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Last Post 7/13/2015 11:36 PM by  Randarchist
Deathlands: Local Nonlocality
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Author Messages
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1/19/2015 10:18 PM
___The Harpy, Lab___

"Dirty pig fucking Deathlander scum!"
Lisa Hammond heard the aluminum furnishings smashing against the monitor, the walls, and the incoherent rage unleashed from the cyborg's screaming voice emulator from across the hall. Hell hath no fury, she thought, like a cyborg scorned.
The clatter of metal instruments being thrown continued for nearly a full thirty seconds more, but she decided to give her new mentor thirty more before crossing the hall. It was a terrible idea to consider, that a man of such physical power and calculated logic was still susceptible to being governed by the more primitive emotions of Man. On the other hand, it was a comfort to know that there was some weakness still that she could exploit if need arose.

She gathered her courage and straightened up her lab coat collar before rapping on the light door.
"Is something wrong?" Lisa asked.

The cyborg turned and stood facing the door before answering.
"Yes, come in."

As Doctor Hammond pushed the door open, she could see the anger in his human features. "I didn't anger you, did I?"

"No, Doctor." He told her. "I have been betrayed. I apologize for my outburst. One moment, please."
The cyborg waved and slid his fingers in front of a small flat computer screen, then snapped them twice. A white plastic wall panel slid open on the floor. From the recessed compartment, a small mechanical octopus climbed out and set about clearing the broken glass.

"That is amazing." Lisa said, eyes wide with fascination. The robot was only one foot tall, but the tentacles were five feet in length, their black and white plastic ring sections over and underlapped as they snaked across the floor, carrying the bulbous central body/head. "I never imagined that such things... I mean, I never hoped to see in my lifetime. I thought maybe in a hundred years time..."

"A hundred years is nothing." The cyborg interrupted her. "Come, it is time to send your friend on his first mission. Pico, follow."

Lisa looked over at the Cuban, his expression was blank, emotionless, cold even.

"What is wrong with him? He looks like he has been though a heavy regiment electroconvulsive treatments." She remarked, still staring at his eyes."

"Oh, please, my dear. We have much better methods than that. No. Our friend here is one of us now." The cyborg almost seemed to smile as he spoke. "And I have great hopes for him."

"I don't understand." Lisa said.

"You will, Doctor. And I believe that you will find this most entertaining." The cyborg laughed.
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1/22/2015 7:06 PM
The cyborg seemed very pleased with himself as he lead the way to the Harpy's main bridge, humming an upbeat tune as he walked up the six step riser to the command chair. The off white plastic walls were lined with flat screen display monitors and computerized work stations.
"I meant to ask, before we were... distracted," Doctor Hammond said, "if your airship was originally intended for a larger crew. It certainly looks like it was."

"Yes," the cyborg told her, "normally the Harpy would have a crew of two pilots, an engineering specialist, a communications tech and two weapons operators in addition to a few field scientists. But I am capable of each of those tasks, and the collective has been spread thin for years. Our slave drones have dwindled down to less than one hundred, so I decided to forgo any assistance in order to assure that the El Dorado facility had sufficient security and workers."

Lisa looked again at Pico, who stood just as blankly emotionless as before.
"Why, then, have you not acquired new slave stocks from closer to Catatumbo? Wouldn't that be more convenient than coming all this way?"

"A very good question, Doctor." The cyborg said. "We have made that mistake before, thirty years ago, and with disastrous results. We discovered that there is too small of a number of harvestable compatible genotypes left South of the Yucatan peninsula -a very small number too easily exhausted by our harvesting needs. The majority ended up useless blobs, unable to perform jobs other than menial labor, if they survived at all. The people of Durango, and thus Ville Juarez, on the other hand, have been exposed to the correct transgenic viri and remained isolated from the WRONG phenotypes until recently. Your hidden valley shielded your people, like an umbrella, from the unpredictability of the North America stocks. The Deathlanders of the former United States are too unstable, genetically speaking, and resistant to the Tabula Rasa process. We ended up with uncontrollable monsters."

"So," Lisa said, "we are the just right porridge from the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?"

The cyborg shook and laughed at her metaphorical comparison. "Oh, yes indeed, Doctor! Just right! I continue to be surprised and impressed by your grasp of the situation. Now, lets get our new friend suited up with some rain gear. I wouldn't want him to melt before he completes his mission. He has a lot of loose ends to tie up for us before the assault on Juarez begins."
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1/24/2015 12:50 PM

___Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela___

Even from six miles away, the Catatumbo lightning was an intimidating sight. Before the world wide cataclysm, purple to blue flashes of arcing plasma lit the sky for up to ten hours starting after dusk from April to November. But for the last hundred years, the storms raged year round. The secretive El Dorado facility had been built, originally, to study the phenomenon and investigate it's potential use as a high energy source; but it would not be until nearly a decade after the war that the surviving science teams found the means to harness the lightning -far too late to be of use to the half dozen energy companies that collectively provided the two billion dollars in shadow funding.
Nearly five hundred scientist and engineers participated in the project, living in the subterranean micro city with their families for two years before the bombs fell and the world went black. Despite tectonic upheaval, climatic chaos and general nightmarish realities of the post apocalyptic world, the facility came through virtually unscathed. The megastructure had been built to withstand the primal destructive forces from within and without, surrounded by a large particle collider buried two hundred feet below the surface. Natural resources in the immediate area were plentiful, including uranium. Indeed, every basic resource to survive and live well was present. But survival was not enough for the facility administrators and scientists. The three way marriage of corporate ambition, unrestricted scientific curiosity and gradually increasing militarism had produced a monster.
The first generation of residents born in the collective had adopted a militant philosophy after their initial attempts to reach out to the ravaged communities near the Columbia/Venezuela border drew crews of pirates and other reavers to the Maracaibo basin. Hundreds of people had gathered and formed refugee communities along the lake shores, all hoping to make a new start for a better society, only to be butchered by the cold hearted raiders seeking plunder and slaves. The white coats and white collars agreed, the world was beyond saving and they would have to clean the slate in order to bring the world to right. But the more information that they had gathered about the state of the world, the more they realized that the dream of restoring it was a lost cause. Instead of struggling against a poisoned world that may never be tamed, a theoretical physicist named Professor Vittorio Laszlo proposed, they should set their sights on starting civilization anew on a new world. The administrators and scientists found the idea inspirational, revelatory even, and put it to a vote to let the people of El Dorado decide. It was an almost unanimous affirmative, and they collectively decided that no matter what the cost, they would succeed.

There were barriers to overcome, the greatest one being manpower. In order for the collective to devote themselves to the project, the citizen scientists must free themselves of manual tasks like food production, facility maintenance and security. The solution came in the form of slavery. The slave labor force needed to accomplish this, however, would have to be controlled completely lest they overthrow the collective. They would have to remove the ability to rebel from the slaves, wipe away their sense of individuality and will.

The clique of biology focused scientist provided the means: the Tabula Rasa process. Slave subjects whose family lines had been exposed to certain bioweapons could be genetically altered, their minds cleared, memories wiped away and then rewritten to suit whatever assignment was at hand that day, as many times as needed. The only problem with the plan was that there were too few potential slaves with the correct transgenic signature; or so they believed until one of their scouting teams found the hidden valley in Durango ruled by the Milagros family. Luckily, the baron was more than willing to sell his own people out. A most fortuitous turn of events for the El Dorado collective. That was, as it happened, until those people overthrew Baron Milagros. 

