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Deathlands: Local Nonlocality
Last Post 7/13/2015 11:36 PM by Randarchist. 124 Replies.
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Randarchist
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--
12/2/2014 10:44 AM
After the sec patrol returned from their sweep with the recovered brass, Klash told his rescuers of the strange crystal beings(?) and the reappearing/disappearing prints. Peter Vasquez volunteered to prepare food, almost insisting on the duty, while Max and Gomez reconfigured the shelter to accommodate the growing crew. Klash and Ramone spent the afternoon making repairs on the Parker Special, cleaning dust from the filter systems and then trying to bring the wag's forward machine guns back on line. The jackalope impacts had shaken loose the trigger switch connection, but it was an easier fix than either man expected.
Dawn Rodriguez stood guard on the roof of the Rosanna buggy, occasionally taking peeks at Klash. She couldn't help herself, she'd had a crush on the baron's son since she was ten years old. He was olive complected, well muscled and had a blend of his parents' best features: strong jaw, dark eyes,a nose that spoke to an aristocratic Spanish heritage going back centuries. The man could be the son of a pig farmer, for all she cared, and she would have felt the same. But, she painfully admitted to herself, he was the only son of her baron and would probably end up married to somebody like Maria Guzman, Carla Alvarez or some other daughter of a great noble house. Knowing the cards were stacked against her romantic aspirations made her ache in the deepest part of her being. She knew that he shared the power of his mother to read the unseen, to feel the intentions of others; so she made herself stuff down her longing, her heartbreak, so as to not cause herself even more humiliation and pain. She prayed in secret, saved her tears for those private moments in her one room apartment suite and tried to project a tough bitch attitude whenever she was around others. Ramone and Juanita were the only people who knew the truth behind her facade of hostility, but swore to never reveal that pain to anyone. To most people, she was just a loud mouthed bottle of piss and vinegar; and that was fine by Dawn. Better that than people knowing the truth.
Randarchist
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--
12/2/2014 1:00 PM
Gomez took the late afternoon watch atop the shelter after lunch. Peter shined as a camp cook, his lime juice salsa made the iguana jerky taste like a slice of heaven on their palates.
"Damn, Vasquez!" Dawn exclaimed after the first bite. "You must be a Durango boy, cooking like this. You are gonna make a good wife for some lucky bitch."
The sixteen year old blushed with sheepish shrugs as the rest of his comrades grunted and stuffed their faces in agreement. "I learned it from Padre Ignacio, at the Rancho Ortega orphanage. He took me in after my parents died, taught me cooking and English."
Klash swallowed his mouthful before speaking. "I remember Ignacio's cooking from the few times I visited when I was a boy. Pico said that the Padre could make a feast fit for a king out of stickie meat if you gave him a few limes and a chili...." He stopped himself and looked away before he let the emotion take the conversation further.
They all looked down uncomfortably. It was not usual for a nobleman to express strong emotion, even in such an intimate setting.
"We will find him," Max pledged, "my lord, and his kidnapper will pay for his crime."
"Si!" They all said in unison and the conversation shifted to the mission at hand. Ramone told them that the convoy would probably take two days to catch up given the travel conditions, only Max disagreed.
"The sand dunes will have to be bulldozed, it may be as many as four days to get those heavy Dina haulers through the sand and ashy dust."
"Oh yeah," Gomez called down from the watch chair, "the command trailer is heavy as a prewar tank. Motor Chief will have them unload the big machines to cross the wastes. And that is going to be slow going, for sure, amigos."

All around the smouldering ruins, buzzard hawks and vultures stripped away the flesh of the slain stickies to the bone. More had joined every hour or so until they numbered over thirty. The carrion birds left little to rot behind them. They all filled their gullets and left with pieces of the mutant flesh in their taloned feet to take back to their nests on the high walls of the volcanic plugs.
The late afternoon sun eventually sank behind the black cloud wall in the West. The early evening winds were cooling fast, a bad sign. Max took next watch. As the sky darkened, Klash finally gave out from the unnatural high that he'd been on all day. Ramone and Dawn sat on the cargo box of their wag, comparing observations on the topography and weather, while Peter inventoried the food and water supplies. Gomez had taken out a prewar western adventure book, called 'Jack of Spades', and read it out loud to his comrades after the evening meal. It was a riveting tale of revenge and violence set in the Old, Old West. Max particularly enjoyed the cowboy language and frontier talk of the characters.
As they settled in for the night, none of them noticed that one of the vultures still lingered, perched atop a wall of the ruin below. The creature stared at the shelter, the slight aura of electronic red glow behind its eyes obscured by the camp fire glare reflecting in the dark pupils. Even when Klash woke up from his hard rest, he did not detect that the vulture was not quite normal.
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--
12/3/2014 12:21 PM
___Ruined adobe house basement___


There was a stink in the air. Hark Danby had crawled through enough old bomb shelters and basements in his teenage years to recognize the smell. It was the prewar occupants of the ranch house. The salty rot told him the story of how these poor bastards had died. They ran to the shelter of their fortified bunker, hoping to escape the nuclear exchange and fallout. Had the underground rooms been fitted with the right filters, they might have had a chance to survive the holocaust. But this was a drug baron's lair, meant to defend against police or rival cartels; it was not a military installation. Each room he passed contained the tools of that trade: wire rack shelves lined with plastic wrapped prewar ammo boxes, gun racks of corroded military style assault blasters, tables of scales and plastic freezer bags. The pantry filled with long ago spoiled food cans, packaged candies, tequila bottles and soda cans. The last room, next to the cement stairwell, was obviously a game and media room. There were the rotted cloth wrapped bones of the lost, laying around on remnants of the couches and chairs, a large screen video and two separate game consoles -all ruined by a century of slow decay.
He could hear Mouse kicking her feet inside the ventilation ducts, grunting, cursing. "Almost there, baby girl. You hold on."
"I'm not the one holding on, it is," Mouse called out to him, "and kinda pinching on my ass, Hark. Hurry up, 'kay?"

