Acceleration brought instability, pushing the limit.
I was trying to glance back as often as possible, but with the blood rush, I needed to keep a tighter grip than ever, eyes peeled. It was like every car had become violently loose, every change in the asphalt threatening to rip control, every shift in the position of vehicles calling on deadly precise corrections.
Wally turned around to shout at me, his helmet’s expression grave.
I couldn’t make out the heads up, but I knew what it meant as they started.
We cut between a semi and a bus, moving into the middle of the next two lanes over. We had to bide our time till the next off ramp.
This wasn’t normal. Butchers weren’t daft enough to do this.
Not at these speeds.
There’d be nothing to fucking take.
Hold your breath and peek like it’s naughty.
They had moved onto our lane. The frontman dared to shift aside, inches from fiery death by the next car over, to allow the one behind to move up. Two riders, now.
Look forward. Wally was straining to see without throwing Skrimp off or losing his hold. The wind was salty and acidic, and as we continued acceleration, tore at the skin.
There was nothing we could do but drive.
It has to be schizos. Loons. Chiller thrill killers.
I turned back and saw the second rider of the front bike aiming off his friend’s shoulder, a cold steel barrel barely visible between the blinding highway lights.
Jesus Christ. I whipped forward. The words strangled in my throat as I had a vision of my crash. It would be spectacular. The cars around would be fine, tough and indifferent, but the hail of gore and shrapnel would kill the thrillers.
“GUN!” Wally shouted.
I held my breath.
It hit me like a strike of lightning.
The pulse rattled through my body like death and the lights of my bike shuddered out. The glare of traffic around me flared.
My right hand loosened. My left gripped white-knuckled, tighter, and my heart skipped a beat.
I wasn’t shot. Just as quick as a smile hit my face, my eyes bugged.
My heart hadn’t skipped a beat.
It had dropped them.
I darted my left hand across to keep throttled as my right fell completely limp and the wind caught in my throat, heart stuttering.
It was a goddamn EMP.
I was slowing down fast. I was losing stability. I was going to crash.
My heart was struggling, the black creeping in my eyes.
“Frode!” I heard.
I turned, not knowing if I’d have the gap.
Cut it close. I had gotten on the outside, traffic on my left, shoulder on my right. I could see the off ramp up ahead, but I was rapidly slowing.
My bike had beat the pulse. I hadn’t.
The others cut through up ahead and saw me pulling over.
Fuckers killed me. I tried to call out.
I fell forward on the handlebars, gasping for air. I was almost at a crawl.
The riders dodged out of traffic and I heard them riding up around me.
My dead hand twitched. I strained, raising it back up to grab the throttle. My head rose and I clenched my jaw. I had to stay awake.
Not dead. Goddamn drama on peril. Focus.
My heart had picked up the beat, crashing painfully.
I hit the throttle just before the schizos could overtake me. The acceleration jerked me and put some fucking air in my lungs.
I saw lights on the car beside me crackle and pop as they missed their second electric shot.
“Ha!” I sped, my blood pounding in my ears. “HA!”
Dag and Skrimp accelerated as I flew past them down the exit ramp.
I leaned down and in to take the curve of the road, speed limits dropping, but I wasn’t. I knew the way from here and into the marshes. I was point man, now.
The intersection below was packed, roadsides lined with shops and bustling foot traffic.
“Move!” I cried, scattering the crowd, slamming my brakes.
We wheeled down the alley they opened and into the back road as it turned sharply. My tires skid as I tried to cut it, bodyslamming the wall to stay upright.
One more corner and then I saw it, up ahead. The flood control channel.
The access was easy, now out of the pedestrian areas and into the back alley dark. As we prepared to take the slope, I checked to see Dag and Skrimp close behind.
We had slowed enough to jump out front wheels over the pipes which ran along the drop. But the slope beyond was gradual, the channel vast and wide. The ankle-deep brown water flowed slowly as we reached the bottom.
We dodged gnarled roots. The marshland was the only place I ever saw flora.
Farther down, the channel was swallowed by city infrastructure, becoming a massive gaping sewer tunnel under the weight of scrapers.
The green that grew up in the channel flew by as we did.
Dag was advancing on my right. “We’ll lose them in dark,” he said.
Skrimp drove up on the opposite side, looking back once to confirm they weren’t right behind us. “You alright, man?” he asked.
I was ticking, but damn was I jittery. “Yeah.”
“Keep the rear, Skrimp!” Dag took back the lead and we picked up the pace.
The trashcan fires ahead glowed, vague figures crowding the black of the marshland channel underground. We’d have to keep speed to avoid trouble. But as I glanced back, I saw nothing of the thrill killers.
The darkness swallowed us and I stayed close on the red taillight ahead.
What had happened?
Our pursuers? Their faces had been masked in black helmets, not like Wally’s. Expressionless, four rides, no female forms.
There could be no profit to chasing us. Nothing could be gained, but everything could be lost. Then why? Death was flirtatious.
But you know what? Fuck comparisons.
The Orpheum wasn’t far from here, in the city guts. We’d be there soon.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad start to the evening.
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