Chapter 4:

The Hijack

Welcome to Hell

Getting closer to the vehicle, I thought about trying to break into the car, but Hell vehicles were already nothing like their Earth counterparts, especially that Jet Streamer. Since it lacked any windows, there was no way I could just do the usual carjacking.

Eugene saw that I was utterly clueless about how to borrow the windowless package. "April, you're thinking about how to solve the wrong problem. Jacking it is the easy part, the hard part is the tracking systems."

"Oh come on." I held both of his shoulders, meeting his eyes. "You can steal cars in your sleep."

He looked at the car, turning his back on me in the process. "Goddamnit, fine. Just smash the lock with your gun and get in."

Taking a deep breath, my body was getting ready for all the action that was soon to happen. The moment I took the first step forward, my brain started working at full speed... to instill hesitance into my being. Acting on impulses was exactly how I got into this hot mess that was my life. I murdered two people in cold blood because there was nothing to keep me in check. I stole from the poor and screwed them over because no one told me that was the road to literal Hell.

Well, my parents did. Too bad they didn't live long enough to see me grow into this mess. Maybe they'd have put me back on the right track. They were so sweet, I doubt they ever made it here. But hey, I was the kind of person who always lived on the edge of the cliff. I had no idea why my life became so awful, but I also knew that If I didn't do those questionable things, I'd have starved to death.

I wasn't happy with my state of affairs, but this was the only way I knew how to live. My hesitation was still hard to break — I managed to take only one more step. Only a second later did I break into a full speed sprint, with Eugene close behind. Using the velocity I gained and my gun, I swung it into the driver's lock with a satisfying cracking sound, swiftly pulling the door open and activating the alarm. "Get in!"

Quickly, he just went through the driver's door and then popped into the passenger seat. I followed him into the driver's seat, then shut the door. The car wasn't anything interesting from the inside. Except for the lack of windows, it was mostly generic and all-black, with the occasional colors being red and yellow on the dashboard and switches.

While trying to get the engine started in futility, I saw Eugene in the corner of my eyes... undressing? "Hey what the fuck are you doing?"

He had already exposed his belly. "What the hell did you just say?" He tried shouting over the sound of the alarms.

So I did the same. "What kind of shit are you trying to pull off now!?"

He finally took off his shirt, revealing his bare chest. "Calm down lady, you don't know how to start this stuff." The right side of his chest had a black line square running all across his skin, with one of the corners being semi-circular. He pressed a square shape from the top edge, making that part of his chest pop off like it was just some panel, revealing something strange. It was a metal compartment inside his chest, with what appeared to be various tools and cables just casually tucked inside. I couldn't help but hold the part of his chest that he knocked off, out of curiosity.

"W-w-what the..." While the interior looked and felt like all metal, the exterior just wasn't any different from human skin. This was confusing.

"Don't think about it, we're in Hell." He pulled one of the tools out and hooked it to a port behind the driving wheel, whirring the engine to life. The "windshield", which was a wide black screen a moment ago, lit up, showing the scene outside. On both edges of the windshield were small windows displaying the "side mirrors" and on the top another window showing the "rear mirror". The "windows" also lit up in the same way, displaying the side and back in a panoramic view. I still couldn't hear the sound of the engine over the alarms. "Drive already. I'll figure out the alarm."

My finger tapped the up button and raised the speed to 125% in a split second, with my hands quickly taking over the steering wheel as the car accelerated to top speed. Judging by the elevation of the cars above us, there were only three levels in Deck 8. And way too much traffic.

"Drive as far away as you can until I disable all the securi—"

The radio interrupted Eugene, though not with music. A monotonous female voice spoke through the speakers. "Hello. This is a warning from the SecuRa Company. Please stop the vehicle and wait for our agents to arrive. Failure to comply will result in undesirable consequences."

Eugene hit the window display on his door with his fist. "Fuck fuck fuck, not SecuRa. Not SecuRa!"

"What about them?"

"They're relentless! They could easily kill us and fail this whole operation! Just keep driving," He pulled a pistol-shaped tool from his chest compartment with a loose cable swinging out. "This thing needs a lot of hacking. Drive in crowded areas but don't get stuck in a traffic jam."

