The motorcycle's engine whined in protest as it raced across the miles
of unremarkable, undistinguished open space.
Every few moments, the bike's pilot swiveled his head swiftly around to
catch a full glance of the road behind him, but mostly he had to content
himself with the view in the bike's pair of buzzing mirrors. The road back
there was dark. Empty. This time of night, there was no other traffic, and
if there had been, it would have been easy to spot even without lights. The
heat traces would have betrayed them. That was the reason for the backward
glances: heat traces didn't show up as well in rearview mirrors.
The rider shifted his weight around, trying to find comfort for his tall,
thin frame in the racing crouch required by the high-performance motorcycle.
Even through his helmet, gloves, and armored leather jacket, the bite of the
night's cold still got into his bones. His speed, which was nearly one and a
half times the legal limit (not that anybody cared out here in the sticks)
was not adding to his comfort level, but comfort was irrelevant at this point.
Escape was the order of the day.
The job had gone well, of course. Most of his jobs went well. It had simply
been a matter of finding the right location in which to wait--with his sniper
rifle carefully loaded, prepared, and aimed--for the target to make an appearance.
His contact had given him all the information he needed, including the target's
daily itinerary. The target had been right where he had been expected to be,
and the hit was almost an afterthought. Silent, quick--one shot, one kill. He
was out of there before the panic had cleared, his rifle disassembled and stowed
away in its leather briefcase, calmly riding away from the scene like one more
curious commuter. And that was it. One less anti-metahuman politician in the
world. That didn't matter, though; he was a professional. A job was a job.
The occupation or political leanings of the target didn't matter. Much, he
grudgingly had to admit to himself. There were some jobs he wouldn't take,
assuming that he knew their nature before he accepted. Once he had accepted,
of course, he was bound by his word to complete them. That was why he was
always careful about the jobs he agreed to.
No, the job hadn't been the problem. Maybe it had gone too easily. Maybe
that should have tipped him off, but it didn't. Not until it was almost too
late. He had shown up at the appointed place later that day to collect the
remainder of his fee, which had been payable upon completion of the contract.
Just as he had done before.
Only this time, everything had gone wrong. Only his inhuman speed and well-honed
perception skills had saved him from being massacred by the team who had been
lying in wait for him at the meeting point. His contact was nowhere to be seen.
Had he been in on the double-cross? Had these assailants, whoever they were,
killed the contact? As he had darted behind cover, vaulted onto his bike, and
ridden away amid a barrage of gunfire, he had heard their screams of "Come back
here, you fraggin' dandelion eater!" and "Elf bastard!" and it had all
come clear to him.
They hadn't wasted any time in acquiring their own transportation and attaching
themselves to his tail. It had taken quick reflexes, a large number of unsafe
side-street detours, and far more speed than was technically prudent for someone
of his SINless status, but after an hour or so he thought he had lost them. He
was angry that he had to run from men such as those; he should have killed them
all and left them bleeding in the street. But the fact remained that although
they were slow, they were many. The odds were too much in favor of one of them
getting a lucky shot and dropping him before he was able to complete his task.
No. He could wait. He had time. Right now, he had to get away.
He had been on the road for several hours now, unwilling to stop even for
gasoline, though he knew he would have to do so soon. The fuel gauge on his
bike hovered dangerously close to empty, and there weren't many towns out this
way. He had taken a small side road that was now approaching highway 101. He was
sure there would be some sort of stopping place there--fast food restaurants,
gas stations, and the like. He would stop there for long enough to get some food,
fill up the tank, and then he would be back on the road. Although he was very tired
from the long ride and the constant buzzing of the bike, he knew it wasn't safe for
him to stop long enough to sleep yet. A few more hours. That was all. Then he
would find a place to hole up.
After that, the prey would once again be the predator.