132 Fly like...

Upon returning to the hangar, Tristana found herself shrouded in total darkness. The lights were out, leaving only a faint glow emanating from the central console and the intermittent flash of the Blackaquila's main engines, as they initiated the afterburner process before takeoff, reaffirming her initial assumption that the intruders were not here for her, but for the Blackaquila.

Hearing the approaching footsteps of the Wraith, Tristana snapped back to reality, focusing on her survival. Familiar with the layout of the hangar even in darkness, she made her way to a worktable in the workshop and hid underneath, holding her breath and covering her mouth to avoid giving herself away.

As the group of Wraith entered, the doors closed automatically, trapping them. Shortly after, they all could hear the sound of the turrets, which had been practically deactivated, starting to fire again.

["Boss, it looks like Militech is regaining control of the base. The music stopped, the alarm is sounding again, and some of the turrets are starting to shoot at us again,"] one of the Wraith outside the hangar explained over the radio.

["Leave a couple of vehicles where we are, and get the rest of the idiots out of the base,"] Having finished giving orders over the radio, the Wraith leader instructed his men present. "Let's not waste time, let's find the girl and get out of here."

Several of them lit flares, casting a red glow over the dark hangar. As they dispersed to search for Tristana, the group began breaking screens, tinkering with whatever they found, and tossing it aside shortly after when their passing curiosity waned.

One of them, noticing the silently activated Blackaquila, pointed at it and said, "Boss, when we're done here... can I set fire to this thing? Looks expensive."

"Focus on finding that girl first, then... do as you please. If she really is who I think she is... we've hit the jackpot!" the Wraith leader replied, sending a shiver down Tristana's spine as she remained hidden under the table.

"Whatever you say... boss," the pyromaniac replied, dampening his enthusiasm as he felt a dangerous presence emanating from the dark corners of the hangar, of someone who didn't appreciate his idea of burning the Blackaquila.

From those same dark corners... Sora gave the order to start hunting to Lewis and Chancellor.

With their active camouflage, the three moved in unison through the dark hangar. Before the Wraith reached the bow of the Blackaquila, Lewis moved ahead and took position; then, Sora and Chancellor charged towards him and, in total silence, he helped them up, giving them a boost to reach the top of the ship.

As the group of Wraith dispersed on both sides of the ship in the center of the hangar, on the left side, the last one in the group failed to notice the black cable waiting for him at his shoulders height. Upon touching it, the cable coiled around his neck and hoisted him up swiftly, making him disappear with a gruesome noise as his neck snapped.

Simultaneously, on the right side, as the last Wraith passed beneath the wings, before crossing them, he raised his head at the sound of a faint "What's up?" accompanied by a mantis blade falling from above like a pendulum, piercing his heart like a scythe.

The Wraiths in both groups grew nervous as they turned and realized their comrades had vanished without a trace, leaving behind only a few bloodstains.

Atop the Blackaquila, Sora kicked Chancellor, drawing attention to him, who was staining the ship with Wraith blood from the corpse he had brought up.

Realizing they weren't alone, "Boss! it seems we have company, we've lost two of our own," one of the Wraith said loudly, clearly nervous, while scanning the dark surroundings.

"Tch, regroup, cover each other, light more flares, and find that bitch once and for all!" the Wraith leader ordered.

Though nervous, the Wraith obeyed their leader and split into small groups of 2 or 3 people, lighting more flares to illuminate the dark hangar. However, despite dispelling the darkness, the flares also created dark shadows moving in the opposite direction of their red light.

Sora, Chancellor, and Lewis took advantage of those dancing shadows to continue hunting the nervous Wraiths. When a group of three people somewhat separated from the rest passed near Lewis, he moved in front of one of them and, before he could recognize the blurry, semi-invisible shape in front of him, Lewis grabbed his head and twisted it.

Terror seized the companions watching the sides and the rear as they heard an unpleasant sound that made them look at their colleague who was ahead... and found him looking surprised and dead at the same time... with his head now facing his back. Before they could scream, Sora and Chancellor jumped off the Blackaquila, neutralizing them.

Shortly after, only two flares remained on the ground where there had been three Wraiths.

As they reduced the number of enemies without being detected, a group of two Wraiths passed between the tables where Tristana was hiding. She held her breath, watching the Wraiths' legs pass by.

Just as they passed in front of her, Tristana, out of fear, huddled her body to remain quiet, tragically having the opposite effect as she lightly bumped into one of the table's pieces, generating a slight metallic noise that made the Wraiths stop in front of her.

As they crouched down and saw Tristana frightened hiding under the table, the two Wraiths smiled sinisterly before grabbing her by the hair and dragging her out.

When the two Wraiths attempted to announce their findings, raising their hands to show what they had just found, "Boss," they could barely begin to speak when something interrupted them. From the darkness, something grabbed them and pushed them, making them disappear into it.

Witnesses to this phenomenon, all the Wraiths, including their leader, alarmed, fired towards the darkness where their companions had disappeared, while Tristana hid under the table again, hands over her ears due to the shots passing over her head, internally grateful for having been saved before being discovered.

When they stopped shooting, the Wraith leader grabbed two lit flares from his men and threw them into the darkness they had riddled with gunfire. They illuminated an apparently wounded figure slowly approaching the flare's light.

Until one of the Wraiths became visible, riddled with shots from his own comrades, collapsing seconds later. Then something rolled out of the darkness towards the red light of the flare: the head of the second Wraith, as if something large had separated it with sheer brute force, instilling fear among his still living comrades.

The leader, though also nervous, tried to stay calm. "Relax, they must be a couple of Militech special forces just trying to scare us. They're flesh and metal like everyone else-" Unable to finish when something fell into the middle of the group, disappearing the next instant with a leap into the darkness.

