<a small town somewhere in The American Caliphate>
The young girl and her friends were standing on the sidewalk at the corner waiting for the light to change. When it changed they intended to cross the street in the crosswalk. A van pulled into the cross walk right in front of them. The doors of the van popped open and four figures cloaked in robes jumped out. Two of the cloaked figures had AK-47's in their hands and they watched the surrounding area for any potential interference. Two of the kidnappers had fire extinguisher like devices in their hands and they sprayed the children who began dropping like flies.
The two Jihadists chucked the empty fire extinguishers into the van and began tossing the girls in after them. They were none too gentle and some of the girls were injured. One was killed, the unconscious girl, arms and legs flopping like a ragdoll, landed wrong and her neck broke. The terrorists didn't care. This was a harvesting run through the infidel city. If some of the 'fresh meat' was damaged they could get more.
It took a bare few moments and the operation was complete. The robed figures jumped back into the van, the cargo doors slammed shut and the van took off with squealing tires. Minutes later and it was gone from sight.
Belatedly, in the distance, sirens were heard.
When seconds count the police are minutes away.
The girls were never seen again.
The Kidnapping of girls was a common occurrence Young girls were being kidnapped from all over the Borderlands. The Ghouls had a use for young girls and it wasn't pretty.
No town was hit twice and the towns that the kidnappers did hit were distant from each other. There was no pattern to the attacks. Communication in the Dhimmitude was controlled and the news did not spread. The media told the populace only what the masters allowed. The herd was being harvested unawares.
(Meanwhile, back in Texas)
Rickey and Horn were cooling off in the DustBunny. They were returning from a Frisbee session at the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Off-Leash Dog Park. There were damn few parks hereabouts where the DustBunny could park. There had been some recent renovation in the area earlier at Shoal Creek though, which freed up enough space for the DustRunner. Horn liked to shock the dogs. Today had been fun. There had been a lot of people and their dogs at the park and a game had developed. A free-for-all competition of sorts.
One of the more memorable events of the day was when a dog was jumping high, high into the air to snag a Frisbee...and Horn jumped OVER the dog..AND over the dog's Frisbee...to snap at, and grab...HIS Frisbee which was even higher in the air. The dog didn't pay Horn any mind. He knew about Horn. They'd had a run in once before.
Horn's Frisbee was made from an extremely strong material. If it had not been Horn would have shredded it in no time. The cyber-cat's teeth were like razors. His Frisbee was much more than meets the eye. It was 'boosted' and remotely controlled, although not obviously. Bunny controlled the Frisbee In fact one might say that for in some sense bunny was the Frisbee She was using the spinning disk as an avatar and a means to play with “her two boys” outside of the truck. The Frisbee was a drone and bunny was the controller.Ricky the Driver, was also getting a workout. Frisbee throwing was exercise. Horn, however, was the star of the show. Horn was showing off and jumping fantastically high into the air and doing things not possible for normal cats. He was getting plenty of exercise. Bunny was having a ball.
<and the day wore on>
The cat EXPLODED into action, making an incredible, impossible leap. Fifteen foot into the air if it was an inch...and missed. The Frisbee did things that no Frisbee had any right to do...and the Cat leaped again...and again.
They were having a marvelous time and the university students were awed. These....dudes....knew how to play FRISBEE...what they had been doing themselves did not compare. However rather than be despondent the students attempted to emulate the Cat and white headed old fat man....to no avail.
But they tried.
It was a beautiful Sunday Afternoon...and all was well.
Until the police arrived.
The young cop got out of the car and walked over to Ricky, while looking at Horn. Horn lay on the grass panting.
"Sorry sir. You can't have a cat here"
Ricky wiped his face with a hanky. He was sweating. "And why not Orificer? This is an off leash area. This area was designated and designed for pets".
"That means dogs sir" What had the old coot called him? It didn't sound exactly like officer...did he…
"The sign says pets. This is my pet" responded Ricky. He was beginning to get annoyed. This type of attitude was what led to the MeltDown. He hadn't enjoyed the MeltDown. Time to put the quiheetus on this youngster right now.
