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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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--
12/14/2014 4:01 AM
The sec man on the elevated watch chair didn't see Hark and Mouse walking in the wrinkles between the dunes. They had used their Paso Park vests and the stolen clothes to wrap up the guns and other supplies looted from the disastrous attempted raid turned massacre. Mouse carried two tied canvas sacks over her left shoulder, one held the bedrolls and the goods from the deserted ranch bunker, the other was counterbalanced with large cuts of roasted jackalope meat.
Hark knew how to clean and quarter an animal for trade, and how to dress the part of a scav hunter. Two of the flour sacks had been cut up into strips and laced through strategic slices in their clothes. He stuck tumbleweed twigs and sage into some strips, explaining to Mouse how walk, the body language to project and how they were going to blend in with the Juarez scout team.

"You remember," Hark warned her, "you don't know about Juarez. We come down from the Rockies game hunting and scavin'. We got cut off by a chem storm front, lost our way. We been running for a couple weeks trying to get ahead of black rains. Remember the game about if a mutie type is real or myth? Them scouts, they are going to want to trade turns, keep it real. You soaking all this, darlin'?"

Mouse groaned and nodded as she struggled with the sand. Hark had made her a set of sandals out of pieces of the rear bike tire, cutting up the rest of the tires to make shin and shoulder guards for them both, tied with leather seat cover thongs and rubber engine tubing. He carried the battery in a sack tied across his chest.
When they reached the closest dune that still gave decent cover, Hark sat down the battery sack and drew his .45 from his belt holster. The original finish had been protected very well by previous owners, but the grips were replaced a decade or two before Hark picked it off Ol' Jim. His first act as Prez was to hunt down the scalies, make sure that it was the last meal they ever took.
When Mouse dropped her burden, she flopped down into the soft sandy dune side next to Hark, the twigs snapped and clicked.
"Oh shit!" She said.
"That's good. Looks like you have been in it longer. Wait here, follow my lead" Hark told her, then knelt down and snapped a couple of dried up sticks on his jeans.

Mouse took a small sip from a water bottle and pulled a small piece of cooked meat off. Her sandals fit too well, she didn't like them, but it made her look more the part. Harker Danby didn't have to pretend, he had lived this, and it showed when he scrambled up the dune like a lizard, on his belly. He even pushed himself partly under the fine sand at the crest. After a few painfully quiet minutes observing the camp, he waved for her to come up beside him.

"Stay low," he instructed, "take a deep breath, blow it out your nose as your push your head like a shovel. You want to get it on level when you look forward, ya hear?"

"I get it, baby, so I won't stick out like a three titted gaudy." She replied, then pushed the dusty sand with her head.


Three of the Ville Juarez men headed back to the camp, they were soon joined by three more men and a tall woman. Some kind of discussion went on, then the female and the older male stepped away to argue.
"Love spat?" Mouse asked.
"No, that is either business or family matters." Hark told her. "And I think the big one is a mutie of some kind. Dark Day, they sure keep some company. Look at that, he's even got those oddball Russian hand blasters. Givin' a mutie guns... I never seen the likes. Must be near normal brained."
"Triple smart for a mutie, baby, we best watch him." Mouse whispered.

After a few more seconds of observing, Hark reasoned out the group was heavily loaded up for only two small wags.
"They usually ride in two man teams." He said. "This place must be important to send a full squad like this. And look at the kid in charge, he is no more'n twenty one. Must be hell of a chiller with that sniper scope. The other has a heavy gun. We do NOT do anything aggressive."

"Hell no, baby. I got eyes."

"That crazy wag with the red sparkle nose has a mean crew, some of the boys run in with them, said they fight like dirty coldhearts. We definitely don't want that kinda hurt, they hooked and drug one of the new guys from Dewey's Rock last year. The woman, I believe that was the one."

"Maybe we can get her to swing over to play, baby. You like that, ya think?" Mouse asked and teased his leg with her foot.

"Darlin', you are all I want, ever. Don't forget that." He reached his hand over to grasp hers.

The group seemed to have worked out whatever difference was there before and were nodding in agreement. It was time, Hark figured.
Hark pulled out the small circular bike mirror from a belt pouch and started flicking it up and down to signal friendly intent, four times fast and and a long flash, an old scavenger code, hoping that the scouts would recognize the rhythm and return it.
The older man did. He signaled two long flashes, it was the old code shorthand for 'stay there'.

"What's goin' on, Hark?"

"They didn't expect guest. They are talkin' about whether to offer us a drink or blow our heads off."

"Shit, these Mexies are pretty soft from what I saw."

"Don't expect this group to be."

The camp signaled the welcome reply. Hark stood up and waved.
"Don't be over friendly, 'member the game. Mind your words and movements." He reminded her yet again. "Let's go make a trade."
Mouse stood up and walked with Hark toward the two men in sec uniforms sent to meet them half way.
The older of the two was in his mid twenties, but the other could not have been a day past seventeen. Both carried black finished AKM assault rifles and had automatic pistols on their web belts.

When they got within twenty five yards, the older one held up his hand.
"You folk want some 'lope?" Hark asked and grinned ear to ear. "We got a whole one quartered up and cooked fresh today. No stink meats, my friends, good chopped fresh this mornin'."

The younger man watched Mouse carefully, he was not letting his poker face drop.
"That is up to my superior." The lead sec man said.