Not without first generating a blurry glow that lined up with the necks of three of the Wraiths, who remained immobile for a few seconds before their heads fell to the ground, severed in a fraction of a second.

Seeing what had happened, the rest of the Wraiths screamed in terror, some running towards the door. Where something was waiting for them, from the darkness in front of the exit, two Mantis blades lit up, heating them to a glowing red, becoming a fiery whirlwind over the two Wraiths running towards the door.

They ended up as two piles of shapeless and charred flesh, barely shedding blood as each of their cuts was cauterized. The rest of the Wraiths fired at the shining mantis blades, which extinguished and disappeared back into the darkness.

The leader couldn't help but shout, "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?"

Sora had to restrain himself from saying the first thing that came to mind ('I'm Batman'), instead deciding to change his voice to that of a certain captain the Wraith leader knew.

Suddenly, from the darkness around the group, a calm and familiar voice to the Wraith leader resonated in the hangar. "Looks like your luck ran out," said the person slowly emerging from the darkness, deactivating their camouflage in front of the frightened group of Wraiths.

"Price!" the leader responded upon recognizing the voice, looking at the hooded figure with bright blue circles in their eyes in front of him, resembling a spec ops from some Mega-corporation or an Arasaka cyberninja, with their body covered by a tactical cloak, yet seeing the marks and style of their gear, they seemed more like a City Mercenary.

"I knew no introduction was necessary, you forget the 'Captain, but I'll let it pass due to the circumstances," Sora replied to the Wraith's leader. Tristana also paid attention to their conversation.

Understanding more or less how he had been used, the leader said, "Bastard, so you've been the one planning all this, the 'Captain Price' doesn't exist, does he? Who are you really? Why are you hunting us? We've already played our part. Are you tying up loose ends?"

"Loose ends... pfft, don't overestimate yourself, little shit" Sora shook his head as if what he had just heard was nonsense before continuing. "You're just a bunch of rapists and degenerates... I'm hunting you because if I let you do what you're thinking to the president's daughter, then I... would have to endure a heat I'm not willing to bear for your degenerate actions... Sooo..." Sora paused for a moment while drawing Getsuga from his hip and concluded as he passed his black hand over its blade, changing its color to a metallic blue that began to emit small sparks, returning to his normal tone of voice, "You will die here."

Simultaneously, Lewis and Chancellor became visible around the group of Wraiths with their melee weapons deployed. Chancellor ignited his mantis blades, as Lewis, from within his hands, unfolded one of the plates forming his shield. As they unfolded, were bathed by a corrosive acid so corrosive that the dripping drops began to dissolve the ground.

The Wraiths far from their euphoric shouts and sadistic past laughs, now fell silent, huddling together, intimidated, feeling the palpable threat conveyed by the weapons bathed in lightning and acid or glowing red-hot that approached them... and the sinister intentions of the persons wielding them.

Then chaos ensued.... The Wraiths, literally between a rock and a hard place, defended themselves desperately, opening fire and deploying their Cyberware. However, Sora, Lewis, and Chancellor activated their Sandervistas to close the distance as they dodged the shots.

Once they reached the range of their weapons with fast and precise movements, the three of them neutralized the Wraiths one by one, showing no mercy.

Electric discharges jumped between the Wraiths with each swing of Getsuga, electrifying the air and wreaking havoc on their cybernetic systems. Meanwhile, acid-bathed panels corroded everything in their path, ignoring the armor with lethal cuts that effortlessly penetrated through their defenses, while the Mantis blades cut through flesh and metal, melting everything in their path.

Together, these attacks formed a lethal combination that left little room for resistance. The hangar resonated with the sound of gunfire and the agonizing screams of the Wraiths, fading into the darkness along with the hope of survival.

In the end, only the lifeless bodies of the Wraiths remained scattered on the ground, mute witnesses to the brutality with which they were defeated. Sora, Lewis, and Chancellor stood tall, coldly observing the desolate scene they had left behind.

When it was all over, Sora made one last swing with Getsuga...

Meanwhile, inside one of the workbenches, Tristana remained hugging her knees, anxiously waiting for the screams and shots to cease... when they finally did, she suppressed her first impulse to go out and check what had happened.

After a few more seconds without any changes, when she tried to poke her head out, she suddenly felt the surface of the table above her head compressing, causing her to retreat again.

Shortly after, as if teasing her in a macabre manner, the leader of the Wraiths' head peeked from the top of the opening in the table under which she was taking cover. This caused Tristana to let out a startled "Ahhh!" as she hit her head against the table's surface, making the head vanish while a stifled "Hehe-hmpt" laughter echoed above her.

Upon hearing the laughter, while rubbing her sore head, Tristana emerged from her hiding spot, facing one of the hooded figures comfortably seated on the table, resting one of his arms on the decapitated head of the Wraith leader, his eyes with a shining blue circle fixed on her... as if expecting something from her.

"T-Thank you," Tristana stuttered.

The hooded figure affirmed and said shamelessly "You're welcome, it's the least I could do, but you see.... I'm an expensive fellow, you know? And for my great work saving the president's daughter I need a corresponding payment. Soooo... I'll take the bird!" He concluded pointing his thumb at the Blackaquila.

After hearing him out, despite the circumstances, Tristana could not help but ask "Is that some kind of shameless joke?"

