"Jeurridam: The Corridor" - Chapter 6


The smell of sauteeing beef slices pulled in all the locals. A long line formed at the stand, everyone inline for the brine sauce burritos I’ve been making for this place. I sliced tabasco peppers and avocados for the orders. People waited patiently for their food, the wait being very worth it. I handed a wrapped burrito to a customer then another, moving the line along.
I enjoyed working at Sal’s Mohave Kitchen, it being something I desperately needed to free my idle mind.  Every time I had nothing to do, all I could think about was how lonely I was. I was now eighteen and seeing the word very differently than the way I did when I was a mere kid. People found happiness with each other and worked for something better than struggling alone in this god forsaken desert. The issue I had was… I wasn’t particularly… straight.
I never really put much thought into what I was into until the day I tracked Beth down in the desert and saw she was with Zanir. It was when I learned of his sexuality, ridiculed him for it and saw it wasn’t a proper judge of character that I began to question myself. To think that I stood there thinking Zanir was disgusting for being a way he couldn’t control and to turn around and be the same way was like a kick in the stomach.
It explained why, despite never questioning my sexuality prior to the desert incident, I haven’t felt genuinely happy since I was a very young child. It seemed Zanir wasn’t very happy either, not until he left A99, met Galveston and fell in love. How lucky was he? He found a big wall of man to hold him at night and make him smile while I was struggling with coming to terms with that fact that… I’m gay.
It was why I got this job. I couldn’t stand seeing those two together. It wasn’t that they were affectionate because they weren’t. They didn’t kiss in front of everyone, or hug… They simply talked, related and smiled. That even made me sick! For my sanctity, I had to get from around them. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for them! I just wasn’t happy with my life at the moment and for their sake, for the respect of what they were forging, I had to leave.
This place didn’t help much though. I could see the local Merchant Clan boys playing sports a few hundred yards away. Most of them were so nice looking and well sculpted. I wondered were any of them going through a secret sexuality struggle the way I was. I wondered when one of the guys looked at me, did they think I was hot. Wait… Was I even considered attractive? I mean… every time I looked in the mirror I didn’t see anything I liked.
I was about five foot, eleven with dark honey colored skin. My hair was jet black and very, very curly, almost kinky. I had greenish-grey eyes with a strong brow. Sitting on the brow were two black eyebrows that were not too narrow but incredibly dense and fierce looking. Connecting to my brow ridge was a long, chiseled nose that spread out into rather plump, boyish cheeks. These cheeks gave way to a rather masculine chin covered in black fuzz. I was not remarkably well built or had anything special going for me. I was pudgy in a few places but still considered ‘skinny’... I don’t know, maybe it was the fact that I was of Mongoloid descent which is why I had a little extra juice in spaces. There was a brighter side to it… I was very soft to the touch. My brothers always said I felt like a girl and would wrestle me and shit.
I just… when you are trying to learn about yourself, about who you are, it’s frustrating when everyone seems to be further along than you. It made me not want to talk to anyone, only just to be to myself until I’m able to figure things out. But where would I start?
It got tiresome, freezing at the sight of every cute customer who wanted lunch. The subliminal pondering if ‘he could be the one’ was not only unrealistic, but plain stupid. These guys were straight and I probably was the only gay guy for miles around. No one else was like me in this valley… No one.
“Heaven!” An enthused voice said, snapping me out of my funk. Looking down out the shack window, it was Swish.
“Hey…” I said, not sharing the same enthusiasm. Swish really wasn’t a very interesting person… despite being one of the few rare gays here.
However, he had a strange change over the course of the past few weeks. He had become less talkative, much less talkative and more of a loner. Not only that but people have been surprised by how much attitude he’d been serving lately, especially June who often pushes Swish around.
“I want a dessert salad with nopals and dates.” He smiled.
“What about to drink?” I asked, writing down his order.
Someone opened the rear door. It was Darren, the deadbeat cook who was never on time for his shift.
“You’re late!” I snarled.
“Spare me the lip…” Darren said, walking to the long list of orders. All I did was roll my eyes.
“It’s ok.” Swish said. Lost, I had to regain my train of thought.
“Ok.” I responded, beginning to make him his food.
“You know,” I said to Darren, “I’m gonna be off the clock like...soon.”
“How soon?” Darren asked, not pleased. I paused, stopping from massaging the roughage.
“Like two hours soon… I gotta pick up after your lazy ass so I can’t leave when I want to even if I tried…” I said, returning to mixing the salad, “I don’t get why Sal goes so easy on you anyways. I don’t want to pick up your slack…”
“Because Sal’s my uncle… This is guaranteed.” Darren said, confident in his position here. All I could do was sigh.
“Ah, nepotism…” I said.
“What?” Darren asked, unsure what I said.
“You’re as dense as the red rock under this shack aren’t you?” I asked, handing Swish his salad, “Here you go.”
“Dude,” Darren said, slamming a cabinet, “Why the fuck are you riding my dick so hard?”
“Because the dumb shit you do...er don’t do, has effects on others!! When you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, other people have to pick up after you. I’m one of those other people… I don’t like being one of those people and would like for you to pull your weight.” I said calmly.
“Wait, I’m sorry,” Darren said, “Isn’t my family name on this shack?”
“No,” I responded, “Sal’s name’s on this shack. You happen to be related to Sal and have nowhere near the pull as he. Don’t even pull that bullshit card on me.”
“Heaven…” Swish chuckled, reaching into his pocket.
