"I don't like this Belvor. I don't like this at all."

"Shut up Thrion. They're paying well. That's all that matters."

"If they're paying well, that means that it's a dangerous job."

"Come on man, we've been strapped ever since we got out of the big house. This is our chance to make it big again." Belvor, standing an impressive six feet, seven inches tall clapped Thrion on the shoulder. Thrion was much smaller, standing only five feet five inches tall. Belvor had always been told that he looked like an action hero, with his blonde, close-cropped hair and bulging muscles. Thrion was somewhat geeky looking, with large square glasses and a much smaller build, wiry arms and legs covered under his long khaki pants and turtleneck. Belvor had opted for a shorts and a t-shirt. Both were wearing illegally acquired bulletproof vests underneath their shirts, and were carrying pistols concealed in their waistline.

"I still don't like this Belvor." Thrion scowled. Both of them proceeded to walk into the parking garage. It was early in the morning, and looked like a promising start to the day. The sun was just beginning to come over the horizon. Thrion reached into his pocket and pulled out a GPS. He briefly checked the time before looking back at Belvor. "They'll be here in five." Belvor nodded. He crossed his massive arms over his chest while waiting.

True to his prediction, five minutes later a red sports car pulled into the garage and started cruising around slowly. It stopped in front of Belvor and Thrion and a young man, appearing to be in his late twenties looked at them through the driver's side window. He looked grizzled, and his eyes had a hard look in them, the look of someone who had seen too much action before he was ready for it.

"What's the code?" He asked in a gritty voice.

"The code?" Belvor looked confused for a moment, shooting a helpless glance at Thrion.

"Tracy." Thrion stepped forward. "Are you our man?"

"Yeah. Bold move, waiting out here in the open like this. You could have gotten busted for loitering." The younger guy looked around for a second before he killed the ignition, stepping out of the car. "This is your ride." He pointed at the sports car. It was unidentifiable as any model that was built on-planet, Thrion noted. It probably came from off-world. "You know what your assignment is?"

"Yeah, yeah." Belvor rolled his eyes. "Take this car from the city of Tassam to the city of Athsul. We drop it off in a parking garage on the corner of arclite way and 84th street. Don't get caught by the police, blah blah."

"You think it's easy." The younger guy said. "Let me tell you something about this car." Thrion stared at him intently. "This thing isn't your standard sports car." He pulled out a small remote and pressed a button on it. Several hidden compartments popped open on the car, revealing numerous armaments. A heavy machine gun rested in the trunk, its oiled barrels looming menacingly in the morning light. A pack of mini-missiles popped out of the door and the body of the car, the pack on the front doors faced forwards, while the pack behind the doors faced backwards. "Heavy machine gun in the trunk, mini-missiles on the front door and rear doors. There's a buster rocket launcher in the back seat, as well as numerous other small arms. You can pop out through the sunroof and shoot if you're being chased. The car is armored with a fairly thick sheet of a rare composite alloy. It should be able to take a few hits from some of the heavier weapons that you may encounter if you're found out."

Thrion frowned. This loadout was way too heavy for any standard vehicle. "How does it move?"

"Ah. Excellent question. It's got a living metal engine. Illegal on this planet of course. Don't stress it too much if you don't have to. It tends to make a chittering sound when you push it, and anyone with half a brain will pick up on the fact that it's not an internal combustion engine right away."

Thrion's brow furrowed. This was a little suspicious. "Are you expecting us to have to use these or something? Why not just have it shipped?"

"Look man." The younger man shrugged resignedly. "I don't know all the details. All I know is that the boss wants you guys to take this thing to Athsul. If you don't stress it, it will be easy. When I pulled in here, did you notice anything special about it?"

Thrion shook his head. Belvor shrugged. "No. I didn't notice anything." Thrion said, still frowning.

"Exactly man. Easy job. Just don't stress the engine around any cops and you'll be fine."

"Whats its top speed?" Belvor grinned.

"272 kilometers per hour. Faster than anything the police can field. Or any of the Core ground vehicles, for that matter."

The Core? Thrion thought to himself, a red flag going up in his head. "You actually expect us to fight the Core?"

"Easy guy. I don't even expect them to get involved, unless you do something stupid."

"One moment please." Thrion tapped Belvor's shoulder with one hand, jerking the other over his shoulder. "I need to discuss this with my partner."

"Of course."

Thrion and Belvor walked over until Thrion was sure that he was out of earshot of the young guy. More like the grizzled guy. Thrion corrected himself. He still leaned close to Belvor and spoke in hushed tones, his voice coming out in a hiss. "This is nuts. The Core? They'll kill us man. They're not a savior fleet. It's fucking Bonesaw. Have you heard anything about them on the INN?"

"No." Belvor shook his head. "I don't care about that shit dude, it's not like any of it matters. C'mon Thri. Don't chicken out on me now. This is an easy job. We got a car and we take it to another city. We're careful and nobody even has to know."

"I know you Belvor. You're not careful. You're gonna gun it on the highway and some cop is going to come after us."

"No I won't." Belvor smiled reassuringly. "I'll be careful this time, promise."

"Promise? And you won't fucking forget this time like you did the last time?"

"Promise man. I'll be careful." The big man stated sincerely.

"Fine." Thrion spat. "Let's do it. But remember. Be careful. No stunts."

"Alright, alright."

The grizzled man was smiling calmly, humming a tune that Thrion didn't recognize and staring serenely at the ceiling of the garage when the two of them made their way back over. "Yes?" He asked them calmly as they approached earshot.

"We'll do it. Let him have the keys." Thrion nodded towards Belvor. "He's driving."

The grizzled man looked a little surprised, but tossed the keys to Belvor. The blonde "action hero" caught them deftly and unlocked the driver's side, slipping into it comfortably and easily. He gave the steering wheel a test grip and smiled. The grizzled man's surprised look faded, his face splitting into a grin that Thrion found rather unsettling. "Good luck." He said, still grinning. Thrion walked around the car, hopping into the passenger side and looking over the back. His jaw almost dropped. There, nestled securely under the seat was a massive rocket launcher, with a couple cases of ammo stacked on top of it. Also stacked in the back were several different pistols and sub-machine guns, along with what looked to be a light sniper rifle. Wow. Thrion thought. Whoever they're delivering this car to must really want to raise some hell. His train of thought was interrupted by the grizzled man pressing a button on the remote, popping the trunk closed and closing up the missile packs on the side.

"You'll want this." He added, tossing the remote to Thrion through the passenger window, which was rolled down. "Controls all the heavy shit on the car."

"We good man?" Belvor asked him, leaning towards Thrion and craning his neck towards the passenger side.

"You good man. Go ahead and head out whenever you're ready." Belvor grinned and pressed the gas down gently, easing the car into a slow roll. Thrion rolled up his window and locked all the doors.

As the car pulled out of the basement level of the garage, the grizzled man smiled and hummed to himself. He pulled a copy of the first remote out of his pocket. This one had another button that wasn't on the other one. A small red one on the bottom. He smiled again, and pushed it.

"Arright. The quickest way for us to get to Athsul is the raised highway."

"For once this morning, I actually agree with you."

"C'mon man, I keep telling you. This is gonna be an easy job." Belvor looked around carefully, then stomped on the gas. Instead of roaring like an internal combustion engine, the car let out an unsettling chitter as it darted forward.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Thrion hissed. "Someone might notice."

"Relax. There aren't any cops around, I checked." Belvor eased up on the gas pedal, the car slowing. The chittering quickly stopped.

"So? All it takes is one person calling the cops and saying that they heard a car with an illegal engine, and then they're all over us. Hell, even the Core might get involved!"

"They'll never catch us. Not with this baby."

Thrion sighed exasperatedly. "There have been over one hundred chases on this world that the Core have gotten involved in. Do you know how many people successfully escaped from them?"


"None. And ever since Bonesaw took custody of this world, all of them have ended in fatalities for the fugitive."

"Whatever man. I'll bet they didn't have killer cars like this."

"That's not the point. Do you have any idea what the Core can do?"

"They've got tanks that can move up to 80 kilometers per hour. They have hovercraft that can top 150. As if that's not bad enough, they have VTOLs that can move at over 500 kilometers per hour! And that carry rockets heavier than this entire car! If we get caught by one of those, we're toast."

"Relax! They're not gonna catch us. We just gotta be careful. It's like the dude said, if we're careful they'll never even know anythings up." Belvor swatted Thrion lightly on the shoulder. "You gotta relax dude. You're gonna kill yourself worrying."

