Avril winced, his gaze stuck on the motionless rider in the street, but he pushed his sympathy down. Gabe was right about one thing, It’s us or them.
“One down. One on the road south. Two more at the supply drop. Four on the road behind us. That just leaves three,” Avril told himself as his car turned away from Taral’s main street.
He expected Maxian to have at least one guard, and he’d already seen the other two bondsan going to the northern entrance. The two bondsan at the supply drop and the one heading south could all return at any moment, but for now, the odds were in Laurill’s favor.
If we’re lucky, they all come at me now.
Avril scanned the windscreen display for signs of Laurill and Maxian. Laurill’s EMP bomb would disable Maxian’s guard and give them their chance to flee.
The drone’s feed showed the main street and the bar, but Laurill and Maxian weren’t visible.
The assault vehicle skidded through a sharp turn, and Avril steadied himself against the dashboard as he checked the display for the road-bikes he’d seen heading to the northern entrance. He spotted them just as the barricade exploded outward, and the hover-truck pushed through, scattering vehicles in its path as it barreled toward Taral’s main street.
One rider near the entrance skidded and fell from their bike, but the other kept their seat and easily avoided the truck and the cars it pushed ahead of it.
Sloppy is right, Avril thought, remembering Laurill’s assessment of the cadre.
The fallen rider pulled their bike upright and remounted after stumbling over it.
“Let’s get their attention,” Avril said and pointed at the road-bikes on the screen, confident the car’s AI would pick up his gesture and act.
A laser blast struck the passenger window across the cab from Avril and cracks appeared in the armored glass. The blue-green gel of a chemical blast-shield swelled and spread across the window like fast-growing mold to seal the cracks and reinforce the glass.
Another blast followed the first, but the chemical blast-shield had hardened, and the laser had no effect.
Avril turned to the source of the blast and saw a helmeted figure riding their bike toward him with a blaster extended before them.
“Fire back,” Avril instructed.
The car shuddered beneath him as the roof-mounted laser-cannons whirred through a turn and then recoiled when they fired. The first blast struck the road and hid the bike and rider behind an explosion of tarmac and dirt. The bike sped through the airborne debris, and the second blast struck the rider full in the chest. They flew backward and collapsed in the street. The bike skidded and toppled over.
They came back, Avril thought, thinking of the bondsan who’d passed him outside the city. He pushed down his regret and guilt and reminded himself, I gave them every chance. Now, it’s them or us.
He checked the display for the bar where Maxian was being held again.
A bondsan rushed into the street, looking toward the chaos at the northern entrance. As Avril watched, the hover-truck he’d followed into the city rumbled along the street gaining momentum. The second truck from the north approached from the opposite direction.
“Here we go,” Avril said.
Resisting the speeding truck’s momentum, the bondsan stepped back as it flew past him. The view from the drone high overhead showed the trucks collide in the center of the street. Even two blocks back from the collision and behind the assault vehicle’s protective armor, Avril heard the impact and flinched at the unexpected violence of the sound that rolled over him. The cabs of both vehicles folded into themselves and each other, glass sprayed from shattered windows, and the trucks’ trailers lifted from the back, twisted and fell, devastating buildings and vehicles along the street when they thundered back to the ground. The lone bondsan staggered back from the collision, but he controlled himself and took a tentative step toward the crash, his weapon up.
“That was it, Laurill. That was your chance,” Avril said, expecting to see Maxian shifting into his dualist form and taking wing with Laurill mounted behind his neck, but neither Laurill nor the dualist were visible.
What’s holding you up? Avril wondered and jumped in shock as new laser blasts struck the driver’s side window and the windscreen in front of him.
Blue-green gel blossomed into a protective coating that hardened and absorbed the next laser blasts.
Two figures fired at the assault vehicle from the corner of a building on the street ahead. Both wore helmets and carried heavy laser blasters. They’d parked their bikes a short distance away. One kneeled, their companion stood behind them, and they alternated firing at him as his assault vehicle sped past the alley where they took cover.
“Fire,” Avril instructed the AI even as the car shuddered underneath him from the laser-canons’ recoil.
“Destroy their bikes,” Avril said, and the next blast sent the road-bikes careening into the air in pieces before smashing into a wall.
The bondsan ducked and ran for cover then resumed firing at him.
They were quick, Avril thought and glanced at the north of the city on the windscreen display where he’d last seen the bondsan.
Three more bikes were heading toward him.
What the… Avril let the thought trail off and did a quick calculation. Two bondsan were down at the southern entrance, two were firing at him, another three were coming his way, and at least one guarded the building where Maxian was held.
That’s too many. Did the four we left behind get ahead of us? Avril thought. No, they didn’t have time.
“Fuck!” Avril slapped the transmission control on the dashboard and shouted, “Laurill, get out. It’s a trap!”