|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 11||November, 1999|
[NOTE: Continued from Part One, which appeared in APAGear Vol 1, Number 8. - Ed.]
[Heads up: there's a little bit of strong language ahead. Again. Just so you know. -JG]
Mak Tetoyo took one last drag on his hand-rolled cigarette as the doors to the elevator opened. Crushing the butt underfoot, he and his taller companion exited the lift and made their way to a room near the end of the hall. With a look, Tetoyo let his associate know just how he wanted this to go down.
Producing a short-barreled bullpup shotgun from beneath his long desert jacket, Demitrious Icaro lifted his heavy boot and kicked open the door with one powerful blow. A few seconds later, he had secured the room inside. By the time Tetoyo walked in, the Legion Noire veteran was already standing over the dead GREL in the bathroom.
"No sign of Merquise or the man from the bar," Icaro stated flatly, his French accent strong, as always. "They killed your Earth Legionnaire."
Tetoyo shook his head in disbelief. "Stupid ape. I shoulda sent you with him, Demitri, I swear. I thought he'd be able to handle it. Good-for-nothing stupid- ass fucking ape. Fuck."
Icaro motioned to the bed, where a large bloodstain was evident. "One of them is injured. They can't have gotten far."
"Far enough," Tetoyo growled. Trike wouldn't like this one bit. Merquise owed the drug lord a lot of money; if she skipped town without paying up, he'd have to make an example of someone. Someone like the idiot pusher who gave the bitch drugs without getting paid, or maybe even someone like the poor guy who didn't catch her in time. Fuck, Tetoyo thought to himself.
Still examining the bed, Icaro commented again, "Non, not far."
"I hope you're right," Tetoyo responded. "Find them, Demitri. Find those fuckers and drill them. No fucking prisoners. Blow them away."
Tucking his short shotgun back under his jacket, Icaro nodded and made for the door. "Oui. I will find them."
Stopping under the cover of some low-hanging junk to let her half-conscious companion rest, Eee Merquise continued to support the big man as she looked back over her shoulder to make sure she wasn't being followed. Behind them, the huge scaffold of the maglev line ran straight through town, striking off to the darkened horizons. Fighting the urge to vomit, Eee instead bit her lip hard enough to taste blood. For whatever reason, Seth had come to Khayr ad-Din to find her, and he'd nearly been killed because of the shit she'd sunk in to over the past quarter-cycle.
"You still with me, Seth?" she asked.
"Uhhh," the injured man managed. Eee was no medic, but she knew he was probably suffering from skull and rib fractures. Serious treatment of those injuries would have to wait, however. Whoever had sent the GREL obviously meant business. Either one of the drug lords had decided enough was enough regarding Merquises's debts, or one of them thought she was trying to slip out of town. In either case, they had to keep moving. They'd successfully evaded inquiry from the SecCom troops inside the tower; now they just had to outrun their pursuers and steer clear of the million other dangers hidden beneath the rubbish in the city of trash.
"Not far now, Seth. I know somewhere we can rest for a little while."
Feeling her stomach churn again as her body began to ache for drugs, Eee hefted the pistol she'd taken from Seth and set off into the urban labyrinth. The hopper pilot had never liked guns, though she'd learned to use them well enough when she was running around with Seth and the rest of his Rover buddies all those cycles ago. This particular weapon was too large for her hand; its cold weight was unfamiliar and unwelcome. Hopefully, she wouldn't have to use it again.
Twenty harrowing minutes later, exhausted from half-carrying her friend the entire time, Eee spotted the landmark she'd been looking for. An overturned landship a small southern design dating back to St. Vincent's war lay broken in half, nearly buried by other trash piled on its weary gunwales. Her back aching and head pounding, Merquise approached the crumpled conning tower. "Rufus?" she called out, her voice scratchy and sore. "Rufus, it's Eee I need your help."
On cue, a man's face appeared in a small window at the bottom of the smashed bridge. Graying, tangled hair ran past the man's shoulders, and crooked, yellowed teeth were evident when he smiled. The old trasher disappeared from the window, then dropped out of a larger one he'd been using as a makeshift entrance. "Eeena Merquise. What brings you out to the heaps, lass?"
"Long story Rufus. Let's just say big trouble," the woman replied solemnly.
Helping Eee support her tall and obviously injured companion, the grizzled Badlander squinted at the woman. "You look like shit. It's the drugs, Eeena. They'll kill you."
"That's the idea," Eee answered grimly.
Leaving that particular line of conversation for the moment, Rufus helped Eee get Seth up into the section of the landship that he called his home. After laying the wounded man down, he asked, "So who is this guy, and what trouble are you in?"
Sitting down and leaning against the cold steel of the textured deck plate, Eee looked down at the pain evident on Seth's rugged face. "He's an old friend, come to ask a favor. I don't know what we got jumped by a vat-freak before he could really tell me what he wanted."
Seth's eyes opened slightly. Coughing and wincing as his cracked ribs throbbed, his voice was soft when he spoke. "Eee... the Front needs you. Something... big coming up, and we need a pilot. We need the best."
Eee snorted. "Fuck off, Nohkia. I told you back at the hotel I don't fly anymore."
"Why is that?" Rufus broke in, stirring up to the small, cherry-red fire he'd built in one corner of his lair.
