Short Story: Stolen

Gordon stirred from his sleep, though the road wasn’t bumpy at all. He felt like he’d drunk too much cheap coffee. He was covered in stale sweat and only managed to nod off for a few minutes at a time. It wasn’t that he was worried about moving small arms around, he’d done that often enough. What made his sleep fitful was doing it in a car; a stolen Bresali car at that. This was sure to attract attention if one of the patrols noticed them. He had asked the car to take the safest route possible, but he didn’t know if that would make any difference. He glanced over at Kent, who slept like a rock next to him. Infuriatingly overconfident, as always.

He kept his eyes closed and tried hard to fall asleep again. He’d been dreaming about Sara so he resented waking up. It would be at least four or five days until he’d be home to her again and this faint memory of a dream was his only connection to her. He remembered her long raven hair tickling his face as she straddled and kissed him, his hands all over her ample thighs. He could still see those beautiful, shining, brown eyes looking down at him and he passionately wanted to continue the dream and get to the good stuff.

The road was smoother than he was used to. It seemed almost too smooth. Gordon peered through the windshield, hoping to catch a landmark and get his bearing. Maybe it would reduce the stress a little.
A moment later he shouted, “Kent, wake up!“
Kent roused slowly, an irritated expression growing on his face as he seemed to fully come to his senses. Still laying back on his headrest with his eyes closed, he asked in an annoyed tone: “What the hell is it Gordon? Having another one of your hissy fits?“
“We’re not in Dundas anymore,“ Gordon said, shaking his head as he talked.
“What’s the matter with you? Of course we are. Where else would we be?“
“Dude, just look around.“
Kent let out a long, deep sigh, then raised his head from the headrest, soft leather slipping away from his stubbled scalp. He opened his eyes slowly.
From his low vantage point all he would be able to see was tops of the enormous apartment blocks ahead. But Gordon knew that was all he needed to see. They were well lighted, clean and seemed undamaged. Something was seriously wrong.

This wasn’t Gordon’s first run with Kent, though they’d never used a car before and Kent still wouldn’t tell him how he got his hands on a Bresali one. They’d smuggled their wares all over Dundas in the last few years. They moved everything the Bresali occupation forbids: Narcotics, weapons, medical supplies, even chocolate at times. Kent liked to say he was in it to show the Bresali who really runs Dundas, but Gordon suspected that was just to show off. Either way, Gordon was in it out of necessity. He needed to provide for Sara. He was disgusted by the people he worked for but he didn’t have a lot of options after coming back from prison.
Even after working with him for years, he was still careful not to piss Kent off. This heavy-built, foul mouthed brute would bash down anyone he thought was getting in his way, and Gordon had seen him kill people with his bare hands on multiple occasions. Maybe that’s why they were always put together; Kent needed someone level-headed to balance him out.

The only possible explanation was that they were now in Bresali. But this was impossible.
“Car, where are you taking us?“ Gordon asked.
“To Kenwood city, sir.“ The car’s sleek, onyx-black console replied, a sole blue light emanating from its center.
“Then how the hell did we end up here?“ Kent snapped at the car in irritated disbelief.
“It can’t understand you. Simple questions, remember? And say ´car´ first“
“Yeah, fuck that. I knew something like this would happen if we changed things. We should have walked. We always just fucking walk.“ He clenched his fists and banged his knuckles hard against his forehead.
Gordon said „OK, let’s be calm here and try to find out what happened,“
“I asked you to plot a safe course and you took us to hell instead, that’s what fucking happened.“
“There‘s something more to it than that. No reasonable path to Kenwood would go through Bresali…“
Gordon‘s face suddenly melted into a mask of absolute terror. He stared at the car’s console like it was the barrel of a shotgun.
Kent peered at him and the popped veins in his forehead betrayed his seething temper. “Seems like you figured it out already. Tell me.“
“Yeah, I think so,“ Gordon barely managed to squeeze out the words.  „Remember how you asked me to plot the safest route possible? Well that‘s exactly what I asked the car to plot; The safest route possible.“
“OK“
“But you got this car from the Bresali. It considers Bresali territory safer than Dundas.“
Kent’s face hardened in exasperation. His veins were visibly pulsing.
“You mean you told the car to bring us here?”
“Yeah, kinda,” Gordon said sheepishly. The thud made him jump as Kent’s fist hit the side window, hard enough to knock out a mule. The whole car shook harshly but the window seemed undamaged.

