Shore Leave, Chapter Four

(If you missed part one, you'll want to start there.)

“That can’t be good.” Tammy muttered as she watched the abrupt scene change in the holotank. William locked up the lead position as he closed out the second lap when suddenly the unmistakable shot of a sniper rifle sounded from the rooftop. Seconds later the holotank fuzzed out and Jaimie appeared in the image, fighting with a man dressed entirely in black.

“That’s the man she was following when she left the pit area.” Jonathan said in a low voice. “I don’t know what set her off other than the fact he bumped into her.”

Tammy shook her head without turning away from the fight imaged in the ‘tank. “No, the Captain wouldn’t chase him down for something trivial like that. She has some reason I’m sure.” She glanced sidelong at Jonathan before reaching a decision. “Come on. Whatever her play is, I’m betting it was supposed to be low profile. When she wants to leave we’re going to need to move in a hurry.”

Jonathan looked at the crowd around them. Below the race continued but the racers glanced upwards as the crowd noise fell to a hush. He shrugged in resignation and stood up. “I knew we couldn’t just have a nice, simple day at the races.”

“Naw,” Tammy pushed playfully at Jonathan’s arm even as her eyes remained locked on the ‘tank above. “Where would the fun be in that?”

Tammy trailed off to silence as Jaimie made her desperate gambit and the assassin stumbled off the edge. A woman to her right screamed loudly as the body fell past the seating and hit the track below. Jaimie’s holographic image looked directly at the camera as she realized the fight had been recorded.

“That tears it, we’d better move!” Tammy said even as she broke into a sprint and headed for the exit. Seconds later her phone buzzed and she answered it without breaking stride.

“Hiya Captain. You know you were on live video for that little fracas?” She listened intently as she gently pushed her way through the jabbering crowd. Unnoticed above her Jaimie’s image dove through an access door and was replaced almost instantly with a newscaster sitting at a desk. “Right. Main entrance. Yeah, I’ve got Jonathan with me.” Tammy looked behind her to see Jonathan blocked by a knot of excited teenagers who were gesturing wildly at the holotank.

“Come on Jonathan! Time for you to show off your skills. We need to get out of here!” She reached backwards and not-so-gently grabbed Jonathan’s wrist. She completely ignored the shock and muttering of the gaggle of teens that she shoved in the process as she tugged on Jonathan’s arm and began to push her way towards the exit.

Tammy fought her way through the crowd to the main exit, still dragging a dazed Jonathan behind her. She had just passed a service door when it slammed open and Jaimie darted out into the crowd. Jaimie had recovered her ridiculous blue foam sombrero and Tammy couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight.

“Hey boss. Nice hat.” Tammy drawled before looking at Jonathan in exasperation. “Would you come on? We finally need you to move quickly and you’re dawdling like a prisoner on his way to the gibbet!”

Jaimie flashed her trademark smirk at Tammy, although it was mostly hidden by the oversize hat brim. “Best disguise I could find in a hurry. You folks think we can get out of here?”

Tammy nodded and shoved through the crowd with renewed enthusiasm. “We’re almost out. Then hopefully the King of Speed here can take over.”

It took a few more minutes than Jaimie liked but they won through to the parking lot outside the arena. Jaimie got in the back seat while Jonathan fired up the engine and Tammy scanned the crowd for observers.

“I think we may be clear, Captain.” Tammy said. “I don’t see anyone paying us any attention.”

Jaimie sighed and pointed at the hovercar’s roof. “Look up. I’m pretty sure some of the security cam bots tracked us into the car. Jonathan, be discreet and blend in as long as you can, but as soon as the alarm goes up we’re going to need speed. If we’re lucky this will just be local rent-a-cops.”

Tammy twisted in her seat to take a hard look at Jaimie. “Just what were you doing up there anyway?”

Jaimie sighed and took her hat off, regarding it with her lips twisted in a grimace of distaste. “You know, this thing really is hideous.” She sat it on the seat beside her and looked at Tammy. “That killer bumped into me in the pit. That’s rude, but I wouldn’t have killed him from that. The thing is that he bumped into me because he was on the phone. He was finalizing details on a contract to kill William if he was winning the race. I can’t say I cared for that. In the first place, I like William. In the second place I wanted to see a good race. I can’t see how sniping racers for having the temerity to win leads to a better competition.”

Jonathan spoke without taking his eyes from the traffic. “That may be a problem. I noticed the other drivers were clearly throwing the race, and we heard that there was a fix in. Apparently there’s a young buck around here that goes by the name of Lecault the Younger and he fancies himself a player. William was the only racer who defied him.”

“Yes!” Jaimie snapped her fingers and nodded. “That’s what the killer said, something about how he had disappointed this Lecault kid and that’s why he needed to bring me in. So who is the Lecault guy anyway?”

Jonathan turned his head to frown at Jaimie briefly before returning his attention to jockeying his way out of the lot. Traffic had begun to pick up as he neared the exit. “Well I gather everyone calls him Lecault the Younger because he’s the son of Duke Lecault, who apparently owns the vast majority of Coventry. It sort of sounded to me like Lecault the Younger has pretty free rein.”

