Collection: Ages of Youth//Elysian
Chronicled by: Valhel
Preceded by: the Halls of the Mountain King ptII
Reccommended Listening: "Long Time" by Boston
Seven years before the first Halleaux...
Boots kicked gravel into the dust choked air as a young woman raced through the rail yard. She wove in and out of abandoned freight cars with a frenzied determination. The sunset caused her shadow to cascade like moments suspended in the past as the last light burned brightly in her squinting eyes. Mud and sand flocked her black coat and a stack-barreled sidearm danced within its holster at her side as she ran.
"Head him off at the Main Street, Lacea!" sputtered the runner into a radio crudely fastened to her left arm.
"Already waiting there." was the sighing response crackling back through the wrist comm.
"You out of breath yet, Pandora?" snickered a new voice over the radio.
"Shut up!" gasped Pandora.
"They always run. Maybe next time we should just plan on that?" buzzed the voice.
"I'm with Merc on this one, Pan." grumbled Lacea.
"Next time,' rasped Pandora, 'you two can run after the bounty and I'll wait in the shade with the long-sights, how 'bout that?"
Pandora leapt and slid through the open doors of another freight car, this time setting her quarry in view.
"No, thanks." crackled Lacea's voice.
"Thought so." smirked Pandora as she burst forth in a second wind.
Pandora began closing in on her bounty. He wore a long duster with several slashes and holes along its tattered fringe. He shot a spiteful glance from beneath a wide and flat brimmed black felt hat.
"Guy's got quite the wrap sheet." mused Mercury.
"Smuggling. Blackmail. Disruption of the peace. Contraband weapon sales." rattled Lacea.
"This Dante guy would be a good fit for us, maybe we should just hire him." said Mercury.
"Focus, please!" shouted Pandora.
"He's turning on to Main Street." said Mercury.
"I can see that!" spat Pandora as she pushed herself to catch up.
"Well, normally you're further behind at this point."
"Pandora,' said Lacea, 'I've got him scoped. He's going to try to take you by surprise when you come around the corner. Take the shot?"
"No! No! We've been over this, alive! Not dead or alive!" huffed Pandora at the comm.
From a rooftop perch Mercury watched Pandora sprint down the line of rail tracks.
"Why do they call it Main Street?' said Merc, openly pondering into the radio as he snacked on a stolen ration bar, 'There's like...one street in this outpost."
"Cut the chatter, Merc." cracked Lacea.
"Why not just name it 'Street?'"
"Rounding the corner!' sighed Pandora in irritated relief, 'Get off that roof and be ready to bag and tag."
Pandora bolted past the rail house in a banking dart that swung her around the corner of the post office. From behind a pile of barrels resting beneath the shade of a lonely cottonwood tree she could she the narrow muzzle of Lacea's hidden long-sights. The crash of terracotta tiles behind Pandora alerted her to Mercury's hasty descent. And the grim silhouette cast by a yielding sun marked the resolute stance of Dante.
"Watch out!" cried Lacea's voice through the comm.
A crack like thunder rang out and a wisp of white smoke rolled down Dante's shadow.
Pandora took it all in. The shadow, the sunset, the dry earth and air. The bullet and the gun. She exhaled and shut her eyes, and time became as a dream. The loose dirt beneath her boots slipped by and in an instant Pandora collapsed her left leg and threw herself behind her right.
She slid down through the dust in a dazzling whirlwind beneath the whistling bullet before returning fire. Shots rang out, thundering as they splintered sign posts and freight boxes. Wearied hands and panicked triggers made for ill-balanced blasts, neither assailant landing a successful mark.
Lacea's eyes narrowed and she took aim at Dante's shoulder, but before she could take her shot one of Pandora's misplaced rounds cracked through the barrel next to her, sending Lacea ducking for cover.
"Watch it!" barked Lacea over the radio.
"Sorry!" shouted Pandora from down the street.
Pandora spared a moment to catch her breath before lining up and more careful shot. Rolling out from beside a rail crate she aligned the irons of the barrel over Dante's heart. With a grin and a dead eye squint she squeezed the trigger.
She was out of ammunition. Dante continued to fire as Pandora scrambled for shelter behind a freight box.
"Uhh...Pan?" said Mercury over the comm.
"I know, I know! Reloading!"
"No, not that.'
There was a deafening crack and then silence.
Pandora peered over the top of the box to see Dante lying motionless in the dirt. A bola was coiled around Dante's legs and arms rendering him immobile and defenseless. Behind Dante, cloaked in the final rays of the blinding sun, was man dressed in all black. His face was concealed beneath the shade of a weathered hat and the dour visage of dark lenses upon a respirator mask.
"Crap." Pandora stood up and paced out toward the newcomer.
The man looked up, "Your ability to be in the right place at the wrong time never ceases to amaze me, Pandora." His voice was distorted by the filtering apparatus.
Pandora attempted to match his sarcasm with undeserved swagger, "I believe you mean, 'right place, right time', Inspector Javert."
The Inspector glanced down at the struggling Dante before slowly rearing his pitiless gaze back at Pandora, "I do believe that is my chain wrapped about the prisoner."
"Exactly.' smiled Pandora, 'We...brought him to you, as detailed in the bounty contract, and now you owe us the reward."
The Inspector Javert upheld his expressionless stare for a few moments before stooping down to drag Dante to the police post, a mere twenty feet away, "Charm, Pandora, is not your best attribute. If you and your band want to survive in the Authority's new age you may want to account for your failings and precious few successes."
Pandora dropped her charade, "I'll accept half the reward for our troubles." She holstered her weapon and stood defiantly before the Inspector.
"Troubles are paid for by those who bring them, Pandora.' scowled the Inspector, 'Come by tomorrow. I might have a job posting that may more appropriately match your group's capabilities."
Pandora remained motionless as the Inspector dragged Dane up the wooden steps of the police station.
Mercury's voice crackled over the radio on Pandora's wrist, "Man, I hate that guy."
The Inspector whipped about and let fly a shot that slung across the street, smashing the radio out of Merc's hand before booking Dante.
Once the Inspector was out of sight Pandora sighed in disappointment.
"Now I really hate that guy!" shouted Mercury in the distance.
"Alright, let's circle back to the bunkers. I'll come back here tomorrow to see what he's got." said Pandora into the comm.
"Copy that." Lacea buzzed back.
"Pan!' yelled Mercury from behind a pile of boxes and shattered terracotta, 'The treaders, are they parked left or right on Main Street?"
Pandora rolled her eyes, "East!"
She walked down the lonely street as the sky turned to vibrant reds and purples with the coming night.
"No snow.' muttered Pandora to herself, 'No storm. Nor even rain. Neither the easiest of lives...but ever the west wind..."
To be continued...
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