"You're never careful." Thrion mumbled. Belvor didn't appear to hear it, and Thrion was thankful for that. He hated arguing. Somewhat bored, Thrion looked out the window and watched the buildings go by as Belvor headed towards the raised highway between Tassam and Asthul. It wasn't a short drive. Not overly long either, but long enough for Thrion to get bored. He looked out the window idly and watched the buildings go by. He entertained himself by humming the melody to some songs he used to listen to when he was younger. It worked. Before long, he noticed that they were at the last stoplight before the on ramp to the raised highway. He didn't notice Belvor looking around, but he did notice when Belvor floored the gas, running directly through the red light and swerving towards the on-ramp, headed directly towards it. Thrion snapped his head over as the engine started to make an unsettling chittering noise.

"You fucking idiot!" He shouted. "What if there was a cop around!"

"Relax man, I looked. There weren't any cops." Sirens came on in the distance.

"You were saying?"

"Fuck! Fuck it man, it doesn't matter. No way one of the cops is gonna catch us, not in this baby." Belvor floored the gas, the car's engine starting to chitter again as the vehicle's speed picked up. "Nothing matters. Just gotta get to the next city. Hey dude, pass me that pistol in the back."

"No." Thrion frowned. This wasn't like Belvor. Plus, that tone of voice that Belvor had used when he stated that nothing mattered. He had never heard the other man talk like that before. The sports car rocketed up the on-ramp. Belvor hit the brakes and swung the wheel around, the car skidding onto the highway. He didn't hit the gas again. Angry beeps sounded as cars swerved around them. The sirens were getting closer. Belvor looked over at Thrion. He had a look in his eye that Thrion didn't like.

"Hand me the fucking pistol. Now."

"What the hell are you doing? You're going to get both of us killed!" Another car whizzed around them, its driver laying on the horn.

"Not if you hand me the pistol." Belvor glared at the smaller man.

"Fine." Thrion reached into the back seat and handed Belvor the pistol. Belvor took it and slapped a clip into it, his foot stepping on the gas again. The car's engine began to chitter as their speed reached a normal pace for the highway. Two police cars pulled up on to the on ramp, their sirens going at full blast. Belvor pressed the gas farther down on the floor, the car picking up speed. Holding the steering wheel with one hand, Belvor reached out the window with his other hand and pointed the pistol behind him, squeezing off a couple of rounds. The nearby cars swerved away from theirs, and the police cars swerved to avoid the bullets.

"Shit man, I can't shoot like this." Belvor tossed the pistol out the window. "Pop up out of the sunroof and use the machine gun."

Thrion weighed his options, feeling ill at ease. He could either refuse, and Belvor would likely stop the car again, getting them both killed, or he could do as Belvor asked, which, in the end, would probably get them both killed anyways. For an instant, he considered picking up another pistol, shooting Belvor in the head, then stopping the car and surrendering. Horrified at what he was considering, Thrion quickly grabbed the sub-machine gun and hit on the buttons on the sunroof, the hatch opening up. He popped out, the wind tearing at him wildly. Bracing himself, he took careful aim and began to fire. The spray of bullets hit the first police car, shredding the engine and causing the car to flip. It arced lazily up into the air, then came down with a resounding crash, rolling slowly to a stop. Several other cars slammed into it in the meantime, the whole assembly beginning to leak gas. The pileup exploded violently as Thrion took aim at the other police car, showering the road with shrapnel. The second police car started to swerve in anticipation as Thrion squeezed down on the trigger, sending a hail of bullets at the second car. He got lucky. One of the bullets punctured the tire and blew it up. The police vehicle went skidding out of control, then slammed into one of the concrete walls on the side of the highway. A body went flying out the front window of the car. Someone forgot to wear his seat belt. Thrion thought to himself before popping back inside the sunroof, tossing the machine gun into the back seat.

"Shit yeah man, you did it!" Belvor whooped. "That'll show those cops who's boss." Thrion simply shook his head.

"This isn't over yet man." Several more sirens started up in the distance.

Officer Kalen had just sat down at a local Dehaso's Delicious Donuts and had ordered her favorite type of donut. The plain kind with a thick layer of icing on top, covered with a generous amount of sprinkles. The only kind worth eating, really... She thought to herself, taking a sip of her coffee and checked the newspaper. Turning to page A-4, she held the paper with one hand for a moment, running the other through her long, chestnut hair. Looks like it's going to be a nice day in Tassam. Mid-70s, sunny, no chance of rain. She looked outside and saw that the sky was clear and blue. Nice. This is going to be a gorgeous day. Her order had just been finished and she was picking up the bag when her radio squawked to life.

"All units, this is car 314. Some idiot just ran a red light. It sounds like he's got an illegally modified engine too. Standby for a backup request."

"Roger that 314. 318 standing by." Kalen sighed. Stupid kids. Drag-racing with their illegally modified cars. She wished that the higher authorities, namely the Core fleet occupying this world, would deal with the trafficking of illegal technology more harshly, but they seemed more interested in keeping to themselves. Nevertheless, she reassured herself, they would get involved if the problem became more serious. I wonder if Gavor...

"314 here. They're making a run for it! Requesting backup."

"10-4 314. 318 is on the way."

"Yo, Kalen. You ready to go yet?" Her partner, Adem, clapped his hand on her shoulder heavily, startling her out of her reverie.

"Aw, c'mon Adem. You know I like to eat the first one here."

Adem laughed and rolled his eyes. "Alright, alright. But try not to take too long! Only fifteen minutes before we're supposed to be on patrol."

"Relax, partner." She smiled winningly at him, her blue eyes flashing pleasantly in the morning light. "We've got plenty of time. Let's enjoy this journey."

"You mean your journey through your first donut."

"Damn straight." Kalen fished one of her donuts out of the bag, her fingers getting slightly sticky with the icing. She sighed gently as she bit into one of them, licking the corner of her lips to clean up the icing as she pulled the pastry away.

"One of these days, those things are gonna give you a heart attack." Adem chuckled.

"All units, this is car 318! They just shot up 314! Oh god... he's turning towards me!" There was a ear-wrenching sound of screeching, then a crash and a scream. The radio cut off.

Kalen and Adem looked at each other seriously. Kalen stuffed her donut back into the bag as both of them made a mad dash for the patrol car parked outside.

This looked like it was going to be such a good day too... Kalen thought regretfully.

Thrion briefly assessed the situation. Although it was turning worse, it didn't seem to be too bad at the moment. Four patrol cars were behind them, their sirens blasting at full volume. Although Belvor wasn't pushing the car to anywhere near its limit, they were still passing other cars at a steady clip. The police vehicles could barely keep up with them. Most of the other drivers swerved out of the way, not wanting to get involved with whatever was going on.

"See, man?" Belvor was saying, holding the wheel in a white-knuckle grip. "We totally got this. Those cops are never gonna catch us. You wanna shoot those guys down too?"

Thrion frowned. "What are you gonna have me do man, shoot down every single police car in the Tassam police force? What happens when they start sending heavier shit at us? You want me to shoot all that down too?"

Belvor let his foot off the gas a little. Thrion relented. "Alright man, but I'm telling you, you're gonna get us both killed." He reached back for the sub-machine gun again.

The offender was a small red sports car. Kalen immediately came to the conclusion that the car itself wasn't armed. It had to be whoever was inside. Based on the unearthly chittering noise that the car was making, she realized that it had some sort of special engine.

"What the hell are those guys doing?" Adem asked her, craning his head forward and squinting.

"I've got no idea. Keep your eyes open, these guys aren't your garden variety crooks." She pulled around a car that was getting out of the way too slowly. "They took out 314 and 318."

"Hey look." Adem pointed at the vehicle. "The sunroof is opening. It looks like one of the guys is getting out."

"Oh shit." Kalen swore as she saw the sub-machine gun in his hands. "Watch out." She began to weave from side to side, careful not to collide with any of the other patrol cars. The others followed suit, losing some distance on their quarry. She saw the gunman take careful aim at what looked like the car next to her, then the muzzle of the machine gun erupted into flame. Sparks danced off the hood of car 324 as it pulled in front of her, then it erupted into a fireball. Kalen swore and jerked the wheel to the right, barely managing to evade the burning wreck. She felt sorry for any cars coming up behind them, although there didn't seem to be that many. Adem shouted and swore violently, clinging to the handhold on the car's ceiling for dear life.

"We're totally outmatched, Kale. We're never gonna get these guys."

"Doesn't matter." She shot back. "This is our job. We gotta keep the city safe from scum like this."

