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Old 08-04-2010, 12:30 PM   #1
bosky
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Default Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Synopsis

The year is 2041 and fortress towns jealously guard vast algae farms. Between the lone bastions of civilization are the burning wastes. The new frontier of danger, excitement, and riches is home to...the highway cowboys.
Their steel mounts are souped up cars and semi-trucks loaded with an array of machine guns, missile launchers, and flaming oil. Whether looting and pillaging or defending the meek, their driving exploits are loved by all.

Our tale focuses on the adventures of three heroes of the road:
Sunny Miller, a skilled up-and-coming autoduelist with a quick smile and quicker trigger finger. Will his experience in the muddy derby pits help him survive the untamed highways?
Worn out and beaten down by the world, Preacher Pike is a man on the edge. Having replaced faith in the good book with faith in a good gun has kept him alive this long. Will his suicidal tendencies finally catch up to him?
The lovely Sassy Sass, a working girl with a heart of gold. Driving passengers between towns in her armored taxi pays the bills, and couriering illegal drugs keeps her in the lap of luxury.

When a critical job to carry a package across America drags these unlikely and unwilling companions together, an explosive rush of high octane excitement follows!


----

I don't know how many of you are familiar with National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), but it's an event in November where anyone can try to write 50,000 words on any topic they want. Me and some friends did this last year, but got the writing itch again in the heart of summer. So we've decided to do a western themed event called Westwrimo for the month of August.

In my case I knew instantly that I wanted to explore the Car Wars universe with some fan fiction, titled Highway Cowboys. So I wrote the pulp sounding synopsis above and went to work. I try to write between 1,000 and 3,000 words a day, and you can see the story so far here: Highway Cowboys story.

I've never written fan fiction before (and don't really like the term, haha). So far I've tried to inject a relatively accurate depiction of the Car Wars timeline (from the 2.5 Compendium), weapons, and action. I'm 10k words in (as of the August 3rd), and already I'm having a blast writing a lighter, less serious style like this is.

If anyone knows of other Car Wars fiction kicking around I'd love to hear it. I've read the ADQs, and I know there were some kind of official choose-your-own-adventure books way back when, but unfortunately that kind of thing is hard to get a hold of now days.

Anyways feedback and critique is welcome!

Last edited by bosky; 08-04-2010 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 08-09-2010, 06:44 PM   #2
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress

Those were a lot of fun to read. I missed the heyday for Car Wars, so I never really got a chance to get into the back story or hear peoples take on the Car Wars world. I thought covering an arena event, a bounty hunter, and a transporter was a good way to really flesh out the Car Wars universe.


Make sure to post any more you come up with......I really enjoyed them.
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Old 08-10-2010, 03:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress

Thanks for the kind words MattV. I'm also sad to have missed the days when new Car Wars material was being produced and they had annual tournaments and all.

This forum seems to limit post sizes so I can't paste the entire story in. However I thought I'd post an excerpt from the start of the story, concerning the autoduelist Sunny in his eighth match. In terms of the actual story I'm up to about 15,000 words (including a battle with a semi-truck towing three trailers), so again check out the full story for the rest.
Once I finish the story I'll post the full file (in a variety of formats like text, doc, pdf, etc.) somewhere and link it here. But for now...


Excerpt 1
The roar of the arena awaited him. Sunny could hear the cheering crowd fighting to be heard over the revving of engines. Occasional gunfire quickened his pulse as he waited in his vehicle.
Young and with an innocent gleam to his features, the rookie looked like an unlikely demolition derby driver. But seven victories in matches all across the southern United States proved that looks can be deceiving.
Agitated mechanics and backstage spectators edged around his car. The air vibrated with excitement and expectation as he waited for the ramp light to glow green. Many drivers confessed that waiting solemnly in their seat was the tensest part.
Grinning away the thought, the cocky youth tapped out a half remembered tune on the steering wheel. Instead of worrying about his upcoming conquest, the rookie reminisced about another victory from the previous night. She had been a blond, eager fan that Sunny was more than happy to "show around the garage". His mind drifted through the gutter as he imagined more followers throwing themselves at his podium.
The buzzing electronic voice overhead rudely shook him from the indulgent day dreams. "Sunny Miller on-ramp in five minutes. Final weapon check in two." He sighed at the return to reality. Restoring his grin the rookie waved over his loyal pit mechanic Ned.
"Well, I guess you can run another check on the guns," Sunny said, shrugging and not the least bit worried about technical difficulties. In fact he hadn't worried about much since his first two Division 5 victories.
Named for the limit of $5,000 a vehicle, such matches ended quickly in fiery explosions and overjoyed locals. Under armored, under gunned, and under powered death traps were the cake and biscuits of such matches.
The battles had provided him with an easy entry into the arena circuit. Drawing inexperienced drivers from each small town, Div 5 matches were normally a big seller for the sheer amount of carnage involved. Sunny was happy to be past that stage in his budding career and already well on his way to Division 20.
Short and stocky and clad in overalls, Ned nodded at the request. "I wish I could have talked you out of this configuration. You know that relying on ramming is a-"
The driver tuned the lecture out, having heard it before the past four matches. Pleasing the crowd and sponsors was part of Sunny's goal each night, and unique armaments and tactics helped achieve that. Besides, Ned was a good mechanic, but Sunny was a good driver. Ned didn't have a racer's reflexes or a gunner's aim, and all of his advice wasn't founded on experience.
Idly Sunny watched the man expertly run his fingers over the three weapons on the vehicle. A large bore machine gun dominated the lower half of the front hood. The rear of the vehicle sported two jutting rockets, painted in a checkered pattern of blue and white. Cleverly linked and bound to a sensitive bumper trigger, the projectiles would fire as soon as the back collided with a solid object.
Sunny tried to visualize the upcoming match. He wasn't certain of who he would face until they both drove out from opposite sides. Checking the gauges on his dashboard, he was at least certain of his car. Intimate knowledge of the limits and short comings of a vehicle could mean the difference between walking or being carried off the track.
Best known for a gaudy yellow paint job, custom of course, the Sunspot IV was a maneuverable sedan. Thick sheets of advanced plastics armored every side of the vehicle. The large engine and thick puncture resistant tires had sped Sunny around all different types of tracks. Tonight he'd have the pleasure of battling in Yuma, Arizona.
Sunny planned to chip away at his opponent with distant machine gun fire. Hopefully he could avoid any severe retaliation thanks to a sharp turn now and then. He figured once the armor was penetrated on a side he'd swing the Sunspot around and speed backwards into the exposed victim. A high speed collision coupled with automatic rocket fire should put an end to the festivities. The roar of the crowd reminded him that daring, dangerous skids were cheered more than slow cunning.
Ned successfully finished his checks. Cleaning his hands on a stained rag he herded the wide eyed crowd away from the vehicle. The start of the match was a minute away, and it was time for Sunny to focus.
The ramp light switched to a solid blue, prompting Sunny to flick various switches to activate his weapons. Without hesitation he cranked the ignition and redlined the engine immediately, much to the surprise and joy of everyone in the pit. With a barely audible click the light switched to flashing yellow. Sunny breathed deeply, put the car in gear, and smiled his self assured smile.
The signal pulsed yellow, yellow, yellow, and finally green.

