Sphere ships are chasing down the Saint Nazaire, and Cortes, Dahlia and Mahad are still stuck inside the complex.
"What?" Wayan checked his console. Sure enough, patrollers had appeared from nowhere, and more were coming out of the complex.
They each lined themselves up around the Saint Nazaire, forming a perimeter between them and the open sky.
"They've got us surrounded... I don't' think we can get out," Cheng added.
Wayan looked at his console again, then back at the complex in front of him. "Not on my watch..."
He powered up the engines and swung the Saint Nazaire up from the edge of the dock.
"Wayan... I don't think we can get out..."
"Saint Nazaire. You are surrounded. Surrender, or we will open fire," the radio buzzed.
"Wayan..." Lena added.
"We're not going out..." Wayan finally answered as he levelled the Saint Nazaire and steadied his hand on the throttle. "... we're going in." He pushed the throttle forward and the Saint Nazaire dove through the open dock and into the complex. Sphere weapons fire strafed the side of the building where the Saint Nazaire had been, but the ship was already inside and protected by the metal walls.
Some of the Sphere patrollers peeled off from the perimeter and followed the Saint Nazaire inside.
"Um... are we going to be able to fit through here?" Lena asked.
"Cheng?" Wayan asked.
"Ah... our sensors still aren't penetrating very far ahead. I can tell you if you need to stop, but as for giving directions..." he trailed off.
"Okay..." Wayan slowed the Saint Nazaire slightly as he came to a corner, swung around it, and then pulled the ship out into a more open area. He increased the speed and dodged towards another tunnel.
"Sphere ships are following us..." said Cheng. "They're more manoeuvrable in here too, they're catching up."
"I could use my powers to pull some of these tunnels in behind us..." suggested Lena.
"How long can you keep that up?" Wayan asked.
"I'm not sure..."
"Use the rear gun turret instead. Think you can shoot down a few ships?"
"Yeah, I'll try."
Dahlia peered out the window, and then ducked back down to the floor. "Diwan's there with more Brigs!"
"There were only three before. I think she's got Cortes cornered."
"Are we actually going to be able to get out of here?" Mahad asked.
"... let me think. We might be able to slip out of here... but I'm not sure after that. We're going to have to help Cortes."
Mahad pushed himself up and onto the back seats. "I'm sorry I got you into this..."
"It's not your fault... right now we've got to try and find a way out of here."
Mahad looked out the window from where he was sitting. "What about that?"
"What?" Dahlia asked, coming and sitting next to him so she could see what he was looking at.
"That..." Mahad pointed. "It's some sort of transport vehicle... they must've used it to move stuff around this place."
"It's worth a try, if it still works... we still have to get out of this without Diwan or the Brigs seeing us. Think you can get out without falling over anything?"
"Yeah... you might have to hold my hand but..." A slight grin played at the corners of Mahad's mouth.
Dahlia opened her mouth, but then realised he was probably right at any rate. He would just enjoy it. "Okay... okay, let's just get out of here." She helped Mahad up and made sure Diwan wasn't looking before popping open the hatch. "Don't make any noise..." she whispered.
Diwan and the Brigs still had their attention on Cortes.
Cortes saw the Hyperion simulator's hatch pop up out of the corner of his eye. He didn't look at it. Whatever Dahlia was doing, she was taking a risk.
"Why do you need Lena so badly anyway, Diwan? You've got plenty of kids in your Guardian School," he growled out the last two words.
"What, don't you approve of our Guardian School?"
"No, not really."
"If I'm not mistaken... you've got Lena on the pirate ship of yours. Or does she not count as a child when you can put her powers to good use?"
"I actually have two children on that ship. There's a reason I left them there."
"Yes... on the ship my patrollers are about to destroy. Quite protective of you, Cortes."
"They're part of the reason you won't get away with this."
"As are the children in our Guardian School. Even if I don't defeat you here, I think they'll make sure your pathetic rebellion never succeeds. Face it; you had your time twelve years ago. You were defeated. Now you only continue getting weaker, even as we get stronger."
Cortes tightened his hands into fists, but couldn't think of a response.
Diwan's radio buzzed. "What!?" She listened for a moment. "Then deal with it!" she shouted and shut it off. She turned back to Cortes. "Okay Cortes, I'll give you one last chance. It seems your crew are not being so cooperative in handing over your ship. Tell you what, get them to come quietly and we'll let you all go. Once we have Lena, of course." She tossed her radio at Cortes. It floated the rest of the way under the direction of her Seijin powers, and then stopped in front of him. "Contact them. /Now/." She nodded to the Brigs and they trained their weapons on him. "Trust me. This is in your best interests."
