It wasn’t entirely without warning, but we were far from ready when the EMPs struck major power grids and plunged half the country into a blackout. Just like that, early summer 1982, 120 million people were without electricity. The worst part was civilians weren’t even the Enemy’s target. They wanted the power to our defense systems, our launch platforms, our communication networks; the rest of those affected were collateral. Then, the Enemy moved in, taking territory in remote places that escaped the outages.
Well, the USA wasn’t going to just lie down and take it, no sir. The 80s might’ve been dimmed back to the 20s, but the American spirit wasn’t broken. The military went about working to overcome the power issue. Rumors started flying fast about secret projects and indestructible superweapons that shot lasers. Most everyone wanted to believe in the rumors. After all, the superweapons would strike back at the Enemy and end their threat.
At least, that’s what Alex’s friends went on and on about. Alex himself didn’t quite care. His homey northwestern town hadn’t been hit by the attacks, though the power was rationed on government orders. Still, the arcade stayed open for a few hours every day, so Alex and his friends would stay for however long the power was on.
Alex himself was something of a self-proclaimed arcade prodigy. Every game he tried, he could beat, even if he’d never played before. The teens would place bets on him during fighting games, quarters lined up on the bottom of the screen or stacked next to the joysticks, and he won every time. He beat game after game until every cabinet in the arcade had his initials at the top of the high score list.
Then, there came a new cabinet. It seemed to appear out of thin air, set up outside the arcade building. It was big and silver, with room for only one player. Two red joysticks and eight blue buttons spanned its counter. The screen was polished and flat as a mirror.
Most interesting about it, the cabinet was the only appliance—aside from the radio tower—that wasn’t under power rations. And it was free to play!
Of course, Alex wanted to play it. He and his buddies went to the cabinet after breakfast one morning, taking in the sight.
“It looks alien,” said one.
“Or, like, from a cartoon,” said another.
Alex elbowed his way through them. “Well, turn it on, already!”
He clicked the buttons a few times, trying to get the machine to wake up. He then noticed a thin circle under the screen. Experimentally, he poked the circle. It clicked, and the screen lit up.
Interesting power button, Alex thought.
Plain white text appeared. Striker’s Ride, it said. Then underneath it, Created and Developed by Lucien Vector.
One of Alex’s friends nudged him aside. “Hang on, let the non-experts take a crack at it first. Y’know, break it in for you.”
Alex conceded and made room at the controls. He kept his spot right by the screen, though. He wanted to see everything.
The text kept going, all neatly spaced and stark white. The country is under attack. An evil techno-terrorist group called ChronoNet is trying to control all the computers in the world, starting with ours.
“Derivative much?” scoffed one of the boys. Alex ignored him.
A special organization was formed to stop ChronoNet. This elite force is called KNIGHT. Their top agent is called Striker, who pilots a car specially designed to fight back against ChronoNet.
You are Striker. It is your mission to pilot your vehicle and unravel ChronoNet’s control.
Take the wheel, Striker. ChronoNet must fall.
The boy at the controls let out a whistle. “Sick.”
The screen came to life with a first-person view of the inside of a car. Music started playing, and the view zoomed out to third person behind the car. Alex squinted at it. It hardly looked like a car. It was all sharp edges and flat panels, with wheels that looked too big for the chassis.
The background was a rather impressive racetrack at dusk. Orange bled into deep blue in the sky. In front of that was a layer of a yellow skyline, then a few streetlamps, then the white-lined black of the track’s asphalt. All things considered, this was probably the most detailed game Alex had ever seen.
The game gave the player control. The slightest nudge of the joysticks sent the car leaping forward. Buttons activated lights and a radio, but the rest of them prompted a Weapons not armed message. Interesting.
By the time the hapless player had gone a single lap, the car was discolored from scraping against guard rails, and one of its tires was flat. The game itself seemed quite chagrined. The Striker must operate his vehicle with precision. Try again.
Then the rest of the arcade opened for the day. The other boys wanted to go in, finding the game’s learning curve too steep. Alex stayed, though. The thought of a genuine challenge thrilled him.
He took the joystick. The inputs were so sensitive to the point where Alex spun out twice after just the first curve. He scowled at the car idling on the road, then at the two joysticks. Out of curiosity, or maybe stubbornness, he gently held both sticks and focused.