All looked easy and dandy for someone who barely ever drove in Hell, but... "Traffic jams? Here?"

"It's possible, especially now." Either way, I dropped my speed to 75% and went up to the second level, staying as close as possible to other vehicles. Meanwhile, he kept pressing buttons on that device he hooked. Each time, he became more visibly frustrated. "Of course this damn ride isn't easy. It's much better to just hand them the car! Fuck, why did I even let you jack it!?"

I couldn't believe what I heard to the point of stopping the car. "Can you say that again?"

With agitation in his voice, Eugene responded with "Let's just give it back to them!"

I turned my head around, looking him in the eyes. I felt my eyes twitch from the sheer audacity. "After we broke the damn lock?"

"It's gonna cost us more if we d—"

I interrupted him firmly. "Eugene. We go all the way in, or we don't. You can't have it both fucking ways!"

In less than a second, his expression eased. "C-calm down, April." He meekly tried to diffuse me. Even with the anger seeping into my voice, he still had the gall to keep going!

I stopped the vehicle entirely, suspending it in the air. "You and your gang of assholes force me into a new debt here, and now you expect me to pay it up by grinding my ass working for that Marlwhatever guy?"

"You don't understa—"

"Shut up!" My shotgun's muzzle was instantly pointed at his chin. He drew a pistol and fixed it on my chest a few seconds later. The next few moments were stern silence, full of nothing but the sounds of our staggered breathing.

Not gonna lie, I was afraid of getting shot and waking up with the pain ingrained in my brain. At the same time, it was much easier to think about killing someone when I knew for a fact they would come back. Sure, mentally and physically more broken than before, possibly also in debt, but safe and sound — with an extra lesson learned the hard way.

Just from his frantic eye movements, he was more afraid of eating the bullet than I was.

"You have five minutes to stop the vehicle." The voice came on again, unceremoniously breaking the silence. "Failure to do so will result in your deaths."

"Heh." I smiled. "You're worried about dying? It'll be a mess if one of us pulls the trigger. Could be double. We're much better alive, Eugene."

"You think I don't know that, bitch?" Even though he tried to look tough and unfazed, his shivering body language told a different story.

I made sure to lick my lips and have him see me doing it. "I know that you know." To be fair, it was very hard to contain my fear too. I kept it as controlled as can be, and didn't stutter or shake, but damn, I felt extremely cold. "Trust me, shitface. You know how much worse it'll be if one of us shoots. And I'm fucking determined to do this. Better we do this and die from SecuRa's bullets than ours, right?"

He grit his teeth. His hand that held the pistol shook even more visibly than it used to be, while mine was fixed in place.

Finally, he dropped it.

"Fuck it. Fine, whatever you say April. I still shouldn't have gone along with you, damn it. Lemme ring up Henry." He took his phone out, then proceeded to tap it a few times before I firmly grabbed his wrist.

"Listen. Henry's not gonna keep up his bullshit with me here, all right? If he can't keep it to himself, cancel the call."

He looked at me for a second, then put on a lazy smile. "He'll do anything for me, even if it's for you." He continued to tap the phone, then quickly stuck it in the compartment under the radio unit. I finally put down my shotgun.

"Ey Yog. What that sound?" Henry's voice came out the phone, using his old nickname for Eugene.

"Henry, we've got SecuRa on our tail."

Henry sighed on the line. "Not this fucking shit again. What did ye do?"

"I...uhhh, April wanted to steal a Jet Streamer, and we're in—"

"April, eh?" His upbeat tone vanished. "That stinking bitch again?"

"Can you help out me now and whine all you want la—"

"Easy, I'm at Kataragi's."

"Got it. April, go down one level and turn around." I did exactly as he ordered, as well as all the other instructions he had for me. We were able to pick up Henry in front of Kataragi's noodle shop, just before going up and flying off.

"Jeez, a fucking Jet Streamer!?" For once, Henry wasn't instantly salty at my sight. "No wonder security's tight on this shit! Can't even do a drive-by!"

