With Apologies to Joe

(This isn’t a short story, it’s a chase scene with cowboys. Also I think it’s unfair that we never get a chance to see things from the baddies perspective in Mad Max: Roadwarrior.

Buck and Gibby are two of the characters from my first novel Veteran. This takes place just before the events in the book.

Thanks to Toby and Dy Heason for post cinema petrol head advice and to Dan Kendall for casting an eye over the story. As ever the mistakes are mine own (they tried.)

Mile after mile of sun cracked black top highway disappeared beneath the wheels of the speeding muscle car. The smart independent suspension and intelligent armoured wheels adapted to allow for the non-existent maintenance on Route 27.

The noise of the engine seemed to scream through Joe. He felt the flow of fuel through the car’s engine as if it was burning through his own veins. He had to keep it all under control, not unleash the full capabilities of the eight hundred horsepower, four-wheel-drive, supercharged, armoured pursuit car. He had to hold it back, like the rage that tunnelled his vision and only allowed him to see the cracked asphalt and heat haze of the road ahead.

The swamp like, vast, slow moving river that was the Everglades was just a peripheral blur of tall grass and water on his left. Only the odd tree or vehicle wreck broke the uniformity of the swampy landscape. Joe closed his eyes but sensors feeding information through the plugs in the back of his neck that connected his cerebellum to the car, meant that he still saw the road ahead as he sped north up Florida though Seminole land.

*                    *                    *

Gibby was pissed off. The trip down to the Keys had been worth it. They had made good money acting as couriers for Papa Neon, delivering pharmaceuticals to the various communities that called the Keys their home. One or two other nefarious acts of road piracy had netted them some extra cash and much needed excitement. The last bit of pursuit had ended when they had made it to Seminole land. They had conducted hurried negotiations with the tribal council whilst travelling at speeds in excess of one hundred miles an hour being pursued by Florida Rangers. This was not the reason that Gibby was pissed off.

The council had been paid and had also created some new and grateful customers to avail themselves of the facilities offered on Seminole lands. The facility currently being enjoyed by the small group of Hard Luck Commancheros was a barge floating in the Everglades next to Route 27. The barge was part roadhouse, part casino and most importantly to Gibby, and he suspected his non-sexual life partner Buck, part whorehouse. Needless to say this wasn’t pissing off Gibby either.

Gibby wasn’t pissed off that Buck had disappeared; he assumed that his partner was taking care of business. He wasn’t pissed off that he was most of the way down a bottle of swamp grown sour mash. Quite the contrary he was enjoying that. Nor was he bothered that he was on the stage trying to pole dance with varying degrees of non-success, much to the amusement of the male and female prostitutes whose routines he was disrupting. He could not remember how he had gotten up there but he was pretty sure that he was enjoying himself. Nor was he pissed off because he had just seen a pretty blonde and a dark haired girl, he was pretty sure was Cuban, that he wanted to take to bed. He was sure he had the money for both this evening. Gibby was pissed off because he could here the unmistakeable dull slap of flesh being punched hard. The sound of a girl screaming followed the unpleasant sound of the punch.

“Goddamn it!” Gibby’s East Texas accent was unmistakeable. Both Gibby and Buck were proud of their Austin heritage, even though the city was largely ruins dotted with armed compounds now. The tall rangy cyberbilly got down off the stage. He was still wearing his armoured duster. A braided beard, thick dreadlocks and cheap plastic sunglasses that hid the black plastic lenses of his military grade cybernetic eyes, obscured most of his facial features.

“Where’s my damn hat?” He asked mainly himself. The prostitutes had stopped dancing now and were glancing nervously towards the noise of the beating. The barman was climbing over the bar carrying a heavy metal rod, one end of which was insulated. Gibby presumed it was a homemade taser. Two of the hugely built bouncers were also making a beeline for the sound of the beating. Both the bouncers were unnaturally massive, boosted muscle and habitual steroid abuse.

Gibby found his wide brimmed Confederate replica hat and tried to beat the bouncers to the noise. He drunkenly checked that he was wearing his gun belt. Fortunately the roadhouse had a civilised, if you were from the South, approach to the carrying of guns on their premises. To Gibby’s sour mash addled mind this showed that the owners of this fine establishment understood the principles of personal responsibility.

Gibby followed the sound of the beating and subsequent cries of pain into a corridor lined with the doors to the hookers’ working rooms. Prostitutes and various members of the Commancheros were coming out of the rooms to see what the commotion was about. The barman and bouncers were just behind Gibby.

Gibby nodded to some of his compadres as he pushed through the people and arrived at the door from which the noises that were angering him were emanating. Gibby could not be bothered to fuck around. He just kicked it open and stepped in.

*                    *                    *

She was a blonde girl, probably in her early twenties, pretty enough in a girl-next-door kind of way. So much so it did not look like the owners of the Roadhouse had paid to have her face sculpted. She was naked and sat up in the bed her arms tied to the headboard with leather belts. Here head lolled as she drooled blood, she was barely conscious.

Gibby went from pissed off to downright furious very quickly. He had been expecting to have to deal with some redneck road train jockey. He had not wanted to find a Commanchero responsible. On the other hand Gibby was not particularly surprised to see Rattlesnake Jack kneeling over the girl.

Jack was a relatively new member of the Hard Luck Commancheros. He had only recently gone from pledge to full member. He was so new that his beard was little more than a goatee and his dreadlocks were just stubs. Rattlesnake Jack was a small, wiry, weasel of a man. He was always jittery from reflexes that were boosted to high augmented with amphetamine based knock-off combat drugs. The tattoo of a diamondback rattler wrapped around his torso. It was rumoured that his cock was tattooed to look like the rattle. The snake’s mouth was tattooed across both of Jack’s cheeks.

Jack claimed to be a Green Beret, Special Forces. Gibby knew the type well having been a pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment or the Nightstalkers. He and Buck had run more than their fair share of hairy missions ferrying borderline psychotics in and out of hot LZs. Both Gibby and Buck had fought in the on-going colonial war with Them before the two pilots had deserted.

Jack had Snake’s Tooth out. A laser forged, belt-titanium bladed, bone handled hunting knife that he claimed was a family heirloom. He was holding it in front of the girl. Oblivious to anything that was going on around him because he was so messed up on whatever drug he had chosen today.

“I’m going to make you pretty new red slits, whore, do you hear me? You’re going to live it. You’re going to beg me for more.” Gibby chose to remind Jack about his surroundings by kicking him in the side with all his strength. The kick knocked Jack off the bed and sent him sprawling. Quickly the wiry little cyberbilly was crouched low in a fighting stance, knife at the ready. Gibby had his hands on the twin antique Colt Navy .44’s he had extensively modified.

“Fuck!” Jack screamed, inarticulate with anger and confusion.

