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Last Post 7/13/2015 11:36 PM by  Randarchist
Deathlands: Local Nonlocality
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9/26/2014 1:21 AM
    There it was. At the bottom of the dune, their goal was finally in sight- the wind blasted ruins of Fort Geronimo were just peaking above the sand. Klash lowered his pre nuke binoculars, tapping the buggy driver on helmet then pointed to the three large volcanic plugs at the other side of the salt flat.
    "Pico, this look like the Three Lost Sisters from that map to you?"

    The Cuban pushed his helmet back and his dusty goggles up to his receding hairline and yelled "I think so, boss. Close as we seen, ya know? Looks good to me, but it's your call."
    Pico's crooked, squinting smile belied his intelligence. He was an expert tracker, an experienced Sec man who had spent a decade in service of Lord Eduardo Hadron, in the days before the Battle of Juarez. Lord Hadron was Sec Chief of the Milagros Barony when Pico joined the force and helped organize the rebellion to rid Juarez of Baron Milagros and his degenerate family. It was Pico who suggested to name Klash after the Russian assault rifles that had become the symbol of the uprising citizens.

    Pico shut the engine off and pulled the cargo door release. The tan dune buggy offered little in the way of comfort, but its armored shell and forward mounted RPG rack made up for it. Klash was able to score the best vehicle in the motor pool, the royal son had earned the trust of Motor Chief Alvarez on his merits as a combat mechanic in border wars against the mutant tribes in the lands surrounding the embattled barony- he would take good care of the prize prewar conveyance. The first thing Pico did was customize the nose with a shark tooth design and name the buggy "Rosanna", after his first and third wives.
    As Klash pulled camp gear from the back bay, Pico cranked up the telescoping comms dish and plugged the radio power line into the dash electric socket. If the weather and luck held out, the wireless would be picked up by the northern most listening post in the barony. Lord Hadron could have the recovery teams there in less than a week. Klash and Pico would get first finders right to 50% of the loot for the royal house, with the rest being split among the citizens of Juarez as part of Lord Eduardo's shared spoils liberation economy. The Sec force men who were married and raising a family fared almost as well as some small barons and merchant families, and even the field workers had acquired little bits of luxury over time. Word of the good times brought desperate and dangerous enemies with jealous, greedy, murderous eyes.... like the ones watching from the shadows of the ruins.
    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    9/29/2014 4:43 PM
    Pico set the environmental seals on the buggy while Klash set up a steel tube skeleton at the dune top. Below them, the dusty salt flat stretched out like a dried scab, baking in the Mexican desert. After the desert patterned Kevlar enclosure was tied secure, Pico assisted with draping camo netting over the tented platform.

    "Think we gonna have any bitey-crawlies sucking on our veins tonight, boss?
    "No, Pico, I set up the platform at six inches... just like you taught me. Only pest I can't prevent is the one bustin' my balls right now, but that critter is like crabs in a gaudy- annoying but a razor can fix it if need be." Klash smiled wickedly at Pico's astonished expression.
    "Hope you handle a razor better than your pecker, you little piss ant, because this old crab could still chill your ass."
    "You should be careful, amigo, you taught me all I know about chilling."
    "Yeah, that I did... but that don't mean I thought you all that I know, little piss ant. I could still chill you, feed you to the buzzard hawks, any time I choose."
    Pico looked serious as any cold heart merc chiller at Klash, then grinned crookedly when Klash tensed uncomfortably.
    "What, and ruin your investment?" Klash asked feigning nervousness.
    "No, I guess you do have your uses. Even a piss ant has a place in the working of our lord."
    With that, they both chuckled and got back to setting the camp for long term occupation. Klash tied cam-cloth strips on his Druganov sniper rifle while Pico dug small sand trenches around the camp. Once lined with plastic sheeting, Pico would pour pest repelling chemical mix, another product of the ville that Alvarez discovered by accident while trying to create fuel alternatives for the recovered wag fleet. It was a dismal failure as a fuel sub, but it ruled spade aces at driving off the rad blasted crawling mutant bugs of northern Mexico and the southwest Deathlands.

    After camp was assembled, Pico climbed up the eight foot ladder to the flip down watch seat atop the lookout perch. Klash sent a final "All Buenos" code on the buggy's wireless, then waited for the numeric reply from the comms relay. After the "all buenos received" came back, he cranked down the antenna and unplugged the power. As the sun lowered, Pico put dinner on the camp stove. In five days or less, the recovery convoy should arrive, if all went smooth. But at this forsaken corner of the post nuke world, few things went smooth.

    As Klash strode toward the small camp table, the setting sun cast pink to orange glitter cascading across the salty surfaces of the cracked, broken plain below. For just a fleeting nanosecond, Klash felt the hairs on his neck stand up. He jerked slightly, a definite sign of bad winds blowing in. Pico noticed his twitching and pulled his AKM off his shoulder.
    "You getting a mutie twitch, you tell me, ok?" Pico had learned to trust the mutant gift that Klash inherited from his mother, Lady Isabella. It had served the revolution army without fail. So, when it was discovered that Klash had the same power, House Hadron celebrated in style their good fortune with a hundred pinatas, lucha matches and triple tequila rations for every sec man, cook, mechanic and maid. That night led to more than a few births that year- enough for Padre Joseph to declare it a holy sign of El Santos blessing on the newly founded Hadron royal dynasty.
    Pico yelled for Klash to put extra mags in his pouch. When trouble came knocking, they would be ready for it. Chilly vibes like Klash was getting was a sure sign that hell spawned abominations from the badlands were coming soon enough. But until then, they had tacos and black beans to fuel up on.
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    9/30/2014 5:04 PM
    Klash snapped instantly awake, his eyes open wide when the short thick hairs on the back of his neck stood up, vibrating with dread. "Pico, twitching!"
    "Where from, little prince? I don't see nothing but pretty stars up here."
    "I'm feeling a big bad.... something. Now light the battlefield."
    Pico opened up a plastic wrapped parachute flare and jammed it in the launch tube on the watch chairs folding arm. "Fire in the sky, boss, coming right up."
    The flare popped loudly and sailed high. The chute opened perfectly, illuminating the area with it's bright green glow. Klash ran to the buggy, bounding up the hood to the steel enforced roof and landed feet astride the RPG rack.
    "Keep it high and tight, boss." Pico called out as he slipped the dust cover from the end of his AK, swiveling his chair around. "I don't see shit. Sure you ain't just dreaming?"
    "I'm sure, amigo. Keep your peepers moxied, no slouching off."
    "I am, piss ant, but there is nothing out here but purple sky and cacti that I peep."

    And with that came the vibration, first in Klash's neck and then in his head. The parachute was half way down when the sand started crawling around the chemical filled trench surrounding their camp site.
    "Radfire and damnation! What in Santos name is going on?"
    "Pico, the chem trench! Whatever it is, it don't want none of Senor Alvarez's soup."
    "Good, maybe it will just piss off and leave us...."
    Another hair's twitch of warning sent Klash leaping over the back of the dune buggy as the sand exploded in front of the trench. A pair of giant pincers shot from the dusty cloud billowing toward the scout wag, barely missing his boot as it left the armored roof.
    Klash landed shoulder first on the soft dune sand and rolled to a kneeling position, his SVD ready for action. The giant Rad-Scorpion hissed and chittered as it swung its venomous sting over the buggy, missing Klash by a few feet. Klash squeezed off a round ,hoping to hit the poison sack in the mutants tail. The bullet may have chipped the hard chitin armor, but it did nothing to slow the mutie monstrosity as it scrambled over the hood towards him.
    "Holy Mother! It's an iron shell bitch!" Klash cursed, back peddling as he frantically groped for a magazine of AP rounds. Pico brought his AKM to aim and felt the comforting kick as he sent a burst of lead into the monster's side to little effect.
    "Run, boss, I got you covered."
    Klash fingered the mag release and slid a fresh magazine of armor piercing rounds into hid Druganov. "Don't you jam on me today, baby..." he whispered as he yanked the bolt back and brought the SVD's scope to his right eye. The mutant scorpion had turned his attention to the platform where Pico perched like a buzzard as he rained 7.62 rounds on the beast. Klash set the cross hair between two tail segments and fired. The scorpion hissed loudly as the bullet struck its sabre like stinger.
    The monster spun with lightning speed as Klash pumped another round into its enormous tail. Its oily black eyes twinkled from the reflecting starlight as it set its legs to leap. But before the demon could launch its attack, Pico opened full auto on its backside with a full mag of AP ammo, bursting its thick shell in a spray of gore. The scorpion screamed and shrieked in agony as round after round tore through the base of the tail, severing it completely from the body.
    The beast spun around in a half turn and skittered over the sand quickly in a vain attempt to escape. Too late in the game had it realized the deadly nature of its prey, as Klash positioned himself beside the buggy and started sniping at the long legs of the already crippled monster. Pico had quickly reloaded and hopped down from his perch, ready to rip the beast apart with his AK.

