The remote English country road was practically deserted. Quaint little villages dotted the landscape, which had barely changed in appearance despite the advancements of the mid-21st Century. The dark ribbon of tarmac wound into the distance along the valley floor, sticking close to the path of a nearby river.
Then, almost as if they were one machine, three powerful armadillo-shaped vehicles appeared from a heavily forested woodland beside the road and turned onto the road heading west. The futuristic grey armoured shapes looked totally incongruous in the middle of the peaceful landscape, as if they didn’t belong there.
Standard procedure mandated that one vehicle carried the VIP while the others acted as decoys. In normal circumstances, Spectrum would have employed the Yellow Fox covert VIP transporter, but it was currently engaged on another assignment. In this particular instance the VIP, a high ranking World Air Force officer, was inside the third vehicle of the convoy.
When it came there was absolutely no warning. Captain Grey was in mid-conversation with Lieutenant Cobalt when their Maximum Security Vehicle, the second of the three, was rocked by an explosion and skidded to a halt. Without a moment’s delay, Grey flicked the communication switch and spoke rapidly to the driver in the control bay.
“Baines, what the heck’s going on?”
The driver recovered his senses quickly, “Explosion up ahead, Sir. MSV One is on its side.”
“Any sign of movement?”
“None, its hatches are still sealed!”
“SIG. Where’d that explosion come from?”
“No idea, Captain. I can’t see anything near the road.”
“Understood, proceed to the first vehicle, we may be able to help. Keep your wits about you.”
As the MSV began to move cautiously forward, Grey released the communication switch and turned to face Lieutenant Cobalt. She was already checking her sidearm, and glanced at him expectantly. Inwardly, Grey felt a momentary sense of satisfaction. He knew that despite her relative inexperience in the field, Cobalt was ready for anything a dangerous assignment could throw at her.
“Alright Lieutenant, guess you heard that. We’ll see if we can assist the lead vehicle, but we’ve got to be prepared for another attack.”
“Yes Sir. What’s the plan?”
“Baines will get us up close. There’s no chance of getting the MSV onto its wheels without assistance, but we can at least check if they’re okay in there.”
The vehicle drew to a halt and Baines radioed all clear outside. Grey pulled the hatch release lever and the heavy gull-wing door closest to the prone MSV swung open.
The air was thick with smoke and the pair had to step carefully to avoid the huge crater in the road. The first MSV was resting on its side at the edge of the crater and looked as though it could topple over at any moment. However, Grey knew that the weight of the armour in the vehicle’s shell made that highly unlikely.
Casting an expert eye around the landscape, Grey didn’t spot anything to indicate an immediate threat. He raised his arm and signalled to the third MSV to drive around them and proceed to the Security Centre. With a screech of tyres, the armoured vehicle surged off along the winding road. At least the VIP was out of immediate danger.
Cobalt climbed the side of the first MSV and peered in through the tiny reinforced porthole. Inside the vehicle, two Spectrum Security officers lay sprawled against the far wall. She banged on the hatch with the butt of her pistol. One of the security men stirred and blinked, his face veiled with pain. Seeing his colleague laying motionless alongside, he gingerly felt for a pulse. It was weak, but there. Then, dazedly, he became aware of the pounding sound above him and glanced up at Cobalt’s anxious face in the porthole. He managed to signal a shaky thumbs-up.
“Captain Grey, they’re both alright. Don’t know about the driver yet.”
“Right, I’ve reported to Cloudbase, we’ll have air support in less than 15 minutes and a recovery team soon after.”
“SIG. Should we—”
“Hold it! Listen…”
Cobalt did so. Above the crackling of the small fire in the crater, she could hear a faint whine. It sounded like it was coming closer.
Suddenly, Grey pointed to the far end of the valley, “There!”
“It’s a Viper Drone!”
“Yeah, Looks like we know what hit us. Dollars to donuts it’s under Mysteron control!”
“It’s coming right at us!”
“Behind the MSV, quick!”
Just as they dived behind the shelter of the Maximum Security Vehicle, there was a deafening series of thuds as the Viper Drone’s deadly rotary cannon spewed out molten death towards them.
Chunks of debris whipped up all around them as the aerial vehicle screamed overhead and banked for another attack.
Grey eyed it grimly, weighing their chances. The odds couldn’t have been worse. Unless by some miracle they could hold out until the Angel Flight arrived, they didn’t stand a chance.
TO BE CONTINUED.