1. The Conspiracy
By Michael Keegan
Patrick 'Red' Sullivan, called Red because of his Irish red hair, beard and mustache couldn't believe his bad luck. This made four amateur nights in a row that he had entered, and four that he hadn't finished better then third. At least he was alive, unlike that poor soul named Lundy. They'd be sponging him up for days after that 160mph head-on with the guy they called the Hudson Hammer.
"Humph, taking your name from a car." Red scuffed, as he unlocked his old Piranha, and slid behind the wheel. As he turned on the power plant, he looked at himself in the mirror; he wasn't getting any younger, and dueling was a young man's game. The lines on his weathered face were getting deeper, and he assumed it had to be from all the Amateur nights he had been in.
'Someday, I'll get my big break.' He told himself, as he steered his 20-year-old lux out of the parking lot of the Veterans Stadium Autoduel Arena, and onto Pattison Avenue for the short drive back to Upper Darby where he lived. Slowly he accelerated the old 'Rahna down Pattison heading toward the Platt bridge, which would take him into Delaware county.
His Piranha was a '31 model, with some minor modifications. Being a mechanic, he had had his way with the old lux, removing all of the weapons that the car had come equipped with, and re-arranging the interior slightly. Mounting a pair of surplus .50's up front, in place of the old 30mm rocket tube, and one of those new Spear 1000's in back, he was able to carry a sizeable amount of armor. Plus a good-sized tool kit, just in case. He had a new set of those new hi-torque wheel motors sitting at his garage in Upper Darby. He had hoped to have some time this weekend to install them, but as things looked now, he'd have to work a double to make up for the money he didn't make in the Amateur night tonight.
"Ah well, tomorrow will be a better day." He said aloud, as he waited at the light at Pattison and Penrose. The squeal of tires snapped him back to reality, as he looked around, spotting one of Philadelphia's new interceptors charging down Penrose after a speeder. The lawbreaker was driving one of those new cars, a Maximus, a design crafted by Del. Co. legend and triple ace Zachary Quaid.
Zachary Quaid was the man that got Red into dueling, after watching him handle cars in the micro-Sims. He even bankrolled him to compete one season in Division 10. Red had managed to place 5th in the season, though no one came knocking on his door with any corporate sponsorships. Zach and Red parted as friends at the end of the season; Zach looking for new talent, and Red content to take his share of the earnings and open his own garage.
The Maximus wasn't stopping as it went tearing through the intersection that Red was stopped at, the interceptor in hot pursuit. The interceptor, a mid-sized built by Fnord, was a screamer; a car with more engine then anything else, wrapping a mid-sized body around a Tri-Max Sports Fuel cell, spooling all those kilo-watts into the heavy duty version of hi-torque wheel motors. Mounting a pair of turreted .50's, a spoiler/airdam combo, and no doubt an active suspension, these cars were fast becoming the norm among cops who had to drive on highways more then around town. With tire-blistering acceleration, and a top speed higher then Red thought was sane, the Fnord Interceptors were making Fnord some serious revenue.
The Maximus, on the other hand, was no slouch, if you had the green to feed it. Red appreciated it, since he was a mechanic from the old days, when cars ran more on gasoline then on a power socket you plugged into your house at night. A mid, just like the Interceptor, the Maximus mounted an impressive engine, a supercharged 350 with a 6 speed gearbox. For weapons, it mounted a 7.62mm minigun front, a spike dropper rear and a heavy duty fire extinguisher, just in case.
'When it came right down to performance, gas always beats electricity.' Red thought to himself. Since they were going his way, he jumped the light, in traditional Philly form, and gave chase, though the two high performance machines were quickly outrunning him. Putting the pedal to the floor, Red slowly began to close the gap, as they all flew over the Platt and down toward the airport. The Maximus took the Island Ave exit, at a blistering 135mph, with the cop in the interceptor lightly tapping his brakes as he followed the gas burner into the hard curve to the right, then into the quick switchback to the left. Red was about 6 car-lengths behind, as he leaned a little harder on his older drum-brake equipped car, locking up the right rear tire as he hit the right-hand curve. The car fishtailed a little, but Red was a good driver, keeping it between the lines and maintaining sight of the other cars. The right-left transition was tough in the old Piranha, but Red wasn't going to let this piece of Saturday night excitement pass him by. The Maximus blew the light at Island Ave, and cut off a semi, the driver flipping the Maximus the bird, as he fought to stop the rig.