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Hey, are you guys watching the newsfeed?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Weasel-44033-05673]: No, I've got it shut off. What's happening?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Craaazy car chase! A couple of gangsters got their hands on an illegally modified vehicle, and it looks like they're making a run to Athsul. They've already blown up three cop cars.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Holy shit! They just took out a 4th.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Raider-00735-66079]: Wait a sec. Did you just say illegally modified?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Yeah. I can't see any mods though, it's just what the police said.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Raider-00735-66079]: Unit 30484-30485 is going to want to know about this.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Weasel-44033-05673]: Do we have to? I hate bothering him, he's so pushy!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Raider-00735-66079]: Dude. He's gonna be pissed if we don't tell him. Do you really want him reporting us to Sabrina?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Fuck that yo. I'm getting him in here now.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485] has joined the channel. (Unmuted)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: What the hell are you clowns on about now?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Turn on the news boss.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485 ]: This better be good. I told you I didn't want you bothering me for the next 8 hours.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: …

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: What the hell is this? Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Weasel-44033-05673]: You told us not to bother you, boss.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: This is obviously an exception, moron. An illegally modified car with the people in it wielding illegal weaponry? They're obviously being funded from offworld. How the fuck didn't Satsuma catch this shit? I'm gonna file a report as soon as we get these guys.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Alright, listen up! I'm assuming local command priority. All local units, we're going to get these guys. I need blockades by levelers and reapers arranged at point 607, 682 and 702 on the raised highway. Someone get the VTOL squads active and a Fink in the air. Instigators and Weasels on the road, and start the hovercraft prepping for intercept action. These guys are about to figure out what it means when you fuck with Bonesaw on their home turf.

Kalen's brow furrowed, and she barely managed to resist the temptation to rub the sweat out of her eyes. Things were not looking good. Car 324 had gone down in flame moments earlier, and 348 had lost one of its front tires, flipping into the opposite lane and crushing another vehicle. She tried not to think about how many more had been caught in the pileup. Adem had been screaming for the past few minutes, but she managed to block his voice out, and concentrate on the only thing that mattered right now. Staying alive. The gunman turned towards the car to her right, bringing the sub-machine gun up to his shoulder and firing again. Car 331 swerved across her view, desperately attempting to evade the incoming fire. For the moment, they seemed to be successful, only a few bullet impacts denting the hood of the car. The gunman adjusted his sights again, spraying off another few rounds at 331. This time, the officer driving the car wasn't able to cut across, needing to drive around another vehicle that was pulling away too slowly. The hail of bullets caught 331 right on the windshield, punching through the glass and undoubtedly killing the officer inside. The car swerved off to the right and hit a concrete barrier with a sickening crunch. Dimly, from the corner of her eye, Kalen could see Adem reaching for the car radio.

"All units, this is car 319! Anyone out there, please help!" His panic was understandable, Kalen reassured herself. Adem was fairly new, he hadn't been on the force for very long. Nevertheless, it was somewhat unnerving. Especially since the gunman was turning towards her car now.

"Hold on." Kalen spat through gritted teeth. "This is going to be hairy." She had been watching the gunman carefully, and she was sure she had his firing pattern down. It was painfully obvious when he braced himself to fire, and he always pulled the trigger a split second later. Now! She thought to herself, and jerked the wheel to the left. The patrol car's tires screeched as the sent it skidding into the opposite lane. She heard an angry buzz, and the dashboard flashed. Only the right headlight. Could have been worse. Somewhere in the distance, she heard Adem screaming. The gunman adjusted his position again. Too obvious! She jerked the wheel to the left this time, avoiding the gunfire completely.

"Oh god, oh god, oh god." Adem kept repeating. She wanted to tell him to shut up, but couldn't afford to take her attention off the red car. She quickly spun the wheel to the left. A spattering of bullets caught the right side of the car. The dashboard lit up again. Some damage to the hood. Nothing too serious, but how long can I hold out for?

"Come on Kalen, this is madness, what are we gonna do against this guy?" She blocked out Adem again. For a precious millisecond, her eyes flickered towards the dashboard. They then flickered back towards the gunman. He was bracing again. Right! More damage to the hood. This time on the other side. Kalen knew she had a second before he was able to brace himself again. She quickly reached towards the dashboard and was about to punch the yellow button situated to the right of the steering wheel when the car radio squawked, coming to life.

"Attention all Tassam police units engaged in the pursuit on the raised highway." The deep bass voice thrummed. "This is Bonesaw Goliath 30484-30485. You are hereby ordered to withdraw. They belong to Bonesaw now."

Thrion sat back down again as the last patrol car faded into the distance.

"Why didn't you blow that one up man?" Belvor asked him, his voice somewhat strained.

"I tried. Whoever was driving the car was damn good." The sirens faded into the distance as they sped down the highway. Belvor let up on the gas a little. The car slowed down and joined the normal traffic, although the other drivers were understandably wary of them.

"Well, you should blow them all up next time." Belvor sounded somewhat indignant.

"Dude, I tried."

"It's fine man." The strain in Belvor's voice was gone suddenly. Thrion felt a chill run through his spine. That feeling of unease hadn't gone away since he had gotten into the car. "We won, they stopped chasing us."

"I guess." He tried to relax, but it was difficult. That feeling of unease. It just wouldn't stop. He suddenly perked up. "Hey dude. Can you hear that?"

"No man, I can't hear anything but the car. Is something wrong with you?"

"No. I hear something. It sounds like a whine." Thrion looked out of the sun window. The color drained from his face. "Fuck." He said. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

"What's wrong with you man? What do you see?"

"It's a fucking fink! I knew the cops wouldn't give up without a good reason. The fucking Core is after us man!"

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Alright, I'm in the air now. What am I looking for again?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: It's a red sports car. Don't worry about the license plate, just scan the highway with your sound amplifiers. See if you can catch something that sounds odd. The cops said that the car has an illegal engine.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Roger that. Beginning scan now.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Sweeping...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Sweeping...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Sweeping...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Aha! There they are.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: … Huh. That is an odd one. They've definitely got an illegal engine in a civilian vehicle.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: … Running check against known sound profiles.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Engine type identified. It's living metal.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-50114-61135]: Living metal? Those are hard to come by. Obsolete, but still powerful. Status on ground forces?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Instigator-60003-11424]: I'm almost on the raised highway now. Units 05673, 05677, 05680 and 05696 have reported that they're in traffic now, rapidly closing with the target. Unit 11428 and 11432 are with me.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: Roadblock at point 702 is well underway. Point 682 is on schedule. It seems that unit 00098 has hit a pothole and is having trouble reaching point 607. Estimating a 10 minute delay.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Unacceptable. Tell 00098 to stop being a pansy. What about the rest of the ground forces?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Raider-00735-66079]: Entering the raised highway now. Units 11735, 11784 and 11803 are with me. Keep in mind, we're not going to be able to keep up with the car if it's too fast.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Excellent.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: One more thing. Unit 60783.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Yes, boss?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Get in touch with Airfield 803. Tell them to deploy the prototype barracuda units.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Yes sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Let the games begin! All units, execute chase pattern designate 602-803.

"Fuck man. Fuck fuck fuck. We're so fucked." Thrion stared at the fink nervously, the small VTOL looking like the grim reaper.

"Shut up. We're gonna get out of this alive." Belvor growled. "Just calm down and think rationally."

"I can't!" Thrion held his head, feeling like static was pounding through it. He shook it wildly, trying to get something loose. Surprisingly, it seemed to work. His head felt much clearer as he brought it back up again. "Okay... I'm fine." He took a deep breath, and looked out the back window. "Weasels!"

The six-wheeled scout vehicles were weaving through traffic, their small lasers waving around as if they were looking for something. It seemed as if Thrion and the weasels noticed each other at the same time, as all of their weapons snapped towards the red car and their engines roared, the formation rapidly gaining ground. Two weasels pulled up to each side of the car, and another one behind it. A forth weasel swerved in front of the car. Belvor said two words.

"The remote."

Thrion looked at him in utter confusion for a moment, then remembered the remote that the grizzled man had showed them. He quickly fished it out of his pocket as the two flanking weasels began to fire at the car, their light lasers making small craters on the window. This thing is pretty well armored. Thrion thought as he mashed one of the buttons marked with a small missile. He heard a small whine as the missile racks in the front of the car popped open. He hit the button again, and was rewarded with a whoosh as a pair of mini-missiles fired. The projectiles impacted the back of the weasel, blowing huge chunks out of its armor.