Hark pointed his Model 1911 ahead as he made his way up the stairs, holding the light in his left hand. The stairs were heavy cement underneath the decayed carpet, another mark in favor for the place in his estimation. The walls of the garage were lined with rusted away tools, metal cabinets and more useless weapons. This man, Hark thought, must have had serious enemies.
Mouse was hanging from a slender rectangular vent above a dust covered white sedan, wiggling around like an animal in a trap. There was nothing left of the tires or upholstery in the cabin. Hark walked around the vehicle to get a better look at the second vehicle.
"Motherfucker, I know you ain't gonna start scavin' 'fore you get me out this fuckin' vent!" Mouse said, her eyes narrowed to enraged slits.
"I'm checking for mutie bugs!" Hark retorted instantly. "Hush it, girl."
A lie, but it shut her up long enough. He saw the prize of prizes in the next space, and it was raised up.
"Comin' right up, darlin'." Hark beamed and stepped up the sedan's bumper to the hood. The metal popped and creaked under his boots as he walked up to the roof to help her down.
"Here, baby," Mouse said, "I just need somethin' solid."
Hark positioned himself under her shoulders and put his feet apart. She was able to push back and up with him giving her arms the extra support.
"Relax your ass, girl." Hark advised. "It'll go easier that way."
"Wish I had a bullet for every time you told me that lie, Harker Danby." Mouse grunted as her hips lid free of the vent.
Her feet slammed down heavily on the hood as she landed from the assisted flip, then the car dropped at least an inch.
"Whoa!" Hark told her. "Don't stomp it, this thing is long passed on stability."
"Yeah no shit." Mouse growled. "The fuck is with this house? Is it Mex army from old west or somethin'?"
He shook his head and told her his theory on the original owner of the home as they carefully stepped from the hood to the floor. Hark gave her a long, apologetic hug and held her head to his chest. After telling her the shopping list of what to pull from the shelves, he went to work on the locked metal cabinet with a decent quality hammer from the rusted tool rack on the back wall. It only took six whacks to punch the stainless steel lock face through, the cabinet was rusted thin as poster board.
"Holy mother of the bomb!" Hark announced as he stepped back.
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--
12/3/2014 11:42 PM
Stacked up from the cabinet bottom to the top were ammunition boxes. A wall of green metal cases with Mexican army labels. The words were all Spanish, and Hark couldn't care to translate. The numbers required no translation to understand: .50 BMG.
"It's glorious," he whispered, "sealed, wonderful, made in the USA perfection."
A tear misted partly in his eye, then reconsidered the idea. Never in his life had he hoped to see this kind of luck.
Then it hit him, the panic. He remembered his own history.
"What?" Mouse asked.
"Nothin', baby," Hark said, closing the cabinet doors, "nothin' you wanna see. Believe me."
"Is it the kids?" Mouse wrinkled her brow, frowning. "I don't want no part of dead kids."
"Fuck this room, girl." Hark said, his voice had a wobble. "Let's grab a couple hammers, they are holding up pretty good. We can only carry so much anyway."
Hark crossed the corner to the stairs and took Mouse, gently, by the elbow.
"Baby," she giggled, "not now, there's dead kids in this room."
Hark tugged her arm. "No," he said, "let's head down stairs. They had plastiwrapped bullets that looked like they might be good."
"How about a nap first?" Mouse yawned.

Hark thought about it for a second then agreed. As they started down the steps, he thought about every big score and the cosmic revenge that followed each, the inevitable pile of steaming misery and bodies of his friends. Not this time, he told himself.
The media room had two gun racks, but Hark skipped it. Mouse looked in as they passed. Hark stepped up his pace when he saw the secret door into the basement, fear was welling up in the back of his chest. He pointed to a wrapped package of 7.62 rounds on the wire rack next to the exit.
"Grab two and get up the stairs." He told her, then contradicted himself. "No, wait, touch nothin'. We don't know what is on this shit, but I suspect it ain't good for us."
"Hark, you are scarin' me. You're talkin' like a doomie and I don't like them freaks."
"This is a set up by a worse freak," he practically was pulling her through the door, "and we are not gonna take the bait."

The basement air was stale, but far less oppressive than the drug bunker. Hark took long strides to the water heater and knelt to turn the gas switch back.
"I would never known to try that, Hark. You are amazing." Mouse smiled and kissed him as he stood up.
"No," he said, "I've been a damned fool my whole life, but not anymore."
"What in the fuck are you saying, baby?" She asked.
"I'm done bein' a damned fool." He told her, "And I love you too much to let myself to be a fool again, so we are getting out of here after we rest up."
"Okay." Mouse said.
Hark kept his hand on her all the way up the stairs. The hidden door slid into its place and clicked loudly. Mouse skipped happily to the pallet and laid back on the blankets. He laid next to her, grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers.
"Sleep, darlin'." He told her. "Just rest. We are getting out of here at first light."
"But it's light out now. Suppose I get bored, what we gonna do then?"
"Mouse," Hark said and kissed her hand, "I am sure we'll find a way."
"Oh, yeah." She replied, a pixie grin creeping onto her lips.
"Yeah." He stroked her hair with his fingers. "Gnight."
"It's daytime, Hark."
"I know. Sleep." He closed his eyes, holding her hand to his chest as she pushed closer.
"Ok, baby." Mouse yawned as her lids dropped.
Sleep followed for them soon after, deep and peaceful.
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--
12/4/2014 12:33 PM
Black, dreamless sleep was the best thing that Harker Danby could hope for. Those nights without vision and sound, the sweet nothingness of sleep was his refuge from the world gone wrong. He was a man shaped, molded by the violence and horror of the Deathlands. There were some lines he wouldn't cross -like rape, cannibalism or child murder -no matter what the world through at him. There was a wild streak a mile wide running through his core, yes, but he knew in his own heart that he wasn't a monster. He had made a career as a bandit with the Paso Park gang, men who were too often absent of lines, without turning to mindless savagery. That ability to reel in his own demons was why Ol' Jim picked him up, he needed a man that could be counted on to help keep the unruly bikers inside the lines.
But the lines started shifting from the moment that the Freak entered the picture. The gang had fleeced a score of small communities and farmers for three generations, yes; but they also provided protection from far worse gangs that roamed the pan handles. Their proximity to the old El Paso crater kept a lot of problems from showing up on their own front door. But, every year, roaming gangs trespassing on their turf had to be put to the dirt. The Paso bandits had increased the taxes on the microvilles, leaving them just enough to survive, so that they could wage the guerilla war on the Ville Juarez scouts and anyone who traded with the Mexican boomtown.
Subconsciously, Hark was sorting out the last few years of violence. Why did Jim keep up the losing campaign, throwing lives and bullets at the fortified walls? What was the point when it was obvious that they had no hope of winning? The only thing that had been accomplished, other than the decimation of the gang, was that Juarez had been corralled for a few years. Maybe that was the point.