After a few laps with decreasing numbers of scraped guardrails, Alex started to get the hang of the handling. The car was . . . precise. It was fine like that—it meant Alex could do something extreme and the car could handle it.
The first few levels were tutorial, which wasn’t unusual. An obstacle course, a shooting gallery, a shooting gallery while driving through an obstacle course, it was all pretty standard, and Alex almost surprised himself at how quickly he learned which unmarked button did what.
Then, on to the actual missions. The road went into the skyline now, with moving targets overhead and bad guys on red motorcycles and cars. He picked up energy orbs and powerups, blasting through ChronoNet goons with ease. Even the mini boss fight seemed easy. He won, the white text congratulated him, and he hit next.
The second level was harder. Enemies moved faster, they broke patterns, played dirty, and for once made Alex frustrated. He’d never truly had to strategize before, just figure out the attack pattern and go from there. He couldn’t find a pattern in these attacks, and he ended up getting blown to bits by a missile-blasting helicopter.
As the level restarted, Alex readjusted. All right, this game wanted him to think on his feet, react in real time. He could do that. With that mindset, the level became like an actual battle scene. The enemy projected an attack, the car’s computer blipped, and Alex either reacted or started over. More than once the danger alert saved his run, which made its screechy noise bearable.
He beat the second level. The text congratulated him and asked if he wanted to continue. He clicked next before he finished reading the question.
The levels went on, and they were hard. And Alex enjoyed it. The looming threat of death by fiery explosion from unpredictable enemies who kept throwing everything at him was exhilarating.
His stomach alerted him to the time. He checked his watch: 2 p.m. He’d been at the game for nearly four hours. The car’s danger alarm yanked his focus back to the screen in just enough time to avoid a premature level end. He got to the proper ending and stepped back, ready to leave it.
But then the text took over the screen again.
You have done well, Striker. Your next mission is of utmost importance. KNIGHT’s lead scientist and creator of your vehicle, Doctor Lucien Vector, has been kidnapped by ChronoNet. We have located him, but it will be up to you to retrieve him.
You will not have a second chance, Striker. If Lucien is killed or your vehicle damaged, the mission will fail and ChronoNet will win.
Do you accept this mission?
Alex considered the screen. A challenge level? Maybe it was a bonus round at the end of the campaign. Was he really so close to beating the whole game his first day playing it? He grinned and flexed his fingers. “All right, Doc, hold tight.”
Excellent. Good luck, Striker. ChronoNet must fall.
The display changed. Instead of warm colors and detailed streets, everything was in night vision green and looked like it had been drawn with a tree branch. The clearest thing was the car in the middle, with everything else murky and wavering. Was this some kind of radar? The visibility was terrible.
Remarkably, the surroundings moved far more fluidly, more like a live film feed than video game graphics. Was the game trying to emulate video in real time?
Fortunately, aside from the visuals, everything else was about the same. Maybe a bit more realistic than Alex thought possible for an arcade cabinet, but familiar. He mowed down barriers and shot at cars, tossing out a missile here and there for the helicopters.
He ended up in a military base of some kind, with a huge courtyard and watchtowers and low, heavy buildings. Then a bright blue waypoint appeared on the screen with “Lucien” in white text above it. More text appeared at the bottom of the screen. Lucien has been located. Retrieve him and bring him home safely, Striker.
Alex laughed aloud as he proceeded to barrel through buildings and turn a doughnut around a turret to avoid its fire. Finally, the waypoint was right in front of him. Well, in front of him on the other side of a wall.
Alex backed up the car, revved the engine, then spun out the wheels and slammed the front half of the car into what looked like a holding cell.
A tinny male voice filtered through the speakers. “Ha ha! A fitting entrance, my friend!”
A human far more detailed than any sprite Alex had ever seen climbed into the passenger side. “Well, don’t just stand there gaping, your mission is only half done!” Lucien prompted.
Alex refocused and hurled the car forward through the building, much to Lucien’s squealing surprise. The car must have hit an important pillar since the entire building collapsed as the car burst through the outer wall and into the courtyard.
Alex forgot which way he came in, so he gunned it in a straight line, hoping to hit a fence or something and then find the road.
Fortunately, he did find a fence. It crumpled easy enough under the car’s tires, and the road was just around the corner.
Another waypoint appeared. “HOME,” it said. Alex thought that was quaint.
