Previous Next

This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

Posted on Fri Jul 9th, 2021 @ 7:21pm by Alden Loxley & Jonas Bailey

Mission: Yuan Fen
Location: Shadow
Timeline: 2506 (Eleven Years Ago)

Alden had the Sandfly sat quiet and dark out in the Black, waiting on the pick-up signal from their paying customer, but that wasn't what was worrying him. He sat on the edge of Jonas' bunk in the small cabin the man had taken as his own on arrival, and he watched the red liquid transfer down the clear tube from his arm to the unconscious man's own. Slow, steady and necessary.

When he'd been a kid, helping his momma save a cow on the ranch, Alden had been intrigued, curious and concerned for the creature's life. He'd been invested back then, but this was different. Jonas was too pale, and yet there was only so much of the red stuff Alden could share at a time.

"C'mon, buddy," the teenager whispered. "Wake-up. Please. Wake-up."

Jonas moaned and groaned and rolled his head a little. He blinked his eyes several times and looked over to the young man sitting on the edge of his bunk. "Well," he mumbled and looked at the red tube, "I'd hate to see the other guy."

"Other guy's dead," Alden pointed out with an expression that suggested he'd half expected Jonas to follow in that regard. He patted the younger man's shoulder gently. "You're not. You're gonna be okay, buddy." A short pause was followed by extreme optimism. "Wanna eat something?"

Jonas nodded a little. "Yeah, I'll try a little something," he said. He clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth. "Taste feels like it's a might be off. Could be a chance to get rid of some less tasteful stuff in the kitchen."

As he disconnected the tube set-up and sterlised Jonas' arm (and then his own) with a wipe, Alden smiled. "That's good, cos I got some three day old lasagne here," he announced, and produced a sealed container and two spoons. His gait was a little unsteady as he wandered back to help his patient sit up, then handed him everything but the spare spoon. "You first," Alden said.

Jonas accepted the spoon and the container. "Three day old lasagne, huh. Guess that's what I get for being funny." He chuckled ever so slightly and scooped up some of the lasagne. He felt a little queasy as the food settled into his empty stomach, but then it passed. "Not bad, chef."

He shrugged and grinnned. "That's kinda what happens when you're outta it for three days," Alden told his paying passenger who'd doubled as a free security detail. "Glad ya like it," the elder teen added, as he carefully watched Jonas' reaction to the food and fretted internally. "Pretty much this or crackers until we get to Shadow. Should be landing in an hour or so though - I can stall it if you need some more time, but also, should be able to get ya some real medicking help down there..."

A deep frown. "Think you'll be able to walk alright?" Alden asked then. "I could kinda use you looking mean if you're able," he added, with the hopeful optimism of youth.

"Nah, don't stall it," said Jonas. "The quicker, the better." He slowly sat up on the edge of the bed. "Should still have plenty of time to get up and moving. I can still look mean regardless." He looked at Alden and grinned.

"You sure?" Alden waited for that nod, then offered a big dumb grin back at Jonas as the younger man sat up. "Looking good, buddy," he noted, proudly regarding his security detail/passenger. "I'll get us down on the ground then," the pilot confirmed. He stood up, walked to the doorway and then turned to look back.

"Guess this makes us blood brothers, huh?" he half-asked, then disappeared out into the ship corridor without waiting for an answer.


About ninety minutes later, they were down on the ground, a smooth descent with a thump of a landing on a roughly marked out rock-cleared area amongst a greenfield site. Prairie fields stretched out beyond them in every direction, with a twist of smoke rising from a farm house in the visible distance.

The little Sandfly's cargo hatch still up, Alden waited for Jonas to join him before hitting the big red button.

"Looks like six of them out there," the pilot said. "All armed. Might be seeking to end us and just take the crates without paying...." He didn't sound worried, but a shaky hand at his holster signalled the underlying fear clearly enough.

"Six, huh," said Jonas. "Might have to be a little more sneaky than we were with the pirates. But let's hope it doesn't come to that." He put a hand on the gun in his holster. Then there was the one in the concealed holster which gave him a little more comfort. At least he had more than six rounds. "What's the plan?"

"Yeah... Six I can see anyways," Alden confirmed. It was open ground, long grass as the only potential cover, but that didn't entirely rule out hidden extras in the realms of offence. "Plan..." He seemed to be making it up on the fly, but sounded sure enough. "I'll walk out, you stay back in the shadows some. Enough to be seen, not enough to make them think it's just the two of us. And Eli'll be sat up at the top hatch on back-up overwatch. He's a decent enough shooter when he has to be, long as no one's trying to shoot him."

Alden looked to Jonah, eyebrow raised. "Open to any other suggestions if you got 'em though," he added, with a lazy confidence in his own plan. "Not averse to countin' in any extra experience in this kinda situation."

