The Struggle of the Enjera.
"On your six!"
Team one flight member Kya Loferyn, banked to the left to spin away from Team Two's incoming fire. Arrows of energy bit past her armor as the sky around her peppered with golden bursts. She pushed herself up into the wind. Thankfully, the goggles over her brown eyes protected them from the harsh windburn. She brought up her right arm and clicked the wrist energy pulse weapon to 'active.' Her two middle fingers rested over the trigger positioned in the center of her palm. Setting her sights in on her target – a member of Team Two busy chasing down another member of Team One- she fired three bursts below her. One of them slammed into the back of Team Two's, setting the sensor disk on his vest from green to red. Kill shot. The other fell, spinning through the air before catching himself and noticing the color change also indicated on his chest disk. He growled up at her.
"Be faster next time, Kavryn. You're out!" she laughs as she twists her body to shoot skyward.
Kavryn's grumble disappeared below her as she broke through a thin wispy layer of cloud after another of Team Two.
Kya's training began when she was barely old enough to walk. As soon as her parents discovered her hovering above her crib, she was nurtured to use the gift of the Enjera as simply as breathing; wingless flight. Her beginning was kin to the beginning of every Enjeran child. Thankfully for her, the war stayed mostly out of Onan, the tiny island she called home.
She let a pulse fly at her target, where it hit, but did not see his companion before her own disk lit red with defeat. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me." She turned to find her assailant laughing behind a tightly bound brown braid. "Merida."
"You're out, Kya. Better luck next time." Kavryn's younger sister waved with an impish smile, flipped in the air, and pushed herself toward another of Team One with her pulse glove ready to fire.
Kya begrudgingly drifted downward through the clouds and slowed her decent to the smooth surface of their island floating above the rolling green hills of Aida. She landed gracefully with only a few steps to halt the inertia of flying and pushed her goggles up to rest on top of her head. The eye covering pushed up the strands of her hair away from her face. Her irritated stride took her past the first member of Team Two she'd taken to the ground.
Kavryn caught her out of the corner of his eye. He tapped his conversation partner lightly on the shoulder. "I'll catch you back at Leena's, ok?"
"Sure," his friend smirked. "Go console your girlfriend. We'll order the biggest meal they have and put it on your tab."
"She is not my girlfriend, she's my sister's friend." Kavryn ran across the ground of the wide open landing pad before she could step onto the cool grasses toward town. "Hey," he pushed himself to take much longer strides in order to catch up with her. "Hold up."
"What, Kav?" She didn't bother to stop. He'd just pick up his pace to keep up with her anyway.
"You're out? You're never out this early in a skirmish."
"I'm having an off day," she snarled.
"Everyone gets them. You got two members of my team before …who took you down?"
"Your sister." She stopped. "We can't have bad days, Kav. Who knows when they'll find out about Onan."
"Which is why you have to be forgiving with yourself." He pushed up his own goggles and took her by the hand. "Look, the guys and I have been talking, and we think it's time to leave Aida."
A spear of shock zapped through her. "We can't leave. This is our home."
He kept a hold of her hand. "You watch the news networks. You know how this is turning out. The Enjera are losing. And I can't stand to watch anyone else I love die or be captured and taken to those damned underground camps."
She pulled her hand away. "You're the one that got me involved with the Windryders, remember?"
"Because you're an amazing flyer, and deadly accurate with a pulse glove." He remembered the day he brought her to the leaders of their group, Tak and Kaia Windryder –who mirrored them in age, but surpassed them in wisdom and dedication for survival. "Just keep it in mind. Anyway, we're all meeting at Leena's for dinner, so, hope I see you there." Before she could come back with another sharp-tongued quip, he pushed off the ground with one foot in mid stride and caught the air currents lazily into the small town.
Kya sighed and continued walking. Sure, she'd meet him and the others at the small restaurant like she did every day, but she'd take her time walking there. Although it was the crudest form of mobility, she still found walking held some therapeutic qualities. Sometimes she would fly out to the edge of the island's southern field and step barefoot across the ground just to feel the cool grasses between her toes. Though this time, the slow paced nature of bipedal movement gave her plenty of time to think. She looked up as the two teams soared overhead and waved at the few who called down to her. She stuffed her hands in her pockets, sighed and gently left the ground to join them.
The lights of the small town of Enava speckled against the background of the island's solitary mountain like mica flakes. She moved along the sidewalks and dodged across Fourth street to avoid the small hovercars winding through town. Although the Enjera can take to the air, the amount of energy used would mean the island's food supply would be gone within a few years. So, many people preferred to walk, or drive, or ride. With the few hovercar enthusiasts and gear heads in this town, flight was just something they could do, and not their definition.