“Mmm hmm?” I asked.
“What are you planning this weekend?” Swish asked.
“Forty eight hours of sleep.” I joked.
“You wanna go to the Mojave?” I asked. It caught me off guard.
“Yeah… To the desert to the north.” He said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Don’t you wanna get the fuck out of here for a while?” He smiled.
“Sure?” I responded, not quite sure what to make of his proposition.
“Good… Friday night, have your shit packed. You better not stand me up, Heaven…” He teased. He handed me his cash for his meal and walked off not even giving me the valid chance to respond.
I seriously hoped he wasn’t coming on to me. If so, I couldn’t complain but I couldn’t say I found his geeky demeanor attractive...or his geeky looks for the matter. He looked frail and always uncomfortable. Who’d want someone like that but beggars can’t be choosers I guess. He was a sweet guy and probably had many surprises. All he needed was a chance.
The very thought made the rest of the shift go by swiftly. I cleaned up the station, hanging up my apron.
“Alright, I’m off…” I said.
“You really going to the Mojave with that dude?” Darren asked.
“Yeah, why not?” I responded.
“I mean it’s a dangerous place! And you don’t look like you can handle your own out there.” He said, more concerned than I ever could care about him. It made me smile.
“You don’t fucking know me well, Darren… I’m not some little prancing, spoiled kid who knows nothing and expects the world to bend at the knees. No, that’s stupid. I know this desert…” I responded.
He looked out the window smiling.
“Just a moment,” He grinned, closing the shutters, “Heaven…” The boy turned to me, “Do not go to the Mojave…”
“Why?” I asked, growing upset.
“Its… Just don’t go.” He sighed, not being able to find a good reason.
“What would you have me to do then? Stay here, not have any fun, just be miserable? I need this escape…” I said.
“Why because you’re tired of me? Dude, going to the Mojave isn’t that worth it!” He argued back.
“There’s a lot more going on than just working at this shack, Darren. I want to get away from it completely, recharge!” I chuckled, this boy not knowing how truly agitated I was.
“Like what?” He asked, genuinely curious. I looked at him as though he were an idiot.
“You do realize,” I said walking to the door, “We’re not friends… I wouldn’t tell you if you were my shrink and it could make or break my mental state. That’s just… no.”
I left, beginning the long walk to the Merchant Flats. It was late in the afternoon, the air cool and the ruins particularly pretty. It was made even more beautiful by this MP3 player Beth got for me. She loaded it full of various music, probably the only thing that truly made me happy these days.
Beth had gotten a job as a sifter in The Outskirts. It was the perfect job for her. She got to salvage rare machines and pocket whatever she wanted all while getting her hands dirty. She often came home exhausted but happy. At least she found some joy. I still was searching for mine but I didn’t quite know where to begin looking.
I reached the Merchant Flats, entering the huge garage in the rear. There Beth, Zanir and Galveston worked on the Cyberlope which, quite frankly, I didn’t understand. The thing looked finished weeks ago but they kept doing shit to the insides. Now they were just waiting, I guess.
“Hey…” I said. All heads turned, Beth rushing down from the platform to hug me, “Eeew, I smell like hot beef…”
“So!” She laughed. I got her enthusiasm though. We hadn’t really seen each other since we got back from Sloan and it had been three days, “How’ve you been?”
“Managing.” I smiled, “I’m just tired of that idiot Darren at the shack. Thinks just because his uncle is Sal, I’m supposed to like him and shit and let him run over me and have to wipe his ass…”
“You should just find another job…” Beth suggested, leading me back up the platform.
“What can I do?” I asked.
“Well,” Beth smiled, “You are quite acrobatic… Zeek taught you all that flipping and stretching and shit. The thing is though, you can dance incredibly well compared to Zeek so maybe you can start a little hustle there?”
“See, I’d rather have a concrete income, not one that can fluctuate.” I sighed, sitting on one of the tables.
“Hey.” Zanir said, typing away on his computer.
“You still working on that Leer?” I asked.
“No,” He said, “I’m trying to find this movie but I just can’t find it…”
“Movie?” I asked.
“It’s an old Nollywood Movie from like seven hundred years ago. I forgot the name…” He said, very perplexed.
“Oh…” I responded, “So how far along are you?”
“The Leer is synthesizing itself. It’s gonna do the hard work for us.” He chuckled.
“Ok,” Galveston began, “My turrets are steadily going offline, one by one each night, further and further into the City of Rust…”
“Really?” Zanir asked shocked, “You think it’s the same vampire mech?”
“I’m not sure but that’s like three turrets covering very important areas. The three turrets that went offline cover the Acid Swamps which are a major quarantine zone. Plate mechs live in the Acid Swamp and the only thing that kept them there was the turrets. This is not good at all…” Galveston said.
“Have you tried hacking them or is their firewall too thick?” Zanir asked, Galveston now having his full attention.
“It’s not even that. It’s the fact that they charge at you when you get close. Can’t even get close enough to hack them.” Galveston responded, “Until, well… you came.”
“I’ve never heard of plate mechs before.” Zanir said, closing his laptop, “I’ll definitely need to get some scans on them…” He got to his feet, readying a small bag.
“Wait…” Galveston said, scrambling to his feet now, “We’re leaving right now?”
“Yeah,” Zanir said as though it were plainly obvious, “I really, really wanna see a new mech… see has it evolved on it’s own. I’m still on the fence about the vampire mechs changing.”