"Well alright, then take me to your leader, sir." Hark told him, hands held above his shoulders. Mouse held the same pose as they allowed the sec men to escort them into the camp site.
Randarchist
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--
12/14/2014 9:46 AM
"You walk, I'll run
and follow right behind you.
You call, I'll come
and I won't remember where I come from.
Over there, at the end of the bar
This fish keeps swimming in a jar
I feel a tug on the line
Which end will I be on this time?"
-Stan Ridgway, Don't Box Me In
Randarchist
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--
12/14/2014 12:19 PM
The northern wind whistled through the twisted rebar and remnant walls as Klash led them back from the ruins. The window for exploration was shrinking because of the early storm season. Mexico didn't blow up the world, it didn't get nuked to ash; but every winter, it got a cold blast of toxic rain and radiation from the Deathlands. Klash thought about the images that the collective memory of the crystal beings had shared now: they had been merged into a group mind by the mutagen agent, each one a repository of the others feelings of guilt and hopes. They were overdubbed recordings of the scientists, administrators and military personnel, as individuals, but not bound to a single form. They had guarded the site for one hundred years, driving off every thing that came onto the salt flats, man and mutant and beast. It was a pact they had made, a psychic bonding of collective will, to save something of all that they were.

Klash thought about the lab at the bottom, was the child alive in that tank or had her life support burned out long ago? Something on the breeze caught his attention -two electrochemical jumbles of noise, on foot, circling around the open flat -while he crossed the dry salt encrusted ground towards the camp. If the crystalized sentinels were guiding them away, it was smart to let them do their thing, he concluded.

Klash called the group to the front of the shelter, but told Gomez to keep watch. He spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, informing them that the site was a bioscience lab and that he would only take volunteers into the buried structure.
"Parker, you two are relieved." Klash added.

Dawn looked at Ramone and pointed her finger at him, not able to express her anger yet.
"Dawn," Ramone explained, "we still meet contract, no losses. Once Alvarez arrives, Lord Hadron will have him write a voucher for the contract."

"I'll go in." Dawn said, lowering her hand. She was not going to miss out on the big score.

"No, you don't have to. I am going to retire off the cement plant we staked anyway." He said, gesturing for her to step aside. She walked a few steps away with him.

"You can stay topside, Ramone, I don't blame you. But I can score big if any electronics or computers are preserved. If Klash is right, there may be a sealed lab down that hole, man! Biotech shit is like, is like THE big ticket salvage."

"I know." He said.

"And it's not just about the pay, asshole," she leaned in and said, "not at all. I want to know why we had to come out here, what those things are guarding. And.... Um...."

"And you got a dog in the fight, I know." Ramone conceded with a smile.

She squinted her left eye angrily, leaned over to his ear and whispered, "I am not letting him go with one of those stupes. I have to do this. Like the same reason you can't do it."

"I know, but full chem gear, no taking chances, okay?"

"What kind of a stupid assed question is that?" she asked, then said, "Of course I will take chances. That's how you get what you want in this world, Ramone."
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--
12/16/2014 10:28 AM

The currents carried back the discordant scent of two human nervous systems to Klash's senses, twitching neurons related the biochemical tells of caution, anxiety. The strangers were as jumbled a mess as every other human being, but he detected no overt intent of violence. While Ramone and Dawn hashed out their difference, the two newcomers had held position, watching.

Klash could tell the male was the more focused of the two, the most calm. He was the calculating type, Klash decided. The female was more scattered, a birds nest of impulses and raw instincts. To his antenna like hairs, she smelled like fire -adrenaline pumped in her veins, aggressive and hot.
The two were bonded, he felt the lust/love chemistry underneath the confused layers. More than that, Klash smelled that they were running from something, fear drove them to approach the camp, they may be seeking help.

When the two independent scouts rejoined the group, Klash called Gomez down.
"We got company," Klash said, "but don't let on we know. They are frightened, only two of them out here alone."

Max leaned on his spear and asked, "They norms?"

"Yes, as norm as any Deathlander can be." Klash answered, then remembered that Parker was originally from the North. "No offense to Ramone."

"None taken, my lord." Ramone smiled. He had been with the Mexican community so long that neither he or anyone else considered him an outsider, he had served almost as long as Pico as a raider and scout for the barony.

Dawn folded her arms, close to her shoulder holsters, then asked, "So what are they waiting for, fucking written invites?"

"No," Klash told her, "they are probably scared of us... wait, the male is ready to talk."

Gomez and Ramone spotted the signal mirror flashing. The middle aged scout recognized the message.
"That's old scavenger code, free traders use it still too." Ramone announced and pulled an ancient compact mirror from his front shirt pocket. "Want me to answer? Tell him to come in?"

"Tell them to wait there." Klash told him.

Ramone sent two long flashes at the dune top where the scavengers were laying.

"Vasquez, Gomez, you two go out and see what they want. If they want trade, we will see what they got; but this site is claimed." Klash ordered. "Ramone, tell them to come out, let's talk."

Ramone flipped the mirror up and down, the man on the dune stood up and waved before he and the young woman with him started walking towards the camp.
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--
12/16/2014 3:15 PM
As the two scavengers met the sec men, Klash tried to read their impulses. The male disclosed in subtle ways the professional attitude of a trading scout, the right mix of curiosity and caution. From his electrochemical presence, Klash could sense that he had his head together, but very much aware that he was in over his head. His female companion was the obvious less experienced subordinate, jumpy, on edge -understandable given the territory they were in.

Peter was nervous, though he managed to disguise it from the normal senses. Gomez handled it like a true soldier, his nerves were like tightened cables of steel, but relaxed, confident. As the scaving traders raised hands and walked into the camp site, Klash could detect an underlying fear in both of them. They both wore restructured prewar denim jeans, cut and tied with canvas strips, outfitted with natural plants to give them better camouflage for the desert scrubland. The man sported a worn cowboy hat, western boots and a denim shirt that had been patched and repatched several times. The female wore a simple button down shirt, tied at the waist, and sandals cut from an old tire. Both had tire slice guards on their shins and lower arms. They must have recently stripped their vehicle for the armor, pro scavies typically wasted nothing if they could avoid it.

"These are some downtrodden looking bastards." Dawn said.

