Riding with Lackhart's Lancers
of super-heated air makes my head snap round. A flash of searing light
lances across the landscape, followed by a second. In the distance, I
see a body crumple.
“Down and out!” The excitable voice of Rich Lackhart bursts from the radio speaker. “Let’s keep it moving, Lancers.”
Another morning’s commute for a mid 21st Century haulage gang.
Lackhart would hate to be called just a haulage gang. His crew, styled “Lackhart’s Lancers” are young, ambitious and deeply concerned with external perceptions. In the two days I spent riding with them, I never saw any of them without their shades. Not once.
“Appearances matter,” confides Lackhart in a rare moment of quiet. “Our clients want to be hiring the best. They have high quality merchandise that they want delivered, and few people can carry that into Scourge-territory. We are a premium outfit, and our appearance must reflect that. You won’t pay for a Colombian blend if all you’re getting is synthi-caf.”
Lackhart takes his own advice seriously. His fleet is sleek, low and uniformly midnight-blue. “I believe that what it takes to survive out there is speed, handling and firepower. All the vehicles in my fleet are streamlined for maximum efficiency – we go faster, and we use less power. As a businessman, I like that. And for defence, speed can’t be beat. Most of the Scourge bozos are driving vintage vehicles, if they’re not just shambling around in pain-addled agony. With our improved handling, we can usually outmanoevre them.”
I point out that earlier in the day, I had watched Lackhart’s Energiser peel off from the pack and bump down a decaying roadway to zap a pedestrian in a field. It did not look like combat-evasion manoeuvres to me.
“Look, you misunderstand. Anyone in a Scourge zone, anyone, is a threat. You see a crazy, you shoot them. These are not rational people, the fever has seen to that. If they’re chasing you, they don’t care if they get hurt – they just want to get you. So we have no choice. Us or them; it’s simple.”
Two days later, I see another perspective. This time I’m riding with Amy Foster. Her scratch crew of mismatched vehicles could not be more different from Lackhart’s Lancers. She doesn’t even have a name for the squad. I ask whether she believes in the marketing value of a name. She shrugs.
“I suppose. I’ve never been a believer in the value of names. It’s what you do that matters, not what you call yourself. Good PR does not change that.” I ask if she thinks Lackhart’s approach is wrong.
“Rich has his way, I have mine. He’s happy trading off his family name. That’s his choice. We prefer the quiet approach.”
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