I thought I finally had an out. Silver managed to hook me up with a SIN that would get me through the border crossings. Spartan called in a token with a trucker to get me a ride in his Conestoga heading for Denver. I clambered up the stairs of the Conestoga at the appointed hour and met the greasy rigger named Duke. We shook hands and I offered, “nice to meet you, I’m Robert…Bob, you can call me Bob.” When I first picked an alias for myself, I opted to keep my first name, Martin, for exactly this reason – there’s no hesitation or confusion to give me away when someone asks for me. Duke let it slide, knowing that I was on the lam anyway. I’d shelled out most of my remaining nuyen for this ride, after all.
The command module shook and heaved as Duke brought the massive vehicle to life. Bluegrass blared in the cabin as the engine finished turning over. Duke hurriedly jammed a plug into some socket and the music stopped. He lifted a pair of headphones onto his head as he beamed back at me with a big grin and shrugged.
We had a train of five cars behind the road train, as Denver was just a pit stop on Duke’s way to New York. We jumped onto I-90 and the massive rig quickly got up to speed. I sat looking out through a line of small windows in the upper cab of the Conastoga. Duke sat in a window-less cockpit forward of me, wired into the rig and viewing everything through cameras down at street level. That was what I found so unnerving and exhilarating about my first moments in this beast. I was up nearly three stories above the interstate looking down at the tiny cars zipping around the road train, like a school of fish swimming in the shadow of a whale.
By the end of the first hour I’d settled down enough to discover that sitting back took away the view below us and I was able to enjoy the scenery. By then we were reaching the outskirts of the city and I could sense that we were rising into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that seemed to grip the sky and hold it to the horizon. Traffic slowly petered out, as we left civilization behind. The hum of the road lulled me to sleep as we shouldered our way between mountains in the Snoqualmie Pass, and my view turned from forest expanse to snowy rock face.
A slap on my leg startled me awake, and I looked down to see Duke leaning back over his chair at me. “I need your SIN card – we’re coming up on the Ute border.”
“Ute border?” I hollered back down to him over the noise, “shouldn’t we be heading into the Sioux lands?”
“This run’s already fragged,” he replied. I fought an urge to panic at the nonchalant way he was draped over the back of his chair speaking back to me; falling into conversation. I wanted to scream, “watch the road,” but in the same instant I saw the cable leading back to the vehicle control rig and realized he’d never taken his eyes off of it. Still, it was unnerving to watch. “We should’ve stayed north on I-90, but a pass is closed due to a winter storm. I’m betting some shaman group did it on purpose – they’ve been trying to get the interstate shut down to protect the moose or some drek. Anyway, I had to take I-82/84 instead, so we hit the Ute first, but we’ll get there.”
I can’t say I was thrilled as I passed down the fake ID. We’d just doubled the number of checkpoints that the ID had to endure. I reviewed Lone Star’s affiliations in my head, but the Ute Nation didn’t scope on that list, which was some small comfort. As the Conestoga pulled up to the checkpoint, I couldn’t help but get an uneasy feeling from the number of flashing red and blue lightbars ahead. Duke was mumbling under his breath, and didn’t seem to like things much, either. A patrolman on the side of the road stepped out and started waving a pair of light cones to get Duke’s attention, and then waved him over to a side road on our right. I peered out of my porthole to the side lane indicated and saw that it led up a small ramp between two municipal-blue poles standing about six meters high, each.
“Drek!” Duke roared, as he turned the truck up the lane.
“What’s happening?” I asked, but Duke seemed to be too distracted to pay me any attention. I knew it wasn’t good, regardless. He pulled up in front of the two poles and brought the truck to a stop, then, wordlessly, he yanked out his vehicle rig cable, flung the cabin door open, and began descending the ladder of the command module. He shot me a parting glance and jerked his head in a “follow me” motion, before disappearing out of view. I stared for a minute in confusion, and then leaned over to look out the driver side porthole to figure out where he was going and what was going on. I didn’t see him heading towards any of the officers, or HQ building for the checkpoint. In fact, I didn’t see him at all. I looked out the front portholes, and still no sign of Duke.
Suddenly I heard the sound of a whistle and some yelling float into the cabin through the open door. I looked back out the driver side window towards patrolmen, who were looking and running in the direction of the Conestoga. Drek, was right. They weren’t looking at the Conestoga, however, but past it. I swung around and looked out the passenger-side porthole, and there I saw Duke; kicking his cowboy boots so high they were practically touching his back as he sprinted across the open plains in a mad dash for the open horizon. Slot.
I leaned back in my seat and winced as the pop from a single gunshot interrupted the quiet within the cabin. Resigned to my fate, I sat still in my seat as I heard the sound of someone climbing the ladder up to the cabin. I slowly lifted my hands up to view as the officer leaned in through the door, revolver first, and I made sure to follow his commands to the letter.
It turns out that Duke was smuggling BTL’s, and was fine as long as no one did an electronic scan of the freight. It seems that the Ute Nation is undergoing some kind of heightened security, however, so that’s exactly what they were doing at the checkpoint. Given that my fake ID was out in a field half a klick away, the police settled on alternate means to dox that I wasn’t Robert Palmer. When it came back that I was wanted for the murder of a cop back in Seattle, I was quickly hustled down to Las Vegas so they could start the extradition procedure.
The LVPD offered me a proposal I couldn’t refuse – either I help them tackle some kind of gang war here in town, or they send me back to Lone Star. They’re trying to scare me with drek about life in prison and daily butt-rapes until the day I die. I know that I wouldn’t live long enough to stand before a judge, let alone spend a day in prison. They don’t have much to scare me with, is what I’m saying, I can do that all by myself. So, here I stand, in a motel parking lot waiting to meet a team of shadowrunners that are going to tackle this gang. I’ve got a bomb stapled to the back of my head, but maybe I finally have an out.