Chris Van Deelen
“So is it a deal then?”
Maverick stood back and regarded the oil baron before him. “Yeah, seems like a fair trade.
Six hundred gallons for six blasters and fifty rounds each.”
The baron smiled, showing oddly perfect teeth.
“Excellent my friend. We will start transferring the fuel to your
It had been just over a week since the companions had left the redoubt
after the double disaster with the mat trans. Montague and Chance had argued
that they should stay behind and get the gateway functioning again but the
scarred warrior wouldn’t hear it. There
was no way that he was going to stay in that redoubt a single hour longer, let
alone the several days of intense repair work that it would require to get the
gateway locking comp functioning once again.
They had spent two hours shouting back and forth before Maverick finally
slammed his hand down on the table and told them in no uncertain terms that they
could either follow his command or stay the fuck behind.
Maverick didn’t care for that one bit.
He wanted to work side by side with his companions and friends, not order
them around. But the two from the
past needed to learn their place until they could survive on their own in the
Reluctantly they agreed to his demands rather than face the possibility
of being left behind to fend on their own. They quickly left the redoubt and
began what was to be a very long journey across the hellish landscape that is
A week later they found themselves in the foothills of Montana, just a
few hours away from the ranch that Maverick had grown up on. And to top it off
they found themselves low on fuel. The high quality juice they had brought with
them from the redoubt was almost gone. They had no choice but to make contact
with the Oil barons that controlled a huge section of land covering almost all
of the former province of Alberta, the southern half of Saskatchewan and part of
northern British Columbia.
During his travels with the Trader, they had dealt with the barons
several times in the past. The
quality of the fuel wasn’t as good as it was before the Skydark but it was
either trade with them and hope that they could reach the next redoubt listed on
the data disk Maverick had been given. There
they would be able to fuel up once again.
The baron turned and whistled sharply from between two of his fingers.
Several sec men jumped off the predark oil tanker and unhooked a long
battered hose. “Move your mutie
behinds!” He roared.
The baron was not really a baron, technically he was one of the true
baron’s cronies. But he fit the
bill perfectly. A fat disgusting slob of a man dressed in a suit of dubious
The sec men raced with the hose over to the first of the two APC’s and
hooked it up to the fuel intake. Montague
stood at the ready beside Feral at the first APC, while Chance and Gedoena
waited by the other. It took only a
few minutes to top off the tanks of both APC’s.
Maverick narrowed his eyes as the baron walked around the APC’s and ran
his hands over the nearly perfect hulls. He could almost hear the other man’s
mind clicking over trying to figure out a way to take the wags for himself.
With a smile firmly planted on his face the baron turned around and
raised his hand, and was about to speak.
“Forget it.” Maverick
cut him off before the words left the baron’s mouth.
“No?” He raised his eyes
in surprise. “But you haven’t even heard what I was going to ask you
Maverick crossed his arms under his muscular chest and set his jaw.
“Forget it. I am not going to tell you where we got the wags.”
With a huff the baron strode up to the other man and put on his
friendliest smile. “But surely
Maverick you could at least trade us for a arma wag or three. We are powerful
and can give you pretty much anything you want.
In fact I’d be willing to trade you that tanker and the men and the
full load of fuel for one right now.”
With a firm shake of his head Maverick stated flatly. “No.
When I rode with the Trader it was the same thing. He never gave up the
locations of where we got the goods or the wags and I ain’t gonna do it
But it was clear the baron was not going to be discouraged. “Name your
price then Maverick. What do you want? Land? How about your own Barony?
Slaves or women?”
At the word slaves both Gitana and Joe glanced sharply at the fat baron.
Maverick caught their eyes and shook his head almost imperceptibly. The
baron was too wrapped up in his sales pitch to notice it.
“We will give you what ever you want in exchange for the location of
where you found these magnificent wags.”
Quite deliberately Maverick turned his back on the fat baron wannabe and
strode over to the fuel drums that the sec men were filling one at a time.
“How’s the transfer coming?” He asked quickly.
One of the men nodded to him and pointed at the nearly filled barrel.
“Two more to go and that’s all of them.
Another three minutes at the outset.”
Never one to give up, the baron marched over to the scarred warrior and
clasped his shoulder. “Come now
Maverick, name your price. You
surely want something that we could provide.”
Maverick looked down at the hand resting on his shoulder and at the
baron. The fat baron could clearly
see that if he didn’t remove it and fast that he might end up pulling back a
stump. “I said no.
What part of no do you not understand trader?” He carefully emphasized the word trader.
Around the two groups the air suddenly turned tense.
Maverick had two fully armed and functional military APC’s while the
Baron had a heavily armored fuel tanker as well as a dozen rebuilt cars and
trucks that acted as escorts. The baron had almost thirty men and women with
him, some were sec men, while others were techs. If it came down to a fight, there is a good chance that the
baron could kill several of Maverick’s crew, but not before Gitana and Joe
destroyed the fuel truck. Both people were inside the turrets of the arma wags,
their hands on the firing mechanisms, just waiting for the signal to fire.
“Alright Maverick, no need to get your girdle in a bunch.” The baron said amiably as he backed off.
He wore a friendly smile on his face but his eyes were clearly angered.
He wasn’t used to being treated like a common scavenger and didn’t
like it in the slightest. “If you change your mind Maverick, just contact us
on the same frequency. And name
The scarred warrior didn’t bother to reply as he opened the hatch on
the nearest APC. Inside he pulled
out a box containing six assault rifles and passed it to the nearest sec man,
then he removed another box, this one still stamped with ‘Property of US
army’ on the outside. A second
sec man took the other box and walked over to the baron and held it out for his
Using a gold encrusted chubby hand the baron carefully opened the box and
removed several bullets at random. The
first sec man who Maverick had handed the weapons to removed two of the M-16A2
blasters and brought them over to the baron.
Despite his appearance the Baron was clearly familiar with weapons and
knew how to use them. He removed the magazine from both and loaded the rounds
into each. The fat man barked an
order to another one of the sec men who ran back to one of the pickups and
brought over a mock up of a man made out of plywood.
He carried the standup figure fifty yards away from the two groups and
set it up.
The baron took careful aim with the first blaster and fired. The Standup was neatly blown over by the shot. The sec man
quickly set it up again and the baron fired a burst from the rifle. The
head of the mock up shattered in a shower of wooden splinters.
“Satisfied?” Maverick asked.
With a nod the baron handed the smoking weapon to one of his cronies.
“Excellent weapons. No sign of
having been fried. I could still
smell the cosmolime they were packed in.”
“Good. Trades done, that’s that.”
“Would you and your crew care to come back to the ville with us? It’s
only a three-hour drive from here. We
will treat you to the best meal you could imagine and a nice soft bed for a few
days if you want. Your people are
looking triple tired.”
“No thanks.” Maverick shook his head.
“Much obliged at the offer of hospitality but we have to decline. I
have a lot of miles to put between us over the next few days and don’t want to
waste any time.”
“Alright Brett, but you have our frequency if you need anything at
The scarred warrior just nodded and walked away.
Gitana was busy checking the ammo stores when she felt a presence behind
her. Normally she would have shot
first and asked questions later but she was quite familiar with the presence.
“Chica, what do you want?”
The mutant girl placed her taloned hand on the other woman’s shoulder.
“Gitana, I am worried about Daddy Brett.”
“I know you are Chica. I’ve noticed it as well.”
The Spanish woman patted the talon on her shoulder.
“Come, sit and lets talk.”
Carefully the mutant girl slid into the co pilots seat, taking care not
to catch her prehensile tail on anything sharp. “Daddy seems to be really
tired lately. Ever since we made
that jump back from newyork. And since you sleep with him all the time maybe you
know what is wrong. He just looks
worse and worse every day. And I thought his temper was bad but it’s getting
really bad now.”
“Something happened to him when we jumped back from the past. He
wouldn’t tell the others, or you totally what it was but…”
The older woman said quietly, closing her eyes and leaning back against
the hull of the APC.
Gedoena prodded gently. “But what Gitana?”
The older woman opened her eyes and stared at the mutant girl who is
rapidly becoming a daughter to her as she had to Maverick. “Promise me that
you will never, ever breath a word to anyone, including Brett. I am breaking his
trust by telling you.”
“Alright” Gedoena nodded. “I
promise I won’t tell him. Is it serious?”
“Chica, when we jumped from the past, he was pulled into the future.
He told me about it. The
story was totally unbelievable, would have been if we hadn’t been in the past
ourselves.” She quickly related his brief visit to the future, the
possible future of the Deathlands, relating what he had seen and encountered.
“Wow.” Was all the girl could say when Gitana finished the story.
“But a simple jump like that shouldn’t cause him to lose sleep.”
“He wakes up every night. Sometimes
I wake up before he does. His body
is always covered in sweat and I can almost smell his fear.”
Gedoena shivered despite the warmth of the interior of the arma wag.
“He was afraid? What could cause him to be afraid?”
Gitana smiled at the girl. “Chica, Brett is only human. He has his
weakness and fears, just like the rest of us.”
The young woman clearly wanted to argue with Gitana, but she held her
thoughts in check. “Do you know what it was?”
“No. He refuses to talk about it. Just gets up and gets a drink or
relives himself them comes back to bed.”
“I want to talk to him about this Gitana.”
“No. You won’t. He is going to tell me eventually.
She snapped more harshly than she had intended to. “I’m sorry
Chica,” She said calmly. “You
are worried about him as am I.”
Gedoena nodded and stroked her tail, a clear sign she was agitated. “Is
he going to die?”
The absurdity of her question caught Gitana totally off guard. The small
Spanish woman couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
She quickly regained control of herself. “What sort of triple stupe
question is that Chica? Of course he isn’t going to die. He just needs to get
“Then lets stop and get the rest he needs.”
She wasn’t angry at the laughter, and her young but brilliant mind went
for the most logical solution she could think of.
“I believe he has already decided on that course of action Chica.”
Just then the scarred survivalist stuck his head in the APC and glanced
at the two women. “Gitana, Geddy, what are you two up ta?”
“Just talking Amante. Nothing
He chuckled. “Get two women together and the plotting starts.”
Gitana placed her hand on the girl’s knee and squeezed it gently,
silently telling her to keep her thoughts to herself. “Of course not Amante,
it wouldn’t interest you anyhow.”
Maverick leaned against the door and crossed his arms.
“If you insist Brett.” Gitana
chuckled and winked. “It’s that time of the month for her.”
The scarred warrior took one look at the two women and did a fast about
face and closed the door. Neither
woman could hold back the laughter at the look on his face.
“I will talk to him chica. He
listens to me after all.” Gitana reassured the young mutant.
Gedoena hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek. “Thank you Gitana.”
“No need to thank me. He’s important to me as well. After all, he is
going to be the father of my baby.” She
stood up in the cramped confines of the APC as she spoke and opened the door.
Outside she spotted her lover helping Joe, Mitch and Chance secure the
fuel drums to the back of the APC. The
small convoy was already quickly disappearing in the late afternoon sun, heading
north back to their port of call. Both Joe and Maverick worked without words,
knowing what the other needed, like a well-oiled machine. The only time they
spoke was to let the other two members of his band know what needed to be done.