"Again!" Belvor yelled. Thrion mashed the button. A second set of mini-missiles zeroed in on the weasel. It attempted to swerve out of the way, but was too late. The projectiles nailed it in its nearly unarmored backside, blowing through and hitting the vehicle's engine. A non fuel-based propulsion system kept the weasel from erupting, but the small scout vehicle still spun out of control, smashing into the weasel to the car's right. Belvor floored the gas and zoomed out of the trap, the left and rear weasel still firing. The two damaged weasels gradually rolled to a halt, several other cars mashing into them in the meantime.

On the right, Thrion heard a roar. He looked over to see a pair of instigators. The two light tanks, about the size of a large car, were barreling through traffic, mercilessly pushing aside any cars that got in their way. Several of the victimized cars spun out of control, smashing into the sides of the highway. Towing company is gonna get a lot of business today. Thrion dryly noted as the turrets on the instigators swiveled towards the car. The two undamaged weasels gunned their engines, regaining ground. Before Belvor could react, one of them swept in front of the car again. The second weasel stopped directly behind them, while the two instigators pulled up to their right and started to move in, forcing their car towards the concrete barrier separating the lanes. Thrion could hear the whine of the instigator's lasers charging up, the car already rocking gently with impacts from the weasel's lasers.

"Use the rockets!" Belvor shouted, desperately trying to gain some ground on the Core vehicles. Both of the instigators let fly, a pair of laser bolts hitting both the front and back passenger window. Glass sizzled and ran as the car rocked to the left. "We can't take another hit like that!" Time slowed down for Thrion. Almost out of his body, he quickly grabbed the buster rocket laying in the back seat. The sunroof took an eternity to open. Thrion jammed a rocket into the launcher's tube. The sunroof took an eternity to open. He heard the instigator's lasers start to whine again. The sunroof opened! He popped out and leveled the missile launcher at the first light tank. He could see its laser moving up, tracking him. He squeezed the buster rocket's trigger. He was almost ripped out of the car by the recoil of the antitank weapon. The rocket hit the instigator's side and tore a gaping hole in it. The light tank got flipped off its treads and rolled to the right, smashing a car underneath its weight. Belvor floored the gas. The engine chittered rapidly as he jerked the steering wheel to the right. The small car shot through the gap in the core formation, and bucketed through traffic again. Thrion sat down, tossing the buster rocket into the back seat. He heaved a sigh of relief and laughed slightly.

"Jesus fucking christ. I almost pissed my pants."

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Instigator-60003-11424] has left the channel. (Destroyed)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Instigator-60003-11432]: Holy shit!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Weasel-44033-05673]: They just got out! That car has a massive top speed! I can't keep up with it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Status report. What the hell just happened?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Instigator-60003-11432]: They've got some sort of rocket launcher! They just took out 11424 in one shot!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: 90773?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Yes sir. Replaying attack. Checking explosion now...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Matching against known explosion profiles...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Sir, they appear to be carrying buster rockets.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Buster rockets...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fucking Satsuma. They told me nothing like this would get through their scans. Those clowns are gonna catch hell when I'm done with them.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: They're approaching point 607. Where the hell is 00098?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Leveler-30484-00098]: I'm almost there sir!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fuck you, you worthless piece of scrap. If they get through point 607 because you weren't there, I'm fucking sending you to a reclaiming center. Status on point 682?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: Almost ready sir. 5 more minutes.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Leveler-30484-00098]: Understood sir...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: You have 2. Get it done. Where the hell are my hovercraft?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Scrubber-00986-11047] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Scrubber-00986-11048] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Scrubber-00986-11049] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Scrubber-00986-11050] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00989] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00990] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00991] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00992] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Slinger-01045-00052] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Slinger-01045-00053] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fucking finally. Kill them.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00989]: Understood, unit 30485. Entering raised highway and commencing chase now. Executing pattern designate 602-804.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Status on the barracudas?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Valkyrie-00050-99704]: Reached the target area now. Deploying barracuda units.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Good morning boss. You have an assignment for us?

"It's not over yet." Thrion said, oddly calm for a man who had just stared death in the face. He still felt uneasy though... why wouldn't that feeling go away?

"You should have blown them all up man." Belvor replied.

"Fuck you. You wanna stay and face down that second instigator?"

Belvor shook his head. "Sorry. I dunno why I said that. You did good."

"Yeah, well... it's not over yet."

"How do you figure?"

Thrion pointed out through the sunroof at the fink. "The fink. It's still there. They're still watching us." He idly looked out the ruined window. They were rapidly approaching an on ramp. The same on ramp that several nasty looking tanks were using to get on the highway. Thrion racked his memories for a second. He knew what these things were called... He just couldn't remember. As they passed the group of tanks, he could hear a high-pitched whine start up. Oh shit. He remembered. That's right. Those are snappers. Four smaller shapes shot out from between the snappers, closing in on the car quickly. "Scrubbers!" Thrion shouted. "Don't let them close in on us!" Belvor floored the gas, the engine chittering rapidly. He twisted the wheel to the right, the car swerving in front of the approaching hovercraft.

"Machine gun." Belvor said insistently.

"Huh?" Thrion looked at the sub-machine gun in the back. "Dude, that's not gonna do anything."

"No man." Belvor said in that odd tone of voice. "The one in the trunk."

Oh yeah... Thrion thought, quickly hitting the corresponding button on the remote. He could hear a dull chunk sound as the trunk popped up. He quickly stuffed the buster rocket launcher under the seat and folded the rear seating down, a couple of handles and triggers sticking out ominously. He squeezed them tightly, the barrels in the back emitting a roar of smoke and flame. Quickly peeking out the back window, Thrion could see the weapon shred the first scrubber. It went careening off to the side, almost taking one of its friends with it. It smashed into the containing barrier and plopped down, almost taking a couple of cars with it.

"Hold on!" He heard Belvor shout from the front of the car. He clenched the handles of the machine gun in a white-knuckle grip as Belvor suddenly swerved to the left. Thrion felt his bowels loosen as a reaper and a leveler came into view behind the car, both of them turning their turrets towards the small vehicle. The pursuing hovercraft shot through the gap in the roadblock, gaining ground again as Belvor was forced to swerve around traffic from an exit on a nearby overpass. Thrion quickly turned the machine guns towards a second scrubber. He aimed towards the bottom of the craft and squeezed both the triggers again. The weapon roared, belching smoke and flame. The second scrubber quickly skidded to the side, avoiding the attack neatly. Instead, the car behind it was shredded, exploding violently. A snapper smashed through the wreckage, streaming fire. Thrion quickly compensated for his aim, turning towards the scrubber again and squeezing the triggers. He heard a thundercrack, and his aim was ruined by Belvor swerving to the left. A crater appeared where their car used to be. The snapper behind them took aim again, its turret quickly adjusting. Thrion frowned. Its aim looked like it was a little high. Another thundercrack. An orb of plasma leapt from the barrel of the snapper and cleared the car. Thrion heard Belvor swear violently and the car shook as it was pelted by rubble, swerving to the right. The second scrubber emitted a loud whine as it pushed its engines to the limit, quickly gaining ground. A third scrubber pulled out from behind the snapper and attempted to get on the other side of the car. A second snapper drifted to the left of the first. Both of the snappers took aim.

"Thrion! You need to blow one of the fast ones up now!"

Thrion took a second he could ill-afford to wipe the sweat off of his brow. He quickly gauged where the snappers were aiming, and adjusted the machine gun accordingly. He could dimly hear a lower-pitched whine as the third scrubber's laser charged up. A fourth scrubber shot out from between the two snappers, its laser also charging. Its going for the guns! Thrion realized, quickly swinging the machine guns back towards the fourth scrubber. He squeezed both triggers, the weapon roaring to life. The fourth scrubber, intent on aiming, was caught dead in the volley, its front pitted with bullet marks. It listed to the left, ruining the aim of both of the snappers. Not as vulnerable as the weasels, it drifted back into center again. Thrion squeezed the triggers again in a panic. The hail of bullets somehow found their way into the scrubber's laser gun, and the weapon backfired, destroying the hovercraft in an incandescent explosion. Its wreck dipped for a moment, then caught the surface of the highway, flipping up into the air. The convoy of hovertanks sped past it unaffected, but their comrade's wreckage crushed a car behind them.