Last edited by bosky; 08-10-2010 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 08-10-2010, 03:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 2
His car snapped off the line and he clattered up the metal ramp. Blinking at the burning desert sun he emerged into the Yuma arena.
As far back as the year 2028 it had been an international airport, but when the autodueling craze swept the nation the town was quick to repurpose the tarmac. Old, heavily glassed viewports were converted into grandstands and staff offices became tacky gift shops. The airplane hangars were transformed into bustling garages. Asphalt was poured and levelled between each runway while thick barriers were installed to form a circular arena.
Driving from the south gate Sunny quickly scanned the area. To add excitement and strategy a variety of obstacles and mobile buildings were shifted before each match. A series of crossed metal beams ran down the left of the arena in a vaguely straight line. Five concrete blocks had been randomly spaced near the edges of the arena. The center was dominated by a large building bristling with TV cameras. Slightly south of that was a smaller, weaker wooden structure painted with a mural of horses. A set of crowd pleasing ramps were on either side of the building like a pair of bookends.
Spurring his vehicle to seventy miles an hour Sunny directed his senses to learning about his opponent in the shortest amount of time. His ears picked up the echoed, booming voice of a male announcer.
"Roaring in from the south gate is the yellow car...you know him, you love him, he's the man that brightens anyone's day...Suuuuunny Miller. Powering in from the north gate in the black and red car is his opponent, the one and only Kilgor Khan the Killer. Let the games begin!"
Ferocious applause drowned the announcer as he listed and thanked a series of sponsors. Squinting against the shimmering heat haze, Sunny sized up Kilgor's vehicle. He had seen the man compete once before and already liked his odds. His opponent tended to prefer resiliency and brute force over finesse and speed.
Spying the hulking black vehicle paralleling the line of beams just confirmed his suspicions. Ponderous slabs of armor that would make a turtle jealous shielded every facet of the car. The driver quickly identified the chassis as a stripped and modified Hammer.
A big red fist was painted on the jagged front, and Sunny smirked when he saw the middle finger was raised. His mirth turned to concern as he looked closer and saw three bronze nozzles of flamethrowers lined vertically up the flippant finger.
Heavy metal music blasted from a loudspeaker on top of Kilgor's vehicle. Sunny decided to please the crowd and win their support early on. Carefully judging the distance he eased the machine gun trigger down. His vehicle bucked slightly as the belt fed weapon coughed to life, throwing shells as big as his finger down the range.
Evidently surprised by the early attack, Kilgor was caught off guard. As hoped, the loudspeaker took the brunt of the fire. Piercing squeals of protesting metal echoed between the cars as the noisy music was silenced in a glorious shower of sparks.
Sunny could hear the fervent bellows of the crowd as he weaved between the concrete blocks and circled to a north west position. He hoped to keep some distance between Kilgor's flamers and his Sunspot.
For a few seconds the strategy worked. Shells repeatedly fountained from his gun to hungrily chew through Kilgor's armor. With such a heavy vehicle Kilgor was forced to lower speeds to prevent rolling over during sharp turns. This allowed Sunny to keep one step ahead of the probing flamers. A few lashes of burning jelly did strike his vehicle, but the exchange was clearly in the rookie's favor.
Their chasing, roving route tended towards circling the arena. Clearly growing tired of the cat and mouse game, Kilgor acted suddenly and unexpectedly. As both combatants were closing on the central building, the black Hammer swerved towards the structure and jammed the accelerator to the floor. The vehicle spewed black exhaust as it veered towards the ramp in front of the building.
The maneuver happened in a split second before the trailing yellow car had a chance to react. Already edging left to circle the arena, Sunny was caught off guard and could only watch in shock as Kilgor's vehicle leapt up the steep ramp and flew over the wooden building, the spinning tires barely scraping the roof.
Tilting nose down from the weighted armor helped line up the red middle finger with Sunny's vehicle. He slammed on the brakes as the airborne Hammer sent gouts of flame across the Sunspot.
Beads of sweat formed across his forehead as the car was engulfed in the blaze. The acrid stink of burning plastic armor overpowered the cockpit as Sunny continued to slow. Tires protested and suspension howled at the deceleration, but it was all part of a plan he had formulated before even touching the brakes.
While providing prime pictures for tabloids and newspapers, throwing a three ton vehicle off a ramp isn't the best strategy. This was painfully clear to the roaring crowd and shouting announcer as the Hammer continued in a predictable arc, unable to change direction in midair.
On the ground Sunny twisted the wheel as hard as he could with one hand while the other worked the emergency brake. Using the last momentum the vehicle grudgingly did a full 180 degree turn, swinging the rockets in line with Kilgor's landing spot. As soon as the turn was completed Sunny sped in reverse.
Finally the black Hammer smashed to the ground, shattering the concrete and shaking the entire arena. Before Kilgor could reposition himself or catch his breath from the daring leap Sunny was on him like an angry badger.
Adrenaline pounded through his veins as the bumper collided at forty miles an hour. There was a momentary hush through the arena before the thunderous bang of both rear rockets triggering into the damaged Hammer. Sunny was thrown forward in his seat, the restraining belts cutting into his shoulders as his helmet cracked the front windshield.
Super heated plastic exploded in all directions as the heavy rockets impacted across the helpless Hammer. Like a can opener the yellow car continued to plow through Kilgor's crumpled vehicle. Maintaining enough sense to angle his vehicle slightly, Sunny was able to slide under the top heavy vehicle and flip the burning wreckage over.
The sound of broken metal and secondary explosions dulled his hearing for a moment before the surge of cheers overpowered all other sound. His heart raced and his hands shook when his name flashed in scrolling marquee across the TV building.
"I gotta tell you I thought it was over when those flamers hit, but an incredible maneuver by the younger driver destroyed Kilgor and brought Sunny Miller his eighth victory!"
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 3
The hamlet of Primm was nothing more than a bump in the road between Las Vegas and California. Quiet desperation permeated the highway hugging casino and saloon. Flipping cards and rolling dice no longer kept the masses interested compared to vehicular destruction, and Primm had suffered accordingly. Unknown to the grubby drunkards at Whiskey Pete's pub, such destruction was closing in.
One particular patron could feel the looming cloud of danger. He constantly flicked nervous eyes across the room before feeling for the reassuring grip of a pistol. Having murdered five street girls tended to impose the attitude of a cornered rat. The Nevada Prostitution Guild, Inc. was not forgiving, and they would not forget the bloody hand of Trask.
The desert sun was high in the sky when he heard the engine. To a trained ear the roar of a combat car sounded terrifically different from the dull drone of commuter traffic.
Trask cocked such an ear towards Interstate 15 before rising from his chair to rush to the cracked bar window. Casually rolling towards Whiskey Pete's was a dusty armored car. Grit and sand beyond anything Trask had seen coated the entire vehicle. The original color may have been a dark green, but years on the road had browned the vehicle to a pallid shade of rust. Modern, sleek tips of dual lasers jutted from the top of the hood. Even though no other weapons were visible, the sight of such powerful equipment sent shivers through Trask.
Tinted glass shadowed the man inside. Weathered hands edged the car directly in front of the swinging doors, then cut the engine. Trask froze as the dull silence lengthened. His body screamed to flee or reach for his gun, but the murderer was locked with fear as the vehicle's door swung open.
A wide brimmed hat appeared first, shading an old face as worn and cracked as the car's mudflaps. Gritted teeth toyed with a toothpick as the driver emerged to his full height. Adorning his torso was a rustic black tunic marked with bullet holes had been stitched over. Cowboy boots worn beyond all creases scuffed slight clouds of dust.
Trask immediately noticed the ancient six-shooter comfortably resting on the man's hip. The gun was a police issued service revolver, likely top of the line twenty years ago.
The murderer coughed in surprise and fumbled for his own pistol. His time of reckoning had come, for a hired bounty hunter had finally caught up with him.

