Time's Enemy

Part 5

By Chris Van Deelen

Throughout the day Maverick and the others wondered what had happened. Only twice had anyone entered the cellblock where they rested. The first time a pair of burly guards entered dragging the unconscious form of Montague between them. They opened a cell and tossed him in like so much useless garbage.

The second time the same two soldiers entered dragging Feral between them. Only Gitana noticed it and was frightened to see how pale the mutant woman appeared. She could see fresh blood staining the front of her new coveralls.

As much as the small group of friends tired to communicate, without being able to hear each other it became a lesson in futility. Eventually they all gave up, opting to get as much rest as they possibly could.

It was around five in the afternoon that the monotony of their captivity finally ended. The sudden opening of the cell doors surprised them one and all. Over the internal speakers Spint's grating voice assaulted their senses.

"My good, good friends, you are needed! The battle for the control of the redoubt is almost at its end, but there are still several pockets of stiff resistance that I need your expertise in ferreting out."

Both Maverick and Joe peered into the hallway, not daring to step out, just in case Spint was planning some sort of ambush. The door at the end of the corridor remained stubbornly closed. "Seems clear." Called the barrel chested man.

Brett nodded. "Just because we don't see anything doesn't mean that we shouldn't be on triple red." He cautiously stepped into the corridor and hugged the wall, cat footing it over to the main entrance.

"Come now, my dear, dear Maverick!" Spint's voice rang clear out of the hidden speakers. "Why so nervous? After all you are the commanding officer of my new army! If I wanted you dead, you would be nothing more than a few scattered ashes blowing in the wind by now!"

Maverick straightened. "Sure Spint." What choice did he have but to trust him? After all, Spint did accept his word when he pledged loyalty to the madman. But deep down inside Maverick still didn't trust him. Nor would he ever. Not until he could spit into the whitecoats unseeing eyes.

He reached out and took hold of the door handle. When it turned easily in his hand he couldn't help but be a little surprised. He knew the layout of the corridor beyond the doorway and knew that anyone waiting had a clear field of fire. Oh well, he thought, gotta meet my maker someday.

He threw the door all the way open, expecting to be riddled with a barrage of scorching lead at any second.

Nothing happened.

The corridor contained several soldiers, all armed, but the weapons they were holding seemed very familiar. The soldiers had all their blasters!

He stepped boldly into the corridor and called over his shoulder. "Ok, lets book people. Spint's giving us back our blasters and gear."

Joe was right on his heels, followed by Gitana, Gedoena, and finally Feral. The mutant woman looked quite ill and clutched at her stomach, not meeting anyone's gaze. Without speaking, everyone gathered their weapons from the silent, brooding guards.

As Maverick hefted his SPAS 15 shotgun, he caught Gitana's deep brown eyes watching him carefully. She searched his eyes, as if she was trying to fathom what he might be thinking. Her eyes narrowed, almost as if she could actually read his thoughts. He had been considering opening fire on the group of soldiers, but that would accomplish nothing. Nothing except for probably getting everyone chilled. He shook his head. Fireblast, am I that predictable? Got to change my way of thinking. A predictable man is a man just waiting to settle in his grave.

"Ok, now what?" Maverick said, turning to face the two guards that had held their weapons.

"Come with us." The larger of the two soldiers answered. He didn't wait for Maverick to reply. Instead he turned his back on the leader of the small group and left the corridor. The other soldier stood and watched impassively as the five friends pass. He took up position right behind the group, holding his M-16 with it’s barrel pointed at the floor.

The group was led to Spint's office where they were forced to stand for nearly half an hour, waiting for the new master of the redoubt to speak to them. The whitecoat finally slinked into the office. Well at least that is how it appeared. Feral visibly cringed when she saw the scientist.

"Ah, good to see you all once again!" He beamed, throwing his hands outward. I see that you have your weapons back and your ready to fulfil your duties as soldiers in my private army."

"And just what do you want us to do Spint?" Maverick hefted his SPAS 15 shotgun and rested it over his shoulder, carefully making sure that the barrel was aimed directly at the head of one of the two soldiers.

"Well, as I mentioned, there are still a couple of pockets of resistance. Somehow, General Hammond and his people managed to avoid contracting the infection that we worked so hard to spread across the base. He is trapped up in the parking lot. Due to the fact that he has the weapons on the armored cars and tanks, it's making it incredibly difficult to get at him."

"Did you try to infect the chamber using the ventilation system?" Bennett asked.

Spint Nodded. "That was one of the first things that we tried to do. The problem is that when the bio hazard containment system came online, it closed off the system with heavy blast doors."

Bennett looked at Maverick and shrugged. The other man nodded curtly. It was a good suggestion. "How about just blasting the bay doors open?" He asked.

Spint cupped his chin in his hand and regarded the survivalist thoughtfully. "We could try that, but I am not sure if the weapons we have here would penetrate the barriers. They were designed to withstand armored assaults from penetrating further into the redoubt. The door may be slightly larger than your normal doorway, but it's nearly three feet thick."

He threw his arms up in disgust. Maverick learned a great deal during his time with Trader and the crew of war wags one and two, but he was rapidly running out of ideas. "So what do you want us to do then?"

"You and your friends, with your survival and combat experience, are going to ferret out that rat bastard and all his traitorous men, and blow their fucking hides to hell and back." Spittle actually flew from the man's mouth and landed on Maverick's combat jacket. He grabbed the bigger man by the lapels of his jacket and actually lifted the other man several inches off the floor. "It is your fucking duty as the general of my army to do as I fucking command!"

You could have heard a pin drop in the room.

Everyone was shocked, including the soldiers who were loyal to the scientist. After all, he detested the use of vulgar language. The effect wouldn't have induced a bigger surprise if the pope suddenly stood up and announced that he was becoming an atheist.

The whitecoat dropped Maverick, who quickly regained his footing. Spint slouched somewhat and took an unsteady step towards the group. He seemed to take on an almost animalistic quality. A strange, goatish smell rolled off his flesh in heated waves. Feral began to wretch violently. Spint ignored her. "Is there a problem with my request my friends?" He slurred.

Maverick felt Gitana squeeze his bicep. He took the unspoken message. Few people have ever treated him the way the whitecoat just did. Most of them are either dead or regretted the day that they ever crossed him. The ache to lower his shotgun and blow the scientist in half was almost too much for him to bear. But, once again, Gitana's reasoning pushed passed his passions and helped him think clearly.

"Nope. Not at all. Just give me time to study the tactical situation. It wouldn't do you any good if we all got chilled trying to take him out."

Spint straightened and the strange smell seemed to dissipate. "Very good Brett. I'll provide you with whatever data you deem necessary to accomplish your task. Any equipment, any weapons, and any personnel, are yours for the asking."

Maverick nodded. "Well, I want to see blueprints, floor plans, or anything that you can show me of this redoubt that I can use to get into the vehicle bay. I will also need some wag chillers. I figure that some M-72 Law rockets would work good against the arma wags, but those big bastards, the tanks, I don't think that a law would even dent it. Mebbe a TOW 2 or a Dragon missile. That should do the job." He snapped his fingers as a last minute thought occurred to him. "And get me about a half pound of plas ex."

"Plas ex?" Spint asked looking slightly confused at his use of slang.

"Plastic Explosives. C-4 would be best. And a half dozen timers as well.

He turned to face his friends. "Any suggestions?" He studied the faces of each one. As he looked at Gedoena, he smiled. He could read her face. She had an idea. "Come on Geddy, speak your mind."

The mutant girl blushed. "It's silly Brett, it'll never work." She broke his gaze and looked at her strangely shaped feet.

"Let me be the judge of that Ged. You know I need your input. You may be young, but you're pretty damned smart. Smarter than I am, that's for fireblasted sure."

He could actually feel the heat radiating from her face she was blushing so much. He gently took her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him. "Come on Geddy, for me."

"Well," She said unsteadily, "What if we got someone to go into the maintenance shafts and have them break into the control mechanism for the blast doors? If someone had enough skill they might just be able to get past any security measures, get the containment doors to open up."

"That might work." Agreed Spint. "Yes, that could very well work! We have built safety mechanisms into the system in the case of a false alarm, or a malfunction in the computer control system." The scientist nodded to himself. He raised his hand and snapped his fingers. "Yes, that is the answer. Are any of you experts in electronics or computer systems?"

The small group looked at each other, expecting one or another to acknowledge Spint's question. Maverick studied Bennett, wondering if he might not have some hidden talents. After all, despite the fact that they have been travelling together for several weeks, he realized that he knew very little about the man who always seemed to have a smile.

No one offered to help.

"Ah, what a pity." Sighed Spint. "I guess I'll have to get one of the techs up for this job." He grinned and threw a look at Ged. "I have the perfect man for it. Dr Chance. He's quite adept with electronics."

She couldn't help herself. "No, not Matt! This is too dangerous. He could get hurt trying to get into the security system." She grabbed Spint by the shoulders without realizing what she had been doing. As Spint did with Maverick, she bodily picked the scientist off the floor and held him aloft.

The soldiers reacted with the speed and training of a killer. Maverick was faster. The closer of the two guards raised his assault rifle and was about to bring it to bear on the mutant girl. Maverick's fist closed over the barrel and he struck, palm outward. It connected with the base of the rifle. The energy from the impact caused it to fly out of the soldier's grip, and broke the man's trigger finger in the process.

His companion jumped at the sudden attack. He attempted to bring his own weapon to bear. To no avail. In such a confined area, he never had a chance. Joe Bennett swung his elbow up and caught the man in the mouth. Blood flew as his lip split. The M-16A2 Assault rifle slipped from his fingers as his hands flew up to his face to try and staunch the stead steam of blood.

Gitana drew her pistols and aimed one at Spint's head. "Call your pets off Spint." She said in a calm voice.

"At ease!" The whitecoat shouted. As before, a strange goatish smell rolled off him. "Maverick, you traitorous bastard!"

The man turned and picked up the assault rifle. "It's not what you think Spint." He then handed the rifle back to the soldier whose finger he broke in his attack. "I wasn't about to let your sec men chill Ged. Sometimes she just doesn't realize what she's doing. After all, you should know better than anyone that she's just a little girl."

Gedoena carefully lowered the whitecoat and let him go. Taking Maverick's free arm she huddled close to the survivalist. "I'm Sorry."

Straightening his jacket, Spint frowned and shook his shoulders. "No harm done. You are correct of course Mr. Maverick."

Yet another sign that things were not right with the man. By all rights, considering the way he reacted in the past, he should have flown off the handle at the physical contact.

Ged mumbled something under her breath. What ever she said caused Feral to bark out a laugh.

"I would strongly suggest little girl that you keep thoughts like that to yourself." Commented Spint, surprising both Ged and Feral.

"Enough of this!" Shouted Maverick. "Spint, get some other guy. I just don't trust this Chance guy. Besides, he struck me more of the doctor type than a tech. Fireblast man, there has got to be plenty of techies in this place that could get past the containment systems.

Glowering, the scientist looked as if he was about to say something but changed his mind. He walked up to one of the redoubts many internal comm units and called someone. Maverick couldn't hear the conversation, and frankly he didn't care. If it were something important, Ged would tell him.

"There, a technician should be here shortly. Some sections of the base are still inaccessible, but what we control we've re-opened. I've asked that the closet tech to be sent to us." Spint explained.

Maverick ignored him and looked up and down the corridor. He spotted what he was looking for. "That air vent. It's pretty small, but I think I should be able to get into it." He walked over to it. "Hey, monkey boy, gimme your blade." He said, holding his hand out to the soldier with the bleeding mouth.

The soldier shook with rage and pulled out the blade, but instead of attacking with it, he handed the knife, handle first to the scarred man.

It took several minutes effort, but Maverick was finally able to pry the plate off the vent. He pulled himself up and looked down the shaft. "Hey, this fireblasted vent moves away from the wag bay. Any chance you can get me the floor plans for this place?"

Spint conferred with the soldier with the broken finger. The man took off down the corridor, passing a man dressed in slightly dirty coveralls carrying a small bag that was nearly bursting at the seams.

Spint nodded at the newcomer. "You have the necessary tools to bypass the security system?

"I hope so sir. I think I can slip past the containment system."

Spint explained to the younger tech exactly what he wanted to do.

"Ok, I'll see what I can do. But I'm not sure if I will succeed or not. This base has some of the most up to date comp and sec systems that I have ever seen." He noticed the disapproving look the older scientist gave him and swallowed nervously. "But, what the hell, I'm up for the challenge."

They had to wait for several minutes for the soldier to return. But in the end the wait was worth it. He was carrying a small lap top computer. He shouldered his way past Maverick and handed the computer to the tech.

The tech spent several minutes studying the floor plans the computer contained. "Ok, I figured out the shortest route to the vehicle bay. I'll need someone to go into the vents that can follow orders to the letter." He looked at the small assembly of people. "Any volunteers?"

Maverick automatically stood before the tech. "I'll do it. Just give me the tools and I'll do it."

The other man looked like he was about to object, but the sheer size of the scarred warrior before him stayed his tongue. Instead he dug out a pair of headphones and handed a pair to Maverick. "Put this on. Make sure you have the video camera pointed forward at all times. I need to be able to see what you are doing at all times."

Maverick carefully fitted the head gear. "Lets do it." He turned. He gave Gitana a quick hug.

She looked deep into his gray eyes. "Be careful Amante, please?"

"Hey, it's me!" He smiled lopsidedly, doing his best to look rather roguish. If it wasn't for the scarring he might have actually pulled it off.

He turned away. "Spint, I want everyone fitted with this commo gear. It's gonna come in triple handy once the fighting starts."

"As you wish my friend!" Spint agreed, nodding his head.

Ged stood at the vent and cupped one hand to help raise him up. He ruffled her hair affectionately and pulled himself into the narrow shaft."

"Hey, big guy." Called the tech.


The tech handed a small pack filled with various tools, a couple of vials, as well as a brick of C-4, blasting caps and detonators to Maverick. "You'll need these."

He carefully placed the pack before him and inched his way through the narrow confines. "Ok, I'm gonna need some directions here. I sure as hell don't want to spend the next couple of years playin' tunnel rat."

The tech led the big man through a winding course through the ducts. It seemed that every ten or fifteen feet he was forced to stop and remove a junction box so they could bypass the containment plate and proceed. All in all, the trip took nearly four hours of sold, tiring work. Maverick hadn't felt that tired in many a year. Fighting and running was one thing. Crawling on your hands and knees through a tunnel system only a couple of feet in diameter was another story entirely.

He sat and stared into the vehicle bay. The air vent was situated above a worktable on the wall to the left of the main entrance. He could see the smaller door leading into the base opposite of it. The table wasn't as cluttered as he feared. He was certain that he could jump down on it without alerting he soldiers.

