"Jeurridam: The City of Rust" - Chapter 2
They dragged me into the house, sitting me down at the peninsula stool. Tanzanir, the only friend I knew was gone.... All I could do was cry and cry, saddened that this day had come...all until Ezekiel walked into the dining room. I got up walking over to him as discretely as possible. Drawing my hand back as far as I could, I smacked him with as much force as I could deliver.
“THIS IS YOUR FAULT!!!!” I screamed, as the boy ducked and shielded his face. I continued to pummel and kick him out of rage. Uncle pulled me off of him sitting me back on the stool.
“Shhh, shhh, calm down Beth.” He said.
“¡Èl es un pequeña puta!” I said angrily.
“¡SILENCIO!” Uncle said sternly.
Dad walked slowly into the room, arms behind his back as he assessed all that had been done. He glanced at me, to Ezekiel then to his sons and nephews. He casually approached Ezekiel, socking him in the stomach.
“You know what you’ve done?” He asked, socking the boy again. Ezekiel screamed out, bowing from pain, “Do you know what you’ve just COST THIS FAMILY!” Socking him again. The boy fell over, the tiny slip of paper nestled in his pocket becoming visible. Dad pulled it out, unfolded it and looked on confused. He handed it over to uncle.
“What does this say?” He asked. Dad couldn’t read well, but uncle could.
“It says, ‘If you want to be cured of your addiction, give this note to someone who can read. Tie your hands and feet to something sturdy so you can’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Insert IV into your blood and inject activated carbon over the course of three days. Then after that, don’t eat anything for six days, only drink rich fruit juices to complete the detox. You will be in pain. You will want to kill everyone around you, but the withdrawal will make you stronger…. In time my friend! Ezekiel I say this because I care! You need to want better for yourself in order to do better for yourself…” Uncle read.
“Heaven, Zion, Zach, Neal, Destro, tie Ezekiel up.” Father demanded. The five boys wasted no time in hoisting Ezekiel up and marching him up the stairs, “What the fuck is IV?”
“It’s stands for Intravenous fluid. The clinic up the road has some.” I chimed in.
“And activated carbon?” He asked.
“Powdered wood charcoal...” I responded.
“Good to know,” Dad responded, looking at me surprised that I knew this information before turning to uncle, “Make sure she goes nowhere… Jose and Marcelo, get the IV stuff.”
He went over to the fireplace grabbing some charred wood. It crumbled in his hands, making him have to cup them to keep the charcoal from falling to the floor. He brought it over to the peninsula.
“This?” He asked skeptical.
“Yeah…” I sighed.
“What to do with it?” He asked.
“Crush it in the pestle and mortar.” I said, unsure how he couldn’t figure this much out. He reached into the cabinet grabbing the pestle and mortar. He picked up the chunks of charcoal and placed them in the tiny bowl. He began clumsily pummeling the mineral, growing frustrated at how difficult it was.
“Give it here, you’re doing it wrong.” I sighed, snatching the pestle and mortar from him. I began pressing the edges of the mortar with the pestle in a circular motion, quickly crumbling the charcoal up into a fine black powder.
“Where’d you learn how to do this?” Dad asked.
“Tanzanir taught me.” I sighed.
“How long were you two a thing?” He asked. I stopped, looking at him, my eyes casting rays of heat.
“We were never a thing! He was the only friend I had and the only one who taught me any type of skills when it came to making it out here on my own in this place…” I said defensively.
“What else,” Dad continued to prod, “Did he teach you?”
“Programming, how to build simple computers, how to understand computer languages in its entirety, how to work on some of the things he built, how to do more than cook, clean and wash all of your clothes…” I sighed.
“Why would a girl want to learn how to do that?” He asked, deeply confused.
“Because not all girls want to be cooped up in a house and forced to clean up after twenty two boys. Why do you think mom left?” I said, only trying to piss him off. His gaze began to penetrate me as I realized I did strike a nerve. He sighed, leaving me in the dining room with the pestle and mortar.
Moments later, my cousins came back with a cooler filled with IV packs. I got up, looking into the cooler to see them sitting on ice, but there was something missing.
“Where are the syringes?” I asked.
“Syringes?” The boys asked, not even knowing what they were.
“Syringes?” The boys asked, not even knowing what they were.
“God, you’re two useless tools of the trade,” I said to myself, “Syringes are tiny little clear tubes with needles on them! GO GET THEM!”
The two boys ran back out the house, up the road to the clinic.
“Let me guess,” Someone said from the kitchen way, “He taught you about medicine too?” It was Heaven.
“No mom taught me a lot before she left. She used to have to take care of you all at the clinic and I always stood by her.” I sighed.
“Why were you so close to him? All the boys in the Arizona Pents and you chose him?” Heaven continued to prod.
“Because, we had something in common. We were both terribly overworked and underappreciated. You think I like cleaning your fucking underwear?” I asked.
“Beth!” A stern voice called from the head of the kitchen. It was dad, wanting for me to come up stairs. Reluctantly, I did so. We entered Ezekiel’s room which smelled like sweat, and cheese. Hey lay on the bed, tethered down. His eyes slumped off into a loose stair at the floor. How he could lay in that disgusting bed without cringing was beyond me.
“What?” I asked, arms folded not wanting to be in the gross room.
“Will this work?” Uncle asked, unsure.
“In theory. We just got to lock him in here and ignore his screams....he will scream, loud!!!!” I sighed.
“This method just seems so crude.” Uncle said, reading back over the note.
“It is. All medicinal practices are crude these days. If mom was here, she would have thought of this idea a long time ago. Someone though, will have to check on him to make sure he won’t die and I for one don’t volunteer.” I pouted, arms folded.
“Oh but you will.” Dad intervened.
“No.” I said shaking my head.
“He’s your brother!” Dad said, growing riled.
“Ezekiel has messed up so many good things. Every single issue we’ve had has been caused by your middle son...except one issue, mom. You fucked that up.” I said, walking out of the room. I headed down stairs to the kitchen. Jose and Marcelo returned with syringes, gloves, peroxide, sterile clothes, and medical tape.
I guess it was now or never. Swallowing my pride, I set up the catheters, the IV fluid lines and made a solution to inject into Ezekiel’s bloodstream. My father watched, saying not a word yet was mesmerized at how I knew all to do this. Not long after, I was finished. Now it was just a waiting game to see would my father cave under the pressure of Ezekiel’s torment or would I? Even then, I still decided it’d be best if I watch over him while he undergoes the purging. I already knew things were going to be said that were meant to dig.
I sighed and began my wait, the sun setting blissfully as it always did. Ezekiel had been exceptionally silent ever since Tanzanir scared him with those floating daggers. Maybe it finally dawned on him that he really came close to dying. Maybe something happened that night and he wasn’t saying. Afterall, I did not see him leave out the shack when everyone else did.
I took out my laptop, connecting the SSD to it. To my surprise, it had the surveillance footage from the night. It now made sense why Tanzanir gave it to me. I watched it, paying close attention to the conversation.
