HVD CWML and CWIN 2.01
Auto-Combat Ficton
The Taxi Driver

Written by Giuseppe Filotto
russellp@iafrica.com

Web posted by the HVD Car Wars Mailing List, August-September, 1997
Reprinted by the Seattle Washington Autoduel Team, August 03, 1998
Updated September 08, 2000



Part 1

Americans. They think they have it tough. I guess no-one told them that their worst Grain Blight Riots were really just a minor disturbance compared to the stuff we had over here in the appropriately named Dark Continent. South Africa has always had a violent history, littered with wars throughout its colonial period and urban guerrilla warfare throughout its Apartheid Era. Course that changed back in the late 1990s for a little while. It didn't last of course. Hell, the whole world went down the toilet; only makes sense SA would lead that particular charge.

The Americans, Euros and even Asians might have everything "bigger and better" and butter too as the local saying goes (as in: with their ass in it) but they just can't hold a candle to us when it comes down to casualties tho'.

South Africa went from having some 40 million people at the turn of the millennium to just some 10 million today, of course in the last 10 years or so the population has actually been increasing, so that's not even telling the worst of it. But enough of the History lesson I guess. The reason I'm writing this stuff is Ďcause I finally got myself a link up to the world grid and playing with it gives me something to do when I can't sleep. I got no one to call either, and the hundred bucks per article is attractive too. Specially since it's dollars. You wouldn't believe the exchange rate. But don't expect a lullaby or for me to pander to your Yankee tastes or nothing like that.

Real Life Point of View: your autodueling stories from around the world. You lived them, you tell them.

That's what the ad said and that's what I aim to do. Exactly. And the truth of it is I just plain DON'T like Yanks. You're loud for one, and braggarts for another. And you've always been that way, and my guess is you'll be that way a long while still. Course it probably don't help that it was one of your kind that went and crippled my life some. Before I get into that tho' I guess I have to explain (real slow like) that we don't have a lot of fancy stuff down by these parts. That despite the fact that Cape Town is still the busiest port on the whole of the Sub-Saharan continent, with Durban, on the East Coast, running a close second. We get magazines. Plenty of those, mostly from Europe, but Yank mags too. Like HVD, which is about as good as they get I suppose. But that's it. Pictures are one thing, but to import the real thing is quite another. And we just don't have as self-sufficient an economy as we used to nowadays, if you know what I mean. Since the secession of the Zulu nation, which still results in conflicts all along the Kwa-Zulu-Natal border (which now incorporates three of the original nine provinces of South Africa expansionists at heart the Zulus really) not a lot of goods make it out of Durban (which for the uneducated, is the main port of coastal entry to Kwa-Zulu-Natal) so all the latest Japanese imports and the rare but much sought after Saudi stuff remains on the East coast, and we have to make do with what we can import from the US or occasionally Europe. Of course the prices tend to be a little higher for us. Your average Gauss Gun (I'm told by HVD price lists) sells for around $10,000 back in Yank-land-USA. We can import one for 5,000 Kruggerands (unlike the rest of the country, the Western Cape decided to change its monetary unit base back to real gold coin) which I'd like to point out is solid gold and converts to about $40,000 on the open market. But that doesn't include duty tax, which is another 1,000 KR. Which explains why ramplates and gas engines are a favourite out here. Small they may be, but the oil reserves in SA were sufficient that despite all the other problems, we at least can still afford to pollute our atmosphere with good old fashioned exhaust fumes (tho' I suppose they are clean enough and really can't hold a torch to all the dilapidated power plants you guys dump off the East coast. Fish in New York must be real popular for romantic dinners. Save on the candle, eat Yank seafood).

It's what saved us I guess. Patenting the formula for crude oil separation enzymes and defending that patent with what was left of our Rekkies (Special Forces) by ensuring that anyone that tried to use it without paying their dues got visited by them was the only way that South Africa could trade for the food that was so badly needed here.

Some 10 million people died as a direct result of starvation in just five years here. I'm not gonna bother to detail what else went on here as a result of the food shortages and general chaos. I was a kid then and it's not a part of my history I necessarily like to think about. Besides, some Hollywood producer with the originality of a fruit fly might just take liberties with it and make a cheap B-movie out of that story. He'd probably have Rhinoceros in it and half naked savages brandishing spears. I wonder if you've been told that Rhinos no longer exist. That we have only three specimens of Elephant left (and two of those are clones) in the whole of Africa and that thousands of other species have just been plain wiped out. Including cattle. They were the first to go. Which is understandable I suppose, since the cow has been a staple of African diet for as long as it walked these parts. We have been importing a few specimens lately, but that's on the way out I hear. The few domesticated buffalo that are here are taxing the land enough as it is. Most of the food here is from algae farms. We have some of the world's top guys in that field. Bioengineering in general I guess. I suppose they learned from the mistakes they made during the bad times. Back when they were so desperate to find a cure for the Grain Blight that they accidentally let loose a biological agent that killed off most of the population under the age of seven. For some reason seven was a cut off point. That's what made the Zulus secede incidentally. It was bad times indeed for white folk in the East back then. This was back in the late 2020s of course. Nowadays Kwa-Zulu-Natal is as racially integrated as the rest of the country. Except they don't think of themselves as part of this country anymore. But it's not a colour thing anymore, so I guess that's OK then. Tough to explain to the Zulus that not every white person was directly and personally responsible for the death of their children I suppose. Personally I put it down to racial Karma. Course it's a bitch if you had nothing to do with all that segregation stuff of some 50 years back and just happen to be passing through, like my family was in 2012, just before the Grain Blight broke out globally.

I'm European, and I don't mean that the way some of the rednecks down here mean it. I mean I was born in United Europe. I was seven when my family was stranded in this God forsaken country. I lost my dad before I was ten. And let me tell you, the natives here most definitely don't use spears anymore, they prefer AK-47 assault rifles. I'm not sure why, but there IS a definite division along racial lines on the small arms here. No Zulu or Xhosa worth his salt would be seen dead with an assault rifle that wasn't an AK-47. On the other hand the white landowners would rather go unarmed than use what they regard as a "commie" weapon. They stick to the lethal R4 assault rifles or more archaic game rifles like 30.06 or 7mm and corporate executives (of every shade) have recently taken a liking to Saudi Uzis, although they are not used by Indians for some reason.

Personally I don't care one way or the other, I stick by the old principle of Myamoto Mushashi (1584-1645)  "At every turn the objective is to cut down the enemy with any means at your disposal." I killed a man with a Parker pen once, I had run out of ammo, my sister was shot and I thought my brother had been killed already and although I completely ruined it and scarred the palm of my hand in the process I am eternally grateful for this unbiased attitude I have towards weapon use. That was a bad day for everyone. I will never forget the look on my brother's face when three years later we spent most of what we owned (against his knowledge at first and will later we had to sedate him) to buy him a cloned left arm. He still feels "in debt," I can tell, which is kinda dumb 'cause it's only the two of us now. We managed to buy my sister passage back to Europe, but we don't come across 50,000 KR every day, and neither of us will leave without the other. But I keep digressing. The point of this article is to tell you about one of my auto duelling experiences, and I suppose it's about due.

This happened in 2032 or maybe 2033. I spent a long time not really knowing which day of the week or which month of the year it was, so I'm not too clear on the date. I had just about begun to cool down from the events of 2021 (I lost family there and I don't want to write about it) and we'd just seen my sister off about a week earlier (so I guess it was 2033 after all) and that day my brother Alan and I had received the news that sis made it back to Turin safely.

Alan turned to me after I read the e-gram we'd paid almost a week's food worth to receive, and looked at me expectantly. I knew what he wanted. He knew me well enough not to speak of it, but I still got angry. At him, I thought for a few seconds, then realised it was at myself really. As usual. As for the last 12 years. I said I didn't want to write about it, but maybe it's therapeutic.

I wouldn't know. We don't have psychoanalysts here. Since we lost our mother on that really shitty day (the day of the Parker pen as it happens) I've made it a ritual to bring death to every S.O.B. I can lay my sights on that sports colours.

I don't care what band it is. You sport colours I nail you. You wanna ride around on bikes and old pickups way I see it you can do it alone for a start and not as a pack of dogs, and you don't need to sport colours. My bro was into it too for a while, but he's a soft soul at heart I guess and since about 2029 or so he just wasn't into it that much anymore. He asked me when we might stop. I suppose I should say that over the years I have grown to hate myself for what I've put him through, and I know I'm doing it 'cause I feel so damn guilty about not having had enough ammo. Not enough weapons. Not enough barricade between us and those bastards. Not enough strength to carry the mutilated body of the woman who gave me birth to a hospital fast enough. I know there's not much more that I could've done that day. But it don't make any difference. Knowing the reason for your psychoses is one thing. Stopping is quite another.