"Be nice, girl. There but for the grace of god, ya know?" Ramone scolded her and pinched her arm lightly.
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--
12/17/2014 12:53 PM
"How do, strangers." The man in the old cowboy boots and hat said. He wore an old, but well kept, Model 1911 .45 pistol on his belt.

"How do." Klash greeted him. "You are a long way from the Deathlands for people on foot. Mind us asking who you are and how you got all the way here?"
The strangers were nervous, not unusual, a lot of people in Mexico blamed Americans for the war.

"Don't mind at all, sir. I'm Hark Danby, from Dewey's Rock. This is my wife, Mouse." He said. "We come down from the Rockies to hunt game with our group. Then that blasted wind and chem storms started up and cut us off, chilled most our crew. Mouse 'n me, we got lucky, hid from black rains in a wag wreck. Rest of 'em wasn't lucky, all melted fat 'n bone by the time it passed. Saw more storms blowin' down, so we started runnin'...... jus' been runnin' since. No idear where we are, to be truthful."

"Sorry to hear about your troubles, Mister Danby." Ramone said. "I been up to Dewey's, but that was twenty five years ago. Nice little ville then."

"Look, we got little time, so I won't waste yours." Hark told them. "I hate to admit, but we're in a desperate need to trade for a way out of here. We got jackalope to offer, and we ain't 'fraid of hard work to pay it back. Y'all scavin' and huntin' too?"

Hark could tell his question caused some discomfort. Mouse grabbed and squeezed his hand.

"Baby," Mouse said sweetly, "none our business. Sorry, y'all, we don't got 'tentions on takin' a claim. We're just tired, scared, want to be safe, ya' know?"

"Oh, we understand," Ramone said, "sure. But this ain't a claim any sane body would want part of, trust me. It is white coat evil shit and.."

"That's enough, Parker." Klash interrupted. The tension between them manifested as an eye on eye silence.

"Yeah, Ramone," Dawn added, "you are not in charge here."

Klash shot her a look that stopped the two indie scouts from carrying the conversation to a bad spot. He then asked Dawn and Max to join him in the elevated canvas shelter.


After several minutes, they emerged with an offer: the two lost newcomers would have a ride back to civilization if they would help with security.
"We lost some folks too," Klash told them, "sec men; but if you want to help, we can get you to our ville, after the rest of our people get here in a few days with our convoy haulers. My father is a fairly well resourced man. If I get this pulled off with your help, he will get you close enough and provide some weapons from the family armory. It will give you both a chance. We got a deal?"

Hark looked at Mouse, who smiled and nodded. "Okay, Mister Klash, you got us for the ride. Any chance is better than no chance, I say." He said, then spit his palm to seal the deal with a handshake.
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--
12/19/2014 1:47 PM
The sun was at high point over head when Klash and Max lowered Dawn into the crater hole, the natural light was optimized, casting a feinted glow to the four corners of the medical ward. As her feet hit the floor, she drew the twin 9mm Makarov pistols from her shoulder holsters, pointing them to either side as she quickly scanned the room for threats.
She saw the nurses, four of them, flash preserved mummies. Like the other bodies, they resembled insects in amber, but coated with salts and silicates.
One of the white dressed women had a red and white key ring in her hand with a large magnetic strip card attached. She looked like she had been caught up in whatever happened here midway through swiping the security box for the large steel doors in front of her.
Nothing moved, not even the particles of silicon dust in the air. The masks were definitely needed, she thought, and maybe Ramone had a point after all.

"By the four Donnas, this is some freaky perverse shit." Dawn called up from beneath her gas mask, earning a dual shushing from above. She looked around the room again and shrugged. "There's nothing alive down here, guys, but everybody should be masked for this."


Topside, Harker Danby and Ramone Parker patrolled the northern end of the ruin while Mouse and Peter Vasquez walked the perimeter lines on the east and west sides. Mike had climbed up to a corner floor remnant on a tall ruined wall section, giving him a full coverage crows nest above the pit. Gomez was sitting on the hood of the Rosanna buggy, guardian of the camp.
Juan Gomez didn't give much thought to the vulture that circled over the ruin, it was not a mutant, just another scavenger waiting for somebody else to do the dirty work. He watched the bird land on a high jutting I-beam, gracefully for such a large bird. He watched the bird for only a moment, then turned his attention to the colored flare rockets he was putting together. Turned out Pico, the missing mentor to the baronial heir, was also a first class fireworks tech. Gomez felt like a kid at the carnival. Down south in the Durango rancheros, he grew up mixing bowl after bowl of colored powdered dyes in Rancho Alvarez before the holidays and festivals. The charges were prewrapped in color coded paper, he only need mix the pigments and stuff them into thin tubewood sleeves.
"First class, my lord." He said out loud, pleased with how fast the assemblage went. He was just about to stick a cork board nose cone on the flare when he felt a drop of moisture on his neck.
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--
12/19/2014 4:04 PM
Ramone pulled the soft plastic stopper from his canteen. Hark saw the gleaming, like new sheen of the PVC water container, jaw dropped in shock.
Ramone Parker had seen the expression on his face before, it was the scavie stare: the look every scavenger had when he found a prewar good in mint condition.
"It's new." Parker said to the newcomer, then held it out to him. "Here, take a look. Have a drink, it's pure water, zero rad."
Hark took a long swig of the water, then put the stopper back in. A tear slid down his cheek. He had not tasted anything so clean in the years since getting mixed up with the Paso Park gang.
"I forgot what clean was." Hark found himself blurting out.

Ramone put his hand up when Hark tried to hand it back. "Keep it. I have a couple to spare. All new. Everything we are packing is factory new, even the ammo. Our baron isn't a tin pot Deathlands butcher, though he's a hard man as they get, and we are manufacturing in our ville. We have allies going all down through the upper core of Old Mex. Pure water, untainted food crops, even some of the convenient items from 'fore the world went to shocking hell in a blast. We fought tooth and nail to try and build something pure, and we aim to keep building."