“We still have some unpleasant company!” Lucien warned.
Alex laughed. “Keep your hair on, Doc. We’ll be fine.”
Lucien stammered a bit. “Uh . . . we—well, perhaps now would be a good time to engage the afterburners? You are not unlimited in ordinance, after all.”
“Afterburners?” Alex hadn’t learned of a button that did that.
“Yes, the afterburners,” said Lucien. “Still prototype stage, the last I knew, but the car should hold up well enough. Let’s see, I believe you double tap up on the left joystick, and simultaneously double tap down on the right joystick. Do warn me if you’re going to try it, though, the acceleration is quite intense.”
Alex looked down at the sticks. He shrugged. “All right, if you say so.” He did as told. The screen redirected all its focus into rendering just the road ahead as far as possible. The car’s engine emitted a deep rumble for a few seconds, then it shot forward.
Alex was almost too scared to touch the controls. If he tried to turn and the car spun out, he might crash and fail the level.
Fortunately, the game took over for him. The car crossed the HOME threshold and an autopilot engaged. Lucien let out a deep sigh. “Many thanks, Striker.”
Alex chuckled at how realistically the character acted. “Sure, Doc. Glad to have you home.”
The screen went black. We await your return, Striker. ChronoNet must fall.
Then the machine turned off. No “The End,” no credits, nothing. Alex tried the power button again, but there was only the same text. Weird.
Alex went home, quite pleased with himself.
The next morning, Alex ate breakfast next to the radio as usual, half listening to the broadcast. Then something caught his ear. He stared at the radio as the broadcast continued.
“A dramatic shootout between a mysterious armed vehicle and Enemy forces tore through a midwestern highway late yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, there were no civilian casualties, and the only damage to infrastructure was the Enemy’s base. No one knows where the vehicle came from or why it attacked the base, but many believe it’s the start of a counteroffensive against the Enemy’s occupation.”
Alex’s mom pondered the radio. “Just one vehicle? How on Earth—uh, Alex! Where are you—?”
Alex shut the door before his mom finished. He grabbed his bike and pedaled hard to the arcade. Striker’s Ride was there, same as yesterday. Except this time, there was a man at the cabinet, playing it with some difficulty.
Leaving his bike on the ground, Alex hurried up to the game. The man was tall and skinny, with glasses perched on his nose and shoulder-length braided hair tied in a half-up messy ponytail. He was dressed like how Alex imagined an English professor, with dark green slacks, an off-white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a buttoned tweed vest.
The man turned to Alex and smiled. “Ah! I see you have some interest in this game?”
Alex noted the man’s face. His eyes were wide and bright, but the rest of him looked thin and a bit sad, and his hair had stark streaks of gray. Alex cleared his throat. “Yes. Yes, sir.”
“Did you play it yesterday?” the man asked.
“Yes, sir. Even the challenge level.”
The man smiled. He stuck out his hand. “Lucien Vector.”
“Alex Corder,” he said as he shook. Lucien’s hand was boney, but his grip was firm enough. “You’re the same Lucien from the game? You made it, right?”
“I did, yes. And I must thank you for the rescue yesterday.”
Alex glanced around, then leaned in a bit closer. “You mean . . . the radio mentioned a car chase from an Enemy base yesterday afternoon.”
“Yes, that was you.”
“That—h-how? I mean . . . it’s just a game.”
Lucien just kept a smile and held Alex’s gaze. Alex scoffed. “You’re kidding. There—there’s no way, you’ve got to be kidding.”
“If I was, I would still be in that Enemy base.”
Alex laughed with disbelief, walking in a circle and waving his hands. “There’s no way! All that—that shooting and fighting and stuff, that was all real?!”
“It was, yes. The challenge mission, at least. The levels leading up to it were to test if the one playing could actually pilot the car. And it seems like you indeed can be the Striker.”
Alex spluttered. “I’m sorry? The Striker? Like, work with the military, right?”
Lucien shrugged his shoulders. “Not entirely. We have government funding, but KNIGHT is an independent organization. I believe you learned our objective yesterday.”
“I gotta sit down.” Alex sighed, doing just that. He pondered the ground, then pointed at the cabinet. “And that thing, it’s . . . what, a controller?”
“To grossly oversimplify it, yes.” Lucien cast a mischievous look at Alex. “Care to give it another go? There’s a rather pesky communications antenna and supply warehouse that could use some incendiary armaments.”