“Don’t be stupid son,” Gibby warned him. He glanced at the girl and then quickly back to Jack. “Your pecker not work son or do you just not know what to do in a perfectly respectable whorehouse?” Jack relaxed out of his fighting posture and stood up.

“Why don’t you mind your own business?” he asked, facial features twitching.

“You know you’re supposed to have sex with the womenfolk who work here don’t you? Not beat on them.” Gibby asked, sounding more reasonable than he felt.

“I paid for her I can do what ever I want.” Behind Gibby the bouncers and the barmen were in heated discussion with Cletus and Kid Buzzsaw. Cletus and the Kid were two of Jack’s toadies who bought the Special Forces veteran’s bullshit.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. The girls and boys work hard here, and since by only paying is an ugly son-of-bitch like you going to get a sniff of pussy I’d a thought you’d be a mite kinder.” Gibby was pushing Jack hard, he knew it and he knew it was a bad idea as he had a pretty good idea who would win a fight between the two of them.

“Watch your mouth shitheel, you know who I am and what I’m capable of,” Jack growled and then started hitting the side of his head and muttering to himself. Gibby watched this with mounting concern.

“Only because you keep on telling us,” he said, though he was a little distracted by Jack’s behaviour. It looked like the other Commanchero was trying to sort out bad reception in his head by hitting it.

A very large man pushed his way into the room. Gibby recognised Nokker. The bear like blonde cyberbilly had been a member of the Swedish Marines and liked to keep the more unpleasant traditions of his Viking heritage alive and well. He was another one of Jack’s unpleasant group of toadies.

Nokker looked down at the beaten prostitute and sneered. Gibby did not like the way this was going down.

“What’s up Jack?” Nokker asked and turned round to stare at Gibby. Unlike most vets Nokker did not have lenses of impact-hardened plastic covering his eyes. When he had left the service he had saved up his ill-gotten gains and bought himself some fake eyes. They were piercing blue in colour and staring at Gibby.

“Fucked if I know I was enjoying some R’n’R and Gibby bursts in and kicks me off the bed.”

“The evil little prick was about to go to work on the girl with his knife,” Gibby snapped, exasperated and beginning to get a little worried.

“Fuck’s that got to do with you?” Nokker demanded. Gibby looked between the pair wondering if someone had snuck in and lobotomised them whilst he had been cavorting on stage.

“Listen you pair of dickheads,” both of them bristled at the insult, though Gibby would have characterised it as a description. “I will try and put this in terms that even the terminally fuck-witted will understand. People in a bar fight, they’re for hitting, whores, they’re for making sweet-sweet love to. Or maybe in your case Jack for sobbing onto their breasts because you’ve done so much shit that your pecker’s shrivelled until it’s become inverted,” Gibby said and knew he had gone to far.

“The fuck you say!” Jack snarled and moved towards Gibby as Nokker made to grab him. Gibby had both pistols half way out but he knew that he was not going to be quick enough. Suddenly Nokker was pushed out of the way and Buck was standing in the doorway.

Buck was a bit taller and wider than Gibby and like Gibby his facial features were hidden by a lot of hair. Gibby’s non-sexual life partner was stood with his hands on his hips, wearing his hat, his chaps, his spurred boots, his duster and nothing else. He had his gun belt over his shoulder but everything else was on display, proudly or so it looked to Gibby. He wondered if that was going to upset Jack more.

Behind Gibby was a very pretty young Native American guy with dark eyes and high cheekbones. Gibby raised an eyebrow. Buck was normally a very vocal fan of the female gender. Gibby shrugged it off.

“Gibby amigo did I just hear you insult another Commanchero’s pecker?”

“With good reason,” Gibby said and nodded at the girl. Buck glanced down at the beaten girl, his face immediately hardening.

“What the hell?” Buck demanded. His accent made hell sound like hail.

“Why don’t you go and mind your own business faggot?” Jack growled, undisguised disgust in his voice. Buck looked confused.

“What the fuck’s a faggot?” he asked.

“It’s a derogatory term for homosexuals,” the effeminate Native American told Buck.

“Derogatory?” Buck asked. Gibby sighed. This could take a while.

“It’s a fucking insult,” Gibby explained.

“Oh.” Buck gave this some thought. “Just who exactly do you think is homosexual son?” he asked Jack. Jack and Nokker exchanged a surprised glance.

“I think he means you darling,” the effeminate Native American answered.

“No shit?” Buck asked Jack.

“Well you’re the only guy fucking a feller here,” Jack spat. Nokker nodded.

“Just because I’m going have fun with Timothy here doesn’t make me a homosexual,” Buck said confidently. Even Gibby was not sure if he was going to be able to follow this trail of logic. Timothy was looking at his customer sceptically. “Hell no,” Buck added for emphasis.

“And what’s wrong with being a homosexual?” Timothy enquired pettishly. One perfectly shaped eyebrow rising in enquiry.

“Nothing at all, what a man, woman or chicken wants to do in privacy or even publicly with all folks consenting is completely up to them. I am surprised there’s even an insult for folks who like a little cock-on-cock action, after all this is America god damn it!” Buck said passionately.

Jack seemed to lose his temper. “Are you fucking the little fag in the arse?!” he screamed.

“Well I was about to until I was disturbed.”

“Then that makes you a faggot you fucking queer!” Jack finished screaming. He had gone red and was gasping for breath he was so angry. Buck had no idea why the smaller Commanchero was getting so uptight.


“Another insult,” Timothy offered helpfully. Now Buck was starting to get pissed.

“Look you’ve got no call to go insulting people just because they’re gay, especially not as you seem to like beating up on the defenceless.”

“That’s none of your business fag,” Jack spat. Nokker on the other hand was looking curious.

“How come you’re not a fag?” the big Swede asked.

“I should’ve thought that was obvious,” Buck answered. “Clearly I am so secure in my sexuality that I can take a break from my normal diet of ladies to corn-hole a feller when I meet someone as pretty as young Timothy here.”

“So you’re bi-sexual then?” Nokker asked and Gibby had to admit that was what it sounded like.

“Nope,” Buck answered. “Besides it’s not gay if you’re doing it to them. The Trojans taught us that.” Everyone stopped and stared at Buck. Buck however seemed perfectly secure in his statement.

“What the fuck’s a Trojan?” Nokker asked. Nobody answered. Timothy recovered first.

“As fascinating as this conversation is, I think we should get Serena some help,” Timothy suggested.

“Everyone fuck off out of my room and let me finish!” Jack screamed.

“What so you can jack over her cut up corpse?” Timothy spat at the weasel-like Commanchero. Jack made a move towards the prostitute but Buck stepped in front of him, a hand on one of his pistols.

Jack went still and calm. “You’re not nearly quick enough. Leave the fag here and fuck off, I’m going to hurt him as well,” he told them.