Other than that, the bay appeared exactly as he remembered it. All the vehicles were parked in the same location as they were in the future. The only difference is that this time around everything was still perfectly intact. He could see about twenty men nervously milling around, weapons at the ready. Once or twice a man threw a spooked glance at the vent behind which Maverick hid, but none noticed his presence.

He pulled back several feet so that the soldiers below wouldn't pick up the words he whispered into the microphone. "Everyone online?"

A course of affirmatives confirmed that they were indeed linked with him. The big man couldn't help but smile.

"Ok Spint. Here's what I need you to do. Get someone to cut the power to the lighting system inside the vehicle bay. That should give me enough time to get down into it. I have a plan."

A voice that belonged to the tech replied. "Roger that Maverick. Give us a few minutes to get everything ready." There was a short pause. The warrior could hear voices in the background but was unable to make out what was being said. "Let us know when your ready to go. Do you need anything?"

"Negative at this moment. But I'll need Joe with me. Get him to load up with three or four M-72 LAW rockets. I'm not sure if I'll need them or not, but you never know." He paused, thinking over his options. He could remember that in the future when they entered the base the doors to the hallway were undamaged. So that means that the attack succeeded, but he still need to figure out a way to take out one of the M-1's. That would be a problem.

Then it occurred to him. All the tanks were destroyed. And not by dragons or law rockets, but by the main cannons. That would mean that someone would have to be inside the metallic monsters and at the controls.

How the hell would they pull that off? They would need a distraction for sure. He knew all about the hatches in the belly of the beasts, that the crew could use to escape from the burning or destroyed hulks.

As for the distraction, what could he do?

"Hey," He called over the com link, "Can you get someone to bypass the locks on the doorway?"

He heard Spint and the tech exchange words. "Why? They have the main cannons aimed at the door. We open them using force, and boom! We can kiss our asses goodbye. Don't need to worry about the nukes killing us."

Maverick sighed. "That's not what I meant. Get someone to hack into the lock mechanism and open it up manually. I figure that it should have manual over-ride. Hell, if we could get past the containment plates, a simple door shouldn't present that much of a fireblasted challenge."

"I want someone at the main door with a Dragon missile launcher set up and ready to fire. Once I give the word, fire it at the nearest target. I'm hoping that the explosion will provide enough of a distraction for me to get into one of the Battle tanks. Then leave it to me."

He waited, growing more impatient by the second. Finally the tech replied. "Ok, we'll give it a shot. Spint has sent for the Dragon Missile launcher. I'll contact you as soon as we are ready to open the doors.

"Gitana, I want you away from the door. Make damned sure that Ged is out of the line of fire as well." Oh, and Joe?"

Joe answered. "Yo. I know what your gonna ask. I'm on my way Maverick."

While he waited for Bennett to join him he pulled out the tools that the scientist sent with him. It contained a vial of acid, as well as a small but powerful pair of bolt cutters. He carefully used the cutters to cut the ends of the bolts off the grate. Several times he thought the soldiers had heard his efforts. Fortunately for him it was nothing more than a false alarm. The acid proved to be very effective in burning away the remaining portion of the bolts.

Joe joined him as he finished burning through the fifth of six bolts. He looked over his shoulder at the barrel chested man and gave him the thumbs up. "Be ready to go as soon as I tell you Joe. We won't have much time." He waited as a couple of men passed near the table. "Spint, you copy?"

The tech answered. "We're ready on this side. What do you want?"

Maverick was impressed. That sure was fast. "On my mark, cut the power to the vehicle bay, then pop open the door and launch that wag chiller."


Maverick waited until the soldiers were furthest away from both the vent and the nearest of the M1 Abram battle tanks. He hoped to god that they were still unlocked. They were in the future but that could have happened after the firefight. "Mark!" He stage whispered into the microphone.

Inside the bay the lights flickered and died. The soldiers shouted in surprise at the sudden darkness. He instantly spotted the door as it opened. The soldiers near the door didn't know what hit them. The missile from the dragon launcher leapt from it's cradle and slammed into the nearest APC. The shape charged explosive warhead punched through the hardened armor like a fist going through a wet paper bag. The molten lead from the nose of the weapon splashed over the interior of the vehicle, instantly setting fire to anything flammable.

But that wasn't the only effect produced from the missile exploding. Several of the soldiers near the door were caught in the exhaust trail and were badly burned by the superheated gas. Then there was the side effect of the impact itself, the shrapnel of the weapon. In such a confined location as the vehicle bay, the tiny chunks of metal proved to be incredibly deadly.

With one shot nearly half of the soldiers inside the room were either out right killed or wounded. To make matters worse, several soldiers panicked firing wildly at the shadows, adding to the chaos.

But it wasn't going to be enough. The remaining soldiers would have to be taken out man to man. Even with the emergency light that is bound to kick in, the fight would still prove to be hazardous, even to a seasoned veteran like himself.

Working as quickly as he could Maverick swung loose grate up and slipped down onto the table. He was tempted to fire at the black shadows he could make out but the flash of his blaster would have given their position away. That would not be the smartest move he could make. Joe handed two Law rockets to Maverick, he figured that it would be best to divide the weapons up evenly between them

Maverick snapped the last bolt and freed the grate. A quick underhanded toss sent it clattering against the side of one of the Arma wags nearly thirty feet from his position. As expected, the soldiers opened up at the sound. The uncontrolled bullets ricocheted around the chamber. At least two soldiers were hit from their undisciplined actions.

He ducked as a burst of fire passed within only a hand width from his face. "Fireblast!" He shouted in surprise as he dove for cover. He could see a man kneeling about fifteen feet from his position, a M-16 in his hands had burnt cordite drifting gently off it's barrel. Maverick knew that if the lighting had been better the burst would have more than likely blown his head off his shoulders.

The soldier may have missed, but Joe didn't. He crouched on the table, and used the bulk of a tool chest to protect him from incoming fire. He hefted the M-16 he borrowed from the redoubt's armory and sighted down the barrel. His burst hit the soldier in the center of mass, blowing the man off his knees.

Over the din of the firefight Maverick could hear a man shouting orders. "Fall back people, don't stay in the open! Someone lay down suppressing fire over by the entrance!"

Bullets poured like water from a hose over the now open grate from which he and Joe entered. Joe winced and grunted as several concrete splinters slammed into his back and arms. If it weren't for the heavy tool chest, he would have caught the last train to the coast for sure.

At least two of the APC's opened up on the entrance, forcing Gitana and the others further back into the corridor. There would be no help from them anytime soon.

From his position Maverick could see at least three soldiers trying to close in around him. If they succeeded he wouldn't live to see the day. Two more were trying to get over to where Joe was crouched. Every couple of steps they would fire off a burst or a single shot to keep the other man pinned.

"Christ, Mav, do something!" He bellowed.

"Joe, get the fuck down!" He stabbed the barrel of the SPAS 15 shotgun towards the two men zig zagging towards his friend. Heedless of the danger, he pulled the trigger. Three shells tore out of the blaster and literally pulverized one of the two men. One arm was ripped off at the elbow, while another shell punched a hole the size of a football in the man's side, tearing the kidney, stomach and intestines out in a hideous spray of gore. The man collapsed with a scream of agony, dead before he hit the floor.

The three soldiers that were converging on the survivalist reacted almost instantaneously. One man with sergeant stripes on his sleeve lifted an CAR 15 carbine and triggered a burst at the crouched man. At the last second Maverick turned slightly to bring his shotgun to bear on the other soldier who was trying to get at Joe.

That simple act saved his life.

Joe brought his own blaster to bear and triggered it. He didn't bother trying to conserve ammo as he burned the entire clip. The man who had shot at Maverick jerked and swung about as if a mad puppeteer had taken control his body. The other two soldiers dove for cover.

Not one to give up an opportunity, Maverick wasted no time in quickly dispatching the last soldier that was about to close the final few yards between himself and Joe. But neither man was out of the woods quite yet.

He roared as he rolled out from the protective cover of the APC. He came up and squeezed the trigger on his SPAS 15 shotgun at one of the two soldiers that tried to flank him. The shot went wide and harmlessly bounced off the shell of a main battle tank. Maverick silently cursed himself for trying such an idiotic stunt. He knew better than to try that. Once again he acted before he let his brain kick into gear.

"Oh shit!" His eyes widened as they caught the image of the coaxial machine gun on the main battle tank swivel towards him. A sickening feeling swept over him as he realized that this was going to be how he finally bought it. Chilled nearly seventy years before he was to be born.

The emergency lighting finally kicked in. The sudden change gave the survivalist the fraction of a second he needed to react. He dove right under the treads of the battle tank, providing himself with both much needed cover and preventing the gunner from targeting him. Whatever gods were still around, they were watching over him.

He spotted several of the soldiers that were wounded in the initial attack. They were trying desperately to crawl to cover. One man who was bleeding from a nasty gash down his left side was just under five feet away. The solider grimaced in hatred as brought his personal sidearm to bear. Maverick closed his eyes, knowing there wasn't any time to retaliate.

He winced at the sound of autofire, expecting to feel the pain of multiple impacts. Instead he felt nothing. He dared to open his eyes. Maverick could see Joe across the room, the barrel of his assault rifle pointed in his direction. The soldier that had been ready to fire was lying in a puddle of blood, the top of his head blown away by the impact of the rounds.

The few remaining soldiers near the entrance beat a hasty retreat away from the lethal rain of lead barreling down on them. The shots only stirred the chaotic conditions on the battlefield. From his position Maverick fired off a salvo at several of the retreating warriors. One went down screaming, holding his leg. It was a near miss, but enough pellets penetrated the thick cloth around his leg to drop him.

A warriors smile crept over his face. His little gypsy was giving him all the help that she and the others could without coming under fire as well.

The other soldiers were not stupid. They knew where he was and in turn fired back at him. He was forced to back away further below the tank. What was good for the goose was certainly good for the Gander. He took the time to reload the spent magazine on his shotgun. Better to change a half full magazine when you don't need it than to run out of ammo when you most needed it. Another one of Trader's infamous phrases popped into his thoughts.

Above him he could hear the sound of the turret moving. Instinctively he knew what was going to happen. "Joe, jump!"

Joe didn't have to be told twice. His friend leapt from the table and it's meager cover to land behind the nearest APC. Maverick did his best to provide cover fire for his friend, managing to keep the soldiers heads down for the several seconds Joe needed.

Sure enough, as Maverick had expected, the M1 fired its 105-mm cannon. The high explosive shell hit the table where Joe had been only moments before. The table, as well as part of the wall and the tool chest seemed to disintegrate under the assault. The shockwave from the blast rocked the APC on its wheels and slapped the man off his feet into the open. He could no longer benefit from the APC's cover.

"Gitana, Gedoena, I want you and the others to approach the entrance. Stay low and watch out for stragglers. This battle is far from over and I'm gonna need all the rad blasted help I can get!" It went against his previous orders but both he and Joe desperately needed the help that they would provide.

"Roger that Amante, we're on our way. Stay tight and watch your six!"

"Don't need to tell me that twice." Maverick spit as he scrambled on all fours to the rear of the battle tank. A quick look over his shoulder revealed Joe attempting to stagger to his feet. The other man was more than a little stunned by the concussion from the blast. If he didn't do something soon, Joe was as good as dead.

"Fireblast!" He swore to himself as he crawled out from below the tank. But first he took a quick look around to make sure there were no soldiers waiting to take his head off.

The enemy soldiers had the same idea he had. Take cover! It only made sense to him that several would be inside the APC's, Jeeps and other vehicles. That alone presented another problem.

Several rounds smashed into the tank near him and he grunted in pain as one tore through the cloth of his pants and left a painful gash across his thigh. It wasn't anything major, as he had suffered far worse in the past. He sprinted across the vehicle bay dodging side to side as he crouched low. Doing so he made himself a lot harder to hit. The graze throbbed but he ignored it. The life of his friend was in jeopardy and since he was the one that got them into the situation it was his responsibility to get them out in one piece.

Skidding to a halt the big man grabbed Joe by the legs and pulled him back behind the APC. He hoped out of the line of fire. Sitting up, Joe shook his head in an attempt to clear the cobwebs that clogged his thoughts. "Remind me to jump faster next time bro."

Maverick clasped the other man's shoulder. "You gonna be ok?"

"Yeah, I think so." Answered Joe. When he looked at Maverick the big man nearly laughed. Joe's eyes were looking in slightly different directions.

A soldier jumped out from behind the next APC. The two warriors spotted and fired at the soldier the instant he appeared. The man never stood a chance. 7.62mm hollow points and 12 gauge 00 buck shot smashed the life out of him. He crumpled to the floor, his CAR 15 landed with a clatter next to his feet.

"Stupe fucker. Never, ever jump out and attack. Christ, where the hell did they get these guys from?" Maverick questioned out loud as he pulled Joe out of harms way. Stay put." Maverick ordered as he peered around the side of the APC. Those soldiers capable of moving had cleared out of the fire-zone. He could make out the dark trails of blood that were left behind from where the worst of the wounded were dragged to safety by their friends.

He shook his head. It was noble of them to try and help their wounded, and he couldn't help but admire them for doing so. One of Traders rules was that never leave wounded behind if you could do anything to prevent it. He almost felt guilty about having to kill the soldiers.


"Maverick, Joe, close your eyes." Gitana called over the intercom. The two years he rode with Trader paid off and he did as he was told to. He hoped that Joe had enough sense to do the same.

There was a clattering then a loud clap of thunder. To his trained ears he could tell that Gitana had just tossed one, possibly two flash bang grenades, better known as stun grenades into the room. The flash would temporarily blind anyone watching and the explosion of sound would hurt their ears, disorienting them.

He counted to ten then opened his eyes. Gitana came through the entrance first, followed closely by Ged, feral and several of the soldiers loyal to Spint. They split up into three separate groups of five each. Maverick smiled a mirthless warriors grin. The tide of the battle was about to turn.

Despite the grenades, several shots were fired at the entering group. One of the soldiers doubled over as if he had been kicked in the stomach. Maverick could tell that the man had enough sense to put on body armour before entering. One of his friends grabbed him and dragged the man back into the corridor, to safety.

Slumping his shoulder one of the Law Rockets Slid into his waiting hand. With a practiced hand he removed the end caps and extended the wag chiller into it's ready position. He could easily see one APC that housed several of the soldiers. The trail of blood was a clear indication. The APC was dead in the weapons site when he depressed the firing stud. The rocket screamed out of it's tube and impacted the side of the APC. The effect wasn't as spectacular as he had seen in various Vids he watched over the years.

The arma wag rocked slightly on its wheels when the rocket smashed into it, then sat perfectly still. He thought that he could hear a cry of pain coming from it, but there was no way he could be sure.