Hark nodded.

"Hold on to the pure things in life, Mister Danby, and accept them with grace as they present themselves." Ramone Parker smiled when he spoke those words, but there was a warning tone to his voice.

"Wiser words, sir, and I appreciate your warning earlier." Hark said. "And please, sorry if I was a bit too eager earlier. We been runnin' on fumes for days. I just wanted to get her safe."

"I'm a husband and father too, I know that feeling." Ramone told him. "I also know that Dewey's Rock don't usually send out that far for meat. Plenty of game up in the hills and mountains."

Hark almost thought about going for his Model 1911, but he was aware of what it would bring down on him and Mouse. He had always been fast enough to get by on quick wit alone when the need arose, today was not going to be an exception.
"It was more'n that," Hark said, "we were merc scouting for a mystery man. He had my chief under threat, used his daughter, my Mouse there. Said we all do it or she and our ville would pay the price. I never knew what the point was, who and what the man pulling the strings was. Not until her papa was killed. He sent us out, said go to the ruin or else. I don't know why. Please, You gotta believe, I just wanted to keep her safe."

Ramone Parker stood with his hand out. "That's what I hoped you'd say. Now, hand over that blaster and we are gonna work this out to your favor."

Hark thought before he acted.
"Why you want to help me? You don't know what I done to get here."

"And you don't know what we have to get here. Hand it over and you might even get back to Paso Park."

"How did you guess?" Hark asked, slowly pulling out the .45 with his finger tips pinching the handle.

"I was with the raiding party that hit Dewey's Rock twenty five years back. We took the children and traded them as slaves for iron ore from an old mine they had in their territory. We had a different baron back then. She is young enough to be a Dewey kid, but you are not. You would have been killed by our raiding crews if your parents were caught holding out. After the first family was taught the lesson, every one of the others got in line real quick."

"Rad fire..." Hark said.

"Some of us got a second life when the new baron took power. Some men couldn't turn back after the things we had to do, Mister Danby. You have a chance, so does she -if you want it."

"I'll need to talk to her. Can we wait for that? Soon as they come up and we can explain it all, I give my word."

"Your word," Ramone said, "ain't good jack. I'm gonna need more'n that to get you slack. There was a smashed signal relay west of here, footprints from it disappear into the air."

The pale look on Hark's face answered before another word was said.
"It wasn't us." The outed biker told him.

Ramone pulled the slide bolt of his AKM back and said, "You don't get a third chance to get out of this alive, son. Those idealistic kids may settle for your half truths, they won't torture a man; but I don't have a problem making men wish they were dead when it comes to my family. Ville Juarez is my family. And I don't mind leaving you or that girl tied up in a bow of your own intestines for that mystery man either."

Hark looked around nervously. "Okay. We call him the Freak. He comes and goes like a ghost, but he is part 'borg, he has been forcing us to raid on your scouts for years. Every time y'all tried to push north, he put a stop to it. Ol' Jim, our Prez, he said we had to keep pushing your scouts to go west. Not north, not east. After a while, the more of us died, the more the gang wanted revenge for the ones we lost. The Freak set us up to die, he wanted y'all here, I figure, no idea why... Shit!"

A single black drop of sooty water struck his hand like a bullet. The acidic chemistry of the drop stung his skin. They both looked up, no clouds were visible but the sky was hazy and the sun was the color of bone.

"Vapor, it's been blown up so fine and thin it couldn't make clouds. Cold air from the Devil is contesting it," Ramone Parker explained, "it should be ok for a while. Keep talking!" 


"No. He knows now! He is going to chill us all... Mouse... Oh no. We better run."

Another drop fell nearby and sizzled when it hit the salty crust under foot. The haze grew more thick. As Hark jerked his head skyward, a lone vulture flew over his head. There was a cold red dot in the carrion feeder's eye as it swooped by, a dim light that Hark had seen before. The damned thing was a Freak tool, he thought.
"The vulture!" Hark yelled out. Before his better judgment could stop him, Hark leaped the distance between himself and Ramone, just as the scout was looking up. His hand struck out and snatched the .45 with lightning speed. His shoulder hit Ramone in the sternum, knocking him back.
Before Ramone could react to the rush attack, Hark Danby was tracking the large bird with the pistol.
"The hell, Danby?" Ramone said, raising the AKM to his shoulder.

Hark squeezed off a single round, which struck the vulture at the shoulder joint of its left wing. The ugly avian dropped like a stone, Hark charging after to finish the job. "It's got his eyes! Come on!" He yelled behind him.
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--
12/20/2014 12:43 PM
It took a little effort for Max and Klash to pry the salt corroded door open with their crowbars, the steel scraped loudly as the hinges turned.
Dawn reached up and flipped the L shaped flashlight clipped to her harness on.
"Go." Klash pointed to the left.
Dawn crossed the hall with her guns out front and pressed against the wall, Max following after with an AKM slung over his shoulder, then Klash stepped out to cover the rear with his Makarov -the SVD across his back.
Dawn side walked along the row of closed doors on the right side, Max on the left, peeking through the coated windows for threats.
The mutant was surprisingly graceful, silent, Klash noted, like a predator stalking a herd. His muscles tensed and shifted under his thick hide with each step. He stopped at a large broken plate glass door and waved his hand for Klash to look. Dawn Rodriguez covered them from the opposite wall.

The office space was as large as a basketball court. Steps led down from the shattered door to rows of desks covered with computer screens and keyboards. A millimeter of dust had settled on every surface, long undisturbed by the presence of any living thing, not even cockroaches.
"Shock me." Dawn said, muted by the gas mask on her face.

"Over there." Klash directed their attention to a set of elevator doors across the room. "We found the way down, move it."

The dirty blue commercial carpet clicked and puffed with their steps, leaving slight footprints behind the explorers. The wooden desks and dry rotted chairs stood silently as they wound their way through the small maze of work spaces. The ceiling tiles looked like a breeze could disintegrate them, yellowed by decay, only held up by the spectral layer of grime that coated everything in the space.

