"Jeurridam: Primm Road" - Chapter 9


We stared on as the boy leaned up from the bed. He didn’t seem to be in pain which was remarkable to say the least. He had been shot repeatedly, and lost a lot of blood. His eyes fell upon the computer seeing a cable running from it. The cable connected to the back of his head, the having to touch it to believe it.
“No… NO!!!!” He cried, “Beth get this thing OUT OF ME!!!!!!!!!”
As he screamed, Big Daddy came rushing into the hospital, everyone fleeing his path. The Leer was standing at alert too! Last but not least, Orb nimbly flew into the hospital. It hovered above Zanir, sensing he was awoke as well. It was just insane how these mechs swarmed in here! It was clear that these were not merely mindless machines.
Beth rushed over to the boy as he struggled.
“Quit that!” She said. Big Daddy whirred wildly, pointing at the computer, “What?”
“Beth get this thing out of me…” Zanir begged, obviously quite distressed.
“Zanir, what’s wrong?” Beth asked, unsure what was bothering him. She looked at Big Daddy which gestured to pull the cord from Zanir’s head.
“Just get it out…” Zanir said, crying heavily. Beth began yanking on the chord. Zanir screamed out in utter agony, the prong not detaching. Beth realized something was wrong with the prong.
“It’s stuck!” Beth said, letting it go.
“I know… I know. You’re going to have to hold me down to get this thing out.” He said. Beth looked at us all.
“Guys?” She said.
Just as we were about to come to assist, Big Daddy put an arm in front of us, whirring out. We stopped, unsure what the giant sentinel was trying to get us to do. He gestures for us to all yank the cord out of Zanir’s head. The sentinel placed a hand on Zanir’s back and another on his head. Big Daddy nodded, whirring us the go ahead.
“Come one guys.” Beth said. We all began to yank on the chord. Zanir squirmed, squealing loudly under the pain. Even Big Daddy struggled to keep the cybernetic boy down. This thing was barely budging.
Finally the, prong released with an audible pop. We all fell to the ground under our own tugging. Zanir lay in the bed crying. The pain must had been quite intense! Zanir didn’t even cry when Rion shot him to bits. The boy eventually calmed down, his breathing slowed down to normal. He sat up, staring at the floor. There was so much on his mind.
“You okay?” Beth asked.
“Yeah, the brain implant in my head has a faulty port so the prong often gets stuck.” He said back.
“No, I mean are you…”
“I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT!!!!!” He shouted quick to shoot down the discussion. He clenched his head, still haunted by the thoughts.
“I wasn’t talking about that,” Beth said, surprised by his wrath, “I mean your vitals… How do you feel? Your cybecytes have take another step and began fusing with your organs. You’re becoming more… and more… machine…”   
“I already know. I was hooked up to that damn prong afterall. I was aware of every...single thing that happened after I went offline.” Zanir responded.
Big Daddy whirred, pointing at the food.
“Yeah, I know dad.” Zanir sighed, clenching his head. He got out of the hospital bed without a limp or a anything. This was just insane! Not even forty eight hours ago, he had bled half to death from gunshot wounds, had several fractured bones and we weren’t even certain he was going to make it. Not only was he alright but there was no trace of damage.
“You need to take it easy.” Beth advised, rushing to assist him. He extended out his hand, pausing her in her tracks.
“I got this…” He said. Big Daddy whirred angrily, slamming a fist to the tarmac floor. The entire building shook with the force.
“Damn, who unleashed the beast. Alright, I’ll chill.” Zanir said, sitting back on the bed. We all looked on lost.
“Okay, is this something new? You’ve never been able to understand Big Daddy without a connection…” June asked.
“There’s a connection, just wireless now. That’s what Galveston and I was last working on before that psycho put a permanent dent in him.” Zanir sighed, shaking his head.
“What the hell is going on in here?” Basil asked, rushing into the terminal, “ZANIR!!!!”
“Wussup?” Zanir asked, looking as blank as ever.
“You...you..you’re woke? You got shot up and shot up bad… you’re…”
“Look, Basil. I’m not like a regular person. I heal really fast, so spare me the confusion…” Zanir said, short of patience.
“So how well are you?” Basil asked.
“Rare and to go…” Zanir shrugged. Big Daddy looked at Basil shaking his head, refuting the claim.
“GET OUT! You’re too big to be in here!!!” Basil said, pointing to the door, “All you mechs get out!!!!!”
They did so, Big Daddy bucking at Basil, as if to square off with the boy. The Leer brushed against him, almost knocking the boy over. These machines had a sense of humor, it seemed.
“Zanir your family is rude…” Basil sighed.
“They’re just trying to be supportive, I guess.” Zanir smiled. Despite his pure sentiments, it was quite a weak smile. They boy still had some serious thoughts lurking around his mind. We all did.
“Is it too soon to ask your for help?” Basil asked. It warranted a reaction from June that only could be described as sheer disgust. Hell, I wasn’t too happy Basil didn’t give the boy the first chance to breathe. He literally woke up a handful of minutes ago out of  death defying coma!
“No… What do you need?” Zanir asked, looking not very enthused. However we all knew he felt indifferent. Basil sighed, obviously a lot needing to be done.
“Where… to… start…?” Basil shrugged.
“Maybe with the circuitry in the tunnels?” Zanir suggested.
“That’d be a good start.” Basil laughed, “Come along…”
We all walked forth, heading out of the hospital. Basil began to lead us on an unexpected tour of the base.
“There are over five dozen above ground hangars here. Some are still under renovations but others have been completed. We’re working on building a massive network of greenhouses to be completely self sustaining. We’ve been bringing in fertile soil from the Colorado river basin as well as planting crops…” Basil said.
