by Ramona Richards
The little red car weaved rapidly through the lanes of traffic without the jerks or sudden shifts of more reckless drivers. Another driver might have met more trouble, but few drivers challenged the progress of the red car, even though it was a compact. The Firehawk with the license CRAZY S had acquired a reputation along the Southern highways. It was said that this driver had collected more license plates than even Buster Coughlin - an ex-pro duellist who had over 250. It was also said that the little red Firehawk had once tackled an eighteen-wheeler and had come out victorious. Not many travellers believed that story, but few were willing to put it to the test. Yes, this red car had a reputation.
And it all began with a trip to the grocery store.
* * *
Buster Coughlin had been cruising along at about 90 when he saw the Firehawk for the first time. He really didn't pay much attention as it shot off the entrance ramp into traffic. He never paid much attention to compacts; they weren't worth the trouble. He did note that this one had no trouble with acceleration. It moved smoothly over into the left lane and was gradually pulling away from Buster's Magnum.
He forgot the Firehawk almost immediately as a yellow Pisces jerked in front of him, cutting him short. Buster braked hard and flipped the driver a bird. Ordinarily, Buster would have released a few rounds into the kid's taillights, but he was on his way to see Sarah, and he didn't want to get into anything. He could see the kid laughing as he jerked into the right lane, but Buster ignored him and picked up his lost speed.
Buster watched the kid jerk around between lanes, picking up distance and speed, until he found all the lanes blocked. He switched lanes several times, blowing his horn, but no one moved. Buster grinned at the impasse, until the Pisces pulled up close behind the Firehawk, constantly blowing his horn. After a few moments of inaction, Buster heard a burst of gunfire. The Firehawk jumped like a startled kitten, and swerved out onto the shoulder. The Pisces shot ahead.
Buster grimaced as he passed the wounded Firehawk. Some drivers - lack of nerve, lack of brains - just didn't belong on the road. Then the little red car was forgotten, his mind turning to his plans for the evening. Dinner - someplace kinda nice - then Sarah wanted to see the new film down at--
The red Firehawk shot past Buster, and the ex-pro stared. He must be doing 130. Buster grinned and pressed harder on the accelerator. This was one challenge he wanted to see.
Unlike the Pisces, the Firehawk did not pull up close behind his opponent before launching the attack. It was still four lengths back when Buster heard the first gunfire. It was the Pisces' turn to lurch suddenly to the left. The Firehawk pulled up beside him, releasing a stream of fire across the passenger side. The Pisces swerved further onto the shoulder and threatened to spin out.
Buster chuckled. The kid in the Pisces was what he and his buddies called a child aggressor. Too young, too inexperienced, and too eager to pick a fight. A child aggressor thought so highly of himself that an attack from the rear was surprising and usually rattled him - for a few minutes anyway. The Firehawk had taken advantage of those few minutes. It now pulled ahead at a slower speed.
The Pisces recovered and pulled out after his attacker, skidding to the right. He closed rapidly on the little red car, which made no effort to outrun him. The Pisces pulled up behind the Firehawk and opened fire.
He hit very little. Just as he started shooting, the Firehawk swerved right, bit the brakes, and released another stream of fire. The Pisces shot past, through the fire. Now the right side of the yellow car was badly scorched and the rear wheel was smoking a little.
Buster grinned as the Firehawk pulled up close to the Pisces' rear right fender. It had been a long time since he had seen a compact take on a larger car, and he was glad the snotty kid was taking a beating. Kids just starting out sometimes harassed the little cars to show off, but the old pros left the compacts alone to fight among themselves. When one crashed, there wasn't much left to salvage, and most compact drivers wouldn't think of challenging a heavier car.
But this one was smart and gutsy. The little red car hovered in the Pisces' blind spot a moment before turning the front gun on him. At that range, something had to give.
Something did. Smoke was streaming from around the right front wheel and the Firehawk braked just in lime to avoid the Pisces as it swerved left, then right - directly into Buster's path.
Shit. Buster had been paying too much attention to the Firehawk. The Pisces braked as it swerved into his lane, and Buster couldn't stop. The big Magnum rammed the rear of the Pisces and Buster watched in surprise as the yellow car veered off, smashed through a guard rail and plunged into the ravine.