    "Finish this bitch, Pico! I don't want it coming back for revenge!" Klash screamed between his carefully placed shots.
    "I got this freakin' down, you just keep your mutie senses sharp for more big bads!"
    With that, Pico strode quickly towards the flopping bug, firing burst after burst into its carapace until it stopped hissing and struggling against death.
    Klash closed his eyes and reached out with his senses.... something,no, someone was near. But Klash felt no immediate threat at the moment.
    "By El Santos, we are gonna have a hard wait if this bug has friends, boy!" Pico yelled to him. But Klash payed no mind to the Cuban, someone was out there. He felt their presence,their curiosity, their desire; but could not discern the nature of it, only the strangest familiarity of something that he couldn't quite define. The harder he tried, the more the presence seemed to withdraw.
    "Ok," Klash whispered, "you play it all aloof if that's what turns you on, but we both know you're out there."
    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/9/2014 5:52 PM

    Klash took the second watch. It was uneventful, not that the young man minded. Outside of a small pack of jackalope migrating east for the storm season, Klash seemed to have the whole desert to himself. Even the giant snatch bats wouldn't hunt this far to the Northwest so late in the summer. The recovery expedition would have two weeks to salvage the pre- war loot and then haul ass back to Juarez before the Diabolo Wind besieged the Northern Mexican plains. High winds exceeding 200 MPH shredded structures, sandblasted flesh from bone and dumped chemical poisoned rain on the region for days on end until the middle of winter. Then the desert life would start asserting itself after a few weeks of late winter storms, which the peasant classes celebrated with jackalope hunts and luchadores exhibition fights sponsored by the wealthier houses of the revolutionary council.

    The council houses each operated a different industry or public responsibility. The Alvarez family had been mechanics and auto workers from before the war, their ingenuity had helped the few survivors of old Juarez evacuate to the Milagros cartels controlled lands far to the south and then to reconquer Juarez four generations later. Eduardo Hadron had used his garages in the rebellion period as an organization and planning area, sealing a permanent bond between the families. When the Cubans arrived with their convoy of rebuilt 1950's wags and trucks thirty years ago, it was the Alvarez household that Baron Milagros awarded their seized technology. The Cubans had salvaged four large eighteen wheelers and turned them into mobile weapon and munitions shops. Don Marvin Alvarez was supposed to chill the newcomers after he had gained their knowledge and manufacturing techniques; but the old bastard saw the value of the seventy odd refugees beyond the stolen Soviet tech that they had humped up the Grande after crossing over from their irradiated island home. Any people with the testicular fortitude to attempt such a fool's quest and the toughness to pull it off deserved better than the fate that the back stabbing Milagros intended.

    Somehow, amid the treachery and assassinations, the ideals of a few decent men managed to triumph over the decades of oppression. The human desire for justice had overcome against the savage self-interest and naked greed that held so much of nuclear devastated Deathlands. When time came for Klash to take a wife, his children will be raised in a ville where laws and justice would be based upon fairness and reason. At least, that was the dream that Hadron and his alliance of peasants and technicians were trying to build. Klash hoped, prayed, that his family succeeded in their mission. He was prepared to fight and, if need be, die in order to preserve what the rebel Dons had built.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/10/2014 2:20 PM


    As the first glowing fingers of morning spread across the bone white dust and radioactive ash wastes, a half dozen Juarez scouts were already converging on the old cement plant. When Dawn Rodriguez reported the scale of her finders claim, they all made haste to be in on the pickings. There would be a bountiful load for each teams spoils box on any items not directly related to the plant. The Alvarez scouts were going to swarm over the wag salvage like locusts, Hadron militia always went for the weaponry and the other noble households had cut a deal for proportional division with the few remaining independent scout teams. It wasn't a perfect system, but nobody had a better idea as yet. Finders claim for an indie scout was a full box and any loot ridden wag your buggy could tow. Independent scouts traditionally would put their earnings back into their vehicles, which meant that the noble families got most of it back anyway.

    Dawn Rodriguez had been planning and building towards her goal, and now it was all about to pay off. She saw what she had been hunting since she signed on with Ramone Parker five years ago, the holy grail, a Winnebago. It was dust crusted and metal bare in places, but it looked like it had gone otherwise untouched in the cluster of wags that had congregated at the parking lot after the bombs fell. Dawn reasoned that many people who had survived the initial attacks had gathered at any structure that looked to be a promising safe haven, hoping that they could avoid the fallout and disease. But the Juarez Bio bomb had unleashed microbial death that carried far to the east, nearly to the Texas coast. These poor souls appeared to be making a start when the abomination descended on their doomed effort. Five poured foundations and two partially complete cement bunkers, for nothing.

    Ramone was looking for his last big score, and this was it. He would make enough jack to spend his remaining years comfortable and quiet. With Dawn buying him out, he was going out on top of the game. He'd been from the Rockies to the edge of the Yucatan as a scout and raider for Milagros and then Hadron before he broke out on his own under the new system. It favored him and his wife, Juanita, and he had rediscovered hope after the uprising. He didn't have to live in fear of Milagros and his predations. Juanita and their children would never again be subject to the whims of that mad family. When stickies killed his partner, Butch, Ramone agreed to allow Dawn on the promise that she would buy him out.

    "Well, chica, looks like you got yourself a scout buggy and a good head start."
    "You know it, old man. And I'm gonna get me a set of those fine Ruskie blasters with the leftovers. And enough ammo to chill an army. And a bottle of tequila... and a new set of chem seals." Dawn smiled wide and lit up a marijuana laced cigar. "I'm gonna get me that pretty son of the Baron in my bunk too. You wait and see."
    "You are a loco bitch, Dawn. I'm tempted to stay in the game for the entertainment of watching you chase that boy alone."
    "Oh no, no, you break our contract and I take your balls, you dirty pig. Juanita will pay me to do it too. You are out of the business, period."
    "Si, yes, I know she would." Ramone sighed and too a deep hit as dawn passed to him
    "I'm mostly gonna miss these smokes you roll. I think it's your best skill."
    "You suck, Ramone. I'm not gonna miss your tired old ass one bit."

    The two partners burst into a fit of giggles and curses as the first of the scout wags pulled up behind and beside them.
    "Okay, let's get to work, Ramone." Dawn checked her environmental hood for bugs and slipped over her head.
    "Wait," Ramone cautioned her "something is going on. Diego and Gomez are on the radio..."
    "Don't care, they get sloppy seconds this time." Dawn said as she raised her middle finger against the side window. "Nothing is gonna mess up my day."
    "We got a mandatory beacon. We have to go back to Juarez and then meet up for convoy escort duties immediately."
    "Say what?? Aw, he'll no!"
    "No! We are not gonna chance losing this score! What if Paso bandits come down and take it? We lose it all, Ramone. So no, I'm not gonna do it."

    Ramone Parker started the engine.

    "Stop it! You shut this wag down, Ramone. You turn off that radio and we tell Alvarez and his boys to go f..."
    "Baby Baron found it."
    Dawn stopped squabbling.
    "He did?"
    "So it seems. Now let's get rolling. Look, the others are already ahead of us. You set the marker flag, we will get ours. Alvarez will not let anyone jump our dibs, chica."
    "Ok.... ok. But if he is wrong, I'm gonna make it hurt when I bed him."
    "Loco bitch!" Ramone chortled as he released the brakes. "I bet you will."

    Basic Member
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    10/18/2014 3:56 PM
    The bright red front half of Ramone Parker's scout wag picked up the brilliant pinks and magenta of the setting sun perfectly as it raced across the sand and ash plain. It was without a doubt the strangest combination of old wag parts in the northern Mexico wastelands. The main support frame was built from a blasted in half four wheel drive monster Baja and two other vehicles the Butch and Parker team had salvaged from the fleet of shattered wrecks left over after Baron Milagros had been deposed. Butch had stretched the front to accommodate the twelve cylinder engine that propelled the armored beast at breakneck speed. Ramone had scoured the highways and ruins for the collection of body panels. With the glittering red fibre glass front end and hood of a 70's model Corvette covering the armor protected V-12, a chopped down protective crew cabin from the Hummer and a black iron rear cargo box, the patchwork four wheeled drive was an eye twisting Frankenstein monster. But it's unconventional design did not detract from it's speed and toughness. Even the wrench smart scouts of the Alvarez fleet learned to respect the piecemeal atrocity after eating it's dust on the open salt crusted plains. It not only roared like a lion, it had a lions bite as well in the form of two .50 Cal machine blasters recessed in the front fenders. Two sets of large rough terrain tires protruded from armored wheel wells at the rear for extra power, another Butch idea. The only drawbacks were that it sucked fuel like a drunkard in a gaudy and the absolute lack of subtly in its color scheme made it a first target for raiding Paso bandits and mutie tribesmen alike.

    Dawn never missed an opportunity to drive when Ramone tired of the wheel. She opened up full speed when she pulled onto the newly resurfaced highway running Southwest towards Juarez. As the last colors of late afternoon light shed their neon glow and gave way to the velvet purple veil of evening, she flipped the switch for the head lamps on and sat more upright and alert. Bandits and mutated animals still roamed the territory and Dawn was not about to let her and Ramone get bushwhacked when time was so crucial to getting in on the big score. She guessed that they would reach Juarez around 11 pm. There would be just enough time to file her claim on the cement plant, cash in on the trade goods they had looted in their foraging and refuel before heading out at first light with the recovery convoy. Maybe she could steal away for a decon shower if Ramone was willing to handle the convoy check in and prep work. Oh please, she prayed in her head, please let Ramone do the dull work so I can wash the leopard mites and road stench off before we go back out again. She didn't want to be stinking and bite covered when she showed up to the salvage site, not with Baron Hadron's son being present. Dawn had been saving a plastic wrapped perfume packet from a pre dark woman's magazine for just such an occasion. There was a plan working in her mind: the sweet perfume, leather mini skirt and pork fat based lip coloring she traded two sets of prewar ear rings for weeks ago were the weapons of choice in her manhunt. Klash Hadron had damned well better notice the effort, too. If he looked right past her yet again, she just might take him by force.

