The periwinkle blue van tore through the streets of the residential, flanked on one side by straight, dull, grey buildings and the other by the neon signs of shops. Richard, in the back with Alex Nothing, carefully watched the clamps fastening the frame of the gurney to the sides of the van’s interior. They were sturdy, tungsten carbide-alloy, but the van was old and had seen quite a few scraps itself. Plus, it had been years since he had needed it at this capacity.
“Keep it steady!” Richard shouted at the assassin, who didn’t respond as he drifted through a right turn, tapped on the wheel’s side to the appropriate gear and sped down the road “The gurney’s not gyrostabilized – this is an old van!”
“An old war van!” Mitchell said as he tossed the rifle into the back, “Don’t get me wrong, love the come find us color…” he reached down to the duffel bag at his feet and pulled out his spare handgun. Besides a couple of grenades, his jian and four spare clips, that was all he had left, “But gotta give it more credit than that!”
Richard, hunched over Alex’s unconscious form, sighed and pushed the empty rifle aside with his foot. The artist was strapped down via reinforced velcro straps and resembled a badly-organized server – so many tubes and wires emerged from his body, all tied to various machinery and bags at the tips of metal bars rising from the gurney itself.
“You’re lucky the main nanoserver didn’t catch a bullet,” Richard said, “I don’t think I’d keep him stable for long without it.”
The assassin barely managed a turn when a car jumped right in front of the van, cutting it off from advancing straight up. The van lurched, back dragging heavy and drifted. It crashed into the car, crushing its hood. Gunfire rattled as the Yakuza in the car were thrown off. The assassin drove off. He made the first right, which was when two more cars appeared in the rear view feed.
“Persistent, aren’t they?” Mitchell asked, checking the clip. Twelve shots of HVAP rounds.
The assassin nodded. “I need a heading, LG. Headed East.”
In his ear, Looking Glass’ voice chimed in, “You’re near Frosinone, I see you. Get on the intersector, now and find a North West heading. It’s the fastest route to TechNo-R.”
“I still need a heading.”
A car emerged from Mitchell’s side and barely missed the back of their van. As it, too, joined the others, those riding shotgun in the other two opened fire. Bullets dented the exterior of the van, causing Richard to duck and curse. As the assassin kept to the road, Mitchell put the spare clips next to him on the seat, tied the seat belt to his waist and got on his knees. Having one arm to work with was manageable with the handgun, but he still needed something to anchor himself with.
“Get in position.” The assassin said.
Mitchell clenched his teeth and leaned forward as a further volley of shots bounced off the side of the van, prompting him to retreat. The assassin changed lanes, taking Mitchell out of the line of fire. Mitchell leaned out the window, one knee against the door.
“Next turn!” he said.
The van veered sharply to the left before the front darted and it turned. Mitchell started firing as soon as the cars were within his line of sight; his arm straight as a surgeon, he got off ten shots in quick succession before the assassin turned left again. He heard one car engine roar and a loud crash, followed by another.
The assassin took a second left.
“LG?” he prompted.
“You’re parallel to the intersector, now all you need to do is find a connecting lane.”
“How is Nothing doing?” Mitchell asked as he leaned back. He ejected the clip with two rounds in it and loaded a fresh one.
“He’s stable, more or less, but every time you-“
The assassin executed a sharp left turn. Mitchell’s head cracked hard against the dash. He put the only hand he had, gun still in it, against the dash, trying to steady himself as the world spun and the sound of metal groaning against metal filled his ears.
Mitchell blinked rapidly, shaking his head, “The fuck was-“
The van shook, leaning slightly as the lane changed, but the groaning continued. Gunfire went off outside and bullets skittered off the side of the vain, prompting Mitchell to lean into the back of the seat for cover. He glanced to the right and saw the hood of a second van, directly outside his window. He brought the gun to bear, aimed and fired just as the assassin tried to speed up. Mitchell missed. The van responded with a burst that flew right in through the open window and punched through the windshield, creating a jagged line of spider-web cracks across it and took the rear view feed with it, leaving only a glitching, colorful screen behind.