Admittedly gangs had been pretty scarce of late anyway, and no one had even flown the colours of that particular gang in some ten years, but I also knew that at least one of those scum had yet to join the tally marks Alan and I keep on the side of our Dragon.

It irked. It felt like giving up. On the other hand I guess you can't spend your life chasing bikers. Bikers and ghosts. Then again maybe I could, but it wasn't right anymore to make Alan do it. Hell, it hadn't been right for a long time. Maybe from day one. So I turned to him and just like that said: "It's over." I sounded flat, no different from many other times I spoke, but I guess he knew exactly what I was talking about, 'cause he immediately hugged me and started to sob into my shoulder. I guess the damn stuff running out of my eyes was a dead giveaway. At least I could feel he was relieved. Happy, in a sad kinda way. Me I couldn't feel a thing. Just couldn't feel a damned thing.

Since this nightmare started I'd been the one that decided on how and when we did things from day to day. Now I was just numb. Didn't know what the hell to do or say. Didn't even think of it till Alan asked me about that about ten minutes later.

"So what now?" he said simply, brightly.

"I don't know" I replied dully. I just wished I could feel something.

"I was thinking . . . "

He did this a lot. Testing to see if it was OK to speak I guess. I just felt heavier.

"We sell the Dragon." He was looking at me intently.

A distant part of my brain wondered what I looked like to him. I had the distinct impression that I might have seemed like one of the
shell-shocked guys you see just sitting on the side of the road from time to time. They just sit there. Some of them drool. Some of them die of exposure too.

I said nothing. Felt nothing. Wondered if this is what advanced hypothermia felt like except it was 30 degrees in the shade (Celsius, that is. You do your own conversions.)

And just like that Alan took over. He spoke and I listened and I didn't disagree with anything. The kid has heart. And thank God for that cause I'm not sure where I lost mine. He asked me if I was OK and I said yes and I knew I was lying but I didn't know what was wrong so I just said yes cause not feeling anything isn't a disease and it's not something you die from I guess. Just my luck.

"We sell the Dragon and we should have just enough to get ourselves a taxi. There's money to be made in that business now that the new airport is becoming busier and the cargo ships sometimes have people on them too. In a couple of years we should be able to have enough saved up for maybe . . . ship fare . . . "

Taxi. There used to be taxi wars here in the 1990s. I remembered that from the history lessons before we got here. When Dad was still alive. I hadn't seen a taxi here ever. If you didn't have your own wheels around here you were dead meat. Then again we spent our time mostly out of the city. We went in for food and ammo and to sell the salvage or collect bounty, but I never paid a damn bit of attention to what happened inside the walls. Didn't care. Only cared about getting out again.

"OK" I said. Then: "I'll miss it."

"Yeah Joe, so will I, but it's over now, you said so."

"Yeah. It's over."

Alan just looked at me for a bit. Maybe he was a little sad. I only figured out much later it was for me and not for the Dragon.

"I'll look for a buyer, I think I may already have one."

"Yeah, OK. I'm . . . I'm just a bit . . . tired. If you can take care of the details of this for now . . . "

"Don't worry bro." He was serious. No smile.

"OK, thanks. Guess you're tired too though . . . "

He cut me off "I've never felt better!"

Well . . . I thought . . . well, at least he looks it. I smiled a little. Not sure why. Still couldn't feel a thing. My body was doing its own thing I guess. But I couldn't feel a damn thing. Just heavy. I just felt tired.

Guiseppe Filotto
Cape Town, South Africa
russellp@iafrica.com
August 15, 1997
 

Part 2

The Dragon had been the machine we'd been traveling around in for the last three years, since we scored big on a gang that was particularly well stocked up on KR. Turns out they'd hit a bank in one of the smaller fortified towns in the Karoo (read wastelands) a few days before we hit them, and it turns out the little banks of the wastelands may just be worth a tad more than most people suspect. We only figured this out three weeks later, and by then we'd spent half the money already, securing passage for Lori, (although it took another three years before they had the whole route to Europe back on line). We decided we might as well go for broke and we spent the rest too. We bought a small residence in the City in the better secured area of Cape Town from which Lori could carry on with her degree in Microbiology (she'd been doing it by correspondence at infrequent intervals until then) and the rest we used to buy the Dragon.

Lori got a part time job and studied her backside off and we continued doing what we did. It wasn't as altruistic as it might seem. We all knew that only one of us would be able to afford the fees for university, and we also knew that if Lori made it to Europe, she'd soon be earning enough that before you knew it we could be on our way to Europe too. Our bounty fees and salvage along with her waitering kept all of us fed, Lori in school and books, and Alan and me in power charges and ammo.

We'd opted for the electric engine cause although price wise it wasn't too different from a gas engine, it would allow a longer travel range and was more likely to survive protracted combat, it was also not as likely to blow up if someone spilled flamethrower shots on it or something of the kind.

For the aficionados, the stats are given at the end of this article. That car was a venerable old Dragon, our own design, and it had swallowed up quite a few "knights" careless enough to ride their steeds within sight of it. I suppose I'm still a little nostalgic for it now and then. Back in 2033 it was state of the art, and we'd had some close shaves in that rolling tank. I'd guess that even today it would be a serious contender in any contest, especially out on the open road.

The sports power plant especially had been expensive and difficult to get, being a prototype we'd heard about through a guy in the US called Justin we knew a little through a mutual friend. They'd met while our buddy was busy doing some Rekkie work in the US and Justin had been kind enough to provide him with a prototype power plant for us. We didn't ask what percentages each of them put on top of the cost, but let's just say we could have had a home much closer to the Ocean if we'd opted for a more reasonably priced engine. Anyway, the Dragon was on the way out now, since we'd decided to become taxi drivers, and that meant having passenger and luggage space.

We'd settled on two Galleria Taxis with some modifications, since that was what our budget could stretch to. In this way we also had a bit of change left over to keep us going for a bit until the taxis began to pay off. Alan had organised everything in surprisingly little time, and this gave me to wondering how long he'd been planning this for. The taxis were delivered in just three days. I suspected he'd had this lined up for quite a while but thought it best not to embarrass anyone by asking.

We'd spent the equivalent of some $30,000 on our two cars and Alan and I were down to identical personal equipment. It has been my own contention that although a little less comfortable, it's always a good idea to have a backpack with a Portable Fire Extinguisher in it, but on this occasion we'd gone the extra leg, getting two PFEs with strap-on bindings, so we could use them at once when and if it became necessary without taking up additional space in the already cramped driver's booth. We both wore Body Armour under our Battle Vests, sporting the unobtrusive but legible insignia of Bahamut the Ancient One (a pale green and cream design with a stencilled Dragon in it) and the stencilled words CREW under it. That was all the "colours" we needed or wanted. Apart from the fact that we both had them (and the grenades) the knives and handguns were of different makes though. Alan preferred the Ladyman Repeater, a good enough pistol I suppose, and it does hold 10 rounds as opposed to the 8 so many Colt .45s fanatics have, but I was partial to the Manhunter V myself. They had the Mahunter VII out by then, but it was too pricey for my pocket at the time, besides, I trust the .44 Magnum calibre, it's a bit too fast for unprotected humans, but with all the body armour worn in South Africa (we get into fights down here, not shouting matches) it's perfect. Using Glaser or Hydro shock also helps, and THV does work against cars if you shoot enough of it.

It only took us a few days to start showing a profit. Alan had hit onto something here. Because there is a tendency to realise you're on your own out here, people tend to be a lot more stoic, which is probably why no one had realised there was a small fortune to be made in secure, personal transportation. We charged $50 for a cross-town ride and you'd be surprised how many ships captains would be only too glad to have us ship their boys to and fro between the ships and the various brothels, clubs and bars these characters wanted to frequent. The Chileans, always gentlemanly about such things even got round to having a ship's budget just for that. It kept their casualties down since their boys could only get in trouble at the club itself (which most sailors were smart enough not to do) since the way back was by way of Dragon's Wing Taxi service, what we'd called our emerging empire.

Pretty soon a few other bozos cottoned onto our idea and before you knew it we had vans that could cart around 5 or 6 people at the time. We couldn't compete with that, but we also knew that our Taxis, having needed to forge a new road, were far better armoured and armed than the two bit tin cans that were now doing the rounds as "Armoured Transportation Services", so we expanded. We decided to do out of town deliveries, which was unheard of back then since the roads were anything but friendly. We drove in convoy, never one of us without the other and we charged a flat rate for goods and another, much higher rate for live cargo. The second week of us doing this, we made $4,000 and also saw one of the van types (Speedy Safe Secure Taxis) trying to do the same. Two vans filled with Japanese businessmen on their way to Durban got attacked by a well known, widespread and huge biker gang called the Zulus. One of the corporates survived, he was found three days later by a passing farmer, he'd been skinned alive and blinded. It's a sorry state of affairs that such things happen, but from a business point of view it was really good for us. We were scoring two or three grand a trip above expenses and we'd had only a couple of skirmishes so far. The worst so far had been a group of five maladjusted Zulu bikers, and we'd taken a small measure of revenge for the Japanese. I actually took the trouble to find that survivor's name and I mailed him the five little spearheads these crazies have glued to the side of their bikes for colours and a postcard wishing him a speedy recovery.