“Oooooh, ok. Like a field study.” Galveston smiled.
“GUYS!!!!!!” Someone screamed from the garage entrance.
June and Julio made there way into the garage with their analog buggies. June looked very upset. He rushed up the platform having some very big news.
“What’s up?” Galveston asked.
“I had a booze run up the valley. All my shit got stolen! There was like a huge blockade in the center stretch of the valley. Some fools claiming to be Revivalists swarmed us and took it. They probably were going to kill us if it wasn’t for how tough these buggies are. They took my fucking booze man…” June said, obviously upset.
“Wait,” Beth said becoming attentive, “Who took your booze?”
“I don’t know...some new bandito clan up north in the Mojave…” June said, very, very angry.
“Who were you running to?” Galveston asked.
“I had a run to Southern Utah… The Badlands…” June said.
“And where precisely did you run into these motherfuckers?” Zanir asked, drawing a curious look from everyone.
“The Corridor…”
“Lets go find these motherfuckers and see what they’re all about. We need to know who they are and who they affiliate with. Are they a sub band or are they a new upstart? We need information on them… and then we need to take them out!” Zanir said, shocking everyone.
“Why such…” Beth began, “Dedication?”
“Because Revivalists are no joke and are serious, SERIOUS people! They are the reason I’m doing all of this right here, trying to get to Labrador!  They’re the reason my dad died! I need to know if these fools are real or fakers and if they know how real the Revivalists are! If they’re faking, we’re gonna burn them off the face of the earth without a trace…” Zanir said, full of angst.
“In the remote possibility that these fools are the real deal, what will we do?” June asked.
“I’m sorry but I’d have to leave immediately because they can stop everything I’ve worked hard for, undo all what my father forged. I’d have to make sure I was never here and not leave a trace… I probably already am leaving a trail.” Zanir said, thinking on it seriously.
These Revivalists must be quite the potent bunch of people. I was trying to remember who they were. The name sounded very, very familiar.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“They’re the people that quarantined Sloan, and the Acid Swamps…” Galveston responded.
“That’s not good then…” A vaguely familiar voice said. We all turned and it was Galveston’s father, overhearing the entire conversation.
“I’m sorry Alistair, I may be short on my rent this month… my shit got stolen.” June said.
“That’s fine,” The wall of man said walking over to the table, “But you’re all conspiring to go after this band?”
“We’re going to investigate first and foremost, figure out who they are. If they are who they say they are then…” Zanir sighed, unable to finish. Drear spread across Galveston’s face.
“You’re leaving…” Alistair recalled, hearing Zanir say it moments ago, “And if they aren’t who they say they are…”
“We’re just gonna sweep them out of the way because they’re holding up trading on the Corridor.” Zanir responded.
“You think you can pull that off?” Alistair asked, skeptical for all the right reasons.
“I can definitely pull it off.” Zanir said confidently.
“Alright, just don’t bring a war back to my doorsteps…” Alistair responded, heading back towards the inventory warehouse.
“Can I come?” I asked.
“Sure.” Zanir responded.
“Wait, are we gonna go to the Acid Swamps?” Galveston asked.
“We may have to leave before then.” Zanir said, unsure how Galveston would take the news. He shrugged.
“Okay…” He responded, just fine with the news. As long as they were together, that was all that mattered. They gave a brief smile before the grind was on!
It was like preparing for war. Galveston wore ceramic body armor with clips for ammo and a small automatic weapon. Zanir wore this badass black zipper with clips for his floating blades as well as EMP cook bombs. He topped it off with a black beanie, pulling his hair out on each sides to it lay against his cheeks. It made him look like he had done this a thousand times over. He put on the gauntlet and the dozens of blades flew to and connected with his back.
Beth wore a black jumper with EMP weapons in every nook and crany. She had an extendable staff that could output a very powerful EMP if needed or give a debilitating shock. Not only that, but she had her faithful two sub-machine guns with underbarrel bayonets. She then strapped infrared goggles to the suit. June watched her as she prepared.
“You look so badass..” He said.
He wasn’t too bad himself. He was covered in smoke bombs, dry bombs, glass jaw bombs and even T-4 bombs. Wearing the same zipper as Zanir, he had a bladed compound bow on his back. The arrows were varied, some explosive, some poisonous and others producing an EMP. On his hips were two holsters, caressing dual machine pistols.
“Heaven…” Zanir said, reaching down to grab a massive chest from under the table. The tiny boy placed the extremely heavy chest on the table like it was nothing. He opened it, revealing a stash of weapons. He handed me a four and a half foot long, thirty pound shot gun, handling it like it was as light as a pistol. I had to grab it with two hands, the thing was massive, “You’re gonna be our shotgunner. Swish and I worked to build that thing a few weeks ago and tested it out! She’s automatic, can shoot two and a half rounds a second...and her names Kajuka…”
“Why Kajuka?” I asked, caressing the massive gun like she was a baby.
“Because,” Zanir said, “That’s the only word she knows how to say…” He brought his hands together as though he were shooting her, “Ka joo ka ka joo ka ka joo ka!”
“So not only do I have dual automatic sawed offs, I have a giant riot shotgun?” I asked, too enthused.
“You can handle that?” June asked. I looked at the gun, trying to figure it out.
“The kick doesn’t look so bad. It’s the automation mechanism that makes this gun look so big. It probably handles the heavy load for you. Its the dual sawed offs that try to break your wrists when shooting.” I smiled. June nodded in approval as Zanir brought me a box. He opened it, revealing it was chocked full of ammo.