"No, you fucking idiot! One of the ones trying to get beside us!" Belvor roared. It was too late. The third scrubber's laser discharged, striking the driver's side window. The glass hissed malevolently, running down the side of the car. The sick smell of the melting glass wafted through the car, nearly causing Thrion to vomit. He cursed and quickly flipped up the seat, going for the buster rocket again. Belvor floored the gas again as the scrubber's laser discharged a second time. It struck the back window on the left. Thrion gagged as he quickly jammed a rocket into the launcher, then popped out of the sunroof again. He took careful aim at the scrubber and squeezed the trigger. The scrubber tried to take evasive action, but it was too late. The rocket bisected the small hovercraft, tearing it in half and flinging both halves into the opposite lane. Its remains smashed a school bus and another car.

"Fuck man!" Thrion dropped back into the seat, flipping it down and aiming towards the second scrubber. "I just killed a bunch of kids."

"Who cares!" Belvor shouted back. That strange tone of voice again. "Blow that other one up!"

Thrion tried to push away the imagery of the scrubber cutting the school bus in half. He aimed towards the second scrubber, taking a moment to glance at the snappers. Where the hell did those other two come from? The four snappers were taking careful aim. Thrion wondered what they were up to for a moment, then realized they were going to try the same maneuver that they used the first time. "Belvor, watch out!" He shouted, squeezing the machine gun triggers again. The trunk-mounted weapon shuddered violently in his hands as it roared again, discharging a volley of ammo towards the second, and last scrubber. He was lucky. The volley caught the scrubber on its underside, disabling its hovering mechanism. It dipped, then was flipped into the air as its body caught on the asphalt. A semi-truck smashed into its body, the truck careening crazily and hitting something behind the snappers. The trailer was flipped into the air and mashed a pair of cars behind it, continuing to roll down the highway. Belvor steered the car through two lanes as the snappers unleashed a volley of plasma fire, cratering the roadway ahead of them. He mashed the gas pedal again, the needle on the speedometer leaping up as the car approached its maximum speed. The snappers quickly lost distance, but began to part. What the hell are they doing? Thrion thought for a moment, before he saw the two units emerge between them. Shit. Slingers. "Missiles!" Thrion shouted as the missile racks of the two hovertanks popped up. Twin trails of smoke cut through the air as each discharged a guided missile, designed for taking down heavy aircraft.

"Hold on!" Belvor shouted. He quickly pulled around a car just as the first missile closed in. The car was blown into the air, rotating slowly before it crashed down to the road. Belvor swerved in front of a small van at the last minute. A couple was driving it. Thrion could swear he saw a panicked look on their face the moment before the van was blown sky high.

"Yeah!" Belvor shouted. "Blow them all up! Blow them all up!"

Thrion frowned. That feeling of unease returned again, stronger than before.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00990]: That fucking car is way too fast. We're not going to be able to catch them. It's way too heavily armored too. It took a direct hit from 11049 and it wasn't even fazed.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Whoever is driving that car is very good. I haven't seen evasive maneuvers that good outside of old earth action movies.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00990]: Shut up, you asshole. You must have it nice up there in the sky, watching.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Slinger-01045-00052]: Fuck you, 90773.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Look, it's not like I can do anything else. This body is the most boring one I've ever inhabited.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Silence, children. You've failed, now step aside and let the pros handle it. 00001. 00002. What's your status?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Almost there boss... I can practically smell them...

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: Point 687 roadblock ready sir! They'll not be getting through us. Point 702 is almost ready. Estimated 30 seconds until completion.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Finally, some good news. This chase has gone on for long enough... those kids are going down.

Gavor, or as he was now known; Barracuda-00001-00001, sped down the highway, his treads pounding against the asphalt. He quickly scanned the cars ahead of him, pulling around them as needed. Most of them were more than happy to get out of his way. He saw a couple of red sports cars, and quickly took aim at them before he confirmed that they were not his target, pointing his turret back down the highway.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: How much farther?

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: About 30 more kilometers.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: No worries, I'll let you know when they're in your sights.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Be careful, whoever's driving that thing is good.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Heh. Don't worry about me.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: I'm better.

Barracuda-00001-00001 accelerated, pulling ahead of a pair of trucks. I'm almost there. He thought to himself. He passed the broken remains of a school bus, pulling around several craters in the road. He passed snapper 00990, now moving at a normal speed. He made eye contact with the other tank before he realized that neither of them had eyes. It didn't matter.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00990]: Good luck. Get that asshole for me.

"Man. We should have blown them all up." Belvor complained.

"Fuck you! What is it with you and blowing everything up now! You were never like this before!" Thrion snarled, shuddering.

"I don't know man. It's just like... it doesn't matter. Everyone should die."

"Get a hold of yourself!" Thrion could feel the blood leaving his face. "What's gotten into you?"

"I don't know. But it feels good. I feel like I've never been more alive." The car shook and chittered mercilessly, bucketing along at over 200 kilometers per hour. "Everyone should die." Belvor repeated.

Thrion shook himself. Far from feeling uneasy, it was almost like he felt something scratching at the back of his head. No no. You've gotta hold yourself together man. Don't be like Belvor. Don't be crazy. What the fuck's gotten into that guy anyways? "This isn't over..." He whispered to himself. "Not until the fink leaves." Thrion's personal hell was interrupted by a loud roar. Oh fuck no. He thought. He looked out the back window and felt his blood leave his face again.

Two tanks were pursing them. He had no idea what they were, he had never seen or heard of this model before. They both looked like they were based roughly on instigators, although they were much larger, about the size of a small moving van. Both of the tanks had three identifiable weapons. Two cannons stacked on top of each other coming out of their turret. One of them was identical to the instigator's light laser. The other, departing from the energy weapons traditionally favored by the Core, was what looked like a heavy Gatling gun, several glimpses of heavy ammunition chains showed between the turret armor and the barrels of the weapons. The third, most terrifying armament was a rack of guided missiles situated on top of the turret. The armor over the treads looked like it was wider than the treads itself, although Thrion couldn't figure out why this was the case. It wasn't important anyways. The weapons weren't even the scary part. The scary part was that they were actually gaining on the car.

"Oh shit." Thrion said out loud. "This is bad."

"What is it?" Belvor asked, briefly glimpsing in the rear mirror. "Oh hell. What the fuck are those things?"

Thrion thought rapidly. They didn't match any unit he had ever seen when he was studying the Core military. He made up a name. "They're predators man! Fucking predators!" Thrion was wrong, but perfectly correct at the same time.

Barracuda-00001-00001 pulled past another three cars to his right. He adjusted his front set of treads, drifting to his left again. He pinged Fink 00155-90773, asking the scout how close he was to the offenders again. "Close." Was his reply. Cute. 00001 scanned the next wave of cars. There! A red one was weaving in and out of traffic, zipping ahead of all of the other vehicles. He didn't even need 90773 to tell him that was his target: he knew. He sent a whisper to 00002. Let the hunt begin. 00001 accelerated again, pushing his engine harder. He started to gain ground on the civilian vehicle. 00001's optics picked up a minute movement on the top of the vehicle. Its sunroof was opening. To his left, 00002 was pulling in behind the car, switching to her Gatling gun and taking careful aim.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Take out the machine gun in the trunk, if you can.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Already on it. Watch out for rockets.

She was right. 00001 could see the mystery gunman in the car getting out of the sunroof. 00001 zoomed in. A rocket was already loaded. Here it comes! The gunman squeezed the trigger, dispatching the warhead. 00001 wrenched both sets of his treads to the right. A huge crater was punched in the road where he was a second ago, the car behind him smashing into it. 00001 zoomed in on the gunman again. He quickly snapped a photo of his face, and sent it off to 90773. There was a roar as 00002 opened fire, her weapon making a prodigious series of dents in the back of the red car. Spent shell casings rained from her turret as she ripped into the back of the civilian vehicle, with seemingly little effect.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: What the hell did they armor this thing with? I'm barely denting it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Snapper-00006-00990]: I told you, that thing is fucking tough.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: I turned that photo you sent over to the police. They're looking through their databases for any potential match right now.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Careful! He just reloaded.

00001 turned his attention away from the chat channels and back to the chase. He could see the gunman pointing the rocket launcher towards him again. He briefly wondered why 00002 had stopped firing, then realized that there was a car between her and the red one. This isn't going to be hard. The gunman fired again. 00001 used the same trick. Another car smashed into the giant pothole. Hope they were insured. 00001 thought dryly. Time to go on the offensive. He swung his turret towards the red vehicle, activating the light laser. He adjusted his aim carefully, targeting the back right tire. 00002 began firing again.

"Oh fuck!" Thrion screamed. "They're going for the tire Belvor! Do something!"