The word spreads fast around here, and I'm sure that the fact that we were the ex-crew of the Dragon was not coincidental to our meeting surprisingly little biker activity. I mean, we could drive through a stretch an hour before another vehicle and they would get torn to bits but we'd not have seen a thing. And twice, on our approaching an ongoing combat the bikers fled on sight. We got to be popular with the local truckers and farmers along the N1 and N2, our main travel routes and where the big bucks, and risks, lay.

We'd heard rumours of a new firm starting a similar business to ours but we'd not seen anything of them, and rumours are two a penny out here, so we thought nothing of it, and since we were saving everything we could for trips to Europe, we didn't upgrade our vehicles.

Just before Christmas, we got what seemed like the dream job. A wealthy American wanted some of his staff delivered to Durban for
eventual boarding of a Ship to Japan. We were to drive them from Cape Town to Durban. Now that's some 1,750 Km, with about 150 of them being off any kind of highway. For the illiterate, that's about 1,100 miles and 100 miles respectively, give or take a few. But that's not the worst of it, the last half of that was in hostile Zulu controlled territory. Alan and I had scored quite a few kills against the Zulu bikers even before the last five, and it was a given that they probably knew who we were. This worried us enough that for this job we took a new paint job in advance as part of the payment. We now sported "Armed Patrol" black-and-yellow insignia with an official looking star on the doors. It meant nothing, but the fear of officialdom is still deeply ingrained in the South African psyche, and we aimed to make the best use possible of it.

Our fee, for transporting three people plus some luggage all the way to Durban would have been the handsome amount of $200,000. This was a lot of money back then, and it would have been enough for us to go back to Europe in some style. One thing that bothered us a bit was that they seemed reluctant to let much of it go in advance, but we eventually got $35,000 from them for on the road expenses, since our society is a little wary of trading in anything but hard currency. The money was to be held by the passengers members, which we thought was fair enough. Pick up was scheduled for that Friday morning, the rationale being that since most people don't work on the week-end, and hence stay home, the roads would be less filled with vultures of the bipedal kind.

We hadn't met the passengers yet nor their luggage and Alan and I went to sleep late after having discussed our various strategies to be used both against the people we would encounter on the road, and the passengers, whom we expected to be the usual whiny Americans. Alan made me laugh for the first time in a long while by telling me his solution to the "What if they want to talk you to death" problem. He knocked the air, signifying the reinforced glass window that separated driver from passengers, pointed to his ears, and mouthed the words "can't hear" without making any sound. It was probably impossible to actually use, since it would be quite obvious the glass is not that soundproof, but knowing Alan, if anyone could pull off such a bold-faced move he could.

Friday morning we got to the offices of Global US at 9:00 am sharp as agreed. We met with one Taylor Larks (Alan and I made jokes about his name in private) who gave us the old American one-two. Thanks for coming, how are you, we hear you're real good, how many kills do you have, why take the road? Well, I can't discuss that, but it's just not safe for these three guys to fly if you get my drift. They're moving to offices in Japan, and I can't give you any details but let's just say that some of them slant eyed guys might not be so happy about someone taking over what they see as jobs that should belong to them. More coffee? Great then, it's all settled, the money for your trip will be with Gary, he's the team leader of the three.

And so it went. We left feeling pretty good and excited about the new paint job. By three in the afternoon we were ready to start on
our journey and we returned to their offices for the pickup.

The three Americans were not quite what we expected apart maybe from Gary, who was your typical "take charge" executive.

As we pulled up to the offices we saw three heavily armoured bodies standing next to a waist high pile of luggage. The armour was of the improved variety and despite the unmistakable executive cut, was the real thing, not that blended stuff that's all the rage with yuppies nowadays. This was the second surprise of a few we had that first day, the first being that despite our being five minutes early they were already organised and ready to go. It took me a while to register that the three armours were the cargo and not the bodyguards.

The clean cut guy with blond hair and blue eyes came up to shake our hand and introduced himself as Gary Switkoff. He had Global US written above his left breast in neat red. It went well with the Black and grey trim of his armour. As I shook his hand I felt his do a little appraisal of his own and suddenly I was a little self conscious of the weapons I had on me. Gary here had a Manhunter VII with integral laser dot sighting system, the regulation frag grenades, and his helmet, although it was sitting on the luggage right now had built in LI goggles and gas mask. So much for the tear gas piping system in our taxis if these guys suddenly took a dislike to us. The cherry on the top though was his Uzi with laser dot and the two spare clips he carried in his BV. THV ammo without a doubt. Gary here was worth a good $7,000 on equipment alone, and that's before you got to the plastic in his wallet.

He introduced Arnold Banks, a somewhat shorter but still well built Black man I judged to be about 40 or so. Gary himself could have been anywhere from 26 to 36, but I wagered on the higher end of that and a lot of face creams and skin grafts. Arnold sported identical equipment to Gary. I noticed they did not have knives on their armour and wondered why, then I realised that for these guys, the idea of actually running out of ammo or having to go hand to hand was probably so remote as to actually not even exist. They certainly didn't look like the kind that worried about the fact that each pull of the trigger on their Uzi spat out some $150. The third armour had been behind the luggage and facing away from us when we drove up, and I was busy making smiles and the correct noises at Gary and Arnold, so I was a little taken aback when the third member of the team was introduced and I turned to look into the eyes of a woman. She was maybe 5' 7", not tall compared to my 6' 1" and a bit anyway, but there was something about the way she carried herself that made you think she was taller. Her eyes locked. There was steel in there, I remember thinking if it was because she had grey eyes, but no . . . She had a hard edge. And she wasn't as pale as Gary. What you'd call olive coloured skin I guess. And of course her name didn't register. So I stood there for a second or two, showing nothing, then turned towards Gary and while thinking focus in my mind said "Pardon me Gary?".

I had a straight face on so no one laughed, but Gary looked confused for about a second or so before like the good little exec he was he recovered and repeated: "This is Tamara Long. Tammy will be with the luggage."

"Pleased to meet you" as I shook her hand and even tho' it was through armour it felt as if I was putting my arm out to touch a high tension cable. I was thinking Tammy doesn't look like a Tammy, a Julia or a . . . Jane maybe, but Tammy just didn't . . . and oh yeah, of course. I'm screwed. I'm off balance. She's doing this to me. I don't want this job. Go away, go away . . . and then my mind shutting that part of my brain deep down in a little unused corner of the giant swamp-dungeon I'm sure I have in there.

As it turns out, the Americans have some kind of unwritten business code that on working trips women are never to be alone with a male counterpart, or at least that's what I think, so Tamara did indeed get stuck with the luggage and before I could say anything about it. Alan had already started loading up the bags in my taxi. He did it on purpose, I'm sure. I told you he has a soft heart and I guess he had it figured it was time for me to find out if I still had something in the area above my lungs. I guess I did. It felt like a hole. Just shut down. Do the job. Walk to the car, open the door, shut it. Walk around open the door. Get in . . . start engine . . . drive. Once on our way I was a hundred percent better. The car was still new, but the seat was already home. Nothing to get in the way. Just me and the road (and whatever unlucky scum happened to cross my path). Simple. Just the way I like it. It was just nerves I figured, haven't been with a woman in . . . blank. I was counting in years here. I stopped. Depressing. Not exactly romantic affairs if you catch my drift. Well neither was this . . . what the hell am I thinking? I'm making a delivery for crying out loud. That's all it is. A delivery. A damn delivery.

We'd got under way quickly and by four we were leaving the fortified outer wall of Cape Town. We'd be driving through the night. There was a plus to this in that most people can't afford IR systems out here, but the down side of course is that we didn't have one either. And we were fresh out of LI goggles, although the Global US boys and gal were not. Which added to my discomfort. Made us look sloppy. Well fine. Let someone tangle with us and we'll see just how sloppy we are. Luckily for me I hardly ever realise when I drive myself into a frenzy over nothing. Well, most times it's lucky of course. It's downright disconcerting when you're busy doing that and a really throaty female voice asks you if you've been out here long from the back seat.

Because of the way the cars were designed I rode behind Alan on trips, and in order to give some of you out there a better appreciation of what happened, I included the specs of the Taxis at the end of this section. As you can see we kept the Sports Power plant when we sold the Dragon, which only made sense considering what we paid for it.