    Ramone drifted off to sleep after he'd chowed down a few strips of lizard jerky. With him tripping to dreamland, Dawn slid a music disc labeled Buzzcocks into the dash mounted CD player and wrapped the earphones behind her neck before adjusting the volume up just enough to drown out his loud snoring. The rattling guitar and snare hit the right pitch to counter the nasal barrage of a Ramone Parker nap.
    Cacti and pre dark road signs flashed by on the lamp lit highway. And Ramone sawed logs all the way to Juarez.

    They passed the other scout wags about thirty miles from the Northeastern highway into Juarez. Dawn shifted down as the wag approached the check point. As the buggy pulled into the lot, sec men stepped out onto the inspection lot waving them into the scout cue. It took a good shake to rouse Ramone from his slumber but he quickly became aware of the increased scrutiny from the guards and the tense attitude of the other teams lined up at the sec office.
    "What the hell, Ramone?" Dawn asked as she unzipped their document bag. "Was there an attack by muties or bandits that we didn't hear about?"
    "Shush it, chica. Maybe it was him, the chaos bringer." Ramone cautioned.
    "Oh, by the silver mask of Santo, not that shit again. He's a myth, amigo, a story made up by tyrant barons who don't want to take credit for sabotaging each other or whose people rose up like Juarez did. They gotta have someone to pass the blame onto, because it makes them look like they can't keep control anymore."
    "No, he is real, I heard he is the one who shut down Salvation."
    "Come on Ramone, how stupid do you get? A one-eyed super soldier that never misses and goes around with a crew just wrecking whole villes because he doesn't like the local barons? Really, amigo? They just chill whole armies of sec men and cannie bandits for what, shits and giggles? Don't make sense for anyone to go around playing hero. I mean, life sucks at times, but that shit is just cloud castles, Parker."
    "Well, I believe there is some truth to every legend."
    "Save the false hopes for the hopeless wretches who have to live under those other Barons. We got it good, and if this one-eyed avenging angel and his merry band of gold heart chillers ever did show up at the Juarez gates, then he wouldn't find much to draw his wrath... unless fixed lucha matches and cockroaches are the real reason for his wrath." Dawn chuckled at the notion.
    "Stranger things have happened. We overthrew Milagros, after all. And the lucha is not fixed."
    "Oh, Ramone, for man of forty, you can be such a child. Get the paperwork together. I want a decontamination shower and some lizzie tacos before the convoy rolls out. Maybe you can catch a midnight match with Juanita and the boys if you don't fuck around on the time."

    The sec men ran their dogs along the line of parked wags. Baron Hadron and the council had imposed a ban on jolt and the other more harmful, addictive drugs that had plagued Juarez even before the bombs fell. Marijuana, at least for now, was legal in the ville but some of the big houses regulated when and where you could smoke it in their sectors. Dawn swore she would leave if they ever declared it contra in the growing ville. Civilization is great, she thought, but too much of it could ruin a good time and kill off the trade in the already off the beaten path ville. Juarez ran on salvage and trade, and the baronies to the East and North would be all too happy to take any travelers who found the Juarez rules too strict.
    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/21/2014 12:36 PM


    The thick wooden gate into the northeast sector of Juarez was faced with salvaged sheets of iron and old chromed wag bumpers. The Sanchez family sector was the center of trade and entertainment, so their construction crews had decked it out to show off their stature in the community and the wealth that they had built over the last twenty odd years since the revolution. Each of the double doors had ancient ball turrets from relic bombers found in a military museum. Don Alvarez had rejected the idea of adding aircraft outright, much to the delight of Don Marvin Sanchez, on several grounds: the resources needed to operate and protect a working landing strip, the fuel requirements, the rebuild plus upkeep of engines, airframes and mechanisms for flight and then there was the problem of nobody having more than the most vague ideas about the dynamics of piloting the huge planes. Reality was that flight was an impossible dream, and probably will be for another hundred years at least. The best use of the resources was to throw it into defenses for the ville.

    The sec men drew straws to see who had to man the turrets each shift. The hot, cramped machine blaster turrets forced a rotation on the duty every four hours. This night Mike Corona and Jen Gutierrez had pulled the shorts. Graveyard duty in the turrets was, by far, a much better deal than the one the poor bastards on day watch had this time of year. However, a cold winter night in those metal and glass birdcages could chill a man if he didn't pay attention or drifted off. Mike lost skin and flesh both when he let his eyes rest his first winter on the wall. He had no intentions to slip up again. He even put his own jack to pay for extra time on the practice turret that Northeast Sec trained new recruits on during their first week. Mike was good, and everybody who fought on that wall had seen it every time he splattered raiders and mutants across the rocks and sand with those twin guns. It was no surprise that he was pulled for convoy duty when Hadron sent for a crew of experienced gunners to bolster the survey and salvage team. But when the wireless called for Jen and Rico Gutierrez as well, Mike asked for a repeat order. Before he could get an answer, three hard taps on the ball turret door interrupted it.
    "Get the fuck out, Corona,you sat on your ass enough here. Get headed to the bottom. Scouts will be here to cart you over to the big garage in a bit." The Sec Sarge yelled as he pulled the door open for him. Mike unhooked from the safety line and slithered up the opening. "And keep your harness on. You're still on shift and you WILL be snapped to a triple R. A third the ville sec forces have been pulled,so everybody else is gonna make time and a half jack until you return, IF you return. So move it. I don't want to fatten these maggots loot boxes, so make sure you don't die and make it pronto, ya heard me?"
    "Yes sir, Sarge. And I'll miss you too," Mike threw back at him with a grin as he slid down the ladder to base of the gates, "Pops."
    Sec Sarge Emil Corona waved and frowned at the young man. "Be safe, Mikey."
    Mike stepped back as the large gate doors swung open for the returning scout teams. There was a Hadron Corporal checking off names and flagging down scout wags to haul them over the Alvarez family garage at the west end of the three mile by two mile enclosed area at the southern edge of Old Juarez. The Northeast Sec members quickly climbed onto and into the buggies and hooked harness as the drivers hastily sped to enter the divided four lane highway clover leaf that the rebuild efforts centered on. The bridges had required some serious repair, but they were amazingly intact when Milagros had the peasants dig them out of the dust and sand. It was as smooth and gaudy soft to drive along, and it quartered the town nicely for sector management under the individual councillors.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/22/2014 12:45 PM

    __Fort Geronimo___

    Pico and Klash had little in the way of trouble throughout the blistering heat of the daylight hours, even the primitive mutated monsters of the Deathlands had sense enough to stay out of the sun in this hellscape. While the Cuban butchered the scorpion for it's venom sack, Klash sat high in the watch chair drawing a detailed map of the ruins and surrounding area. The prewar maps would require a lot of correction. Earthquakes and volcanic activity had reshaped much of the landscape in the first decades after the nuclear holocaust.
    Mountains had been built and destroyed by the tectonic bedlam, volcanic plugs erupting vast lakes of boiling rock and drifting clouds of toxic gas poisoned the land.
    The two scouts took turns on watch while the other rested in the elevated shelter. Every so often, the thick antenna-like hairs at the base of his skull gave Klash a little twitch or tug but no threats emerged from the sand.
    Pico checked in with the radio every three hours. The numerically coded chatter was garbled at times, but Pico knew the routine. The Juarez scouts would be recalled and then the convoy wags would be prepared for the dangerous overland hump to the ruins.
    The council families would require time to roll out the wagon train of large armored trucks and haulers loaded to capacity with tools, weapons, men and excavation machinery. The ville had two bulldozers and a large crane to load on flat bed trailers. Sec would have to be carefully selected so that the convoy did not detract too much from the defenses in case Paso bandits or one of the mutant tribes from the Sonora decided to take advantage of the thinly guarded town. By morning next, the convoy would be prepped and ready for the three to four day journey to the lost fort.

    After the evening meal, Klash took first watch as Pico cleaned out their mess kits with sand and rinsed it with tequila before bedding down. The cooling night air indicated that the fall was coming earlier than usual, winter chem storms from the annual Diabolo Winds would force the survey and salvage effort to work twice as fast to make it back to the protective valley where Juarez struggled to rise from the ashes.

    Danger. Klash felt the twitch near the end of his watch. From the south,two large bodies were approaching in the inky darkness of the overcast night. Starless nights with no moon were ideal hunting time for night creeping predators. Klash shut his eyes and bowed his head forward to allow his extra sensory organs to extend from under his collar length hair. Scorpions. Klash felt their legs on the sand with every closing step. His senses also detected the same iron hard armored hide as the mutant that had attacked the night before.
    He reached down and pulled a magazine of AP rounds from the left thigh pocket of his desert patterned camouflage pants and whistled two short tweets at the snoozing Cuban.
    "Wake up, amigo. Crawlies are coming this way fast. Load armor piercing, Pico, iron shells are sniffing this way...."
    Pico sat up in his bedroll and readied his AK with a mag load of steel core 7.62 mm bullets from his bag.
    "You, young man, are either a blessing or a demon. I still can't decide."
    "Shush it, Pico, or I'll let the scorps eat your balls."