The metal doors were easy to jimmy open, Max and Klash shoved them to the side without much effort. The mechanisms for the elevator, pulleys and cables, hanging in front of them were coated with a clear chrysalis of melted silicates; but they had been preserved very well. Max grabbed a tight cable and gave it a hard yank.
Trickling fractures spider webbed up and down the baked on layer of sand, then the protective shell shattered and fell down the shaft, tinging quietly as the ripples traveled down the line of steel.
"Smooth, Gila boy." Dawn sniped at the big mutant as he looked at the flakes descending like snow.
"Give it another hard yank," Klash told him, "see if it can take weight still."

"Good idea." Max replied, and then gave the cable a hard tug. It held.

"Tighten that harness, Rodriguez," Klash advised the young woman, "it's a long way down if you slip out. We are going all the way to the bottom, that's where the answers are."

"Yeah, no shit." Dawn agreed. As she looked over the edge into the shaft below, there didn't seem to be a bottom. There was only darkness framed with ancient concrete and steel.
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--
12/20/2014 3:14 PM
Max was starting to hate the gas mask already. Sweat was gathering in the edges of the goggle section, stinging his eyes. Though the mask had been restructured for the broad Gila mutant features, his nose was too long for the bridge support, causing the field of vision to be slanted upward and he was having to lean his neck slightly to compensate. The end result was that the sweat from his brow slowly streamed into his eyes. It was too dark, even with the three flashlights' illumination, for him to close his protective secondary lids to cover his eyes.
Dawn and Klash fared much better, they both wore custom fit masks- Dawn had a restored goggle style, prewar relic; Klash had a new full face clear shield attached to a belt filtering box. After ten floors of repelling down the elevator shaft, they were finally able to see the top of the elevator roof. It was definitely old world state of the art, security clamps on the maintenance hatch, digital camera at the corner. Max realized that while this place had not been a 'fort' in the conventional sense, it was absolutely some kind of military facility. There were mummified soldiers in the office space where they had entered the shaft, Mexican military police by the look of their uniforms. And now the heavy duty security system for the elevator showed all the signs of a very expensive budget. Whatever they did here, they had a long credit line to do it with.

"Hey," Dawn said just audibly, "you want me to test it out for weight?"

Klash locked his gaze on the doors beside him. "Wait, but yes. Max, see if that set of doors opens up. I don't want anyone taking a fast trip to the basement levels."

The long bodied mutant unhitched his combat harness from the elevator cable and swung on the anchor tether, clipped to a steel support beam four stories above them, to the narrow ledge next to the exit. He had his crowbar on a D-ring hanging from his heavy uniform pants.
The doors popped, then squeaked loudly as Max pushed it open.

"More white coats and sec men... All cocooned in that weird glossy crusty stuff." Max reported.

"Everyone in," Klash ordered, "look for something to tie or clamp the next anchor line to."

Max unhooked the tether then proceeded, drawing his 9 mm Makarov. Klash swung to the door and put a hand down to help Dawn up. She was heavier than she looked, slender and solid, but swung herself up with her own strength easily. Klash could see her figure better, now that her t-shirt was clinging to her because of perspiration, and she caught him admiring.
"Thank you. Enjoying the view?" She asked him, putting her hands on her hips.
"Right, sorry." He spoke, feeling a swell of heat beneath the mask as he blushed. "Let's get focused."
"Soon as you get out of the door." She said.
Klash saw her eyebrow lift and then stepped back out her way.
"Check your filter, my lord." Dawn told him as she stepped by. "You look a little red."
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--
12/21/2014 9:36 AM
Max stood in front of the mummified child, arms and shoulders slumped. He could see the features, the small fingers, the wide eyes. It was like a photograph, a final moment of frozen fear. The clear layer of silica and salt glass over the boy was thin, like a smooth enamel finish. The hospital gown was blue, pigments unfaded by time, with a pocket on the chest. A small toy, a military themed action figure, was riding the pocket in front of a set of plastic cards on a lanyard made of white synthetic blend cord. The four and a half inch tall figure had a yellow reptilian face, wore a black and orange camouflage painted vest with a red cobra emblazoned on the chest.
The blue plastic card behind the toy soldier was an identification tag. There was a thin black magnetic strip across the top over four bold type letters: MRSG.

He reached out a long finger and plucked up the cord. The thin glaze over the lanyard disintegrated as he lifted it over the boy's head, but Max was able to get it clear without damaging the mummy. He flipped through the card set, six in total, looking for a patient name; but there were only alphanumeric characters next to color glyphs and bar codes.

The toy hung out over the perch until Max tried to put the card in place. The cloth had slacked without the rigid card stack to keep it in place, and dropped the plastic toy out. The hard plastic clicked on the floor tiles. Max knelt and picked up the dislodged soldier to examine it. The snake skinned toy trooper wore combat boots and blue cargo pants with molded pockets and crossed straps with painted representations of knives, grenades and a pistol. Max stared, mind wandering for a few moments before he heard Dawn Rodriguez step into the room behind him.

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--
1/4/2015 3:13 PM
"Hey," Dawn Rodriguez whispered "Max, you jacking it to mummy kid's toys? That's fucked, bro."

Max was transfixed by the action figure in his long mutant fingers, answering the foul mouthed scout was unimportant. He had seen old prewar toys before, but never one that bore so much resemblance to himself.

"Dude," Dawn said louder "a fucking little respect to answer wouldn't kill you,you know?"

"Snap it closed, Dawn." Klash said as he pushed her aside and approached the long bodied Gila mutant slowly. "Max? You ok there?"

"Sure, yeah.... I'm just a bit surprised. It looks like me." Max replied, holding the toy up by the boots.