At that time of year we loose light at about 8 pm, and by 7 we'd already covered some 200 miles, trying to cover as much ground as we ould before night fell, which in Africa it really seems to do as opposed to the gradual change you get in the Northern Hemisphere. I'd relaxed a bit. Tamara had been digging stuff out of me without being obsessive about it or making it too painful. When she asked about my family and I said my parents were both dead she kept quiet a few seconds and then asked about my sister. The lady had tact. And I didn't remember when was the last time I had spoken to someone that had tact, never mind a lady.

She was a real mixture in every sense, her father had been from Colombia, or what used to be Colombia anyway, I don't know what the South Americans call it these days, and her mother was French. She didn't want to talk about her work, which since she stayed away from my past I made a point not to ask about. So I was busy enjoying female company and I got careless of course, as I knew I would, as the little whiner in the Swamp-dungeon-cell had tried to tell me, no SHOUT in my ear.

When I next looked in the passenger view screen, I saw a little movement just behind her pretty left ear. Her perfectly shaped and tastefully adorned with subtle earring of a left ear. I froze in mid sentence and took notice of the external view monitors, as I should have been doing. Stupid. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. Capital S each time and dumb too. Thinking of her left ear even as these three goon bikers are zeroing in on me.

The first second of panic over I reassessed. Not too bad. Three bikes, medium sized with plenty of front armour. Really PLENTY of front armour from the looks of it and no visible weapon ports to speak of, although maybe I'm missing something at this range . . . They'd be crazy to attack. I radioed Alan. "Three bikers coming up. Going about 80 or so, they're pretty close, 75 yards away and closing. They've not asked for right of pass . . . " The sound of loud reports from some kind of heavy rifle type weapon hit me a split second after the crashing of what felt like two small cannon shots cracked some plastic on my rear.

It had begun . . .
 

Instalment three will give you the blow by blow account of this encounter. All e-mail is welcome and ignore Doc Death's (High Velocity Dueling Magazine's Editor) statements about rough e-mail. I can take it as good as I give it, besides anyone that takes offence will be able to sort out their Yankee distaste for good writing in the next arena PBEM duel that I'll take part in. Look out for Driver SOLO in Car ZERO!

A few other points. I write in English, not the Yankee version of it either, so for example, the word colour is spelt C-O-L-O-U-R, as opposed to color, khulah, or however else you're doing it out there now. The same goes for other words. The rest of the civilised world uses the metric system, but given the nature of Car Wars, I've decided to relent on that score and give values in Imperial denomination. Similarly, cash values have been kept in $ as opposed to Gold Kruggerands, in order to simplify conversions for those interested in doing such things.

The events described here really did take place (at least on my table-top) so I've tried to write the account in such a way that enthusiasts can keep some track of the actual mechanics of the combats etc.

Let me all know what you think. The first two parts have been relatively bloodless as I was busy setting the scene, but that's about to change, also let me know if I can OCCASIONALLY use a slightly more adult style of writing, as I feel it would only be natural to scream out "F****** DIE!!" As you empty your last two rounds of VMG fire into that hard-wearing car running at you with a large ramplate on it despite the fact it's on fire and leaving a spray of parts all over the road for every yard it gains towards your now tireless gun emplacement. Not that I feel compelled to use strong themes or language, but given the nature of the Car Wars Universe it seems it would add rather than detract from the flavour of the theme if . . . err . . . tastefully done !
 

Part 2 Gaming Notes

Only equipment given in Uncle Al's 2035 Catalog, Uncle Al's 2036 Catalog and Deluxe Car Wars Rulebook were used in this scenario. The skills Damage and Strength from AutoDuel Champions were also used. The sports power plant used was the prototype version presented in the ADQ&A Column of ADQ Vol. 2, No. 2 and in the short story "Doppelganger" published in ADQ 03.02 ($8,000, 1,000 lbs., 5 spaces, 12 DP, 2,700 PFs). The AVRs were also updated to the current statistics (to-hit 8 and 1d6 damage).  And for those of you that are wondering . . . yes, it really was played out and it did all happen as told.
 

Keep in mind that the Dragon underwent several alterations and modifications throughout its incredible life span of three years. The
power plant being the only piece of equipment that remained in it throughout that time! The stats below are for the Dragon as it was
purchased originally.

Dragon -- Mid-size, x-hvy. chassis, prototype sports PP with SuperCons and overdrive, active OR suspension, 4 OR solid tires, driver, gunner, VMG in universal 2-space turret, 3 MnRs (with bumper trigger and links; may fire them in any combination as long as selected before impact, otherwise one rocket per collision), no-paint/tinted windshields, IRSS, radar, LD radio, HRSWC, HDABS. Plastic armour: F55 (ramplate) , R23, L23, B39, T18, U18 (176 points). Acceleration 10 (5 with overdrive), Top speed 120 (140 with overdrive), DM 1, HC 3, Off-Road HC 3; $45,286.
 

Galleria Taxi 2033 (ADQ 1/3, Best of ADQ Volume 1) -- Mid-size, hvy. chassis, super PP, hvy. suspension, 4 PR tires, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS (with tear gas; weapon able to discharge tear gas into passenger compartment) back, anti-theft system with 10 anti-personnel grenades (1F, 2R, 2L, 1B, 2T, 2U). Plastic armour: F27, R30, L30, B26, T20, U15 (148 points), 2-pts. plastic frame armour between driver and passenger compartment. Acceleration 10, Top speed 100, DM 1, HC 3; 4,975 lbs., $11,800.
 

Galleria Taxi 2033 Custom (Alan's Vehicle) -- Mid-size, x-hvy. chassis, super PP with SuperCons, hvy. suspension, 4 PR tires, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS (with tear gas; weapon able to discharge tear gas into passenger compartment) back, 8 anti-personnel grenades (1F, 2R, 2L, 1B, 2T), HDSAs. Plastic armour: F55 (ramplate), R35, L35, B30, T14, U20 (189 points), 4-pts. plastic frame armor between driver and passenger compartment, four 10-pt. plastic AWHs. Acceleration 10, Top speed 100, DM 1, HC 3; 5,719 lbs. $16,608.

Alan is a Driver, Cyclist, Gunner +2, Handgunner +1, and Running +1 and has Damage +1 (which makes him 5 DP). Alan is equipped
with  body armor, battle vest, (variant) 10-shot heavy pistol, three 10-shot heavy pistol ammo clips (1 AV, 1 AP, 1 standard) , bowie knife, 2 explosive grenades and a strap-on PFE.

Gary Switkoff (American #1) is Handgunner +1, Executive +3, Helicopter Pilot and Gunner.

Arnold Banks (American #2) is Handgunner, Driver +1, Gunner, Executive +2 and Mechanic +1.
 

Galleria Taxi 2033 Custom (Joe's Vehicle) -- Mid-size, x-hvy. chassis, prototype sports PP with SuperCons, hvy. suspension, 4 PR tires, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS (with tear gas; weapon able to discharge tear gas into passenger compartment) back, SD (with explosive spikes) back, link (SS and SD), 9 APGs (1F, 2R, 2L, 1B, 2T, 1U), plastic spoiler, HDSAs. Plastic armour: F55, R40, L40, B35, T20, U20 (210 points), 6-pts. plastic frame armor between driver and passenger compartment, four 10-pt. plastic  AWHs. Acceleration 10, Top speed 120, DM 1, HC 3; 5,758 lbs., $12,856 ($24,856 when including cost of prototype sports PP).

Joe is Driver +2, Gunner, Handgunner +1 Martial Arts +1, Damage (which makes him 4 DP) and Strength (which permits him to perform 1d6-3 damage in HTH combat). Joe is equipped with body armor, battle vest, (variant) 10-shot heavy pistol, three 10-shot heavy pistol ammo clips (1 anti-vehicular, 1 anti-personnel, 1 standard), Tanto (knife), 2 explosive grenades and

Tamara Long (American #3) is Handgunner, Paramedic +1, Executive +2 and Martial Arts +2.
 

Wolven Raiders -- Medium cycle, medium cycle PP with overdrive, hvy. suspension, 2 PR tires, cyclist, passenger, personal equipment (see below). Plastic armor: F50, B10 (60 points). Acceleration 10 (5 with overdrive), Top speed 100 (120 with overdrive), DM 1/3, HC 2; 1,100 lbs., $4,678.

Cyclist -- BA, gas mask, eight-shot HP, bowie knife, explosive grenade.
Passenger -- BA, gas mask, AVR, extra AVR ammo clip, explosive grenade.

The two WR Bodyguards also have the following:
Cyclist -- No-paint modifications for gas mask.
Passenger -- Battle vest, no-paint modifications for gas mask, LTS for AVR, extra AVR ammo clip (30 shots total), smoke grenade, bowie knife.

