The door to The Fallen Angel burst open and two disheveled figures limped out. A third, obviously unconscious, was being carried by one of the first two.
Enforcer winced as he dragged the body of T-Bird along with him. That shot from the Manhunter had hit him solidly on the chest. While he felt pretty sure there was no critical damage, the impact had caved in some of his dermal plating, not to mention leaving a nasty bullet wound on the skin itself. The slime ball wielding the hand cannon had also succeeded in shooting his foot (of all places), making it even more difficult to walk.
Not that Kitten looked that much better. Pretty much all her front had been scragged. Tatters of synthskin and cloth hung from her torso, revealing the cyber frame underneath. Her expression left no doubt as to her opinion to this state of affairs.
Great, thought Jagger ruefully, now she'll give me the cold shoulder treatment for the rest of the evening. Or at least until she gets horny again. He considered himself a very experienced man in bed, but Kitten's sexual appetites almost rivaled his own.
He paused on the street, looking around. He realized the thought of hiking all the way back to the 93 Underground with their injuries and the extra weight just did not appeal to him.
Driving a vehicle in the Zone was usually more trouble than it was worth, and Jagger had been in a hurry to get to the seedy bar before his quarry had had a chance to scurry off. He was now paying the price for his impatience.
Kitten looked sourly at her partner. "What now, cowboy?", she asked in a voice which dripped freon.
Enforcer waved his hand to quiet her grousings. "I'm thinking, OK? Don't get your panties in an uproar." He studied the street, trying furiously to think of any alternative to walking.
A flash of yellow down the street caught his eye, and he turned to peer in that direction. Could it be?... Yes!
Jagger shoved his burden roughly at Kitten. "Here. Hold this."
He ignored her squawk of protest and, placing two fingers in his mouth, belted out a loud, piercing whistle. Come on, you've got to have heard that, he pleaded silently. He was rewarded by the appearance of the object he was waiting for, making its way towards them.
"What in hell are you doing?" Kitten's voice was ripe with ill-concealed irritation.
Jagger turned to her with his mischievous grin and answered. "I'm calling a taxi."
Uptown got its hustlers,
The Bowery's got its bums.
42nd Street's got Big Jim Walker,
He's a pool-shooting sunuvagun...
Music heralded the approaching coach, a brassy twang punctuated by a snappy beat. As it stopped in front of the two weary street warriors, the full impact of the Checker cab's condition struck them. It looked like the car had been dropped from ten stories up and then hammered back into shape. The headlights were strapped to the fender. The windows, glass all gone, were heavily barred, and a smokestack poking out of the trunk chuffed merrily.
A craggy face floated out of the darkness of the driver's side window. Large, expansive, it was split with a wide grin showing a few missing teeth.
"Where to, buddy?"
"Let us in, Cabbie. We need to go to the Underground."
The gap-toothed grin widened even further in recognition. "'Forcer! Sure, you betcha!" The face disappeared from view and a solid metallic click was heard as the rear door closest to them opened slightly.
Jagger pried the door fully open and beckoned Kitten to go in first. Reluctantly, she moved to enter the dubious vehicle but balked as she noticed the state of the back seat. Jagger insistently urged her on, pushing the inert ganger into the cab behind her as a prod. The unwilling passenger finished entering the back of the cab, positioning herself as to avoid the worst of the accumulated trash and unrecognizable smears.
Enforcer dumped T-Bird between them as he ducked in and closed the door. Through all this, the cabdriver's chatter had continued unabated.
"S'no problem. Thas's what I'm here for. Yep, I know the streets around here like the back o' my hand. Not that I go through here that often. Nosiree. This is a bad neighborhood. Not the kind to be walking around this time of night. You're lucky I happened to be visiting an ole' friend. Yep. Real lucky."
"Uh, Cabbie?" Jagger interrupted the verbal flood. "We'd like to get there tonight, OK?"
"Oh, yeah, sure. You betcha!" Cabbie turned in his seat and let the clutch in, still chattering brightly. The battered cab lurched and started moving, weaving to dodge the potholes.
;It's them Hoooooonky Tonk Women
That gimme, gimme, gimme them Honky Tonk Blues!
Kitten leaned over to whisper fiercely at Jagger. "What is this?"
Jagger smiled tightly as he kept an eye on the passing surroundings, leaning with the cab's unpredictable swayings.
"Cabbie's been working the streets since before the Crash. When the Zone came about, he moved in. Says he figured he'd make a tidy profit being the only taxicab in the Zone. From what I've heard, he also had some family living in the area. After a while, he just became part of the scenery. Sunuvabitch's got a deal with almost every gang out there. Nobody messes with him.
"And even then, ole Cabbie knows how how to take care of himself." Jagger gestured to the front and Kitten noticed for the first time the row of rag-plugged bottles arranged on a rack on the dash, gurgling with clear liquid.
Cabbie oriented his rambling banter toward his passengers again.
"Taking your lady friend out for the evening, 'Forcer?"
"Just taking care of some business."
Cabbie's head bobbed up and down in agreement. He then turned towards Enforcer, and with a childish glee in his face, said, "Hey, Jagger!"
"I heard you wus dead."
"Give it a rest, Cabbie. It's been a long night."
Cabbie turned back to the front, chuckling and wheezing at some obscure joke. The rest of the trip was quiet except for the music emanating from the scratchy speakers and the driver's unceasing mumbling.
They 'rrested me and put me in jail,
And called my Pappy to throw my bail.
He said, Son, you gonna drive me to drinking
If you don't stop driving that hot-rod Lincoln.
The dirty yellow taxicab rumbled to a stop at the entrance to the '93 Underground. The door squealed open and Kitten clambered out with relief.
Jagger emerged from the cab's interior with the still-unconscious T-Bird in tow. He turned to the driver.
"Thanks, Cabbie. You want creds or goods?"
"Jeez, 'Forcer. Whatever you want."
"OK. I'll drop off a tape at the usual place. Classic Guthrie."
Cabbie's eyes narrowed speculatively. "Arlo or Woodie?"
"Arlo, of course."
"You gotta deal." Cabbie nodded enthusiastically, his grin as wide as ever.
Jagger turned to watch the battered bulk make its drunken path into the night.
"You know the most interesting people, cowboy." Kitten's sarcastic tone was at least a few degrees warmer, Jagger noted with satisfaction.
"That's the Zone for you, hon."
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