Jaimie made a dismissive noise and stared out the window. “Spoiled nobleman’s son huh? We’ve done that drill before. We’ll just get back to the city and from there we’ll return to the Revenge.”

Jaimie’s phone rang and she flipped it out and studied the screen for a moment. As she read the incoming message Tammy’s phone rang as well.

After a moment of silence Jonathan growled low in his throat. “I’m perfectly capable of turning this hovercar right around and going back. Unless somebody tells me what is going on.”

Tammy glanced back at Jaimie with just a tinge of worry. “It looks like a warrant was put out for the Captain’s arrest. Pretty good image from the news video as well.” As Tammy finished speaking Jonathan finally made it to the exit and turned the car left, giving it both more throttle and altitude. Even as the engine opened up a police cruiser flipped on its lights and siren and accelerated after Jonathan’s little vehicle.

“Well. That can’t be good.” Jonathan said in level, calm tones as he floored the accelerator and suddenly dropped down, cutting around traffic and placing a large truck between him and the police. The dull hum of the engine rose in volume as he began to jink from car to car.

Tammy grabbed at the handle above her door, shooting a quick glance back at Jaimie. “Today hasn’t been a good day for plans, has it Captain?”

Jaimie chuckled throatily. “Just yesterday you were complaining about how boring this shore leave was. I give you just a little taste of excitement and you immediately start complaining. Besides this doesn’t change the plan at all. Jonathan, get us back to the city. And lose those cops!”

“Aye Aye sir. But let me just say … next time we rent a car and want something fast and interesting?”

“Fine. Next time you can have the speedy buggy. Just lose ‘em for now!” Jaimie rolled her eyes.

“Only way to do that will be with some offroading.” Jonathan flipped off the traffic transponder and wrenched at the wheel as he assumed full manual control. Startled traffic honked at him as he abruptly cut acro
ss all the traffic lanes and plunged so low to the ground that the engines blew up plumes of gritty dust.

“Tammy get that map. We drove past some canyons on the way out here. I’m thinking if I go to ground in there then maybe I can lose our noisy escort.” As Jonathan spoke the police cruiser cut across traffic and clumsily followed Jonathan’s line.

An amplified voice boomed out from the cruiser. “Stop your engines immediately. You are believe to be harboring a known fugitive who calls herself Captain Jaimie Arcolier. We will use force to stop you if you don’t comply.”

Jaimie sighed. “That tears it. It’s not just a matter of of me killing the incompetent hired help. They figured out who I really am. Not that Coventry has ever been anti-pirate, but I’m sure it will be a convenient excuse. Plus I’d imagine somebody has their eye on the Cantrellan bounty.” She grabbed her phone and punched in a quick code.

“All crew, this is the Captain speaking. As of now all shore leave is cancelled. Everyone needs to get back to orbit immediately. Stinky Pete, start closing up the work. We’re going to be leaving in a bit of a hurry today. One Eye, get your people back to the shuttle as soon as you can.” She clicked her phone shut just as Jonathan slammed the brakes hard and fishtailed the craft into a narrow canyon mouth.

“All right!” Jonathan crowed as the cruiser flashed past the entrance, unable to follow his sharp turn. “That won’t lose them permanently but it will give us some room to work.”

Tammy pursed her lips in thought then twisted her torso around to face Jaimie in the back seat. “What do you think Lecault will do if we get away?”

Jaimie grinned at Tammy. “You mean when we get away. You don’t honestly think we’re going to get caught by a bunch of backwater cops do you?” Her grin slowly faded as she considered Tammy’s words. “I do take your point though. We’ll need to warn young William and his family won’t we? If we leave this Lecault punk with a black eye it will be William who pays the price.”

“Everyone hang on!” Jonathan yelled as he accelerated down a narrow winding canyon. He was driving so low that the car threw up sheets of water from the river on the canyon floor.

“Jonathan … that’s a dead end!” Tammy said, in a high and squeaky voice.

“I know. I’m not faster than that cop cruiser, but I am nimbler. Like I said, hang on!” Jonathan continued to acccelerate, heading towards a sheer rock face where the river went underground.

“Jonathannnnnn!” Tammy screeched and at the very last second Jonathan pulled back on the wheel, simultaneously starting a barrel roll. The car almost scraped the edge of the rock face as it shot upwards and then upside down and facing back the way it had come. Jonathan completed the Immelman turn by continuing the roll until the car was upright and sped back down the canyon. The dust storms thrown up by his passage filled the narrow canyon and the light turned a dim amber as Jonathan plunged into the cloud. Just a couple of scant meters below them the cruiser screamed onward, obviously mostly blinded by the dust. Jonathan dropped the car back to barely above ground level as a horrendous metal crunch told them of what happened when the cruiser met the wall.

“So back to town then, Captain?” Jonathan took one hand from the controls to dash off a snappy salute in the mirror.

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