As the rig slid halfway through the intersection, the interceptor had nowhere to go. The cop inside locked up all the brakes, despite ABS, but the interceptor plowed into the side of the Condo Conventional anyway, exploding in a spray of armor-plas and weapons and power plant bits. (Did I mention that in order to mount all that performance, Fnord had to use a carbon-aluminum frame in the interceptor?)
The rig was pushed 30 feet to the left, despite the weight difference, as Red slowed down, in shock at the carnage that had just unfolded before his eyes.
'This isn't amateur night, this is for real!' he thought to himself, as he slowed and wheeled around the wreckage. The Maximus was about 500 feet down 291, just past the old Exxon station, now a recharge station, and just sitting there. The driver of the rig staggered out of his cab, fire extinguisher in hand, and began dousing the side of his truck that had been hit. Looking up the road, Red saw the Maximus just sitting there still. Then, the driver's side window wound down, and the driver waved Red to come up to him. Red stumped on his accelerator, and the Piranha leapt forward like it had been kicked. The driver of the Maximus pulled his car over to the shoulder as Red pulled up alongside of him. Powering down his passenger side window, Red looked inside the Maximus, and saw…
"Hello Red." Zach said.
"Zach! What the hell?" Red said, looking at his old friend.
"Red, I need your help." He said, as they heard sirens rapidly approaching.
"What the hell is going on Zach?" Red demanded.
"Follow me back to my garage, and I'll clue you in." Zach said, and without waiting for Red to agree or disagree, slipped his car into gear, and left twin black streaks on the asphalt, as his car fishtailed to the right in a tire-smoking launch. All Red could hear was the scream of tortured tires, and the insane howl of the supercharger…
They arrived at Zach's garage in Essington about 5 minutes later. Zach parked his car inside, as Red parked his Piranha in the parking lot out front. Red got out, checked the clip in his .45, and walked into the garage through the side door.
Spotting Zach under the hood of his car, checking the oil, Red went off.
"You mind telling me why I should just let you walk away from what you just did?" He yelled at his one time partner. Zach looked at Red, shook his head, and then replaced the oil dipstick back into the engine. Red moved closer and looked at the gleaming chrome inside the engine compartment. It was truly beautiful, but it didn't change the issue at hand.
"Red, what I know will get me killed." He began, as he fished out a cube from his pocket. "And, if you want answers, slot this in the computer over there, and have a read for yourself."
Red caught the computer cube, and moved over to the computer terminal and inserted it. The screen saver shut down as the cube spooled up. A movie file began, showing Philly's top cop shaking hands with refuted mob boss Joseph 'Skinny Joey' Merlino down at what looked like the docks on Delaware Ave. Sound came on a second later.
"So, this is what you brought me down here to see?" The top cop said, looking into a crate that the camera recording the images couldn't see.
"Yeah." Joey rasped, as he looked at the crate, and smiled.
"Toys like this will fetch a helluva price from the various gangs in and around the city." The top cop said. "I hope to be paid very handsomely if you expect to let this artillery hit Philly streets." He finished looking back at Skinny Joey. Joey smiled, and waved to one of his men, who brought up a stainless steel briefcase. Opening it, Joey showed the top cop his payday.
"Consider this a down payment, for future business dealings." Joey said. There was a crash near the camera, and all of the goons, including the top cop and Skinny Joey spun to look in the camera's direction. The image went to a snow screen, and then ended.
"So far, they've killed my girlfriend, Elisha Walker, and now they're after me." Zach said, as the screen saver came back on, a row of space invaders marching up and down the screen.