"No fucking way," Dawn blurted out "it's totally your ancestor."

Max was starting to feel self conscious about his reaction to the toy now. He couldn't help but wonder if some ancient toy maker had prophetic visions of the coming storm, or dreams of the future, or maybe it was coincidence and he was over thinking things again. Why would a child have such a toy in this place?

"That was probably his last Xmas gift before the bomb, Max." Klash speculated, it was almost as if he could read what the mutant was feeling, "But I see the resemblance too. I bet the kid would think you were cool."

"Shit. I bet the kid would wet his pants if he saw you, Maxie." Dawn laughed and bent over to look at the mummified boy. "Poor kid. At least he didn't know what hit him."

Klash put his hand on the mutant's shoulder. "Take it. He'd want you to have it."

"No," the mutant shook his head, "she's right. He would be terrified of me, like most human children when they see us for the first time."

Max put the toy back in place and turned for the door. His long legs carried him out of the door in half as many steps as it took the others. Klash followed him into the hall next, then Dawn grabbed the toy and stuffed it into a snap closed pocket on her harness belt.
The hallway was marked with exit signs pointing away from the elevators. Klash recognized the passage from the vision -the left corridor at the end led to the place where the staff had crowded together in the last moments, where the white coated scientist unleashed the silver cylinder.

"This was originally the ground floor." Klash informed them. "We're almost there. Tie off the lines on the fire hose pipes, they will hold our weight well enough."

Max and Dawn tied C clamps to the last set of ropes and looped them around the red fire control pipes. The sagging ceiling tiles crackled and dropped dusty salts when Max yanked hard to test the strength of the pipes.

"It'll hold, my lord." The mutant announced.

"Better hold." Dawn remarked before snapping her harness to the lines and beginning her descent to the elevator car.
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--
1/4/2015 8:02 PM
___The Harpy, Main Bridge Deck___

Doctor Lisa Hammond was writing the last paragraph of her report on the Ville Juarez defenses when the cyborg entered the bridge area. Her detailed description of the central bunker complex was total, the El Dorado scientists would find no surprises when the attack came. The Juarez walls were thick, meant to repel the worst of the Deathlands' raiders and baronial sec forces; but they afforded zero protection from the airship bombers of the Catatumbo enclave. She finished her report by click-dragging the memory drawn map of the bunker ventilation system and the secret tunnels that Baron Hadron's engineers built to hold civilians and supplies in the unlikely event of a prolonged siege.

"Are you ready to send the data, Doctor?" The hollow voiced machine-man asked.

"Oh, indeed." She answered back, almost giddy with excitement. "Will I be able to watch? May I?"

The cyborg chuckled at her enthusiasm. "My dear lady, your hatred is almost as inspirational as your research on mutant biology. I am sure that we can arrange for you to get live feed, if you wish."

"If I had my wish, I would be there to witness their expressions in person." She said, smiling widely, wickedly.

"In all likelihood, they won't know what hit them until too late." He told her. "They will be kept under sedation all the way to the body banks.... Then their individual identities will be erased by the conversion process."

"What about Hadron and his witch?" She asked.

"He will be converted into a service drone eventually, given his age. His wife, however, will be taken for dissection after were core the marrow from her bones. That will be excruciatingly painful." The cyborg said.

"Good. I want to be there for that, if at all possible. When will the attack happen?"

The cyborg looked at the row of monitors and swept his finger sideways to the countdown application on the desktop icon, pinched his fingers then pointed to the main video monitor. "Tonight, after sundown."
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--
1/5/2015 9:07 PM
___The Painted Pony, BFE___

Jen Gutierrez rode the bumps in the road all day in the Pony's navigator seat. Hector was not surprised at how little she seemed to be bothered by the cramped quarters of the hide covered Baja Bug, she was a turret gunner by profession and the old customized VW had comparably more leg room than the glass covered birdcages that guarded the Sanchez gateway. But after a sun up to sundown trek over the Eastern Sonora wasteland scrubs, even a seasoned scout like Hector started to get a little stir crazy.
"Hey, Jen," He asked, "want to set camp before we lose light?"

She looked at the dark green sunset through the western horizon. Nothing but broken earth, cacti and tumbleweeds filled her view. Nothing in the way of human occupation was visible.
"We may as well." She told him. "Skirting around those big 'lope herds this afternoon put us miles off course anyway. Yeah, let's call it a day."

"Alright then.... We got maybe forty minutes of decent daylight left. Keep an eye for a big rock or maybe a depression." He told her, "I'd feel better if we could have a fire without being too conspicuous about it."

"Yeah."

Another ten minutes of driving was all it took before Jen spotted a half ruined adobe wall sticking up out of hard broken ground.

"Over there," Jen pointed off just northwest. "That looks like our best bet."

The crumbled structure offered three partial walls and plenty of dry brush for a small camp fire. The crack in the wall resembled lightning, streaking across the ancient brown clay in long jagged forks. Desert sands had long since wind blasted any paint pigment that may have colored the ruined walls. If there was ever a place that fit the title 'Ass end of
nowhere' more, neither Jen or Hector Munoz had any recollection of.

"So," Hector said after spraying the area with Alvarez bug repellent, "I figure that we can catch up to Parker and the sec team by mid day if we are up by four. It looks like there is pretty flat territory from here on out."