Before he could respond, suddenly the Blackaquila's engines emitted a deep hum that resonated in and out of the hangar. As the preparations to take off finished, its engines, inverted at the end of each wing, took on a bluish glow that ran through the ship,

"Tch, 3 minutes before it can take off... you didn't announce that, did you?" Sora exclaimed with a reproachful tone, fixing his gaze on Tristana disapprovingly. For her, it was difficult to process the surreal situation, almost considering that it could be his "peculiar" mind to blame, unable to conceive that there could be such a shameless thief capable of reproaching the flaws to the owner of what he was about to steal

Returning to his previous question, Sora said seriously, almost as a threat, "No, this is not a joke. We both know this is something you shouldn't have, so again; You're welcome!" Ending in his usual nonchalant tone.

He jumped up from the table and pointed to a nearby locker, "Your surviving bodyguards are in that locker," pointing to another, he added, "And in that one are the bodies of those who didn't make it... Take it, keep it."

Sora handed the bewildered Tristana the head of the Wraith leader that had terrified her. Now, however, her fear had dissipated, replaced by disgust as she held the head uncertainly, not sure what to do with it. "W-wait," she uttered hesitantly.

He ignored her as he bid farewell with a casual wave, walking towards the imposing ship, boasting a fuselage of dark, sturdy metal and sharp, angular lines suggestive of speed and aggression, its wings curved in a distinctive crescent shape, lending the Blackaquila an intimidating and powerful appearance.

As he reached its curved tail, serving as landing gear alongside its two gigantic inverted engines at the end of its wings. The tail armor retracted in steps as if welcoming him, revealing a small ramp inviting him to climb aboard.

Simultaneously, the ciculars electromagneticepulsors on the belly of the ship began to power up, shining and emitting small electric discharges. Chancellor waved his hand, and Lewis performed a formal bow, bidding farewell to Tristana before following Sora inside the Blackaquila.

Sora approached the stairs to the cockpit, just in front of the copilot's seat. Pausing before ascending, he asked, "Which one of you wants to be the copilot?" Observing their expectant expressions, he sighed and shook his head. "Let me know when you decide," he added as he climbed through the hatch into the cockpit.

Meanwhile, Lewis and Chancellor began to argue about who should be the copilot. "Lewis, I think you should let your older brother take charge," Chancellor suggested.

"I'm not so sure, brother. I think it should be whoever has more flight hours in the simulator," Lewis responded.

"That doesn't matter! You only edge me out by a few hours," Chancellor countered.

"I don't want to say it out loud, but I mean whoever's the better pilot," Lewis clarified with his usual calm tone.

"Since when are you the better pilot of the two?" Chancellor asked, surprised.

"Since forever..." Lewis replied confidently.

"..." They both stared "… "

Until they simultaneously said... "Rock, paper, scissors..." x2

As Sora's copilot was chosen in such a professional manner, he ignored them and watched with pleasure as the pilot's cabin opened upon approach, the pilot's seat moving outward as it rotated, awaiting its occupant.

With a smile reflecting his contained excitement, Sora paused before boarding and admired the interior of the Blackaquila's cockpit. The main seat was meticulously upholstered in black leather, accented by metallic details that gave it an elegant yet sturdy appearance. Control panels created a symphony of advanced technology, crowded with switches, buttons, and holographic screens flashing with constantly changing data and graphics.

Sora slid into the seat smoothly, feeling it conform to his body. As soon as he sat down, the seat rotated to position him in front of the complex main instruments of the ship. As his hands settled on the controls, the central holographic screens sprang to life, projecting a black dog made of pixels that seemed eager to receive his commands.

Outside, the ship's large front lens lit up, while the screens surrounding the cockpit illuminated, displaying an almost panoramic 360-degree view around him.

In Sora's augmented vision, with Eco inside the ship's system and connected to it, holograms began to appear showing the name and purpose of each terminal, button, switch, and lever on the complex instrument panel in front of him. Sora grasped the power lever for the electromagnetic repulsors.

As he did so, energy flowed to the cylindrical repulsors on the belly of the ship, illuminating them brightly and releasing electric discharges as the ship lifted and hovered. Next, Sora moved the lever for the ship's twin engines to reverse, bringing them to life with a roar that echoed throughout the ship.

"Eco, the roof!" Shortly after instructing him, still connected to the hangar system, the pixelated Eco on one of the Blackaquila's screens pulled out a remote control and pressed a button, causing the hangar roof to retract, revealing the cloudy, ash-filled sky above the base.

Placing his hands on the control lever and making a slight adjustment, the ship responded instantly, turning and tilting, causing the tail to strike the tables and equipment around the ship, creating a din that reverberated throughout the hangar.

As the ship moved unstably and violently, Tristana clung to the cabinet with the survivors, her eyes wide and her heart pounding in panic, fearing her ship would crash before even taking off.

Meanwhile, Sora, "Oops," maintained apparent calm, once again correcting the ship's direction. "Need a hand?" Asked Lewis, looking up from the copilot's cabin to the pilot's, physically united on top of each other.

Sora ignored him, scratching his head as it proved more challenging than he thought. He decided to cheat, separating his Soulcode and merging his code with the ship's systems.

Upon doing so, all screens and holograms went dark, except the monitor where Eco resided. Shortly after, the screens flickered back to life as Sora reclined in his seat and closed his eyes, no longer needing his eyes to see or his hands to control the ship.

To Sora, he was the ship; his breath was the pulsating energy circulating throughout, feeding each system as if they were his new nerves and senses. After getting used to this almost intoxicating sensation, Sora simply thought of flying, much like one thinks of moving without commanding their legs to take a step. He just thought it, and the levers and controls of the Blackaquila moved on their own, propelling them into flight at full speed.

Feeling the shift in piloting in his bones, Lewis fought against the resulting G-force from the Blackaquila's rapid ascent, only to be surprised to see Sora in the cabin above him, smiling, with his eyes closed and his hands motionless... while piloting.