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1/24/2015 8:03 PM
Within the next twelve to thirteen hours, all of those issues would be put to rest, and the rebel soon to be slaves would be subjugated by the fleet of five cigar shaped, rigid airships anchored inside the aerodrome. The blue and white Kevlar backed skins of the Kraken, Manticore, Hydra, Medusa and Hades could resist the small arms fire of any Ville Juarez defenders not rendered harmless by the sleep gas bombs. If the Harpy did manage to make it for assault, all the better, the collective would be able to carry even more captives back for processing into biodrones. The psychologists predicted that the leftovers would try to make it back to their Durango hideaways. They would be gathered up later, after the first batch of drones was combat ready in a few months.

Inside the hangar, biodrone ground crews were loading light weight, eggshell thin bomb casings onto the outboard drop racks in preparation for the coming battle -not that there would be much resistance if all went as planned. The unsuspecting people of Juarez would most likely never know what hit them until it was far too late. The collective had a spy for the past few years setting the groundwork for the late night invasion. The Catatumbo collective victory was definitely a given considering that just over a third of their security forces, the best of them at that, had been sent out to be slaughtered in a trap that Administrator Crawford - a cyborg scientist who had been given command the Harpy to conduct espionage against the rogue ville - had sprung upon them. The drones, of course, were unable to appreciate such details and planning, but the few hundred citizens of the collective absolutely delighted in the reports Crawford wrote.

The drone pilots and security crews were the last to load into the wide cargo bays, they would be ordered into sleep mode for the journey. Each was issued a blue light body armor suit, a tranquilizer dart rifle and tasers capable of knocking down even the largest, toughest mutants that the Juarez Barony had allied itself with. Featureless, metallic blue helmets covered their heads and faces even when they were not going into combat -the blank, colorless faces of processed biodrones upset the younger children, and made even their master's skin crawl at times.
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1/25/2015 11:31 AM
After the armored biodrone soldiers strapped themselves to their seats, the ground crews crossed the beige colored plascrete floor of the aerodrome to a large platform elevator shaft at the rear of the hangar. The steel grated elevator lifted up through the opening with ten white armored overseers aboard. Each had tasers on their belts and tranquilizer pistols in shoulder holsters. The El Doradans all wore open faced blue and white helmets that were more ornate than those worn by the drones, with gold tinted mirror goggles to protect their eyes on a thick elastic band, each numbered one through ten.

The ground crew drones made a slight bow as their enslavers passed. It was a programmed response, unnecessary given that the biodrones were genetically incapable of anything but total subservience, but it made the masters feel more in control.
"You are dismissed." The lead overseer told them. "Report to reprogramming."
The coverall clad drones nodded and filed onto the elevator platform.
The overseers strode confidently to their assigned airships and up the loading ramps, which folded closed behind them.

The nine-hundred foot long behemoth crafts detached from the moorings once the overseer teams took their seats. The wishbone shaped rear cargo gondolas wrapped around the bottoms of the cigar shaped, sectionalized lift bags creaked softly then settled on their mounting clamps. Though none of the overseers would admit to anything less than total confidence in the engineering, each had held their breath as the floating airships balanced and adjusted to the newly created cargo pods. There had been only minimal testing of the attachments, and this would be the first long distance operation. There was no way of knowing what would happen once the bays were loaded with their human cargo. Questions about the stability and balance would have to be addressed when they arose. Virtual training for the overseers had been used, the biodrone pilots and soldiers had been programmed to the maximum capacity with scenarios and contingencies: if A happens then B, if C happens then D or E, and so on. Mathematical models, strategic alternatives, all possible reactions had their own algorithm for coordinated response.

The Hades was the first vessel to clear the aerodrome hangar, followed by the Medusa, then Manticore, Hydra and finally the Kraken. The five giants rose slowly, deliberately, maneuvering with their enclosed
turbofans to comfortable distances, at different altitudes so that they had plenty of room to avoid collision. The Hades took the point position of the staggered V formation, leading them northward. The flight path would take them over the Gulf of Mexico at high enough altitude to make ground based attacks useless and detection unlikely. As Administrator Crawford had told them in his report, there was no community in North or South America capable of mounting a defense against high altitude bombardment. Victory was a forgone conclusion.

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1/29/2015 6:57 PM
___Fort Geronimo___

Max held the nylon ropes steady as Dawn centered herself over the elevator roof three stories below. The beams from their flashlights crisscrossed down the shaft, diffused by the heavy cloud of dust in the air.

Klash gave the anchor line a hard yank one final time and then asked Dawn, "You snapped, bro?"

"Yeah, lower me already. And stop looking at my tatas." Dawn told him with a wink, drawing a muffled snicker from Max.

"Don't flatter yourself," Klash told her, "I was making sure your harness wasn't too slack. Ok, let's do this."

Max let out the rope slowly, steadily lowering her down to the roof of the car until her full weight rested on her feet. The access hatch security bolts were heavily corroded, but strong despite a century of neglect. Dawn unhooked the short handle bolt cutters from her belt. She closed the hardened blades on one of the bolts and tried to squeeze the rubber coated grips together, but it did nothing except scratch the black and yellow striped paint. She tried a second time, pushing with one foot against the cement shaft wall. No dice. The bolts were tougher metal than the sharp cutters. She looked up and shook her head side to side.

"It is not regular steel, amigos." She called up to them. "This is definitely military grade."

"Titanium maybe?" Max asked.

"Maybe the bolts are, but the rest looks standard predark." Klash said.

"I bet it isn't Max proof." Max said and handed the rope to Klash. "Hold this for me, I got this." The mutant grinned and hopped up to the doorway just above the beam they were standing on.

"Hey Dawn," Klash yelled downward, "step over to the concrete ledge. Max coming down the hard way."

"Wha..?" Dawn started to ask then realized what was happening.

"I mean NOW!" Klash yelled to her.

"Oh fuck you guys!" Dawn cursed as she jumped to the narrow ledge.

"Mutant Mash!" Max screamed as he ran three steps and leaped high.
Max dropped straight down, legs straight and ready. He dropped like a stone towards the hatch door, his safety line trailing behind him like the tail of a comet.

Dawn cringed and held herself against the wall as close as possible.

Max impacted feet first with a thunder clap like BOOM, the sound echoed like a bomb up the shaft accompanied by the squealing of tearing metal. Dust billowed up the shaft, reducing visibility to mere inches.
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1/30/2015 7:46 PM
Up through the cloud of dust particulates, even through the baffling effect of her filter mask, Klash could hear Dawn cursing a steady stream of the most rotten tongued profanities, common and uncommon, in both Spanish and English. He also heard Max laughing when she was forced to stop for breaths.
It took nearly five minutes for the blinding cloud to settle down, but by then Max had the elevator door open to the sublevels. Thanks to his mothers training, Klash was able to 'see' well enough to climb down, pausing momentarily once he was close enough to detect that Dawn was silently weeping behind the thick layer of dust that coated her head to toe. Shit, he thought to himself, I am such an asshole.
"Dawn?" He asked, as he swung to the ledge next to her. Her mask was white from dust, her eyes invisible. "I'm sorry, ok?"