“You my friend need someone to steal some trees for you… Waiting for them to grow will not serve you well at all, I’m afraid.” Ezekiel said, warranting an intense glance from Zanir.
“How do you suppose we get trees in the desert?” Basil asked.
“There’s a nursery in Phoenix. We saw it on our last run. We’re can pirate a few fruiting saplings.” June suggested. Ezekiel gave him a blazing glare before falling silent. June could feel the static emanating from Ezekiel but said nothing. He didn’t want to engage in an exchange of hostilities with him.
“Hey, I’m not above stealing from others to get what I need for my people…” Basil shrugged, “But we’re also trying to turn some hangars into power depots but we keep running into issues with wiring.”
“I can help with that. I have a special project I’ve been working on and I think this place has just what I need to benefit us both.” Zanir said. June and Beth looked at each other, sharing a few giggles.
“Told you.” June smiled.
“What?” Zanir asked.
“Nothing.” June responded with a quick head shake.
“And lastly, we have a few hangars with a whole heap of useless junk. After cleaning out many of them, we placed the junk piles in a select few hangars.” Basil explained.
“Junk? I love Junk! I know what I’ll be doing for the next few weeks then.” Zanir said.
“I don’t even know why I’m showing you all… You basically infiltrated this facility already…” Basil chuckled.
“Well you stole our booze.” June said, surprising everyone that he still was holding on to that.
“Since our last run in, I’ve been having a change in operation… Haven’t been blockading the Corridor any more. My goal is to get this place to be self sustaining and to build a wall around it but that’s a long way off. Between that and now, we’re utterly defenseless with no niche. My vision is starting to crumble.” Basil sighed.
“How fucking old are you?” Zanir asked.
“Nineteen… Why?” Basil responded.
“You look like a pre-teen.” Zanir noted.
“And you’re one to speak?” Basil fired back, warranting a smile from Zanir.
“I can turn this place into the most advanced place in the Mojave… Hell, apart from the Hoover Dam, this place already is.” Zanir shrugged.
“Need I remind you about your long term goal… getting to Labrador?” Beth asked.
“I still have loose ends to tie up and I don’t feel prepared to make the journey yet. I still have to fix the turrets in The City of Rust which will be an undertaking. That means I’ll have to find a way to synthesize cytotrolic acid which is fundamentally impossible right now and I have to transport enough of the acid back to Jeurridam… Not to mention, I need to fix the manticore mech. It’d be an important ally.” Zanir said.
“Damn, seems you were so close to leaving… Now you’re stuck here again.” Beth sighed.
“I know.” Zanir responded with a head shake, “I gotta do what I gotta do…” The faintest smile came across Zeek’s face. Of course this love sick fool would be happy Zanir would stay a little bit longer.
“Where the hell are my gravity blades?” Zanir asked.
“Back of the buggy. They are a lot lighter than they look!” Beth answered.
“They’re made out of an alien metal.” Zanir responded.
“Alien metal?” Basil asked, “We have tons of alien scrap here, or so we think…”
“Really?” Zanir asked, “This place just keeps getting better and better…”
“So do all of you plan on staying? I need to know so I can arrange accommodations. We have more than enough space.” Basil offered.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys but I’d love to stay.” I laughed.
“Sorry but I got work Monday…” Ezekiel said, warranting a bewildered look from Zanir. However, the boy didn’t comment.
“So do you, Heaven.” Julio said with a head nod. It had me so confused.
“What? I’m not working with Darren anymore…” I said back quickly.
“EEEEEEW You worked with Darren?” Ezekiel asked almost drawn to laughter.
“Yeah… Seems we all know him.” I sighed.
“Oh my God,” Ezekiel said, bursting out into laughter, “YOU’RE THE UPTIGHT DUDE HE SAID…. BUAHAHAHAHAH OH MY GOD….” All I could do was roll my eyes.
“Let’s refrain from even discussing…” I said back.
“I don’t mind staying here, either.”  Beth said, looking at the expanse of buildings.
“Well how am I going to get to work?” Ezekiel asked.
“It’s not even wise for you to get to work with Da Lagon lurking like they are. We all need to lay low for better reasons rather than worse…” Zanir advised, surprising us all. Zeek was left staring at Zanir in shock before having to compose himself.
“I don’t know. I think it’s worth the risk… Someone needs to wipe Da Lagon off the face of the Earth anyways… It’d be a cute little spec erased from these lands.” Ezekiel responded.
“I wholeheartedly agree. I can wipe their entire force out in five minutes flat…” Zanir said, looking as stone cold as ever. It made Ezekiel glow to hear Zanir speak so grimmly.
“Hell no… Not only is it stupid because you’re not well enough face off with an entire bandito faction, it wouldn’t be wise to bring attention to you or the mechs in a place that hates mechs! We don’t know who’s a rat or not out there in Jeurridam… Everyone looks the damn same!” Beth said, the only rational sounding one.
“You think I’ll use my mechs to take out Da Lagon?” Zanir asked smiling.
You think you’re gonna take out Da Lagon while I’m still alive and kicking?” Beth fired back defiantly, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest, “Besides… Alistair is already promised to do so. Oh yeah, Alistair wants to speak with you, Zanir.”
“Why?” Zanir asked, completely terrified.
“Just go see him.” Beth sighed.
“No… I can’t.” Zanir said, shaking his head, “I will not be able to look at him… I’m pretty sure he was one reason I didn’t come out of my coma sooner. I can’t look at him…”
“Zanir, it’s not like that. He understands wholeheartedly what happened and is not upset with you. He wants Da Lagon on a silver platter over the spilled blood!” Beth responded.
