Published: October 24, 2015
The occupants of the slabster remained silent for a while as they weaved through the back streets of the sector at breakneck speed. Eventually it became clear that they weren’t being followed, and the Englishman slowed to much safer speed and turned to the back seats.
“You alright back there?” he had to raise his voice slightly to talk over the rain drumming on the roof, “there’s a medikit back there, think its even military grade.”
“Got it, much obliged,” came the Sniper’s reply through gritted teeth, “so long as the pain meds are good I should be fine, not too much actual damage beyond the blood. Good job that asshole only got that shoulder, really” He pulled a pack of disposable hypo jets containing some bleeding-edge morphine derivative from the medikit and pressed it against his neck, the drug being forced into his bloodstream with an audible hiss.
“Hows that?” the Englishman replied after a couple of seconds considering the statement as he turned onto a main road.
“That shoulder’s all carbon fibre and augmetic polymer muscles, miracle of 23rd century tech or some shit. Only bit that’s still natural is the blood, and even that’s part-controlled by bionics,” He pulled himself up to see out the window, “Used to be in the army, my last tour was with the Peacekeepers down in what used to be Southern Chile after the ceasefire,” he paused and let out a deep sigh as the painkillers kicked in, “That’s the shit. Uh, anyway, the local insurgents were alright but they’d brought in some heavy support from some merc outfit that didn’t mind sniping at blue helmets when they got bored. Was the sniper for a patrol securing a village when some Russian asshole got the drop on us, I swear he used an anti-tank gun on me or something, nearly ripped my arm clear off.”
“…christ,” the Englishman winced at the thought.
“Yeah. Got airlifted back to a MASH in Puerto Montt and had the world’s cheapest bionics stuffed in me at the tax payers expense. Ruined my military career so I got invalided back to old ‘Lantia, and here we are. Never thought I’d be grateful ‘till now.” He settled back to lying on the blood stained upholstery and thought for a second. “Y’know it strikes me that the Overlander guys got our plates as we left.”
“More than likely. Don’t worry, I borrowed this from a friend who’s prepared for this kind of stuff” the Englishman pulled the car into an alley and stabbed at a button that had been hastily patched in to the dashboard with little care for neatness. In a split second electronic smart pigment in the cars paint job pulsed and transitioned between black and metallic blue, with the license plates shifting to match. As the process finished, he reversed out of the alley and back onto the street, as the Sniper managed a pained laugh from the back seats.
“Huh, and I thought this was some dime-a-dozen YoHo piece of shit. Pays to have paranoid friends, huh?”
Their chosen route out of the sector took them along a busy main road where queues were beginning to form for an on ramp of the Inter-Sector freeway. Any notion of a quick getaway had long since evaporated, now the two were preoccupied with keeping a low enough profile to escape any corporate or police operatives searching for them, meaning both were ignoring the world directly in front of them. As the car lurched along the queue line the Sniper suddenly pulled himself upright and glared out the window with a pained expression of concentration,
“Hey, Limey, lookie here,” as he gestured out the window with his good arm, his associated responded with just an annoyed grunt, “three up in the other lane, that truck look familiar to you?”
“It’s an Omnihaul,” came the disinterested reply after a quick glance, “So? Must be a couple of million of them in this sector alone. Doesn’t mean anything”
“Couple of million, sure, but how many have a set of recent looking holes from a twelve-mill in the back door?” There were a few seconds of consideration,
“You may have a point. Think we can take them this time?”
“Worth a try. Don’t worry about me, would far rather be in pain than face Weißmann with a fucked up job” There was a pause as both men considered this.
“Alright. Lets do it,” The Englishman growled, swerving the car to aim at the Omnihaul and flooring the accelerator.
It took less than a second for the Yoshima-Honda fuel-cell engine to propel the slabster into the outer lane of the on ramp, nowhere near enough time for the occupants of the Omnihaul to realise what was happening before the smaller car slammed into the back of the truck, forcing it onto the sidewalk. The bodywork panels of the slabster shimmered between blue and an oily black erratically as they crumpled, the smart pigment struggling to function through damaged circuitry. It took a moment for the sequence of events to fully sink in, but as soon as it did, the blond gunman leant out the passenger side window, quickly realising what had happened and drawing his revolver. As the Ominhaul tried to untangle itself, The Englishman drew his own pistol and managed to get the first shot off, the bullet embedding itself in the truck’s wing mirror. The return shot buried itself in the slabster’s shattered headlight, the gunman’s aim suffering as the truck lurched itself back onto the road with alarming speed. Seizing the opportunity the Englishman restarted the stalled car and gave chase, weaving around the traffic as their prey made for the highway.