Jen smiled and nodded, then rolled out a large plastic tarp in the corner over the bug proofed area. She couldn't remember the last time she had been so tired from just sitting, but the rough terrain had taken a lot more out of both of them than she had expected. Hector, however, knew the trials of open scouting and what a toll that many hours of bouncing over rocky desert ground took -and his own personal limits as well. He could have driven all night, but saw no point in risking the Pony puncturing a tire or driving over a drop off in the dark.
Another night would not change the fact that this expedition had turned out to be a major blunder for the barony, one that left Juarez far worse for the effort. The more he thought about it, the more he dreaded the duty of informing Klash Hadron the price of his discovery; though he would, by far, rather have to tell the younger Hadron than his father of this most ill-fated venture, to be sure. No, the young indie scout had absolutely no envy of the Motor Chief when it came to being the bearer of bad news.
It was a triple fucked deal all the way around.
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--
1/5/2015 10:43 PM
___Fort Geronimo, topside___

Mouse heard the shot from the ruins' northern end and broke immediately into a full run. She didn't think about the safest route through the rubble, and it never entered her mind that the ground could swallow her in an instant as she leaped over the two foot high wall section; but down she went all the same.
"Fuckin' shit!" She screamed as she sank to her arms in the loose sand. She couldn't feel a bottom, but there was thick dust enveloping her legs from all sides. It would pull her down and suffocate her in minutes if she went under, and there was nothing close enough to get a grip on, nothing to pull herself out of the death trap she hopped into this time, she knew that.

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--
1/6/2015 6:59 PM
Peter Vasquez was the first one to reach Ramone Parker and the newcomer, Danby. He almost dropped the AKM when he tripped up in the loose sand, but recovered in two fumbling steps. Hark was running, with Ramone close behind, toward a black flapping mess of squawking feathers a few yards away. When the scavenger got to within a few feet he took aim and yelled some words in English that Peter was unfamiliar with -the priest who taught him the basics of the tongue had deliberately left out the swear words, and his contact with native speakers was limited since his arrival in Ville Juarez.
Ramone Parker sided up next to Danby, and after a brief exchange both men took aim, then both men started emptying rounds into what appeared to be the large vulture that had been hanging out since the fight with the stickies. Blood and cartilage exploded across the cracked salt crusted earth.

"Hey! Guys?" Peter yelled as he unslung the assault weapon from his shoulder, "Um.... Why are you blasting out vultures guts on the salt when we have a full spice rack at camp?"

"It's complicated, kid." Ramone said. "But it seems our new friend is going to be telling us one hell of a camp story tonight."

"C'mon, we can jack off at the mouth when we are clear of the black rain comin'!" Hark spit out as he took off around the right side of the ruined structure. The dirty cowboy hat blew off as he passed them.

"Black rain?!?" Peter's voice cracked with fear of the words.

Before Ramone could say anything to clear up the teenagers confusion, two large drops of acid rain hit the ground and sizzled on the hard ground nearby. That was more than enough to convince Peter that it was time to high foot for shelter.
"Run! Go to Corona, tell him to get shelter fast!" Ramone called back as he set out after Danby.
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--
1/6/2015 8:35 PM
Mouse screamed for help, but the second wave of shots rang out.
"Shit, shit, shit..."
She realized that screaming and thrashing was only serving to weaken her position. The dust filled hole sucked her in another inch thanks to the cavitations created by her kicking.
"Okay, it's like quicksand..." She told herself. "...arms only, point toes.... Arms only."

There was a storm of fear building in her chest. Mouse felt her pulse pounding, her heart racing from the horrible prospect that no matter what she did, the ground was going to swallow her whole and Hark would never find her. She had not been so close to death before, her father had kept her safe growing up, by Deathlands standards anyway. Hark, too, never allowed her to take on unnecessary risks. She was aware before that others took risks, even died for her to live the life of relative comfort as the only daughter of the Paso Park gang's Prez; but the consequential reality of death was only now a real thing to her.

Fear, terror, mortality were actualized for her in these few moments at long last. Is this, she wondered, what all those people who had sacrificed on her father's orders experienced? She had never considered it, but the suffering of others had paid for her pampered existence for the last seventeen years. It was the strangest irony, and a painful one to boot, that it was in this moment that she gained a little insight on her own character and understood how narrow her view of life had been.

"God, no, not this...." She prayed, streaks of tears lining down from the corners of her eyes. "Please, I get it now.... I am sorry, so sorry."
It shocked her to find herself pleading for her life to the sky.
She was going to die, alone, with the only man who she had the slightest amount of what she understood as respect for yards away and unaware of it.

The deep exhale at the despairing thought created enough slack in the dust to pull her down another quarter of an inch. The particles were puffing up from her breath now, collecting on her lips as fast as she tried to spit them out.
Mouse stiffened her arms and tried to push up, but couldn't gain any leverage. As the dust shifted again beneath her, a drop of moisture struck her arm. It burned like a match head on her skin.
Black rain, the curse of the chemical demon that was unleashed in the final world war, she knew that it was going to strip her to the bone if the sink hole didn't get her first.
She wanted to scream, but knew that it would just push her closer to the Reaper's chilling embrace.
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--
1/10/2015 11:04 AM
The elevated concrete corner was pitted by a century of sand and chemical storms, a decayed zombie finger segment sticking up out of the sand, pointed skyward from the center the ruin. Mike could cover the crater and all approaches, but his raven nest was just as open to the chemical poisoning black rain as the open ground. He saw the snaking ribbon of ebon precipitation winding across the southern sky, but didn't have time to sound a warning before the loud report of a large caliber pistol rang out on the north side of the shattered rubble piles and wall of remnants.
He saw the distant figure of Juan Gomez scramble into the Rosanna buggy, but the odds were slim that the ville sec driver would be able to get them all back to the elevated shelter before the billowing sheet of liquid death skinned anybody that rode on the side rail, exposed to the air. No, he thought, not going to make it. Without a thought, he jumped to his feet and shouldered the heavy ammo box pack, then slung the RPK light machine gun across his chest.
There was burst of gunfire echoing from the north again, but Mike was too busy with getting down from the exposed perch to think about what it meant as yet -he could interpret it AFTER he got his feet on Terra firma.
"Santo's silver mask!" He said when he saw the blonde mop of hair sticking out of the sand. The newcomer girl was in a dust trap, not the best timing on her part.