Buster swerved onto the right shoulder and stopped. He pulled off his helmet and got out as the Firehawk pulled up behind him. A short slender figure jumped out and ran to the edge of the ravine. Buster walked up and looked over at the smouldering wreckage.
"Nothing to salvage out of that." When the other driver didn't answer, Buster shifted uncomfortably and looked around at the Firehawk. "He barely touched you, too. Just that peppering across the back."
"I'm glad. My husband would have killed me. I was just going to the grocery store."
Buster was sure something was wrong with his ears until the other driver pulled off her helmet. A mass of brown hair fell around her shoulders, and her eyes blinked rapidly behind wire-rimmed glasses. She looked up at Buster. "I guess I shouldn't have done that. I just got mad 'cause he scared Robbie."
Now Buster was confused. "Robbie?"
She nodded and walked back to the Firehawk. Buster watched as she reached in and pulled out a blanket-wrapped bundle which had begun to cry. Shaking his head, Buster went down to the wreck to retrieve the license plate. When he returned, Robbie, bouncing on his mother's hip, had almost stopped crying. He held out the plate. "Here. This is yours."
She barely glanced at it, then back to Robbie. "You keep it. I don't need it."
Buster backed away, feeling even more confused. He went back to the Magnum and dropped the plate on the floor as he got in. He had recovered, however, by the time he had started the car and pulled away. He had a lot of drinking buddies, and he couldn't wait to tell them about this.
Behind him, Sandy Brown jostled her son and wondered how she was going to explain the bullet marks to Don.
* * *
Don Brown shut the door in the second reporter's lace and turned to his wife. "Just what the hell did you do?"
Sandy shifted Robbie from one hip to the other, and pushed a strand of hair behind one car. "I told you," she protested. "Nothing. This guy fired a couple of rounds at me, and I swerved out of his way. That's all."
Don ran his hand through his hair. "So why do we have reporters at the door asking where you came from, why hasn't anyone heard of you, how many plates do you really have?"
"I don't know, Don. But please lower your voice." She began to jostle Robbie, who was starting to fuss.
"Communication, Sandy," said Don. "I thought we had open communication between us."
Sandy looked disappointed. "You don't believe me."
Don sighed and started to answer when the doorbell rang again. "I hope it's not another reporter," he said, jerking open the door.
Their next door neighbor, Rich Carter, marched in, thumping a newspaper. "Have you two seen this?" he asked. "Have you seen this?"
Don jerked the paper away from Rich and Sandy disappeared into the kitchen: Glancing at the headline, Don muttered, "Damn."
Unknown Duellist Makes Mark
Woman Driver Takes Out Billy Kell
"I've never seen anything like it," was the way ex-pro duellist Buster Coughlin referred to yesterday's duel on I-40 in which Billy Kell, son of pro duellist Davies Kell, was killed by an unknown female traveller. The woman, who told Coughlin that she took Kell out because "he scared my son" - an infant with whom she was travelling - left the scene without collecting the traditional license plate trophy. "I have enough," she told Coughlin. "I don't need another."
Davies Kell, last year's AADA regional champion, has sworn revenge on the duellist, who is identified only by her car - a red Kane Firehawk with the license CRAZY S.
"Don, please." Sandy appeared in the kitchen door frantically bouncing her son. She took one look at Don's face and muttered, "Let me put him down." She disappeared down the hall.
"How quick can you get her out of the country?" asked Rich.
"Not quick enough," said Don through his teeth. But Davies Kell may never get a chance at her. I get her first."
Rich cleared his throat. "Uh, maybe I should come back later."
Don jerked his finger at his neighbor. "Stay put. I might not kill her if there is a witness around."
Before Rich could reply, Sandy stepped timidly into the living room. "Please don't shout, Don. He might go to sleep." She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and adjusted her glasses.
"Don't shout--" The words choked in Don's throat, and he ran his hand across his mouth. He took a deep breath before speaking again. "What exactly happened yesterday?"
Sandy looked at the ground. "He did fire a couple of rounds at me, and I did swerve out of his way."
