Among the many sensations one can experience in motor vehicle, weightlessness is one that is guaranteed to trigger a primitive biological response from the human brain.
“Ahhh!” The scream was several octaves higher than human voices normally reached. It was also several decibels louder than most screams managed to get.
“Hang on, this might sting a little,” Ai said, trying to tune out Curtweather’s wailing so she could run more numbers in her head.
Their police cruiser’s power train had done a valiant job at launching them off the raised deck of the bridge. Once the wheels had left the pavement though there was no further acceleration they could provide. Jettisoning the power train hadn’t added anything to their speed. Police cruisers weren’t made with bizarre boosting contingencies like that. The explosion that occurred when it exploded at the top of the bridge though did add a small amount of forward momentum though.
And it put the cruiser into a spin. Ai had the benefit of Zai’s control over her inner ear to negate the nausea inducing dizziness that came from being in a car that was tumbling end over end. Curtweather wasn’t so lucky but by Ai’s calculations it would take him long enough to reach the point of vomiting that it wasn’t going to be her problem.
Her problems were, and remained, the NMEs that were pursuing them. As with many things when it came to NMEs, the proper application of explosives was a fundamental part of resolving the issue.
The most dangerous NME was the one on the cruiser’s roof. The upside there was that one of the Black Valkyries, Harp if Ai wasn’t mistaken, was engaged in combat with it. Given the sort of weapon systems NMEs had demonstrated in the past, and the sort that the Black Valkyries had displayed moments earlier, Ai found being inches away from two such combatants more than a little worrisome.
A stray shot from either one only had to penetrate a relatively thin layer of armor on the cruiser’s roof before it could damage all sorts of vital things.
That was why Ai had sent the police cruiser flipping end over end.
NMEs have a wide assortment of weapons in addition to ludicrously overdeveloped armor systems. Suction cup feet however were not a typical enhancement they developed.
As the car began its first revolution, Ai saw the NME flailing as it was launched into empty space. Harp’s Valkyrie armor flared to with micro jets that ran along her legs and hips, lifting her gracefully into the air. It was like watching the difference between a starling in flight and a lumpy brick.
Ai wasn’t able to stare at the scene for long though. A few microseconds and then the realities of her situation demanded her attention again.
“You know that water down there is a lot harder than it looks right?” Zai asked.
“Yeah, kind of counting on that in fact,” Ai said.
“So your plan is to hit the water very fast?” Zai said.
“I did say I hated this plan right?” Ai said.
“You did. And now I hate it too,” Zai said. “You’re still doing calculations though. Why? What can you do at this point? And isn’t there another NME we have to worry about?”
“Technically we still have three NMEs to worry about,” Ai said.
“Yeah, but the Valkyries are fighting at least two of them already,” Zai said.
“The Valkyries usually fight one NME at a time and they use multiple Valkyries to do so,” Ai said. “They’ve probably been holding back a bit when they do that, but on the off chance that they decided to jump on a group of NMEs who they can’t beat, I think it’s wise to keep our eyes open.”
“I’d love to have some eyes to keep open but the damn interdiction field is still in place,” Zai said.
“Huh, was hoping that would drop away,” Ai said. “Oh, what an idiot, of course it’s not dropping.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s the Valkyrie suits themselves,” Ai said. “They must radiate an interdiction effect.”
“But the field needs to be contained. You can’t just project one like that,” Zai said.
“The GCPD contains our fields because we don’t want to affect anyone except the subjects we want to interdict. I don’t think the Valkyries have that same worry,” Ai said.
“Thank you for that little lesson,” Zai said. “Got any more to share in the remaining seconds of your life?”
“Ye of little faith,” Ai said.
“Virtual god here remember, I’m the one people are supposed to have faith in, not the other way around.”
“You know we’ll survive this,” Ai said. “It’s just going to suck.”
“Are you sure about that? The survival part I mean, because we are moving at a pretty impressive velocity.”
“Yeah. Well mostly,” Ai said.
“Even working at cyber-speeds like this, there might be a few factors that I had to go with guesswork on,” Ai said.
“Factors such as?” Zai asked.
“Air resistance, the weight of the NME and Harp before they got thrown off, and whether the third NME could reach us before we impact,” Ai said.
“And if your guesswork is wrong?” Zai asked.
“Oh, then we’re totally dead,” Ai said. “Sheesh, no, if the guesses are wrong, then things will just suck a bit more than they’re already going to. Probably.”
“Define ‘a bit more’ please,” Zai said.
“You reattached my leg once already, how do you feel about doing that with the rest of my limbs?”
“Terrible. I feel terrible about that idea. Find another one,” Zai said.
“Working on it,” Ai said. “Judging from our rotation and rate of descent, I think I screwed up a bit.”
“You’re falling to your doom and you just now figured that out?”
“Yeah, we need to be spinning a bit slower,” Ai said.
“Not seeing how that’s going to help but isn’t it too late to worry about that?”
“Not if I do this!” Ai said and punched the trunk release. The car’s spinning barely slowed.
“Were you hoping there was a parachute in there?” Zai asked
“No, it’s creating drag which is slowing our rotation,” Ai said, continuing to watch the world spin by outside the car. After a few milliseconds she added, “Just nowhere near slowly enough.”