Alex definitely liked the sound of that, hopping to his feet and taking the controls.
The game levels had changed. He went through different tutorials and learned the car could now fly and had a camouflage mode. “Not invisible,” Lucien clarified, “but . . . murky to the observer.”
“Whatever man, I’m flying!”
“That you are.”
“Is the car actually gonna do this?”
Lucien nodded with the widest grin he’d grinned so far.
The shooting gallery introduced another new feature. The underside of the car was indestructible, and so he could tank shots from below while he went face to face with flying enemies. At one point he lined up a few red dots under the car, then disengaged the engine and let the car fall.
Lucien’s brow went up. “Effective. Though try not to make a habit of that. The rest of the car is a bit more fragile.”
“Uh huh,” Alex muttered, distracted.
Finally, the challenge level started. Welcome back, Striker. Have you been briefed?
Alex looked at Lucien. “Ah. Yes. Everything will look the same as it did yesterday. There will be two waypoints, one marked “tower” and one marked “warehouse.” You will need to hit the tower first, then swoop down in order to hit the warehouse.
“The warehouse is big. You’ll have a special bomb with a wide area of effect, so you’ll need to go in, drop the bomb as close to the middle of the building as possible, then hightail it out of there.
“And I mean hightail it. Fast. The bomb has a short fuse in order to prevent interference or disarming. Once it’s dropped, you have three seconds.”
Alex’s eyes went wide. “Three seconds?!”
“Yes.” Nervousness crossed Lucien’s face for a second. “But that’s what the afterburners are for. The car can take a little of the bomb’s hit, but you will need to be well on your way out.”
“Okay . . .”
“Good luck, Striker.”
The wavering lines appeared. The waypoint popped up almost immediately, and Alex took to the air. The radar didn’t hinder him too badly, and the Enemy was clearly highlighted in red. Alex went through the motions as he knew to do, picking off red dots of various sizes, putting the indestructible belly to use as a battering ram even if Lucien winced every time, and finally reached the tower.
It was bigger than Alex expected. He pulled the car’s nose up and corkscrewed around the tower to the top. Once there, he angled back down and took aim with the “incendiary armaments” Lucien mentioned. He set them off at an angle, ripping apart the tower from the top down, melting and blowing up pieces as he went.
Once it was a satisfying crater in the ground, Alex turned toward the second waypoint. His pulse jumped a bit, remembering how little time he had.
The building—at least, the low rectangle in the shape of a building—nearly took up his whole screen.
“Right in the middle,” Alex reminded himself. He lined up the car at one end of the building, ready to fly in low.
The danger alarm blared. An explosion slammed into the side of the car. Alex exclaimed in annoyance and turned to the helicopter next to him. He was sure it flinched somehow, before he reduced it to slag, that was.
He turned back toward the building and dove right through. He guessed at the momentum, dropped the bomb, then hit the afterburners.
The screen flickered as the car burst out of the building, instantly breaking the sound barrier and disregarding whatever concrete and steel was in its way. The explosion didn’t render on the murky radar lines, and the noise was drowned out by the car’s engine.
Something buzzed in Lucien’s vest pocket. He pulled out what looked like a pager, but thinner and the same silver as the car. After staring at it for a few seconds, he grinned and held up his hand. “You did it! Both targets destroyed!”
Alex gave him the high five. He piloted the car back to its home waypoint, and the screen faded once again. Remote driver engaged. Well done, Striker. Then the machine turned off.
Lucien let out a soft laugh and smoothed his hair back. “Well, seeing the Striker in action on both ends has been quite the experience.”
Alex tapped on the cabinet. “Can’t I go again? Do another one?”
“The car is not indestructible, Alex, it needs maintenance. You’ve done well today.”
Alex smiled. “Thanks.”
Lucien let the silence hang for a moment, then inhaled sharply. “Alex, listen. The Enemy is a very real and current threat. You have proven yourself able to be the Striker, to hit back where it hurts. It might take some convincing with the military, but would you be willing to be the Striker?”
“Like, in the actual car?”
Lucien looked genuinely shocked. “Why not?”
“Look, I get it, the Enemy is bad and all, but I mean I’m . . . me? Also, I’m sixteen. I-I don’t even have a driver’s license, so unless the car comes with joysticks, I dunno if I could drive it.”