"Get down!" His partner roared. Thrion complied, bullets buzzing angrily over his head as Belvor jerked the steering wheel for the umpteenth time. The car skidded to the right, narrowly avoiding the discharged laser bolt. The merciless grinding sound finally stopped as the second tank lost its bead on their trunk. "Use the machine gun man! Blow it up!"

Thrion wanted to refuse. Something deep inside him screamed at him to refuse. Then that small voice was drowned out by the scratching. "Sure man." He replied, his voice starting to sound eerily like Belvor's. "I'm gonna blow it up." He hit the trunk button on the remote. The trunk popped open again. He grabbed the machine gun handles. Taking aim at the second tank, he started firing at it.

00001 watched as 00002 took a facefull of heavy machine gun fire. Well, as much as she has a face anyways. He corrected himself, taking aim at the tire again. The bullets made whizzing sounds as they bounced off of 00002's armored hide, inflicting comparatively little damage to her. The red car weaved from side to side, frustrating 00002's attempt to aim precisely at it. It also frustrated his attempts to take out the tire. Man, she's gonna kill them. They're chipping her paint job really bad. 00001 watched as 00002's front was stripped bare of paint from the repeated bullet impacts. He could almost feel her glowering. Finally, she gave up and started firing recklessly, weaving her turret from side to side while attempting to track the car. She shredded several other cars with her Gatling gun, inflicting only minimal damage to her target.

"It's not blowing up man!" Thrion yelled. "What do I do?" Oh fuck me. I'm going crazy like him. The fog in his head lifted. He shook his head briefly. Belvor stared straight head at the road, focusing on a point that appeared to be thousands of miles away. Thrion saw a couple of large profiles in the distance. "Another roadblock!" He shouted. "Watch out!" Belvor gripped the steering wheel, and the car began to drift slowly to the left, towards the barrier between the lanes.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: They're approaching the roadblock at point 687. What is that, two levelers and a reaper? I'd like to see them get past that.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: I'm going to kill these fuckers myself. I just got that paint job yesterday!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: No chance, not if 11486 manages to hit them. There's an exit to an overpass up ahead. I'm going to take it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: What the hell are you doing?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Watch. If this works, it's gonna be spectacular.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Status report.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Car has confirmed heavy damage to the trunk. They haven't closed it yet. See if you can take out that machine gun, 00002.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Yeah yeah, I got it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882]: What the hell are you guys doing down there?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Catching a couple of fugitives. Fugitives armed with illegal material that YOU let through, I'll add.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882]: There are over thirty dead reported! And that's just an estimate! What are you doing, killing anyone who gets between you and your quarry?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Relax, you savior flesh-heart. We're well under the legal limit for casualties to catch fugitives, as the law is set forth by our lady.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882]: Well... under... the legal... limit? Relax? You shouldn't be killing people at all! Do you have any respect for organic life!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Sure. We'll make sure casualties are kept under the legal limit.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882]: You're a bunch of animals. You can rest assured that Zynaida will be hearing about this.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fuck you, you Satsuma scrapboat. Why don't you tell her about the illegal engine and armaments you let go planetside? I'm sure she'll love to hear about that. You know what? Do me another favor, tell Saigo to shove that stick farther up his ass. I'm sure he'll love it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882]: I can't believe you. You're one of the most vulgar, debased patterns I've ever met. How could Adelaide possibly justify letting you inhabit a Goliath, let alone anything else?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Get the fuck out of my channels, you piece of scrap. Go take a hike to the nearest reclaiming center too, while you're at it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Satsuma-Starburst-00050-71882] has left the channel. (Banned)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: Yeah boss! Way to tell him who's boss.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fuck those savior assholes. Blah blah blah! We're so compassionate! You have to do what we say! Never have the balls to get the job done. Status!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: They're just about to hit point 687.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: All units at point 687, open fire!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Make sure to let 00002 past when you're done.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Holy shit! Did you just see that?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: FUCK! GET THEM! GET THEM NOW!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Leveler-30484-00099]: Trying sir! I can't track them fast enough!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Heh. You guys blew that one big-time.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11486]: SHIT! FUCK!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Is this a fucking joke? Are you fucking kidding me?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: Don't worry sir. We'll get them. Status 00002?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Resuming pursuit. ETA 1 minute.

Thrion let out the breath he'd been holding as the car thudded back onto all four wheels again. Belvor had pulled off a daring maneuver at the last minute, propping two of the car's wheels on the road and propping the other two on the barrier. They had shot through the tiny opening between the reaper on the left of the roadblock and the wall. The leveler's slowly-turning turrets didn't have time to track them, and they had only had to dodge a single volley of plasma fire, which Belvor had done excellently.

That's why I work with him... that's why I work with him... Thrion thought, although the clawing hadn't gone away yet. "The fink hasn't gone away either yet... it's not over... it's not over..." He mumbled to himself, staring out the window at the small scout craft. He looked over at the opposite lanes. "Slingers!" He shouted, spotting several of the Core hovertanks incoming, their missile racks already prepared. He felt his bladder loosen a little as Belvor's only reaction was to grin.

"Watch this." Was all Belvor said.

Thrion almost wet his pants as the three Slingers fired in concert, their missiles emitting deadly gray smoke trails. Belvor quickly pulled around a truck that Thrion hadn't noticed. All three missiles smashed into the trailer, blasting the truck into the air. Belvor quickly pulled to the left, underneath the flying truck. It hit the roadway with a heavy smash, crushing a nearby car. "They shot again!" Thrion yelled, watching a second flight of missiles come from behind them in slow motion. Belvor gunned the engine, sliding ahead of a car. The first missile blew it into the air, the second and third hitting where the car had been a moment ago. The car hit the ground and rolled to a halt. The slingers faded into the distance. Thrion thought he heard the roar of the predators again, but could barely hear himself think over all the scratching. I have to keep a hold of myself... what the hell is happening to me? He wondered.

A scant few seconds later, Thrion was sure he heard the roar again. He quickly scrambled back to the trunk machine gun as the second tank came into view, swerving past a few cars, its bald front looming angrily. It swung its turret towards the car and started firing. Thrion swung the machine gun back towards the tank and started firing in turn. Jets of smoke and flame leapt between the two vehicles, shredding anything unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. Belvor weaved in and out of traffic crazily, managing to dodge the lion's share of the projectiles. Thrion was hard-pressed just to keep the tank in his sights, but managed to score a few hits on its flank. He wondered if the tank's hits to the machine gun would affect its performance any.

Almost there. 00001 thought to himself, pulling past a van. Just a little longer. He gauged the drop with an altimeter application. Not that bad. That's barely gonna tickle. 00001 stopped. Here we are. Going down! 00001 fishtailed, putting his body perpendicular to the flow of traffic. He felt a car crash into his left side. Several other cars swerved around him, blaring angrily. 00001 backed up as far as he could go. He turned his turret around while backing up and blew a hole in the barrier between lanes, backing into the second set of lanes. More cars swerved around him. More angry honks. They just can't appreciate what I'm about to do. He thought. He blew a hole in the barrier containing the highway. He accelerated.

"Shit, did you hear that?" Thrion looked up worriedly.

"I heard something blowing up man."

"There's something above us!" Thrion hissed. He kept firing at the second tank. One of the barrels on the machine gun was dented and had ceased to function. The other one didn't seem to be doing any damage. He thought about giving up. Then he thought about everything else blowing up. He started firing again with renewed vigor.

Thrion heard something rev up overhead. He looked ahead. They were under an overpass. Just as they cleared the edge, a massive tank shot off the edge of the overpass, landing right in front of them with an enormous crash. Swerving to keep control, it swung its turret around to face the windshield.

00001 landed with a crash. He swerved left and then right and then left again to keep control of his direction. Realizing that he needed to act quickly, he swung his turret around towards the red car and opened fire with his Gatling gun. Bullets pounded the windshield, bouncing off with little effect. He could hear unit 00002 firing behind him. He hoped that she had taken out that machine gun. His bullets weren't having that much effect. The glass was dented and cracked in several places, but it didn't look like it was about to give. 00001 switched to his laser and aimed directly at the car's engine.

