Stardust Stories Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Freedom

“We will not be contained
We’re breaking out tonight
Fear is not our master anymore
Run with me, escape
We’re breaking out tonight!”
   Escape -Fireflight

Two weeks of terror were past. Allison had made it all the way to the edge of the Frontier before they caught her. After that, two weeks of harsh training, enforced conditioning, and abuse by anyone that cared to take time to do so, followed. In two weeks, she learned the very basics of survival, weapons training, and first aid. It wasn’t that the Confederacy wanted the prisoners to do well, they just wanted a good show.

Ratings were paramount, and a longer Games session meant viewers could pick favorites and cheer them on. This also provided 24/7 entertainment as well as a constant reminder of the consequences of sedition. The initial slaughter was horrific, but the Confederacy broadcast it in high definition detail, 48 fps and made a spectacle of replaying the most violent deaths. 50 “Patriots” were released from their cages at the same time. Immediately they ran for the weapons and supplies stationed strategically where the ground level cameras would get the best action. Hover cameras mounted on surveillance drones captured the rest.

27 were killed in less than ten minutes of fighting. Many others, including Allison, fled.

As she carefully made her way farther towards the north edge of the arena, she had encountered a few traps. Already she was burned on her arm and shoulder as well as had a dozen needles in her leg from them. It took her quite a lot of time to get most of the needles out, losing blood and time as hunter packs formed. Her luck changed though, she stumbled upon a few Patriots she had befriended during training, who also were in no mood to kill each other.

Julius Kalver, a former engineer from some Northern Alliance base that was overrun, was now using a wooden set of tweezers he had fashioned from twigs, to remove the last of the needles, while another girl named Stormy was fashioning a leather sling from fresh hide. Julius smiled at the wounded Patriot. She was damn tough. The burns looked okay but he didn’t doubt they hurt badly. He had found some mint leaves and had put them on her burns to at least soak up some of the heat and help with the discomfort, but the pain she was enduring from his removing the needles had to be powerful. He tried his best to look sympathetic, knowing how it feels to be in pain. When they captured him, they had beaten him till he collapsed. After that he was pressed to join their military, refusing them, and wound up here.

He didn’t lose hope though. The Alliance had purchased the first shipment of British Tigerhawk aerospace superiority fighters.The Tigerhawks were the RAF replacement for the now obsolete EuroFighter Typhoon. While the Typhoon still had its place as a training jet, the Tigerhawk was designed to counter the brand new Chinese Chen H-7 fighter as well as the Russian SU-45. It also was superior to the Confederacies aging F-35. In the first few sorties, the Tigerhawks had proven to be untouchable, downing 11 F-35’s and forcing three more to land and be captured. The design of the Tigerhawk was truly modern, made mostly of composite ceramics, advanced alloys and carbide. It was capable of a phenomenal Mach 3.8 as well as attaining orbit under its own power.

The secret was its engines. The VTOL craft had two massive outboard engines mounted atop its delta wings. They used a RAM-HYDE design similar to a scramjet. This meant the faster it went, the more efficient it worked. That allowed it to advance upon slower aircraft at any altitude it chose, close with, and using its agility to out perform and out maneuver anything in the sky. Shooting down the F-35 was so easy, the Alliance immediately ordered as many as the RAF would ship.

Julius had been tasked with redesigning the launch control systems for the Alliance carriers, which was to take place in the winter, when sea warfare was less intense. However, before he could finish the designs, the base was overrun by a Confederacy surge which also captured a fair portion of Southern Virginia temporarily. However, the surge was spent and fell back using scorched earth tactics as they left.He had burned his research so that the Confederacy couldn’t use it, but until he was able to escape, he had to remain alive and unharmed.

Which is why he was currently with these two. They were headed in the right direction, and at least Stormy knew to keep moving. He had shared his secret with her.The plan seemed simple enough, at least she felt so. Julius had an insider. Apparently an Alliance spy was going to help them. He needed a second set of eyes though. Survival in the arena depended upon knowing the terrain and seeing what wasn’t right.

Stormy had grown up here. Virginia was home to her. It was as familiar to her as the back of her hand. He was told to stay with her by his contact, but she didn’t know that.She also had help. Her crime was using old telephone lines to connect to the “free net” and had been involved with a boy she knew in London. They had originally intended for her to slip away and he would find her as she sailed off the coast in a small boat, but a Confederacy patrol boat intercepted her.

Her boyfriend watched in horror as she was on television, paraded out with the rest of the Patriots. The announcers rated her odds of survival extremely low. Stormy wasn’t a big girl, her small size, however, hid her true strength. She kept that a secret, playing far weaker than she was. However, she was quite tough, trained in gymnastics and easily stronger than many people larger than her.She had been lucky enough to stumble upon a trap early the first day. It was quite well hidden, but not to her. She avoided it and led another Patriot, hunting her and Julius, into it. That presented them with the supplies he had taken.

They made the most of the food, the small knife and the backpack with camping equipment. She had been able to lure a wild dog in and they ate well. The hide was now becoming a sling for some small stones she planned to use should they encounter someone better armed. Having grown up knowing her illegal phone line could likely end her in this exact place, she was almost prepared for it.Still, they had to keep moving. They could see the dust kicked up by a large pack of hunters to their South as well as a fire burning towards them from the West.

As they flew, Cassidy kept looking back at the pilot. She trusted Lieutenant Thrace, but didn’t understand why they had packed a secondary generator on the Pawnee. It had a primary generator as well as the backup. A third generator seemed unusual, but if Lieutenant Thrace said pack one, Cassidy wasn’t going to question why.

Later, Kara tossed a thermite grenade out as they flew over part of the forest. It started a fire and that caught the attention of the Games Master, who ordered Kara to fly over the fire and try to see what caused it.They set down saying Lieutenant Thrace saw someone there and was going to investigate. The ghetto birds were blinded by the smoke as it was dusk and they were between normal day optics and their night vision. So Kara landed them outside the fire but under a veil of smoke.

Quickly she tore at the wires supplying power to the transponder and on-board weapons control. When Cassidy asked, she was told to shut up or start walking if she wanted to stay in the CAF. Cassidy didn’t hesitate to help rip out the Confederacy ability to track the Pawnee. Kara had a plan and it meant freedom. That was all Cassidy needed to know.Later when they lifted off, Cassidy used the assault rifle from her survival pack, to take out two ghetto birds that Kara had flown alongside.

Within minutes, they had found the three Patriots, landed, and were now airborne, headed towards Alliance airspace.Confederacy fighters were scrambling, but already Alliance Tigerhawks were closing to escort them to safety. The escape of Patriots from the arena would be broadcast around the world by the BBC. It was a first, and a very public shaming of the Theocratic Confederacy.In high circles within the RAF, as well  as the BSA, plans were being formed. These brave survivors had pulled off a stunt that was unthinkable. The courage to try, the resourcefulness to pull it off, and the boldness to do it so publicly was exactly the kind of person they needed for a crew on the new ship.

Now all they had to do was talk them into giving up everything they knew, fly off into space on an untested ship, possibly encountering murderous killing machines, aliens, and keeping it all secret, and they might have a crew. The Alliance definitely was far enough from anyone’s radar to find enough to crew it without anyone figuring it out, but would they find that many people willing to leave the entire planet behind?If word got out about all the things they faced, it could cause another religious war, and that was liable to destroy the fragile society that was left from the global depression. They had to do it right, and they had to do it in secrecy. Most of all, they had to do it soon!

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