It took only a handful of minutes before the barrels were secured. Chance
noticed her watching and waved in a friendly manner.
Waving back, she walked up to the four men. “That was fast.” She said
Joe smiled in his usual manner. “We don’t screw around. Job needs
doing gets done.”
She smiled at him and wrapped her arm around her lover’s waist. “I
know that Joe.” She reached up and kissed Maverick’s stubbled chin. “Are
we going to make camp here tonight?”
“No, I want to put as much distance as I can between us and the gas
baron.” He answered her as he
wiped his brow free of sweat.
“Amante, I am tired. Let’s just stay here.”
Mitch looked at chance and motioned with his head to the APC, Joe joined
Maverick sighed and threw his hands up. “Listen Gitana, you don’t
know those oil barons. They have a huge barony, hundreds of sec men and dozens
of wags. They get what they want,
and the only way to deal with them is to show force or to beat a hasty
“Then how did the Trader handle them?”
“Trader was the baddest dog on the block. The baron knew that if he
tried anything, trader would wipe his little convoy out.
We’ve got the wags, but I am triple worried that the stupe’s are
carrying wag chillers.”
She nodded, knowing that he was right.
He was the warrior. “How
far are we going to go?”
He pointed towards the rolling hills in the distance. Just past could be
seen the white-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. “We’ll head there.
I used to live around here so I know the land pretty good. We can find a
place to make camp in about an hour or so.”
The roads in this part of the country were in particularly bad condition.
Almost one hundred years of brutal winters, combined with the earth-shaker bombs
used by the soviets during the holocaust had taken their toll on the roads.
Some were perfectly clear and passable while others were so badly damaged
that it was easier to travel in the ditches alongside the predark continental
Just as the sun was starting to set they found themselves in the
foothills of the Darks, several hundred miles away from where they had left Ryan
and the others. Maverick was
piloting the first APC and they pulled off the road into a large clearing near a
mountain stream. He parked it next
to the stream and killed the engine.
“We’ll make camp here.”
He told Gitana, Feral and Gedoena as he unbuckled the seatbelt and
climbed out of the drivers seat. Already
the three female members of the band were doing the same.
“I’ll get a fire started Daddy.”
Gedoena told him.
He nodded and opened the hatch in the turret, letting the cool evening
air wash over him. As soon as the door was opened, Feral’s life long
companion, the mutant cougar slipped out and ran straight for the trees that
surrounded them. He figured the
cougar was going hunting. The other
APC pulled up a dozen yards to the right and parked.
Joe was the first one out, followed my Mitch and Matt.
“What’s the plan Brett? “ Montague
asked, stretching the travel kinks out of his back as he walked over to the APC.
“You and Chance, head with Joe and get some firewood.
Watch out for Scream-wings and keep your blasters ready. Stay on
Mitch raised his eyebrow. “Scream-wings?”
“Yup, triple nasty little mutie fuckers.
Ask Joe about them. He’ll fill ya in on the details. They’re quite
common up in these parts.”
“Eyah. Will do Brett.” He threw the other man one last look before he caught up with
the other two men.
Working quickly Brett pulled out enough self-heats for the group.
Over the past few days he quickly caught on to what the others ate and
how much. Personally he loved the
predark packaged food even if the others didn’t.
But he knew that they would soon grow tired of the same food day in and
day out and would want a change.
A sudden shriek caused him to drop the packages and the Desert Eagle was
in his hand and aimed in the direction of the sound before the last of the
self-heats hit the ground. His eyes
caught the sight of Feral leaping in the river; naked as the day she was born.
With a growl he holstered the weapon and gathered up the packages.
The scream she made was not unlike that of the Scream wings he warned
Gedoena had a fire already going and he handed his adopted daughter one
of the self-heats. She had grown quite partial to the chicken ala king
self-heats and he made sure that they stocked quite a few of them.
With a smile she took the meal and opened it, triggering the chemical
reaction that heated the meal up almost instantly.
As his lover joined him he handed the other meals to her and went back to
the APC. He quickly checked the
fuel and oil levels to make sure that there were no problems. They had burned more fuel that he had expected but that was
due to the poor quality of the crude the barons produced. Once they reached the next redoubt he would have to take the
time to change the filters and give the wags an overhaul.
Before he knew it Gitana was knocking lightly on the metallic skin of the
APC. “Amante, your supper is
“What?” He had lost total track of time. “Oh, shit. Sorry babe.”
She entered the APC and closed the door behind her.
“Brett, we have to talk.”
“Sure.” He answered her as he wiped his hands on the thighs of his
pants. He knew that what ever she
had to say it was going to be serious as she rarely ever used his first name.
“Amante, we’re all worried about you.”
She placed her warm hand on his arm and squeezed the muscle gently.
“You have been losing too much sleep and you need your rest.”
He waved her concern off. “Been worse babe.
Went days without sleep at times while riding with Trader.”
“I know that Amante, but I want you to spend a little time resting up
here for a couple of days. We have plenty of food, there is fresh water and
we’re about one hundred miles from the nearest settlement.”
She stood behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders. The muscles
there were usually hard, but they felt like they had been carved out of granite.
She began to dig in with her fingers, trying to relax them.
Sighing with relief, the man slumped his shoulders and let his arms go
loose. “I want us to reach that
redoubt in the next 3 days. We can stock up on fuel and I can run maintenance on
Her fingers continued to work the hard muscle as she spoke. “Brett, the
redoubt has been their since before the Skydark. It will be there for years to
come. The trip can wait.”
“Fireblast Gitana, why the hell is this so fucking important to you?
I’m fine.” He snapped harshly,
wrenching his shoulders out of the woman’s hands.
“See Amante, that is exactly why I am concerned about you.”
The outburst didn’t upset her in the slightest and she took his
shoulders in her hands once again. “You
are suffering from the lack of rest, and your mood swings have been getting
worse and worse. And do you know
what the worst thing is?”
“Do I want to know?” He
asked as he forced his unreasoning anger down.
“Amante, you haven’t even tried to make love to me since we left the
“No,” He said as he rubbed his temples with the tips of his fingers,
closing his eyes as the stress seemed to intensify. “No, I haven’t. And
“I want to know your dreams. Something
is preventing you from getting the sleep you need and if you talk about it, that
“Brett, tell me and I am not going to let up until you do. If you
don’t I will get the others to help me tie you up and we’ll stay here until
you get the rest you need.”
Resigned to his fate, Maverick told her about meeting the Archon when he
had been pulled into the future. He told her about the gut wrenching horror that
overwhelmed him as the creature reached out and caressed his mind with the
“The worst thing was his eyes. Those huge, inhuman orbs. When he stared
at me it was like he was staring right into my soul.”
Just telling the woman seemed to lift a great weight off his heart.
She shivered despite the warm temperatures inside the APC.
“That gave me the horrors Amante. From the way you described it, I’ve
never seen a mutie like that, hell, never heard of a mutie like that before.”
“Believe me babe, if you would have seen it, you’d be losing sleep as
Gitana smiled down at her lover as she continued to massage his neck and
shoulders. “Brett, we are going to stay here for a few days and rest up.”
She said, not asked. The
tone of her voice hinted that there was no room for arguing.
He opened his mouth to protest but she interrupted him.
“And tonight, you’re going to fuck me till you can’t get it up
anymore. Is that understood Maverick?”
“Sure Gitana. I got it.”
“That’s my Amante.” She
laughed as she kissed him the stubbled cheek. “I want you to shave tonight
before we go to bed ok?”
“You got it.”
“C’mon Amante, your food is probably as cold as the grave now.”
She grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. Together they walked out
and joined the others at the fire.
The other five members of the small group were already seated on logs
that Chance and Montague had dragged in from the surrounding forest. Feral was once again fully dressed and was seated only a few
feet away from Joe, watching him as he ate.
Gedoena was with her carefully helping the wild woman comb the tangles
out of her unruly mop of hair. The huge mutant cougar had her head on her paws
and opened one eye ever so slightly as they approached the group.
He sat down on the dirt before the fire and grabbed a self-heat that
Gitana had already opened for him. Without fanfare he dug into the meal. “Good work Mitch, Matt.” He said between mouthfuls.
Montague merely nodded and silently worked on his meal. Mitch grinned.
“Thanks Maverick. But wasn’t anything. Plenty of dead wood lying about. Doubt anyone has used this spot in years.
Joe glanced over at Feral as Gedoena continued to work on her hair.
In some ways he found her near constant staring at him enduring as well
as infuriating. “What?” He
“You eat like wood pig.” She
Joe put his now finished meal down on the ground and wiped his mouth
clean, grinning from ear to ear. “Your point?”
“You pig. That point.”
Maverick started to chuckle quietly under his breath, earning an evil
eyed glare from the woman.
“Daddy Brett?” The young
mutant interjected before a shouting match started between her adopted father
and her friend.
“Yeah Ged. What’s on your mind?”
She bit her lip, afraid that she might give away something that she
shouldn’t. The young woman put the comb down and flicked her long tail from
side to side. “When are we going to leave? First thing tomorrow?”
He took another bite of the self-heat and shook his head. “Nah, figure
we’d stay here for a few days. Seems
like a nice and quiet place, pretty peaceful. Considering the shit we’ve been
through over the past few weeks, we need a good long vacation.”
The girl didn’t hide her surprise very well it was clear that the news
was exactly what she wanted to hear. “Oh, that’s good.”
“Usual watches Maverick?” Montague queried and stood up, picking up
his rifle. They had been together
for quite some time and he still was quite distant.
“The usual, unless you want to switch off with someone.”
With a shake of his head the soldier from the predark days slung the
rifle over his shoulder. “No, that’s good for me.”
“Watch your six Mitch, stay on orange.”
“Roger that.” He tossed
over his shoulder as he walked out of the circle of light and headed into the
woods near the stream.
Maverick clapped his thighs. “So, who’s up for some hooch?”
Joe’s head shot up and he laughed. “I hear that. Fuckin A!”
“Count me in Brett.” Matt
replied as well.
With a grin the scarred survivalist stood and went to the APC. A moment later he returned with several bottles of predark
beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels. After passing the beer around and putting one
aside for Mitch when he returned Brett sat down and relaxed slightly.
“Wish we had some Canadian beer.”
Matt commented as he opened his bottle and took a swig.
Gitana slid down behind Maverick and wrapped her hands around his waist,
holding her beer in her right hand and she twined her fingers in his left hand.
“Why’s that Matt? I’ve drank
better but this predark stuff ain’t bad.”
“American beer just doesn’t have the kick that the Canadian stuff
does.” He answered her.
Joe had just finished draining half the bottle when he looked at his new
companion and chuckled. “Not enough kick?
Shit man, you want kick should give you some joltski or mebbe when we hit
the next ville, get you some of the local gut rot.”
“I’ll take you up on that offer Joe.”
Said Matt as he held his beer up in a mock salute.
“Christ this beer is like making love in a Canoe.”
