Carlito laughed as he took the Camaro up to ninety miles an hour. He pulsed with a blend of good cocaine and raw, unyielding adrenaline. Eighteen years old, living life as a video game, played on the highest difficulty setting. An assassin for Las Zetas, killing for money.
He had killed a federal officer and his family tonight. He shot the man, strangled the wife and children with a length of rope used to keep the curtains open.
Carlito did not have curtains in his house growing up. He remembered it as the child went limp in his hands.
Ernesto lit up a blunt with a petrol lighter, taking a deep pull as his languid black eyes glazed over with the smoke. He passed it to Carlito without taking his eyes from the road. They had done the family and now; they were going to a club.
‘You see that?’ Ernesto said.
His voice was a soft drawl, sentences trailing off like stoned ideas.
Carlito hit the brake and took his foot off the accelerator. He lived through bad times because he was ready for them. He thought he saw something, a shape shimmering just ahead of them. Like pixels in an old video game.
The strobe kicked in.
5,600 kelvins of blinding light, scouring their optic nerves clean of sight, making them writhe in their seats, spasming like meat on hook as Carlito let go of the wheel. The car skidded forwards.
Onto the mine.
The electro magnetic charge ripped through the car’s systems and the unshielded electronics which connected them to the world, bringing its nervous system to a dead stop. The momentum continued. Carlito felt the world lurch out from under him as the car rolled over.
He cracked his forehead on the steering wheel and something snapped in his neck, filling his head with a horrible, heated pressure as his mouth filled with blood.
He smelled his flesh burning before he died. Saw the words GAME OVER laid over the shifting red blobs of his vision and tried to laugh at it all.
The three bikes pulled to a perfect stop, deactivating the digital camouflage which overlaid each bike and the rider’s suits.
Each bike was a four cylinder hydrogen engine housed in an aluminum and titanium frame, overlaid with a skin of carbon fibre and spider silk, studded with fibre-optic cameras which recorded and projected whatever was visible.
Bonita took her helmet off. Her round face shone with sweat but her eyes were hard and her grin verged on manic.
‘Holy shit, that was perfect.’ she said.
Daya got off her bike, kept the helmet on as she drew the pistol on her hip and walked over to the remains of the car. She aimed and fired two shots before walking back, holstering the gun and signing that now it was perfect.
Mariposa looked at the LED screen mounted on her bike.
‘All the data streams came out great. The EMP was a good idea.’
Maya gave a thumbs up. Bonita gave a slow nod, her eyes dark and thoughtful.
‘If they get wise to us, they’ll shield shit.’ Bonita said.
Mariposa looked up, her teeth resting on her bottom lip.
‘We won’t use it all the time. Field tests are useful.’ she said.
Bonita smiled and retrieved her phone from the pocket on her thigh, which served as a Faraday bag, keeping it insulated from any electronic signals.
‘We’re done here.’
She gave a thumbs up and nodded.
‘We’ll see you in ten.’ she said.
‘Ten? I wanted to take this out for a while longer.’ Maya signed.
Mariposa rolled her eyes.
‘You know how much these things cost, we can’t take them for pleasure trips.’ she said.
Bonita looked at them both, fought a prideful relief which sunk deep like a pleasurable cramp before she slipped her helmet on and activated the chat channel so they could talk on the ride home.
This was not a war. Despite the massive amounts of money and equipment being thrown at them, Bonita kept things simple. They were smart women who wanted their country back. Mexico was a rich and vibrant place, draped in grand passion and history, volatile art and ravaged by the drug cartels. Bonita, Maya and Mariposa had escaped, with nightmares of dead friends and relatives, the bodies of victims strung high in the air or dumped like refuse.
They had to try. Bonita knew the worst was ahead. The cartels had resources and the willingness to do anything to secure their position which made them the worst possible enemy to fight. Bonita had made her peace with the possibility of an ugly, painful death. She worked through it, long nights in the workshop, using research from space engineering to produce bikes which moved as fast as her dreams.
She pinged a message over the chat channel.
‘Let’s take the long way home.’
Maya sent a thumbs up and Mariposa a smiling pair of lips.
They took the bikes out, like riding a storm front. Bonita knew the odds were awful, but at moments like this, she felt the hand of God at her back.
Calling her to fight.