The Wake Up Call. (Part 1.10)
Written by TAD
Chapter 1.10: The Dead-End.
The stewardess and Hetch again found themselves sharing a rather grubby looking taxi-pod. Its floor was littered with discarded keycards, transparent food wrappers, cigar butts and various bodily fluids which ranged from the usual vomit stains, flem, reclaimed alcohol to more pleasure orientated juices. This driver was a particularlly good specimen of taxi-pod drivers. He was fat, stressed out, going bold, chain smoking and yelling abuse all at the same time. His tired and predictable banter about the state of the heavy city traffic was as tedious as the journey itself promised to be. His loud voice was interrupted by the need to reload his unshaven mouth with another high-nicotine cigarette every few minutes. The pollution on the inside of the pod was almost as bad as that on the outside. The city streets jumped and paused at irregular intervals as the driver navigated through the termite mounds of people and dense transport all fighting each other to escape from their own toxic fumes.
The minutes pasted slowly, so slowly. It felt like watching an ocean evapourate during the monsoon season. Hetch pushed his head into both palms and finally surrendered to the weight of his eyelids. The sight of the squawbling city through squalid taxi bubble doors was simple to block out, if only the sound was as easy to extinguish. The drone from the taxi pod was nothing compared to the commotion beyond it's rusting exterior shell. A major road accident halted everything around it. From the mangled wreckage and size of the ghoulish crowds it must have been a horrorific event. The remains of an enforcer troop carrier lay scattered underneath a demolished monorail support base. Body parts and red pools marked the impact zone of the accident. It looked like another bomb site, another reminder of Rhyson and the case; that damn ill-fated box. He was sure it was magnetic, jinxed and cursed in some way, granting it's owner nothing but misfortune instead of the small fortune which its delivery would bring him. Talking of misfortune the driver inhaled another smoke filled, deep breath before continuing his complaints.
Just what I need, another damn delay.. Come on, COME ON MOVE!!!
screamed the taxi pod driver. All those years of experience behind the controls doesn't seemed to have calmed his nerves in any way. His stress level was only outdone by the collapsed monorail structure. The dust hadn't yet settled on the accident scene, but already some gangs and tramps were picking over the carnage in order to find their own little piece of salvage to take away.
Can you believe this shit? I mean, look, those little bastards are sick!
The stewardess's expression grew more and more concerned as she looked around. The crowds were quickly increasing in both size and energy. Soon there would be nowhere to go, even by foot. The clock was ticking, the sand was running through the hourglass like the blood on the fake marble sidewalks and roadway. She realised that the previous 20 minutes of the journey would now seem like nano-seconds compared to the ones which were yet to come. The driver's attitude and language ensured that this delay would be a long, drawn out nightmare filled with bland remarks about their obvious situation. Working on the shuttle for a number of years meant she was familiar, but not comfortable with all kinds of delays and her judgement about their duration was superb. Even to the untrained eye the scene outside was going to take a very long time to sort out.
Shoot 'em all... Those little freakin' ghouls.
But Hetch remained motionless, his head throbbed with pain and the pink-ish shade through his fingers gave his eyes a few moments of rest from the chaos around them.
The driver was more involved in putting the world to rights and his desire to punish the scavenging punks was greater than his concern for the safety of his passengers.
Can't you drive around them?
asked the stewardess, hoping for 'Yes' as a reply.
Isn't there a shortcut or main road you can drive down?
Haha! Lady, you don't know this area too well, do ya?
smirked the driver.
This IS the main road. It's the only damn way through this neighbourhood. Well apart from the, erm, ex-monorail that is.
the driver grunted and twisted his neck to look around at the stewardess.
This ain't no easy, executive shuttle flight service here... ya know.
She whinced as his remark. His attitude like the state of his taxi-pod was ugly. There was a hint of bitterness and resentment in his voice.
Yeah, I've seen you before in your uniform and those 'up themselves' pilots. Jerks. They wanna try my job. This ain't no picnic in the park trying to get around the city, ya know.