Her tail swished somewhat as Gedoena spoke to Matt. “How’s that?”
Joe was already chuckling, knowing exactly what the predark med tech was
going to say.
“American beer is like making love in a canoe.
They’re both fucking close to water.”
Gitana and Brett both groaned at the punch line, Gedoena giggled and
Feral just stared at the man, uncomprehending the meaning of the joke. Matt didn’t bother to explain it to the woman, as the
blood between them was still bad.
Despite himself Matt grinned. “Brett, tell us a few stories about what
it was like when you grew up.”
Gitana tensed up, ready to calm her lover down. She knew that he didn’t
like to talk about his past and got very angry when someone asked. To her surprise, he did tense but relaxed almost instantly.
“Sure Matt. What ya wanna know?”
His voice was steady and calm, no hint of the usual anger that
accompanied the question.
Matt shrugged and rubbed his eyes. “Where did you grow up?”
“As I said earlier today, I actually grew up in these parts. My family,
we were part of a large ranch, more like a fortress.
There were nine families in total, almost eighty people.”
Everyone relaxed and listened to Brett’s narration, even Feral.
She lay down on her stomach and curled into her cougar companion.
The scarred survivalist continued with his story. “We raised cattle and
did a little farming and hunting. Traded a lot of the cattle to some of the
local Amarinds and even some of the Oil Barons like the ones we made the deal
with. Never had too much trouble with muties, except the triple deadly scream
wings. Seemed to concentrate in this area somehow. Never did understand that.”
“So what did you do then daddy Brett?”
Gedoena asked him as she sidled a little closer to Matt. The predark
whitecoat was so intent on his beer and the survivalist’s narration that he
didn’t notice it.
“I was mainly a wrangler. I spent most of my time alone or with a
couple of my friends. I was away
from the ranch most of the time, tending the herds, making sure we didn’t lose
too many to the muties and ghouls.”
Feral’s eyes opened a
He nodded. “Yeah, the same.”
Gitana hugged him tightly. “Go on Amante.”
“We used to have a problem with some of the natives going after our
cattle. Got into some triple chilling fights with them. But a few years back,
before I joined Trader, the heads of my home, including my dad, and the tribal
elders finally met and put an end to the hostilities. Did some trading and
we’ve been uneasy allies since.”
Joe drained his beer and stood up. ”Sounds reasonable. The Amarinds are
triple good folks once you get on their good side.
But they’ve never been too trusting of Outlanders so getting on their
good side is damn near impossible at times.
Black Dust, they think that the holocaust was a good thing.”
With a nod the survivalist agreed. “Yeah, that they are. Lost my cherry
to one of the Amerind girls.” He
chuckled slightly as he felt Gitana’s arms tighten around him ever so
“What was her name?” Asked
the small Spanish woman.
“Prairie Fire. Trust me,
that name fit the girl.”
“What was your native name Bro?”
Joe asked as he returned with several more bottles of the predark beer.
“Never got one.”
“Bullshit!” Joe laughed
and sat down. “You spend enough
time with the Amerinds and earn their respect, they’ll stick you with one.”
“I never got one.” Maverick
The large barrel chested man refused to give up. “Wrong Brett. You
shagged a native girl. At the very
least if she’s gonna let you in her doe skin skirt you must have meant
something to her. And there is no
way she would have let you have your way if she didn’t like you.
“Fireblast Joe, how the fuck do you know?”
Joe lifted the small leather bag that was constantly hung around his
neck. “Because I spent time with the Amerinds as well.”
“I’ll tell you mine IF you tell me yours then.”
Maverick made that perfectly clear.
“Sure. They called me Spirit of the bear in white man’s body.”
Maverick chuckled slightly. “Ya know, that suits you.
Ace on the line, that suits ya perfect!”
“Spirit of the bear in white man’s body.”
Feral repeated, almost as if she was testing or t tasting the name. “I
like. Better than Joe.”
“It’s a pretty long name though.”
Gedoena commented, now sitting hip to hip with Matt Chance.
Matt noticed it but didn’t try to pull away. “Your turn Brett.”
Brett mumbled quietly under his breath.
“What was that Amante?” His lover asked him as she leaned in close.
“Didn’t quite make that out.”
The survivalist sighed. “I said, they called me Heart of Stone, Head of
The only sound to reach the companions was the steady crackle and pop
from the fire. Then Feral started
to giggle. Like a wild fire the
laughter quickly infected the other members of the group, even Maverick.
The mutant girl wiped tears of laughter out of her eyes and fought to
regain composure. “I’m sorry Daddy Brett, but that is so funny!”
Despite himself, he was chuckling along as well. “Don’t get yer
panties in a bunch over it Gedoena. It’s
ok. It really did fit me.”
Gitana tipped the bottle of Jack Daniels and poured a little into her now
empty beer bottle and drained it. “Why
did you deserve it Amante?”
“Yeah, why Amante?” Feral
“You all know me. I’m a fighter. Nothin scares me.
Heart of Stone, make sense?”
No one made any motion to argue with the man. Not even the wild mutant.
“And you also know that I tend to do a lot of things without thinking
them out. Well used to anyway. So,
that’s how I got head of air.”
They shared another quiet round of laughter.
It was true, the huge survivalist did have a bad habit of not thinking
before he acted. But as the time passed that habit was slowly disappearing.
The small group of companions spent several hours talking and reminiscing
about their travels and encounters. It
took a while for Matt to warm up to them but once he had he was a fountain of
predark information and quite amiable. Much
to his surprise, Gedoena curled her arm around his and leaned into him,
listening. Within a few minutes the
strange mutated girl was sound asleep.
After that, the level of noise dropped considerably, even though the
level of alcohol consumed went up.
“I’m gonna take my watch now.”
Joe announced out of the blue as he stood up and picked up his shotgun. Even though he consumed almost twice the amount of predark
beer that Maverick had, the man was as steady as an oak tree.
Maverick nodded. “Sure
thing bro. Wake me in two and I’ll take over ok?”
With a yawn he stretched, suddenly feeling more tired than he had been
all week. “Fireblast, I think
I’m gonna go let the sandman beat me to death.”
“You wish Amante.” The
small Spanish woman whispered in his ear, letting her tongue slide along the
flesh of his lobe.
He chuckled despite the exhaustion that he felt consuming him. “A
promise is a promise Git.”
“Ooo! Amante and Gitana gonna mate like wild animals.” Feral chortled as she stroked the fur of her cougar
The lovers stood together. Gitana opened the APC and grabbed the bedroll
and sleeping bags out and laid them near the fire.
Maverick helped her as she worked. The
equipment was in pristine condition and very comfortable. They could sleep in
the dead of winter in the bedrolls and bags without fear of hypothermia.
They watched as Joe walked away from the group, humming a tune to himself
and carrying his shotgun at the ready but loosely in his hand.
Only a few minutes after he left Feral quietly stood up and slinked her
way out of the camp. Her cougar looked up once and actually shook her head
before climbing under the APC near the engine cowling to soak up the radiating
heat that was still present.
Matt gently shook the mutant girl awake. She rubbed her eyes sleepily and
stood up. “Goodnight Daddy
Brett.” Gedoena said as she
kissed her guardian on the cheek and hugged him tightly.
“I hope you sleep good. You
“Thanks Geddy. I want you to get your rest as well.”
She smiled and with a flick of her tail disappeared into the APC that
Matt had only moments before entered.
Gitana smiled and took her lovers hand.
“Seems your little girl is growing up triple fast Brett.”
The scarred survivalist nodded and squeezed her hand in return, running
his free hand through her silky tresses. “Yeah, that she is.
I have a feeling that we’re not the only ones who’re gonna be doing
anything but sleeping.”
“How does that make you feel Amante?
I’ve seen the look you’ve given Chance a few times when Gedoena was
getting a little too close for your liking.”
“Makes me feel triple old.” He
shrugged and cracked his knuckles then started to unlace his combat boots.
Gitana laughed as she pulled off her jacket and top, the nipples on her
small breasts becoming erect almost instantly as the cold night air caresses her
tanned flesh. “I meant how does
that make you feel knowing that Gedoena is getting intimate with Matt.”
“I don’t like it at all to be triple straight.”
He answered as he sat down and pulled off his shirt, opening up the
bedrolls. “But…” He paused and looked up at his lover. “She’s got an
adults body and it is so clear that she is in love with him. Even if he has been
blind to see it. So if she’s
happy I will just have to accept it.”
She wrapped her arms around his chest and pressed her breasts into his
back, gently caressing his stomach. “You’ve changed so much Brett. I am
proud of you.” She whispered as
she gently kissed his neck.
Maverick pulled off his fatigues and laid down, pulling her onto his
chest. “Thanks Gitana. I’ve had
good reasons to do so.” He
glanced at his watch. “Fireblast,
two hours till I relieve Joe.”
“That’s plenty of time.” She
purred and spread her legs as she slid down his body.
“Plenty of time.”
And they made good use of it.
Maverick shot up from his bedroll, clutching his head.
The echoes of the familiar dream still ghosted through his mind, but they
seemed to have lessened slightly. The cold night air washed over his sweat
soaked torso and he shivered, reaching for his jacket.
He was surprised to see his Desert Eagle in the hand he was using to grab
A soft warm hand touched his back. “You had the dream again didn’t
He nodded and slipped his jacket on. “Yeah, but fireblast, if talking
about it to you didn’t help me. Seemed
somehow, well less frightening.”
“Don’t bottle things in.” She
said as she sat up, letting the blankets and sleeping bag fall down around her
waist. Her dark flesh positively
glowed in the dying firelight. “See,
when you told me about what was happening, you opened up the floodgates and the
pressure that was building up had a chance to escape.”
“Yeah, triple ace on the line Gitana. You’re right.”
He kissed her as he reached into the sleeping bag and pulled out his
pants and slipped them on.
She stared him in the eye and stroked his inner thigh as he slid his
pants on. “Where do you think you’re going Amante.”
“Rad blasted hell Gitana, don’t you get enough?”
He chuckled and stood up doing up his pants.
“From you?” She said huskily, cupping her firm breasts for him. “Never Amante, ever.”
It took a moment for him to get his boots laced up and he holstered his
handgun. “I won’t be long Git.
I just gotta go water the plants.” He
made his way out of the firelight and stood behind the APC and let nature run
As he was apt to do, the survivalist let his eyes wander around the edge
of the camp. He scanned the tree
line, taking in whatever the dying firelight revealed.
The soft steady sound of someone walking reached him.
“Hey Brett, you’re not due to relieve me for another hour.” Joe’s quiet voice reached him.
The survivalist looked down at his watch. He was supposed to have relieved the other man almost two
“Shit, I should have relieved you a couple hours back bro. Triple sorry about that.”
Joe waved it off with a friendly grin and a shrug.
“Brett, you go spend time with Gitana.
You both need it. I’ll
just sleep in tomorrow. ‘Sides,
you said we’re staying a few days so I can get all the rest I want to then.”
Maverick nodded and continued to scan the trees as he did up his pants.
He reached for his pistol and drew it in a flash.