She waited to let a laughing couple by before pulling the glass door open and walking inside Leena's. The team took up their usual tables bolted into the side of the second found it comforting that elements of the past remained in the businesses and homes when Aidans and Enjera created lives together. The two she passed were of the few Aidans left who refused to return to the surface. Their friends and histories were here, and with them, the glimmer of hope that this war could see a golden end.
Kya took a seat in one of the upper booths and engaged Merida in conversation to forget about Kavryn's idea. Sadly, the ebullient talk of her friend's crush on one of the other team members was cut short when the head of the Windryders walked in.
"I'm sorry everyone, but you should probably get to your homes." Tak held up his hands.
"What is this, Tak? You're frightening my customers," Leena marched over carrying a half full pot of coffee. Wisps of her dark curly hair slipped out from beneath her wide blue headband. The slim restaurant owner stared him down as the whole room went silent.
"The scouts reported an airship heading this way with Aidan airforce markings. They're coming."
Leena froze. "Please tell me you're not serious." The expression she received in kind indicated otherwise. "All right, everyone. You heard him." She hurried to each of the tables. "'Don't worry about your bills, just go. Here, take your coffee and the cup. If we get out of this in one piece, bring the cup back." She ushered everyone out until only herself, the staff, and the eight flyers were left.
Kya ran to the window as the warning sirens began to drone through the crisp night air. "They're here." The words barely left in a trembled whisper. Defending against an Aidan attack was always a driving force through training, though it wasn't until this moment that she felt honest fear as that reality threatened to overwhelm their her.
Kavryn grabbed her hand. "C'mon, we'll be ok." He handed her one of the palm sized single-serving pies Leena was famous for. Each of the other seven were nearly finished eating their own, so she devoured hers in only a few bites. The high protein and carbohydrates would help to sustain them through the fight.
They set their pulse gloves away from 'stun' and hurried to the Windryder's house where their shielding packs were stored. The eight of them strapped on the belts holding the shield generators and replaced their goggles.
"Keep them back as much as possible," Tak handed out extra energy cells for the pulse gloves while his wife gave them each a super protein bar. "The scout said it was only one ship, but it can carry a compliment of thirty men. Be swift, watch out for your team mates, and for God's sake, don't get caught. Death is better than those camps."
The eight nodded.
Kya knew the others thought as she did: which one of them was not going to come back from this. When they stepped back outside, the streets were completely empty. Cars were left abandoned alongside the roads, bicycles lay on their sides with their tires still spinning. Anyone-Enjera or Aidan-able or willing to fight were already on their way to the western valley. The Windryders weren't the only training squad, but they were among the best.
The three moons lit up the sky in a pale cadaver greenish blue and bathed the field in its languid pallor. She joined her team among twenty others waiting. The wind brushed at the grass, though failed to push back the suffocating anticipation of the attack.
Gradually, the quiet night gave way to the deep drone of propellers as the invading airship crept into view from behind the mountain. Ahead of it zipped single seat pods, built for air combat against a people with incredible agility in the sky. The pods could also use the magnetic field of the islands the same way the Enjera could –to slow themselves down or give increased speed.
"Get ready…" Kavryn scooted his foot back.
His sister narrowed her eyes behind her goggles. "This is going to be fun, Big Brother. And when this is over, we're going to laugh."
Kya charged her pulse glove and took on the same stance as her team mates. "The party'll be at your house, Mer. Kavryn's cooking."
He chuckled. "Yup, we're doomed."
"Hold…" Tak hold up his hand for his squad. He waited until the first of the pods were just at the edge of the valley. "Windryders! Shields up!"
All throughout the field, the personal shields of the Enjera hummed to life, flickering neon blue around each one as the power created a personal egg-shaped field.
Kya took off in a run with her team as all eight of them pushed off the ground at once. She nodded to Kavryn, who charged his pulse glove. The Windryders form together was practiced and beautiful.
"Ten bogies. Attack pattern Teir Four," Tak said into the slim communication wire dipping down from the headset. Each of his team had an identical unit on their goggles.
Four Windryders took off to the right, and four to the left. In response to the attack, the pods split and opened fire.
They collided with the defending Enjerans as red and gold energy pulses lit up the sky.