WR Leader has equipment as the WR Bodyguards, but wears IBA and his heavy pistol is a 10-shot version with three clips (2 anti-vehicular, 1 anti-personnel). He also wears a BA, has a bowie knife, smoke grenade and explosive grenade (as does the passenger).

Wolven Raiders
        Pilots are Cyclist +1, Handgunner
        Passengers are Cyclist, Handgunner +1

Wolven Raider Bodyguards
        Pilots are Cyclist +2, Handgunner.
        Passengers are Cyclist, Handgunner +2

Wolven Raider Leader is Cyclist +2, Handgunner +1, Gunner, Driver, Mechanic +1, Martial Arts +1.
The Leader's passenger is Cyclist +1, Handgunner +2, Gunner, Driver, Mechanic, Martial Arts +1.

Guiseppe Filotto
Cape Town, South Africa
russellp@iafrica.com
September 15, 1997
 

Part 3

Apologies for the tragic delays involved in getting this off to you HVD readers. Taxi Driver Parts I and II were published in past HVD Car Wars Mailing List issues. Either ask our esteemed leader (Michael P. Owen, Car Wars Internet Newsletter Editor) or e-mail me for Parts I and II complete with the designs of all the vehicles involved in the story.

Itís been something like nine months since my last story. In part this has been due to the fact that I went to Europe for a couple of months, so preparations both before and after took up a lot of time (I went for work as well as play). In part it has been due to the fact that I have to kind of pretend to earn some sort of a living, and being self-employed, this can be a time consuming affair. Especially when you write in your spare time (and I still owe a magazine in the UK an article . . . one they are actually going to pay for, making it a deadline job). Just so you know I also owe several articles to a friend who's doing me a Web Site describing my book, and my theories, although not a deadline job, this obviously is also quite important to me. Furthermore, I am currently trying to write another book, so I hope you guys and gals (ARE there any female CW players anyway?!) understand that by the time I am done with a dayís work, Iím kinda sick of seeing my keyboard. Lastly, the whole point of writing these articles was (for me anyway) not only to entertain you, but also for me to run a solo game. That's right, all the stuff you will read about the battles happened EXACTLY as itís written. That's why I give the stats. Of course this makes the whole thing a lot more time consuming, but adds an element of realism. Whether the characters you read about survive or not unfolds alongside the story. (Except for Joe of course, who is writing, so it's a pretty safe bet he came through . . . then again the CW Universe does use a lot of cloning technology . . . so we can't really be sure about that either . . . not till the end anyway).

New readers be warned. These articles take no responsibility for any Yank feelings that may be mangled, maimed or otherwise injured in the reading of this material (See previous articles for more on this). All flames, compliments etc. to be sent to e-mail address below.

Regards to all,

Guiseppe Filotto
Cape Town, South Africa
russellp@iafrica.com
July 04, 1998
 

To pick up where I left off in the last article, I had just spotted three bikers closing in on me a little late in the day since I was distracted by my passenger. As the first two impacts on my back armour registered, the image of her perfectly formed left ear instantly vanished along with any other softness of character I had allowed to creep in over the last three hours of conversation with her.

I was still doing about 75 mph, but instinctively, as the first two shots hit almost simultaneously, I braked. A little too hard probably, since  the digital display dropped to around 60 real fast, but thanks to the HD shocks and the fin at the back it wasn't affecting my handling. That slow-mo' feeling came to me as it normally does and I realised I'd been almost caught off-guard. Then the other guy took over. The one that always does as soon as lead-swapping starts. Mind you, heíd been pretty much running my life since that day I donít like to think about too much, but he really comes into his own at times like these. He has no redeeming human qualities of course, but on the other hand, heís real handy behind the wheel of a small armoured tank like the ones that cruise the highways nowadays.

The initial moment of panic had gone. Calm. Smooth. And God help me, I know that deep down in there somewhere, some part of me, the one that's been collecting scalps for the last 12 years almost smiled. Or maybe it did smile and I'd just rather not know. Reassessing the situation it didn't look bad. A quick glance in the rear-view monitors reconfirmed what I had already noticed. Three bikers with a lot of front armour. I also noticed they had passengers, and each one of them seemed to be sporting some kind of rifle. This was intriguing. Even as I set off the smoke screen I didnít use the linked button. Conserving the spikes for when I had a better idea of what we were dealing with.

As anyone that gets into combat regularly knows, it's amazing how much your mind can process in a few scant milliseconds. Of course writing about it afterwards can never truly capture the essence of it since at the time actual words are NOT going through your head, but perceptions, intuitions evolved over hundreds of hours behind a studded control stick most certainly are. And compressed as they are, they are able to process entire volumes of information in fractions of a second.

The bikers where not a problem. Unless they had concealed gun ports of the blow-away type I didnít spot any front firing weapons, besides, given that they had about a ton of front armour and carried a passenger, chances were that their main offence was limited to personal weapons. And that was probably what was giving me  the underlying feeling of unease. Even as I continued slowing the car down and noticed that Tamara had already ejected her Uzi's clip and was busy replacing it with one from her Battle Vest there was something at the back of my mind that had the calm, deep certainty of an Aroooga type of emergency red-light alert going off. There was something definitely strange about this attack, and it wasnít just the craziness of the bikers. That after all was a common disease amongst their kind. Some more very closely spaced reports rung out, but the smoke must have been having some effect because none hit.

I continued to slow down and fired another smoke charge from the smokescreen, again without dispensing the spikes simultaneously. This time I was sure I heard three distinct reports although very close together. One found its way through the cloud of soot I left behind and cracked some more plastic on my Taxi's rear. I still didnít want to believe it, but the evidence was kinda mounting up. These guys were using anti-vehicular rifles!

Now, for all you Yanks reading this, that may seem like an obvious thing, but down here in South Africa, anti-vehicular rifles are rare and expensive to come by. If youíve been following my story then youíll know that the AK-47, alongside its brethren offshoots, is still a mighty popular weapon over here, despite the fact itís now a weapon design over 100 years old.

It would be unusual enough if one biker had such a weapon; but three out of three was definitely way beyond unusual. It was downright unlikely. And since I donít believe in coincidences, it meant there was a lot more to this attack than an average Joe might suspect. Fortunately "average" has never been a descriptive term that applies to this particular Joe.

As I waited for the bikers to get closer and continued to decelerate, I noted with interest that the middle biker had shifted to the right in order to avoid the first smoke cloud. This placed him quite close to the biker that was riding on the right, and left the third biker on the left all on his own. Tamara noticed it too, because I saw her stick her arm into the weapon port on the right side, leaning over the strapped-in luggage to do so and out of the corner of my eye I saw a small black object go flying towards the two snuggling bikers on the right.

I couldn't believe the accuracy of the throw she'd made, I imagined the concern on their faces as their bikes rode over the spot where her grenade had landed. Iím sure they had just started to breathe a sigh of relief as their speeding bikes zipped over the still unexploded grenade. I'm also sure it didnít last because it exploded directly behind them. The two bikers seemed to have gone through this experience pretty much unscathed although  I suspected their back tires had probably less rubber on them now, but more satisfyingly, I saw some chunks of  body armour fly off from the Lone Ranger and Tonto on the left. They had been further away and so some shrapnel must have caught them in the side, without the benefit of vehicular armour to protect them. Despite all this, we still had three bikers plus their passengers bearing down on us. Time to thin them out.

I was going at 30 mph by now, I remember 'cause I glanced at the speedo-readout just before I swung out left a little and then hard right as I touched the back brakes. Tamara was still lying on top of the luggage and she was thrown violently against the left passenger door. The luggage must have been strapped in badly 'cause most of it ripped loose and piled itself quite rapidly on top of her. Some very distant part of me knew this was happening . . . but he was a small guy, locked far away in that Swamp-Dungeon place and no one here could hear him. Or cared. As the car swung out perpendicular to my direction of travel, alongside the rumbling in the back, with which I was not concerned, I also registered three impacts on my right side. Thatís the driverís side out here, since we still have the old colonial rules of the road in place (namely driving on the left hand-side). I know that due to component placements and thick plastic armour most drivers are actually in an almost central seating position nowadays, but I still felt a little offended.

The bikers had slowed their approach somewhat but they were still going at a good 60 mph and as I finished completing the bootlegger reverse, the two bikers  that had come together to avoid the smoke were not more than 30 feet away from me. I just had time to trigger my recoilless rifle, aiming it roughly, just to the right of my last smoke cloud. It made a fat crater in the road and the previously grenade weakened Lone Ranger, along with his faithful Tonto obviously felt a little shocked at  my disregard for road surfacing because they quite literally sprung out of their seats. This is kinda foolish to do  when youíre travelling at 60 mph on a bike, but given the slackness with which their bodies fell to the floor I think they were beyond caring.

