Asher sat in the driver’s seat and watched the day’s headlines scroll down the inside of his visor. He had just read about New Troy suddenly losing contact with the hosts of Red Roversomewhere near the Noctis Labyrinth as he reached to start the motor when his truck lurched into the air. His first thought was that the old Armadillo had finally torn itself apart. Instead of a soft hum under the hood, the entire chassis bucked and shuddered and a dull roaring crept in through the armored walls. But then Priya yelled from the rear cabin, “Drive-drive-drive!”
He stood on the accelerator and the Armadillo leapt away from the wind farm, racing down the dusty highway across the canyon floor. “What is it? What happened?” He checked his video feeds, but all he could see behind them was a thick brown haze where the Perrin garage had been a moment ago.
Priya climbed up into the cab and fell into the seat beside him. “A missile.” She stared at him, wide-eyed. “I just glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye. In the side screen.”
“I don’t know!”
Asher jerked the wheel and sent the truck careening off the highway and into the brush, paving his own crooked road through the tall yellow grass. He slapped at his side console and the overhead speakers suddenly roared with throaty, gas-guzzling engine noises that rose and fell as he worked the accelerator. The Armadillo bounced heavily over the uneven terrain and all the clothes and tools and people in the cabin bounced along with it.
“Ash!” Martin’s voice rose sharply above the clatter in the back. “Slow down!” The doctor lay in a tangle of cargo webbing and loose clothes, his prosthetic body covered in hand tools that had fallen from the overhead compartments.
Asher checked the rear-view feeds again. A breeze rippled through the haze, revealing broken walls wreathed in flames where the wind farm’s hatch should have been. A lone windmill stood in the distance, its blades slowly sweeping through the dark clouds. “Priya, can you call the farm? Are they okay? What’s going on?”
“I’m trying. The administrator isn’t answering. I’m getting a lot of automated chatter from the disaster response system. I see fires in the garage, but nothing beyond the inner doors.” She grabbed her visor from its hook overhead and slapped it over her eyes. “A lot of noise, but it looks like they’re okay. Just some smashed up gear and food. No casualties.”
“Well, that’s something.” Asher kept his eyes on the digital windscreen and his foot on the accelerator. “There’s still someone with a missile launcher out here somewhere.”
“What do you mean someone? It’s a damned mech, Asher!”