Nokker reached out and firmly gripped Gibby’s shoulder. Gibby could feel the steel like fingers, augmented with boosted muscle, through the armour of his duster. He did not like the way this was going down.

“Son you’re from Alabama ain’t you?” Buck asked. Gibby was praying that Buck would try and calm things down a bit.

“So?” Jack asked. Buck nodded at the semi-conscious prostitute tied to the bed.

“Are you angry because that girl’s not your own mama or something?” Buck asked him. Gibby felt everything slow down. He knew violence was imminent and he didn’t like the odds.

“What the hell is going on here!?” a surprisingly bass sounding female voice demanded. The crowd of Commancheros and the staff of the Roadhouse that had gathered outside the door parted to let the enormous figure through. She moved with both a limp and slight clanking sound into the doorway.

Gibby heaved a sigh of relief as Bearded Momma ducked under the doorway and stepped into the room. In the corridor outside she left two bikini-clad girls who presumably had been entertaining her.

Bearded Momma was just shy of six feet six. She was fat but the sort of fat that looked physically powerful as well. The bits of her that were not fat or muscle were scratch built cybernetics parts. Gibby new that she had served in the mechanised cavalry in the war but she had piloted tanks rather than the heavier and better armed mechs. A bad hit in a tank battle with Them had destroyed much of her body. Cashiered out of the army she had managed to rebuild herself through technical skill and sheer force of personality.

Momma had the dreadlocks common with most cyberbillys but unusually for a female cyberbilly she had also chosen to have beard implants. She said that she just liked the look and it made her more of a hit with the ladies.

Bearded Momma had raced and fought her way to the top of the Hard Luck Commancheros. She was their leader in as much as they recognised one, though much of that was just down to Momma’s tough, cheerful common sense.

Momma’s normally cheerful expression evaporated when she saw the beaten girl. She turned to glare at Jack.

“I paid for her…” he began.

“What the fuck!?” Momma demanded.

“It’s nobody’s fucking business…” he started again. Momma took a step towards him.

“What the fuck!?” She was roaring now. Gibby took a step back, as did Nokker. Buck was just watching Jack, waiting to see if he was going to make a move. Momma moved on Jack, towering over him. Gibby had to give him his credit, Jack held his ground.

“You’re going to make this right,” Momma whispered to Jack. Jack just stared at her. He was trying to keep his face expressionless but the seething anger beneath was obvious to Gibby. “Then you and I are going to have a talk when we get back to Crawling Town. You understand me?” Jack said nothing. Momma leaned in even closer. The big woman was practically tickling his face with her beard. “I said did you understand me? Is there any part of what I said you would like me to explain further?” she asked, the threat explicit.

*                    *                    *

The muscle car skidded to a halt, brakes screaming. Long after the sound of the brakes had echoed into nothingness over the sea of grass Joe was still screaming, striking out at the inside of the car and pounding on the dash. Somewhere in the back of his red mind, overtaken by rage and instinct, the sentient part of what was left of Joe was trying to suppress the noise in his head. The screaming. Just a little longer it promised.

Joe gripped the dash fighting for breath and control. Seeing the aces and eights of the stylised playing cards painted on the vehicles parked outside the barge did nothing to help control the rage. It was their logo, the Dead Man’s Hand, the symbol of the Hard Luck Commancheros. Road pirates and nomadic gang trash from Crawling Town, the vast city sized convoy made of various tribal gang nations. Crawling Town plied the Dead Roads, the strip of polluted land that ran from the rust belt in the North East down into Texas. Some of it was still irradiated from the Final Human Conflict some three hundred years ago.

Calmness returned, though the rage seethed just under the surface allowing him to make sentient actions and decisions. He could pretend he was human just a little longer and not just rage’s hollow vessel. Soon he could allow himself to fall into the workings of the car. Possess it in spirit form like his ancestors had once done with animals. Become an animal, a four-wheeled predator, leave nothing left of Joe.

He had to force the hatred down as he could see them now. Members of the Commancheros stood looking out of the window. They had heard the car scream to a halt and they knew and appreciated the sound of a well tuned, performance engine under duress.

Time to hit them where it hurt what was left of Joe decided. He used the link to feed alcohol to the engine, gunning the car and then slipping it into gear with a thought. The car leapt forward across the dirt of the barge/roadhouse’s car park. Joe turned the wheels with a thought, the car slewed around into a hundred and eighty degree skid. The car slid, hard into the end line of the Commancheros’ parked bikes.

The Commancheros looking out the window watched, appalled, as the bikes were pushed into each other, going down like dominos in a pile of twisted metal.

*                    *                    *

Gibby got the feeling that Momma was about to use one of her prosthetic hands to pry open Jack’s head. He had hoped that Momma’s appearance was going to make violence less, rather than more imminent but it did not look like it was going to happen that way.

The impact of metal on metal got their attention. It was the metal on metal sound of a collision that only meant bad things to any self respecting gear head. Intra gang violence, beaten prostitutes and corn-holing pretty young guys were all forgotten as priorities were rapidly reorganised. Something bad was happening to their rides.

Momma, Buck, Gibby, Jack and Nokker all scrambled out of the room and joined the other members of the Commancheros. They made their way towards the bar area of the Roadhouse to find out what had happened and who needed to be killed.

They spilled out into the bar area. The rest of the Commancheros, those who had witnessed the automotive carnage, were still stood at the window. They were still too traumatised to move.

As Gibby and Buck reached the window the dusty, patched, battered but still very serviceable looking muscle car shot back over the car park and skidded to a halt on Route 27 pointing north.

Buck looked down at the bikes. All five of the bikes that the Commancheros had were down on the ground. They were now a tangled mass of metal. Buck’s had been on the end and looked the least damaged.

As they watched, a figure got out of the muscle car. Gibby zoomed in on him, the image of the Native American suddenly large in his internal visual display. He was a big, powerfully built Native American. Wires stretched from the four plugs in the back of his neck back into the car. He wore leather with various hard armour plates over the top of it. Gibby guessed that he would have some kind of inertial armour under-suit beneath it. The fabric hardening when impacted against. The Native American had black lenses for eyes and wore his hair in a short mohican, shaved at the side. He was also, Gibby thought, the angriest looking man he had ever seen.

“My bike!” Buck howled.

“What’s this guy’s problem?” Gibby wondered aloud.

“He’s Miccosukee,” Timothy said. He had appeared at Buck’s shoulder.

“How’d you know fag?” Jack demanded. Timothy just pointed at the Miccosukee Tribal Police insignia partially obscured by dirt and mud on the side of the muscle car. Gibby saw Jack and Nokker exchange a glance. Was something worrying them, he wondered?

“Motherfucker!” the Trev shouted. He was one of the Commancheros whose bike had been more badly damaged. The Trev headed straight for the door.

