It had taken them three years to dig the tunnel between UnderYork and ChicagoBelow, but now the denizens of those two, for lack of a better term, cities, travelled, visited and traded along that tunnel. Never mind the gangs that had taken up residence there.
Andrew had made the run three times before, and his converted Hummer was riddled with bullet holes to prove it. He carried fresh corn, three cartons of paper, and Anna.
Anna had offered the three cartons of paper in payment to get across what was now known as DGT, or Digit, as in "don't go there." According to the graffiti, they were now approaching the Nexus, a point about a third of the way through, DGT, which both the Kings and the Jokers thought they owned. The Kings were a rough and tumble gang from UnderYork, while the only home the Jokers, more a group of tech savvy thugs, claimed was on the ChicagoBelow side of the Nexus.
As the Hummer approached what looked to be a hole in the left wall of the tunnel up ahead, Andrew heard the sound of engines roaring, and then spotted the pair of ATVs that sprang from it. He swung the hood mounted spotlight towards the tunnel and saw that each ATV was driven by what appeared to be a man, but the helmet and hunched stature made it very hard to tell. On the other hand, the additional rider on each, were definitely men and they both sported what looked to be AK-47s.
The ATVs passed by him, on either side, and as they did, Andrew saw the helmets, both designed to look like reptiles, possibly crocodiles. “Cute,” Andrew thought, “Crocodiles in the sewers.” Andrew knew what was coming, and after looking over his shoulder, slowed down to a halt, as the original two ATVs sped up from behind, and a modified jeep, a steel plate where the windshield should have been, a small slit cut in it for the driver to see, pulled out from the hole that was now five hundred feet behind him.
“Andrew, how nice to see you again,” The jeep's driver said, pulling up beside the Hummer.
“Maryk, a pleasure, always.” Andrew grinned, and motioned to Anna to keep quiet.
“What have we here?” Maryk peered into the Hummer, eyeing Anna hungrily, and then noticed the corn and paper. “So, how’s it going,” he asked nonchalantly.
“Well, I have a carton of paper for you this time, and a quarter of the corn is yours too. Oh, and here are the bullets and the money I owe you from the last run.”
Anna gasped, “You can’t give it to them!”
Maryk held up his hand, "and what about her," ignoring her previous outburst.
“You know our arrangement does not include passengers.”
“But she’s a pretty one, why shouldn’t I just take her, and the rest of this?” He waved his hand at the paper and corn in the back of the Hummer.
“Because if you take it all, I wont have anything to sell, and you can’t tax me on nothing when I return. Now the fact that I have been on this road for almost a day already and have seen no one but you, my guess, you could use the income. And if you consider the fact that I have two more jobs lined up when I get back, you could make out like a, ahem, bandit by letting me live. All I ask is that you honor our agreement.”
“Of course you do, well, let's get on with it.” He took a flare gun from his pocket, and pointing it into the air, said “Shield your eyes.”
Both Anna and Andrew got their hands up just in time to block most of the bright orange light that lit up the cavern as Maryk pulled the trigger. Maryk mounted his jeep, and as he pulled past, Andrew noticed the rocket launcher that had been recently added. Following close behind the jeep, with the ATVs flaking him, Andrew became aware that their convoy of four was growing, as more ATVs, an old Ford Ranger with a machine gun mounted in the bed, and an El Camino joined them from side tunnels that he didn’t care to imagine what else was in.
As the Hummer's lights passed over a green line painted on the floor, Andrew killed them, navigating by the glow of the lights from the other vehicles. Seconds later, gunfire rang out, and Andrew was forced to jerk the wheel heavily to his left as the ATV to his right swerved in front of him and tipped. He heard a scream, but did not feel a thump, so he thought he had avoided the gunman, who had been thrown from the ATV.
Checking the rearview, he saw a burst of gunfire from where he thought he had seen the gunner land, and a blast from in front of him sent the Hummer’s front end bouncing into the air, the wheels still spinning. The damned Jokers had laid mines. Anna shrieked as the front tires landed, rattling both their teeth. “Hang in there, we’re almost there,” he told her. Another explosion to his left singed the hair on his arm, but left the Hummer with plenty of traction. Andrew punched the gas and, gripping the steering wheel tightly, jolted across what he thought was the remaining hundred feet of the Joker’s territory.
A few shells ricocheted off of the reinforced side panel of the Hummer, but Maryk and the Kings kept their agreement, occupying the Jokers, while he blasted through. He passed by a mound of rock that he had personally painted blue. Oddly enough, the Jokers had never chased him, or anyone of the runners he knew, beyond that point. He was scot-free now, at least until he tried to make the return trip. Then he would see if Cary and the Jokers would honor their agreement.