I leap through the doors, and immediately I know I'm in the shit. Something- some building- is burning bright and hot not far away. Charred bits of guk are raining down on me and the street. Right in front of me, three land-cruisers have tied themselves together into a Gordian knot of machinery- must have been moving at suicidal speeds, them. Traffic bucks and jolts around them, the drivers, in their panic, moving much too fast for comfort. I start toward the street, then dodge left in a hurry as a big black passenger-bus hits the roadblock and slides sideways at 90mph across the sidewalk where I was standing. I detour around it and throw myself into the middle of the road. A speedy little SG70 comes barreling at me. I whip out my gun and point. The SG screeches to a stop in front of me, and the auto behind slams into it so hard it makes MY teeth rattle. The SG plows forward on impact power, and I make a clumsy jump onto the hood to keep from getting smashed. Beneath the gadgets and glass, I can see some poor slob's terrified eyes begging me to make it all stop- but I can't, not now. The car mounts a curb and rolls to a stop half-on half-off. The driver door opens, and the slob jumps out- there's a nasty cut over his forehead- and starts whining about fault and damage and I roll off the hood and make to hit him, but Ky is already there, and she tosses him aside like a bundle of sticks. She throws herself in the car and scoots over, and I pile in after her and shut the door. The lights on the display are blinking green warnings, but everything looks like it should still work. I pull the throttle and grin as the beast deep in the guts of the machine lets loose a gutteral growl.
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"I drive, you're on interference," I say, jamming the shifter and throttling backward. "And try not to kill anybody, okay?"
Ky doesn't even bother to reply. She smashes out her side of the window- there's a pull-down switch, but nevermind- and draws a gun that makes my sleek little disruptor look like last century's mistake. I gear forward and jam on the throttle. The machine lets out a full-throat roar and leaps into action. I bully her around a too-slow Roller and fishtail into the thick of traffic, gently bumping a 780 off the concourse and into a shiny storefront. I hear the explosion, even through the car dampers, but I can't watch it because I'm too busy building up velocity trying to maneuver around the fast moving stream of panicked travellers. Ky takes aim out the window- her short hair blowing wildly around her- and squeezes off a short, sharp shot into the right wheel of the auto ahead of us. It skates right- and out of our way- missing us by maybe a measure on the outside. I'd chide her about cutting it close, but I don't have the time or the concentration, because there's a big G4S braking down in front of us- and like all earlier models, this one is built like a tank's younger brother, and it hogs half the Krin-loving road even driven sober, but hey, whatever scab has the wheels on this one is either having the worst attack of the shakes I have ever seen, or else they are panicky and stupid like everyone else on this suicidal straightaway stretch of highway- which is busily sending us forward and up, into the innards of Sector II Commercial- which, believe me, is exactly where I want to be right now, right here. I jam the stick forward and put on some speed, but just as I pull alongside the belly of the G4, it rips right and almost runs off the road. The wheels try to turn on their own, but I rip the stick right and manage to chatter my teeth nearly out of my sockets- and stay on the road.
"Ky- some help- please-!" Is about as articulate as I'm getting- brain busy keeping us alive, but she's already doing it anyway, and she points the gun somewhere around my neck and says:
I do the best I can without losing sight of the road, and she squeezes the trigger so gentle, you'd think she had all day to take her shot. The gun makes a subdued crack, and something hot skates by me close enough to make heat on my back. My window shatters, and I can hear the one on the G4 go at almost the exact same moment, and suddenly the van's swerving away from us- right off the side of the superhighway and down, down, down, and I don't have to ask Ky where her shot went, or what she meant to do with it. All I have to do is drive.
We merge onto the superhighway- twelve lanes of driving excitement- at some point, and it rides a full fifty measures off the ground here, straight and fast as hell. All the buildings flashing by are giant, many-hundred-measures-high towers whose tops loom in the skies, almost out of view, and they're pressed in close everywhere, with a thousand and one Adboards broadcasting seventeen different commericals every two seconds- all for shops within a two minute drive of the Midport II Commerical District, of course. It's difficult to get my bearings.
"Any idea where we are!?" I yell, over the howling of the wind through the broken windows.
"There's a CityMap readout on your console!"
