The Winnebago whipped past a ‘Leaving Iowa’ sign that was quickly followed by ‘Welcome to Nebraska’. The 30-foot Winnebago Adventurer was screaming down the freeway at peak speed of 55 miles per hour (88 kph). It was supposed to be Jack Daniels deep in Tennessee.
“You’re daft,” Dante countered, “The best Doctor is clearly Tennant.”
“I like Matt Smith best,” Jack added, “But yeah, Tennant probably.”
“You know, Jodie brings a lot to the role,” Miles squeaked into the conversation.
“Maybe if the stories they gave her weren’t shite,” Hamza replied, “Capaldi got shit stories sometimes but those eyebrows.”
“They were attack eyebrows!”
The gang clinked glasses together and polished off their ninth round of beers or whiskey or tasteful wine coolers before Miles peaked out the window while Jack retrieved another round.
“Yeah,” Miles said, “Them and corn. Who knew America was just corn?”
“Bollocks,” Hamza polished the insides of his eyebrows, “They aren’t going to stop.”
The group had traveled for nearly 325 miles. But when the landscape was supposed to change to large, neon billboard guitars it instead became cornfields.
And the Paramount Marauder.
Hamza was a thin, tan-skinned grease head with a gambling problem who had exclusively financed a trans-Atlantic American road trip for the four Brits. Only to casually inform them that the armored vehicle tailing them with a semi-automatic strapped to the roof was a debt-collector looking for blood or coin.
The vehicle had been following them for the nearly an entire hour. It never pulled up too close for the guys to see the driver and was never far enough away for them to possibly lose their tail.
But even if the RV could reach a speed capable of outrunning the armored car, the group had been unexpectedly locked out of the front cabin by their hired driver, Sergio.
The group of Brits had hired Sergio to drive their rented RV for them so they could treat the trip more like an ongoing fraternity party than a road trip. But, Hamza’s slick haired buddies had installed Sergio as a plant.
Sergio had locked them out, refused to stop or speak to them and at one point called Miles a cavalry of words beginning with the letter ‘F’.
“Ok, ok,” Dante redirected the conversation, “Best Avenger?”
Miles got three-quarters of the way from blurting out Scarlett Witch before the locked door to the front of the RV burst open. Sergio stormed out, a hulking monster in his own right and marched steadily towards the group of intoxicated twenty-somethings.
“Who is driving the…” Jack’s voice trailed off as he noticed the glisten of a freshly polished firearm in Sergio’s right hand.
“They are in control now,” Sergio barked, sounding cartoonishly Russian, “They control vehicle.”
The driver nodded with his massive neck to the rear of the RV. The gang peered out the window and racing alongside the fields of corn, the Marauder kept pace with them.
Sergio lifted the revolver up to his chest and held it butt out towards Hamza. He ejected the magazine and slid three bullets into the chamber. Once finished, he clicked the magazine back into place and spun the chamber.
“We are the Blackmar,” Sergio eyed the revolver in his own hands as if it were a venomous snake, “We are willing to pay you lots of money in exchange for a simple game.”
“A game?” Hamza piqued with interest.
“Again, they are driving the RV how?”
Sergio ignored Jack and continued, “If you succeed, you will each be paid a sum of $25 million American dollars or $500,000 American dollars a year for life. Failure…”
The large driver simply eyed the gun tellingly.
“This is a joke, right?” Dante replied, “This doesn’t happen in real life.”
Sergio turned the revolver onto Dante and itched his finger across the trigger. The four guys loudly protested, clawing backwards in the lush, leather seats of the Winnebago.
“Rules are as follows,” Sergio continued, “Any attempt to stop vehicle. Boom.”
“Boom,” Sergio repeated, pulling out next from his pocket a smartphone with a single, blinking orange dot on the screen, “Second rule, you will follow each command exactly. Failure and boom.”
Sergio placed the phone onto the table and waited. The orange dot blinked several more times before spinning rhythmically and turning dark blue.
“Welcome. Begin gambit.”
The voice from the phone was heavily modified. It sounded warbly and robotic to the point where the group could not tell if it were a real person or a computer.
“Four tasks. Three bullets. Failure. Trigger pulled.”
The four Brits leaned in closer to the phone. The combination of the booze, adrenaline, curiosity and fear keeping them from bothering to figure out any alternative game plan.
“Task One. Aim gun at Driver. Pull trigger.”
Sergio acted almost as if he were expecting it. He expertly rotated the revolver in his hand and held the gun out for Dante.