“This is the Mega Slug,” He said pulling out a bullet the size of a banana, “It’s incredibly accurate, turning the shotgun into an anti mech rifle. It’s the same bullet that both Galveston and June use in those giant sniper rifles. This,” He pulled out a blue bullet shaped like a tiny can of soup, “Is an EMP in a Can. It’s exactly what it sounds like and can temporarily stun a mech or fry computers. This guy,” He pulled out another massive bullet, about the same size as the Mega Slug, “is called the MFB… Motha Fuckin’ Bitch! I’m kidding… It stands for Magnesium Fusion Blast! It’ll turn Kajuka into a grenade launcher… a grenade launcher that can can melt anything! Be careful with that… these rounds are the same rounds Big Daddy uses in his one-tens! You also have Bean Bag,” He said, pulling out a purplish-red slug, “Non lethal, and you have the Classic…” He pulled out the last bright red slug before closing the box.
Julio walked up the platform, too wearing a black jumpsuit. He looked like June’s distant twin, both having the same of everything.
“Zanir,” June began, “You and Julio never got acquainted…”
“Hi.” Zanir smiled shaking Julio’s hand.  
“Julio you’re looking at the mastermind behind everything I told you about… Anything, this guy can do!” June smiled.
“Good… this means you can get our booze back? Junio always talks about you!” Julio asked. Zanir looked at June who stood there blushing.
“I still hate you…” June said causing everyone to laugh.
“Alright, lets get rolling!” Galveston said.
“Let me help Heaven out right quick…” Zanir chuckled, walking over to me. He zipped up my rumper, strapping my guns on as well as placing some plates of ceramics in the suit, “I don’t want you dying.”
I loved how firm and not delicate his touches were. The way he looked simply didn’t coincide with them. You’d think he was soft and fragile but no, he was the toughest thing on two legs. It was now time to mobilize. Zanir activated Orb and Big Daddy and we headed north like bats out of hell. Orb scouted ahead along The Corridor finding the road blockaded and guarded by armed men. It was how June and Julio got stoped the first time.
“Ok…” Zanir said, “These don’t look like Revivalists… They are wearing desert robes, sand masks, have parked bandito buggies and have quite crude weapons…” He showed us all the pictures on his hollow watch as we drove through the canyon.
“Let’s bust these goons!” June said over the radio.
“No!” Zanir said back swiftly.
“We need to see where they operate, know what they have that could whoop our asses! We need to know where they’re camped at and how well fortified it is. Then we’ll know what we’re working with.” Zanir said.
“Ok, so we’re going off roading?” June asked.
“Yeah.” Zanir answered, programming commands to both Big Daddy and Orb, “I’m sending Big Daddy to scout the valley side for any place a base of operation could be and sending Orb to keep watch on that blockade.”
“What if we run into somebody out here before we even get this mission off the ground?” Beth asked.
“I got that covered,” Galveston began, still driving, “I’m screening for foreign radio connections out here incase of other buggies. They’ll be shut down, not being able to communicate and we’ll take them out!”
“OK…” Beth responded.
“Where’s Swish?” I asked, wondering why he hasn’t been around the gang lately.
“That little bastard’s gotten mean. I fucks with him no longer…” June laughed.
“He’s been smithing in Dredge Valley. The project there is back on I believe. The work there is quite exhausting. When he gets home, all he does is sleep.” Galveston chuckled.
“Hope he’s alright out there.” I said.
“That little bastard is tough. I’ve tried to kill him so many times…” June teased.
“Yeah, that fool is made out of destruct-o-fabric or something.” Julio added.
“Are you and June related?” I asked.
“We’re twins but not related by blood. We got the same birthday and the same type of Cholo ass, hood ass parents.” Julio laughed.
“That’s cool as fuck! Ya’ll were born on the same day?” I asked.
“Yeah, our parents were like ‘les fuck togedar so our chilrun wabe born on da same day ar sum shit! We’re gonna induce at da same time too becuz our babies mus be twins! GAHHHHHH!!!’” Julio said, emulating his mother’s voice in the most stereotypical Chihuahuan accent he could muster.
“Creepy? I know…” Julio laughed.
“I was gonna say kind of cool, but that suits as well…” I laughed.
“It’s not any type of cool, its gross.” June added.
“I mean…” I said but not able to come to words.
“Ok, we’re gonna head up to the upper canyon so we can stake out…” Zanir said, looking at the feed from his hollowatch.
“Alright.” Everyone said back over the air.
We reached the top of the mesa, each getting out. Zanir was glued to his watch watching the feed from it. He gave a touch prompt looking northeast.
“Guys theres a vault in the Valley. I’m sending Big Daddy to scour for more vaults or other possible entrances.” Zanir said.
“Can buggies fit in the vault?” Galveston asked.
“No.” Zanir responded.
“That’d mean their camp is somewhere else or there’s another entry to the vault because we got into a crazy ass wheel chase. They gotta have buggies.” Julio added.
“Big Daddy is doing ground penetrating radar scans. We’ll find them. It’s only a matter of time…” Zanir said.
The powerful mech didn’t take long to pick up something. Zanir looked on surprised.
“What?” Galveston asked.
“There’s a long tunnel,” Zanir began, “Running for about twenty miles west of here, connecting to… an old military base? Hell, Big Daddy is showing all these vaults are connected. This has potential to be just too out of hand…”       
“Man, I need my fucking booze!” June sighed.