"Elisha Walker? Wasn't she a reporter for the Daily News?" Red asked.
"That's right. She gave me the original, and tried to get a copy to the FBI, but someone was watching her, and flamed her car about a block from the Federal building. They're using a process of elimination, and I am the last one to be eliminated."
"So, why are we here? Won't they come looking for you here?" Red asked sounding really concerned for his own well being suddenly.
"No. I don't own this building. It belongs to a club I hang out with. TSAR is their name." He said.
Red had heard of TSAR, but didn't know too much about them. Most of the membership was scattered around the Philly/NJ area, which meant they were never all in one place except before a duel.
"They're a good bunch of guys. They duel mostly in the 20 to 30 classes, some with corporate sponsors, and some on their own. I backed them when they asked me to, and I haven't been disappointed yet."
"So, what's our next move?" Red asked.
"Our? Well, I guess I can count you as in, since you saw the cube."
"Damn straight!" Red said, as he sat on the chair in front of the computer. "How many cops do you thing are in on it?"
"Most if not all of the 9th and 12th district. I don't know about any others. But if the top cop is involved, don't count on more then a few cops being left out in the cold."
"So, what's the plan?"
"We wait. I have friends coming. The only way to get this to anybody credible, will be to take it to DC ourselves."
"DC?! As in drive to Washington?" Red shouted.
"Yeah, and hand it personally to the director of the FBI. He knows I'm coming, and I know the guy. We served together during the Riots."
This puzzled Red, since Zach didn't look a day over 25.
"You're a clone?" Red gasped.
"Yeah Red, third times the charm." He said with a smile.
"When were you born, I mean, the real you?" Red asked.
"1999, in Augusta Georgia." Zach said, as he closed the hood to his car. "I got cloned the first time in 2028, when I was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. The good docs at Gold Cross eliminated the cancer strand from my 1st clone's DNA, and I was reborn. I got a second clone after a failed bid for the World Championships in 2039, when some idiot sabotaged my fire extinguisher, and my gas tank went up. This version of me, as you see, is my third clone. I got jumped down in Va. I was on the wrong side of a dispute between EDSEL and the Brotherhood. My point car got flamed first, then the convoy. So, here I am."
"You sure do get around." Red said with a smile.
"You can say that." Zach replied, as he heard the door to the shop open, and a steel gray compact roll inside the bay, parking next to the Maximus. A king cobra, arced back ready to strike, its body gleaming chrome, adorned the driver's door of the Mustang II replicar. The driver got out, dressed in what Red guessed was blended body Armour. He had a shock of brown hair, and wore a pair of duelist shades.
"Steel Cobra, meet Red Sullivan." Zach said, indicating the new arrival. The one named Steel Cobra moved forward, and shook Red's hand. He had a firm grip. Red smiled and nodded a hello. As they stood there, another car, a Sedan, rolled into the bay. A turreted gauss rifle were all the weapons seen on the car, as the driver shut down the fuel cell, and stepped into the bay. He wore a jumpsuit, in the same color scheme as his car, Blood red with gold stripes. He walked over and slapped the Cobra on the back, and smiled at Zach.
"Red, this is Dodger. Dodger, this is Red Sullivan, the guy I told you about." Dodger moved forward and shook Red's hand, smiling to him. He had the look of a slick used car salesman, and Red immediately liked him.
"How's it goin' Red?" He said, a slight southern drawl in his voice. The Cobra leaned back against his car, and folded his arms across his chest.
"So, when do we leave for DC?" He asked, his voice all but a whisper.
"Just as soon as Curt gets here." Zach said, as a luxury rolled into the bay, filling what little space remained. It sported a spoiler/airdam combo, same as all the other cars, thick guards and hubs, a turreted 75mm recoilless, and some type of dropped liquid to the rear corners. It too, was a fuel cell car. Painted midnight black, with windows as dark as the car, and a screaming eagle diving for it's prey adorning the driver's side door. It opened, and a man stepped out wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a polo shirt. In his left hand was a half drunk martini, the olive still in the bottom. The Rolex on his left wrist, and the huge gold ring on his right hand pinky told Red that this guy came from money.