Cortes snatched the radio from the air.
"I got one!" Lena exclaimed.
A Sphere patroller spun out of control from the blast, and tumbled into a wall with a burst of flame.
The other patrollers dodged around it and kept coming.
"Good, keep it up," said Wayan. He pulled the Saint Nazaire into a dive. The ship plummeted down a wide shaft and then levelled out and sped away. The patrollers kept up easily
The radio buzzed. "Wayan, come in."
"Cortes? Where are you? We're in a bit of trouble here!"
"Don't worry, I know."
Cortes sounded calm, but Wayan could hear the anger underlying his voice. "What's going on?"
"It seems we've run into a well planned trap. Looks like there's only one way out."
"Wayan... don't let those bastards catch you, alright?" The connection cut out.
"There are more Sphere ships coming. Dead ahead!" said Cheng.
Wayan dodged down another tunnel, avoiding the Sphere ships ahead of him. The ships ahead and those behind folded in together, and kept following the Saint Nazaire.
"Wayan, we can't loose them in here..." said Cheng, "we're too big!"
"I know, I know... Lena, how're you going shooting them down?"
"I've got a few, and I think I'm getting better. But more just keep on coming."
"You said before you could pull in the tunnels behind us," said Cheng. "Maybe, instead of shooting the ships, take a shot at the walls. If we can find some structures in here that are loose or ready to break then they should be easy to shoot down."
"Let's find something we can shoot then..." said Wayan, and pulled the Saint Nazaire into a more run down part of the complex. "How's this?"
Lena took a couple shots with the gun. One of the walls shuddered as the blasts impacted it, and then fell across the tunnel behind them, effectively cutting its size in half.
Two Sphere patrollers smashed directly into the fallen piece of metal, and three more overcorrected and crashed into the walls.
"Alright!" shouted Cheng. "Let's find some more stuff to shoot down!"
"Big mistake!" Diwan growled, glaring at Cortes. "Brigs, destroy him!"
"One last thing!" Cortes shouted.
Diwan raised a hand for the Brigs to stop. "What?! I'm losing patience..."
"Look behind you."
Diwan frowned. Cortes couldn't be stupid or desperate enough to try such a ridiculous trick. But then she noticed the light that glared up on Cortes and the wall behind him, followed by the growl of an engine.
"Take that!" Dahlia stamped her foot on the gas and the small transport vehicle swerved out into the open.
Seconds later the Brigs Dahlia had been aiming for scattered like skittles, propelled by the rubber bumper bar on the front of the vehicle. It was most likely designed to save damage in tight cargo holds, but now it served the purpose of causing damage much better.
The vehicle braked to a stop right beside Cortes. "Need a lift?" Dahlia asked.
"Thanks." Cortes swung himself into the back, scooping up the rifle he'd dropped on the way. "Now get us out of here."
"Yes, sir." Dahlia floored it again and the vehicle sped away.
Diwan pulled herself up from where she'd jumped to avoid being hit, and fired a blast after them. It missed. "Grr! Quit laying around!" she shouted at the Brigs, kicking the one nearest to her.
The few that were still functioning pulled themselves up.
"Bring me my ship! I'll catch them myself if I have to!"
Cortes checked behind them to make sure they weren't being immediately followed, before turning back to the front of the vehicle.
"Mahad, are you alright?"
"Yeah... Thanks for coming back."
"We weren't planning on leaving you behind."
"I hate to interrupt..." said Dahlia, "but where's the Saint Nazaire?" She brought their vehicle to a halt at the empty dock where the Saint Nazaire had landed.
"Diwan was trying to capture the ship. Wayan would've had to move." Cortes pulled out his radio. "Wayan, come in." It simply buzzed with static.
"Um... guys... Sphere!" Mahad pointed out the open dock. Two Sphere patrollers had just drifted into view. They seemed to see them suddenly, and spun around to face them.
"Woah!" Dahlia hit reverse and spun the vehicle around in a tight circle, taking out some empty energy cylinders stacked along the wall, before speeding back into the complex.
"You should've let me drive!" said Mahad.
"You said you didn't feel up to it!"
"Mahad!" shouted Cortes before they could continue, "Make yourself useful. Try contacting the Saint Nazaire." He tossed the radio. With his hands now free he stood up and turned around, balancing with his back against the rollbar of the vehicle. He powered up his rifle. Unfortunately, it wasn't really designed to take down a ship. It would have to suffice.
"I got some more down!" Lena exclaimed. Behind the ship metal crashed in, only a few Sphere ships managing to dodge the debris.