Even as I had fired the recoilless, I had been gunning the engine and now, as the sport power plant whined and complained and sprung my car forward I angled it towards the two bikers that where practically on top of me already, and which I had every intention of using my wiper blades on when this was all over. The one on the right (from my perspective) must have been a racing driver, cause he dropped his bike so fast and so hard, that he managed to go past on my right and almost behind me. I know I was smiling that tight, hard, toothy, intense grin as I begun feeling the crunch of the other biker on the front of my taxi as I spat a "Fucker!" from my throat.

At the same time, and almost as a second thought, I pressed down the third stud on my left stick control, setting off the anti-personnel mine welded to the back of the taxi. I didn't bothered  to look in the rear-view monitor. The racing guy had to straighten up and bend around my back, he didn't have any choice, since although the Lone Ranger was long gone, Silver was still charging, well, okay, more like rolling and  spewing parts down the left side of the road. So he had to be directly behind me. The crunch that followed a scant second later didn't register with me, as I was still busy concentrating on what was in front of me, but Alan by now  had swivelled his car round to come to the rescue, and he described it to me later. He said the mine went off at the  same time that the passenger on the back of Mr. Racerís bike shot into the back of the taxi. He hit me too. I checked later. Had to give them points for trying, with all the driver of that bike was doing, his passenger must have been one  cold guy too to keep firing like that. Course their armour had taken some damage from my earlier recoilless rifle shell,  the same one that killed the Lone Ranger guy, and they were real close to my rear when the mine went off. So they just  kinda gave up and died. Their bike dragged one of them about 20 feet off the road.

Of course I only found this out later, right now I was being impressed by the fact that although we rammed at a combined speed of some 70 mph or so, the bike was so heavy with front armour that it didn't flip over me. Instead it crunched nicely into the front of my car, the front wheel just being pushed into the body of the bike and under it. The speed at which they were going at actually ensured that they pushed my car a bit out of their way and almost slithered past me. Maybe if their crunched front wasnít  busy digging a small ditch they would have gone a little way past me, but as it was, it all came to a stop with the left side of their bike resting directly against my hood. I was smiling inside. I had my right finger ready to trigger the recoilless again but instead I shouted "Surrender!" very loudly through my thick plastic windscreen. Iíd never done that before of course. I never took prisoners. But I wanted to find out who these guys were.

They hesitated for about a second, then the passengerís eyes looked at the swivelling cannon port and he dropped the cone-rifle he was carrying. They both put their hands up after they had slowly extricated themselves from the tangle of plastic. They had both lost their shin guards on the left legs. Alan and I kept our cars pointed at them as they stripped their bodies of weapons and eventually lay face down with their hands on their heads.

I didn't like this. My old friend Mr. Paranoia was fully awake now and although things had slowed down again I was still in combat mode. The whole thing had only lasted six seconds or so, but I had a lot of questions. The first one that came to mind was "Who hired them?" but to some degree I already knew that. They had purpose-built bikes. All that heavy front armour meant that they knew they would be coming up from the rear, which of course a lot of bikers did anyway, but their bikes were standardised. Each one of them a replica of the others, and more importantly, so was all their equipment. It all just screamed Hired Thugs. With all expenses paid for. And these expenses included expensive American equipment. ArmaTex Cone Rifles to be precise.

After the two survivors had removed their helmets and laid down as per instructions I opened my door. "Stay in the car." I turned to look at her as I said it. I wanted to make sure she got the message. She looked back. Her hair was no longer neat.  Somewhere in the rolling around with the luggage her tight ponytail had come a little loose. Her thick black hair was that rare shiny kind. What they call blue-black I guess. Her silver earrings were still in place though. She nodded almost imperceptibly. To try and cut the tension that in my experience surrounds most people after a battle I said, "Maybe you can straighten out the luggage. Tie it in hard this time, if you can." The "if you can" was meant  to soften the sentence I guess, 'cause it kind of added itself on. Maybe it was to try and apologise for what was coming next.

I took my Manhunter V out of the holster as I climbed out the car. Before approaching the two prone bikers I scanned the horizon quickly, especially in the direction they had approached from. I still couldn't see anything, but that red-light klaxon sound that had started going off right at the start of the battle was still merrily ringing away. If anything, it was louder than before. Of course being outside of your car out in the middle of nowhere normally raises your awareness level, but this was different. I just knew this was not over. Not by a long shot. Speaking of which, I hoped they didnít have any snipers around. But the ground was relatively flat around here, so the cover from the smoke and the cars would probably provide cover to some degree or other.

I walked up to the two bikers. Slow-mo was in again. Each step seemed to take so long. So fucking long. Just like my life. Long and all the same. The guy that had been shooting the cone rifle had a pony tail and dirty blonde hair. As I got close he began to turn his head, with his hands still locked on it to try and look up at me. The arm swung into position at its own natural speed as I took the next step. The report of the Manhunter was inhumanly loud in the stillness of the coming dusk. A small red flower opened on the back of his left hand and his head bounced off the ground a little. A small piece of tarmac or gravel skidded away from under his face and towards the man further away from me. In some obscene way it kind of looked as though heíd spat it out violently. His face was resting directly on the tarmac now. Apart from the slightly bulging left eye that I could see, and the rapidly spreading  pool of blood that would soon form under his face he almost looked normal.

The other guy jumped up in fright and horror at the noise, at my action, at the nightmare that life on this planet has become. The futility of it all I thought. He was scrambling away from me in a half sitting position. Terror in his eyes. I pointed the gun at his face. "Donít move!" I said it loudly and  fiercely, but that inhuman calmness was in my voice, as it always is. I know what that man was seeing. He was seeing a tall man with dark hair and deep set eyes that despite being rather light in colour probably looked dark to him, like the muzzle of the large gun. Everything looked very dark to him I am sure. But that's because at times like these, people perceive each otherís souls.

Or lack thereof.

"Don't move." I said it again. It was cold. Hard. He was trying to move his mouth and fidgeting. He wasnít completely still. "That," I said flicking the muzzle briefly towards his dead friend, which I had stepped over as I kept walking closer to him, "was to show you what happens if you don't answer my questions very FAST when I ask them." I paused to note if anything had registered. It seemed like it had. "Got it?"

"Yes!" he nearly screamed it out in his urgency to reply.

"Who hired you?"

"Barry! Barry Akerman!" His eyes were still wide open. He wasn't relaxing, which was exactly what I wanted. He was telling the truth.

"And who hired him?" My voice was flat, but the question came very fast on his last answer, and I was thinking fast too. Akerman. I'd heard that name before, it would come to me later, for now I would just store it and concentrate on the present.

"I donít know," he said and then almost flinched, expecting a second loud report. "An American. I think it was an American, but I don't know who, I swear!"

"What were you hired to do?"

He hesitated a second . . . I guess he was worried about the effect it would have on me to actually hear him spell it out. Silly man. "I . . . we . . . " He glanced at the taxi quickly, "We were supposed to take out the three Americans. Two men and a woman. "

How very tactful of him. Presumably he would have just left Alan and me go on our merry way then.

"How much did you get paid?"

"Nothing . . We got the bikes, and the equipment, all the equipment. We knew the Americans would have some money and we . . . would have received three grand a piece, dollars, after the job."

I didn't rapid fire another question right away, as I processed this as I dumped it into the memory banks, so I guess the man thought this meant we were buddies and could start getting friendlier.

"Don't kill me man. Please don't kill me. I told you what you wanted to know . . . "

"Not yet you haven't." I let him digest it for a second. "How many more of you are there?"

I could see from the dinner plate like size of his eyes that he was trying to figure out if answering that  question was getting him closer to his grave or not. "Thereís a few more . . . bikers, like me . . . " He was starting to try  buying time. Which meant he was less afraid than he had been a few seconds ago. I shot him in the right leg. Just above the knee joint. At least thatís where the bullet hit. The armour he was wearing protected him a little, but at point-blank range there isnít much that will stop a .44 Magnum Cor-Bon bullet. The noise was again so loud and hard and fast. It made a momentary pain against the eardrums. I'm sure the man didnít notice.

He screamed. Looked up at me, the terror evident again, as he held his leg just above the joint. He was blanching. Becoming very pale. "How MANY bikes?" My voice was loud and clear, but I wasn't exactly shouting. It's the calmness that gets them the most. Because something inside every one of us knows that those who are truly mad, truly deranged, removed from any humanity whatsoever, are truly  calm in the face of the infinite blackness of Chaos. Only the deranged can still move and act seemingly purposefully when all sense has gone from the world. And in his world, right now, there wasn't a lot of sanity. Not a lot of comfort. Not very much that made any sense at all. The only thing he had was that as long as he answered questions he could live. And thatís where I aimed to keep him. Exactly there. Not a millisecond further ahead. Not say, to the place where he would begin to question for how long I could possibly continue to ask him questions. "Ah . . . ah. . . " He was making pathetic sounds as he tried to make his mouth work.