"Eh," mumbled Jonas, "sounds like a good 'nuf plan to me. Like the idea of overwatch. Kinda like the name, too...Overwatch. Might save that for later for something. I can do big and bad in the shadows pretty good, though. It'll give me a chance to scope out the surrounding area and maybe catch a glint off a scope from one we can't see. Can I have a radio to talk with Eli if I do see one? Might even make it look like there's more of us if I'm talking on a radio."

"That's a real good idea," Alden confirmed, his enthusiasm tangible. He chuckled. "Yup, I bet ya can at that," he added, youthful exuberance lighting his features as he looked to Jonas' broad and tall, if slightly battered, frame. "Thanks." He reached up above the main hatch to grab something, that Alden then handed to his companion. "Radio," he said, pushing the small piece of plastic and metal into Jonas' hand. It looked beaten to hell and back, but it lit up regardless. "Real basic, but it'll get ya from here to up there."

There was a pause. "Eli," the pilot told the ship's intercom. "Grab the radio on your way up. Jonas'll be on the other one."

Then Alden sighed, grinned and hit the button to open the cargo ramp. "Don't let me die down there, k?" He said, and turned to stroll purposefully down to meet their gathered patrons. At his side, in his holster, Alden's hand lingered close to his trusty Model B.

"Howdy, folks," the teen addressed the cleanest of the bunch. "So, we ready to trade? Just need to see the money and we'll roll out your crates."

Two of the waiting men lifted a crate and dropped it at Alden's feet.

"Fair trade," said the dude in the fancy jacket and clean stetson. "Not credits. These are hard times."

Alden visibly and demonstratively sighed.

Jonas keyed the mike on the radio for a mike-check to make sure it was working and to go on with the idea of there being more of them. His other hand rested on his visible side-arm as he scanned the area surrounding the drop site. His attention was drawn to the exchange when Clean and Preen said there'd be no credits. Jonas had to wonder what was in the crate that could compare with the amount of credits it could have held. Better be something damn good or he's about to have a hard time.

Crouching down, Alden took out a screwdriver and prised the case open to see just exactly what he was dealing with. At the same moment, Eli keyed the radio back to Jonas, his voice quiet.

"Ten o'clock," the engineer reported. "You see something shining?" Long grass obscured detail, but as the wind caught said grass and swirled it, Jonas caught the same glint that Eli must have seen. Weapon? Farm machinery? Or maybe both.

Meanwhile, inside the crate, Alden discovered their payment was being made in dried meat and corn. He closed his eyes for a moment and winced as hard as his face would allow.

"I can't give you the goods for this..." Alden said on an exhale. "They're worth way more." He heard the ping of a small projectile hitting the Komorebi's hull, but as he looked up all six men had their weapons holstered.

Jonas had radioed back to Eli that he'd caught a glimpse of something at that position as the wind blew. "Yeah, I saw it, too. But the shiny keeps jumping around that little area when the grass blows. Gimme a minute." He turned just enough to pull out a pair of binoculars he'd stowed in a crate behind him and then picked up the radio. "This'll give me a better look." He zeroed in on position and watched as the wind blew grass in waves again. "Looks like a tractor to me."


"The hell?!" said Jonas as he jumped slightly. "Damned if somebody's not using that tractor as cover! That was either a warning or somebody's a bad shot." He looked down the ramp and saw that no one had their guns drawn. His job was to keep Alden safe and that's what he intended on doing. He tossed the binoculars back in the crate and ran behind it. He removed the 54R Sniper Rifle that his boss gave him as a gift before he left. Seconds later, he had it positioned on the crate lid and targeted on the tractor. Then yelling down the ramp at Alden and the others, "One more shot and I blow the fuel tank on that gorram tractor that's bein' use as cover!" The young guy was going to have some difficulty specifically locking on to the fuel tank. But they wouldn't know that.

Crouched down by the crate, Alden winced as Jonas yelled, but drew his own pistol and scooted behind that meagre cover. The little band of farmers scattered into more defensive positions about the Sandfly's ramp, though the last man to move fell face down in the dirt as Tractor Sniper found his mark.

A string of Chinese coloured the air as the Komorebi's young captain tried to find a target, while two of the farmers dragged their wounded alongside the little ship. Alden fired back angrily, unable to get any kind of bead on the enemy sniper but aiming to give Jonas some cover. As a lucky shot caught one of the rear tyres, the vehicle lurched some...

