the last ride of nora nightshade and mike mechanic
nora nightshade and mike mechanic on the tri-state kill spree. she dropped him a lipstick bomb and rode that joystick all the way to arizona. feezlebones hooked them with some blast crash and they lasted three days in a motel room outside of tucson flipping digitspool before nora decided they needed to kill again.
the dried intestine necklace still looked as winning around her neck as on the day he first placed it on her. there was a convenience store at the edge of the red, and mike thought maybe he could get another for her after they knocked it over.
they used the flamethrower to wreck the outer defenses. these stores usually had some cameras and electrified perimeter fence. this one had a rentacop too, but this flame thrower was military grade and cooked him inside his armor.
the clerk was too slow to the panic room. nora got him by the ankles with the clawchucker as the poor dumb bastard was fat-fingering the code. pulled him towards her as he grabbed at the linoleum. took his legs off at the ankles and he bled out within a minute. mike suddenly thought about that time back when he was working as a janitor at that private school outside of chicago, and wondered who was going to have to clean up all this red mess where the white floor used to be.
then he caught something out of the corner of his eye in the round security mirror over the hotdogs slowly turning under the heat lamp. it looked like a guy standing over next to the cash register, at the front, some guy in a suit with mirrored cop glasses. but when he spun around, no one was there.
just then nora called out from the back. there was a customer trying to hide back there it sounded like, but when he got back there, it was just a tweener goth all raccoon eyes and pale skin totally absorbed in her own feed standing by the magazine rack. she couldn't have been much more than thirteen. mike was really starting to imagine himself a good time. they would kidnap this bitch and have some real fun back at the motel. what happens out in the red, stays in the red, thought mike, smiling to himself, remembering that married couple they got outside of philadelphia last year.
she screamed when they ripped her headset off her head, but mike gave her a hard slap across the face that shut her up real quick. they had her inside the trunk and were on the road just as they heard the first whistle of the cop drones. mike imagined they'd need a mop.
they rode down the broken edge of a crumbling highway on ramp and were out into the full-on red, a couple of burned out wrecks to let people know what they were getting themselves in for out here.
just then, mike looked up into the rear view, and saw the guy sitting in the back seat, the same guy dressed in a suit, from in the store, looking at him in the rearview with a big smile on his face and those shiny estradas staring back at him. mike slammed on the brakes and nearly spun out, threw it into park and turned around with his slugthrower ready to shoot this asshole in the head.
but there was no one in the back seat.
"what the fuck, mike?" said nora.
he edged up and pointed the pistol over the back of the seat, but there was no one back there, not a soul.
"baby, you okay? you need to do a shot?" she had the injector in her hand.
"yeah, yeah. that's it. gimme a shot," said mike.
she stuck the hole against his neck and squeezed the good stuff into his blood.
his vision went all white and cold like a snowstorm for a minute or two.
then he was swimming in reality like a bright clear lake of blue, and they were back on the road doing one-eighty. the motel was a lonely place, with an ack-ack parked next to the manager's office, wrapped in barbed wire with a couple of mutants on the roof holding rocket launchers.
they gave the manager a cut from the cash register, just to let him know they would appreciate not being bothered, and then they dragged the girl upstairs.
mike sat on the edge of the bed, smoking a cigarette, staring at digitspool. behind him, he could hear nora using her ways to calm the girl down. everything's gonna be okay. don't worry. we just wanna have some fun? you like to have fun don't you? just relax.
then he heard nora let out a little gasp, almost like a sigh of relief, and then the sound of her falling onto the soft ugly carpet.
he shook his brain off digitspool and turned around. the girl was still huddled in the fetal position on top of the bed, right where nora had her. but nora was on the floor, and the injector was next to her, parked on that ugly red and yellow carpet, and her neck had a swollen dot, the size of a quarter, that mike recognized instantly as the mark of an od. he could see it in her face too. the eyes were spinning underneath her lids like a windmill. and then her body did that little quiver that they do just before they go down the drain.
he had his weapon. he started shooting across the room, aiming for that invisible guy, who the fuck he was mike didn't know or care but he was damn sure real.
then someone sat on his chest and he couldn't breathe and he was down on the floor staring up at the popcorn ceiling and he knew this guy was some up-fit bastard.
then the guy was standing over him.
"you're having trouble breathing, i know," he said. "i've disabled your nervous system with my trusty sidekick. i'm obligated by contractual agreement to indicate that this weapon is licensed for use in the international jurisdiction of beta group reinsurance corporation and related jurisdictions with reciprocal agreements or in zones currently outside corporate law. the breathing issue hopefully will stabilize in just a moment."
"there," said the guy, who had no hair on his head. "my data shows you should be getting your breath back momentarily."
those mirrored shades on the guy's face were definitely cop glasses, thought mike, on his back, wondering why he'd gotten picked up like this.
"what...what..." was all he could manage to squeeze out of his mouth.
"this girl's a policy holder," said the man, "and i just happened to be in the store when you two staged your little surprise party."
"you...don't...you killed...nora," he got out. tears were welling up at the corners of his eyes.
"i've got an ambulance inbound," said the man. "they'll take her to a top-of-the-line medical facility, have no fear my friend. as they will you. after which no doubt you shall be committed to a criminal mental health institution, where you will hopefully be confined for the rest of your life. but we'll see."
"how...how?" he gasped.
"i had a little accident," said the man. "a little mishap that left me with a certain detachment from reality."
then the man took off his glasses and showed mike what lay behind those mirrors.
outside, polsky checked entity status and when he found none, he had them raze the manager's office to the ground before he stepped onto the ambulance passenger deck and watched the two robots load the two uninsured into the carry pods.
"what'd you do to that guy, polsky?" said one of the ambulance operators over the interface.
"what do you mean?"
"he looked like he'd seen a ghost."
"i just let him know who's boss," said polsky.
the blades from the ambulance kicked up quite a dust storm as they rose into the air. down below, polsky could see a few scavengers coming out of their holes and heading for the smouldering fire, hopeful of gathering whatever trinkets they could from the remains of the motel. he put in a call to the girl's parents, and let them know that he had located her, and they would be arriving in the green zone within the hour. the autodoc said she was fine, with minor psych trauma. she asked for a cigarette, but polsky said her policy didn't cover that as he lit one up himself.
"well what does that goddamn policy cover," said the girl, just a tired and scared teenager, angry about whatever happened to be in front of her.
"me," said polsky.