"Hey Curt, glad to see you could pull yourself away from your tennis lessons to help out." The Cobra said to the newcomer.
"Yeah, bite me, snake boy." Curt replied.
"Ok, ok. Let's leave the attitude outside, this is too important. You've all seen the data on the cube, so you know what's at stake. If those Sov-Bloc weapons hit Philly streets, you can kiss a nice simple life goodbye." Zach said, as everyone shuffled a little closer.
"Ok, so what are we waiting for? Let's roll!" The Cobra said, as he slid behind the wheel of his car. Everyone else followed suit. Red, looking at Zach quizzically, asked a question with his eyes. That question was 'What do I do?'
Zach walked over to Red, and took the cube from the computer, and handed it to Red.
"When it gets dark, take that sub over there with the turbo 4 banger, and deliver this to a man named Mackenzie at PC Zone in Upper Darby. It's a Cyber…"
"I live in UD, I know the Zone." Red said cutting him off. "Who's this Mackenzie fellow?"
"He's the FBI Director here in Philadelphia. He's Elisha's brother in law."
"So, you guys are going to DC for what?" Red asked, looking puzzled.
"As a distraction, to draw off the dogs from you." Zach said, as he shook Red's hand, and slid behind the wheel of his car.
"Let's roll!" He yelled, as he started his car, and slowly everyone drove out of the building. Red watched as they made it down about a block and a half, when the first weapons discharge could be heard…
Normally, Philadelphia cops needed to ask for permission before they came a calling to a neighboring borough. But, with one of their number a bloody smudge at the intersection of Island and 291, they took it rather personally, and dispensed with the inter-borough formalities before they came prowling and growling, looking for blood. Six interceptors and two paddy wagons rolled down 291 on a mission; find and neutralize the driver of a '52 Maximus named Zachary Quaid.
As Zach and friends turned south onto 291, the cop in the lead interceptor spotted him from the red light he was stopped at. Going immediately to code 3, (Lights and Siren), he jumped the light, cutting off a Paki Cab, and dove toward Zach's car. The turret on the interceptor indexed, and dual .50's spoke with authority, as lead slugs dug deeply into the rear end of the Maximus. The armor cracked, but held, as the mid jumped forward, and then accelerated forward in a howling scream of compressed air. Cobra turned onto 291 immediately behind Zach, followed by Dodger and then Curt, as they formed a diamond formation on the road, with Curt and Dodger on the sides, and Cobra taking over point from Zach. Zach had re-structured his car for this position, allocating more then 75% of his armor rear. They all quickly accelerated, staying even with each other, a view from the sky showing that they had practiced this maneuver many times. The lead interceptor, now a mere 120 feet behind Zach, cut loose with another burst from his twin .50's, shredding the left side wheel guard on Zach's car, and sending bits of tire to tire heaven.
"Goddamn coward!" Zach shouted into his lip-mike, and over the club's frequency of channel 12. Curt and Dodger, both knowing that Zach only used the term coward when he referred to someone tire-shooting, spun their turrets to the rear, and in much practiced precision, fired at opposite tires on the front of the interceptor. The gauss rifle screamed and the recoilless barked, and a pair of steel-belted, puncture-resistant radials ceased to exist, along with the wheels holding them to the interceptor. The nose of the interceptor dug deeply into the unyielding asphalt, and the car became a rolling, spinning shrapnel storm, as yet another of Philly's finest became a red mist on 291…
"Nice shootin' guys!" Came a more excited tone from the Cobra, as he watched the spinning wreck of the interceptor tear itself to pieces, the carbon-aluminum frame doing what they always do when fed g-forces in the wrong ways. The other interceptors and the two paddy wagons carefully maneuvered through the wreckage, and immediately gave chase, as our heroes rolled onto the ramp for I-95 south.
