22 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 21

Johnson Road, Next Two Exits

(Language warning in effect)
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Friday, April 23, 2071
2348 hours

    Oswald let his spells fade, revealing himself, Numbers, and the bag holding their extractee.  He wiped sweat off his brow.  "Never doing that again.  Numbers, how's the package?"

    Numbers looked in the bag.  "Still out."

    Treehugger noticed flashing lights in her rear view mirror.  "Guys, trouble."

    Oswald peered out the Bulldog's small rear window.  Yellow LEDs strobed along the walls around Evo's compound.  "We've been found out."

    "We weren't seen," Numbers said.  "They can't be on us already."

    "They were waiting for us.  Miss Bitch there had an assault rifle in bed."

    "Kinky," Treehugger said.  "Better hold on to something.  They're sending out cruisers."

    Oswald helped Numbers into the passenger seat.  "Call Charles, let him know what's going on.  TH, lose them!"

    "Duh."  The rigger jacked into the Bulldog.  "Oz, hold on to something."  Treehugger's voice came from the radio.

    The mage grabbed the back of Numbers's seat.  The van took a sharp right, forcing Oswald to strain to remain standing.  He looked out the back window.  The red and blue strobing lights heralded the arrival of four cars in Evo's security colours.  The cars took the corner almost as sharp as the rigger had.  "Oh, look, they know what they're doing."

    The Bulldog leaped forward.  Its engine roared.  "Good," Treehugger said.  "I like a challenge."  She threw the van into a wide left turn.  "Where's Charles?"

    "He's catching up," Numbers answered.  "He didn't want to draw attention from the guards."

    "That makes two of us," Oswald said.  "They're still behind us."

    "I do have sensors on board."

    "What about speed?"

    "Do you want to go out and ask them to wait until I get the Westwind?"

    Oswald kept his eye on the pursuers.  "They're catching up!"

    "That's because they have Patrol 1s and we are in a delivery van.  Now shush!"

    The Bulldog soared through a red light.  Horns blared in its wake.  The lead security cruiser zipped into the intersection only to be hit by a minivan.  The cruiser spun out, its tail swinging around into a light standard.  The other three security vehicles slowed down to slalom around the debris of the collision.  The sound of wailing sirens filled the air.  Treehugger slewed the van, sending it sliding sideways into an intersection.  Tires smoked before finding traction.  The Bulldog shot down the street.  The Chrysler-Nissan Patrol 1s in pursuit braked to take the corner safely.  Treehugger took advantage of the brief gap to blow through another red light.

    "I want to arrive in one piece, TH," Oswald complained.  "Alive would be nice, too."

    "Charles is calling," Numbers said.  "He wants to know where we're going."

    "Away," Treehugger said.  "Somewhere not here."

    "Charles, TH doesn't know where she's going.  Okay, I'll tell her."  Numbers disconnected the call.  "TH, Charles is going to be at 192nd and 102nd."

    The Bulldog leaned at an alarming angle as the rigger made a left through another intersection.  "Of course," Treehugger said.  "That's completely the opposite direction."  Metal clanked against the cargo door.  "Damn it ow!  Cocksuckers!"  The van began to sway as Treehugger swerved over the street.

    "Watch the road!" Oswald called.

    Treehugger braked hard before reaching another intersection, then floored the accelerator as she made the turn.  The lead Patrol 1 overshot.  Smoke billowed from its tires as it screeched to a stop.  The other two pursuing cars made the turn.  The Bulldog maintained a half-block lead as it reached a strip of nightclubs and bars.  Treehugger maintained her speed.  Pedestrians turned to look for the source of the wailing sirens as the van flew by.  The rigger sounded the van's horn, sending pedestrians scattering away from the road.  The pursuing cars slowed down, letting the street clear before picking up speed again.  The Bulldog gained on its lead, getting a block ahead.  Treehugger took advantage, making a sharp right then a sharper left.  The security cruisers split up, each going a different direction to try to get a visual on the Bulldog.