Hearing his and Tanzanir’s voice, Ezekiel finally spoke.
“What’s that?” He asked.
“The surveillance footage from last night.” I said. Ezekiel looked beyond terrified.
“All of it?” He asked, “How’d you even get that! The giant android blew up the shack!”
“Tanzanir handed it to me before…”
“Get out!” He demanded.
“Excuse me?” I asked, unsure why he suddenly wanted me to leave.
“Get OUT!” He began to shout.
“I got to stay in here to help you!” I said back.
“NO GET OUT!!!! NOW!!!!” He screamed, “NOWWW!!!!”
I ignored him, plugging my headphones in, continuing to watch the video. Ezekiel began to struggle against his restraints, there obviously being a reason he wanted me gone.
“You’re gonna hurt yourself...relax.” I sighed, not able to hear him through my headphones. What was on this video that Ezekiel didn’t want me to see?
Minutes of fast forwarding later, I came across it. Ezekiel kissed Tanzanir. My jaw dropped, too shocked to find out that Ezekiel was gay. I paused the video, slowly taking off my headphones. I could hear the boy growling and panting in frustration.
“Ezekiel?” I asked.
“Get out…” He insisted.
“No, we need to have a talk.” I said.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He sighed. I got up and locked the door.
“Ok, I knew Tanzanir was gay, but you? So help me God, if you only pretended to be gay so you can get closer to Tanzanir, I will torture you where you lay.” I threatened through the grit of my teeth.
“I am gay…” He said. I looked at him, fully skeptical, “And of course you wouldn’t believe me. Just go on, go on a rat me out to father.”
“No… That’s your business. You tell him when you ready or don’t for all I care...but my best friend left because of you, because of something you did and I’m pretty sure it was fueled by the emotions he felt during that kiss.” I said.
“At first, it was just a way to manipulate him, but not for what you think. I wanted him to be there for me because no one else would and getting in his pants was the only way I knew how...but when he said no, I was crushed, hurt! Everything he said before then was just shit to me. I didn’t want nothing of it. Hell, I didn’t want to be around him. I just wanted to hurt him back..didn’t know it’d blow up like this.” He confessed.
“He trusted you…” I said, scoldingly.
“I know, I know…”
“And after doing him the way you did, he still had humanity left to try and fix you. You gotta stop fucking with humans like that. That shit ain’t right! That boy was so complex, so guarded and you obviously got to him! That boy still wanted better for you, after you hurt him that deep…” I said, somewhat astounded.
“I just… his words were too good to be true! Nothing ever comes that easy, and I was starting to fall for it. I just wanted to see how willing was he and when he wasn’t, it was then it all felt like big talk and very little action. I just felt reduced to it...I always feel reduced to doing something...like stealing moms jewels.” Ezekiel continued.
“Oh...shit, man mom would never care about those Jewels and I doubt she’ll be back any time soon. Those jewels are as good as stolen, as is. I just… Tanzanir never had to deal with the world. We have and we just pushed him out there in it. You know when people see him, they’re gonna look twice. Not many times you see black people this far west. It’s just not common.” I said full of worry. Ezekiel fell silent, obviously having a lot on his mind.
“What are the withdrawl symptoms? It’s been two weeks since I had my last hit…” Ezekiel asked.
“Increased appetite, depression, anxiety, fatigue, aggression, bad dreams, activity slow down.” I sighed.
“Eh, so far, only the anxiety, fatigue and aggression has hit me...but depression?” He asked.
“Yeah, tends to happened after the first month with no cocaine and can last up to a year.” I explained.
“Ugh, this ain’t gonna be no easy ride.” He sighed.
“You just got to want better for yourself.” I said.
“I guess so…” He sighed. Silence fell upon the room. It lasted the entire night, come morning. Ezekiel looked restless, as though he was haunted by something. What was happening was his metabolism was adjusting to the carbon surging through his blood. I could only imagine how uncomfortable he was. He seemed so out of his head.
Then came the third day. I changed out his IV, cleaned his bed pan and resumed reading old novels. I could see Ezekiel trembling, from withdrawal. His breathing was heavy and swift, sweat dripping down his face.
“Beth…” He said, sounding very distressed.
“Yeah?” I responded.
“Please let me go.” He pled.
“No.” I sighed.
“Why do you hate me?” He asked.
“I don’t hate you!” I said back.
“Then please untie me, it hurts.” He cried, shaking his head back and forth, “It hurts.”
“Ezekiel, it’ll be over in twelve hours, just relax.” I reassured.
“I can’t, I can’t I can’t…” He cried, “Just let me go, I can’t take this...it hurts.”
“No, Ezekiel…” I said sternly.
“WHY DO YOU HATE ME!!!” He shouted to the top of his lungs. I just ignored him at this point.
“YOU JUST WANT TO TORTURE ME!!!! JUST LET ME GO!!!!! YOU DON’T LOVE ME….YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND A THING ABOUT ME! YOU JUST HATE ME!!!!”
“I don’t hate, you!” I said back.
“THEN LET ME GO!” He screamed, “I’M DISGUSTING TO YOU! I’M SCUM TO YOU! I BRING YOU NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS! YOU THINK SO, DAD THINKS SO, UNCLE THINKS SO AND MOM THINKS SO! IT’S WHY SHE LEFT ME!!!!”
“No, Ezekiel, it’s not…”
“YES IT IS!” He cried, tears steadily gushing from his face, “ALL OF YOU JUST LET ME GO!!!! LET ME GO!!!! LET ME GO!!!!! I PROMISE YOU WON’T HEAR FROM ME AGAIN JUST LET ME GO!!!! I’LL BE OUT ALL OF YOUR LIVES JUST LET ME GO!!!!! THIS hurts, it hurts…”
“EZEKIEL!!!!” I screamed, not able to take anymore more of this. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was uncle Miguel, hearing the ruckus from downstairs. He shook his head, guiding me down the stairs.
“NOOOO!!! NOOO, DON’T LEAVE ME!!!!!!!!! ARGHHHH!!!!!” Ezekiel screamed.
Uncle sat me down at the kitchen table, obviously just as distressed as I was, especially with Ezekiel up above us steadily screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Should we untie him?” Uncle asked.
“No, he’ll be a danger to us all and himself.” I responded, whipping my tears, trying to console myself.
“You alright?” Heaven asked, popping his head out from the kitchen.
“Yeah, his words got to me a bit.” I sighed.
“What did he say?” Heaven asked.
“Um, he said that I hated him, that I wanted to torture him, that everyone hated and no one cared about him…” I said, it stabbing my chest just to say.
“Oi,” Uncle sighed.
“There’s no telling how long he’s gonna be depressed, so I’m gonna have to think of something. I might teach him how to read because I don’t want him to slump down to a worser spiral. In the mean time, I gotta go. I’ll be back in a few days, just...UGH, this shook me up bad.” I sighed.
“Beth, you can’t leave! You know your father will be furious!” Uncle said, fearing my father’s wrath.