"No," her voice cracked, "it isn't ok. You don't get it, and you never will."

"Dawn," he started to apologize, but was cut off by Max.

"Sweet silver Santos!" The long bodied mutant called up to them, "You gotta see this! Get down here!"

"Just a minute, bro." Klash answered, then began to wipe the dust from the lenses on Dawns mask. "Dawn, listen, I know. I get it, believe me. And I am sorry for everything, not just this. I... I know how you feel, about me."

"Then why do you act so fuckin' clueless??" She said, voice still shaking. "Why do you never even..."

"Because I have to be careful. I will explain why, and I will listen, but right now we have to do our job, ok? I promise, ok?"

Dawn nodded and took a deep breath. "Ok. I'm good, let's do this."

Klash could see where Max had landed now, the security hatch and bolts held, but the elevator roof didn't. The hatch was laying on the floor, covered in debris. Max's safety line hung down through the impact busted hole less than a foot, the mutant had judged it perfectly.

Whatever momentary lapse in bitch attitude Dawn had been exhibiting quickly dissipated. She elbowed Klash in the ribs as she stepped to the edge of the elevator roof, her eyes tightened to angry little slots again. "Move. Asshat pretty boy."
Klash couldn't find it in himself to be offended, he knew that he deserved it.

After she unhitched her harness and dropped to the elevator car floor, her heavy boots clopped loudly on busted out hatch. Klash followed her down, but with less dramatic flash, he was content with the knowledge that there was still a human being inside the tough, hell on wheels indie scout. The harshness of their world had a nasty way of stripping away people's humanity, twisting them into self serving sociopaths over time and turning them into the worst versions of themselves. But, Klash had seen, even a Deathlander could be brought back from the degradation and barbarism if given the opportunity and right environment -Ramone Parker was proof of that.

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1/31/2015 1:49 PM
The glass walled hallway looked almost exactly as in the visions, except for the spiderweb of cracks on the surface of the triple thick panes. Every room was full of esoteric stainless steel scientific appliances and computer rack systems.
"By the four Donnas..." Dawn said, her look of astonishment hidden behind the gas mask.

"I think Parker may have had a point." Max announced. "We might be out of our depth on this, Klash."

"Don't you start that too." Klash told him. "As long as we are careful, we have nothing to worry about. Follow me, I know where to go. The visions told me."

"Oh," Dawn said, "well that makes me feel safe. You first, pretty boy."

Klash took the lead, with Max behind him and then Dawn. As they worked their way around the small maze of corners, past labs and computer rooms, the flashlight beams glittered on the fractured glass. The biocontainment vault was at the far end of the sublevel from the elevator entrance, left at the end of row one, right at the large lab, right at break room, then left after the wash station, Klash remembered the route perfectly. When they arrived at the security keypad, Klash pulled a large battery pack from his shoulder bag.

"I will only get one shot at this." Klash told them. "The magnetic locks will use the whole pack."

"We can go up and get more batteries." Max said.

"Not if the security system activates." Klash replied.

Dawn and Max watched nervously as he pried open the heavy plastic facing, attached two alligator clips to the two large power wires, then pushed the keypad sequence: 3-6-2-2.
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1/31/2015 5:24 PM
Juan Gomez drove the Rosanna buggy over the edge of the dune top and up to the edge of the ruins. Visibility through the chemical downpour was next to nonexistent, the jagged walls and decaying struts looked like dark blurs. Even with the environmental seals filtering the air, the industrial stench of the rain was nauseating. It seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong so far. At least the survey and salvage recovery convoy would arrive in a few more days, he would be able to wash the road stink off and have a change of uniform, he hated smelling like a gringo Deathlander. Once the site was looted and the salvageable goods loaded, they could all go back to Ville Juarez -probably just in time to pack up for the annual pilgrimage to Durango for winter. If the haul was large enough, he might even have enough trade tokens to take a month or two off from sec work, provided that no other major threats to the valley came up.

He had yet to take more than a week off duty in the five years he'd spent in the baronial service corps, not that Baron Hadron, Don Alvarez or the Motor Chief were slave drivers. His skill as a driver had won him a significant pay bump the last two years, which had helped his family in Rancho Ortega. His cousin Lupe was even talking about attending the Guzman technical school next season, she had a gift for computers.

Like so many families in the rancheros, they worked out in the fields and dreamed that they might one day have a bigger piece of the pie. Juan, like little Lupe, differed from his family on exactly what that dream was. Most of the family were born farmers with a talent and passion for agricultural work. Juan wanted to learn about wag and truck mechanics, he dreamed of the day he could scrape enough industry tokens to trade for the tools needed to begin an apprenticeship under one of the Alvarez mechanics.

While the rain popped and sizzled, Juan sat and waited, hoping that the freak storm would pass, daydreaming about how he would spend his share. He had already guessed that the rest of the group was sheltering in the ruins somewhere. They were mostly seasoned professionals at their jobs, except for Peter Vasquez, but the others would look out for him well enough.

No worries, he thought. Gomez figured nothing would be triple stupe enough to walk around in the acid rain, so there was not anything to watch out for. He didn't notice the rain suited figure approaching the Rosanna from behind. Boredom had set in, and sleep was definitely not far behind it.
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1/31/2015 9:17 PM
The cubicle maze was amazingly well preserved thanks to the thin, salty crust that had sealed the room from the elements. Ramone Parker and Hark Danby cleared the room of the few dried mummies while the others scavenged for furniture cushions. There was a good number, surprisingly enough, that had foam core stuffing and synthetic fibre covers, plenty to give everyone a soft place to rest. Hark let Mouse rest for a while, enough to recover from her brush with the big chill of the Reaper's claw, then took her aside to explain the facts as directly as possible.

"So we are gonna flip and join the Mexies?" Mouse asked. "Freak ain't gonna like that."

"Darlin' girl," Hark told her, "the Freak was never gonna let us go anyway. And sure as Nuke Day, he would chill us dead once he got what he wanted. Maybe worse than chill us. At least we got a chance if we do the straight and narrow with these people, tell them everything we can about his comin' and goin', help them throw a wrench in his engines."

"And you think that we won't end up on the bastard end of a noose in Juarez after what we done? Where you get that notion, Harker Danby?"

"Parker, the other Deathlander. He done worse, so did a lot of 'em under their previous baron." Hark answered. "I love you, Mouse, and I am gonna make sure that damned machine man can't hurt you. I'll die first."

"Oh, Hark. I love you so much right now. Daddy chose right for me, I know that for sure."

"C'mon," Hark said and took her hand. "we got stuff to deal with our new friends. Parker says that they are the best folks he ever could have hoped for, and that is better'n we deserve."
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2/1/2015 8:33 AM
The keypad beeped once. The LED light flashed green. There was a set of simultaneous clicks as the locks on the vault opened.

Klash stood up and gave the door a push. It swung open.

They all stood silent for a long moment, waiting for any sign that the century old security system had activated. They all felt the tension melt as seconds passed without event. Nothing.

"Okay," Max finally spoke, " I think you did it right. Now what?"

"Come on, it's this way." Klash said as he stepped through the door.

There was no dust, no fine layer of salt in the vault. Steel tube racks on either side of the room held cylindrical tanks labeled with faded bar code stickers. Klash walked to the rear of the room, eyes fixated on the large cylinder bristling with hoses and wires.

