Victoria did her best to defend the cart from the pursuing slavers, but they were sending a lot of lead in her direction and that was making her life difficult. She aimed at one of them and fired a Five-Round Burst that went wide and he replied with a shot that bounced off the floor of the cart and passed through the space between Liz and Abigail. That was a close one. The brunette had better try again because the horsemen had found the range and were starting to land more and more hits on the cart the brunette was sitting in.
Victoria aimed again at the same person and fired off another Five-Round Burst, this time hitting him in the left shoulder. The man's rifle flew out of his hand and the wounded horseman fell off of his mount, landing on his stomach and being left behind by his colleagues. While that was not a kill, she had gotten rid of another pursuer. She then turned her attention to another horseman who was firing directly at Liz in an effort to bring the pursuit to a lethal close.
"That was close!" Liz commented as she ducked to avoid another shot that would have punched through the back of her head had she not ducked at the very last moment. It passed through her hair instead, which was a very lucky break for the woman.
Victoria aimed at the offender and held down the trigger, rattling off fifteen rounds before she let go of the trigger. The first five shots missed while the other ten hit; six of them found his chest and and left shoulder while the last four grazed his horse. He fell from the frightened steed, which galloped away from the man and left him lying on the sand. Seven more were left.
More rifle bullets lodged themselves in the cart and one shot made Abigail scream as one punched through the back and just barely missed her right leg and the horse in front of it. The Light Machine Gun just was not doing the job. She needed a weapon which could hit all the horsemen in one shot and she needed it now. Victoria dispelled the Light Machine Gun and brought out the Grenade Launcher.
Victoria aimed her new weapon at the front of the pursuers and fired off a high-explosive grenade that landed short of a horse. The men galloped by shortly before the round exploded; it kicked up an impressive cloud of sand but otherwise did not harm them. However, two of the men got the message and decided not to press their luck, instead breaking off the pursuit and retreating to tend to their wounded. Now there were only five particularly persistent men chasing the trio.
"Damn, are they using explosives now?" Liz asked. Abigail glanced back at Victoria and spotted the remnants of the sand cloud drifting back to earth.
"No, that's Victoria's doing. She's a walking arsenal who has a weapon for almost any purpose." Abigail replied to Liz while Victoria loaded another grenade and aimed again. The brunette aimed further in front of her targets and let the grenade fly. It lodged itself in the sand and exploded moments later, this time catching a man in the edge of the blast and knocking him off his horse. He lay on the ground with his hands cupped over his ears, bringing the count down to four men.
Victoria loaded a third grenade while under fire and aimed it at the men, achieving an unexpected result in the process. The men immediately wheeled their mounts around and rode away from the fleeing cart, leaving without so much as even a single token parting shot. While Liz and Abigail celebrated this unexpected reprieve, the brunette began to worry about why the Golden Band had suddenly given up the chase when the slavers had chased them this far.
"Guys, why did the slavers suddenly stop chasing us?" Victoria asked the blondes in all seriousness. She had the sinking feeling that they had been deliberately chased into the territory of the Golden Band's rivals so that if the slavers failed to kill them then someone else could. Abigail turned around and addressed the brunette's concerns.
"I think you scared them off with your firepower, Vic. Not too many people want to be on the receiving end of a grenade launcher shot." Abigail made a very good case for why the slavers had abandoned the pursuit. Victoria hoped that her friend was right and the slavers had just figured that chasing the trio would be more trouble than it was worth. The brunette dispelled the Grenade Launcher and settled into the back of the cart for the rest of the ride. No matter what the reason, the end of the pursuit was a gift from above.
-Six hours later: The Tri-Council City, inside The Desert Defender-
It was well past nightfall by the time the trio reached the Tri-Council City, but Victoria was not complaining because they had made it to that oasis of civilization without any further bandit encounters. The trio was tired of riding, they were tired of being out in the heat, and they just wanted to sleep somewhere for awhile before returning to Hargeon Town. Liz had suggested The Desert Defender as a place to crash and the two mages readily agreed. Now Liz was talking with Joanna while Abigail and Victoria sat in wooden chairs behind the counter and sipped from plastic water bottles provided by Joanna, who was glad to see her friend alive and well.
"Well, we made it through that adventure. I don't know how, but we did." Abigail mused to the brunette, sipping from her half-empty water bottle.
"Yeah. There were a lot of close calls, but we're still alive." Victoria replied to Abigail.
"I can't wait to get back to Hargeon Town. We've gotta get ready for that mission to Sin and time's almost up." Abigail reminded Victoria, who frowned.
"Please don't remind me." Victoria said dryly. She still resented the fact that Pergrande authorities refused to let the mages land in their country if they got wounded. Abigail and Victoria were doing them a huge favor by taking Alexander Kerwes out of the picture before he could convert the hostile wildlife of Sin into test subjects amped up on who knew what experimental medical concoction the nutcase could craft and Pergrande would not even extend them the courtesy of medical attention should they need it. It was all that Franklin Kerwes could do to get their helicopter permission to even fly over Pergrande airspace to get to Sin. The country was so determined to avoid being "contaminated" by the presence of a mage that they would rather be overrun by the denizens of Sin than admit mages into their borders for any reason. Whatever... if it were not for the innocent people of Pergrande who would be harmed by an invasion from Sin, Victoria was halfway tempted to let the idiots destroy themselves by antagonizing mages who only wanted to help.
She was sure that Pergrande's leadership would take comfort in their mage-free country as everything went to hell and their people died at the hands of Sin's innumerable creatures. As their people died in the streets the leaders would huddle in their castles and toast to living their lives without owing anything to mages. What a spectacle that would be.
Victoria turned away from that dark thought and focused on what lay ahead. Once she and Abigail were back in Hargeon Town, the blonde would need to get fitted for armor. Then the two mages would have to split up and make their preparations before their helicopter flight to Sin. There were so many preparations that had to be made and not very much time in which to make them. Time was running out for the blonde and the brunette.
[Post Word Count: 1,327]
[Total Word Count: 12,745/12,500]