“I don’t care, just tell him I ran off, north of the dam. Trust me, I’ll be back!” I said, grabbing a bag I prepacked days ago. I grabbed the keys to one of the trucks and rode out through the desert.
I crossed the Hoover Dam into Nevada. I rode for ten minutes, reaching a refueling station not too far from Vegas. I looked in my bag, unzipping it. There were two nine millimeter sub-machine pistols in there, both my father’s gift to me. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do.
I then heard a tap on my window. It was Tanzanir, smiling broadly. I hopped out the truck, glad to see him. I gave him the tightest hug I could.
“Oh, how are you?” I asked, trying to hold back joyous tears.
“I’m fine, I just... need your help.” He chuckled.
“Anything.” I smiled.
“I spent the last two days surveying the City of Rust. I drew some unwelcome attention so I had to abort for the time being… I stick out like a sore thumb, ya know?” He said.
“So, whats your plan?” I asked.
“The orbs are gonna float high above, using their canons as suppression fire if need be. Big Daddy will be used for a tactic of intimidation only. I do not want him engaged with any hostiles, only the Orbs to do so. All and all, they are going to be used as a last resort to get what I need. Where you come in at is the fact that you look unimposing and can appeal to the… better side of the Merchants. I will accompany you, you just do all the talking OK? If anything goes south, I got you!” He smiled.
“Yeah, finally I get to say goodbye to you with a bang!” I grinned.
“Yeah,” He chuckled before getting serious, “Everything’s alright over there?”
“I guess… Ezekiel is growing through the abrupt detox and he’s really suffering. I couldn’t take it so I had to get my ass up and leave him, ya know? It was really hard hearing him scream I was torturing him and that I didn’t love him.” I said.
“Oh, poor baby. When you get back, tell him I’m not mad, that shit happens for a goddamn reason. And you keep him away from them damn drugs; do whatever you can. Get him addicted to reading instead, OK!” Tanzanir smiled. I couldn’t help but tear up.
“What?” He asked.
“You know this is the most I’ve seen you smile since we were kids!” I said, “I’m sorry but, let me relish in this for a moment. OK.”
He shielded his face, silently laughing. He did not understand how adorable he was now would he be able to ever comprehend it. He stood about five foot eight inches high, with the longest, curliest hair you’d ever see. His hair hang from a tightly wrapped turban, making his hair drape gently around his plump little cheeks. His eyes were a honey brown and his skin was ever so slighter darker. He was of Illisian decent. He told me his dad was born in Ethiopia but moved to the Americas when he was recruited by the UCAC on the Eritrean coast.
That Illisian skin just seemed to glow. He had a soft, innocent brow with the tiniest bulbous little button nose that quite frankly, I didn’t understand how he could breathe out of. It was just so cute. He had full and pouty lips that made him look like a mischevious preeteen rather than a twenty year old.
However his downright adorable appearance could mislead anyone. He was a hard worker with knowledge beyond his years. He was not someone to take lightly or come across wrong as the Merchants were soon about to find out.
Now the Merchants were the polar opposites of us, the Logatti family. They were our biggest competitors in the beginning but Tanzanir allowed my family to make the jump over them and really capitalize on the market. Now, the Merchants struggled to make ends meet like every other family group. However, they were building a strong Mercenary empire that spanned the entire scope of the Sonoran Desert. Just like we monopolized Tanzanir and the home appliance industry, the Merchants monopolized the Mercenary industry
Did I have a problem with the Merchants? No, they did what they had to do, just like we did. Now, every now and again the Merchants would send a corporate spy to find out our secrets but apart from that, I pitied them. Today, I would learn more about them than I ever had.
“So,” I began as Tanzanir and I walked through the desert, “This will be your first gunfight, huh?”
“I guess..” He said, obviously nervous, “Hopefully, it won’t escalate to that level.”
“Eh, it might. It’s better to get experience now than when you’re halfway across the continent.” I smiled.
“You’re right.” He chuckled.
The walk was pretty long, took about four hours and in this desert heat, it was no joke. We could see the Vegas Ruins, a very popular resort for those who could afford it. However, we had to go further north. We had to head to district where tall spires of debris piled up near the canyons called The City of Rust. The only way I could describe it was ‘chaotic beauty’. Pools of metal oxidizing acid lay on the ground and junk, useful junk was everywhere...as far as the eye could see. This was where the Merchants called home.
The City of Rust, much like the Vegas Ruins, could always be seen on the horizon. But truthfully, the City of Rust was a much more interesting place than Vegas could ever be. We had passed Henderson station, having to walk twenty five miles on the outskirts of the Vegas ruins before reaching Tanzanir’s makeshift camp. By that time night was coming.
“BETH!” I heard faintly on the wind.
“You hear that?” I asked.
“Hear what?” Tanzanir asked, pausing.
“I think I just heard my…”
“BETH!” I heard again, this time louder. I truned, seeing my little brother running across the desert towards us.
My entire world came cascading down at the sight of him. All I could do was rest my head in the palms of my hands, unable to believe this boy followed me fifty miles from Arizona to Nevada.
“Wow.” Tanzanir sighed, unenthusiastically.
The boy finally caught up to us, having to stop and catch his breathe.
“Beth…” He panted.
“How the fuck did you find me?” I asked, wanting to cut to the point.
“Uncle sent me after you...Said your father would be crushed upon his return to find you just upped and vanished.” The boy said, still holding himself up by his hand wrapped tightly around his knee joints.
“Dammit, I said I’d be back in a few days!” I said growing angry.
“He believed that,” Heaven responded finally able to stand properly, “YOU!” He locked eyes with Tanzanir, instantly falling into a rage.
“Um…” Tanzanir said unsure to to respond, “Hi?”
Heaven grabbed my arm, dragging me across the sand.
“We’re going home…” He said.
“STOP!” I said, slamming my satchel into his face. The bag was quite heavy, knocking the boy to the desert floor, “Now you can go home! Like I said, I’d be back in a few days!” Heaven clenched his face, rolling around in the dirt.
“Ow,” he said, “You didn’t have to hit me that hard…”
“Look, Heaven… Go home. This is grown folk business and you ain’t grown yet…” I sighed.
“No...I can’t go home, not without you! How’d it look if I went after you and returned without you. You know how dad can get! I’m not gonna get beat like Ezekiel…” The boy refused.
“Wait, he beat Ezekiel?” Tanzanir asked.
“Yeah...all the boys get beat...no big deal, well all except Heaven. He’s the baby so dad refrains.” I sighed, going to help Heaven off the ground, “Now look… You never had to work a hard day in your life, so I want you to listen to me. Some Bonnie and Clyde type shit is about to go down and I need to know if you will pull through or not! You think you can handle your own with a gun?”
He pulled up his shirt, revealing he brought his dual beams, pistols designed to shoot shotgun slugs. He had a boyish grin on his face, that only was skin deep.
“I’m not bought. We might not need to send him packing, but the boy might falter in a real gunfight.” Tanzanir said, stealing the words right out of my mouth.
“Yeah, I was thinking the same…” I said, looking at my younger brother intently.
“Wait, what’s going on?” He asked.
