Red Alert 3

Waiting hours to take action was torture, but a whole day was driving Duran crazy.  They’d left Blue Skies behind them, heading out into the desert in a couple of buggies.  At first, moving had helped ease his mind, but this far out, everything looks the same.  Nothing ever changes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’d been stuck here at a rendezvous point for over three hours.  Duran had managed to sleep for all of a half hour.  He was exhausted, but he could manage.  Not that he really had a choice.  Besides, he’d been unconscious in Blue Skies for quite a while.  Not the most restful sleep, but it’d have to do.

Blackstone and Gent were both out.  The bartender’s snores probably would’ve kept Duran awake if his anxiety wasn’t already doing the job.  Duran checked the buggy’s sensors, then looked at the time on his computer.  He’d gone almost three minutes without checking this time, a new record.

His free hand absentmindedly walked up and down the hilt of his sword.  The point was driven into the ground and the blade was leaning against the side of the buggy.  It was short now, condensed down to its smallest possible size.  In an instant it could reform though, changing its size and shape if he needed it to.

He was so focused on the sword that he didn’t notice the blinking red dot on the buggy’s display.  It wasn’t until his own computer picked up the signal that he knew something was approaching.  Tearing his legs off the dash, he sat upright and looked at the screen.

Whatever was approaching was big and moving fast.  Duran scanned the horizon, but he didn’t see anything yet.

“Something’s coming.”  Duran spoke loud enough to wake the other men with him.  He glanced over at the second buggy to see if they’d noticed the signal.  They were all asleep.

Duran pushed himself out of the bucket seat and moved into the space between the two vehicles.  His sword cut a furrow through the dust behind him as he walked.

Gent looked at the screen.  “That’ll be our pickup.”

“We hope,” Blackstone said.

Duran didn’t say anything, he just whipped the sword out to his side, parallel to the ground.  The blade exploded outward in a flash of orange flame and smoke.  The thousands of microscopic jets fired as the nanotech blade reformed itself.  Cutting surfaces sprung from almost every angle, the thick, short blade becoming over three meters long and wickedly sharp.

The boom of the sword expanding was enough to wake everyone up.  Blackstone and Gent were at least used to the idea of Duran’s weapon, the other three who’d come with them from Blue Skies were still working on not dropping their jaws every time they saw it.

Duran relaxed his arm, but the sword didn’t dip toward the ground.  It drew fuel from the air around them to fight off gravity and keep itself aloft.  A low pitched hum filled the still air and the dust around Duran shook and settled.

The approaching craft was still a few kilometers out, but closing fast.

“It’s definitely airborne,” Blackstone said.  That could be a good sign.  They were waiting for an air pickup.  Of course it could also be a very, very bad sign.

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