As the ship pierced through the ash cloud, it continued to ascend through the clean, star-filled night sky like a black arrow until the two twin engines at the end of the wings shut off, causing the ship to veer in the air... before plummeting.

Feeling the weightlessness of the nosedive, Lewis anxiously asked, "Is, is Waka-Sama okay?" Instantly, on one of the screens in front of Lewis, a small, pixelated Sora, mimicking Eco's style, appeared, leaning against the screen frame while smoking, clearly annoyed. ["I've told you not to call me that!"]

Doubting whether to address the Sora in the cabin or the pixelated one, Lewis moved back and forth between them in panic and said, "Th-the ship, the-the floor. This is dangerous!"

"I couldn't care less if it's!" replied Sora, opening his eyes and looking at Lewis in the copilot's cabin below his feet, revealing his eyes entirely black, with the blue circle in them shining brightly, surprising Lewis with the sight and the accompanying wild expression

Sora smiled before closing his eyes again, lighting a cigarette in the physical world too and starting to smoke as they plummeted.

-

Meanwhile, in the Blackaquila hangar at the Militech base.

Tristana sighed with a mix of conflicting emotions. On one hand, she was relieved not to have witnessed the ship crashing, but on the other hand, bitterness swept over her as she watched it soar rapidly into the sky.

She shook her head, feeling powerless in the moment, unable to do anything to stop it. With resignation, she opened the large closet where her security team survivors were located, finding them in a ridiculous position despite their injuries—face down, feet up, necks and heads bent against the floor, as if it were some sort of joke.

Tristana lacked the strength to move any of the soldiers in such a position and approached the leader of her bodyguards, Leonard, who seemed to have a broken nose. After giving him a few light slaps, he finally opened his eyes and struggled to sit up.

"Miss, are you alright?" Leonard asked as soon as he regained consciousness.

"Yes, I'm glad you're okay, Leonard. And I'm sorry if I'm harsh, but not thanks to you!" Tristana replied honestly, her voice tinged with reproach.

"You're absolutely right, miss. I'm deeply sorry," Leonard said humbly, internally wrestling with the idea of resigning, feeling inadequate for such responsibility after his mistakes today, despite the affection he had developed for Tristana, protecting her since she was barely a little girl.

Until Tristana demanded, "Don't ever leave me alone again, do you hear me?"

This made Leonard smile ruefully and, changing his mind once again, add, "Of course, miss, it won't happen again"

As Tristana helped Leonard to his feet, the hangar doors simultaneously exploded, flooding the room with Militech soldiers. A few seconds later, the base Captain arrived in front of Tristana and offered a military salute.

"Miss Mayes, I'm glad to see you're alright. We've regained control of the base and eliminated all the Wraiths inside. I've also ordered the remaining AVs to take off; they'll be in the air in a few seconds to pursue the Wraith vehicles fleeing the base, as well as a heat signature detected by satellites moving away from the base two kilometers distant. We believe these are the Netrunners responsible for attacking the servers," the Captain reported solemnly, his gaze shifting to the Wraith corpses scattered throughout the hangar, concerned about what might have happened given the state of the president's daughter's bodyguards.

Staring at the lifeless head on the table, Tristana ordered tenaciously, "Forget about the Wraiths; we'll bombard them once they set up their camp. Focus on locating the Netrunners and stopping the—" Before she could finish her sentence, a deafening roar echoed over the base, abruptly interrupting her.

The sound of something descending at great speed like a projectile onto the base grabbed everyone's attention. Tristana was forced to pause in the middle of her order, incredulously watching the sudden nosedive of the Blackaquila from the sky.

Moments before it crashed into the hangar, the engines sharply turned in the opposite direction of its fall, generating a deafening roar and a powerful gust of wind that shook the hangar and all within it.

Militech soldiers instinctively covered their ears, struggling against the force of the sudden repulsion pushing them backward, while some who were closer were sent flying and crashing into the hangar equipment and their comrades.

The Blackaquila remained hovering in the middle of the hangar, as if the thief were mocking them, and indeed, treating Militech like a car dealership, after taking a spin the Blackaquila, ["Not bad... I'll keep it! And.... don't worry, I will personally take care of the flaws.... you couldn't fix"] a shameless voice escaped from the ship's speakers before it flew out of the base.

As the Blackaquila disappeared from view, Tristana clenched her teeth with fury, taking the thief's latest insult personally. Turning to the base captain, she ordered with a firm and resentful voice, "Focus all operations on the Netrunners... but above all.... on destroying the Blackaquila. I won't let him get away with it!"

Despite his surprise at Miss Mayers' order, the base captain responded promptly, "As you command," while simultaneously transmitting the new objectives to the pilots of the AVs and fighters who were beginning to take off.

-

At the same time, outside the Miltech base... on land.

Rebecca gripped the steering wheel tightly as the Chevillon Emperor from Maine sped across the Badlands dunes.

Minutes earlier, after Rebecca had guided Tristana back to the hangar, Sora gave the order to move out. Without delay, she removed the bipod anchoring the Grad rifle to the ground, stowed the weapon in its case, and tossed it into the car.

With Lucy and Esme already aboard, Rebecca wasted no time. Less than 30 seconds after receiving the order, she was speeding away, activating the detonator Sora had given her.

A blast erupted behind them, engulfing the small camp in flames and erasing any incriminating evidence. Shortly after, Lucy and Esme regained consciousness in their bodies after leaving cyberspace.

"Seems like everything went well. Now we just need the boys to escape and... us," Lucy reported as she moved to the passenger seat.