“An old military base?” Galveston said thinking hard, “I don’t know an old military base…”
“Big Daddy is on his way there now to get scans. I bet it is where the people blocking the route are camped out at…” Zanir said.
“And my booze.” June said, obviously quite attached to his alcohol.
“If these people are who you they claim they are, you’re really gonna have to leave, Zanir?” Beth asked, this plaguing her mind. Zanir didn’t respond only looking at his watch in surprise.
“I’m not leaving anytime soon…” He smiled, “Look!”
He showed everyone projections from the watch. What we saw was a massive base with a wide range of buggies parked on a dry lake bed. Several people patrolled the area while others did maintenance work on these buggies. It didn’t make sense…
“Okay, what am I looking at?” I asked.
“Don’t the Revivalists have standard buggies?” Zanir asked.
“Yeah, they do.” Galveston responded, now seeing the issue.
“And June, did you get chased by a Revivalist buggy?” Zanir continued.
“I don’t know what a Revivalist buggy looks like… I never had a run in with them before.” June said back.
“But none of these buggies are Revivalist buggies…” Beth said looking closely at the projections. Zanir went over the scans for a third time.
“I think I can finally see what’s going on here… They’re just smarter than the usual bandits…” He said.
“...Who stole my booze!” June reminded us again. Zanir turned to him.
“How much was it worth?” He asked.
“About five hun-K pesos.” Julio said.
“Shit, this was a shipment?” Galveston asked.
“I told you, we were on a cartel run!” June said, losing his patience.
“I’m trying to think of a plan…” Zanir said, sending the Big Daddy’s sweeping ground penetrating radar over the base installments, “I’m getting some specific radio reflections associated with glass but it’s well beneath the surface...in a bunker… So they’re using a bunker for a cellar? Not quite sure... Um, also getting a lot of radio chatter associated with the metal, calcium… bones! Guessing this particular installment is where all the fun action is…”
“And where those thieves took my FUCKING booze!!!” June said.
“How are we going to approach this?” Galveston asked.
Zanir pulled up a large three-dimensionally rendered map. The bass was huge, hangars everywhere. Most were now turned into camps while the actual research facilities acting as a makeshift mingling ground with all the bandits’ stolen rations. The ground penetrating radar showed an elaborate network of tunnels, vaults and bunkers.
“This, to the north,” Zanir began, “Is where the booze is. Surprisingly it is not heavily populated… this operation is intelligent, but rather small.”
“So are we gonna go in get the booze, take out these motherfuckers and bounce?” June asked, ready to bloody his hands. Zanir thought on it for a bit.
“No… we might not need to. We probably can strike fear with minimal casualties and get out… Got a strange feeling about this place…” Zanir said, deep in thought.
“I want to end them all! Make sure they never do to someone else what they did to me! And if a single bottle of rhubarb is missing… Imported it all the way from the Southern Remnants…” June said, full of vengeance. Zanir smiled at the boy, only able to laugh.
“What we’re gonna do is scale the opposition, use Big Daddy and Orb for intimidation, go in like badasses with our big guns and get what we need to get. We do not need to kill unless we’re shot at first… which, based on these numbers, based on the type of weapons they had, I doubt we’ll be. Plus, between us all, we stand a mighty good chance against them.” Zanir said.
“Okay, so let’s bounce!” June said, rushing around to the buggy.
“Don’t be so quick to jump, boy… Still got to make sure this will be an easy walk…” Zanir sighed, entering the buggy, “But get us into position, in the valley to the north…”
“Alright…” Galveston said as we all hopped into the buggy.
The plan became underway. We all had a lot riding on what Zanir had found but it seemed to work out. We simply walked into the base, their being virtually no security present. The inhabitants paid us no mind… Something wasn’t right…  Zanir led us down the tunnels into a massive open bunker where a makeshift bar was made. It was full of… kids? Seriously! This massive base was run by kids! It made us all gasp.
“You’ve got to be fucking me sideways…” Zanir sighed, “Galveston, Beth, take control of this place…”
The two stepped forward into the vault, no one paying them any mind. Suddenly Galveston fired shots into the bunker ceiling, everyone ducking down, going silent.
“Who’s in charge here?” Galveston asked. It was a while before someone raised their hand. Galveston waved him over.
The young man came, both terrified and highly upset. He didn’t know what this was about or what big, fierce Galveston was about to do to him. Galveston pointed to me, directing the young man over to me. It left him terribly confused.
“June and Julio, go get your booze… I’m gonna talk to this kid.” Zanir said, summoning him, “Beth, Heave, make sure no one gets a gun and tries anything stupid. Galveston, come with me...” He fiddled with his watch, punching in numbers and codes.
Suddenly all his blades rushed off his back and into the vault, causing everyone to scream out. Each one took aim at a target, somehow able to sense each person… despite not having any sensors. Zanir chuckled as he led the boy up through the vaults, to the main facility with Galveston close behind. The young leader looked back, all he could see was the wall of meat Galveston was. It was incredibly imposing…
“Mind, telling me what’s going on here?” He asked.
“You just barge into my base and threaten my people?” The young man asked. Zanir stopped, looking at him in confusion.
“You stole something from my people… You didn’t think that one day someone would retaliate?” Zanir responded.
“We are the Revivalists, a force of reckoning in this desert!!! We do not steal! We take what doesn’t belong!” The young man countered.
