By Juno_Fei 3 Comments
"Holy SH*T! Sissy, where the hell did you find this thing!? It beautiful..."
"Hey, hey! Let's give credit where it's due, alright? I didn't "find" anything. I stole this queen from the U.S military themselves. Can you believe that they just left this poor thing under a tarp to collect dust? It was a freaking cinch, well, I had to leave some mercs behind in a firefight... But it was a sacrifice I was willing them to make!"
"What!? Trust me, if I went back to try and help? I would have been just as dead, and I'm not throwing my life away to have a faux-hero moment. Look-Whatever! You're taking away from the main point, Dion! I have MY OWN SHIP!!! Do you know what this means? Juno Fei is going international, baby! This big lady is a flying money printer, just you watch."
"*Chuckles* Right, right. Well, you know what they say "A mother of fortune always provides..."
"...Wait wait wait... Say that again..."
The Present. The forests surrounding The Academy, one mile out...
Juno sat behind the steering wheel of her Van, nervously tapping on the wheel while looking out into the thick forests surrounding the vehicle. Even being near that Academy was enough to almost send her into conniptions. Flashes and blurred memories of that day, that incident which caused her no end of grief raced through her already occupied mind.
She tightened her fingerless gloves harshly, as a method of collecting her focus back to the task at hand.
It was almost a clean break, leaving this place after it all shut down. All of her caches of contraband retrieved, the debts collected from deadbeat students, contact information given out for further business down the road. It was all good, except for one glaring possession that had to be left behind. Her ship, her soul, her pride and joy. The Mother of Fortune. Without it, Juno wouldn't have been even half of the smuggler she was today. Countless jobs achieved, daring escapes pulled off, dog fights that would go down in history by those who witnessed them or survived them.
It was left hidden outside of the school grounds, as there wasn't really a way to efficiently hide a prototype military cargo carrier in her dorm room. A part of her actually felt guilt for the ship, a guilt that Juno rarely even shared in her fellow human being. The last time the Fortune took fresh air, it was during the daring caper orchestrated by the smallest, yet deadly assassin So-so.
Juno shivered at the thought of So-so, having troubles seeing any memory past those when the killer was under the firm control of Chaos...
"So..." Juno looked into the mirror, into herself. "We doing this or not? Let's go see how she's doing."
The smuggler stepped out of her Van, tightening her gun holster while standing tall. All it took was a few taps of her bracelet, and The Van's simple A.I took control of the vehicle. Slowly but surely, it reversed back the way Juno drove in until it was out of sight, it's coordinates would take it safely back to The Haven.
Once the Van's beast of an engine could no longer be heard, it was then that Juno could hear everything else in the forest... And she wasn't alone. Cautiously, she snapped the clip open on her blaster's holster, taking a few quiet step behind a tree with her ears twitching all the while.
"Walking. Marching boots. A lot of marching boots. Guns clattering, rifles, they're carrying rifles. Engines, heavy, definitely armored, radio chatter, can't make it out..." Juno's assessment was complimented by her enhanced hearing, her brow furrowing in confusion upon reaching a conclusion. "Uh... Who the hell is here? I thought these grounds were taped off after the Crisis...?"
It didn't matter, not now at least. Most of the noise was away from where the Fortune was hidden, so the smuggler sneaked through the branches to her destination.
After a decent amount of footwork, Juno finally arrived at the hiding spot, peering out from the treeline to see what was what... It wasn't great. "Oh... Crap." She muttered under her breath, letting out a sigh of confused annoyance. A small squad of armed soldiers surrounded the foggy lake that separated a ring around the forest. More importantly, the lake where the Fortune was safely submerged. It was the very same scenic spot where she made one of the best deals of her career, securing a contract with So-so for that mission.
"I really need to see if that girl's still possessed or not... Because that money source was sweeeeet- Focus, Fei! Money later, ship now. Speaking of which..."
Juno pulled down her trusted flight goggles, activating their higher functions with a simple tap on the frame. The lenses focused in on these masked men, thoroughly analyzing just who exactly these people worked for. As her father always said, "one can learn many aspects of a person from their preference in weaponry."
"Hmm. M127 IAR rifles, USMC bread and butter... Heavily customized, though. Those babies are done up like it's a firearm prom night. So, not USMC, cheap A-holes. Mercs? Nah, way too formal, way too organized. Privatized? Nope, no patches or ranks... Holy guns, I'm pretty sure these guys are a freaking ghost outfit..." The aviatrix pulled her goggles back up, scratching her cheek in thought. One thing was for certain, she couldn't kill any of them. The last thing Juno needed was to be on some blacklist for whoever these people were. That didn't help at all with Juno's objective of getting past them.
Sometimes, the classics worked best. Juno pulled a smart-grenade out of her pocket, clicking it a few times until it was on the right function. "Decoy. Distress protocol." She whispered to the grenade before pitching it through the trees next to her. It only took a few more moments before the gadget worked it's magic.
"Hello!? Someone!? Anyone!? I'm lost, and scared... IS ANYONE OUT THERE!?" The grenade produced a recording of Juno calling out for help, a convincing plea from the way it echoed out through the forest. Surely enough, the armed men heard the recording, readying their rifles with hand signals. Two begun carefully maneuvering into the forest, while one stayed behind to watch the spot, all while Juno watched safely from where she was crouched.
