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Landfall: Serenity Valley - Shots Fired

Posted on Thu Jul 2nd, 2020 @ 7:29am by Alden Loxley & The Narrator & Alison Bliss & James Thomson & Noah-Jade True & Daiyu

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Hera - Serenity Valley
Timeline: Day 12 - Late Afternoon

Serenity Valley graveyard. Sacred ground to many, and the location where over half a million hearts had stopped beating, some more slowly than others. They were still here, buried in marked and unmarked graves, forever entombed and never entirely forgotten. Small headstones littered the rocky ground particularly in the vicinity of Serenity View, a town that had watched over them for the last six years, and a people who guarded them with a fierce loyalty and a deep respect.

Further, much further, up in the sparsely vegetated, scorched and blackened ground away from public attention, there was a different vibe going on. Here, up on the flat ground above the yawning valley, stood two ships that faced each other from their opposite sides of the high cliffs.

One was beaten, but familiar, battered from its unknown past but restored and maintained with the love, hard work and devotion of its core crew - the Fortune’s Echo. The other was a mere shell, a skeletal form of a long dead Walkabout, sat up atop the cliff with a flag sticking jauntily from its upper hull and flapping in the slight wind.

The Echo was missing its starboard shuttle, Karen and Jacob having wisely disassociated themselves from this little side mission. Its ramp was down, open cargo bay allowing those who chose to watch an easy view of the scene on the valley floor just below them. Aboard were four very different people - Alison, Kai, Noah and little Daiyu.

Down on the ground, at the base of the boulder strewn valley floor, two men were covered in dirt and wielding shovels. James and Alden took turns to dig, and just as James hit what they were looking for, as his shovel splintered wood from a coffin, they - all of them, ship and diggers - heard the shots.

First, from within the husk of the Walkabout, a short range missile fired. It sailed across the short space of sky and impacted, slightly off centre onto the rear of the Firefly and scored an indirect hit on the edge of engineering.

Noah found himself knocked back by the hit: though to be honest, that was probably more from him startling and jumping up than from the impact itself. The engineer just grunted as he straightened himself up. With all his adrenaline he could hardly feel his own body, or his own thoughts, and the sound of the hit was still occupying his mind. He was in panic mode - and before he could even think of anything else, even the safety of his bird, he began starting up the engines. There was a checklist in his mind, but it was one he was so used to he could do it even in this state. Check. Check. Check. Che-wait. One of the air lines had been knocked loose. Whatever. That was a quick fix. He he sealant, somewhere, oh yeah, on the top of circuit box. There. Fixed. Probably not a good sign though: if it was loose what else was? No time to worry about that now, Noah thought to himself, as he pulled the final lever to start the engine. The engineer just stood there for a moment, letting the loud old engine sounds (again, not ideal), drown out his thoughts. Then he got on the intercom: "Alison? Alison the engine's starting, once them two are on board we can go," he said, sounding almost panicked - an unusual tone for the usually apathetic mechanic.

"Mei Yong Ma Duh Tse Gu Yong." Alison cursed rushing to the bridge and slid into the pilot seat. She began pre take off check procedure. Her hands moving on the console, flipping switches and tapping buttons in a very precise order. Her experience told her they were just hit by a missile, or a rocket. The screen finally lit up with statuses and Alison checked them carefully. No serious damage. That's good. She leaned over to speak into the intercom. "I don't know if we can take another hit. Kai?! Where is James and Alden?"

"Still down in the valley!" Kai shouted back, the intercom releasing the response at a painful volume up on the bridge. "We have to wait!"

Daiyu let out an ear-piercing scream. "Don't let them take me!"

"No one's even here!" Yelled Kai, wincing at the pitch of the other young woman's voice so close to her. "Alison! We're not leaving!!"

Secondly, from somewhere on that same side of the valley, a rifle fired. It was quiet, muted and yet announced loudly in its arrival as Alden yelled upwards into the sky and grabbed a hold of his left arm.

James reacted quickly and lunged for his cousin, situating the pair between the shooter and a barely large enough bolder. His expression was blank as he assessed his cousin to make sure Alden's situation wasn't fatal. "You need to put pressure on that" the younger member of the Loxley-Thomson clan informed as he took off his denim shirt and handed it to his cousin. James gave off the air that the situation they were finding themselves in was all too normal for the younger Ezran.

As he was pulled over and down to the ground, Alden muttered a string of curses under his breath, but he didn’t fight the move either. He sat, his back to the rock and examined his own arm briefly. “Went right through,” he noted, sounding irritated as he wrapped James’ shirt about said limb and grimaced as he pulled it tight. “Can still shoot with this one, though,” Alden added, and drew his Model B from its holster.

And thirdly, a second missile sailed past the starboard side of the Firefly so close that it charred the hull in a straight line scar.

The missile streaked past the bridge and Alison winced. The missile turned and then hit the ground fifty meters ahead and exploded kicking dust and sending bits of rocks in every direction. They couldn't stay here.

"Hold on, everybody, I am taking off. Who is not on board, we come for them later!" She called on the intercom. With that, she flipped few switched to redirect power, and pushed on the throttle. The thrust lifted the Echo and with a gentle touch, Alison began flying away. "Close the ramp!"

