Digital Sonata

We pushed our way out through the maddened crowd, and back to our courier bikes. I climbed aboard mine, a crisp red model with integrated battery power, and flipped the assist switch to maximum.

Leon called over from his bike, “We can track them on the livestream,” and pointed to his phone, mounted in a socket above his handlebars. “But be careful – these are criminal outlaws.”

I pulled out my phone, and navigated to the Disculture Plus app. The stream was at the top of the list, with an influx of excited comments. The camera drone had been hastily repurposed, and was following Rose as she shouted her demands at it repeatedly for the online audience. Nobody here could rustle up one Bitcoin to pay a ransom, let alone 10,000. She jogged like a well trained athlete toward Elon Street, down by the old assembly yard. I locked my phone in my bike’s handlebar socket and pushed off, powering down on the pedals. The bike gave a satisfying whirr as the motors wound up and it shot forward, magnifying my power ten times.

Traffic was light at this time of the night, and my high beams cut through the still air, illuminating Bezos Road and the decaying warehouses which lined its sides. The occasional electric car whizzed by on the other side, preparing to collect fares from those concert-goers who could afford to transfer their Pepsicoins into Ethereum and pay Uber rates. We flew by, a pair of shooting comets in the dark night.

I glanced down at the livestream on my phone and saw Rose puffing, offering a final exhortation that her threats were real as she sprinted toward a white van in the car park of the old assembly yard. A gloved figure waved out to Rose and the streaming drone, then the feed cut out.

“The Bizclub yard, and fast!” I called out to Leon, who rode in my slipstream. He puffed and slung past me, pushing hard.

“We can cut through the charging bays,” he called back, as he crouched down into an aerodynamic tuck, before sitting up and swinging hard left through an intersection, thick grooved tyres slipping on the edge of adhesion. I fell behind as he turned, then stamped on the pedals to power back into his slipstream.

I took a quick look behind, and turned right, into the middle of the empty road, before swinging across the oncoming traffic down an alleyway. With little flicks of motion from one side to the other, I dodged around the back alley detritus. A car pulled out from a docking station to my right – one of the rare few that would risk using these ill-maintained stations – so I took a swerve rightwards, dodging around and raising a fist at the ignorant driver. Leon followed my line, offering a slap to the bonnet of the offender.

I pumped down on the pedals again, sprinting through this gap between towering concrete edifices. These alleys had once been intended to raise the suburb’s metrics, but they fell into disrepair long ago. Ahead, a feral cat lay flat, lazing on a bed of trash. I called out in a yell, but it was not roused from slumber.

In exasperation, I pumped the suspension of my bike, primed with energy. With a push off and grunt, I briefly sailed through the air, soaring over the sleeping cat, which awoke with a start and a hissed curse as I landed. I rose out of the saddle and pumped the pedals again, electric assistance whirring in a high pitched squeal.

Ahead, the alley opened up into a major thoroughfare. I slipped through and swung hard left, to a chorus of exasperated horns from aggravated drivers, which echoed as Leon came through behind me.

I rose from the saddle to match the speed of the traffic. The highway was four lanes wide each way, and still busy, even at this time of the night. AutoDrive trucks sped toward their destinations, emblazoned with the logos of their corporate owners. Uber drivers circulated, hoping for a high value fare. And just ahead, poking above an old model CyberTruck was a plain, unmarked white van. Bingo.

“Is that it?” I called back to Leon, who was puffing hard to keep up.

“It could be just another van. The stream’s down, so the only way to check is to see if your girlfriend is there.”

“Roger,” I replied, and jumped forward into a sprint. The suspension wobbled up and down, as I pedalled hard up into the slipstream of the blocky CyberTruck, which looked like something out of a retro ‘30s movie, all grey metal and sharp angles. I grabbed hold of the bumper, and hung on for a few seconds to give my aching legs a reprieve.

With a scream from the assist to match how my legs felt, I let go of the CyberTruck and arced out to the right, in a full sprint, the driver shaking his fist as I passed and then swung left, into the calm slipstream of the van. My target, the terrorists who had kidnapped Maia and threatened to wipe her from existence. I eased off the pedals a touch, sucked along by the hole the van tore through the cool night air.

Then I pulled left, suspension wobbling at the jolts from the cracking footpath. With a final effort, I forced the bike forward, up alongside the van, dodging mailboxes and parcel lockers as I went. I looked right, through the glass passenger window of the van. For a split second, time slowed in a flash of recognition.

Staring back at me was Rose, the woman from the concert, her severe expression faltering at the surprise of seeing me, riding alongside her getaway vehicle. She fiddled inside her jet black jacket, and pulled out a pistol, turning it toward me. I slammed on the brakes, disks squealing as the van pulled left, sending mailboxes and garbage bins flying. The air buffeted my as the van brushed just past my arm with murderous intent.

I bunny hopped the debris and pulled back onto the road, earning a mouthful of abuse from the CyberTruck driver.

“They’re fucking serious, man!” I called out to Leon. From the van, now back on the asphalt, Rose held her door open and leaned out, aiming her pistol at me. Her black jacket flapped wildly in the turbulence. I ducked down, shielding behind the bumper of the CyberTruck.

A bullet flew past my head, whistling into the asphalt with a crack. The CyberTruck swung right, lighting up its tyres and accelerating forward past the van, leaving me exposed. Rose closed one eye and squinted down her pistol’s sights at me.

I stood out of my saddle and gave my groaning legs another push, as my motor whirred, trying in vain to follow the CyberTruck. I could see a little smirk on Rose’s face as she lined up the shot, my heart beating out of my chest with adrenaline. In desperation, I swung right, into the oncoming traffic.

A horn blared out in anguish, as an SUV roared past to my left, followed by the crack of a bullet lodging in its side. Ahead, my high beams illuminated a few stragglers, who all seemed to offer yells or horn blasts of surprise as they bore down upon me.

From the van, still ahead but now to my left, Rose chambered another round in her pistol and sized me up again. I couldn’t win a shootout with criminals unarmed. This was insane.

Ahead, I spotted a side street off to my right, quiet and dotted with townhouses. I arced right onto the footpath as another shot rang out. With a sharp turn and then another, I put the solid structures between myself and Rose’s gang. My heart pounded hard, and I slowed my pedalling as my legs burned with lactic acid. My phone buzzed with a message.

“What the hell, dude,” it said, from Leon, via our shared Disculture Plus chat.

I tapped a reply back with one hand, holding the handlebars with the other as I spun down the street, legs now leaden with the fire of my efforts, “It’s definitely Rose, the woman from the concert.”

A reply came back, almost instantly, “But are you okay?”

I tapped out a reply, then scrubbed it out, offering instead an emoji with wide eyes, then one with a manic grin.

The street was deserted, spotted with dilapidated townhouses in varying states of disrepair. All was quiet except for the whirr of my bike’s electric assist and my tyres on the bitumen. My heart was still beating like a drum from the adrenaline.

My phone buzzed with another message, “Glad to hear. I’ve paid a Flyt drone to track the van, so once they stop, we’ll be able to give the location to the police.”

There was a brief pause, then another message came in, “Let’s go home. No more playing at being heroes.”