Mike caught a brief flash of light from below him, and then an idea, an impulse. His eyes quickly traced out a path to the ground along the rubble wall tops and twisted steel beams.
"I can do it!" He blurted and broadly grinned as he took two steps backwards.
He suddenly charged forward, taking three running steps and jumped out with all that his legs had in them. As he sailed across the gap, his right leg kicked forward and he listed his head forward, eyes concentrating on where his next steps needed to go. His right boot contacted with the solid poured wall top, then his left, he let his forward momentum carry him along the slope, down to a flat piece of diamond plate steel that was angled steeply, but wide enough for him to run down to the ground.
He ran out of the bulky ammo box encumbering him and shucked the RPK from his shoulder when he saw the young scavie starting to sink further down the hole. His muscles pushed him towards her faster, closing the distance in seconds.
Her head was going under when he threw himself into a flat, skidding dive. Her arms were just beginning to fold up, the dusty pit was on the verge of success; but his focus stayed on her hands. Mike slid on his belly, arms in front. His fingers clamped around her pale wrists, gripping tight.
His body weight was spread out enough, just, to give him a solid hold, and he pulled her arms straight up.
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--
1/11/2015 12:25 PM
Peter ran between the cement walls, over piles of fallen blocks and chunks, around rusted beams. His head was starting to hurt, he had no idea what was going on with the scavie and Ramone; but it did not matter. Staying alive mattered.
"Mike! Mike!" The teen age sec guard yelled as he ran. "Corona, we have to get to shelter. Mike??"

"Over here, kid." Peter heard from his right side. "Over here, help me!"

As he ran from behind a large slab, he saw the gunner stretched across the sand. Mike was arching his back, straining to pull the scavie girl out of the ground.
"Holy mother! What happened to her?" Peter asked.

"Dust! Grab my legs and pull, damn it!" Mike ordered.

"Oh, oh yes, ok" Peter said as he slung his AKM behind him, then dropped to his knees and looped his arms around Mike's ankles.

"Pull! Harder!" Mike grunted, straining his shoulders as he pulled up the girl further.

Time was running out, more drops of rain impacted, sizzled on the salty sands. They had Mouse out halfway from the death trap hole.
"Almost.... There. Relax, girl, don't stiffen so much!" Mike told her. "Pull, Peter, or we are all going to be acid soup! Pull!"

"I am!"
Peter was able to get his feet down now, so he pushed back as he pulled his comrade by the ankles. The angles were all wrong, but it worked. Mouse slid up and out, but exhausted from the struggling. Mike pulled her back from the hole.

"Mouse!" They heard Hark Danby calling. "Mouse!?"

"Over here! Watch out for dust traps!" Mike yelled back.

The scavie appeared from behind a pile of broken structure, Ramone behind him. The newcomer looked like he was on the verge of a stroke when he saw her laying limp.
"What the fuck happened to her??" Hark demanded as he fell beside her and took her face in his hands.

"A hole in the floor, dust trap.... No time, get to the crater." Mike replied, coughing dust up.

"Yeah, he's right. Pick her up, guys, we have to... Ouch, shit!" Ramone Parker said, wincing as a drop of black rain slapped his cheek. "Now, now! Snap it!"

Hark and Peter lifted the girl by her arms and half drug, half carried her as the jogged behind the others. Mike snatched up the RPK and ammo pack as the group stumbled over a pile of broken cement.

"To the crater," Ramone ordered them, "we gotta move."

Ramone led them to the crater just as the black sheet of torrential acid rain approached. He took Mouse over his shoulder and sent Peter down the rope with Danby behind him. Mike and Ramone slid Mouse down the hole into the arms of her man, then helped Mike Corona down before handing him the machine gun and heavy pack of 7.62 rounds.

"Gimme room, boys, Coming in hot!" Ramone warned, then leaped into the hole. "Geronimo!"
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--
1/19/2015 9:42 AM
Ramone only slightly misjudged the landing, slamming hard into a salt corroded bed frame, but managed to escape physical injury. The loud metallic clang echoed down the hall through the open door at the end of the ward.
"Always wanted to do that." He said with a boyish grin, but nobody paid much attention, everyone was focused on the slightly built newcomer.

Hark was cleaning the dust from her nose and eyes as she coughed fine puffs and spit. "Mouse, I got you. Your safe now, darlin'. It's gonna be ok.... just spit it out."

A loud sizzle, like a skillet full of bacon fat, was coming from outside of the hole above. The sheets of acidic black rain had reached the ruins and would soon be streaming through the opening. Hark looked up in time to see Peter staring up through the hole.

"Parker," Hark yelled, "get that fuckin' kid back 'fore he gets a facefull."
Ramone turned around and yanked the young man away by the shirt collar right before a steaming trickle ran into the hole, followed up shortly by a steady torrent.

"Everybody get back." Ramone ordered, without argument from the others. "This room is gonna get fumed and soaked, it ain't safe. Danby, she alright to walk yet?"

"I can do it." Mouse piped in, then spit another gob of salty dust. She was sitting upright on her own, but it was obvious that the close call had taken a lot out of her.

"Ramone," Mike Corona called from the large steel door, "Klash and the others went this way. We can close this door and wait it out in one of the other rooms."

"Good thinkin', man. Let's get to it."

The chemical fumes from the rain stank like a cracked rotten egg, the salt on the floor crackled and hissed upon contact with the corrosive liquids. Mike and Ramone shoved the heavy ward door shut behind them with a loud squeak of metal on metal.
The hallway was almost pristine, except for the salty film that covered every surface. Old pictures, mostly landscapes and medical safety reminders, still hung in their frames on the aged white walls. Old furniture and plastic plants lined the passage between office and ward doors. Mike, Peter and Ramone had flashlights clipped to their combat harnesses, providing enough light to follow the trail of footprints on the dusty commercial carpet.
"This way." Mike said, "Max left big prints, thank the Lady."
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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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