Desert Rat

He dove under the transport as the man jumped out and ran to the rear. Evidently Silo became aware of the commotion and started yelling. The kid assumed he was out there waving his gun around. He could also hear Max shouting instructions over the radio. For some reason, he was telling Dermot to fly in with the Kid’s levicar. Why would he do that when they should all leave immediately?

The others would scatter, he knew. No one would go straight back to camp, not until they were sure they could get there undetected.

He heard the rear door slam shut as he reached into the drive housing to reconnect the control switch. The hum of the field drive immediately kicked on. Silo continued to shout from his blurry distance. The kid swung the housing cover shut and latched it. He rolled out from under the transport just as it started rising.

“Stop!” shouted Silo and fired off a random shot. Suddenly a commotion broke out in his own camp. Levicars started buzzing and stirring behind him. They must have gotten the same news. Silo swung around again to yell and scream at them. Off he went back in the other direction. “Stop!”

Dermot was flying in as the kid arrived at the flatbed. The older mechanic gave him the same funny look Max had, but he didn’t have time to think about it.

“That was a good thing you did, Kid,” Max started, “but the delay created new issues, and now you got another job.”

The kid had the fastest levicar. He and Dermot had found the field drive in a derelict space hopper on one of their salvage excursions. The thing was capable of escape velocity, but it would be suicide to try that kind of speed in a levicar. Such a set-up was illegal, of course; it meant no police vehicle could ever catch him.

The Kid’s new job was to lead the police away from the team and away from camp. Max didn’t care which other direction he chose. He and Dermot would double back and try to locate the kid on the handheld readout. It was their best way of keeping an eye on him. If the kid needed help, they would know where to go.

As he rose in the air, he could see Silo running toward nothing and waving his pistol at the heat waves. The poor guy would probably never figure out why this happened to him. The kid accelerated to normal levicar speed. He needed the cops to think they could overtake him. He aimed the car South—directly at the police—in order to get their attention.

As soon as he got a visual on the armored car, he banked sharply to the right. His strategy worked; the police vehicle banked to match him, though it was still quite some distance away. They were now heading west toward the dry well of a wide river valley—the same direction Silo’s crew had set out on. The police wouldn’t know there had been two separate gangs involved, and the kid wanted to make sure they caught the right ones, just as long as it wasn’t Tess.

He found them easily. Silo’s gang was still flying together and had not varied their direction at all. The kid needed to allow the police car to gain on him, but he also needed to reach Silo’s gang first. It was tricky timing. The armored vehicle had grappling hooks, shock grenade launchers, and of course a machine gun. He couldn’t afford to let it get too close.

He had almost caught up with the levicars before they dropped down over the low escarpment. The police would already have spotted them on their radar. Hopefully they would think the kid was just another part of the happy bandit family. He could distinguish the different cars now. Tess’s vehicle was on the far right. He pulled up next to her.