"It looks like a freezie tank," Dawn observed, "only bigger. What is this thing, man?"

Klash wasn't listening, he was completely transfixed by the shiny steel cylinder. He felt the presence of the crystal beings, though they did not show themselves. There was no power going to the device. Klash would have felt the electromagnetic field, even through the insulation covering the wires.
He touched the tank with his hand, he sensed something familiar, something like a reunion of long lost family. He froze cold and stiffened at the thought.

"Oh no, no, no..." He whispered, hand trembling as he slid his palm over the surface.

Max took a step back.

Dawn stepped forward.
"Klash, what's wrong?" She asked.

"This is all wrong." Klash said. "The power is off."

Max didn't have the kind of mutant sense that Klash possessed, but he could tell that there was another presence near by. Several creatures of great power surrounded them, he could feel it in his bones. He also felt a familiarity, but in a more removed manner than Klash. This place of mystery held more than one secret, but that was as much as he could tell. He felt the minds of the crystal beings focus on him, they seemed pleased with him, he knew that but not why.

Klash was muttering beneath his mask to himself, both hands shaking now as he knelt beside the control box and flipped the red switches up, one after the other, from the left to the right.

Dawn had no idea what was going on, but she knew it was not right. She turned to look at Max, who was now backing up toward the door.
"You guys are freaking me out. What is going on, you guys? Klash? Max? Hello?"

"I'm okay," Max told her, "but we are not alone here. THEY are watching, waiting."

"Who?? Dude, you both are talking some deep shit that I don't get. You guys are creeping me out. Klash, what is going on? Klash, talk to me." Dawn spoke strongly, forcefully. "Klash, pull it together!"

"No, this isn't right." Klash said, then he pulled a screwdriver from a cargo pocket and jammed it into the seam of an access panel next to the switch on the left. The metal access plate clanged loudly on the white ainte cement floor. There was a disconnected power coupling in the small rectangular shaped space. Klash pushed the male and female six prong plug ends together, the steel cylinder made a long low pitch tone followed by a four second humming sound.

"Klash," Max said, his hand reaching for the Makarov n his left shoulder holster, "there is something going on here. Your new friends may have left you out of the loop on the details."

"I know, Max," Klash said, "but this is often the case with allies, is it not?"

Dawn looked at them both and asked, "What is that supposed to mean, Klash? What the fuck is going on with you two?"

"Ask HIM!" They both answered in unison.

Dawn felt a cool streak of terror creep up her spine as the cylinder tank hissed. The overlapping containment plates slipped away from the thick glass tank inside, she held her breath instinctively. The curved chamber was full of white mist, she guessed that it was a cryogenic mixture. Klash grabbed the handle nearest the control switches and tried to force the lid open. It wouldn't budge. He jammed the screwdriver under the lip and tried to pry it open, but it made no difference.

"Max, give me a hand. The cover is stuck." Klash explained, "I think some moisture got trapped at the edge."

Reluctantly, Max stepped up to the side and grabbed a second handle. As they both strained, Dawn could see the bulging muscles under Max's thick mutant hide swell with tension. The glass cover creaked, then there was a popping noise like the opening of a wine bottle, the seal released and they both jumped back a few feet to avoid the out rushing gases.

It was empty.

"I understand now. I know what they were trying to tell me." Klash said to Max. "It was right in front of me, obvious to the point of unbelievability."

"What does that even mean? Max, do you know what is going on? I'm fucking lost here." Dawn begged, "Would somebody explain this shit to me, please?"

"Dawn, hush. Max, go to the glass cabinet over on the end and look at the bottles. Take a good look." Klash said as he picked up a medical bottle on the table next to the cryonic chamber.

"Glass bottles, rows of them. Some are missing, but they have labels with pictures of animals: bugs, birds, this looks like an octopus and," Max paused and his shoulders slumped, "and reptiles. The Gila. Great Mother!"

"Exactly!" Klash said.

Dawn shook her head quickly. "What?"

Klash held the bottle up to Dawn, it had a picture of a small beetle over a biohazard symbol next to a bar code. "See? This is what they were doing here. This species of beetle is resistant to radiation, even more so than the dammed roaches. This is what she was given. She was put in cryosleep long enough for the transformation to complete. And then she went out to seed the desert, the survivors, before returning to the chamber for long cold naps."

"Who? Who are you talking about" Dawn asked.

Klash stuck the bottle a thick cargo pocket on his belt. "My mother."
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2/1/2015 7:38 PM

A thump echoed up the elevator shaft, out the open doors where Klash, Max and Dawn had descended. Peter Vasquez barely heard it, but it was definitely not a good sound as far as he was concerned. Ramone had told him to sit on his foraged cushions and keep an ear out for any sound of the scouting party's return, as he told him, 'while the adults were talking'. Somehow, the female outlander qualified as an adult, even though she couldn't be more than a year older than him -a fact that did cause him to feel a not small amount of resentment. But it was what it was, and Peter wanted to be a team player.

"Hey," Peter called out across the cubicle maze, "something weird is going on. Mister Parker, sir, I heard something loud down there."

"Okay, son," Ramone answered, "be right there. Good job!"
Ramone turned to the two Deathlander newcomers and put his hands on their shoulders. Peter couldn't hear what he said, but the two of them nodded and handed their guns over to Mike Corona.

Ramone Parker was a bit of a living legend in the ville, every bit as respected as any officer in the sec force. Now Peter could see why. The man was not just an experienced scout and warrior, he also exuded the authority of a leader when need arose. He had taken charge of the situation, despite his own misgivings about the burried white coat facility, as soon as the chemical storm had hit, making sure that even the strangers were safe before he jumped down through the hole. He was definitely a hero, even if he would never consider himself such.
"What's going on, Peter?" He asked.

"I heard a thump from way down, like maybe from the bottom, I think." Peter told him.

"Was it like an explosive thump, or a cave in thump?"

"It wasn't explosive, it was hard to tell, but was a crash sound like metal, kind of like a wag crashed into a wall. Are we gonna go down after them?"

Ramone looked down the shaft and shook his head. "No, we are already pushing the limits of Klash's deal with the locals being in here."

"But," Peter said, "that's not our fault. If not for the black rains we would be topside still. They gotta know that, right?"

"Yeah, kid," Ramone told him, "and from what Klash told, it's probably why they are tolerating us being this far in their territory. So unless circumstances dictate otherwise, we are going to stick to the letter of the deal as Klash told us. Cross that bridge if we get there, if we have to, but you sit tight here, keep your ears open."

"Yes, sir. I'll do my best." Peter promised.

"Good man, Peter. Good lookin' out."

Ramone gave him an approving pat on the arm and went back to discuss whatever business he had with Mike and the scavie couple.

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2/16/2015 10:35 AM

Klash sealed to steel sarcophagus and disconnected the power couplings. The LED's blinked out. Dawn and Max waited quietly at the elevator, ready to begn the climb back to the upper floors. The laboratories had yielded a number of salvaged treasures for them: stainless steel backpack cases with laptop computers still in their plastic packaging, medical kits full of basic first aid supplies, small medical and scietific electronic devices that none of the had a clue as to their purpose. Klash had told them to take only what they could climb with, but to choose carefully because there would be no coming back. Not for them, not for anyone. The survey and recovery mission was a scrub. The site was occupied, protected, and the natives would tolerate no further incursions.