Don started to protest, but Sandy held up her hand. "But it scared Robbie, and he started to cry, and I guess I just got mad." She paused and pushed her glasses up. "You know, Don, that car really is fast. I must have hit 130 trying to catch him."
Don choked again. "I didn't buy that car for you to provoke duels." His voice was rising in pitch. "I only had it armed for you to protect yourself."
Sandy crossed her arms in front of her. "I know," she said quietly. "I'm sorry."
Don looked at Rich. "Sorry. She's sorry. She's provoked a challenge from one of the top duellists in the world, and she's sorry." He looked back at Sandy, who was looking puzzled.
"Don, what are you talking about? What duellist?"
Don looked back at Rich, who was inching toward the door. "What am I talking about, she wants to know." Looking at Sandy, he bit his lower lip and took a deep breath so he could speak calmly. "That boy you took out yesterday was the son of Davies Kell, last year's Division 25 champion." He tapped the paper. "It's all right here. Do you know what Davies Kell drives? Do you know how long he's been a top duellist? Do you know how long a lightly armed Firehawk is going to stand up to him? Do you?"
Sandy took a step back under Don's onslaught, and timidly shook her head.
"About 3 seconds!" Don screamed.
Sandy winced, then looked at him over her glasses. "Maybe I can outrun him."
"Maybe--?" Don's voice choked, and he turned on Rich. "My wife is an idiot."
"Now, wait a minute," protested Sandy. "I didn't know that kid was Kell's son. Maybe we can reason with him."
Don continued to look at Rich. "Her suggestions are getting worse. Do you have any ideas?"
"Buy her a tank?"
Don stared at his neighbor a moment, then spoke quietly. "I am surrounded by idiots."
"Oh, come on, Don," said Rich. "It can't be that bad. Davies Kell doesn't have the foggiest idea how to find Sandy. Junk the Firehawk and the license plate, and get her an old Indra. Something nondescript."
"The reporters found her. Buster Coughlin knows what she looks like. It won't be that hard for Kell to find her. Even in something 'nondescript,'" Don added sarcastically.
"I might win."
Don turned to stare at his wife "Y'know, you never said anything about having a lobotomy. Why don't you tell me these things, Sandy?"
"Hey, look. One of the reasons you bought me the Firehawk was so Robbie and I could avoid the public transports. You even bought a flashy car and armed it because you always said that serendipity was my co-pilot. I don't fight like a pro. Kell is expecting a pro, not a crazy housewife. His game has rules, and I just don't know them. I just might luck out."
"And I have always relished the idea of raising Robbie alone."
Sandy took a deep breath and pushed her glasses up. "When you come up with some constructive ideas, I will listen. I'm finished with the insults, Don. I'm going to see about Robbie." She turned and disappeared down the hall.
"Off to a great start, Don."
Don dropped the paper on the coffee table and ran his hands through his hair. "I genuinely don't know what to do, Rich. She can't take on Davies Kell. Neither she nor the Firehawk is up to it." He looked at his friend. "I'm really scared. I don't want to lose her."
"I'm sorry, Don. I just don't have any ideas."
Don nodded. "Neither do I."
* * *
Sandy bounced Robbie slightly on her left hip and tightened her grip on the pole next to her. She hated the public transports. Crowded, noisy, dirty - and they smelled like Robbie's soiled diapers on a hot day. If someone wanted to lift her wallet, she would have been hard put to stop them with Robbie on one hip and a diaper bag on the other.
It didn't help that she was nervous. Robbie, always sensitive to his mother's moods, had sensed her tenseness and was fussy, gnawing on his lower lip and whimpering. The bouncing wasn't helping, and she wanted to let go of the pole and hold him closer. If she did, she would wind up in someone's lap.
She was still mad at Don and nervous about what she was about to do. It had been almost a week since the duel. She had stayed at home, hiding, but that morning she and Don had fought again about it. He had taken away her car keys and refused to give them back. He felt that if she wasn't able to drive, she couldn't be challenged. To Sandy, it meant that Don didn't trust her. That hurt, and it made her even more resolved about her course of action.
