One house we passed was getting raided by the cops. A heavy armoured car with a ram on the front had busted down the door, tactical officers in navy coveralls and body armour were standing around with their SMGs and assault rifles as the perps were dragged out in handcuffs.
The Raskols pointed and laughed as the cops led their prisoners into the armoured car. A few perps had blood on their faces and vacant looks in their eyes.
The Raskol nearest me stuck his head out of the back of the Unimog and yelled something in pidgin. A couple of the cops turned to scowl disapprovingly at him, one gave him the finger.
None of them seemed to give rat’s arse about the assault weapons our Raskol’s openly displayed or that they seemed to be taking them somewhere specific.
Ten minutes later, the driver slammed on the brakes at a faded zebra crossing. The driver started hurling abuse at someone on the road and then quickly cut himself off when that someone started yelling back.
Kitty looked at me. [What’s going on?]
I shrugged and tried to look through the tiny holes in the flap. I got distracted when I realised they were most likely bullet holes.
The leader Raskol, seated on our side of the flap behind the driver, beckoned to one of his boys, who got up and quietly made his way over to him. The driver opened the door and got out, through one of the holes I thought I could see he held his hands up.
I glanced at Tachi. [Are they getting jacked?]
Tachi wrinkled his nose. [Looks like we should have picked a better escort.]
The truck jacker got behind the wheel and went to close the door. The leader chose that moment to flip up the tarp. Immediately his henchman was on the jacker, wrapping his leather belt around the jacker’s neck and planting his boot in the man’s back while he yanked the belt towards him.
The jacker brought his pistol up to shoot him, but the leader caught his wrist just as the gun was coming up and twisted it out of his hands.
The henchman released his hold on the man’s neck and kicked him out the door.
A single gunshot rang out while the henchman put his belt back on and sat down. In the next minute our driver had resumed his place behind the wheel and put the truck back in gear.
As the truck pulled away I glanced out the back of the land rover, catching sight of the car jacker’s corpse by the side of the road.
The leader said something in pidgin and all the Raskols laughed.
Kitty put her hand to her mouth and gasped. She was as white as a ghost.
Without further incident the Raskols dropped us off at the airport. The Raskol leader bid us a friendly ‘now get da fuck out’ and we left.
From Jacksons international airport we got a flight to Singapore and from there San Francisco. A day later, we were the other side of the pacific.
Suddenly ‘Third world’ and ‘First world’ felt a lot more literal. We walked down a street in Chinatown and actually saw a policeman helping an old lady cross the road.
Speaking of roads, in San Francisco they were paved with hexagonal solar tiles, providing power for the street lights at night. Electric cars outnumbered biodiesel ten to one.
Before we’d even picked out a hotel to stay in Tachi and I checked ourselves into respective clinics and got our arms seen to. Tachi was over and done with in an afternoon. The cybertechnician cut open his Realskin at the shoulder, popped out his stump and replaced it with a new arm before sewing up the cut. Fakeskin was applied to the new arm and over the weeks if Tachi maintained it properly his Realskin would grow back over it.
I was another story. My radius and ulnar both needed to be heavily reinforced, splinted and immobilised in order for the bones to regrow. I threw a lot of money at the Doc to speed up the recovery process. Metallic internal splints were installed along my bones. Kiru had unfortunately snapped them clean in half, so they had to have interlocking teeth cut into them with Nano-machines so that they would slot back into place with each other.
Finally, because I made it very clear I intended to remain physically active after very little rest the doctor added an external splint that locked over my forearm and provided a fair degree of shock absorption. I could still use my hand, but was advised not to wherever possible.
It also meant I could finally turn my pain editor off. Which was like coming back to the office after a long holiday to find your inbox overflowing. My body took the opportunity to introduce me to all the aches, pains and accidents I’d been ignoring since Kiru snapped my arm. I suddenly remembered all the times I’d stubbed my toe and thought I was a gentle bump.
The price for the whole thing was little short of obscene, the doctor offered my lack of health insurance as an explanation. In Australia my facial reconstruction and regrowing all the skin on my back had cost less than that.
It wasn’t just the medical bills that raised my eyebrows. The price for overland travel through the US was outrageous. It took laying my eyes on the coach before I understood. We hadn’t booked a bus, we’d booked a motorcade. Our coach was escorted by four sleek, armoured SUVs with machine-gun turrets built into the roofs. The coach itself was lined with ablative armour which sloped in the middle. Like they were expecting it to shrug off anti-tank rockets.
The weirdest part was how everyone else boarded the coach like nothing was out of the ordinary. One little old darling gave the driver a hard time for not treating her bags like they were made of fine china. I looked at Kitty and Tachi in the hope that I wasn’t the only one who found any of this strange. Tachi raised both his dapper brows and Kitty’s eyes were as big as dinner plates.