“So what do you do now?”
“I don’t know! Or wait, yes I do. Oh Curtweather is going to hate this.”
She triggered another control and all four of the cruiser’s doors flew open.
“Well, you’re definitely slowing the rotation,” Zai said. “Was it enough?”
“It looks like it was, but now we have another problem,” Ai said.
”Aside from Curtweather’s endless supply of air for screaming?”
“Yeah,” Ai said. “Now we’re going to drown.”
The force when the cruiser struck the water was titanic. The good news was that it hit at almost exactly the angle Ai had chosen, cleaving into the river like a champion swimmer. The bad news was that the police cruiser was not quite as aerodynamic as a human would have been.
Bits of metal exploded away from car as it made contact with a surface that was almost entirely unyielding. “Almost entirely” is not the same as “entirely” though, and that was enough to save them.
The combination of the forgiving angle the car entered the water at and the crash systems it deployed blunted the trauma of the crash from “instantly fatal” to “just barely survivable”. Ai felt bones shatter in her legs and chest and it was only through Zai’s help that she managed to retain even a shred of consciousness for what came next.
Which was the drowning part.
The angle the cruiser hit the water at meant that it was able to plunge in deeply and bleed off its speed to non-fatal levels. The cost of this was that the cruiser was submerged into the river in less than the blink of an eye and with the doors open there was no air bubble trapped inside for Ai or Curtweather to breathe.
“I don’t think you can swim in this state,” Zai said.
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Ai said. The world was growing fuzzy and distant, and her thoughts felt like they’d been put in a blender.
Everything should have hurt, but Zai was taking care of that. Zai and the shock. Ai knew intellectually that her body had to be in shock. She also knew that her mind would be affected by that too. Putting that knowledge together into something useful however was escaping her.
She’d had a thought for how to survive being buried alive in the water. Buried in the water? Drowned? Something like that. She’d had a plan for it. She knew that. But everything was so far away.
Strong hands lifted her up.
That wasn’t part of the plan.
Somebody should tell them to stop. Probably. Moving crash victims is bad. Unless they have Platinum Plus Protection on the bio-mods. Then “you’ll be moving on your own again in no time!”
Ai tried to breath, but she couldn’t.
“No, you don’t want to do that,” Zai said. “We’re still underwater.”
“We should change that, book a ticket for some air travel maybe?” Ai said. She wasn’t making sense, but the world wasn’t either, so it all seemed fair.
“Sorry, I’ve got to drug you till your incoherent or you’ll die from shock,” Zai said.
“Don’t want to die,” Ai said. “Cemeteries suck. Hate the flowers. Rude to plants.”
“Don’t think we have to worry about that,” Zai said. “Looks like the Valkyries have found you worthy of Valhalla.”
“They gotta take both of us.”
“That’s sweet of you, but maybe you should rest for a bit now, I’ll wake you when you’re in a bearable level of agony ok?”
“Sounds good, can’t be late for a date,” Ai mumbled losing all focus on reality as a soft, fluffy blackness wrapped around her and pulled her away from trivial concerns like her chances for survival or what had happened with Curtweather.
When the darkness unwound and let her return to some measure of awareness, she was greeted with a painful stab of light. The sun was out and had a grudge against her eyes from what she could tell.
“She’s coming around,” a mechanical voice said.
“She’s tougher than the other one then,” a different but also mechanical voice said.
“I told you there’s more to her than that uniform would suggest,” Harp said. Her voice was mechanical as well but Ai recognized it nonetheless, even through the haze of the drug induced healing coma that Zai had placed her in.
“Zai?” she asked.
“Still with you. Seriously though, never do that again. That was much too close.”
“Yeah, I was thinking the fire rescue rebreathers would buy us some time, but the crash was a little too disorienting. How long was I out?”
“About five minutes,” Zai said. “Haven’t had much time to put you back together, so try not to pick any fights here ok? I’ve got your body paralyzed from the neck down at the moment to make the reconstruction go more smoothly. Also, you drove a car off a bridge and I’d like to go at least ten minutes without repeating anything that foolish.”
“Since we’re not dead, I’m going to guess that the NMEs have been dealt with?”
“As far as I can tell,” Zai said. “Sounds like the Valkyries dismantled two of them. I’m not clear on what happened to the third though.”
“Let’s find out then,” Ai said and struggled to open her eyes fully.
“Hello Officer Greensmith,” Harp said.
“Nice to see you again,” Ai said. “Is my partner ok?”
“You care about that?” Zai asked.
“It what a normal cop would ask,” Ai said.
“No, but then neither are you after that stunt. He’s still alive though, so whatever you were trying to do it apparently worked,” Harp said.
“Not as well as I’d hoped,” Ai said. “Thanks for pulling us from a watery grave.”
“Thanks for flushing out some more NMEs for us,” Harp said.
“I think that distinction belongs to my partner,” Ai said. “He’s got a much wider list of enemies than I do.”
“That may be true, but he’s only a normal human and that’s not entirely true for you, is it?”
Ai met Harp’s gaze and saw the other woman wasn’t asking a question so much as stating a certainty.