Holler was watching Zeke’s eyes droop. The old codger was nearly asleep on his stool behind the long counter that also served as the store’s bar. Behind him on the wall were dozens of mismatched bottles all full of his patented wasteland whiskey. That wasn’t what Holler has his sights set on today though. He glanced over to where his brother and partner in crime was lurking in a corner of the store.
Hoot stood ready at the pile of unsorted goods Zeke had traded off a new group of settlers who came in last week. The group had arrived in an 18 wheeler pursued by not one but two motorcycle gangs. According to Zeke’s account the fight had been surprisingly short. The trailer of the battered 18 wheeler had a pop up turret equipped with a grenade launcher and many windows slits from those inside fired AV rifles.
The rare as hot water showers handheld weapons that allowed a man on foot to strike hard at heavily armored vehicles.
Holler had heard of anti-vehicular rifles but had never seen one. Zeke had said that the rifles, the surprising appearance of the grenade launcher and the rockets fired from the 18 wheeler’s escort vehicle, a old model Thresher, had driven off the bikers before the fight really got started.
And afterward Zeke had traded the settlers for one of those AV rifles.
And I’ve got to have it, thought Holler.
The newly opened northern counties were mostly settled and now the outlaws and bandits had begun to arrive. They trickled in in small groups, disorganized and separated, but rumor had it that three outlaw leaders were coming into the territory to divide it up and unite the bandits in three bands.
A war was in the making and Hoop and Holler were going to be right in the thick of it.
And we need that rifle as a bargaining tool!
But when he looked back to Zeke, the old guy’s were wide open.
“Power plants”, he said. “I hear the whine of a Miticoluder 550. All out, boys. There’s a fight coming!”
He waved them outside and they went. In his hand was a Holland 10mm pistol that neither one of them had seen him pick up.
“Out of my chair”, Zeke said to Holler when he tried to sit down on the porch’s only chair.
“It’s them”, said Hoot. “It’s them, ain’t it! It is!”
The three outlaw leaders had come to the fallen cloverleaf. It was going to be a race to see who would make it to the one road that led out of the rubble strewn field and to the northern counties. The first one out would have his choice of the settled lands to set up an outlaw kingdom.
“Only one of them cars is stock”, said Zeke. “Well, not completely stock. That green car is a Slugger that’s been stripped back some and had a turret added.”
“And a duck painted on the hood”, said Holler, his voice full of uncertainty for an outlaw gang leader who emblazoned his war wagon with a cartoon bird. The desert wind carried the sound of the Slugger’s horn to them as the driver leaned on it. It rolled out long and loud.
“Quack! Quack! Quack!”
The Slugger was practically covered over in armor though.
“Hellskull”, shouted Hoot. “It’s him! I heard he was coming! It’s him! Ain’t no one ever seen his face before. He’s always wearing his armor, but it’s got to be him. Look at all them skulls and devil stuff on that middle car. We got to join his gang, Holler!”
The compact car barreling down the middle highway was covered in sinister looking iconography and bristling with rockets.
“Them rockets is awful small”, said Zeke.
“But there’s lot of them”, said Holler. “There’s not one side of that little car that’s not covered with them little rockets.”
“That fellow might be compensating for something”, said Zeke with a laugh.
“What?” Hoot looked around confused. “I don’t get it.”
“I don’t suspect you get much of anything”, said Zeke.
The third car to enter the ruins of the fallen cloverleaf was black, loaded with armor and had a turret mounted 30 cal machine gun.
“Who’s in that one?” Hoot shaded his eyes with his hand to get a better look.
“Don’t know”, said Zeke. “I heard Ducky and Hellskull was coming and I knew there was a third but no one knows his name.”
“First shot”, yelled Hoot. “That duck car fired the first shot!”
Although all three cars came in slow Ducky fired a volley of machine gun fire as soon as his turret was in position. High velocity bullets tore chunks out of Hellskull’s front armor. That outlaw cut his wheels to head for the Ducky, his own front mounted machine gun firing.
The two cars came at each other, their machine guns blasting away.
Neither driver wanted to give an inch and it was only by inches that they missed colliding.
Hellskull’s devil painted car had come off worse in the exchange. It’s front armor was nearly half shredded while Ducky’s compact tank had only been scratched.
The black car driven by the unnamed driver had watched the two cars fight while cruising slowly behind a pile of concrete rubble. Both of those outlaws let the driver know that they weren’t ignoring him by firing on the black car as they separated. Hellkull launched one of his small rockets at him. It struck the rubble though and it was only chunks of concrete that hit the black car.
Ducky’s shots were accurate though and his bullets peppered the vehicle’s front armor
“That duck car just doesn’t miss”, said Holler.
“On board targeting system”, said Zeke. “Hathcock 2.7 would be my guess.”
The black car came out from behind it’s cover for a brief machine gun fire exchange with Ducky but then it did a surprising thing and cut sharp right. The unnamed driver headed for an alley between two hulking piles of concrete rubble. Ducky fell in right behind, firing round after round into the fleeing car’s rear armor.
“What is he doing?” Hoot scratched his head.
“He’s giving up his back armor to a guy that doesn’t miss is what he’s doing”, said Zeke. “Hope there’s enough left of that car for good scrap when Ducky is done with it.”
