"We always draw the plum assignments," Crystal chuckled as they sped down the highway.
"Or the short straw," Derek replied, maneuvering the bulky SUV through a cluster of speeding cars.
Their vehicle wasn't much to look at. Dented, paint faded, wheel covers missing, cracked windshield, it showed the results of years of hard use and it was clever camouflage. Under the seemingly neglected exterior was a heavily armed and armored truck that could take on a tank in a pinch.
Packing a 20mm Vulcan Gatling cannon, a .50 cal heavy machine gun and an anti-aircraft/anti-tank rocket launcher, it could fight it's way out of most situations. It was bombproof, had run-flat double walled tires, a 450 hp V-8 motor, four wheel drive, rhomboidal Kevlar armor, armor glass windows, a seven speed transmission and advanced communications gear.
All this hardware, plus two of the deadliest agents in the Temporal Management Agency, were on their way into Boulder City to pick up one Professor Clive McLean-Watson, a scientist from the UK, at the airport.
Ostensibly arriving to attend a scientific conference, McLean-Watson had, in fact, been recruited by the TMA in it's usual clandestine fashion befitting such a super-secret agency. Using this form of transportation instead of a Chronobubble was intended to not arouse suspicion among Rectifier agents that might well be lurking about the terminals at either end.
"There he is," Crystal said, pointing to a tall man wearing a dark grey suit and a matching Homburg carrying a travel bag and a briefcase waiting by the curb in the passenger pick up area.
The SUV rolled to a stop and Crystal jumped out.
"Welcome to the USA, Prof, we're your ride, hop in." The rear door sprang open and, tossing his bags ahead of him, she hustled the startled man inside. She regained her seat, the doors slammed and they were off.
"Sorry about the haste," Derek said. "There's bad guys around that'd like to get their hands on you--." "Or kill you," Crystal finished.
Their bemused passenger wasn't listening, rather he was looking around the trucks interior, comparing it's sleek modernity with it's decrepit exterior. Above his head, the cannon and machine gun hung waiting to be unleashed; the rocket launcher lurked behind his seat.
"I say, this is like riding in a bloody tank," he said in amazement. "What unique camouflage this vehicle has." "The less attention we attract, the better," Derek said over his shoulder. "The bad guys are always looking for an opening to nail some of us. We usually travel in the TAP or a Chronobubble, but not that much in the present." Crystal turned around in her seat. "Hi, I'm Agent 24 and this is Agent 66. We should be at headquarters in an hour or so. Sit back and enjoy the ride. If we should run into trouble, put that helmet on and strap yourself in." "Speaking of," Derek said, "Traffic's slowing. I wonder if there's been an accident." "The monitors don't indicate anything," Crystal replied. "Wait a minute; it's a roadblock and a check point. There's police all over the place. They're examining each car, now what?" "They're not examining this one," Derek said. "We'll use our phony FBI ID's and skate through." Soon they were several car lengths away from the checkpoint, where four uniformed officers were examining each car. Crystal brought the forward camera into sharp focus and saw the telltale sheen of synthoflesh on their faces.
"Derek, they're not police, they're Rectifier cyborgs. It's a trap!" "They're figuring we won't risk gunplay with all these people around. There should be a pair of Neural Scramblers in the weapons locker, when I say 'Sure, It's in my wallet' hit 'em." When they reached the checkpoint, two cyborgs dressed as state troopers appeared at each window. Derek and Crystal smiled at them unconcernedly.
"There's been an escape at the state prison," one intoned. "We're searching everyone's vehicle, license and registration, please." "Sure, it's in my wallet," Derek replied.
He and Crystal snapped off inaudible shots of neural disruptor beams into the cyborg's chests, striking their brains. The simulacra's froze in place and Derek accelerated back into the traffic lanes.
"Who are these Rectifier chaps?" Clive asked.
"In a word, trouble," Crystal replied, "That bunch back there were their cyborg commandos in disguise. Word's leaked out somehow about you and now they're after us." Traffic had thinned and Derek accelerated to eighty mph, watching the road ahead for new obstacles. The rear proximity alarm jangled and Crystal saw three patrol cars following them, lights flashing, "Bogeys' at six o' clock." "Let's see if we can outrun them." The speedometer readout stood at 100mph when Crystal said, "They're still behind us--now they're opening fire--Wup, brace yourselves!" There was a hollow thud and the truck rocked, Jared kept the wheel steady and gunned it up to 140.
"For you folks at home that was an anti-tank rocket," Crystal said sarcastically, "Whoever put this rig together knew their business, you okay, Prof?" "Fine thanks, and call me Clive, please." "Okay Clive, I'm Crystal, he's Derek." The truck rocked to another impact.
"That's it," Derek said, "Take the wheel, babe. Those guys are starting to annoy me." He swung the steering column over to Crystals' seat and climbed in the back next to Clive. He pressed a button and a seat lowered from the ceiling. Getting on, he pressed another button, the roof slid back and he and the .50 cal lifted into firing position.
The gun hammered as Crystal took glances at the rear cameras' screen.
"That's one," she said with a smile, "Look at that sucker roll. Ha, that's two, the last one's falling back--whoops, too late--and then there was none. Good shooting, babe." Derek and the gun lowered into the truck and the roof closed.
"Find us an exit, doll. We're sitting ducks on this superslab. Not to mention endangering a lot of innocent people." "GPS says one's three miles ahead," Crystal replied. "We'll be on a surface road that'll take us within eight miles of HQ. We'll go overland from there." They took the exit ramp at a high rate of speed, slowed to make a right turn onto a four lane surface road then roared off.
"Does it strike you as odd that there are no other cars on this road?" Crystal said.
"I was wondering the same thing," Derek replied. "They're cooking something up; I'm willing to bet on it." "I won't cover that bet," Crystal laughed. She addressed their passenger "What brings you to the TMA, Clive?" "A chap by the name of Turgenyev contacted me after he'd read a paper I'd written on some experiments I'd performed regarding Quantum Mechanics as applied to Unified Field Theory and their practicality as they relate to..." "Hold that thought, Clive." Derek said. "I think we're in for more trouble. There seems to be something in the road ahead." He brought the forward camera into focus "Yep, looks like a semi-trailer's blocking both lanes, must have jackknifed, cops and emergency equipment all over the place. That'd explain the lack of traffic." "I smell a rat," Crystal replied, increasing speed. She pressed the remote control for the guns, "It's too much of a coincidence." As they neared the presumed accident Derek said "Sure enough, more cyborgs; cops and emergency personnel this time. No humans around. We can take to the woods and avoid them." "Not a chance," Crystal replied. "We're going right through the middle of that mob. Hang on, guys." The 20mm emerged from the trucks' roof and spat a stream of explosive shells at the center of the trailer, slicing it in two. Flinging patrol cars aside like toys, the truck plowed through the trailer, snapping its weakened frame like a toothpick. Several of the cyborgs were slow in escaping and were crushed under the trucks' wheels. A hail of small arms fire rattled against the armor, and then they were through and speeding away, leaving chaos in their wake. There was no attempt to follow them.
They rode in silence for a while until Crystal announced "Here's where we go off-road." The truck slowed, and then stopped. She threw a lever, the four wheel drive engaged and four more wheels swung out from under the center frame of the truck, providing extra stability in rough terrain and preventing the vehicle from high centering.
The truck rolled ponderously over a drainage ditch and into a grove of saplings, smashing them flat. They broke out into a grassy field dotted with huge oak trees, putting ground dwelling birds to flight.
After rumbling along for a few minutes, the trucks' IFF radar beeped and the tracking screen lit up.