New Friends, New Enemies

Part Three

By Chris Van Deelen

From the direction of the old hotel a group of half a dozen of the slavers come rushing towards the escaping group of prisoners, weapons leveled and firing. Joe and Ged whirl about and trigger their recently acquired AR 15’s, sending three round bursts flying at supersonic speeds. Hot lead smashes into soft flesh, ripping and tearing as they drill through the slavers bodies. The wounds are devastatingly fatal. Unfortunately only two of the slavers fall, the rest diving for cover. Gitana tries to pick her targets but with the poor light and the rapidly moving bodies, she has no luck and doesn’t fire a single round.

"Rad fire! Move outlanders!" Gitana cries as she spots several windows opening in the old hotel, the slavers sticking their heads out to see what is going on, the majority of them armed with a variety of old homebuilt hand blasters, and AR 15 carbines.

At this time the slaves have the advantage of surprise, and the majority head for the cover of the forest, but some of the slaves, those who suffered the most at the hands of their masters, decide that its time to extract a little revenge, even if it means being chilled in the process. It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Several of these vengeance hungry men race towards the fallen slavers, in a vain attempt to get at the fallen blasters. Most are cut down before they get within fifty yards, but a single young male manages to make it. Grabbing one of the carbines, he opens fire on anything that moves. His erratic fire is, for the most part, ineffectual, but it does keep the slavers at bay. Another of the former slaves, a woman who looks even more battered and bruised than Gitana takes the opportunity to rush the building. She use the cover to its fullest advantage, only to be cut down as she steps into the door way.

Without waiting to see what the others are doing, Joe powers it to the trees. "Meet me at the wags, we’ll steal one and disable the rest." He calls over his shoulder, just before fading into the surrounding brush.

The smaller woman is a little taken aback with Joe’s sudden disappearance. She considers following him, but more pressing matters need attending to first. She turns to the mutant. "Ged, cover me." She crouches beside the trailer, her eyes boring into the young mutants. "I’m going to go and take out the slaver watching over Maverick." Unless one of the former slaves chills him first she adds silently. "He’s a big man and I’m not strong enough to carry him, so I’ll need your help. Just keep these bastards away from me, until I get to him. Then I’ll cover you." She is about to turn and race to where the slavers have Maverick trussed up when a strong taloned hand stops her.

The mutant meets her amber gaze, strangely cool and collected. "Leave Maverick to me. I can handle his weight easily." They both duck as a burst from an unseen slaver splatters the ground a yard to their right. "Head to the wags, like the outlander suggested. I’ll meet you there." Without another word, the mutant shoves her aside and moves like greased lightening, covering the ground between the trailers and Maverick in seconds. The movement is so quick, Gitana barely has time to register it and open fire, forcing the confused guard to duck behind the tree Maverick is tied to. What the fuck am I, a total stupe newbie? Why the hell does everyone ignore my wishes and go about doing their own thing? She slams her small fist into the side of the trailer in anger, wincing slightly at the sharp pain shooting through her hand and wrist.

Gitana is still crouching, using one of the tires of the big trailer as cover. More and more of the slavers are heading out of the hotel, spreading out over the compound. The few armed slaves put up one hell of a fight, but she knows that it is a futile gesture.

She decides to take full advantage of the situation and carefully picks her targets, pushing the selector indicator to single shot. Carefully she sights down the barrel of the carbine and squeezes the trigger, breaking into a malicious smile as one of the slavers throws his hands into the air, his carbine flying from his lifeless fingers to land several yards away. He collapses, the front of his shirt coated in red.

The slavers nearest to the man she shot ducks for cover. One is too slow and pays for his negligence with his life as Gitana places a round through his forehead, punching his ticket.

More than one hundred yards away, Ged reaches Maverick, but is unable to do anything to help him, as the slaver that was left behind to guard him steps out to confront her. She bares her sharp teeth and hisses in anger, causing the slaver to take a few fearful steps back. She closes the distance between them, her wicked talons held out and slightly to the side, ready to rend flesh. A dark stain appears on the front of the slavers jeans as he literally pisses himself in fright! The slaver fumbles with his blaster trying to bring it to bear, but Ged gives him no quarter. Using her inhuman speed, she slams into the hapless man, smashing him to the ground. He grunts in pain as the impact knocks the air out of his lungs.

A blood red mist has finally closed in over her mind, shutting out all rational thought. It has been too long denied and won’t be any longer. Her eyes positively glow as she bites deep into his throat, her elongated fangs digging deep into his sweat soaked flesh. Hot blood rushes like a burst dam into her mouth. With a savage yank, she pulls away from his neck, a chunk of his flesh coming with her. She spits, the gob of flesh hitting the rain soaked ground. The slaver shudders once and lies still, his life blood mixing with the water and mud.

Her mind gone, she totally ignores the helpless man hanging from the tree. Instead, she stays on all fours, her eyes hunting for movement, finally coming to rest on a single slaver. He is about fifty yards away from her and is too busy trying to wrestle a blaster away from one of the former slaves. Maverick totally forgotten, she runs full tilt to the wrestling figures.

On the other side of the compound Gitana shakes her head. Rad fire! Damned girl has gone nuts! Well, it looks like it’s up to me to try and save Brett. She closes her amber eyes and counts to ten, trying to calm herself. She is seriously considering making a break for it, but she feels that she’s in debt to the man, and must try to help him the way he tried to help her.

Off the ground she rises, checking all around her. She knows that the longer they take to make their break, the odds continue to stack up against them. Moving as quickly as she can in a crouching run, she leaves the meager cover of the trailers towards Maverick.

* * *

Using the trees as cover, Joe circles around the compound in the opposite direction of the others. Jim Greaves stole something very important to him, and he would rather die than leave the compound without them. They are part of his past and mean more than anyone could imagine. He isn’t totally sure where they will be kept, but figures that they’ll probably be inside the old garage that Greaves is using as his office.

The barrel chested man hunkers down low beside a tree and carefully looks over the compound. It looks as if both the slavers and former slaves are taking heavy casualties, but far more on the side of the former slaves. He knows that time’s getting triple short, as he runs his hand through his short cropped hair. If the others don’t hurry, he’s going to simply steal one of the wags and leave them behind. Even though the mutie girl helped him escape, he feels no loyalty to the group. Why should he? After all, he figures, he just met them.

He’s about to make his move when he spots Greaves, his slut woman, and a small group of guards exit the garage. Greaves is shouting orders at the top of his lungs, all the while trying to stay out of the occasional stray rounds way. Joe lifts the carbine to his shoulder and puts the crosshair right between the slave masters shoulder blades. His finger tightens on the trigger, ready to unleash Greave’s death when one of the guards steps in his way. Oh well, he figures as he fires off the round, puncturing the man's right lung, dropping him like a bad habit. Even though Greaves escaped the reaper this time, at least he was able to send another slaver to meet his maker. The small group scatter in all directions, Greaves disappearing from view.