He pulled a cigarette stub from his vinegar drinking face and flicked it against the plastic screen which separated him from his passengers. The stewardess flinched at this tiny projectile as it struck the screen, spiralled down and crash to the floor like a white, paper firefly in a nose dive.
Ain't no cosy 1st-class transport. This is the streets and they be mean. You've gotta know how to handle people, how to twist and turn, how to survive, and then, you gotta know how...
How to bullshit?
interrupted Hetch, who was now sick of his annoying voice and partly because he was sick of the driver's attempt to scare the stewardess. He knew a little of her background, like working briefly for Mewco and the Flesh-o-ramma club. The driver was old for sure, but wise? Nah, absolutely not. He was another middle-aged dumb-ass who gets his kicks from frightening his passengers while he chain smokes himself to death. Hetch had a feeling that she could easily kick his lardy ass.
Hey! I don't like people to fucking swear in front of a lady, okay?
Hetch raised his head and sneered at the driver who almost dropped his lighter as he tried to light another cigarette.
Just, just, just watch your language, ok? And we shall all get along just fine.
The driver then retreated back to his controls once he saw Hetch's vile expression of anger slashed across his face. The metal bars and stained, transparent wall between them gave the driver little assurance of protection.
Hetch felt an elbow in his side and turned to look into the stewardess's eyes. She nodded her head in the direction of a side street. There in the perpherial epicenter of the terrible monorail accident were enforcers and riot troops clearing a path through the crowds. Their shock-sticks and shields drove the bystanders out of their way. Soon there were dozens of troops and some of the crowds started to throw objects at their transport. The debris and street litter made ad-hoc missiles. Moments later a number of news crews were fighting their way through the crowds by following the riot squads. The camera man held a large, pan directional vid scope to his eyes with both hands tightly gripping each corner like a heavy duty pair of binoculars. The news presenter stood in a pool of blood and slipped over, his instinct took over and he protected his microphone from the boots and army sticks of the enforcers which almost trampled him to death.
Are you going to sit there? or are you going to get us out of here?
Ha. You think I'm scared of those punks out there? If I was ten years younger I would get out and kick some serious butt.
And if my grandmother had wheels, she would be a skateboard.
scoffed Hetch. The situation was very grave. The time on both the case and the taxi's meter was still running. They had to find another escape route and soon. He looked at the stewardess and indicated for her to pick up some of the used payment stubs, keycards and nightclub tickets from the floor, which she did and concealed them in her pockets.
Damn! Looks like they are about to close off the entire area. They've got the dogs and the big incident van. Shit! I wanted to get an early night. This is going to take hours. Hey, have you two got any smokes?
Hetch looked straight through him like he wasn't there. The driver gave up and switched on the vid-player's news channel, he needed something to take his mind off his desire for niccotine.
Over we go to the feet on the street, the on-scene reporter, Matt.
Hello Stacy. This is Matt Hemlock, I am reported from this terrible scene of carnage from this unimaginable horror. At first sight it appears that another bomb has gone off. Possibly by the terrorist group calling themselves The Nexus, although I should say at this point in time that this has not yet been confirmed. We will continue to bring you, our loyal interactive consumers, the very latest holograghic images. But first, a short commerical break, so we may compose ourselves after this vile, vile tragedy. I'll be right back after these important messages.
This news snippet was sponsored by The UniWare Corporation.
While the taxi driver was transfixed by the small, flickering screen awash with commericals, Hetch took the used keycards and ticket stubs from the stewardess. He flicked through them to find something he could use. There it was. A shop receipt for an expensive item of jewellery. Hetch hid the other cards and stubs in his inside coat pocket before pulling out a small, pen sized gadget with a narrow slot down its entire length. Hetch pushed the thin plastic receipt into the number reader. A few retries and beeps later and the LCD screen displayed a credit card number.
Man, I don't need a damn hair transplant! Come on, get back to the news.
yelled the driver at the vid-player screen. Partly impatient to hear more news and partly upset by the commerical for hair transplants he tapped his fingers on the control panel hoping that Hetch wouldn't make a smart ass comment about his bold patch on the back of his head. But Hetch was too busy to watch the commerical. He concealled the receipt reader inside his coat before pushing a blank card into the mini-programmer device.
