All was still in the frozen expanse. The compound was a speck of gray in a gigantic island of snow and frozen mountains. The sea surrounding it was icy blue and the reflection of the sky in the water was so perfect that the ice appeared as if floating in the middle of the clouds.
In the complex, an alarm blared. More followed. The stillness of the scene was shattered.
A lone snowbike raced out of the complex just a second before the heavy, metal doors could close entirely. It spat snow in all directions as its driver fought with the controls to avoid rocks and the deep ice crevices.
The doors opened again and more snowbikes followed after the first. They were at least a dozen, with more incoming. The man they chased looked back, saw them, and accelerated as much as the engine could stand.
The pursuers couldn’t outrun their prey, but they outnumbered him. The snowbikes spread like a pack of wolves and chased after the lone snowbike with a constant roar of engines fighting against the ice.
The man looked back once again and drove his vehicle towards the edge of the ice, still maintaining a healthy lead.
Back at the pack of pursuers, a woman’s voice blared on the communicators:
“You let him get away and it’s on your pension check,” she said with a coldness that rivaled the air currents around them.
“There’s no place to go, Madam,” said Foreman. He was the chief of security of the compound and the one responsible in the case of an escape. “He can’t outrun us for long. He’ll run out of gas.”
To drive his point home, he pressed on his bikes’ pedal and slowly gained on his own men. He was leading the chase both physically and strategically, with the efficiency of a man who has survived several wars in a lifetime of service.
So, why was she so furious? The escape hadn’t been Foreman’s fault…
“He obviously doesn’t think so,” she pointed out. “I suggest you order your men to begin shooting.”
“He’s still too far away—” Foreman closed his mouth before he could fully contradict his boss. When Stefania Caputi told you to begin shooting, the best bet was to listen to her or she might tell the others to begin shooting at you. “Men, begin covering fire. Aim at the ground in front of him and drive him towards the crevices.”
Shooting a rifle from a moving vehicle was hard. Doing so at a moving target from a long distance while driving a jumpy snowbike was next to impossible. Foreman’s pragmatic nature made him wince at the sheer waste of ammo.
The man they pursued saw the snow around him explode as the rounds hit all around him, without actually coming close to hitting him. He began to zigzag and shot back at them without turning back to aim. He had the right idea: it didn’t matter a damn at this distance, but it helped get people nervous. Nervous people made more mistakes.
The volley went far over the pursuers’ heads.
On the comms, Stefania Caputi could be heard barking a string of orders to an unseen soldier. For what Foreman could hear, she wanted to get air support over there post haste. Even artillery.
The air support Foreman could understand. It was protocol. But the artillery was overkill. The fugitive had no possible escape.
“He’s going to run out of ice at this rate,” Foreman pointed out. “This chase will be over long before the air support arrives.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” muttered Stefania Caputi under her breath.
Instead of drifting, like Foreman hoped, the man they chased pointed his snowbike straight at the edge of the ice. At the speed he was going there was no way he could turn around in time.
A couple of the soldiers under Foreman’s command realized this on their own bikes and pressed on the brakes. Foreman himself began to do the same.
“What are you doing?” Blared Caputi’s voice on his ears.
“He’s going to fall over!” Exclaimed Foreman. The fall was huge and led into freezing water.
“Then jump after him!”
Foreman may have been a soldier but he wasn’t a random mook. He liked living quite a lot, thank you.
But an order was an order. He pressed the accelerator and shot forward like a bullet. A couple of the other soldiers yelled at him to stop, but he closed the channel. He needed to focus.
The other man was almost to the edge of the ice. It was now obvious he had no intention of slowing down. Turning would be impossible even on the special tires of the bike. Foreman decided the fugitive’s only chance of escaping was to jump sideways at the last second and to hope he found a rock to grab before skittering over the edge.
So, Foreman took careful aim. The man was driving in a straight line, now. The soldier unloaded the entire weapon in the fugitive’s general direction. One hit the snowmobile and sent a shower of sparks, black smoke, and fragments of metal in all directions. The bike skittered.
The man fell to the ground and inertia made him slid on the ice and drove him dangerously close to the edge.
Without stopping his shooting, Foreman jumped out of his own snowbike, slid on the ice with the practiced grace of a soldier who has lived a dangerous life. He took aim again. This time, he wouldn’t miss…
The fugitive, without bothering to look back, regained his footing without bothering to stop his forward momentum. Instead, he jumped. His body crossed the air, besieged by Foreman’s shooting. For a second, the fugitive appeared to fly across the air. Then he disappeared under the edge of the ice without so much as a scream. His snowbike was next and Foreman’s own bike followed. Both of them made heavy splashes on the water below.
Foreman stood up with a pained grunt. He holstered his rifle and reopened his communications to hear the impressed voices of his soldiers:
“Good shooting, boss!”
“Just like something out of an action movie!”
“If only the bikes had exploded…!”
He allowed himself a small, triumphant smile. It quickly vanished when Stefania’s voice blared on his helmet’s speaker:
“Well? What are you waiting? Follow after him!”
The soldier thought something very unflattering of his boss. “Beg your pardon, Madam? The fugitive just jumped a two-hundred-feet fall into open ocean—” He had to stop himself before getting dangerously close to insubordination.
A silence followed, long enough to make the soldier wonder if he had just lost his cozy job as chief of security. Then, Stefania spoke again: “You know what? Confirm the kill.”
“Wh—?” Foreman coughed and thought better than second guessing Caputi two times in the same sentence. “Yes, Madam.”
He walked to the edge of the ice, glancing at the surface with distrust. Then, slowly, he peeked over the edge.
Nothing. Just the icy waters down below, still as a mirror, disturbed only by two concentric waves in the spots where the snowbikes had fallen.
“Hypothermia must’ve set in by now,” he said over the comms. “I think this is enough to confirm the fugitive’s—”
Snow was floating atop the surface of the water. Foreman did a double take. No. It wasn’t floating. It was suspended in the air. Then it was rising. Towards him. He clearly heard the roar of an engine way too big to be a snowbike. Too big to be a helicopter. It was the roar of an engine powered by an antimatter reactor. The sound was unmistakable.
The air rippled in front of him. The view of the ocean grew distorted. The soldier felt a wave of paralyzing surprise and terror travel down his spine, chilling him more than the air around him.
The air drew the outline of a spaceship. Its outline grew clearer by the second and then colors appeared. The metallic armor of the ship shone under the light of the alien star.
Foreman realized he was standing right in front of the ship’s nose cannons.
“What the f—?” He muttered weakly.
“Those,” explained Stefania Caputi over his open channel, “are two twin-linked laser cannons, starfighter-grade. A custom model made by the Terran Federation as commissioned by one Beard Ivanic. Those cannons are installed in the bow of The Diplomatic Immunity, which is the ship you’re seeing right now.”
“But the fugitive… he jumped—”
Stefania Caputi sighed. “And you’d be inside the ship’s cabin if you had jumped after him like I told you to, soldier. I’d fire you if I thought your replacement would be more competent. Enjoy your respawn, Mister Foreman.” The last thing he heard was Caputi ordering her unseen subordinate to launch all planet-bound fighters in pursuit of Cole Dorsett.
I had you, The soldier thought. This is just not fair—
The laser cannons shot him. Foreman and all the ice around him were vaporized in a single instant.
You have died! A ship’s laser atomized you in what you thought was your moment of triumph. What a bummer! Time of death: 2:34pm. You’ve lost an item [Firedome-class Shield Generator] during your Quantum Safeguard. Don’t despair! In Rune Universe, death is part of the adventure! And the adventure… continues!