In pursuit

Aug. 16th, 2007 09:07 pm
ultracosmicrays: (the riviera)
[personal profile] ultracosmicrays
Cosmic!Rays AU, Part 12

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11



"Show me," demanded Vecchio, bursting into the room with Kowalski hot on his heels.

"Nice outfit." Ian grinned. "Is it regulation issue?"

Vecchio looked down at himself and then at Kowalski.

"How much time we got?"

"Are you worried they won't take you seriously if they see you dressed like that?"

"Tick, tock, MacDonald," Kowalski chimed in. He seemed agitated. Ian made a quick calculation and decided not to push it.

"You've got time to get cleaned up. It's not going anywhere I can't follow."

"As much as I hate to admit it, that's true," said Vecchio. "C'mon, Kowalski."

"See," muttered Ian to his action figures as the two men disappeared, "My genius is legendary. Across the galaxies many-limbed creatures thrill to the name of Ian MacDonald." He thought for a second. "Of course, I wouldn't say no if some of the normally-limbed human female variety did some thrilling in my direction."

By the time the men returned, Frannie had joined Ian in the cockpit and sat perfectly still, staring out of the window.

"Must be important, Frannie isn't even swiveling," said Kowalski.

"Shut up, Kowalski," said Frannie with just a hint of a snap.

Ian raised his eyebrows. Last thing he knew Frannie prefaced all her communications with Kowalski with a minimum of one dimple and a flutter of eyelashes. What had he missed?

Vecchio stood forward, one hand resting on his chair. In the distance was a small craft looking exactly like one of the models that hung in Ian's cabin. Unlike the models, this ship was getting steadily larger as they gained.

"Right," said Vecchio, turning to face them all. "Here's the plan. We gotta force them down. Find a place to land where there's no cover. We don't know their capabilities and we can't have them getting near populated areas. I'm not risking a martyr complex."

Ian felt his stomach twist a little. He loved the chase. This was going to be fun.

"We don't have shipboard weapons, do we?" asked Kowalski.

"Not exactly," said Vecchio.

"We've got something better," added Ian.

"Oh, we do." Frannie's smile was full of mischief.

"Maps, Ian. Let's see what we got."

"What? What do we have?" Kowalski's voice was plaintive.

Ian brought up the data on Titania, forwarding it to all consoles.

"First to spot a good place gets off dish duty for a week," said Vecchio.

"What do we have? What?"

"Two weeks."

"Ten days."

"What?"

"Ten days and you cook the winner a meal of their choice."

"If you're negotiating, you're not looking."

"WHAT. DO. WE. HAVE?"

Ian, who had been looking and negotiating – multi-tasking was his middle name – was shocked to find himself lifted half off his seat, Kowalski's fist twisted in his shirt.

"Hey, man!" Ian brushed Kowalski's shoulders. "We weren't ignoring you, we were just … okay, yeah we were ignoring you. If you wouldn't mind putting me down I'll explain."

Kowalski looked puzzled, flicking his gaze between his fist and Ian's face. He shook his head a little, letting go. Ian dropped back into his seat, heart pounding.

"Sorry. It's been a day. You know?"

"Yeah, yeah," said Ian, trying to sound reassuring. Looked like Vecchio might be right – this one wasn't going to make it either. It was a shame, he liked Kowalski, he was starting to fit in really well.

"It's like this-" he started.

"Got it!" exclaimed Frannie.

One of the screens in front of Ian flickered briefly and resolved into a detailed map of an area of Titanian terrain. Distracted, Ian leaned in towards it. He waved vaguely in Kowalski's direction.

"In a minute," he said. "Frannie, this is perfect."

"It is," agreed Vecchio, leaning over, grabbing her face in both hands and planting a kiss on her. "No dishes for you."

"What are we looking at?" asked Kowalski. He sounded perfectly reasonable now but Ian wasn't taking any risks. He curbed his natural inclination to invent a more glamorous answer and gave it to him straight.

He pointed to the screen. Kowalski leaned in over his shoulder.

"See this grey area here? That represents flat land. The lack of extra coloration shows there's no vegetation or habitation. The surrounding browny-greeny kind of bits, that's mountainous terrain. The darker brown they are, the higher the mountains. You can see they're ringing the flat land. We bring them down there, there's no escape. Unless they're, you know, taking a one-way trip."

"I like it." Kowalski nodded. "But I still don't get how we can get them to land there. Do we send them a cake and a note saying 'Pretty please?'"

"We don't have any cake left after somebody got the midnight munchies," said Frannie, pointedly. "Is that ship supposed to be getting so big so fast? We're going to fly straight past."

"You make a good point, Francesca," said Ian, flipping a couple of switches and taking hold of the steering paddle. "I'm firing retro-boosters, if you feel like holding on feel free to do so. The management denies all responsibility for injuries caused by anyone being dumb enough to be standing up in three seconds."

Kowalski sprinted for his chair as Ian counted down.

"Firing retro-boosters."

He pressed the button and the Riviera slowed. Grace and elegance, thought Ian. Other people might say you're a rust-bucket, but I know you've got grace and elegance.

"Hey!" Kowalski twisted around, affronted. "I didn't feel nothing."

"I am just that good," said Ian, smiling widely.

"Don't congratulate yourself too soon." Frannie pointed.