“Joysticks . . .” Lucien mused with a hand to his chin.
“That and . . . I mean . . . sure, we’ve been hit with the same power rations as everyone, but we’re doing fine here. Fighting the Enemy is a you problem, not a me problem.”
“But it is! If the Enemy gains power again, if they’re given a chance to gather forces within the US’s borders, they’ll do so much worse than blackout the rest of the country.”
Alex held his hands up and shook his head. “I don’t care, okay? I care about what’s in front of me, and right now that includes myself and my family, and . . . normal video games. I’m sorry, this was fun, but you can’t honestly expect me to fight your war for you, to be your . . . knight in shining super-car.”
“It was good to meet you and all, but I’m gonna go now.” Alex picked up his bike and mounted it. “I’ll be in tomorrow, if you’ve got something else I can blow up.”
He pedaled off, believing the matter over. He’d come back tomorrow, there’d be a new mission, he’d blow something up, there’d be more breaking news, rinse and repeat, fighting the Enemy from behind a screen. If it . . . even was the Enemy. As far as Alex knew, he could be blowing up KNIGHT’s competition, not the current threat to the country.
He shook the thoughts away. It didn’t matter. He just wanted to play the game.
The next day, Alex took his bike down the scenic route to the arcade. He took a side road that hugged some woods and pedaled leisurely.
Then the raid sirens blared once. Just once. Then there was a distant, low thud, and a shockwave nearly threw Alex off his bike. The air charged like lightning about to strike, and it made Alex’s hair stand on end. Engines roared in the distance, closing in at high speed. Alex caught sight of a familiar-looking helicopter.
There was no way. No way the Enemy was here!
He dashed into the woods as fast as his tires would allow. Behind him, he heard echoing voices. “Bring out the Striker. Do not resist.”
Alex hissed more curses under his breath. Is this what he got for refusing Lucien’s offer? He slid his bike to a halt and bowed over the handlebars, holding his breath.
No way. No way Lucien would do this. It was . . . cruel! Was Lucien working for the Enemy? Did they come to collect him personally since he refused?
No way. There had to be an explanation. If he could just have the car there—!
Alex sat up. The car. If he got to the machine and flew the car there, then . . . but how would he get it there? Or even turn the machine on?
Never mind. It was his best bet right now. He took as hidden a path as he could toward the arcade. Once there, he left his bike at the back and around the building, keeping close to the walls.
There was the machine! Alex ran to it on tiptoes and clicked the power button.
Alex smacked the machine. “Come on!” he hissed. He tried the button again. The black screen turned gray as static fell across it. The white text appeared in the static as a random jumble of letters and numbers. He did see the word “STRIKER” in all the gibberish, but it too turned into meaningless ciphers.
The screen went black again. Alex looked at the reflection in the screen. Someone was behind him, holding a—!
Alex dropped to the ground and covered his head as two bullets slammed into the screen. He looked up. Three men in what looked like SWAT armor bore down on Alex, rifles at the ready. The Enemy’s symbol was emblazoned on their chests.
The one who shot at Alex let out a low chuckle. “Now why would a little boy such as you come to a place such as this? Unless you were looking for something that would have escaped the EMP.”
Another man tilted his head. “Who would have known the Striker would be so young?”
The first adjusted his grip on his gun. “Young or not, he’ll die just as easily.”
Alex froze. His chest wouldn’t make room for air.
The Enemies raised their rifles, and fingers tightened around triggers.
A car engine revved. A block of silver and black vaguely resembling a car stopped on a dime between Alex and the gun barrels. The door opened and Lucien frantically waved. “Get in!”
Alex dove for the open door and sat in the driver’s seat where he was presented with the arcade machine’s joysticks and buttons. He froze in confusion, then snapped out of it as bullets struck the glass. Panicked, Alex shoved the joysticks—and the car—forward through the shooting soldiers, then pulled the car up into the air, engaged the camouflage, and hung there to catch his breath.
He let go of the controls and started repeating a string of swears as he tried to squish himself further into the chair. His hands came up to his face and pulled his hair in fistfuls.
Lucien gently pulled his hand down. “Alex, listen. Please, I need you to focus.”
“They’re here!” Alex rasped, his voice high and breathy. “H-how are they here? I thought they . . . I-I thought . . . !”