"Reckon you can disable the tracking system?" Eugene asked.

"I have not a fucking idea!" Henry yelled. "Try everything I tell ye and maybe we pull it off. Before the A.S.Ms arrive."

A.S.Ms? That abbreviation sounded ominous. Well, before we all knew it, a bunch of four different figures showed up in front of us, and boy, they were flying at high speed. Actually, I wasn't sure if they were men at all, only that they were slightly larger than human proportions, because all of them wore some kind of large, heavily armored light blue mech suit.

The best part is that all of them had a weapon for a hand. One had a minigun. Another used a multiple rocket launcher. The third a long rifle barrel, and the last one a large claw. All of them pointed their weaponry towards us.


"This is your final chance!" One of them blared with their megaphone, but I couldn't figure out who. "Surrender immediately!"

Without turning my head from their weapons, my mouth opened. "What the hell do I do!?"

The only words to come out of Henry's mouth was "Run, you bitch."

"Should've listened to me, April." Eugene dug in.

Setting the speed slider to the maximum at 150% and going to the lowest level, I sighed, knowing that our fate was sealed. "Fuck you both."

The rear mirror showed that the four A.S.Ms flew behind us just the same, opening fire. The minigun user shot us using strange and flashy blue bullets that moved just slow enough to be visible, but fast enough to still be a problem. The missile guy's attacks looked more like blue homing snakes that flew slightly slower than the bullets. The rifle shot a blue laser going as far as Lucifer knows where. The claw man on the other hand simply kept launching his sole weapon toward us, with a cable to keep it attached to his A.S.M.

"Yog, activate the soul shield." On Henry's instruction, Eugene's hand quickly pushed buttons on the dashboard just above my driving wheel, which then retreated.

"Soul shield activated," informed a robotic voice.

"These fuckers use soul ammunition. Lethal, and passes through walls. Yer dead if it even grazes ye. Our shield can only endure so much, so shake em' asses off, April. Yog, hook up the electroknife and install fake certs, try auto mode 3."

The Jet Streamer handled better than Mr. Charles's car. In fact, the handling was way too good. It was very responsive, turning and twisting at sharper angles, letting me weave easily through traffic, and with any luck, buildings. The steering feedback was also miles better. Yet, I had no idea how to shake them off except to make them crash — and even that sounded like a miracle. Do miracles even go to Hell?

Zooming through buildings that were just high enough to penetrate the bottom level of the Deck and vehicles going at all sorts of speeds was strangely thrilling, more than I would have liked to admit. It felt like I was playing a game. I had to desperately cut plenty of corners to avoid the missile barrage — they were surprisingly accurate at hitting our prize, which straight up damaged the shield.

"Soul shield level, 90%."

Henry spoke again, as cool as a cucumber. "How's the cert installation?"

"Negative." Eugene answered. "What next?"

I had no idea what sorts of technobabble the two men were on about, but Henry gave further instructions to Eugene. Stuff about the other auto modes and a manual mode. Regardless, I did manage to gain some distance away from the four killer machines, but not far enough to stay away from their soul barrages.

Seeing the up button glowing, I figured I might as well try double tapping and going two levels upwards for good measure. To my surprise, it worked. By the time I did that, they had to go through two levels of traffic. The killing machines didn't stop firing one bit, resulting in a few people losing consciousness — more than likely dead — and causing traffic accidents.

"Why the hell are they doing this?" I pondered out loud. No answer came as Eugene and Henry kept on with the technobabble.

"...good, try injecting MITM to the system payload." Henry instructed. I had no idea what the hell that meant other than progress was possibly made.

Instead of trying to shake them off through the traffic in this Deck, I drove towards the edge of the market in an attempt to lose them outside. Not that I managed to gain a lot of distance, as there wasn't a lot of traffic on the edges to slow them down. They still managed to keep hitting our car even at that distance, and even when we left the confines of the Deck Market.

"Soul shield level, 75%."