Any more news?
asked the stewardess, eager to keep the driver's attention away from Hetch and his noisy payment card machine under his coat.
Er, yeah. That pretty boy Matt Hemlock is coming back on screen.
A very warm welcome back, my shocked audience and interactive news watchers. Matt Hemlock here. You are, I am sure, as deeply upset as we are at the Channel 57-39 news station by these scenes around us. I can only guess that horror and pain which those innocent victims must have gone through just a few minutes ago.
Can you give the viewers any more detail about the accident?
No, unfortunately not Stacy, but we can now get some enhanced close ups of the epicenter and panarammic views of the entire scene.
Sorry to interrupt you there Matt, but we must warn our viewers about the content of the images on their screens.
A small on screen caption appeared over the picture and a synthetic voice warned the viewers about the horrorific closeups which were already being shown. The caption changed to one of a copyright message and a channel 57-39 logo with the words: "We reserve all rights to this holo-material. Any infringement will result in imprisionment."
A barrage of bottles, bricks and even some body parts rained down on the taxi-pod. The driver flinched and stuffed his chubby body beneath the control shelf, with a strong desire to blend in with the seat covers. The stewardess looked concerned and Hetch? Hetch was tired, too tired to react. He needed all the energy his exhausted body had to offer just to stay awake. After spending most of his life living in the mass habitation block where crime and riots go hand-in-hand like nose bleeds and a heavy cocaine habit, the sights and sound of violence did not bother him much. The crowds outside grew more unpredictable as the enforcers formed a two deep line behind riot shields and a military-style troop carrier which crawlled its way through the semi-demolished street.
A few moments later and the taxi-pod was surrounded by a strange mixture of gang members, shop keepers and innocent pedestrians caught up in the frantic scene. The pod began to violently shake as the mob threw it from side to side like a dirty yellow pendulum ensnared in the grip of a giant, ravenous tidal wave. The three occupants were hurlled about like rag dolls in a washing machine filled with ash trays. The litter which was once under their feet was now dancing around them. The driver's expression warned of an inpending heart attack and the stewardess was equally frightened by the torrent of verbal abuse and improvised weapons which the crowds pounded the taxi-pod's windows with. The vid-screen caught Hetch's blood shot eye.
Matt? Is there anything else you can tell us about the riot?
The screen filled with an overly preened female news presenter, her jewels and hair seemed as fake as her vocal concerns about her fellow news presenter's welfare.
Err.. Stacy.. It seems that this riot is one of many.. I have re...
At that moment Matt Hemlock was punched to the ground by a rough looking shop keeper dressed in little more than a dirty vest and trousers which were covered in blood and other sign of butchery from his shop.
No need to worry our viewers Stacy, it takes more than a homicidal butcher with a dislike of good looking news presenters to make a dent in my professionalism.
Matt paused to wipe some blood from his face, then tried to groom his hair back into place above his fake tanned forehead.
What a freakin' jerk!
exclaimed the taxi driver, even in his current situation he couldn't resist giving his opinion about someone better looking and younger than himself.
I hope somewhere in that wessel-like mind of your, you've got a plan Mewco.
Asked the stewardess. Hetch pressed both hands against the taxi-pod roof to prevent himself from sliding around like his fellow passengers, then he looked at the stewardess. Her dark hair danced about like the grass skirt on a Hawaiian pogo-stick dancing champion during an earthquake. Damn! his mind was off again on one of its little fantasies, the kind which those two maintainence engineers back in the Eldora towers watched on the adult vid-channels during their working hours. Her chest fought against her casual clothes, her breath grew heavy with anxious exhausion and her lips grew red with blood like the side-walks outside.
The front window of the taxi-pod began to show signs of serious damage. The heavy duty laminated glass began to crack near the edges, soon it would totally give way like the shop windows had done several minutes earlier.
