Marauder ramses, p.4

Marauder Ramses, page 4

 part  #4 of  Mating Wars Series


Marauder Ramses

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  “Wouldn’t she?” I say. “Why risk you infecting everyone?”

  She looks down at her wrist, then up at me. “It happened because you cut off the band! If you hadn’t –”

  “You really want to have risked that?” I ask.

  “We need to go to the station,” Elise says. “We need to tell them what happened and let them know that Harmony….”

  I can see the realization creeping across her face as she speaks. Harmony controls the police. It controls everything. There’s nowhere she can go.

  “Shit, Ramses,” she says. “All the implants in me. It can easily track me.”

  “Not on Venus,” I say.

  “There’s no way I can get off the planet,” she says. “And shit, I have a life here, I can’t just...leave.”

  “I don’t think there’s any choice,” I say.

  More doors open, and Seraphim start scowling at us. I grab Elise by the hand and take her down the stairs and out of the building as fast as I can. We reach the street, and it’s dark outside. But darkness won’t keep us safe from a godlike A.I. that controls the whole planet.

  “There’s always a choice,” I say. “Here’s yours: let me keep you safe, or hope that Harmony isn’t out to kill you.”

  I don’t even know how I will keep her safe, but I’ll do everything in my power to protect her. She is infected...with something. But I’m not. It’s most likely something engineered, and it seems to target humans while leaving Seraphim unaffected. So Harmony wants to kill her and end the infection. Getting her off Earth might just be enough.

  There’s no time for careful planning. There’s only time for action.

  I see a car float down in the distance, and it lowers to the ground to let off its passengers.

  I grab Elise by the hand. “Come on!”

  I run with her toward the car, and it begins to accelerate and float back up. Before it can fly off, I let go of Elise’s hand and leap up onto it. I crash onto the hood and hit the windshield.

  The car’s lights start to flash, and it immediately begins descending.

  “Please stay where you are!” an automated voice says from the car. “I will call a medical vehicle. Please remain still in case of a spinal injury!”

  The car lowers gently down, and once it’s grounded, I blast open the hood with my pistol. Alarms start to sound, but I activate my bioglove and hack into the car.

  My father gave me the bioglove as a last resort weapon. If anyone saw me using it, I would be executed on the spot, but Elise is as good as dead if I don’t take this risk.

  The bioglove is a small piece of material hidden under the skin of my palm, and when I activate it, it flows over my whole hand as a teal liquid. The liquid hardens as a glove that covers my hand and part of my wrist. Part of the glove stays in liquid form and interfaces with the car’s computer. Once it connects, I can will the computer to reprogram using mere thoughts.

  I sense the connection to Harmony, and I sever it immediately. The alarms are still blaring, and Seraphim are starting to come outside to see what is happening. First they heard two explosions, and now they see me punching through the hood of a car with a uniformed human cop standing right next to me and letting it happen.

  “Ramses,” Elise says. “What the hell are you doing?”

  I cut off the car’s alarm and make the doors open. “Get inside.”

  I remove my hand from the car’s computer, and the bioglove breaks the link. I make the glove sink back under my skin, and then I take out my hand.

  “Did you seriously just punch the car so hard that it did what you wanted?” Elise says.

  Instead of answering her, I just grab her and pull her into the car with me.

  As soon as we’re inside, the car takes off.

  “A car is the worst way to get away from Harmony,” Elise says.

  “I reprogrammed it,” I say. “It’s taking us to a field in southern Illinois. The peacekeepers have ships hidden on Earth. We don’t trust Harmony.”

  I see her about to chide me, but then she remembers that Harmony almost blew her up, and she nods. “Thanks, Ramses. Though I don’t understand why you’re risking so much for me….”

  I look deep into her eyes, and a feeling of electric warmth surges through me. She swallows, and her face reddens. I can tell she feels the same, and there’s no need for either of us to speak or try to put it into words.

