Gusts of hot air blasted across the ravaged by orbital bombardment and heavy fighting hills. There, surrounded by all this wanton destruction, remained one barely serviceable road. Its masterfully manufactured, interlocking slabs were wide and allowed for twelve lanes of traffic. This was a major road artery, which connected many smaller towns to the planetary highway system.
Battles raged across the entire length of this road.
For many centuries, roving gangs of motorcycle riding, car driving alien bandits, fought each other for control of Avern’a’s road network. These raiders pillaged small villages, killed anyone who resisted them and kidnapped the rest to be sold into slavery. Anyone who dared drive upon these roads was at risk of being assaulted, molested or killed.
Oftentimes desperate locals joined forces with the benevolent aliens, mercenaries and adventurers who came to help. They formed convoys of armed, modified for battle civilian vehicles and attempted to reach one or another safe haven, build a better life for themselves. That, however, was nigh impossible, because once on the road, these people were immediately beset by the raiders.
Like merciless, ever-hungry parasites, the road gangs slowly sucked the convoys’ blood dry. One after another, the armed and most capable to do battle vehicles were taken out. Then, the raiders would attack the most heavily laden with supplies, gear, and people trucks. They would never stop, chase every single car, motorcycle, and even stragglers who, in their desperation attempted to run away by foot.
One of theirs, a motorcycle rider whose task was to scout this part of the road for potential prey, noticed something in the distance. She scoured the fast moving vehicle with her goggles and slowly, her vicious smile waned.
Painted dark silver, the wheeled car looked heavy and of sturdy construction. Somewhat taller than most alien vehicles she usually scouted traveling across Avern’a’s broken roads, this car was also wide. Four, big metal wheels, covered with vacfoam, gave the machine excellent traction and whoever drove it, had absolutely no trouble maneuvering across the debris covered road.
Its body looked armored and, instead of polyplastic windows, the silvery car was fitted with sheets of blackened, transparent metal. The same, very expensive material, which some used to cast the illuminators of their starships from. Although, at first glance the wheeled machine sported no weaponry, the scout cursed under her nose. Unless she was blind, this was a modified for battle vehicle of Terran design.
Which meant lasers, railguns, advanced computing, better than average armor-plating, and perhaps even lock-on missiles.
Where exactly were all of these armaments hiding, she could not say. The car was of quite elegant design and its elongated body ended with sharp tail fins. Round, aerodynamic fenders, adorned with jet-black ornaments protruded outwards, protecting the tires.
Front and center on the vehicle’s hood, she could see another decoration. Cast from the same blackened metal, it was in the shape of a bird, wings outstretched and head looking forward. The front of this car had a big grille, and the more she looked at it, the more it resembled a shining smile.
She was a raider who saw many alien cars during her time. This one in particular, with its smiling grille – it invoked fear and promised doom. If you compared said vehicle to a person, that would definitely be someone smiling in the face of death. Perhaps even Death himself grinning at you...
The raider shook all of these gloomy, defeatist thoughts off and reached for her comms. This was but one Terran-made vehicle, and no matter who made it, any car could be overwhelmed and ultimately – destroyed. She imagined how much would the loot taken from such a vehicle cost, and a vicious grin once again adorned her face.
“Boys and girls, rev up your grav-bikes, hop in your cars! We have fresh prey, driving on our road...” – She heard them laugh, chuckle, scream with joy, and powered up her bike.
It was time for a raid!
This is an excerpt from my Starshatter anthology. If you like what you read, you can grab both paperback and digital copy of A Mandate Of Sword And Railgun here.