Gordon cowered in his seat as the landscape outside started to light up. Their white luxury sedan rolled smoothly on a road now dotted with pools of light.
A series of houses zipped past them. He could only see signs of two or three people in each but they must have huge families. These houses could easily fit thirty to forty people sleeping inside. They were surrounded by grassy lawns and shrubs.  All seemed to be inhabited by Bresali wealthy enough to have electric lighting and cars. Even the roads between them had electric lighting. Gordon was amazed to see the houses of so many rich people in the same place. Where were the bodyguards? Some of them even seemed to have devices spraying water on the grass. Did they know about this? Was this a malfunction or did the obscenely rich waste water just to show off? These people seemed to have altogether too much money.

Gordon snapped out of it when Kent said, “If they find us in one of their cars they’ll kill us. Hell, if they find us on this side of the border, even without the car, we’ll be lucky to get five to ten years in Duscali.“
Gordon’s stomach sank. The very mention of that prison hellhole was enough for him to break out in cold sweat. The guards and their vicious dogs he could tolerate, the lack of food and lack of sleep he could endure. But being away from Sara he could not. Not again. “I’m not going back there.“
“Darned if I am. So what do we do?“, Kent asked.
As he thought about it, something niggled at Gordon’s brain. He’d missed something important. It felt like a splinter was trying to make its way through the edge of his brain but he couldn’t quite place it.
“You‘re the navigator, now how do we navigate out of this one?“ Kent snapped at him.
“I don’t know. This is all wrong.“ Gordon said.
Then it struck him like a bag of bricks.
“Kent, how did we get past the border posts?”
Kent looked at Gordon in wide-eyed disbelief. Bresali vehicle or not, nobody got through the border posts without a work permit and ID. Hell, even with papers it wasn‘t a sure thing. How did they get through one without even noticing?
“Can this thing tell us where we’ve been?” Kent pointed at the car’s console.
“Good thinking.” Gordon turned his head to face the car’s console. ”Car, show us the route we’ve driven.”
“Error. Can’t perform requested action.” The car flashed a red light on the console to underline its negative reply.
“That’s strange. It should be able to do that”, Gordon said pensively. “Car, where did we drive through the border?”
“Error, do not understand the question.” Another flash of the red light.
Gordon closed his eyes and clenched up in quiet irritation. “Car, run a self-diagnostic”.
“All systems fully functional.”
“I don’t get it”, Gordon shook his head pensively.
Kent’s eyes scanned the mirrors. “I don’t see any bullet holes, so the border patrol can’t have shot at us. Tires seem ok too so we can’t have driven over a tire-buster. Gordon, what the hell happened?”

***

The non-descript Bresali National Defense building sat on top of a small hill overlooking the city of Falba. Painted the same way as the cliffs around it, it was hard to make out its exact outlines. You wouldn’t think by looking at it, but it was a veritable fortress. While its nano-reinforced walls looked just like regular concrete, they could take a Dundas rocket easy. Heck, they could take light artillery fire, not that the Dundas had artillery.

Lt. Emerson was staring at his model of the building, just like he always did while talking to his wife. His office was one out of dozens of identical ones in the basement. Walls painted light-gray, shelves lined with books and digital storage units. It wasn’t big but Emerson liked it.  It was kept neat and tidy, it was well ventilated and he had space for one or two visitors. This was all he needed, no sense in wasting space. The tiny silver phone on his faux-mahogany desk started beeping softly. Probably the call he had been waiting for.
“Honey, I need to go. I got a work call coming in. I’ll pick you up some bubble tea on the way back. If they’re still open, I might be late.” He smiled, his phone still giving out the ‘call waiting’ sound. “No Tapiocas, I know. Love you.”
He waved at the phone to let the other call through.
“This is Lt. Emerson”
“Sgt. Luther here, sir.”
“What is our status, Sergeant?”
“They are entering the city now. They should be in the stadium in about 10 minutes, just right for the half-time show.”
“Thank you Sergeant. Let me know when it’s done.”
“Yes sir.”