Pike surveyed the front of the saloon. Brazen neon flashed "cold beer" and the driver could see three spectators huddling in the broad front windows. His peripheral vision recorded these details, for his attention was locked on Trask.
Shifting his toothpick, the bounty hunter calmly walked towards the swinging doors. Ash colored spurs jingled as he mounted the creaking wooden stairs, his right hand resting easily on the holstered six-shooter.
Years in past police work had accustomed his voice to barking orders. Pausing outside the entryway, Pike shouted a booming command. "Trask, by order of the Nevada Prostitution Guild, throw down your weapons and come out with your hands up."
Feet shuffled inside, and for a moment Pike hoped the situation could defuse peacefully. Then he heard the telltale click of a gun being cocked.
The old man lunged through the door and dove behind the nearest bystander. Trask was waiting inside and fired a clatter of shots immediately, screaming "You'll never take me!" Wide shots shattered bottles and chipped into the wall, but the desperate fire continued. The wet thud of three impacts hit the patron Pike had taken cover behind, killing the unwilling shield.
Exposed, Pike was quick to return fire. Snapping the six-shooter from his hip he fired two shots that splintered Trask's wrist and upper arm. Crying out in pain the murderer dropped his smoking pistol and twisted to flee. The swaying target weaved between slouched drunks, blocking Pike's shot.
The bounty hunter cursed and swung out the door towards his car. Storming into the cockpit he fired the engine to life and reversed in a wide spin, expertly pointing his nose towards the alley behind Whiskey Pete's.

Hobbling from the throbbing pain, Trask pushed open the pub's back door and painfully went to his truck. Raised, oversized tires combined with his wounded arm made the climb up quite a feat. Trask breathed a sigh of relief once inside the safer confines of the cockpit.
Then two pulses of light slashed into the side of the vehicle, piercing the armor and nearly killing Trask. Panicking the screaming man floored the truck, his screeching tires chewing through the wooden pub in a shower of splinters.
Jostling in the cab, Trask managed to keep the accelerator down enough to finish plowing through the saloon and out onto the Interstate. Mangled, crushed patrons followed in his wake, and for a moment Pike was caught off guard by the suicidal maneuver.
A veteran to many combats, the bounty hunter recovered quickly and edged around the outside of the destroyed pub. His quad back tires chewed up desert scrub as he sped onto the cracked pavement of the highway.
Pools of flaming oil greeted him, for Trask had been spraying the deadly substance seconds after clearing the pub. Reducing his speed and swerving to avoid the hazards, Pike chased south after the truck.
Unhindered by road dangers, Trask had gained a commanding lead. Revving his truck to ninety miles an hour he continued to drop flaming oil as the town of Densmore approached. Adrenaline fueled his charge and helped him ignore his wounded limb.
Two miles outside of the town his rear oil ran dry. The automated weapon had desperately tried to keep a consistent flow of flaming oil, but at such high speeds the strategy quickly emptied the tank.
Flicking a button on the dash, Trask switched to his rocket launchers. The heavy tubes could rapidly propel up to ten missiles before requiring a reload. He gained some confidence at the empty highway behind him, and further still when he thought of the launchers on the front and each side.

More confident still was Pike as his long car streaked past stunted desert plants. Paralleling the truck from a safe distance he could tell by Trask's slowing speed that the target thought he had escaped. Blurred hills flew by, providing intermittent cover between the two vehicles.
Driving offroad at such high speeds was hard on his green car, but it was a necessary sacrifice to be able to bypass the burning oil and keep pace. Clenching his teeth he gently rubbed the dashboard, whispering "We'll get 'im soon Jodi, then we can rest." He eased the throttle back to eighty miles an hour to match the burly truck, and waited for an opportunity to strike back to the Interstate.
The town of Densmore provided such a chance. Boasting four streets and a small arena meant the place was a slightly larger bump on the highway. The arena was coming up fast to his right, between the desert and the Interstate.
"Perfect." Digging deep grooves in the soft turf, the bounty hunter turned Jodi towards the truck. A soft glow denoted the laser energy levels, but to Pike they looked like hungry eyes.

Slowing as he entered the town, Trask began to doubt the ease of his escape. Fingers twitched dangerously close to the triggers as he looked out all his windows, trying to catch a glimpse of his pursuer.
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 4
Screaming from behind the arena came the green car. The sun glimmered off the lasers and gave Trask all the glimpses he could want. Even through the tinted glass he could feel the bounty hunter's piercing gaze.
Pike approached from the left side, covering the open ground away from the arena as quickly as the terrain allowed. Splitting his mouth into a yellowed smile, Trask fired a double salvo from the left rocket launcher. A smokey tang filled the air as the missiles streaked towards his foe.
Reacting purely on instinct Pike swerved hard left, avoiding the first projectile. The rocket spiraled harmlessly into the concrete, exploding in a shower of rock. Luck was with Trask though for the second shot smashed into the oncoming vehicle. The ground shook as the hungry rocket exploded against armor, tearing apart a piece of Jodi's hood. Smoke leaked from the opening, but was quickly swept away as Pike continued to close.
As soon as he fired Trask sped up and tried to keep his left flank aimed at the bounty hunter. Pike continued his soft angled approach, which gave the murderer another chance to fire.
Pike now knew what the truck was capable of, and had been dodging rockets since before Trask was a child. The incoming missile didn't have a chance. A deft nudge right sent the explosive sailing past.
Still he did not return fire. Patience was one of Pike's favorite tactics. Lulling the enemy into false confidence before striking with the fury of a rattlesnake had served him well for many years.
Boasting to himself at the earlier hit, Trask returned to his ninety mile an hour speed and fired again. His smile turned to a cry of confusion as the green car braked and dropped from view.
Having closed to the ideal distance, Pike was done waiting and moved to attack. Nearly parallel on his approach, he drifted right and simply tapped the brakes to bring the lasers on a direct line to the rear of the truck.
Before Trask had a chance to swerve or counter brake, invisible beams of energy shattered his rear axle. Silently passing through the air like an archer's arrow, a second beam devastated the right tire.
Suddenly ninety miles an hour seemed eighty miles too fast for Trask. The split axle and popped tire sent the vehicle into a violent end over end flip. His truck groaned and protested as the roof slid along the concrete. Two hundred feet had passed before the wreckage slowed to a halt.
In full control came the green car, decelerating to bring it level with the flipped vehicle. Whimpering and barely conscious, Trask wiped blood from his eyes and heard the menacing jingle of spurs.
"Trask, by order of the Nevada Prostitution Guild, throw down your weapons and come out with your hands up." In a rare show of emotion, Pike, savoring the victory, added a taunt, "If you can."