Jonas grinned and fired off two shots at the tractor. Both were aimed in the general vicinity of the vehicle's center. One pinged off something metal and the second one Jonas never heard hit. The only thing he could think was that he just gave the tractor a through-and-through. Jonas cursed and took aim again. As luck would have it, the wind shifted and the grass began blowing the other direction. Jonas had an open shot at a tank near the bottom and took it. The tractor exploded in a brilliant fireball and sent shrapnel into the air. If that wasn't a distraction that would give Alden some time to get back to the ship, he didn't know what'd work. Radio in hand, he keyed the mike, "Eli, give the boss some cover fire." Then he yelled down to Alden, "Come on! I ain't about wantin' to dig shrapnel outta you! Get in here!" He quickly switched to his hand gun and opened fire in order to give his young friend some cover.

That fireball should have been a beautiful red and orange backdrop to Alden's run for cover. It would have been if the eighteen year old Ezran hadn't opted for standing, awestruck on the Sandfly's cargo ramp whooping loudly and punching the sky as if his team had just won all the sports. Around him, however, the five remaining farmers scooted for cover positions, one dragging the crate of weaponry, all leaving their sixth and what was left of his head where he lay.

"Awesome shot!" Alden yelled as everyone else sought any new available targets. From off to the west, a rally of fire opened up as at least two shooters began to make their way swiftly through the tall grass, attracting return fire from two of the Farming Five. In the midst of that live exchange, Alden walked slowly backwards up the ramp, making sure to stay out of Jonas' line of sight.

From Jonas' point of view, as the fireball dissipated he noticed something to the far east making 'waves' across the plain. A vehicle of some kind, low down and unseen - a Mule perhaps?

Jonas grinned wickedly at Alden's praise. "Time to take advantage of that distraction," he said to Alden. Jonas zeroed in on the closest of the two distracted shooters through the scope. He fell as the round penetrated his head. The second one turned just in time for his face to show in the scope. Right before Jonas rearranged it via the next shot. "If I only had a grenade."

There was a whoop of unbridled victory infused with the height of enthusiasm only eighteen years of life could bring to the party and it found its way through the unexpected silence that followed a whole bunch of shooting. It echoed in the quiet that ensued as everyone present - the five remaining farmers and the crew of the Komorebi - waited for the next sign of trouble.

A minute passed. Two. And there was nothing.

"Did we get them all?" Alden shouted over his shoulder, his gaze scoping the plains and seeing nothing.

And then, from off to his left, an explosion of sound and light as someone unseen lobbed a flash grenade.

"I was looking right at it!" Howled Alden as he stood blinking in temporary blindness. He heard the sound of a gunfire, somewhere off to his right. Too far to be their crowd. Someone unseen let out an agonised scream as one of the farmers caught them with some inaccurate, but eventually successful shots from a hunting rifle. And someone else - closer now - returned fire.

"When I wished for a grenade, I wanted it to use on them! Freakin' universe!" Jonas rubbed his eyes and blinked really fast in an attempt to clear up any vision problems. That's when he heard a round hit the inside of the cargo bay somewhere behind him. Then another, but closer, round buzzed him. This time he heard the general direction of the gunfire as his vision was slowly coming back. To say that Jonas was angry would have been an understatement. Full of rage and wrath would be more fitting his current emotional state.

Jonas looked around inside the crate for some sort of automatic weapon. If the universe wouldn't give him a grenade, then hopefully... The young boy found one and grinned. He quickly loaded it while he moved up next to Alden so as not to hit him. Then in the reckless teenage abandonment of someone who'd almost been shot, Jonas opened up a spray of automatic fire in the direction of the single shot. "Nearly shoot me, you back-birthed, manure-hoppin' panda piss!" Jonas released the trigger and scanned the plains. "Anymore of you gutless wonders hidin' in the tall dry grass!" he shouted. "Maybe we set it on fire before we leave, huh! How's that sound?!"

"I'd really take it as a kindness if you didn't," spoke a small voice in a low gruff manner off to the left of Jonas, Alden and the Komorebi's cargo ramp. Huddled to the side, one of the local farmers had buried himself into cover when the hail of rounds opened up across the fields, and was just now raising his head. "You see why we needed the weapons now, though, right?" He offered.

Alden finished checking himself over, shocked in a good way at the lack of bullet holes in his own body, but buoyantly overjoyed at this revelation. He wrapped an arm about Jonas' shoulder and beamed a grin at his paying passenger and security detail all rolled up into one. "Awesome shooting!" The elder told the younger. "Thought we were lost there for a second." His gaze shifted targets then, to the farmer and his plight. "One weapon each," Alden said. "From the crate. With ammo. And I'll trade for the produce. Take it or leave it."

"Taken," said the older man without hesitation, and he nodded in grateful thanks. "Figure we keep the spoils?" He asked, hope filling his question.

"All yours," Alden confirmed. He had no particular need or desire to go picking weaponry from the dead out there. "C'mon," he said, turning to Jonas. "Let's get these crates outta here and get gone. You need some downtime and I need some beer. Sound good?"



Previous Next