“Answer my question!” I insisted.
“I showed you my pistols!” Heaven said defensively.
“No, I mean how’d you find me?” I corrected.
“Oh,” He said scratching his head, “I drove over the dam, got to Henderson and saw your truck parked at the outpost. I then looked around for you couldn’t find you so I asked the locals and they said they saw you with someone wearing merc robes and a turban traveling northwest on foot. And you know I’m really good at tracking so I eventually found you.”
“Eh, she’ll be here by midday tomorrow… I hope you didn’t park in the way.” I said.
“She? Man what the fuck are you talking about?” Heaven asked, growing frustrated.
“I rooted the truck, put an advanced automation system in her that can make her driver herself. She’s programmed to meet me at my GPS location in eighteen hours.” I sighed, going in the tent.
“Well that explains why you wanted no one to touch that ugly ass truck…” Heaven teased.
Tanzanir followed me, sitting at a tiny stool where his laptop was. I looked at the entry, wondering why Heaven was still standing right there.
“Is he just gonna stand there or come in?” I asked.
“I don’t know…” Tanzanir shrugged, not giving much thought to it. It didn’t take long for Heaven to cautiously enter the tent.
Looking at the computer screen, I could see one of the orbs had surveyed every square inch of the City of Rust, all except the Merchant Flats. It would be hard to survey that area without being shot down by a sniper mech. The orb was cautious for all the right reasons.
“All I can say is the City of Rust is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen but I will destroy it if I have to to get back my android… I just hope it doesn’t have to get to that point…” Tanzanir sighed.
“Do you know your way around the Merchant Flats?” I asked.
“I didn’t even bother to get close. I walked past a few dudes and right off the rip they could tell I wasn’t from around here… I didn’t stay long after that. I returned to the camp and sent the Orb out to survey from a high altitude.” I sighed.
“So what did it find?” I asked.
“It found that the City of Rust was actually a crashed space ship carrying rare earth minerals from the Kuiper Belt. The ship was massive, Ten miles long and three miles wide. When it crashed it destroyed half of Vegas in the process, but the crash...the crash was actually controlled. An object with a minimum of volume of thirty cubic miles crashing into earth would have the ability to destroy life on this planet again… However, this was a controlled landing, one that destroyed the ship… You may ask why this is important.” Tanzanir smiled.
“Yeah…” I said, unsure why that tidbit of information was relevant.
“Because those giant spires jutting thousands of feet out the ground are the ribs of the ship....the frame! Scattered all over the region are sniper turrets that do not fire rounds at all. They fire charged particles which is a sign that these were weapons mounted on the ship, not built by the inhabitants of this canyon.” Tanzanir said.
“Wait…” I said starting to catch on, “So they are not weapons built by the locals?”
“No, they were already there. Someone tapped into them and turned them into mounted security mechs though. That means theres another person in that city who knows old war tech, too! Someone who could possibly be an allie.” Tanzanir pointed out.
“You think you can find him?” I asked.
“He has quite a network built throughout the city… But, it’s not encrypted. He probably thinks he’s the only one capable of doing this! It’ll be a shock tomorrow when I shut down his turrets. His location is currently triangulating.” Tanzanir said.
“Well Got Damn, a girl needs something to do too!” I laughed.
“Welp, you can start a fire and whip up some food. The rations are in the crate beside the tent.” He laughed.
“Sure thing…” I sighed, heading out. Heaven was right behind me.
“Why are you helping him?” He asked. I turned, seeing the disgust in Heaven’s eyes.
“Why are you being so judgemental of him?” I asked.
“I just don’t trust him! He damn near killed everyone of us and now tries to get you away from us on some damn suicide mission?” Heaven retorted.
“It’s not even like that! I told you, if you don’t like it, go home!” I snarled.
“And I told you, I’m not leaving until you come back…” Heaven said angrily, not backing down. I sighed, not really wanting to argue with him.
“This is my last goodbye with Tanzanir… I want to make it worth my while…” I said, sorting through the crate.
“So coming out here to a hazardous warzone with that...creep… is making it worthwhile, huh?” He asked.
“What creepy about him?” I asked defensively.
“Those big ass eyes. That ball shaped nose...those big slimy lips, just everything! He doesn’t have one trustworthy feature…” Heaven said cringing.
“Now that’s just racist…” I said, truly disheartened. It was hard to believe those words came out of my brother’s mouth, “Where the hell is this coming from? You and Tanzanir used to play together as kids!”
“Dafuq is a racist? I’m just calling it the way Uncle Miguel called it, Zion called it and what Dad said…” He said, feeling completely justified.
I was reduced to staring at him, almost drawn to tears.
“You poor brainwashed soul.” I sighed, grabbing the firestarting kit and the grill stand. Heaven shrugged, unsure why it was I felt he was so wrong.
“Well everyone else seems to have came to the same agreement except you…” He said, following me to the front of the tent.
“Of course they would. It’s why I fucking want to leave and never come back… I’m out numbered, Heaven…” I said, planting the fire kit firmly into the ground.
“Yeah, just like mom…” He said.
“You really want to know why mom left?” I asked him, growing very ill of patience with him.
“Because she got tired of us!” Heaven said, obviously being another thing he heard from Dad and Uncle.
“No, because she disagreed with Father on a lot,” I sighed, lighting the fire kit, “Mom was a part of the UCAC, she just never told anyone. She’ll be back soon, but she had a tour to do. Dad didn’t want her to go, said her duties were to her family and us alone. But, mom left for military reasons…”
“What the fuck is the UCAC in the first got damn place?” Heaven asked, obviously agitated.
“Ask, Tanzanir… He knows all about it.” I said.
“No…” Heaven refuted.
“You’re just like dad, it FRUSTRATES ME so!!!” I growled.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“I mean,” I said, placing the grill over the flame, “That you are blind to so much until it hits you right in the face and sometimes you still don’t see it. You think everything should go the way that you see it, and if it doesn’t...it doesn’t go at all!”
“That’s not true at all!”
“Oh really? Do you think mom is coming back?” I asked.
“No, dad said she’s gone for good this time…” Heaven sighed.
“Bullshit! Mom said she doesn’t know if she’ll be back after this one, but she’ll fight for us! Dad doesn’t like it because he feels a woman shouldn’t do anything except cook and clean but who the fuck thinks that way when there’s no damn men to do the hard work? Not to mention, he pulled up a load of bullshit before she left which made it seem like she left him because they had a fight. No she left because she had duties to the UCAC as a Wing Fleet Nurse! She tends war wounds, Heaven!” I explained.
“But she didn’t have to leave…”
“You know what,” I interrupted, trying to compose myself, “I really don’t want to view you as a complete and utter idiot so lets refrain from talking about the situation. All this is doing is proving my point…”
“How is it proving your point?” He asked, still wanting to argue. I walked back over to the rations, grabbing a water jug and two pots.
“Tanzanir, where did you get all of this stuff?” I asked.
“There’s a military vault to the south of here. I found it and it had a whole bunch of supplies...and dead folk.” He said from inside the tent.