----

"Well I just think you're being a bitch about this."
"Then I clearly have not explained myself, nor my situation, adequately."
"Who even talks like that? Nor? Adequately? Jeez man contract a word every once in a while." Fiery hair matched the fire in her eyes as the driver continued her tirade, "Hell maybe your wife wouldn't cheat on you so bad if you did."
The victim of the harsh words, a squirrelly young man in gray overalls, pushed up his glasses and sighed.
Rolling her eyes and matching the sigh, she continued, "You're just going to take that ****? From a total stranger?"
The unlikely pair had been driving through southern Colorado for close to two hours. Highway 160 was their trail, and Cortez their eventual destination. The driver was a plump woman named Sassy Sass. In her own way, in the right light, she was quite beautiful. She exuded energy and every motion seemed vibrant with life.
Beside her was an already balding passenger, although he couldn't be older than eighteen. Introverted and uncertain, he distantly looked at the rolling mountains out his window. For the small fee of six dollars a mile he was being safely transported in her armored taxi from the city of South Fork. The man, Pierre, would have paid far more to escape his wife.
"We are not -" Pierre caught himself and contracted the word, "aren't...aren't really strangers. I heard all about your childhood, and you know about my family situation."
"'Family situation' is right," was the gruff reply. All types of clients came through her cab, but some rubbed her the wrong way the entire trip. "Still", she thought, "$880 is $880 bucks".
Uncomfortable silence settled on the car for a handful of miles. Lakes, forests, and cold mountains drifted past as the taxi cruised through the winding turns and slight descents. The sun lazily settled on the horizon and prepared to retire for the night.
Feeling herself being absorbed by the simple pleasure of driving, Sassy tried to snap out of her trance and keep the conversation rolling. "Let me ask you this, if you don't mind." Pierre absently nodded his accord, "What stops you from driving this stretch yourself? It looked like at least one of the cars in your driveway was capable."
"I'm just not like you Miss Sassy. I've been an algae farmer for so long that I can barely drive the commute into work."
This time Sassy contained her eye roll and settled for a venomous thought, "What a loser."
An abandoned post office at the junction to 140 solemnly watched them pass. Sassy preferred to work in the safer, populated routes, so seeing the slumped building depressed her.
The emotion lead to a moment of weakness, and she finally apologized to Pierre. "Hey, I'm sorry for earlier."
Stoically tightening his lips and nodding, the man returned to his scenery watching.
"Say, tell me a bit about farming the pools. I don't eat the stuff as much as I used to, but I bet that's an important job." Flattery came hard to Sassy, and the words sounded strained to her ears.
Pierre however brightened immediately at the invitation and became rambling about algae growth, transportation, and other mundane details.
Sassy wasn't quite old enough to remember the devastating grain blight. Instead she suffered the after effects for most of her difficult childhood. Starting in Nebraska in 2012, the outbreak destroyed the staple food stocks in the world. Growing up during the ensuing food riots and gang warfare had been hard on Sassy. Her parents were tough, intelligent survivors and protected the girl until the age of sixteen. Then a road gang brutally killed them while driving across Montana.
Sorrow mingled with the wishful thinking of youth pushed Sassy to become a courier soon after. She figured if armored taxi services had been as plentiful years ago, her parents might still be alive.
Her attention drifted in and out of the conversation. Algae farmers were indeed important and gained respect far exceeding their pay grade. Without a steady supply of food, countries had squabbled and warred for the last scraps from civilization's table. Harvesting thick, gooey algae from vast pools had helped solve that.
For her first few years of driving Sassy had lived on the stuff. Eventually her reputation at making reliable, consistent deliveries landed her a job running the illegal drug Wish. From then on side jobs in black market goods kept her well fed on week old fruits and vegetables. She considered that a step up from algae soup.
"...and after losing that much product my company stopped transporting to the smaller towns. Fortress towns only now!" Pierre exclaimed, beaming with pride as if he was the CEO and not a muckslinger.
Pandering to the man, Sassy faked excitement. "Wow how interesting. I never knew gangs could be so daring."

She was swaying through the curving road before the ruined town of Mancos when the radar pinged to life. Instantly Pierre began fussing, "Who could it be? Some other travellers?" Silently biting her nails she checked the map, noting a solid nineteen miles until Cortez.
An additional four blimps on the radar made her look up, then firmly answer "I wish."
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:59 PM   #7
bosky
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 5a
Highwaymen come in all shapes and sizes. Cars, trucks, buses and semi-trucks are common choices. But the cheapest and easiest mob to assemble is a mounted pack of motorcycles.
The Rampagers were a typical squad of wild, careless speed freaks. The leader boasted a gang size of twenty bikes, but drifting membership and fatalities put the number closer to eight. On this night a pack of five had assembled. Most slung rifles on their shoulders, and only two bikes were mounted with light machine guns.
A single motorcycle was no match for a prepared driver in a prepared car. But cycles preferred a dirty fight lopsided to their advantage.