Oddly enough the path between himself and the garage appears to be totally clear. He doesn’t waste a second as he races to the garage. His feet start to slip in the mud soaked ground, nearly causing him to lose his footing, but he recovers quickly enough and slides to a stop next to the entrance. He runs a callused hand across his face, wiping away the cold sweat and rain. He dares to peek around the corner, and just as he figured, he spots a single guard nervously watching the on going battle for survival.

Joe quickly glances around, his mind racing. He needs to get into the building and the only way he can is by either killing the guard, or somehow distract him. He leans forward, his hand resting in the mud. He’s about to pull his hand away when his fingers brush something solid. Looking down, he spots the object he touched. A fist sized chunk of brick. He grabs it, hefting it out of the earth. He smiles wickedly. Just what I needed.

He tosses the chunk of masonry underhanded into the garage. It flies true and lands on the dirt covered floor near the main window. The guard whirls and fires a burst from his blaster. Uncoiling from his crouched position he launches himself at the guard. Hitting him full in the back, slamming the surprised guard to the filthy floor. Despite the unexpected attack, the guard manages to hold onto his blaster, it continues to fire, the carbine jumping in his hand. "Get the fuck off me!" He screams, struggling like a hellion.

Joe climbs to a crouch and launches himself forward, driving his knee into the small of the slaver’s back. He hears a sickly snap as the vertebrae snaps apart. The pain is so intense that the slaver can’t so much as breath. Joe doesn’t relent. He drives down on the back of the man’s neck with his elbow, forcing the man’s throat into the floor, crushing the larynx, as well as snapping the jaw and head up, breaking the spine and the man’s jaw. The slaver’s body convulses for several seconds and then is still, death claiming another soul.

Joe grabs the man’s weapon, prying it from his dead fingers. He grabs the edge of the desk using it as cover, he peers over it, glancing around, looking for any sign of someone coming to investigate the firing. But, considering the battle raging outside, it isn’t a surprise that anyone comes. He slips around to the other side of the desk and checks the drawers. They are actually locked. This doesn’t deter the man for a second. Using the barrel of the blaster he took from the dead man, he slides it into the drawer handle. With a vicious yank, he forces the drawer open. Inside he finds a handful of jack, as well as several other items. He grabs the first two he spots. One a tiny leather bag, on a raw hide cord, the other appears to be a small doll like figure. As he’s about to leave, he spots a small butterfly blade sitting near the back of the drawer. He grabs it as well, figuring that it might come in handy.

He peers over the windowsill again, seeing that the battle is still raging on. He wonders how he’s going to make it to the wags. They’re not that far from his current location, but on the down side, several of the slavers have gathered around them, knowing that the former slaves will more than likely attempt to go after them.

* * *

Her small size proves to be useful as she dodges from shadow to shadow, using the cover to it’s full extent on her way to try and rescue Maverick. Several times, rounds come uncomfortably close as she makes her way, but none hit. She wipes her face, trying to clear away some of the freezing rain that is soaking her to the skin. Only a few more yards and she’ll be near him.

Growling softly to herself, she shakes her head in disgust when she spots the dead guard, his throat having been torn out by Ged. Stupe mutie, she’s gonna get herself chilled. But, at least she took care of the guard for me, she thinks as she covers the last few yards separating her and Maverick

Using the tree as cover, she touches the big man on the face, and gasps in shock. His skin is like ice, and despite the poor light, she can see that he’s taken on a deathly shade of white. Hypothermia is setting in and if they don’t get him to shelter and warmed up fast, he won’t survive the night. Desperately she tries to untie him from the tree, but the combination of her cold fingers and the slickness of the rope make the task nearly impossible.

She slams her tiny fist into the tree in frustration. "Rad Fire!" Stopping, she to take a breath, she looks around, trying to figure out a way to release him, and quickly. Her gaze falls on the corpse of the slaver. Attached to his belt is a small blade. "Fucking A!" she whispers to herself as she crouches to retrieve it.

Out of the rain drenched night, a leather booted foot slams down on the blade. She glances up to see the slaver woman, Marty, leering at her. The barrel of her blaster only inches from Gitana’s face.

* * *

Moving on all fours, Ged charges the closest target she can find. Several slavers are gathered around the wags near the old gas station. Her young mind is still locked deep in the blood mist, and all she wants to do is kill.

As she approaches, one of the slavers stands up and fires his carbine at a small group of former slaves trying to make their way to the forest. Several go down, having taken hits, but three manage to make it to the trees.

With an unearthly roar, she leaps at the slaver with the blaster. The sudden scream surprises the small group, the slaver with the carbine turns at the unexpected roar. His eyes widen is horror as he spots the inhuman figure flying out of the night like some sort of wingless gargoyle from medieval times. He doesn’t even have the time to scream before she lands on him, her claws digging deep into his throat and neck.

* * *

The corpse of the slave slips from his huge hands and falls to the ground, the man’s neck cleanly broken. Greaves pauses only long enough to spit in the man’s lifeless eyes. "Fucker." He lets the SPAS 15 slip from his shoulder and levels it at his hip, squeezing off a single shot, catching another escaped slave in the leg, blowing it off at the knee. The slave slams face first into the ground, screaming like a banshee.

"Hey, what the hell?" Marty points with her hand towards the tree where Maverick is tied up. Greaves looks in the direction she indicates and growls. They see the guard is dead, and that the woman they captured during the day is with him, looking for a way to release him from the tree. He turns back and stabs a finger at the slaver woman. "Take the bitch out. She’s proved to be far more trouble than she’s worth. Fucking gutter whore is triple bad luck.

Marty smiles, but the feral grin has no humor in it, doesn’t come within a country mile of her eyes. She hefts the Detonic’s Scoremaster handgun she took off the woman, checking to make sure that the safety is off. "’Bout time you said that." She pulls the rim of the black baseball cap, boasting the emblem of a three headed dog, down tighter over her forehead.

She makes her way towards the small woman trying to release Maverick. The battle is slowly winding down all around her, the slavers finally beating off the poorly armed former slaves. It will be only a few more minutes before they are defeated, either killed or re-captured.

Gitana is so intent on trying to cut Maverick free, she doesn’t see the other woman approach until its far too late. Marty steps right up to her, placing her leather booted foot on the blade Gitana was attempting to retrieve. As the smaller woman looks up in surprise, Marty shoves the barrel of her weapon in Gitana’s face. "It ends here and now gutter whore." Marty laughs as she begins to squeeze the trigger.

* * *

Joe watches the horrific scene as the young mutant woman who released him and Gitana jumps on a slaver wielding a carbine. She begins to literally tear the slaver apart, tossing large gobs of his flesh over her shoulder, coating herself from head to toe in the mans blood. All the while totally inhuman growls tear from her throat.

He manages to tear hismelf from the death scene. His green eyes take in the sight of many of the slavers finally gaining the upper hand. He knows that the battle is nearly over and that it’s going to be the slavers that win, not the slaves. He’s going to have to make his move, and soon.