    Klash swung down next to is partner silently and pushed the barrel of his Druganov through the southern facing door flap. He leaned into the stock and out of the tented shelter far enough that his extraordinary mutant hairs could feel the sensory clues that filtered and fluttered on the shifting breeze. The monster scorpions were closing fast, they had picked up the scent of prey and hungrily plotted the most direct path to their intended meal. When the fist one caught a whiff of the Alvarez bug juice, it paused beneath a dune top fifty yards from the camp.
    Klash slowly panned his scope across the dune then closed his eyes so he could better detect the eight legged menace. Sure of what his antenna was telling him, he aimed into the dunes crest and squeezed the trigger.
    The round boomed from its casing and shot through the cooling air. The sandy crest puffed a small cloud of dust as the bullet passed through. The gargling hiss from the beast left Klash with more confidence in his unnatural born ability; but it also let him know that now the giant arachnoid was extremely pissed off and twice as dangerous. The monster chittered and wheezed as it skittered over the top of the dune towards the shelter. Pico stepped out of the shelter to get a clear line of sight.
    "Get back up top and spot for me, piss ant." Pico ordered. Klash obeyed and made haste up the step ladder to the watch chair while Pico positioned himself to repel the assault.
    His black AK cracked loudly and spit high velocity death at the running monstrosity.

    Klash felt his hairs tugging to the other oncoming threat. The twelve foot long scorpion had circled to the right side of the shelter and approached slowly, carefully stalking the men from the shadowy trough between the dunes. It was slightly smaller than the first,but it was also slightly more cunning. While Pico scrambled to get a clean shot at the larger scorpions weak spots, the lesser beast made its attack from the cover of darkness. Klash was ready for this, he felt the simple creature's nerves fire as it leapt to grab Pico in its vice like pincers, and fired two quick shots at the emerging menace in time to quell its desire for Cuban cuisine. Both shots smashed into the right pincer, shattering its hard shell and sent screaming flesh flying from the ruined claw. Pico spun around and hip fired the AKM into the scorpions face, pulverizing the eyes and turning the mouth into a sopping mass of blasted goo.
    "A-M-F!" Pico yelled at the monster as he emptied his rounds in a storm of rage. "That's what you get for back stabbing, bitch."
    Klash saw the first scorpion running at Pico and felt the electrical twitch of it's nervous system sparking the venomous stinging tail to strike. "Duck, asshole!" Klash called out before firing, barely affording Pico a second to duck the incoming shot.
    The bullet sliced the air and struck the very tip of the scorpion's poisonous point. The tails tip splattered across its back. The dripping gore stank of venom. Pico back pedalled and pulled his back up pistol from the brown pig skin holster on his hip. Klash sent three rounds hurling into the ravaged tail as Pico poked .45 caliber sized holes through the segment joints of the scorpion, severing the pincers from their limbs.

    When the adrenaline settled, Pico and Klash celebrated with a shot of tequila.
    "So, guess its gonna be scorpion meat for breakfast again..."
    "No, no, the big one was a female. We're having eggs too."
    Klash snorted at the joke and clapped his hand against his leg.
    "The rate we are using ammunition, its gonna be expensive meals until the convoy arrives. We gotta start choosing our shots with the AP, Pico, or we won't be here when the survey team shows up."

    They used the buggy to drag the carcasses a safe distance from camp. The scavengers would go for the easy meal, leaving the camp alone for the next day or so at least.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/22/2014 2:28 PM

    The Council waited in the northeastern conference room of the reclaimed office tower next to the cloverleaf. A painting of Don Carlos Hadron hung on the wall between to oil lamps at the end of the table. When Baron Eduardo Hadron entered with his bodyguards,the councillors stoop up from their reupholstered office chairs and bowed out of respect to the authority that he represented.

    "Oh no, my friends, stop... I already told you it's not required to be so formal. Remember that we are equals here." 

    Don Alvarez stepped forward to shake his hand. "We know, sir, but you are Baron now. It is the way of the world."
    Dons Sanchez and Guzman shook their heads in agreement. Hadron corrected them with a frown and pointed to the painting of his father.
    "My father, Don Carlos, had to bow and scrape to the Milagros as your fathers did. Even the nobles were as peasants under such hateful oppression. That was what inspired him to raise me to end it. And it is that lesson which guides me still.
    We are fortunate that we remained so isolated, so underestimated by the baronies to the east and north. But it will not be so for much longer. Already the gringo tyrants grow suspect that we have hidden secrets for them to steal. The bandits from Paso take stories with them of their failed raids. They have seen our cornfields to the south, they have trailed our salvage teams and the few odd sections of road Sanchez has restored have served our enemies as much as our own people. To our south are the mutant tribes who with few exception are hostile to every living thing they encounter."
    Alvarez started to protest, but the baron predicted his words.
    "Yes, Don Alvarez, I know that the Gila tribe fight beside our men to defend the cornfields and that a few of them now reside in Juarez. Your lucha is a favorite in the arena. I am not so delusional as to ignore that my own son is a mutant with a gift like his mother.
    We are not bigots against differences here like the paranoid gringos of the Deathlands; but we are not so foolish as to cuddle with stickies are we?"

    The councillors chuckled and raised their glasses to the wisdom of their friend and baron.
    "Now, let's get down to business..."

    The baron and his partners spent the next two hours making small tweaks and adjustments to their preparation schedules then the Dons made the farewell toasts with tequila before descending to their armored coaches waiting in the parking lot at the front of the building. Hadron and Alvarez shared a smoke and watched a dozen or more scout buggies passing on the highway section connecting the cloverleaf.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/22/2014 2:52 PM

    Ramone turned onto the rebuilt highway section carefully as to avoid a brown and white horse hide covered scout wag. It was an open topped Baja style buggy with a top mounted RPK machine gun jutting from a small rotating gun shield colored to match the hide covering. Ramone passed on the left side, he saw the call sign "Painted Pony" stitched in bright blue on the hide covered salvage box.
    "That's a sweet ride, eh Dawn?"
    "It's not as sweet as mine." Dawn said with no small amount of satisfaction. "And they'd never survive deep in the ash with that open cabin."
    The tethered in Sanchez Sec woman in the gun station gave a raised AK greeting to the passing buggy. As the cloverleaf approached, all the scouts slowed to take the clover loop.

    Each of the four cloverleaf loops had a giant concrete bunker tower keep in the center, surrounded by a defensive wall bristling with gun stations. Baron Eduardo Hadron had Sanchez dig large underground rooms for garages and a set of emergency shelters for citizens with enough dried corn in a storage depot to feed five hundred people for six weeks. A last resort Sec command post had been set up in the pre dark storm tunnels beneath the four bunker complex. The council and their personal sec forces could use the hidden passages to conduct a guerrilla war if the ville were over run by mutant tribes or an invasion by another barony. Ramone was relieved to know that Juanita had a place to take the boys if a siege occurred.

    Steering out of the loop, the scout drivers raced westward. The Alvarez garage was at the far end of the long stretch. Hadron Sec men stood in mostly straight rows as they awaited the duty announcement . Indie scouts had a different process for job assignment, first comers get first pick. Ramone pulled his wag up to the western gate and shut the engine down before heading to the scout check in line, while Dawn hit the ground running to file her claim on the cement plant.

    After pulling a forward scouts token, Ramone signed the salvage agreement and hot footed for the apartments where Juanita would be waiting with the boys. A quick kiss and group hug later the family was walking hand in hand to the midnight luchadores.
    "Come on boys," Juanita said cheering "we can make it for the main event if we hurry."
    The boys kept pulling and laughing with each other all the way to the arena, but behaved properly once in the ticket line.

    The Parker family found seating right as the announcer took to the ring.
    "Senors and Senoritas," the yellow tuxedo clad MC bellowed "tonight our main event is a contest between two champions. The winner of this match will wear the supreme champion belt until he is defeated in honorable combat. Are you ready?"
    The crowd screamed and spotted their response.
    "I'm sorry, amigos, but I don't think that was good enough for a championship fight! I said ARE YOU READY?"
    The crowd exploded their vocalization in a thunderous roar louder.
    "Alright! Then let's get ready for LUCHA..... wait," the MC paused and squinted at a white shirted official beside the ring "we have a new twist! The winner of tonight's match will also have the what?"
    The official climbed up to the ropes and whispered to his ear.
    "Ladies and gentlemen,I have just been informed that YOUR champion will also receive the honor of carrying the baronial banner in the Victory Day parade next month! Now, ARE YOU READY FOR LUCHAAAAADORES???"
    And the crowd went nuclear in its joy.