Therefore it was no surprise to Sassy when a felled tree blocked the road around the next corner. Driving experience coupled with the early warning of five blips on the radar didn't leave her totally unprepared. Tires squealed like stuck pigs as she pumped the brakes, leaving streaks of burnt rubber.
Adrenaline fueled eyes noticed a crouched form on the left side of the road, and she desperately angled for the shape. Luck was with her for the tree had been knocked over and dragged from the opposite side, so she didn't have a root structure to contend with. Sassy saw the prone man scramble out of the way as her speeding car closed.
The ambusher fled to a nearby motorbike, which left an unguarded narrow passage to the thin upper trunk. Switching feet she jammed the accelerator, simultaneously clicking her left trigger twice. In response a pair of metallic plates clunked from behind her vehicle.
Nervously biting his nails and looking all around, Pierre yelped at the noise. "Are we hit?"
"No. Those were our mines." Fully focused on driving she didn't bother elaborating further.
The broad midsection of the tree made a formidable obstacle for anyone in the center of the road. Unfortunately for the gang, the effectiveness of their barricade didn't expand across the entire highway width. Sassy played upon his weakness by aiming straight for the thin upper half, hoping to ram straight through it.
Dropping mines was a simple precaution against any bold pursuers trying to follow her. Unlike some drivers, she didn't care about glory or victory, she just cared about getting herself and the passenger to their destination in one piece.
Regretting the earlier reflex to slam the brakes, Sassy urged the car to regain speed. Thick steel bars patterned the front of the taxi, providing some protection against collisions. Gritting her teeth she hoped it was enough to cleanly shatter the tree.
"Wait! Wait, you're not going to hi-" escaped Pierre's quavering mouth as the taxi smashed into the tree. There was a tremendous cracking noise that only split wood can create. Angry sparks burst from both headlights as the hood was compacted from the force. Sassy cried out as the front left tire impaled on a branch and violently deflated. Flashing lights and a buzzing alarm sounded in the cab, the on-board computer trying to alert her to the severe damage.
Her arms nearly buckled from the effort of straightening the vehicle, but eventually the car forced itself clear of the tree. Dark highway lay ahead, but Sassy was more focused on the ruckus behind her escape.
Motorcycle engines buzzed to life from both sides of the road, but apparently the gang had been caught off guard by her plan nearly as much as Pierre was. Leading by a solid four seconds gave her ample time to skid and spray a slick line of oil.
"Get on the turret!" she hollered, yanking a lever to reveal a targeting computer to the stuttering Pierre. Noise echoed from the roof of her vehicle as a drooping turret snapped to life. The swivelling weapon encased a high rate of fire Vulcan machine gun.
Now that the initial surprise had worn off, Sassy began to feel confident in her ability to fend off the five attackers. Her vehicle was configured purely for avoiding pursuit. To that end the back was covered in various tubes, ramps, and grills to discharge a variety of nastiness. In addition to the turret the taxi boasted a minelayer, smokescreen, oil jet, and spikedropper.
Her confidence continued to rise as an explosion cracked through the night. One of the mines had done it's job, and already the motorcycle gang was down a member. There was a lull in the panicked atmosphere as she sped away from the lights, hoping to escape in the shock of the mine. "Okay, I know we didn't go over this back in South Fork, but I need you to focus and get on that turret!"
"I...I don't know how to..."
"Look, just move this joystick to aim at any lights you see behind us. Hold the trigger for half a second to shoot, alright?" Pierre's sweating face was momentarily illuminated in the glow of the targeting console, and the fear there made Sassy consider putting the turret on automatic fire. In a snap she decided against the plan, knowing that even an inept human was better than an inept computer at hitting tiny targets in the dark. Calming her voice and speaking in a slower tone, as if to a child, she continued, "Pierre, I need you to focus, and I need you to try. You'll do okay, and we'll do okay. Now let's give it a shot." Wearing his best determined look, the passenger gripped the joystick and peered at the screen.

Ku-Sang noticed the lead bike brake a moment before it skidded to the road. "Oil," he shouted into the mic as his own tires were covered in the slick trap. Having chased a mark once or twice in the past gave Ku-Sang the knowledge that the best approach to oil was to power straight through.
As leader of the Rampagers he could call off the assault. The initial mine explosion had almost made him quit, but he knew the taxi must be carrying something valuable to be so well armed.
And so he ordered the gang onwards. Only three bikes remained after the crash at the oil. Ku-Sang knew the odds weren't in his favor, especially since the driver had cleared the barricade.
His own ride mounted one of the machine guns. Lan-Hu, to his right, luckily carried the other. Completing the spearhead formation to his left was the newest member, a rifle armed woman named Ji-Wan. She wavered slightly through the oil but eventually held true.
"Lan and Ji hold formation. I'll draw the dropped attacks, and harass from a distance. You two get beside the target and open fire." Two confirmations to his order crackled over the mic, and the gang sped onwards.
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Old 08-17-2010, 04:00 PM   #8
bosky
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 5b
Sassy saw the triangle of approaching Rampagers on the radar. Although motorcycles didn't have the top speed of a tuned car, they could accelerate much faster than other vehicles. Her four second lead dropped to nothing as the gang closed on her.
The dead tire on the left tried to drag her wobbling vehicle off the road, but Sassy held on and forced the taxi in a straight path.
Squinting through dark windows was futile for finding targets or appraising the situation. Instead she relied on the beeping radar for an idea of their approach. The fading sun provided just enough light to see the turns of the highway, but she knew a lengthy pursuit into the night would be impossible. Cursing her smashed headlights, she waited for the Rampagers to get closer before dropping more tricks.
The steady whine of turret mechanisms above her head meant Pierre was doing his job. Irregular machine gun fire pierced the night whenever he thought a target was locked, but so far all three motorcycles remained.
The spearhead formation reversed and broke apart so that a bike was on either flank, while the leader slowed to hang back behind the vehicle. Then the return fire started in earnest.
Armor peeled off in smoking, curled tendrils as bullets tore into the car. Glass shattered from the right window as a machine gun raked across. Pierre swore, pushed his glasses up, and cranked the Vulcan around. Roaring as if his life depended on it, he slammed the trigger. A repeating flash light up Lan-Hu as the gun ate him up in a hail of shots. The belt fed machine gun had fired a dozen shots before the first even hit the Rampager. Helplessly the empty motorcycle wavered and slowed before careening off the road and exploding in the woods.
Meanwhile Sassy was intent on the rear rider as he pattered the back of the taxi with bullets. Trusting her side armor to hold against handheld rifle fire, she cut to the left every so often to attempt to catch Ji-Wan in a collision. With one rider tied up, Sassy dropped a spread of mines to make the other regret pursuing.

Ku-Sang split his focus between firing and watching the rear ports of the taxi for any sign of attack. When the first wheel sized mine slid out the back, he was ready. Weaving the motorcycle between the predictable spread of traps, he continued to fire. "Ji, press the attack, I know all this fool's tricks!"

The failed minefield caused Sassy to grip the wheel in frustration. Renewing her efforts at a collision she pressed Ji-Wan closer and closer to the steep edge of the road. Seeing that her time on the pavement was limited, the Rampager lowered her rifle and fired directly into the popped left tire, hoping to hit some key component.
Sassy saw the weapon arc downwards, but didn't have time to realize her plight until the first shell had struck the wheel's rim. Her taxi shuddered and a steady stream of sparks poured from the wheel well. The Rampager's shots had dislodged most of the remaining rubber, and now metal ground feebly against the road.
"Pierre get this bike!" she hollered, glancing at the passenger quickly. Shattered chunks of glass had peppered the right side of his face, and the man was slumped over. Fading adrenaline brought fading consciousness, and Pierre lost heart for the fight.
"So much for a 'low risk route'," Sassy mused. "Okay Mr. Big Bad Biker, you handle mines fine. How about this?" With a grin she started the smokescreen, then quickly worked the trigger for the spikedropper.