Hefting the carbine, he leaps over the ledge and dashes across the small distance between the gas station and the nearest of the wags. He skids to a halt, almost slipping and falling. Ged is totally lost in her blood lust, and leaps off her long dead victim onto the next target. The initial attack has proved to be so terrifying that it has literally paralysed the other slavers with fear, preventing them from acting.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the butterfly knife he took from the gas station. He opens it with a deft flick of his wrist and slams the slim blade into the tire, causing it to go flat in seconds. His smile is grim. They won’t be going anywhere soon without good tires. In the Deathlands, good tires are even more scarce than good gasoline.

He chances a glance over the hood of the wag. He can see the head slaver, Jim Greaves out organizing the slavers in killing and re-capturing the slaves. They have, at best, only minutes. He circles the wag, puncturing the other three tires.

He makes his way over to another wag and begins to wreak the tires. As he rounds the front, he catches sight of the young mutant woman. The last of the slavers falls beneath her talons. Her entire body is covered in blood, plastering her clothing to her skin. The rain does little to wash it away. She turns, as if sensing him watching her. Another low growl escapes her throat as she leaps.

Joe raises the carbine to his shoulder and pulls the trigger.

* * *

Gitana wastes no time in lashing out. She strikes the hand holding the blaster and knocks the aim off. The shot misses her by a hairs breadth. Marty screams in anger and surprise. Marty didn’t think that the smaller woman would be so quick. She made one of the worst mistakes you can make in the Deathlands. She underestimated her opponent.

Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, Marty lashes out with a leather booted foot and catches her square in the stomach. Gitana grunts, the wind nearly knocked out of her. She saw the attack coming and was able to pull back slightly, but not quite enough to stave off the full force of the attack. It’s still strong enough to knock her back nearly a yard.

The pain in her groin seems to be redoubled as she lands on her supple rear. A hot wetness can be felt spreading, as the impact causes some of the wounds re-open. Tears blur her vision and coarse down her cheeks. She can barely make out the form of Marty raising the blaster.

In total desperation, she lashes out with her foot, barely managing to catch the other woman on the shin. The attack has little force, but it’s enough to cause her stumble and lose her aim. Despite the pain shooting through her groin, she leaps to her feet, raising her small hands. "Come on bitch, lets dance!" She watches as the other woman hesitates. "What, you afraid that I’m going to beat your sorry ass?" Her voice mocks the other. If Gitana was in her shoe’s, she’d simply pull the trigger of the blaster and chill her. But, as she hoped, the other woman drops the blaster and takes the bait.

Marty’s left hand slides down her leg and she pulls a small hunting knife from it’s sheath. She takes the classic knife fighter stance. "I’m gonna slice that pretty face right off your leering skull, outlander."

The two women move towards each other, but neither getting within striking distance of the other. Marty makes several feint attacks, trying to draw the other woman into making a serious mistake, but Gitana can easily see that the attacks were nothing but a bluff. She desperately wishes that she had her butterfly knife that her aunt gave her. She’d chill the other woman in seconds. But, the best she can hope for is to ward off her attacks long enough to get over to the dead guard and pick up his knife.

Marty seems to sense what Gitana is planning to do. She tries to force the smaller woman away from the corpse, nearer to the tree where Maverick is hanging. Each ferocious stroke and slash misses by inches, the smaller woman somehow managing to duck or dodge them all. Her inability to successfully hit the woman enrages Marty, causing her to become more careless. "Fucking stand still outlander!" She screams.

Deftly Gitana sidesteps another blow. Amateur she thinks. Aunt Rose taught me far better. If I had a blade, this fight would be over by now. As she hoped, Marty gets careless and leaves herself open to attack. Gitana takes full advantage of it, striking out with her foot. The blow catches Marty on the wrist, knocking the blade out of her hand. Marty counters the attack with a vicious left hook that catches Gitana full in the jaw. The blow sends her sprawling to the muddy ground. Gitana’s mouth fills with blood from where she nearly bit through her tongue.

As quickly as she can, Gitana slithers away, trying to avoid further attacks from the other woman. Marty is relentless in her pursual, never giving an inch. Gitana knows that she has to somehow get to her feet and retaliate, and fast. The combination of the cold, injuries and plain simple fatigue have taken a serious toll on the Spanish woman.

As she tries to regain her footing, Marty hits her full in the stomach with the steel toe of her combat boot. The pain is so unbearable, Gitana actually blacks out for a fraction of a second. Marty, seeing that she has all but won, bends down and grabs Gitana by her hair, hauling her up into a kneeling position. "It’s over outlander. You lost, just like I knew you would." She slaps Gitana with her free hand. The blow brings Gitana around and she glares into the others brown eyes. She spits a mouth-full of blood into the other woman’s face.

"You fuck!" Marty screams, letting go of Gitana and trying to wipe the blood out of her eyes. Still kneeling, Gitana slams her fist into Marty’s neck, crushing the larynx. Her eyes go wide with fright and surprise. All thoughts of the fight and the smaller woman fly from her mind as she struggles to take a breath. She tries to speak, but nothing comes out.

The tables are now turned to Gitana’s favor. As long as none of the slavers decide to put an end to the fight, she’s already won. Marty is dead, but her mind doesn’t know it yet.

The other woman tries to gain her footing, but Gitana doesn’t relent. She drives the heel of her hand straight into Marty’s nose, smiling in grim satisfaction as it is smashed to a pulp spraying blood in all directions. The flow coats the front of Marty’s jacket as her eyes roll up into the back of their sockets.

Gitana slides around behind the bigger woman gripping the side of her head in both hands. With a savage yank and twist, she snaps the other woman’s neck like a twig. Normally such a feat would be nearly impossible for her, but with the adrenaline coursing through her system, her strength has redoubled.

She snatches the cap off the dead woman, placing it on her own head. "Thanks for the headgear bitch."

Not one to waste any further time, she leaps towards the dead sec man and finally manages to grab his knife. From behind her a shout of rage stops her in her tracks, causing her to spin around. Jim Greaves is charging like a bull, Maverick’s SPAS 15 held at hip length. He pulls the trigger, sending a wave of pellets flying towards her. Gitana doesn’t have the time to think, only act.

* * *

A burst of 5.56 rounds barely miss the young mutant as she leaps. The near miss forces her to twist in mid air and try to avoid the rounds. It snaps her blood lust, but just slightly. She lands, growling and looks over her shoulder. Joe wasn’t firing at her, but rather at a slaver who was coming around the car, his weapon ready to spit lead death. The burst hits the slaver in the chest, knocking him flat on his ass.

Joe keeps the weapon aimed, his finger tight on the trigger. "Calm down mutie, you even think of trying to attack, I’ll chill you before you get within ten feet." Despite the cold wet air, he finds himself sweating even more heavily than before. His initial reaction is to simply chill the young mutant, and be done with it. But, he knows better than to chill a potential ally.

Ged slowly turns around and faces the barrel chested man. Her growls growing fainter by the second. The bloodlust washes away far more quickly than the blood coating her small body. "Who… Who…?"

Joe lowers the weapon, sighing slightly in relief. He really didn’t want to have to chill the mutant, but would in a second if she was still under the control of the blood lust. "Welcome back. I’m Joe, remember?"

The mutant cocks her head to the right. "Joe?"