“And he’s not the only one… I want every Da Lagon roamer, every Da Lagon lord on the slaughter! I want it to be at my hands… Beth, if you knew half the shit they put me through, you’d see why I needed this! I was their pawn! I did their dirty work! I made them rise to power because of what they did to me and I want to take it all away… You don’t know how bad I want this!” Zeek said through the grit of his teeth. It left Zanir shocked, completely and utterly floored. Zeek sounded like he was finally thinking right, like he’d come to his senses about Da Lagon. It was surreal to see because not long ago, Zeek was in much worse shape. Hell, it was a shock to us all.
“After the last blood bath, I’m done with missions for a while. I just want to nap around for a few days.” I said, holding both hands up in surrender to the idea. Basil smiled at me.
“I can arrange that… I can make sure you’re very well taken care of.” Basil said. His eyes held something a bit more than just a pure intent. My gut was telling me he was up to something but I didn’t know what.
“That sounds wonderful, actually.” I responded.
“How do you get water out here?” Zanir asked.
“One of my wiser subjects flooded a tunnel that runs all the way from here to Lake Mead. We just filter the water with some charcoal pumps. We’re never in short supply.” Basil answered. Zanir was further impressed with this place.
“How’d you manage to do that?” Zanir asked.
“We used the lowest tunnel to channel water across the desert. The upper tunnels are sealed away and dry. You’d have to ask him yourself though. I’m terrible with the sciences.” Basil said with a head shake.
“Me too. I don’t get how Zanir manages it all…” I added. Basil smiled at me, as we continued to head into the main facility. Maybe he was flirting? I don’t know…  
“You’re bunch are lucky to have him on my team. I hope he plays well with others… My subjects would be eager to learn from a mind like his.” Basil continued.
“You’re kind of like the Little Prince of the Mojave, aren’t you?” I asked. He looked at me appalled by the title.
“Noooooooo… I wouldn’t like to view it that way.” He said shaking his head.
“Well you kind of are…” Zanir said, only to prod.
“I only am the representative of these people! As a whole, we come together to form decisions… I don’t do it all by myself. It’s all a massive team effort and we vote.” He responded.
“Awe… Democracy. Fair but inefficient…” June shrugged, warranting a disapproving look from Basil.
“We have a committee… For the next six months, I’m nominated head of the committee and my plans, with the approval of others, will come to fruition. We try to keep the committee like minded but varied enough to see kinks and flaws in a regiment.” Basil responded, “It has been in talks to keep me the head since my plans seem to be the only ones capable of getting off the ground…”
“Nice to meet someone that doesn’t have shit for luck…” Zeek said, extending out his hand. Basil looked surprised, eager to shake it.
“So if you all stay, I apologize, I’m going to have to put you all to work. There is plenty to do around here.” Basil smiled.
“Nope, not a fan. I’ll move back to Henderson…” Zeek responded.
“I have work of my own, a cartel to run.” June said.
“Hell, I’ll quit my job for this place.” I said, warranting a warm grin from Basil. Yep, this was definitely flirting!
“Nope… Monday, when we make the package drop to Tijuana, you’re coming!” Julio said.
“Tijuana? You’re taking my brother all the way to Baja?” Beth asked. Zeek turned to June, looking at him intently.
“You got my brother running cartels, now?” Zeek asked, not sounding pleased.
“It’s up to him.” June shrugged, not wanting this to turn into some type of confrontation.
“It’s better than being cooped up in a shack and coming home, smelling like taco meat…” Zeek laughed, poking fun at me. It left June quite disturbed, unsure how to process Zeek’s hard outward facade.
“How far is Tijuana?” I asked.
“About two hundred fifty, three hundred miles on a good day.” Julio said, seemingly prodding for my reaction.             
“And all of this on this upcoming Monday?” I asked, this being just so much.
“Yep.” He said.
“Hell no… I’m not doing that.” I responded. Julio came closer, smiling in some sickening way.
“Do you know how much desert transports make simply for carrying shit across the desert?” He asked.
“It’s also incredibly dangerous!” I responded.
“Which is exactly why we need you. The more gunners we have, the safer we’ll be.” I said back.
“Tijuana isn’t exactly a sanctum… Maybe a less dangerous mission for my brother rather than anything else?” Beth asked.
“No, let Heaven have some fun! He needs the work experience…” Zeek insisted. Beth looked at him threateningly, causing the boy to laugh.
“I’ve had my fun for the rest of the year! I just want to sit down for a bit before getting back into it.” I responded.
“You sat yesterday… And you’re sitting today… Tomorrow, we get back on that Mojave grind….” Julio said.
“I don’t want to do it!!!!!” I pouted.
“Hey, you’ll be back…” Basil said, sounding reassuring.
“Eh, I guess I’ll do it. But don’t expect me to be all chipper and dandy about it. I’m fucking acting like Zeek but on ten…” I said.
“Acting like me? Dafuq you mean acting like me? I act a certain kind of way?” Zeek asked laughing.
“Yeah, mean as hell… detached, completely anti-social and slightly murderous…” I teased.
“Hey, my best friend was just killed by that Da Lagon scum… I’m still coping…” He responded.
“So did mine…” I said, challengingly. It warranted a strange reaction from, Julio. He rolled his eyes as though he weren’t pleased at my sentiments over Swish.
Beth stared at the boy, quite unimpressed with him. Something was going on and I had the slightest clue about it. I shrugged it off like I did most things before Basil stepped forth, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.
“If the cartels don’t work out for you, I may have the perfect job…” He smiled. It was so uncomfortable… I smelled like a walking armpit, having worked out early this morning and he, by contrast, smelled like a pool of the most divine aromas.
