Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Derby Girls - Part 4
She's escaped custody, but for how long? With less than a minute to reach the checkpoint into the city and the gate cops on her tail it's going to be a tight race.
It was raining harder, drops catching the light in sharp flickers that stabbed at her watering eyes. Low behind the windshield, she squeezed between lumbering cargo transports. The street opened up ahead, the stark white faces of buildings towering over her, their edges sharp even as everything else was blurred by the rain and the speed she coaxed out of the engine.
She didn't look at the time glowing green on the console, she didn't look down at all, darting between hotel shuttles, riser buses and fat private speeders. She tried to keep her hands light on the controls, but her knuckles were straining white under the black gloves, her palms pressed hard into the handles to soothe the maddening itch of the scabs. Three blocks to Chestnut and she could turn for the bridge into Center City.
"Speeder HX23, please provide your authorization code."
The cool voice in her helmet made her swerve, swiping a mailbox and scraping the curb before the thrusters shot her another foot in the air. She clamped her jaw tight, biting off a curse. Her eyes flicked over the console, all the lights were still green.
"Speeder HX23, this is dispatch, please give your code."
She didn't have long before they closed the checkpoints. She tucked herself tighter against the fuel tank and squinted at the yellow traffic light ahead. She held her breath and gunned it through the intersection. Two blocks to the bridge.
"Speeder HX23, your code is required to avoid an illegal seizure charge."
She swallowed a laugh. Even that could be used to identify her over the comm. The light ahead was red and she scowled at the traffic. Even the tight little speeder couldn't find a gap in the solid line of vehicles. She reluctantly slowed, sitting up and shifting her shoulders under the stifling raincoat, wishing she could take it off. She had almost stopped when she heard the sirens. She blinked in surprise; a dispatcher was required to give four warnings before a charge was applied and the patrols were alerted. A quick glance behind her showed red lights flashing off the buildings just over the hill and she understood.
They had found Harry Langley.
No chance for the checkpoint now.
She twisted the throttle and sped toward the intersection, the busses and shuttles were still coming like a wall, a solid streak of gleaming metal. She finessed the thrusters and got herself up to three feet before she shot across the sidewalk and down the side street. The speeder slid wide, the distance from the ground making the controls sluggish. She dropped back down to a foot, twisting into the spin and gunning it forward. The speeder caught in mid turn and she blasted down the narrow street. She slipped between two busses and slowed as much as she dared, looking for anything familiar.
The next cross street was an alley, gray in the reflected light, the far end cut off by a riser for the monorail.
Red flashed behind her and she took the next turn, a right, and then the first left she could, down a two lane road lined with chained and boarded storefronts. Her eyes raked the empty street frantically, she didn't have long before Fillmore rounded up another captain and they had the clearance to activate the beacon.
There was another street to the left, lit only by the reflections of the spotlight. She swerved toward it, sliding wide when she saw red lights flashing at the far end. She straightened out, pushing the throttle to full, wanting to go right to lose them, knowing that's what the cops wanted. If she was deep in the gate zone when the beacon was set she didn't stand a chance. Two felonies in gate patrol jurisdiction and the intelligence office would have no shot at getting her out.
She sped up the steep hill, squinting through the rain, darting around the few plodding shuttles of tourists, feeling sweat run down her back as she tried to picture where the next gate was.
At the top of the hill she stopped breathing.
The spotlight. Brighter than sunlight, so bright that there were no shadows, so bright that even in the lashing rain the buildings around it became pillars of light, concentric rings of whiteness that stood like sentinels around an earthbound sun. Only at the very edges of City Island did the light begin to fade, turning the ribbon of river around it a silvery gray.
Exhilaration filled her chest as she threw the speeder down the hill toward the river. The lights flashed behind her painting the street pink, their red faded in the glow of the spotlight. They were getting closer; the second body on the police speeders gave them an extra push downhill. She saw the nose of one edging up beside her and grinned wildly, maxing out the throttle.
The river was below them, the spotlight a sliver of blinding moon peeking through the buildings. She ducked her head closer to the fuel tank, drawing her elbows in, squeezing her leaden legs tight, anything to streamline her, to gain a little more speed.
The speeder on her right nosed out in front, another crowding in on the left when red light lashed across her console.
The beacon was set. Every cop and bounty hunter in city limits had her coordinates.
The riverside highway was coming up fast, an endless stream of traffic whipping by.
She gripped the thruster control tight in her left hand and her grin became a grimace. There was only one chance.
The traffic was so close it blocked out the river, the spotlight, everything. She imagined she could smell the ozone burn of the engines, see the wide eyes of tourists whizzing past, hear the curses of the patrolmen beside her.
She hit the thrusters, jamming the slider as far as it would go; her eyes squinted almost shut, her stomach left back on the street.
The speeder jumped high, sliding into a huge arc, spinning her in a lazy circle as the buses and speeders and shuttles passed feet below her. She caught a glimpse of the patrol speeders and their lights flashing futilely against the wall of traffic before her speeder started to fall.
She felt the briefest moment of relief when she looked down and saw the shimmering surface of the water.
Then it was rushing toward her. Filling her helmet and dragging the speeder down into the silver depths.