Dust Chapter 13 Part 1

Chapter 13: Last exit from Dodge for 40 Miles

Our night was far from over.

The van was barely out the gates when a Night Watch patrol sighted us and turned on the flashing lights. PR put the pedal to the metal, the engine roared, the revs climbed and we still struggled to push past 90 kph.

I lay exhausted on the back seat, Tachi infrequently glancing a concerned look my way. Duke guided Rembrandt’s head into his hands and closed his fingers around it. Then he pulled out his carbine and made his way to the back of the van.

Tachi grabbed Duke’s wrist.

Don’t.”

Man why bring me if y’all don’t want me to shoot nobody?”

Because it’s just one car.” Tachi said. “As soon as you open fire they’ll call more.”

Chill Duke.” PR ordered from the front cabin. “We’re almost there.”

PR swung us around a tight corner and everything in the back listed to the right, Duke juggled the carbine between his hands and grabbed the seat to steady himself.

What’s Kitty doing?” I rasped.

Cype her yourself. I gotta keep my eyes on the road.”

Atom answered before I needed to repeat myself. [We’ve just finished off Night Watch’s first responders in the Clinic’s system. We’re about to take Patriot Rap’s back door into Night Watch itself.]

[Get into the dispatch network and start throwing out disinformation. Don’t dick around fighting their IC.]

There it is.” PR cried gleefully.

In case Night Watch caught up with us our escape route cut right through West Austin, where Templar Protection were contracted to uphold the law. A history of undercutting each other’s contracts and the pain of the Sunset Valley siege still fresh in everyone’s mind made the two private agencies undeniably hostile to each other. It also helped that one of the night shift nurses lived in West Austin. We’d stolen her plate-tag to give us the authorisation we needed to enter.

PR floored the pedal and got the van up to 120 as we passed through the checkpoint. Leaving Night Watch barking impotently at the gates.

YES!” PR let go of the wheel and pumped his fists in the air.

Slow down.” Kitty said, her eyes still focused on the digital world inside her head. “They’re redirecting Air One your way. Try not to stick out.”

Yeah good luck. Our beaten up, shit-brown delivery van was now cruising the highway over Westlake Hills. Amongst this many Mercs and Beamers we may as well have tried pulling a woolly blanket over the van and pretending we were a giant sheep.

The original plan was to skip over to West Austin and change vans for a rental we’d parked outside a school. Using the time Night Watch would have to waste contacting Templar Protection and letting them know a bounty matching our description had escaped into their territory. I had no doubt Night Watch would be quick to send that information to Templar. I was equally certain Templar Protection would drag their feet in answering it. As soon as they knew the stakes they’d pull their finger out, but until they read the contents, it was just a message from someone they didn’t like.

Air One violating Templar Protection’s airspace to provide them with up-to-the minute location info was a move we had not anticipated. It made our attempts to cry wolf and throw NW off the scent meaningless.

Tachi.” I groaned, trying to be heard over the rotor blades overhead. “Duke. Get that thing out of my sky.” I was tired and kept trying to speak instead of cype.

Tachi extended a hand towards Duke. “I think it best if I take the carbine while you get the 240 ready to go.”

Duke nodded, the corners of his mouth turning up.

We’re coming up on the school.” PR announced.”

Skip the school.” I tried to yell. “They already know it’s us, it won’t help.”

But PR was already pulling into the car park.

From overhead Air One’s pilot hit the speaker button. “YOU IN THE VAN. TEMPLAR PROTECTION ARE ON THEIR WAY. STEP OUT OF THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. TRY ANYTHING CUTE AND I’LL GET THE REAL COPS ON YOUR ASS!”

I wised up and switched to cype. [Alright Duke, could you go and politely tell that helicopter to piss off?]

Duke shot me a look over his shoulder and nodded at me. He picked up the M240 from beside Rembrandt, loaded in a 50-round belt and attached another to the end of the first. When PR pulled the van up to a stop Tachi opened the back door for him and trained a carbine up at Air One.

This is gonna be fun.” Duke said as he stepped out.

OH SHIT!” The pilot said, forgetting the speaker was on. He banked away violently as Duke pointed his machinegun at the sky and threw lightning back up to the gods. The drop in light levels outside told me he at least took out the searchlight on the ‘copter’s underside.

Then, because apparently this pilot was smart enough to fly an aircraft, but not enough to button off the loudspeaker we heard him say. “DEPLOYING SILVER SENTINEL.”

De… What?” I said.

The Silver Sentinels were Night Watch’s Cybersquad. A division of six-foot, armour-plated, arrest machines. At Night Watch the joke went ‘One Riot, One Robocop.’ Parodying the unofficial Texas Rangers’ motto. Keeping one on their air units meant they’d upgraded their mission parameters to include ‘instant crisis response’.

The Silver Sentinel threw out a zip line and jumped clear of the helicopter, slowing his decent by clamping his hand loosely around the rope as it slipped through his grasp. Meanwhile he drew his sidearm from the compartment in his thigh and opened fire on our van as he dropped.

The high-impact gel rounds hammered into the side of the van, forcing me to flinch and Kitty and PR to duck down with their arms over their heads. “Holy shit, what the hell is that?” Kitty screamed.

Duke opened the breech and gestured to Tachi for another belt, who passed him one and opened fire with the carbine while Duke reloaded the 240.

Silver Sentinel hit the asphalt, speed-loaded his sidearm from a clip dispenser in his hip, drew his second sidearm and charged. Running headlong into Tachi’s assault rifle ammo which pinged harmless off his polished metallic exterior.

Duke raked back the action and chambered his first round.
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