"Good," said Wayan. They were doing damage. But they still had to escape, and find Cortes, Mahad and Dahlia. Right now they were only being successful in running, and they had no idea how many Sphere ships were in the complex.
Then the radio came alive again.
"Hello... can anyone hear me?"
"Mahad!" exclaimed Lena. She left the gun and ran down next to Cheng.
"Mahad? Where are you?" Wayan asked.
"Ah... some corridor... running for our lives..."
"We're close enough to pick up the radio signal," said Cheng. "I'll be able to track it and give you their location... well... close to it anyway."
"Mahad? Are you alright? I heard you calling for help..." Lena said into the radio.
"Ah... you don't have to worry about me, Lena. I'm just fine."
"I've got them!" said Cheng. "Wayan, I think you need to take the next left. Then maybe go down a bit."
"Where are they, Cheng?" Wayan asked, having followed his directions.
"I can't pinpoint them exactly. The signal's a bit fuzzy. But I'm sure they're close."
"Wayan's coming with the Saint Nazaire!" Mahad shouted back to Cortes.
"Let's hope he hurries..." Cortes fired a few more shots at the patroller behind them. It shuddered slightly, but the blasts seemed to just be absorbed by the hull. It drew closer. Cortes could see the gun turrets under its nose lining up with their vehicle. He took aim and blasted them.
The patroller didn't fire. Its gun simply sparked and then hung limply from its control system.
"At least I can take out your teeth..."
Dahlia angled the vehicle around another corner.
"Go down there!" Mahad pointed to a smaller corridor that had just come into view.
Dahlia shot down it, almost running up the wall. A burst of weapons fire impacted the entrance behind them, a desperate shot from the undamaged patroller. It was unable to follow them.
"I think we lost them..." said Dahlia.
Their vehicle shot from the corridor and back into a wider area. There were no Sphere ships in sight.
Cortes leaned forward and took the radio off Mahad. "Wayan? Now would be a good time to pick us up."
"Hang on... we're nearly on your position; seems it's a bit hard to figure out exactly where you are. I think we're almost there."
Suddenly what looked like a mass of metal dropped from a shaft in the ceiling ahead of them. It slowed its descent meters from the floor, and then picked up speed, moving away from them. Cortes cringed at the tight manoeuvrer, before shouting back into the radio. "Wayan, we're behind you!"
"What? ...right, I'll turn around ahead."
The Saint Nazaire pulled ahead then came to a stop where the corridor split both left and right, up and down. It started turning around carefully, the ramp dropping.
A blast of weapons fire impacted the wall near the Saint Nazaire.
Cortes whirled around. Diwan's modified S-22 had just dropped into the corridor behind them. It had a clear shot at them all the way between where they were and the Saint Nazaire. But her shot had missed. Cortes realised that probably had something to do with the fact that the Saint Nazaire would leave if it had no one to rescue.
It would also leave if he ordered Wayan to.
"That was a warning shot. I suggest you stop, the next one isn't missing." The message boomed out down the corridor. A loudspeaker was probably useful on the patroller, Cortes could imagine it being used to tell the residents of a block they were about to be obliterated for falling behind in water tax.
The vehicle skidded to a stop, spinning slightly from the sudden dampening of its speed.
"Cortes! We're sitting ducks!" exclaimed Mahad.
Dahlia glanced back at the ship. "We are anyway..."
Cortes ignored Mahad and pulled out his radio again. "Wayan, I think you'd better get out of here..."
The radio fizzled. "But..."
"That's an order!" He snapped the radio off.
The Saint Nazaire began to drop down the shaft it hovered above.
Diwan's S-22 shot after it, passing their vehicle, and fired at the Saint Nazaire. She was avoiding hitting anything critical.
"Wayan's going down... we can still get on board!" said Mahad. "Dahlia, let me drive!"
Mahad didn't wait for her to agree, and just pulled the steering column towards himself.
"Mahad!" Cortes growled.
"Trust me!" Mahad replied, and pushed the throttle straight to top speed.
Cortes grabbed the roll bar to prevent himself falling off from the sudden burst of acceleration, and looked ahead. They were still behind Diwan, and she probably couldn't see what they were doing. What it looked like Mahad planned to do was crazy. But knowing Mahad, he'd do it anyway. Cortes pulled out the radio again. "Wayan, if you can, I want you to slow down just a bit. And try and stay in that shaft you just dropped down."
"Sure thing... but why?"
Cortes sighed and gripped the roll bar even tighter. "Because I have a feeling Mahad is about to do something stupid."