Steel, Part 6

Posted: August 5, 2009 in Fiction, Steel

My promotion to Keyholder became permanent yesterday. Talk about good news! Now I’m officially a manager-type. They sent me to Utah to help out at a store while they got the command structure fixed. I’m having a lot of fun, but there isn’t much I can do to recharge my batteries out here. Fortunately I go home tomorrow evening. Then I come back for a reunion tour next week. I like the people at this place, but I still miss my home store. Anyway, enjoy.

A silver rectangle rattled on its hinges to Rick’s left. As he finished shifting gears and resumed accelerating, the vibration of the cab took on a higher frequency so that the glimmer in the corner of his eye became a mirror once more. He checked it; no sign of ground pursuit. The round convex mirror below told another story though. Reflected through a fish’s eye were two sets of spinning spokes. “Johnny, we still got company. You guys gotta do something about those choppers,” he said into a headset. The cab bounced violently as Rick determined the path of least resistance to be through a fire hydrant. The traffic was getting thick again, and the armored truck could take quite the beating, but that many cars would stop even a ridiculously overpowered diesel engine like the one they had acquired for the heist. The cartoonish clank of the impact was immediately followed by a geyser of water. The undercarriage of the truck was scoured by high-pressure water, and exploded into the sky once the truck had passed. Johnny watched from the open back of the truck as the water shot into the air. The head of the fire hydrant clattered and skipped out from under the truck and buried itself in the windshield of a taxi cab. He laughed.

“Gomez! Did you see that shit?” Gomez was busy untangling himself from his heavy saw’s power cabling. “Get Vince up here. We still got company!” Johnny said.

“The zapper’s still charging. We gotta do this the old fashioned way,” Vince’s voice came from deep in the truck. Johnny rolled his eyes and checked his clip. Plenty for this, but he wanted to make that electromagnetic pulse gun worth the money he’d fronted for it. He shouldered his rifle and took careful aim. It was always easier to kill the pilot than to trash the machine, even with something as fragile as a helicopter. He exhaled slowly and squeezed his trigger. Above, in the police helicopter, spider webs sprouted in the windscreen. There were six of them, each with a perfectly round hole in the center and arms that spread out and met each other expanding line. The bullets that had made those holes dug into the interior of the chopper, mostly stopping in plating or electronics. A pair of them found a home in the pilot’s chest and shoulder, and he jerked backward in pain. Below, Johnny watched as the police aircraft wobbled and began listing sharply toward the apartments that lined the city street. He grinned.

Johnny’s smile faded almost immediately as commotion on street level caught his eye. The fountain of water that the thieves had created with their passing exploded toward the truck. The torrent fell far short, but that wasn’t what sent a sizzle to Johnny’s fingertips. Bursting through water was a glittering giant. As it bounded through the artificial rain, soot and grime ran off of it in rivulets. The mass of sensors that could have been a head adjusted its angle ever so slightly. He could almost feel the dispassionate electronic gaze fix on him. “How long ’til the zapper’s up?” Johnny shouted. He relaxed slightly when the sensor cluster tilted up toward the wobbling police helicopter. The chrome figure halted its run and planted both feet. It sunk in on itself for an instant and shot into the air, popping a ring of concrete into a jagged cone. “Keep going, Rick!”

Sally rushed up to within her titanic arm’s reach of the helicopter and gingerly grasped the landing skids in her claws. As gravity re-asserted itself on her, she hung on to the comparatively flimsy aircraft. The spinning rotors tried valiantly to keep the craft airborne, but to no avail. Sally’s weight bore the machine to the ground with a crash. A woman’s voice boomed from the robot. “Can someone turn off the engine? Otherwise I’ll trash this thing when I set it down.” The robot stood for a long moment with a running helicopter held over its head. The rotors started to show signs of slowing, but Iris was impatient. If Wade insisted that she save everyone, he was going to die. She adjusted Sally’s grip to the tail of the chopper and it crumpled like paper under the hydraulic claw. Sally crouched and dropped down to her belly, shoulder rotated beyond the range of human motion to keep the helicopter up. She lowered it to the ground and scuttled out from under the spinning blades. “Where are they going, Sally?” Iris asked. Red text filled her peripheral vision and a map of the city appeared. A string of emergency calls about a runaway truck painted a dotted line on the map that aimed at the airport. Sally staggered to her feet once more and launched after the truck.

A single leap brought them up over an apartment building and into visual range of the fleeing miscreants once again. As Sally returned to street level with a thump, Iris heard a warning tone. High-lit by Sally’s artificial intelligence was a rifle with what looked like a satellite dish mounted on the end of it. I need a shield, Iris thought. Sally continued to run toward the speeding truck while her head swiveled 360 degrees. To the right was a building under construction. Parked in front of it was an offloaded dumpster. That should do – I hope, she thought. Sally took a half step and went in to a long and (for her) low jump. As she cleared the dumpster, she reached down and hooked the edges of the container. Thus anchored, she spun her shoulders around in an awkward but functional hand-spring. Iris felt a wave of vertigo as her mind tried to keep pace with the crazily spinning visual. She closed her eyes, but she wasn’t seeing with her eyes so that was no help. Sally’s shoulders locked straight up over her head, and her considerable mass ripped the dumpster off of the ground. Her feet continued on to the ground, shattering the asphalt with a less than graceful landing, and she sprung forward once more.

Vince shouldered the EMP gun and checked the charge. The light flickered to green; the capacitor was ready. He looked down the street they had just driven up in time to see the robot carrying a dumpster over its head. “Shoot the damn thing already!” Johnny yelled. Vince was only too happy to oblige. He took careful aim and squeezed the trigger.

Iris was feeling nauseous now, but swallowed hard. She could be sick later. Sally’s warning became more insistent. EVASIVE ACTION flashed in Iris’ vision. She tucked Sally into a ball and dropped the dumpster over them. Her vision filled with static, and then cleared. She was looking at her computer monitor in her home. The monitor displayed an error message: connection lost.

That’s right! Another cliffhanger! I’d have kept going but I’m supposed to be showered and on my way to breakfast right now. Starving artists are not starving by choice, and I won’t be the exception.


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