Hark was startled awake, aware of a presence in the room. The shadowed recesses of the house had been checked, but the steel roll down shutter over the broken sliding glass door in the kitchen was still open halfway, he remembered.
"Idiot fuck." Hark cursed himself and slowly reached for the .45 at his hip.
"Wha...huh?" Mouse barely audibly mumbled before he put his left index finger to her lips.
"Shush." He whispered, eyes scanning the darkness for movement.
Nothing made sound, nothing moved. Mouse closed her eyes and opened her lips, wrapping them around his finger, her pink tongue teasing sideways on the underside of the tip. It was not the time or place for a poke, but the little blonde was never one of those women who cared.
Hark couldn't help his body, it was automatic, but his mind stayed focused. He pulled out the finger and gave her an impatient glare as he sat upright, flicking the safety off on the pistol. Something clicked on cement, a hard pin point of sound. Mouse stiffened and rolled on her side, smoothly pulling a scalpel from the pile she had set beside the bedroll blankets earlier. The girl who grew up with blades and bullets also had developed an ear for the softest creeping beasts that plagued the deserts.
"Mutie." She whispered.

Two more clicks sounded off. Then a series of eight of the pin point taps and a sliding noise. Hark and Mouse rose into a back to back squat, their bodies had learned to work together beautifully since Jim put them together -he saw the potential, like breeding good fighting dogs. Hark slowly pivoted to the left, she silently followed the turn. The next set of clicks betrayed the intruder, it was in the kitchen. It was aware of them now, and it was plotting, bastard smart whatever it was. Hark reached into his pocket and pulled out a bullet, pinched it between his fingers and thumb, then sent it arcing through the arched doorway to impact against the ancient refrigerator.
There came the clicks again and then they saw it. It was a true freak of the poisoned earth, about the size of a six year old child, part insectoid and and part... They had no idea.
"What in the fuckin' name of Xmas is that?" Mouse whispered. The creature poked at the .45 bullet, twisting the bulbous eyestalks around to view it from every angle possible. It had three sets of legs that supported it upright, centipede like segments divided the body into quarters. The head was a hard black bulb of chitin, with sharp pincers on either side of the slit mouth full of flat teeth. It had two appendages below what must have been a neck, but no shoulders.
"No clue, darlin'. But it is not interested in us, yet." Hark said. The mutant bug-thing looked at the two of them now. Its eyes reflected the dim light, black glossy orbs rolling on the stalk tips as they flexed to odd angles. It turned to face them, rubbing hands together as it crouched over the bullet.
"Shoo, bug!" Mouse told it. "Get on out of here now."
The creature made a purring sound, like a cat, and blinked the stalk eyelids.
"You heard the lady, mutie, git!" Hark yelled.
The bug-thing hopped back, bounced off the refrigerator and skittered out the sliding door.
Hark was about to start laughing when it reappeared with two of its kin. The mutants stared at the bullet, made purring noises at each other, then turned toward the arched doorway to face the two rude humans. One of them started stomping foot on the floor, making a loud click.
"Oh shit, that's never good." Hark said.
He was right.
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--
12/4/2014 3:33 PM
The other bug-things followed suit, tapping in time with their pointed feet on the cement. Hark kept his .45 pointed at them and told Mouse, "Put everything on the bedroll and get ready to run."
"Good idea, baby." She whispered and started tossing what little bit of loot they'd scrounged onto the blankets.
He stepped toward the bug-thing and bared his teeth like a wolf, growling a warning. Cats were always backing off dogs, he thought, maybe growling would fake them out. The creatures stalk eyes widened and they took measured steps backwards, arching their backs. Mouse was folding the blanket and corn sack pallet over.
"Almost there." She said.

There were four more of the mutant freaks coming into view now, clicking in time. Hark heard another set of clicks coming down the wall stairs. Two bug-things were trying to creep around on his flank. Another was inching along the wall next to the arch. Purring cat sounds echoed between the clicks, growing louder as a dozen more of the beasts lined up in the kitchen behind the rest. Precarious didn't come close to describing the edge of violence they all, mutants and humans, stood on at that moment. Mouse hefted the bundle over her left shoulder and drew the stolen Makarov with her right hand. She pointed at a bug-thing on the steps and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

"Pull the slide back, it's a Ruskie odd job." Hark told her.

The 9 mm clacked as Mouse obeyed, and she liked the sound of it. "Kinda like cocking a hammer, neat." She said then pointed it back to the mutie. The insectoids didn't have to be smart bugs to figure out that they were being warned, and crouched lower.
Hark kept his eyes on the leader apparent. It stared back, tapping the foot.

"Backing out now, boys. Don't want to spend ammo." Hark said and Mouse followed his lead, stepping backward towards the front door.

The couch and chair frames had it solidly blocked. As Mouse took her aim, Hark lowered his free hand to grab the chair.

The bugs stopped tapping.

"Nuke me." Hark said as he wrenched the heavy chair free and pushed it aside, scraping the leg on the floor. The bug-things froze for a fraction of a second, then leaped forward. Hark put a .45 slug in the segmented body of the lead bug, who popped open like a zit, spraying greenish yellow entrails and mutie blood out in a cone behind it. The bullet hit another in the head, puncturing the chitin shell in a splatter of gore. It dropped to the floor behind the leader.
Mouse fired her new toy twice in succession and two 9 mm rounds smashed the bug-thing hopping from the stairs. The abominable thing screeched like a pissed off cat and fell dead a few feet from her boots.
"Go!" Hark yelled as he forced the door open against the heavy wooden couch frame. Mouse ducked under his line of fire, and turned behind him to the door. He sent three closing mutants to mutie heaven, yellow gore exploding as the Model 1911 barked death commands. The rest charged en masse, meowing and hissing their anger.
Hark shoved the couch frame and slid tightly out the door as he fired more rounds at the insectoid feline hybrids, who came bounding after him. He felt teeth, wide and flat on his hand and yelped as he jerked his arm back. His knuckles bleeding and stinging -it felt like a horses nip.
"Son of a bitch!" He yelled and fired from the hip, bullets blew chips from the cement and the bug-things paused. His arm and hand were growing numb.

"Hark!" Mouse yelled. "Come on!"
He heard her kicking the bike over, but continued to fire at the door until the magazine was empty. He felt dizzy, off center.

Mouse got the bike started and throttled through a quick turn, then pulled up next to Hark. He had a dazed look on his face, the bugs were pushing and tugging at the door to get their wide heads and jaws through.
"Get on the bitch seat, baby!" Mouse yelled.
Hark swung a leg over, almost falling over. He leaned against her back and nodded for her to go. The first bug-thing hopped up and missed its jaw pincers when the bike took off. The howling pack of mutants chased the sport bike all the way out of the gates. Hark rested his numb right hand, still clutching the .45, and wrapped his left arm around her waist.