“I’m sorry, Alex. Their ability to trace electric signals is much more advanced than I thought. They followed the machine’s signal here.
“I know it’s unfair to ask this of you, but right now you’re the only one who’s beaten my game and knows how to pilot this car. You must fight back against the Enemy.”
“You got the car here by yourself, you pilot it! I want to go home!”
“That was the autopilot, and it can only drive.” Lucien turned Alex’s head to the side window, showing him a view of the besieged town. “You said you cared about what’s in front of you. There it is, and it’s being threatened. What are you going to do about it?”
“I . . .” Alex squeezed his eyes shut against the burning rising in his chest and throat. “I-I want them gone. I want them to leave me alone!”
“All right, Striker. Then make them leave.”
A sudden calm came over Alex. He had the power, the skill, to fight back. His town was being threatened and he could stop it. He could stop it.
He took the controls. The windshield was dark and projected green outlines of the landscape, but without the lagging ripples. The car’s computer picked out the Enemy’s vehicles and solders, pinning them red.
He fired the guns. The car thudded from the recoil. He fired again, causing more and more red dots to blink out. Through his shoes, he felt bullets ricochet off the bottom of the car.
The computer bleeped a proximity alarm. Alex dropped the car into freefall for a few feet, letting a missile sail over his head. Lucien looked like he’d suddenly been hit with vertigo.
Alex turned to face a helicopter. It looked different from the ones he’d been shooting down. Bigger, and maybe with another pair of blades.
A megaphone connected, and a thickly accented voice shouted over the sound of engines and propellers. “Striker! Land your vehicle immediately! We are many, and this town is surrounded. If you do not want these people to—”
Alex cut him off with a shot to the propeller that he had plenty of time to carefully aim. The helicopter sank like a rock. Lucien let out a loud “HAH!” despite himself.
Alex then turned his attention toward the rest of the city. For a moment, the fact that there were real people firing real bullets at his really squishy body almost made him freeze up again.
He closed his eyes and took a breath. He could do this. Just like the game. A challenge. The Enemy must fall.
Red dot after red dot ended up in his crosshairs and winked out of existence. The indestructible belly soaked up bullets like a sponge. A particularly interesting red outline rolled down the main road. Alex wondered aloud, “Is that a tank?” before he was nearly sent into a midair tailspin by the concussive shell. He course-corrected and swooped in, putting the tires back on the ground and revving the engine. The tank’s turret was too heavy to keep up with the doughnuts Alex spun around it as he peppered it with armor-piercing rounds and finished it off with a missile point blank. It might not have been the best idea, since—even through the car’s sealed cabin—the occupants’ ears rattled.
Alex retook to the sky and went after the bigger vehicles. The camouflage was messed up from the missile to the face, but the sheer superiority of firepower meant Alex mowed through them with ease. While dodging missiles here and there, of course.
Finally, the Enemy was routed. Alex wanted to chase them, but Lucien stopped him. “The car has been through enough. You’re low on ammunition too.”
Lucien told Alex to land somewhere hidden, so he took them back to the woods near where he left his bike. Lucien immediately got out and leaned against the car with a heavy sigh. “I’m too old for all this joyriding,” he muttered.
Alex hopped out, rounded the car to stand in front of Lucien, and said firmly, “How do I stop them for good?”
Lucien made motion to reply, but then sighed. “That . . . is a much longer fight ahead. I understand if you don’t want—”
“I do!” Alex interrupted. “I want to fight them! I want to be the Striker! I can be, and I want to get rid of the Enemy!”
“All right, all right, I understand,” Lucien soothed. “I promise, I will make your case, but there are people who will need . . . convincing. Especially when they find out your age, and there’s missions that will need the physical pilot—” Lucien stopped himself, then took a deep breath. “Go make sure your family is all right. Sleep on this, keep being a normal kid while you can. But, uh . . . do be on the lookout for any new arcade games, all right?”
Alex nodded. Lucien dropped him off a block from his house to avoid suspicion, then activated the autopilot and was gone.
A week passed, and a new cabinet for Striker’s Ride arrived outside the arcade. Alex was the only one who played it, though. Sometimes there were real missions, sometimes not. Sometimes the rumors about a “silver satellite” were surprisingly accurate, sometimes they weren’t good enough for bedtime stories.
Slowly but surely, the Enemy was pushed back.
Life went on, and the Striker kept riding.