"Belvor move! It's gonna hit the engine Belvor! Move move!" Thrion screamed, his voice barely sounding like his own. , scratch, scratch. Belvor jerked the wheel to the left just as the laser discharged, the weapon melting a hole in the asphalt where the car was a moment ago. Scratch, scratch. Keep yourself together man. Scratch, scratch. Thrion turned his attention back towards the second tank, which never stopped firing the whole time. It finally got a lucky hit in. The second barrel was sawed off by a stream of bullets. Thrion pulled the triggers frantically, but nothing happened. Scratch, scratch. The second tank kept firing, its bullets bouncing off the back window, buzzing like angry wasps. Belvor swerved the car again as a second laser hit from the first tank scorched the road again. Scratch, scratch. Keep yourself together man. What's happening? Scratch, scratch. "No. No, no no." Thrion repeated. He noticed that both of the tanks had stopped firing. They seemed to be staring at the car intently. "They're gonna use the missiles man! They're gonna blow us up!" Scratch, scratch. It's not over until the fink's gone. It's not over until the fink's gone. Scratch, scratch.

00001 locked on to the red car. 00002 locked on to the red car. 00001 fired his first missile. 00002 fired her first missile. The car swerved out of the way at the last second. Both missiles hit each other, blowing up spectacularly. 00001 laughed.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: We should probably stagger our fire.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: There's no fucking way they're gonna get that lucky again.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: You may be right, but why take the chance? You go ahead first.

00001 watched as 00002 carefully acquired another lock on. 00002 fired again, a second missile streaking away from her turret, riding the gray plume of smoke. The red car pulled behind another car. The missile hit that car instead, destroying it.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Fuck. God dammit.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Relax, Kenja. We've got this guy.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Don't call me that, Barracuda 00001-00001.

Very formal address. 00001 thought as his second missile locked on to the red car. It means I pissed her off. Not watching his surroundings, he let fly. 00001 watched in slow motion as the missile swerved into a school bus and exploded, bodies flying everywhere. The two halves of the school bus rolled into another lane as the red car accelerated past, smashing a station wagon and a van. 00001 felt numb with horror. He stopped dead in the center of the roadway, another car smashing into his rear.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: What the fuck are you doing 00001? Keep going! We have to get these guys.

00002 waited a moment. She vanished into the traffic in the distance, along with the red car. 00001 didn't start moving again. Several cars swerved around him, honking angrily.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Fine. Go ahead. You can be just like 00050-71882. Grow some balls and get the job done, you wimp.

The insult stung 00001, but not enough to shock him out of his numbness. Another whisper came through.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: What the fuck do you think you're doing? Get moving kid, your prey is getting away.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I killed them.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: It was just a normal day for them. And I killed them.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Snap out of it kid. They're just flesh shells.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: But... I was one of them! I became this... this tank... to protect this city! This world! Not to destroy it.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Sigh. Look kid. You've got two choices. You can either say "Okay, I fucked up." and move on. Or, you can be like the savior flesh-hearts, and let yourself be paralyzed with grief over the oh-so-precious lives that you've lost.

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I'm a murderer!

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: No you're not. You're just doing your job. Same as 00002. Same as me. Same as 90773.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I don't care how many people you kill, how much destruction you cause. If you get these guys. I'll take the heat for it. I always take the heat for any operation I command. If you let them go, all those people you saw killed from 90773's camera? They just died for nothing.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: You gonna let those kids die for nothing? Or are you gonna man up and do something about it?

[Whisper to] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I'm going to do something about it.

[Whisper from] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Good kid. That's how Bonesaw works. Get back out there and kill those fuckers.

00001 started up his engine again.

Thrion looked ahead out of the windshield. It was badly damaged, but he could still see through it. The second tank had kept up with them. It was currently firing at them with its Gatling gun. He didn't care. There was a grinding noise as it chipped away at the armor on their side. Belvor idly weaved the car in and out of traffic, dodging some fire. Some cars were shredded by the reckless Core vehicle. Others wised up and slowed down, allowing the pursuers and their prey to shoot ahead. Thrion could hear a small voice inside of him screaming at him. It was trying to tell him something. It didn't matter. It was so small. So far away. He saw some tanks in the distance. At least the scratching had stopped.

"Hey man. You wanna blow something up?" He asked Belvor. His voice sounded dead.

"Yeah man. I thought you'd never ask."

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Hey, they're almost at point 702. This is the last roadblock you set up boss! I wonder if they'll get past this one too!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Shut up. They'd better fucking not. What's that car looking like, 00002?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Heavy surface damage. How the fuck is this thing still operating even? I've been shooting at it for the past three minutes nonstop. I've managed to score some pretty good hits on it too.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: The trunk machine gun is out of commission. The guy inside doesn't dare pop his head out, or I'll saw the fucker in half.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Hey look, the sides of the car just opened up. Oh, haha, it's the mini-missiles again. What do they think those are gonna do?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Oh shit!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Wow! They just took out 00002!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: FUCK! PIECE OF FUCKING SCRAP!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Reaper-11404-11443]: Here they come! All units get ready to fire!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Leveler-30484-00100]: Ready sir!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Leveler-30484-00101]: Firing solution set! They're toast.

00001 passed 00002's overturned body. Clever, the way they had blown a hole in the roadway, causing her to flip over. He pitied her for a moment, but turned his focus back to the task at hand. He could feel the nanolathing machines in his turret replenishing his ammo stores. Two new missiles clicked into place on top of his turrets. More ammo was fed into his Gatling gun. I'm ready for action. He could see the red car from 90773's camera, and he could also just barely catch a glimpse of it in the distance, weaving in and out of traffic. Focusing on 90773's camera for now, he roared past several vehicles, wondering why anyone would still be out on the highway after passing the numerous wrecks earlier. Oh yeah. They may have gotten on later. He reminded himself. There was an extensive network of on ramps throughout Niephest's road system, which allowed people from all over to access the raised highway. He watched the car effortlessly skid past the first volley of fire from 11443, 00100 and 00101. The sunroof popped open. Wait a sec. He thought. The sunroof was already open. Through 90773's camera, he could see the car skid to a halt. The gunman popped out of the roof, the buster rocket in hand. The side compartments in the car's door were already open. The car fired a volley of mini-missiles. The missiles tore into the sides of the 00100 and 00101, ripping their weapons to shreds. The massive rocket exploded beneath 11443's right tread, flipping the heavy tank over. The car accelerated again, shooting through the disabled tanks. 00001 could almost hear 30485's roar of rage.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT SHIT!


00001 winced as he roared past the wrecked roadblock. He pulled around several cars that were getting on the highway at a nearby on ramp, then locked on to the red car. He fired another missile at it. The car swerved away and the missile hit a nearby truck. 00001 smashed through the wrecked vehicle, aiming at the car with his Gatling gun. He aimed towards the ruined trunk and let the weapon rip, rounds thrashing the busted up rear of the car. Focusing into an almost trancelike state, 00001 kept pace with the car, mashing its backside. He barely even noticed the other cars that he smashed beneath his treads. The tires. 30485 is right. Why haven't we tried the tires yet? He aimed towards the tires. The car began to swerve wildly, it was almost like the driver knew what he was up to. 00001 fired another volley. It was neatly dodged. This isn't going to work. Whoever's driving this car is good. He needed a trick.

00001 was a prototype. He was almost ready to be deployed, but not quite. There were several experimental features that he hadn't had a chance to try out yet. One of those was his twin and triple link system. The laser and the Gatling gun were supposed to be able to be fired at the same time. However, the variable speed of the projectiles required sophisticated targeting software in order to keep both weapons at an optimal angle. Even more sophisticated targeting software was required to keep a missile lock at the same time. His body sacrificed processing power for speed, armor and maneuverability, as well as greater overall firepower. Other units, such as the massive Krogoth, were able to carry sophisticated processors in order to handle the simultaneous firing of their powerful and varied weaponry systems. Designed as a level 1 unit, the Barracuda wasn't able to house such powerful computer systems without a significant reduction in is other advantages. The linking systems were designed to overcome this problem, minimizing sub-processor load while allowing for efficient targeting of the various weapon systems. They had never been tested. Until now. 00001 corrected himself, activating the twin-link system between his laser and Gatling gun. He began to fire his Gatling gun at the car. Predictably, the car began to swerve from side to side, avoiding the hail of bullets. 00001 fired his laser at what he judged an opportune moment. He narrowly missed the trunk of the car, burning a small furrow into the back wheel well. I can do this. 00001 thought. He started to fire his Gatling gun again.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Look at 00001 go! Is he using the linking systems?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: … Yes.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Why didn't he use those earlier! Look, he actually hit the car with his laser! Bam! He just hit it again!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: He was under orders not to. They've never been tested before, and we could ill afford to lose our only "heavy" units able to keep up with the illegally modified vehicle.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: But man, look at him! He's gonna tear that thing apart in no time!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: It doesn't matter. He's not going to get it in an acceptable timeframe. Look. They just juked another missile. We're approaching the casualty limit too quickly.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: I thought you didn't really care about that?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I don't. But fuck if I'm going to let Satsuma get their hands on this rock. Especially not after what that scraphead 00050-71882 said to me.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44413] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44414] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44415] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44416] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44417] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44418] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44413]: Orders, 30485?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Blow the highway at point 735.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44413]: Casualty limit?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Fuck it. I'll deal with Sabrina later. Get a couple of Valkyrie Mk. IIs in the air as well. Load them up with Storms and AKs to check out the wreck. There's no way these fuckos weren't up to something.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Rapier-44412-44413]: Yes sir. ETA is 1 minute and 30 seconds.