***

The road was bright here, points of light flying past the car in a straight and well-organized file. It was an odd sight to Gordon who wasn’t used to seeing this much electric lighting. It didn’t feel right, like these people thought they were above the laws of nature in some way. The whole city had to be filthy rich to afford this sort of thing. He was starting to see taller buildings with what seemed like smaller apartments but still nothing like the meager shacks he was used to in Dundas.
“I’m not even sure this thing is really driving us to Kenwood.” Gordon bit his lower lip briefly before continuing. “And even if it is, how can we be sure we get through the border there too? Maybe it would be safer to just turn around and hope whatever smuggling hole or whatever brought us here the first time can bring us back?”
“Fucking hell. You want to explain this shit when we get back? How we turned around without finishing the run.”
“Not particularly.” Gordon admitted. “But it seems a little less suicidal than continuing.”
“I don’t know man. This would be a great way to stick it to these Bresali motherfuckers. Moving the shit to kill them with through their own goddamned city.”
“Look, I’m not sacrificing my life so you can have a stupid little victory over some soldiers who will never even know the difference.”
“Nah, I made up my mind. We are doing this my way.”
Gordon’s blood was boiling. This man was infuriating. There was no talking to him when he went into this state. He had always backed down when this happened, it usually seemed safer to let Kent have his way, but he wasn’t going to let him kill them both. He couldn’t. His hand slid into the course fabric of his jacket’s right pocket, where he carried his pistol. This was the first time he’d even draw it on the job and that was to shoot his partner. His heart thumped loudly as he switched the pistol from ‘safe’ to ‘stun’, thumbing it while concealed in his pocket. He didn’t know what Kent would do when he regained consciousness. He hoped it wasn’t as bad as what the Bresali would do if they found them here.
He fumbled as he tried to bring up the pistol silently. His eyes had started to tear up, blurring his vision. He looked over at Kent, who had laid back in his seat again. Was he grinning? Gordon quickly brought the gun to aim roughly in Kent’s direction, closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger hard three or four times, his eyelids flashing blue every time as the gun screamed a wave of electricity towards the other side of the car. He couldn’t hear anything over the noise from the discharges but he felt Kent writhing about, flailing his limbs against the interior of the car and the edge of Gordon’s seat.
He opened his eyes gradually, ears still ringing loudly. Kent lay still, silent. At least not loud enough for Gordon to hear anything right now. He checked the pulse; weaker than what would be considered normal but still there. Gordon let out a huge sigh of relief as he switched his gun back to ‘safe’ and returned it to his pocket. He rubbed the moisture out of his eyes and looked at the console. “Car, take us back the way we came.”
He was still mostly deaf from the shooting but he could see the car flash the red light. It couldn’t comply. “Car, take me home.” Red light again. All Gordon could hear now was his own heartbeat. He shouted at the console, “Car, stop and let me out”. More red light. He was trapped.

No way to roll down the windows. He could probably shoot his way through them but he didn’t fancy jumping out at this speed. Maybe if it stopped at a light or an intersection somewhere. A sign flashed past: ‘Jessica Stadium: 2km’.
That was it. As soon as the car slowed down or stopped somewhere he would shoot out the window on his side and jump out. His hands shook as he pulled his pistol out again and set it back to ‘stun’.
Jessica stadium loomed ahead. Shaped like two enormous horseshoes connected at their ends, its bleachers towered over nearby buildings. The spotlights scanning the marble-clad concrete walls were brighter than any bonfire Gordon had ever lit, whiter than any magnesium bomb. A large projected sign read: “Tonight: The world-cup finals.”
The car jerked around suddenly and bolted towards a service tunnel. Gordon screamed and yanked up his pistol. Everything went dark and Gordon crushed the trigger in his hands but with no effect. He kept pulling at it in vain hope but nothing happened. Could he really have used the whole battery on Kent? Strangely, Gordon’s body relaxed and limbered up as he became convinced he was going to die down here. How ironic.
The only harbinger of the massive explosion that tore Gordon apart was a slight beep and a hum from the trunk of the car.

***

The shockwave told Emerson they had been successful, even before the phone started ringing.
“Sir, it’s done.“
“Thank you, Sergeant.“ He waved the call off. “Gemma, is the press release ready?“
Gemma’s voice came on. “Yes sir, do you want to see it?“”
“Yeah, send it to my screen. We’ll hold off at least an hour before publishing it.“
“Yes sir.“
The press release popped up on his screen as the call was terminated.
“Crippling Dundas terrorist attack slays hundreds at football finals. Earlier tonight, a car, full of powerful explosives, was driven beneath Jessica Stadium’s superstructure where it detonated, taking down with it a considerable part of the structure. The deathtoll is estimated at [To be filled out] and the number of injured at least [To be filled out].“
Emerson flicked the screen off. He was going to need more than a stiff drink to sleep tonight.


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