The bike tore through the sandy dirt, heading southwest into the sea of dunes and rocks. Mouse saw three points on the horizon, as good a landmark as any, and pointed forks at the middle one.
"Hark?" She yelled. "Hark, baby, hold on."
He couldn't speak to protest her choice of direction, couldn't find his equilibrium well enough to do anything except hold on tight as Mouse rode them deeper into a sea of salty sand.
"Hold on, baby," she told him again, "I am going to get us to those three mesa up yonder. Gotta have a crevasse or cave we can hole up in for the night."
Hark grunted undecipherable noises, and she could feel the drool from his mouth on her shoulder. He was triple stupe from the bite, but his head felt cool against her neck, probably wasn't a lethal poison if he was still holding on from her experience. The ground opened up after a few miles onto a broad, flat salt plain.
She could see the three ancient volcanic plugs growing steadily as they rode. Shining patches of hard ground reflected the late afternoon sun.
It was a smooth ride for the bike, Hark had no problem holding on. After two hours of delirium like stupor, he was trying to get his head back, he was able to speak.
"Where are you taking us? We need to go North." He told her.
"Where my gut tells me. Just hold on." Mouse said.
Hark caught sight of colors refracting from the salt flat. It was comforting, warm. He was feeling like he didn't want to argue. The bug toxin was fading, but he was still not at his best. The sun was setting behind the western clouds, it would be dark soon and anything was better than no shelter. The motorcycle made excellent time, reaching the base of the mesa only a few hours after dusk.
Mouse pulled the bike between two house sized boulders and stopped. Hark stepped off the back of the seat and slumped against a rock face. Mouse set the tied off bedroll on the ground and unfolded it on the sandy dirt.
"Lay down," she said, taking his arm and leading him to the blankets, "you need to sleep it off."
Hark nodded. She had to help him sit. But he quickly laid down and was out as soon as his head touched the ground.
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--
12/4/2014 11:10 PM
___Ville Juarez, The Greenhouses___

Doctor Hammond eyed her Baroness from outside of the greenhouse glass. Lady Hadron had feinted almost after her antennae stood out on end, grabbing onto one of her Gina guards for support. Lisa Hammond had studied her for years, from a distance or in a large enough crowd to hide the Deep Brain Enhancement (DBE) systems from her mutant abilities, and knew a fake episode of precognition when she saw it.
The Baroness of Juarez was no doom seer, but both she and Gina-3 -the original Gina despite her numbered call sign -personally made sure that the few who had served Milagros were shot during the uprising, then recruited the next generation as they were born for the Gina guard. Lisa knew to fear the woman even before she agreed to be wired by the scientific collective in Catatumbo. Her parents had served Milagros when he made a pact with the white coated men from Venezuela before the revolution. And both had died with him. Lisa was a teenager when the new Baron came to power and, though treated fairly, had kept the knowledge of El Dorado until she found a way to reestablish contact with the hidden enclave of scientists. Only the top scientific minds knew that the secretive researchers existed, but the Hammonds killed them all to keep Hadron and the other traitors from knowing.
Lisa watched Lady Isabella more carefully since the change. Now she was immune to her subtle manipulations. Her intellectual ability had been boosted by the microwire stimulaters in her brain. Her reflexes even improved after the implanted technology came online. But now, she thought, the winking witch of Juarez was exposed. She smiled as the thralls fawned over the mutant woman who had instigated the change of regime and the death of her parents. They would all know the truth soon enough. They might even have time to be angry before they were harvested for the El Dorado facility's body banks.
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--
12/5/2014 12:23 PM

The streets of Juarez were full of citizens and security personnel by noon. The Baronial criers called out to clear the road for the carriages as the royal guardsmen waved their AKM's overhead, the Juarez salute. Baron Eduardo Hadron stood up in the back seat, guards bracing his legs so he could hold up his own silver and turquoise decorated version of the blaster. Citizens waved their blue bandanas or pumped their fists and cheered spontaneously as the baronial procession passed by. He had a familiar relationship with a good number of his people, calling their names when he recognized them.
"Anna, I see you, my dear." He called out to a woman of forty who was carrying a basket of tomatoes on her head. "Hernandez! Leopoldo! My bros!"
The two old men playing dominoes under the blue cafe awning waved once and returned to their game.
"Jimenez! Good to see you!"
The middle aged merchant smiled then continued sweeping the store entryway.
"My Baron," a young woman with a blue dress shouted from a gallery, "is your son ready to take his wife yet?"
"What? I don't hear you." Lord Hadron said, holding his finger next to his ears.
"You're son!" She shouted. "When will he settle down?"
The crowd grew quieter when Hadron held his palm out..
"What was that again, please?"
The girl took a deep and breath and yelled, "Your son needs a HOT wife, like ME!" She winked and shook her hips to a flurry of cat calls and whistles.
The Baron raised his eyebrows, pretending to be shocked, then responded by telling her "Okay, I will keep an eye out for a hot wife for you as well!"
Her jaw dropped as the cat calls and laughter roared up around the carriage.

The street was cleared now, so he sat down and the driver was given a nod. The carriage and horse carts of security escorts picked up their pace.
"That's enough screwing around, you guys," Eduardo Hadron yelled, doing his impersonation of Sarge Corona, "let's get the Baron to the greenhouses. Pronto, boys, and stay snapped."
The sec men snickered as he poked the driver in the back. He was still their comrade captain of long ago at moments like this, and the loyalty they felt couldn't be bought or beaten into a man; it had been built by his own loyalty to them and the honor he treated them with. There was nothing these men wouldn't do to protect him.
The gateway to the Ortega garden sector and greenhouses was coming up. The Baron had received very conflicting reports that morning, he needed to find his wife and discuss the contradictory statements made by the scouts and a traveling Deathlander who carried new stories of the man with one eye, the Chaos Bringer. As the glass houses came into view, the sec men sat up straight and their Baron put his AKM back in the storage case under his seat.
"Gentlemen," he held up a stack of written pages and addressed his advisors, "let's go find out what my wife can make of these reports."

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--
12/6/2014 10:00 AM
As the royal carriage passed the high fences into the greenhouse complex, Baron Hadron waved politely to Doctor Lisa Hammond in passing. The colored glass gleamed in the sunlight, gardeners and farmers intermingled with the few white coated scientists as they lined up to pay respect to their leader.
"Thank you all," he dismissed them for work, "but no need to make a fuss. I'm sure you're all busy enough without having to cater to me. Please, go back to what you were doing."
The small crowd dispersed.