"Yeah, that’s my name." He waves with his hand, motioning to her to join him. "Get over her before one of the slavers spot you!"

The mutant joins him, shaking her head, trying to clear off the residual blood lust that she feels. "What’s happening?"

He shakes his head chuckling slightly. "Since you don’t seem to remember, we’re trying to get away."

Her eyes widen. "Oh my god!" She whirls around, desperately trying to locate Maverick. "I was supposed to help release Maverick!" Her talons cover her mouth. "The slavers haven’t chilled him, have they?"

Joe peers into the wag they’re crouched by. As he figured, the slavers left the keys in the ignition. Opening the door, he slides in and checks the gas level. It appears to be full, as long as the gauge isn’t broken. He tosses the blade to Ged who deftly catches it. "Don’t think so, but I’ve been triple busy to really notice. Now, go, blow the tires on the other wags. That way they can’t come after us.

Ged stares at the blade. "Umm, Joe?" She asks hesitantly.

"What? Come on, move your tail! Time’s triple short right now!"

"I saw something on a vid when I was staying with the white coats. Might help us out."

His bushy eyebrows raise slightly. "And?"

"I need some fire, or self light. Give me some cloth, preferably dry, and I’ll burn the wags."

Joe considers her request, but he’s personally soaked to the skin. His clothing won’t help her. "Nothing here." He slides into the vehicle completely. As he glances around the interior, he spots something lying on the floor. A discarded shirt. He grabs it and tosses the rag to the mutant. "Here, found just the thing."

She grabs it. "Now, we need a self light."

"Check the guard."

The mutant reaches down and searches through the pockets of the dead guard, trying to ignore the horrible smell coming from him where he soiled himself when he died. Nothing. Not a damned thing. She shakes her head in frustration. Where the hell is a self light when you need one? She stops and looks around. The slavers have plenty of small fires going all around, but none are close enough to risk going after. Her sight catches the fight taking place near Maverick between the woman she released, and one of the slaver women. It appears that she is taunting the other woman into trying to attack.

It seems to have worked.

* * *

Gitana deftly dodges the rounds flying her direction. Jim Greaves is totally enraged at the loss of the slaver woman, but from the way Gitana witnessed the way he treated her, she figured that he really didn’t give a damn. Obviously, she was totally mistaken. She leaps around the edge of the tree, snagging her Detonics .45 from the lifeless fingers of the slaver woman. Unfortunately, her foot catches an exposed root, causing her to fall. She lands flat on her stomach and finds the wind knocked from her lungs.

Greaves slides up to her and places the barrel of the SPAS 15 on the back of her exposed neck. Gitana closes her eyes and whispers a silent prayer, knowing that her life-span is measured in heartbeats.

He jams the barrel down with savage force. "You shouldn’t have chilled her." He applies just enough pressure to the trigger, firing the weapon. It clicks on an empty chamber. He never realized that he fired off the entire magazine.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Gitana takes full advantage of the decreased pressure of the blaster on the back of her neck. She jerks her whole body to the right, bringing the hand blaster up.

Greaves, seeing the weapon aimed at his chest, throws himself to the side, all the while his hands fly to the holsters at his hip, drawing his own gold plated .45 caliber automatic blasters. He hits the ground, rolling. Gitana fires several rounds, just missing him. She was never that great with blasters. Knives were her specialty. Seems that the only time that she ever hit with a blaster was out of pure luck, like when the slavers were trying to take her the day before. She curses her lack of training, wishing that her Adoptive father, Yuan, would have been far more persistent in his attempts to teach her.

Jim continues to roll, firing both automatics as he does. The rounds pass over and around her, one actually grazing her left shoulder. To her horror, one of the missed rounds drills it’s way through Maverick’s pale thigh. He doesn’t even budge a muscle. His entire system must be shutting down due to hypothermia.

She practically flies to her feet, scrambling desperately around the large tree, trying to protect herself from the gunfire. She fires a couple of rounds off over her shoulder, hoping in vain that one round might, just might find it’s target. This time lady luck isn’t smiling on her.

Roaring in a near uncontrollable rage, Greaves pumps round after round into the tree. If it had been only a few inches thinner, she’d be on her way to see her long gone ancestors. As is, several rounds blow through, missing by only inches.

She considers crouching down low so she can fire around the tree, but figures that he would be expecting that, and adjust his aim accordingly. "Rad fire, where the hell are the white hats when you need them?"

* * *

The engine of the old rebuilt wag coughs to life reluctantly. Joe slams his ham like fist into the steering wheel in triumph. "Hot damned!" He leans out the open window. "Ged, hurry up, time’s blood. Forget the damned wags." He throws the vehicle in gear and hits the gas.

Try as she might, the slim blade won’t cut into the tire of the wag she is crouching beside. She curses in frustration, quickly looking around to see if anyone heard her. Joe’s bellow of triumph nearly causes her to jump, but instead she turns around. She notices that he threw open the passenger side door open for her. She crouches, then leaps after making sure that the coast is totally clear. She doesn’t want to have made it this far only to be shot and chilled in the home stretch.

She pulls herself fully into the vehicle and slams the door shut. Joe hands her one of the weapons he took off the dead. "Here, the blaster is fully loaded. Chill anything that moves." She takes the weapon and as quickly as she can, rolls down the side window. She’s is able to get it about half way down before it james. Joe turns his head and sees the predicament. "Smash out the rest, give yerself a clear line of fire!"

She raises the butt of the carbine and is about to smash out the window when Joe steps on the gas, throwing her back in the seat. Her talon tightens around the trigger, sending a burst through the window, totally destroying the glass. "Shit, Joe!!" She spits in anger, more directed to herself, than the man. She should have been more careful.


Joe swings the wheel, aiming the wag towards the tree where Gitana is attempting to cut Maverick free. He aims the battered, rebuilt wag at the figure of the head slaver, Greaves running towards the small woman. She ducks behind the tree as he fires, barely missing her. He grins as and applies more pressure to the gas, pushing the old wag all that much more.

Greaves is so intent on trying to chill the Spanish woman that he doesn’t even hear the old battered wag racing towards him.

Joe is nearly on top of Greaves when gunfire smashes through the windshield, missing Joe’s head by mere inches. "Fuck!" He screams, involuntarily jerking the wheel, missing the slaver leader by a good three yards.

Jim finally notices the oncoming wag and jumps out of the way, his initial target forgotten for the moment. He whirls around, leveling both automatics and squeezes the triggers, sending a half dozen rounds flying through the door of the wag. One round burns a furrow across Ged’s thigh, causing her to cry out in pain. The others pass harmlessly through the vehicle.

The moving wag and roars of anger attract the attention of several of the slavers. Most of the survivors are currently in the woods attempting to recapture the slaves that escaped. By morning, at least half the slaves will be back in custody, the other half either dead or gone.

Slamming on the brakes, Joe yanks the wheel, throwing the vehicle into slide. It stops, less than a yard from Maverick. "Ged, keep the fucker’s heads down! Burn the entire clip if you have to, I snagged several extra. We’ve got plenty of ammo."