 Not to mention how gorgeous he was. He stood about six foot one, and was quite slim in stature. He had typical mojave features, with the dark olive skin, curly, almost kinky hair, and caucasoid facial features. The only difference here was that he had honey colored eyes and a similar hair color. Still though, he looked much younger than nineteen and had this joyousness about him that I desperately needed right about now.
“I would ask what this job would be but I can’t help but not train my focus smelling like this.” I said, truly embarrassed. He looked at me, sorely indifferent.
“So what?” He asked, “We all smell bad when we don’t bathe, don’t we?”
This guys was just mesmerizing. He oozed nothing but charisma and had such a powerful mind. He seemed to be attracted to me as well. Still though, I didn’t want to read too much into it. I’d have to see how things unfold between us and let them do so naturally. It’d be foolish to have some type of expectation for this after growing so close to Swish within a matter of hours. But still though, his death was a blow but nothing like it would have been if he and I were in love. No, it was just mutual attraction and exploration of our feelings.
It had me apprehensive though. I didn’t want to catch some serious feelings for someone only to have them snatched away from me the way Swish was. It wouldn’t be fair to let myself go through such trauma again. It got me to thinking though. Maybe I needed some vigorous work to take my mind off of things like that.
“Okay, what’s the job?” I asked.
“How good are you at agriculture?” Basil asked.
“Apart from cooking, it’s my second calling…” I responded.
“Good, good! We could use some help in the greenhouses… We’re trying to figure out a system for irrigating our more challenging crops…” Basil said.
“I can help with that.” I said.
Zanir was looking back, a pleased smile spreading across his face. I turned around to see Beth and Zeek squabbling over something but quickly stop as I caught on to them.
“The fuck…?” I asked.
“Nothing…” They shrugged.
We arrived at the main facility, heading up to the higher levels. There the committee was seated, all seeming pleased to meet us. They were all teens, ranging from fifteen to nineteen, all having stories written across their faces. It was clear that the twelve of them had to grow up very fast and were quite, quite mature for their ages.
“This is the Southern Mojave group we had at the hospital. Zanir,” Basil said, placing his hands on the boy’s shoulder, “Is quite, quite special… He builds mechs and understands machines in ways no other can.”
“Then we’ll surely need that.” A very broad shouldered youngling said.
“Since Basil is so sure that you guys are the best, we’ll have faith in his judgement and welcome you as well.” A very deep voiced girl said. It startled us all. She was incredibly tiny, but had so much power exuding from her voice. Basil nodded, obviously having great respect for her.
“Basil’s visions seemed far fetched and too idealistic at the time but are now becoming a reality for us all. His dreams for infrastructure are coming to fruition in ways we couldn’t have imagined. I’m pretty sure with you all coming together, every goal of his will come true.” Another smiled.
“My last big milestone with the infrastructure will definitely be education… It’s hard because not many people know how to read and many of our members are far too young to do the type of work we strive for so we have a tough spot for many…” Basil responded.
“I can help with that…” Zeek offered, surprising everyone.
“So can I…” Beth offered.
“You two can read and write?” The broad shouldered boy asked.
“Yes.” The two said together.
“Very well. We’ll work with you both on trying to form something like a school for our youngest members. I wish we had more people who knew how to read and write to teach everyone who’d wish to learn. That’s our main goal here, to educate people…” The deep voiced girl said.
“I can arrange something as well. Big Daddy, the giant red sentinel mech with wings, walking around terrifying everything is actually a machine designed to hold a human. Inside of him is an incredibly brilliant and intelligent man who’d love to teach your people…” Zanir said, looking as indifferent as ever.
“That would be wonderful…” The deep voiced girl smiled.
We were shown the rest of the base, housing, markets, places where people just sat and enjoyed themselves, the bathing halls, the dining halls… everything! Monday rolled in quicker than I was ready for. I reluctantly went on the job with Julio and June, hoping it’d go smoothly. For some strange reason, the morning was hard on me and I wasn’t up for much! It probably was because I didn’t sleep last night…
We ran by the Merchant Flats where Alistair was waiting. He seemed frantic.
“Okay… June. I have a job that only you can do and it is quite urgent.” Alistair said.
“I already have a major drop job to do.” June responded.
“I never do this but this is even more important, June. It revolves around Da Lagon and you’re the perfect man for the job.” Alistair persisted.
“What is it?” June asked, somewhat intrigued. Alistair led him up the platform, talking with him discretely. It left Julio and I standing in awkward silence. Moments late, June came back, “Sorry guys. You’re gonna have to make the Tijuana run without me.”
“That’s fine.” Julio said, a bit too swiftly for my liking. I looked at him as he walked back to the buggy. Something about Julio made me nervous… I didn’t know what but, he just seemed to have a few spilled marbles out of his bag.
We rode South heading through a canyon called Primm Road. It was how Jeurridam was connected to California, much like how the Corridor connected Jeurridam to the Northern Mojave and the Great Basin. Primm Road was not like the Corridor though. The Corridor had rather narrow valleys while Primm Road was a big wide dry open area with high mountain walls on each side. Julio drove the analog buggy through the region as fast as it could go. He definitely had me nervous.
“Are we in a rush?” I asked.
“No, why?” He asked back, looking at me with those intense green eyes.
“Then slow the fuck down!” I responded. He sighed, shifting gears as we rode at a less insane speed. It was still too fast for my liking but wasn’t worth saying anything over.
“So… tell me about yourself.” He asked.
“I’m Heaven… I hate most things. I’m in a buggy with you.” I responded, not really down for conversation right now. Julio laughed, seemingly enjoying my misery.
