the ladder - synapse city (part 2)

The Ladder – An experimental web-only fiction series that spans multiple story lines and characters…Tune in every Wednesday for a new installment.

They call it the Slicer. A Studebaker Phaeton. Black with white wheels, bug-eyed headlamps, heavily modified with an armored chassis and bullet proof glass. It’s more like a sleek cruising tank. The Engine, set to drive, disables the security system and the Trio get in. The Effect rides shotgun – manning the Slicer’s defenses - while the Equation sits in the back at a computer console. A roar, power coiled within the Slicer’s deep rumble. The Engine takes the Slicer to the streets like a pro racer, enjoying the quiet streets.

“Disc, please,” says the Equation.

The Effect reaches into her bra – the Engine chuckles – and pulls out a small square piece of plastic. “Can Delphi work with it?”

“Undoubtedly. I’m uploading now. The question is whether it will lead us to Dr. Lumen.”

Eyes in the rearview mirror, a telling side-glance from the Engine. The Effect opens viewscreens on the dashboard in front of her. She clicks her tongue. “We’ve got a party.”

Behind them, gaining, a forest green speeder, slim and low, with guntoting men hanging out the backseat windows. Assumption: Boss Marcone’s alleyway snipers, after recovering the eyesight overwhelmed by the flashbang, set out to hunt.

Gunshots. Wild starbursts. The Engine grins at the futility. Then he doesn’t. “Uh-oh.”

“A rocket launcher?” says the Effect. She pulls out a control console from beneath the viewscreens. Buttons marked SPIKE, GRAPPLE, and others. A pristine manicured finger aims towards the SPIKE button, but the car suddenly veers right. A parked ice cream truck explodes to their left – fireball and smoky-black cloud. The speeder punches through. Sharp left turn, sharp right. Zig-zag. Whoever drives the speeder is good – better than good. The Engine is as impressed as he is annoyed. Studying her viewscreen, the Effect waits until the speeder is in the best position and pushes the SPIKE button. From below the Slicer, dozens of sharp jacks spill onto the road. The Speeder avoids most of them, but even the driver isn’t good enough to escape them all. A jack, glimmering from the streetlamp, cuts into rubber. The speeder’s left rear tire goes flat. But the driver doesn’t lose control, not enough to go swerving through a glass storefront or into one of the parked cars lining the gritty streets. He does slow down. The Engine savours the victory. Then another car, a boxy green sedan turning right from 31st street, takes up the chase from the speeder.

“Effect…” says the Engine.

“I know, I know,” she says. “But we can’t shoot up the neighbourhood!”

The Equation, meanwhile, looks up, interrupting his work coordinating the data upload with Delphi. Sighing, he reaches below the seat for a small, bulbous pistol. He winds down the window, waits for a break in the bullet hail, sticks his head and arm out. A brief moment to aim and he pulls the trigger. Ever-expanding concentric rings of electric blue energy swallow the pursuers. Electrical wires shorts. Batteries die. Nervous systems become disrupted. The sedan dies, slows to a stop. Thugs fall unconscious likes babies after milk.

“No time for trifles,” the Equation says. “We have bigger problems.”

Pouting, a dog deprived of its favourite chew-toy, the Engine drives sedately. Mumbles. “You could at least install one of those things on the car.”

The Effect smiles - regret or relief? And the Slicer cuts through the heavy summer night air on its way to headquarters.

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