His guestimate put the total of combat capable soldiers at ten to fifteen. The sounds of gunfire reached his ears. He figured that he would have to drop that total down

He remembered that they counted at least two dozen corpses inside the destroyed wags as well lying throughout the room. Then the idea clicked in. He had a pretty good idea which wags they found the corpses in, as well as where they had spotted several corpses. That could prove to be invaluable.

He crouched next to his friend, and tossed the now spent LAW rocket to the side.

Joe faced the younger man. "Ok fearless leader, what's the world shattering plan you've

got under the hood?"

He grinned. "Remember all those corpses we saw scattered around here?"

The other man returned the grin. "Damned straight I remember!" He was about to grab another rocket when Maverick put a restraining hand on his arm. He looked up in surprise.

"No, save it. I need you to cover my back anyhow. As he spoke a line of rounds smashed into the concrete and walked towards the crouching pair. They both dived out of the line of fire, and nearly paid for it with their lives. Despite the arrival of backup, the enemy was still determined to take them out. The remaining soldiers now had secured positions around the garage and had managed to turn it into a shooting gallery. The fighting was about to become up close and personal for everyone involved.

"Shit!" Maverick gasped. "Were in some pretty serious shit now."

"See me arguing?" Joe commented dryly. He swung around and fired off a burst, which bounced harmlessly off the metallic skin of one of the APC's. "You know Brett, we better get one of these wags for ourselves triple fast."

He ignored Joe and grabbed the hatch of the V-300 they were standing next to. Several more rounds came uncomfortably close to their position as he yanked it open. He was hoping that the APC was unoccupied, or they would be meeting the great maker real soon. But Joe surprised him. He crouched low and peered into the wag, keeping the barrel of his blaster at the ready.

It turned out that the danger wouldn't come from inside the wag, rather from his supposed allies. Two of Spint's men barrelled around the V-300 and opened fire. He had no time to check to see if the wag was empty or not. He shoved Joe into the wag while using the hatch as cover against the incoming fire.

"Jesus Christ assholes, check your fireblasted targets you stupe outlanders!" Maverick cursed as he slammed the hatch shut.

"Sorry about that sir." One of the two men called back over the com link. He ignored the man. After the battle was over he would deal with him. The APC grab hold of his full attention. As he hoped, it was empty.

He was smart enough to know that they didn't have much time to play around, as any second the M1 could open up with it's main gun and tear the smaller wag apart like a hawk tearing the tender flesh of a rabbit. He jumped into the driver's seat and Joe took the commanders position in the turret.

A huge smile crossed Maverick's rugged features as the APC roared to life at the touch

of a button. "Ready to get it on?" He yelled.

"You know it!"

Maverick slammed his foot down on the pedal and the V-300 leapt forward. He didn't

quite expect the power the wag contained and ended up smashing the corner of the wag into a

Hummer He recalled a line from a vid he had seen years before. "Damned, there goes my premium." An evil grin crept across his face as the two soldiers that nearly chilled both Joe and himself jumped out of the way of the fast moving V-300.

Inside the copula Joe worked the controls with the ease of a man who had done such tasks for many years. Maverick pulled the wag into the narrow lane between the rows just as Joe shot off the smoke launchers. Six canisters of Smoke bounced off vehicles and walls.

The survivalist could make out his lover and the other soldier engaged in close combat with the surviving soldiers. Several Law rockets had already been deployed as a number of the Hummers and APC's the enemy had been using were smouldering wreaks.

All around them the manned wags spoke the language of battle as they tried to get a lock on the weaving V-300, while at the same time trying to prevent the foot soldiers from taking them out. More than a few rounds smashed into friendly vehicles.

The damage was minimal, and neither of the two men inside suffered any injuries.

"I sure as hell hope that the prick in the M1 can't bring that main gun to bear." Joe said nervously.

A V-150 just behind them exploded in a ball of hellfire. "I think you spoke to soon."

Maverick yelled as he swerved the APC into a deliberate fish-tale in the hopes of making it a hell of a lot harder for the gunner to hit. In the copula Joe manipulated the controls and brought the APC's massive 90mm cannon into play. The sound of the large gun firing was like music to Maverick's ears.

The smoke from both the grenades as well as the burning hulks, in combination with the attacks of both the other armawags and their reinforcements forced Maverick to manoeuvre like a wild man.

All the factors combined made it more than a little difficult for Joe to use the wag's cannon effectively.

His headgear squawked to life. "Maverick, what is going on in there?" He recognised the voice as Spint's.

"Simple Spint. You wanted the last holdouts chilled, I'm trying to do that right now. Thanks for the backup though!" He didn't bother to conceal the contempt he felt towards the other man. "So just shut up and let me do it."

"Brett? Be careful ok?" Gedoena's voice reached him over the link.

"Don't worry about me." He grunted as he swung the APC around the last vehicle parked at the end of the line. "I know what I'm doing!" Through the din and smoke he could just make out the M1 still parked where he had seen it last. He was pretty sure that it was undermanned or it would be in pursuit right now.

Every couple of seconds Joe was firing the cannon. Maverick was finally able to see the effects of the shots. He was doing quite a good job at taking the enemy APC's out. How many men still remained he had now way of knowing. But in the past minute of weaving and dodging in and out of the APC's Joe, with the combined help of the M1's misses, at least six of the vehicles had been reduced to so much scrap metal.

"Hey, Maverick, try to pull this bastard around behind the M1."

The other man couldn't believe what he just heard. "Are you out of your fucking mind?

You want us to get close to that big bastard?"

"You heard me man. I want you to get as close as you can. I'm going to try and either disable it's main gun or take out the turret. Then we can chill it at our leisure."

Maverick shook his head and then pulled the vehicle into a tight turn. He felt the outer shell shudder as it scraped along the wall. He nearly lost control of the V-300 in the process. The man knew that he was making the mistake of trying to treat the heavy vehicle like a car. Which it certainly wasn't.

"Fuck that noise! Let the foot soldiers chill the wag. They could do it a hell of a lot easier than we could." He yelled over the din of battle.

Something heavy smashed against the outer shell of the APC. Both Joe and Maverick were tossed around like rag dolls. The impact nearly stopped the arma wag in its tracks.

Maverick quickly recovered from the sudden shock and grabbed the controls once again. But to his surprise and horror they weren't responding as they had been. "Joe, what the fuck just hit us?"

"One of the V-150s. I missed it and the bastards inside got the 20mm cannon running. I think it took out at least on of the wheels on the left side." He paused as they both could hear an ominous grinding noise emanating from the undercarriage of the wag. "I think he took out the axle as well."

With all the strength Maverick could muster he forced the controls to stay straight.

Through the drivers ob slit he could make out several APC's that would make effective cover against the M1's fire. As they neared he slammed his feet down on the breaks. As he had expected, the vehicle was slow to respond. The tendons on his face stood out in stark relief as he fought to bring the wag to a stop. By the time it's forward momentum ended, Joe had managed to fire the APC's 90mm cannon twice more.

He leapt out of the driver's seat and shoved open the nearest hatch. He didn't even bother to try the hatch on the right side as it was firmly lodged against the wall. There would be no escaping from that one. He winced as he heard the report from the main battle tanks 105. A chill cruised down his spine as he expected to feel the molten touch of the shell impacting on the APC's relatively thin armour. But it wasn't to be. The APC did shake slightly as a shock wave rolled over it, but that was the worst of it.

"That's it sir. We only have the M1 to deal with. The rest of the soldiers have been neutralised or have surrendered." One of Spint's loyal men called out.

Before he could reply he heard Spint break in on the channel. "Anyone find General Hammond?"

"That's a negative sir. I believe he and maybe one or two soldiers might be inside the battle tank.

"Don't worry about him Spint. He's mine." Maverick said before anyone else could claim the kill for themselves.

Joe's mirthless chuckle reached him. "That did the trick! I was able to damage the turret, but not disable it. He can't get it to aim properly. It'll buy us some time."

"Good job. Your gonna have to tell me someday just where you learned to fire a gun like that." Maverick said as he pushed open the rear hatch to the wreaked V-300.

"I'll tell you when you tell me how you got those scars on your face and back buddy." Joe answered As they both ran towards the disabled M1, careful to make sure that they were not in any potential line of fire from the co-axial guns or ports.

The room was still heavily shrouded in smoke, but he could see well enough to make out the now ruined hulks of a large number of the APC's. He shook his head in amazement. "Damned, good shooting Joe!"

"Hell, half of those wreaks were caused by he tank and the other APC's firing. You can take a lot of the credit for your crazy assed driving."

As they reached the tank Gitana, Feral and Gedoena joined them. Gitana grabbed the big man around the neck and kissed him. "Well, think ole Spint will be pleased with this little display Amante?"

Joe nodded and grinned in agreement with the small woman. "Haven't had that much fun in a long time."

They all heard the grinding sound of the turret trying to be repositioned. But the shot Joe hit the tank with caused enough damage that they were out of it's line of fire.

"Oh no you don't Outlander." Maverick growled. He dodged to the side of the APC and powered it up to the smoldering M1. The others followed closely. He made clear that he stood away from any open ports in case the gunner manning the ruined tank was carrying a side arm.

"Come on out asshole. Your sec buddies have been chilled. Might as well give up and come out."

No reply.

Several of Spint's soldiers joined them. Maverick pulled off his pack and tossed it to the nearest man. "You know how to handle explosives?"

"Yes sir."

"Good, grab a chunk of Plas ex and secure it on the door. When your in the clear I'll blow it." He pulled out a remote detonator from his pack as he spoke.

The soldier took it as well as the explosives. "Don't mean any disrespect sir, but I would rather detonate it myself.

Maverick felt like slugging the man but decided against it. "Ok, remember this. Hammond is mine. Is that clear outlander?"

He could see the soldiers unspoken question. He could almost hear him ask what the hell is an outlander. "Understood."

"Joe, get one of those Law rockets ready. Once the hatch has been blown, Let the bastard have it." Maverick calmly said into the microphone of his com unit. He jogged away from the tank. "Move it people. Take cover!"

The soldier clamored onto the tank and carefully positioned the charge over one of the hatches. He jammed the detonator into the C-4 and was about to step back when there was a sudden crack. He never knew what hit him. The C-4 detonated prematurely, blowing the hatch inward. The results of the explosion on the man were no less impressive. There was a blinding flash of light and a six foot area around where the man had been standing. The explosion almost literally seemed to disintegrate the man. Oddly enough all that was left of him were his feet and combat boots.

"What the fuck?" Maverick breathed in morbid surprise. "How the fuck could C-4 blow like that?

The soldiers that had been assigned to him turned and raised their weapons menacingly. His companions reacted instantly, bringing their own arsenals to the ready. "Whoa, just hold on a rad blasted minute. You think I would be stupe enough to chill my own man?" He snapped in sudden anger. He held his empty hand up for all to see. "I don't even have a fucking detonator!"

One by one the soldiers lowered their weapons, giving in to the logic of his argument. Satisfied that he wasn't in any danger of being sent on the last train to the coast Maverick pointed at the battle tank. "Chill the fucker!"

Joe wasted no time in extending the M72 rocket to its firing position. He crossed around to the rear of the M1 where the armor would be thinner and triggered the weapon. The rocket flew from the launcher, filling in the area with it's burning exhaust fumes. The warhead hit home and true.

The explosion shredded through the thinner rear armor and effectively took out the engine. No engine, no power. The Tank was now dead in the water. Joe had hoped that it would blow the fuel tank, but it looked as if that wouldn't happen today.

Maverick held out his hand to the nearest soldier. "Give me one of your flash bang grens. I'm gonna finish this."

The soldier unhooked a grenade from his battle harness and placed it in the big man's hand. Maverick walked over to the now dead tank and pulled the pin on the grenade. He knew that it would probably be a lot easier to just toss an implode gren into the interior but for some reason he had to face the general.

He pulled the pin and tossed it underhand into the blown open hatch. Before it detonated he turned away and covered his eyes. There was a familiar thuderclap and he knew that the deed was done.

The SPAS 15 would be far too ungainly to use inside the confined quarters of the tank's interior so he handed it to Gitana. With his other hand he drew his IMI desert eagle and cracked open the magazine to make sure it was fully loaded. Satisfied that it was he climbed onto the tanks exterior and carefully checked the blown open hatch. A pain filled moan reached his ears.

He knew that taking Hammond down wouldn't be a problem after all. He entered the tank and could instantly make out two forms. One slumped over the drivers seat, the other rolling on the floor clutching at his eyes. It was General Hammond.

Maverick placed the barrel of the gun against the head of the man seated at the controls and pulled the trigger, blowing the man's brains as well as most of his face over the control panel before him. The man probably was dead already but Maverick knew better than to leave a potential enemy at his back.

Hammond's pain filled voice reached up to him. "Ok soldier. Do it fast. Don't give that asshole Spint the pleasure of seeing me suffer."

He crouched next to the disabled base commander. "Hammond, look, it's nothing personal. I just have to keep my people alive until I can get back to our time."

The General chuckled mirthlessly. "So, Spint has his pet project doing the dirty work now."

Maverick hadn't expected the other man to be able to hear him as he had. The thunderclap explosion of the grenade should have temporarily deafened the man. It must have been some sort of fluke that saved him. "General, you wouldn't have made it anyhow. In a matter of hours you and the rest of your men would be dead or dying somewhere once the nuke detonates below the Russian embassy in Washington."

The General ignored him, unable to answer because he was wracked by a violent fit of coughing. When it subsided he pulled his hand away and Maverick noticed that it was flecked with blood. A sure sign of internal injury.

He carefully pulled the com gear off his head and shut it off. "I know it doesn't mean much sir, but I'm going to chill that sick fucker myself. He forced me into this by threatening the lives of my people. That is something no one does and lives."

'Make it… "The general coughed once again. "Make it slow. I want him to suffer the way he's made others."

Maverick placed the warm muzzle of his weapon against Hammonds forehead. "I promise sir." He turned his head and pulled the trigger. In an instant, the fight for the redoubt was finally over. He stood up and carefully made his way out of the stinking, smoke filled interior of the M1.

Like most people who grew up in the Deathlands, Maverick was no strange to death. He dealt it many times in the past. But it was always in self-defense or in defense of others. Now that the danger had passed and he started to come off the adrenaline rush, he felt sick to his stomach.

He swallowed the bile and walked over to his companions. Funny he thought, now that it's over, my fireblasted leg actually hurts. "It's over. Let Spint know that I just chilled Hammond." One of the soldiers nodded curtly and jogged out of the room. Maverick draped his arm over Gitana's shoulder and leaned heavily into her. The group followed the soldier out in silence.

Spint met them at the entrance and clapped his hands in glee. "That was absolutely magnificent my friends. I knew that I chose the right man to lead my army." He pushed passed the group, totally ignoring Maverick's grimace of pain. He walked from corpse to corpse, carefully examining each one. If any of the soldiers were still breathing, he put them out of their misery.

