Before he could react, the bedroom window slid aside, and something leapt noiselessly over the sill. He saw, faintly, the outline of a skeleton, quite black, against the night sky. A flash of dayglo orange peeked out from under a rib.
"You're not Inspiration," Miles croaked, grabbing his SKS.
"No," the apparition sighed, "more like Fate."
Staring thoughtfully at the nightmare, Miles held on to the rifle but didn't bother to aim it. Stars showed plainly between the ribs, twinkling. "So what do you want with me?"
"I need a deputy. You're it. Dress in black, grab some more ammo, and let's go."
A sound emanated from the skull - not quite the ghost of a sigh. From an unnoticed black holster, a hot pink wand appeared.
Miles gulped. He knew that wand. He dressed in silence, and played follow the leader out the window and into the woods.
Miles glanced briefly at the remains of Net.Cop, then at the dash - the Big Red Thing was running fine - then returned attention to the highway. "So when you awoke, nothing happened?"
Greg laughed hollowly. "If you call waking up as a demented looking skeleton, with a giant flying saucer receding into the distance in every direction at the same time, nothing, then yeah. Nothing happened. But I guess you're right, because that wasn't what had my attention."
"There was a woman."
"Shut up. The most beautiful woman I'd ever seen - she was an ebony skeleton, but so was I, and she was incredible - staring at me. Finally she sobbed a bit. Said ``I'm sorry. Here. Take it back. I didn't know it would hurt.'' That's when I realized I had this ache in my chest. She reached into herself, pulled something long and thin out, and held it out. I took it. She... vanished... A whole future, gone. All because I just sat there and stared for a second too long... I tried. Really, I did. Nothing brought her back..."
After a moment, Miles couldn't stand it. "So? What was it?"
Silence for a moment longer. Greg pointed to the left of his sternum. "One of my ribs..."
"The Root of All Evil. I have a hunch I'll get my old self back if I can do a more efficient job. But dweebs, kluless newbies, and spammers are hitting the net in record numbers, so I have to go to the Source." He made it sound like a real Place. The Source.
"Then what? Genocide? Is there a stupid gene? Can you get rid of people who cut in front of you and slow down?" Miles yelled as he wrenched the wheel hard right, narrowly missing the 1968 Dodge Swinger that had just whipped in front of him preparatory to making a sudden left. "What about people who buy Volvos? Can we get rid of them as well?"
Greg looked in boredom as a Diesel Volvo pulled out suddenly into a pack of motorcyclists, leaving a trail of death about I-35. "No, believe it or not, I think they'll eventually take care of that themselves." A biker who hadn't gone down let loose with a shotgun blast at the Volvo wagon's windshield, and the Volvo veered into a concrete bridge abutment. "We have bigger fish to fry."
Greg unfolded a map, and pointed with the Wand, which glowed at its lowest power setting. "Here, here and here. We can't stop it but we can sure slow it to a crawl."
Miles glanced at the map. "So? More big cities. What's there that's different from, say, Dallas? Atlanta? Miami? Why do we go there? What do I care - other than avoiding the Wand, and earning your undying gratitude for saving your skin?"
"With jokes like that, it'll be y'alls dying gratitude."
"Y'alls? Y'alls! You've been in Texas too long, man."
"Just keep moseying towards the state line, pardner. Where are we headed and why do you care? Easy. PSU. AOL. CompuServe."
"Aaaaahhhhh." Miles broke out all over in vicious, smug grins. Soon the Windstar was running at the limit. "The sooner, the better. This is almost worth missing a date with Inspiration."
Something stirred indignantly on the floor behind the front seats. The tip of the Wand made a wagging motion, and Greg's eyeball sockets stared meaningfully into the shadows. Inspiration lay back down, and stayed quiet.
"Maybe," mused Greg, "it will all work out... Uh oh, looks like a speed trap a few miles ahead."
"Pretty nifty eyes you don't got there," Miles observed. "Guess I'd better slow down."
"Maybe..." Greg looked thoughtful. Inspiration coyly touched his metatarsal. "...Nah." Greg aimed the Wand carelessly towards the nose of the Big Red Thing, which bucked a bit as the engine howled up the scale like a banshee, then settled down into a steady race up the shoulder - the only place to avoid the cars backing up towards them like dragsters. The basic engine noise frequency was at the upper limits of hearing, and Miles could tell his head was going to be hurting . A lot. Soon.
The electronic speedometer started flashing 88s, beeped, went dark. Counting the mile markers racing past, Miles glanced occasionally at the dashboard clock. "You have got to be kidding."
Greg would have grinned ferally, if he'd had skin and muscles. "Just enjoy it while you can. After this mission's over, I suspect the Wand goes back to normal, and so does this van. Or so does what's left of it." Miles cringed as the side mirrors folded back, then ripped off and fell behind, followed in short order by the wipers. The Arkansas border was coming up faster than income tax time as Miles set Cruise Control and relaxed his cramped leg.
Miles stared at the rear view mirror. He looked at Greg. "This..." He whipped his attention back to the road, pulled into the lane just in time to miss the bridge's guard rail, and back onto the shoulder just in time to miss the semi flying at them backwards. Miles concentrated on driving.
Net.cop leaned back smugly into the seat. If the Verbose One was speechless, maybe things weren't so bad after all.
Farther back in the Big Red Thing, Inspiration climbed quietly into the seat, started to buckle, shrugged her shoulders, dropped the belt, and prayed.
Each alone with their thoughts, they raced towards Destiny, Pennsylvania.
Last updated: 4 Apr 1996
Copyright 1996 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
This article may be freely distributed via computer network or other electronic media, or printed out from such media, for personal use only. Any non-personal (ie, commercial) use of this article voids the warranty which prevents my wasting hundreds, if not thousands, of yours and my dollars in lawsuits. Commercial copy permission may be granted if, in the author's sole opinion, other usage of this article is for purposes the author holds near and dear to his heart and/or wallet. For such permission, contact the author via email at roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] or via mail at the address below. Appearing in person at the author's residence during daylight hours for a personal audience is also permitted, provided no weapons are brought along. This notice contains no MSG, sugar, artificial sweeteners, sunlight, air, or other known carcinogenic substances or energy forms.1705 Oak Forest / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514 / USA
This copyright may be freely used, distributed and modified subject to the conditions noted above in the preceeding paragraph. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514