The survivalist stabbed the barrel of the pistol to a small
gap in the trees. “There, say something, two eyes shining in the light.
We’re being watched.”
Gitana joined them. She was wearing his shirt and had the CAR 15 carbine
in one hand, a burning chunk of wood from the fire in the other. She handed the
torch to her lover and he took the point. She
stayed a little to his left and a few yards behind and Joe went to the right.
Using the barrel of his handgun Maverick pushed aside the leaves where he
had seen the flash of reflected firelight.
There was nothing there but he could see clearly that there had indeed
been someone watching them. A small
footprint, exactly the same size and shape of Gitana’s was clearly visible in
the soft earth.
“Joe, wake up Mitch and Matt. Grab a couple of the claymores and set
them around the perimeter of the camp. We’ve got visitors.”
He pulled back from the spot and strode purposely into the camp. The
barrel chested man did as he was asked, knocking lightly on the door to each APC
and spoke quietly to both me.
Maverick spent little time getting his clothing back and he slipped his
ever present body armor on under his jacket.
By the time he was fully dressed Matt, Mitch, Gedoena, and Feral joined
them. Joe took Mitch and they set
up a pair of claymore anti personnel mines on the east and north side of the
small Camp. Maverick took Chance with him and showed him were to set up his
mine. They covered the south and
east part of the camp while Gedoena, Feral and Gitana stood guard.
The fact that the visitors didn’t attack was not necessarily a good
sign. Typically if it were a lone mutie or a small number of muties they would
attack without hesitation. Radiation not only twisted the bodies but the minds
as well. The fact that they were
not attacked, only watched meant that the visitor had the ability to reason. It
might have been a lone scout for one of the native tribes that made this part of
the state their home. It could have been a loner, someone who traveled
exclusively at night checking out the neighbors. Or it could have been an
advance scout doing a recce before the initial attack.
One of the most common times for an attack to take place was just before
Dawn. It was already four thirty in the morning and the sun would be coming up
After having placed the anti personnel mines the four men slipped back to
the APC’s. Maverick ordered
Gitana and Gedoena into the vehicles to man the 20 mm auto cannons.
Feral and her cougar companion disappeared into the forest.
None of the companions could move as quickly or as silently as they were
able to. And the telepathic link
that the mutant shared with her cougar proved to be invaluable when it came to a
recce. Maverick grabbed his MP 5
and walked over to the river and carefully scanned the surface of the water as
he walked a quick patrol.
The dawn broke brilliantly over the horizon.
The purple and orange chem. clouds seemed to burst into a firestorm of
light and brilliant colors. Despite the numerous sunrises he had witnessed over
the years, the breathtaking sight caused him to pause for a moment.
Fortunately, the expected attack never came.
Maverick spotted Feral and crossed over to her and slung his submachine
gun. “Anything?” He asked.
“Smell. Friend pick up.” She
threw her thumb in the direction of the still unseen cougar.
“Mutie?” He pressed.
Feral nodded. “Mutie. Mebbe ghoul.
Not sure. Not smell bad like Ghoul.
But smell like Ghoul.”
The survivalist cupped his chin and took in the information. He looked
over at his companions. “We’re being watched by Ghouls according to
Gedoena rolled her eyes. “Those
creatures are horribly disgusting. They eat the flesh of the dead, no matter
what it is. Human, mutie or animal.
The longer its been dead the better they like it.
Every one of the companions with the exception of Matt and Mitch had
encountered the mutants known as ghouls at least once in their journeys. Like
several of the other mutant races that roamed the Deathlands, there were
variations in that particular genotype. Some were filthy beasts, nothing more
than human shaped animals that lived around the rad blasted cesspools near some
of the larger villes. Many made the
nuked metropolises their homes as well. Some were intelligent and stayed away
from people; some were hunted down and destroyed due to the threat they posed.
Maverick himself had seen Ghouls several times over the years while he
was wrangling. Most of the time the creatures stayed well away from the cattle,
usually content to live off the few that died or were killed. He’d only caught
the occasional glimpse of the mutants that made Montana their home.
“Actually, I believe we don’t have to worry about the ghouls here.”
As one, his companions turned and stared at him. “What the nuking hell
you talking about Maverick?” Spat Gitana, not believing what she just heard.
“Am I not speaking English here?”
He barked back, throwing his hands up in disgust. “I said, we don’t
have to worry bout them. The Ghouls here are timid, and they stay away from
people. Occasionally we’d trade in secret with them, they would leave some pre
nuke goods for us and we’d leave them rotted food, clothing and stuff that
they found useful.”
Hefting his assault rifle, Mitch chambered a round and sighted in a tree
near by. “How do ya know that our visitor was one of these friendlies then?”
“I just do Mitch. Trust me
on this.” And deep down inside
the scarred warrior did indeed know. Instinctively
he realized that the watcher never meant the group any harm. How he knew this he wasn’t sure. But he was always the type
to follow his gut instinct.
“The big question is this then.”
Joe murmured as he leaned against the hull of the APC. “Are we gonna
stay here or are we gonna put a few more miles between us and the oil barons?”
After the near disaster with the last jump that brought the companions
into the bowels of Newyork city, Maverick swore that he would change his way of
leading the group. It was now time for him to put his promise to the test.
“I say we stay put. Lets rest up. We could all use it.”
“You telling or asking us Brett?”
Asked Matt who was crouched, and was playing with a few blades of grass
between his fingers.”
“I’m askin. Simple as
that. I’m askin you to trust me on this. The Ghouls, these muties, they
won’t cause us any problems.” He
crossed his muscular arms and waited for the others to sound off.
“What’s your thoughts?”
“I say we go.” Answered Matt. “After the fucks we encountered back
in New York, I don’t want to meet these Ghouls that you mentioned.”
The survivalist nodded.
Gedoena looked torn between her adopted father and the predark scientist.
She bit her lip, the sharp canines showing clearly as she thought. “I say we
stay. I trust you daddy Brett.”
Two for, one against Maverick mentally tallied. “Mitch?”
“Lets go.” The soldier
wasn’t one to use three words when two would suffice. He reminded Maverick a
lot of Dix.
“We stay.” Gitana added
her own opinion.
He looked at Joe. The big
man put on his usual grin and didn’t say anything for a moment.
Just when Maverick’s patients had almost run out he chuckled.
“Let’s stick around. I haven’t had a chance to do any fishing in a few
“Ok, that’s four to stay, two to leave. Even if Feral votes against
it, the Stay’s have it.” He
looked at the before mentioned girl. “I still want to hear what you say
With a shrug she answered. “No difference. Not care.”
Maverick nodded. Deep down
he was pleased that things went his way. He could have told the others that they
were going to stay no matter what. But
the fact that they voted on it really made a difference in his mind. He couldn’t help but grin. “Ok.
Lets do a little brush clearing then, and get a shitload of wood for the
fire. We’re gonna stay for a few
days. All I ask is that from here
on in, no one goes into the woods alone. If ya gotta take a dump, I’ll dig a
small pit and we can put a few blankets up around it. Give a little privacy that
way.” He stared at his
companions. ”Fair enough?”
No one disagreed with him. “Ok! Lets enjoy a little R and R, away from
the runnin and chillin.”
Four days had passed. The group spent almost every waking hour just
relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet. Joe spent a huge portion of the time
just laying back on the shoreline dozing while he held a fishing rod in his
hands. The group feasted on fresh fish almost every night they were there.
Strangely enough, Feral stayed near him, even occasionally bathed while
he was watching. Her interest in the man seemed to be more than just a passing
fancy even though she never came out and mentioned anything to him.
Gedoena and Matt were becoming more and more inseparable as the days
passed. The hungry mind of the girl devoured every word he said to her. Maverick was quite pleased when he had discovered that the
man had decided to work as a tutor for the woman, even though she was far more
intelligent that he was. The
medical skills Matt Possessed were invaluable to the group and if one more
person could assist, all the better.
Maverick couldn’t believe how much he allowed himself to sleep. Every
day he slept ten to twelve hours, not consecutively but damned close. He shared the hunting duties with the rest of his companions,
took his fair share of the guard shifts and did a lot of preventative
maintenance on the arma wags.
And he more than made up for the week that he wasn’t intimate with his
Only once during the four days that they were camping did their
unexpected visitor show up. As with the first night, the mutant approached the
camp and stayed out of the firelight. It didn’t make any threatening moves
towards them, only seemed to be content to just watch unseen.
Just after sunrise on the fifth day they broke camp and carefully packed
all the gear away. Everyone piled
into the APC’s and settled in, ready and refreshed, eager to continue on their
Maverick was behind the wheel of the first APC and he took the lead,
traveling slowly down the damaged predark highway. Gitana took her position in
the gunners seat and scanned the horizon as they traveled.
His thoughts were lost in his memory as the two predark arma wags.
It amazed him how much of the territory he recognized even though they
we’re still several hundred miles away from the ranch he grew up on.
The weather surprised him. Usually
at this time of the year it was pretty cool and rained a great deal, sometimes
it even snowed at night. But so far they had been enjoying warm sunny days with
nary a cloud in the sky, and only occasionally saw the tell tail sign of a chem.
storm off in the distance.
On a whim he picked up the headphones and put them on, switching on the
military band radio. “This is war wag one calling war wag two, do you copy?”
“Yeah Brett.” Joes deep voice flowed out of the headphones.
“What’s up bro?”
“You up for a quick pit stop?”
“Where? You know of
someplace near here? Thought we
were still quite a ways off from the next redoubt.”
Joe’s voice asked.
“We’re about an hour’s travel out of a trading post. Visited it
several times when I used to live in these parts. Was still there a few months
back, figured what the hell.”
“Then lead on oh fearless leader.”
Forty-five minutes later Maverick could see the outline of several
buildings. The trading post had
been built on the ruins of a predark truck stop about thirty years back. The
original owner had fortified the site using wood and building materials that he
had scavenged from the ruined towns and farms that dotted the landscape. Over
the decades the trading post had grown into a small ville.
They traded with the Barons to the north for fuel and had the ville wired
for electricity that was provided by several gasoline-powered generators.
People from all over Montana came to the Trading post to hock their
wares, make contacts and hear news. It had a permanent population of about
fifty, while during the peak summer months as many as five hundred people could
be found there at any one time.
The Trading post was strictly neutral ground. Anyone who wanted a fight
had to take it off the grounds or were dealt with permanently by the heavily
armed sec forces that the owner used. It
was the perfect place to come to for just about anything.
“There she is.” He
called out over the military band. “The Trading post.”
“Impressive looking establishment Brett.”
“Wait till you see the insides!”
Ten minutes later the two war wags pulled up to a small gatehouse just
outside the walls of the trading post. A
clean-shaven man in his late twenties stepped out of the gatehouse and rapped on
the hull. “Ya here for trading or
Maverick un-strapped himself from the drivers seat and opened the door.
“Here for a visit. Any toll to be paid?”
The toll guard shook his head. “No.
Outlanders are welcome here as long as you keep your blasters holstered
and stay out of trouble.”
Maverick nodded. “Will do.”