“That’s…” He said, trying to find the right thing to say, “A bit crude…”
“Well it’s true.” I said, hoping he’d stop talking.
“Damn dude… We’re going to be in this buggy for a long time! I just wanna have some conversation.” He smiled.
“I don’t…” I said plainly.
“Okay how about I ask you some questions…” He persisted. I stared at him coldly, not bothering to respond, “How old are you?”
“Eighteen…” I sighed.
“Where were you born?”
“In a cast iron tub filled with scalding water in the middle of nowhere…” I said, causing Julio to look at me bewildered after such a strange response.
“Can you read and write?”
“Yes but not as good as Beth…”
“I can’t. My parents didn’t know how but somehow, June learned. I wish he’d teach me but he’s forever busy so…” Julio said.
“Don’t make it sound sad.” I sighed.
“Well you’re the one being all Mr. Pitiful over there…” He laughed.
“I’m sorry but it’s like seven in the morning and I am NOT a morning person…” I shrugged, not really regretting my sour attitude.
“You got me scared to ask you more questions…” He responded.
“Can you stop… Like being happy and shit! It’s too goddamn early in the morning to be in a good mood…” I said, clenching my head. Julio was just overbearing.
“Okay… This next question is a serious one…” He said, his smile fading.
“Alright….” I shrugged.
“What made you,” He began, “Decide to be gay?”
“Decide? It’s not a decision. It was something I just couldn’t come to terms with on my own and needed help because I was too busy trying to understand it. We humans always try to find out why something is the way it is and have such a black and white way of viewing things we don’t understand. I guess it makes it simpler to digest. We never really just sit back and think, hey… maybe something that seems rather big can be a basic fundamental to something else. Maybe something as in your face and big as being gay, bi, straight or whatever is as basic a fundamental as humans are to society! Why can’t it simply be something that simply is the way it is without it being questioned for deeper meaning? That is what I had to learn, had to realize… My sister was there, Zanir was there, Galvy, Swish...hell even June was supportive and that surprised me because he is nothing but hate and demon spawn wrapped in a sleazy Mojave native package…” I said back.
“Really?” He asked surprised.
“The only choice is to accept yourself for who you are or forever hide behind it and be miserable. I think the choice is obvious.” I continued.
“Oh…” He said, sounding as though he had stumbled across some type of revelation, “So being gay isn’t a choice but being happy and gay is…”
“I guess so…” I sighed, warranting a look of surprise.
“You don’t sound too happy…” He noted.
“I’m not. It seems everyone around me has someone to call their own, someone to just fall in love with and hold at night. Do you know how jealous I was of Zanir and Galvy? I couldn’t even stand to be around them so I started looking for shit to do, to get occupied.” I sighed.
“Interesting…” He responded in a studying tone, “If you don’t mind, can I ask you about Swish?” I looked at him, wondering where he was going with this.
“Sure?” I responded hesitantly.
“What about him did you like so much, like what pulled you too him?” He asked.
“Not even gonna lie, I wasn’t a big fan of his. When we first met, he just couldn’t shut up about anything! Then he got that job at dredge valley and turned into a different person. I guess he was just exhausted from all that underwater welding every day. Then he asked me to hang with him and things just started to move really fast. I learned he and I had like the same current issue and that he took the faraway job for the same reason I did…” I explained
“So you two just related easily?” He asked, not sounding pleased.
“Bruh, I was just happy to have someone to talk to. Swish was there! He was super cool, super understanding and that’s what I loved about him.” I giggled.
“What about a physical attraction? Was that there?” Julio asked, his questions now seeming very odd.
“Not really. I mean, I don’t think Swish was ugly by any means. It’s just that I didn’t fall for him because of the way he looked. I feel for him because of the way he was.” I clarified.
“Oh,” He sighed, not liking the way I answered him, “I’m just a little curious about the way things works. That’s all…”
“I mean, that’s just me! I can’t speak for all gay people. Each one will have different needs and wants.” I said.
“Oh…” He said, now sounding withdrawn. Something was off about Julio and I didn’t quite know what. I had a feeling though.
“What’s with you?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He quickly shot down.
“Alright.” I shrugged, not bothering to pursuit it any further. He looked at me, obviously expecting me to keep on prodding to figure out why. It would grant him some odd type of gratification that made me realize this boy found security in being in the closet. However, it wasn’t much of a concern of mine.
“You and Basil…” He started up again, “You two seem to reaaaaaalllly  like each other…”
“Maybe so. He’s just warm and accepting, a great leader in the making. I admire him.” I shrugged. It seemed to make Julio cringe, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing… Just seems he’s kind of weak, timid, like if shit gets tough, he can’t fend for himself… And all things considered, I wouldn’t trust him. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for it in deviousness! I still can’t get over the fact that this kid put together a ring like that and managed to build that place up the way he did. I bet he had to hurt a lot of people in the process.” Julio noted.
“I mean not everyone is strong and formidable. Some people are incredibly brilliant and tactful. And I get your concern! He probably did hurt a lot of people with those roadblocks! Look how many buggies he’s confiscated and that huge stockpile of supplies!” I said in Basil’s defense.
“So you like those brilliant and tactful guys, huh?” Julio asked teasingly. I looked at him scaldingly.
“Not really. I just like someone who’s honest with themselves and accepting of others in their shortcomings… Someone who understands that shit isn’t always perfect and is willing to work with just that because I know I am. Nothing ever goes my way and I’m… learning to settle. Besides, I don’t think I could be with Basil. He’s too good looking… Like, he’s just drop dead gorgeous and I’m like, every other Mojave boy…” I responded. He looked at me, surprised that I had these sentiments about myself.
