He’d been working odd jobs for what, five years now? They weren’t your typical odd jobs, though. Well, not unless you count stealing well-guarded valuables as an odd job.
The man smiled as he eased an unusually-large diamond into a velvet sack. “I mean, the size of this diamond is pretty odd.” He said to himself, grinning. He dropped the sack into a leather satchel and proceeded toward the exit.
This job was unusual, compared to others in his work history. He was taking a chance on it. The man who had approached him about the project wasn’t one of his normal contacts. He had the cash to back up his mouth, though. That, and the thief loved a challenge.
Ha. So much for a challenge. Easy money, boys and girls. The thief even took the time to close the back door that he had easily hacked to get into the facility. That’s when things started going sideways.
He took two steps from the exit before alarm bells broke the early morning silence. The thief mentally ticked through the individual security systems he had disarmed as he jogged towards his car. “There’s no way I missed something!”
He came to a stop, car key in hand. “No. Oh shit no.” The man’s vehicle was nowhere to be found. “It’s a setup. It’s gotta be!”
He spread his eyes across the largely-abandoned parking lot. They fell on an exotic-looking white sports car. “That looks fast.” He jogged over to it and peered through the passenger-side window. A key was stuck in the ignition switch.
“No way!” The man ran to the other side of the car and fumbled in his pants pocket. Sirens blared in the distance. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” He dropped down on his haunches and started picking at the door lock.
It popped just as the first couple patrol cars pulled into the parking lot. He threw the satchel into the passenger seat and slung himself into the sports car. He turned the key. The sound of a roaring engine and turbine shattered the quiet of the waning night.
“Hot damn.” He shut the door and fastened his seat belt. His widening eyes swept across the dashboard. Various buttons, screens and readouts glowed in shades of blue and white. “What in the hell…”
Red and blue light chased white across the dashboard of the car. His company had arrived. He put the car in reverse and hammered the accelerator.
The vehicles tires screamed as the dual power plants roared. The car quickly reversed as he lifted his foot. He whipped the nose around and slammed it into drive. “This should be fun.” The car snapped forward with a chirp and rocketed towards the exit to the lot.
He eyed the rear-view mirror as he turned on to the abandoned street. One set of headlights paired to a red-and-blue lightbar approached from behind. “Come and get me, sweetheart.” He pressed on the accelerator. The car surged forward.
The patrol car’s siren blared to life as it fought to keep up. The thief took a hard right through an intersection. The patrol car gained ground, squealing tires as it drifted around the turn.
“This thing handles like an indy-car.” The man took an abrupt left while hardly braking. The tires chirped but held their line. The cop car scooped a lazy semi-circle before slapping its rear end into a light pole.
The thief took another hard right and floored the accelerator as he raced into the outskirts of the city. He watched as the speedometer rocketed towards the 200 MPH mark. He slowed only to gain access to the highway on-ramp.
Once on the open road, he let his foot settle towards the floor. The engine-turbine combo screamed. The speedometer tagged 230 MPH before he got nervous. He let the car pull itself slowly down to highway speeds. The red and blues were long gone behind him.
He used the first golden rays of the rising sun to look for an emblem or manufacturer name. There were no obvious marks. “What in the hell are you?”
“Vehicle designation S-H 381, Advanced Designation Epsilon.” A polite female voice informed him through the car speakers. “Code name SHADE.”
The thief’s mouth dropped open. “What the hell did I get myself into?”
“No! No, I get it. I didn’t… I’m talking to a damned car.”
The man shielded his eyes from the rising sun. “God, that sun is killing me.”
“Glare-block activated.” The windshield darkened, reducing the glare from the sun.
“Miss thing, it sure is going to be hard to let you go.”
A pair of beeps issued from the dashboard. “Command not understood.” The man smiled.
The man’s spirits slowly rose with the morning sun. His mind drifted to where he might ditch the car… or where he might hide it? He was brought back to reality by a series of insistent beeps from the dashboard.
“Collision imminent. Crash guards deployed.” Thick metal plating slid out from under the car and popped up into place along the periphery of the car. A large, black sedan crashed into the back of the sports car a heartbeat later.
More beeps issued from the dashboard as the man’s head bounced off the headrest. “Son of a bitch!” He eyed the car in the mirrors. “Must be an unmarked trooper.” The car rammed into him again.
“Unable to identify,” the car helpfully added. “Activating defenses.” A row of buttons on the dashboard flashed before glowing yellow.
“No way! This is like some sort of video game.” He looked over the buttons. “Oil slick? Seriously?” He pressed the button. It beeped and turned red.
He turned his attention back to the car behind him. It was gaining speed in an attempt to ram the sports car a third time. The car suddenly began swinging side to side before spinning completely around on a trail of oil.
The armor retracted back under the vehicle. The thief shook his head. “This isn’t real. There’s no way this is real.”
“Aerial threat detected.”
“This isn’t real!” A screen illuminated in the center of the dashboard. The growing silhouette of a helicopter appeared there. “Are you serious?”
“This is not a test.” Rapid fire from the helicopter plinked off the backside of the car. More warning beeps. “Aerial defenses activated.” Two more buttons flashed yellow.
“Missile?” The man pressed the button. Whirring motors opened a trap door and hoisted a missile launching apparatus into place on the back of the car. The missile shot away from the car, whistling as it angled up towards the black helicopter.
He watched on the view-screen as the helicopter pulled hard to the side in a bid to outmaneuver the missile. The projectile found its mark, enveloping the aircraft in a ball of red and orange light. “Threat eliminated.”
The burning hulk fell to the ground. A secondary explosion rattled the ground. The thief sighed in relief, settling back into his seat. “Hot damn. I need to find some place to pull over and call my contact.”
The dashboard beeped. “Rest area in fifteen miles.” The man smiled.
He pulled the vehicle around the far side of the rest area a short while later, hoping he was largely out of sight of curious eyes. He fished his smart phone out of his pants pocket. He dialed his contact and stared distractedly out of the passenger-side window.
The phone ringed and ringed. He ended the call, cursing. “Now what?” Three sharp raps on his window made him jump. “Oh. Shit.” He slowly turned.
Two men in black business suits and ties stood beside the sports car. He could see that one was casually dangling an automatic pistol from his right hand. He found the window controls and opened his window a crack. “Can I help you gentlemen?”
“Get out.” The men stepped back slightly. The one with a gun subtly lifted the muzzle in the thief’s direction.
“Surely there is some misunderstanding…”
“Get out.” The pistol was now pointed directly at the thief.
He opened the car door and climbed out, hands going into the air. “Look, I have connections. We can make this all right…”
“Put down your hands, Mister Jones.”
The thief did as he was told. “I… I don’t understand…”
The man smiled. “You will…” He extended a hand. “I’m agent Ludlow. I’d like to talk to you about a job offer.” The other man lowered his weapon, nodding.
Jones took the proffered hand and shook it, smiling in relief. “Well, you certainly have my attention, gentlemen.”