The gatekeeper didn’t make any move to back away. “Yer triple
familiar outlander. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you before.”
“Yup, was here a few months back. Used to ride with the Trader.” The
scarred man answered, confirming what the gatekeeper had guessed.
“See you’ve broken off and decided to start your own little convoy
huh?” He asked, admiring the war wags.
Maverick nodded. “You could say that. So can we get in or we gonna
spend the night jawin?”
He backed away with a nod and waved towards the gate. On cue, the gates
slid open revealing the large interior. It was just as the scarred survivalist
remembered. A huge section of the
compound was reserved for the horses and wags of the various travelers and
traders that made their way to the post.
Dead center in the fort was the original truck stop.
It still had the restaurant but half the maintenance bays had been
converted into a general store where people could trade for whatever they
Amazingly enough the pumps were still active as they were used on
occasion when wags stopped in. Several sec men armed with automatic rifles
patrolled around the pumps themselves, looking rather bored.
To the far wall on the north stood the inn and gaudy. Here travelers
could get a place to sleep the night as well as a gaudy if the jack was right.
Several scantly clad young women lounged around the front of the building
talking to one another and passerby’s, looking for a trick.
Several other buildings were scattered around the fort, many were the
bunkhouses of the fort’s permanent residents, and others were storage and
latrines, as well as tanning and curing sheds.
The arrival of the two war wags was
a major event. Everyone stopped what they were doing as they pulled up to the
section of the compound where they saw a half dozen rebuilt wags.
Maverick hailed the other wag over
his intercom. “Hey, Joe, get someone to volunteer to stay with the wags. Keep
em locked up and the cannon primed. We may not have to worry too much about
thieves but you never do know.”
“Sure Brett. Mitch and Feral just
volunteered to stay.”
Maverick looked to his companions.
“Matt? How about you and Gedoena Stay with the wag?
Geddy, I want you to stay inside. I think you know why.”
Her tail swished in agitation.
“Yes Brett. I know.” She
“Chica, it is for your own good,
you know that.” *Gitana ruffled the girls hair. “I’ll get some treats for you and if they have any
predark books I’ll trade for them ok?”
Still pouting, the young mutant
Maverick clasped her shoulder.
“I’m sorry baby, I don’t want to make you do this. We just have to.
I’ll make it up to you ok? Daddy
He caught the loving look that
Gitana gave him as she listened to him. His
eyes caught her unconsciously rubbing her flat belly.
“Matt? You stand guard, Ged will man the cannon.”
“Sure Brett. But I want to look
around this place as well.” Chance
nodded with a grin.
Gitana already had the door open
and was outside waiting for him. “You’ll
get the chance. I’ll send you and Feral out together for a walkabout.”
The predark scientist paled.
Maverick burst out laughing at the
look of horror on the other man’s face. Feral
never hid her hate for the man. Maverick
figured that it was out of the friendship and kinship that she had for Gedoena
was the reason the man was still breathing.
“I’m just fuckin with you man. You can head out with Joe or
Chance breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ah, good.” He grinned.
“Hang tight, stay on orange.”
Joe approached him and slugged him
once, then gave Gitana a swat on the rear. “You two ready to do some
Gitana laughed and slapped his arm.
“Hey! That’s for Amante only Joe.”
Brett felt the ugly twinge of
jealousy creep out from the dark recesses of his mind but he quickly beat it
back. He knew that Joe was only playing as Gitana had done several similar
things to him in the past few weeks. She
was his and his alone, and the roughhousing was just friendly comradely between
Together the three companions
walked towards the main building in the center of the fort.
People nodded as they passed. Maverick’s eyes never stopped moving from
face to face. Old habits died hard,
he was constantly on the lookout for potential enemies.
They passed a corral and the
scarred warrior stopped. He walked up to the fence and looked at the horses
penned up. Gitana noticed something
in his demeanor change. Only
someone as intimate with the scarred man would have seen the subtle change.
“What is it Amante?”
Much to her surprise a huge brown
and black speckled pony came right up to him and nuzzled his hand.
Maverick smiled and stroked the velvety softness of the pony’s muzzle.
“I’ll be a stickies plaything…”
Joe joined them and watched, his
face unreadable for the first time in a long time. Gitana placed her hand on the
survivalists shoulder. “What?” She repeated.
Maverick smiled and turned to her.
“I helped bring this girl into the world about five years back. I named
her speckled hills.” Maverick was
clearly beaming with pride. “Look
at her, she’s a beauty!”
Gitana never had seen this
particular side of the man. He was a killer, a lover and would be a great father
but she never imagined he had a love for horses. “She is very beautiful
Amante. But are you sure that she’s the same one?”
He pointed to a scar on the
pony’s flank. It was a circle with a large M imposed in it. Four arrows
pointed out from the circle, to each direction. “She is. That’s my
A stable hand made his way over to
the trio. “Need something Outlander?”
“This horse, where did you get
it?” He asked, still stroking the
“The Maverick ranch.
They brought in several of their breeding mares and traded them off about
a month back.”
“What are they coming on hard
times or something?” The powerfully build man’s eyes narrowed slightly.
He didn’t find that likely but it had been years since he last had seen
The stable hand shook his head.
“Not that I know. I reckon that they just had a surplus and they needed some
decent blasters and ammo, so they traded them in.” The young man grinned. “Why you asking Outlander?”
He considered telling the man, but
for now he wanted to keep his identity secret.
A few people were bound to recognize him but with the added layer of
muscle and the battle scars, he figured that he could get away with it for a
We’re figuring of heading down that way and paying them a visit, do a
little trading. Hear they’ve got some of the best steak this side of the
The stable boy shrugged.
“Wouldn’t know Outlander. Never been there myself.”
Brett continued to stroke the
muzzle of the pony. “What are the
chances of paying you some jack and taking a couple out for a few days?”
The stable hand looked at the
survivalist as if he suddenly had sprouted horns and was currently doing a naked
dance to the god of radiation. “Say again?
You stupe or something?”
“Never,” Brett’s hand shot
out and clasped the other mans bicep, his fingers digging in deeply. “Ever
call me that.”
Yelped the stable hand. “Fuckin chill outlander.”
He let the man go. “I asked you a
question, I want a proper answer.”
“Go see the owner. Talk to
him.” Rubbing his arm he pointed
at the main building.
Gitana took the man’s arm and
lead him away from the stable. “That wasn’t very nice Brett.”
“Never said I was nice Gitana.
You know that.” He answered her
with a uncaring shrug.
She sighed and walked with him into
the main building. “I know Amante
but I would prefer if you stopped doing that all the time. We’re here to relax
and trade, not get into a gunfight.”
Maverick ignored her as he looked
about. The place hadn’t changed. The
main portion of the building was still used as an eatery.
There were several people seated at the tables and the bar itself eating
and drinking. One of the corner booths, left over from the predark days was
hosting a poker game. Seemed that wherever people met to trade and eat they
would also gamble.
The second part of the building was
made up of the trading post itself. His eyes looked over the shelves filled with
all manner of goods. Predark clothing, weapons, ammo, and other goods as well as
bags of grain and seed, bins of vegetables and even a few tanks filled with live
fish from the near by rivers. Two turnstiles were filled to capacity with
hundreds of predark paperback novels, all worn and yellow but still legible.
Gitana made her way over to the
books and started to thumb through them. Joe
nodded once to Maverick and sat down at the counter and was almost instantly set
upon by the bartender. They spoke
quietly and the man grabbed a bottle from under the counter and filled a shot
He made his way over to the counter
in the trading post, seeing the owner. The
owner was a grizzled man in his late fifties.
He stood at about six foot even and was still solidly built despite the
age. His hair was black as coal and
his skin darkly tanned. The nose
was long and proud, nestled between two high cheekbones.
His brown eyes twinkled and there was no mistaking the native blood that
ran thick in his veins. The man
looked up once and grinned. “Howdy Outlander. Welcome to the Trading Post.
Ya here for trading or a meal?”
“Little of both Reg.” He
answered as he placed a handful of jack on the counter. “Need rooms for five
people for at least a day.”
At hearing his voice the owner
looked up and studied the face of the man standing before him. “Yer the
Outlander with the wags, ain’t ya? And
you seem triple familiar to me. Passed by this way a while back?”
Maverick nodded. “Yeah, that’s
me. And yeah, passed by this way in the deep freeze a few months back. Used to
ride with the Trader.”
Reg snapped his fingers. “Ace on
the line! I’ll be a mutie love. Maverick. Brett Maverick. Shit son, been a
Screamwing’s age. How the fuck are ya doing?”
He reached out and grabbed the survivalist’s hand and gave it a
So much for going unrecognized he
grumbled to himself. “You answer that Reg. Got a couple of predark arma-wags,
and a good crew of my own.”
“Why’d you spilt off from
Trader Brett? He’s got the best crew in all the Deathlands.”
“Had Reg, Had.”
He sighed and took the jack back. “How much for the rooms?”
He grumbled, trying to change the subject.
The owner quoted him the rate and
he counted it out. “Got ambushed up in Mocsin.
Chilled Teague but Strasser got away scott free.”
Reg shook his head, not believing
his ears. “Radfire… I can’t believe it. What about the crew, they all get
chilled as well?”
He nodded. “Most did. Cohn,
Cawdor, Dix and a handful of others made it out. We headed into the darks with
Trader. Lost him there. Just up and wandered off. Cawdor took most of the others with him and they continued on
foot after we got stopped by a blizzard.”
Slipping the offered jack off the
counter the man listened to each word. “Go on.”
“Waited over four days for them
to come back and next thing we know a bunch of the local Amarinds set upon us.
Had to give up the wag and we ran. Made
it out in one piece, only a few left.”
“So where did you get the arma
Instead of getting mad, he chuckled
and waved his finger in front of the old man. “You honestly think I’m gonna
tell you my personal trade secrets?”
“No,” Reg Laughed and shrugged. “Yer just too ornery to give it
up without a fight.”
“Fuckin A I am Reg.” He smiled and shook his head.
“Got a request, bit of an odd one.”
He pointed over his shoulder to the stables. “I See my family brought a
few horses in a while back. Was wondering if I could take a couple for a day or
two. Haven’t been horse back riding in years.
I’ll leave you enough trade goods and jack to cover the cost of
The owner nodded. “Yer right that is a triple strange request. But a
fair one. I see you got the jack, but what sort of trade goods you talking
The survivalist grinned. “You always need ammo for your blasters, and I
could provide you with some new M16A-2s. Predark Autoblasters right out of the
factory sealed boxes. Can still smell the gun oil.”
That revelation caught the owners attention. “I’ll be willing to cut
you a deal for a couple of those. A weeks night and all the food and gut rot you
can handle, you can have a couple of the horses and if you feel like it, my best
gaudy for the whole time. She’ll
be as clean as a new born. That’s my promise.”
“He won’t be needing that Amigo.”
Gitana announced as she dropped several of the predark books on the
table. Maverick looked at her and
smiled, seeing her face looking slightly cross. “Any woman touch him and
I’ll chill them.”
Reg drank in the dark beauties features.