Using battle-talk Ricky conversed with Bunny. "Get the mayor on the line please, will you bunny".
"This is Jed," a gruff voice spoke up shortly
"Hey Jed this is Ricky. I gotta tiny problem here and I'm not in the mood to handle it. Best I don't handle it as a matter of fact 'cause you know how I am. No need to crinkle your cop. " Ricky then explained to the Mayor of Austin what the situation was.
"Oh gawd no, " gasped the mayor. " Please don't bend my cop. I have enough problems finding them. Hardly anyone wants to be a cop anymore."
"And there's your problem" said Ricky"anyone who wants to be one ....shouldn't be."
"Yeah...I know that and you know that Ricky...but what can we do? " asked the Mayor in a plaintive Voice.
"Dunno, " said Ricky. "Not my problem....if you want me to MAKE it my problem.....?"
"NO!, no, no,no....that'll be fine" exclaimed the Mayor. " The Chief is on the way. He was near there anyway and I diverted him. He'll be there in a few seconds"
The mayor was correct. The Chief of Police drove up and got out of his car. The Chief walked up to where Ricky and the cop were standing and nodded "Howdy Ricky.”
He looked at the rookie cop with a gimlet eye “You... get in my car, we need to talk"
"Thanks Chief" Ricky replied.
Ricky and Horn returned to their play. The Chief and a very worried rookie cop had a Come-To-Jesus moment in the Chief's car. Shortly a very pale rookie cop got out of the Chief’s car, got into his own squad car and drove off.
Before the MeltDown Cops, City Officials, and all manner of Government Bureaucrats could literally get away with murder. Over the decades leading up to the MeltDown the populace had grown increasing steamed. Pressure had mounted.
That last fraudulent election of a particularly bad president had allowed policies and actions to be taken that had eventually ignited a firestorm.
History called it the MeltDown.
Suddenly, being in public service was no longer appealing. In fact it had been downright hazardous. No one wanted that to happen again. Public officials were VERY careful to toe the line. They were Civil servants. They were not masters. Texas bureaucrats became very careful to make that known. Free men do not have masters. The Civil Servants did not want to be numbered among the not.
The Chief tooted his horn and drove away. Ricky waved but continued to play Frisbee with his cat and his granddaughter who just happened to be a hundred ton road train but she was imitating a Frisbee right then.
A GREAT time was had by all...the impromptu event lasted for quite a long time, much longer than one would have expected. Eventually the sun started to decline in the west and it was time for the younger kids to head home. They began drifting off toward their nearby homes and Ricky toweled off a bit. The Frisbee flew under it's own power back to the DustRunner and stowed itself. Horn rolled in the grass.
Ricky started walking back to the parked RoadTrain and Horn followed, loping along beside him like a normal,if somewhat large, cat.
The DustBunny was skimming along the surface roads of industrial Richmond Virginia. Bunny and crew had just completed a seriously large dust delivery to a large 3D Print Shop, and were heading for the interstate. It was time to go back to Texas.
Virginia wasn't exactly considered part of the Borderlands and they intended to keep it that way. The Old Dominion could almost be considered a Free State...almost. The Caliphate infestations in Maryland and New Jersey were much too close for comfort though. All due diligence had to be excised constantly. Unfortunately much of the political mindset in Virginia was dangerously close to that of Pre-MeltDown. Some of the officials thought that the State knew best. Rather than allowing the free market full control they sometimes tried to interfere. History is replete with examples of how well that worked.
Traffic was heavy and pedestrians were everywhere. The giant DustRunner picked it's way carefully through a mass of much smaller vehicles. Ricky never liked this type of situation. It was drive a block and stop for a stop light...and do it again...and again. It took forever to get anywhere...and four-wheelers were , as usual, stupid.