    Two huge robed figures walked down from the arena sides and swung heavy clubs into the copper gong next to the ring, signaling the crowd into silence.
    "Amigos, travelers, neighbors... please show your love for the challenger to the honorable title of Supreme Champion of Juarez Luchadores, the indestructible EL Toro!"
    The left figure threw off his robe to reveal his masked costume. It was all shining black spandex except for red eye borders and two bulls horns stitched in silver on the sides.
    El Toro had a lot of fans in this sector, who cheered and chanted his name as he walked to his ringside corner.
    "Tonight, defending his title for the sixth time, the striped death, the stark fist of removal, YOUR champion: MAXIMO THE MUTANT!!"
    The second wrestler stepped from his falling hood and raised his scale covered arms in a perfect V, his black and orange striped mask and trunks complimented his long mutant physique.
    Maximo pumped his fists in the air as he strode to the ropes and dived between the ropes, rolling fluidly to a stand. El Toro hopped up and over the top rope and thudded heavily with his feet. The two luchadores shook hands and went to their corners. The referee stepped to the center and raised his arm, the bell rang and the two men charged head on at each other. Maximo grappled for a moment with the powerfully built Toro then dropped his mass downward and swung his weight between his opponents legs. Toro decided to not roll with the take down and pulled up with his arms, swinging Maximo up over his head.
    The mutant turned in the air and landed on the shoulders of El Toro with his legs wrapped over the bulkier man's armpits.
    With an enraged roar, El Toro charged backwards into the ropes. The impact caused the mutant to lose his hold and Toro left him behind with them as he charged toward the opposite side. Maximo was stunned but standing when Toro rebounded from the far ropes and ran low for his signature 'Toro Trample'.
    As Toro raised his arms to smash the mutant into the ropes again, Maximo turned toward him and leaped with his legs outward, planting his fists into El Toro's back. Vaulting over the charging masked man, Maximo landed gracefully as El Toro went blindly into and over the center rope, flying into a stack of metal folding chairs with a loud crash.
    The audience cheered, booed and whooped at the spectacle. Toro's fans chanted his name and called for him to get up, but the big man didn't move. When the referee
    started to count him out, Maximo stopped him and gestured for the crowd to quieten.
    "El Toro!" He screamed "Get up here and fight. I don't want a victory as this. You wanted a title match, you got it."
    The crowd cheered at the gesture of good will. As even Maximo cheered for Toro to rise up, a green and yellow masked wrestler in dark red tights snuck into the ring behind him. The crowd yelled for him to turn around, but it was too late. The Verde Diabolo had a folding chair in mid swing as Maximo spun around only to be smashed across his chest. The chair broke from the impact and Maximo fell to the ground holding his chest and rocking in pain.
    If Verde Diabolo had any fans in the Alvarez sector arena, they were drowned out by the jeers and hisses of the disapproving majority. The referee shouted at the wrestler and pushed him away from Maximo while the crowd cursed at his poor sportsmanship. The ref was to busy with Verde to notice his accomplice, King Dragon, sneaking up behind him. The crowd screamed for the official to look out, but it was too late to stop the white and black clad lucha from slipping a canvas corn sack over his head and shoving him face first into the corner post.

    Villain luchadores mocked the audiences outrage and taunted them with rude gestures as they stepped over to the still stunned Maximo. King Dragon grabbed the mutant by his arm and pulled him up so Verde Diabolo could deliver a kick to his mid section. Maximo took the beating as feet and fists fell again and again. The ref had crawled out of the ring and was limping his way toward the fallen form of El Toro. Toro was sitting up but seemed dazed or unaware of the ring. The referee pleaded on his knees and pointed towards the events in the ring. The villains were setting up Maximo for a serious blow, Verde holding the mutant in a head lock while King Dragon started climbing the ropes at Toro's corner.
    The referee and El Toro shook hands then the two of them charged at King Dragon and knocked his feet off the top ropes before he could make his Flying Dragon kick. King dragon fell hard on his rear and rolled out of the ring onto the floor directly in front of the Parker family. Toro and the ref jumped into the ring where Verde continued to punch Maximo about the head and was trying to pull his mask off.
    King Dragon had drug himself up to the barrier in front of the fans, who seized his arms and held him long enough for the referee and El Toro to rescue Maximo from the career ending unmasking. Toro ran into the ropes to gain momentum for his Toro Trample and the referee did a jumping front kick to Verde Diabolo from behind.
    The timing was perfect. Verde let go and bent backwards in pain as Toro slammed his body from the front, knocking him onto his back.
    King Dragon had reached the ring and dove at the referee,who side stepped barely in time to avoid the blow. Dragon hit the corner post. Toro was checking on Maximo when the two villains regained their composure and teamed up on the referee, tossing him from the ring before turning to attack the mutant again. But Toro was already in a full run and clotheslined them both before they could initiate another attack. Maximo had shook off the beating and came in behind Toro.

    The thick scaled mutant jumped in a high arc and landed with his elbows in their abdomens. The villains yelled from the twin blows and started to retreat when Toro trampled them a second time, knocking them face down flat. Maximo had sprung to his feet and flung himself onto King Dragon while El Toro pinned his partner. The ref was in the ring and started a three-count as soon as both villains were pinned to the canvas. The audience counted with the referee. The bell rung on three and the audience screamed with joy at the drama of it all.
    Maximo and El Toro stood together and raised the referee on their shoulders as the MC climbed into the ring with his microphone.
    "Amigos, ladies and gentlemen, the Alvarez Arena officials have made a ruling and it has been decided that the winner of this match is..."
    "Wait!" Maximo interjected as he sat the referee down. "I have something to say!"
    The big mutant took the microphone and raised his hand to calm the crowd.
    "El Toro, we entered the ring as adversaries but we must leave it as friends. You have shown honor and sportsmanship that is the living spirit of the luchadores.You saves me from being unmasked when you could have easily allowed King Dragon and Verde Diabolo do away with me forever. And because of that, I offer you my hand in friendship and my championship belt. You are a true hero, El Toro. You deserve the title."
    Toro stood stunned by the gesture and shook his head as in disbelief.
    He reached for the mic and spoke in a deep tone.
    "No, I cannot accept the full title. But I would be honored greatly to share it with you."
    The audience cheered the gesture. The MC took his microphone back and announced,"Then I guess we have TWO supreme champions this night! The officials approve. Senors and Senoras, ladies and gentlemen and children of Juarez, I am proud to present to you your Supreme Champions: Maximo the Mutant and El Toro!!".

    The audience roared when the two men held the shining belt over head together as they marched up the ramp and out of the arena. The Parker sons were bouncing with excitement as the family made for the door. Ramone lifted them both up to his hips and carried them through the exiting crowd to the street.
    "Let's get you boys to bed," Juanita announced "your father and I want to spend some quality time together before he has to report for convoy."
    Ramone winked at her and she kissed his cheek. Quality time was the best part of Ramone's evening, and Juanita's as well.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/23/2014 10:19 PM

    The Alvarez garage was the single largest structure in Juarez next to the cloverleaf. It had been commissioned by Baron Milagros to house his future battle fleet of armored wags, tanks and super weapons. The only problem with that dream was that the man was a misanthrope and completely delusional about his own mortality. A few generations of severe drug abuse, incestuous breeding within the family and his overindulged upbringing had made a true monster.
    Like so many petty tyrants of the Deathlands, he enslaved norms and mutants alike to his lunatic ambition and fetishistic demand for total control of everything in his power. Milagros had forced the peasants and slaves to dig the old airport out of the shifting sand only to find that most of its structures had been sucked into a sink hole over a half mile wide. Untold numbers of captives died trying to recover enough materials to build just one complete hangar at the planned outskirts of the ville. After the huge structure was assembled and rigged for electricity, Milagros started talking about building a second hangar. That was when his Sec Chief rallied the people to rise up and kill their baron and his degenerative sibling/cousins. Now the Big Garage served the good of those people whose blood and sweat had been spent building it. Wag bays and machine shops covered almost every square foot of the mammoth poured concrete floor. The back quarter was a closed area, off limits to everyone except to the Salvage team and their support crew.

    A mostly intact pre dark hotel across the four lane served as apartments for non affiliated scouts and the villes small contingent of Gila tribesmen (and women) who came to work for Alvarez in his salvage yard. The mutants could take the summer sun longer than most normals. They blended well socially with the wilderness smart Juarez scouts and some had taken up work for the salvage and survey crew. Dawn didn't mind having them around one bit. They were chocked full of useful information about southern Chihuahua and the Sonora frontier. The Gila had turned her onto some very good salvage and a box canyon where a particularly potent strain of cannabis grew like wild flowers.
    Dawn strode to the check in sheet and signed in. She had enough tokens for a decon shower and some lizard tacos from the Alvarez food truck in the parking lot after she got some shut eye. She was happy to see no line for the showers. The time it took for her to file salvage rights on the cement plant was enough for the other scouts to get out of her way. She stripped off the dirty road clothes and tossed them in a burn barrel before stepping into the spray booth.
    After she inserted her tokens, the reclaimed automatic car wash sprayers on the sides started blasting a bright orange soap combined with Alvarez bug repellent onto her slender frame. The hot water stung her skin slightly and clean rinse water showered down from the two nozzles above her head. The machine was amazingly simple, but it freaked out first timers and visitors to the ville who came for the salvage trade. Dawns muscles relaxed as the clean and rinse cycles repeated for ten minutes, washing away the road stink and leopard mites.