The Inter-Sector was generally busy, but the heavy rain had caused near-gridlock conditions which made the high-speed chase going on amongst the traffic dangerously difficult. As tough as the slabster had been made, ramming another vehicle had taken it’s toll, leaving it with steering that veered to one side and a constant grinding noise that suggested imminent mechanical failure. It was taking all the Englishman’s skills to be able to both keep on the road and follow the other vehicle at speed. The Omnihaul, however, was faring much better. Despite taking the brunt of the impact, the damage was limited to a dented side and broken tail lights, a testament to the vehicles famous durability. Despite not being anywhere near as fast as it’s pursuer, the greater stability meant its driver didn’t have to try anywhere near as hard to drive. The blonde gunman in the passenger seat made the truck even more dangerous. Periodically he leant out the window and took pot shots behind them, with little regard to whether the pursuing slabster was in his sights, or even his own safety. Had anyone been close enough to see and not fleeing for their life, they’d have seen the insane grin the man was sporting, he was enjoying this. Back down the road the slabster was swerving to avoid the scattering cars of innocent bystanders, The Englishman silent in deep concentration. It had crossed his mind shoot back, but so far he’d avoided it, partly out of how difficult it would be to aim accurately while trying to stay on top of the damaged steering, but mostly since shooting indiscriminately into crowds wasn’t his style. The fact this newcomer was willing to do so seemed to him like another reason to get this job done quickly and rid himself of what could be a major problem.
It had become painfully clear to both drivers that continuing the chase on a busy highway would work to neither’s benefit. Quine was looking for an exit to the highway that wouldn’t involve jumping the Omnihaul from an elevated roadway, whereas the Englishman was looking for a way to ram the truck off the road without completely trashing his slabster and getting himself and his colleague killed in the process. The Omnihaul’s luck won out, as a vidboard announcing the next off ramp loomed out of the rain. The datashark swerved violently to make the turn, forcing a delivery truck into the hard shoulder, and left the Inter-Sector at full speed into the industrial backstreets below. This took the occupants of the slabster by surprise as they sailed past the offramp.
“Shit… Hold on to something.” The Englishman wrenched the steering wheel around and span the slabster in a neat 180 straight into the path of oncoming traffic. The Sniper pulled himself up on the rear seat and regarded the view in horror.
“Woah, wait a second…” the full situation sank in quick, “What the hell you doing you mad asshole?!” Ignoring his colleague’s the yelling, the Englishman weaved around the advancing cars until he reached the ramp and executed another u-turn onto it. The slabster skidded on the rain-slicked asphalt, the Omnihaul was still just about visible further on along the street lined with semi-abanndoned warehouses. As it reached the end, it skidded awkwardly around a waterlogged corner, narrowly avoiding wrapping itself around a lamp post before thundering out of the Englishman’s sight. The slabster reached the corner seconds later and the damaged steering combined with the terrible road conditions to force it to swerve into the side of a rotting industrial shed, shattering the rear windscreen.
As the Englishman untangled the car from its resting place, their prey had once again vanished from sight. The latest impact had clearly pushed the damage into the severe levels, as the vehicle limped back on to the street, unable to propel itself to any speed above a slow, stuttering crawl. With a sense of grim determination to finish the job, he pushed the slabster on in an attempt to continue the chase. The side street the Omnihaul had escaped down as run down and lined with industrial facilities that had all mostly been closed down in a recession a decade and a half previously, but most importantly it only seemed to head to a single, walled off compound. Between the main gate and the half-wrecked building it guarded sat the Omnihaul, its passenger side door open revealing an empty cabin dimly lit by a struggling glowstrip in it’s ceiling. The Englishman pulled the slabster to a halt alongside and stared at the abandoned truck.
“Well… this looks ominous,” he lent back and glanced at the sniper, “you think they went inside?”
“They didn’t come back out past us, so probably. Smells like an ambush to me,”
“It’s just one guy,” he dismissed the concept dryly, “can’t see the ‘shark being much of a threat”
“Just one guy?” the Sniper laughed mockingly, “I’m sure that’s etched on the bullet stuck in my goddamn shoulder.”
“Still got to finish the job. You going to be ok here?” there came a nod in response, and the Englishman left the car.
The double doors of the compound’s main building had been forced open, a smoking bullet hole showing off the point of ingress. The decade and a half of neglect was clearly on display, the once high-tech production facility had been reduced to a shadowy warren of rusting metal, perfect for sneaking up on someone, and torrential rain hammering through cracks in the roof masked any other sound. As he crept across the first cavernous machine room, the Englishman drew his twin pistols from the holster inside his suit jacket. He tried to ignore the sudden paranoid realisation that he was possibly blindly walking into a trap, instead taking stock of his surroundings. Even his keen eyes were having difficulty differentiating between shadows and rusted machinery, the slightest movement setting off subconscious alarm bells. At the edge of the room he stopped by another set of double doors and peered into the darkness beyond, a chain hanging from the ceiling slowly swaying in a draught from the damaged roof. He hesitated for a few seconds before moving into the dark, skirting the shadows with a military-esque precision, stopping every few meters to reassess the surroundings. Half way along the corridor he reached the chain and stopped suddenly. There was a noise behind him, the sound of something metallic being dislodged and scattering across the floor. Instinctively he turned around, but didn’t have time to react before the solid grip of an Italian-made heavy revolver was slammed across his head, knocking him cold.