Sandy was the last passenger on the transport when she got off at the end of the line. Not many people used the transports this far out in the suburbs, even though Sandy still had a half mile to walk. The tree-lined street was quiet. She looked at the spacious homes of the nouveau riche and wondered what was happening inside them. Did they have maids? Were gardeners responsible for the smooth, neatly trimmed lawns? Did they have ten rooms? Twenty? Did they have pros who fought their fights for them?
Sandy sighed as she stopped in front of a Spanish-style home which was slightly smaller than the rest. She hesitated, then shifted Robbie to her right hip. She pressed the intercom button on the front gate.
Sandy started at the harshly metallic voice. She pressed the button again. "Uh - I would like to see Mr. Kell."
"Mr. Kell is busy."
Sandy's palms were sweating as she tried again. "Please. This is important."
There was a pause, then, "Please state the nature of your business with Mr. Kell."
"Certainly none of your business," Sandy thought indignantly. "It's private. Certainly not to be discussed over an intercom."
There was another pause, and the gate slid open. Sandy walked up the curving drive. The house sat on top of a slight rise, and in the midst of a pine grove. The lawn and outside of the house were well cared for, and an air of tranquility surrounded the estate. "Certainly unlike the way he makes his living," thought Sandy, as she knocked lightly on the wooden front door.
The door jerked open, and a small woman stuck out her hand to Sandy. "Do come in. I'm Alice Kell. I'm sorry about Michael. He feels that it's his personal duty to protect Davies and me. Especially right now. It does no good to explain the meaning of the word 'rude' to him." Her red curls bounced as she talked. She took Sandy's hand and led her into the living room. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Sandy liked this woman, and opened her mouth to explain her situation. Instead, she took a deep breath and shook her head. "I guess I really need to see Mr. Kell."
She seemed strangely defeated, then Sandy realized that her hostess was staring at Robbie. She looked from her son to the woman, then cleared her throat. The redhead jumped.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare. He is such a charming child. And so blond."
Sandy grinned. "Thank you. My husband and I are very proud of him."
The woman grinned suddenly and seemed relieved. "Your husband. Oh, that's good."
Sandy's smile vanished. "Yes, my husband. Is something wrong, Mrs. Kell?"
Her hostess jumped again. "Oh! Oh, no. I'm sorry. Uh, Davies is in the workshop. I'll get him for you." She went through a side door, leaving Sandy alone.
Robbie whimpered, and Sandy held him closer. "I'm sorry. I'll try to relax." She bounced him a bit as she looked around the room.
The low ceiling and oak wood panelling made the room seem close and dark. The wooden floor was covered with a scattering of hand-made rugs which added the only sense of color. At one side, a well-used fireplace was cold and dark. The mantle held two or three small trophies and several pictures. As Sandy walked closer, she realized they were photos of a bright yellow Pisces and its owner. He looked to be about sixteen in the photographs, a large teenager with a bright grin. And he was very blond.
"He was only seventeen when he died."
Sandy whirled around, feeling like a child who had been caught snooping.
Davies Kell was an older version of his son, over six feet tall, well muscled but slender with blond hair that was beginning to fade to light brown. He had been an attractive man, but the years of produelling had left their scars, including burned tissue which completely covered his left arm.
Sandy swallowed heavily and stepped away from the mantle. Robbie whimpered.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kell. Perhaps I should not have come here like this, but I needed to talk with you rather badly. I could come back some--"
"Nonsense. Please sit down.--- His voice had a sad but deeply soothing quality. "Please sit down," he repeated.
Sandy hesitated as Robbie whimpered, then shook her head. "I'd rather not, if you don't mind."
Kell shrugged. "No, but I thought it might help your son relax." He walked over to Sandy and gently stroked Robbie's head. Robbie looked up at him with wide eyes and cooed. "He's beautiful." He looked at Sandy with one eyebrow raised. "Is he the reason you're here?"
Sandy's jaw dropped, and she stepped away from Kell. "No. Well, yes, in a matter of speaking. But not really." Why am I stuttering so! "I mean, Mr. Kell--" She paused and took a deep breath. "I'm really sorry about your son."
Kell's face tightened, and he took a step towards her. "What are you talking about?"
Sandy felt all the color drain from her face. Robbie whimpered and clutched her shirt as she moved away from Kell. "I mean, well - I have a son, too, and he scared him! I didn't mean to - I mean, I just got mad - I was lucky! I mean if Mr. Coughlin hadn't hit him--"
"What are you saying?" Kell shouted.
