You know what this story needs? More hovercraft! Seriously, I can’t believe I’ve reached this point in the novel and I haven’t had a driving sequence. This is pulp adventure stuff. Fly! Be free! Shoot people! I apologize for the abrupt transition here, but I needed to kick the characters out of Persephone’s apartment. This was fun to write. I might need to scuttle a bunch of the video analysis crap and move this scene to an earlier point. Actually what I really need to do is sit down and make a check list of events that need to happen to keep the story moving forward. We have a government conspiracy, a third party player, stolen files and missing equipment all happening on a colony world that got abandoned for some reason. Aaaaand…my characters are ignoring all that to enjoy a little drive. Eh. That’s what you get when you have boundless enthusiasm, but little organization. Also, this feature photo is what you get when you search free stock photos using the word ‘driving’.
******************************************************************************************************************** “Glad you agree. My racer is at the track. You coming? Bring the trajectory data.” Persephone could think of a million reasons not to go, starting with ‘you’re an asshole’ and ending with ‘you’re not going to find anything’ but Arch was already out of the door. She had to run to catch up.
[INSERT AWKWARD SCENE BREAK!]
Arch’s hovercraft wasn’t as exotic as the black eXime models. It was sporty though, low slung, lozenge shaped and with a paint scheme designed to appeal to twelve year old boys. Jagged yellow lightning bolts decorated the deep green chassis and Arch’s double A logo was repeated in yellow on the doors.
“Let me guess,” Persephone said, “the lightening makes it go faster?”
“No. But the ground effects do.” He smiled, but it quickly faded. “Don’t you ever do anything just because it’s fun?”
“This is fun?” She asked.
Arch ran a finger over the glossy green finish. “It’s my life,” he said quietly.
“I guess it better be fun then,” she said and bent down to angle herself into the passenger space. “Otherwise, it’s too damn short.” With its fans off, the H-craft was low to the ground and and the cockpit was cramped. Both the passenger and driver had to lie prone. Arch got himself situated and handed Persephone a helmet. Green with yellow lightning bolts of course. She shrugged and put it on. Arch flicked a switch on the driver’s console, the fans under the platten spun up and the craft lifted off the ground. The passenger hammock was vibrating in a way that made Persephone feel a bit like a ball bearing in a blender.
“Like a deep tissue massage, isn’t it!” Arch yelled, but Persephone could barely hear him. “Don’t worry, it’ll settle down once they get up to speed.” The machine reached its cruising height of two meters and as promised the shaking subsided. Arch fired the ethanol thrusters and the thing shot forward. They were out of the pit and over the mud flats in seconds, the fans churning up the silt and leaving a rooster tail of froth behind them. Despite the power, Persephone was surprised at how fragile the thing felt. She was strapped into nothing more than a green glass shell floating on a pillow of air. And the shell was so light that it slewed with every wind gust.
“What’s that?” Persephone pointed. A liquid filled glass tube mounted onto the driver’s console had just turned red.
“Leveler” Arch said. He flicked some switches and the left side of the craft edged up. “Not used to having a passenger. And I’m heavier than you are.”
It was handling better now. The wind gusts were less of a problem and Persephone stopped trying to clench up every time her hammock swayed. She cautiously shifted her gaze from the console to the windscreen. A light rain was falling and making rivulets on the tiny circular piece of glass. Initially, those silver streams were all Persephone could see. The background was just an indistinct brown blur rushing at her. She had the odd sensation that she was floating perfectly still with the ground moving by underneath like a conveyor belt. And that conveyor belt was no longer uniform in tint. There were fans of rust red, green and torqoiuse flying by beneath them now. The algae blooms that formed in the Shanty Town and the flats were a lot duller.
“What determines the color?” She asked.
“Algae,” Arch said.
“I know what it is. I’ve just never seen those colors before. Why so many?“ She asked.
“Can’t say, but it’s different every time I come out. I love it.” Arch’s hands moved over the console. He looked like a pianist playing an old and well loved song. That was until the graceful movements were interrupted by another red light. “What the…” Arch began the question, but instead of finishing grabbed for the wheel and twisted it all the way to the right. The rivulets on the windscreen abruptly swerved and streamed towards the left. Persephone’s stomach did the same damn thing. The turn shattered the illusion that they were floating stationary over a moving landscape. Persephone was now uncomfortably aware of the fact that she was hurdling head-first through the air and the colors beneath looked more like vomit instead of the pretty abstract painting they’d been a moment ago. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw something slick and black go flying past.
H-craft turned poorly. You had to cut thrust, swivel the rockets and allow time for the craft to reorient. In desperation, Arch had re-oriented the thrusters without pausing their firing. The interior of the craft lit up with red and amber warning lights. Persephone ducked her head and gripped the webbing of her hammock in preparation for the imminent flip. Arch pounded the console like he was trying to perform CPR on a dying patient. Amazingly, the machine responded. It kept turning, but remained level bringing them into a traveling horizontal spin.
“Fuckers tried to ram us. Who does that shit?” Arch demanded.
“Who? What?” Perspephone gasped. The cords of her hammock felt like they crushing her chest.
“eXime. That was one of their craft out there.” Arch sounded fine. Persephone hated him for that.
“Can we stop?” She said.
“Thrusters are off. Just have to wait it out. At least I got us level.” Arch sounded more than fine. He sounded downright pleased with himself.
“I’m going to puke.” Persephone assumed that would bring him down a notch.
“I’d hold your hair, but I’m a little busy.” He was still working switches on the console.
Persephone gritted her teeth and concentrated on not throwing up. It worked. It helped that they were slowing down. She could make out shapes outside the window again. The city strobed past in the distance alternating with the mud flats and briefly something black.
“Arch?” She said.
“Saw it. They turned. Coming back. Hold on. I’m firing up the engines.”
Their craft shuddered as Arch brought them out of their spin. Persephone hammock briefly returned to vertical and then she felt herself pressed back into the webbing. They were accelerating. At least, there was only one red light left on the console. Unfortunately, It was the same one that had prompted Arch to turn.
“What’s that mean?”
“I can’t see them. Why is the windscreen so damn small?”
“They’re behind us. Have them on rear cameras. And it’s a safety feature.”
Something rattled against the rear of their chassis.
“Tell me the rain just picked up?” Persephone said.
“I could, but I’d be lying. Someone back there has a slug thrower.”
Perspehone’s stomach lurched but it wasn’t due to the bullets. Arch had executed a controlled turn. The rattling subsided. Thirty seconds later it was back.
“How can anyone shoot out of one of these things?” Persephone demanded. “And for that matter, how can anyone race one of these things? They handle like shit!”
“It’s the genius of the sport. If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Arch punctuated that comment by gently toggling the stick. The craft lurched from side to side leaving an s-shaped wake. The rattling vanished again. “Lost them! Told you I was….’
Arch’s comment was drowned out by a loud crack and a sudden violent lurch to the left. Their fan noise changed from a steady hum to a violent roar and the right side of the craft dropped, skimmed the mud and caught sending the thing into a roll. Her hammock kept Persephone from slamming into the floor on each revolution but it couldn’t keep her from slamming into the ceiling. Multiple times. She was addled from the impacts, but dimly aware that they were slowing, losing momentum each time they bounced off the surface of the silt. It was liquid mud out there, but every bounce made it feel like concrete. They finally skipped to a stop, mercifully right side up