Trailing behind and still firing, Ku-Sang laughed at the feeble smoke, thinking the taxi must be getting desperate. He preferred the same approach for smoke as he did for oil, and that was to drive straight through it. This would have worked to maintain the pursuit, if only caltrops didn't cover the road.
The thump of expelled air echoed from the smoke as the leader's bike dove headlong into the spread of spikes. Chunks of rubber hit his helmet and jammed in the frame, causing the bike to flip end over end. He was unconscious after the first rotation, and by the second Ku-Sang was another bloodstain on the road.

Cold silence filled the mic as Ji-Wan tried for a status report. The Rampager knew her limits, and started to brake and skid an escape from the killer taxi.
Sassy reached across and flicked the turret to automatic reverse fire, then swerved to expertly line up the weapon with the last bike. Shells pattered the highway in muted thuds, momentarily loudening as the Vulcan tore into the motorcycle.

----

A few days later Sassy lazily rose from her bed at the Goodrest Inn. Her back stung slightly from a minor case of whiplash that set in after the battle outside Manco. Apparently, as the doctors said, smashing through a tree isn't the best for your back.
Rubbing her eyes she crossed the small room to a window overlooking Harrison Street. Across the bustling road was the central market of Cortez. A twirling, flickering sign marked Mick's Garage and Service where her taxi was undergoing repairs.
After the battle with the Rampagers she had patched up the taxi enough to limp the remaining miles to Cortez. The full service shop would add fresh slabs of armor to the front end. The rim of the destroyed tire had been ground flat on one side and needed replacement. The repairs had been expensive, and nearly negated the money Pierre had paid.
"Ah, Pierre," she smiled. What a difference 150 miles made to the man. His sniveling, uncertain manner had faded to be replaced with calm strength. Killing a person, even scum like a gang member, tended to do that. Perhaps her view was skewed from the generous tip that brought her income from the trip to almost $1,000.
Sighing away the heavy thoughts Sassy flopped down at her desk. A bulky computer rested there, covered in dents and scratches from the road. Absently she dialed in to the Taxi Mainframe, a service provided to any registered carrier.
After some internal groaning the machine displayed a list of available jobs, sorted by best paying first. A brief description, distance, danger, and other details were noted for each available task.
Half looking at the screen and half enjoying the morning sun, Sassy paged through the data. She caught her mind on the edge of drifting back to sleep. Scolding her tired body she focused fully on the computer.
Searching by city and state yielded a narrowed list of jobs. Feeling like one shootout was enough for the week, she filtered further by danger. After browsing a few options she settled on one of the most basic tasks: mail carrier.
Once called "snail mail", handwritten and hand delivered letters had diminished in popularity with the rise of computers in early 2000. There was a resurgence of usefulness after the networks were destroyed in 2012, making technology like the Taxi Mainframe a rare, expensive commodity.
Sassy hadn't been born yet but she remembered the harrowed stories her parents would tell of the bombs being dropped. Finger pointing for responsibility of the grain blight had lead to open war, and soon after nuclear weapons were utilized. Luckily for mankind, mutually assured destruction turned out to forget modern satellite defense systems.
A few of the bigger cities had been hit, and as a result Sassy tended to stay far, far away from the east coast. But in general America had weathered the storm of destruction fairly well.
Sassy often dreamed of those earlier times when families could pile into an unarmed station wagon and drive across the country for fun. The thought of no weapons and no armor over that distance made her scoff and sigh longingly at the same time.
After the food riots that marked her childhood, such trusting nature was washed away in a sea of vehicular gangs. Towns added walls, cities added automated turret grids, and soon only those places defended like a fortress were left on the map.
To maintain some semblance of control, the ruined government eventually started broadcasting "death sports" in late 2022. Their hope was to turn attention and anger from the open highways to a more controlled environment. The creation and widespread adoption of autodueling changed everything. TV sponsors latched onto the idea, and Joe Everyman loved the idea of strapping a gun onto his car. Suddenly highway gangs encountered equally armed opponents ranging from commuters to taxis to dedicated vigilantes.
Instant communication marked the pre-blight years, but without it there emerged a niche market to carry old fashion mail great distances. The Pony Express, remantled and reworked to use cars instead of horses, filled this niche.
The letters on the screen had gone blurry with reminiscing. Sassy shook herself awake. She copied down the job information to a pad of paper marked with the hotel's letterhead, mumbling out loud as she did, "Kayenta, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona. Bla bla bla, 150 miles, pssh 'Light' danger my ass." She yawned and continued transcribing, "Weight 180 pounds...jeez did everyone in the town decide to write?"
She happily noted the start date as four days away. Sassy was familiar with Flagstaff, for the town was famous for it's closeness to the Grand Canyon. Kayenta on the other hand was new to her, so she drudged out her atlas. "I guess it would be too much for this stupid program to just draw me one."
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:36 AM   #9
bosky
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 6a
"The Grand Canyon? Isn't that like 700 bajillion miles away?" Sunny groaned and imagined the tiring journey.
"Do you really need to be that dramatic?" Ned sighed, "Besides, it's 392 miles, actually, by the route I figured. Phoenix's always hit hard, real hard, by drug cartels. We can skip that mess by jumping off Interstate 10 to highway 60, then 89 through Prescott." Lost in calculations, Ned's view panned up to the ceiling, "We actually save about fifteen miles this way, and can get back on at Interstate 17 to Flagstaff. Then it's just a quick jaunt up 180 to that big hole in the ground."
"And what in the world could be so exciting that we need to drop everything and go there?"
Ned, exasperated, tried to convince Sunny, "Let's face it, Yuma's all dried up. Kilgor was pretty much it in terms of Div 10, and even that was pushing it. You don't want to get a rep as just taking easy matches, ya know? The sponsors-"
"Easy?" Sunny cut in, blustering. He let the comment pass before pausing for a moment to deliver an argument he hoped would end the discussion. "What's stopping me from winning some Div 15 then?"
"Besides the fact that we don't have a car for it?"
Sunny rolled his eyes in response.
"Exactly."

His race suit squeaked together with each hurried step as Sunny paced the garage. He hated feeling forced into a situation, he hated not managing his own matches, and most of all he hated when Ned was right.
The mechanic was slippery as a serpent when it came to convincing people. Ned never intended to change a viewpoint, but maybe that was why his charming approach worked so well. He would pretend like he only wanted the best for Sunny, and present a few well thought out and well founded arguments. Then he wouldn't budge or flinch, which tended to enrage Sunny. Hurt at the slightest outburst, Ned would retreat to a dark corner of the garage to tinker with engine parts. Then Sunny would drift in guilt and, with his defenses down, start to consider Ned's points. Most nights ended with Sunny slumping his shoulders and shuffling over to Ned to agree to whatever plan the mechanic had.
Tonight was no different, and in no time flat Sunny was resigned to the Grand Canyon match. A competent driver and passable gunner, Sunny would have no trouble latching onto a convoy headed in that direction. Ned would also find easy passage with a simple demonstration of his skills at converting burnt out wrecks into working machines.
At the moment Sunny felt like he hated most everything, but he knew one deep, lasting hatred was not having his own vehicle. When he fought in the arena his sponsors would provide a car, or the money for some junker that Ned could fix up. Besides a custom paint job and wildly varying configurations, the base chassis Sunny drove was never the same between matches. Sometimes this wasn't a problem, like against Kilgor, but other times Sunny felt disconnected and distant from the car. Having to learn the feel of a new vehicle each match was wearing on Sunny.
He also hated having to organize his own transportation to whatever match Ned and the sponsors thought up. "A team bus? My own room? As if!" Angrily he kicked over a bucket of thick oil.