“Damn, that’s lucky…” I said.
“Not really. Vaults like this are all over the desert, just sealed tight.” He sighed.
“Oh.” I said, placing the pots on the grill rack. I filled both halfway with water. I went back to the rations crate and got a box of instant pasta and dehydrated boiling meats. I cut them open as the water came to a boil. I dropped the meat into the larger pot and slowly poured the pasta into the other.
“FOUND HIM!” Tanzanir exclaimed from inside the tent. I went in, looking at what he had on his computer.
“What does he look like?” I asked.
“Don’t know yet,” He said suddenly becoming disenchanted, “Uh oh…”
“What?” I asked.
“He lives in the Merchant Flat. He’s one of the family members then…” He sighed.
“Well damn… We really got to walk this delicately then.” I said, scratching my head.
“Eh, it’s all good. I’ll make sure I leave him a little something, something to help out his... creativity.” Tanzanir smiled. His smile did something to me.
“I just can’t get enough of whenever you smile.” I said.
“STAHP!” Tanzanir blushed. He was just too adorable. I left the tent, checking on the food. I moved the pasta onto a far rack so it could simmer and slowly absorb the water. I wrapped the top with aluminum foil due to the lack of a lid and poked holes in it with my knife so the steam could escape. I wrapped the larger pot too.
Silently, Heaven watched me, looking at the flame kit under the grill rack.
“You know how it works?” I asked.
“How?” He asked, folding his arms, obviously still very angry with me.
“You get two paint cans, one big one little, put a roll of toilet paper in it and fill the smaller paint can with rubbing alcohol. Then you light it up. That’s for the big central flame. The smaller flames are alcohol dipped gauze wrapped around cropped soda cans with holes poked through the top. Pretty easy stuff, you need to learn…” I said, sitting down on a log.
“Why do I need to learn it?” He asked, softening up a bit.
“Because not everything is going to be perfect out here. Sometimes shit happens and you won’t have the comfort of home...electricity, running water...a safe place to shit. Ezekiel had to learn that the hard way and I’m afraid you may soon. You can’t be Dad’s favorite child forever.” I teased.
“I’m not his favorite child. You are! You get away with a lot more than any of the boys!” Heaven refuted.
“I also pull twelve times more weight than any of your boys and Dad know’s that! You may cook, but I clean! I fix the hot water when the shit acts up! I do ya’ll nasty ass laundry! Since mom left, I’ve been in the Infirmary taking care of everyone in the settlement who gets sick. I do the mechanical work on most of the trucks because Zion is a fucking dumbass and can’t tell a spark plug from a vacuum tube…” I sighed.
“That’s precisely why you’re his favorite…”
“Dad doesn’t know half the stuff I do.” I said back.
“Well you’re not the only hard worker! I gotta cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for nearly thirty hungry mouths! And not any instant food like the shit you have done here! I got to skin hares, turkeys, quails, pacari, gut em, and make sure every single last one of you get a fair portion. I got to clean garbanzo and pinto beans every day, chickpeas, black beans, black eyed peas, sweet peas and preserve them! I have to treat rice so it can be edible for you all to cook it! I have to grind wheat and other grains so you all can have bread! And guess what, not one of you complain! So to say I don’t work hard is utter bull…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” I laughed, “Let’s back this shit up! I never said or implied you didn’t work hard! I only said shit may get difficult if the power is cut to our home… Don’t insinuate anything...just like dad, man I swear!”
“So you do mechanical work for Zion as well?” Heaven asked.
“Food’s ready, Zanir!” I said aloud.
“Ok!” He responded. I got up, grabbing some disposable plates and forks. Tanzanir came from the tent, sitting on the log furthest from Heaven.
“And to answer your question, Heaven. Yeah… He fucked up a fuel pump on a truck and got mad at his crew for something he did. But, he left the petrol actuator up when it’s supposed to be sealed so air won’t get into the fuel line. Then he took credit for it, leaving me high and dry…” I explained, fixing Tanzanir a plate.
“Where you learned to fix cars and shit because someone had to teach Zion and I doubt you learned from the same man…” Heaven asked. I pointed to Tanzanir, Heaven becoming far less impressed then. All he could do was look on in displeasure and silence.
Tanzanir sighed, sensing the hostile energy Heaven had for him. It then dawned on me that Tanzanir heard everything Heaven had to say about him. The embarrassment engulfed me more than any flame ever could, however I didn’t say anything. I was not one to try and bridge conflicts especially one’s this one-sided. It’d have to heal on it’s own.
I gave Tanzanir his plate, catching an eyeroll from Heaven. Tanzanir sighed, obviously having thoughts of his own, thoughts that I knew were harsh and bitter. However, I felt they were justified. My poor brother was an ignorant fool. I fixed him his plate and he scarfed down his food, obviously extremely hungry.
I fixed mine last...hungry, but willing to save my food in case either boy wanted extra. I placed the food on the log I sat on, watching Tanzanir use his watch to pick up where he left off on his laptop. Even Heaven watched him, completely amazed by the technology. It was all short lived when the disconcerting screeches of a dhole startled us all. Upon realizing what it was, I quickly relaxed.
“What was that?” Heaven asked.
“Dholes…” I responded.
“Dholes?” He asked.
“These,” Tanzanir said, pulling up an image on his watch and projecting it in the air.
“Looks like a coyote.” He said.
“It’s not…” Tanzanir responded, going back to programing.
Another screech rang through the metallic spires of the ruins. Heaven looked around, trying to pinpoint the origin of the sound.
A Dhole crouched down, sneaking up behind him. The creature was utterly silent up until the point it started sniffing. Hearing the strange sound, Heaven turned seeing the large canine inches away from him. The boy jolted up, reaching under his shirt for his gun. The creature turned tail, running off at impressive speed.
“SHIT!” He said.
Just then. Another Dhole leapt a staggering twenty feet from a metal shard, landing with a thud. It too took off in an impressive sprint following its friend out of sight.
“Sit down…” I sighed.
“That thing nearly got me!” Heaven said, fully convinced that his life was in danger. Tanzanir sat rolling his eyes, not uttering a word.
“That dog was not going to hurt you… They scavenge and eat small mammals like coyotes. Just be glad it wasn’t a saber toothed cat, now put up your gun.” I said, hoping to calm the startled boy. He did so, catching a glimpse of the smug look Tanzanir had on his face. I was pretty sure Heaven wasn’t thrilled to get these reactions from Tanzanir.
Minutes later another Dhole came to the camp, this one not bothering to sneak up. The inquisitive canid sniffed the air, edging closer to Tanzanir. He was soon the focus of the creature’s curiosity as it cautiously approached him, sniffing. He picked up his plate, placing it on the ground near him.
The Dhole wasted no time in eating his scraps. It didn’t take long for nine other Dholes to appear from the desert, all fighting that Dhole over the scraps. Their screeches were deafening and blood curdling, but these creatures posed no threat.
My plate fell of the stomp where I sat. A Dhole had snuck up behind me and began eating the scraps off the plate. Not long after, several others swarmed the poor Dhole and a fight ensued. They often sounded worse than what they were, Dholes being very vocal creatures.
