They've found Mahad, but will the pirates be able to escape?
In this maze, with all her ships, it was only a matter of time. She called any ships that would be able to hear her to her position. She ordered some more to other parts of the complex.
The advantage of it being a Sphere complex was that they had old schematics of its layout. She simply had to chase the Saint Nazaire down the right path.
And if she was lucky, the pirates would be foolish enough to hang around in the hope of picking their comrades up again.
It was at that moment that she saw the small vehicle overtake her ship and fly off the lip of the shaft ahead of her.
"What?!" she growled. Those things were not designed to fly, they were ground vehicles. She angled her ship down the shaft. The Saint Nazaire was still there. It had slowed. And now she could see why.
"Grr!" So they weren't planning on staying behind. It didn't matter.
Diwan lined up her weapons with the falling vehicle and fired. She couldn't do too much damage to the Saint Nazaire, but this annoyance was unimportant.
Mahad couldn't see where the Saint Nazaire was until he was off the edge. Luckily, it appeared he was above where he was aiming for, because there was no way to adjust the vehicle now they were airborne.
The forward deck of the Saint Nazaire seemed to rush up towards him. He fired the thrusters on the bottom of the vehicle. They were designed simply to lift it the few feet off the ground that would allow it to move, but anything that slowed their descent they needed.
The vehicle slammed into the forward deck of the Saint Nazaire, and bounced back up off the metal, skidding across it. The jerk sent Mahad's head reeling, and he realised he still wasn't exactly feeling in top shape as everything went black for a moment.
"Mahad?" prodded Dahlia. He seemed out of it, and she had to grab the magnetic brake to lock the vehicle to the deck surface before they skidded off anymore.
"Wayan! Move!" Cortes shouted into the radio.
The Saint Nazaire jerked forward, just as a blast from Diwan's ship hit the deck surface behind them, leaving a scorch mark and kicking up a hull plate.
Cortes winced; both because of the damage and the fact that had the Saint Nazaire not been moving, that would've been them.
"Ow..." said Mahad, rubbing his head. At least he could see again.
"Hang on..." Dahlia suggested.
"We need to get inside," said Cortes. "We're too out in the open up here."
"Woah!" Mahad had to regain his balance as his little sister practically ploughed into him. "Careful..."
"How're we going, Wayan?" Cortes asked, taking his captain's chair.
"We've taken some damage, but we've given plenty back. There're a lot of Sphere patrollers outside, but I think we took out a good few of those in these tunnels."
"Good. We can't stay in here much longer. Take us back outside, we'll see how we fare our there."
"Take the next left," Cheng suggested, "that looks like it'll get you out."
The Saint Nazaire swung to the left. Behind it, Diwan's patroller slowed, and then dodged up another shaft. It was joined by about three other patrollers. Another three followed behind the Saint Nazaire, but they didn't speed up to catch it, nor opened fire. They simply followed at a safe distance.
"Cortes... Diwan's patroller has stopped following us... but there's some other's there now... and... well, they're not attacking..." said Cheng.
Cortes frowned. "Are we nearly out?"
"Should be a couple hundred more feet..."
Up ahead, they could just start seeing the light from outside. And then the silhouettes of four Sphere patrollers flashed in front of it.
"Patrollers!" said Cheng, unnecessarily.
"Try and avoid them, Wayan..."
"There're no other tunnels off this one... and I can't go back..."
The three patrollers that had been following had crept up closer.
Cortes scowled. "Stop the ship."
The Saint Nazaire slowed to a stop, a short distance from the patrollers in front of them. The other three patrollers stopped a similar distance behind them.
"Can't we blast..." started Mahad.
"Not yet," Cortes growled, cutting him off. "There's a reason they haven't opened fire yet, and I want to know what it is..."
The screen flicked on beside Cortes. "Cortes, you and your crew have given us a lot of trouble today... but we have you cornered. Now, I suggest you surrender."
"And if I don't?"
"We'll open fire. Even if you make it past us, there're even more patrollers outside, waiting to finish you off. You'll never make it past them."
"If there're plenty of your ships to take us down outside, then why are you bothered to catch us in here?"
Diwan's pause was barely perceptible. "I thought I'd give you the option of surrendering. Before you came out guns blazing. Couldn't have you getting destroyed with Lena still on board, could we?"
That made sense. Almost.
"Dahlia, take the rear gun turret. Wayan, full speed ahead."
The Saint Nazaire pulled forward.
"I'm warning you, Cortes..."
"/I/ suggest, you stop giving warnings. Either act on them, or get out of the way!
The Saint Nazaire was heading towards her, and it wasn't stopping. "I said /stop!/" she shouted uselessly. "Brigs, shoot them down!" But by the time she'd relayed the order, the larger ship was almost upon them.
Diwan hit reverse. Her patroller shot backwards down the tunnel. The Brigs, programmed to do as they were told, simply opened fire. They took a second longer to register that they're weapons were not going to stop the Saint Nazaire in time. By then, one had been hit by a blast from the ship's forward gun, sending it reeling into a wall in a ball of flame. The second tried to move out of the way, but its wing was clipped by the Saint Nazaire's hull, sending it scaping along the wall, caught between it and the larger ship.
Diwan just managed to pull her S-22 out into the open and out of the way as the Saint Nazaire careened past.
The three other patrollers followed behind it. One was hit by a blast from the ship's rear gun turret and spun out of control.