"Hey Amante, don't ever do something like that again. You nearly got yourself chilled." She kissed him hard on the lips. Ged took his other arm. The two women supported the big man between them. He was in pain, but nothing serious. He had much worse in the past. But like any typical man, he enjoyed the attention.

"Hey, Spint. Now what?" He called out as the creepy scientist came out of the now wreaked vehicle bay. Maverick noticed that the scientists hands were coated in blood. He could have sworn that he saw blood on the man's mouth, but wasn't sure.

"You and your friends have run of the base. My loyal soldiers will take care of what's left of those who were loyal to the general. I believe now that he is dead, their will to fight has perished as well."

He didn't have anything personal against the man, and would rather have let him live. But as trader used to say, it's a dog eat dog world and you best be the biggest fucking dog on the planet, so you can eat the rest of the mongrels.

Feral stood next to Joe and carefully sniffed him. "You no hurt. Not stupe like Amante. He too slow."

"Watch your mouth Feral." Ged snapped. "Maverick did what he could to keep all of us alive. We never asked you to jump with us. I think if you are going to have that sort of attitude that you might as well leave us. I know I won't want you around."

Young Ged's outburst surprised everyone, but none more so than Maverick. He was always the protective one towards the girl, and never expected to see her defend him like that. It made the scarred man feel good.

Feral didn't reply to the young mutant's outburst.

"I don't know about you people, but I'm pretty hungry." Joe commented, knowing that it would be a good time to change the subject.

Gitana laughed at the man. "Ah Joe, always thinking with your stomach. If you're not careful amigo, you might find yourself developing a mighty unhealthy paunch."

Spint interrupted the friendly banter. "I will leave you folks to your own ends. I have things to do. If I need you, I will contact you." He turned and walked down the corridor nearly two dozen meters before stopping. "Oh, and if you are thinking of trying to escape the base using the matter transmitter, you might as well forget it. I have locked the controls out so that no one gets in or out without my permission."

"Never crossed my mind Dr. Spint." Maverick muttered.

"Come on Amante, let's get you down to the infirmary and get those wounds tended to. Don't need you laid up for the next few days." Gitana turned him and both she and Ged led the big man to the elevator.

* * *

"Ouch!" Yelped the big man. "Can't you be a little more careful?"

The doctor tending to Maverick's wounds tisked. "Oh come now Mr. Maverick. It can't hurt that badly now can it? The damage you suffered was relatively minor. You should have been smart enough to use body armor.

"I didn't exactly have enough time to get it you know." He gritted as the doctor added another stitch to the cut caused by the near miss. It left a nasty looking wound running along the side of his leg, but there was no major muscle or tissue damage.

Maverick had been on the examination table for nearly forty-five minutes and the doctor had opted to use only local anesthetic during the treatment. As they talked he added the final stitches to the unsightly graze. "Tell me Mr. Maverick. How did you get the scars on your back? They appear to be caused by a whip or something similar."

The big man's fists clenched and he scowled. "Ask me again and I'll show you exactly how I got those scars."

"Now, now Mr. Maverick, no need to get all bent out of shape. It was just a harmless question after all."

Maverick ignored him. He could see Gitana sitting in the waiting room patiently waiting for the doctor to finish the patch job. Gitana wanted to be with him but the doctor had insisted that she wait outside, as he didn't need the distraction while he worked.

"There, that should cover it. I guess you won't need a shot against infection. According to your record, you will never have to worry about infection or disease again."

A grunt was the only reply Maverick felt like giving the doctor. He slipped off the table and put on a fresh shirt that Gitana took from the redoubts sprawling storage facility. He would replace the battered jacket as well, but that would come at a later time. Right now he was more worried about trying to figure out what the hell to do next.

The redoubt was under Spint's total control, all pockets of resistance that were loyal to General Hammond were wiped out. But they couldn't escape using the mat trans, and the doors were sealed. He considered using the tech to help them bypass the redoubt entrance security, but what good would that do them? In only a matter of a few hours the nukes would start to fly and billions would be chilled.

He joined the others in the waiting room. "Lets go babe. I don't want to hang around here any longer." He walked very carefully, favoring the wound on his leg. He knew from experience that any sudden strain would tear the sutures open and that would mean yet another round with the doctors. He never did care for medics all that much.

"Feeling better Amante?"

"Been better, been worse. I guess it'll be nothing more than a slight annoyance after a good nights sleep." He growled "Where's the rest of em?"

"Down in the recreational facility. Joe wanted to stuff his face and Gedoena wanted to watch a couple of videos while the doc treated you. Feral didn't have a clue what Ged was talking about so she tagged along with her.

"What do you think of the girl?" Maverick ground his teeth together in anger.

"Come now Amante." Gitana replied crossly. "She and Gedoena like each other, and I have to admit that the young lady has a certain likable charm about her." She let go and put her hands on her hips. "So what's wrong with you?"

Maverick rolled his eyes. "Simple. I don't know her, and I don't trust her. Should leave her and her fleabag cat back here to die with the rest of these stupes. Besides…. She gets on my nerves."

The small Spanish woman leaned forward and tapped the big man on the chest. "Amante, you should learn to be willing to give a little once in a while."

"Enough already! I am tired, I am sore and I could use a little relaxation right now, so fireblasted lay the fuck off will you?" Maverick threw his hands up in frustration.

Gitana regarded him quizzically. "Ok, sorry I brought it up Brett. What the hell is eating you anyhow?"

Immediately the scarred warrior's features softened and he reached out and enfolded the woman in his arms. "I'm triple sorry Gitana. But you have to admit that you are probably as stressed out as I am right now. Let's face it. We are trapped in the past, and in only a matter of hours the world is gonna die."

The woman returned his embrace and placed her head against his chest. "Ah, true enough Amante. We all have different ways of dealing with it. Sometimes your way of just venting steam is the best way."

Maverick disentangled himself from the woman and held her at arms length. "Tends to get me in a lot of trouble though."

Taking his hand in hers, Gitana turned and walked down the corridor to the elevator. "I would never have guessed that Amante." She chuckled.

Maverick chose not to reply, instead to enjoy the quite, peaceful stroll with the woman he had grown to love so strongly so quickly. It wasn't long before they arrived at the recreational facility. Before they entered they could hear Joe roaring with laughter.

"Ever notice how much that guy smiles?" Maverick commented as he reached for the handle. "Just not fireblasted natural."

Gitana shrugged. "You should try it a little more often amante, it makes you look handsome."

They entered the room and spotted Joe, Feral, and Gedoena seated in large comfortable chairs before a big screen TV. On the screen he saw a man wielding two handguns, firing both as he rolled down the banister of a staircase. And to make matters even more unbelievable, the man was actually hitting and killing the targets he was aiming for.

It didn't take long for Maverick to crack a grin. "What you watchin'?"

"It's a movie that was made about three years ago. I didn't catch the title, but it's about a really nice hitman who is always getting used by his so called friends." Ged answered before anyone else could speak.

Feral sat stone still, her eyes glued to the screen. She didn't even react when the others entered the chamber. Maverick jerked his thumb at her. "What's with her?"

Joe's burst of laughter drowned out Gedoena's answer. Maverick turned to see what was so funny and started to laugh as well. On the screen, the main characters where holding their guns at an angle instead of straight up and down.

"Jesus, what a bunch of Outlander stupes!" Maverick laughed. "There is no way in hell that they could hope to hit with any kind of effectiveness holding their blasters like that."

"No wonder so many people were chilled right after the skydark. Try to defend themselves like that and they deserve to be chilled." Gitana chuckled, taking a seat between Feral and Ged.

Maverick sat next to Ged and put his arm around her shoulders. "What were you gonna say?" He asked, his voice still filled with amusement at what he was watching on the screen.

Ged placed her talon against Maverick's chest and wrapped her tail around his leg. "Oh, she's never seen a video before. It fascinates her. Besides, she needs something to take her mind off her injury."

"So, she did catch something in that fight then." He said, making it obvious he really didn't care.

Ged flexed her claws slightly. They dug into Maverick's muscled chest and he winced slightly but didn't say anything. "No Brett. Spint had Matt doing some sort of experiment on her. Spint got involved and she's got a very sore belly right now. She doesn't want to talk about it. I know, as I tried."

Maverick nodded and continued to watch the video. He couldn’t help but laugh out loud at all the different things the characters did on screen. Sure they looked good in a movie, but anyone stupid enough to try them in real life would find themselves pushing up Deathlands daisies in no time at all. They all joined in on the running commentary of what they were seeing, even Feral joined in once or twice with a wise crack.

Finally the movie ended and despite the fact that what was being pulled off would never work in a real firefight the scarred man had to admit that he actually enjoyed the movie. He had seen vids before but getting the chance to see one was always a treat for him.

"How they do that?" Feral asked when the tape was rewinding.

"Do what?" Joe asked her.

She pointed at the wide screen TV. "That. How they make pictures move, look live?"

Gedoena pulled herself away from Maverick and sat down on the floor next to the other mutant woman. She spent nearly fifteen minutes trying to explain how they made movies to her. Feral sat and listened, her attention focused fully on the exotic girl before her.

Finally Ged finished. "There, now do you understand?"

Feral shook her shaggy hair. "No."

Gitana placed her hand over Maverick's mouth to stifle the chuckle. They both knew it wouldn't do any good but at least it was the polite thing to do. Feral ignored them entirely.

With the patients only a child could posses, Ged began to explain the procedure once again.

"It's been a long day Gitana, let's go get some sleep." Yawned Maverick as he stretched his arms. He winced at the motion, as it caused his leg to pain slightly. "Night Ged. Don't stay up to late lil lady. Night Joe."

The mutant girl wrapped her arms around Maverick and kissed him on the cheek. "Night Brett."

Gitana slipped her arm around his waist and they headed towards the exit.

"Try not to break any bed springs tonight you two." Said Joe, his trademark grin firmly in place.

Maverick couldn't help himself. "What, jealous?"

Feral looked at the two departing people and smiled. "Goodnight Amante."

Maverick groaned and put his hands over his eyes. He didn't say anything, just walked out of the room. They eventually found their way to their private quarters and made long slow love before finally allowing sleep to claim them.


* * *

Matt Chance was very busy. It seemed that Spint had one meaningless task after another for him to perform. The last job was particularly nasty. Dozens of personnel were infected with the Ebola 2 virus and were either dead or dying throughout the base.

Spint had him cleaning up the mess several soldiers made as they died in one of the lounges. He was on his hands and knees, scrubbing at the bloodstains on the floor. Luckily for him, the men perished on the tiled floor instead of the carpet that was only a few feet away.

And once he was finished, He was to take a small work detail to the main entrance where several of the soldiers had rushed to in a vain attempt to escape. The virus took care of them in short work.

He wasn't pleased in the slightest.

"Mr. Montague." A voice called out from behind him. He nearly jumped out of his skin. Turning around he was able to keep his features composed and calm.

"Yes Dr. Spint?"

"Forget what you are doing right now. I have another, far more important task for you to complete for me."

Great, now what? Clean up the fucking bathrooms? He grumbled to himself as he stood up and dropped the blood soaked sponge into the filthy water bucket. "What do you need me to do?"

"It's very simple really. It's two jobs actually. I want you to head to Redoubt echo and talk to young Gedoena. Give her the following codes." He held out a piece of notepaper to the younger scientist.

Chance scanned the list of codes. "These are jump destination codes, but I don't recognize the others."

"Just make her memorize them, and then put her into cryogenic suspension. If she asks why, use your imagination and make something up. But do not tell her the reason you are doing this." Spint leaned closer to the man. "Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

Chance only nodded. This would be the perfect time for him to get a message off to someone in the chain of command. Warn them about what Spint was doing and what he learned about the impending nuclear holocaust.

"Oh, and one last thing." Spint said, holding one hand up as he looked down at the floor. "Don't even think of betraying me. I will be sending along an 'escort' to make sure you do only what you have been told to do. Nothing more, nothing less."

Chance paled. It was as if the other man had read his thoughts. "Sure Dr. Sure thing." He carefully pocketed the paper with the codes. "When do I leave?"

"Right now would be as good a time as any."

Chance wiped his hands clean on his lab coat. He was about to leave the room when Spint cleared his throat. "Your escort is waiting for you in the mat trans chamber. I know it will take time but as soon as you are finished, I want you to return. And don't worry about running into any difficulties. I have your orders already typed up and signed. The escorts will give them to you."

Chance simply nodded. Spint had covered a lot of ground, but not all of it. He would try his best to find a loophole, something that would let him get a message off to one of the redoubt commanders.

A strange goatish odor assailed his sense of smell. Without warning Spint was behind him and had grabbed Chance by the throat, literally lifting him bodily into the air. "I can smell your betrayal Chance. I won't tell you again. Don't cross me little man. Don't even think of crossing me." He dropped Chance who scrambled away from the scientist.

"I'd never think of doing that Dr. Never. "I'll be back in a few hours time. I take it that they are expecting me?" He said hurriedly.

"Yes, Dr. Chance. They are expecting you. I have remodulated the mat trans so they will figure that you jumped from a different redoubt entirely. If they knew you jumped from here they wouldn't allow the transfer to take place." He brushed his hair back with one hand and glowered at the other man. "Oh, and report to decontamination. I don't need you setting off the redoubts bio contamination alarm.

"Yes sir." Matt Chance didn't wait a second longer. He left the room, walking as fast as he dared to. At least he would see little Ged one last time. The version from the future still very much looked like her, even acted like her, but to him it just didn't feel like her.

He made his way to the decontamination chamber, lost in his thoughts.

* * *

Montague groaned and tried his best to sit up. But the beating Spint's men inflicted on him had been too severe. His body was wracked by a violent fit of coughing, which brought tears to his eyes. His sides felt like someone had been stabbing him with a white-hot poker. At least one rib had been busted in the beating.

Frankly, he was surprised that he was still alive. The way he figured it by now Spint had won control of the base. Why the man bothered to keep him alive was a mystery. He shuddered as he caught his blurred reflection in the observation window of the cell. The front of his shirt was covered in dried blood, while his left eye was nearly swollen shut.

"Ain't you the pretty picture." He moaned as he finally managed to get himself into a sitting position." At least they allowed him to drink water, but he wasn't given any food. He figured that it would hurt too much to eat anyhow.

The door of the cell opened and in stepped Spint. The soldier drew himself up as best he could as he spoke. "Here to finish the job?"

"No Mr. Montague. Not at all. I have far better things in store for you." The scientist crouched next to the man and ran his fingers across the dried blood. He tisked. "My, my, they sure did do a nasty number on you didn't they?"

Montague didn't bother to reply. He just stared at the Spint, letting his hatred of the sick scientist lend him the strength he needed.

"Wouldn't you like to know what I am going to do to you Mr. Montague?" Spint teased.


