II. Dame of the Death Alley Run
Haven's Nocturnal Savior Plays Ball with the Resistance's Finest...
“C’mon Grim, bring ‘er on round now. Don’t like leaving Red behind on gigs.”
15 minutes had passed since the ETA she was given, and the evening found Lita a rather impatient agent. She was told to bring the Wildey, and only the Wildey, which surprised her. On top of that, she also had to stay clean for the job, so cheap synthetic cigarettes were the only things on the menu.
She was on her 13th when that beautiful dark blue Scout, her thick tires and robust bumper emerging from the soft mist of the City, had finally arrived. Behind the wheel was the man himself, Captain Herrera, dressed in his gothic best. His jet-black apparel of choice made him the spitting image of Hell’s sheriff. Fortunately, he was on the right side of the law for the evening.
The black wolf brought his SUV to a stop where Lita was hanging out. He tipped his Concho-emblazoned Stetson to the young-and-hungry inner-city agent, who cheekily shook her head in kind. The Captain slid over to shotgun, allowing Lita to clamber into the driver’s seat.
“Shit man,” she grunted, “How tall you gotta jack her up?”
“Tall enough so the bodies go under Chica,” came the dry reply.
Lita smiled and chuckled to herself.
“Who the goons for the evening,” she winked.
The “goons” referring to two brown wolven soldiers in the back, cloaked in black shirts, slacks, boots, and gloves. They were somewhat awkwardly stuffed behind two metallic boxes, with offense written all over their faces.
“Stand down Soldados,” Grim sternly ordered, “She’s just ribbing. But I get it, taking orders from a midget ain’t easy.”
Lita cocked an eyebrow before stifling her boisterous laugh. Grim winked at her in kind. It was quite something having to ride with everyone standing well above six feet tall.
“Ready,” she asked sincerely.
“Sir yes sir,” came the controlled replies of the soldiers.
“You fellas got names?”
“Jasper,” said the first.
“Chris,” said the second.
“Pleased to meet you Gentlemen,” Lita replied sweetly, “I’ll be your lil’ ol’ chauffeur for the night.”
As the soldiers steeled themselves, and as Grim prepared his prized M82, Lita turned her attention to her friend’s ride. She caressed the steering wheel, the leather of her fingerless gloves greeting the polished wood warmly, and stepped up to the pedal assembly.
“She’s faster than before,” Grim remarked, “Made a couple of tweaks here and there to account for it. Go ahead. Get her up.”
Lita dug into the clutch and gave the throttle a good kick. The Scout’s engine erupted into a tremendous bellow. Her claws shot out like arrows, the suede of her sandals pierced, and the palms of her leather gloves pinned. She growled contently, the ecstasy of it all enrapturing. The Scout was as much a friend to Lita as Grim was, and it was clear as day the two were still on good terms. For a moment, Lita was lost in the sensation.
Just for a moment.
“My God, she’s feral,” Jasper exclaimed.
She snapped out of the trance and shot her killer crimson eyes through the rearview. Grim, wanting to keep the mission under his command, diffused his firebomb.
“Not feral,” he calmed, thumbing her cheek, “Spirited.”
Grim’s leather-clad hand playfully tasseled his compatriot’s mohawk.
“Vamos, condúcela,” he whispered softly to her, “Por Nicky.”
Her expression shifted on a dime.
“How’s my ol’ Speedfreak,” she asked sweetly.
“Kicking ass, rocking out,” he chuckled, “Y’know, the usual.”
“Sounds about right,” she replied, “Alright, let’s go. Hang on Boys.”
All it took was a split second for the Scout to be whipped into gear and for Lita to drop her hammer. She and Herrera had already gone over all the basic details, and Lita knew just the place they were going to try for tonight.
The dark blue SUV careened down the abandoned streets, ripping along at Mach speed. The good Captain kicked his silver-capped cowboy boots up on the dash, content with his speed demon’s performance. Jasper and Chris were left clinging tight to the roll bars as the Scout darted along. Lita kept her eyes peeled at all times. No autocops on the beat.
It wasn’t long before the small unit had rolled up on the building they were after. Grim turned to the soldiers with a stern look in his eye, his face obscured in the shadow of his brim.
“Soldados,” he said, “You go in, and you come out. Understood?”
“Sir yes sir,” they hurriedly replied.
“Good luck Boys,” Lita waved.