I spare a half-second to look, and sure enough, she's right. We're booming fast out of the CD, toward Midport Central, hub of just about everything important enough to have a hub, and the superhighway- S-6 the readout helpfully tells me- will take us right into the heart of the madness. I gun the engine and swerve around a tooling BP. Ky doesn't even have to fire on it- which is good, because she's suddenly taking aim at a shinysilver XGH that just can't wait for me to get out of the way, the moron. It's moving fast, and she's in a hurry, and that slender finger tightens on that trigger again (even if I can't see it, the eye of my mind throws it out in black relief) and the XGH turns into a billowing fireball. I gun the engine, and take us right on through. Hot wind sucks the breath out of my body. For a half-second, all is fire. Instead of roasting, we part the other side of the burning curtain and bounce off a block of debris (and bouncing at 135mph HURTS, even with good shock absorbers) and hit moderately clear road unscathed- or at least not very scathed. Ky reaches up and slaps out a little fire on the dashboard.
"Krin!" I say, when I can breathe properly again. "Where'd you learn to shoot?"
"Places you never want to go. Where'd you learn to drive like that?"
"Oh, here and there. Tell you about it some time-" I slide through a momentary gap between two heavies and kiss both their sides before I'm clean. "Some other time."
"Fine," says Ky, and leans out the window again.
We come out into Midport Central, and the first thing I see is twelve or twenty cars all smashed and burning and stalled in front of the downramp, and I decide- because I'm a madman- not to slow down at all. I drive at suicidal speeds into an opening between one burning thing and the remains of an ST-3, and by some miracle, don't crash into anything else. I brake gently and swerve around another stalled auto and just barely slide through a gap to the right, and come out clean in front of the downramp- and shit. There's a line of dead autos in front of the exit, and beyond that, something that looks like it belongs in the Hell-sermons they still sometimes give in the First Church of Gore. Oh goody, a revolution. No way to get there but through.
"Hold on to something!" I yell, and for the first time, Ky extracts herself from the window and buckles her web-harness. I leave the stick- just going straight now- and do the same for myself. Then I turn my head, close my eyes, and throttle as hard as I can.
The world explodes. My brains try to throw themselves out my nose, and the web-harness jerks me back like an angry surrogate mother. The sound of metal-on-metal fills the world. Things grind, squeal, pop, smash, and make noises they haven't made names for yet. My internal organs shift about an inch forward, my spine does a jig, and my head tries very hard to convince itself that it isn't here. I open my eyes and see black spots dancing in front of my vision.
Ky slaps me. It helps.
I shake my head to clear it. Warm blood is running out of my nose. Ky has a cut on her forehead, but she is already halfway out of her window- the door on her side is bent all out of shape. I turn toward my own window and fumble at the handle until I notice that I'm blocked in on that side by a two-ton hunk of junk what used to be an auto. I draw my hand back into my coat and punch out the rest of the glass. I reach up along the roof of my own stolen auto and pull myself into the smoking air. My ears start working properly again. I realize that it's loud here. Very loud. The world is filled with human noise: Shouts, screams, gunshots, and all manner of clashing sounds- ahead of me, through the haze. Choking smoke is pouring into the air from the burning debris- of which my car is now officially a part. I stand up on legs I can barely feel, and look.
All Hell has broken loose in Central Midport.
This is what happened:
The massacre and subsequent pileup on the Sliph Street crossing was our fault, but no one who knew this was both alive and in the square when the cruisers came down. The Polis were met by frightened, confused, angry people- people who still believed the job of the law-enforcers was to protect them, to help them. The Polis did not have time for the angry and the wounded. Harsh words were spoken. Someone pried up a bit of something- one account says paving-stone, another engine-metal- and threw. The Polis opened fire.
Perhaps three hundred people witnessed this. Two hundred and forty-seven of them were in direct aerial contact at the time. Within two minutes of the first gunshot, over eight thousand separate entities were aware of it- and the number increasing exponentially.
The Connection heard first. For whatever reasons- it has been rumored that one of their agents died in the initial volley- the acting head of the Transfer and Delivery Branch decided to get involved. The Connection sent their employees pouring into the streets to further whip up the masses, send out bulletins to every available channel stating quite plainly that the Polis were killing citizens in the streets, and contacted us- The Underground- personally. Annn made an on-the-spot decision.
Those machines built by the Hive that were in a condition of readiness were sent out into the streets. All other entities- flesh and blood, mechanical, it made no difference- were sent out on their heels. The Hive was emptied, with Annn at the vanguard, overseeing the entire operation.
Silva, the Council, and whatever other entities were set against us threw out a massive counter-attack. Polis, shock troops, and servitor machines flooded the streets. Our people had the advantage of numbers, but Silva's were more well-armed. We met and clashed in Midport Center, and for fifteen minutes before I arrived, the bloodiest battle in over two hundred years was being fought on the streets of my city.
But I didn't know that.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.