“You don’t think you’re good enough for Basil?”
“I mean look at what he’s doing and look at what I do? I’m trying to find a niche while he’s building a damn city to take care of hundreds!” I shrugged.
“I think you should consider yourself the most attractive person in the world, for your sake…”
“But I’m not. I can accept reality and realize that I’m average at best. I can happily and humbly accept that and wish for someone no different.” I laughed.
“You’re living a delusion bro. If you think you look average compared to the next bro, then you’re utterly delusional.” He said.
“I think we live in two different worlds. I mean gay guys are hard to come by whereas you, a straight guy, living in a straight world maybe see this in a different perspective than I. You’re not a bad looking guy! In fact you’re damn gorgeous! I bet equally as gorgeous girls bat eyes at you or get flustered when you say hi! Well it’s not like that for me! I get virtually no attention and the only time I got attention was between three boys, one obnoxious and pushy, the other one sweet and laid back, and the last one, a complete and utter visionary making things happen… Three boys, all on completely opposite ends of the spectrum where as you probably have girls coming here and there that are more or less the same… A whole demographic, if you will.” I explained. Julio looked at me, completely taken aback by my words.
“I’m just saying,” He said, composing himself, “If you were straight, if you went after girls. You could pull some bad bitches just with a wink…”
“That’s why I wish I was straight. Maybe I wouldn’t be so lonely…” I sighed, truly hating this.
“Trust me bro… It’s a lonely world out there for a straight man too. There is nothing but trash, and heartbreak and whores… Nothing….” He said, this definitely coming from experience. It sounded too potent for it not to be.
“Damn… maybe we’re just both eternally fucked.” I teased, hoping to lighten the mood. Julio looked at me with a warm smile as we continued to ride through Primm Road.
I had the tiniest inkling that he was gay. He was acting strange, those questions a bit too specific to a cause… What was made strange was just how curious he was about me! Why didn’t he ask Zanir who, quite frankly, is very easy to talk to? Was this all some ploy to get me alone with him, to see what was I about, to truly test me? No, I think it was more so a cry for help. Julio was quite obviously struggling with his sexuality and didn’t know where to turn. Us being alone maybe had been a turn in his favor. However, I wasn’t keen on helping. In fact, I don’t think I could.
“Have you ever been this far from home?” He asked me.
“I’ve never left Jeurridam before.” I shrugged.
“Well a first for everything, I guess.” He smiled.
“Yeah… So how dangerous will this be?” I asked.
“Um, you’re going to take over the wheel. I’m going to be in the back. The drop point will come up on the head’s up display. I want you to mash out to get to it and as soon as you reach it, you one-eighty this son of a bitch and peel out! I’m gonna push the parcel out the rear of the buggy.” He said.
“I don’t know about that. I don’t know the terrain. You should drive and let me get to do the drop.” I said.
“Trust me. You’ll be alright. The drop will be ten times harder than it sounds and I can only do it right. You just follow what the screen says and let this buggy outrun anything that comes our way.” He said, reassuringly.
“Okay.” I said, still not certain.
“Do you trust me?” He asked.
“Sure.” I shrugged, not thinking much of it.
“Well I’m sure as hell putting my trust in you.” He smiled, it having more meaning to it than it seemed. It made me certain Julio had feelings for me. It was such a blatant shock because I considered him just too macho to approach. I didn’t expect him to have the slightest gay bone in his body. It changed everything really but still though, I wasn’t very attracted to him. Despite looking like my greasy cholo dream god, he didn’t have anything that just drew me in beyond the looks.
Maybe it was because I didn’t know him well. Maybe it was because he wasn’t being honest with himself. Was it wrong to be upset with him for not being honest with himself? It surely felt wrong to be upset! I knew people needed to come out on their own time but seeing him pretend to be something he was not was just plain aggravating and off putting. It made me want to slap the shit out of him and scream it’s okay to be gay but also, to not want to be around him until he came to terms with his sexuality.
Hell I don’t know if I was wrong. I just knew this didn’t feel right and I wanted to make it feel right without being involved. Maybe it was my way of not wanting to get attached to him. I sure as hell didn’t want to lose anyone the same way I lost Swish. Swish and I’s relationship was just in its infancy and ended so coldly. It was gone just like a flash and I already felt so invested in. It made me scared to fall in love if that was what a loss felt like.
“Julio?” I asked.
“You ever been in love before?” I asked. He looked at me, staggered by the question.
“Not quite… I’d love to find the right person…” He smiled.
“I’m scared to ever do so…” I said.
“Because of how it felt when I lost Swish. He and I weren’t even a thing yet it hurt like hell. If I fall in love with someone and I lose them and it hurts like that… then I don’t think I wanna ever take that risk…” I said.
“Sometimes risks need to be taken for you to truly be happy.” He said, before realizing exactly how hypocritical that statement was. He looked up in the rearview mirror for a long time, giving one heavy sigh, “Which is why I must come clean… I’m not all that straight, Heaven. I’m gay. From the moment I saw you, I had doubts about myself and questioned everything I was taught. Then Swish swooped in and stole you right from under me. God bless his soul but I was jealous seeing you two enjoy each other, happy when I was just sitting there wishing that could have been me. But damn he didn’t even have to go like that… I saw you were sad over his death and was jealous over even that. I wondered would you have mourned over me the same way. Silly I know but it gets worse… I saw you and Basil interacting all yesterday and still was jealous. I felt like every chance I got, someone stole you away from me and I was starting to get mad at myself for not doing anything about it. But I felt it was wrong… that it’s supposed to be man and woman not man and man. I come from a heavily Catholic household and one thing my parents made clear was just how immoral homosexuality is and… I don’t know. How could something so wrong feel so right? How could it ever hurt any body?”