“Bullshit! I know Revivalists...you’re plain posers! The Revivalists only care about old war tech, mechs and spreading propaganda...not blocking a well traveled road people use to get by… looting them, then stealing their buggies and leaving them out to die!” Zanir said, leaving the boy speechless. The young leader had no idea how Zanir knew.
“Who are you?” The bandit leader asked.
“I’m someone who wants to tell you that what you’re doing will bring the wrong type of attention to yourselves…” Zanir warned.      
“You just don’t understand.” The leader said, shaking his head.
“Well make me understand!” Zanir said.
“The people here are from every walk of life in the Mojave! They’ve run from a life they wanted to escape from for the longest! Each and everyone one of them brings a skillset this community needs to thrive!” The leader expounded.
“So this is a community?” Zanir asked. The young man’s eyes bucked with apprehension.
“Yes.” The leader responded, not wanting this fact to be known, “We’re only doing what we must to to eek out a living in this desert! None of us want to return back to what we ran away from!”
“Well, what you have running here is beautiful,” Zanir began, “But what you’re doing is completely idiotic… The Corridor is a well traveled route and you just can’t block it! That could start a war! A WAR!!!!!! And based on what I’ve seen of your base, you’re not prepared for any type of war…”
“The Corridor is owned by no one! We can claim it as our own, seize it make a living off of it!” The boy countered.
“That isn’t so wise kid…” Galveston said, warranting a terrified look from him.
“Do you think you can seize something without having the firepower to back it up? How much fire power have you collected from raiding the caravans on the Corridor? Do your people know how to work them? Can they function in a real firefight? Do they know what my people wanted to do to them and how they won’t show restraint because most of them are children? Everyone I brought along here has lost a great deal and just like your people, must eek out a living! If you want to attack the world like adults, expect the world to retaliate back like you’re adults…” Zanir said, bringing up factors the young leader never before took note of. It left him there thinking.
“Why have you come?” The leader asked.
“Your boys stole something of ours and we need it back or we’ll be the ones in hot water…” Zanir responded.
“So you’re just going to take it and leave?” The young leader asked, unsure what to make of this. We had come, found his resource rich home and were just going to leave? It couldn’t possibly end so peacefully.
“Why would we want to be here any longer than what we got to?” Zanir asked back, seeing the boy was getting a bit on edge. The little leader shook his head, vexed.
“I don’t get it…” He said, “Why come for alcohol then leave? Why should we believe you? Why should we let you walk out of here alive, knowing what we truly are, knowing what we truly have? You know what we’ve done…” Zanir smiled, walking imposingly up to the boy.
“Ooooou shit…” Galveston, laughed knowing this could take a terrible turn, “Kid you do not want that…” The young leader looked at Galveston, surprised by how kind he was being. It just didn’t match his big, brooding looks. I was clear the boy didn’t know what to make of him.
“Because, you can’t beat us! I have two battle mechs circling the skies above this base! I have five highly adept combat specialists with weapons that would just decimate you all. I know where you can run, where you can hide… If you want to turn this into a battle because you’re an idiot, go ahead… but I wouldn’t advise it! I can guarantee you, we’ll be the ones walking out of here unscathed… and the worst part about it, no one will ever know…” Zanir said, striking fear down into the boy’s soul.
“Okay, just take what you want and get off my lands…” The boy said, trying to hide his fear.
“Just so we’re clear… this base… is your land! This valley, no… NO ONE OWNS IT!!!! And if I catch you ever blocking The Corridor again… I’ll bomb your blockade…” Zanir threatened, “But apart from that… cool place you have here! I love that it’s a sanctuary for refugees. Keep it off the map and trust no one from the outside! I’m a robotics expert and this base has a lot of machinery that can make this place even more self sustainable… If you ever need outside help, I’ll be in Jeurridam, The City of Rust…” Galveston looked at Zanir, surprised by his offer.
“Really?” He asked.
Zanir smiled, backing away from the young leader. Galveston began to suspect that Zanir was up to something. It left the young leader completely astounded.
“I got my booze!” June shouted from the vault.
“Good, let’s get a move on!” Zanir shouted back, heading back down to the bunker.
“Is there any way I can contact you?” The young leader asked. It made Galveston look on in disbelief, this taking a very strange turn.
“Do you have a radio?” Zanir pondered.
“We do, a multi frequency pattern transponder… Some of my guys know how to work it.”  The leader said.
“I’ll be,” Zanir paused, fiddling on his watch, “On the nineteen hundred megahertz band at all times! It’s a very discreet radio channel that, very, very few know about. If you ever need anything, I’ll be there.” The young leader nodded, heading back down to the bunker. As he did, June and Julio brushed past him, June giving him one menacing eye. The young leader shuttered, continuing forth through the bunker.
Zanir disarmed the blades, they all flying from the underground returning to the buggy.
“Guys! We got new allies in our come up! These people can provide help us figure out the machinery in this place!” The young leader cheered. A cautious wir spread through the crowd, as the kids began to cheer with their leader. The gang looked at Zanir, wondering what was said to the young leader. Zanir shrugged and we were on our way.
June and Julio rode north to finish their cartel run while Zanir, Galveston, Beth and I rode back to Jeurridam. By the time we arrived, it was night fall. We entered the garage. To my surprise, Swish was there, tuning his buggy's suspension. He looked at us smiling as Galveston parked the analog buggy.
“You all went ghost…” He smiled.