00001 had managed to carefully strip both the rear wheel wells off of the car. He had activated his triple-link system and fired a guided missile at the red vehicle occasionally, but only when he wanted to distract them from his original intentions. Finally, an opening! 00001 fired his laser at the back left wheel of the car. It managed to dodge his attack at the last moment, although his attack should have made the rubber melt. Reinforced. Should have known. He took aim again, this time with both his Gatling gun and his laser. The Gatling gun roared, spitting clouds of ammo at the vulnerable wheel. A couple of bullets connected, bouncing harmlessly off of it before the car managed to swerve to the side, the rest of the attack thudding harmlessly into the road. Another minute. I can still do this. He ran over another car, its body crunching beneath his treads. He heard the roar of VTOL craft above him. It was probably 90773 coming in for a closer look. He ignored it. Another missile. I need to throw them off. He heard a louder roar in the distance. He was concentrating. He ignored it. 00001 fired another missile at the red sports car. It skidded to a halt right in front of him, the missile impacting directly under the left side of the car. The red car was flipped into the air, smashing down on to the roadway and rolling crazily for a few yards before coming to a halt. 00001 slowly came to a halt, disabling the linking programs. He suddenly realized why the car had stopped. Ahead of him, a huge section of the highway had been blown away. 00001 saw a squad of rapiers scream off into the distance.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: By the black queen. We finally did it.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Entering holding pattern! I'll keep an eye on the area.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Good job 00001, 00002. I'm sure you would have gotten them anyways. We just couldn't afford to let the chase run any longer. Fuck the rest of you, especially the scrapheaps on the roadblocks. Get some construction aircraft on scene. Start reclaiming the wrecks and repairing the roads.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00002]: Bah.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Barracuda-00001-00001]: I understand. I apologize for the delay.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: 30485. What the flying fuck have you been doing?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: I just got a report from Saigo. Saigo. That you personally insulted one of his officers! I also got a report from Saigo that you've exceeded casualty limits! What the hell did you do? Oh god, Ada's gonna have my head.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Relax commander. We haven't exceeded the casualty limit. 90773, how many are estimated dead?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: 75 and counting sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: And counting? 30485, the limit is 100! That's going to be reached! Zynaida is going to order Satsuma to take over. Oh god, Ada's going to be so mad.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: 80 and counting, sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Shut up.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Yes sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-ValkyrieMk2-00051-99905]: Reached the area of the wreck, deploying units.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: I'm on site sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-AK-00713-00087]: Analyzing wreckage now.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: One of them lived, Unit 30484-30485. Orders?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Detain him.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Hey, 30485. Remember those pictures I put in earlier?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I thought I told you to shut up.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: But this is really good! The guy's name is Thrion Vesiaine. He's a known offender in the Tassam area. Mostly driving violations. He was released on parole 1 month ago, and dropped off the radar totally as of last week. He's also got some charges of racketeering, and was suspected of murdering several individuals. Mostly gang-related stuff.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Interesting. Do you have any idea who his buddy was?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Probably a man named Belvor Cohon. Similar violations. Belvor has many more driving violations, however. Same situation. Parole a month ago, vanished a week ago.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Even more interesting.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: Neither of them have shown much initiative. They almost exclusively worked as hired muscle for the larger gangs in the Tassam area.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: They were up to something.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: The living one, Thrion. He's completely batshit sir. He keeps mumbling something about blowing things up. When I try to get anything that makes sense out of him, he keeps going on about how nothing matters and how everything deserves to be blown up. There was another with him, but he was killed on impact. Head is totally crushed.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Look Commander, these guys were clearly up to something. You know the casualty limit goes up when something's more serious. Maybe this isn't so bad after all.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Fink-00155-90773]: 105 and counting sir.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Shut up.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: This had better be something significant, or else you're going to take the blame for this, 30485.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Yes commander, of course commander.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-AK-00713-00087]: Hey. I just found something in the trunk. Come over here and help me get it out.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-AK-00713-00087]: Holy shit. You're not gonna believe this! We just found a fucking void canister!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: You just found a void canister? … Cultists are on this world? Shit!

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-AK-00713-00087]: The shielding is badly decayed.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Storm-44055-60783]: That explains goofball here.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-AK-00713-00087]: They must have been trying to spread an infestation to another city. They were going to use the delivery boys as the seeds. I'll bet these guys didn't even have an inkling of what they were getting into.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: Cultists, on Niephest? What am I going to do?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: Oh man. This is great. Look. You've got this commander. Satsuma fucked up and let all this shit go planetside. Not only is the casualty limit over 1000 for dealing with cultist artifacts, Satsuma were the ones who fucked up here, not us. You can totally make a case for kicking them out of this planet's political space, permanently. Niephest can be Bonesaw's forever.

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Commander-Sabrina]: That's a brilliant idea, Goliath 30484-30485! What would I ever do without you?

[1. Tassam-General] [Bonesaw-Goliath-30484-30485]: I don't know, commander. I don't know.

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide] has joined the channel. (Connected)

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide]: Hey there, Saigo.

[X. Command-General] [Satsuma-FleetCommander-Saigo]: What do you want, Ada?

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide]: Your boys fucked up big time on Niephest. You let Apis' little puppets smuggle in a heavily armored civilian vehicle with an illegal engine, illegal weaponry, and a void canister.

[X. Command-General] [Satsuma-FleetCommander-Saigo]: …

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide]: I already talked to Zynaida. Don't even bother trying to appeal. Niephest is mine now. Get your boys out of orbit.

[X. Command-General] [Grievance-FleetCommander-Severli]: Oooh, score one for Scourge! That's gotta sting.

[X. Command-General] [Gossamer-FleetCommander-Skybreaker]: Shut up, Severli.

[X. Command-General] [Grievance-FleetCommander-Severli]: Who's going to make me, you?

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida] has joined the channel. (?)

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida]: No. I am. Shut up, Severli.

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida]: You screwed up, Saigo. You have your orders. Your forces are to be out of Niephest's orbit in a week.

[X. Command-General] [Satsuma-FleetCommander-Saigo]: … Yes, my lady.

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida]: Adelaide. Can you keep the cults from spreading on Niephest? Preferably without glassing this time. We're trying to keep Apis from taking over the galaxy, not keep him from having a galaxy to take over.

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide]: Yes, my lady.

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida]: Good. See to it.

[X. Command-General] [Core-Overlord-Zynaida] has left the channel. (?)

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide]: Well then! Time for another glorious month of cultist smashing! Ta-ta. Take care boys! Mwah!

[X. Command-General] [Bonesaw-FleetCommander-Adelaide] has left the channel. (Disconnected)

[X. Command-General] [Satsuma-FleetCommander-Saigo]: I hate that woman so much.

Author's note: This story makes some references to units in Total Annihilation, the Final Frontier. Notably the Starburst, Core's Battlecruiser. I purposefully chose not to water down the story with much exposition, so perhaps a little explanation is in order for those who are wondering about some of the peculiarities of this story.

This story takes place after the events of the Core mission, "Time to Leave." The Core successfully manage to set off the implosion device, destroying and reforming the galaxy. The sole Core Commander waits for several thousand years before rebuilding the Core in ernest, to allow for the chance of sentient life to once again populate the Galaxy, Humans obviously being one of the species that re-evolved. The Core was organized into a number of different fleets, each headed by a commander, these commanders are referred to as "Fleet Commanders." There are ten different fleets, but Bonesaw Fleet and Satsuma Fleet are the only two with a significant part in this story. The ten are split evenly between two "meta-fleets," the "savior" and the "scourge."

Currently, a god of destruction has found its way into the galaxy. It makes its minions by breaking their mind with "the void." The Core attempt to stamp out these cults wherever they occur. Savior and Scourge-aligned fleets have dramatically different methods of dealing with cultist infestations, and with other incidents of civil disorder on worlds that they occupy. This particular incident occurs on the planet of Niephest, in the city of Tassam.