Tetsuya

Water sluiced along the sides of Tetsuya’s bike, turning the city lights into rounded lines that danced around rainbows of oilspots. Tetsuya felt as if he was in a dream. It was the perfect time to get blasted off his bike. Watch the lights for too long and he’d get unfocused, lose the sharp edge he relied upon in his line of work. A simple mistake would be all it took for the hounds to tear him to pieces. Facing off against a robot brain, especially a pack of robot brains, required a clarity of mind that bordered on the electronic.

So Testuya ignored the play of city lights against the water and wake. He tightened his grip, pulled his throttle, squeezed his legs, and swerved around the corner of an alley a half second before metal jaws could snap onto the synthetic rubber of his rear tire. The lead hound smashed into a building, failing to adjust to the new trajectory in time.

Three left.

Tetsuya sped as fast as he dared through a dim alley, headlights illuminated at a maximum, turning the night ahead of him into day. He was acutely aware of the expensive sensor clusters in the heads of the hounds pursuing him. They had no need for the primitive and illusionary visual spectrum.

A road ahead. Two lanes, fast. If there were no gaps in either lane, Tetsuya would be a pink smear in a few short seconds.

He shot out of the alley, locked his rear tire into a skid, screeched into the farthest lane, avoiding a long-haul by inches. The dim AI in the truck swerved briefly, driver barely aware, lost in a PAX haze. A crack of metal, a series of thumps as the long-haul smashed into two of the hounds and then ground them into the pavement.

One left.

Tetsuya watched the remaining hound sail over the long-haul, the luckiest of the three hounds, having chosen the trajectory that didn’t end in annihilation.

He rode between the lanes. It was a game of chess now. The hounds were fast, but exponentially less creative as their pack sized dwindled. One hound would always choose the optimal solution, the most likely path of success. Always.

The cars around him passed in a blur. He imagined what he was to the occupants. A flash, a dopplered whine, his high-torque electric engine quieter than his tires. They’d wonder if he was a racer, or maybe a daredevil, speeding through traffic in manual mode, and then the hound would pass by soundlessly, legs a blur, and they’d know. A criminal, a thief, a data-miner. A blackhat transporting high volumes of information in the most untraceable manner that could be devised – on foot.

As long as he could avoid the hound.

It was out of site, using other vehicles to mask its location. It didn’t need line of sight, it could predict Tetsuya’s location using an ever collapsing list of probabilities.

Tetsuya chose an option that probably wasn’t on the list.

He put himself in front of a family van unit, watching the hound zipping behind another long-haul to his right. As soon as it was out of sight, Tetsuya locked his front wheel, tipped the bike straight into the vertical, switched to front-wheel drive, gunned the motor, and slammed his back tire onto the hood of the van, leaving a sizable dent in the hood. He locked the back wheel, stood on the tire, and with a tremendous grunt of effort, lifted the front of his bike clear of the road. The van slowed,  onboard AI desperately searching for a solution to a situation well outside the scope of its programming.

The hound landed where Tetsuya had been seconds before. Tetsuya dropped the front of his bike on its spine, turned sideways, gunned the front wheel. The hound was pulled up into his bike and shredded instantly. The remaining half disappeared under the van, destroying the undercarriage and causing it to light into crash-mode. Strobes flashed along the exterior as the occupants fought uselessly against the airbags that now filled the cabin.

Tetsuya switched into rear-wheel drive, dismounted the van, and turned into a side street, following a path that lacked any cameras.

Home free, and he had only come within inches of a devastating death about fifteen times that night.

No time to question his career choices. With no hounds, Tetsuya could enjoy the lights of the city reflected in the wet streets.

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