Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’m free of traffic and clear of the city. Time to open this beastie up. I press the accelerator and the response is like a gigantic hand pressing my body into the seat. In the stowage space I hear bullion smashing into the boxes of gems and jewellery. Must remember to check under the carpets when I empty out.
“Unidentified perpetrator, northbound on the MM2 hyperway. Stop now or we will deploy countermeasures that may endanger your life.”
Having just stolen treasures worth over a billion, I’m surprised there aren’t missiles chasing me down the road already. My guess is they don’t want to explosively scatter the goods. Can’t have some heirloom being found by a down-and-out from the sticks. Wouldn’t be right.
“Unidentified perpetrator. We are-”
I tap for two-way.
“The name’s Nat.”
There’s a pause. One-nil.
“Thank you. Okay, Nat. You should know this road is screened on both sides to a height of eight metres, and the baffles mean ten metres either side are impassable for unshielded lifeforms. That racer can’t ram through the screens, so you’re effectively on rails until you hit the waypoint at Leeds.”
I was hoping they’d rely on the installations rather than go for something ad-hoc.
“Big junction there. I could skate a lane or two.”
“No, Nat. Air units have already closed those options off. Your rocket pack won’t have the thrust to get you far enough to evade us.”
So they noticed.
“Somebody deserves an award for spotting that, officer.”
Another pause. Two-nil.
“Thank you, Nat. I’ll mention it, but my boss doesn’t look happy enough. If I could get you to pull over, that might do it.”
The curves around Birmingham go by without any attempt to stop me when I drop under 300kph to navigate the last S-bend. They really think the security fortress at Leeds is going to do it. Only two on-ramps between me and there, and I’m too fast for conventional rolling roadblocks.
“How’s your fuel, Nat? You’ve been running overboost for a while.”
“What makes you think I’m overboosting?”
“That’s a Trefoil 4 with the aftermarket Sprinter conversion. Looks well done, but the consumption at the top end is ridiculous. It’s why they went bust: they couldn’t fix the power drain problem.”
The police lady is a gearhead. Surprise. Two-one.
“A gearhead in uniform? Never thought that would happen.”
Is that a little laugh?
“Nor did I, but a career is a career, and they’re rare these days. Speaking of which, yours is soon to be over. Why not pull over and we can talk Trefoils?”
“You have one?”
“Sprinter body on top, stock Trefoil 3 underneath.”
“So that’s how you knew.”
“Nat, my boss says that at this speed, you’ve got about thirty minutes before you smash into the barriers at Leeds. He’d like you to take my offer, says we can talk while they organise retrieval and arrest, but he’s also arranged for clean-up crews at Leeds. Says the choice is yours.”
“That’s kind of him. So, what’s your name, gearlady?”
“Constable Tuhina O’Conner. What now, Nat?”
My skyscan flashes green.
“I fixed the power drain problem on the Sprinter conversion.”
“The Sprinter fastback gives enough room to plumb in a Ceres-Class gravitic core.”
Pause. Three-one.
I pull the stick back and the beastie unsticks like 1000kph is nothing and space is where it wants to be.
“Blow your boss a kiss from me, Tuhina. Chat again next heist.”
“The rocket pack casing conceals your environment module? Clever. Catch you next heist.”
Good comeback. Three-two, and on for a rematch.