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Chapter 3: Taxi!

Arnie Vincenzo knew that things were getting rough.

He’d been sitting in his hack across from the station all morning, waiting for the friend of Sarkhon's that he was supposed to pick up.

He’d watched as the crowd began to gather, a tight lead ball in forming in his gut. He’d been in combat and he knew when trouble was brewing. This was trouble.

At first it looked like a bunch of college kids were gonna sound off and parade about with some signs. Same sort of thing that happen on most worldlines. They’d raise their voices and call the powers that be nasty names and then they would go away. That’s the way it was on more civilized worldlines.

But he was hacking in Arcadia on Terra Prime. If there was a fascist, goose-stepping center to the Cosmos this was it.

The cops showed up. Not Arcadian royal police—which would have been bad enough—but hired Kai’Vhan mercs. Vhan’s liked to stomp heads about as much as a rat likes to chew through cartons. Violence was programmed into them when they volunteered to be Vhans and had all of their humanity drained out. They were cyborg servants of the highest bidder and that highest bidder wanted the dirty nosed students quiet.

Okay, thought Arnie, not my concern. I’m not here to mix it up with the cops even if I’m in agreement with the kids. Was time for a change here. High time. Radu Wallace and his fam had to go and they had thrown the only dude capable of dong it in jail. Duke Nathaniel was the future and Radu and his retard nephews were the past.

Arnie was satisfied with his conclusion when his client stepped from the terminal. Oh, it was him all right. He was wearing a business suit and a holo-mask but there was no disguising the way he moved and the size of him. Arnie had known his dad and that’s the way Toreus the Slayer had moved in his prime. Like a cat. A big cat.

And this big cat was stepping right into the heart of the action.

The Cops were mixing it up with the kids. A big Jovian—like there was any other kind—in a rugger shirt picked a cop up and tossed him into his squaddies. It looked like a game of nine pins to Arnie. And it would have been funny had the Vhans not pulled lethals and taken aim.

They didn’t see Toreus fall into a crouch. Nor did they notice the shimmer of the plasma shields around his forearms. No knife but the shields could be formidable if someone pushed you with them. Cold plaz could deflect a bullet or bend an energy beam—mere people it could knock on their asses.

In quick succession the Prince knocked one cop after another down stunning them with the powerful wall of plasma.

Yeah, concluded Arnie, he was The Slayer’s son all right. He’s seen that kind of action before. It was signature.

***

Toreus sized up the situation quickly.

The Vhan riot police were armed with lethal weapons and they were going to use them on the Jovian rugby player. He could not just stand by and let that happen. It was against his nature not to get involved.

He activated his shields and waded in. no knife, this was not the time for him to use lethal violence. The Vhan might be like an army of flesh and blood bots but if you killed one of them every other Vhan on the plate would make it his life goal to hunt you down. That was they way they were. They were stupid cyborgs but nonetheless they were a cyborg brotherhood.

He plowed into the Vhan with the drawn gun and knocked him on his butt. Then he whirled to face a cop that had come up behind him and walloped him hard with the shield on his right sleeve.

Both victims were rendered unconscious. Getting hit with a Cold Plasma sheaf tends to shock one as well as knock him over.

But now he had become the focus of attention of the army of riot cops and they were all converging on his location to stomp him senseless.

That was when the taxi cab pulled between Toreus and the Vhans and stopped. And no sooner had it stopped when a plasma pulse erupted from its right side, barreling the angry Vhans over.

The gull wing door popped open and the grizzled driver called out. “Get in unless you want an ass kicking.”

Toreus dove for the door and slide across the rear seat as the gull wing door slammed shut behind him.

***

Arnie’s hack was full of illegal goodies. That’s because it was not so much a cab as an undercover vehicle of the Doomwatch Society, the Intelligence wing of Sarkhon Enterprises.

There were the Cold Plasma shields and there were the levitation generators. Flying cars were outlawed in most cities and Arcadopolis was no exception. But sometimes you needed an edge to escape the bad guys.

So Arnie cut in the levitation drive and rose straight up as Vhan’s fired their pistols and carbines to no affect into the CPS of the vehicle.

He could see his passenger looking over the back of the seats with a surprised looks shortly being replaced by one of amusement.

Then the big guy was pushed back into the couches as Arnie hit the drive and the car zoomed forward.

***

The taxi had levitators, Toreus realized just before the force of acceleration punched him back into the seats.

This was no ordinary cab and the driver was no ordinary cabbie. He’s heard about the Vincenzos from his father. This had to be a Vincenzo and if it was he was among friends.

The vehicle came to a hover and settled to ground in an ally. The driver grinned at him from the front seat.

“Better lose that mask, Milord. I’m sure the Vhans got a good look at you and if they did they’ll be looking for you when they come around the corner back there.”

Toreus looked in the direction the cabbie had gestured. There was a street beyond the ally and no doubt there were searching Vhan cops on that street. He pulled the holo-mask off his head and tucked it inside his jacket.

The cabby’s hands flew over a panel beside his couch and the color of the vehicle changed from yellow to black. No doubt the registry plate and transponder signal had also changed.

Without a beat a team of cops rounded the corner, weapons drawn, eyes glassy as only a Vhan’s could be.

“Stay in sa car, citizens,” called the Centurion that led the team.

“No problem,” said the cabbie. “But you guys should follow the nut in the flyer that just zoomed over me down the ally.”

The Centurion looked in the direction that the Cabbie had gestured and the whole team trotted off down the alley in that direction.

“Dumb as fenceposts,” the Cabbie shook his head.

“Yeah,” agreed Toreus. “And that’s what makes them dangerous.”

“You sound just like your old man. My name's Arnold Vincenzo—friends and family call Arnie. And if you’re a Rhann that makes you a little bit of both.”

“Toreus Rhann, to be exact, Mr. Vincenzo.

“Arnie, Your lordship. Mr. Vincenzo lives a long ways from here and I call him Dad.”

Were you waiting for me or are you just a rare volunteer?’

“A little of both. I work for Doomwatch and my bosses sent me to make sure you got to your next destination safely.”

Bosses, mused the Prince. Was Arenjun Sarkhon involved in this?

Ask rather was there anything on Terra Prime that the Time Sorcerer was not involved in?

“Very well, Arnie. Take me to the shipping terminal and then you can report back to your bosses mission accomplished.”

Arnie nodded and put the car in drive. “Always a pleasure to work with a Rhann, Your Lordship.”

“Call me Toreus.”

***

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