  I realize then that I am risking everything. For her. While we don’t trust Harmony, Harmony is still the government of Earth. And Peacekeepers are not allowed to defy or meddle in any government affairs without direct permission. Cutting off my own arm band was permissible, but as soon as I cut off Elise’s band, I’d completely broken all the rules. At best, I’ll be kicked out of the Peacekeepers and imprisoned, at worst, the Peacekeepers could be banned from Earth entirely.

  But I wasn’t about to let Elise be killed by that fucking tyrant machine, and I’ll sacrifice everything if there’s still a shot at getting her to safety.

  “How did you reprogram the car?” she asks, looking down at my hand.

  “Illegal technology,” I say.

  “Do you have a biosuit?” she asks.

  “No,” I say. “Just a glove. It’s small enough to avoid detection unless they know what they’re looking for.”

  “Shit, Ramses,” she says, sighing. “Any other surprises?”

  “Not that I can think of just now,” I say truthfully. I’m sure there’s plenty she doesn’t know, but none of it is relevant right now.

  I look out the back window, and the Chicago skyline has faded to just bright lights on the horizon. We’ll be at the hidden ship in less than twenty minutes, and hopefully out of Earth’s orbit in under an hour. I may have completely broken all the rules, but Harmony is strictly prohibited from directly acting within interplanetary space.

  But that doesn’t mean it will follow those rules if it thinks it can break them and not get caught.

  “Ramses,” the car says. “We’re being followed.”

  “How many?” I ask.

  “One car,” the voice says.

  “That’s not so bad,” Elise says. “If you have that glove.”

  “Can you show us?” I ask the car.

  Looking through the back windshield, a highlighted overlay appears, showing the car in the distance.

  “What are you going to do?” Elise asks.

  “Blow it up, I think.”

  4 Elise

  “You think?” I ask. It would probably be the first time Ramses had thought anything through since he landed on this planet.

  “Yeah,” he says. “I’m considering waiting for it to get closer so I get a clean shot. If I shoot now and miss, it’ll know I see it coming.”

  Ramses is looking out the back window, and the moonlight is hitting his face and forming soft shadows. His face is rock-hard and serious, but I see no horrible panic or fear painted across it. The terror must be all over my face, however. I’m a city cop with a stupid ass stun baton. The most dangerous thing I’ve ever done on the job – prior to today – was poking a crazy guy with my baton and knocking him out while Harmony sent bots to take him away for care. I’d even assumed he really was getting proper mental health treatment, but after Harmony nearly blew my arm off, I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe I sent that poor guy to his death? Death by machine, for the greater good.

  “Can you slow down?” Ramses asks the car.

  “Slowing down,” it says.

  “Shouldn’t we go faster?” I ask. “Isn’t it best to avoid having to blow it up?”

  “Ideally, yes,” Ramses says. “But no matter how fast we go, it will take time to get the ship off the ground once we land. We can’t risk Harmony hitting us during that time. It’s best to pick this thing off now, and then hope we can get out of orbit before she sends more shit after us.”

  There’s nothing below us now but endless corn fields. The Marauder re-terraforming has made Illinois a farmland once aga
in. It had been barren desert for over a century. The farmland luckily does not have a lot of drones on patrol, so most anything that is chasing us will come from Chicago and not from the south.

  And I still can’t believe this guy who I took for a total asshole is endangering his life to save me. I haven’t even thanked him yet...but after that look he gave me, it would feel wrong to say something as plain and simple as “thank you.”

  So I will wait. And I’ll make sure he knows that I understand the sacrifice he made for me.

  “Okay,” Ramses says. “I think I’m close enough.”

  He raises his hand at the window.

  “Shouldn’t you break the window first?” I ask.

  “I can’t see the car if I break it.”

  The car is highlighted green, and Ramses’s hand is pointed right at it. Suddenly I see a teal-colored liquid rushing across his hand. It completely covers him, as if he dipped his hand just past the wrist into a bucket of paint. The liquid hardens into some kind of armor, and then it all begins to glow a deep purple.

  “You probably want to back up,” he says.

