire.”
“That’s good advice,” concurs Johnston, strapping in.
The Anvil settles back uncomfortably, mind racing. Outside the rain dashes against the hull as the interceptor nears its destination—the headquarters of Lady Chao.
To be continued…
Missed earlier instalments? Click here.
What is ANVIL?
ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.
Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.