The next day his yellow duffel bag was packed and slung over his tired shoulders. Sunny looked like a whipped pup, but Ned was chipper and talkative beside him.
They waited along South Pacific Avenue, a wide street situated near an exit to Interstate 18. "They should be here in no time, eh buddy? I haven't gotten to ride with a road train in a while."
He tried to ignore the mechanic and his upbeat attitude, but eventually Sunny let go of his anger and focused on the bright side. "Yeah, it should be a safe trip. How many trailers did you say the semi had?"
"Four, apparently!"
Sunny cracked a smile at the mechanic's undying appreciation of engineering feats. A rumbling dust cloud near the Interstate drew his attention from any response.
"Looks like we'll know for sure soon enough."
Trailing an impressive cloak of sand, the long convoy rolled to stop in front of the pair. The focal point of the group was a semi-truck covered in enough weapons and armor to give it the appearance of a rolling fortress. As they had thought the rumbling cab towed four trailers.
Named road trains, battle barges, castles, and numerous other intimidating nicknames, semi-trucks were the true kings of the road. Bandit lords yearned to drive such beasts, and rich merchants could finally feel safe in a vehicle. Upkeep of gas, tires, crew, repairs and ammunition ensured semi-trucks remained in only the elitist of hands.
Configuration of such an incredible force varied between each baron and bandit. A popular choice was one trailer focused on supplies and living quarters while another brimmed only with weapons.
In the case of their escort, the first and last bristled with dozens of gun ports. The second trailer seemed to be loaded with equipment and dry goods, most likely a mix of machinery and canned food. Sunny caught glimpses of peering faces through thick portholes in the third trailer, so he guessed it to be the crew cabins.
Their eyes were torn from the details of the setup as the vehicle thundered closer and closer. Loose gravel rattled from the benches and brickwork around them as the cab approached. Vividly painted across the front was "The Dragon", and a matching mural of a coiled serpent wove between the chrome surfaces.
Nervously the pair took a step back, as if driven by some primitive urge to avoid the colossal structure. A screeching air brake cracked across the lonely street, further intimidating Sunny.
Finally the tension passed as a tall man lowered himself from the driver's seat. He appeared perfectly suited to the vehicle, for a chest as broad as the desert horizon split arms as thick as oak trees. Gruffly, the man tipped a weather beaten mesh cap. "Sunny and Ned?"
Sunny coughed, as if unable to find his voice. The shock of The Dragon wore off enough for him to meekly offer a greeting.
"You two don't see many highway rigs, I take it?" Dumbly the two shook their heads side to side. "Well anything you have seen will look like a bitch compared to The Dragon. I built it from the ground up over eight years, and I've never been bested on the road since."
"It's...it's an impressive vehicle." Ned exhaled and stepped forward, offering his grease smeared hand. "I'm Ned, this would be Sunny. We're grateful for the lift."
Like a battering ram the driver clasped Ned's hand. The touch of living flesh seemed to relax the mechanic, as if The Dragon might otherwise be some mythological beast from the netherworld. "Name's Zinc, like the metal," replied the driver.
Regaining his composure, Sunny nodded and joked, "I figured the road up would be boring. Now I'm thinking I won't want to leave at Flagstaff!" Zinc, unamused, grinned slightly to make the nervous autoduelist feel comfortable.
"Everyone's eager to go," he said, motioning to the third trailer and two cars idling behind The Dragon, "so get in the cab and I'll explain our setup on the road. You should be settled before we hit highway 95."

Sunny dozed in and out of sleep. The rumble of dozens of tires soothed him like the calming breaths of a sleeping giant. Beams of light played across the interior of the trailer, sometimes darkening as the vehicle passed a tree or hill.
They were a day and a half into the journey north, and already Sunny felt more rested and more secure than he had in months. Despite his size, Zinc wasn't foolhardy and wasn't in a rush. He figured eagerness leads to ambushes, so they covered a little over one hundred miles a day. The convoy averaged forty miles an hour, even though The Dragon could approach seventy on the flats. Narrow turns and damaged subhighways slowed them, as did the constant fear of attack. Being the biggest mass on wheels had advantages, but it also drew unwanted attention from bold bandits hoping to prove themselves.
Ned and Zinc had discussed the route, and agreed, mostly, on the general approach. Their avoidance of Phoenix and a majority of the Interstate put the trip to Flagstaff at 315 miles. The well maintained Interstate was smoother than some of their highway choices, but it also attracted many gangs and angry drivers.
Stretching out on his cold steel bunk, Sunny was sad they were already halfway there. His temporary home was marked Slab #43, with Ned's belongings resting in #42 beside him. Each Slab turned out to be a comfortable cubby aboard the third trailer with just enough room to stretch out and store a chance of clothes.
A central metal girder cut through stacks and stacks of these curtained bunks. The third trailer, nicknamed The House, was 28 feet long. Filling it were eight bunks to each side of the walkway, and those eight were stacked four high. In theory The House could hold 64 people, but comfort and personal space kept the number closer to half that.
Personnel could edge across a thin plank above each trailer hitch to get between The House and other trailers. Flexible armored plates created a covered crossing that shielding this walkway.
The second trailer, The Kitchen, was split between food storage, parts and tools, medical equipment, and cooking space. When possible The Dragon stopped to eat and clean under the open sky, but an interior option was needed in case of a siege or long running combat.
Sunny had been designated the role of gunner, but the able crew had no need of him so far. Part of his duties entailed familiarizing himself with the first trailer, The Tower, and the last trailer, The Trunk. Each was filled with weapons, targeting system, extra ammo, and other instruments of war. The Trunk focused on dropped weapons to slow pursuit, while The Tower had death dealing guns pointed at every angle.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:37 AM   #10
bosky
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Default Re: Highway Cowboys - CW fan fic in progress


Excerpt 6b
Without a full time position, Sunny was left with large expanses of free time to wander the trailers, talk with other passengers, and peacefully enjoy the view. Ned was seen less and less as the trip went on, preferring to learn as much as he could from Zinc. Like Sunny, the man had spent most of his time in arenas and had little practical highway experience. But unlike Sunny, the mechanic was eager to remedy this by questioning the veterans with a gush of inquiries.
Covering his face against the light, Sunny drifted to sleep to evade the doubt and guilt of laziness.