“Wait!” Gibby and Momma shouted at the same time but the Trev, righteously furious at the damage to his chopped hog, was already at the door. He moved towards the muscle car shouting insults at the driver. The Trev had moved between Buck and Gibby and the Native American when his brains exploded in a shower of bone, gristle, flesh and implants all over the window of the roadhouse. The Trev hit the armoured glass of the barge and slid down to the ground. The assembled Commancheros saw the Native American work the lever on a big bore hunting rifle as he chambered another round and waited, the barrel was still smoking. Nobody moved.

“Bunch of fucking pussies. He’s one guy,” Jack spat. One of Jack’s toadies, Cletus, nodded in agreement. Actually it was less like a nod and more like a jerk or a spasm as he was so highly wired. The painfully thin and almost albino pale Kid Buzzsaw also muttered an agreement.

“After you guys,” Gibby said. Unfortunately Cletus, Kid Buzzsaw and another Commanchero called Roscoe decided they’d had enough. They were all younger members, all hot-headed and all looked up a little too much to Jack in his status as a Special Forces veteran. Also Cletus and Roscoe had just seen their bikes knocked over. They spilled out of the Roadhouse firing. They were heedless to shouted warnings from Gibby and Momma.

Joe calmly ducked down behind the armoured body of the muscle car as it was lit up in a hail of gunfire. The whole body of the car seemed to be sparking. With another thought the turret mounted 20mm Retributor Railgun uncoiled like a Jack-in-the-Box from the back of his car.

Inside the Roadhouse the Commancheros dived for cover as the hypersonic ripping sound tore through the air. All the Commancheros were veterans and as such had dampeners implanted in their ears that dulled the noise. Most of the prostitutes, however, did not have dampeners. Blood pored out of burst eardrums as they hit the ground screaming and clutching their ears.

The armoured glass cracked and spider webbed but did not shatter. Cletus, Roscoe and Kid Buzzsaw were not so lucky. The power of the rail gun rounds threw them into the air and tore them apart. Lumps of meat, metal and plastic that had once been their compadres hit the glass.

The barges automated defences were triggered by the Retributor’s onslaught but Joe was in the car and screaming up Route 27. The tracers from the autocannon formed an arc of light between the barge and the car but they could not get through the armour and were just ricocheting into the glades.

Gibby looked up from where he was lying on the floor and found himself looking at Jack’s gleeful face.

“It’s on!” Gibby heard Jack say, his dampeners picking it up as they filtered out the screaming prostitutes. Asshole, Gibby thought. The Commancheros scrambled to their feet and headed for the door.

*                    *                    *

Out in the open air and despite the urgency the humidity hit the Commancheros like a wall. All of them were immediately coated in sweat, though many were still sweaty from their prostitute-based exertions in the Roadhouse.

Buck ran to where his custom chopper was lying on the ground. He managed to wrench it free of the wreckage and began walking it upright. It was not as badly damaged as he had feared.

“It going to run?” Gibby asked.

“It’ll run,” Buck said grimly. Someone had fucked with his ride. He was not happy.

All around them the Commancheros were climbing into their vehicles. Bearded Momma into the throne like driving position on her six-by-six converted monster cargo truck. Jack into his muscle car, it was stripped down and lightly armoured for speed, the fastest vehicle they had with them.

“You going to want a take a moment to put on some pants?” Gibby asked.

“I ain’t got time for pants,” Buck answered as he gunned the bike. Gibby raised an eyebrow but turned and headed for his car.

There was a rumbling noise and dirt and debris were pushed across the hot dirt car park as an armoured hovercraft started up, its armoured skirts inflating. The hovercraft belonged to Squealer, a heavyset, bordering on fat, Commanchero with an oddly high-pitched laugh. The others had all laughed at Squealer when he had shown them his latest project: A pre-FHC Russian military surplus, armoured hovercraft that he had fixed and upgraded. The trip down through Florida to the Keys had changed everybody’s mind. Gibby watched Squealer turn the hovercraft and head into the Glades parallel with Route 27. Squealer would need all his skill, experience, his boosted reflexes, the upgraded sensor package he had installed in the hovercraft, and a degree of luck to move at speed through the Glades in the hovercraft.

Gibby reached his ride. The door to his car unlocked as he texted a heavily coded message to it with a thought. He opened the door and climbed into the bucket seat. It felt like coming home, it always did. He slid the jacks from the car into the four plugs in the back of his neck. The car growled into V12, supercharged life. Diagnostic readouts appeared in Gibby’s Internal Visual Display.

The steering wheel was superfluous unless the cyberlink to the car had gone very wrong and manual control was required but Gibby, like most of the Commancheros, liked the authenticity and nostalgia of the wheel. Besides it was where the palm connections for the vehicles smartlinked weapons were. Gibby ran other diagnostics on the weapons but kept them folded down for the time being so as not to affect the car’s aerodynamics.

Car. Gibby shook his head. This wasn’t a car. This was so close to him it was like an extension of his body. Gibby nodded at the thought. He liked that, an extension of his body, probably his cock.

Gibby had built the car with Buck’s help. It was four-wheel drive as all vehicles needed to be on the Dead Roads. The armoured body styling Gibby had fabricated was based on a Pre-FHC design for a car called the 1950 Mercury. It was all meanness and smooth sensuous lines, from the armoured air intakes sucking down oxygen for the supercharger, to the reinforced rear bumper. It was electric blue and Gibby called her Daisy. Which in retrospect was a funny name for a cock substitute, he thought frowning.

Buck skidded his 2500cc chopper to a halt next to Daisy in a shower of dirt. He interrupted Gibby’s cock substitute gender confusion musings. Buck threw his hat into the back of Gibby’s car.

“Fuck man! The paint!” Gibby complained.

“You don’t think there’s a chance that this guy might shoot at us doing more damage to the paint than some sweaty-assed Glade dirt?” Buck growled. Gibby had to admit Buck had a point. Still.

“That’s not the point man, show some fucking respect!”

“Give me the carbine,” Buck demanded. Gibby reached up and removed the short-barrelled Kalashnikov gauss carbine from its clips and handed it to Buck. Buck clipped it to the opposite side of the bike to where the semi automatic shotgun was clipped.

“Let’s roll partner.” Buck gunned the bike, all but sliding sideways onto Route 27, the wheels gripping the pitted and scarred blacktop as the bike sped up the ancient road.

The Mercury hit the lip of the road so fast that the heavy vehicle was airborne. It crashed down, and surged up the road behind Buck’s chopper.

The Commancheros where in a staggered line strung out along Route 27. Buck and Gibby began weaving in and out between them making their way up the high-speed convoy.

Buck quickly overtook Bearded Momma in the six-by-six monster truck. Gibby glanced up at Bearded Momma on her driving throne as he passed her. He opened a comms link.