He saw his wife, laying on a sofa in the gazebo, when he entered with his guards.
"Everyone listen up." He announced. "If you have other things to do, go do it. I wish to be alone with my wife. So, unless your family name is Hadron, clear the room."
There was no hesitation or argument, even the Ginas knew that it was time to take a break. Lady Isabella sat up, surprised and more than a little bit unnerved by the arrival of her husband.
"Eduardo," she said, "I had a..."
"I am sure." He interrupted her and said, "We have multiple reports, see?"
He shoved a set of four hand written reports to her. Each was from a different motorcycle patrol, three from the Northeast said that the Chaos Bringer -a name given to him by the Baroness herself - was rumored to be heading North from the Rio Grande after leaving yet another wrecked tyrant in his wake. Then the last report, from a lone rider who had come in from the East (the fake she had ordered), claimed that the One Eyed Man was on the Texas side of the great river, but further downstream by several hundred miles.
"I see." Lady Isabella said. "Ah, I think that the fourth may be out of date. The lone scout biker says here that she merely HEARD of his presence, that may have been many times passed along. The ones from further up river are more direct."
"I know," Baron Eduardo told her, "but where is he now?"

Isabella paused and thought it through before speaking. Threads of her plan were unraveling, the game was dangerous, and now there was the strange unnatural Doctor Hammond to consider as well.
"The Ginas," she told him, "I will need their gifts. I must be left alone with them. Make sure that we are not disturbed, Eduardo, and I will get to the bottom of this."
The Baron felt relief, calmed, his suspicion abated by her presence. He had no idea that his wife was electrochemically affecting his emotions; but Doctor Lisa Hammond saw it.
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--
12/7/2014 12:50 AM
Doctor Hammond reached to the pocket of her long white lab coat and pulled out an old tin that originally held mint candies. The green and white tin boxes' lid popped open easily and she removed a single, cocoa bean sized gel cap before quickly snapping it shut and returned it to her pocket. As she turned to walk, she slid the pill under her tongue then walked away from the greenhouse towards the facility latrines and showers behind the northern row of glass enclosed citrus trees. These fruits traded well in the baronies to the north, allowing the motorcycle scouts to curry favors with locals and traveling merchants, to buy information and generate good will the more civilized mutants of the Sierra Madres' southernmost end -Lisa Hammond couldn't wait to get her hands on a Gila Mutant to experiment on, part of her deal with the white coats of Catatumbo.

The latrines were too small for her needs, and they might be occupied by by farmers, gardeners or a neobiologist. The showers building was sure to be empty until shift end, and that was hours away still. The doctor slipped through the industrial plastic curtains without notice. The recovered linoleum wrapped adobe half walls and stainless steel fixtures had been scrubbed at the end of the last shift, so the boxy structure smelled clean as the dusty environment allowed. Lisa Hammond hated the dust. She hated the chemical storms that wracked the town six months of the year. She hated the bands of radiation carrying ash that fell like snow in the deep winter months. The only thing that she hated more than the people of Ville Juarez was the manipulative charlatan mutant who had them wrapped around her finger. She was going to love watching the Lady Isabella Hadron and her son vivisected, dissected and harvested by the El Dorado scientists.

She looked quickly around the shower stalls a final time, pulled a shower chain, let the water run for several seconds, then spit out the gel cap onto the drain. The bright orange blob glowed as it flattened out into a foot and a half wide disc. The water flowed underneath it and down the drain. The disc raised two inches and floated silently in place until she stepped up on the center. The gel dropped only an inch under he weight. She closed her eyes and held her breath, then dropped straight down through the glowing membrane. In less then a half second, the orange gelatin like disc dissolved into base molecules and flowed down the drainage system.
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--
12/7/2014 12:31 PM
___The Harpy___


Pico, still hung in his wires, stared out the wall of windows before him. Ebon clouds circled below, lightning arced and stabbed through the rotating currents, flashes of plasma bloomed and spit balls of electric colors as the howling winds stretched and compressed the toxic stew outside. The metalwork picture frame shaped device around him was clear now, the liquid blackness had withdrawn from his sight to reveal the top view of the hellstorm. He had his senses again, both mental and physical, but it did him no use. There was no muscle that he controlled, no motor control. His heart beat, he breathed without effort, he felt cold air on his face and fingers.
He watched the raging tempest through the glass. This, he thought, is above the Devil Wind, at the heart of it.

"Don't speak. So, you were found out?" A deep male voice asked.
There was a silence for a moment.

"Don't look so worried. You lasted far longer than your agreement required. I didn't believe that you would have gone this long undetected." The voice was hollow, cold, but rational and bore an accent of a type that Pico was not familiar with. "You have exceeded, greatly, in your agreed tasks and earned your place here."

Pico heard footsteps coming towards the left side, where the voice originated, then a metallic click.

"I have plans for this one," The man said, "and you may observe if you wish."
There was almost no pause, and Pico felt the fear as the hollow voiced man continued. "You are eager to learn, doctor. You'll find a clean speed suit in the room across. There is also a warmer lab coat and gloves in the top drawer of the cabin closet. You may use the bed and dry shower, it is a sonic, the ear plugs dispense from the wall box."

There was a light creaking, metal hinges, then a much lighter set of foot steps before the hinges whined again. The door, Pico guessed, was metal, like a heavy armored buggy or military personnel carrier hatch.
"I know you are awake and hear me. I will be with you in a moment."

Pico heard a flopping noise, rubber on wood, then a click, then nothing. On the glass pane, he caught the faint reflection of movement behind him. His finger twitched, he felt it.

"Good, my friend. You are going to recover quickly. Yes, you will be able to get back to walking around in no time. Now, try moving that finger on your own."
Pico concentrated and then felt the finger move slightly, but it was painful.

"Good. That's enough."

Pico felt the numbness return and then his vision returned to the black void and dancing multicolored specs of spinning light points. He screamed without sound, cried without feeling the tear that he knew must have run on his cheek.

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--
12/8/2014 3:56 PM
Lisa stared in disbelief at the captive. She had known him more than two decades, ever since the day she became an orphan. He was Eduardo Hadron's most trusted man. He was one of the Cubans that Milagros had ordered put to death, but Hadron had hidden away from view while he built his secret arsenal.
"You know that one, I can see it in your eyes."
"Yes," she said, "that's Pico. He is Hadron's top man."

The cyborg eyes glowed from under the hood as they met hers. Her tight blue speedsuit and white lab coat felt suddenly warmer, her heart rate had taken a healthy dose of fear based adrenaline.
"Tell me more information." He said.

Her palms sweat, the gloves were thick enough to absorb it, as she ordered her thoughts.
"He is a Cuban, was a teen when they were captured by our raiding crews. They almost bumbled their way straight through into the El Paso dead zone. They had truck loads of weapons and the machines to build more. Milagros told Hadron to learn their secrets then kill them, but he hid them away instead and betrayed us all. This is the one he trusts most, the one who looks after that mutant son of his." Lisa smiled and asked "Is that helpful?"