She nods her head and tries to ignore the burning pain coursing across her leg. She stabs the barrel of the carbine and fires off several bursts at the slavers. Not a single round hits, but it keeps them at bay, making several jump for cover.

Atta girl, Joe smiles as he jerks open the door handle and leaps out. "Hey, lil bit, yer ride is here!" He snatches the handle of the rear passenger door and opens it as well, sandwiching him between the two doors, providing him fairly good cover.

Gitana finally comes out from the cover of the tree. He has only seconds to evaluate the combat situation. To the front of the vehicle there is the slaver leader. Off to the right, where Ged is firing, there appears to be at least six to eight slaver sec men, while, to the rear, where he is facing, he can see another three to five slavers. Finally, directly to his left is Gitana and Maverick. They are effectively caught in a crossfire, with little chance of escaping.

"Ged!" He shouts over the gunfire. "Keep firing, we gotta thin out these rad fuckers!" He spots a perfect opportunity shot and takes it. A slaver takes two rounds of a burst in the stomach and collapses on the ground, writhing in agony. He has to try and keep the slavers at bay long enough for Gitana to free her friend.

Gitana, using the knife she took from the guard, quickly slices through the bonds holding Maverick. He collapses to the mud soaked ground, face first. She’s next to him immediately, pulling his face free of the muck, to prevent him from drowning in it. "Amigo, wake up, you have to help me!" Her voice is calm, but still relays the urgency of the situation. The big man doesn’t respond.

Sighing, she grabs him by the armpits and pulls. He hands slip free due to the rainwater and mud, causing her to fall backwards. She lands on her rear. White hot pokers of pain shoot up her spine, and a fire unlike any she has felt before spreads through her groin. Tears of pain blur her vision, but she pushes it aside as she gets to her feet to try again. She wants to call to Joe to help her, but he’s far to busy keeping the slavers at bay.

Two rounds smash into the ground, less than a foot from her right leg. Greaves has taken to the forest and is using the trees as cover, but is still determined to chill her. Punching the Detonic’s pistol in his direction, she fires off four rounds in less than a heartbeat. They don’t come within a country mile of hitting, but force him to duck completely behind the tree.

Once again, she takes Maverick by the armpits, this time making sure that she has a good solid grip on him before trying to move him. His weight surprises her as she pulls on him, succeeding in only moving him several inches. Less than two feet separate her from the rear door of the wag.

The other man jumps out from between the two doors and hands off his carbine. He doesn’t wait for her to respond, instead takes Maverick by the arm and drags him around the open door and literally tosses him into the back.

Gitana is smart enough to immediately drop into a crouch and raises the blaster to her shoulder. She hits the selector on the weapon and switches it to full auto. The carbine jumps in her small hands, but she is able to keep it fairly level. The full auto spray is enough to force the remaining slavers to the rear of the vehicle to break off their attack and run for the cover of the trees.

There is a pause in the gunfire coming from Ged’s position in the wag. She steals a peek and can see the mutant changing magazines on the carbine. Gitana Jumps past Joe and into the back, landing hard on Maverick. "Sorry." She says, despite the fact that she knows he can’t hear her.

The other slavers take the break in the fire to advance on the wag. Several fire their carbines at the wag as Joe jumps in. He slams his foot down on the gas pedal, causing the tires to spin in the mud, and the wag begins to fishtail as it moves forward. The motion forces the doors on Joe’s side to slam shut, the rear door nearly catches Gitana’s foot.

The weapons fire intensifies, forcing both Ged and Gitana to duck down behind the thin steel of the doors. Ged cries out in fear as several bullets smash into the barrier, but none penetrate or cause damage.

"Go, go, go, go!" Shouts Gitana. Joe doesn’t need any prompting as he eases off the gas to end the fishtailing. He regains total control of the wag and steers towards the edge of the camp, to the old highway, and freedom.

Seeing the woman who chilled his lover about to escape is more than Greaves can handle. He steps out from behind his cover and runs towards the moving vehicle. He took the time to re-load the SPAS 15, and has seven rounds ready to deal death. Raising the scattergun, he pulls the trigger. A hail of pellets slam into the front quarter panel, just missing the tire, but blowing a fist sized hole in it. Fortunately for the vehicle, the pattern misses anything vital.

"Shit! Doesn’t that stupe bastard ever give up?" Joe shouts as he turns the wheel, facing the vehicle directly at the slaver. "Duck!" He screams to the two females.

Seeing one of his wags coming towards him on a collision course, Jim fires off two more shots, aimed for the driver. The first one misses totally, the second round of buck shot blows off the head rest. "Oh no you don’t outlanders." He hisses. When he sees that the vehicle is still locked on a collision course, he fires once more, the shot taking out the rear window. At the last moment, he sidesteps, allowing the vehicle to pass him. He then leaps, landing on the trunk.

Joe peeks over the dash and lets out a small cry of surprise as the vehicle is heading directly towards a huge tree. Ged looks up at the same time and screams out as well, and without thinking, grabs the steering wheel. The wag veers sharply to the right, nearly throwing Jim off, but he is able to hold on, one hand firmly gripping the edge of the rear window.

He lifts the SPAS 15 and jams the barrel inside. He has three shots left, and that is it. He didn’t take the time to re-load the colts, so isn’t sure how many shots are left between the pair of weapons. The barrel of the scattergun is aimed directly at the back of the driver. He’s going to have to fire through the seat, but that doesn’t deter him for a second. Just as he is about to squeeze the trigger, a small foot lashes out and hits the barrel, knocking it upwards. Jim fires, blowing a hole through the roof.

"Chill him!" Joe bellows. He strikes out, slapping Ged’s hand off the wheel to regain control. "Leave the fucking steering to me!"

Reaching over the seat, Ged grabs the barrel of the scatter gun and pulls with all her might. Greaves yells in surprise as he finds himself being dragged into the wag. Letting go of the shotgun, he reaches for one of his colts, and with the other hand supports himself. Directly below him is the naked figure of Maverick, slightly covered by the small body of the Spanish woman.

A smashing blow causes him to see stars and brings tears to his eyes. A river of bright red blood flows from his nose where the small dark skinned woman hit him with the heel of her palm. He roars in rage, letting go of the front seat. His large form falls completely into the car, pinning Gitana to the seat. In the chaos of the fight, he didn’t even realize that he had drawn his colt.

Ged reaches over the seat and grabs the hand holding the colt. Despite her small stature, she possesses incredible strength. Her hand wraps around the weapon and she yanks it with all her strength. Greaves yelps as the weapon is pulled from his grasp, breaking two of his fingers in the process.

As if it had a mind of it’s own, her tail swishes back and forth, clubbing Joe across the side of his head. He growls and slams his fist down on it, trying to keep it still. "Hey, watch the tail! You want me to run into a tree or something?"

Struggling into the already crowed back seat, Ged attempts to grab the other colt holstered on Jim’s hip. Gitana, trapped below the two figures is almost helpless to do anything. Try as she might, the only thing she can move are her feet. She wiggles her toes, trying to snag the door handle.