“Ok, we’ll forget about the gaudies then. I can’t have you chilling
any of my girls now can I?”
With an amused chuckle she held out her hand to him. “I am just pulling
your chain Amigo. I’m Gitana. Brett’s
“I kind of figured that.” He
said with a slight chuckle. The books caught his eyes.
“A reader huh? Don’t find too many of them around here.”
“Actually they’re for one of my crew members. She’s a little laid
up right now and can’t be moved. Got bit by a snake and is triple sick.
She’ll be fine but we keep her comfortable.
She needs something to do until her leg is healed up and she can walk
without feeling like a scalie is using her stomach to wash his underwear in.”
He grabbed a box and put the books in it. “Tell you what, bring me a
couple of those blasters and you can have the books for free.
Maverick nodded. “Deal. I’ll
call one of my people to bring them by for you.”
With that the scarred man pulled the small two-way military communication
radio out of his pocket and flicked it on. “Matt, I want you to bring three
M16’s and two full mags each over to the main building. Gitana will be waiting
for you at the door.”
Reg brought out several glasses from under the counter and grabbed a
bottle of clear liquid and filled all three of with the fluid.
He handed one to Maverick, a second to Gitana and took the third for
himself. “Drink up son.”
The three of them downed the liquid quickly. “Fireblast, that’s good
hooch Reg. Still brewin yer own huh?” Maverick
said with a wheeze. The alcohol was
indeed potent but went down smooth.
“Yup.” The owner
answered as he poured a second glass for himself. “I’ll give you and your
crew a couple of bottles as well. Take it on the road with you when you head
out. When do you want the horses?”
“Tomorrow, we’re gonna rest up
for the night, do some trading with ya first. Mebbe get in a game or three with
some of the other Outlanders.”
He nodded. “Fair enough Brett.
So, ya gonna stop by the ranch and check up on the family?”
Gitana looked at her lover, gauging his reaction. With a shrug he spoke
to Reg. “Was thinking about it. But not sure if I will or not. I didn’t
exactly leave on the best of terms.”
“Never too late to set things right with kin Brett. Go down and check
in on em. Probably be triple glad to see you. Especially with the wags and
blasters you’ve got now.”
Her small hand closed over his and she squeezed it gently without
speaking. Maverick cocked an
eyebrow at her, not entirely sure what she meant.
“Mebbe.” He answered Reg
without taking his eyes off his lover.
“When do you think the baby is gonna be due?”
The old man said point blank.
As one the survivalist and the Spanish woman turned and stared at the old
man in amazement. “How did you know?” Gitana
blurted before Maverick could get his vocal cords working.
Reg Smiled. “I’m a grandfather three times over. Got five rugrats of
my own. I can tell.”
Maverick shook his head, unable to keep the smile from coming. “We
figure about another six and a half, mebbe seven months.”
“To your unborn son or daughter. May they bring you all the happiness
that you could want.” He announced loudly and raised the shot glass. Maverick and Gitana followed suit and the three clinked the
glasses together and drained them.
“Thanks Reg, that’s triple decent of you. We plan to hit the coast
before our baby’s born, then settle down. I don’t plan to run and trade for
the rest of my life.”
“So what are your plans then?”
“Haven’t thought that far ahead.
Time will tell. We’ll
figure out something though.” Shrugged
the scarred man.
Before Reg could reply Matt arrived. He had three of the blasters slung
over his shoulder and was carrying ammo bag filled with rounds and magazines.
“Here ya go Brett. Just as you asked.”
He took one of the blasters and held it out to Reg. The old man grabbed
it and examined it closely. A few
minutes later the old man smiled and placed the weapon on the counter. “Only
seen blasters of this quality a few times in the years I’ve run this place.”
“I take it we’ve got a trade then?”
Reg Nodded and reached for the other two weapons. “I’d be triple
stupe not to take the trade.”
“One week, rooms for my crew, all the food and gut rot we can handle.
I get the horses for a day or two and we can take some other things as
well, like the books and mebbe some other items?”
Maverick repeated what they discussed a few minutes back.
“Yup. Feel free. If ya got
some time later tonight I wouldn’t mind catchin up on what you’ve been
doing. Barely had a chance to say hi when you and the Trader passed through here
back during the deep freeze.”
“I’ll see what I can do Reg.”
“You think that’s him?” Growled
a burly man dressed in buckskins. He
was seated at the table with several other men, all had a predatory air about
“Yeah, that’s him alright. Never forget a scarred face like that.”
Replied a second man, a little smaller than the first. He was dressed in a
combination of buckskins and predark military battledress. “Boss sure is gonna
be happy to find him here.” He
A third man pulled out a battered .45 long barreled blaster and stared
hatefully at the scarred warrior standing and talking to the trading post owner.
“Chill em now, boss will be triple happy. Mebbe give us a bigger share, some
prime sluts too.”
The first speaker glared at the man holding the weapon. “Put it away
now asshole. We start a blaster fight here and it’ll get us all chilled.
Then where would ya be? Fuckin mutie worm food.”
Unhappily the berated man put the blaster back in it’s holster. “Jump
him and his slut when they leave?”
The second man slapped the speaker in the back of the head. “Use your
fuckin gray matter asshole! Do that and we’ll have the sec men on us faster
than mutie blowflies on a stillborn.”
“There’s that,” Piped in the first speaker. “And there is also
the fact that he’s got them triple fancy predark arma wags.
They take several people to crew so if it’s just him and his slut, that
means that he’s got crew still inside the wags. We try and jump them and BAM!
A forth man, average looking and wearing clean jeans and a heavy denim
jacket slowly chewed on the end of a hand rolled cigar. “I’ll talk to the
boss. You three keep your eyes peeled and clean the shit outta your ears.
Don’t do nothing unless you’re told to. Got that?”
Grumbling, the other three men agreed to the fourth’s Demand.
“Good. If that is Maverick, the boss is gonna want to chill him on his
own. Anyone else try and he’ll take his frustration out on you. Been months
since the breakout and the boss is still mad as hell and looking
to claim the blood debt.” He pushed away from the table and walked out
of the building, leaving trial of rich cigar smoke following in his wake.
Outside the cleanly dressed man let his eyes flow over the
sight of the two predark arma wags. Despite the road dirt coating both machines
he could tell that they were in pristine condition and he shook his head,
admiring the vehicles. Talk about a
bonus. The boss would be getting his revenge and a couple of powerful war wags
in the process. They could take over a barony with the wags.
Smiling he walked over to the Inn and entered, nodding once to the
sec-men posted. They had paid in
advance and had not caused any trouble so far, so the sec-men only gave them a
passing glance as they came and went. He
climbed the rickety stairs to the second level of the inn and walked to the end
of the hall. One of the Boss’ own sec men was posted at the door.
As he approached the man nodded to him and opened the door.
Greaves was standing at the window staring out over the trading post; his
eyes were locked on the two arma wags. “Figured
you’d be stopping in Dan.” He
said without turning. “That was Maverick, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Him, the woman, and
one of the escaped slaves.” Dan
confirmed as he took a drag on the cigar. “Don’t know the other one who came
in with the blasters though. Probably someone they picked up on the way.”
Jim Greaves turned away from the window. His forehead was furrowed in
thought or anger. Possibly both. If he had just shown up on foot or in normal
wags, I’d say stay low and take him when his crew left. But the wags present
one hell of a random factor. Can’t afford to try anything then.”
“What are your plans then Jim?”
Dan asked, rolling the cigar in his mouth.
The slaver thought about the question. “Recce and intel gathering for
the time being. I want to know how many people he has, what kind of blasters
they got, as well as if anyone stays with the wags, if they’ve boobied them,
and since he rode with Trader, that is pretty much a go there.”
Dan nodded, mentally taking notes to pass on to the rest of the slavers
“But most importantly I want the boys to stay low. And find out how
long Maverick and his crew are gonna be staying. That way we can plan our course
of action.” His steely blue eyes
narrowed and bored into the other man. “I want his heart. I want his woman and
I want those wags. He cost me way too fuckin much with that escape.
Fuckin ribs hurt for weeks after getting shot. “
Greaves didn’t add the fact that he missed Marty, the tough girl that
used to share his bed, to the other man.”
“I wonder if he still has that mutie with him.”
Dan spoke the question that he had been pondering for several minutes.
The strange woman was pure chilling machine and incredibly fast. If she was
still with them, which would increase the difficulty of taking the man and his
wags a thousand fold.
“Just more intel for you and your boys to gather Dan.”
The cleanly dressed man nodded. “Yeah. I’ll do what I can. None of
them recognized us so shouldn’t be too hard to get the info.”
Greaves nodded. “Hope to it. Keep the boys low and gather what data you
Dan nodded, leaving behind only a halo of rich smelling cigar smoke.
Joe picked up his drink and joined Brett and Gitana.
The simple smile he always carried never left his face. “Could be
triple trouble Brett.” He said
quietly as he sat down with the others. Matt
ahd already gathered the books up that Gitana had picked out for Gedoena and
returned to the APC.
Maverick adjusted his black Cerberus ball cap and glanced inconspicuously
around the big man’s torso. “The Outlanders playin cards I take it?”
He nodded as he took a drink. “Yup. They’ve been watching all of us
ever since you walked in. If looks
could chill…” He didn’t finish the sentence.
Gitana nodded to him. “Think they’d be stupe enough to open a dance
Brett shook his head and removed the cap, bending the lip slightly to get
that just perfect curve to it. He stared at the embroidered three headed dog on
it. “Doubt it. They look like
moutain men but the blasters that we’re carryin as well as those the sec men
are using should be enough to deter them from any hostile action.”
Gitana nodded at the logic as she brushed a strand of hair away from her
“Joe, head to the wags, tell Feral, Ged, and Mitch to stay on triple
red. Don’t let anyone except us in the wags.
Have a bad feeling about this.” Maverick
ordered replacing the cap.
“I hear that bro.” He
stood up and finished the last of his drink and made his way over to the exit.
Almost at the same time the trio of men stood up and dropped a handful of Jack
on the table as payment for their drinks.
Joe exited and the three men followed. Maverick pulled his Desert Eagle
and stood strode to the door, expecting to see the men trying to jump his
friend. But they were making a bee line to the hotel. He shook his head and slid
the blaster back in its holster and returned to the table.
“I don’t like this Gitana.” He
shook his head. “Mebbe we should just leave.”
“Lets see what happens tonight Amante.”
She clasped his hand.
He sighed and entwined his fingers with hers. “We’ll take a vote on
it again. Before we take the rooms. This is one of those stay or run for the
“You’re our leader Amante. I want you to make the decision here. If
you come and take a vote every time something happens we’d never get
He mulled it over, getting mixed signals. With a sigh he shrugged. “Ok,
ok! I’ll figure out what to do. However if we were smart, we’d take off
“I know you’ll do what’s best for the group.”
He nodded and went over to Reg and held out his hand. “Keys Reg.
We’re gonna stay.”
The man smiled and pointed his arm in the direction of the hotel.
“I’ll send someone over right away, they’ll have the best rooms ready for
you in about an hour. Fair enough?”