Chris flashed a brief smile before Jasper hauled him off. The two bolted for the rundown apartment complex. Chris set about cracking the lock on the front door. For him it was child’s play; he’d broken into diaries worse than this one. In no time at all, the brown wolves vanished into the dark of the derelict, and the clock had begun its steady ticking. Minutes became half-hours, half-hours became whole. By the second hour, the Scout’s engine had been turned off, and the darksome companions took to a mutual pastime; smoking and shit-talking.
“Dear Lord, you have it worse than me,” Lita jibbed.
“Had more time to pick the habit up,” Grim shot back.
The two veterans, regardless of the age gap, were puffing like chimneys as they awaited on their stealthy companions. Grim’s brim made the lighting of his cigars all the more imposing. With a strike of the match off his eagle-shaped belt buckle, a warm glow cast beneath his snout gave him a campfire mystique.
“If I had known these cats would be taking a beat,” Lita smirked, taking a long drag, “Woulda brought a joint to roll.”
“Don’t say that Chica,” Grim scoffed, “Last thing I need is my main driver hopped up on dope. I’m glad you’re playing with just tobacco tonight, or whatever this New World bullshit is. You ever smoke the real stuff before?”
“You think our gracious gadget of an overlord would allow it?”
“Touché,” he chuckled, “I smoked a real cig once. It tasted like the finest wine and caviar you could get your claws on.”
“When you find some, drop me a line.”
She stamped the butt of her smoke out on the back of her well-worn denim, the remains flung onto the street with the 10-or-so others.
“Y’know Chica,” Grim mused, “Still can’t figure how the hell you ain’t been caught yet. You go tearing down 100 miles-an-hour, bright blue everything, your Bug’s red-hot to look at. What’s your secret?”
At first there was silence, but then came a surprisingly sage response.
“It’s the way I ride,” Lita elegantly intoned, “And it’s the way I’ll die.”
Grim paused, the words having impressed themselves onto the Captain. She looked over with a calm smile and those striking red eyes; that said it all. And all he could do was tip his hat. They were each reaching for another light when a breakthrough happened.
From out of the dark, Jasper and Chris darted towards the Scout, combat boots scurrying along the asphalt. When they hopped in, Chris was holding his handgun, and Jasper a leather briefcase and key. He passed the items over to Grim.
“My my,” he chuckled, “Kicking it old school now, are we?”
He turned the key and flicked the case open, rummaging through the papers therein. Building plans for more automated weaponry, schematics, and even a few stray glimpses into how A.C.E.S. was to construct these devices and others. The details about the materialization process looked like the most appetizing of all the pieces. General Godred was going to have a field day with these.
“We got ‘em,” Grim confirmed, “Gracias Soldados. Now strap in.”
He lifted the brim of his hat, his rich blue eyes graced by the cold light of the City’s eve. He flashed a grin and gave her a wink. That was all she needed.
And with that, the Scout roared to life and would be treated to the greatest run of her life. Lita rubbed the wheel as she whispered to her metallic stallion.
“Give me all you got Babe. Every last ounce.”
Lita threw the SUV into drive and opened her up with a loud thud. The claws were out, and the Scout was on the warpath. Her tires screamed, spewing more smoke than the two wolves ever had that night.
The vehicle swerved out of the alleyway and into the desolate streets. While Grim kept a running ETA on the group’s original rendezvous point, Lita was having the time of her life. The power, the speed; it was a rush better than anything her joints could ever do. Jasper and Chris, with the toughest part of their operations behind them, were much more in tune with Lita’s wicked ways behind the wheel. Not that it mattered to their lil’ ol’ getaway driver; she was in her own world with the Scout.
“You’ve got this,” she soothed, “Gimme just a little more.”
Firing off on every cylinder, the beast, guided by her expert hand, made its way out of the district. She dug into the throttle, gloved hands gripping the wheel with great strength. With each vibration of the body, each pounding of the cylinder, each upward tick of the dials, the Scout’s power grew, as much as Lita’s passion flourished. The tires pummeled the road beneath them, the engine roared with a pleasant fury. All was going well.
For in the rear-view mirrors, two faint lights began to emerge. Though the two in the back were unaware, when Lita and Grim got an eyeful, they both knew exactly what was coming. Lita shifted up and called to the Captain.
“Alright, I’m in no position to shoot,” she said, “So have Chris, Jasper, and yourself try to shoot the Hovercraft down.”
“But it’s so damn far,” Jasper moaned.