The monstrous eyes flashed brightly enough for her to see the face beneath the hood. It was beautiful to her, soft featured. The cybernetic enhancements to the eyes, jaw line and ears had been designed for aesthetics and purpose equally. The chrome finish could use some polishing, but it was well maintained.
His hands had been altered, with black sensory pads on his finger tips, connection ports for some kind of electronic attachments above the wrists. These people, she thought, hadn't spent the last century scavenging through mutant dung and contaminated ruins for the scraps of a lost golden age; they had been learning, evolving into something better. Under the dark robes, she saw that he wore a speedsuit similar to hers, but it had what appeared to be thin black armor strips and plates with embedded electronic displays.
"My eyes are up here, doctor." The hollow voiced cyborg said.
She twitched when he waved his hand in front of her.

"I'm very sorry." She apologized and instinctively pulled her hands to her chest. "The enhancements are amazing... I am a bit overwhelmed by how much more advanced you are."

"Thank you, Doctor Hammond. Tell me, have you explored the full limits of your own neural prosthesis yet?"

"I have used it in my observations and in experiments with the mutants. It also has rid me of having to use those relic computers for statistical data calculations. I am very pleased, thank you." She replied, beaming with pride.

"No," the cyborg raised his black rubbery finger tip as he spoke, "not like that. Have you explored the sensory processing capabilities, physically."

She was struck by the thought, it stirred a perversion she had not considered. She had been so single minded in her utilitarian view of the enhancements, she never considered physical enjoyment of that nature.

"I had not...." She paused, taken aback. Was he propositioning her for sex? "I never thought of that. I didn't try."

The cyborg pulled the hood back and she saw his full face. His chrome enclosed eyes and jaw line were part of the face, perfectly grafted to the flesh. His skin was tanned, but healthy, even at the cybernetic seams. The black short cropped hair had a shock of white over the left temple. She was aroused, and he saw it with those darkly perceptive electric eyes.
"Come with me," he told her, dragging the slick finger pad across her shoulder, "I have a stateroom under the bridge with a better view."
She followed him out through the door hatch silently.
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--
12/9/2014 1:55 PM
Pico saw the first filtering of sunrise through the storm, green to brown currents twisted, lightning flashes chased the conflicts of chemical and radiation saturated clouds.
"South," he whispered, "going south for winter?"
The cyborg, he remembered now, had offered to help him regain his mind. Pico had agreed. How could he not agree in that condition?
"Hello," Pico said, his throat was parched and soar from screaming, "I think it worked. Can I have some water?"
After several seconds passed without a reply, Pico tried to get his bearings.
He pulled at the thick wires, but they afforded him no movement. He did, however, feel his fingers and toes move when he wiggled them. At least he had that much going for him.
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--
12/9/2014 11:49 PM
Doctor Lisa Hammond still lay naked and unconsciously twitching periodically on the forward stateroom sofa when the dawn light crept up over the clouds, through the windows. Her full, sun blonde hair hung over the edge of the cushions. The cyborg looked down at her mature, healthy form and smiled. She may have been born in Durango, but he could see that her lineage was all American.
Her tanned skin, beach body, the hair, her bright eyes: she reminded him of the California girls from before the war. She definitely had been sculpted by the desert hardships of post war Mexico, but there was minimal damage to her genome by the radioactive materials she had been exposed to in Ville Juarez. She would be able to repair the molecular alteration of her DNA, he knew, once she gained access to a proper lab.
He had planned on killing her, initially, but her abilities kept impressing him. Her experience with the mutant freaks of the Chihuahua and Durango regions would prove invaluable when the El Dorado collective started harvesting them for experimentation. She had laid bare the secrets of the Juarez Barony, their defenses and their weaknesses. And in a few more days, they would all be rounded up and cold stored in the body banks.

His linked in nervous system detected that his patient was finally awake. His body had not rejected the control enhancements that were now wired to his brain and nervous system. If it had, he wouldn't be alive, his body would have torn itself apart -a most painful death. Now that the Cuban had pulled through, the only thing left to do was to get him back to his friend. The dormant systems wouldn't be so easily detected by the hybrid mutant, or his mother for that matter.
The Glass Men had driven off the scientists from the collective when they had tried to explore the buried structure; but this Trojan horse would finally get them a set of eyes inside, hopefully undetected by the mysterious crystal guardians, and some idea of what secrets they protected, once he was recovered.
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--
12/10/2014 11:35 AM
___The Middle Sister___

Hark Danby was visited by the faces of the dead all night. In his dream, he and Mouse were sitting at a cafe table, eating the disembodied heads of the Paso Park gang. A bat faced server sat a new plateful of steaming faces in front of them as soon as he remembered them, their names, their deaths. The table stretched as each plate, platter and tray was placed, increasing the distance between them. More plates were added, hundreds of accusing eyes, expressions of fear and betrayal directed upward to the blood splashed umbrella over the table. They talked about the weather, but had to speak louder as the feast of friends grew longer -pushing her further away.
The smorgasbord of fallen allies was increased as a furry stickie in a smart looking chef hat wheeled out an ice filled cart of limbs. The mutant gourmet pulled a familiar severed arm from the ice with a set of gold rings on the fingers. It had once belonged to Will Sweeney, one of the men who taught him the scavenger trade. The hooting freak pealed the arm like a grape using its sticky sucker hands and fed chunks of the flesh to Mouse, who delighted with each bite.
More plates were added, the table grew.

More trays, more torn and chopped bodies were laid on the table.

More plates.

He could barely see Mouse.

A dinner bell clanged and then two scalies in ill fitting tuxedo jackets drug a charcoal grill as large as a casket. The bat faced waiter bowed to him and parted its hideous lips.
"The main course is ready, sir." The nightmare beast said, then threw up the grill cover. Ol' Jim was impaled, mouth to tail, on a spit and stuffed with the victims of the Paso bandits who had been stupid enough to fight back. Mouse waved her hand and shouted for a loin cut. The scalies smiled and went to work.
Hark could not look away or run from the table, he could only eat. He remembered a man who he robbed and killed for a pair of mismatched cowboy boots.

Another plate, the table stretched more.

Mouse was not visible anymore.
Ol' Jim had a big set of Rocky mountain oysters, the scalies plucked them out and put them on a bed of white sauce with a dressing of steamed finger sausages.

The table grew. More plates.