The Philly cars, refusing assistance from Essington, pursued the TSAR boys onto I-95, closing the gap as the TSAR team was forced to conform to a normal traffic pattern. Rolling single file, with Cobra leading at the moment, Curt behind him, with Dodger chasing Zach, the team rolled south at a mind-reeling speed of 45 mph.
Two of the interceptors took lead, as three followed, with the paddy wagons hanging back for support. The .50's on the two interceptors began their Whoom! -Whoom! -Whoom! -Whoom! staccato as the slugs tore into Dodgers rear end, dropping pieces of armor-plas onto the highway behind him. Traffic around them immediately thinned giving all concerned a wide berth, since the average Joe doesn't go looking for trouble.
Zach switched channels on his CB, and keyed up to the Brotherhood.
"Breaker 1-9, Breaker 1-9! This is Zeke the Freak rollin southbound on I-95 just past the airport. I got a bad situation here, and I could use some brotherhood assistance! I have in my possession evidence of top-level corruption in the Philadelphia police department that I am trying to get to the FBI, but I need assistance. Are there any Brothers out here?"
He sat and waited a moment as the traffic thinned a bit more, and their speed increased from 45 to 70mph. Up ahead, he saw a red Freightshaker rollin south about a ½ mile ahead with an armed reefer box.
"Breaker 1-9. This is the Black Knight. I see you on my cameras, so move it on up, and we'll try to assist you. I'm in this red rig ahead of you."
Meanwhile, the interceptors were still trading fire with Dodger, his damage sensors screaming that he was in danger of a breach.
"Things are getting' thin back here!" He yelled in the mike, as Curt swung out of formation, and waffle-stomped his brakes. He slowed to a crawl on the shoulder as the four interceptors ripped past, one of their number hanging back to protect the paddy wagons, and then swung into the lanes behind them. Triggering a link, the folding doors swung down on the front of his car, revealing twin recoilless rifles front. He squeezed the triggers, and all three guns barked in unison, sending 75mm HEAT rounds into the not-quite-thick-enough rear armor of the left most trailing interceptor. Armor-plas fragments screamed and ricocheted around the interior of the interceptor, as the driver, struck by a few of the fragments, lost consciousness and control. His car swerved madly to left, then back to the right, slamming into his partner, and driving both of the cars off the road, and onto the shoulder. Curt let out a "Hoo-Ya!" as he accelerated to catch up to the other interceptors and his teammates. The paddy wagons, having watched Curt's maneuver, and subsequent loss of another of their own, swung into action, firing 30mm autocannon rounds into the rear end of Curt's Lux, most of his rear armor disappearing in a single volley, as he fought to keep control.
"Sonuvabitch!" He cursed into his mike, as he fought the car, keeping it straight, and triggering the rear mounted FOJ's. The oil ignited a second later, as Curt began a leisurely swerve back and forth, covering all three lanes of southbound traffic. One of the paddy wagons started to slide in the burning oil and vaulted into the air, tumbling and spinning end over end, landing with a solid crash, and shower of armor-plas. It rolled to a stop on it's left side just on the shoulder. The other paddy wagon, careened through the fiery scene, and continued after Curt and co.
His 'Artful Dodgers' empty, Curt mashed the accelerator, and quickly let Dodger play tail-end charlie for awhile, as he rocketed past the interceptors hounding Dodger, and past Zach on his left, sliding in-between the Cobra and Zach.
"Rear weapons are empty, so I think I'll sit here in the rockin' chair, and finish my martini." Curt said, as Zach snickered, and the Cobra sighed. This however didn't change Dodger's situation, as the next burst of .50 cal fire ripped through the rear of his sedan, and savaged the component armor around him.
"Dammit! That does it! They can bill me for the road damage!" He yelled, as he triggered his Spear 1000.