“Hey Bearded Momma, this guy’s got a railgun, you didn’t fancy riding inside today?” The truck had two driving positions. One was inside an armoured compartment.

“You got to get the wind in your dreads,” Momma laughed over the link. Then with a thought her truck’s music suite started broadcasting out to all the Commancheros. The pounding beats and slow, heavy, grinding guitar riffs of country and metal filled the airwaves. The singer started to growl out lyrics about how his grandmother had left him but not before she’d done beat his mule to death.

*                    *                    *

“Control, control, control, control,” Joe repeated to himself like a mantra. Just a little longer he thought. Then he would see Nadine, Jeremiah and Lucy again.

The split screen on his IVD showed the Commancheros approaching like they were eating the distance between him and them. Joe had lit out of the roadhouse fast but not so fast that they would not catch him. He wanted them to catch him.

*                    *                    *

Piggy was out front in his Dune Buggy, followed by Little Hattie and Big Hattie on their motorcycle and sidecar combination. Behind them was Nokker in his six-by-six pickup. Jack was holding back behind Nokker in his car.

Buck slewed the bike round Black Zart’s Passion Wagon. Gibby followed, he knew that Buzzy and Naz would be in the back rattling around like the two amphetamine crazed car boarders they were.

Buck and Gibby shot past Gentle Suzy on her trike. Gentle Suzy was a Twist, somewhere along the line her predecessors’ genes had gotten screwed up in the war and she had been born very short. The massive trike made her look even tinier. On the back of the trike was a jury-rigged, homemade plasma gun that made all the rest of the Commanchero’s very nervous. Gentle Suzy was leant forward over the dropped handlebars as if that would make the slightest bit of difference to the drag with the massive weapon on the back of the Trike.

Over the sound of howling engines Buck and Gibby heard gunfiret. Out in the swamp Squealer was firing the quad autocannon on the hovercraft at Joe’s pursuit car. Tracer fire joined the two vehicles with arcs of light as they sped north. Sparks flew from Joe’s car as the armour deflected the cannon fire.

Behind Joe, Big Hattie opened up with the sidecar mounted HSAW. Next to the two Hatties, Piggy began firing the smart linked automatic grenade launcher from his dune buggy. Joe’s pursuit car was engulfed in rapidly blossoming balls of fire as 30mm high explosive armour piercing grenades detonated on or around the car.

*                    *                    *

Joe seemed to be surrounded by flame, he wrestled with the car as it was battered around by repeated concussion waves. His audio dampeners struggled to deal with the sound of the explosions as well as the multiple impacts on the armour. The wall of fire and force that surrounded him obscured the view of the targeting system so he fired where he last knew the dune buggy with the AGL to be.

*                    *                    *

Time seemed to slow down for Gibby. He had assumed that the fusillade of grenade would speed things up if not deal with the problem entirely. Instead he watched rounds from the railgun walk in on Piggy’s buggy. The stream of grenades stopped, as Piggy’s buggy seemed to disintegrate and spread itself over the highway. Joe’s pursuit car appeared out the other side of the multiple fireballs.

Buck had to swerve to avoid the tumbling debris and Gibby felt some of it impact against the Mercury’s armour. Moments later the Hatties’ motorcycle and sidecar seemed to pick itself up off the highway and disintegrate in mid-air as the railgun rounds tore it apart. The bike/sidecar combination’s scavenged, homemade armour plate was no match for the Retributor’s 20mm belt-tungsten cored penetrator rounds.

Nokker drove through the wreckage of the Hattie’s bike. The pursuit car’s railgun swung round in its turret and began firing, rapidly switching between Nokker’s pickup and Squealer’s hovercraft. Both vehicles were significantly more armoured than the dune buggies and the bikes but the railgun was already starting to chew through that armour.

Gibby was worried that they might not have anything with them that could do the job. Well maybe Gentle Suzy’s homemade plasma gun but Gibby had never like the word homemade connected with the word plasma. Missiles were their best hope he decided.

*                    *                    *

Joe switched fire between the hovercraft flanking him in the glades and the six-by-six pickup with the chaingun, both of which were slowly chewing away at his armour. He saw the motorcycle and sidecar peak out behind the pickup. He switched target. It took a moment.

*                    *                    *

Bearded Momma launched a remote. It headed up and forward but the speed of the convoy soon out distanced its small engine, however it provided her with the lock she needed.

“Fire mission. Squealer, Nokker you ready?” Bearded Momma said receiving Squealer’s high-pitched affirmative, which was shortly followed by Nokker’s. “Light her up.”

Gibby watched as ahead of him Nokker fired his roof mounted man portable light anti-armour missiles or Laa-Laas as they called them in the war. To his right he saw Squealer empty the hovercrafts heavier surface-to-surface missile battery. Moments later more surface-to-surface missiles flew overhead from Bearded Momma’s truck.

*                    *                    *

Joe saw the fire and contrails of the incoming missiles. He smiled. This was their money shot, their big guns and it was far too early. He triggered the counter measures and the ball mounted independently targeting point defence lasers.

*                    *                    *

Chaff filled the air and then laser fire, the whole world in front of Gibby seemed to explode as warhead after warhead detonated before reaching their target as a result of laser fire and chaff impact. Nokker’s truck and Jack’s car were engulfed in the multiple blasts.

“Fuck!” Buck screamed as the bike disappeared into the smoke and fire. Gibby drove the Mercury into the firestorm after him.

*                    *                    *

The countermeasures were spent but Joe was pretty sure that they didn’t have any more missiles. Some of the Laa-Laas had made it through, battering the car. Further damaging the armour. The shockwave lifting the heavy armoured vehicle off the road but he had ridden it out. He felt calm, calmer than he had felt since…

*                    *                    *

Joe emerged first followed by Nokker, then Jack, a terrified and slightly cooked Buck and then the Mercury appeared out of the smoke.

“Gibby?” Buck said over the comms link.

“Yes Buck,” Gibby answered through gritted teeth as he fed more alcohol to the engine, the Mercury increasing its speed, the independent suspension and smart tyres working with the road sensors to do what they could to smooth out the ride over rough road.

“I wish I’d put my pants on,” Buck admitted.

“Something on fire down there?” Gibby asked but instead of waiting for a reply, “You move out of the way and I’ve got a clean line of fire.”

“I’m going to get in front of him,” Buck said. Why? Gibby wondered but Buck made his move. He accelerated past Jack and Nokker, as the railgun was switching between targets Buck swerved and tried to get round Joe’s car. Joe blocked him, Buck tried to get around the other way but Joe blocked him again. The next time Buck tried to get round, Jack made his move.

