Flash Fiction: Making Bad Decisions Quickly

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This week is car chase week on terribleminds.  Now, I know that this car I have up here isn’t technically from Detroit, despite the words I use later on (I think it’s an Australian Ford model), but I couldn’t resist.  It fit the car I was imagining too well for me to care.  So, with that in mind, I hope you enjoy my story:

I’m good at making bad decisions.  I’ve had a lot of practice.

It helps explain why I’m currently traveling at 90 miles per hour on a freeway, with three cars in hot pursuit.  The Sec haven’t caught up with us yet, but I’m sure they will soon.  If this isn’t fixed by then, we’re probably all dead meat.  I guess I’ll just have to make a few more bad decisions.

***

Today’s bad decisions started with where I decided to eat lunch.  I chose an old favorite, somewhere I’ve met other people before, somewhere other people know they can find me.  Pauli, my “friend,” joined me at the table.

“Bo, good to see you!”  He sat down so hard that his chair creaked.  He’s not big, just forceful.  He thumped me on my back, and the straw I was sucking on gouged the roof of my mouth.

Covering my wince, I looked sideways at him.

“I’ve been looking for you, where’ve you been?”  He had that big shit-eating I-have-a-job-for-you smile.

“Away.”  I tongued the wound on the roof of my mouth, and tasted blood.  I figured there was nothing for it but to eat more of my sandwich.

Pauli looked a little put out, like I wasn’t holding up my end of the conversation.  It was a fair cop.  “Well, whatever Bo, so you’ve been away.  But I’ve got something for you, something you’d like!”

I kept chewing, but actually turned my head to look at him this time.  I guess he figured I was interested, because he kept talking.

“Look, Bo, there’s this real hot piece of steel that I need to nab and move.  Something that I figure you can probably help me with, you know?  It’s one of those real classics, a pre-computer Detroit muscle monster.”

I shouldn’t have perked up, but I couldn’t help myself.  I love old cars.  They’re an arcane piece of art, something that no one really appreciates these days.  People just don’t understand how it feels to be behind the wheel, how it feels to have that huge metal body responding to your touch.  They’re too used to just pushing a button and being taken somewhere to know the beauty of driving themselves.  Sure, the old machines aren’t as safe.  They’re also as polluting as fuck.  But it’s not like the environment isn’t already shot to pieces, so what the hell.

“I’ve had my eye on her for a while now, and today’s the day.  I’m gonna get her, and convert her to one of those new battery power plants.  She’ll sell for millions.  You in?”

I don’t know why Pauli refers to cars as females.  It’s fucking weird.  I also don’t think he knew what a mistake he made when he told me about his plans for the car he wanted me to pick up.  They’ve tried to install vibrators to replicate the feel of an old engine for antique car aficionados, since gas isn’t really doable most of the time these days.  I mean, you have to jump through hoops to keep your car running petrochemicals, and document it as an historical artifact and shit, which usually means bribing your way up and down the greasy bureaucratic pole of the Motor Vehicle Regulation Corporation.

But those vibrators just don’t do it.  There isn’t any way to really match the feel of an old engine, there isn’t a way to give you that rumble that shakes your chest.  They can claim they’ve got it, but they’d be lying.  I love the feel of an old engine.  I knew then and there that I’d take Pauli’s money, and that I’d take the car too.  There was no way that I’d let him, that stupid ass, defile something as beautiful as good old Detroit steel.  I’d rather see it crash and burn than be unmade like that.  Especially if it was just going to end up rebuilt as some tamed little electric toy for a rich snob to put on display and putter around in, pretending that their Hitachi felt anything like the real deal.

I smiled at Pauli as I swallowed the bite of sandwich.  “Yeah, I’m in.”

***

Now, when I say I’ve got practice at making bad decisions, I mean it.  I’ve learned a few things along the way too.  Like, for example, nobody really expects you to walk into a showroom and just take a car.

They’ve got all sorts of good reasons to think you wouldn’t do that, of course.  It’s usually difficult to get away with stealing a car while everyone is looking at you, for one thing.  And they think that they can tell whether or not you’ve stolen from them before, for another.  It’s like they think their internal security is good enough to stop my friend Momo from working her magic with their facial recognition systems.  The truth is, the place I was hitting today cycles through enough “independent contractors” frequently enough that there’s basically no institutional memory beyond the sort of CYA bullshit that I left behind years ago.

Also, funny story, the phrase “dress for success” still applies.

I walked right in in my favorite suit, carrying a large attache case, and nobody stopped me.  They were all, “ma’am” and “how may I help you,” not one hairy eyeball in the place.  Now, the attache case was pretty heavy, I’ll admit.  I’d modified it a while ago to carry as much gas as it could, along with a positive pressure pump to run fuel out of a short extendable line.  What can I say, I like cars.  Other people’s cars.