“Well damn…” I said, shocked to know this all, “Damn…”
“You’re not mad at me, I hope.” He said, looking at me, full of regret.
“No, not at all! It’s just… I didn’t know. I know it’s hard for you. When my dad found out that Zeek was bi, he beat him bloody. If your parents are anything like mine then I understand why you were having a hard time.” I said. He seemed relieved to hear this.
“I don’t know if my parents are that bad but they would more than likely disown me…” He said.
“My dad would do the same in a heartbeat. He’d cut me off… He already did that to Zeek but Zeek just founds a way…” I replied, “So you’re gonna tell everyone?”
“Eh, I don’t know. Beth already knows. She ambushed me when she noticed...nevermind… I’m just not sure if I’m ready for June to know. He’s my brother and I really, really, really don’t want our dynamic to change.” He said, deeply worried.
“June won’t give a damn. He’ll be like Oh, okay and forget within ten minutes….” I said, shaking my head.
“I don’t know…” He said, still unsure.
“Just do it when you’re comfortable.” I laughed, leaning back in the seat, propping my feet on the dash.
“I’m just worried about what people will think, what people will say…”
“Shoot’em in the head…” I quickly said. He looked at me surprised, “I’m serious… Fuck’em all! Fuck what other people think! You’re living your life and not anyone else’s and I’m sick and tired of people having concerns for the way other people carry their lives especially when it has no adverse affect on anyone. It just makes me wanna cap some idiots…”
“Interesting…” Julio nodded, lapping this shit up.
“I promise you I’m not violent… I just hate other people… a lot.” I smiled.
“So bright and cheerful little Heaven has a dark side? I never would have guessed…” He shrugged as we past a sign written ‘WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA’.
We stopped at a massive desert outpost, the only one for hundreds of miles around. We sat down at a restaurant in the rear, ordering some cabra burgers and salads. Both of us were quite hungry, not having eaten since noon yesterday.
“So what about Zanir… Like, what’s with him?” Julio asked.
“He’s a special case. I didn’t know it until it was brought up but he sympathizes with machines in a very similar way he sympathizes with humans. In his mind, machines are just as much alive as we people are so he has to balance out what he feels and prioritize… So far so good…” I responded.
“Wow, so he feels machines are alive?” Julio asked, amazed.
“Not exactly. Like mechs and stuff, the mechs that can think for themselves. Like, he feels for their stories and what they’ve been through. He’s actually shed new light into how we all view mechs. They simply aren’t pre-programmed murdering machines. I mean most are but break them free of that chain and they’re kind of amazing.” I clarified.
“I’ve never really dealt with mechs until Zanir. He’s just astounding… I always viewed him as human until Beth plugged that thing into the back of his head. And when you all couldn’t get it out, oh my God that was just horrible…”
“YES!!!! He looked like he was in so much pain!” I said, haunted by the thoughts.
“You weren’t there that day when we surrounded him in the desert after shooting his mechs down. He was like a beast! Zanir almost killed Gaveston, killed two other dudes, severed someone’s hand off and was shot like three times before he finally stopped. All of this in like a five foot, seven package… And that didn’t even look painful to him… But that prong in the back of his head?” Julio said, shaking his head.
“Who shot him?” I asked.
“June…” Julio smiled, leaving me floored.
“JUNE?” I asked shocked, “Wait, why am I surprised…?”
“Yeah, it was the same day Alistair and the other Merchant Clan members went after you and Beth but you both managed to escape back to A99.” Julio said.
“There’s actually so much I don’t know about Zanir… Like, where the hell did he learn to fight cooped up in that shack for all those years. Like, with hand to hand combat, the boy is in a league of his own… He beat my ass before… easily and I’m not bad in a fight. I’ve had to fight off four older brothers and a demonic older sister!” I said, truly baffled.
“Is Beth really that bad?” Julio asked.
“No, but she’s one tough bitch! When Zanir left A99, she knocked the shit out of Zeek… I mean, knocked his mouth dry!” I said.
“Not even gonna lie. She does scare me... “ Julio admitted.
“She scares everyone.” I laughed.
“Speaking of being scared,” He began, “Why not try it with Basil to see where it leads?”
“I don’t know. I just feel like he’s too perfect… like, he’s too picturesque. Something wouldn’t be right in paradise. Maybe I just think he’s too good for me… I don’t know.” I shrugged.
“Sounds like you’re not so sold on the way you look…” He said grabbing my hand, “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?” I asked. We entered the bathroom. He forced me to stare at the mirror, grabbing my face in those god awful rough hands… They were so scratchy!
“This is not the face of someone who’s just okay looking! You look good, bruh!” He said.
“I mean compared to Zeek, I don’t. Compared to Zanir, I reaaaaallllly don’t. And Next to Basil, I look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!” I said, leaving Julio lost.
“What?” He asked, never hearing of such a thing.
“Nevermind, just… I don’t think I look all of that good.” I shrugged.
“My friend, you need a confidence booster! You’re nowhere near as middle of the road as you claim!” He said, looking at me eye to eye.
“Then prove it…” I said, not bought at all. Julio looked at me intently, slacking up his grip before pulling me in close. He kissed me hard, his teeth digging into my lip. Hell, his arm wrapped around my waist felt like it was going to snap me in half. This though…this felt right! This felt like we were meant for each other and this was how I knew it… Though I wasn’t expecting this kiss,  it was filled with so much intensity and magnetism, I didn’t want it to end… despite it being quite painful.  