  I get off the seat and duck down, and then I see a thick beam of plasma erupt out of his hand. The purple light fills the car, lasting for a full two or three seconds, and then the light and the beam are gone. Ramses is still holding his armored hand outwards, but his face is filled with confusion.

  “What’s wrong?” I ask, looking up at the hole in the windshield. Molten orange glass is dripping down.

  “There was no explosion,” he says. “I’m confident I didn’t miss.”

  “Maybe you just burned out the propulsion, and it dropped –”

  “No explosion on the ground,” he says.

  He squints, and I look up and see it, too. A faint purple glow behind us in the distance.

  “Dodge randomly! Hard!” Ramses shouts.

  Before I can even grab hold of something, the car obeys Ramses’s command. I feel my stomach churn, and I’m falling down the seat, right into Ramses. He grabs hold of me tightly, his hands lock around my waist and chest, and then I feel his muscles bulge as he secures me against his body. His back slams into the door as the car turns wildly, and in the sky above us I see a brilliant purple beam lance across it.

  The car jolts again, and Ramses swings his back around as we fall. He slams into the other door, shielding me from the impact with his own body.

  Another purple beam races across the sky, closer this time.

  The car keeps dodging, and Ramses does his best to shield me, but we are thrown about wildly for nearly a full minute. The beams continue shooting across, but none manage to hit.

  After another thirty-second rollercoaster ride, the beams stop.

  “Fly straight,” Ramses instructs. “Dodge if you see a purple glow.”

  The car stabilizes, but my stomach is still mush. Ramses doesn’t let go of me; he’s holding me tightly against him even though the car is totally stable.

  “Beginning descent to Peacekeeper ship,” the car says.

  “Why did they stop firing?” I ask. “And how the fuck does Harmony have plasma rifles?”

  “I don’t think it’s Harmony,” he says. “I think it’s Grius.”

  “What?” I ask. “How would Grius know we are…unless….”

  And then it hits me. “Harmony is working with Darkstar.”

  “Land two kilometers away from the ship,” Ramses says. “We’re getting off now.”

  “Getting off?” I ask. “We’re not even close to the ground!”

  Ramses punches the window with his armored fist, knocking out all the rest of the glass. “I’ve only done this once, but it was on Venus, so the gravity is almost exactly the same.”

  “Done what?” I ask.

  “It’s better if you don’t know ahead of time,” he says.

  I feel his arms tighten around my waist. Way too tight, unless –

  Ramses leaps through the hole that had been the windshield, and my gut churns as we plummet toward the ground.

  The wind is rushing so loudly against my ears that I can’t hear myself screaming. The cold air hits my eyes as we fall, and the tears gush down my face.

  Ramses grips me tighter with one arm as he lets go with the other, pointing his armored hand straight down.

  I see it blast dozens of small liquefied strings from his hand that he shoots straight down below us. It’s dark, but even in the moonlight, I can see the grey-white fields fast approaching as we plummet to the ground. To our deaths, as far as I’m concerned.

  I keep waiting for his glove to pull off some kind of miracle, but as far as I can tell, we are less than moments from splattering into a cornfield.

  But then I feel the sensation of an elevator coming to a stop, except it’s just way harder and more sudden. My stomach shifts so that it’s churning in the other direction, and Ramses’s arm tenses against me. The ground is coming at us slower now, and I see the tendrils from his glove spreading all the way down into the cornfield.

  When we’re only a few dozen stories above the ground, our fall cuts to a slow drop. When the individual cornstalks become visible, we are barely falling – we’re nearly suspended in mid-air – and then we lower down gently into the middle of the field.

  The tendrils must have hardened and slowed our descent.

  “Holy shit!” I say, panting. My ears are smeared with frozen tears, and I’m dizzy from the near-death experience. I shove Ramses in his big, stupidly wide chest, but he is solid as a thick tree.

  “Sorry,” he says. “You’ve gotta’ agree it was best that I didn’t tell you beforehand.”

  “Idiot!” I say. But he’s right, I would have been even more scared if he’d have warned me.