I already knew that they hadn’t rewired the car I was taking.  Doing that would knock too many zeroes off the sale price, for degrading the authenticity of the car.  Starting it wouldn’t be a problem.  Since they didn’t have a backlog of models, they wouldn’t have altered the display version either; this was the lovely piece of metal they were trying to sell, and it didn’t make sense to risk damaging it by pulling something just for display.

I perused the other models they had, trying not to show just how heavy my case was in case they got suspicious, before wandering over to the beauty they had set out in the center of the floor.  It was resting at the top of a little ramp, shown off for everyone.  I walked right up to it as the sales rep oozed his glowing spiel about its historical value.  He seemed to think that I’d want it as a showpiece.  He didn’t start stammering until I stood up on the platform and opened one of the doors, finally putting down my ludicrously heavy case, rolling down the window, and closing the door again.

“Uh, ma’am, uh, please,” he sounded so anxious.  I almost started laughing.

Instead, I tried to get him to continue talking.  “Have they kept the interior in original condition?  Has it been remodeled inside at all?”

He stuttered through an answer, losing his train of thought as I opened the gas tank and ran my pump’s line out the window and into the tank.  I flicked the switch, and heard gas start to trickle into the tank.  My little minder started to freak out properly then.  He’d probably never been around liquid gasoline before, and thought it was some sort of high explosive.  I walked calmly around to the driver’s seat, got in, and pulled out my folded screwdriver.  I winced at the damage I was about to do, but I didn’t really have another option.  My minder was starting to call security.

The car started up easily enough, as people were starting to yell at me.  I only had enough gas to get to the second, larger fuel dump I’d set up, so I wasted no time.  I eased the car off its display stand, rolling backwards across the floor as people squawked and scattered like pigeons, and then I was lined up with the exit doors.  I smiled so hard my face hurt.  I put my foot down, and people screamed and flung themselves out of the way as the car roared and shot forward, shattering a new path for me.

***

The next little bit didn’t work so well for me.  Yes, I made it to my fuel dump.  Brad, like the dear he is, had everything all set up and waiting for me.

But Pauli caught on early.  The dealership had a shitty Sec contract, without the best response times, but Pauli had three cars on the road before I’d gotten another three miles.  And, since there aren’t many real muscle cars left, it wasn’t hard for them to find me.  And then I was on my own.

Which brings us to the present.

Look.  We’ve all seen movies where someone shoots at another person while they’re driving.  But that’s bullshit.  I mean, you can do it.  But let me watch you try that sometime going 90 plus without fucking up, while your target is behind you.  Yeah.  That’s what I thought.

The problem is, when you’ve got people following you with multiple people in each vehicle, they get to shoot at you.

I’m tearing down the freeway, trying to dodge in between cars, but all the other fuckers are running traffic avoidance protocols and slowing or pulling to the side of the road.  There’s only so much you can do to avoid gunfire when there’s nothing between them and you.  Bullets are tearing through my precious, beautiful car.  They’re ripping up the interior, breaking my glass, but they’re too stupid to take out my rear tires.  The fuckers never bothered to learn how cars work.

It’s time for another bad decision.  I rhythmically mash the brakes, and then pull a 180 and slip into neutral.

Pauli’s men have hacked their cars, driving them manually with hokey touch screen bullshit, but they do not expect me to slow down.  The first two are almost on me by the time the drivers hit their emergency braking buttons.  The dumb fucks don’t know what hit them.  They’ve hacked the cars, but they don’t know how to drive them, not really.

One of the cars goes by me on my left, tires locked as it starts pulling donuts.  The gunner, who had been leaning out a window, goes flying.  Another car goes by me on my right before plowing off the side of the road and skidding along the central jersey barriers.  The last car brakes a little more cautiously, pulling up in front of me.  I don’t think they understand what I just did, and now I’m hunkered down behind my wheel.

They open fire again as I burn rubber, picking up speed as I charge them.  They’re driving a modern car, an ultralight, fuel efficient, wonder of design.  They weigh half as much as my lovely machine.  The engine roars as I accelerate into them, bullets tearing through the windshield over my head and cracking against the interior.  There’s a lurch as I make contact, and then I can feel my car pushing them along.  They don’t break, they’re too tough for that, but I’ve crumpled them and ruined their wheels.  I pull left, accelerating further as bullets tear through the side door for a few gut-clenching moments.  Then I’m off.

I can hear the whup whup whup of a helo’s blades closing in somewhere above me, and I know that the Sec has finally arrived.  I stare down the length of the freeway, remembering the fastest exit into cover from here.  They’re going to try to do their job.  And they’re going to fail, because I am too good at making bad decisions.  There’s a glass fronted office building connected to a parking garage, 100 yards ahead on my left.  It’s an easy jump.

I straighten up behind my wheel, a rictus grin plastered to my face.  I love this.

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