Ah, yes. I got to do some real James Bond-type stuff in this chapter. Or maybe Fast & Furious is more like it. I’m not sure.
I do know, later, Cass told me this was the time she was most worried about getting out of the whole situation alive. Not when we were shot at at our wedding, not when we were jumped in the Los Alamos terminal, not, ah, geez. I can’t tell you about that.
Or that, either. Spoilers, you know?
You know how you get around spoilers? Buy the book! It’s only 99 cents on Amazon! Go ahead, splurge! You’ve earned it! Just click the button, or click any image, and you can read and read and read! Then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can gossip about all the stuff Adam didn’t put into the book!
Chapter 26: Traffic Sucks
They were passing Seneca Lake, about seventy klicks shy of Rochester, when they noticed the traffic die away.
‘Not good,’ said Kendra, checking the lidar. ‘Not good at all. Cass, try the phone? Dial a number, anyone.’
Cass did so, shook her head. ‘Nothing. Not even an out-of-service message. That’s funny; the phone says the signal strength is good.’
‘It’s masked. Old trick, overlay a radio signal with a stronger one of your own. Maybe they’ll stand off since they can’t catch us on the ground.’ A sudden flash from the lidar screen caught her eye. ‘Or maybe not. Shit. Cass? Buckle up. Tight.’
‘Why?’ she said as she added the supplemental five-point harness to her belt.
‘Rolling blockade ahead. Eight big rigs, shoulder to shoulder. Looks like they’re making about sixty klicks. We’ll be on top of them in less than a minute.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Pull out one of my tricks. I just hope it’s enough.’ She let up on the accelerator, deployed a small panel by her knee, and spoke rapidly. ‘We’re only going to have one shot at this, and it’s going to go fast, so let me tell you what I hope is going to happen. I have a one point twenty-one gigawatt laser mounted to fire through the front grille. It’s hooked to capacitor packs that are placed throughout the car. The capacitors will completely discharge with the shot. They’ll recharge as we drive but it takes time. I also have to divert the coolant from most of the ten radiators to pull heat away from the laser instead of the engine, otherwise we’ll melt the front end. Of course, that means we’ll be limited in speed to about a hundred KPH until the laser cools enough to switch them back.’
‘How long is that?’
‘Don’t know; I’ve never fired it. In any case, I’m going to align us with the far left rig, and hope that it swerves into the rig next to it, making enough of a clearing that we can scoot through.’
‘And if not?’
‘If it doesn’t? Then we’ll try plan B.’
‘I’ll tell you after we try plan A.’
The dark line of rigs came into view as they crested a small hill. Daylight was barely visible between their boxy shapes as the drivers maintained less than a meter’s separation between them. As they came closer, details could be made out.
‘Shit,’ muttered Kendra. ‘Stupid! I should have figured…’
‘Are those guns?’
‘Got it in one. Look like heavies, maybe fifty caliber. I see at least two Vulcans, no, make that three, one on each flank and one in the center.’ Carefully, she slowed to match speed with the rigs and maintain separation, which was holding at about three kilometers.
‘Okay, then, plan B. We turn around and run.’ She downshifted and cranked the wheel hard around, tires screaming in protest before gripping again and hurling them eastward. ‘Just a little detour. Might cost us – oh frak me running!’
‘It’s a trap, and we’re boxed in! The lidar’s painting another row of rigs headed west, right towards us and about ten klicks ahead.’ Again, downshifting and spinning the wheel, Kendra growled, ‘Fine! They want us? Let’s see if they can handle us.’
‘Laser time again. But we’re gonna go right up their gut.’ She centered the Bugatti on the center rig and dropped the speed again. ‘Okay. Capacitor charge, check. Radiator flow redirected, check. Laser cycling up.’ With each check, she pressed a button on the knee panel. ‘Here goes nothing. Firing.’ And she stabbed down at the final button.
There was no dramatic beam of light stabbing out from the nose of the car, but a subtle hum added itself to the noise of the engine. The effects on the rig, though, were far more noticeable. First the tail of the truck bed glowed red, then white, then simply evaporated. As Kendra continued her pursuit the glowing patch tracked up and down the body of the truck, side to side, as the fixed mount swayed to the smallest movements of the Bugatti. Ammo cooked off, the barrel of the Vulcan drooped, melted. Holding steady for just seconds allowed the laser to burn through the rear axles. Finally, as the gauge on the capacitor dropped to zero, the beam jerked up and to the left, penetrating the cab and punching a five-centimeter hole diagonally through the driver, from hip to shoulder. The top of the torso flopped into the seat next to his legs, still clutching half the steering wheel, eyes wide in shock.