The black car’s driver had a surprise in hand though and flame erupted from the rear of the car. Ducky’s car swerved as it was engulfed in fire and smoke.
“Flamethrower!” Hoot jumped like an excited child. “He farted fire!”
“Didn’t see that coming”, said Zeke.
“Neither did Ducky”, added Holler.
The duck car stayed the course though and drove through the smoke, chasing the black car into the alley. Another gout of fire and smoke rolled over his car as he closed the distance between them to inches, still tearing away at the black car’s armor with his deadly accurate machine gun fire.
“Hellskull is playing it cagey”, said Zeke.
Instead of speeding toward the one road out of the battlefield while the other cars were battling it out the driver of the devil painted car had set a slow parallel path to the alley fight. He couldn’t see what was happening in the alley but he was in position to see the spectacular events that occurred as the two cars shot out of the enclosure.
“He rammed him” yelled Hoot. “That Ducky guy is crazy!”
Just as the black car came out of the alley Ducky tromped his foot feed and his car jumped forward, slamming his front end into the chewed up rear end of the black car. The results were not quite what he was expecting though. The driver of the black car kept his car steady and triggered his flamethrower. Flames sailed across Ducky’s hood and smoke and ash blackened his windshield. In a moment of panic he jerked his steering wheel sharply to his left.
“He flipped it”, shouted Hoot. “He’s rolling sideways like a log!”
The duck car rolled on its side, directly behind and very, very close to the black car.
Desperate to get away from the rolling wreck chasing him across the battlefield, the black car sped forward. The driver aimed his hood for another alley between piles of concrete and steel.
The tumbling duck car slammed into one of those rubble piles with its undercarriage and stopped with a jarring impact.
“He’s out of the fight”, said Zeke.
And if he didn’t survive that crash, I’m getting that car, Holler thought. I’ll start a gang of my own with it.
“Hellskull is making a break for the road out”, yelled Hoot. “He’s going to make it!”
The opportunistic outlaw was keeping a massive pile of masonry and steel between the black car and his as he broke for the road to the north. That road was a tight curve and had to be taken slowly. Hellskull came around the rubble and into sight of the black car. The armor clad outlaw triggered another one of the car’s mini rockets and sped for the way out.
The rocket sailed over the black car’s hood and that driver responded with a similarly inaccurate burst of machine gun fire.
“Them boys ain’t exactly marksmen”, noted Zeke.
Hellskull left the rubble field first, his tires catching the cracked pavement of the road and carrying him toward the end goal.
A burst of machine gun fire let him know that the black car was still in the race though. Chunks of his right armor were blasted away and dropped to the road as the black car pulled up behind Hellskull on the one road out.
The masked outlaw’s car got shoulder but Hellskull kept the wheel steady and triggered a rear mounted mini rocket. It dragged a tail fin across the hood of the black car and exploded on the windshield, cracking the safety glass.
“That’s the first real damage them little pop rockets have done so far”, said Zeke.
“It’s Hellskull though”, said Hoot. “He’s going to make. I know he is.”
The masked outlaw’s car was the steadier of the two as the fast driving cars rounded the curve and it had a better angle on the sharp banking bend. The devil painted car split the inside of the curve with another rocket spouting fire as it launched from the car’s rear launch pad. Hellskull let up on the foot feed and got on the brake.
The rear end of the devil painted car slid as Hellskull cut the steer wheel to the right.
The rear tires whined and smoked.
Anxious to catch up the unnamed driver of the black car had built up too much speed and when Hellskull’s little rocket impacted just above his right front tire, he jerked the wheel. His tire screamed as the black car’s rear whipped around. The driver cranked the wheel too hard to correct and the vehicle spun around the other way in an out of control skid.
“Too fast”, yelled Hoot.
“And too close to the top of the curve”, added Zeke. “He’s going over.”
The out of control black car did just that. It slid up the sharp banking curve sideways and went airborne.
“Frag me”, said Holler, watching the car roll in the air. It spun two complete turns and then came down. Holler cringed when it crashed down upright. Duct flew from beneath it and the tires squatted when it hit. The driver bounced up, his helmeted head hitting the car’s roof. The vehicle had more momentum to expend though and it tilted over and began to roll.
Even from so far away on the hill Holler could see that the driver’s hands were off the wheel and flopping about as the car rolled.
Hellskull brought the devil painted car out of its skid, tromped the foot feed and sped off toward the unclaimed territories to the north.
“He did it! I knew he would be the winner”, shouted Hoot. “He’s Hellskull! He always wins! We’re joining his gang!”
“Frag me if we do”, said Holler. “We’re forming our own gang. There’s two cars down there. We’re getting them. Let’s go.”
Zeke scratched his chin with the barrel of his big Holland 10mm as he watched the two would be gang leaders run down the hill.
He didn’t think that either of the two imbecile brothers was likely to lead a gang of outlaws but if they did they would be welcome in his store. Everyone would, citizen or outlaw, government or freeman.
“Neutral ground”, he said to the desert wind. “That’s what this place will be.”
He looked at the big gun in his hand.
“Weapons stay outside but everyone comes in to trade. I like that. I’m going to be the richest man in the territory.”
Zeke grinned and went back inside his store.
From the valley below came the sound of shouts and gunfire.
“Guess them other two outlaws wasn’t quite dead yet.”