He can’t believe the way things have turned out. Just a few hours ago, he had nearly a full cargo of slaves, ready to transport to Newyork. He was on top of the Deathlands. Then, a small Spanish woman was captured, and in the process he lost several men. The next thing he knows his slaves are making a desperate break for it, and suddenly he’s fighting for his life in the back seat of a stolen wag.

The mutie woman is practically on top of him, trying to get at his other pistol. He totally ignores the pain from his broken fingers and wraps his fist around her neck. He snags her other hand, the one trying to get at his blaster. At least, he thinks, the other one is effectively out of the fight.

Her toes wrap around the handle and she pulls it. The door pops open. At the exact same moment, Joe swerves to the right, spotting the exit from the compound. With a yell of surprise, Joe, Ged, and Gitana find themselves flying out of the moving wag.

Joe risks a glance over his shoulder, seeing the back seat empty. He pulls a classic double take, and then slaps his hand over his face. "Great, just great…." He slams on the brakes, bringing the wag to a skidding stop.

Ged finds herself lying on top of the slaver leader, his hand firmly locked around her throat. His strength is formidable, and she feels herself starting to black out. The young mutant pulls herself away, struggling to her knees. "Let… go… of… me!"

He draws his free hand back and is about to strike when the other woman rams into him from the side, causing him to break his grip. Ged falls back, her hand going to her bruised and battered throat.

Gitana slips her hand around the butt of his colt as she rams into him. She immediately pulls away, taking the blaster with her. Greaves rolls to his feet, eyes blazing. She levels the gold plated blaster and fires once, then twice. Both rounds hit the slaver leader directly in the chest, knocking him back. He rolls once, and is then still, face first in the dirt.

The old battered wag backs up and comes to a full stop next to them. Leaning out the window Joe surveys the situation. He’s about to speak when Gitana leaps into the vehicle. "Come on Ged, lets go!"

"Head out, I’ll meet you on the highway" She calls out over he shoulder as the mutant woman races into the forest.

Slamming the door shut, Gitana pats the man on the shoulder. "Just go."

"You don’t need to tell me twice." Joe hits the gas. The wag spins in the mud for a second before finally gaining traction, then as smooth as silk, hugs the road and hits the small access, pulling out onto the road.

* * *

Ged runs into the forest without bothering to see if the others are waiting or leaving. It was just pure luck that they fell out of the wag so close to where she hid the backpacks, so she figures that it isn’t going to be a waste of time grabbing them. Sure enough, they are still located under the tree where she left them.

Both packs in hand, she takes a moment to see where the others are. The wag is just pulling onto the highway. Due to the setup of the base, the wag is going to pass right by her. Now is not the time to hesitate. She races to catch up with them.

* * *

"What the hell is the mutie doing?"

"I have no idea." She sighs wearily. "Since she freed us from the trailer, she has not once listened to anything I asked her to do." She stares out the back window, her amber eyes catching movement in the brush. "Joe, to the left!" She picks up the SPAS 15 Ged dropped and aims it out the window.

Joe looks to his left, not all that sure what to expect. It could be either Ged, or one of the slavers. He scans the edge of the road and sure enough, he catches movement. Its moving far to fast to be a slaver, so he gently applies pressure to the brakes.

Ged moves with near unbelievable speed up to the wag. She vaults over the hood of the wag landing on the other side, right next to the passenger door. His mouth drops open at the sight of the mutie’s demonstration of her incredible dexterous skill and agility. "Fuck a duck!" He breaths.

The mutant grabs the door and pulls it open. "Hit it Joe." She exclaims, hopping in the front seat. She tosses one of the packs on the floor, the other on the seat beside her. She opens the heavy nylon pack and immediately pulls out several boxes of twelve gauge ammo. "Here, Gitana, take this." She tosses a box over her shoulder.

She catches the box with one hand. Cracking it open, she re-loads the shotgun. "Thanks chica." She glances out the ruined back window, seeing the tell tail signs of headlights not that far off. "Heads up amigo, we’ve got company!"

Glancing in the side view mirror, Joe spots the headlights. Sure enough, it appears that at least some of the slavers made it to the other vehicle. He slams his fist against the steering column. Shit, I wish we would have been able to take all the wags out. At least two of the vehicles won’t be coming after them. From his position, he can see Gitana has re-loaded the shotgun. "Gitana, get ready to use that blaster."

"You don’t need to tell me twice amigo." She says, her voice dripping sarcasm. She picks up the pair of gold plated colts and hands them over the seat to the mutant. "Here, check out the ammo for both." She then tosses the girl her Detonic’s scoremaster. "The blaster still has a few rounds left in it, see if you can combine enough from all three to fill at least one of the weapons."

The mutant nods, popping the clips out of all three weapons. She then pulls out the MP5 out of one of the backpack. "I’ll use this blaster. It’s full auto, and Maverick showed me how to use it. It could come in handy."

Having finished re-loading the scattergun, Gitana readies the weapon. The movement combined with the wind howling through the make accurate fire difficult, if not impossible. But, for all their sakes, she will do as best she can.

She watches as the pursuing vehicle closes the distance. "Joe, can’t you make this wag move any faster?"

"If I could, don’t you think I’d fucking well do that?" He growls. Figures, they’d end up stealing the slower of the slaver wags. He chances a glance at the side view mirror, seeing the slaver vehicle closing rapidly. Already he can hear the distinct pop of the AR 15’s firing. In response, he swerves the vehicle to the left and right, the movement making them a far harder target to hit.

Gitana holds off firing at the other vehicle, wanting to preserve the ammunition until it is absolutely necessary, and that she might just be able to actually hit something. She jumps at the sound of firing off to her right. "Ged, rad fire chica, hold your fire! Wait until they’re closer!"


The other wag has closed the distance so that they are now less than twenty yards away. Gitana can see five figures inside the wag, one hanging out from the right and left hand side of the wag. A third figure is standing, his chest hanging out of a hole cut in the roof. She is tempted to open fire, but knows that the odds of her hitting are still not good enough. Her plan is to wait until they are practically on top of them before opening up. She wants to make sure that every shot counts.

The closer the two vehicles get, the more the occupants of the slaver vehicle pour on the gunfire. Several rounds come uncomfortably close. Two even manage to pass right through the open gap where the rear window and the windshield used to be. Gitana ducks, cursing. The cold flesh of Maverick hits her like a slap in the face. "Muy dios! Joe, we have to do something about Maverick. I think he’s dying."

"Forget him, we gotta concentrate on getting rid of our tail first." He glances out the side view mirror again. The other vehicle has closed the distance to less than five yards in that short a time. They are trying to come up from the left, so he jerks the wheel to the left, forcing the other car to back off a few extra yards.

Taking a serious risk, Ged leans out the window, exposing her left arm and head. Holding the MP five, she squeezes the trigger, sending a stream of full auto fire at the on coming vehicle. She wasn’t aiming to try and hit any of the passangers. Instead, she was aiming to try and damage the engine of the wag. The stream of lead impacts all over the front grill and hood. The driver swings the wag out of her line of fire.

"Ace on the line girl!" Joe shouts, moving the vehicle so that it is once again directly in front of the pursuers.