"I'm not a pro!" Sandy shouted back. "I didn't mean to kill him! It was an accident!"
Robbie wailed and buried his fists in his mother's neck.
Kell's face was white and he clenched his fists at his side. "My god," he said quietly as he stepped closer. "You're CRAZY S. And you're an amateur. A goddamn amateur."
Sandy knew she should move, but she couldn't. Her knees were locked and her feet were frozen to the floor. She nodded weakly. "My name is Sandy Brown," she said softly. "I was just going to the grocery store. I didn't mean to hurt anybody."
Kell towered over her, and Sandy shut her eyes. "Why did I come here?" she asked herself. "Why did I bring my baby into this?"
Suddenly Robbie stopped wailing, and Sandy opened her eyes. Kell was holding one of Robbie's hands, and the boy was watching the man closely. Without a word, Kell lifted Robbie out of Sandy's arms and settled him into the crook of his own. Robbie gurgled.
Kell looked at Sandy. "Sit down, Mrs. Brown," he said, his voice tight. "Tell me what happened."
Relief washed through Sandy and she dropped onto the couch and began to cry. Kell said nothing until the tears had ceased. He handed her a handkerchief and sat on the couch next to her. Robbie was still fascinated by his new-found friend and ran one hand clumsily over Kell's face.
Slowly, Sandy pulled herself together and related the story to Kell as carefully as she could. At first he showed no reaction, then he took Robbie's hand away from his mouth and spoke quietly.
"Billy was a talented driver, and I encouraged him to save his skills for the arena. He seldom listened. He liked hotrodding the streets, and I suppose I couldn't blame him. The excitement, the thrill of unexpected duels is exhilarating. But he was too inexperienced for the street." He looked at Sandy. "Where accidents do happen. But it's hard to believe that my son was killed by--" He looked away. "I wish you were a pro, Mrs. Brown."
Sandy felt wretched, but she could think of nothing to say. "I'm sorry."
Kell stood up, handing Robbie back to his mother. "So am I." He paused and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Let me explain something. Whether you like it or not, you're responsible for Billy's death."
Sandy nodded, and Kell continued. "And that damned reporter caught me when I was still hot. I swore revenge."
Sandy understood what Kell was trying to tell her, and she stood up. "It's a question of honor."
Kell nodded. "Amateur or not, I still have to meet you in a duel. I have to take out the red Firehawk."
Sandy took a deep breath and nodded again. "When and where?"
"If you were a pro, we could use an arena, but you're not. Sandersville Road entrance to I-40. Around 7:00 tomorrow."
Sandy nodded and Kell escorted her to the door. "I'm sorry," he said. "I really don't blame you anymore."
Sandy smiled weakly. "I know. But everyone else does." She shrugged. "Anyway, it'll all be over tomorrow." As she turned to leave, Robbie reached out for Davies Kell. She stopped and Kell took Robbie for a few more moments.
He looked down at Robbie's mother. "It's too bad my original guess wasn't right. It would have been a lot less trouble to take care of." He tickled Robbie under the chin and handed him back to his mother. Sandy pushed up her glasses. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Kell."
Kell nodded and shut the door behind her.
* * *
"You could hire a pro to do this for you."
"I don't think I could find one that would take on Davies Kell that I could afford. Especially on short notice. Besides, I don't intend to risk anyone else. I got myself into this, and I will get myself out."
"You're gonna die."
Sandy looked over the top of the Firehawk at Rich. "Your confidence in me is overwhelming, Mr. Carter."
He shrugged. "Just being realistic."
"Just finish checking the electrical system. I don't have much time."
"That's an understatement." Rich finished his last check under the dash and straightened up. He shut the passenger door of the Firehawk. "Y'know, I may be joining you when Don finds out I helped you with this."
"Don's working late tonight. By the time he gets home it should be over with. I stole the keys. If you keep your mouth shut, he'll never know how I found out where they were."
Rich shook his head sadly. "He'll know. He has a peculiar sense that way." He watched silently as she loaded Robbie into the car. "Uh - you aren't taking the kid, are you?"
