The thick clouds to the east of Zeke’s Hilltop Saloon and General Store were swollen with the angry red lightning of a rad storm about to burst free and lash the hard packed dirt and sun blasted asphalt of the wasteland the old codger called home. Zeke stood under his porch roof and watched the storm clouds roll north. They began to lightened up with red, green and yellow flashes.
The storm was about to break free soon but thankfully it was going to pass him by.
“I got lucky there”, he said.
He turned his attention to the west as the whine of motorcycle power plants came out of the desert. Two bikes were coming in fast from two different directions. Zeke recognized the rickety motorcycles and the grubby looking riders. He shook his head and put his hand on the big pistol on his hip.
“What do these two idiots want? I swear one of these days I’ll have to shoot them just to get a little peace and quiet.”
Holler was the first rider to reach the store. His brother Hoot was seconds behind. Dirt kicked from their skidding stops hit Zeke’s boots and dirtied the porch.
“We’ve been out scouting the gangs”, said Holler.
“Yeah”, said Hoot with his usual half witted enthusiasm. “Ducky’s guys are crazy! One of them threw a wrench at me. Hit me right in the eye!”
The man did indeed have a black eye. However when he pointed for emphasis he jabbed a dirty finger at the wrong eye.
“They’re at that old metal building near Trash Heap Hill”, he went on. “That really, really big one with the really, really big slidey doors.”
“That old hangar”, said Zeke. “I thought it was sealed up. Ain’t nobody been in there in decades.”
“Well, they’re in there and they’re building something big. I saw it! Kinda. I mean, I saw some of it until some guy named Ted winged a wrench at me. But I got it!”
Hoot held up a double ended wrench.
“But what were they building?” Holler asked.
“One of them weird planes with the spinning wings on top.”
“A helicopter?” Zeke scratched his head. “Them boys have got to be crazy.”
“You’ll never guess the kind of stuff I saw Havoc’s”, said Holler.
“Havoc”, said Zeke. “That’s the man what was driving the black car, right?”
“Yeah, but he ain’t really a man, not anymore. He’s one of them half machine mining slave things from way long ago. I thought he was wearing armor but he ain’t. That armor is his body. He’s really gross with it. I can’t hardly look at him. He set up in that abandoned mine near Dead Frog Swamp. And I don’t know if he maybe turned on some of the old mining slaves or if they come following him but his whole gang is made up of more gross man machines like him.”
“Woah”, said Hoot. “Is any of them women? Do they big machin—”
“You both just missed Hellskull himself”, said Zeke, cutting off Hoot.
“He was here?” Hoot nearly jumped up and down. “And I missed him! What does he look like? Did you see?”
Zeke shook his head.
“He’s all sealed up in armor, even breathes through some kind of canister. He had a woman with him, a dark haired gal who talked for him. They bought that AV rifle I had and sped off in a big, custom two seater covered over with rockets.”
“I heard they have a camp at that old fallen down mansion near Zombie Rock”, said Holler. “I tried to get a closer look once but there was someone on the roof with a machine gun. They shot at me and I lit out quick. But I did see some cars, a truck and a motorcycle out front. And they’re building a wall around the whole place.”
Any further conversation was cut off by the bull roar of a helicopter flying overhead.
“Ted”, Hoot yelled and covered his head. He ran under the porch roof.
“No”, said Zeke. “Government.”
He pointed to the white and yellow star burst on the tail of the big black helicopter speeding toward the flashing rad storm clouds.
“Why are they flying into the storm? That’s crazy”, said Holler.
“Just stupid, I guess”, said Zeke with a shrug. “Government.”
With a strong sense of fatality the group watched as the black helicopter got too close to the flashing clouds and the inevitable happened. A blazing red fork of lightning slashed it down in a blast of sparks and black smoke. The mortally wounded vehicle spun out of sight behind a hill directly under the storm clouds. Dust from its impact erupted skyward.
With a crackling screen of colored sheet lightning the storm broke and everything under the clouds was punished with red, yellow and green lightning. It was a spectacular yet infinitely deadly show.
“There’s going to be some good scrap left when that storm is done”, said Holler. “Good, expensive government stuff.”
“Well, you won’t be getting any of it.” Zeke pointed to where Hellskull’s custom rocket armed car was parked on a nearby hill. A woman with long dark hair was outside the vehicle watching the storm.
“And there’s one of Havoc’s scouts.” Hoot pointed to a half man, half machine motorcycle rider bringing his bike to a stop on the edge of the storm.
The sound of another helicopter going overhead drew their gazes upward. The vehicle was much smaller than the government bird and there was a cartoon duck emblazoned on it, along with the words: “Mallard One”.
It flew near the storm but not too close.
“Even Ducky’s men aren’t crazy enough to go into a rad storm”, said Zeke. “But when that storm lets up I’ll bet there will be a heck of a fight.”
From across the barren desert wasteland came more vehicles, the other gang members hastening into position to wait out the storm and make a run for the treasure under those deadly, irradiated sheets of multicolored lightning.
“Wow”, said Holler. “Everyone will be here by the time that storm is done.”
“Yep”, said Zeke. “Like I said, it’s going to be a heck of a fight. I think I’ll lock up the store and go watch.”
The old codger locked the store’s front door and headed around back to his lightly armored all terrain buggy.
“Wait up”, said Holler. “We’re going too.”
They jumped on their motorcycles and followed the store owner to a hill overlooking the plains land being blasted by the rad storm, anxious to watch the first meeting of the three outlaw gangs.