After seeing the success of Ged’s fire, Gitana decides to try it. As with Ged, she’s forced to expose part of her body to the oncoming fire. Sighting down the barrel, she fires once, yelling in triumph as the shot hits home, dead center of the vehicles grill. Her triumph soon turns to disgust as the blast fails to penetrate. "Rad fire! They seem to have some sort of arma plating over the grill. Not going to slow them down at all that way."

"I’ve got an idea." Calls Joe, allowing the vehicle to begin to slow. "Both of you, duck down. Things are going to get triple rough in a minute."

Gitana and Ged comply, both ducking down low, trying to use the meager cover to its fullest. Gitana stretches out over Maverick’s body, feeling her own body heat sucked out, as if he was a heat magnet. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of her mind, she recalls something that her adoptive father, Yaun, told her about people suffering from hypothermia. But, until they somehow manage to lose their pursuers, she can’t do a thing.

To her surprise, it sounds as if the other vehicle is right beside them. She risks a look, screaming out loud in surprise as she comes nearly face to face with one of the brute slavers. What the hell? The slaver growls and swings the carbine towards her and Joe. Taking one hell of a risk, she grabs hold of the barrel and tries to wrestle the weapon out of his hand.

The slaver is taken by surprise by her unexpected move. He pulls the trigger reflexively, but the rounds miss totally. The other slavers see what is happening and direct their weapons at the wag. The one standing grabs at a small egg shaped object attached to the web gear on his chest. "Rad fire! Joe, heads up! Fucking slavers got a gren!"

The situation is getting worse by the second. With all the windows blown out, the slaver has ample opportunities to get it inside the wag. If that happens, they can kiss their collective asses goodbye! They don’t have much of a chance.

Slipping out of the window, Ged levels the MP 5 at the slaver holding the gren. She cackles in glee as the triple burst literally rips the man apart. The hand, the whole arm holding the grenade is blown off and lands nearly thirty meters behind the two vehicles, where it goes off harmlessly, but totally destroying the slavers arm.

The death of the grenade wielding slaver buys Joe a few seconds to slam on the brakes. The wag slews to a stop, as the slaver wag continues to rocket forward. Gitana lets go of the barrel at the first sign of the vehicle slowing down. If she didn’t at worst she could have several fingers broken or snapped right off. At best, she would receive a nasty cut along the palm of her hand.

Joe hits the gas and speeds up. He reaches out and takes Ged’s arm. "See the gas tank?" He asks, letting go and pointing at the slaver vehicle. "Fire at it. Burn the whole clip if you have to." He glances over his shoulder. "Gitana, do the same girl. Lean over the seat."

Ged pops the magazine and replaces it with a fresh one. She took a second to check the ammo. She can’t be sure, but it looks like it might be a mixture of tracer and AP. She slams the magazine home and cocks the weapon. With great care she braces herself on the dash, using both hands, and fires. The first few rounds miss, ricocheting off the road into the night sky, but with the tracers, she is able to adjust her aim, and moves the stream into the tank.

The result is spectacular. The armor piercing rounds cut through the thin metal like a hot knife through butter. The sparks alone from the metal tearing would have set off the crudely refined fuel. But, the tracers positively cause the fuel to explode. The explosion starts at the rear and races like a firestorm through the rest of the vehicle. The lid of the trunk is torn clear off, on it’s way to low orbit. The surviving slavers are engulfed by the conflagration.

The burning wag swerves off the road and slams into a tree. The driver, screaming in mortal agony, is thrown through the windshield. He hits the tree head first, the force of the impact driving his skull straight into his torso.

"Holy shit!" Joe mutters under his breath at the sight. It worked far better than he hoped it would. He is about to drive off when the rear right hand door opens up. The sight that greets him the next moment will haunt all of them for the rest of their lives. One of the slavers, nothing more than a scorched skeleton, steps out of the fire blackened vehicle. How the poor bastard managed to live as long as he has is a mystery. The blackened, burning, skeleton turns to the small group, reaching out plaintively with its skeletal arms. One hand, burned through, actually separates from the wrist bone and falls to the ground.

Ged turns and vomits out the side window. Joe grabs the shotgun out of Gitana’s horrified hands and fires, blowing the smoldering skull off the slaver, putting the poor bastard out of his misery.

The three sit without speaking for several minutes. Finally Joe breaks the horrified silence. "No one, and I mean no one deserved to go like that."

Gitana nods her head. "You did good Joe."

Ged is crying, her shoulders shaking. Gitana reaches out and caresses her hair. "Chica, it was horrible, but he’s at peace now. Calm down. We need you clear headed." She takes the mutant’s hand in her own, giving it a friendly squeeze. "Thank you, for helping us get out of there."

Joe pulls off the side of the old blacktop and passes the burning wreckage of the slaver wag. "Yeah, thanks Ged. Thought I was gonna have to chill you, but triple glad I didn’t." He gives her a huge, friendly smile when the mutant turns to look at him. The barrel chested man’s smile is infectiouis and she breaks into a small, tear streaked grin.

"Your welcome Joe."

"Ged, I see you have some sleeping bags tied to those packs. Pass them to me." She takes the blankets as the small mutant passes them to her, unraveling them and placing both over Maverick. "Now, pass me the packs themselves." Ged complies. Gitana takes each pack and places one on the floor, making the back seat as level as possible.

She stops, meeting Ged’s purple gaze with her own. "You care for Maverick, don’t you?"

"Of course I do!"

"Fine." She pulls off her thin top, revealing her dark skinned breasts, the nipples erect in the cold air. "Take off your cloths and get in the back." She leans back, pulling off her pants. She tosses the dirty, wet clothing on the packs and climbs under the blankets, taking a moment to move the scarred warrior on his side. She then slips behind him, gasping in shock as his ice cold flesh touches her own. "Muy Dios! We might be too late!"

Ged climbs into the back and quickly removes her clothing, pressing her small naked mutant form against his. She tries to pull away from him, the touch of his flesh like someone pouring glacier ice water over her skin. Gitana reaches out and grabs her by the shoulder, pulling her in.

"Ged, he needs your body heat." She stares at the mutant for a handful of seconds. "Don’t pull away again."

She moves in, pressing her body against his. Reaching around so she can get a good grip, she pulls both Gitana and Maverick in close. Gitana uses her free hand to pull the sleeping bags over the three of them.

"What do we do now?" Ged asks, her teeth chattering from the cold emanating from Maverick.

Gitana nuzzels her face into Mavericks neck. Her voice muffled somewhat from the close contact. "We wait. I just hope that we are not too late. Hypothermia can be a tricky thing." She runs her small hand up Mavericks leg, hips and the side of his stomach. Its amazing that he’s suffered from so many wounds and is still alive. She hopes to someday learn how he got all the scars, knowing that each and everyone has it’s own story of death and survival.

Ged’s light, steady breath indicates to Gitana that the small mutant is sound asleep. It’s been an incredibly trying day for all of them, and sleep is of the utmost importance now. Try as she might, Gitana feels herself starting to nod off. Pulling herself in tighter, she places a soft kiss against his neck and lets the sweet bliss of sleep claim her.