The Saint Nazaire kept moving, still picking up speed, heading straight away from the complex. No ships slowed its progress, because there were none left outside. They had all eventually chased after the Saint Nazaire inside the complex. Most of which, had then been destroyed. Diwan contacted the other ships. "Break off pursuit!" she growled. There was no point. And it wasn't worth returning with her whole squadron destroyed.
Diwan watched as the ship sped away, and started thinking what she was going to tell Oslo.
"You sure you're feeling alright, Mahad?" Lena asked her older brother.
The Saint Nazaire was safely on its way back to Puerto Angel. Diwan had broken off pursuit, and they'd seen no other signs of the Sphere. All they had to do now was swing past the block Mahad had left the Hyperion on, pick up his ship, and then head home.
And get repairs on the Saint Nazaire. No one had said much about that; Cortes hadn't seemed too happy about the damage they'd taken.
"Yeah, I told you, I'm fine."
"How come you were calling for help, then? I heard you... that's how we found you..."
"Yeah... well it's pretty scary being captured by the Sphere. That might be why. And why I wasn't going to let them get you. They wanted me to tell them where you were."
"But you didn't."
Lena seemed to buy that. "I know you wouldn't."
"Mahad," Cortes called. "We're about to pick up the Hyperion. Do you want to help, or are you fine letting us do it?"
"Ah... you guys do it. I'm going to spend some time with Lena." He put his hand flat on his little sister's head and ruffled her hair.
"Oh, and Cortes... can you try not to scratch it or anything?"
Cortes stopped in his tracks and looked like he was about to turn around and say something. Instead he just sighed in exasperation. "I wouldn't dream of it..." He headed off to go about picking up the ship, shaking his head.
"Mahad!" scolded Lena under her breath.
Back on Puerto Angel, Mahad had gone practically straight back to his and Lena's house. It'd been a long day, or days. He was still getting his head around exactly what day it was. But he was tired.
At least Lena had accepted that explanation. As well as the one he'd given earlier about him calling for help.
There was a knock at the door. "Hello...?" It was Dahlia's voice.
Mahad sighed, but smiled as he went over to open it. "Dahlia... what a surprise... imagine finding you at my door..." He leaned against the doorframe, folding his arms and just looking at her.
Dahlia groaned, and rolled her eyes. "Lena told me you'd said you were going to bed. I thought I'd better come and check that you're alright... in light of all the stuff that happened earlier."
"Well... I'm fine."
"Okay... you going to let me in, or what?"
"Ah... yeah, okay..." Mahad stepped back from the door and Dahlia followed him in. They sat down at the table in the middle of the room.
"I should be rather flattered, actually..." Mahad began, "I didn't know you cared about me so much..."
Dahlia groaned again. "Okay, actually Cortes sent me to check on you."
"Oh..." Mahad leaned back in his chair and stretched a bit. "That's not so flattering..."
"But I do want to make sure you're okay..."
"I told you, I'm fine."
"But you still haven't told me - or anyone - exactly what happened."
"Do I need to?" Mahad half snapped. He seemed to realise how he'd reacted and looked down at the table. "Look... Diwan didn't do any damage. I think most of it was just her playing with my mind." He glanced back up at her then back down at the table.
"You were practically unconscious on the floor; she had to have more than messed with your mind..."
"Yeah... okay... so she... Seijin zapped me... or something, I don't know! She just wanted me to bring you guys running."
"Took her awhile..."
"Oh... okay, she wasn't trying to get me to call for help the whole time." He explained to Dahlia about the simulator. "She only started... getting me to call Lena when I'd figured it out."
Dahlia seemed to think for a moment. "But you didn't tell her anything. Like about Puerto Angel."
Mahad looked back up at her. "Did Cortes ask you to ask me that?"
"No. I'm asking you that."
"No. I didn't. She nearly got the location of Puerto Angel though... but I deleted if before she could."
"Yes. If I hadn't, she wouldn't have bothered... getting you guys to come looking for me..."
Mahad sighed and looked down at the table.
"You sure you're alright?"
"You keep saying that, but you can't even say that Diwan practically tortured you!"
"Of course I can't! Because I don't want to talk about it and I don't need an interrogation! I just want to go to bed, alright!"
Dahlia just stared at Mahad's outburst until he looked away.
"Look... I'm sorry. I just want to make sure..."
"... that I'm okay. Yeah, I know." Mahad stared at the table again before continuing. "Okay, so maybe I'm not quite alright. But I didn't let anything happen to Puerto Angel. Or Lena. That's what really counts."
"And you don't?"
Mahad shrugged. "I'll sleep it off. If you'll let me."
Dahlia sighed. "Alright, alright. I didn't mean to keep you up. Get some sleep." She got up from the table to leave.
Mahad got up with her. "Dahlia..." he came around the table and nearly ended up walking into her. "Um..." said Mahad, inches away from her nose. "Thanks for checking anyway..."
Dahlia looked back at him for a moment, and then just smiled. "Don't let it go to your head..." She touched him lightly on the shoulder. "Night. I can let myself out."
Mahad just watched her leave and then rubbed his eyes. He was even more tired now. He was sure he'd be fine anyway. He was lucky, he'd been rescued. Maybe he wouldn't be so lucky next time. But he would never let the Sphere find Puerto Angel and he certainly wouldn't let them get their hands on Lena. No matter what it cost.
Mahad stretched again and yawned, before heading up to bed. He really needed to sleep.
A/n: Whew. Well... that's it people. I hope you enjoyed. More fics shall come whenever my brain decides to think of something! ^^ Now everyone give Mahad a hug, because he deserves it. :P