“This is a joke, right?” Dante protested, “I literally saw you load the gun with real, actual bullets.”
The driver remained stoic, holding the gun steadily.
“Thirty seconds,” the robotic voice of the Blackmar notified. “Failure. Boom.”
The dark blue circle turned orange once more and suddenly the RV jerked and skidded as if someone had jammed on the breaks suddenly. The four guys spilled onto the floor while Sergio was the only one who remained standing. The group felt the momentum of the RV dying as it slowed down.
“Remember rule one,” Sergio reminded, “Do not let the RV stop.”
The orange dot turned blue and the Blackmar’s voice resumed, “Ten seconds.”
The fear drove Hamza from the ground up onto his feet and into a sprint towards the front cabin. Miles and Jack remained frozen as Dante contemplated the gun held out for him.
Hamza reached the drivers seat of the RV and slammed his boot onto the pedal, accelerating the laboring RV back up to top speed. In front of him, all he could see was endless road. Sergio had driven them out into the clear middle of nowhere.
Sergio looked down at Dante with an almost pleading look. The blue dot began to pulsate red rings around it as the final seconds began to tick away.
Dante grabbed the gun in an explosive movement. He aimed it blindly towards Sergio, finger snapping at the trigger in a convulsing amateur move. The RV exploded with a loud noise as Sergio’s body was snapped backward from impact.
The driver twisted sideways, collapsing onto the end table, knocking over the couple dozen empty beers the gang had drunk. A single spray of blood had escape from his wound and splattered across Miles’s temple.
“Car!” Miles screeched.
Dante’s hands trembled until the gun slipped freely and clattered onto the ground beside him. The RV yelped and jerked as Hamza struggled to control the oversized vehicle.
The dot on the phone simply resumed to a solid blue, “Task two.”
“Capaldi would be so much more god damn composed than you,” Hamza spat from the driver’s seat.
“Jodie wouldn’t have gotten us here in the first place!” Miles nerdly countered.
The orange dot pulsated blue, “If. Function. If Blackmar requests kill. Miles?”
The demand from the smartphone silenced the crowd. It had already made them kill Sergio. Sergio was allegedly one of their own.
“Whoa, whoa,” Dante bleated, “It said ‘If’. It didn’t ask us too.”
“It is still asking to say if we would!” Jack added.
“Then we say, no!”
“What is we say no and it asks us to do it as the next task?” Miles himself, questioned.
Dramatic beat of silence.
“What if we say yes and it asks us to prove it,” Hamza said, thumping the heel of his boot against the gas pedal.
The entire outside world around the RV was concrete and starch. This was the worst version of the ‘Hangover 4’ that they could script.
“We pull the trigger,” Jack’s shoe squeaked on the Russian driver’s blood as he stood to attention, “We fire at Miles. Sergio took one of the bullets in the chamber. It is a 2 in 5 chance. Better than half.”
“You fuckin’ Dalek,” Miles jaw-dropped.
The smartphone seized on the table with an extra-motivated vibration, “Answer…Responder One – Miles.”
“NO!” Miles shouted.
“Yes,” Hamza and Jack added simultaneously.
Miles side-eyed like a shameful Dalmatian towards Dante, knowing he would agree with the others. The blue circle pulsed red, forcing Dante to quip ‘Yes’, before an afterthought.
The red circle ceased.
“Task three. Miles. Point weapon at…Dante. Fire. Point weapon at…Jack. Fire. Point weapon at…Hamza. Fire.”
Hamza abandoned the steering wheel to leap towards the revolver that was resting beside Sergio’s crimson-soaked body but the less than able bodied Miles flopped onto the ground, covering it before any of the three covered him like blocky linebackers.
Miles flipped on his side, positioned like one of Leo’s French girls while he held the revolved not unlike, he was offering them a croissant.
“Two bullets, five slots, three fires,” Miles was shaking like he was in gun-shooting withdrawal, “Odds got a lot tighter, boys.”
Dante immediately spoke up, “Hamza got us into this mess. Fire at him first.”
“Disobey. Boom,” The Blackmar voice reminded through the smartphone, “Vehicle stopped. Detonation in three.,.”
Hamza was quickest again. He safely reached the cockpit of the RV and accelerated. Unbeknownst to them until now, they had departed human-made road and were steaming through a cornfield, surrounded by nothing but crop in all directions now. In the side-mirrors, Hamza could still see the Marauder of the Blackmar plowing over the bent stalks of corn behind them.
Miles swung the barrel of the revolver, glistening with fresh Russian driver / black market agent blood, at Dante.