A small cloud flared from the side of the ship and it shifted out of view to the left.

"They made us," said Kowalski. "Now what?"

"Now this."

This was what Ian was geared up for. This he could do all day and never get tired of. He locked on to the ship on his radar screen and fired the maneuvering thruster. Game on.

No one spoke as the two crafts dodged and moved in zig-zagging motions across the empty void in a demented version of Follow My Leader. Ian didn't raise his eyes. He didn't need to look outside, didn't need to see anything except the green blip on the monitor in front of him, all those hours playing on the Filter when he was a kid paying off. What would he need to see the ship for? Real life was so overrated.

Distantly he heard Vecchio speaking.

"We're getting close; I'm going to open a channel. Ian, can you hold her and upload at the same time?"

Ian didn't blink.

"Ian!"

Frannie's shriek penetrated Ian's zone of concentration. He looked up, slightly bleary. Vecchio repeated his question.

"Yeah, Frannie will help, won't you, Frannie?"

"Can I press the thing?"

"Sure."

"Then I'll help."

She scurried over and stood by Ian's shoulder.

"What can I do?" asked Kowalski.

"You? You can look pretty. I'm going to find a wave to hail them on. Tell them to land, give themselves up, blah, blah, no glory in death if no one knows about it. Tell them you're the food delivery guy if it'll keep them talking. We need time."

Ian concentrated on keeping as close to the craft as possible, dogging its every move. Everything was set.

The fourth channel Vecchio tried was patent. A hum replaced the static of dead air.

"Subura. This is COPS Watch 23. Please respond." Kowalski waited a couple of seconds. "Subura. This is COPS Watch 23. Please respond."

He waited again.

"You know, if it was me being tailed I wouldn't respond either. Except with maybe a two-fingered salute."

Vecchio shrugged.

"Try something else," he said.

"Subura. This is COPS Watch 23, we wish to negotiate. We have something we think you will be interested in. Please respond."

There was another pause and then a voice, high and reedy.

"What do you have?"

Vecchio stretched out an arm and pointed towards Ian and Frannie, wiggling his index finger. Ian looked up at Frannie and nodded. She pushed a button. Out beyond Subura Titania hung, rapidly expanding. They needed to get this done. Now.

"Shit, you're just a boy ... I mean, we have a prisoner on board that we are willing to exchange for the explosives that you are carrying."

"You don't know that we've got-" His voice got a little muffled, as if he had turned his head from the microphone. "Wait, I'm handling this, I think they have Mikey- No, you shut up-" The volume rose again. "Please state your terms."

"Um, we ..." Kowalski faltered.

Vecchio made a keep-it-going gesture. A few seconds, that's all they needed.

"We will send you co-ordinates for landfall. You will land and empty your ship of explosives. We will examine the ship. If you have done as we asked we will release Mikey-" Ian saw Vecchio grin at Kowalski's use of the name, "into your care."

"No! We choose the place."

"That is not negotiable."

"Then we don't have a deal."

"Wait!" But the channel was cut. Kowalski slammed his fist into the console. "I nearly had him."

"It's okay," said Vecchio, resting his hand briefly on Kowalski's shoulder. "Least, I hope so. We get it?"

Ian's grin spread from ear to ear.

"Oh, yeah. We got it."

"Then bring 'em in."

Ian got to work. The chase had been cake. This part was icing. And if it helped everyone forget the little incident with the nearly-dying and the aborted search for the Warp Gate then so much the better.

"Watch this, Kowalski, you're gonna love it."

Vecchio ran a finger along a whole bank of switches.

"Attention, Subura. You will find that all your communications are blocked and you can no longer access your shipboard computer. We have uploaded a virus into your system and you are now under our control. We will be bringing you into land in approximately-" he turned to look at Ian who held up one finger. "One hour. Until then I suggest you relax, read a book, get cleaned up, mutually pleasure each other in desperation or whatever it is you terrorists do for fun. I'm looking forward to making your acquaintance."

He ran his finger back the other way.

"That was fun."

"A virus. That's cool. That's sneaky. I like that. How's it work?"

"I'm delighted we please you, Kowalski. Shortwave signal. Gotta get in real close and they have to be dumb enough to open a channel and stay on it, but it works great."

"So now?"

"Now Ian brings us both down. We'll be on the ground ahead of them so they can't cut and run. Three options. They come out and surrender, they come out and fight or they sit in that tin can until they starve."

"I vote for two."

"You know what? I do too. Let's go arm up. Ian, you got it from here, right?"

"Sure thing, boss."

"Frannie, check the landing gear."

"Please."

"Frannie, check the landing gear, please."

"No problem."

"Can I have a shotgun and my ionizer pistol?"

"You can have whatever you want."

"How about some minor explosives? You know, beat them at their own game."

"How about I beat you about the head?"

"How about I bet you I take more of them prisoner than you?"

The voices grew fainter and then stopped as everyone disappeared.

Outside the window, Titania glowed pink and Ian watched her growing closer and closer. He made some minor adjustments to their course then leaned back, hands behind his head and sighed, enjoying the peace. Soon he would have to land two ships almost simultaneously and then there was going to be some kind of shootout if the Rays had their way, might as well enjoy the calm while he had it.

He wondered if Vecchio would let him have a gun this time.






Part 13
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August 2007

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