Wu aimed the truck right for the speeder and cycled up to 13th gear. When the gears locked into place Wu cracked the throttle back up to max and held on.
“Are you crazy?” Jie yelled.
“Do it.” Sifu ordered.
When Penny saw the truck pass the fourth block she knew it wasn’t slowing down.
“Get up, get up get up getup.”
Knowing he wouldn’t have time to fly straight up the pilot aimed the thrusters at the truck and hit the power, throwing them back and gaining some ground from the oncoming machine before pointing them down again and yanking back the throttle.
“Good.” Penny breathed when she saw the truck pass harmlessly underneath. “But keep on ’em.”
The Pilot pulled the craft in a 180 turn and stayed on their tail. “You want me to spool up the guns?”
“They had their warning. Hit ’em.”
With a grin on his face, the pilot opened up with the Speeder’s underslung machine gun.
Wu grit his teeth as round after round repeatedly punched into the tank behind him. Hot sweat trickled down his face and he changed up to the 16th gear and poured on the speed.
“That tanker’s going to be empty in another minute.”
Sifu pointed at the mall in front of them. “Aim for that cafe, hit the gas and hang on. I’m powering up the mister now.”
“We’re doing what?” Jie screamed.
“Hang on.” Sifu called back.
Wu jammed his eyes shut, mounted the curb and ploughed into the cafe like a brick through a plexiglass window. Bystanders, tables, chairs and the front window scattered in all directions as 40-tons of machinery pile-drove itself inside at 120 kilometres per hour.
Wu slammed on the brakes as the truck broke through, shaving off precious little momentum before the nose came to an unavoidable stop against the back wall. At the moment of impact the truck’s collision-systems kicked in and the safety foam was deployed. Wu felt the harness he was strapped into pull tight against his body as it attempted to leave his seat and a face-full of rapidly expanding foam filled his vision.
“All units, pin ’em in.” Penny barked from up on high. “That didn’t look like no accident…”
Before Penny could give her next order the cafe exploded in a giant ball of smoke. The pilot violently pulled the speeder away from the rising cloud.
“What the..?” Penny gasped. The explosion had been completely noiseless. For a few moments she worried the Black Mask Society had just unleashed some new weapon. Then she noticed that the ‘smoke’ was unusually wet.
“Surround the entire complex, don’t let ’em slip through.”
The Captain jumped on the channel. “You cannot order my men into a potential hazmat area. All sections, cordon off the area and await NBC clean-up.”
Penny moved her hand through the AR controls in front of her face and zoomed in her view on the ground beneath the cloud.
“It’s just steam Captain, I can see it dripping onto the pavement.”
“When I’ve had that confirmed Ranger, we’ll move in.”
Penny turned off her mic before she yelled someone down the channel she knew she’d regret.
“They’re getting away.” Penny growled. Then she turned to the pilot. “Take me down.”
The pilot set the speeder down where his comrades were setting up a cordon around the shopping mall.
Penny popped open her hatch and jumped out before the speeder could reach the ground. She hit the road at a sprint towards the cafe, her helmet closing over her head as she went.
The steam pouring out the back of the truck was starting to thin out, leaving only damp pavement and cafe debris. Penny slipped her pistol from its holster and took cover at the back of the truck.
A few breaths later, her environmental sensors informed her that there were no toxins in the air and deactivated her respirator.
While the garrison troops watched nervously from their cordon twenty metres away Penny moved down the side of the truck with her pistol up, watching every little movement around her.
The sleek little cafe, which probably passed for trendy out here on the periphery, was a shambles. The sound of plexiglass crystals crumbling to dust beneath her boots betrayed her every step.
Penny reached the cabin, it was crumpled like a plastic cup from the crash and leaking safety foam everywhere. The driver’s door lay ajar. Penny quietly moved up to the door and threw it open as she burst in with her pistol.
She found Jie sitting in the back seat, still covered in safety foam. He threw up his hands when he saw Penny. “Don’t shoot! I’m just the hostage.”
Penny quickly scanned her surroundings, glancing behind herself to make sure no one was sneaking up on her. “Captain, I’ve secured the hostage and confirmed there is no Nuclear/ Biological/ Chemical threat in the air. Get your men in here before the Triads get away.”
Penny glanced back at Jie to make sure he wasn’t making any threatening movements. He remained in his seat, trying to suppress the excited smile that threatened to burst across his face at any moment.
Penny climbed out of the ruined cabin and looked around. In the back of the kitchen she found a service door leading into the rest of the mall. Penny jumped back on her coms.
“Sorry to bother you Sheriff, but I need access to the CCTV in the mall. Our two fugitives escaped into the shopping centre and I need to know where they’ve gone.”
“That’ll take a minute Ranger Dreadful.” The Sheriff sighed. “We’re not set up like the cops in the big cities.”
Penny lowered her weapon to her ready position. “I understand.” She said, trying to hide her frustration.
As Penny moved back into the cafe she saw the garrison troops had finally been allowed to do their jobs. A whole squad of them swarmed the place, weapons up and pointing everywhere.
Penny walked right passed them and back out into the street. “Hostage is in the cabin boys. Be gentle with him, he’s just a kid.”
Penny waited outside. Until the Sheriff got her the stream from the security cameras, she couldn’t go into the mall proper without inviting an ambush from a million different angles. If they’d abandoned their hostage only to take another one then she’d definitely need to know where they were within the mall or where they’d escaped from it.
Penny looked at the shattered tanker truck and it finally clicked in her head. She saw the misting unit on the back of the tanker, they must have bypassed its failsafes and overloaded it, boiling the entire tank and venting it all at once.
Suddenly an alert appeared in Penny’s vision. Penny broke into a run towards the recon speeder and gestured hurriedly for the pilot to fire up the engine again.
Penny got back on the comm. “Sheriff, don’t worry about the mall, they’re at your office, they’re trying to access my star fighter.”
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