I didn't know whose voice it was, nor did I really care. But that car was heading right for the "Grand Opening" banner strung over the picture window of the diner/charge station where I was grabbing something to eat, and I appreciated the warning.
I threw myself behind the counter, reaching under my arm for the Ladyman Viper holstered there, just as the screaming car crashed through the charged pumps and toward the armor glass window. The car's guns traced spiderwebs into the glass, spraying the interior with ricocheting bullets that ate through oil cans, car parts and ammo boxes. I braced myself for the inevitable.
The window shattered as the electric monster gnawed its way through, its MGs still pumping armor-piercers through the station as if it were a Forth of July picnic. The car stopped, its tires still churning up pieces of floor tile and rubber.
I swallowed hard and peeked over the edge of the counter. The guns were hammering away at a poster of a half-clad girl holding a tire, tearing her apart. I swung around my submachine gun and gave the car a spray. My bullets scampered over the already chewed-up armor, making only a few new holes. I waited for his next move.
The guns kept firing at the poster and the tires kept polishing the floor with rubber. There was no other activity.
"Reckon 'e's dead?" the station owner asked, a questioning look crossing his heavy-lidded eyes.
"Maybe," I replied. "Stay down while I take a Look."
"Anything you say," the owner replied.
I steeped out into the wreckage of the front of the station. Armor glass was everywhere, as were empty shell casings and pieces of tire. The car, a lightly-armed compact, was hung up on the window frame. The machine-guns were now clicking on empty magazines - soon they would burn out. Through the tinted windscreen I could see the driver, slumped over in his seat.
"Well?" the owner asked.
"I think it's safe. Come help me open this door."
The owner stepped out, still holding his automatic, and came over by me. The door on our side of the compact was shot up like a sieve and the electronic lock was frozen shut.
"Got a cutter?" I said as I turned to the owner.
"Shor. I keep it in th' garage. Lemme go git it," he said, and with that, the owner rushed out into the rain.
A couple of times I tried the latch, yanking and pulling on it with all the strength my frame could muster. It didn't budge. It was times like these I wished they would make explosive bolts on doors standard equipment.
"Help," came a voice from inside.
"We're trying to, just hold on. It'll be a second."
"My daughter ... he has her," he coughed.
"Who has?" I yelled through the door.
"The car ... was ... following," the driver said, collapsing into a coughing fir.
I thought back. I did remember another car passing through the rain just before ducking behind the counter. A sleek black vehicle. I leaned down to the door and yelled through the laser holes. "Just relax. I'll get your daughter back."
He looked at me, blood trickling from his forehead. His eyes seemed to lack focus for a second, then a puzzled, angry look flashed into them as he stared at me. His torn lips tried to form words, but only red roam dripped from them. But hate stabbed from his eyes.
I stepped through the glass jaws of the shattered window, leaving the stranger behind the wheel. The station owner was nowhere in sight. He was probably digging through his shop looking for the cutters. I hesitated from leaving for a second of two, but the compact driver's reaction haunted me. I wanted to find that other driver.
Though my car wasn't built for the arena, its Vulcan was a glistening reassurance that I would at least have a chance a t getting this other car. The way I had it figured, the old man had enough to at least put a few rounds into the kidnapper's car before cubing himself into our station. And with my Sunchaser, I could probably end this kidnapper's career.
I pushed the thumb-lock on the side and the door swung open. the interior heater was already buzzing and as soon as I sat down, the motor whirred on and the instrument Panels lit up. Everything ready, all set to go.
Carefully, I slid out of the station and out onto the highway. Colorado 85 is not one of the better roads to travel on, and a cautious driver was better than a dead on. I adjusted my LI glasses and settled back in my seat.
The night rolled past my windows, as were the corpses of rusted cars and trucks. The rain danced over my windscreen, and the wipers batted them away as I waited and watched my computer for any signs up ahead. As hard as I tried to concentrate on the read, however, all I could see was the look in that dying man's eyes.
