Emilie Lynn Breslin is at that awkward age, too old for bedtime stories and too young for the really good video games. Her world's been turned inside out since she moved back to New Mexico: her best friend from second grade thinks he's a wizard, her stupid older sister only talks to her when they're having a fight, and she really misses her Mom.
Nobody takes her seriously, or appreciates her quick wit, subtle humor and incredible skills. There's only one place where she feels in control, but even there people are trying to kill her...
I love to drive. Scratch that. I love to drive fast, passing the slower drivers like they aren't there, aiming for the spaces in the traffic and powering through the tiny gaps between cars with inches to spare. I love to see the landscape blur; to see how quickly a small blob in the distance turns into a truck, or a tractor, or a car wreck; to use the gas and the brake to drift round corners like that one guy in that movie. You know the one. I used to slow down in town, in traffic, but now I just flick through it all like a real pro. I'm good. Scratch that. I'm damn good.
Right now I'm coming out of the Valley Interchange onto the highway, which will take me all the way round the Big City and eventually out into the badlands. The radio's blasting out some kind of dance mix, which means the weird commercials will start soon. I think briefly about changing the station, but then decide not to. The heck with it, they're all the same anyway, and after a while you start to hear the same old crap time and time again. I just tune it out. Ahead of me, the sun has just set, leaving a spectacular sunset flecked with pinks and blues and oranges. Must be the smog, I think. So what? I've seen it before loads of times.
Up ahead, a taxicab suddenly changes lane, taking up the space I'd been aiming for. Yeah, right. I switch lanes and go briefly onto the median, feeling the juddering. Most people might have wrecked at this point, but not me. Like I say, I'm damn good at this game. I mash the horn button as I sweep past the cab, and see it turn again, this time right into the front of a big truck. Horns blare, and a few seconds later I feel the vibration of an explosion behind me. That kind of thing happens a lot on the highway. The road ahead looks clear and straight. I relax for a couple seconds, then BANG! Out of nowhere, something hits me, and I'm headed straight for a tree.
“Aw, crap!” I say. Couldn't have put it better myself. Now I'm against the tree and bits of my car are flying through the air as I spin round out of control. I can see what hit me: a Metro PD cruiser, which is now up against the front of a tractor on the other side of the median. I am mad. It's taken me ages to find this car, and even longer to get it tricked out just the way I like it, and now it's smoking and about to blow up. Now I'll have to steal another one, and to make it worse, I'm 80% Hungry. And mad.
I crawl out of the wreckage, then move to where I can get a clear shot. Call for backup, copper, it won't help. You're getting the shotgun. It takes a few seconds to get locked and loaded, and by the time I'm ready someone's already shooting at me. Typical. I don't have time for this. I know that if I don't eat soon, I'll most likely pass out, and that never ends well. Traffic is already backing up both ways because of the wreck, so I go to the first vehicle in line, a crappy old pickup truck, and open the driver's door.
“I need this truck,” I say. Once again, le mot juste. Usually at this point the driver gets out, or I shoot them. Either way, I get the truck or car or whatever to myself. But the driver of this truck, a redhead in a green dress, just scoots over to the passenger side. Guess she wants to stick around for the ride. I think about booting her out, but decide she can stay. As long as she behaves herself. I maneuver my new truck round the wreckage – smoke and flames are already billowing from under the hood of the cruiser – and hit the gas.
The truck is sluggish. The radio's real quiet, and for some reason I can't turn up the volume or change the station. Not impressed. If I hadn't been so rushed, I could have jacked a much better ride, but hey, maybe next time. I check my head-up map and see the icon for a Burger Duke just a few blocks off the highway at the next intersection. I can't stand burgers. Oh well, as my dad would say. Down the exit ramp, left turn, under the highway, blow the red light, and the next one, and slide to a halt in the parking lot. Out of the truck, into the diner, up to the counter. The drone serving me is dressed in a real stupid hat with a green and white shirt. His face is bland and forgettable; it looks like someone started to draw it then got bored and just left it half done. No expression, no character. Just like everyone else round here. Except me, of course. I'm kinda cute. For a guy.
“Would you like some food?” he asks.