Sandy gave Rich a disgusted look. "Right." She shook her head. "I can't leave him here or with you, or Don will know exactly where I've gone. I'm leaving him at my mother's."
Rich took one last look over the Firehawk and sighed as Sandy put on her helmet and got in. "Good luck, Sandy."
She grinned. "Thanks, Rich. If I don't come back, give Don my love."
Rich nodded. Sandy started the car and backed out of the garage. She gave Rich a last wave before moving off down the street. He sighed again. "Now I know how an executioner feels."
Sandy was already sweating as she pulled onto I-40 at Sandersville Road and eased the Firehawk onto the shoulder. Cautiously, she backed the car up under the bridge and put it into neutral.
Robbie stirred restlessly beside her, and Sandy bit her lower lip. She stroked his tummy. "What am I going to do with you?" she asked softly. Her mother had not been home. Sandy, who was running late, had driven onto the duel site, hoping to find someplace safe to leave her son. She glanced around, spotting the concrete ledge at the top of the reinforced bank under the overpass. "That should do," she thought. She reached for her strap release and glanced in her rearview mirror.
Her hand froze. The powerful dueller of Davies Kell was directly behind her. Kell paused, then pulled up beside her. She couldn't see him behind the dark shield of his helmet, but he saluted her and pulled away before she could return the signal. Sandy took a deep breath and swallowed heavily. She chewed her lower lip. "He has a turret," she said to Robbie. "A goddamn turret." She ran a cursory check on the electrical system, pulled her driving gloves a little tighter and gripped the wheel. "This is it, kid," she said. "I'm really sorry about this." She slipped the car into gear.
Davies Kell put a mile between them before turning. He started toward her, but Sandy did not accelerate much. Waiting to see his first move, she pushed the car only up to 45. Expecting a machine gun, she jumped when she saw the first flash of the front-mounted lasers. As they hit the road in front of the Firehawk, she jerked the wheel left, toward Kell, and released a shot of flame. The laser beams disappeared in the smoke as the two cars passed within two feet of each other, and Kell's car jerked away from Sandy. She chewed her lower lip. Evidently he hadn't expected her to use the flamethrower at such close range. Sandy slammed on the brakes, swung the car through a bootlegger turn, and accelerated at top speed.
Kell had not had time to complete his turn, and was across the road. Sandy opened fire with her front guns, aiming for his tires. She was still closing when his first return shot from the turreted machine gun hit the front of the Firehawk. The force jerked the little car to the right, and Sandy fought to regain control as the Firehawk shot onto the shoulder and out into the median. The back wheels spun as Sandy fought back onto the pavement.
When she had recovered, Kell was waiting. The laser bit the front of the Firehawk as soon as the dust had begun to settle. Sandy accelerated toward Kell trying to jerk away from the beam, but it followed her, maintaining its place on the front of the compact. The inside of the car was beginning to heat up as Sandy headed straight for Kell.
His machine gun peppered the hood of her car, but Sandy held steady. He tried to move out of her path, as she adjusted and passed him within a few yards of his left, releasing another stream of fire. She aimed low, an attempt to damage his tires. She pulled away from him, checking her instruments for damage.
Her front gun was demolished; the armor almost useless. The front end of the Firehawk was no longer stable and the wheel shook beneath her hands. Sandy said a little prayer as she hit the brakes and swung the car around.
The left side of Kell's car was still smoking, but he was waiting for his opponent less than a half-mile away. Sandy shuddered a bit as he began to accelerate, his turret turning in her direction.
You could still outrun him. The first shells hit the hood of the Firehawk, and Sandy cursed as several passed into the interior. Sparks shot around her as her instrument panel began to short-circuit. Shrapnel peppered her and Robbie, who began to scream. The wheel shook more violently under Sandy's hands. Kell's fire continued as she shot past him headed toward the bridge abutment of Sandersville Road.
The wheel under Sandy's hand was locked. She slammed on the brakes, watching the concrete pillars close in. The rear of the Firehawk began to fishtail, then slid into a full spin. The car slammed into the abutment sideways, crushing the right side of the car. The engine went dead.
