This isn't so much a story, as a single scene interaction piece. I wrote this about two years ago if the properties tab in Word is reliable (my memory certainly isn't).
The first reasoning behind writing it was to explore the potential technologies that may be keeping vigilantes alive, so most of the text is simply a description of the design of a car.
The second reason, was to put in words something that reflected my own experience with the i82 computer game at the time. When I wrote this, the mainstream (or what we considered mainstream) games were well established, and I didn't venture out of games that had GUN/TMR/TDM in the name, and all kinds of chassis and weapon restrictions in place.
There were other games, though, games where the players thought nothing of loading up kustoms with four firerites, moth cabs with missiles and turrets, all the kinds of things we'd decided, in our wisdom, weren't appropriate to a good game of i82. So I built a plain car, a Potomac, and under a nom de guerre, I got my hands dirty again in i82 games that weren't controlled by our "gentlemens club" of long time players.
It was a lot of fun, as it turned out- being told your car was "weak" and then handing the guy his ass was a rush.
So, the second aspect to the text relates to a pair of old friends, vigilantes both, having survived this long on the interstates, talk turns to alternative means of living. There was never any date attached to the text, but based on Redline's timeline, and something mentioned in Kids & Vigs, I would place the date at about August 1983, or thereabouts. There's scope for a story to come out of this now, but that will have to wait a little while.
Any way, here's an afternoon in the life of Ace English:
I remember the look of total incredulity on Redline Fox's face when I pulled the tarp off the car.
"You have got to be fucking joking!" he exclaimed, "That's no bigger than a golf cart!"
It was true, to an extent. The car was a Lansell 800cc, an economy motor car manufactured back in Britain to deal with the previous oil shortage of the fifties. It proved a popular, and cheap, saloon racing car, but in the badlands of Southwest USA, "bigger is better" was the rule of thumb when you were trusting your life to an auto combat vehicle.
"It's not exactly standard, you know," I was trying to explain, "Here, I'll show you." I reached under the front grille and released the catch, raising the whole front end. It tilted up and back- hood and fenders complete, pivoting on hinges near the front bumper, and where the tiny four cylinder motor should have been, was a tubular steel spaceframe, with a series of three vertical panels mounted between the front wheels.
"Damn, where's the motor? What is this stuff?" Redline was now curious, rather than mocking.
"That there is a series of composite armoured panels, running in series, they should stop the brunt of any frontal attacks. I reckon they?d stop a direct hit from a homewrecker. Maybe not two, though,? I conceded with a grin. ?You can also see the mounting points for the forward facing weapon here and here," I gestured at various points in the frame. "The engine is relocated in the rear of the car, mid mounted." Shuffling round the car, I opened the passenger side door, and pulled a short lever on the dashboard. With a click, the rear bodywork of the car moved upwards slightly, hinged from a seam halfway along the roof. Raising the rear panels, pivoting the whole assembly up and forwards, the rear frame of the car became visible.
"Pony motor?" Redline inquired, examining the almost familiar machinery cradled in the rear frame, between the coil over suspension struts. More armour panels were visible mounted around the frame.
"Aye. This one's a Ducktin twin cam sixteen valver, you'd be amazed how many four bangers you can buy on the cheap, what with all these wannabe auto vigilantes shoving V8s in their Ponies. I've got a couple of Surrey V6s lying around, but the single side exhaust on the four cylinder gives more room to fit the dropper," I indicated the mounting point in the left hand side of the frame.
"Transmission bolted straight to the rear end. Phaedra nine inch?" Redline appraised the work some more.
"Narrowed, with Wierd half shafts," I completed the spec, "This one is a three speed auto, but it's really just a development mule. I'll probably go for a four speed manual eventually. Cuppa?"
Redline didn't need to ask what I meant, "Coffee. Black, no sugar."
?You sure?? I asked, ?I got some of that poncey tea you like if you want it.?
?Later, man, I need the caffeine right now, it?s been a long drive.?
I limped over to the corner of the workshop where the "kitchen" was located. It was little more than another bench with a sink, coffee maker and kettle. A battered old refrigerator grumbled beneath. There was already some coffee in the maker, so I poured some into a fresh mug. I filled the kettle with water, and dropped a tea bag in another mug. In another corner on the other side of the workshop, a pair of tatty old overstuffed armchairs sat, upholstered in an especially tasteful shade of shit brown leather. They nestled in the corner, amongst piles of machine parts and documents, a stack of tyres with a spare sheet of perspex on top served as a coffee table. Redline wandered over to one of the chairs, moved a grubby workshop manual off the seat and sat down, still looking at the hybrid Lansell.
"It's not really that much different from a Strider, you know," I said, as I walked over, placing Red?s mug of coffee on an empty spot on the makeshift table. "I mean in terms of packaging, it's more of a silhouette special. All the panels have been skinned, the front and rear hatch are mainly fibreglass. All with armour sheets inside, the panels round the rear frame are positioned to direct airflow to the engine bay and the radiators. The bulkhead behind the driver's seat is titanium- top fuel dragster donated that one." The kettle clicked, I walked back over to the kitchen, and poured the hot water into the mug.
"Even so, why this? Is this one of your crazy ?gotta be British? car things, like how you always insisted on driving that stupid Leopard?" Redline asked, sipping the bitter Colombian blend.
