The blast blows a hole in the asphalt in front of the truck that sends chunks of debris flying into the night. After more than a hundred trips through the Northern Texas farmlands it was finally time to test out the secret features of their converted oil tanker and to test the resolve of the designers themselves, Iris and Umberto Esperanza.
The scenery in Umberto’s periphery dissolves so that all he can see is the ditch heading straight at him. “Hold on tight, mi amor. We’re going corn picking.”
Iris pulls down a second shoulder strap and buckles up. The front wheels of the truck smack the dirt sending a violent thrust forward through the cabin then back again as Umberto engages the engine boosters. They flatten an 8-foot tall chain-link fence and plow through a corn field at 50 miles an hour.
But the Esperanza’s are not alone.
A dozen motorcycles are cutting through the field behind them positioning themselves for an attack. Iris locks the exterior cameras onto their heat signatures. The infrared lenses pick out enough detail for her to identify which gang they belong to— the White Scorpions.
“Crap! They must have tracked us since the Ute Reservoir. But how did they get across the border?”
“Looks like they have amigos in Texas,” Umberto grumbles.
Umberto looks through the rear-view monitor as he swerves the truck abruptly to the left. The lead bike hits the dirt. Iris frantically scans the short-wave radio with her left hand for the gang’s frequency band as she positions the gunners on the roof with her right, just in case.
A rider appears in the passenger side monitor and Umberto turns sharply to the right. A second bike flies into the crops. “We need more speed,” he yells as he charts a diagonal course back to the highway. Another quick jar to the left and he floors it.
Several minutes later the Esperanza’s 18-wheeled backyard assault tanker bursts through the corn field in mid air and lands hard on the pavement, all parts intact. Three of the ten bikes left don’t clear the roadside pit. “Seven and counting,” Iris cheers as she fiddles with the radio.
“I want that truck! Zak, throw another one.” A voice screeches through the speakers.
Iris points to the White Scorpion making his move. Umberto nods. He repeatedly switches from one side of the highway to the next, turning their articulated tanker into a snake whose tail whips three move assailants off the road. An explosion goes off in the ditch. Four more to go.
Another voice comes on: “Frack! Candy, Latch on the back. Climb up and rip through that frackin’ cab!”
The rear camera watches closely as a small agile female jumps off the back of a motorcycle and onto the truck. She climbs the ladder, runs across the top, and jumps onto the roof above Iris’s head then…Zap! An electric pulse sends her ten feet in the air and crashing into the pack following close behind. Three more White Scorpions are down. For the last one rolling, Iris fires a trail of bullets from the gunner aimed just above the pavement and takes out his tires.
Umberto straightens the truck and wipes his brow. But their troubles are far from over.
There is a break in radio silence. The last voice is talking again. “They’re heading your way. Wake up our stingers in Stratford.”
The couple have at most five minutes to find an alternate route. Iris maps a detour that takes them through a series of corn fields around the city and to the border. They have enough charge to switch to electric power and sneak by quietly. The wind through the stalks will mask their movement.
Meanwhile, a more heavily armed gang of White Scorpions travel up and down US-54 looking for their mark. They find nothing. The detour worked. Iris and Umberto reach the Oklahoma border in one piece, albeit one hour behind schedule.
Bandito Chaser Live shows the storm front shifting again. Iris makes a few quick calculations and declares: “Great! It’s moving north. We can make it if we plant the fence along the bank of the river right here.” She points to a location midway between Turpin and Beaver Dunes State Park.
They surge ahead to meet the storm ten minutes before the torrent. No sooner than Umberto parks the truck does Iris jump out and start ripping the rain catching tarp-like membrane and hose mechanism out of the cargo hold and planting the first stake into the ground. Umberto secures the end of the large rubber pipe into a nozzle on the roof of the truck, then jumps down to join his wife as she sets up a football field length concave wall with the tarp.
Next, they create a seal around the back of the rain fence to keep the water from running under it. They wait.
The wind picks up and a single drop falls on Iris’s nose. Umberto gently wipes it off and smiles into her eyes: “Here she comes.” The couple dash for cover inside the truck.
As the runoff accumulates against their rain harvesting apparatus, they melt into each others’ arms and kiss.
The Esperanza’s get to live another week.