This is the last post you’ll get to see of Lezvie and Angela. After this, I won’t let you see anything unless you buy the book. Mwaha.
The duo paused at the top of a rise. Lezvie frowned, looking down at the settlement below them.
Angela laid her hand on his shoulder. “What is it?”
“Something’s wrong. They’re too still. It’s as though they’re waiting… and not just waiting, but waiting in terror.” He pulled out a small pair of binoculars, looking down at the town. “I don’t think we should go down just yet. There’s been fighting here recently. They were attacked by someone with alien tech, and drove them off. That would explain the fear and the stillness.”
“How can you tell all that?” Angela looked at him, surprised.
“Heat scoring from laser or plasma weapons, which only come from alien tech. A mass grave in the graveyard to one side of town. Several unburied bodies, stripped of clothing and, presumably, armor.”
She went silent, looking at him in astonishment. He was more skilled then she had realized.
“And furthermore,” he went on, turning slightly and refocusing his binoculars. “I see tire tracks. They look like the same kind of trucks the Crimson Fang used.” He lowered the binoculars and pocketed them. “We’ll camp here tonight, behind this ridge. From what I’ve seen of the Crimson Fang, they’ll come back soon and hit hard.”
Angela nodded and wordlessly began to set up camp. No sooner had they started eating, however, then they heard a commotion coming from the town. They both immediately went to the ridge, peering over. Four sets of headlights were bearing down on the town, and when they came within a hundred yards of the town, the energy cannons mounted on the vehicles began firing, forcing the townspeople to take cover. The four trucks formed a semicircle near the main gate, still firing the occasional shot at anyone with a weapon they saw.
Then, a distant rumble, like thunder, filled the sky. A red glow appeared in the clouds above the town, and then something dove down, landing in the gateway to the town, backlit by the headlights of the four trucks. Angela gasped. “It… it looks like a dragon…”
And so it did. The thing, whatever it was, stood higher than the trucks around it, and had long wings that glowed red at the tips. It had two massive clawed hands, and the parts of it that were in the light showed that it was a deep red color.
Lezvie was peering at it through binoculars, and was about to say something when a booming voice issued from the thing. “I am the Crimson Dragon! You have defied my representatives and will now feel my wrath. Taste the fire of the Dragon!”
A powerful jet of brilliantly white fire blasted from the Dragon, igniting a large portion of the town, even melting solid rock.
“Feel the bite of the Dragon!”
One of the clawed hands gripped a large building that had not yet been touched by fire. The claw glowed bright, blood red, and the building distorted, also beginning to glow, before exploding violently.
Lezvie hissed softly. “That’s no dragon. That’s an alien battle suit with a flight attachment. Someone must have found a huge stockpile of alien weaponry that got left behind.” He pounded a fist against his thigh. “This is much, much worse that I expected…”
“What exactly is a battle suit..?” Angela asked hesitantly.
“You know how my daggers and sword are indestructible, because they’re an alien alloy?” At her nod, he continued, “Imagine a whole exoskeleton made out of that armor, and packed with enough weaponry to slaughter an army. That’s an alien battle suit. They’re bad enough when they’re landbound, since they’re fairly heavy and can’t turn fast. With the flight attachment, that thing’s just as agile as an average human, and a lot faster.”
“And… the Crimson Dragon has one?”
“So it seems. Found one, painted it red, called it a dragon, and used it to terrify the populace.” He scowled at the scene below, at the screams of the villagers and the flickering flames as the settlement burned. “Terrify and control and rule.”
“Can’t you do something?”
“No.” He smacked his fist into his thigh again. “I have nothing. Those battle suits are invincible. Even when I was with my squad, with the resources of the United States behind me, we had trouble with them. Guns are useless; there’s no opening in it large enough to allow a bullet through. Flamethrowers and incendiary explosives work all right, but since it has a flight attachment, it won’t stay in range of either of those.”
Angela fell silent, looking down as the town burned. Something else about the suit caught her attention, and she asked him, “How can the flamethrower melt rock?”
“It’s not your average flame. It’s a highly charged plasma, fueled by a microfusion reactor. Basically like spewing the sun out of a hose.”
Her eyes went wide. “How are you supposed to fight that?”
“You’re not supposed to,” he said, chuckling ruefully. “The aliens knew what they were doing when they designed it. It has weapons for short, mid-, and long range, as well as melee weapons, just in case.”
“So how did you fight them?”
“With electromagnetic mines. We mine the area they’re going to walk through, then activate them when the battle suit is over them. The suit is pinned to the ground, giving us an opportunity to get close and dispatch the wearer.” Lezvie ran a hand through his hair, scowling faintly. “Of course, I don’t have any mines.”
Angela looked back out at the town with a sigh. “There’s nothing you can do?”
“Not here. Not now.” He tapped his wrist computer. “If the Master has left me the location of the Crimson Dragon’s headquarters, then I may be able to slip in and destroy the suit’s inner mechanisms while it is unoccupied. So everything hinges on getting to my safe house and analyzing the Master’s files.”