The same Dhole that smelled Heaven earlier came back to investigate. It sniffed him, assessing him thoroughly with a wagging tail. Heaven extended out his hand to touch the Dhole.
“Don’t touch it!” Tanzanir warned, but it was too late. The creatures snarled, snapping it’s jaws at him before whimpering loudly at his imposing hand. Heaven quickly withdrew his hand and all the Dhole’s disappeared, all darting with a turn of speed so great they seemed to vanish.
“You just love touching shit…” Tanzanir said to himself.
“What?” Heaven asked, being terribly standoffish. Tanzanir looked up at the boy, those cute eyes of his emitting raging waves of heat. He obviously wanted to give the boy a full load but for my sake, he sighed and refrained.
“You’re just a little pussy...hidding behind your robots…” Heaven said to himself.
“What did you just say to me?” Tanzanir asked, looking at the boy with those piercing eyes.
“You heard me…” Heaven said.
“Beth,” Tanzanir said through the grit of his teeth, “You better get em.”
“He brought this upon himself. I told him to go home but he’s still here so…” I sighed.
“Let me just...get back to my work. I really don’t want to hurt him.” Tanzanir said, somehow able to find his composure. He got up, heading back for the tent.
“Hurt me?... Pussy...” Heaven said.
Then and there, a fine particle sifter was flung across the campsite, hitting Heaven in the head. He grabbed his throbbing face as he fell from the impact. Tanzanir rushed over to him, picking him up off the ground.
“BETH!” Heaven screamed, thinking I’d come to his aid.
“Listen here you little twerp. Your little comments won’t get you anything but a thorough ass beating. Now I can drag you all up and down this campsite if I wanted to but I want you to listen, and listen closely. You are a stupid little fuck who doesn’t believe shit until shit happens. Well tomorrow, shit is gonna get real inconvenient for all of us and I bet you’ll be the first one to crack under the pressure. And you sitting here, acting like a little bitch like you’re the baddest of us all isn’t helping any of us. Now I’d suggest you shut your mouth, get the brain washing out your head get with the program because I sure as hell am ready to leave you behind..” Tanzanir growled through the grit of his teeth. He threw Heaven back down to the ground, returning to his tent.
Heaven looked on, shocked that this escalated to this level.
“I can’t believe that n…”
“Don’t act like you don’t deserve it…” I sighed. He looked at me shocked, as though I was wrong for not siding with him.
“No I did not deserve what ever the fuck that was tossed at my head! Why the fuck am I always being hit with shit? This is getting old...old real fast!” He refuted.
“I bet you think its so fair to treat him the way you do don’t you?” I asked waiting for a response, “...Like he didn’t hear anything you said to me about him. Like the walls of that tent are ten feet thick and utterly sound proof. He heard it all, and I think you owe him an apology.”
“An apology.” He asked, obviously reluctant.
“Yeah, for putting him through hell! He already had to deal with it for ten years with father forcing him to build shit so he could monopolize it. You honestly didn’t think Tanzanir did that work because he wanted to, did you? You think he wanted to spend six years cooped up in a shack by the only family he thought he had and made to work for the rest of his life? You think it’s fair how you, dad, uncle your cousins and everyone else treated him, as though he was second rate to all of you when he built us? That doesn’t warrant an apology?” I asked.
“I mean…” Heaven responded, trying to justify why he wouldn’t apologize.
“I have nothing else to say to you.You better not fuck up anything tomorrow!” I threatened.
“I won’t!” He said throwing both hands up in surrender.
I really was pissed at my brother. I never had known him to be such a dumbass, only Zion and Ezekiel. At this point, I truly had lost all hope in my family. It was hard to sleep that night with that on my mind. Hell, even Heaven didn’t sleep and god knows Tanzanir never slept.
“Hey, Zanir.” I said.
“Yeah?” He responded openly.
“Where’s the Big Daddy?” I asked.
“He’s in hyper lock to conserve energy. He’s under the tarp where the rations sat on.” He said back.
“Wait, he can fold down that small?” I asked, astounded.
“What’s big daddy?” Heaven asked.
“The giant thirteen foot robot that wanted to kill you all but I insisted no…” Zanir said plainly.
“Oh…” Heaven said, unsure how to respond. Zanir sighed, obviously having a lot on his mind.
“You wanna know why the android is so important, Beth?” Zanir asked.
“I told you that you didn’t have to tell me…” I sighed. Heaven looked on intently.
“Well, my dad was the chief engineer for the UCAC. He designed a lot of cybernetic machinery that is currently used by the UCAC today, including the left half of my brain. I’m too a cybernetic.” Zanir confessed.
“Whoa what?” I asked, taken aback.
“Yeah, my brain, my spinal column, my nervous system, even my blood, it’s all inorganic... mechanized. My dad did it to me when I was a baby because he knew one day, he’d succumb to his work and indeed he did. The designs he had were placed in my mind and I always, always, always strived to build em from the time I was a child. Only recently have I become skilled enough to build it after many, many prototypes...then your brother sold it off.” Zanir continued.
“Yeah about him, we need to talk.” I said.
“About what…” Zanir asked, unintentionally defensive.
“I saw what happened that night. He said it was...authentic he just wasn’t expecting a no so abruptly so he did what he could to be spiteful.” I explained, trying to be vague for the sake of Heaven.
Zanir stopped in his tracks, slowly turning to face me.
“So that night could have went totally different if I…”
“No, no! This is not your fault! He was wrong, he admitted it and everything! Don’t you blame yourself for this… you did nothing wrong!” I said trying to reassure him of this.
“Sometimes,” He began, clenching his eyes tight, “Shit like this makes it hard to believe that everything happens for a reason...when you…”
“Everything does happened for a reason, Zanir.” I said.
“Yeah, but you know how soon this was? This was supposed to be a year off.” He said, his eyes watering up, obviously very frustrated, “It wasn’t even supposed to turn out that way! I was supposed to leave in the night without a single life having to be threatened! I just got shit luck…”
“Don’t say that.” I said, shaking my head. Zanir fell silent, “I just don’t want to hear you speak that way. When Ezekiel was strapped to that bed screaming for mercy, I nearly lost my mind because of this shit he was saying. This is like a rehash, just stop…”
“Don’t say that.” I said, shaking my head. Zanir fell silent, “I just don’t want to hear you speak that way. When Ezekiel was strapped to that bed screaming for mercy, I nearly lost my mind because of this shit he was saying. This is like a rehash, just stop…”
“I guess…” Zanir said, closing his laptop screen and sliding onto the floor. It was like when he was finished, we all were able to sleep.
The sleep wasn’t very comfortable but it surely was a godsend. We woke up to the blaring of Zanir’s watch. It was about eight in the morning. We all woke up, stretched and prepared for the day. Zanir stayed on his watch, obviously concerned with the sanctity of the mission.