Klash exited the main lab and started for the exit, then he felt the presence of the crystal beings close in. His sensory hairs tugged slightly, then his ears picked up a crackling of footsteps behind him.

"I know you are there." he said, turning to face his hosts.

Along the corridor, in the glass walled clean rooms and in the break room they stood silent, unmoving, like statues. There was a horrific quality to their strangeness, but also a beauty. They looked like cut, clear, faceted crystal in the general shape of men and women -as if a sculptor had left them rough and undefined. In the center of each torso and through the limbs was a wet looking, pinkish tangle of what appeared to be nerve tissues, winding and twisting ther way to the head, to a dimly glowing brain wrapped in pulsing tendrils.
"Santos on the ropes..." Klash stuttered, his voice weak from the shock from seeing their impossible, alien physiology. "What are you? How do you exist?"
He felt their answer: We are, we protect.

They spoke to him again without words, he understood the electrochemical pulses. They would allow his companions to take what they had and go. They wanted him to return again with his mother. But nobody else. Never again.

"I know." he said, "I understand. I will ask her."

No, they imparted to him, she was to return.

"You already know her," he told them, "and you know there is no making her do anything. But I will try. If she won't come, I will return and we can work something out."

There was a long series of fast communications between them.

They answered him: Yes, go and return.

"I will. Thank you."

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2/19/2015 5:02 PM

The climb back up the shaft took a lot longer than the descent. Twice along the way they had to stop, pry open a set of elevator doors to rest. Max brought up the rear, collecting the light climbing ropes along the way. As they reached the last set of climbing ropes, Klash sensed the presence of Ramone Parker and the others who had taken shelter from the black deluge of acid rains. He also sensed the faint impulses of the glass men, ever watchful, always close enough to make their wishes known to him. It was not a threatening presence, not menacing, just a reminder that they were aware of his movements and actions.

"Parker and the others are in the cubicle room." Klash told Dawn and Max.

"Ramone?" Dawn asked, pausing to lift out the bottom of her mask and allow some of the accumulated sweat to drip from under the chin. "What the fuck are they doing in there?"

"Maybe," Max told her, "muties attacked, those scorpions. It is the migration season for them."

Klash looked at him and shook his head. "No. They all seem pretty relaxed now. And I doubt that they would have led the monsters down here for a fight. Parker knows enough to not get into a close quarters with the iron shells. Something else drove them into the pit. Let's get up there and find out."

Max and Dawn nodded and then the three of them continued up the last leg of the climb. Klash spotted the head of Peter Vasquez peek over the edge, who quickly disappeared again.

"It's them! Mister Parker, they're back." He heard the young Sec man cry out. 

Ramone leaned into the shaft and waved a few seconds later. 


"Hey down there." Ramone called down to them.


"Parker," Klash yelled back, "I thought you said that there was no way you were coming down here? What changed your mind?"


"Black rains, my lord. Came out of a cloudless sky." Parker reported, "And there's been a new wrinkle in the plan, boss."


"You don't know the half of it." Klash said.


"What?" Ramone yelled.

Klash lifted his mask after taking a deep breath and called back up the shaft, "Just hold on. We'll be right up."

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2/28/2015 1:42 PM

After the three elevator shaft spelunkers had the above ground situation explained to them, they took time to rest after the nearly thirty story climb from the sub level labs. Hark Danby and Ramone Parker were in a side office for nearly a half hour, having a private confessional of their own. Klash had selectively edited his explanation as to why there would be no salvage operations, to only a few grumbled complaints. As soon as the storm passed, he informed them,  they were going to pack up the camp site and back track to the convoy. That was when Ramone and Hark sprang the news on them that they convoy was, in fact, not going to make it. They all listened in stunned horror as Hark explained his (mostly) honest history with the cyborg mystery man that the Paso Park bikers called 'The Freak', of the giant bat attack, the destruction of their friends and the motor fleet of wags and buggies. 

"So, give me one good reason," Dawn said as she started to pull a pistol from her shoulder holster, "why we don't blow your fucking brains all over this salty assed carpet right now."

"Put it away, Dawn." Klash ordered as Ramone stepped between her and the bandits. "This is not the time."

"What?? Are you fucking kidding me?" Dawn protested, "If there ever was a time to kill a mother fucker it's..."

"No," Ramone interrupted, "Klash has a point. They didn't have to come out to us this way,they could have stuck to plan. Besides, it's not like worse things have not been done by the Juarez sec in the past."

"Dude!" Dawn yelled at her partner, "That was a long time ago, and it was under Milagros, before the revolution."

"Snap it, Rodriguez." Klash ordered, the time for informal tones was over in his mind. "Hark, Mouse, you are going to be confined for now. You will be taken back to Juarez, as prisoners."

The bikers nodded sheepishly and complied. They knew that there was no fighting their way out alive.

"Ok." Hark agreed.

Klash found an empty office with a heavy wooden door, then ordered Peter and Mike to confine the two bikers inside until after the storm passed. "Take shifts of four hours each until we can climb out of this hole. They will be taken back to Juarez. My father and the council of Dons will decide their fate."

"Klash," Ramone tried to reason with him. "We might need them if there are any more mutie problems, and there are things about this cyborg Freak that still might be learned from Mr. Danby. Important things."

"I am sure of that, Parker. And that is the only reason I haven't had Vasquez and Corona take them in a back ward and execute them. I need you to keep the others in line and doing busy work for now, Ramone, so that nobody kills those two idiots before we get home. I know you have seen and done the worst. I have heard everything from my father about what you, Pico and the other older men of Juarez did. Everything. That is why I am protecting those two from the others. The days of ad hoc justice in Juarez are long over, my friend, and there is more that I can't go into right now. I am tired, all of us are, so let's just keep the lid on it until we get out of this cluster fuck."

"Yes, my lord." Ramone agreed, then asked "What do you think your father will do to them?"

"That depends," Klash told him, "on how much information they can supply us."

Ron Miles
Website Owner
Commander In Chief
Commander In Chief

3/20/2015 7:15 AM
(note: this post was originally lost during the server migration, but recovered here)

The hours seemed to drag by at a snails pace. Klash forbade a deeper exploration, but there was plenty of medical and office related loot for everyone to fill up their pockets and packs. There were four closets full of packaged pencils, paper clips and staples alone, but most of the electronics had heed ruined by the salt coating. Ramone and Max found two laptops in secure cases, still in their plastic, much to their delight. Klash, however, was uninterested in any personal slavage. The revelations he had uncovered in the sub-level labs weighed heavily on him, and no material consolation was going to relieve him of the heavy burden of the truth: his mother had played them all for years.

Was any of it real? All of the moral feeling, the civilized behaviors, the manners and idealism that they had felt... was it all a manipulation, a cover for her own social experiment? He couldn't help but wonder if any of that sense of community was genuine, their own choice, or if it was just a neurochemical glamour imposed upon the people of Ville Juarez and the Durango ranches? It was a seed of doubt, gnawing at his brain like an invading parasite.