There wasn’t time to argue the point, so Lita made it best she could.
“Well boys,” she teased, “Want me to get closer?”
She yanked off the throttle and held her foot over the brake, the tire-track sole of her sandal just gracing the rubber of the pedal. The Scout’s speed descended instantaneously.
“No, no, no,” the two replied, saving face.
With that, Lita shifted up and planted her foot back down, Grim’s steel stallion rocketing back up to speed.
As the chase dragged on, the craft seemed like it would lose interest, with the long arm of A.C.E.S.’s rule letting up and fading back into the mists of the City. It wasn’t for long, however, for once the Scout rounded a corner, a switch had been flipped. The automated cop, its angular gray body floating with ease, lunged out from the cloak of night, sirens wailing as the strained digital exclamation echoed throughout the streets:
“Halt. H-h-alt-t-t. You-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-a-a-are violating the L-l-law.”
The hovercraft flew along, swerving around the bend, and gaining ground at a feverish rate. Lita finally got a good look at it in the rearview. She reached for her prized Wildey but put her hand back on the wheel. She wasn’t here to shoot, just to drive.
“Right,” she smiled, “There’s your shot, and I ain’t getting any closer.”
The soldiers took aim and fired like mad. A tremendous wave of electric firepower poured from each barrel. Grim’s .50-cal beast managed to nail two of the hover engines, with Chris and Jasper nabbing one each. The hovercraft sputtered and stuttered its way into the distance, the sound of grinding metal clashing with tarmac as the lights faded into the depths of the City’s haze.
The soldiers were rather pleased with their work, with Chris and Jasper exchanging a round of fist bumps, and Grim simply tipping his hat. However, the time for celebration hadn’t quite arrived.
Another of these automated cop cars came careening out of the muggy atmosphere, dead ahead of the Scout. In a swift, agile motion, Lita punched the brakes and drifted out of the way, the dark blue beast tearing down into an alley.
A dead-end alley.
The second hovercraft came whizzing back over to the stretch, with just enough time for Lita to spin the Scout around for a getaway, backing up to the very edge of the alley. All four were afforded the clearest view of the hovercrafts they had thus far, its slender two-toned body proving rather imposing as it positioned itself dead center before them. In its rancid mechanical tones, it began its usual program:
“Halt. You a-a-a-are violating the law. Come out-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t with your h-h-h-hands up.”
Grim looked to Lita, and she to Grim; both had the same idea. As the hovercraft continued to sputter its insipid platitudes of arrest, the Captain elucidated.
“Simple. Aim for those engines. Lean out and over to get to them. She’ll keep her head down and get us out and over the craft.”
Sinking into the driver’s seat, Lita began warming up those tires, sending plumes of smoke rocketing up the wall.
“On the count of 3,” she shouted over the apocalyptic revving of the Scout.
In perfect unison, Lita threw the Scout into top gear and pounced on the accelerator, and the soldiers unloaded into the hovercraft with everything their armaments had. Laser fire lit the alleyway a bright red as the intrepid truck made her run at the hovercraft. Grim’s rained seven shades the police car was dropped, and the Scout made its valiant leap over the flaming remains. With a screech and a thud, their stallion came through on the alley’s other side, hitting the road and tearing off and away down it.
The quartet kept their eyes peeled as Lita guided the SUV through the maze of side streets. The Scout forged ahead through the concrete jungle, with nothing but the most immaculate gray bricks and steel structures as far as the eye could see. The towering skyscrapers carried with them the auras of abandoned temples and lavishly conceived crypts.
It was perhaps the most haunting of all sensations, a mutual shiver descending the length of each warrior’s spine in the presence of such mind-shattering monoliths. Upon their emergence from the most labyrinthine district in Haven’s tangled web of alleys, the unit would find that the space had become significantly less liminal.
The Scout leapt out of the side streets and headlong into the main street. Greeting her was a terrifying sight; they had blockaded the main road. Six sleek hovering behemoths stood between the Scout and her exit, three in each direction.
They were surrounded.
They rattled off their usual spiel. The volume of all sounding off created a deafening electric roar. Lita was frigid behind the wheel. All her quick thinking and gung-ho gumption had left her as she stared down the automated menaces before her. Grim, sensing she was in need of steeling, reached for the gear lever. He patted her cheek softly, getting her attention. He looked into those fear-filled red eyes.
