Outside the Marian Hegemony
December 24, 3056
“Yeeeeeehaw!” Michael Comino screamed with excitement and pulled his hoverjeep around to shoot into the canyon at full speed. The right fender sent a shower of sparks into the air as the jeep skittered along the walls of the canyon, and then he was back in control again and shooting down the canyon. He looked in the rearview mirror in time to see George’s jeep come around into the canyon and laughed as he grabbed the microphone. “Slowpoke!” he shouted into it and spun the wheel of his jeep around one-handed to swing around another sharp corner.
“At least I’m not bouncing off everything in sight!” George shouted back over the radio as Michael’s left fender slammed into a wall and bounced off. Spinning the wheel back and forth as the jeep fishtailed, he hit the gas again and felt it leap forward off the wall and back into the center of the canyon. Behind him, George tilted his jeep to the side and road up the wall smoother. “Gotcha!” George shouted as his jeep slid back down onto the ground at maximum speed and smashed into the rear end of Michael’s jeep, spinning it around and to the side.
“Oh shit!” Michael yelled as he hit the wall, rolled up it, and then hit a boulder part way up the wall. The jeep flipped in mid air and came back down hard on a small shelf three meters above the canyon floor. The underside of the hoverjeep showered sparks across the rocks as it skidded, the sound of metal tearing assaulting their ears, and then smashed into the wall, crunching up the forward corner and leaving the jeep dead in its tracks. Below him, George passed the two standing stones that had been their marker and slammed on the brakes, swinging his jeep around.
“Beat yah!” he shouted and Michael sighed as he shook his head dejectedly.
“Maniacs,” a voice whispered beside him and he turned to look at Rosemary Church, noticing her white-knuckle grip on the roll bar.
“What?” Michael asked and she turned to look at him coldly.
“Yanak was right,” she whispered. “You two are maniacs,” she finished and unbuckled her four-point safety harness to step out of the jeep. “We’re supposed to be searching for that supply depot!” she finally let out with a shout. “Not racing jeeps through canyons!” she finished and kicked the side of the jeep angrily.
“Hey!” Michael yelled out quickly as he jumped out of the downed jeep. “Be careful of the paint job!”
“What paint job?” she shouted back and kicked the jeep again. Then she turned to look behind the jeep and blinked at the stony surface. Or actually at what looked like metal beneath it. She walked over and kneeled down, brushing pulverized stone away with her hands until she could see the dull metal clearly. It was so old it had been completely covered by the natural erosion of the area.
“What’s up?” Michael asked, sensing her sudden shift of attention, and she turned to the wall beside the hoverjeep. The unnaturally straight wall.
“I think we’ve found something,” she whispered and walked up to it. Numerous boulders and smaller rocks had fallen in front of it, but she could still just barely discern the flatter surface behind them. “Help me clean this off.”
“What? The rock face?” he asked with a confused voice and she turned to look at him like a mother looking at another mother’s idiot child.
“No, stupid,” she noted and pointed at the place she brushed off. He blinked at the dull gray metal and looked back up to her as she pointed at the rock face. “I think we’ve found something,” she repeated and his mouth opened in understanding. “Now help me pull these rocks off,” she ordered and he nodded quickly before moving to roll one of the larger ones away.
George came around with his hoverjeep and came to a stop as Rosemary turned to look at him. “Get up here, you juvenile delinquent!” she shouted and he jerked in surprise before jumping out of the jeep and scrambling up the cliff face. Everybody knew her temper and most learned after the first explosion that they didn’t want to weather it again. Which was probably the reason she made such a good platoon leader.
The three of them had the rock face cleared off quickly, and dust still billowed around them as they looked at the dull gray metal wall. And the grating in the middle of it. “This is really old,” Rosemary whispered softly. “Gotta be Star League.”
“No kidding,” Michael whispered in a reverent tone. “It’s not even rusted. After all these years.”
“So what now?” George asked and Rosemary smiled sweetly at him before reaching into the crippled jeep to grab some rope.
“We pull it off it,” she noted happily, tied one end of the rope around the grating, and gave him the other end. “Go down there, tie it to your jeep, and hit the gas,” she finished.
“Yes, ma’am!” he shouted and slid down the cliff to run over to the jeep. He quickly tied it up and jumped in before starting it and pushing it forward. The rope grew taught and Rosemary winced as the jeep groaned in agony. Then the rear bumper tore off and the jeep shot forward, slamming into the other side of the canyon at full speed, crushing the engine housing. She gasped, saw the bumper flying towards them, and ducked behind Michael’s jeep as the bumper flew up and slammed into the grating with a terrible clang. It bounced off and landed on top of the jeep before rolling off the cliff and down to the floor of the canyon again, clanging all the way down.
“That didn’t quite work,” she whispered as she turned back to the grating that didn’t seem to have a single mark on it. “I think we might have to get some heavier equipment over here,” she finished and turned back to see George jump out of his jeep and kick it in disgust.
“Um, you aren’t going to tell them we were joyriding are you?” Michael asked hesitantly as he looked at his ruined jeep.
“On one condition,” Rosemary responded coolly. “The next time we’re in the same vehicle, I drive!” she finished with a shout and he took a step back.
“Yes, ma’am!” he responded with gusto and she nodded pointedly.