Whilst Joe was blocking out Buck’s bike and trading shots with Squealer’s hovercraft, Jack edged out behind Nokker’s pickup, switched down gears and hit the gas and the Nitrous, which is another gas. Jack’s slick, light muscle car shot past Joe’s heavier car. Too late Joe saw what was happened and swerved to intercept. He just clipped the back of Jack’s car. The car slewed sideways and jumped but Gibby had to give Jack his credit, he held the car on the road. Buck used the distraction to shoot past Joe on the other side.

Now the Commancheros had a car and a bike in front of Joe, maybe things would start going their way, Gibby thought. He had a clean line of fire. The twin autocannon mount on the Mercury slid out and Gibby instantly felt the drag as he opened fire and in return felt railgun rounds begin to tear into his car’s armour.

*                    *                    *

Joe thought the biker in front of him had balls. Stupid but had balls. In fact he was pretty sure he could see them through the bikers flapping duster. The Biker would take but a moment to destroy, his more imminent problems were the vehicles with the heavier ordinance.

The car that had passed him, the slick black number with the tinted windows, had a rapid firing heavy laser. Joe could hear the repeated bangs of superheated air particles exploding as the laser drew a red line to his car’s armour, cutting and burning through it.

The pickup was still a problem as repeated chain gun rounds slowly battered away the armour on the rear of the car. The hovercraft was his biggest problem. The armour on the left hand side of the car was riddled, its integrity severely damaged. He also had another car behind him that was targeting him with twin cannons.

Joe had the railgun switching between the Hovercraft, the pickup, the car in front and the car behind.

*                    *                    *

“Gibby!” Gentle Suzy shouted over the comms link.

“What can I do for you Suzy?”

“I’m not fast enough! I can’t get up there!” It might work Gibby thought. He hit the breaks. Black Zart’s passion wagon went shooting past as Gibby dropped back to Gentle Suzy’s trike. Further behind he could see Bearded Momma struggling to keep up in her truck.

Suzy went past him and Gibby dropped in behind her and started adding speed. Very gently he touched the bumper of the Mercury against the back of her trike.

“You’ve got me sugar,” the little Twist confirmed.

“Hold on darling,” Gibby said and he hit the alcohol. The Mercury surged forward, the front wheel of the trike rose up and Gentle Suzy yelled in excitement over the comms link.

The Mercury pushed the trike at speed closer and closer. Gentle Suzy managed to get the front wheel down. Nokker and Black Zart seeing what was about to happen made sure that she had a clear line of fire.

Gentle Suzy fired the plasma gun.

Joe didn’t even feel the impact. Suddenly red warning icons from the cars diagnostic sensors appeared all over his IVD as the rear part of his cars armour was eaten away by plasma in a superheated state.

*                    *                    *

Gentle Suzy and her trike disappeared in a ball of plasma fire. Everything Gibby saw around him was fire as he drove into the fireball. Warning icons appeared on his IVD as fire hot enough to burn in space partially melted and fused his armour. Gibby could feel the heat. He emerged from the fireball, the Mercury looked like a candle someone had taken a blowtorch to. There were still small pools of plasma fire on the armour.

Gibby thanked whichever gods looked after munitions that the autocannon rounds hadn’t cooked off. But only one gun was working and the servo had melted so he could only fire straight ahead. Which he did, a lot, until Black Zart swerved into his line of fire.

*                    *                    *

Buck was not quite sure what he was doing but he was in front and nobody had shot at him yet. Which was all good. Less good was the chafing the wind was giving his testicles as he rode at speed. However, this was better than hot shrapnel and was the main reason he had overtaken Joe.

His IVD was linked to the rear camera on the chopper. A small window in his IVD showed what was going on behind him. Black Zart had overtaken Nokker and was trying to get alongside Joe’s car. Joe was blocking him at every turn.

Buck reached down and unclipped the semiautomatic shotgun and swung around, aiming the weapon one handed. Another window opened in his IVD to show him what was happening ahead, as the crosshair from the smartlink settled on the muscle car’s windscreen. He just had to distract the driver for a moment.

*                    *                    *

The .50 calibre saboted round hit the armoured glass on an angle to hit Joe in the head. It did not penetrate the armour but it got his attention for the second it needed. Black Zart’s van pulled up level with him.

Joe decided that he was going to deal with the Biker sooner rather than later.

*                    *                    *

Buck continued firing at Joe’s windscreen until the shotgun ran dry. He turned back and clicked the shotgun back into its clips. Through the window in his IVD that showed the bike’s rear view he watched as Joe tried to bring the Retributor to bear on the van but could not quite get the angle. Next Joe tried to nudge the van into the Glades but the van was much heavier and would not budge.

The door to the van slid back and the electromagnetic claw grabbed for and found purchase on Joe’s car, connecting the two vehicles. Buzzy was first out, the speed and crystal freak threw himself onto the roof of Joe’s car and started attacking the railgun with a hatchet. Crazy motherfucker, Buck thought.

Naz appeared with a plasma torch and started cutting through the armour on the passenger door to Joe’s car. Then Buck saw what he would come to describe as the “god-damnedest” thing he had ever seen in his life.

Buck watched as the Native American driver of the pursuit car dropped open the passenger window of his car and leant over, the wires connecting his plugs to the jack point in the car reeled out as he continued to drive the car via the link.

The driver had a cut down semiautomatic shotgun with a pistol grip. He practically touched Naz’s face with it as he fired twice. Naz’s face ceased to exist in a cloud of blood, brain and hardened plastic.

Moving with remarkable speed the driver then climbed out of his car, his wires now stretched to the point where the plugs must surely be close to being ripped out. The driver shot Black Zart in the back of his head as the van driver was reaching for his revolver.

Buzzy swung at the wires connecting the driver to his car but before he hit the driver swung round and fired into Buzzy’s centre mass. The explosive solid shot caught Buzzy in the chest. It did not kill him but it did knock him off the top of the car and onto the hood. Buzzy tried to hold on for dear life but slid under the wheels of the pursuit car. The weight of the armoured vehicle crushed him. Then Nokker ran him over. Then Gibby ran him over. Gibby at least felt bad about it.

With Black Zart dead the van was out of control and the wheels turned towards the pursuit car. The driver steadied the vehicle though his link, fighting the van as it tried to push both speeding vehicles into the Glades.

Joe flicked the off switch on the electromagnetic claw, the van started to slew even more. Joe dived through the window back into his car and triggered the breaks through his link. Zart’s van seemed to shoot forward and then turned over.

Nokker went into the back of Joe’s car. The impact threw the prostrate Joe into his own windscreen. Fortunately Joe had had enough presence of mind to swerve his vehicle to avoid the still sliding van. Nokker however, ploughed straight into the van with enough force to crumple the front of his truck but he managed to keep it on the road.

Gibby just managed to swerve past the Black Zart’s van, the rear of the partially melted Mercury clipping it and sending it spinning again. Some time later Bearded Momma just hit the van knocking it aside.

“Fuck this!” Bearded Mamma spat. “Squealer ram him.”