    After the last rinse, the machine made a click noise. Dawn pushed the phone booth door ,grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her breasts before exiting. The scouts had no use for modesty in their own building, but Dawn didn't want to show off the goods too much. The institutionalized rape of the Milagros regime had been replaced with a very strict chill on conviction policy by Baron Hadron. That, Dawn figured, was probably his wife's idea. All the women of her generation had been subject to the perverse whims of Baron Milagros, his sons and what few male sibling/cousins that the tyrant hadn't chilled himself. A lot of women who had been subjected to the systematic abuses committed suicide, even years after the revolution abolished the old system, leaving a large number of orphan children to be raised by the survivors.
    Dawn tried not to think of the horror stories. Now, at least, Juarez had written laws and they were posted in plain view at every entrance and public venue. Even the Sanchez sector gaudy houses put the posters up at their doors to remind visitors that this was a civilized town with no tolerance for the kind of barbarism that ruled the Deathlands. Baron Hadron encouraged literacy, he said, so that all would know the written law and understand the price of breaking it. Traders and travelers signed contract promising to obey all laws. If they couldn't read, the Hadron Sec men would read it to them and let them sign it with an "X" before they were allowed into the ville.

    Dawn entered her room and locked the door before shedding the towel. She had a few large T-shirts salvaged from a pre war gas station which served as sleeping gowns. She selected one with a cartoon camel smoking a cigarette and slipped it over her head before flopping on the bed. Sleep came easier when a girl had her own space. Dawn drifted off almost as soon as her eyes closed.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/24/2014 3:32 PM

    The knock came at four in the morning. One hard rap and then three light ones, that was Ramone letting her her know it was time to go prep their weapons and wag. Dawn washed her face in a hand wheeled baked clay basin then dumped the water down the bathroom sink. All wash waste water dumped into to reclamation gutters that Sanchez's people built in every sector. Dawn had no idea where it went and what became of it. It didn't matter to her enough to ask. She had more important things to consider, like how she was going to score enough salvage to turn a certain Winnebago into a salvage wag. She slipped into a set or clean olive drab cargo pants and a black button down shirt with a sugar skull design stitched on the back. She pulled a waist length leather welders jacket out of the closet and stuffed it into a small bag of clean travel clothes. After rinsing her mouth with tequila, Dawn locked her door and jogged down two flights of stairs to the lobby where Ramone was waiting with a very tall mutant. The mutant was long, but of a strong athletic build that filled out the brown and tan tiger striped camouflage pants and black tank top shirt he dressed in very well. He was, by Dawn Rodriguez's standards, pretty hot for a Gila man. He could almost be mistaken for a civilized mutie if he had been wearing shoes of any kind.

    The mutant had the typically tough looking scaled hide of the Gila tribe, but still very human features. Most of the men of his tribe bore as much resemblance to the lizards that was their namesake as they did norms. This one, however, had a more human nose and his cheekbones set high and wide over a strong jaw. The powerful muscles of his body looked like steel cable wrapped in leather, and his coloring ranged from a nice dark honey to a pale orange-yellow in wide jagged stripes.
    He carried a large spear in one hand, but had a Soviet design pistol in a nylon shoulder holster and an RPK slung over his back. Ammo belts for the machine blaster hung from a steel box that was welded to an old pre war Alice pack resting against his leg on the cement floor. He looked like a man to be reckoned with, without doubt.

    Ramone waved as Dawn approached them
    "Good morning, chica, you ready to roll?"
    "I could use another three hours of sleep, but I'm ready. Who's your new amigo?"
    Ramone paused, then realized he hadn't asked the mutant his name.
    "I'm sorry," he said embarrassed "I don't know your name, amigo..."
    "Just call me Max." The Gila mutant bowed with his hand up.
    "Hey," Ramone interrupted "like the lucha! That's cool, bro.. I mean, unless it's not cool. Okay?"
    The mutant smiled politely and said "It's a common association people make. Everybody asks that."
    "Oh, ok, amigo. I apologize. Anyway, this is my gunner and partner."
    "I'm Dawn Rodriguez, Max. Good to meet you. Forgive this old fool, he is a lime short on manners. Nice guns, must've taken a lot of industry tokens."
    "Um, yes," the mutant said "took me years in the scrap yard to save up for these babies, but they are worth every hot day I spent out there."
    "Right on, well, can we get going then, Ramone?"
    Ramone nodded and shook Max's hand. When Dawn repeated the gesture, the Gila took her hand gently and pressed it to his forehead.

    The scouts hurried to the briefing lounge of the garage where the Motor Chief went over their routes. Their weapons were cleaned and ammo restocked by the barony. Alvarez had his crews fuel and repair every vehicle in the fleet. At first light, twelve motorcycle scouts raced out the western gates and started a circular path around the Juarez walls. Another quarter hour went by and the buggies headed out on the western road, which only extended fifteen miles from the ville. Two eight wheeled APC trucks with RPK machine blaster ports along the sides escorted a custom salvage big rig pulling a bulldozer on a trailer. After one hour of the motorcycles circling the area for three miles in every direction, the Alvarez salvage wag pulled out towing a small crane with four armored escort wags following. The last set of four wags exited the gates ten minutes later escorting another big rig hauling a train of two trailers. The first was a mobile command post with a 30mm canon turret on top and a ball turret on each side, like the ones on the Sanchez sector gates. The second was a flatbed with a smaller bulldozer and a tracked digging machine. The escort wags were open backed truck and jeep types with RPK's on standing pivot mounts. Sec men manned the guns held in the nests by their safety harnesses, the larger wags were doubling as troop transportation.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/25/2014 1:01 PM

    ___Ft. Geronimo___

    Pico sat in the watch chair cleaning his AKM while Klash shook out the filtration system on the buggy. The morning sun was reflecting in prismatic waves across the salt flat surrounding the relic structure.
    "Hey, did you see this when the sun rose yesterday and leave me out? Not nice, young piss ant."
    Klash shoved the filters back into the housing and closed the vent cover.
    "The light show down there, man! It's beautiful."
    Klash pulled the dust cover from his SVD and started towards the elevated shelter.
    "No. That's new. Let me get up there."
    Pico ignored the request and peered through the pre nuke binoculars at the glimmering brilliance below the dunes.

    Klash noticed that the air was starting to warm around the camp. It was definitely confined, according to his mutant senses, to just that small area.
    "Pico, hey, don't you feel the heat?"
    "Huh? Yeah, it's pretty, man! I can't believe we are gonna tear it up like that. It should be protected, amigo. You know, right?"
    Klash stepped into the door and up the ladder beside the occupied watch chair. He looked through the scope of his Druganov SVD at the shimmer of refracted sun. The ground had changed. There was a suggestion in his mutant senses that let him look away before getting caught up in the dazzle inducing pulses of color.
    "No, that wasn't there before. Look at me, not the light."
    Pico shot him a dirty look but complied. His face was flush and dripping sweat.
    "Let's climb down, okay?"
    "Yes.." Pico agreed and turned the chair "Thank you. I think I should."

    The two men climbed down and Klash suggested moving the shelter to a dune of similar height a hundred yards to the east. Pico was in no frame of mind to disagree. Much to Klash's worry, he was also in no frame of mind to break down, move and reassemble the camp site either. He seemed detached from the events around him. Klash sent a coded message on the wireless but was unsure if it was received. Their radiation counters were in high green and the antenna hairs on the neck of the younger man detected no aggressive threats.

    The new spot gave Klash a better perspective on what was causing the light trick. The ground had sprouted some kind of crystalline growths. It must have started as soon as they arrived. It was a slow process, designed to go unrecognized by his mutation. Bastard clever, Klash thought as he wrote down his observations on the pages of his map book. The dazzled look on Pico's face gave way to one of depression as the afternoon passed. Klash had to keep him in the camouflaged shelter and remind him to take water to avoid dehydration several times. The Cuban was not himself until after the sun went down, and was obviously affected by the experience. It was like he'd been drugged and was shaking the comedown.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/25/2014 2:50 PM

    ___The western border of the Juarez Barony___

    The first convoy truck had reached the end of the resurfaced highway and had to slow down for off road travel. A few miles ahead of the big rig and it's escorts, scouts were on the peep for raiders and other dangers. The armored APC's kept slowing with the rig as the terrain became more difficult for the towing vehicle to navigate. It wasn't long after that the other large vehicles caught up with the bulldozer. The Juarez Sec teams in the armored wags were ordered to check their weapons. The convoy slowed to a ten mile per hour push.
    Max stoop up from his chair in the command trailer and climbed up to the turret platform next to Motor Chief Alvarez. The thirty four year old was on the chubby side but could still meet the physical standard that Baron Hadron demanded from a city Sec man. He wore a Makarov automatic pistol on his right hip, the standard issue sidearm of the Juarez Sec, a PM-63 RAK sub machine gun slung over his shoulder and a clip board under his arm.
    "This is going to cost us time, Max. And one of the forward scouts picked up a partial code from Kalashnikov Hadron saying he had some trouble. Giant scorpions and something about lights incapacitating his driver. Your people ever come across anything like that?"
    "No, not many of my tribe has been up that deep in the area, and none came back that did. We have always avoided it."
    The heavy man looked over the list of indie scouts on his board.
    "Ok, I want you to take a squad wag to get ahead of this. See what's going on with with that report. I'll get you a scout to guide you."
    "Can I use Ramone Parker? His wag is tough and has a lot of power. Might come in handy if the squad gets stuck in the sand."
    "Good idea. Take some food supplies and two shelter kits. I'll get Parker back here pronto."