Hetch gathered his scattered thoughts together and returned his focus to the chaotic vid-screen which was interrupted with flashes of corrupt transmittion data caused by the rocking taxi-pod. There! No, Hetch thought he could see someone he recognised in the digital crowd, but he couldn't be sure. He hoped the taxi-pod would withstand a few more moments of brutal pounding by the mob outside so he could gain another look at the vid-screen.
cursed Hetch, his previously cool, calm exterior was now burning with panic, a sudden fear for his surrounding. He pushed a tense finger against the plastic screen that protected the vid-screen and pointed at the image.
What is it?
The stewardess looked. There, forcing his way through the crowd like a volcanic knife through a butter mountain, was a large, muscular skinhead dressed in flak jacket, an armoured trenchcoat and two rapid-burst assault pistols. He seemed invincible, head butting people out of his way and shooting others in their kneecaps.
He sometimes works for the McKaff brothers. Shit! We're outta here, NOW!
Hetch pushed the barrel of his gun right against the taxi-pod's roof and let out a few rounds. The crowd released the pod as soon as they saw the rounds race skywards followed by trails of metal splinters from the roof. Hetch tore open the roof lining material in the taxi roof using the still smoking gun barrel sights as a knife.
There was their way out, a concealed emergency exit panel in the roof, the kind that rescue crews use to reach trapped passengers when the doors jam, or as in this case, are locked to prevent street gangs of 'skating'. This is when semi-rich passenagers or taxi-pod drivers are taken hostage by jumping through an unlocked taxi door, robbing them and then leaping out before anyone else can witness the crime.
Hetch had to smash the panel open with the metal case, the safety catches were designed to open from the outside only after a hefty side impact on the taxi-pod doors. He pushed the stewardess through the gap before handing her case while he reloaded his gun and joined her on the taxi roof.
Erm.. This way.
The stewardess held the case in both her arms like she was craddling a tiny infant, fearing to drop it. Hetch wasn't sure whether she was afraid of him and was using it as protection from one of his bullets, or whether she was trying to breast-feed this square, metallic baby in her arms.
Look, just trust me!
Damn, he thought, the attractive female form before him convinced his reason to do as she asked, no matter how much his mind told him otherwise. Her arms were crossed over the case like she had been laid to rest in the morgue. Shit, another moment of madness. The line between reality and fantasy came and went like the trails of tear gas from the enforcer troops.
Damn you Mewco!
Behind him were the enforcers closing in, pushing the crowds back into a dead-end with their riot shields and somewhere in this wave of human litter was the skin head fighting his way towards the taxi-pod. But Hetch remained motionless, his brain fried with drugs, pain, a need for sleep and confusion about his case carrying passenger.
Hetch felt a mule kick to his back and looked down to see lines of blood splattered onto the pavement below in the shape of a cone with him at its peak. His lung exploded with sharp pain and suffocated his senses with a lack of oxygen. It was like falling into the arctic ocean, the shock prevented him from breathing, from screaming with agony, from crying out for help and from feeling the pain.
Hetch dropped the gun to his side as if all his energy, his desire to live had been taken away in an instant. His jaw fell and his face drained of blood, his body grew lifeless and toppled onto the ground like a sack of coal.
The noise from the vid-screen broke the sound tempest outside for a moment..
This is Matt Hemlock, Stacy? Stacy, I believe we have an important development in this story. It appears, yes, it appears that someone from the taxi-pod has been shot and he appears to be dead.
Can you confirm this Matt?
Err, you will appreciate the stressful situation I am in here, but yes, from our own position behind the enforcer troop carrier, yes. It appears that a single shot is the cause. This is Matt Hemlock reporting for channel 57-39 news, the only global news channel for people who truly care about people.
Matt gave an unconvincing look of grief for the camera's benefit before the station returned to the news desk.
Thank you Matt. This is Stacy Bowlane, you are watching channel 57-39. We will continue to bring you up to the minute news on the all the breaking events around the globe. So stay tuned for more from our on the spot reporter, Matt Hemlock at 11 when we will be getting reactions to the riots from the troops on the streets.
There was a moment's pause while Stacy pretended to read some news from the papers on her desk before resuming her view of the auto-cue visual prompter.
Please insert your credit card to see a high resolution replay of the tragic death of an unknown taxi-pod passenger.....
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