Darkness swept over the countryside by the time the companions had their
rooms and had talked over the situation. With
the exception of the two mutants and the cougar, they were all seated at the
table eating a home cooked meal of fresh steak, garden greens and several large
bottles of the local brew. He changed his mind, knowing that the two women could
handle the weapons and take care of themselves with the arma wags locked up.
But he did send Joe and Matt with food for both so they wouldn’t go
The discussion had been fairly heated but finally they all agreed on what
to do. “Ok, so it’s settled.
We’re gonna stay but keep our eyes peeled and stay on orange the entire time.
Maverick asked after washing down a chunk of potato with the local beer.
His four companions nodded in agreement.
The room was filled with patrons who were engaged in idle conversation as
well as a few games of chance. The
din in the room was almost overpowering so it gave them all a chance to talk
without having to worry about being overheard.
Joe shook his head. “Brett, I think it’s a triple bad idea you taking
off like that for a horse back ride. I just don’t trust the outlanders that
were watching us.”
Maverick nodded. “We’ll leave before sun up, Reg will let us out
through a back door and said he’d have a couple of horses waiting for us. We’re taking serious blasters and all the ammo we can
carry. And a couple of hand-helds.
That way we can be in touch.”
Mitch shook his head. “Tactically it is a hell of a mistake Brett.”
He slammed his hands down on the table, making several of the patrons
jump and stare at them. “Enough.
We’ve argued about this long enough. The choice has been made so that is that
ok?” His anger filled eyes stared
several seconds at each of his companions.
“Ease off Brett. Sorry.” Mitch held his hands up before him
“Mitch, Gitana and I will be staying with the wags tonight. You, Matt,
Feral and Joe can use the rooms. But
double up ok? We don’t need any possible ambushes.”
That ended the debate once and for all. As one the other four stood up
and left heading out of the bar. Joe
paused only once to look back and glance at his friend and the leader. He simply nodded and closed the door behind him.
Maverick and Gitana stayed for around an hour later before they both got
up and made their way over to the APC’s.
Punching the entry code, Maverick opened the door to the first APC and
was about to step inside when his nose caught an familiar odor and heavy
breathing. He quickly stepped out
and closed the door. He looked at
Gitana and shook his head. “She grew up so fast….”
Gitana couldn’t help but chuckle at the look on her lovers face. “She
did, there is no doubting that. But face it Amante, she is a fully grown woman
and has a woman’s desires and it is obvious to anyone that she is so much in
love with Matt.”
Growling slightly he opened the other APC and climbed in. Once Gitana
joined him he locked it up and leaned back in the drivers seat and closed his
eyes. He felt the small dark skinned beauty slide into the co driver’s seat.
“It really bothers you doesn’t it Brett?”
His answer was a curt nod.
“Don’t let it bother you Brett. Just remember what I said. She is a
full-grown woman. And she is always
going to love you, no matter what.”
“You think so?” He
opened his eye and looked at her, then stretched his legs out.
“She’s your little girl. Every
time she looks at you there is adoration in her purple eyes.
All she wants is your approval.”
“I guess your right Gitana.”
“Of course I am. I’m a woman. We’re always right silly.”
He leaned the seat as far back as he could and kicked off his combat
boots. “Get some sleep babe.
We’re leaving before sunup. I’ll
wake you with enough time to get our gear packed.”
With a nod she stood up and grabbed a couple of blankets from a storage
compartment and kissed him hotly on the lips before laying down next to him on
The quiet beeping of his writs chron woke him up just as the familiar
nightmare was beginning. He wiped the sweat off his brow and saw that the alarm
woke his lover up as well. She stretched and smiled at him, her dark eyes still
The survivalist caressed her face and stepped over her. Her grabbed two back packs filled with rations and gear, as
well as extra ammo for his and her weapons.
As usual he donned his body armor and handed Gitana hers.
She slipped the Kevlar plates on with practiced ease even as she combed
her hair straight and tied it into a convenient ponytail.
He sat back down and quickly field stripped his SPAS 15 and oiled every
part. Not once did his eyes leave the lovely form of his mates, his hands going
through the practiced motions. “What about your blasters?”
“Do we have enough time?” She
asked as she drew her twin gold plated .45’s and placed them on the seat next
Maverick handed the gun oil and rag to her. “Always make time. Dirty gun can misfire at the wrong time and chill you as
certain as if you put it to your head and pulled the trigger.”
“Another one of Traders famous quotes?”
She asked, knowing the answer as she started to pull the weapons apart.
Her hands were not as adept at the field stripping the way his were but
she still could do a decent job.
He stood up and climbed into the gunner seat in the copula. He opened the ob slits and looked outside.
He could see that the bar was still active and there were sec men walking
here and there, as well as several posted on the walls. But other than that the
compound was empty.
“Looks clear babe. Just
sec men and a few stragglers at the bar. Doubt
anyone is gonna try something stupe.”
“I hope your right Brett.” She
said quietly and holstered the oiled and cleaned blasters.
Brett locked up the APC and headed out along the wall, passing one
patrol. They were expecting them so they didn’t raise a challenge. Already the
dark sky was starting to show signs of the false dawn.
A few short minutes later they were at the back exit and true to his
word, Reg was there with several of his sec men. Two healthy looking ponies were present as well, decked out
in full tack and the saddle bags were bulging with supplies and bed rolls.
“Here you go Brett.” He
passed the reigns to the scarred man. To his surprise it was the horse he was
admiring earlier that day. Reg chuckled. “I see you approve.”
He leapt into the saddle with practiced ease.
“Reg, we’ll be gone for about two, mebbe three days. We’re taking a
couple of hand-held with us, and my crew know that.”
“In case there is any trouble, do they know where you’re headed?”
He asked and stood aside as the guards opened the exit to the compound.
“Yup.” Confirmed the
scarred warrior. “I couldn’t get around not telling them. We’re heading
south to Lake Mason. Figure about
three or four hours there.”
“Mason lake?” He groaned
and shook his head. “Rad blasted Brett, you gotta go some where else.”
He pulled the horse up short and let Gitana ride up beside him.
“That’s Ghoul territory. They’ve been spotted several times over
the past year and a bit.” The old
Maverick did pause. “But have they attacked anyone yet?” His mind raced back over the years, remembering the mutants
that were hiding around the ranch.”
Reg Shrugged. “Unknown. Might have.
But the few travelers from that way said they weren’t bothered.
Just spotted them occasionally. However, doesn’t mean that the muties
didn’t ambush others and chill em for food. Ghouls are cannies after all.”
Brett nodded. “True enough, but they also prefer their meat well aged.
But thanks for the warning. We’ll stay on red.”
The old man mumbled under his breath and swatted the rear of Maverick’s
horse. The animal took off at a
leisurely trot. Gitana’s brown pony kept pace right beside him.
Well after the sun had risen they were out of sight of the trading post.
The trip had been uneventful and silent, the two lovers content with their own
thoughts. The Spanish woman finally
broke the silence. “You didn’t seem too concerned about the ghouls
He looked at her and grinned, his head bouncing up and down in time to
the pony’s gait. “Not too much. Even
though this is ghoul territory, they tend to keep to themselves. Like I said.
And our visitor the other night. Well if they wanted fresh meat they would have
come for it.”
“I can’t help but notice the change that has come over you Amante.”
She said, deciding to try and change the topic.
“You took our advice, did what we asked. Got rest and even despite the
potential dangers of going out on our own like this, I’m doing it because we
need the time together and away from the others.”
Gitana brought her pony up alongside his and took his hand. She brought
it to her lips and kissed it. “Somehow, you seem, well content.”
He stared at his lover. “How?
I’m still stressed out, still having those triple damned nightmares.”
“Yes, but you are relaxing as well.
And the nightmares are slowing down, right?”
“Yeah…” He drawled out slowly.
“And you seemed to perk up as soon as we came into the state. You’re home no matter what happened that caused you to
leave. And you are thinking of seeing your family aren’t you?”
“Yeah….” Maverick agreed.
She smiled and kissed his hand a second time. “I want to meet your
family as well Brett. The father and mother of the Great Brett Maverick. Heir apparent to the legendary Trader’s knowledge and
The scarred warrior snorted. “That goes to Cawdor and Dix.”
She made a point of looking around her dramatically. “I don’t see
them here. So what I say goes. After
all, you’ve got the APC’s and the crew, and we’ve got the blasters!
Anyone mess with Trader Mavericks’ crew find themselves on the last
train to the coast triple fast!”
“Yeah, right! Fireblast
girl, you sure got the imagination on you.”
He took off his Cerberus cap and wiped his forehead.
The sun was partially obscured by the chem. clouds but it was warming up
rapidly and promised to be a hot day.”
Around ten in the morning they finally crested a small rise and caught
the sunlight glistening off the still surface of the lake.
He pulled the pony up short and pulled out a pair of military issue
binoculars and scanned the edge of the lake.
Gitana did the same, knowing that two pairs of eyes had a better chance
of spotting trouble than one pair did.
“Noting. A few ducks on
the surface but it’s quiet.” Maverick answered as he finished his pan.
“Ducks hmm?” She said,
her interest piqued. “Lets do a little hunting. Been a muties age since I’ve
eaten fresh duck.”
Maverick held up his hand. “I
thought I just heard something.” He
breathed out quietly as he tilt his head to the side, straining to catch the
elusive noise a second time.
Gitana tilted her head in the same direction and they both listened for
nearly three minutes.
The survivalist shook his head. “Must be just hearing things baby.”
“What did you hear?”
“Sounded like a wag engine. But I can’t be sure.”
He kept his head tilted to see if the sound would appear again. “Wags
are pretty scarce, even around here so close to the oil barons.
But then again with the strange atmosphere and the way sound travels,
could have been a car or something from as far away as the Cific.”
She curtly nodded once. It
was true. Things in the Deathlands were always very strange. She recalled seeing
a speedboat nestled in the upper reaches of a huge oak tree in the mountain
passes of Colorado, miles upon miles away from the nearest lake or river. And it was true. Sometimes
due to atmospheric conditions a conversation could be heard that was taking
place hundreds of miles away.
That was just one of the many phenomena’s that were unheard of before
the Skydark. Now they were
common every day occurrences.
The pair used a deer trail and soon found themselves at a sandy beach
along side the lake. The ruins of a cabin were visible just a little ways off.
The beach was not a natural occurrence; it was something that the
original owners of the cabin must have added. Strange how it too survived the
Skydark and the long winters that took place afterwards relatively unchanged.
He unpacked the lean to from the saddlebag and started to set it up while
she walked around and gathered up large branches from the ground to be used as
fire. They worked in conjunction,
and soon they had a small fire pit built and the wood piled in it, ready to be
When Maverick turned around to face the lake he was greeted by a
perfectly shaped, deeply tanned naked rear bent over.
Gitana had stripped naked and was folding her clothing neatly in a pile.
“What are you doing?” He
swallowed, his throat suddenly dry as the desert.
“Could you stand guard for me Amante? I want to wash the dirt and sweat
of the road off.” She stretched
languidly and tested the water with her toe.