I chuckled, as I stirred a spoon in my mug. Fishing out the tea bag and flicking it into the overflowing waste bin, I replied, "Heh, aye, it's probably something like that. Although you have to admit that smoky old Leo wasn't so bad once it got 'lumped' with a decent yank motor in it." I walked painfully over to the chairs with my steaming mug, and dropped clumsily into the other armchair, spilling hot tea over my lap. "Mother of twelve bastards!" I swore in pain, trying to curse the scalding liquid from my oil grimed jeans. As the pain subsided, I put the mug down on the table and continued, "I thought I'd see if I could build myself something light- You've seen those big cars; Lightnings, Royales, Kustoms, they're running V10s in those boats just to keep up with the weight, that or seriously strung out blown V8s. They have good top speed admittedly, but the acceleration suffers too much with the extra weight of weapons and armour. So they ride with nitrous almost permanently on tap, and end up rebuilding motors on a weekly basis. I figured the best way to go was to use the least amount of thin tin bodywork as possible, and bulk the car with armour. The original Lansell was roughly eleven hundred pounds in weight. Even with all the gear in there, it should only weigh about seventeen hundred, maybe less, with the lightened materials."
Redline considered my explanations, he nodded, I knew he preferred something lighter, more manoeuvrable than many of the "tanks" on the interstate, but I could see that my hybrid Lansell was stretching credibility with him.
"Consider also," I continued, "The trouble is moving into the built up areas. It's not just the lonely roads, the isolated farmsteads and oil refineries. Now it's the streets of Vegas, who knows where else? A small, manoeuvrable car is the best choice when you're diving down alleyways, pulling one-eighties in confined spaces."
Redline probably knew more about me than most vigilantes, "That's not the real reason though, is it?" he probed, "There's something else. I mean this is all very plausible and all, but I can't see you ?fighting evil? in that thing," he gestured to the Lansell, "On a daily basis." I shrugged as he continued, "Don't think I didn't spot your 76 Anniversary Lightning in the other shed when I pulled in here. You're going to swap all that firepower for 'manoeuvrability'? Last I checked your main manoeuvre was the full throttle head on charge. How your dumb limey ass survived this long is a mystery to me."
I sipped some more of my now not quite scalding tea, grinning. "You're right of course," I said, becoming a bit more serious, "I'm well aware that the only reason I'm sitting here, drinking tea with a good friend today, is because I've almost always been surrounded by great fighters on my side. I've often said I'm a racer first, and a fighter fourth."
"So what's the plan?" Redline grimaced over another mouthful of coffee.
"I'm building a dozen of these initially. I've acquired an old dirt oval track out of Tulsa, and I'm planning on promoting auto racing and demonstration combat events, maybe tournaments, who knows. I haven't worked out all the details, but I know there's an interest with the general public for all this action and adventure. I'm investing what I've accrued over the last few years, and I'm getting out of the shooting and killing business. I can't count on being alive this time next year if things carry on as they are. The Lansells will form the main attraction at my shows, with regular dirt racing, destruction derbies and stunt displays, monster trucks et cetera, you get the idea. I hope to make a living promoting entertainment, not fighting for my life and a few quid in bounty out here in the badlands."
"Well, that is good news," Redline replied, putting aside his now empty mug, "Too many vigilantes I've known have ended up killing themselves out here, for no good reason."
We chatted a while more, discussing my proposed plans, reminiscing about the old days, the good and bad times and wondering where this or that vigilante was these days. Soon enough the sun was going down, Redline had had a long drive to get here, so he was crashing at my workshop for the night. I'd set him up with the sofa in the living room of the building. I left him in there and busied myself with washing the dishes, checking over the Lansell a couple of times.
When it got dark out, I opened the living room door a slight amount. Redline had looked dog tired in the day, now he seemed fast asleep. Closing the door gently, I left the workshop by the double doors, and made my way to one of the other sheds, one behind the shed that housed the Lightning Redline Fox had noticed earlier. Unlocking and pulling open the double doors I walked into the shed. I pulled the tarp off the car- a night black, unmarked Potomac Pan Am, a heavy machine gun mounted on the roof. The grille hid two laser cutters and a firerite rocket launcher was tucked under the rear bumper, between the twin exhausts. Opening the drivers door, I retrieved the clothes from inside, and quickly changed into them. Para boots, black leather jeans, bullet proof jacket, heavy black leather trench coat, and finally the "gas mask" drag racing helmet and face mask. Swinging into the drivers seat, I checked and replaced the MP5 sub machine gun in its mounting bracket near the handbrake. Ignition on, the instruments lit up, a constellation of green, red and orange stars in the blackened cabin. The radar jammer hummed quietly, the flare launcher was full, and I had a full bottle of nitrous. Starting the engine, I drove as quietly as possible out of the compound, swung onto the road and headed for the lights of the city. What had I been saying to Redline? Was I convincing him, or myself? All I knew right now was I needed one more night of combat before going straight.
The CB radio, on channel 19, crackled into life, "Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine. Attention all vigilantes, this is the Vigilante Radio Network with report of a crime in progress. Gas 4 Cash on Route 70 just east of Durant is under attack, all vigilantes please respond"
I flicked the comms switch, electronics altered my voice into an unrecognisable robotic growl as I responded without due protocol,
?This is X-Mal. Consider them dead.?
The CB flared with the sound of other vigilantes responding to the call, I switched it off, planted the gas pedal and drove towards the latest battle.
Tales of the Interstate
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