Minutes later, as they left the desert sand behind and drove onto one of the old asphalt roads leading to the city, Lucy inquired, trying to maintain composure amidst the adrenaline-fueled escape, "Do you think they've detected us?"

Rebecca nodded briefly. "I think so—" but before she could finish, six Militech AVs suddenly appeared behind them.

"Damn," Rebecca muttered under her breath as she donned the mask Sora had given her—a classic Japanese white mask, with fox-like features, giving her a cunning and streetwise appearance with a playful touch, accentuated by a tongue sticking out from one side and a bandage across it, lending a colorful flair with splashes of fuchsia and black.

Without hesitation, Rebecca floored the accelerator, ignoring Militech's warnings blaring through the speakers, ordering them to halt or face gunfire.

Being ignored, the Militech AVs showed no mercy, opening fire with their heavy-caliber weapons at the Chevillon Emperor.

With the situation becoming increasingly perilous, shots dangerously grazing the vehicle and putting Lucy and Esme's lives at risk. With no other alternative and somewhat nervous, not trusting/fearing what 'he' had installed in them. Rebecca had no choice but to activate her new and peculiar Sandevistan, causing the contours of the fuchsia and black marks on her mask to illuminate.

When activated, the small AI installed by Sora in her Sandevistan came to life for the first time. It materialized in Rebecca's IDn HUD as a formless data core, instantly taking shape, seemingly cognizant of Rebecca's mask and its creator. The AI opted for the form of a small white fox adorned with matching fuchsia and black markings.

While taken aback by the endearing form her AI had assumed, which unexpectedly alleviated Rebecca's concerns about having an AI integrated within her, she couldn't allow herself to be diverted from the perilous circumstances at hand. Mentally, she implored, "It's time to get to work, little one," to which the AI nodded resolutely before vanishing.

In the following instant, Rebecca experienced a slowing of her perception of time. However, unlike conventional Sandevistans, hers only engaged during crucial moments. This enabled her to adeptly evade the shots and navigate the vehicle with precision, all without the need for manual activation or deactivation. The degree of temporal dilation was even adjusted based on the situation, effectively reducing the physical strain on her body.

Nevertheless, despite her remarkable efforts to evade the shots, the situation escalated when two Militech AVs surged ahead and blocked their path, compelling her to veer off the road and reenter the Badlands dunes.

With the vehicle sustaining damage and unable to completely avoid the onslaught from six AVs, Rebecca made the decision to seek assitance via the group call. ["Sora, we need help."]

To her surprise, an unexpected response came from the usually calm Lewis. ["We're in trouble too!"] Not too much at that moment.

Knowing him, puzzled and worried Lucy and Esme. ["Are you okay?"] Lucy asked alarmed despite their own situation.

Sora intervened, dismissing what Lewis had just said. ["Don't fuckin' listen to him... we're fine"]

Upon hearing Sora's response, who continued smoking even in their situation, Lewis couldn't hold back. ["THE SHIP HAS NO INSTALLED WEAPONS! HOW CAN WE BE FINE OR HELP THEM... DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY FIGHTERS AND MISSILES WE—"]

Cutting him off, Sora intervened again, ["We're fine, we have all the weapons we need following us..."] After a few seconds of silence from everyone in the conversation, he added calmly, ["Rebecca, we're on the way, get ready, we're coming in hot"]

["What does that mean!!?"] she exclaimed, already occupied draving while dodging the shots, for now also for the reckless "help" Sora had in mind.

Surprised by the separate order she received, Lucy momentarily widened her eyes in disbelief. "He's completely nuts!" her astonishment escaped as she processed the situation. Nevertheless, without wasting time, she moved to the back of the vehicle and opened the weapons crate Sora had indicated.

Inside, Lucy found an Arasaka "Tetsudan" grenade launcher, featuring a sleek, neo-militaristic design in matte black with chromed details. With a elegant hexagonal drum and integrated tactical rails.

"Esme, open the roof!" Lucy instructed as she grabbed the Tetsudan. Following the command, Esme opened the rooftop hatch, and Lucy, without leaving the vehicle, began firing grenades into the sky every few seconds. The grenades ascended approximately 30 meters before exploding, creating a steadily expanding cloud of smoke.

As she fired, Lucy called out, "Rebecca, drive in circles," urging her to move under the cover of the thick smoke cloud forming overhead with each shot. This cloud also obscured the view of the AVs firing at them.

After firing the twelfth and final smoke grenade from the Tetsudan's magazine, a sharp whistle began to resonate, growing louder by the second, as if a projectile were descending upon them.

With a worried expression at what was coming, Lucy warned, "Brace yourselves for the explosion," while embracing the young Esme to shield her.

As the Blackaquila was about to enter the smoke cloud, it reactivated its holographic camouflage, this time effectively causing the thirty missiles locked onto it, chasing its tail, to lose their target and scatter like rounds from a shotgun cartridge hurtling downward towards the smoke cloud and the six AVs within it.

The result was a chain reaction of explosions within the smoke cloud as the six AVs succumbed to the missile barrage. Meanwhile, the remaining missiles pierced through the dissipating smoke cloud, hurtling towards the ground below.

Just before they could explode upon impact with the ground, the Blackaquila reversed its engines, making them roar and creating a small sandstorm as it generated a powerful repulsion force that halted the Blackaquila just 3 meters before hitting the ground. Hovering above the Chevillon Emperor and shielding all its occupants from the ensuing missile rain that crashed and exploded around them.

Lucy, Esme, and Rebecca heard a loud vibration and a heavy thud on the roof... before feeling... as if the car were moving... upwards

-

A few minutes earlier, outside the base... up in the air.

"We've got a dozen signals closing in on us fast," Lewis reported aloud, checking the radar screen in the co-pilot's cabin.