"Iím not going to ask you again! How MANY bikes?!" I shouted the last bit this time and I moved the gun meaningfully towards him.

"Ah . . . ah . . . wa-wa-wait . . . three . . . twhee . . . Twelve! There are twelve of us . . . twelve bikes. . . Ah . . . Ah . . ." He was looking down at his leg in glances then back up at me. "There were twe-twenty-four of us . . . that's it . . . two per bike . . . Pl-Please man . . . Please . . . Don't kill me . . . Please . . . Ē

I contemplated  for a second or two. He was crying. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you." Conversational. It was a secondary thing. I was still processing data.

"Puh-pllease man . . . " He had tears streaming down his dirty face. They were leaving tracks in the soot  that he'd piked up during the battle. He had dark hair . . . a silver earring in the left earlobe. It was a thick loop of metal but not huge. Bigger than Tamara's though. It had some kind of design on its broad band.

"I'll . . . I'll slow them down . . . if you let me live. When they come past they will stop for me man . . . give you time."

Interesting. Of course he would then also be able to give them information on the state of our cars . . .

"They will stop for me man, they're my buddies . . . they would take me back to town, give you time to get away . . . "

They probably had a good deal of information on us anyway, which would explain why they bothered to dodge the smoke . . . they must have known about the spikes . . . which implied a whole lot more knowledge than I was comfortable with. Of course it might have just been caution on their side . . . but like I said; I don't believe in coincidence. And if it was bad to have them know the exact layout of our cars, it would be infinitely worse for them to know the current state of them. While they probably would stop for him, if there were another nine (or maybe twelve?) bikes coming, they could easily stagger their assaults while one guy went back to town with him. We wouldnít even know the difference, since he could then double time back to wherever weíd got to by then and join however many of his buddies were left.

"How many of your buddies are still left?"

"Twelve . . . we were twelve bikes . . . so . . . there are nine bikes left . . . "

"Same as yours was?"

"YesÖyes, the same, we all had the same stuff . . . "

I've lived this way for too many years. He was looking directly into my face and I guess he didn't see any kind of a flinch at all, because the bullet's impact obviously took him by surprise. For the third time, the stillness was shattered by the loud noise. He fell back with a dark red hole in his forehead. Brain, bits of skull and blood had sprayed behind him for ten feet. Cor-Bon ammo does that. He fell back with his eyes open and unlike his friend's not bugged out, since most of the overpressure must have gone out the back of his head along with the majority of his mind.

I turned, took the few steps to where they had stripped their stuff and picked up the cone rifle and the spare mag for it. I'd always wanted a cone rifle, but it was a luxury item, never really thought I'd actually own one. I also took the two grenades and Gas Masks, as well as the Pistol and bowie knife. I didnít bother to search their armour compartments for cash or ID. I was in a hurry because now I was almost sure that at any second we'd see bikes coming over the horizon. Alan and his passengers got out of the car. They were all silent and I was irritated. I hate it when Alan (and the rest of the world) gets that look on their face. Like they're trying to be sorry for something. Your seeing that they're horrified with what you are probably.  Like we monsters are supposed to give a shit about their feeling sorry. It's irritating.

"Get their cone rifles."

I shouted across to Alan, pointing to the body closest to him and the bike that had ended up off the road. Alan started to walk towards the corpse. "Hurry! There's more on the way."

At this Alan jogged and the two Americans went back into his car, for which I was glad. I hastily picked up the other cone rifle and two more grenades and piled them all in the back with Tamara. One of the rifles had suffered some scraping and had blood one it as well. That little guy in the Dungeon, who had no business talking nor surfacing right now was trying to make some kind of complaint about that. About the placing of a blood splattered cone-rifle in the back with . . . something . . . woman . . . olive skin. I wasn't listening. I was irritated even more actually. It was mildly disturbing. Why the fuck was this little idiot trying to talk NOW. I was supposed to be ready damn it. Awake! Not thinking about irrelevant shit like this, for Chriss-Sakes!

We got our cars pointing in the right direction and set off again. Over the radio I told Alan the essentials. "There are at least nine more of them gunning for us. I advise you switch on the radar and keep me informed." Alan hadn't given me any warning about the bikers which normally would have had me ranting at him, but for some reason I wasn't bothered about it.

"Okay. I have it on now." I could feel the hesitation in his voice. "I'm sorry . . . I didn't see them, I was talking to Gary and Arnie . . . I got distracted."

"Itís okay," I said back. I could imagine the surprise on his face. He was probably even more worried now, thinking I was just trying to lull him into a false sense of security or something. I was just tired. Tired of all of this. Killing that last guy had just driven the point of futility home even more than I usually had it imprinted in my mind. It was all just the same. Christ what had he been so scared about anyway? Dying would be a relief I'm sure. God forbid there is anything like an afterlife, but IF there was any such thing, which Iím sure there ain't ó I pray regularly to a God I donít believe in that there isnít oneó but IF there was, it sure can't be WORSE than here.

So . . . what was he so scared about? The pain? I dunno . . . maybe he thought I was gonna torture him to death by shooting him full of holes. Silly man. Cor-Bons are expensive. He couldn't have been really thinking that could he? I put it out of my mind and busied myself with changing clips in my Manhunter, so that I had a full load again. I placed the somewhat lighter mag in my battle vest.

Alan's voice came over the radio again. "Iíve set the radar to sound a little alarm, so I wonít miss it the next time okay Joe?"

"Yeah. Good. That's fine. Don't worry about it." Jesus, he was still on about the radar thing? Move ON already. "I'm not sure what they'll try next, but I think it's better for me to drive to one side of the road now, so I can cut across it with spikes if they come up from the rear again okay?" Better start getting him busy with something relevant I thought. "Huh . . . yeah, okay, I'll also shift to the right lane. Good thinking."

Alan and I had worked out this way of driving where heíd stay some 25 yards directly ahead of me. That way if he swerved out of the way I would immediately know something was wrong before he had a chance to radio me, and it allowed me to give more attention to the rear monitors so that if something wearing StealthKote (which was rare but not unheard of here) sneaked up, or if Alan got lazy with the radar, we had that much less of a chance of getting caught by surprise.

After a while of radio silence I realised Alan had probably settled back into normal driving mode. Good. No sooner had I kind of mentally relaxed a bit concerning my brother that Tamara spoke  for the first time since the attack. "Was that really necessary?" She said it flatly. I kept quiet as I glanced in the passenger view screen. She was looking directly back at me.

I didn't answer. Continued driving.

"I mean . . . I don't mean to disturb you, especially now, since it seems like we might be in combat again soon, but was it really necessary to kill them?" I looked at her again. I couldn't read her expression. It seemed clear. No little furrow in the brow to show overly concern about the two dead men, no sad eyes. Yet she was asking.

"Yes." Then  I looked at the road again. When in doubt give the enemy as little data as possible.

"Why?"

I was starting to feel irritated again. Because I damn well enjoy it lady! Okay? Because actually, if we'd had a bit more time, I would have wanted to scalp them alive . . . Fuck! Instead I remained polite "They would have given them more information about the cars. There's more of them. At least another nine from what that guy told me."

"Well, it must be true then. You have a convincing way of interrogating someone."

The eye movement to look at her was instant. Fuck you! I thought. "I didnít have time to get to know him well." Flat. Calm. Unperturbed. But out of the corner of my eye I noticed a little shake in  her features. Nothing big. Nothing even solid. Maybe it was just a little movement at the corner of her mouth, or maybe the video fuzzed for a millisecond. Whatever, but something, somewhere told me I had scored a hit. My expression remained unchanged, but the words Nailed You, came to mind.

"I . . . " Then she stopped. I looked in the passenger viewscreen quizzically. She closed her mouth and shook her head at me. Then blinked slowly and looked away. She was silent for a while. I drove.

"I didnít mean to offend you." She kept looking out of the left window. Not looking at me.

"You didn't." I lied smoothly.

She looked at me then, and we just held each other's gaze for a while, then I spoke again. "People canít offend us. We can only offend ourselves."

There was a pause, then she said: "I suppose youíre right." Eventually she looked away out the window again and I just drove.

The mood was different. It had changed. Well, go figure, you just blow away a guy or two . . . okay, six, but hey, whoís counting, (besides I'm pretty sure it had to do with the last two for some reason) and it sorta spoils the mood for an outing. Doesn't it just. Oh well, at least I still have my old jovial sense of humour. I can't believe I might be unlucky and have to put up with another 50 or 60 years of this. Why anyone gets cloned is beyond me.