The minutes crawled by as I pressed my accelerator closer to the floor. Thunder rumbled in response to a flash of lightning. Then I saw it, in that brief flash. A black silhouette of a car. I took my weapons off safety and ran another systems check, something I have grown accustomed to during my days as a hired gun. I pressed on through the rain-sheeted night.
The targeting computer enhanced the image on the screen as I closed in, a little faster than I had intended. The car was still, piled into a rusting wreck of another. My caution had been rewarded.
I lowered my speed and drew near. The car was a black Courier and both of its hull-wing doors were swung open. My computer also picked out the mines that littered the ground around the Courier. I stopped within Vulcan range and waited.
Lightning again scorched the glistening night, Lighting up the scene with a harsh but eerie light. There was no movement, no movement at all. My AADA Vehicle Guide identified the car as a Courier 1 - the only armament it had was a turreted laser. Carefully, I lined up my Vulcan with the turret, taking my time. Patience was one of my better virtues, and it looked like I had all the time in the world.
When I had the turret sighted in, I fired. The Vulcan spit out round after round, and soon the turret was nothing but scrap.
Still there was no movement.
Curiosity is also one of my characteristics, and one of my bad ones at that. Sure, I could have sat there pounding away at that Courier until it was nothing but a pile of scrap, but it wouldn't have helped me find out what happened to the driver and the daughter of the man with the hating eyes. I snatched up my Uzi, clicked in a new magazine, opened my door.
The rain outside sent a chill up my spine, and I felt my hands sweating on the grip of my gun. Another bolt of lightning streaked across the nighttime sky, outlining the silent vehicle before me. I slowly stepped through the mines toward the car.
The closer I came, the more I saw the old man's eyes. They were staring at me, burning me, and I knew he was dead.
'Freeze!" said a voice to my right.
"Drop your weapon or Sheela here will set off all them mines around you."
I looked down. Sure enough, they were RC mines camouflaged as regular ones. I dropped my gun.
"That's good, Mr. Garrison. I knew you would do it. And now, remove that .38 special from under the cuff of your pants," the voice said.
"But how ...?" I stammered.
"Just do it!"
I reached down and removed the gun, an old antique from the 1950s. Hard to get ammo for, but still as effective as when it was made.
"Throw it over here," the voice said.
"That's very good," the voice said. It was beginning to sound a little familiar.
"What now?' I asked, though I was afraid of the answer. I had just finished paying off the Sunchaser, and I didn't really want it to be ripped off.
There was no reply.
"How did you know me?" I asked again, hoping I would recognize the voice if I heard it again.
I heard footsteps coming across the pavement and a dark shadow of a man about my height.
"Who are you?" I asked.
Lightning shot across the sky and lit up the kidnapper's face. I fought down the scream in my throat.
"I am you, Lance Garrison," the man said.
I stood frozen across from my double as I felt myself melting away.
"A month ago, Sheela here got a tip from a lawyer friend that her father was planning to cut her out of his will and give it all to her brother. She couldn't stand for that, so she decided to do away with her father. The plan was good, but she needed an accomplice. A close friend at Gold Cross recommended you and, in fact, set you - I mean me - in motion.
"That Gold Cross man is now lying in the middle of an old wheat field with a bullet through his skull, and that took care of the first part. But there was a catch to the old man's will. If he was murdered, the entire estate goes to charity. But this isn't murder. I pretended to kidnap Sheela here, blew her father away about where the new station was, and, well, you know the rest."
I felt the blood drain from my hands and face. I asked, "But how did you know I was going to be there?"
"Easy. I know you, better than anyone. I know that you like to check out new stations along your routes, so I paid off a few cyclists to radio me when you got there. Everything timed out just right. And now, I must rescue Sheela from you and drive your, ah, my, car back to the station."
"Oh, and thanks for the .38. To be Lance Garrison, I had to have it."
Those were the last words I said as I emptied the old .38 into my other half.