Within seconds, dozens of Militech X-75 fighters pierced through the clouds and positioned themselves for attack, trailing behind the Blackaquila ready to fire.

The X-75 fighter boasted an aerodynamic and aggressive design. Its fuselage was crafted from an advanced alloy of titanium reinforced with carbon nanotubes, offering a perfect balance of strength and lightness.

Equipped with state-of-the-art solar panels on its wings, the X-75 drew power for its advanced plasma propulsion system, enabling it to reach supersonic speeds with exceptional maneuverability.

Despite the quality of the fighters and the skill of the pursuing pilots who began firing upon them, Lewis witnessed, via holographic screens displaying various data such as the ship's relative position and the movement of its engines and flaps, how the Blackaquila maneuvered with an almost surreal mobility, dodging the bursts of fire from the X-75 fighters.

The feather-like flaps, resembling wings at the end of the twin engines, unfolded and expanded like real wings, utilizing the pressure difference and the propulsion freedom offered by the engines capable of rotating 360 degrees independently of each other... to perform all sorts of maneuvers, resembling more the freedom of flight of a bird than that of a plane propelled unidirectionally through the air.

But this incredible mobility was only possible... thanks to Sora's synchronization with the ship, allowing him to pilot it as if he were moving his own body... or rather, flying.

Lewis was left speechless, from the co-pilot's seat observing with disbelief... this astonishing synchronization, which manifested as piloting skills so high that they would be considered impossible to match by other pilots, gliding through the air with the fluidity of a fish in water... all while keeping his eyes closed, and... smoking.

Suddenly, Sora grew tired of evading their shots and announced, "My turn," as he reversed the engines, abruptly halting the ship. Causing the fighters behind it to overshoot.

Now, with them being the pursuers, Lewis couldn't help but report something he doubted Sora didn't already know. "The ship isn't equipped with any weapons."

"Don't need 'em," Sora replied calmly. Without giving Lewis time to question his strategy, the ship suddenly accelerated, positioning itself alongside one of the fighters. For just a moment, Sora maneuvered the engines, pointing one upwards and the other downwards, causing the ship to perform a rapid loop around itself.

Using the side from which the propulsion force of one of the engines was released, Sora shredded the wing of the adjacent fighter, solely with the force emitted by the engine without direct contact, preserving its integrity.

"One down," Sora said with a playful grin as he began picking off the fighters one by one, using his inhuman perception and control over the ship to deliver precise strikes to weak parts of the fighters.

Barely grazing the rear fins, wings, or flaps. Barely touching them, but enough to immobilize them or cause them to detach. He even utilized the electromagnetic retro-thrusters on the belly of the ship.

Overloading them as he passed over the fighters, causing them to emit violent electrical discharges that, after a few hits, managed to disable the electrical systems of the fighters, sending them into a nosedive, until the pilots could only eject.

As he hunted down his adversaries one by one, six of the seven X-75 Fighters still airborne, aware that they couldn't match the mobility of the Blackaquila and though it was hard for them to accept, the skills of the thief piloting it. They decided to regroup and unleash all their arsenals upon him.

This led to Sora and the rest facing more than 30 missiles chasing them. Seeing Lewis starting to get nervous, Sora tried to reassure him, "Don't worry, the holographic camouflage they stole from me and put on the ship should be enough to shake off the missiles."

However, upon activating the camouflage, the missiles continued to pursue them. By Tristana's order, the missiles had been adjusted, as in old times, to be guided by the heat signature of the engines, rendering the holographic camouflage useless.

Feeling Lewis's reproachful gaze on him, Sora let out a guilty "Oops," instantly snapping Lewis upon hearing him, who came to doubt that Sora could really be Hanako Arasaka's son.

As they fled from the 30 missiles chasing them, Rebecca called for help. After finishing speaking for the group, Sora shouted from the cockpit, "Chancellor, Lewis, get the ingots I gave you!" 

He also pulled out two black ingots/plates from one of the pockets of his leg harness and casually tossed them out through the hatch he had climbed through.

Lewis and Chancellor remembered the ingots/plates that Sora had given them before leaving the camp without explaining what they were for. Following his lead, both threw their ingots where Sora had dropped his on the floor.

This time, it was Chancellor who was surprised, being the only witness seated in the back, seeing how the ingots lost their shape and turned into smoke and a kind of black liquid, similar to molten metal, that began to move and seep everywhere in the ship.

-

In the control room at the Militech base, Tristana watched with a mix of joy and guilt the signal shared by the X-75 fighters, showing how the Blackaquila activated its camouflage, yet the thirty missiles still pursued it.

Part of her felt remorseful at the thought of the apparent inevitable fate awaiting the Blackaquila, the ship she had practically built by hand, becoming a ball of fire. However, the memory of the thief's last insult fueled her wavering determination.

But not everything unfolded as she had imagined... When Tristana saw through the screens how the ship plummeted and headed towards the smoke cloud generated by the vehicle with the Netrunners, she was left speechless when something happened next that she knew was impossible, something the Blackaquila should be incapable of achieving. By activating the holographic camouflage for a second time, just before entering the smoke cloud, this time it did manage to make the missiles lose their target.

As the screens transmitted the images shared by the fighters, showing how their own missiles shot down their comrades in the AVs, Tristana racked her brain trying to comprehend how it was possible, until a cheeky voice echoed once again in her mind: 'And... don't worry, I'll personally take care of the flaws... that you couldn't fix.'

Tristana's lips couldn't contain her disbelief: "He was actually serious..."

Leonard, the old bodyguard with his shoulder bandaged, more concerned about Tristana than the images being broadcast on the screens, upon hearing her murmur something, asked, "What's wrong, miss?"