The assassin jerked the wheel left and then sharply to the right. With a sickening groan, the other van broke away. Mitchell glanced at the rear view feed. The other van was there, and judging by the way two shatei were emerging from the passenger side window and the sunroof, they were geared up.
“Rich, duck!” Mitchell called.
Richard laid over Alex, one hand gripping the bar that held up the IV, and hunched as best he could. Mitchell stretched his arm over the shoulder of the seat, trying to aim through the broken rear window. He inhaled, held it in. He pulled and drilled a hole in the Yakuza van’s windshield.
The second van emerged from a connecting street on their right, prompting the assassin to slide left to avoid a collision. The two vehicles went hood-to-hood side by side, throwing off Mitchell’s aim. The Yakuza behind them opened fire once again. Mitchell went as low as he could, awkwardly wedged between the two seats. He could feel the vibration of each impact.
“Get us to the intersector, now!” Mitchell shouted.
The assassin slammed the brakes, cutting speed to almost nothing, causing the van flanking them to suddenly get ahead of them. Mitchell sprung into action, pulled himself back as the van behind them swerved. It scraped the paint off of the war van’s right side as it went and lost control. Tires screamed and it flipped onto its side, metal grinding out sparks as it dragged across the reasphalt. The assassin watched as it crashed into the nearest apartment.
Mitchell managed to sit down correctly in the passenger seat as the assassin floored it once more and took the first right. He rushed through the two remaining intersections and emerged onto the open space of the intersector. Twelve blissfully empty lanes greeted them.
“All clear, LG.” The assassin said, “We’re on the intersector. At current speed, ETA: thirty five minutes.”
“Rich?” Mitchell called.
“You’re not paying me enough for this shit.” Richard said, straightening himself up. He crouched at the foot of the bed and checked the charts, “Didn’t even stir.”
“Yeah, well, long as he’s not dead.” Mitchell huffed.
“He’s going to be so mad when he wakes up,” Richard couldn’t help but chuckle, “He’s missing all the fun.”
“You’re not out of the woods yet. The other van just got onto the intersector.”
Mitchell clicked his comm-link.
“LG, is there anyone else on our case right now? I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but we almost didn’t fucking make it back there.”
“I am trying to keep track of where the other Haruka-gumi vans are, wait. I got tied up watching your six.”
“Rich, got stims?” Mitchell asked.
Richard looked up from the readings, “You slotted that one before we left. There is no way it’s running dry, even with all this action.”
“Is that a no?”
“Yes… that’s a no. But even if I did have them, I’d be reserving my right to withhold medication.”
“Focus, gentlemen. I spy with my satellite three SUVs.”
“Headed our way?” the assassin asked.
“No. I think they’re going to intercept you. My extrapolator soft tells me it’ll be somewhere around Rome… maybe even at the Vatican.”
“One problem at a time,” Mitchell said, “God knows, I can’t handle more than that right now.”
Thank you for reading!
Below you can find a glossary of terms for clarity purposes. Above that, you will find the previous entries.
This is the first time I am doing the A to Z Challenge – I tried last year, but couldn’t get the A off the ground, let alone continue. This year, I came with a bit more preparation, and am hoping to make it to the end in one piece. Well, okay, making it to the end – one piece is optional.
Richard, like many of my civilian characters that are thrust into my stories, is really starting to grow on me.
A is for Ante
B is for Blood
C is for Cut
D is for Dummy
E is for Exit Card
F is for Follow Suit
G is for Grand Slam
H is for Heading a Trick
I is for Incorrect Deck
J is for Joker
K is for Kill
L is for Left Bower
M is for Marked Card
N is for Natural
O is for Overtrump
P is for Pot Limit
Q is for Quads
R is for Real Deal
S is for Suck Out
T is for Tonk Out
GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
Extrapolator Soft: A type of software that analyzes movement patterns, contrasts them with available / known routes, runs a probability tree and extrapolates the most likely pathway.