“Man, you will not believe what happened today!” Galveston.
“What?” Swish asked curiously.
“Okay, you know how cartels and traders have been going missing on The Corridor?” Galveston responded.
“Well, Okay...they have… June and Julio ran into a blockade in a stretch of the Corridor where some fools claiming to be Revivalists but were actually a band of kids who would pirate cartels and caravans and stock the goods so they could sustain themselves! June and Julio escaped but their booze got stolen and we went to get it back which is when we discovered we were dealing with kids… So we handled it politely and,” Galveston explained breathlessly, reaching for Zanir, “Your little twerp here, offered our help to them because he felt sorry for them or some shit!!!!”
“No I felt sorry for all the dormant machines there! The kids could really use them for help!” Zanir laughed.
“So you all had this much fun without me?” Swish asked.
“Well, how was your day?” Galveston asked back.
“Shitty… Been welding pipes from the crack of dawn til’ the crack of my ass became tired and said fuck it…” Swish sighed, “I really need to get to sleep but… my buggy’s suspension is a bit tight in the back and I need to relieve the coil stress or else I’m gonna be riding without a rear axle real’ soon.”
“Get some rest bud! I’ll do it!” Galveston said, patting him on the shoulder.
“Really?” Swish asked surprised.
“Yeah!” Galveston said, eager to help him.
“I say soften the load to about four hundred PSI and check my rear axle because it might need replacing.” Swish said, heading to the door.
“Alright…” Galveston said.
“And nice seeing you out for a change, Heaven!” Swish said, completely catching me off guard. Before I could respond, he was gone, heading home to get some rest.
“Um Galveston…” Zanir said looking at his watch.
“Yeah?” Galveston asked back as he crawled under the rear of Swish’s buggy.
“It’s happening now! Something is attacking one of your turrets.” Zanir said, laughing nervously.
Galveston darted from under the buggy.
“Where?” He asked.
“The fourth turret covering the Acid Swamp…” Zanir said.
“Only one left and that’s on the northern stretch, which is a pretty distance away… Shit, we got to go!!!” Galveston said, rushing over to the buggy.
“I’m sending Orb there now…” Zanir said rushing over to the buggy. Beth and I hoped in the back with barely any time before the buggy pulled off.
As Galveston drove like a mad bat out of hell he suddenly slammed on the breaks, rolling down his window.
“Get in!” He demanded. Beth scooted over, Swish climbing in.
“The fuck is going on?” He asked chuckling.
“One of my turrets is being attacked again…” Galveston said, mashing out hard on the gas.
“Ah… adventure.” Swish sighed, obviously quite exhausted.
“Sorry bruh, but we might need you!” Galveston responded.
Within five minutes the rampaging analog buggy arrived at the massive barrier. Galveston pulled back the control yolks and the sturdy vehicle began climbing over the sheer vertical surface. We all were being yanked to the back of our seats by gravity. As we got to the top, the astounding beauty of the place was just unreal.
The acid pools glowed bright green, casting an ominous hue on the giant red spires. Not only that but red patches of desert clay had been dissolved into gorges were streams of the powerful acid cut through. Alien rust-like grass grew on the shores of the acid pools. Like the rest of the City of Rust, piles of various metals were everywhere. Some had the typical red rust of the surroundings while others had, blue, green even purple rust. It all was very bizarre, a massive mash of colors, illuminated by the glowing acid!
The view was cut short when Galveston jammed the yolks of the buggy to the right, forcing the vehicle to veer left. He nimble rode atop the narrow perimeter at blazing speed. We neared the spire where the turret was being attacked. It came closer and closer, Galveston not slowing down.
“You gonna stop?” I asked, bracing myself.
“Nope…” He said, pulling back on the yolks. Suddenly the buggy began driving up the spire. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. The spire was incredibly high, sloping from near vertical to horizontal the higher we went.
“Okay, Orb found our little perp!” Zanir smiled, unphased by the staggering heights. He pulled up a view of what was draining the turret. It was a vampire mech, one riddled with bullet holes and a big chunk of armor missing out of its chest. It was the same mech that battled with the Orb before!
“Shit, isn’t that the mech you took control of back in Sloan?” Galveston asked, looking at the projection.
“Can you keep your eyes on where you’re fucking GOING????” I asked, terrified.
The vampire mech stopped leaching circulatory fluid from the turret, looking at the Orb which was shining its flood beams on it. It began roaring out, swatting the air and pounding hard on the platform it stood on. The Orb began to wir and buzz in response! The two were arguing.
“Look!” Galveston said, pointing at something in the distance. It was the Orb hovering above the tiniest platform hundreds of meters away. All you could see was it’s blinding lights.
“Oh my God, that’s where we got to go?” Beth asked, excitedly.
“Please...look forward!” I begged of Galveston.
The powerful buggy began to reach the slope of the spire where the vertical column gradually turned into a horizontal plain. He stopped the buggy sighing... We all got out, the only thing I could do was peer over the edge. The ground was so far away, I got dizzy.
“Easy!” Swish said, grabbing me firmly in his hands.
“Boy…” Beth warned, looking at me in concern.
“I’m scared of heights…” I said, walking back to the buggy. I felt light headed.
Zanir and Galveston walked over to the edge of the spire… leaping off. Everyone ran over to see what exactly had happened, only to find the boys had leapt to a ledge that was just beyond sight. We all sighed, relieved to see neither of them jumped to their deaths. We followed, the elevation really pulling a number on me.