The robed man, the Freak, stood next to his chair.
"Mister Danby," the hooded cyborg said, "desert is complimentary. Enjoy."
The staff brought out a covered dish, proudly presented with toothy smiles, their mouths oozing and dripping wet with drool. The cover was ornately engraved silver, patterned on the human skull with flowers and pistols crossing the forehead. The chef hatted stickie lifted up the cover.
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--
12/10/2014 4:11 PM
He woke up alone.

The sun was not up yet, but the pink tongue of first light was tipping the eastern horizon. Deep brown shadows covered the salt flat around the large chunks of crumbling cliff where they had stopped to rest. The bike was still there, and almost out of fuel. There was a set of pictograph codes left by Mouse next to the motorcycle, the message said that she was out to score food. The marks were fresh, perhaps an hour old. He had his .45, but Mouse had taken the AKM. The bite from the feline hybrid bug-thing had really done a number on his head. Still, his vision was a bit fuzzy, his limbs stiff. His hand was swollen, the area of the bite was pinkish color and stung when he moved his fingers.
She had made a camp fire out of tumbleweed, but the lack of fuel starved the flame down to a few hot coals that were on the verge of being ash now. If the girl came back with anything edible from this desolate patch of crusty wasteland, it would be a miracle. The mesas were even salt blasted, nothing could survive out here; and if anything could, it was going to be small and probably eaten up with leopard fleas. The whole northern Mexican desert was crawling with every variety of pestilent as far as he was able to tell. Leopard fleas were the hardest to get rid of among the nuisance pests, and one of the most easily recognizable. Juarez traded a hand sliced soap that killed the tiny bugs off, but only with people who were on good terms with the ville. Hark led Sam and the Kimble brothers to hijack a shipment when a raiding party had come back with yellow to black pots all over their bodies. The idiots had spread it to the women of the gaudy, so most of the gang ended up itching and scratching from the nasty little crotch critters by the time Hark rode back with the bright orange soap bars.

He looked around the large boulder for an easy way up top to get a better view of his surroundings. A sloping pile of heavy rocks gave him a quick path up the rock. Once he worked his way across the jagged slab of compressed volcanic stone to the end, he could see her stretched out on a dune several hundred yards away. She was definitely stalking something. She pushed up on her knees and raised the stock to her shoulder. Hark could not make out what she was tracking, his view blocked by the dune crest, but he heard the shot echo across the rock salt enveloped landscape.
She stood up and jumped excitedly, then took off over the crest after her prey. After a couple of minutes, she appeared again, dragging a jackalope by the hind legs behind her. Already, a few buzzard hawks and a vulture had been attracted by the shot. Hark watched them circle on the desert thermals for a moment, then he noticed smoke rising lazily into the sky from the other side of the miles wide open flat. There appeared to be a couple of buggy style wags and a tent.
Mouse spotted him and waved for him to come to her, the jackalope was larger than he initially thought, she would need his help to get it back quickly. And the quicker they butchered the mutie rabbit, the quicker they would be able to investigate the smoking campfire to their south. Maybe he could trade some of the mutie bush meat, unless they were hostiles, or cannibals. Hark jogged back to the spot he had climbed up and hopped down with only one slip, but he recovered his balance and ran out of the rocks to assist Mouse.

"'Bout time, baby." She told him, throwing her arms and a leg around him as he kissed her. She felt warm, alive, against him.

"Yeah," he responded, "let's get this cut up and head south. I saw a camp smoking up south from here. The bike is pretty tapped out on juice, so we will have to go on foot after a couple miles. Maybe we can trade meat for juice or a ride, looked like they had wags."

"Trade with the Mexies?" She asked, sneeringly, "What if they's Juarez Mexies? They won't be happy to see me, baby"

Hark frowned at her. "No," he said, "the only ones who saw you are bat turds by now. But we are gonna have to play it smart all the same. I gotta plan, let's get this first, darlin'. Come on."
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--
12/11/2014 12:23 PM
___Convoy Circle___

The two big Dina hauler's trailers were tough to get pointed around in the sandy, uneven scrubland. The dust filled washouts along side the broken highway bogged down the Command truck, but it was able to motor through. The double engine super truck was cosmetically trashed, tattered cabin shell remnants still hung on their bolts, armor plating had been ripped off mounting pins, the Motor Chief had to wear his gas mask and a plastic rain suit -dangerously hot given the end of summer sun -because the iguana hide seats were infused with the snatch bat urine.
It would take him twice the time as the other haulers, even with the added weight of busted wags and buggies on them, to tow the load all the way back to Ville Juarez. The other two drivers were sent ahead, Chief Alvarez told them that he would catch up in the evening, even if he had to drive until midnight. Each driver had a cab full of weapons and ammunition, magazines, grenades and water bottles for the first leg of the trip.

Hector and Jen took the Painted Pony out when the predawn glows began. They would have to cut across some uncharted territory, but they were loaded out heavy with as much extra fuel as the Baja scout buggy could store. The Chief had spent his watch fixing up a set of PM-63 RAKs for each of them. The tough little SMG showed that it would take a beating and come back spitting. Hector stuck them in a console satchel between the seats, figuring that they were perfect for close defense and tight spaces.

The bats had been spotted, but they never attacked. The five humans were not a large enough meal, according to Hector, the big colonies were looking for a herd to feed on. He was proved correct a few hours later when the Painted Pony reached a dried up watering hole littered with decapitated cadavers of about two hundred ammonia soaked, crinkle crushed jackalopes.
"Santos, so many. Oh the smell!" Jen said when the wind shifted the stench their way. "Go, Hector, please. Dayum, whew...."
"Oh, yeah," he said as he hit the accelerator, "gag a vulture! Sorry."

It was late afternoon when they came across an even larger herd of the mutant rabbits, Hector and Jen watched in silence as nearly one thousand head of jackalope thundered across the sandy dunes in front of them.
"Magnificent!" Jen gasped and stood up through the gunners hatch t get a full view.
"And nutritious." Hector added.
"I could bag one for lunch, if you want." She said, tapping the shielded RPK light machine gun.
"No, I'm getting paid by the job, not the hour." He told her. "We ate good before we left. They would probably turn on us anyway."
"Yeah," Jen agreed, "you're right. Okay."
Hector laughed and said, "Don't worry, you will have something to kill before long out here."
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--
12/11/2014 8:39 PM
___Fort Geronimo___

Peter Vasquez was on watch when the sun came up. He had spent little time outside of the baronial territories, and this was the first time he had been selected for such an adventurous mission since joining the ville sec force six months before. Despite his youth, he excelled in his basic training class, winning two medals -for marksmanship with the AKM and RPK -and was voted Best Cook by his peers. It was rough, at first, because he was two years younger than the others. He absorbed the squad support skills and combat agility training like a sponge, it became instinct almost overnight.
They practiced with grenades and RPG-7's. They learned map reading and foraging in both natural and urban environments. They had all been tested on basic information about dangerous natural and mutated plants, animals and things between. But nobody ever said a single word about what to do if you were over run by a thousand giant rabbit mutants with saber tipped antlers sticking out of their heads. Not one word.
There were two words that came to his mind that night, 'Stay snapped'. The phrase was like a mantra in training, the thing to do if you didn't know what else to do. It worked for him that awful night.
"Sun up," he yelled,"and all good South!"
Peter looked at the yellow and white dunes from the watch chair, then turned the seat to the right, facing the ruins.
"Sun up," he called again, "and all good North!"