When Swish kissed me, God bless him, it didn’t have nowhere near the same amount of magic or gravitation. Hell yesterday, when Basil got me alone, he kissed me and it felt… meh. But this… this right here was some other world type of shit and it made me have to figure some things out! It began to put some things into perspective, such as why Julio felt the need to hide who he was. It wasn’t simply because he was ashamed of being gay. He was uncertain how I’d feel about him. I bet the return bite to his lip sent the right message!
That restroom door opened and we suddenly broke away like it never even happened. An oblivious man came in to piss, Julio and I laughing nervously wondering how did we not get caught. We paid and left, heading further south down Prim Road.
Things definitely felt different between us. I wasn’t upset with him for hiding who he was anymore, not after knowing a big part of it was because he was hiding his feelings for me. But still though, the hard lesson was learned. I couldn’t just fall heart first then let my head hit the ground second. We were going to have to take this slow because I wasn’t going to lose someone else. Falling fast meant that when you hit the ground, it hurt worse. I wasn’t having that at all.
We reached San Diego, the city still virtually intact from the war. It was a major Ravager/Revivalist outpost so propaganda was thick. It had Julio worried. We veered off the highway, riding through the desert instead.
“We’re gotta go off roading… Don’t want to box us into some place we can’t get out of.” He said.
“Please don’t tell me we’re going to have to go up against Ravagers…” I said, deeply concerned.
“We may, but it’s nothing this buggy can’t handle. No other machine can go two hundred miles an hour over this type of terrain. We simply have to do the drop and get the hell out of dodge.” He said, reassuringly.
“How do you all get paid?” I asked.
“We get paid wirelessly when the client gets their merchandise.” He responded, looking at the monitor, “But our client just had a change of plans… He wants us to meet up in a warehouse en Sudoeste de Tijuana.”
“I don’t like the sound of that…” I said.
“Me either.” Julio said, “I’m gonna call June…”
“Wait… I thought you couldn’t read…” I responded, confused.
“I can’t read English. Spanish and Mojave, just fine. Hell, my parents don’t even know English!” He smiled.
“Wow…” I smiled as the boy dialed up June’s digits.
“Yo…” June said.
“Hey, the client changed plans last minute. He wants us to meet up at a warehouse. We’re approaching the original drop point now. What should we do?” Julio asked.
“I know, I just got the contact call. Tell them we don’t do en un locaciones de ciudad drops. If we can’t drop the merch off at the drop point, we’ll return the merch back to the original seller…” June said.
“Alright,” Julio responded, bringing the buggy to a halt, “Cielo, you take over…” It threw me for a loop but I eventually got it. He already was coming with the nicknames. I couldn’t help but smile.
“Okay.” I said, climbing over him while he climbed over me. I felt a firm hand grab my ass before sitting in the driver seat.
Analog buggies were not driven like normal buggies. They had yolks for precise control as well as gear pedals. It may sound complicated but these machines were quite easy to control as long as you kept them revving below seven thousand RPM.
“June, he said do not go to the old drop point, what ever we do!” Julio said, translating roughly.
“Something’s up. This is a new client so I don’t buy it. I think it’s a set up. You’re already thick within Ravager territory. Get out of there…” June advised.
“FUCK…” Julio said, kicking the dash, “I told him the deals off…”
“That’s good now bring it back home. We’ll sort it out when we get here.” June responded.
“Julio…” I said filling with fear.
“I think we should try to reach a deal though…” Julio persisted, “Like find a new drop point.”
“If we had already established something prior to this meeting with these clients then I’d happily let you meet in the middle but something isn’t right and I can smell it!” June said.
“JULIO!!!!” I screamed, reversing the buggy. The boy was thrown forward just as the round of a mortar narrowly missed us.
“Shit!” He said, looking back as I whipped the vehicle around to travel forward, “Man, gooo, gooo, GOOO!!!!”
Shell after shell fell around us as we fled the area.
“Julio, what’s going on?” June asked.
“Bro…” June said, as he climbed into the turret, pulling the lever to switch to the turret rifle. He looked down the scope, seeing a massive six legged mech with a massive cannon on its back. The only thing was, this mech had a cockpit, “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. I see now why the client said don’t go to the old extraction point.”
A shell exploded beside us.
“What the hell was that?” June asked.
“We’re being chased, by a giant six legged tank and it’s shooting one hundred ten millimeter cannon rounds at us… This is sooooooooooooooo Revivalist BULLSHIT!!!!!” Julio screamed, quite upset. He looked down the sights of the turret rifle, the suspension on the buggy acting as a stabilizer. He took aim at the cockpit and fired a single shot. The tank dropped.
“We got company closing in fast.” I said.
“Just keep driving! Head for the most unforgiving terrain!” Julio said, reverting the turret back to cannon mode.
Smaller greyhound-like mechs began to close in at speeds even this insane buggy wasn’t capable of. The racers snaked in and out firing thirty millimeter cannon rounds at the buggy. The rounds just bounced off like nothing. Despite the mechs insane agility, Julio still dropped them with fifty millimeter cannon fodder. He then noticed something as one went up in explosions. A man was flung out of it.
“Unreal…” He said, truly amazed.
“AHEAD OF US!!!! BLOCKADE!!!!!” I screamed.
“On it!” Julio said, turning the turret towards the numerous tanks and hounds, lining the narrow stretch of canyon. He switched back to the sniper rifle, firing six shots. Each and every tank was disabled just as I jammed the yolks hard to the left, turning to the right. We were now driving up a near vertical face with the dog-like racers in hot pursuit. Julio blasted them all with the cannon.
“Zanir will love to hear this…” He said as we made our brisk
escape back to Jeurridam.               


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