"Jesus. So really not the good guys." Juno's eyes widened, remarking towards the men with their safety's off, and a clear intent to shoot on sight.
Instincts kicked in, now only having to deal with one person as opposed to three, and so Juno went sprinting out of the bush with her arms waving wildly. "Hey! HEY!!! Have you seen my dog!?" She cried out, using her age and a fake innocence as a confusing veil. The guard instantly raised his weapon, but his aim faltered upon seeing that it was "just" some teenager running towards him.
"FREEZE! I SAID FREEZE! FINAL WARNING, CIVILIAN!" The man barked, flicking the safety on his rifle.
"PLEASE! He's just a puppy! His name is KNEETOTHEFACE!!!" Juno could barely hold back her laughter, having closed a sufficient amount of distance. Without hesitation, her rocket-boots activated, sending her flying forward at a blurring speed. It was enough of a shock where the man's aim was misplaced, firing a burst of rounds into the ground instead. Juno's knee went crashing into the stranger's masked face with brutal force, his nose crunching loudly on impact.
Using what momentum she had left, Juno rolled onto the clumped dirt beach of the lake, and quickly dived into it's murky waters before the other two guards could catch a glimpse of her, returning to see why there was gunfire.
The moment Juno was in the water, she pulled out a breathing mask and strapped it to her face, and started swiftly swimming deeper and deeper into the lake's depths. With her goggles on, it was easy to see through the murky waters with the provided filters on the lenses. Her eyes scanned about, looking for the beautiful shape of her beloved ship.
"Come on. Come on. Where are you lov- WHOA JESUS!" The smuggler let out a bubbling scream, as she sharply turned her head to be staring right into the face of some kind of... Robot? After regaining her nerves, Juno swam back a bit to get a better look at this thing. It seemed dead, or deactivated for that matter, it's spooky eyes giving off a very vacant and empty glare. So there it stood under it's own weight, on the bed of this lake...
"...Oooookay then, guess I'm not the only one throwing things into this lake." She mused, giving a wave to the strange and forgotten robot, then swimming off to continue her objective.
After what felt like an eternity, Juno finally caught the tail of The Fortune, her eyes lighting up in relieved joy while swimming energetically towards the ship. It took no time to find the air-sealed hatch on the top, knowing this thing like the back of her hand. Swiftly, Juno popped open the hatch and scurried inside, closing it to engage the filtration system.
The smuggler stepped out of the hatch bay, and into the main hull. With no one around, she felt no shame in shedding tears of nostalgic joy, gently grazing her open hand against it's cold metal. It was as if she had rejoined with her very soul. At a brisk pace, Juno arrived at the cockpit, sniffling and wiping away her tears while doing so. With a heavy breath, she sat down in the pilot's seat, instantly reaching under the seat for something. She pulled out a worn photograph, her fingers gently pressing against it's image. The picture was of Juno when she was a little girl, and her mother holding her with the smile of an angel as they posed for the camera. The very same pilot's cap that she wore on her head right now, was draped on Juno's head in the picture, and covering her eyes from how big it was on her tiny head. A sniffling chuckle escaped from Juno's mouth, which she promptly placed a hand over.
With her reminiscing over, it was finally time to take flight once again. She took great care in flicking and turning the priming switches, toggling on the fuel pump which let out a satisfying hiss as it's lifeblood coursed through the ship's lines. Next was the power, pumping the manual primer a few times before thumbing down on the heavy button. With a choked turn, The Fortune came to life, all of it's lights flickering on with a tried and true reliability. The COMM produced a static buzz before coming through with the nearest frequency, which just so happened to be the armed forces up above...
"BZZZT! TEENAGE FEMALE-ZZZT IN THE LAKE-LAKE-REPE-ZZZZZT INTRUDER WENT INTO TH-ZZ- LAKE."
Juno's lips curled into an ambitious grin while she continued priming the ship, clicking her tongue. "Well, looks like we're blitzing out of here in a real hurry, dear." She affectionately informed her ship, taking a pause before grabbing the main thruster toggle, finally jutting it upwards in excitement. The thrusters burned with life, creating a bubbling frenzy that surrounded the Fortune's exterior. "YES. YES. YES!!!!" Juno screamed in pure joy, tapping the lower pedals to awaken the lower thrusters as well, the Fortune now slowly rising through the depths.
"Let's give them something to wave to, what do you say!?" She asked, slamming down on the JATO ignition switch, causing every single lower thruster to give it their all to lift the many tons of experimental flying tech up at an incredible speed.
The soldiers up above weren't even close to prepared, with only their rifles aimed at the surface in anticipation for whatever was making that ungodly amount of noise down below. It wasn't even a second before the entire surface lit up with artificial lighting, and the Mother of Fortune herself breached the lake's surface with a triumphant roar of it's rocketed power. The ship was already a dot in the sky before the soldiers could collect themselves, they could only now watch as the ship boomed through the sound barrier and became an afterthought.
Juno Fei, was once again, going international...