    Ramone Parker was two miles from the convoy when the numeric call came across the radio. Dawn was catching up on rest despite the rough traveling conditions.
    "Wake up, chica. We got a call back from the Chief to head back to the command wag."
    "Wha', huh?" Dawn looked at the dashboard clock. 2:30 PM.
    "We gotta head back, Alvarez said make it pronto."
    "Yeah, wake me up when we get there." Dawn grumbled and pulled her welders jacket over her head to block out the harsh desert sunlight.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/25/2014 8:29 PM

    The ride to the convoy was a bumpy one, but Dawn managed to grab a few minutes extra shuteye before Ramone pocked her arm.
    "Don't poke the bear, Ramone. I hate that and you know it."
    "Aw, I'm very sorry but its time to pretend that you are working, little bear."
    Dawn pulled the leather jacket down and stuffed it back into the top of her bag.
    "Hey, check it out. It's your new friend, Max." She pointed to the tall Gila mutant who was directing Sec men who were prepping and loading a troop wag.
    Max waved the Parker buggy over. Sec men were loading a couple of digital camouflage canvas shelters and 7.62 mm ammo boxes into the troop wag.
    "Ramone, Dawn..." the mutant greeted them "we got a situation with Hadron at the site, perhaps. You are going to be escorting my squad to provide the support until the main convoy can get there."
    Dawn smiled gleefully and bounced in her seat. "Yes! This is perfect, Ramone."
    "Shush it, chica," Ramone scolded her "this isn't a courtship dance. Radio said some stuff about mutie scorpions and some weird shit out there."
    "Indeed, my friends," Max continued "and we lost his signal just after the report came in. We may be walking into a buzzard hawk dinner party or it might be nothing. Either way, Motor Chief said to give you these."
    "Hot pipe! Ruskie blasters!" Dawn exclaimed with wide eyes as Max passed two Juarez built AKM's and a box of 7.62×39 mm steel core ammo through the window to her.
    "Consider these you pay bump for the hazard duty, agreed?"
    Ramone and Dawn nodded their affirmation. Max pulled a map out of the thigh pouch of his tiger striped camo pants and showed them the route. The baron's son had reported a few hazards and mutant tribes in the path they were going to take. It was too rough and too narrow to risk getting the big trucks stuck and ambushed potentially, but a heavily armed and alert group could navigate the course in a day and a half if they put the pedal down and kept moxied for trouble.
    "What about this river?" Dawn pointed at the pre dark map.
    "Report says they think it went underground. My tribe has been up that way before. Stickies have been seen in small group there abouts. But its the mutant scorpions that own the territory west of there. Gila people avoid it, especially this time of year. Everything that chills and creeps is fattening up for the storm season. There are a lot of caves where the demons winter all over the region, and the jackalope herds will be migrating through there. The mutants will be on the hunt, so stay triple red, as you say, because there is going to be a lot of bad territory to tread."
    The mutant barked at the Sec men to button up the transport and climbed up beside a man Alvarez selected to man the twin RPK's on the swivel stand.
    "Are you Corona?" The mutant inquired.
    "Call me Mike. Only my dad calls me by my last name."
    "Okay then, Mike. Motor Chief said you are a dead eye with a double blaster, so I'm gonna let you do your thing. You can call me Max. Only everybody calls me Max."
    Mike smiled and snapped his harness to the tethers hanging from the gun post as the wag fell in behind the Parker scout buggy. Max waved for Ramone to head out and the two wags left the convoy behind.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/26/2014 1:26 PM

    While the clumsy rigs of the convoy crawled at a snail's pace, the Sec wag and it's more agile escort wound through the broken landscape with relative ease. The late afternoon glare was cut greatly by the greenish white chem clouds that drifted in serpentine coils across the sky. The entirety of the ecosystem had been pushed and stretched to it's breaking point by radiation, poisoned and battered by the upheaval of the land and oceans. New species of plants and animals had appeared, some vanished like a firefly's flicker while others took to the conditions and learned to exploit them.
    The brittle tubewood bush thrived in the toxic rainy season. But the jackalope chewed them , as they migrated back and forth between the gulf and western coasts, enough to keep them in balance with the surviving natural flora. An adult jackalope was equal in height to a pit bull. Their twisted horns resembled the jagged branches of the tubewood that nourished them. As a great stroke of natural selection, this did give the grazing herds a bit of camouflage in the tubewood thickets themselves. The tubewood bush used the opportunity to attach their inedible spike seeds in the thick fur of the hiding jackalope.
    Evolution had taken the opportunity of mutation and it paid off for everything that ate jackalope. Everybody loved jackalope, Max was no exception.

    Max leaned down to the Sec wag driver and tapped the cabin top twice.
    "When Parker gets back, stop the wag."
    The mutant was not going to risk using the jackalope trail they were following into the rocky hills after dark. It would be more wise, he thought, to make camp here and try to conquer them at first light. The giant scorpions didn't like a fight with armed men on an open field, they liked to sneak from the shadows and ambush their prey. A jackalope path made it even more likely to have an encounter with the predators.
    Max encoded a numerical message and sent it to the scout buggy. The return order was affirmed. As the scout wag came into sight, the Sec man driving the troop transport pulled to the north side of the jackalope laid trail. A slightly elevated slope provided a solid park and camp spot.
    Dawn had never been this far west and had little comment, but Ramone Parker had. He agreed with the Gila tribesman on waiting until first light to attempt crossing the rocky bad lands between themselves and the ruins. If they could get through the treacherous hills before sundown, they had a good chance of reaching the location by midnight.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/28/2014 2:53 PM
    Max helped the sec team set up their shelters in relative cover between the two patchwork vehicles. Of the six, only the driver, Gomez, had been more than a few miles from Juarez. These men should not be here, in the opinion of the long bodied mutant. The scouts were respectable to the Gila man, however. Max had seen Parker in the old hotel lobby many times in the two years since he had been living in Juarez, and had judged him by his gear and manner instantly as an experienced warrior who knew the ways of the desert. The Gila respected any normal who could survive the deep ash wastes of Old Mex.
    Max's assessment of Dawn Rodriguez was complicated by his well hidden dislike of her loud personality and his admiration for her frame. She was a tall girl for Juarez, over six feet in height. She wore a pleated black mini skirt with camouflage pockets sewn into the front over fitted iguana skin pants. Her waist cropped brown welders jacket was tied above her hips, which caused the strategically cut up T-shirt to pull its faded eagle design tightly across her chest an shoulders. She was too flat chested according to most of the Ville Juarez men, who preferred their women a lot thicker. However, there were a few men who saw her angelically delicate features and felt the tug of lust just as Max was now. But once they saw the arsenal of hand guns that the lanky young woman had strapped to her every limb, even the roughest trade thought twice before a second look. For Max, the attraction ended when she opened her mouth to speak.

    Dawn had a set of .38 recovered police revolvers on shoulder holsters under each arm. On the right side hip, tied to her thigh was her gun belt holster. There hung an ancient .44 Colt that she had taken from the body of the first man she had killed, five years before- a Paso bandit who had snuck into the Alvarez sector to settle a score with Parker. Dawn had spotted him drawing the vintage blaster to shoot Ramone in the back, according to the story told in the scout hotel, so she stepped up and put a .22 Derringer to the base of his skull where it met the spine. The small bullet dropped the bandit, the bandit dropped the gun and Dawn claimed it as her first legal salvage. She still had the Derringer in the top of of her left motocross boot. The only blade she carried, as far as Max could tell, was the machete on her left hip.

    Other than the two AKM's Ramone Parker had slung across his back, Max was hard pressed to find a weapon. Sly bastard, the Gila man thought, probably has that homespun armored duster lined with guns and grens. He wasn't wrong either. Ramone Parker, indeed, wore a coat of many secrets. In addition to a sawed off shotgun in one of the inside a special sewn-in holster on his left side, the trail experienced scout had a half dozen grenades in hidden pouches and a 9 mm machine pistol secured on a Velcro strap under the right arm. The thick duster had Kevlar and light steel plates riveted over vital areas of the torso and upper shoulders. The grey hair in his beard spoke to the wisdom of his road rough practicality. A weapon for every place, a place for every weapon. Max had no doubt of this man surviving this adventure, that much was obvious.