The driverless, uncontrolled rig crashed to the left, while the right-side truck swerved farther over to avoid whatever just happened to the center unit. With a whoop, Kendra pressed the gas and the Veyron accelerated to just shy of 100 kph.
‘Don’t forget about the radiators!’ shouted Cass.
Sparing a glance down at the knee panel, Kendra noted the temperature falling slowly, too slowly. ‘No worries. We can outrun these beasts.’ She plunged the car into the smoke and confusion.
The center truck continued its swerve towards the median, pushing its right-hand neighbors with it. The driver of the outside rig, furthest from the chaos, braked behind the wobbling tonnage of metal just in time to see the Veyron pull into the smoke. Thinking clearly, the driver radioed to the other trucks.
‘This is Leo in truck one! Target has passed the line, repeat, target has passed the line and is moving fast!’
‘Leo, this is Kevin in truck seven. How did they get past us?’
‘Don’t know. Truck four just went to pieces and slammed into Nova’s rig, I don’t know if she’s going to pull out of it or not, she‘s pretty tangled with George in truck two.’ As he spoke, the three trucks ground to a halt, now well behind them. Two more trucks from the left side were also shuddering to a stop, leaving just three in pursuit of the fleeing car.
‘This is Nova. Get that bitch!’
‘Simon, truck three. I saw those bitches as they passed me, stuck up wenches. Teach ‘em a lesson!’
‘You heard ‘em. Kevin, you with me?’ Leo’s rig began, ponderously, accelerating.
‘Right behind you, Leo. Brad?’
The final still-mobile driver checked in. ‘On my way.’
In the Veyron, Kendra was frustrated. ‘If the engine were cooler, I could go faster, and that would cool down the laser faster, but I can’t go faster because the radiators are all trying to cool the laser so they can’t cool the engine enough! Gah!’
‘Uh, Ken? We might have company soon.’ Cass was turned around, looking out over the engine through the rear window. ‘Looks like three trucks made it through that mess you made.’
‘They’re gaining,’ agreed Cass, swiveling and dropping into her seat. ‘Any more tricks?’
‘One, but I’d rather not use it.’
‘It’s a self-destruct system.’
‘Yeah. Don’t use that.’
A line of tracers screamed overhead.
‘That does it, they are not shooting up my car! Radiators, back to the engine!’ She threw the switches that redirected the coolant flow. ‘Let’s hope we can get enough speed to cool the laser naturally.’ She flattened the accelerator. ‘I think it’s time for a little maximum effort,’ she grunted as she was smacked back into the seat. In seconds, the trucks were fading away behind them.
‘Two hundred!’ she called out a moment later.
‘Three hundred and seventy-five! Woo-hoo!’ She held the outrageous speed for a full five minutes, until the towers of Rochester appeared on the horizon, before releasing her foot and allowing the Veyron to slow. Only then did she begin to feel that they’d eluded the danger the highwaymen presented.
‘Change of plans,’ she said, moving over to the exit lane. ‘We’re getting off the Thruway before we refuel. There’s a decent road that’ll take us south from here, then we can link up with Interstate Eighty-Six before hitting Seventy-Nine near Erie.’
‘Fine by me, but why?’
‘Couple thoughts. I don’t want to give those jerks another shot at us – they’ll make up most of the ground they lost, maybe even pass us, while we refuel.’
‘And the other?’
‘Buffalo’s not a Nice Place, anymore. Not after the Border War. Damn Canucks trashed it pretty well. Emperor said that it’s ‘safe and secure‘, now, but that’s one of those classic lines. You know the ones. ‘I’m from the government, I’m here to help.’’
‘’The check’s in the mail.’’
‘’I won’t c-’ well, you get my drift. I don’t think it’s safe, and I don’t want to risk another encounter with the highwaymen.’
The highwaymen waited, lurking just past the service area entrance overnight, before finally giving up and looking for prey with fewer fangs.