Dawn, who was already carrying a full load of scavenged electronics and medical kits that she had pilfered from the labs, was the only one who noticed that he had withdrawn to one of the empty cuicle spaces and was ony pretending to write on one of his tattered notepads. She poked her head up over the flimsy divider and watched him, she couldn't help but want to reach out and tussle his shoulder length black hair.

"You got a lot on your shoulders, amigo. Making you look like an old man." She said, trying to tease him into a smile.

"Yeah," Klash responded with a nod, "I have a lot to consider."

Dawn walked around the divider and sat on the floor next to him, leaning against his shoulder.
"Klash, you think too much about things you can't change. You worry too much about everything you should have or could have done better. You feel things, I know, things that most people learned to turn off in this world and you sense things that nobody else can... it's a gift, a beautiful gift."

"It's a curse, Dawn. I don't just watch something die, I feel it die. Every mutant monster, evey bandit and Deathlands cold heart that I have seen shuffle off to the grave. Mother taught me how to push past it, but now I question why she did any of it."

"Well, you are going to have to ask her when you see her. But for now, we are stuck in a hole in the ground and I think you should find something else to think about for a while..." Dawn smiled and grabbed his hand, it shook at her touch. "I am not going to bite you, idiot. Just hold my hand for a bit, see how that feels."

And then it happened. Klash looked at her with all of his senses and wasn't able to resist what he had held back for years, what he was afraid to show her. He leaned in, and she leaned in too, the kiss that he had always wanted, that she had hoped would come, and it was electric.

Dawn raised her hand and put it to his cheek. Here he was, one of the deadliest snipers in the barony, a combat mechanic and scout who had faced the worst monsters that the northern wastes had spit out, and a kiss filled him wih so much fear. She understood his fear, however, because the world was tooth and claw, bullet and blade; a world that left little room and gave no quarter to the deepest kind of loves. This was not mere physical attraction, what he showed for her, not like the dozen or so grubby hands that had pawed at her before, eyes only on her body or her angelic cheek bones. No. He looked her directly in the eyes, with understanding of who she really was underneath the black boots and tough demeanor. She could tell that he saw into her on a level that went beyond her beauty and her body. This young man had been loving her and afraid of that love for a long time, she realized. Finally, it was expressed in one warm, hidden moment.

Klash pulled away slowly, embarrassed almost. "We should check on the others..." he tried to excuse himslef.

"Okay," Dawn whispered and smiled, "but we are not done with this."

She didn't need to tell him, she knew, she fellt; they didn't need words for both of them to understand just how powerful that moment had been for them both.


"Sadly then I knew the answer. All her life she was a dancer, but no one ever played the song she knew." - The Residents
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7/7/2015 4:20 PM
The killing rains eventually subsided, Hark Danby and Mouse were cuddled in a corner where they had put two salt crusted desks and a table together to form a makeshift bed. It wasnt the worst place that Hark had slept in his years of wasteland raiding, but it was a far cry from the down stuffed oversized matress that he and Mouse had shared since he took over leadership of the Paso Park gang. Didn't matter now, he knew, in all likelihood he and Mouse would soon be spending their limited days in the Ville Juarez jail awaiting justice. Hark had no illusions about Klash being able to stave off his fathers fury and the collective vengeance of the people that his gang ad been at war with for years now. Maybe, just maybe, he could throw himself on altar of sacrifice, own his crimes and sins, exchange his admissions and plead the mercy of the baron to spare Mouse- fates willing.

"Hark," Mouse whispered in his ear, "I hear them soft-talkin'... the rain stopped. They sent the youngest up with Hadron and that skinny bitch to check it out."

"Shh, now." Hark squezzed her close to him and kissed her forhead. "Keep your ears on 'em, baby, and your yap shut."

Mouse nodded and cocked her ear towards the office door to the main foyer where the Juarez warriors were packing up their loot, readying to climb out of their shelter.
Hark stared at the aged ceiling tiles. All of his thoughts were starting to gravitate towards survival, to think of a way to talk or fight their way out in case the barons son changed his mind. Of all of the company they had taken up with since arriving at the ruins, Ramone Parker was the one that he feared, the one man that he knew would not blink an eye. Parker had made that all too clear. The road hardened soldier also could their salvation too. It was typical of his life, the one who he was most threatened by was also his bet shot at survival. A good, bad man.

About half an hour had passed before Mouse heard the returning soldiers. "It's them, they ain't sounding happy... woder what's..."

"Danby, you two get out here now. We got a question for you." Ramone Parkers voice came through the door.
"Shitfire..." Hark muttered under his breath, "that ain't the voice of a happy man."

Hark slipped his boots on, then stretched before walking to the door. "Gather the bundle up before you come out, grab anything else that looks pretty. We might use it to trade later."
Mouse looked at him like he was a few rounds short of a full magazine. She was no fool, this was probably going to be their last day alive, but she complied.

As Hark opened the door, it was obvious that something was very wrong. All of their faces were dark, a definite sign that their situation had gone far South. He surveyed them carefully, quickly. They were not in an angry posture, but their body language was broadcasting something dire.

"Klash, Mr. Parker, what ya'll need to know?" Hark asked, trying to sound as sincere in his concern as possible.

Klash Hadron stepped toward him and spoke plainly, without emotion. "We need to know, are you sure that nobody else in your gang survived, maybe followed you here?"

Hark tilted his head in genuine confusion. "What? Of course I'm sure. I watched them all die. Mouse and I were the only ones who got out of there alive."

"Okay, now," Klash responded, a serious look on his face, "time for bad news. We went topside and found a skeleton on the ground. It was pretty melted down, but the dog tags showed it was our man. His chem gear was torn up and whoever did it drug him out into the damned rain. There was shattered plexiglass pieces on the ground and the Rosanna, my buggy, was gone. The Parker Special has also been sabotaged. Engine wiring yanked, batteries busted with a hatched or tire iron, fuel pump smashed... it is not going anywhere either. The shelter had also been raided, the chem proof panels were shredded."

Hark was legitimately stunned. "What does that mean?"

Ramone Parker spoke up, "It means that Freak fella' has stolen the only way we had out of here and left us to the mercies of our hosts. And, seein' as how they wanted us gone yesterday, that means we are all cluster fucked together."

"Maybe not." Hark said.

"What do you mean by that?" Klash demanded.

Hark quietly smiled for a moment then said, "I couldn't help notice that wag o' yours is based on a Humvee chasis, right Parker?"

"Yes, the main cabin, the undercarriage and some of the parts for the engine were modfied to fit with that big 12. Why?" Ramone asked.

"Was the fuel pump from a Humvee, by any chance?"

"Yeah... but I don't have a spare and the nearest store is 100 plus years out of business." Ramone said, disgusted.

Hark grinned like a stickie in a hen house. "Well, you only need one, not a whole store. Mouse and I know where one is, but gonna need some of your fuel and a lttle trust to get to it."

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7/7/2015 10:22 PM
___Ft. Geronimo, Topside___

Klash was the last one to climb up from the hole. Despite protests from Dawn and Mike Corona, it was decided that the newcomers weapons would be returned to them. Peter and Mike assisted with burying the remains of Juan Gomez, with the younger reciting a short prayer for the dead that he had learned growing up at the orphanage.
There was no time for a long funeral ceremony, survival would count every second and would be unforgivingly cruel if too many were wasted on lamentation for their fallen friend. Harker Danby and Klash were gathering supplies and food stores from the camp. Those, at least, had been spared from the murderers wrathful attentions.