“Ok Heaven,” He said, removing the crate and tarp off the android, “This is what I need you to do. You just follow Beth’s lead; try to keep attention away from me. If all else fails and a battle ensues. I got you all covered…” His floating blades began to rise around him. He opened his robes and the blades settled on the inside. There were even more than I previously thought, two long floating swords settling in the rear of the robes.
“Those aren’t heavy?” I asked.
“No, all together, they weigh about twenty pounds.” He said back.
“What are they made out of?” I asked.
“Space metal and ceramics…” He smiled, touching his watch.
Suddenly, the Big Daddy began to configure. Zanir paid no attention to it, only concerned with the cybersecurity of the surrounding city. It all looked so bad ass how fluid he moved, as though he had done this a thousand times over. We began to move without a spoken cue, heading deep into the rust jungle.
Zanir kept eyeing the spires, looking for something but I knew not what. Suddenly, a laser sight locked onto the Big Daddy. As it did, Big Daddy’s cannons became online.
“Bingo,” Zanir said, “And done.” He touched a single key on his hollowatch and the laser sight disappeared.
“You shut down the turrets?” I asked.
“Yeah, but I put up a security front that made it look like they were still active. Based on the pings from the turrets, I can pinpoint the routers that emit the wireless signal. I got a feeling I can use that if we have to make an escape.” He said, thinking diligently.
“You think the dude will notice?” I asked.
“I doubt it. It’s pretty much a mirror image of his current security bypass. As long as he doesn’t reboot the system, we should be alright. Considering how peaceful this place is, I doubt he’ll have a reason to touch it.” He said.
We walked for an hour, heading deeper and deeper into spiraling matrix. It was beyond beautiful. The red orange and blue hues of the rust with the blue and green pools of acid made for a vibrant set of ruins. The temperature was very cool here, the spires blocking out the blaring heat of the sun.
It didn’t take long to reach the epicenter of The City of Rust, where stores and markets were. There were some pretty premium junk dealers here, and surprisingly, this place was busy. And to no one’s surprise, we did draw some attention, maybe due to the giant thirteen foot robot following us. It definitely made us all nervous.
A group of people literally froze and stared, I guess the sight might have been that breathtaking. The Big Daddy waved at them, diffusing the tension. They obviously had never seen anything like it before.
It was good too, taking all the attention away from Zanir. His robes and turban were not a common sight this far west.
“Seems like someone’s stealing all your attention.” I teased.
“I am cool with that!” Zanir laughed. I pushed him, he grabbing me we both laughing loudly.
“Is there a problem here?” A big burly man asked. He had his hand on his gun holster as he approached us.
It froze us both in our tracks. It was quite unclear what this man’s intentions were.
“No…” Heaven said in our defense. The man eyed Zanir before backing away to his perch. I looked at Zanir who just had this faint grin on his face.
“I told you these people don’t like anything different.” He sighed.
“I see that.” I said, honestly astounded.
We continued walking, the man with the gun obviously bothering Heaven more than we thought.
“What was his problem?” He asked.
“See, I’m a dark skinned dude of hamitic and congoid decent. How many other dark skinned dudes you see running around here? People don’t like what they never have seen before. That was just one vocal dude… There’s no telling how everyone really feels.” Zanir explained.
“Yeah, it was one of the fears I had for when Zanir left! Who was not going to like him for something he couldn’t help about himself? People will often judge you for how you look and not who you are. And there are some very wicked people in this world.” I added.
“Oh…” Heaven responded, having little else to say.
Twenty minutes later, we neared the northern tip of the City of Rust where the Merchant Flats were. Ther pools of acid were more prevalent here than further south, making traveling between here very dangerous. Yet, a group of boys carelessly played a game of football between the pools, obviously not caring about the danger.
“Oh my god…” I said, just completely at my wits end watching them.
“They have some serious balls.” Zanir laughed.
As we passed by, the boys took note of us, probably due to the giant thirteen foot robot accompanying us. Again, the robot waved at them. The boys waved back, obviously awestruck. Hell, I was too when I first saw the Big Daddy.
We entered the flat, drawing a lot more attention. Zanir fiddled with his watch, looking up at the sky multiple times before pausing. The Big Daddy stood in the center of the Flats, waving at everyone.
“Everything’s in place… The android is definitely here.” He said.
“Let’s get her then…” I said, proceeding.
The ping originated from Alistair's Mechanics and Repairs. I entered the shop, surprised by how similar the machines were to Zanir’s work. At the front desk was a young man, really tall maybe about six foot three inches. He had the sweetest freckles and the most boyish face you’d ever see. His hair was oiled and swooped to one side making him look very, very clean. He wore a thin white tee, leather pants and boots, looking at us all with quite a bit of intrigue.
“About two or three days ago,” I began, noticing someone was hovering around back, “A very important piece of machinery was stolen from us. It was a small deer-like android that was sold to you all. We need it back and will reimburse you your money.”
The young man kept eyeing Zanir, maybe because the boy was vigorously working away on his watch.
“I um…” The young man said, obviously at a loss for words. He looked back to the inventory room, the hovering figure coming out to the front desk. He looked at Zanir and grew on edge.
“It’s not here…” The man said.
Zanir looked up at him, his eyes heavy with rage.
“What do you mean it’s not here?” He asked.
“We sold it, to some traders a few hours ago… I’d suggest you find them and get lost.” The man said. Zanir was beyond angered at this point. I already knew it was going to take a very serious turn. The boy returned to fiddling with his watch, a strange noise being heard from the Inventory Room.
“What the...?” The young man at the desk asked, startled.
Zanir slowly walked up to the desk, giving the man four hundred dollars. It was more than what they Merchants bought it for, twice as much. Then suddenly a cute little silver, fawn-like android came prancing out of the inventory stash.
“See, things like this… are priceless. You can’t sell them,” Zanir began, “And I really hate being lied to. We came for one simple thing, and you tell us you don’t have it and try to turn us away. Well, we got what we came for and will be on our merry way.”
We walked towards the exit, the tiny android following us. We then heard the clank of a shotgun.
“If you walk out that door, you’ll be blown to bits either by everyone in this town, or our turrets. You return the bot and you can leave and won’t be killed.” The man threatened. He too had a gun, aiming it at us. He rushed out from behind the counter.
Zanir began to smile.
“You don’t think,” He laughed, “I’d just come here unarmed did you?” He showed the two men a thermal image feed of him from three different angles, “There’s two Orb drones with fire and forget missiles and thirty millimeter cannons, and a giant mech with two one hundred ten millimeter cannons and a tack missile array. And not to mention, I shut down those turrets, shut down your entire wireless network… you’re defenseless…”
The young man behind the desk began, tapping on his computer.
“No...no...NO!!!!” He said, panicked. It was now clear that he was the local computer expert who had built the wireless infrastructure.
Zanir turned and headed for the door. We followed, the tiny android in close proximity. Heaven constantly kept looking back at it, hoping this little thing was worth all this trouble. It just looked so unassuming, like one bullet could ruin it.