Spint continued as if he didn't hear him. "I am going to send you down to the bio weapons division. We received several samples of a tailored virus that would not only invade the host, but inject DNA into the host's cells, causing a gradual mutation into a brand new form."

Montague paled. He had heard dark rumors that certain redoubts were involved with ultra black projects like that. He even heard about a redoubt located in New Mexico that was involved with the experimenting on alien DNA. "Spint, just fucking kill me and get it over with."

"Let's see. I could always see how you would look after mutating into one of the three battle class genotypes that I have samples of. How would you like to have your musculature increased double or triple? Your skin would grow scales and you wouldn't be quite so attractive, but you would be quite the formidable foe."

Montague tried to lunge at the man but only managed a feeble lurch. He lost his balance and landed face first on the floor. Fresh blood sprung from his mouth. He couldn't stifle a scream of agony as his broken ribs grated together.

The scientist backed away from the prone man, making sure he was out of the other man's reach. "Or how about using the other virus that would double your internal organs? The side effect is that you would take on the characteristic features of a black, but why would that matter to you? Someone could pump a full magazine into you and all it would do would be to make you angry.

Montague placed his hands over his ears in a vain attempt to block out the scientist's voice.

"No, I think I'll save the best for last." Spint said. He cupped his chin and studied the prone man. "I wouldn't want to do that after the transformation was complete. The suckers on your hands would tear the ears right off your head." Spint chuckled. "Not that it would matter at all, as this genotype you might very well lose your ears! Or just a small opening. You sure would love fires though. And explosions!"

"I hope that you die long and hard Spint, you sadistic mother fucker. I hope that you suffer the worst fate that any man could ever face." Spat Montague, not daring to look at the other man. He didn't want to gratify Spint by letting him see the tears of rage and fear that flowed down his swollen face. "I hope that your little game backfires and you get a taste of your own medicine."

Usually Spint would fly off the handle when someone spoke to him in that manner. But instead he just snickered and stood up. "No chance of that happening Mr. Montague. No chance at all." He turned away and walked out into the corridor. Before he closed the door, he lapped the dried blood off his fingers. "Pleasant Dreams Mr. Montague. And enjoy your humanity. It's not going to last."

The door slammed, but Montague could still hear Spint's mocking laughter.

* * *


Maverick snorted and woke up. He had been dreaming about his family. It wasn't a pleasant dream, but before he could remember the details they faded away. He raised his arm and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and then hit the light switch on his chron. It was 7:29 AM, January 20th. Judgement day, the day that birthed the Deathlands.

He turned on his side and caressed his lover's belly. He knew that she was carrying his baby. He had no doubt about it. It wasn't Greaves, nor was it any of the slavers who had raped her. It was his.

Gitana snuggled closer to him, taking his hand in hers and she raised it to her lips so she could kiss it. "Morning Amante." She whispered sleepily. "Want to sleep a little longer?"

Maverick coughed. "No. We have only a few more hours to figure out how to get out of this place and get back to the future." He turned his head to look at his lover, even though he couldn't make out her features in the darkness of the room. "And, morning to you as well."

He could hear the pleasure in her voice. "Ah, it's too early for us to feel our chica moving about. That won't happen for several more months." She turned onto her side so she could face him. With her free hand she traced the scar that ran from his peck down to his stomach. Even though they had been together for only a short period of time they both knew every square inch of each other's body.

"Don't fret Brett. I know you'll get us out of here. I trust you. After all, you risked your life to free me from the slavers and Greaves."

He felt his face grow hot with shame. He was thankful that she wasn't a psi mutie or a doomie. She would know that rescuing her wasn't his first course of action. He had simply wanted to steal the truck as transportation for Gedoena and himself. "Glad one of us has some confidence."

Gitana propped herself up on one elbow and kissed his chest. "I have faith in you." She allowed her hand to wander down past his stomach.

"Sorry baby." He said as he gently pulled her hand away from his groin. "I'm just to stressed out right now. When things get triple tough like this, I just have a hell of a time getting good and ready."

"Ok Amante. I understand." She climbed on top of him and kissed him full on the lips. But that was the extent of her actions. Without a word she slipped off and padded softly over to the light switch and turned it on.

It didn't matter how many times he saw her naked, he would never get used to it. She was stunning. Her long black hair cascaded down her back, looking wild and free in the dim light. Her compact but curved form sent shivers of lust through his body. He swallowed hard and forced the thoughts out of his head.

"Lets get the others." He said as he pulled his pants on. From beneath his pillow he removed his IMI desert eagle. Sometimes it was uncomfortable sleeping with the blaster like that, but he learned long ago that sleeping with a little discomfort was far better than sleeping with the fishes.

They both dressed quickly and took the time to make sure their weapons were fully loaded and clean. Maverick picked up his pack and pulled out two sets of body armor. He tossed one vest and the guards to Gitana. "Make sure you wear these under your cloths today. I have a feeling we're gonna need them before the day is out."

Gitana didn't need to be told twice. She slipped the armor on and secured her weapons. "Ok, let's get the others shall we?"

With the last clasp secured, Maverick nodded once. "Yeah. Lets do it." The two survivalists left their quarters without looking back.

The past day or so had been quiet. Spint kept true to his word and allowed them to have near total access to the entire base. There were certain rooms that he refused to allow them to enter, saying that important experiments were in progress and they couldn't be interrupted. He figured what could be so damned important that they would need to be run right up to the holocaust, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself.

He had insisted that they all took quarters on the same level, in fact side by side during the night. But he made his companions memorize the layout of the entire base. Something he had learned from Trader. Several things about the military base still confused him though. In the future he had found the corpse of General Hammond seated at his desk. But he had personally killed the man in the garage. Everywhere he went in the base he saw things as he had seen them in the future, with that one exception. He couldn't help but wonder what that meant.

He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes in order to take his mind off what he had been thinking. The first room they stopped at held both Ged and Feral. The two mutants seemed to hit it off quite well despite the fact that Maverick didn't trust the newcomer for a second. Ged hugged him tightly around the waist. "Morning Brett." She said cheerily, smiling up at him. She then looked over at Gitana and beamed. "Good morning Gitana."

"She returned the smile. "Good morning Chika."

"Morning Ged. Sleep well?" He returned softly. He glanced at the other woman who had crinkled her nose in disgust. "What?" He snapped,

Feral crossed her arms under her breasts and smiled coyly at him. "You should bath after stabbing Gitana with mutant organ."

Ged started to giggle. Maverick stole a glance at his lover and saw that she was blushing. "Ah, shut the fuck up outlander." Was all he could think to say.

Feral merely shrugged her shoulders. "Well, it true. You smell bad."

"What the fuck ever. Did you do as I asked?" He grunted, not wanting to take the conversation any further than he had to.

"Did. But not feel right. Heavy. No free move." She answered, shifting uncomfortably in the body armor he had obtained for her from the armory. "And belly hurt from it." He really didn't care whether the mutant woman lived or died, but figured that as long as she was alive and with them, any little bit she could contribute to the group would help.

"Good. Just ignore the pain it causes you. Better to put up with some minor discomfort than taking an eternal nap, isn't it? How about the blaster?"

She hefted the small .38 special that he had chosen for her. It was your standard police issue revolver. The holster he took was secured to her hip. He had literally hundreds of different weapons to choose from but didn't want to spend the time showing the outlander how to use them. A revolver was simple enough. Besides, it was almost as fast to re-load as an automatic as long as she had the speed loaders. He checked and saw that she had six small clips attached to her belt. That meant she had forty-two rounds of .38 JHP. He figured that since they would more than likely be going up against opponents wearing ballistic vests like they were, the cop killers would come in handy.

"Did you practice reloading the blaster?"

She cocked her head to the side and snorted. "Do I look stupe to you?"

Before Maverick could retort, Ged interrupted. "Yes, I spent an hour with her before we went to sleep showing her how to use the loaders."

Maverick nodded once. "Ok. Good. Lets go get Joe and then figure out what to do next."

The two mutants joined Gitana and Maverick in the hallway. "Hi Gitana." Feral said with a smile.

"Good morning Feral. Sleep well?" She answered pleasantly.

"No. No use to sleep with person. Ged breath loud." Feral said sulkily.

Maverick grinned. Considering how sensitive the mutant's senses really were, a mouse breathing in the same room would be too loud for her." He crossed the corridor and knocked on Joe's door. He was about to knock again when the door opened and Joe joined them. Before Maverick could say anything the eternally grinning man closed it behind him. "Hey Mav. Ready to hit the road?"

Maverick could have sworn that he had seen a curvaceous leg hanging over the edge of the other man's bed, but the room was so dark it could have been the sheets. He mentally shrugged. "Yeah. Time to figure out a way out of this place." He nodded in approval when he saw that his friend had dressed for battle.

"Ok," he announced to the group. "Let's head to the mess hall, get a good breakfast, and then try to figure out what to do from there.

As Joe passed feral she crinkled her nose in disgust. She opened her mouth to speak when Ged raked her heavy claws across her shin. She yelped in pain. "What you do that for?" She hissed as she rubbed her battered shin.

Ged grinned innocently. Didn't see you standing there. Maverick shot a glance at Joe who was stalwartly ignoring what was going on around him. He led the group up to the mess hall where they ate their fills. A standard rule in the Deathlands was to eat when you could as you never knew where your next meal would be coming from. He made sure that they followed those rules even this far back in the past.

The meal went by quickly and quietly. Some of the surviving members of the redoubt joined them but stayed their distance and talked in hushed tones. More than once Maverick had been tempted to ask Ged or Feral what was being said, but in the end decided to ignore it.

When the meal was finished and the dishes disposed of they sat down to drink coffee and discuss their plans. Maverick opened the debate. "Ok, let's hear what you think we should do? We need to get to the gateway chamber and access the one mat trans unit that was modified for temporal jumps. What do we know about the base so far?"

Joe was the first to speak up. "We know that Spint has the gateway guarded 24 hours a day by at least four loyal soldiers. Three are armed with Standard issue M16-A2's, and one is carrying a Mini M-60. They are also armed with hi ex grens, implosion and incid grens. And to top it off they are wearing full body armor, vests, arm, leg and joint guards, full helmets that are equipped with LI goggles. Overall I figure they're pretty tough hombre."

The scarred man nodded. "Just as I figured. Gonna have to fight past those bastards no matter what. Make sure that your weapons are loaded with a mixture of ammo. I want 2 rounds of Jacketed Hollow-points, followed by mercury tipped round. With the cyclic rate of the blasters we are using hopefully that combination will do the trick. Make sure your side arms are loaded with hollow points or expanders. Use em for up close and personal work."

Anyone find personnel that could make potential ally's for us?" He asked next.

Gitana spoke next. "It appears that there is at least one man down in the holding cells. For some reason he was spared the virus. Probably received the inoculation before it was released."

"Did you get a name on this prisoner?" Joe interjected.

Gitana shook her raven tresses. "No. But I think it might have been that sec man named Montague that we met. I thought I heard his name come up but I might have been mistaken.

Maverick nodded. "Something about that sec man struck me as ok. Don't know what it was but if he is being held prisoner, he must have done something to piss Spint off. That makes him a friend in my book."

He drained his coffee and placed the cup on the table. "Any hints on what is being hidden behind the doors that Spint is keeping us away from?"

To his surprise Feral had something to say. "He hiding mutie animals. Including friend." She frowned and absently scratched her nose. "Something very bad inside one. Bunch of man boxes. Bad smell, but…"

"But what Feral?" Maverick prompted.

"But smell. It remembered. Not sure way to tell."

Ged reached out and gently squeezed the other mutants arm. "It remembered? You mean that the smell was remembered by you, or familiar to you?"

"Yeah. That it. Feral smiled. "Smell familiar. Like us but not us." She clasped her hands before her and frowned. "Sometime, wish I spoke good. Hard to tell."

The group regarded the woman for a moment. "Mebbe one of us should check it out, see what Spint's got cookin'" Joe finally said.

"Yeah, that might be a good idea. That whitecoat has been acting triple strange the past few days. I know he was bug fucked crazy before, but he seems even far worse now." Gitana said as she shook her head.

Maverick sat back in his chair and linked his fingers behind his head. "Well, I think one or two of us should get into it and see what he's got cooking." He looked directly at Joe. "You seem to have a pretty big bag of surprises, so why don't you and Feral go check it?"

Joe shrugged and took another sip of his coffee. "Good coffee." He commented. "Well Maverick, what makes you think that?"

The survivalist couldn't help but grin at his friend's coyness. "Oh, like you say so often. This and that. You wanna give it a go?"

"Sure, why not?" He answered. He looked over at the mutant woman. "You think you can stand the smell of me to help me figure out what he's got?"

Feral nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, you smell good. Not like others. Not like Amante."

Maverick rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. He wished that the woman would stop baiting him like that. "Ok. After we're done, I want the two of you to check it out."

Both of them simply nodded without replying.

"And before I forget, keep your head gear at the ready. I want us to have full contact the entire time." Maverick added.

They finished their coffee and Gitana took the empty cups over to the counter. When she returned she broke the silence. "What about that whitecoat that you took a shine to Chika?"

Ged looked slightly embarrassed. "You mean Matt?"

Gitana nodded. "Yes, Dr. Chance."

"What about him Gitana? I haven't seen him since we took out the last of the resistance in the garage."

"Try and track him down. Since he obviously care's for your welfare I believe that he will turn out to be a valuable asset. He has medical training that much I know for sure and also seems to have other hidden talents."

Maverick nodded his head in agreement. "Sounds like a good idea to me." He was about to continue when a voice broke over the intercom system. Brett Maverick and Gitana, report to meet room seven, level four in fifteen minutes." The message was not repeated.

Gitana and Maverick exchanged surprised looks. "Any idea what this is about?" Gitana ask.

He shrugged his shoulders and stood up. He adjusted his gun belt and made sure that everything was at the ready. "Don't ask me man, I only work here." He snorted. "But I bet our glorious leader wants to see us for some reason." He added sarcastically.

He picked up his SPAS 15 shotgun. "Alright we each got our assignments, so lets hop to it people. I want it all wrapped up by.…" He glanced at his watch before continuing. "At exactly 11 hundred hours time."

Everyone wore their headgear and on Maverick's signal they switched them on. One by one they called off over the system, making sure that the gear was still working perfectly. In one's and two's they filed out of the mess hall.

* * *

Following the internal maps Maverick and Gitana managed to find the meeting room in less than five minutes after they left the mess hall. Two Guards were posted outside the doorway, both were wearing body armour and held M16-A2's at the ready. Both guards saluted as Maverick approached. "Sir, Dr. Spint is waiting for you and the lady."

Maverick didn't bother to reply. He just glared at the soldiers and strode up to the door. The Soldier who had spoken opened the chamber for him and waited until they both had entered.

Seated at one of the tables was Dr. Spint. He had his nose buried in several file folders and looked as if he was deep in thought. Maverick Strode up to the table and placed his hands on it.