Not needing to hear it twice, Daiyu didn't hesitate. She vaulted over the side rail of the catwalk into a squat, then monkey-flipped onto the deck below. She landed into a roll and came up near the door mechanism. It took two tugs from her small, waifish body to budge, but soon the hydraulics kicked into gear with an angry groan. As soon as the doors began to draw close, Daiyu scampered back to her perch.

"Well, aren't you just full of surprises," muttered Kai, but behind the incredulous confusion, she was kinda impressed. "What did they teach you at home?" She threw across the cargo bay, then, as the ship lifted upwards and forwards, Kai realised this was going to be a bumpy ride. "Better strap in, Moonbrain! C'mon!" she ordered, as she headed up and towards the bridge.

Behind them now, Alison had another, smaller ship on her rear sensors, and, as she banked the Echo, yet another inbound missile warning sounded loudly in her ears.

Alison dived to gain speed before she banked in one direction and then hard banked in the other almost immediately. Fortunately, it was enough. The missile forced to recalculate the interception trajectory one time too many, was too slow to react and missed, passing good ten meters past the Echo's stern. To avoid any more missiles being locked on them, Alison hugged the ground, flying just meter or two above, hiding in the shallow valley from the shooter.

"Liu Kou Shui De Biao Zi He Hou Zi De Er Zi." Alison cursed seeing the smaller ship closing in. She pulled the throttle to the maximum. "Noah! We have a smaller ship on our tail. I need some extra power as I'll try to lose them."

"We're in a yī dà tuó dà biàn Firefly, we don't got 'extra power'." Noah spoke as he picked up from the ground, having fallen down when they banked sharply. They were still in atmo, and so there was nothing to compensate for the change in direction, gravity-wise. That being said, he did check the fuel mixture; and they were indeed at nearly full power.

The small vessel was coming in hot, much more maneuverable and faster than Echo. Alison focused on the flying as if she ever was going to outfly it, it would demand her full attention. She jinked into a small canyon, almost scraping the paint. The other pilot caught by surprised was forced to climb. That gave Alison the opening. She pulled on the stick and the internal dampeners failed to compensate sudden Gs that made everyone suddenly overweight. But the transporter raised behind the smaller vessel, getting on its six. Since they were unarmed, Alison aim was to knock it off, using the bigger mass. A scrape for a Firefly-class could be lethal for the smaller ship. But, the opponent realized what was going on and in the very last moment banked so hard that Alison couldn't follow.

"Ai Ya Jwai Leh." Alison was disappointed. "Bad boy." She spoke to herself while she threw the Echo into the dive again, turning gently in a wide turn, aimed at group of jagged ridges. The reverse Gs had everyone suddenly underweight. The smaller vessel was by far more maneuverable and halfway toward the ground, it was back on Alison's six. The alarms blared. "Oh, come on! That's not fair." Then blaring turned into beep of incoming missile. Two even. The smaller ship didn't want to risk it and fired two missiles.

Alison reacted, accelerating toward the ground and banking hard and sliding back into the canyon. This time, she did scratch the paint off the port engine. The maneuver, pushing her down into the seat was partially successful. One of the rockets hit the edge of the canyon into a picturesque explosion, bursting dust and rocks in every direction. The second missile however managed into the canyon after the Echo and the proximity fuse detonated it right outside the engine compartment. The detonation rocked the Echo, flinging the massive transporter against one of the canyons walls. "Oh no you don’t!" Alison growled pulling on the stick and turning the thrust of both engines simultaneously giving them a split-second afterburner burst. She managed to regain control avoiding splattering the ship against the canyon wall. She veered stabilizing the course. It looked like Echo was tougher than it may seemed. They were still flying.

Then, Alison glanced on the console, flashing with several alarms. Including fire into the engine compartment.

"Noah!? Kai! Get to the engineering and see if we didn't lose it. Please."

James watched the Fortune retreat, cursing every deity he'd heard of as he watched his and Alden's cover make for safety. Their departure wasn't without opportunity though and expecting their hunters would be preoccupied with the Firefly vessel James scrambled to grab his rifle before tucking himself behind the rock again. "You okay?" he asked, looking his cousin dead in the eye. The anxieties he'd been squashing seeping through.

As James emerged, if briefly, from cover, the rifle fired again, dangerously close to the younger man’s hand as he reached for his own firearm. Two more shots fired in slow, deliberate succession, but these both hit the boulder that James and Alden were using for cover.

“Been better. Been worse,” said Alden, but he closed his eyes in an obvious stress response as they both watched the Firefly lift off and move out. “Looks like today’s headed for worse,” he added. “You have time to get the thing?” He asked.

"I have my hand," James said matter of factly lifting the appendage up for confirmation, before moving to pull a boot off, quickly transferring most of the length of the laces to the one side, "We shoulda brought a first aid kit," he pointed out with a nod towards Alden's arm.

"Didn't think we'd be losing the ship so gorram fast," muttered Alden and he looked to his cousin as they both heard the merest of movements from behind them, and then a shot went wide, hitting the ground at James' feet. They were pinned, between the shooter up on the cliff, and another from the direction the Echo had previously been.



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