“Uh okay Mamma,” Squealer answered sounding slightly reluctant, but his quad cannon was almost out of ammo and that would leave him with little to do but watch.

*                    *                    *

Joe scrambled to get back into the bucket seat and buckle himself in. He managed it but by the time he had finished the hovercraft that had been flanking him in the glades was heading straight at him, its quad cannons further chewing at his armour, his audio dampeners just about reducing the sound down to a deafening, constant, thunderous roar.

Joe targeted the hovercraft with the railgun and poured the fire on.

*                    *                    *

Squealer’s hovercraft had probably taken more hits than all the other vehicles put together. The railgun rounds finally penetrated the armour and cut Squealer in two. Squealer slumped forwards.

*                    *                    *

The hovercraft suddenly changed course. It mounted the sharp bank that lead to Route 27 and broad sided Nokker’s pickup. Gibby watched in horror as hovercraft and pickup went airborne in a collision of twisted, screaming metal. He braked slowing the car just enough so he did not hit the two vehicles as they tumbled into the glades. Then Gibby accelerated again.

*                    *                    *

Now to get that fucking biker, Joe thought.

*                    *                    *

Buck saw the railgun turn around to aim at his bike. He knew what was coming.

*                    *                    *

Joe fired the railgun. It fired a short burst and ran dry. He had been ignoring the warning icons on the ammo counter on his IVD.

*                    *                    *

Buck grabbed the Kalashnikov gauss carbine from its clip and threw himself backwards off the chopper as his pride and joy disintegrated in a hail of railgun fire beneath him.

*                    *                    *

Joe would have been surprised had he been capable of feeling anything other than rage when a cyberbilly landed on the hood of his car and bounced until his naked genitalia was pressed against the windscreen.

*                    *                    *

Buck was not sure how he managed to keep hold of the Kalashnikov but he had. Now he had to stay on the car. He pulled a boarding magnet from his gun belt and managed to activate it just before he slid off. Laser fire was hitting the muscle car all around him. Much of the car’s hood was burnt and pockmarked.

“God damn it Jack! Don’t fucking fire the laser when I’m the hood ornament!” Buck screamed over the comms link.

“Fuck you, you faggot,” Snake answered. As Buck rolled across the hood of Joe’s car he still had the presence of mind to decide that he and Rattlesnake Jack were going to be having a very serious talk in the highly unlikely event that he lived through the next few minutes.

“Hold on Buck I’m coming!” Gibby shouted over the comms link.

*                    *                    *

Gibby downshifted, accelerated for all his worth as he added nitrous into the system. The Mercury surged forwards but Joe slewed the pursuit car in Gibby’s way blocking him out.

*                    *                    *

On the hood of Joe’s car Buck managed to pull himself into a kneeling position. Fuck it, it had worked once he thought. He aimed the Kalashnikov at Joe through the windscreen and pulled the trigger.

*                    *                    *

The sparks from constant ricochets obscured Joe’s forward view as the flashing lunatic on his bonnet fired into the windscreen at point blank range.

*                    *                    *

Buck prayed that the sparks would not set fire to his pubic hair.

*                    *                    *

Gibby saw his chance and pulled up alongside the muscle car. Buck switched off the boarding magnet and jumped.

*                    *                    *

Gibby watched Buck sail over his windscreen.

*                    *                    *

Buck hit the top of the Mercury and almost bounced off but he lashed out and triggered the magnet. It caught and Buck then found himself flailing about on the roof of the Mercury. Gibby opened the passenger door for Buck. Buck grabbed the doorframe, switched off the magnet and slid across the roof. He swung down until he was standing in the doorway, holding onto the speeding cars door for support with one hand.

Gibby sideswiped the pursuit car. The much heavier Mercury knocked the lighter car towards the glades. Gibby sideswiped the pursuit car again, this time bouncing the lighter car into the glades. Gibby smiled, with not a little bit of satisfaction, as the pursuit car slid into the Glades in a shower of water. Gibby’s smile turned to a look of shock as Joe held the car, his tires somehow finding grip beneath the water. The pursuit car surged up the bank and back onto Route 27 behind the Mercury.

Buck switched the selector on the Kalashnikov to the underslung grenade launcher through the weapon’s smartlink. He pulled the trigger four times rapidly firing the 30mm grenades into the pursuit car. Explosions played across the pitted and charred armour but it kept coming. Buck slid into the passenger seat next to Gibby, closing the door behind him.

“Motherfucker drives like a Chimera,” he said as he began strapping himself in. The Chimera were disabled vehicle operators who were so hardwired into their vehicles that they lived in them.

*                    *                    *

In the pursuit car Joe was reloading his cut down shotgun.

*                    *                    *

Bearded Momma turned on the taps of her entire nitrous supply. The truck surged forwards so much that the front wheels came off the cracked asphalt surface of the road.

“Box him in boys. Momma’s going to cop a feel,” she said over the comms link.

*                    *                    *

Gibby pulled the Mercury up next to Rattlesnake Jack’s car and glanced over at the Special Forces vet. Jack glanced back and nodded. Side by side, taking up the width of the blacktop both cars braked hard.

*                    *                    *

To Joe’s wired perspective it looked like the Mercury and the slick muscle car were suddenly coming straight at him. The pursuit car collided with the rear of Jack and Gibby’s vehicles. Both of the Commancheros continued breaking slowing the pursuit car down.

*                    *                    *

The pursuit car was losing more and more speed. Bearded Momma caught up. From either side of her truck the thick arms of the electromagnetic clamp swung out and gripped the pursuit car. Momma activated the magnet and then hit the brakes.

*                    *                    *

Joe watched through the rear view on his IVD as the front of the truck that gripped him seemed to split and an enormous circular saw rose up out of it and extended forwards. He heard and felt the saw as it began to cut through the armour. He knew it was over. He didn’t know if it was enough.

*                    *                    *

The four vehicles were still slowing down as smoke poured from the brakes of three of them. Joe opened his door and climbed out of his car. Sparks flew from the circular saw as it cut through his roof. Joe climbed onto the roof next to the saw and ran from his car and onto Momma’s truck. As he did, he drew his shotgun. Only his boosted reflexes allowed him to make it.

*                    *                    *

“Momma he’s trying for the truck!” Gibby warned over the comms.

“I’ve got him,” Jack replied. Jack jigged his car left and braked coming level with Momma’s truck, his smart linked laser searching for a target.

*                    *                    *

Joe ran up Momma’s truck, climbing towards her firing the shotgun repeatedly hitting her again and again. The explosive rounds eventually penetrating her armoured duster and her dermal armour. Joe reached Big Momma, grabbing for her as Jack fired a burst from the heavy laser, hitting both Joe and Momma.

Momma died. Her last act was to break hard. Joe was flung forward towards the huge circular saw. You know the rest.