  • "You wanted to see us?" He said neutrally.
  • Spint ignored him for nearly a full minute, studying several sheets of paper. Finally he carefully placed the sheets into the folder and closed it. "Yes Mr. Maverick. I did indeed ask to see you." He said looking up at the man.

    Maverick glanced at his watch in annoyance. It was a ten twenty one in the morning. Less than two hours before the holocaust would begin. "Well Dr., what do you want of us?"

    The whitecoat stood up and straightened his jacket as he walked around the table. Maverick let his hand slip involuntarily to the butt of his pistol. There was something about the way the scientist moved that sent shivers of fear racing down his spine. Something spoke of a predator about to strike. His nose picked up a faint, goatish odor. It wasn't as strong as it had been during the battle of the garage, but it lingered in the air like a bad aftertaste.

    "As your commanding officer, and lord of the new order that is about to be birthed, I expect certain rights." Spint commented as he walked over to the two survivalists. Maverick noticed that Gitana took several steps away from the other man. It was obvious to him that she too, sensed something was not right.

    "And what rights are those?" Maverick asked. He swallowed the cold bile he felt building up in his throat.

    The older whitecoat stopped before the man, within arm's reach. "Quite simple Mr. Maverick. I want her." He stated and pointed at Gitana.

    "No. Fuck that noise Spint." Maverick growled, as he pulled the blaster out of its holster. He started to swing it so it aimed directly at Spint's stomach. But then the scientist did something that surprised him. With blinding speed Spint struck out with his hand and slapped the automatic right out of Maverick's grasp.

    The larger man retaliated instantly. He drove his free hand like a sledgehammer into the scientists' mouth. Maverick was a powerfully built man. He had dropped many opponents throughout his years of surviving in the hell that is known as the Deathlands with such a blow. The shot rocked Spint's head back and the smaller scientist staggered back until he hit the table. Maverick stayed on him the entire time, landing several more blows in rapid succession.

    His face became hate filled mask of determination. "I'm gonna beat you to death you sick mother fucker." He let his right arc up in a viscous uppercut that would in all likely-hood splinter the scientist jawbone.

    Except the blow never landed. Spint held his hand with a strength that surprised the scarred man. "I don't think so my dear friend Maverick. He twisted his hand, forcing Maverick's wrist into an un-natural position. The big man grunted in pain and surprise.

    It was obvious to anyone watching that Spint wasn't a trained fighter, but what he lacked in skill he more than made up for in strength and stamina. Maverick tried to drive his free hand into the scientist's face, but the whitecoat grabbed it and held it at bay.

    "I don't think so my friend." Spint grinned. The goatish odor that Maverick noticed when he entered the room became overpowering. He dropped to the floor, and at the same time swung out with his powerful legs, catching Spint and throwing the man off balance. The scientist was forced to let his hands go.

    "Chill him!" Maverick roared as he rolled out of Spint's way. The scientist recovered a lot faster than he had thought possible. The man was already on his feet. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gitana aiming her blaster at the whitecoat. There was a thunderclap and a flash of light as she pulled the trigger.

    Maverick turned to admire the woman's handy work. But Spint was still standing. Not a single mark could be seen on his body. Gitana wasn't the greatest shot in the Deathlands but even she should have easily hit the scientist at such a close range. She fired three more times. The big man couldn't believe his eyes. The whitecoat seemed to anticipate each pull of the trigger and deftly side stepped each shot. Maverick felt something hard against his back. The shotgun!

    The door to the chamber opened and the two guards who had been posted outside stood slightly to the side, their M16-A2's held at shoulder level. Maverick didn't hesitate. He pulled the trigger so rapidly three shots sounded as one. The first guard caught the 00-buck in the upper chest and neck. The rounds failed to penetrate the armor on his torso but tore his throat out. The attack was so sudden the soldier didn't stand a chance.

    His partner was more on the ball. He sidestepped back behind the wall for protection. He kept the M16-A2 aimed into the room and fired it off full auto at the position where Maverick had been standing. The shots were wild but forced him to jump to the side.

    Too many things were happening at once for Maverick to follow. As he dove for cover Spint literally leaped and closed the ten feet separating him and Gitana. He slammed into the small woman, using his momentum to carry both of them to the floor. His right hand was firmly wrapped around the handgun and he managed to force it away.

    Coming out of his roll Maverick aimed the blaster at the wall where he figured the soldier would be hiding. He pulled the trigger blowing several large holes in the wall. A surprised scream of pain came from outside. He struck home but odds are he did nothing more than knock the wind out of the man. At least it would take him out long enough to finish Spint.

    Gitana and Spint rolled on the floor struggling for control of the weapon. Her blaster fired off three times but to no effect. Maverick dropped the now empty blaster and scanned the floor in front of him looking for his discarded handgun. It was no where to be seen. He didn’t dwell on it as he closed the distance between himself and the madman that was threatening his lover and the mother of his unborn child.

    His left leg lashed out and nailed Spint in the rib cage. The whitecoat released Gitana and rolled several times before finally coming to a stop. Maverick pounced. He hit empty floor. The Whitecoat moved with shocking speed and was well clear before the survivalist landed.

    Spint kicked him full in the head. The blow nearly knocked Maverick out right then and there. "I will have her Maverick." He screamed, kicking him again. And again, and again until he finally collapsed.

    Before darkness overtook him, he watched as Spint flew over to Gitana who was trying to reload her blaster. With a casual swat of his hand he sent the weapon spinning. The last thing Maverick saw was the whitecoat punching Gitana square in the jaw and her slumping to the ground.

    * * *

    Maverick woke up suddenly. His face and body felt like he had just gone twelve rounds with Ryan Cawdor while the other man was under one of his frequent fits of rage. He moaned and pushed himself into a sitting position.

    "Brett, come in for Christ's sake!" Screeched a voice over the head gear. "C'mon Maverick, what the fuck happened?"

    "Fuckin' Spint has totally lost in." He said with his mouth feeling like it was full of cotton. He spit, not surprised to see it flecked with bright red blood.

    "Yeah, kind of figured that. Guess Gitana managed to activate the com link when the shit hit the fan. Could hear everything." The other voice over the com link said. Maverick pushed his way through his fog-encased mind and pulled out the name to match the voice.

    "Yeah, Joe, no shit man. Spint cold cocked her and took her. Got no idea where." He stood up and finally located his handgun and retrieved his SPAS 15 shotgun. "Remember where Spint asked us to meet?"

    "Affirmative Brett. Feral and I are on our way right now. E.T.A. 2 minutes."

    Maverick's muddled mind couldn't help but wonder why the hell Joe was using military terms. He reloaded the shotgun as he approached the door. The memory of the soldier he shot through the wall was still fresh in his mind. But since he didn't know how long he had been out of it, he had no way of knowing if the man was still there, dead or gone.

    He crouched low and glanced around the corridor. There was no sign of the other soldier. Maverick breathed a sigh of relief. Not because the soldier survived but because he didn't feel like he was ready to take the man on. Spint knew what he was doing, that was for certain.

    He heard the sound of two people approaching at high speed. He saw Joe running towards him, with Feral only a few yards behind. Maverick let his breath out. "That was fast."

    Joe winced when he saw Maverick's face and head. "Ouch. Fucker sure did a number on you didn't he?" Feral was oddly silent.

    "Ged, what's your status?" Maverick called out.

    "I'm on my way Brett. I heard the whole thing." The com link couldn't hide the sound of tears in her voice. "Are you ok?"

    "Yeah, I'm triple fuckin' fine Ged." Maverick snapped, then regretted it. He continued in a softer voice. "I've had worse Ged. But get here as soon as you can. We have to figure out where Spint would take Gitana. The redoubt is triple big, but there are only so many places he can go."

    He heard her sniff. "Ok Brett."

    "Brett?" Feral said once it was obvious that she wouldn't interrupt.

    He looked at her. "What?"

    The woman put her fingers along side her nose. "I follow. Spint smell triple bad. Easy to track."

    The ice between them thawed slightly. "Ok Feral, lead the way once Ged joins us."

    She nodded and grinned, showing her slightly longer than normal canines. At that exact same moment Ged appeared from around the corner. Feral squealed in glee at the familiar long, sleek form that was following on her heels. She ran past Gedoena and wrapped her arms around the mutant cougar.

    Ged wrapped her arms around Maverick and hugged him tight. "You look terrible Brett." She said.

    He returned her embrace and answered. "Had a lot worse Ged. Where did you find the cougar?"

    "Wasn't hard." She replied with a mischievous grin. "I just asked one of the guards where the animal was being kept."

    Feral and her long time companion joined them. The big cougar padded up to Maverick and rubbed her head across his leg, nearly knocking him over. Feral grinned. "She want to help. She like small woman."

    He reached down and scratched the cougar behind the ear. "The more the merrier. Lets track the bastard down and chill his sorry ass. And kill anyone who tries to stop us."

    With Feral in the lead, followed closely by the cougar, the small group followed the trail left by Spint and his captive.

    * * *

    Spint had Gitana tossed over his shoulder in the classic fireman carry. He made his way straight to the Gateway. The four guards raised their weapons as soon as he appeared but once they recognized him they lowered them.

    "Brett Maverick and his people turned against us." Spint told the gathered soldiers. "He attacked me. I believe that they will be following me shortly." He paused long enough for the soldier to unlock the control room door. "I want terminated on sight."

    The soldier saluted. "Sir!"

    "I want two of you inside the control room. I don't want to take any chances. Keep hidden, and if the traitor and his people somehow manage to get in, I want you to take them out."

    Two of the soldiers broke away from the others and followed him into the control chamber. They both took up positions at strategic locations, giving them the maximum field of fire on the entrance.

    Spint opened the door to the main Mat Trans and dropped his captive on the floor the hexagonal shaped room. He left the door slightly ajar and then went to work on the control computer. From his vast memory he pulled out the destination code of one location he could safely sit out the holocaust, and wait until it was clear to return to the redoubt.

    Having input the destination code he entered the Mat Trans and closed the door. The whitecoat sat on the floor across from Gitana and made himself as comfortable as he could.. Thankfully the two Mat Trans would be in sync, or the trip would have been very unpleasant.

    He closed his eyes as the spark filled mist filled the chamber.

    * * *

    Ahead and around the corner from the group lay the control room for the Gateway. Maverick knew that the guards would be on the alert for them, and odds are very good that Spint will have told them to shoot first, ask questions later. He unhooked an implode gren from his web gear.

    "Ok, I'm gonna lob this at the guards. Nothing fancy, let's just take em out good and fast. All that macho bullshit we've seen on the vid's won't do us a bit of good except getting us chilled. Those fuckers are armed and armored to the teeth, and we'd suffer heavy losses if we tried a frontal attack."

    His companions couldn't argue with his logic. They nodded in agreement. Maverick continued. "It's about fifty yards give or take from the corner to the gateway chamber. I'll be exposed for several seconds, but hopefully it'll give me enough time to toss them this little present and get back around cover."

    Ged hefted her Styer Scout sniper rifle. "Be careful Brett."

    Maverick grinned. He turned and handed his SPAS 15 to Feral. "This'll just get in my way. Think you can handle it?"

    The woman took it from his hands. He could tell that she was very unfamiliar with firearms of any type. "Simple." She said. "Point at bad guy, pull trigger. Bad guy die."

    Joe snickered. "Yeah, that's pretty much it Feral. And with a scatter gun like that all ya need to do is have it aimed in the general direction." Joe flipped up his M16-A2 rifle and chambered a single round, getting it ready to rock and roll.

    "And Feral?" Maverick added as he was about to head to the corner.


    "Best if you kept your cougar out of sight for the first few minutes. I don't know how much control you have over it, but the soldiers would take her down before she could get half way to them."

    Feral nodded. She eyed the large man with something akin to surprise in her eyes. But before she could say anything else He stepped up to the corridor and pulled the pin on the gren. In one swift motion he stepped into the soldiers line of sight and threw the grenade with all his considerable strength.

    As he feared, the soldiers were expecting him and opened fire. The grenade sailed through the air, right on target. Maverick dove back around the corridor, but not before getting hit twice in the chest and one along the left leg. His body armor saved him from buying the farm, but the kinetic energy transfer from the rounds still felt like that a mutie mule had kicked him in the ribs. The round that passed over his leg burned the flesh slightly but that was the extent of the wound.

    The soldiers at the end of the corridor were trapped with no place to go. The grenade landed four yards before them and detonated. As with all implode grenades instead of exploding outward the antimatter reaction created a miniature vortex of intense gravity that sucked matter into it. The effect, even at a distance was spectacular. The power of the vortex pulled the two soldiers into it's heart, compacting and compressing their physical matter downwards. In less than five seconds the two soldiers had been reduced to quivering piles of torn flesh, shattered bone and compacted body armor.

    With Joe's help Maverick climbed to his feet. The simple action of getting up hurt like hell and he gasped in pain. Ged stole a glance around the corner. She squeaked in horror and clasped her mouth with her talons in an attempt to prevent herself from becoming violently sick.

    Maverick put his hand on her shoulder. "Ged, you stay here and keep your eyes open for more of Spint's men. You see anyone you open up. Don't ask questions, don't do anything fancy. Just chill em." He instructed.

    Ged nodded her head and hefted her sniper rifle. Maverick shook his head. "Sling that. Joe?" He called.


    "Give her your auto blaster. We'll take care of anyone inside the control chamber the old fashioned way."

    The barrel chested man handed the mutant girl his rifle. "Careful sweetheart, don't be breaking the blaster. You’re the strongest person I have ever known." He slipped off his web gear and handed it to the mutant. She in turn handed him her pistol.

    "What about us?" Feral asked.

    "You two stay here with Ged. Cover her ass. Remember what I told you. Just point the blaster at the enemy and fire. Don't try anything fancy." He started down the corridor to the gateway chamber entrance.

    He avoided looking at the ruined corpses that had been partially sucked into the implode gren. He had seen death more times than he could count but there was just something down right horrific about dying from the blast of an implode. He tried to open the door and found that it was locked.

    "Shit. We're gonna have to figure out a way inside now." He slammed his fist against the door in frustration."

    Joe unslung his pack without a word. After several seconds of rummaging he pulled out a small set of tools. Maverick watched as the other man deftly removed the faceplate to the key pad and began to work at a furious pace, snipping wires here, re-connecting there. In less time than Maverick could have hoped for he heard the magnetic lock on the door disengage.

    "Ged, Feral, wait for my signal. We're gonna check out the control chamber. When I give you the all clear, triple time it down here. We're gonna find out where Spint went and go after the bastard."

    "Affirmative Brett. Waiting on your mark." Ged replied over the com link, all trace of the little girl she is gone from her voice.