Klash was immediately awake and aware that Dawn Rodriguez had managed to get the cot above his. She was dead to the world, but slept with her harness (two pistols in the shoulder holsters) on. She wore it loose but with lots of odd and end pouches, short tethered D-rings and sharpened hooks in all the right places: the same way that the murderous raiding crews used to in the Milagros days. He knew that was Parker education at it's most terrifying, the man knew all the nastiest tricks. He crept up and touched Peter on the boot, then tugged his pant leg.
"Hop down, Vasquez," he told the young man, "I want to take a turn. You mind doing the breakfast? I got a mini camp stove and enough gas for a good spread in the Rosanna, behind the passenger seat."
"Yes sir." Pete said, happy to get down to terra firma again. "Would you like your rehydrated egg whites with canned chicken breasts or jerked iguana?"

Klash shrugged and said, "I'll go with whatever you and the others decide. Get the others up and tell Parker to break out his spelunkers hat, but give Max a few minutes to warm up."
"With all due respect, my lord," Max said loudly, startling everyone else who was starting to stir from their slumber, "I am not a true reptile. I am quite fine to move and was fully awake before you. I was meditating and praying."
"Bullshit, bro," Klash chuckled and said "I know you all too well. You aren't cold blooded, but you are a lazy bastard in the mornings."

Dawn groaned loudly and turned on her side to face the shelter wall. "Is it really morning already?" She asked.
"Yes, and what made you decide to come inside?" Klash said.
"Ramone was snoring loud enough to wake those dead muties." She told him. He knew that was only part of the truth. He felt the impulses she put off when she looked at him, and he was not opposed to her desires. It was the intensity of her attraction that put him off. His mother had warned that their genetics predisposed them to intense passion, and that he should be very careful about making a strong attachment to a lover before he understood himself better.
"Yeah, my father says that about him too." Klash said as he climbed up to the watch chair. He could see that a single crystal hexagon had sprouted up near the ruined walls. The structure blinked, for a fraction of a second Klash was in contact, an understanding was agreed upon: they could enter, but only with him.
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--
12/13/2014 2:56 PM
Peter found a selection of dried peppers, red and green, as well as other ingredients in the Rosanna. Between the two groups food stores, there was enough to make machaco con huevo for all seven of them. That one communal act, a civilized meal together, eased the general anxiety of Klash's revelations about the crystal beings, and his plan to deal with the 'native' occupant's terms.
They all agreed that the last thing anyone wanted was to alienate a potential ally. Juarez was in a constant threat from bandits and monsters from the north side, and an uninterrupted conga line of ambitious tyrants from the east, all the way to the Texas coast. These creatures were too powerful to anger, the barony too thinly stretched to defend the western frontier. Max reminded them that his own tribe was only able to keep the southern territory from invasion by ancient death cultists and hostile mutants with backing from the Hadron surpluses, and another border to defend would likely cause the abandonment of Ville Juarez to the shifting sands.

"All true," Klash told them, "yes. Now, I'm going to enter after we map the ruin. Ramone is top indie, Max is an Alvarez rep, so they are going in with me. Corona, you and that RPK are going up the nearest wall to cover the northern approach -spike it and snap in, it might take a few. Rodriguez and Vasquez walk a wide patrol. Gomez gets the high chair. Fill up your supply from my water tank, it was charcoal filtered in Bunker Three. Ok, get to it."

The morning sun was coming up slow and cool, they all felt the northern breeze, the western Deathlands were in for a cold winter, and earlier than usual. While Ramone and Max assisted Klash in mapping the ruins afterwards, Gomez sat up in the watch chair, scanning the horizon for trouble. Mike Corona cleaned up the camp stove and mess kits before going over to assist Dawn with sorting through the damage to the comms dish on the Parker Special. Peter Vasquez rested in the elevated canvas shelter, stretched on a fold down cot.

Ramone and Klash stabbed long rigid wires into the ground ahead of them, with Max taking notes on the depth of the soil. There was a single structure, not a set of buildings as Klash had believed he would find. He had a hard time understanding what was buried at first, but it became clear that the structure was half hexagonal and covered an area the size of a football field. When they reached the RPG blasted hole, the smashed and melted rubble yielded a few clues. Hospital beds, computerized medical equipment, heavy walls and doors. Strange, salt sealed skeletal corpses lay in the diffused light of the sun for the first time in over a century. They looked like children and young adults in size, but altered. Some had elongated arms, claw fingers and lumpy tumors. Others had extra limbs, mostly not human. The fact that they were all strapped to the beds told Klash one thing: this place had been a nightmare factory.
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--
12/14/2014 12:59 AM
"My lord, this is no military base. This is a white coat hell hole." Ramone said.
Klash knew that the old scout wasn't going into the crater. Parker vibrated with revulsion as he stepped backwards, pulling his gas mask from the bag. Max read differently, but his eyes were wide with fear.

"I don't think that the entities want to harm us." Klash told them. "I understand that much."
"I trust you," Max said, "I will go. But Parker has a point. He signed on for escort, and the jackalope herd busted his profits below bar."

"Screw the wag and the bar, I was cashing out after this haul anyway." Ramone interrupted. "I served your father, and the baron before. So if you order me in, I will go."

Klash thought for a moment, looking into the thirty foot wide hole. A few charred remains of the stickies lay here and there around the area, but the buzzard hawks and vultures had picked them almost clean, scores of tiny beetles scrounged over what little bits of meat and sinew the carrion birds had left behind. He thought about Parker's wife and kids. Baron Hadron had told his son that making a man choose between loyalty to his lord or loyalty to family was a doorway to being a tyrant, and an invitation for a knife in the back.
"Gentlemen," Klash clapped his hands once and said, "I definitely think that masks are in order. I will only take two volunteers. Let's reassess a few things at the camp first."
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DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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