“Go on then. Allons-y…”
Miles fired without blinking. His washed-out blue eyes staring directly into Dante’s as the chamber clicked and no bullet came out. Dante was absolved.
Dante almost turned rosy with relief, “50/50 now fuckers,”
Hamza pushed the Winnebago RV past its limits to a scorching 60mph. Various shades of creamed corn formed on the windows as the RV bounced along, Marauder in hot pursuit.
The robotic voice of the Blackmar did not wait, “Fifteen.”
Miles shock-pulled the trigger on the revolver again on reaction from the pulsating blue light. The result snapped Jack’s neck backwards as metal rearranged his brain matter and caused him to drop against the side of the RV, crashing down the interior mini-steps and pounded the latched door off its hinge until it cracked open and became a make-shift till.
“It needs to be done. Keep firing.” Hamza stepped away from the driver’s seat and leveled his chest as Miles’s hurricane traumatized limbs.
Hamza stood peaceful before his friend as the laborious RV and the overpowered armored car used up precious American crops as a dirt track.
“Jodie is a good Doctor,” Hamza said.
Miles pulled the trigger and felt the chamber, click, rotate, make an odd-whiney noise and then Hamza remained alive and well before him. His gambling addicted friend greeted him with four white knuckles to the jaw bone sending him skidding backwards and the cool steel of the revolver was stripped from him.
“One bullet. Two shots,” Hamza aimed the revolver steadily at Dante.
The RV quietly rolled over the burrows of eleven rabbit families.
“Task four,” The Blackmar voiced resumed, “Hamza. Point weapon at self…Fire.”
Hamza’s stomach lurched.
“I’m so sorry” he said, “I didn’t think it would be like this.”
Dante and Miles stood with their palms out to Hamza. Hamza squeezed the gun against his skull until the veins inside of him throbbed. He clicked the revolved with an accompanying pained cry and then felt the gun remain cold on his skin. Relief spread across his face like wickedness.
“I didn’t think they would make me kill you myself for the $100 million.”
Hamza let out a cackle that rivaled the Joker.
Before Dante or Miles could comprehend anything, a little red circle appeared in the direct center of Dante’s forehead as the final bullet gleefully fulfilled its civic duty. Dante’s murdered body spun out and smacked into Miles, knocking him off balance enough that Hamza could land a stiflingly, near fatal blow of the revolved butt against his skull.
Miles stammered sideways against the frame of the RV where Jack’s body had fallen out. Dirt kicked up amongst the mashed corn onto his shins as a stream of vomit evacuated his body and sprayed neatly outside.
The RV trickled to a halt. Without a driver, it finally came to a stop in the middle of an endless cornfield in Nebraska. Hamza and Miles could hear the Marauder quietly park behind it. Miles stood traumatized. The tears that fell from the corners of his eyes felt like glass. They mixed with blood on his cheeks that was clearly not his own.
Hamza screamed into a kneeling fetal position. He clapped the gun against his skull until the orange dot on the smartphone turned blue and pulsated red.
Miles didn’t react. He only felt the rhythm in his chest as the gun quick-fired and rocketed off the edges of Hamza’s face. The final shot and final bullet.
That was a fourth bullet.
That was a seventh shot.
That was bullet seven.
Sergio. Blank. Jack. Blank. Blank. Dante. Hamza.
But Miles had seen Sergio load the revolved. He had seen the six slots in the chamber. He had seen the driver load only three bullets into the magazine. He had seen everything play out right before his very eyes. Shit, another logic glitch. The electric shock was going to hurt on this one.
The orange dot blinked a sickly green, “Iteration 4 5 5 9 9 4. Failed. Failure number 4 5 5 9 9 4.”
“You’re daft,” Dante countered, “The best Doctor is clearly Tennant.”
Hamza felt his hell simulation reset. He felt slightly proud that it was one in which Miles was the last one left alive. Usually it was him or Dante.
The Blackmar reset his brainwaves like they had the previous 450,000 some odd times. This is what you get for trying to avoid paying up to 22nd century bookies. They didn’t only make you kill all your friends. They made you relive it, over and over, but imagining every possibly scenario so that you could really, truly appreciate your fuc-
“K. Up!” the familiar voice of the robotic Blackmar Agent vibrated throughout Hamza’s trapped brain as the simulation pumped adrenaline back into Hamza’s synapsis, wiping him free of ‘reality’.
Luckily, he only had 99 million, 550 thousand simulations to repeat until his $100 million dollar debt was repaid.