The blue fog was more overbearing than it was when we first came. It was so bad that I couldn't see far enough to even know if a building was right in front of me. Fortunately my reflexes were fast enough to react to any developments, be it other cars, the buildings, or even the horizontal sky bridges connecting them. I managed to zigzag through them at random and unpredictably.

And yet they were still trying to bite my tail. Most startlingly, all except one were behind me. Normally I would've been happy, but I didn't get any confirmation that the missing one was KIA or MIA or whatever.

I could dodge buildings with moderate effort in the dense fog because they weren't moving objects. Cars and other vehicles were either headed in other directions, or slowed down if they were going straight toward me, if not veering out of the way.

My heart was already racing, but the fact a metal claw appeared right in front of us didn't really help matters. It slammed and hooked into the car at high speed, and if I guessed right from the windshield footage, even caused its frame to fucking bend!

"Shit!" exclaimed Eugene. "Reverse, April!"

"But the others—" Seeing the surroundings move at an even faster pace and the once-loose claw cable straightening up, I couldn't complete the sentence. That's because I immediately pulled the speed slider down, expecting it to go into the negatives. But it hit 0% and we just kept moving.

"Fuck fuck fuck!" Eugene tossed his device to the back seats. He pushed my hands off the dashboard, tapped a red R button which now turned green, and raised the speed slider back to 150%. Just before the claw A.S.M. appeared in front of us, the car briefly came to a stop before it flung into the other direction, its back crashing directly into the laser guy.

That collision must have ruined his suit, as he vanished downwards from the rear view "display" as quickly as he appeared, with what sounded like explosions.

A "Charlie down!" from Henry pretty much confirmed this. Not that it was much consolation.

"Frame health level 70%. Soul shield level 50%."

However, the claw guy was still on my windshield, obstructing my view and making escaping that much harder, not that I knew how to drive backwards at high speed — I just never did it before!

Instead of letting me resume control, Eugene had the bright idea of lowering the speed to 50%, nudging the steering wheel left and right, and rapidly switching levels. The experience was dizzying, and we sustained a lot of soul damage in turn, but the effects were immediately obvious.

The grip of that damned light blue claw barely held on to the car frame. Only then, Eugene turned the wheel as far left as he could, and raised the speed to 150%. Not only did that make the claw come loose, but it sent the A.S.M. flying straight into a building. It crashed straight into concrete and blew up.

Eugene then let me take hold of the controls, so I switched to going forward instead.

"Vehicle health critical. Frame health level 40%. Soul shield level 30%."

The alarm unexpectedly died. "Bingo!" Henry tossed the device back to Eugene. "Alarm and tracking off. Shake em' off now!" Well, it was either that or dying. No way I could try knocking out another one of these A.S.Ms. I could only try to escape them.

Finding my way back to the Deck Market proved essential. Constantly switching levels, alongside taking corners, using traffic as obstacles and even going back through high traffic areas; all these helped add distance before I even made it to the Market.

"Soul shield level critical, 20%."

After several minutes of erratic driving, being constantly on edge, and unbearably intense heartbeats, I actually lost focus for one second when going into Deck 5.

That was enough to collide sideways into the side of another car, causing me to lose control and turn around along with the other car, but not before coming to a complete stop in mid-air. Yet somehow, the two A.S.M.s rammed into the other car, spectacularly blowing the car and themselves up.

"Evacuate immediately; frame health level 5%, soul shield level 10%."

The terrible warning message didn't stop me from triumphantly shouting "Yes!" at the top of my lungs, followed by my two unwilling pals.

"Go to Deck 6, we've got a gal there who lives for this stuff." Eugene unplugged his device from the car. "Be careful with this baby."

"Don't worry, I still got this." Realizing the speed really did just automatically go down to 0%, I raised it to 25% and started slowly going deeper into this level, to re-emerge on the other side with any luck. Actually, I doubted if I really got this under control, but I was finally able to take a few deep breaths — a lot of them, for that matter.

I turned the car just to see the spot where the unfortunate car and the two A.S.Ms were in the rearview display, and was glad I couldn't see them. Instead, all I could see was lots of smoke. Even if the security forces had called for reinforcements, the car's tracking system was offline.

We had successfully stolen the car.