    Brett crouched on the right side of the door, Joe on the left. Maverick really wished that he had his HK MP5 because it would be perfect for such close quarters combat. But if wishes were blasters he'd be the baron of all the Deathlands right now. He met Joe's eyes and could see that the other man was ready. Maverick mouthed the words one, two, and then on three shoved the doorway open. Brett dove in and grabbed the first cover he could find, which happened to be a desk located next to the door. Joe quickly followed and slid down beside one of the many mainframes located in the chamber.

    It was deathly silent in the room. He knew that there must be at least two soldiers in it somewhere, either that or Spint took them with him. But the latter he seriously doubted for the simple reason that from the intention the whitecoat made clear to him, Spint wouldn't want an audience.

    "Listen up. I ain't got nothin' against you folks. I only want Spint. Put your blasters down and you can walk out of here. We won't try to stop you." Maverick called out.

    The desk and wall around him exploded as at least one person opened up with an assault rifle.

    When the firing stopped Maverick risked talking again. "Ok, I'll take that as a no." He wanted to give it one more chance. There had already been enough death in the base and he was growing tired of it. "Fireblast! Can’t you tell that Spint has gone total bug fucked crazy? Haven't any of you noticed how he's started to actually swear when he gets pissed? I don’t know what happened to him but he's totally lost it."

    As Maverick spoke, he motioned with his hands at Joe. He signaled for the other man to leave his cover and make his way over to the Gateway chamber. The weapons fire came from near the gateway. He hoped that the soldiers wouldn’t be too keen on opening up on anyone near the main control unit for the mat trans.

    Joe nodded and slid out of his cover, he crab walked along the far wall, keeping the desks between him and the enemy.

    "I don't want to have to chill you man, but if you don't let me go after Spint, I will." He called out a final time. Still, there was no answer. "Ok asshole, I gave you a chance to stay breathing. You didn't take it." He dropped to the floor and scanned the area before him. He could see that both Gateway chambers were open, but there was no way that the fire could have come from them. To the right of the regular chamber he could see a series of desks and filing cabinets. That would be the most logical place for the soldier who fired upon him to be hiding in.

    He slowly crawled his way along the floor, watching the shadows. He was waiting for any tell tale hint of movement. He wanted to pull a gren and toss it where he figured the soldier was hiding out, but knew that he didn't dare damage the gateway equipment. It was the only way they could get home again.

    He almost slapped himself as the idea came to him. A flash bang grenade. The flash wouldn't harm any of the comp systems, and neither should the thunderclap. "Joe, cover your eyes and ears. I'm gonna lob a flasher." He whispered into the mike. A double click came back to him, indicating that Joe had indeed heard and understood. He unhooked one of the grens from his web gear and pulled the pin. He held the spoon against the device and tried to figure out the best place to throw it.

    He let the spoon fall free and he then carefully tossed it over the desks so that it would land about center of where he figured that the soldier was hiding. Someone fired upon his position before he could duck back under. This time it was a handgun. The shots were rapid and close together but not full auto. Fortunately for him, they all missed and he was able to dive back under cover. The grenade blew seconds later.

    Though Maverick managed to cover his eyes the thunderclap of the grenade partially deafened him. He jumped out from the meager cover of the desks and dodged his way to where he threw the grenade. As he figured, there was one man rolling around on the floor, screaming silently in pain. Maverick wasted no time in pumping nearly a full magazine into the man. The full body armor protected him slightly, but no enough, especially since Maverick had insisted on loading his weapons with Jacketed hollow-points and Mercury tipped rounds.

    Over the top of the desk he could see Joe creeping towards the far gateway. "Joe hold your position, I am going to head over and flush the Outlander out of the gateway. Cover me."

    Joe nodded once and raised his assault rifle. Maverick abandoned his cover and slammed into the gateway wall, holding his handgun two fisted before him. He wanted to just simply toss a grenade into the chamber but knew that even a flash bang could damaged the sensitive equipment and didn't want to risk destroying their only way home to the Deathlands.

    The gateway door was partially open which meant all he had to do was close it completely to trigger the jump. But He had to reach out and expose his arm in order to grab the handle.

    Well, it was worth the risk. He reached out and was about to grip the handle when the gateway door flew open and knocked him to the side. At the same time a fusillade of rounds poured from the gateway and smashed into Joe. If he hadn't been wearing the Body Armor the rounds would have killed him for sure. The force of the impact slammed him into the gateway control computer. It crackled and shuddered, then half the lights on the terminal went dark.

    The soldier didn't bother to expose himself. Instead he aimed the weapon blindly around the corner and opened up. The rounds came close enough that Maverick was forced to roll out of the way, unable to use his own weapon.

    He did the next best thing he could. While the soldier was still firing Maverick lashed out with both feet and hit the gateway door, slamming it into the soldier's arm. His Blaster flew out of his hands and he yelped in pain.

    Maverick did the classic jump from a prone position martial arts move and smashed into the gateway door once more. The blow forced the man out into the open where he spun to face off against Maverick. He raised his desert eagle and growled as he pulled the trigger.

    Click. The weapon was empty. In the heat of battle Maverick had broken one of the cardinal rules. Always try and keep track of your ammunition.

    The soldier grinned and pulled a K-Bar combat knife from it's sheath. "I'm gonna gut you like a fish, boy." He snarled.

    "Oh, please…." Maverick rolled his eyes and dropped into the classic martial arts fighting stance. The soldier was not going to be a problem.

    The soldier came at him, whirling the small blade so fast that Maverick nearly couldn't follow it. A shiver of worry hit his emotions. The guy was pretty damned good he thought to himself.

    Three swift strikes nearly landed, forcing the survivalist back. He nearly tripped over a desk but managed to keep his footing. From the corner of his eye he spotted a discarded clipboard and snatched it up. The perfect shield.

    The soldier struck again but Maverick used the wooden board to bat it aside. He lashed out with his free hand and clipped the soldier on the chin. But the blow was weak and didn't even slow him down.

    With his leg the soldier lashed out and snapped Maverick in the chest, forcing him back and over the table. He landed with a grunt. The soldier followed and jumped on the table. With all his considerable might Maverick kicked out and up ended the table, sending the soldier crashing backwards where he landed on another table, smashing right through it. The knife flew out of his hand.

    The blow slightly winded Maverick but he knew that he had to ignore it and press the attack. He had the upper hand and had to end the fight here and now. He rounded the table just as the soldier was picking himself out of the debris. Maverick didn't let him regain his feet. He launched a flurry of blows landing so fast anyone watching would think that it was a single blow, when in reality each was a series of three consecutive impacts. The barrage battered the soldier, forcing him further and further down into the wreckage of the table.

    He didn't let up the pummeling despite that many times his strikes landed on the body armor and helmet, severely cutting his fingers and knuckles. The constant beating stunned the man senseless. Maverick picked up a jagged chunk of wood and drove it through the soldier's neck. "Die Motherfucker!" He screamed as the blood spurted from the wound.

    The soldier's eyes widened in terror as he clasped his destroyed throat with both hands. He thrashed about trying to breathe but the damage was too great. As abruptly as they began the thrashes ceased.

    Maverick stood and dropped the impromptu weapon and then spat in the dead man's eyes. "Take on the best, die like the rest fucker…."

    Joe's groan of pain broke through his battle haze. So did the pain from the numerous wounds he had suffered in the fight as well as over the past week. He went to his friend and checked him over. The rounds failed to penetrate the body armor. "Christ Brett, where the hell did you come up with a line like that? It was so corny."

    Maverick slumped to the ground and started to laugh. "Yeah, I guess so. I think I read it in a book somewhere. You gonna live?"

    He groaned as he sat up. "Yeah, I'll live. But man you sure know how to get your friends beat up." He tried to smile.

    Maverick shook his head and continued to chuckle. "I guess I do, don't I?" He tapped the communication gear. Feral, Ged, if the coast is clear I want you two here pronto. We're gonna go after Spint and Gitana right now.

    "Affirmative Brett. We're on our way." He heard Gedoena answer over the link. A few seconds later the two mutant women joined them. Feral looked as if she wanted to rush over to Joe but stayed put.

    "You know about these Mat trans units Ged, think you can figure out where Spint went?" Maverick asked as he helped the barrel chested man to his feet.

    "Um hmm." Ged walked over to the main control panel and looked down at it. "I don't know if it's gonna work or not Brett. The panel was damaged in the fight."

    A thrill of fear hit Maverick. "Well try it anyhow Ged. We have to go after them."

    She hit a single button marked LD. It lit up upon contact. "There, let's get into the gateway and prep for the jump."

    Maverick helped Joe into the gateway and was followed by Feral and her cougar, then Ged brought up the rear. At the last minute Maverick remembered his weapons and left to retrieve them, as well as the weapons the soldiers had been using. He distributed them to the group. "Load up and make sure you've got enough ammo. We don't know what is gonna be waiting for us on the other side."

    He glanced at his watch. It was a ten fifty seven AM. He closed the door and sat down with his back against the wall. The jump had started.

    * * *

    Spint looked up at the large clock positioned high on the wall of the control room. It read ten fifty seven AM. The control room was fully automated, controlled by the supercomputers located down on the surface of the planet. He knew that in exactly sixty-three minutes that the nuke would detonate below the soviet embassy in Washington. That within a matter of a couple of minutes from that time the weapons platform he stood in would fire off it's own missiles at targets throughout the former soviet union.

    He and his new queen would ride out the holocaust in the comfort of their own private screening room. The platform was un-manned because it was undergoing the final phases of an automation test. That was the reason he chose that specific site to jump to. It was fully stocked with enough food to last them for ten years. Oxygen might prove to be a problem but the auxiliary tanks read at ninety eight percent capacity, which meant that without having to resort to the carbon dioxide scrubbers on the station they could last for nearly two whole years. And if the isolation was too great they could either jump out or use the emergency cryo tubes located near the living quarters.

    He growled as he looked down at the beautiful woman lying unconscious at his feet. He had not wished to harm her but she was such a wild cat he had no choice. He crouched and caressed her bruised cheek from where he had struck her. "So beautiful. The bruise will fade with time my queen."

    Spint paced back and forth in the small room, torn by the strange feelings that were burning him deep down. He couldn't put his finger on it but he knew of a profound change that was occurring. Of course! He jumped with glee. The sample that Pendergast gave him. The one that he took. The change was taking place. It would turn him into the most powerful man who ever lived. The perfect ruler for the upcoming 'Deathlands' that he learned about.

    Gitana's barely detectable moan broke his revere. He crouched beside the woman and gently propped her up. Her puffy eyes snapped open and she shrieked in fear, trying as hard as she could to pull away from the crazed scientist.

    Spint put his finger to his lip. "Shush my queen. I will not harm you now. I am so sorry about having to treat you the way I did, but it was the only way." He reached out with his hand and touched her face.

    Gitana pulled away, whimpering in fear. Spint pulled away puzzled by her reaction. Not at all like the fiery spirit he had seen only a matter of hours ago. "I swear my lady, I will not lay a finger on you again. Not to harm you in any way that is." He tried to take her hand but she screamed and tried curl up into a ball.

    The reaction puzzled him more than ever. Why would she act like that? Was it a game? He stood up and walked over to one of the room's view ports. Outside the Earth rotated as it had since it's creation. He wondered just how many people down on the blue green jewel knew what was about to happen. Then something in his reflection caught his attention.

    The moan of pain and fear he heard this time was his own. Now he knew what caused Gitana to react the way she had. It was his eyes. They were reptilian. The orbs had taken on a yellowish luster and the pupil had become slits. He licked his lips and nearly bit off the tip of his forking tongue.

    Spint spun around looking for a mirror. He couldn't see one but instead went over to one of the metallic surfaces and inspected himself. A fine pattern of scales seemed to be forming on his skin in patches.

    He held his hands before him and roared in anger. Pendergast tricked him! He fooled the man into allowing his own arrogance be his downfall. The sample must have been highly concentrated to trigger such a profound change in such a short period of time. For the first time in what seemed like years he felt sane. His mind reeled at the atrocities he had committed.

    But the darker side of his nature wouldn't allow rational thought to gain ground. A shroud of darkness overcame him, smothering the flicker of rationality. He gazed down at the woman lying prone on the floor and felt a wave of something flash to the surface. A hunger. A lust unlike anything he had ever experienced before.

    It wasn't a sexual lust. It was a lust for hot blood, warm flesh. To be eaten, not pleasured. "Gitana." He hissed. "I lied." He crouched and pounced.

    But Gitana wasn't there any longer. She was on her feet and snap kicked Spint squarely in the side of the head. The combination of the blow and his momentum smashed the changed scientist into the bulkhead. She was weaponless, but was hoping that she could at least stun the man enough to escape and make her way back to the gateway.

    Spint's recovery surprised her. He spun on the balls of his feet and hissed. "Oh, mousy want's to play! This cat is more than willing to play with you. Tenderize the meat before I feast." Spint launched himself once again. The speed and power of his mutating body was exhilarating, but he hadn't had enough time to adjust to the physiological changes. He overcompensated and slid past her. She barely even had to move to dodge him.

    Gitana picked up a chair and hefted it over her head and to the side. "Come on Punjabo. You want me? You will have to come and get me. But you'll pay for it, pay for every pound of flesh with pain unlike anything you have ever felt." She barely had the chance to speak the last words when Spint attacked once again. Gitana swung the chair and smashed it across his shoulder and head. The metal of the chair warped in her hands and she lost grip of it. Spint slammed into the wall again.

    He was up on his feet instantly. But the blow had affected him. An ugly gash ran across his forehead and blood flowed freely into his eyes. He growled and spit. She could see white flecks that couldn't be anything but pieced of broken teeth. He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear his eyes.

    That was the chance she needed. She made a desperate grab for the door. Her fingers just brushed it when it she felt a iron like grip snag her shoulder. "No!" She screamed in true fear.

    "Yes." Answered Spint in a guttural voice. "Oh, yes my queen." Another hand grabbed her by the neck and pulled her back."

    The door burst open and Maverick stepped into the room "Try to take my woman Spint?" He leveled the shotgun at the raging man. "I don't think so." And pulled the trigger. There was no way he could hope for a clean shot to the torso or head without risking hitting Gitana. But the whitecoats left leg was free and clear.

    A blast from his shotgun was devastating at long ranges, but even worse when the range was less than ten feet. Spint's knee and three inches to the top and bottom of it disappeared in a red misted shower of gore.

    Spint turned ghost white and let Gitana go. He fell to the floor and clasped the stump with both hands and screamed in mortal agony. Maverick raised his shotgun and aimed it at the whitecoats head, ready to take it off at the shoulder when Gitana stepped in his way.

