Sparks shot from beneath the dashboard and a light haze of smoke filled the cabin of the damaged hovercar as the pilot gunned the throttle and banked hard around the derelict Hotel Imperial. The vehicle responded with a slight stutter and then the engines whined at full power as it picked up speed, headed directly for the cable dangling between the two towers. In the front passenger seat sat a gasping, semi-conscious man, his head leaning against the window. Blood ran down his temple and cheek, his hand clutched at his jacket and ballistic vest beneath it; from a small hole in the vest pulsated his blood, soaking his shirt. The passengers in the back seat clutched the seats in front of them, watching helplessly as the dark buildings raced past on either side of them.
“Buckle up everyone!” yelled the pilot, flying directly at the cable.
To their left, they saw the landing pad and roof of the building they had taken off from just a few seconds and one orbit around the Hotel building previously. Three men ran across the roof toward the landing pad, guns raised, tracking the hovercar, muzzle flashes illuminating the dark rooftop. Just as the hovercar struck the suspended data cable and sheared it completely with a sharp “thwap”, another sound pinged from the front of the vehicle as a bullet struck the hovercar. Flames licked out of the engine access panel and immediately the car began to drop, it’s forward momentum hurling it blocks away from the building, out over the Ebisu Quarantine Zone and toward Tokyo Bay.
“Yeeehaaaw!” screamed the pilot, his hands held above his head, as if in in surrender.
Seconds seemed like an eternity to the four of them, as the rippled surface of the water mirroring the neon lights and streams of aerial traffic above the vast city rose up to meet the hovercar and its doomed passengers.
“They got the texture of the water just right, really amazing graphics!” said one of the hovercar occupants, actually 1st Midshipman of the PCCS St. Croix, pulling off his VR headset and looking around the gaming chamber at his shipmates still jacked into in the simulation, wearing their rigs: headsets, haptic feedback suits and gloves, and suspended on their VR treadmill platforms.
In the low gravity, the players rebounded lazily on their treadmills, the tethers around their waists attached to the machines so they wouldn’t bounce themselves into the ceiling of the game room.
“Thanks for spoiling the mood, ass,” said the St. Croix’s Comms Ensign, pulling off his headset. “And way to get us all killed. We’re on the goddamn waiting list for the VR room for three, four rotations, and now our shore-leave is shot. Ass.”
“That’s totally what Tokyo really looks like, I was there when I first shipped out for TC,” said the St. Croix’s Cryptology Technician, a Corporal by the insignia on his coveralls.
“I know, you said that, like three hundred times,” said the St. Croix’s 1st Fire Control Technician. “But we still have the game room reserved for one more cycle. We can just reset it so we can go back in and at least see how the story wraps up. Or do you want to try a different game? The AI that runs this one is a bit of a prick.”
“The most hilarious thing is how they make Parkfield Biolabs out to be either some evil corp or a bunch of bumbling idiots,” said the corporal, chuckling and taking a swig from a beer set on the floor next to the VR treadmill, and rubbing the Parkfield Biolabs patch on his shoulder. “Super-poutine! Gets me every time. You know, since that’s what we haul?”
“No, the most hilarious thing is how you think you can fly a hovercar,” said the midshipman. “Ok, we ship out again tomorrow, so do you guys want to see if we can finish it this time?” said the FCT. “Who knows when we’ll be back on a rock big enough to have a decent game room again.”
“And I love how Meatstick gets their product placement in there. Everywhere,” said the cryptologist, taking a bite from a Ghost Pepper Meatstick™.
Outside the game room, the station’s business continued, unconcerned with the VR simulation and the gamers, it’s multitude of crews performing their duties, maintaining the ships docked there, and the station itself, half-buried on the surface of a moon orbiting a gas giant known as “Colossus”, orbiting a star called Epsilon Eridani, ten-and-a-half light years from Tokyo.