*                    *                    *

Momma’s truck, the pursuit car still attached, slewed left and hit Jack’s car. All three vehicles went into the glades and rolled, turning into a tumbling amalgamation of all three vehicles.

Gibby skidded to a halt and watched in horror at the collision. After a while, when the cars had stopped tumbling, Gibby and Buck climbed out of the car and walked back down Route 27. They found the two separate halves of Joe.

“Good driver,” Buck said. Gibby nodded.

“Good car as well,” Gibby added. Buck nodded.

“What do you think got him so riled?” Buck asked. Gibby turned and looked out to the wreckage in the Glades.

*                    *                    *

Buck and Gibby waded into the swamp. Buck had reclaimed his hat but his pants were still back at the roadhouse.

“Careful an alligator don’t bite your pecker off,” Gibby warned.

“It’d need a big ole’ mouth for that. It’s water moccasins I’m worried about.”

“Yeah you wouldn’t want to get bit in your John Thomas.”

“No more likely they’d mistake it for one of their own and want to have freaky snake sex with it.”

Gibby was wondering what it was like on planet Buck when they got to the wreckage.

Momma was still sat up on her throne. Her body was badly mangled but the truck had righted itself when it had come to rest. Gibby reached into his duster and pulled out a hip flask.

“Here’s to you Momma,” he said and took a long drink of the burning sour mash. It was not so very far away from the alcohol they used to fuel the vehicles. There was a sound to their right. Both of them turned to see Rattlesnake Jack crawl out of his overturned, partially submerged, car. He was a bit banged up but otherwise okay. He staggered to his feet and started moving towards them.

“You two, we need to turn my car over and tow it out of this fucking swamp,” he snapped.

“It’s not a swamp,” Buck said.

“It’s a large and very slow moving river fed by Lake Okeechobee,” Gibby added. Jack gaped at them both.

“Think I give a shit? Just do what you’re fucking told.”

“Told?” Buck asked. Both of them turned to face Jack.

“Why’d we do what we were told?” Gibby asked. Jack pointed at Momma’s mangled body up on her throne.

“Well she ain’t going to be doing it is she? She’s fucking dead.”

Buck and Gibby glanced up at Momma.

“True enough,” Buck agreed.

“But it seems to us you had a hand in that,” Gibby said.

“What the fuck are you talking about? The Indian killed her,” Jack snapped.

“Oh he sure was a contributor…” Gibby began.

“A significant contributor,” Buck agreed.

“But it looked to me that you fired the killing shot,” Gibby finished.

“So fucking what if I did? Friendly fire motherfucker, ain’t you ever been in a firefight before? Shit happens in war.”

Buck and Gibby gave this some thought.

“True enough but I’m still not sure you’re leadership material Jack,” Buck finally said. Jack’s hand started moving to the twin Personal Defence Weapons holstered on each hip. He did not like the way this was going.

“Speaking of war,” Gibby piped up, “Why d’you think that Native American fellow was so riled up at us?”

Buck glanced over at Gibby. He knew Gibby well enough to know that his partner suspected something.

“How the fuck would I know?” Jack answered.

“You do something on the way up to meet us?” Buck asked turning back to face Jack.

“What if I did?” Jack demanded.

“What did you do Jack?” Gibby asked quietly.

“Home invasion, no big deal,” he answered. “Me, Nokker, Cletus and Buzzsaw.”

“On Miccosukee land?” Buck asked. Jack nodded.

“I’m sure you heard my partner ask what you did,” Buck asked. His quiet even tone was tinged with anger. Jack looked at them both, sizing them up before he seemed to come to a decision.

“We had some fun with the woman. The kids were making a lot of noise so we shut them up,” he answered brazenly.

“You raped the woman and killed the kids?” Gibby asked.

Jack stared at him. “Yeah, if you want to put it like that.”

“Think that might’ve been why he was angry at us?” Buck asked. Jack did not say anything.

“Why he killed so many of us?” Gibby asked. Jack shrugged.

“Tell me Jack, did you have some fun with the woman and kids first? Play with them a little? Enjoy hurting them some?” Buck asked. Jack stared at Buck. Buck stared back, impact hardened plastic lens to impact hardened plastic lens. It was very macho but kind of pointless.

“Of course I did. Do you not get this? We’re the fucking bad guys, one of the Crawling Town gangs. We’re fucking raiders. We live free and do what we want. We’re what some corporate straight-head fears when they go to bed at night.”

“No you don’t get it son,” Buck said.

“We don’t do shit like this,” Gibby finished. Jack just stared at them both.

“Fine then maybe the Commancheros don’t have no place for you. You can leave after we catch up with Crawling Town. Until then you do as your fucking told.”

Buck and Gibby exchanged another look.

“Think you might have to work some to convince us of that,” Buck finally said.

“What? What you think you can take me? You were fucking bus jockeys. I was special forces. You know what that means. The pair of you ain’t no match for me.”

“Son do you know who the Grey Lady is?” Gibby asked. Jack nodded. The Grey Lady was a legend in the special forces community. She was the special forces operator that other special forces operators told their kids about to scare them. “Well we use to ferry her and her boss about.”

“What my partner here is trying to tell you is that you don’t frighten us none,” Buck added for good measure.

“You’re nowhere near fast enough,” Jack said. Four revolvers cleared leather. Six shots were fired from each. Twenty-four bullets flew. Most of them found their mark. Jack stood for a moment. A flock of startled waterfowl took to the air. Buck and Gibby watched the Special Forces veteran, a smoking gun in each of their hands. Jack toppled back into the glades. Nearby an alligator slid into the water.

“You find someone with faster reflexes than a pilot you be sure and let us know,” Buck said. “’Cept you can’t, ‘cause you’re dead.” Buck turned to Gibby. “Would’ve liked to have cut his arms and legs off and left him for the gators.”

“Doesn’t seem fair to the gators. Besides you can’t leave a man like that behind you. Best to shoot him down like a diseased dog,” Gibby said. Buck nodded at his non-sexual life partner’s wisdom.

*                    *                    *

Buck and Gibby stared out into the glades from inside the Mercury parked on Route 27. Momma’s truck was burning, a fitting pyre for a worthy road pirate. Buck glanced back south down the road.

“Leaving a lot of salvage,” Buck said wistfully.

“It’ll be picked clean before we can find something to move it in,” Gibby said. Buck lapsed into thought as Gibby started up the Mercury.

“You know what we need?” Buck asked.

“Pants for you?”

“Besides pants for me.”

Gibby could think of a lot of things that they needed but he decided to make it easy on himself. “Nope.”

“One of those big wrecker tow trucks. We could armour it heavily and pick up all the wreckage we leave.”

Gibby smiled and turned the car and headed north back towards Crawling Town, their ever moving nomadic home.

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