From the side pocket along the left rear corner of his car, small mines fell to the ground, sliding to a stop within a few feet of being dropped, and sprouting tiny wires. The interceptor on the right side swerved madly, missing the lethal cow pies, but the driver on the left had nowhere to go. He hit the first set, then slid onto the second set, and rolled, a burning wreck onto the third and fourth set. The fifth set detonated his power plant, showering all the surrounding cars with flaming shrapnel.
"There!" Dodger began, quoting a famous line from Autodueling's early days, "That'll teach him not to tailgate!" There was a chuckle from the rest of the team, as they rolled past the red rig, Zach watching as hidden sponson turrets popped out of concealment on both rear sides of the reefer, revealing 30mm Autocannons in each. The right side sponson spoke first, tearing the armor from the front of the swerving interceptor. The blistering barrage of armor-piercing slugs sent the mid into a tire-smoldering spinout, leaving it a wheelless wreck on the side of the road.
"Breaker 1-9, this is the Black Knight. That's the extent of my aid for today. A good trip to you and yours Freak. And, by the way, thanks for your help down in Va. We Brothers never forget a favor. Black Knight out." The rig driver said, as he took the off ramp for 476 north.
"And a safe trip to you and yours Black Knight. This is the Freak, 10-10 on the side, and we're gone." Zach said, as he maneuvered back into a more traditional formation. The last interceptor, having unwedged itself from the guardrail, began closing the gap, murderous intent in the driver's eyes. The last paddy wagon followed, trying to keep up with the speedy mid.
"We got trouble closing fast!" Came Dodger's voice over the team channel, just as Zach switched back. Looking back into his rearview, Zach saw what Dodger was referring to, as a Philly assault bird was screaming their way. It was about two miles out, and closing fast.
"The whirly-bird is mine!" Cobra roared over his radio, as he suddenly swerved off the road, through the grassy median separating I-95 and the I-476 off-ramp. Quickly, he accelerated his car down the ramp, screaming past the Black Knight, and past a few other cars as well. Using the police turn around a quarter mile up I-476N, he spun his car around, cutting off a few daily commuters, their horns blaring behind him as he rocketed back along I-476 south.
Zach and Dodger, both hearing Cobra's demand, could hardly believe what they had heard.
"He doesn't have a turret, so how does he plan to contend with a helo?" Dodger asked, as he lined up his Gauss gun on the pursuing interceptor, and loosed a volley, chewing off chunks of the car's front armor. The interceptor fishtailed, but kept it together, and kept on coming. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Cobra raced off of I-95 and onto I-476.
"Where the hell is he going?" Curt shouted, as he spun his recoilless toward the pursuing interceptor, and triggered a round. The shot went wide, since he didn't have his full attention on the shot. Zach slid his car to the right, and broke hard, dropping back behind both Curt and Dodger, and sliding in behind them. He was greeted with a pounding from linked .50's into his already damaged rear armor, as he let the interceptor close the gap.
The cop in the interceptor, blind with rage, triggered a barrel-melting barrage from his .50's, shredding more and more armor from the back of Zach's car, as he closed the distance to within 30'. Zach smiled into his rearview mirror, and flicked a switch on his console, as he dropped the Maximus back down into 4th gear. The engine screamed, and the car shot forward like it had rocket assist, leaving a trail of spikes like breadcrumbs behind it. One after another, the interceptor lost a tire to the exploding spikes, and sliding, slammed into a bridge abutment at almost 90.
The explosion was impressive.
Looking down from the assault helo, Philly's top cop swore as another of his police force's finest was laid to rest in a pyrotechnic fireball of auto duel defeat.
"I want these guys stopped and I want them stopped NOW!" He roared to the pilot, who merely nodded, and aimed the helos turret at the roof of Zach's car. Twin gauss guns sent silvery needle-like death down into and through the roof of Zach's car, shredding the armor-plas sunroof, and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. The component armor surrounding Zach was breached cleanly, and he took several hits, destroying his body armor and cutting him in a number of places. Swerving, he slammed on the brakes, sliding his car onto the shoulder, as the helo slid into a lazy S banking, trying to turn back toward Zach's car. Curt and Dodger, lining up the helo in their sights, fired together, striking the tail of the whirly-bird, barely removing a tenth of the armor there.