“Guerrera Hermosa,” he smiled, “Remember, she’s got a couple of tricks up her sleeve.”
He flicked the top of the gear lever open, revealing a little red button. At the touch of it, the Scout set about metamorphosing in a startling way. A patch of the footwell slid open, revealing a button just beneath the throttle, and two long barrels emerged from beneath the Scout’s chassis.
This ride was built to kill.
“A little innovation courtesy of a couple of new soldiers. Godred loves these. Use them. Now.”
Without hesitation, Lita dropped the hammer, and a cacophony of her own design was forged. The cobalt rays of destruction rocketed from the Scout’s guns, cutting through the hover engines of the hovercrafts before her. Grim and his men fired in the opposite direction, working away at the enemies at their backs. An idea hit Lita like a semi, and she called out.
“Hang on,” she exclaimed.
She started to swing the SUV around, and in no time, was drawing donuts on the street, firing wildly at the autocops, and the men still cutting away at them at her back. So thrilled by the experience, Lita gripped the wheel and drew her Wildey. The glorious silver law-bringer aided the Scout in her fight, launching ray after ray of deep-green stopping power, a stark contrast to the blue of the Scout and the blood-red of her brothers in arms.
In a matter of seconds, one craft fell. Then another, and another, and in time, all six were nothing but a flaming pile of steel and circuitry, growing more molten as the temperature rose. Jasper fired off some celebratory rounds as Lita continued her furious burnout, elated by their efforts. Content with the carnage, she hit the gear shift button herself this time. The guns retracted, the footwell reformed, and she flicked the knob shut.
“Keep it low Boys,” Lita ordered, holstering her hand cannon, “We’re getting outta here.”
Shifting into top gear, the Scout leapt forth, bolting through the red-hot wreckage with the grace of a tiger through a flaming hoop. Those big, beautiful tires stuck the landing, and the robust beast made its final escape. It was a close one, but it was made, nonetheless.
Lita brought the Scout to a secondary rendezvous point. It was another back alley, only this time, a familiar face was on the scene. There stood Ash, the white wolf in her best black leather and laced-up Chucks, leaning up against the Little Red Devil.
When the Scout came to a stop, and everyone got out for a breather, Lita’s first order of business was walking up to the SUV’s front. She gave the mean machine a kiss on the hood, a final expression of her affection for the cohort in crime. She walked back over to unit, putting on a bit of a boisterous tone.
“Gentlemen,” she started, “It’s been an honor hosting you in Hell. Tell the Principal I said ‘hello,’ and I’m here waiting for ‘em.”
She first shook hands with the soldiers.
“Heya, no hard feelings Ma’am,” Jasper asked.
“None at all.”
Chris gave a quiet shake of the hand and a polite “thank you.”
Then there was good old Grim Herrera.
“Keep killing it Chica,” he reassured, “Not bad for a first go with the Ambiorixians. Here’s to many more.”
The towering black wolf embraced her for but a moment.
“If you see Nic on the way,” she grinned, “Tell him I said ‘Hi,’ alright?”
Grim tipped his hat in affirmation. With that, the troupe piled back into the Scout, now with Grim at the wheel. They started off slowly, which in turn set her off.
“Hey,” Lita shouted.
Grim brought the Scout to a stop, looking back at her from the seat.
“Drive her like you love her Man, she just saved your asses.”
Grim could only chuckle to himself. He shook his head and proceeded to open the Scout up good and wide, her squealing tires echoing into the night.
With another job done, Lita popped back into her own little road warrior, firing up that beautiful V8 of his while Ash called shotgun.
“So, I take it went—”
Before Ash could finish, Lita dove into her glove box, feverishly digging around for a joint she had stashed. She lit up, took a long, slow drag off of it, and set it on the dash’s ashtray. Ash sat bemused by the display.
“That bad, huh?”
“Not at all,” Lita intoned with her sweet ebony voice, “Just smoked at least fifty of those cheap cigs waiting on the guys to grab the shit.”
“Well, if you need more of a palette cleanse, let’s get back to the apartment. We’re throwing a bash for Chuck. He won the night over at the ring. Best roundhouse kick I’ve seen out of him.”
“Your boy toy still got it then,” Lita teased.
“My man’s got the Midas Touch,” she reciprocated, “Let’s get back, alright?”
Lita nodded, and with a kiss of the wheel and a kick of the throttle, the Little Red Devil dove back into the ever-present mists of Haven, his master having lived to fight another day.
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