I was just starting to settle into this happy state of mind when Alanís voice came over the radio. It was excited but controlled: Contact! Three miles behind us. I've got three blips. Moving at about 90 miles an hour. Theyíre closing pretty fast.Ē

Here we go again I thought.
 

Next episode will carry on without a break or intro . . .
 

Part 3 Gaming Notes

Only equipment given in Uncle Al's 2035 Catalog, Uncle Al's 2036 Catalog and Deluxe Car Wars were used in this scenario. The skills Damage and Strength from AutoDuel Champions were also used. The sports PP used was the prototype version presented in the ADQ&A Column of ADQ 2/2 and in the fiction piece "Doppelganger" in ADQ 3/2 ($8,000, 1,000 lbs., 5 spaces, 12 DP, 2,700 PFs). The AVRs were also updated to the current statistics (to-hit 8 and 1d6 damage).  And for those of you that are wondering . . . yes, it really was played out and it did all happen as told.
 

Statistics After the Fight

The front APG was destroyed as a result from the collision and the back APG was fired. Two SS charges were used as well as one round in the RR. Every tire tire took one point of damage from the bootlegger reverse manoeuvre.

Galleria Taxi 2033 Custom (Joe's Vehicle) -- Mid-size, x-hvy. chassis, prototype sports PP with SuperCons, hvy. suspension, 4 PR tires, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS (with tear gas; weapon able to discharge tear gas into passenger compartment) back, SD (with explosive spikes) back, link (SS and SD), 7 APGs (0F, 2R, 2L, 0B, 2T, 1U), plastic spoiler, HDSAs. Plastic armour: F46, R32, L40, B25, T20, U20 (183 points), 6-pts. plastic frame armor between driver and passenger compartment, four 10-pt. plastic  AWHs. Acceleration 10, Top speed 120, DM 1, HC 3; 5,758 lbs., $12,856 ($24,856 when including cost of prototype sports PP).

Joe is Driver +2, Gunner, Handgunner +1 Martial Arts +1, Damage (which makes him 4 DP) and Strength (which permits him to perform 1d6-3 damage in HTH combat). Joe is equipped with body armor, battle vest, (variant) 10-shot heavy pistol, three extra HP magazines (one AV, one AP, one standard), (Tanto (knife), 2 explosive grenades, strap-on PFE.

Tamara Long (American #3) is Handgunner, Paramedic +1, Executive +2, Martial Arts +2. She is equipped with IBA, gas mask with LI goggles, Uzi SMG with AV ammo and integral laser sight (LTS), extra SMG magazine with AP ammo, extra SMG magazine with AV ammo, HP with AP ammo, 2 explosive grenades.
 

Original Statistics

Taxicabs

These were given before, but I've added in the American's personal equipment in this version. The Wolven Raider's tactics are also somewhat described below.

Galleria Taxi 2033 Custom (Alan's Vehicle) -- Mid-size, x-hvy. chassis, super PP with SuperCons, hvy. suspension, 4 PR tires, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS (with tear gas; weapon able to discharge tear gas into passenger compartment) back, 8 anti-personnel grenades (1F, 2R, 2L, 1B, 2T), HDSAs. Plastic armour: F55 (ramplate), R35, L35, B30, T14, U20 (189 points), 4-pts. plastic frame armor between driver and passenger compartment, four 10-pt. plastic AWHs. Acceleration 10, Top speed 100, DM 1, HC 3; 5,719 lbs. $16,608.

Alan is a Driver, Cyclist, Gunner +2, Handgunner +1, and Running +1 and has Damage +1 (which makes him 5 DP). Alan is equipped
with  body armor, battle vest, (variant) 10-shot heavy pistol, three 10-shot heavy pistol ammo clips (1 AV, 1 AP, 1 standard) , bowie knife, 2 explosive grenades and a strap-on PFE.

Gary Switkoff (American #1) is Handgunner +1, Executive +3, Helicopter Pilot and Gunner. He is equipped with IBA, gas mask with LI goggles, Uzi SMG with AV ammo and integral laser sight (LTS), extra SMG magazine with AP ammo, extra SMG magazine with AV ammo, HP with AP ammo, 2 explosive grenades.

Arnold Banks (American #2) is Handgunner, Driver +1, Gunner, Executive +2 and Mechanic +1. He  is equipped with IBA, gas mask with LI goggles, Uzi SMG with AV ammo and integral laser sight (LTS), extra SMG magazine with AP ammo, extra SMG magazine with AV ammo, HP with AP ammo, 2 explosive grenades.
 

Galleria Taxi (Joe): Mid-Sized, X-Hvy Chassis, Hvy Suspension, Sport Power Plant + SC, 4 PR tires w/ 4 10 point wheel hubs, driver, 2 passengers, RR front, SS with tear gas piped into passenger compartment, SD w/ explosive spikes, link (SS to SD), Spoiler, 9 AP grenades (1 F, 1B, 1U, 2 every other side) HD Shocks. Armour: F55, R40, L40, B35, T20, U20, 6 in wall between passenger compartment and driver. Acc. 10,  Top: 120mph, HC 3, 5758 lbs. $12,856 [24,856 including cost of Sports Power Plant].

Joe is Driver +2, Gunner, Handgunner +1 Martial Arts +1, Damage (which makes him 4 DP) and Strength (which permits him to perform 1d6-3 damage in HTH combat). Joe is equipped with body armor, battle vest, (variant) 10-shot heavy pistol, three 10-shot heavy pistol ammo clips (1 anti-vehicular, 1 anti-personnel, 1 standard), Tanto (knife), 2 explosive grenades, strap-on PFE.

Tamara Long (American #3) is Handgunner, Paramedic +1, Executive +2, Martial Arts +2. She is equipped with IBA, gas mask with LI goggles, Uzi SMG with AV ammo and integral laser sight (LTS), extra SMG magazine with AP ammo, extra SMG magazine with AV ammo, HP with AP ammo, 2 explosive grenades.
 

Wolven Raiders

There are 12 of these bikes, all identical, then two additional bikes that always travel with the leader (also same stats as above), known as the Bodyguards, and then the leader himself, for a total of 15 bikes.

Wolven Raiders -- Medium cycle, medium cycle PP with overdrive, hvy. suspension, 2 PR tires, cyclist, passenger, personal equipment (see below). Plastic armor: F50, B10 (60 points). Acceleration 10 (5 with overdrive), Top speed 100 (120 with overdrive), DM 1/3, HC 2; 1,100 lbs., $4,678.

WR Cyclists -- BA, gas mask, eight-shot HP, bowie knife, explosive grenade.
WR Passengers -- BA, gas mask, AVR, extra AVR ammo clip, explosive grenade.

The two WR Bodyguards also have the following:

WR Bodyguard Cyclists -- No-paint modifications for gas mask.
WR Bodyguard Passengers -- Battle vest, no-paint modifications for gas mask, LTS for AVR, extra AVR ammo clip (30 shots total), smoke grenade, bowie knife.

WR Leader has equipment as the WR Bodyguards, but wears IBA and his heavy pistol is a 10-shot version two extra AV ammo clips and extra AP ammo clip. He also wears a BA, has a bowie knife, smoke grenade and explosive grenade (as does the passenger).

Wolven Raiders
        Pilots are Cyclist +1, Handgunner
        Passengers are Cyclist, Handgunner +1

Wolven Raider Bodyguards
        Pilots are Cyclist +2, Handgunner.
        Passengers are Cyclist, Handgunner +2

Wolven Raider Leader is Cyclist +2, Handgunner +1, Gunner, Driver, Mechanic +1, Martial Arts +1. His passenger is Cyclist +1, Handgunner +2, Gunner, Driver, Mechanic, Martial Arts +1.

The first assault consisted of three bikes. Although the Raiders have been given information about the taxis Joe and Alan drive, they wanted to be sure of what their capabilities where, so they sent in Terry, Jim and Bob, along with their passenger/gunner friends Tim, Marty and Gerald to see if they were worthy of joining the Wolven Raiders, while the esteemed Leader of the pack observed with binoculars from a nearby small rise.

Unsurprisingly, Terry, Jim and Bob, along with their three cone-rifle wielding friends didn't make it into the prestigious ranks of fully fledged Wolven Raiders, however, they did provide the gang with useful information as regards the tactics that Joe and Alan use. Perhaps even more importantly, they observed the ruthless interrogating skills displayed by Joe, and we can be sure that they fully intend to avenge their dead comrades. Though they weren't really gang members they showed promise, and Joe's untimely retirement of the two survivors was considered rather unsporting by the gang. You can rest assured that the next conflict will be a far more dangerous affair.