“Perfect!” She announced and stepped into the clear, clean water.
“Bad idea Gitana. Lakes and rivers are usually filled with all manner
of triple bad muties.” He
squeaked out, his eyes freely roaming her supple form.
“I’ll stay right by the shoreline then.”
She went another two feet out and sat down in the water and sighed.
“You stand watch like I asked?” She giggled slightly.
“What’s standing sure ain’t my watch, that’s for fireblasted
sure.” He mumbled.
Despite the number of times they had been intimate there was no denying
that she was a truly beautiful woman.
Like the sentries of old, he stood on the beach and kept watch, not only
over the surrounding terrain but also of the beautiful woman who was his and his
“Are you sure about this?” Greaves
growled as he stared at the scruffily dressed man standing before him.
He nodded curtly, refusing to be intimidated.
“Enough jack was spent to grease the sec-man’s palm.
Greaves grinned. It was not a pretty sight. “Ok, I want ten of the men
to head out right now. Follow the highway south for about fifteen miles. Then
wait till I arrive.”
The man nodded and turned on his heels and strode out of the room.
“I don’t like this Jim.” Dan
confessed. The other man was seated
at the window and was staring out at the arma wags. “Makes no sense that
Maverick would just up and leave like that, taking his woman with him.” He finally turned and faced the former slaver.
“Smells like a chilling trap Jim.”
“I know. But I’m not
going to give up this opportunity to nail his outlander, mutie lovin ass for
what he did to us.” His voice was
as cold and hard as the dirt on a child killer’s grave in the deep of winter
when he spoke.
Dan shook his head and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
“Alright, you made it triple clear what you want to do. But you don’t
keep me around for my charming personality. I’m your advisor. And I say
don’t do it.”
Greaves hefted his hunting rifle and worked the lever, checking the
mechanism to make sure it moved as smooth as silk. “True enough, but we’re
doing this. One way or another. That’s that. Clear?”
“Crystal.” He said
“Good. Now you’re gonna stay behind with the other half of our crew
and keep your eyes on those wags at all time. I want if you somehow can do it,
lure or chill Mavericks crew, or somehow get them outta those iron monsters.”
“Did a little checking. He’s got at the most one or two people in the
wags. Rest of his crew are staying in the hotel with us.”
Greaves looked up from the hunting rifle. “Suggestions?” He asked.
“First,” Dan said as he bit off the end of a fresh cigar and spat it
out. “First we co-ordinate our assault. Hit the two wags and his people here
without hesitation at the exact same time.
Use knives and silenced blasters for the crew. Try to do it during the
meal times. That way less chance of
“We’re gonna be noticed no matter what we do.”
Graves said. “But I’m hoping we can get the wags.
If we can take them, the fort’s ours as well. But in case we don’t,
make sure that the wags are outside.”
Dan listened without comment.
“I want several men posted near the exit that can provide cover fire.
If things go bad kill the sec men at the gate only so we can get the fuck outta
“I’ll do it.”
“Other suggestions?” Greaves
“Secondly, get one man into the bar, make sure that he’s picking up
some goods when the shit hits the fan. Have
him as close as possible to Reg. Plant
some C-4 on him and keep the detonator handy.
If things go bad, boom. Chill
Reg and cause enough damage to cover our
Greaves steepled his hands before him and nodded, giving Dan a cold
smile. “Good. I like that. Would have thought of it but you beat me too it.
Got someone in mind?”
Dan chuckled nastily. “Oh yeah. A
triple stupe inbred. I’ll just
give him a small sack and tell him it’s full of grain, to trade it to Reg.”
“I’m counting on you to get this done.”
Greaves growled quietly. He stood up and looked out the window of the
compound again. “Don’t disappoint me Dan.”
He blew out a stream of strong, rich cigar smoke.
“Haven’t done so yet Jim. Don’t
plan to now.”
Gitana stroked Mavericks hair, noticing a single gray hair in his
otherwise nearly black mane of thick hair. He was laying on his back with his
head in her lap as they both stared out over the lake.
She took it in her fingers and tugged it out.
He winced and glowered at her. “Fireblast, what did you do that for?”
“You’re starting to turn Grey Amante.”
She held the strand out to him to see.
His steel gray eyes latched onto the gray strand in her finger.
She kissed his forehead. “Your
still a fine looking man you know. Even with the scars.
I figure that you’d look pretty dignified like that.”
“Fuck that noise Gitana. I’d look just plain old. Or kid will figure
I’m his grandpa and now his father.”
“Are you so sure that it’s going to be a boy?”
She traced the trio of scars on his cheek gently, wondering when he would
finally tell her the full story behind them.
“It’s gonna be a boy.” Maverick said and closed his eyes. “Every
first born in my blood line has been a male.
That is the way it’s been since before the Skydark.”
declared totally surprised.
Maverick had his blaster out of the leather and in his hand before she
had finished the single word. He
was already scanning the surrounding terrain, looking for the danger. He spotted
what had caught her attention almost instantly.
On the other side of the lake he could see a trio of black skinned, white
haired people. It was a small Ghoul
family group. The male was dressed
in a clean pair of doe skin pants and was bare chested.
He had a hunting rifle in one hand.
The female was wearing a soft leather dress and held a youngster in her
arms. She was bending down and
filling a plastic pop bottle with water from the lake.
The trio of mutants saw them almost at the same time. The male hefted the
hunting rifle but Maverick stayed his hand, lowering the blaster.
shocked voice reached him.
“Don’t raise you’re blaster. They’re the good ones.”
He said in a normal conversational tone.
“But how?” She asked
“Simple. Ever seen a ghoul that was dressed in anything except rags? Or
one that carried a blaster?” He
pointed out and stood up slowly, making sure that the male could see that he was
holstering the weapon.”
Gitana followed his example and stood as well. She slid one of her gold
plated .45’s back into the holster and moved her hand away. “I understand.
You know this area better than I do, so I trust you.”
Maverick looked at the trio of mutants and raised his hand and waved.
The male lowered his rifle and waved back, but never let the rifle down
completely. He stood over the
smaller female as she capped the bottle. She
looked up and even from the distance separating them Maverick could see her
smile. With that the trio turned
and walked into the trees and were quickly swallowed up.
“Radfire! They were actually out in the daytime.”
Gitana’s eyes followed the trio until she couldn’t see them any more.
“Yeah, that they were.” Maverick
walked over to the ponies and checked the saddlebags, making sure they were
secure. He stroked the soft nose of
his pony and dug out a dried apple from his pocket and fed it to the grateful
pony. “Could be one of the many family groups that we traded with over the
Just then he could clearly hear the sounds of a wags engine off in the
His lover cocked her head and listened as well. “Isn’t one of the
arma wags. Sounds like it’s misfiring.”
Maverick climbed into the saddle. “I’m gonna recce the highway.”
He spurred the pony into action. The highway was less than a mile off and
from the sounds of the wag It would be several minutes before they would be able
to see it.
She wasn’t as adept in the saddle as her lover but she mounted up and
followed him as he maneuvered the pony expertly through the forest. More than once she found herself being slapped by several low
hanging branches. It made her quite angry but she refused to call out to her
lover to slow down.
Once they were within thirty yards of the old highway, Maverick brought
his mount to a stop and jumped from the saddle. Gitana pulled her own pony up to
a stop and watched him. He turned
and put a finger to his lips indicating her to be quite. He pulled out his SPAS
15 and half crouched, half jogged up to the partially grown over ditch. The
sound of the approaching engines grew louder.
He felt Gitana’s presence and glowered at her, having wanted her to
stay with the ponies but at the same time realized that she could be invaluable
in case a firefight did break out. He
noticed that she was wearing her body armor.
That pleased him.
rebuilt so many times over the decades that it was impossible
to tell what the original model used to be.
Steel plates had been welded over the front and sides, with a heavy grill
settled before the radiator. Metal
mesh covered the windows but there were firing ports cut into them.
He could see a pane of glass just behind it. Like the mesh, the glass had
holes cut into it to allow the occupants freedom to fire out of the protection
of the wag. He could make out four men in each one.
One of the occupants leaned out the window and spit. He looked around and
let the breeze blow his long filthy hair.
It dawned on him that he recognized the man from the Trading post. “I
think we got trouble Gitana.”
She gripped the butt of her gold plated .45 so hard that her knuckles
were white from the strain. “Great, we never can seem to get a break can
Maverick let his head touch the dirt and he sighed.
“That’s the way it is in the Deathlands. We’ll never be able to stop running or fighting. I got too
much a reputation because of my time riding with Trader.”
“What does….” A sudden scream of fear shattered her train of
though. Moving as one both Deathlands natives turned towards the sound. They could see the little ghoul child that they had seen
earlier. It was standing in the middle of the road, cowering in fear at the
oncoming rebuilt wags.
The lead wag slowed down and they could see one of the men lean out
holding a rifle. There was a crack
from the bushes near the young mutant and the sound of a round rocketing off
into the early afternoon sky. The
man cursed and slid back into the wag. Both
vehicles had come to a complete stop.
“Brett, the baby.” She
grabbed his arm as she spoke. “We’ve got to do something.”
For a second the survivalist hesitated.
The old Maverick came back to the surface.
He just turned to crawl away. Let
the mutie buy the farm, none of his concern. But the grip on his arm forced him
to think about the unborn child that his lover was carrying. “Fireblast!”
He snarled savagely. He
leaped up just as the mutant child’s father continued to fire at the wag.
“Distract them.” He
ordered and sprinted to the ponies.
Gitana opened fire with the .45’s.
The wag was almost at the extreme range of the handgun but she had to do
something. The rounds smashed into the grill and armored window but failed to do
any significant damage.
The occupants of the two wags didn’t risk themselves, instead they poked the barrels of their rifles and handguns through ports cut in the armor and returned fire. The range, combined with the narrow space for firing made the fire ineffectual at best.
The ghoul’s mother tried to run into the road but one of the slavers
got off a lucky shot and she was hit in the side and sent sprawling back from
the round. The baby screamed shrilly as it’s mother collapsed in a heap.
Maverick vaulted into the saddle and spurred the pony into lighting quick
motion. As he raced towards the
screaming mutant child the lead wag revved its engine and in a cloud of burned
rubber. It was clear that the
driver had every intention of turning the youngster into road kill.
Having emptied the magazines of both weapons Gitana holstered them and
pulled her carbine off her shoulder. Firing
the weapon while she was lying on her stomach was too difficult so she knelt and
carefully took aim at the wag. She thumbed the select off safety to single shot
and squeezed off a single shot. It smashed through the protective metal screen
that covered the windshield and starred the glass behind it. The wag swerved
slightly but almost instantly was right back on course.
The brown pony raced towards the mutant as Maverick leaned over the side
and reached out with his hand, holding on tightly to the reigns and straining to
reach the baby before the wag did. Several
rounds sung their song of death as they passed him, but fortunately the
combination of the cramped firing quarters, the fire from his lover and the male
mutant in the bush added up to the slavers missing him completely.
He strained even harder to reach the child, the wag only a dozen yards
from it as well.
End of Part 1.