Suddenly, shots were fired. We all ducked down, the tiny android darting towards the Big Daddy. The Big Daddy scooped it up in his hand and placed it in his chest compartment, safe and sound. It then rendered those two one hundred ten millimeter beam cannons, ready to destroy this entire town.
“DON’T DESTROY THE SHOP!” Zanir said to it.
All the blades he had hidden under his robe came flying out in every direction, scrambling to a pre-picked target. The blades sliced through a considerable amount of gun barrels. It still didn’t stop the men from running forward, with their machetes and cleavers. Still, the blades stood toe to toe with these adversaries, fencing them back and forth.
“Aye, she’s coming from the north!” Zanir said to me, looking at her watch.
“The north? How the fuck are we gonna get out of here in time?” I asked. The City of Rust was divided into two parts, the Canyon and the Outskirts. The way the spires jutted out of the ground divided the east and west sectors of the city. This divider ran incredibly far north and the only way to get past the divider was to head south. There was simply no way we could trek south in time. Not only that but going through center of The City of Rust would be a suicide mission. Ultimately, this did not look good.
Suddenly, the Orbs came swooping down with their four static, gravity-reversing wings.
“Hop on them!” Zanir advised. Without hesitation, I did so. Heaven was a bit cautious but did not hesitate as well. As soon as he did, the orbs wizzed forward, flying at eye watering speed. I looked back, trying to see how Zanir was going to get out.
Those two long swords out of the thirty odd smaller daggers he had floating around, connected to slots on the wrists of the gauntlets. Like the blades, the buzzed all around him, Zanir lifted off the ground, flying after us. The remaining blades were in close pursuit.
The Big Daddy was last to leave. He rocketed up into the air with powerful combustion boosters. However, they did not sustain his flight, only giving him extended jumps. He followed us closely as we exited the spires, entering the junky hills of the Outskirts. Soon the hills of junk turned into the sands of the Sonoran desert.
As we flew by, there she was, my truck waiting for us in the sand. The Orbs landed, giving us a chance to run towards the truck. Zanir landed soon after, followed by his flock of angry blades. With a massive thud came the huge Big Daddy, quaking the ground as it landed.
“Shit, that was more fun than I anticipated…” I laughed.
“Yeah! We got what we came for,” Zanir smiled, “I guess this is a farwell…”
“No...” I said catching sight of dust rising from the desert floor. Zanir turned, seeing an onslaught of desert buggies and bikers getting ready to chase us down.
“Shit!” He growled.
“I’ll run distraction! You get past those mountains, OK?” I said.
“I’m not going to leave you!” Zanir said.
“Trust me, we’ll be alright!” I said, patting Heaven on his shoulder. Zanir looked at one of his Orbs! Follow her and blow up anything that gets too close!” The Orb buzzed and chirped wildly, flying over to the truck.
Zanir then turned to the Big Daddy!
“Give them some suppression fire…” He said. The Big Daddy’s tack missile array opened. Dozens of tiny five inch missiles fired. They didn’t hit a target in particular, just blowing in front of the oncoming buggies to put a lot of debris in the air.
“GO!” Zanir demanded.
I put the truck in drive, heading east as fast as the drivetrain of this truck would allow. The sand engulfed Zanir, the Big Daddy and the Orb, the last I ever seen of them. It was such a hollow way to say goodbye but much better than the abruptness of before. This time it was on our terms and that all we could have asked for.
All I could do was cry, not tears of sorrow but tears of joy. My best friend was about to embark on a mission to save this miserable world and I contributed. The dust settled and I could see the desert buggies were gaining. No less happy, I took out my pistol and began firing at the trucks. Heaven did the same, his heavy ball bearings doing a heap of damage with each shot.
We got surrounded on both sides. Just as we were about to get rammed, I slammed on the breaks making both desert buggies collide. I drove around them, the buggies still in hot pursuit. They fired at the truck, having heavy assault weapons doing their bidding. Their buggies, turbocharged engine with hybrid air intakes as well as having twelve cylinders of power were more than enough to catch up to and ram the rear of my truck.
In fact, a bold Merchant Clan member hopped onto the back of the truck.
“Take over the wheel for a bit.” I smiled. Heaven took the wheel, placing his foot on the gas as I slid out of the window and onto the hood of the truck. The man had a heavy pipe, tipped with a clasp. I had my two butterfly knives. We stood sizing each other up as the truck powered across the desert at over one hundred miles an hour.
Of course he was first to swing, I ducked out of the way planting a foot forward. He blocked thinking I was going to kick him low. No, it was to gain me leverage so my right foot could careen into his face. He was flung out of the the bed of the truck rolling across the sands.
The same buggy that rammed the truck before, came back again. I took out my pistols, firing at the drivers seat. The buggy began to veer, eventually tumbling across the dunes. Still we were being pursued by six more buggies. The next buggy came in, spraying with it’s machine gun. I ducked down, lying flat across the bed of the truck. I looked up, ever so slightly aiming my pistol at the gunner standing up on the buggy.
The buggy began to move parallel to the truck, obviously another attempt to board us. Aiming the gun just ahead of the gunner, I opened the rear window hatch.
“SLAM ON THE BREAKS!” I said. The truck came to a screeching halt, as my bullets sprayed the gunner. The Buggy whipped past us quickly circling around to get back on our tail.
Smartly, Heaven began to drive in the opposite direction, heading southeast. However, our decrease in speed, made it very easy for a buggy to head us off. One got directly in front of us, matching the speed of the truck. It then began to break, causing us to slow down. The other buggies began to close in. There was little we could do.
Suddenly, the whirring of a thirty millimeter cannon rang in my ear. The buggy to the left of the truck went up in flames. The same with the buggy to the right of us.
“HEAVEN, SLAM ON THE BREAKS AND ACCELERATE TO THE RIGHT!” I said. He did so, dislodging the buggy breaking just in front of us, allowing us to continue to head south.
The two remaining buggies stayed in hot pursuit. However they slammed on the breaks as a hot stream of bullets crossed their path. They pursued no further, the thirty millimeter cannon bringing too much heat for them. We continued south, crossing the Hoover dam.
It slowly began dawn on us what just happened. I crawled back in the truck, looking at Heaven. We both laughed hysterically, realizing how close we came to death.
“I can’t believe we’re not dead…” He said.
“You know you did good today kid.” I said, patting him on the shoulder.
“I can’t wait to tell uncle.” He said.
“We can’t tell anyone… This is simply between us OK?” I said, making sure the message was clear.
“Why?” He asked.
“I don’t think dad would be to happy to know what we did. We better just say we headed north of the reservoir to fetch supplies.” I said.
“OK,” He said, “I still never apologized to Tanzanir… I was really wrong about him.”
“Eh, you’re wrong about a lot. No big deal.” I teased. He smiled at me as he drove down the Arizona highway.
We were home in the next hour. We parked the truck in the garage, not knowing it was riddled with that many bullet holes. Dad would not at all be pleased about this. We both looked at each other, fearing the chewing-out we were going to receive. We walked down the yard up to the Veranda. We paused, looking at each other.
“Now or never…” I sighed.
“Yeah, now or never.” He laughed.
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