"He... I don't know how he's doing it, but he's improving the ship mid-flight," Tristana responded, with a tone as astonished... as incredulous, at the only explanation she could find.

When the missile shockwaves cleared the smoke cloud and it was possible to see what had happened to the Blackaquila and the vehicle with the Netrunners...

No one in the operations room or the pilots flying over the area found anything... both had vanished without a trace.

Even in the images transmitted by the thermal cameras... there was no trace of the Blackaquila, nor of its remnants.

-

Meanwhile, in the "Netrunners' Vehicle":

"What the hell is going on?" exclaimed a nervous Rebecca as she suddenly found herself flying inside the car.

"Make sure not to touch the ceiling or the body," Lucy warned, fully aware of the bizarre situation.

"What the is happening?" Rebecca asked, trying to make sense of it all.

"Ask Sora," Lucy suggested, shaking her head in exasperation that their crazy plan had actually worked as he said.

["What the fuck have you done, you bastard?!"] accused Rebecca, her tone filled with indignation, through the group call.

"..." Sora, composed and sarcastic, responded, ["I swooped in like a damn hero, took out the Avs tailing you, got you out of there, and the first thing you do is call me a bastard. The confidence sucks..."]

["You miserable BASTARD.... why are we flying?, and... why the hell is the car transparent?"] exclaimed Rebecca, peering out the window cautiously, careful not to touch anything, confirming her suspicions as she saw the vehicle completely camouflaged.

["I reversed the polarity of the electromagnetic repulsors to function as simple magnets, magnetically adhering you to the belly of the ship... that explains why you're flying. And as for the camouflage, I synchronized the shells I placed over the car with the ship's cloaking program. easy peasy"] explained Sora with a self-satisfied smile.

["That doesn't explain the missiles,"] Lewis pointed out, regaining his usual calm tone.

["I think it has to do with the ingots... you should've seen it, brother,"] Chancellor murmured, lost in thought.

["What happened?"] Lewis asked, confused.

["Shh! Shut up"] ordered Sora, ["With this, I think we've lost Militech's trail on us. Rebecca, I'll take you straight to the city and drop you off near my garage. The cameras will be disabled in the entire area, so don't lose a single bit and hide inside."]

["Okey!"] nodded Rebecca, gearing up for what was to come.

["But before that... let's pay a little visit to a real jerk,"] added Sora with a malicious smile.

In Night City,

Atop a skyscraper in the corporate district, the president's son, Andrew Mayers, enjoyed the company of two beautiful women in his bed when suddenly his fun was interrupted.

Despite having calls blocked on his IDn, the insistent ringing of a call on his private pad disrupted him.

With a resigned sigh, Andrew parted from the lovely women, grabbed his private pad, and strode towards the large window dominating his room, offering a panoramic view of the district square and the majestic holographic canopies gracefully "swimming" around it.

As he answered the call, his sister Tristana's agitated voice resonated in his ears, hastily informing him about recent events. Barely able to keep up, Andrew attempted to calm her down, saying, "Take it easy, Tristana—" only to be silenced by her frantic shouts. "Alright, I'll shut up."

After a brief silence during which Tristana recounted what had happened... "The Blackaquila has been stolen!?" Andrew had to confirm if he understood correctly, struggling to process the news.

"Deploy all available units from the base to—" Before Andrew could finish his sentence, Tristana interrupted him again, rejecting his attempt to give her orders as if she were incompetent or a mere employee.

As Andrew listened to the details of what had happened and how they had lost track of the ship from his sister, the luxury apartment began to tremble slightly. Despite the gravity of the situation, Andrew began to tune out the conversation with his sister as the sudden vibration grew stronger, accompanied by the rhythm of drums and guitar chords...

[♩ Can you feel it? ♩]

As the rock music streamed through the call, Tristana began to grow suspicious, prompting her to inquire ["Andrew, what's happening? Where is that music coming from?"]

[♩ Can you touch it? ♩]

Suddenly, something barely visible ascended slowly, hovering in front of the apartment. "Tri-Tristana, the B-Blackaquila," said Andrew, paralyzed with the pad still against his ear, too surprised to respond to his sister's questions.

[♩ Get ready 'cause here we go ♩]

Removing the camouflage, the Blackaquila that had just been stolen and lost track, revealed itself to the astonished Andrew, floating in the air with a vehicle attached to it, creating a somewhat surreal image.

[♩ Can you feel it? ♩]

Andrew couldn't tear his gaze away from the ship and the vehicle where a woman with pigtails and a fox mask energetically greeted him, ending up laughing at his small bulge between his legs as he stood semi-naked.

While the other woman beside her, wearing a helmet that hid most of her face except her mouth, seemed exasperated, calling attention to her, while resting her hand on the forehead of her helmet.

[♩ Can you touch it? ♩]

Before departing, from the front lens of the Blackaquila, the hologram of a phrase appeared 'A thief who robs a thief, gets a century of relief'

Immediately afterward, the ship rotated, aiming its twin engines towards Andrew's apartment. Realizing what was coming, Andrew only had time to cover his ears and brace himself for the... 'Boom!'

[♩ Get ready 'cause here we go ♩]

As if the song had warned them, in the next instant, the Blackaquila accelerated to the maximum, creating a sonic boom that shattered all the windows of the luxurious apartment. Making Andrew propelled out, ending up crashing into the wall of the room, while the deafening boom made the two women in bed scream, also covering their ears in desperation.