“That’ll be tricky,” Angela murmured. “It looks like the Crimson Fang plans to stay.”
The four trucks had unloaded half a dozen soldiers each, and they rounded up the populace – what little remained of it – and herded them into a single large building. They then parked the trucks at the corners and made themselves at home in the rest of the town, converting the tallest buildings to watchtowers, setting up guard stations, and the like. A low rumble in the distance announced the arrival of more trucks.
Lezvie nodded, scowling. “So we have to try to go down into the canyon and back up the other side, or go several days out of our way to go around it, or try to get past the Crimson Fang.”
Angela watched him for a moment. “We’re not going to do the safe thing, and go around the canyon, are we.”
“No, we aren’t. Come along, Angela. By the time we get down there, they’ll have mostly settled in to their occupation and be weary from the night journey.” He picked his way down the hillside, heading for the town.
Shaking her head, Angela followed him. However crazy it might be, she was confident Lezvie could pull it off.
Their descent took them nearly an hour, as they had to be cautious of the Crimson sentries. Following a small goat trail, the two of them climbed down, gradually coming to the meager wall that encircled the village. Lezvie, after carefully peering over it, leapt to the other side, then pulled Angela over after him. The mottled greys of his suit showed their usefulness now, blending perfectly into the destroyed urban setting.
He led her through the alleys and lanes that the Crimson Fang had neglected to patrol, timing their crossings of the better-watched roads to avoid the eyes of the sentries. Every sudden footstep or smashing sound made Angela jump, and made daggers spring into Lezvie’s hand. Fortunately, none of those ominous noises heralded their capture. They slowly grew more confident, thinking that the Fang was off-guard, relaxed in the wake of its recent victory.
That’s why the shout of alarm caught them by surprise, only ten feet from the bridge.
“Intruders! Get them!”
Lezvie growled something incomprehensible. “Run, Angela! I’m right behind you.”
“I’m not just-” A spray of bullets whipped past her ear, and she shut up and sprinted across the bridge.
“Don’t shoot him!” A voice, amplified, boomed over the scene, and all of the soldiers froze, guns still trained on Lezvie, who stood watching them, confused, his knives at the ready. Heavy footfalls approached, shaking the ground lightly. The Crimson Dragon rounded a corner, blazing red eyes locked on Lezvie. “So you’re the mythical white-haired ninja who has caused me so much trouble.” He chuckled softly. “I expected you to be taller.”
“Yeah, well, good things come in small packages.” It wasn’t original, but it was the best he could do. Staring down an indestructible suit of armor capable of killing you from a hundred yards away made it hard to come up with witty comebacks.
“I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t call this suit small.” The suit let off a blast of energy, which streaked past Lezvie, shattering one of the posts that held up the rope bridge.
Lezvie managed to keep himself from flinching. The bridge now dangled by a single point on this side, swaying and creaking. Without responding to the Dragon’s retort, he sprinted across the bridge, his light step barely disturbing the feeble bridge.
The Dragon roared, “Do not let him escape!” Bright green flame shot from his arm, burning through the last support of the bridge.
It fell across the canyon, Lezvie clinging to it like a drowning man on a piece of driftwood. Bullets whistled through the air, smacking into the wooden planks in the bridge and the rock face of the canyon. Desperate, Lezvie wrapped his arms tightly into the loose ropes of the destroyed bridge, then braced himself against the impact that rapidly approached.
Angela, watching from the edge of the canyon, let out a small cry as the bridge slammed into the unyielding cliff face. Lezvie hung limp on the bridge, not falling, but not moving either. She heard a whirring sound, and looked up to see the Crimson Dragon firing up his flight attachment, slowly moving down the canyon towards Lezvie. His voice, though faint, remained distinct, due to the amplification system built in to the suit.
“I’m disappointed. I had hoped for one last futile, heroic action before I killed you. Instead, you flee.”
Lezvie stirred, trying to move but still dazed from the impact. The Dragon snorted.
“And you can’t even flee, now. This is the great ninja that has plagued me?” He raised his hand, readying one of his many weapons to end Lezvie.
A streak of fire flew from the top of the canyon, exploding against the flying suit of armor, coating it in liquid flame. The Dragon let out a scream of pain, thrashing around in the air before throwing himself down into the river at the bottom of the canyon.
Lezvie managed to drag himself the last ten feet to the top of the ladder that had once been a bridge, where Angela pulled him up. He looked at her, swaying slightly. “What… was that?”
She grinned faintly. “Molotov cocktail.”
“How did you…?”
“I lifted the a bottle of vodka back in town.” She turned slightly, showing him a tear in her shirt. “You said fire might work.”
“You… are a genius.” He forced himself to his feet. “We have to keep moving. I don’t think the Crimson Dragon forgives lightly.”
Angela silently slipped an arm around his waist, steadying him. She ignored his questioning look, supporting him as they limped across the wasteland.