About Partners in Crime:
“Actually…” Ethan leant forward and lowered his voice, so only Holly could hear him. “…I’m not sure about this at all.”
“Bit late for second thoughts,” Holly whispered in return. She slapped him on the back. “Besides, it will be fun,” she said out loud, “Just like those thrill sports you young aristocrats are so fond of.”
“Actually I’m not…” Ethan began.
But he never got the chance to finish the sentence, because at just that moment Isabelle Kwan announced, “Flyer in position. Let’s get this show on the road.”
In response, Holly pulled open the side door of the flyer. A gust of harsh icy wind hit Ethan in the face and drove tears into his eyes, until he managed to pull down his goggles. He blinked twice to get rid of the tears, then he could see again and promptly wished that he hadn’t.
For all around him loomed the towers of Houshou’s commercial district, tall and spindly, reaching up into the stratosphere and beyond. Ethan had been to Houshou a few times, but he’d never seen the towers like this before, their tapered tops almost close enough to touch, while their bases were lost in the perpetual mist generated by the planet’s atmosphere and the emissions of twenty million people.
“Help,” he thought, “I want to get off.”
If Holly was impressed by the view at all, she gave no indication of it. Instead, she moved closer to Ethan to make room for Carlotta and the rather nasty looking rifle she was carrying.
Carlotta was not impressed by the view either, but then she didn’t seem the type to be impressed by anything. And so she just settled into a shooting stance at the very edge of the flyer’s side door, aimed her rifle at a sensor array jutting out from the closest of the towers and fired. Lightning raced and crackled across the sensor spikes as the array overloaded.
“Sensors down,” Carlotta announced, “You’ve got fifty seconds.”
Ethan was about to say that he really, really wasn’t ready. But before he could, Holly gave him a good shove and he tumbled out of the flyer.
He was falling, racing towards the mist shrouded ground. There was a scream somewhere close by. Ethan wondered about that for a fracture of a second, before he realised that the scream was his own. His stomach lurched, then his dinner — a bowl of hot noodle soup that had tasted surprisingly good — forced its way up his throat again and continued its descent on its own. Ethan hoped it didn’t hit some poor slob down there on the mist shrouded ground or the skyways that stretched between the towers. Though there was little he could do about it.
The fall lasted only a few seconds until the safety line stopped it by yanking Ethan upwards again and pressing him so hard into his harness he’d probably have bruises come morning. Provided he survived that long, of course.
The fall had also left him hanging upside down in a quite undignified position. His father’s ring, symbol of his authority as Lord Summerton, was dangling right in front of Ethan’s nose as if to taunt him. He had taken to wearing it on a chain around his neck, because the ring was too big for his finger and kept slipping off. Apparently, the universe was trying to tell him something.
Ethan was still struggling to get upright, when Holly suddenly dropped out of the sky above Wei Xiu II right beside him. Somehow, she’d managed to remain upright, not to scream and also not to throw up. Life just wasn’t fair.
“You might’ve warned me,” Ethan snapped at her, still awkwardly dangling in his harness.
“And ruin the fun?” Holly reached out with one hand and pulled him upright. “No way.”
“That…” Ethan said, glad to be finally in a dignified position or at least as dignified as one could be when dangling from a hovering flyer some nine hundred metres above the streets of Houshou. “…was not fun.”
“You’re such a killjoy,” Holly said, busily planting charges to blow a hole in the plates of mirrored nanoglass that covered the entire outside of the tower.
“I’m not a killjoy,” Ethan grumbled, “I just happen to be allergic to dying.”
“Like I said, a killjoy,” Holly countered. She placed the last charge, swung backwards, out of the range of the explosion, and signalled to Ethan to do the same. Then she pressed a button and activated the charges.