One of the fun things about a future history is how everything connects together. And then adding some of those elements like easter eggs for readers to catch. Here, Aris of Aris Rent-A-Car is the same Aris (who was running a car rental) at Dallas-Ft Worth Airport in the early days of the Breakup in “Crosses and Doublecrosses”. Three generations ago. And she’s just as creepy now as she was then.
Below, Jimmy demonstrates – living – why wearing your seatbelt is important.
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He had no idea how long he was out. The plane’s interior was fouled with smoke. Electrical fire, his nose told him. With the fuselage tilted about twenty degrees to port, there would be no way to open the main door. Already coughing from the air, Jimmy unbuckled and tried to lean right to stand. He saw nothing of his three minders. The starboard emergency exit window should be about… His feet kicked something on the floor. Bending down, it was one of the guards. With his head at an impossible angle. Stifling his revulsion, Burns pulled the suit coat off the man and returned to his work on the window, pulling it in and tossing it aside.
Smoke poured around him as he rolled out of the plane, landing hard on his right shoulder on the tarmac. He heard the sirens as his eyes were still stinging too much to see anything besides the overcast sky. Don’t smell any jet fuel, but I need to get away from the wreck and any cops headed this way, he thought, tugging the dead man’s jacket on.
Jimmy knew the terminal was in the southwest corner of the airport but that also was where the sirens were coming from. The rail yard is east, but there will be fences between here and there… Just ahead he spied a man driving a baggage transporter, headed toward him, probably to help. Jimmy waved. The driver stopped and shouted at him. In French.
“<Sorry,>” Burns tried in his lousy French, “<I don’t speak this too well.>”
“Monsieur!” the man called, moving quickly to put his arm about Jimmy and move him back to his cart, “you are injured! I shall take you to medics.”
I am? Where? Or is that just a reasonable assumption for someone staggering away from a crash?
But since the transporter was so small, with only room for the driver, he had Jimmy sit then lay down in one of the luggage carriers. Back behind the wheel, he moved them out, slowly and carefully.
I’ve got maybe a minute before we get to wherever. In the confusion, this nice guy didn’t notice my prison jumper pants out the bottom of the jacket, but anyone with any training will. He pushed himself up to look around, wincing a little at the pain from the shoulder he’d rolled out on. Rather than southwest, they were headed southeast to the long series of buildings just off the tarmac. He must know a closer aid station. Hey, now! Jimmy didn’t recognize most of the signs in French, but “Rent-A-Car” was pretty universal. Slowing even more to take a turn to the left, Jimmy rolled himself out onto the street, stood, and trotted toward the office.
And my next problem will be… he patted at the jacket, thankful for finding a wallet in the right breast pocket. Taking it out, he saw several credit cards and a driver’s license. This guy won’t need these anymore, he thought. I just hope no one looks too closely at this picture.
He pulled open the door to the office of Aris Rent-A-Car and froze. No other customers and only one woman behind the counter. But what a woman! At least six feet tall, coppery hair in three complex buns but with some hanging down to hide her right eye. All that in some paramilitary black outfit that her chest barely squeezed into.
“May I help you?” she asked in English in a voice that was almost a purr.
“Uhh…” He tried again. “I need a car. For a couple of days.”
She nodded and took his borrowed license and credit card, quickly processing them without question. He thought he was in trouble when she asked him to wait a moment while she got something from the back. Thinking about leaving quickly, Jimmy heard something like an old-fashioned flashbulb charging.
She returned with what appeared to be some folded clothes. The woman set them on the counter and placed the keys to his rental atop.
“These should fit you,” she purred with a captivating smile. It was a second before he got what she was implying. She knows!
“Th… thank you,” he said, scooping them up and taking the keys into his right hand. He was just at the door when she spoke one last time.
“Good luck, Mister Burns.”
He nodded. It was not until he sat behind the wheel and was pulling his new clothes on that he realized she had used his real name.
“Dear God,” the non-believer asked, “what was that? Who was that?”