Cobra smiled, as he watched the helo bank and turn around. It hung almost motionless in the air, tracking Zach's car with its turret and spotlight. Punching a button on his dash labeled "Go, baby, Go!" he felt the car slingshot forward as the charge of nitrous oxide flooded his engine. The hungry, forced air fed 4-cylinder gulped down the nitrous, turning it's feeding into massive amounts of torque and power, launching the 4400lb compact up the grassy slope in front of it. Cobra tightened his safety seat as his car left the ground at nearly 140mph…
Philly's top cop looked off to his left when he thought he saw headlights. Turning, he DID see headlights, and could scarcely believe his eyes…
As he hit the apogee of his launch, Cobra locked his targeting piper onto the helo's central rotor hub, and fired his surplus M61A1 20mm Vulcan into the narrow stem. The gun roared defiantly, the firing slowing the small compact ever so slightly, as the tungsten-cored, jacketed rounds ripped the main rotor off the helo cleanly. The Cobra arced through the air, passing under the now semi-motionless helo, and began a nose down dive at the ground. He had miss-judged his landing approach, not having a grassy slope to land on, but instead having a clean, uncrowded section of I-95 north to land on at nearly 60 degrees…
"Sonuva…" Curt began
"Gun!" Dodger finished, as they both watched the Steel Cobra, fly through the air, and rip the main rotor off the helo with his heavy Vulcan. His landing, on the other hand, was less then perfect, as he nearly collided with the highway at almost 90 degrees. The wreck of his compact came to rest on its left side almost a full quarter mile from where it had hit…
The helo hung in the air for almost a full second, then came crashing down to the ground. Having only a pair of gauss guns for armament, there was no explosion, though everyone inside was knocked unconscious from the collision with mother earth. Traffic on I-95 south became a snarling back up, nearly 10 miles long before the mess was cleaned up…
Red, having grown bored with his role in the operation, left almost a full minute after the cops chasing Zach and TSAR rolled by. Sliding into the sub, he lit off the 4 cylinder engine, the variable pitch turbo shrieking as he floored the accelerator a few times. Slipping the gear selector into 'D', Red slowly rolled onto 291 North, and headed for UD. His trip was totally without incident, which both relieved and annoyed him. He enjoyed a little action every once in a while, though the kind of action that Zach and friends had incurred made Red thankful that no one bothered him. Parking in the angled parking slots in front of PC Zone, the Micro-Sims/Coffee bar on Terminal Square, he shut down the aggressively tuned, snarling 4 cylinder. It ceased its operation with a sigh from the turbo's wastegate, as he opened the door and stepped out of the car. Three really big dudes came out of the coffee bar, all wearing long coats concealing what had to be SMGs. Red got a good look at them as they came out; All of them had that thick-necked full Italian look, and he immediately knew that they weren't FBI. The lead goon, recognizing the look on Red's face, as Red suddenly knew these guys were no good, threw back the side of his long coat and produced an Ingram, whipping the gun toward Red. Acting purely on instinct, Red went for his old Colt, fast drawing the big .45 long slide, and centering it on the lead goon's chest. Red may have been old, almost 50, but he was no slouch in the speed draw competition, lining his heavy pistol up on the goon's upper torso before he could get a good grip on his SMG. Red stroked the trigger 3 times, each tender stroking coaxing a custom round from the barrel.
Red loaded his own, and always loaded heavy, since he knew the frame of the M1911A could handle even the hottest loads. So when his gun roared, it roared with the authority of a lion dominating his pride. All 3 slugs tore into the lead goon's breast, as the man fumbled with his Ingram, the force of 225 grain bullets traveling at nearly the speed of sound packing more punch then any SMG. Goon #1 was pitched backwards into his two buddies, knocking all of them back into the doors of the coffee bar, as his life left him before he finished hitting the ground, despite the blended body armor he wore.
