Liraz Punches A Truck
by Mark Sachs
[Late at night in a prosperous city of the future, groups of skyscrapers separated by wide green spaces and connected by a network of ground and elevated freeways. The edges of the skyscrapers and the sides and lane markers on the freeways glow in bright, colorful neon. In the best sci-fi tradition, a gigantic purple ringed gas giant floats in the night sky.
A single car is zooming down one of the broader freeways, towards a collection of brilliantly lights and structures on the horizon. It sweeps past a glowing road sign in Chinese and English saying CHEN GONG MUNICIPAL AIRFIELD 11KM.
Inside the car are LIRAZ ANDRONESCU, dressed casually in black jeans and jacket, and another person, YANG LIN. Lin is a fortyish, slightly balding, slightly paunchy, nervous-looking man, constantly glancing backwards to see if they are being followed. As they drive, Liraz is receiving communications from BETHANY and EMORY on her implanted radio.]
BETHANY: (What kind of human rights group has that many automatic rifles?)
EMORY: (The kind that's secretly getting its funding and marching instructions from the People's Revolutionary Guard Committee in New Ankara? Not surprising they'd go after some random blogger who threatens to dump their books all over the Internet.)
BETHANY: (Well, whatever. Screw those guys, I won. I have Lin's wife, all three kids, _and_ the cat, _and_ the guinea pig. En route to the airfield now.)
BETHANY: (Their cat clawed the hell out of my leg. Little monster.)
LIRAZ: (You know what I meant.)
BETHANY: [suddenly serious] (No friendlies. I tagged at least two bad guys and disabled their car on the way out, but they had body armor and explosives. They were shooting to kill, too. Watch your back, Liraz.)
LIRAZ: [aloud, to Lin] Mr. Lin, your family is secure and on their way to the airfield rendezvous. Chen Gong City authorities have cleared the way for us. In fifteen minutes we'll all be in space.
[Lin looks up miserably at Liraz.]
LIN: I had no idea this would happen. It's my fault. I never should have said anything when I found those documents.
LIRAZ: You did the right thing, Mr. Lin. The universe often punishes that, unfortunately. All we can do is carry on anyway.
[He just shakes his head, clearly not reassured.]
LIRAZ: (Emory, status?)
[We see that several tiny quadcopter drones are zooming along about two hundred feet above the otherwise empty freeway, drifting in circular patterns as they pace Liraz's car.]
EMORY: (I have full drone coverage. You're clear all the way to the airfield. No pursuit visible on the freeway or surface roads. Only thing I'm concerned about is that tunnel next to the --)
[With a violent crash, a gigantic armored car -- a black, low-slung fifteen-foot-long beast with six huge all-terrain tires -- roars out of the tunnel exit, bounces over the freeway divider and lands right behind Liraz's car, immediately accelerating to highway speeds with a roar of its powerful engine.]
EMORY: (Yeah... that one.)
LIN: W-what the hell??
LIRAZ: Hold on, please, Mr. Lin. Keep your head down.
[She stamps on the accelerator. Behind her, a dark-clad, cloaked figure pops open a panel on the side of the armored car and opens fire with an automatic rifle. Bullets spang across the roadway as Liraz steers wildly, trying to foil the attacker's aim.]
BETHANY: (Liraz, what's happening?)
LIRAZ: (We have company. M700 Yilan, it looks like.)
BETHANY: (Where the hell were they hiding that? Never mind, I'll be there in three minutes.)
LIRAZ: [aloud] No, Bethany! Get to the airfield. That's an order.
[Another burst of fire, better-aimed this time, stitches across the back of Liraz's car. Windows shatter, sending fragments of glass into the passenger compartment. Lin yelps.]
LIRAZ: (Emory, what do you have for me? I'm running out of car.)
EMORY: (I've got you covered. Stay in the express lane.)
[Ahead, all the way across the freeway surface giant lit neon panels underneath the surface show green arrows pointing in the direction of travel. Liraz's car rockets over one of them, the armored car not far behind and eating up the distance. With a loud “clunk” the green arrow changes to a red X as the armored car passes over it. Moments later, a lane divider slams up out of the road surface, right under the armored car's wheels. The armored car nearly tips over, spins ninety degrees on one tire and then ends up slamming back down perpendicular to the freeway direction. It skids ungraciously to a stop, tires smoking.]
EMORY: (Heh, I always wanted to do that. I think that's fixed their wagon --)
[A rocket-propelled grenade sails in from the direction of the stalled vehicle. The rocket hits right behind Liraz's car, launching it in the air and sending it tumbling end over end. The car comes back down and bounces, somersaults twice more, lands on its roof and slides a hundred feet, turning lazily as it goes and leaving a trail of sparks.]
[Once the car comes to a stop there is a struggle of motion at the front. The driver's side door all but explodes loose from a violent kick and tumbles across the roadway. Liraz squeezes out, looking only moderately the worse for wear.]
LIRAZ: (I'm fine. Stand by.)
[She runs around to the other side of the car and kneels down.]
LIRAZ: Mr. Lin. Are you hurt?
LIN: [stammering and shocked] I... I don't think so, I...
LIRAZ: Can you move? Can you get out of the car? We need to go now, please.
LIN: I -- [He struggles briefly.] I can't. I'm tangled up. This thing is...
LIRAZ: Hold on, Mr. Lin. I'll get you out.
EMORY: (Liraz --)
[Liraz reaches in through the shattered window, but then a bright light makes her pause. She looks back.]
LIRAZ: (I see it, Emory.)
[Far down the freeway, the armored car has straightened itself out and its blindingly powerful headlights are pointed straight at them. Its engine roars.]
LIN: Ms. Andronescu, please, leave me, get out of here. Make sure my family gets to the airfield safely.
LIRAZ: Don't worry, Mr. Lin. The situation is well in hand.
LIN: It is?
EMORY: (It is?)
LIRAZ: [almost gently] Don't look. Keep your eyes closed and your head down. I'll take care of this.
LIN: All... all right.
[She walks towards the back of the wrecked car.]
BETHANY: (What's going on? Someone tell me.)
EMORY: (Liraz, what are you doing?)
LIRAZ: (Something that probably won't work. I figured Mr. Lin didn't need to spend the last moments of his life in a panic, so I lied to him.)
BETHANY: (Liraz, what the hell are you --)
LIRAZ: (Stop shouting in my ear, both of you. Please.)
[The armored car's tires spin and it begins to accelerate, heading directly for Liraz's vehicle. She places herself in front of the car, legs spread apart, and launches the anchors in her cybernetic legs. A set of solid-looking metal plates rip out through her shins and pant legs and anchor themselves deep in the pavement with a BANG of explosive bolts going off.
[She looks towards the rapidly approaching armored car, holds her arms up in front of her head in an X, turns her head to one side and squeezes her eyes tightly shut.
[The armored car slams into Liraz's crossed arms, and its forward motion simply stops. A tsunami of glass and wreckage explodes outwards as its body crumples like an accordion, the entire multi-ton vehicle flipping up into the air and flying over Liraz's car. It slams hard into the ground upside down another fifty feet or so down the freeway and is still.
[After several moments Liraz opens one eye, then the other, lowers her hands and looks around. Chunks of her clothes and skin are torn and shredded away, revealing bits of robotic exoskeleton.]
LIRAZ: [to herself] I suppose it wasn't going to be that simple.
[She looks back at the smoking wreck of the armored car.]
EMORY: (Liraz, that was insane. That shouldn't have worked.)
LIRAZ: (Life is full of things that shouldn't happen. Emory, get over here and help me get Mr. Lin moved. Then we're leaving.)
EMORY: (Yes, ma'am.)