It was mid-morning already and the sun was only partly obscured by the chemical green and yellow clouds blowing in from the western desert. After taking inventory of the supplies and ammunition, Mouse sat down with Hark and Klash to plot routes for the log hike to the abandoned ranchero. Hark did his best to describe the malformed horrible cat-bug-things.

"Sounds like coyote pack tactics."" Klash commented. "Circle and nip."

"Yeah, sorta," Hark agreed, "but one bite and you got moments before you go all looped to moon. Two nips and you are done."

"I hate them lil, shit stains." Mouse added, "We should burn the bastard things out."

"No, last thing we wantis to drive them into the dark recesses, they might come at us from shadows when we think we got 'em gone. And we sure don't wantthem cornered and desperate. We need to draw them out into a killzone we can control, then mop up the remains before we get ourselves into a box trap." Hark corrected her. His years spent as a scavenger had taught him a few things, hard lessons of blood and death.

"Good thinking, Danby." Klash affirmed. "Now, best I can tell, it will take us two days to track our way there, another two back, plus salvage time. We'll be stretching rations thread thin."

Hark shrugged. "No offense, partner, but I think that it shoud just be me and the mutie. Your people need you to keep them together and I think he is gonnabe the best bet for all of us."

"None taken," Klash conceded, "And I think you are probably right. OK, Danby.Let's run it by Max then."

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7/8/2015 1:48 PM
___The Painted Pony, Six hours previous____

Jen Gutierrez had slept on rough canvas cots in poor quarters during training. She had slept in washed out gullies on beds of uneven rock slabs on a few salvage runs. She even slept sittting at post during a two day seige by mutant tribesmen her first year on the wall. But sleeping sitting upright in a buggy during a chem storm was the worst. The storm had blown in on them fast, barely affording Hector the time to thow a set of fitted, silicate treated plastic sheets over the horse hide covered Baja before the onsought of black acid rains engulfed heir makeshift camp site.
Every inch of her back was sore, her legs felt like cold dead wood.

Hector was leaning against the leather wrapped wheel, snoring quietly when the rain subsided and the first light of golden yellow morning tipped over the eastern horizon. The view through the whitish plastic sheeting obfuscated the world into splotchy blobs of color, making the sunrise look like a faded old print of some pre-war oil painting. The creases of their protective tent still had a few drops of black rain clinging to them, creating tiny orbs of rainbow colored dew when the early rays shone through from behind them. It would all evaporate soon and the parched ground would soak the chemicals in. This is why nothing grows normal up here, Jen thought, this human corrupted filth poisons everything.

"Hector," She said, poking him in the shoulder, "Hey, caballero, wake up. Sun up and rain gone, and I gotta pee!"

Jen started to push on the plastic to climb out of the buggy. She had held her bladder through the storm and now it was becoming painfully heavy in the cramped up cabin of Hectors buggy.

"How do I get out of this? Hector, I gotta go, bro. BADLY."

"What? No, wait. Wait a sec." He warned, "You don't know what you are doing..."

She shot him annoyed look. "Nature calls, man!"

"Me too," Hector told her, pressing the realease for the starter, the engine rumbled to life instantl, "but look down, chica, look at the mud!"

Jen pushed the plastic sheeting out with her right hand and poked head out through the window to peek at the ground. The mud crawled and oozed with tiny opaque splotches.
"Oh, Holy Mother! What are they??"

"Leopard mite colonies, stirred up by the chemicals. You go stepping into the mud and track them inside my buggy, we will both be spotty in a day. And since we are out this far in the bush, we don't have enough Alvarez bug juice to get rid of them if we got infested."

"Ugh, gross! Hate those things. Had them once as a kid. Momma had to have Sanchez crews sterilize the house. They burned the furniture in the yard." Jen bounced slightly in the seat and complained, "Seriously, though, I REALLY gotta heed the call, Hector."

The engine was warming up now, so Hector engaged the clutch and put thePony in low gear. "Yeah, me too,but hold up a little bit longer so I can get us up on that high ground."

"Okay, then do it, pronto." Jen grunted at him.

The chemical soaked mud was already starting to firm, so the Painted Pony had no trouble at all pulling out and up onto the rocky flat hill. "Look first!" Hector warned her a second time. "Is the ground dried up here yet?"

Jen pushed the plastic out and away and checked before climbing out. "Yes,, but not for long!"

Hector chuckled then started pulling the protective cover away on his side. It had been a long night for both of them.

After they had both found relief, they took a few minutes to stretch their legs and shake off the stiffness of sleep. Hector was used it, so recovered quickly. Jen took a bit more time, which didn't bother Hector. Wall Security, especially turret gunners, had the unwavering respect of every memeber of the community.
Hector pulled out a yellowing map of Old Mexico from the small backpack behind his seat and checked his compass.. He had a good idea on his bearings, but it was good to check when possible. As experienced as any scout or traveler may be, over confidence could lead to a mistake in navigation. Over a short distance, it was not so bad; but the longer the distance one traveled, the more that an error mattered. It wasn't just the time lost, it was the waste of fuel that could get a traveler stranded in the desert- a certain death sentence for even the best scavenger or scout.

"How much farther do you think we have, Hector?"

Hector pulled his pencil out, checked his time piece then opened his small notebook out to make a few calculations. "We are close. Hop up in the turret and look north to northwest then west, see if you can spot anything. I've got the position right, I think."

Jen climbed up the small hand and foot pegs on the passenger side of the Pony to the turret. There was a fine quality set of binoculars in a hide pouch next to the spindle mounted RPK machine gun. She pulled the lens covers off and raised the to her eyes. As she scanned across the horizon, the growing light made picking out landmarks a bit easier.
"Hey, you're right! I got something west by northwest of us.... it looks like... three bumps, barely there... but I see them alright. What is it?"

Hector smiled at the left corner of his mouth. "Three sisters. We are almost there. Keep looking, watch what happens."

Jen kept her eyes on the bumps."What am I looking for?"

Hector marked notations and leaned into the Pony, adjusting a set brightly marked rings on the dash navigational compass.

"Oh wow! Hector..." She started, but was amazed at what her eyes beheld.

"Keep watching, describe it to me." Hector smiled broadly now. He already had a good idea of where they were, but it kept her busy and allowed him to make a few last minute notes and adjustments.

"The ground is turning white, Hector. And the bumps are... they are starting to blur out! Oh, wow! This is amazing! How did you know?"

"It's the old legend, chica. The Three sisters. They only come out just before sunrise, and before the sun clears the horizon, they go back into hiding from the light and heat of day."

Jen wrinkled her brow as she stared through the tubewood binoculars. The sunlights glare reflecting off of the salt covered ground and the heating of the desert floors mirage effect quickly obscured any sign of the three bumps.
"That was amazing!! Hetor, they just disappeared! No wonder nobody was able to find this place before!"

"Exactly. Klash said that he thought that the stories were more than a myth passed down, and he was right about why the Sisters disappeared when the sun came up. Light, heat, it blocks the horizon out here, blurs vision except for at short ranges." Hetor sarted packing up his map and notebooks. "He found it and now we have too."

"So, we can get them and go home now, great!"

Hector then remembered the other part of the legend, "Scorpians guard the path to their door, with iron shells and stinging tails."