Diving to his left, away from the sub, Red rolled onto the ground, and under a van that was parked two spaces down from his spot, aiming at the second goon, as he struggled to free himself from his fallen comrade. Taking a quick guess shot, Red stroked the trigger on his Colt, the gun bucking in his hand, and goon #2's head exploded like a melon hit with a sledge hammer, brains and bone fragments covering goon #3.
The third gunman, realizing that he effectively had no cover, scrambled to get back inside the coffee bar. Red sighted quickly on the last target, and fired the last 4 rounds into the thugs back, throwing his now lifeless body fully through the door and into the coffee bar's interior. As the last of the gunmen went down, Red rolled out from under the van, stood and froze, the sound of a gun cocking at the back of his head.
"Nice work Mick. Those guys were all made men. Now it looks like you get to go for a swim in the Delaware." Came a raspy voice from behind Red, as he let the .45 clattered to the ground.
"Where's da cube?" Joey asked, as he pushed the snub nosed .44 into Red's back.
"In the car." Red said, as his shoulders slumped. He was as good as dead, and he knew it.
Then the hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood up.
From far across the street, the roar of a semi-automatic rifle tore open the quiet stillness of the night, as a 5.56mm JHP round found its way into the armored chest of Skinny Joey, pitching him backwards onto the asphalt. Suddenly, as if from every car, doorway, and window, Asian-Americans, mostly of Korean descent, appeared with rifles, SMGs, and various handguns, and covered both Red and a groaning Skinny Joey. A man, nursing an obviously broken arm in a makeshift sling walked out from inside the coffee bar. On the front of his suit was an FBI badge.
"You must be Red. I'm Special Agent Mackenzie." He said, as he walked up to Red, extending his left hand for a handshake. Red took the offered hand and shook it.
"Boy, am I glad to see you!" Red said with a grin.
"Yeah, I'll bet you are." Mackenzie said, as most of the Koreans went back to their daily routines. Skinny Joey, still groaning on the ground, coughed up some blood, and groaned louder.
"You have the data cube that we need to put this scum on ice for good?" Mackenzie asked.
"Yeah, it's on the dash of that sub." Red said, as Mackenzie reached into the sub, and grabbed the cube. Smiling, he put the cube in his inside breast pocket, and retrieved an envelope.
"Make sure Zach gets this. And make sure he cuts you in for a share of it. A quarter of a mil split 5 ways is still a lot of green." He said with a smile, as four FBI agents came from inside the coffee bar, and picked up Joey, while others began cleaning up the mess on the sidewalk.
"Wow, a quarter million? That's a lot of cabbage." Red said with a smile, as he slipped behind the wheel of the sub. Mackenzie smiled.
"And tell Zack, Elisha is alive and well, and currently visiting her folks, since it takes awhile for a clone to fully adjust. He'll be thrilled, I'm sure." Mac said with a grin of his own, and a wince of pain, as an EMT helped him to a waiting ambulance.
Red nodded, and fired up the sub, backing out of the space, and heading back to the TSAR garage…
The first rescue team to arrive on the scene later described it as the worst case of road dueling he'd seen in a long time. Luckily, no innocent bystanders had been injured. It took almost an hour for the firemen to cut the Cobra out of his wreck, and he was medivaced to Krozer/Chester. He was reported in fair condition with a severe concussion and a few bruised ribs, but otherwise he would be fine. A news helo, which was nearby reporting on an accident on I-476, had caught his daring attack on the police whirly-bird, and offered to rebuild his car, for the re-broadcast rights to his attack. He agreed.
Zach took a ride in a wheeled ambulance, since his cuts, while serious, were no where near life threatening, and he was released a few hours later.
The whole team, minus the Cobra, linked up with Red later that night back at the TSAR Garage, where Red handed over their payday.
When the Cobra was released, 3 days later, they threw a bash that lasted almost a week…