There was another platform Zanir and Galveston lept to. I couldn’t go any further, this just too high up for me. Swish squatted beside me as I collapsed to the platform floor. I was just too queazy. He laughed.
“It happens to us all.”
“I’m trying hard not to throw up but since I haven’t eaten anything, I don’t think I will.” I sighed.
“Good.” He chuckled.
Zanir and Galveston stood on the lower platform, greeted by a wagging tailed manticore mech. Neither boy seemed to enthused about the machine.
“So you’ve been the bastard that’s been consuming all my turrets fluids?” Galveston asked. The mech just continued wagging it’s long primate-like tail as it sat on the edge of the platform. It was oblivious to what he was saying, just glad to see people. Its wind bladder expanded and contracted, breathing. It looked on inquisitively, confusing us all.
“Oh my God,” Zanir said, “I’m still in control of this thing…”
“Really?” Galveston asked surprised.
“Yeah… It still has my command program active.” Zanir said putting the watch up to his mouth, “Come forth…”
The mech did so, causing Galveston to step back. It then stood there it’s flowing tail, slamming into the turret.
“Watch it!” Galveston warned, very concerned over the turret.
“Something’s different about this mech…” Zanir began.
“Really…?” Galveston sighed, pasting the mech to the turret. He checked to see all the damage done.
“Yeah, going through schematics now. He just has advanced sustainability programs compared to the other manticores in Sloan.” Zanir said.
“And that means?”
“It means he’s willing to go far and wide to find things he needs to keep himself alive. The sustainability programs have remapped his insides just to keep him alive. He feels a need to fight for survival just like a living being… You think we should add him to the roster?” Zanir asked, hoping Galveston would say yes.
“What? No!!!!! So he can continue to consume my turrets?” Galveston countered.
“I can fix him!” Zanir said. Galveston looked at him, not caring too much about the mech. His only concern was the turrets.
“Can you fix my turrets?” He asked him.
“Sure. I have a plan… to find a solution for our cytotrolic acid issue. I want to find a simple way to synthesize it and I saw something back in the Corridor that I believe can help.” Zanir smiled. Galveston looked at him, having to come over after such a bombshell.
“Is that why you offered our help to those people?” He asked.
“Yes…” He said, unsure how the big burly man would react. Galveston suddenly grabbed him, hugging him tightly.
“Is it too soon to say I love you yet?” Galveston chuckled.
“Yes!!!!” Zanir teased. The two kissed.
“Guys, look!” Beth said, pointing over the ledge.
A herd of plate mechs moved slowly through a pool of acid, ready to graze on the strange rust grass on the other side of the shore. The machines looked very large and cumbersome, covered in a heavy acid proof armor that allowed them to wade through the pools. They had large flat heads, short stout necks and equally stout legs. The strangest part was that they all were of varying sizes as if some were offspring.
“Oh my god, I got to get a closer look…” Zanir said walking to the edge. Orb swooped down, allowing the boy to climb on.
“ZANIR!!!!!!” Galveston screamed, worried about him getting to close to the plate mechs. They were very, very dangerous machines.
Suddenly, Big Daddy swooped forth, extending out his hand. Galveston stepped onto his hand, the massive mech placing him on his back. Big Daddy then followed the Orb towards the Acid Swamp. It left us all standing here in disbelief.
“I know that idiot didn’t just leave us here…” Beth said.
The manticore then climbed up to the platform we were on, startling us all. It picked us up in it’s arms, leaping off the ledge. We all screamed seeing nowhere for the mech to land but the hard ground thousands of feet below. Somehow, the mech managed to reach a fallen spire, landing on it, before jumping to another collapsed spire right in the center of the Acid Swamp. It placed us down. This induced instant vomiting from me! Beth ran up to the mech kicking and screaming at it, cursing at it in Spanish.
“You dumb shit!!!!” She concluded.
“That was fun…” Swish laughed, warranting a very upset look from us both.
Zanir came swooping by on the back of Orb.
“Sorry about that guys… Gave the mech the Follow Protocol. Didn’t mean to traumatize you like that!” He laughed. Orb flew towards the herd of grazing plate mechs, scanning them from a safe distance. His results were amazing.
“Galveston, how long have they been isolated for?” Zanir asked, completely shocked.
“About fifteen, twenty years. Why?” Galveston asked back.
“...Because these mechs have found a way to reproduce! This isolated region has all the resources the mechs need to stay alive and thriving! Not only that, but reproduce. These mechs also have sustainability programs! We may be the first ones to discover that mechs can mutate themselves to cope with sudden changes!!!!” Zanir said excitedly. Galveston heard it all but said nothing, his eyes locked onto what the plate mechs were doing.
“Are they eating grass?” Galveston asked. Zanir looked.
“Oh my God, they are!” He said, very confused, “But it’s like… rust. We need samples!”
“Zanir, no! That’s too dangerous!” Galveston said but it was too late! Zanir and Orb were off to the grassy areas of the swamp. The orb banked to the side, Zanir hanging on to a wing. He snagged quite a few stalks of grass, uprooting them completely.
The two flew back over to Galveston, only drawing a mere glance from the ‘highly dangerous’ hippopotamus-like mechs. It left Galveston’s jaw hanging. Zanir was just a fearless little person. After seeing how far Zanir was willing to push himself physically, not to mention his god-like mental capacity, made him never want to leave the boy’s side. The two were just a match made in heaven…


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