Responsibility rests hard on Johanna’s shoulders—for her friends and companions in fate, for innocent mankind, even for her enemies. Johanna hasn’t much time left to familiarize herself with her new role when a new-old enemy announces his arrival. But there’s still so much to do—will it work out in the end?
The container truck driver pushed the pedal all way down, and a few hundred angry horsepowers pulled the bulky vehicle forward through the deserted street. In the street lantern’s light, one could see the knuckles of his hands, cramped around the wheel, turn white.
Close to the old factory access road, the engine veered off the road, broke through the barrier arm, then through the rusty trellised gate, and targeted the factory hall entrance with its two large sliding doors. The doors’ thin sheet gave in with a crack.
The damage elicited a sigh from me. The attackers were probably entirely oblivious to my financial worries, though.
The vehicle came to a halt halfway into the hall. The rear container doors opened, and six motorbikes shot away with loud chatter.
From my place on the factory building’s roof, I couldn’t determine what was happening inside, but I assumed that Rod’s men would quickly get the situation under control.
You have visitors by air, my Companion reported.
Thanks. I could now spot the large helicopter myself. They wouldn’t think they can get away with that unseen?
There is now another truck stopping on the road behind the factory and opening its cargo bed cover. Perhaps they plan to bring their loot there?
Then they’d have to amputate the Taipan’s wings first. No, watch out for a ship where they could set their cargo down.
Yes, Companion. Oh!
Achrotzyber’s signature raced toward the ground. Then I sensed a fusion reactor’s startup emissions from the far end of the factory grounds. This coincidence couldn’t mean anything good—I turned around and made a giant leap across the building to its rear.
The fusion reactor could only be sensed, not seen, but instead, I recognized what had made my Companion dive down fast. The truck’s side walls, which had just landed on the street with a clap, unveiled a two-barrel cannon and a ball head. I wasn’t versed in such things, but both together looked like an anti-aircraft gun with a radar dome to me.
That went too far for my taste.
Keep your head down, Mighty, I told my Dragon. This isn’t your game.
Our opponents’ level of organization suggests further preparations.
Hoping their radar couldn’t pick me up close to the ground, I ran toward the rear fence and activated my radio.
“Weapons of war deployed. Helicopter. Anti-aircraft gun,” I reported and continued toward the cannon. “Level three.”
“Roger,” Rod’s calm voice immediately replied. “Red One to all. Level four.”
“Black One, roger,” Lucy acknowledged. “Level four.”
“Blue One, roger,” Kenneth said. “Level four.”
Well, okay, four, then. This included measures against a potential attack on the island, while level three only symbolized a quasi-military attack on the factory.
By unveiling the cannon ahead of me, the attackers had clearly positioned themselves above level two—well-organized criminals or spies. I jumped on the cargo bed and cut a few parts that looked critical for the ammunition feed to me.
“Gun eliminated,” I added. However, that only applied to the cannon. Two men rose from their computer consoles, and the third took his hand off the lever that probably had just released the cover. All three looked around in bewilderment for where the sudden interruption’s cause might be and drew pistols.
The cause—I—was of course invisible and didn’t wait for the three men to attempt a chance shot. Tiny stun darts effectively prevented that, and thereafter, I only had to deal with the driver at the wheel.
The loud hiss of plasma bullets and the silent whistle of linear projectiles from the other side of the building quickly fell silent, while the woundeds’ painful cries continued for another while. It took a few minutes before the first siren wails could be heard.