    Numbers sent off a software agent.  "TH, can we avoid being the Chase of the Week, please?"

    A groan came from the bag.  "Great, she's waking up," Oswald reported.

    "She's a dwarf," Number said.  "Figures her body would throw off the tranq patch."

    Red and blue lights flashed through the van's interior from outside.  "They found us," Oswald said.

    "It's just one car."  Treehugger blocked the road with the Bulldog, veering across the road to prevent it from passing.

    "One car, with a radio.  At least there aren't any drones yet."

    "Don't jinx us, Oz," Numbers said.

    Treehugger pulled the van over to the side along a row of parked cars.  She flashed her headlights.  A single headlight winked back.  A troll on a motorcycle zipped past.  "We've met up with Charles," Treehugger said.

    Shots rang out.  Several hit the van, denting the metal walls.  Treehugger let loose a string of curses.  The Bulldog's engine revved, grew louder.  "I need the highway," Treehugger said.  "Too much collateral damage waiting to happen here."

    "I'll get us a map," Numbers said.

    "I'm good."  More shots hit the van.  "Though that is getting annoying.  Ever been attacked by mosquitoes with hypodermic needles?"  Treehugger made a hard right.  One of the pursuing Patrol 1s zoomed past.  "Wonderful."

    Treehugger pushed the Bulldog to its limit.  The engine strained to propel the the step-van faster.  Behind, the second Patrol 1 pulled a bootlegger to turn around.  Two intersections later, the third car rejoined the chase.  Numbers checked the mirror.  She spotted Charles a block behind the chase.

    Two of the pursuers gained, coming up on either side of the step-van.  The third remained directly behind.  Treehugger tried to use the Bulldog's bulk to force the Patrol 1s away, but their drivers kept steady.  "They're surrounding us," Numbers said.

    "No shit," Treehugger grumbled through the radio.  "Oz, brace yourself."  The rigger slammed on the brakes.  The Bulldog's tires squealed in protest.  The cars beside the van shot forward.  The third one smacked into the step-van.  Oswald fell into the front compartment, catching himself before hitting his head on the dashboard.  Before he could say anything, Treehugger threw the Bulldog back into gear.  The van lurched then flew ahead.  The trailing security Patrol 1 limped to a stop, steam escaping from its radiator.

    The Bulldog threatened to tip over as Treehugger whipped it around a full one hundred and eighty degrees.  The driver of the damaged Patrol 1 watched as the van roared by.  He got out of the car, then jumped on the dented hood as his co-workers drove by.

    Charles pulled his Harley on to the sidewalk.  He let the procession drive by before returning to the street.  A message from Number appeared over his image link --Treehugger wanted to hit the highway.  He filed the message away as he rejoined the chase.  It didn't take him more than three blocks to catch up to the trailing Evo car.  He pulled along side the driver's side then drew his Cavalier Deputy.  Charles tapped on the glass with the barrel of his revolver.  When the driver turned to look, the troll smiled and pointed the gun.  The driver veered away.  The Partrol 1 nosed into a parked car, pushing it against the curb.  The tires on the parked car's right side blew out.  The Patrol 1 bounced away, the back end still moving forward.  It twisted around, slamming into another parked car before coming to a rest.  The troll's Scorpion roared away.

    The passenger of the remaining Evo security vehicle noticed the commotion behind him.  He took aim at the troll.  Charles ducked down as he put the Patrol 1 between himself and the guard.  Shots went wild, passing over the troll's head and putting holes into windows of businesses along the street.  The cargo door of the Bulldog opened.  Oswald held on to a strap as he steadied himself.  The guard switched his aim to the mage.  Oswald pointed at the guard.  Charles saw the stunbolt as it manifested and slammed into the guard.  The guard collapsed.  His pistol clattered on the street.  Charles pulled alongside the Patrol 1.  He aimed the Deputy and squeezed the trigger.  The first shot pinged off the ground.  The second hit the tire, blowing it.  The car's driver kept the vehicle under control but had to brake to a stop.  The Bulldog turned a corner.

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