"What was that?" Jen asked.

"Uncover that RPK and be ready for trouble. We might have to fight the way in if the rest of the legend proves true." Hector ordered. "Stay snapped, gunner."

"Oh, yeah!" She grinned and yanked the dust cover back on the Ruskie machine gun. "Talkin' my language now, boy. Let's rock n' roll!"

"Yeah, keep your eyes open for big bads." Hector called up to her as he slid into the drivers seat.

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7/9/2015 3:42 PM
___The Harpy, two hours before sunrise___

Lisa couldn't disguise her fears from the cyborg, he seemed to see through her.

"Relax, Lisa," he said, his voice had a new, baritone, less hollow quality to it, "I already told you that you have nothing to fear from the Collective, or from me. Why are you so pensive?"

"What..." her voice trailed off to half-whisper. "What did you do to your voice? It changed."

The cyborg turned in his chair to face her. His skin tone had also changed, only slightly, to a more natural tone.
"Yes, I'm sorry if it is putting you off. I thought you would find it more appealing."

"Yes, I," she paused and smiled, "like it. You sound more human, more relatable. But why?"

"Because I forget how I must look and sound sometimes. And now that we are close to the end phase of this operation, I need to adjust to the success. Also, we will be meeting up with the rest of the fleet in a few minutes."

"Already?" Lisa said, "I must have over slept. I apologize."

"No need. Please, come sit. We can watch the show on the main screen," the cyborg invited, gesturing to the navigators chair next to his, "your timing is impecable."

The white cushioned chair was comfortable, and the foam was firm. Lisa was finding this new life of hers to be all too easy to adjust to. Soon, she would have the resources to explore her intellect to a new level, free, her lifelong quest for revenge put behind her. It was all she could do to choke down an exhilerated chuckle.

The wide curved screen was divided by two dozen section boxes, each displaying a different feed or function. She had spent weeks planting hidden cameras all over Ville Juarez, one by one. She recognized the views, remembered each placement and angle. All that planning, all that work, all worth it.

Lisa saw the wall security walking their carefully timed routes, the Councils main command room in their bunker, the Alvarez big garage where the crews of the Motor Chief and his mechanics were working around the clock to repair the shredded Dina rigs that had arrive the day before.
The town was on alert, not that it mattered.

Inside one of the other sectional boxes, Lisa saw the main bridge of another great airship similar in design to the Harpy, only larger. The uniformed drone crews in their face covering helmets were busy at their stations, cooly pressing buttons, aligning target areas, obeying with mechanical efficiency their Overseers every order.

"Are those what the people of Juarez will become," Lisa asked, "even Baron Hadron and the Council of Dons?"

"Yes. Soon enough, except for the mutants. You will have charge of them for your work."

"Wonderful. Can I see them? I think it was camera fifteen-seven."

The cyborg swept his fingers over a sensor plate.

There they were, the Gila mutants, all camped and cozy in their open roofed ruin atop the scouts apartments near the rebuilt hangar. They were already starting to wake up, but they would be sluggish until they had more sun to warm themselves. They were not fully cold blooded, but they did not adjust quickly to temperature differences. The thick skinned tribesmen were too well adapted to the warmer climates further south, however. Their strange physiology was not fully understood because the science teams were not allowed to disect and explore their anatomy. But that would change soon. All of their biological secrets would be laid open for her.

A high pitched beep sounded on the Harpy bridge.

"Harpy, confirm status. This is the Hades."

The cyborg turned his attention to a smaller flat screen to the left side of his command chair and lightly pressed a square button on the arm of his command chair. The screen displayed the smiling face of the Hades Overseer.

"Hello Brian," the cyborg said, his vocal tone more human sounding than even before, "They gave you the flag ship after all, I see. Good for you, young man."

"Thank you, Harpy." The Overseer smiled. "But please maintain protocol."

"Of course, how informal of me. This is the Harpy, our status is green. We are en route to the target zone and should be there in time to provide transport assistance, Hades."

"We are in position over the target zone, Harpy. And how is our newest addition?"

The cyborg turned to Lisa and smiled, then said "She is going to be a very productive member of the community, Hades. I have vetted her and she is an exceptional mind. Her upgrade has taken well. Proceed when ready, Hades. We are enjoying the communications feed."

"Affirmative, Harpy. See you soon. Hades out."

"Harpy out."

As the two of them sat watching the encrypted feed on the large display, Lisa felt his hand on hers.
"Watch this, Lisa. Do you remember the box that we had you install to the Council Bunkers computer and communication system? That wonderous little gem is almost ready to spring its surprise. Comme, press this button," he said, pointing to a bright yellow rectangular square on the control pannel in front of her, "it's only fitting that you do the honors."

Lisa put her finger out and let it fall gently onto the button, then turned her aention back to the display box showing the command bunker. The entire command and control system of Juarez blinked off, then the power went out. On the other camera feeds she saw what looked like giant white balloons falling gently across the village. As they came closer to the rows houses, apartments and ground, the ballons stated spraying thick white streams of misty clouds from all sides as they sowly sank.

Only a few of the sec patrolls had time to react before they were rendered unconscious by the sleep gas. One the few occasions where one managed to get a shot off and actually hit their target, it only served to burst the balloon in a wide and sudden explusion of the white spray. It was futile to fight, but still some did.

Lisa recognized some of the faces in the feeds from the wall and main gates. Sarge Corona was running along, clutching a gas mask to his face, pistol drawn and firing into the air, trying in vain to rally his soldiers to protect themselves. Perhaps a dozen or more were able to get their masks on, but it was too late. As the gas spread through the streets, flowed down into the buildings from their roof top gardens, these brave few rushed towards the cloverleaf bunker complex- which was overflowing with the white clouds, the thickest cncentration of the bombs raining down from some invisible space in the low hanging clouds, thousands of feet above their heads.

The Council of Dons had no time to reach their safe holes. Lisa saw each of their homes, their personal guard laying about on the grounds of their fenced in mini compounds.
"Yes!" She called out, "Hadron! Show me Hadron and that witch! Camera... camera thrity-fourtyone! That was the one I placed in their balcony garden, it faces their bed."

The feed was clear, except for the cloud of white jetting out from a balloon in the far left edge of the cameras field of vision. Lisa recognized the female bodyguards laying on the floor. Good, she thought, they were caught up in the gas before they could get them out. There was the Baron as well, his hand clutching the hem of his fallen wifes dress o the bed.
"We have them now! We have that witch and her thralls all in ne place!" She said and exploded in a fit of deep cackles.

"Did you have any doubt, Doctor Hamond? I told you, our plan is perfectly planned to the last detail, to the nanosecond of precision timing." the cyborg said, his voice full of cold satisfaction.

"It was not doubt of you and your peoples ability, no." Lisa responded and shook her head twice, "Not at all. But, I have seen even the best laid plans go awry from human failures. Somebody has an oversight, somebody has a moment of slack, a failure in duty because of a distraction and throws a wrench into the whole thing."

"Human failure, my dear, is what the biodrones were created to eliminate. Speaking of, watch the feed, you can watch them in action."

Lisa watched in awe as the nine-hundred foot long airships desceded from through the clouds, one after another, five lozenge saped vessels with wishbone shaped bodolas clutching to their bellies.
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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.