Sandy shook her head to clear it, but that only increased the number of spots she saw. Her neck felt as if someone had tried to twist it off. Her head was splitting, and at first she thought she was deaf. Then she realized that Robbie's screaming was drowning out all other noise. She twisted her head to try to see Kell.
The duellist sat about a half-mile away, waiting. He and Sandy watched each other a few moments, then his back wheels began to spin. My god, he's going to ram us. Kell's car headed for the Firehawk at top speed.
"Damn," she said, glancing at Robbie. "I've got to get you out of here." Sandy twisted in her seat and tried to push her door open. It refused to budge, and she realized it would do her no good to try again. Her legs were trapped beneath the dash.
Sandy jerked off her helmet and swung it against her window. The glass, already cracked, shattered but did not come out of the frame. Two more swings of the helmet finally pushed it out. Kell was still accelerating and was less than 300 yards away. Sandy turned in her seat and pulled Robbie's carrier from its strap and tightened the carrier restraints on her son.
A brief vision of how fondly Kell had caressed Robbie flashed through her mind as Sandy pushed her screaming son out the window. Leaning out as far as she could, she swung the carrier in a low arc toward the back of the car. As she released it, it slid on the pavement for ten feet, then flipped and lay still. Robbie's screaming increased. Sandy let her head fall forward against the door. It wasn't far enough away. "Please forgive me," Sandy whispered. She closed her eyes as Kell tried to swerve out of the way, wishing that she could also shut out the sounds of shredding metal.
* * *
Don Brown bounced Robbie gently on one hip as he walked Alice Kell to her car. She paused before getting in, and smiled weakly. "I'm really sorry about your wife. It had been a long time since he had fought on the open highway."
Don shook his head. "He was used to dealing with pros. He couldn't have known she would have Robbie in the car with her. I'm sure that came as a real surprise." Don paused and gently touched the bandage on Robbie's head. His son fussed and pushed his hand away. Don sighed. "At least Sandy may be able to walk again. Stop worrying about it. We're the ones who should be sorry."
Alice shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. He's already working on ideas for a car in which he can duel without using his feet. He'll be OK. He got a lot of press off this and he's going to expand his staff."
"But I am going to worry about your wife," Alice continued. "A lot of people are going to want to duel her even if she doesn't fully recover. There are already rumors going around that she won that duel - that she has now taken out both father and son."
Don scowled as he held the door for Alice. "They can't duel someone who has no car."
Alice smiled knowingly. "Well, we'll see," she said, getting in and shutting the door.
* * *
The door to Sandy's hospital room burst open, and Davies Kell wheeled himself in. Sandy stared as he grinned broadly at her through the traction bars.
"Hey, kid," he said loudly. "I need a test driver for a new car I'm designing. Want a job?"
(Thanks to Pat Richards for the vehicle descriptions and help with story accuracy.)
Here's how to build Sandy Brown's "Crazy S" Firehawk:
Firehawk - Compact, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, lg. power plant, 4 PR tires, MG front, FT left, driver only, targeting computer. Armor: F25, R22, L24, B25, TIO, U10. HC 3, Acc. 10. 3,936 lbs., $8,758. Note: There is enough room in the Firehawk for some small personal items (like some groceries and a baby son).
Sandy Brown might make a good legend for the duellists in your campaign to have heard about, but it would be difficult to run an actual combat with her, because she does unpredictable things and is usually very lucky. Brown is a Driver+1, Gunner.
Davies Kell, on the other hand, might be all the foe any player could handle. His car, custom-built and unnamed, should strike fear in the heart of any duellist spotting it in his or her rear scope. Here, are the stats:
Kell's car - Luxury, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, super power plant, 4 solid tires, driver and gunner, 2 linked lasers front, VMG in turret, hi-res computer for driver, cyberlink for gunner and VMG, fire ext. Fireproof armor: F25, R20, L20, B22, T23, U10. HC 3, Acc. 5. 6,600 lbs, $53,150.
Kell, a Driver+3, Gunner+1, Cyclist, Mech+1, did not bring his gunner along for the duel with Brown. If the players encounter Kell, his gunner will most likely (1-4 on a six-sided die) be with him. Brandon Kemp is a Driver+1, Cyclist, Trucker, Mech, Gunner+3.