[♩ My soul invaded vital force ♩]

[♩ Won't spare what I'm hunting for ♩]

[♩ It's the animal within my blood ♩]

As the Blackaquila and the music faded away... Andrew crawled across the floor, staining it with blood from the gash on his head, until he reached the Pad, where his sister's worried voice still came out, asking for him.

[♩ Wouldn't stop it, if I could ♩]

[♩ Seed is sown, I'm chippin' in ♩]

[♩ Roll the bones, I'm chippin' in ♩]

"Trista-na... the Blackaquila... my apartment," Andrew said before losing consciousness.

[♩ Embed the code, I'm chippin' in ♩]

-

At the same time, in a parking lot in Japantown...

"Thanks for staying so late," Judy expressed from her seat on a plastic chair in the Turbo bar parking lot, which was literally a stone's throw away from her small apartment block.

"Don't mention it, kid... I mean, boss. If it weren't for this bar, we'd be waiting on news from them somewhere else," Maine commented, while awaiting news about Rebecca and Sora, who had borrowed the gang's car again.

"We're off the clock, and I'm not paying for this time, so you can call me whatever you want," she replied with a smile.

"So, do you know what your boyfriend was planning, needing my sister's help and our car?" asked Pilar, less cheerful than usual, concerned about Rebecca, who always joined in on any reckless plan he came up with, as if she were his sidekick.

"He told me something... and it's better if you don't know," Judy said, shaking her head.

As if to add to what Judy didn't want to say, everyone heard a rumble and what sounded like music... and not just any song, Judy recognized it instantly as one of Sora's favorites, "Chippin' In" by Samurai.

[♩ Suits run when I come undone ♩]

[♩ Can't kill me, I'm zero and one ♩]

Coming from a black ship that appeared flying, smoking Night City's aerial regulations, as it sped past the buildings, shattering many of their windows.

[♩ Add justice to the people's math ♩]

[♩ Blaze your way down the rebel path ♩]

The group was speechless, as were all those present who saw that same futuristic-looking ship descend practically next to Judy, Maine, and company in the parking lot.

[♩ Hear my call, I'm chippin' in ♩]

[♩ Total war, I'm chippin' in ♩]

While the sound of NCPD AVs and cruisers' sirens could be heard approaching, blending with the music, the ship in front of them hovered as it left a familiar vehicle on the ground. Before they arrived, the Blackaquila's engines roared, and the ship flew off from the area.

[♩ Casings fall, I'm chippin' in ♩]

[♩ Kill them all ♩]

After its sudden departure, Judy, Maine, Dorio, and Pilar exchanged surprised looks with the driver of the Chevillon Emperor, who wore a white fox mask and familiar pigtails on the sides. She also remained, uncomfortably, looking at them from the lowered window of the pilot's seat.

Without averting her gaze, Rebecca drove the Chevillon Emperor towards the nearby apartment building, leaving little room for Judy to imagine where she planned to hide the vehicle.

"These idiots..." Lucy said exasperated, as the area filled with NCPD AVs and Militech, and the first patrol cars began to arrive...

A few seconds later, three young women approached Judy's group in the bar parking lot. As they sat with them as if they had been there all night, Rebecca whistled unabashedly surprised and asked, "Damn, how many people... what happened here?"

Maine and Dorio responded with a scolding look, not wanting to attract attention by shouting, while Pilar, keeping his voice down seeing the corpo deployment, asked full of curiosity and some envy, "Shorty, what the hell have you guys done?"

Responding with a contradictory "Nooothiiing..." while a proud smile grew on her face from the night they had just had. As Lucy and Esme sat next to Judy... catching up.

-

Flying over the city...

The Blackaquila glided amidst the towering skyscrapers with impressive agility. After passing one of them, it activated its camouflage and vanished from the night skies, leaving behind only a fleeting gleam. Sora piloted the craft towards the Pacifica sub-district, gaining altitude before diving sharply into the ocean waters.

Capable of propulsion underwater, the Blackaquila ignited its powerful headlights and followed the coordinates to reach the concrete foundations that supported a portion of the city bordering the sea. With a series of open sluices generating aquatic currents that cascaded like waterfalls on the city's sub-surface.

Sora maneuvered the craft through one of the sluices, previously modified to remove the turbine used to generate electricity within each sluice, thus allowing the Blackaquila to pass unhindered.

Within the complex, Lewis and Chancellor stood behind their brother's seat in the co-pilot's cabin, speechless as they beheld for the first time the solemn and gigantic underground infrastructure of the city.

Aware of Chancellor standing inside the craft, Sora steadily piloted the Blackaquila towards the newly expanded entrance of the bunker.

After landing on the black platform serving as a helipad within the bunker, four enormous robotic arms deployed from the sides to begin the process of dismantling the craft's two gigantic engines.

Exiting the craft, Sora instructed the AI controlling the platform's arms, "Fool, continue dismantling the engines and scan each piece of the craft. I want you to be able to assemble and disassemble it without any issues." The robotic arms responded with an affirmative movement, vigorously waving their pincers.

While Sora coordinated the Spiderbots at the base to perform tasks related to the Blackaquila, Lewis and Chancellor gazed in awe at the underground bunker built within a natural cave.

To end up focusing their astonished on the young Arasaka, owner of the bunker and the entire underground of the city. Both knew that Hanako must have a good reason to want to hide her son... But after witnessing his capabilities and his reckless attitude. Both feared the inevitable storm that would arise when Saburo learned of his existence.

Unaware of the fixed gazes upon him and the concerns lurking behind them, Sora, as he stowed his gear in the workshop, accepted the cold beer proffered by one of the Spiderbots. After taking a comforting sip and exhaling, feeling refreshed after a good revenge, he noticed the brothers' looks directed at him and, puzzled, asked, "Do you want one?"

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