Kya twisted around a spray of enemy fire, diving downward to send off a shot at a pod that snagged a man from the air by his foot. The blast hit the top of the pod, causing it to buckle. It dropped the man, who lost control of flight and hit the grass. A small medical team remaining on the ground quickly moved to scoop him up. The pod she hit spun out of control over the edge of the island and corkscrewed straight into the verdant hills.
"Nice," Kavryn came up beside her.
She smirked at him slightly, and banked right, letting her arms and legs relax behind her as she aimed up toward another pod. She fired at it repeatedly, though stopped when she noticed it carried one of the Enjera. She stopped in the air, watching in horror as one of her team suddenly dropped from the sky in mid attack only to be scooped up and taken back to the mother ship. The horror of the situation slammed into her as more and more Enjera suddenly lost control of their ability to fly and were caught by the Aidan soldiers. She pushed herself back as Merida went flying up past her. "Merida! Wait! No!"
Kya pushed herself up through the air against the wind as much as she could and grabbed onto Merida's ankle.
"Let me go!"
Merida's eyes widened when someone from another squad seemed to lose their balance in mid air, followed by another. "What….?"
"They're using Frostbite."
Merida looked back to her friend in shock. She grit her teeth. A muscle in her cheek twitched. "Those spineless bastards!" She pried Kya's fingers loose and took off into the sky, twisting in an impressive acrobatic display of skill and firepower from the pulse glove.
Kya joined her best friend, though she now feared breathing in the dizzying mycotoxin the Aidan military developed to disrupt the Enjera ability to fly.
The teams of Onan defended themselves and their home in sharp displays of twists and turns. Red bursts of energy from the pods collided with the shields of the flyers.
"They're running!" Kya pulled her foot up to remove an extra energy cartridge from a pack around her ankle and stuffed it into the pulse glove's barrel. "Kavryn! Merida! We can ta—" Her eyesight suddenly blurred and the world spun in horrible circles. She'd been hit by Frostbite. Though her mind tried to fight the effects, her body wouldn't comply to her desperate need to fly. She saw Merida zoom up past her. "Mer…" As she fell, she could see the pod that tagged her snare her best friend and whiplash her into the cage on its back. "Merida!"
Kavryn shot through the air to catch her before she hit the ground and set her down gently on the grass. He glared up at the fleeing airship. "They didn't want to wipe us out. They wanted more people for their work force." He growled and took off into the air. "Give me back my sister!"
Tak swooped in from above to halt Kavryn's angry accent. "She's gone, Kav. There's nothing you can do."
"I won't let them take her!" He tried to push past, but Tak grabbed his arm. "She'll die down there!"
"We'll get her back. If you go after her now, you'll be caught, and neither of you will see the sky again. I need you to help me mount a rescue. Kavryn, listen to me!"
Kavryn's chest heaved with anger. He pulled his arm out of Tak's grip, though headed the other's warning and did not pursue. Memories of his baby sister flashed through his mind with the same strength as the energy pulses from the battle. She was innocent back then, and he wanted nothing more than to keep her safe from any of this. Tak was right. He was a brilliant strategist, which was why he started up the Windryders. Exhaling hurt. He forced himself to land.
The medical team was busy carefully lifting the wounded onto gurneys, and covering the dead with blankets. Moans from those with broken limbs filled the night air to mix with the sobs of survivors at witnessing their friends kidnapped to become slaves in the Aidan underground camps.
Kavryn knelt beside Kya and took her hand. "Kya. They took Merida."
She tried to focus on his face, but the urge to vomit from the motion sickness nearly overwhelmed her. She swallowed, gripping his hand as if that would steady her. "They took her alive. She'll be brought to a camp. We'll find her. I promise."
One of the doctors clicked a light into her eyes to check their response. "She was hit by Frostbite. She won't fly for at least a day."
Kavryn stood. "Please, do what you can."
"Kav. I'm sorry. I tried…" Kya closed her eyes to stop the world from spinning as the doctor pushed the gurney she was on back to the waiting ambulances.
Kavryn watched the hover vehicles take the wounded and dead back to Enava's hospital.
No matter how long it would take, he vowed to get his sister back. Even if it killed him.
((There will probably be more to come. This is the definition of a WIP, so some elements may change over time. In fact, you'll notice the next chapter says the town is called "Burgess," because the town on the island has changed to Enava. There's your sign.))
((This is the product of realizing a background character in a game accidentally became a major character, so everything with that character developed organically. This short fic is the largest piece to a puzzle unintentionally brought into creation. I'm excited to see what happens.))
((GRAVITY: An original story by M. K. Presson))