Pounding footfalls on the central walkway of The House shook him awake. His heart raced from the unexpected noise combined with the confusion of drowsiness. Unaccustomed to the corrugated walls and constant swaying of the vehicle, Sunny momentarily forgot where he was.
Tromping around the metal were children laughing and chasing each other. He sat back in the bunk, calming his temper.
"A little jumpy from the arena, eh?" The female voice was soothing and promised relaxation. Two rows down a blond, always a blond, smiled up at him.
Rolling onto his side Sunny grinned and pretended to grip a steering wheel. "Just can't let the thrill go, you know?"
"What got you into the sport?"
"Well my dad was a racer, the legit kind, back before autodueling was big." He shrugged, "It was natural for me."
The blond paused, as if expecting more from Sunny. "Oh, yeah? I did a derby match once...it was fun but hurt too much."
"Maybe you weren't doing it right," he smirked, a twinkle in his eye.
Shrapnel shattered into The House, blasting the life from the woman. Sunny's mouth opened to scream in surprise, but no sound escaped his throat. Sirens whined throughout the trailer. The walkway lit up and red lights flashed from either end. Intercoms crackled above him, "Zinc to crew, arm battle stations. Mark seven, wait...eight vehicles to left flank and rear."
Sunny's mind was paralyzed, but his body snapped to work like a tuned automobile. He bolted to the rear of the trailer and threw open the access port. Warm desert air gushed in, and lines of sunlight warmed his arms. Roaring engines passed on the left and right, barely audible through the thick joint armor.
Still reeling from the blond's sudden death, he threw his upper body into a cupola. Two crew members did the same beside him. Reinforced bracers fit firmly against his shoulders, and a targeting screen powered to life in front of him. Swinging his body moved a corresponding pair of autocannons near the front of The Trunk.
Sleek black vehicles raced past on either side like angry wasps. Sunny didn't recognize the chassis, but the vehicles looked closer to a rocket than a car. Slim barrels protruded from a rear turret on each attacker. Sunny could barely see the muzzle flash as they threw dense slugs at incredible speeds towards The Dragon.
"Now counting nine vehicles. Looks like recoilless rifles. Our armor should hold, but careful of The Kitchen." Still near the mic, Zinc thought out loud. "The radar didn't pick them up...dammit, it still doesn't."
Sunny could hear Ned's mumbling voice reverberate in the background, "They must have figured out some way to shield against it."
Calmly he steeled his nerves and pounding heart, reminding himself that The Dragon was nigh unstoppable. Tuning out background noise and visual distractions, Sunny focused only on the targeting screen. He wanted revenge for the blond, and revenge for the attack. But most of all he wanted revenge for bringing chaos to his peaceful trip.

Roaring he pulled both triggers. The autocannons responded with a louder roar and poured shells into the nearest vehicle. Sunny, shocked, saw bullets deflect off the target. "What the hell, my guns aren't doing anything."
The nearest crew member cast him a confused look, then shouted, "Metal armor." The man returned to his firing, but backed off the cupola for a second to say, "Where you from, boy?"
Embarrassed at his inexperience, Sunny mumbled, "Somewhere with rules." The thunder of autocannon fire mingled with screeching tires overpowered his response.
"Two down up front. Great shooting Tower!" Zinc's commanding voice visibly strengthened the crew, and they redoubled the defense.
Steam sizzled from the tips of Sunny's weapons as the watercooled guns tried to handle his rapid rate of fire. Unknown to the engrossed gunner, a mechanic had sidled up beside him to repair a charred panel. "Careful or you'll burn it out!" The man admonished him, shaking his head in frustration. Sunny flushed with anger at the comment. Again he was left feeling like a chump driving into his first amateur match, instead of a self declared conquerer of Div 10.
"Clearly the man is ignorant of my arena standing," Sunny thought, trying to prop his tattered ego up. He furiously unleashed on the nearest attacker instead of directing further rage at the mechanic. Swinging side to side, Sunny raked the vehicle with high caliber shells, trying to lower his aim away from the metal armor. The strategy paid off when the rear tires of his foe caught a shot. Instantly the rocket shaped car careened off the highway, flipping once it hit the desert.
"They can't handle for **** off the pavement!" he roared, hoping someone could relay the information to those that needed it.
Moments later the efficient crew of The Dragon proved themselves again. "Crew," Zinc said, "try to force them into the dirt. I'll swerve to keep them guessing, but aim low and get them to lose it."
Like an ant burrow, crew bustled to and fro within The Trunk. Buckets of ammo were deposited at each gunner's foot, fresh water was brought for the older autocannons, and any wounded were transported to the second trailer for immediate assistance. The scene replayed itself further up the semi-truck in The Tower. Rockets mingled with powerful anti-tank shells as The Dragon fought the attackers for every inch of pavement.
Two black shapes blurred by Sunny, then settled near The House. He aimed at the nearest, firing intermittently to prevent the barrel from melting. With a surprised yelp, he saw the other vehicle throw open a hatch and drift closer to the armored tires. An arm suited in black emerged from the opening and hoisted a grappling hook.
Before he could yell a rambling warning, the gunner to his left barked a curt order. "Boarding! Kitchen, left!" Immediately the daring car was pattered with shells from five autocannons. The exposed limb was torn apart in a cloud of blood. Sparks mingled with the red air as shots found their way into the internal cockpit.
The Dragon lifted off the ground as the damaged car skewed right into the rolling wheels. Sunny gritted his teeth and was nearly thrown from the cupola, but pained fingers held fast. The attacker passed out the back of the semi-truck as a mangled heap.
"Three targets remain." Crackling of plastic armor filled the intercom with static. "Say again, they're going for the cab. Ned, get on the-" the connection shorted, and Sunny could feel The Dragon swerve left.
The gunner beside him shouted again, "Brace for whiplash!" Sunny understood the implications of the command clearly enough, but wasn't sure what could cause whiplash. He learned a moment later as the semi-truck straightened, and three trailers of momentum snapped The Trunk back in line.
The lights flickered as electrical connections strained. Sunny felt warm blood dripping down his arm and figured he must have caught some falling object with his shoulder. As the trailer twisted his feet were lifted from the ground, and a wave of dizziness washed over him.
Finally The Dragon settled down, sending shudders through The Trunk. The ringing in Sunny's head didn't subside, but he cringed through it.
Zinc groaned over the intercom, clearly injured, but continuing to admirably order his crew about. "One swerved off, Ned caught another with fire. Just one of these bastards left." Quieter, and likely thinking he was off the air, Zinc coughed in pain, "Why the hell is he still coming?"
Sunny scanned for the last vehicle in his cupola, trying to strain the autocannons as far forward as he could. The screen didn't give him a glimpse of the cab though, so he couldn't see how the lead trailer fared. A few tense seconds later an explosion let him know The Tower had done it's job.
Breathing a ragged sigh of relief, Sunny dropped from the gunnery straps. Fresh blood dripped into his eyes. "Huh, must be higher than my shoulder," Sunny stated to no one in particular. Then adrenaline lost the fight to nausea, and he passed out.
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