  All of the tendrils pull back into his glove and re-solidify. He points his hand up into the air and fires.

  The purple beam blasts through the sky, but it stops suddenly rather than continuing on into infinity. A second passes, and then an orange fireball erupts above us. It keeps moving forward as it grows. It plummets to the ground like a comet, but Ramses pulls me by the hand and takes me away before I can even see it hit the field.

  “Come on,” he says. “We need to get out of here before more come after us.”

  More what, I wonder, but I don’t ask. I just want this all to be over, my cop instincts are numbed from the constant barrage of curve balls, but I know the moment I have a few seconds to sit and think, my brain will be alight with questions.

  We run together through stalks of corn, with Ramses’s huge body plowing through and cutting a path for me. We continue like this for two or three minutes, until he suddenly stops.

  “This is Peacekeeper 121,” Ramses says. “Activate emergency evac.”

  The corn a few meters in front of us begins to move away. A big hole begins forming just in front of us, and Ramses guides me by the hand toward the edge. We look down and see a ship that has been hidden underground; its nose is pointing straight up.

  A ramp starts to appear from the door of the ship, moving right up toward us. It touches the ground, bridging the gap, and Ramses guides me down the ramp. As soon as he nears the door, it pops open, and he nearly throws me inside.

  As soon as I’m in one of the passenger seats, he pulls thick straps across my body, tightens them, and buckles them into a latch.

  He does the same for himself, then shouts, “Go!”

  I feel a bone-rattling rumble shake my entire body, and then an incredible g-force pulls down on me. It feels as if I weigh three or four times my regular weight, like my body just wants to melt onto the ground to get even lower than it already is. But the straps hold, and though my skin shakes and my stomach sinks, I remain conscious. The adrenaline alone may be the only thing keeping me from passing out.

  The seats are angled so that it feels as if I’m lying on a bed with my knees facing the ceiling, and I look over from the corner of my eye to see Ramses. He looks way too fucking calm for the situation, but some o
f that calmness spreads to me and helps me relax.

  The other thing that helps me stay calm is the lack of windows. I can’t see just how low the Earth is below us, nor can I see a beam of purple plasma almost killing us. If we get hit, we’ll die instantly, so it’s best that I can’t see anything.

  I don’t know how much time passes, but after way too many seconds of brutal g-force, there’s a jolt, and complete weightlessness overtakes me.

  “Shit,” I react. “We’re in orbit already?”

  “Yes,” Ramses says. “Stay strapped in though, I’m initiating a burn to Venus as soon as we’re in position.”

  Venus. What the hell am I going to do on Venus? Fucking Ramses Ivanov is the only person I’ve ever met from Venus, and I barely even know him. Though speaking of what I could do on Venus...I could do Ramses Ivanov, if –”

  “Ramses,” the ship says. “Incoming transmission from Sankt Petersburg.”

  The lag between Earth and Venus is about six minutes, so no real-time communication is possible.

  “Put it on the screen,” Ramses says.

  A Marauder with deep purple skin fills the screen. He’s a man of about fifty, and instantly recognizable as Aegus, the Tsar of Venus.

  “Ramses,” he says. “When you got in range of the ship, it started plotting a course to Venus. But at around the same time, three ships halfway between Venus and Earth started their engines, and they are preparing to intercept you. I saw this just minutes ago, but it looks as if you will not be able to make it to Venus. I don’t know what’s happened on Earth yet, but if there’s any way for you to stay it. If not, there may be one other option, but I don’t like it. Here is the thrust vector you’d need to start out on....”

  The screen cuts off, and the thrust vector goes into the computer.

  “Fuck!” Ramses says. “Of course he tells me there’s another option, but doesn’t let me know what the hell it is.”

  “Ask him!” I say, panicked. “According to the navigation screen, that vector is going to just blast us out of the solar system.”

  “It will take six minutes for him to get our question, and six more for us to hear his response. We need to burn most of our fuel in a minute and thirty seconds to hit the window he gave us.”

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