    "No. The outlanders mine." She kicked the man in the stump. If anything his mouth opened even wider. The pain was so exquisite that it was almost pleasurable. Not a single sound escaped from him. She balled her fist and drove it straight into the man's nose, pulping it. The blood flew out in a torrent, right into his screaming mouth. The whitecoat started to choke on his blood. The Spanish woman wasn't about to let him off that easily. She took the older man's head in her arms and wrenched it with all her might. A woman of her size even in peak physical condition would have a very hard time snapping someone's neck. But her strength was fueled by a combination of fear, of rage and of adrenaline.

    The vertebrae in Spint's neck separated with a loud crunch. The whitecoat went into spasms that were so powerful that Gitana was thrown right off him. Then as suddenly as they started the convulsions ended. Spint's eyes closed.

    "Holy fuck." Maverick whispered.

    Gitana threw her arms around the big survivalist and broke into tears. "He went cannie. He was going to try to eat me." She sobbed into Maverick's chest.

    Maverick handed his shotgun to Joe and waved him away. He stroked Gitana's long black hair and let her cry until she was finished. The nightmare of the past week was just about over.

    * * *

    The small group stood around the view-port gazing down upon the Earth. Maverick looked at the Chron on his wrist. It was exactly 12 noon. Far below and on the other side of the earth the nuclear device located in the basement of the Russian embassy in Washington just went off.

    No one spoke. They simple just stared out the window. Gitana leaned into Maverick and watched the world turn. Joe sat down and pulled out his kascka doll and held it as if in prayer. Feral, the newest member of their little group wrapped her arms around the neck of the cougar and buried her face in it's silky neck.

    Gedoena looked at Maverick, then at Gitana. "Come here Chica." Gitana said softly and held out her arm. The mutant girl joined her and Maverick and held on for dear life. The minutes passed by seemed like an eternity.

    Exactly three minutes after the detonation the lights of the space station dimmed and turned red. A siren blared through the hidden speakers. "Warning, warning total purge of arsenal initiated. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. All personnel report to duty stations post haste. Total Purge to commence in T minus sixty seconds."

    "This is it." Joe said in a hushed tone. "This is really it. The end of the world."

    No one answered him. They just waited in silence. The computerized voice ticked off the countdown first at every five seconds until it reached T minus thirty seconds. Ged closed her eyes and buried her head in Maverick shoulder. The big survivalist desperately wished that he could close his eyes as well, but forced himself to watch the events unfold.

    "Five…. Four…. Three…. Two…. one… Purge commencing." The entire station shuddered as the full compliment of nuclear warheads flew out of the holding cradles and streaked to earth. Below the watched as streaks of light rose into the night sky of Russia. Each streak bore death of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in the metal tip. Streaks of hellfire bent on the destruction of mankind.

    Twenty minutes passed and they spotted the first detonations in the Russian homeland. Pinpricks of light. In seconds the pinpricks doubled, the tripled, seeming to grow exponentially in numbers.

    Even a seasoned warrior like Maverick was shocked at the sheer number of detonations. Before his eyes he watched as millions, nay, billions died in seconds. He couldn't speak. He almost couldn't breath.

    With each explosion tens of thousands of lives were snuffed out. The dreams, the hopes, everything that made life worth living were heated to a million degrees in less than an eye-blink. He could remember his grandfathers' tales on how the living envied the dead, how those millions that died in the first few seconds were the lucky ones.

    He could imagine mothers playing with their children in parks on both sides of the globe suddenly looking up at the flash of light that was brighter than the sun. Those far enough away would have been blinded by the flash, and depending on how close they were to ground zero, would suffer burns of varying degrees. Those far enough away would wonder what was happening until they saw the firestorm racing faster than imaginable towards them.

    It's possible that they would have lived long enough to see their clothing catch fire, their skin burst into flame before the storm finally engulfed them and mercifully ended the torture.

    The detonations seemed to go on forever. Finally Maverick forced himself to turn away from the view port. He studied the haunted faces of his lover, his friend, then his ward, and finally the face of the newcomer. Each member of his party were touched deeply and profoundly by what they had just witnessed.

    "Let's get out of here." No one argued. The small group headed back to the gateway and used the last destination button to return Earth-side.

    * * *

    The redoubt seemed strangely quite. No one greeted them at the gateway entrance. The soldiers that they killed lay where they had fallen. "Let's gather up some supplies, take them back with us. But first, we all need to get some sleep."

    "I no sleep. Have bad thoughts." Feral said sullenly. Even the wild girl had been deeply, profoundly touched by what she witnessed. The death of a world. Joe spoke up as well. "Yeah, I guess I'll find sleep pretty hard to come by as well.

    Maverick couldn't help but agree with them. But whether or not they actually slept, they all needed rest. "We'll use the Mat Trans tomorrow. Reload your blasters and keep them at the ready. I don't know how the soldiers are going to react to us. Let's head straight for the mess hall, grab some self heats, then we'll share one of the dorms.

    The group left the gateway control chamber. The base was very quiet. They did see soldiers here and there but for the most part they were staring off into space. They knew what had happened. Some of the soldiers were busy packing up personal belongings as well as loading up on weapons and gear. But once again no one tried to stop them.

    The trip to the mess hall was uninterrupted. They entered and were a little surprised to see one man sitting at one of the tables drinking a cup of coffee. "Matt!" Ged squealed. "You survived!" She ran up to the man and threw her arms around his neck.

    The scientist put his coffee down and disentangled himself from the mutant girl. "Yeah, I survived. But what is the point? We're gonna be stuck here for years, maybe decades until the fallout dies down and the nuclear winter ends."

    Gedoena took his hand in one of her talons. "Don't be silly Matt. You'll come with us. We're gonna go home!"

    Matt Blinked in surprise. "How? We don't know the codes to activate the time jump gateway."

    Ged smiled. "Yes we do! You gave them to me remember? I gave them to you as well. All we have to do is enter the codes, and jump back."

    Maverick and the others stood to the side, giving the young mutant the room she needed while she talked to her friend. Gitana noticed the look that Feral was giving the scientist and gently elbowed the big warrior in the side. He stole a side long glance at the latest member to his band. The hate he saw in her eyes caused him to involuntarily reach for his blaster. But he held off. "Gitana, I want you to talk to Feral, see why the hell she's with us."

    She nodded.

    "Screw this. Look, everyone grab some grub and then head to the dorms. I am gonna check out the holding facility." Before anyone could stop him, Maverick went for the door. Joe shrugged and smiled as he followed his leader.

    When they were gone Gitana walked up to the newcomer and took her by the arm. Feral glared at her for a second then her face relaxed. "What you want?"

    Like Maverick, Gitana tended to get straight to the point. "Why'd you follow us, Feral?

    A blank look crossed the wild girls face, and she seemed to shrug into herself. "Dunno." Gitana waited patiently and Feral finally muttered, "See group sleep. Tried to get out of trap." She ran out of words, and gave a helpless look.

    Gitana carefully provided, "You wanted to get us out, and you didn't know us."

    Feral huffed out as she stalked away from the smaller woman. She grabbed a number of self heats and opened them all giving most to the large cougar who devoured them as fast as Feral could drop them.

    Gitana smiled at the retreating back. "You're not as feral as your name, and you don't even know it." Feral stiffened, shot a very confused and angry look back at the gypsy woman, and picked up her meal before she hustled out of earshot.

    The Spanish woman joined Gedoena and the whitecoat seated at the table. Ged was in the middle of telling the man how they finally killed Spint. Chance looked up at the woman in surprise. He couldn't figure out how a small woman like her could accomplish such a brutal killing. She smiled and sat down with them.

    * * *

    Only once on their way to the detention cells did any of the soldiers attempt to stop them. The man looked ragged and panicked and had grabbed Maverick by the arm. The survivalist had his blaster half drawn when the soldier finally spoke. "Is it true? The war has started?"

    Joe glanced at maverick and then turned away. "Yeah, it's true. I just watched millions chilled."

    "How?" He cried. "How did you see this?"

    Maverick shoved the man away and straightened his jacket. "I was on a space station when the nukes went off. Followed Spint there."

    "The Gateway is active?" The man screamed in joy. "We're not trapped after all!" He shot down the hallway without waiting for any response.

    "If he knew what we know, the stupe would make himself nice and cozy and wait patiently for the nuclear winter to pass." Joe commented as he watched the figure retreat.

    Maverick nodded and they continued on their way. It didn't take long before they arrived at the detention center. The booth was empty and it was a simple matter for Maverick to unlock the main entrance to the cells. He didn't know for sure which one held the prisoner, Montague but figured that he might as well open all of them.

    "Joe, stay here. Anyone that looks like they are even thinking of trying to stop us, well you know what to do."

    His friend nodded and leaned up against the security checkpoint. Maverick entered the hallway and checked each cell. The fourth down the right hand wall is where he found Montague. The man was lying on the floor. Maverick pulled back at the stench. The man had been forced to shit and piss in his clothing. He looked terrible. The soldier looked up at Maverick and tried to speak but he couldn't.

    "Christ… How long have you been like this?" Maverick pulled out a canteen and uncaped it. He held the wounded man's head up and helped him drink. "Take it slow, drink to fast and you could chill yourself."

    After Montague finally got enough fluid back into his body he feebly pushed Maverick's hand away. "Thanks. It's been something like 18 hours since I had any water."

    The survivalist shook his head in disgust. "I'm gonna get you out of here. No one deserves to be treated like this. Besides you seem to be a good sort." He helped the filthy stinking man to his feet. "Well, no one except that cold heart Spint and the bastards who started the skydark."

    Montague leaned heavily into him. "So, it wasn't bullshit after, was it?"

    Maverick shook his head. "No. I wasn't shitting you. The world as you know it has ended."

    He helped the other man out into the corridor and met up with Joe. "Lets get him cleaned up and get some food into him."

    * * *

    Two hours later they joined Gitana, Ged, Feral, and Matt Chance in the dorms. Montague still looked horrible, but at least he had been cleaned up and was dressed in fresh clothing. Joe and Maverick both did their best to clean and patch his numerous wounds. But he was still too weak to walk without support.

    Feral was curled up on one of the cots, her cougar companion lying stretched out next to her. Gitana was sitting on a chair with her eyes closed listening to some music on a pair of headphones.

    Upon seeing Maverick, Ged jumped out of her chair and ran up to him. "Did you find what you were looking for?" She looked at the man he and Joe supported between them and blushed. "Sorry Brett. I guess you did."

    Maverick looked over her head at the man who was sitting on a bed next to where Gedoena had been. "What's the story with him?"

    "He's coming with us." Ged stated. It wasn't a question, nor was it a request. The mutant girl was telling him. He looked down at his ward, and noticed her tail was swishing back and forth as it was apt to do when she was angry, nervous or dead serious.

    "Not up to you Ged. It's a vote. Myself, Joe and Gitana." Maverick said. He marveled that how well he did in keeping his voice neutral. He was certain that he kept the anger he felt out of it.

    "Well. Gitana and I both think he would be a good addition to our band. He has lots of useful skills!" She said with an impish smile.

    Maverick looked into her purple eyes and saw something that startled him. He could see that her feelings for the whitecoat were more than just that of simple friendship. She was in love. It was the similar look she gave him whenever he praised her for something, or spent time with her. The same look of love, but different. For him, the look was the love of a child for a parent. But he saw the look of love that Gitana reserved for him.

    That scared him more than anything he had recently faced, except for the skydark itself. He knew that Ged was just a little girl but she was physically a mature woman. The hormones and passions that only an adult woman would have raged through her.

    "Ok Ged. I'll go along with you. He can join us." He blurted, almost regretting it the second it was out of his mouth.

    Ged wrapped her arms around him. She had to stand on her toes but that didn't stop her from kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you daddy Brett."

    "Your welcome." He said and pushed her away gently but firmly. "Just don't make me regret it."

    She clasped her hand in front of her and smiled, showing her elongated canines. "Oh, you won't daddy Brett, I promise you that!" She turned away and jumped on the bed next to Matt and hugged him. The whitecoat looked at Maverick and the big man simply shrugged.

    They helped Montague sit down on one of the beds. The man looked up at Maverick with his good eye and spoke. "Daddy Brett?"

    Maverick caught Joe's grin and glared at the man, who turned away to keep from laughing outright. "Yeah, so what? Got a problem with that?" He growled, not from anger but from embarrassment.

    Montague carefully shook his head. "Not at all. Just seems that you’re a little young to have a daughter that age."

    Maverick walked away. The group split up and rested in whatever method they found the easiest. Some slept, others talked and read, while Gitana listened to her music. Later on that night he and his lover slipped away from the others and spent an hour making tender love in the shower.

    * * *

    Dawn broke. January 21st 2001. The first day of the new America. The America now known as the Deathlands. Everyone was up and about by five AM. They spoke little and instead concentrated on preparing for the time jump that they were about to take. They all ate a good meal and headed down to the gateway chamber. The base was totally deserted.

    They passed the doorway to the chamber that held the coffin like devices. Maverick stopped and looked at the doorway. He turned to Chance who he knew had information about the room. "What's in there?"

    Chance paled and swallowed hard. "Um, clones. Clones of all of you."

    The revelation stopped Maverick dead in his tracks. He wasn't well versed in high tech terms but he knew what a clone was.

    Feral pulled on Joe's arm. "What clone?" she asked?

    Maverick didn't bother to answer. He pulled out his shotgun and emptied the magazine into the locking mechanism, blowing the door open. Before anyone could stop him, he entered the chamber and looked down at the coffins. Each one held a genetic duplicate of the members of his group.

    He reloaded the shotgun and raised it at the device that held his clone. His finger tightened on the trigger but at the last second he stayed his hand. "No, I can't do it. They deserve a chance to live. Mebbe they can do something to make their future a better place."

    The others stared at him in confusion at his actions and sudden change of heart. Gitana didn't know whether she should kiss him or hit him.

    "Lets go. I don’t want to wait any longer." Maverick strode past them and went to the gateway control room. The corpses lay where they had fallen, but it was very obvious that many people had been through the chamber. Discarded self heats, dropped personal belongings and the like littered the control chamber.

    He opened the door to the gateway chamber that brought them from their home in the future to this past. One by one his companions entered and sat down until finally only he, Ged and the scientist Chance were outside. "Ok, do your magic Ged."

    She nodded nervously and went to work on the controls. There really wasn't much work to do. She simply hit the Last Destination button and hoped that it was all they would need to do.

    Matt sat down and Ged joined him. Maverick felt a twinge of jealousy the way she placed her head against his shoulder but fought it down.

    "Everyone ready?" He called out.

    No one said otherwise. He closed the door with a final click. He crossed the chamber and sat down beside his lover. She took his hand in hers and kissed it. "Time to go home?"

    The mist started to form in the chamber and already Maverick felt his eyes grow heavy. "Yeah, Time to go home. We got lucky. Time was the enemy this time. But I think we can use it to our advantage." With each word his voice slurred.

    Gitana sqeezed his hand. "See you on the other side Amante."

    Maverick closed his eyes.

    End of Times Enemy.