The giant machine stopped in a line of vehicles waiting for a red light. Bunny noticed a young girl at the far end of the block, barely in sight, waiting to cross over at the light. She was a cute little thing...very perky young red head...maybe sixteen or so? Bunny was a touch nostalgic and a little bit sad. Had life been different she too might be like that girl. Bunny's life had almost not happened. Had it not been for Horn she would never have lived. As it turned out she could be ruler of all she surveyed in her very own virtual reality In the real world she was the cyborg brain box controlling a huge road train.
While the girl was standing on the corner a van drove up beside her, right into the crosswalk. The side cargo doors of the van popped open and two men jumped out, grabbed the girl...and jumped back in the van. Squealing tires and almost colliding with cross traffic the van accelerated away down a side street.
It was over in seconds. One instant the girl was standing on the street corner waiting to cross the street...the next instant she was gone. Anyone else but Bunny might have missed it. Bunny didn't miss anything, in fact she launched a small recon drone after the van. It was a very smooth kidnapping operation hinting at much practice. Bunny notified her crew. She squirted them each a visual recording of the incident via the battle-talk frequency.
Without thinking Ricky inflated and mounted a monowheel. Horn barely had time to leap onto Sledge's back as Ricky set the tiny machine into the launcher. Bunny ejected the riders and their tiny speedster over the roofs of the traffic in front of her. Ricky sailed through the air for several yards, hit the pavement, bounced once and sped off in pursuit of the vanished van. Bunny lit up her emergency lights and turned on sirens. Traffic started to get out of her way but they were so slow. It would be minutes before the road train could follow Ricky.
"Bunny...gimme a track" muttered Ricky redundantly, under his breath. Bunny knew her job. Ricky needn't to have said anything.
"It's on your heads up," said Bunny and so it was. Ricky accelerated at a tremendous speed following the flashing arrow on his heads up. The arrow pointed in the direction of the van. Below the arrow were numbers indicating speed, distance, closing rate, and Estimated Time of Interception.
..."killer bee's..........launching." announced Bunny, calm as if she were remarking about the weather "... and they're off....ETI two minutes"
"OK" said Sledge..."wait till it's stopped before you 'make contact'. I don't want the girl hurt in a crash"
"Yes master" said Bunny in a sarcastic voice...."<mutter, mutter, teach grannie to suck eggs will he?...mutter...mutter>"
And so it was that when Ricky and Horn caught up with the van they slowed their monocycle and followed at a distance. They were beginning to despair that it might get on the freeway without stopping. Luck was with them. The van had to stop at a red light. That red light would have been a bad one to run since three, count em, not one, not two, but THREE cop cars were oncoming and themselves stopping at the red light, facing the van. Running that red-light would have been a bad idea.
As soon as the van stopped it's windshield imploded. To an outside observer it would appear that dozens of black golf balls had impacted the van's windshield. It was a hail storm from Hell. The observer would have been correct as that was essentially what had happened. Bunny's Killer Bee drones were on the job. There were a few curses from inside the van and then all was quiet...then a girl...several girls it sounded like...began screaming.
Had the hypothetical observer been paying particularly CLOSE attention he would have observed what appeared to be dozens of black golf balls exit the passenger side window and vanish. That window had been open a few inches so it wasn't broken by the exiting spheroids.
The cops...reacted. Their lights came on and they crossed the street blocking traffic and securing the 'scene'. One cop opened the side cargo door and paused. Inside were a number of young girls...all chained to their seats. They were all screaming. The driver and two other males in the van were hammered ruin. Their faces and bodies had been impacted repeatedly by the high speed drones. They had not survived.
Ricky and Horn, waiting for traffic, observed the scene. They drove up, Ricky said 'evening officer" nodded and drove on past.
The officer goggled at Horn...almost forgetting what he was doing.
Back in the DustBunny
"You didn't have to do that" said Bunny with a slight pout to her voice. "I had it under control".
"We were Back-Up dear. Always have a Plan B. Laz and I were Plan B." said the Old man.
"You got a ceegar around here anywhere?" he asked gruffly "Let's get out of here. Let's go home"
The long black and gold hover truck headed for Texas.