* * *

When she finally comes to, the vehicle is no longer moving, and the bright morning sunlight is pouring in from the windows. A slight breeze brings the scent of burning wood. The small mutant is still sound asleep, her thumb nearly in her mouth. She runs her hand across Maverick’s body, pleased at how warm he feels. "Thank god. We were in time." She whispers.

She props herself up on her elbow and looks out the window. Joe is no where to be seen, but a small fire is blazing merrily. A pot is sitting in the fire, and she figures that it must be water boiling for coffee sub or tea.

"Hey, welcome back to the world of the living lil bit!" "A friendly voice calls from the other side of the Wag. She jumps slightly, blushing as her upper torso are exposed, allowing Joe to see her.

"Hi Joe." She winces as the still healing wounds pull. "How long was I out?"

"Nearly ten hours."

She blinks. "Ten hours?" She glances up into the sky. The sun is nearly directly overhead. "I thought it was still morning!" She glances around, seeing that they are in a small clearing. She can just make out an old blacktop, one that appears to be far older than the others they have traveled. "Where are we?"

A sleepy groan pulls her attention away from Joe. Ged opens her big eyes, blinking the sleep out of them. She sees Gitana and smiles. "Hi."

"Hi yourself Chica. Sleep well?"

The young mutant yawns, showing her elongated canines. "Very well, thanks." A funny look crosses her exotic features. "What the heck is that?" She pulls away from Maverick and grimaces. "Eww….."

Peering over, Gitana spots what caused the reaction. She bursts out laughing, long and hard. "Oh Chica, it’s just a natural male thing. They have no control over it." Her grin broadens. His natural bodily reaction is a sure sign that he’s recovering from the hypothermia. "Go ahead, get dressed. The crisis has passed. He no longer needs your body heat."

The mutant woman pulls away and grabs her clothing. She looks outside, seeing that Joe has moved over to the fire and is taking the pot off the flames. She dresses quickly.

Still leaning on her elbow, Gitana reaches down and rubs her hand over Mavericks flat, muscular stomach. He’s a lot bigger than I thought! She studies his scarred face, gently tracing the larger scars with her finger. "Wake up amigo." She breaths in his ear, then gently kisses his lobe.

The large man moves ever so slightly, a ghost of a smile crossing his damaged features. He wriggles slightly, pushing further back into the small woman.

"Brett, wake up. We’re safe amigo." Whispers Gitana, shaking him slightly. Her efforts are rewarded with a groan, the man’s eyelids flutter open.

"Wha…?" His voice cracks sounding disoriented, totally confused. He cranes his neck, barely able to make out the dark toned woman lying next to him. "How the hell did we get here?"

Smiling, she places a finger across his lips. "Shh… Don’t talk amigo. We need to get some liquids in you." Carefully she sits up and picks up her meager clothing. "Your young mutant friend helped Joe and I escape from the slaver compound. We’ve been travelling most of the night."

He sits up and rubs his good eye. The other is still nearly totally shut. He groans as the multitude of minor injuries and bruises come flaring to live. "That stupe girl. Don’t know whether to chill her or kiss her." He smiles, deeply proud of the young girl for what she did. She’ll make a great warrior one of these days.

The tiny dark skinned woman doesn’t bother to hide her lovely form as she steps out of the wag. He winces, noticing the blood streaks between her thighs. Well, least we sent most of the fireblasted fuckers to the other side of the dark river for what they did to her. She is a damned handsome creature, no denying that. She walks over towards a small stream and carefully washes the caked blood from between her thighs. Finally she dresses and goes to join the others, smiling broadly as she passes the wag, placing his black cap with the three headed dog emblem on her head.

"Hey! You managed to get my cap!"

She stops and takes it off looking at it for a second before tossing it to him. "The bitch, Marty was wearing it. Glad I grabbed it when I had the chance."

"Thanks Gitana." A brief pause. "Thanks for everything."

She just smiles and walks over to the fire.

He looks around, then spots the packs lying on the floor. He grabs the one he carried before being captured. A few minutes later he pulls out a fresh pair of combat fatigues as well as a white T shirt. Despite the pain of his wounds, he dresses quickly.

"Dark night, I feel like a fuckin’ mouse!" He growls as he stumbles over to the fire.

Both Ged and Gitana are at his side almost immediately, Ged only slightly ahead of the other woman. She smiles up at him, her purple eyes positively glowing with happiness. "Brett, I was so worried about you." Unshed tears brim in her eyes. "I’d be lost without you." She whispers, placing one arm around his waist, allowing him to wrap his thick arm across her shoulder. Gitana takes his other arm and between the two of them they help him over to the fire.

He sits down, graciously taking the cup offered. "Who’r you?" He queries, spotting the barrel chested man.

"Name’s Joe Benett." He holds out a massive hand, which Maverick takes. For the size of the man, he doesn’t try to grind Mavericks bones. The grip is strong and firm. The other man smiles. "And you must be Brett Maverick."

He takes a sip, grimacing as the hot coffee sub bites deep into the cuts in his mouth. But, the hot liquid feels so good, he ignores the discomfort. "Guess you were part of the slaves?"

The other man nods. Ged hands him a self heat. "Brett, eat. You need to get back your strength." He takes the offered food and digs in. All conversation ended.

Right after the meal they load up into the wag, careful to put out the fire and dispose of their refuse. They don’t want to leave any obvious traces that the slavers, if any are trying, to be able to use to track them. All afternoon they travel to the west, staying on the old battered highway. Most of the roadway is in fairly good shape, and they are able to keep a steady pace of forty miles an hour. Joe and Maverick take turns driving, allowing everyone the perfect chance to rest and relax. The conversation is warm and friendly, the four companions getting to know each other.

Around four in the afternoon a small chem storm hits. They are forced to take shelter in a small ruined ville, it’s name long vanished in the dark recesses of time. It lasts for about a half hour and they are then able to get back on the road.

By nightfall, they figure that they have covered nearly two hundred miles. There are no signs of pursuers. The pull of the road and make camp for the night.

* * *

Greaves looks around the compound. One of his vehicles has the tires slashed, one stolen, and one in flames. He lost over eighty percent of his slaves, and just over half of his men, not including Marty. He lashes out, kicking one of the dead slaves. What a fucking disaster.

He wanted to head out after Maverick and the slut, but had to get the surviving slavers organized and the remaining slaves back in the trailers. That took most of the night and morning.

A slaver, one of the older members of his group walks up to him. "Jim. The slaves have been placed back in the trailers, and we’ve stripped the dead of their weapons and clothing. We’re ready to move out when you give the word."

Greaves acknowledges the man with a nod. "We’ll leave now." Wincing, his hand goes to the large bruises he received when he was shot. He is very grateful that he took the body armor from Maverick. It saved his life.

The slaver leader turns and faces west, the last direction Maverick was headed. "You can run Maverick, but you can’t hide forever. I’ll hunt you down to the ends of the Deathlands for what you did."

He turns around and walks to the remaining wags, lost in his anger and hatred.


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