    Max assigned the sec men their watch duties and shelters after evening MRE's were distributed. Dawn and Ramone decided to sleep on the Corvette hood of their buggy, preferring the canopy of stars and open desert air over the cramped quarters of the elevated camouflage tents. The green and yellow Aurora Mexicali, as the people of the Chihuahua region called it, was casting its eerie glow on the desert. Max did a check around the camp before climbing into the rear of the sec wag to bed down. Gomez took the first shift in one of the elevated watch chairs. Max had shown the men how to load and operate the parachute flare launchers, which would light the surrounding area in the event that they did come under attack. Which did help the ville sec feel less anxious about the exposed position they found themselves in.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/30/2014 1:39 PM

    ___Fort Geronimo___

    "How you doing, Pico? You got enough AP in your mags?" Klash asked as he poured the last of their bug repellent into the wide, plastic lined trench that enclosed the thrice relocated camp site. The prisms growing from the salt flat surrounding the ruined complex below had tracked the two scouts each time they moved the shelter. The strange passivity of the solar attack left Klash dumbfounded. Pico grunted and shrugged as he thumbed rounds into the spare AKM magazines. His blank expression told Klash more than the grumbling affirmative. The man was touched, and that would bring the big chill to them both if shit hit the fan.
    Stepping behind the shaded wall of the six inch high platform, Klash pulled a leather bound card stock cover binder from an old medical satchel. He checked the tip of the pencil sandwiched between the tubewood pulp based pages before putting his thoughts to record.
    If the suns light and heat could be focused as a weapon in this manner, he noted across the brown paper of his journal, then why not choose to burn us to ashes? I am unsure if the salt is itself alive, or if it is just a tool for defense controlled by a mind within the ruined fort. Is this some attempt to communicate, these lights and heat cones that follow our every movement? I do not understand this place. What I have seen here is strange, frightening. But I cannot bring myself to abandon this place.
    Pico is still not all there, and drifts between mild usefulness and being a liability. I have never seen him so before, even when drunk. Every time I have had to break and set the camp, he has to be watched. He spaces out for minutes at a time and doesn't seem to be aware of the danger his episodes put us both in. Twice I have had to stop him wandering too far away from base, I think it will be wise to secure him to the shelter for the night. I thought he had recovered from the light show this morning, yet every time that the crystals have twisted their form to direct the ray to our camp, Pico is more unreliable .
    If we are attacked by more scorpions or some other horror from the Deathlands to the north that has wandered into the valley, I'm in a lot of trouble. We have used Alvarez's bug juice up filling the trench. I have set up the shelter to block the hypnotic beam that I am certain will be pointed us come sunrise.

    Pausing to consider his next words, Klash gave a glance to check on his Cuban companion. Only the AKM and a half dozen abandoned mags sat next to the ammo boxes in the center of the riser.
    "Santos on the ropes!" Klash cursed, setting down the stiff note book and yellow pencil. He had wandered off the camp site and was starting towards the ruins! How had Klash not felt something from his mutant senses of the fat man's departure?
    Again, the young scout had to drag his mentor and partner back to the platform. This time, Klash made Pico sit in the repositioned watch chair at the southeast corner of the shelter and used a bungee cord to tether him to the platform by his battle harness.
    "Do NOT attempt to untie this, Pico. We are in the shit and you are gonna get one or both of us eaten by muties if you don't pull it together." Klash vented unintentionally.
    "I'm sorry," Pico apologized "really."
    "I am as well, amigo. I am tired."
    "You are right... I should leave. Can I go home now?"
    The realization hit Klash like a brick bat. Who ever, what ever was directing the crystals was indeed trying to send a message. Klash climbed on the hood of the scout wag with his Druganov. It was going to be a long night.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    10/31/2014 3:59 PM

    ___Eighty-six miles northwest of Juarez___

    The main convoy followed the trail of wireless relay beacons left by Pico Martinez and the baron's son through the upended landscape of the eastern Sonora. The big rigs and their escort wags paused at the base of a mesa to set up camp on a large strip of surviving highway that Hector Munoz and his Painted Pony buggy crew had stumbled upon. The curved on ramp allowed the wags to sit above their surroundings in a semicircle, the open end faced toward the looming red and brown streaked mesa. Motor Chief Alvarez ordered sec men to set up sand bags for RPK machine blaster nests in an even spread around the camp to allow a healthy overlap of kill zones. While the sec men filled and set the defensive line, tech crews from the salvage team assembled a row of platform shelters. The scout teams patrolled perimeter for muties.
    The Sanchez construction workers unloaded the small earth mover to dig a temporary sewage trench behind a half buried billboard that had somehow managed to stay upright despite a century of shifting sands. Whatever advertisement it once wore on its front had long since been stripped away by the blasting winds and chem storms of the wasteland, leaving a corroding steel skeleton behind as a ghostly relic. Some of the steel looked like it might be useful, and if there was room on the return trip on one of trailers then perhaps the crew would have time to cut it up for transport back to the ville for reforging. The big stashes of prewar goods were fewer and farther flung with each passing season, the Council had concluded eight years before, and the race for raw materials and recyclables would soon begin between the despot barons of the Deathlands to the north and east.

    Don Guzman had advised his Baron that the time to start locking down as much steel, iron and aluminum as the ville scout teams could root out of the desert was now. Get ahead of the game beforehand, he had insisted, because the limited production shops of Juarez would be a target for the petty tyrant kings when the last salvageable hordes of old tech and consumer goods went away. The people of Juarez would have to fight even harder in order to hold on to the freedom that they had won. The stronger that they become, the better their chance to continue rebuilding a civilization of just laws amid the anarchy and murder of the north.
    Secrecy and stealth were hard for a ville to maintain, however. As careful as the scouts were, there had been severe threats to the ville because scout teams and their equipment had been captured by the enemy. When that happened, Baron Hadron sent out his Special Tactics Recovery (STaR) team out to deal with the issue. If possible, the six man sec team were to rescue the scouts- and many times they could. But, their primary mission was to recover the buggies and tech in order to prevent their secrets from being turned against them, which did create a level of resentment towards the STaR members themselves. That's why they started wearing masks to hide their identity, as the Mexican Narco squads did before the war. It let the men do the necessary deeds without anxiety over their and their families safety. Sometimes, it was required to chill the scouts if they could not be rescued. They also worked within the ranks as a military police, rooting out corruption and spies in the sec force. The knowledge that there were secret eyes watching for corruption or dereliction was enough to keep most people honest and on the ball. Treason was met with a quick but horrible death. The last two spies from Paso that STaR discovered were staked out at the northeastern most end of the recovered road about twenty miles from Juarez, a roving band of stickies had zeroed in on their scents and stripped them flesh to bone the second day. Needless to say, the Paso bandits were horrified and outraged.
    When the bandits learned of the huge convoy departure, they loaded up every motorcycle in the gang stable with as much juice, shells and homebrew explosive as they could scrounge. They road for broke all the way to the Sonora. If a bike broke down, the pack picked up the rider and left the cycle burning. When they saw the convoy camp setting up on the wind exposed highway, they cut their engines and waited for the sun to go down. The plan was to walk their bikes in as close as possible before detected, then they would ride in and blow them straight to hell.

    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    11/2/2014 2:24 AM

    The Motor Chief sat in the reupholstered executive chair in the command trailer, his brown eyes reflecting the amber glare from the row of computer monitors. The system that ran the engine optimization services program was old for Mexican army surplus even before the world caught fire. The trailer had a few cameras on the sides, but none of them had night vision or long zoom capabilities. If it had, then the Paso bandits would have been spotted in time, before they were able to slink in behind the camp.

    Hark Danby led his men silently through the dry creek bed. His gang lost eighteen bikes in the mad stampede to catch the hated Juarez convoy. An acceptable sacrifice if it meant paying back in blood for the six years of frustration the gang had endured since first discovering the booming ville. They had almost three hundred men on bikes back then. Now, they had sixty men, eighteen riding bitch the last hundred miles. Those men were the angriest of the lot. They volunteered to night creep in to play the part of saboteurs. It would have been great to create as much confusion and fear as possible. But as the bikers wove through the deeply cut trough, Hark caught something out of the edge of his vision and raised his hand thumb down to signal the gang to drop to their bellies.
    "Sam. Sam, get yer' ass up here an' gimme the scopes." Hark whispered "Now, you feeb shit droolie."
    A biker in a leather vest and prewar denims crawled next to the newest club prez and slid him the long night scope. The miscreant leader surprised the other gangers when he put it to his eye and pointed it at the mesa instead of the camp.
    "Well, don't that beat all.... "
    "What, Hark? What y'all see o'er there?" Sam asked as he squinted at the dark.
    "My new favorite mutie."
    "What's that?"
    "Shut up, you triple stupe. Fetch me that silver box what Ol' Jim got from that iron jawed freak he was dealing with 'fore he got butt raped by them scalies. I think I know what Jim wanted with it."

    Danby led his gang up the creek bed as far away from the camp as he thought was needed. He sat on a large rock and flipped the latch on the small case and opened the lid. Sitting in the special molded foam designed to protect against shock was a device that was as beautiful as it was mysterious to him just a week before. He had played with it a few times in the six months since he took on the burden of leadership. He thought it was some kind of noise machine meant to annoy dogs. It amused him, but he could not figure out why Ol' Jim had put it under guard until this moment. Jim had spoken to him about bats and how the strange creatures used sound to see in the dark. But Jim was always talking about unfathomable odd trivia after dealing with the freak. Now he understood the shiny gadget and its awful purpose.

    Hark called for Jim's daughter.
    "Mouse, come sit with me a sec. I want to talk at ya."
    A young woman in black BDU pants, a blue denim shirt and black leather vest quietly slid in next to him.
    "What ya want me to do, prez?" She cooed in his ear, "You got an itch I can scratch? Want it here now?"
    "No, darlin', this is about your dad and the freak. He had us do a lot of chillin' to get the doodad in this box. And I want you to have the honors, so get your night dress from out the bag and wash off all the war paint so you look more your age. Need you sweet and pure lookin.' for this run."
    "Where to?"
    "Right into the arms of your rescuers, girl, now get to it."
    Hark slapped her across the ass and winked at her.

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    DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, ROGUE ANGEL, ALEX ARCHER, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of GOLD EAGLE/Graphic Audio LLC, a division of RBmedia, and are used strictly under Fair use guidelines.