Eee saw that the look in Seth's eyes mirrored the question, and she drew a deep breath before answering. "My brother came through town a while back. You remember my brother, Seth. A hardcore Revisionist. Real charmer. Needless to say, we never got along. Anyway, Ederic was beside himself. This was right after those MILICIA troops shot the hell out of that Northern regiment at Rahnguard. Ederic was desperate to get down there, to help out as only self-righteous missionaries can. He wanted me to fly him down. See, Ederic hated flying. He hated me, too, so to ask -me- to -fly- him down there... well, something must have been seriously fucked-up in the land of the Prophet. Turned out his bond- twin was badly injured at the battle."
"Did you do it?" Seth asked softly, remembering his friend's stories of growing up with her judgmental, domineering, sometimes violent brother.
"Of course," Eee answered. "He was my brother."
Grunting as he opened a can of speat, Rufus commented, "Was? He's dead, is he?"
"Yes... he's dead," the woman replied quietly. When neither man spoke up, she continued. "Right after take off, I could tell he was on the edge of his seat. His fear of flying was real, and it was all he could do to keep it under control. Twenty minutes into the flight, we hit some bad turbulence in a thermal. We were getting shaken up pretty good nothing I couldn't handle, but Ed really started freaking at that point. Hyperventilating, shaking, whimpering, that sort of thing." Eee closed her eyes, drifting back to the cockpit. "At the time, I thought it was hilarious. My brother was always in control, he was always the one to call the shots. He was also a real bastard at heart... he's part of the reason I left home at 14. Anyway, this was like payback for me. It was like sweet revenge for all the shit he'd ever put me through. So I started joyriding a little, just to scare him more. I opened the throttle full and skimmed the desert floor, I pulled a roll or two, and I even flew into Crete Canyon. He was crying like a baby, and I was laughing the whole time. And then, when I came up to the Hook, we didn't make it. I crashed, and he died."
Seth looked over at Rufus, who was shuffling around his homemade stove as though he hadn't even been listening, then turned his eyes back to Eee, who sit sat with her eyes closed. "You used to make that corner in your sleep," he couldn't stop himself from saying.
"Yeah. But Ederic didn't know that. He didn't know I'd be able to slip to the right at the last minute. He thought I was trying to kill the both of us, and tried to wrestle the controls away from me, to pull up and out of the canyon. We caught a wing on the cliff face and spun down into the floor of the gulch. We hit hard, and Ederic had his neck opened up by a piece of metal that came through the windscreen. It just about took his head off, and pretty much flooded the cockpit with his blood. I still remember it, droplets and streams of it hanging suspended in the air as the hopper tumbled along the ground."
Spooning a gelatinous blob of speat out into a warped fry-pan, Rufus was unfazed by the gruesome details of the woman's story. "So you blame yourself for his death," he stated bluntly. "That's why you've been shooting and inhaling all that junk."
"Yeah, that's right. Ederic always told me I was a royal screw-up, and oh look he was right. He was a smart fucker, if nothing." Getting back to her feet, Eee shrugged her shoulders. "Dead though, so that's that, right? We need to figure out what we're going to do, Seth."
"Just what kind of trouble are you in?" Rufus asked, his back to the pair. "You mentioned a GREL."
"It was the GREL that beat Seth here within an inch of his life, right before I killed him."
Rufus turned and raised his wispy eyebrows. "I see. And he was working for..."
"I don't know. That's part of the problem, and that's why we've got to get out of town. I owe a lot of money, and now I've killed someone's pet enforcer."
Sitting up, Seth grimaced as the back of his skull suddenly throbbed worse than his ribs. "Eee, I'm sorry about your broth-"
"Forget it, Nohkia. Nothing I can do about it now," Merquise cut him off. "And sit back down. You need to rest those ribs. When we move, we'll have to do it quickly, and I'm not going to feel like carrying you again."
Seth nodded, knowing not to press her any further on the subject of the crash. "If we can get back to the terminal, I have enough cash to buy us a pair of tickets on the maglev."
"They'll be watching the train," Rufus broke in, his mouth half-filled with fried speat. "If I were you, I'd throw a cloak over my head, hook up with a caravan and creep out of town that way. I hear one is due next week."
Seth shook his head. "I can't wait that long, Eee. I've got to meet Jaxon in Wounded Knee long before a caravan would get us there. I was counting on you still having your hopper. The maglev is the only other way I can get there in time. And it's important that I do."
"Is it?" Eee returned. "You must be planning on blowing something up, are you?"
Glancing over at the old man, who was now licking his greasy fingers with purpose, Seth turned back to the woman he'd come several hundred kilometers to find. "No, Eee, nothing like that."
"I don't care none for politics," Rufus said between licks. "Don't bother me none if you're working with the BRF, so long as they aren't looking at blowing up the heaps."
Nohkia leaned back. "The Front is standing up for what's right, and you know it, Eee. The northern and southern armies are crushing everything in their paths. Oasis towers destroyed, homesteads burned, villages razed. It's a bloodbath. Jaxon is looking at taking steps to end it."
Eee's eyes flicked from her injured comrade to the gray-haired trasher she'd befriended since coming to Khayr ad-Din. She'd been in such a drug haze since her brother's death that she'd really been unaware of what had been going on in the desert.
"He's right," Rufus declared. "Word is that it's pretty bad out there. Lot of innocent people dying."
"It's something to live for, Eeena," Seth said seriously. "A lot of your old friends are involved. You can drop back into the bile I thought you left behind ten cycles ago, or you can come with me and give new direction to your life."
"Will they ask me to fly?"
"Of course not."
Resolve firmed Eee's jaw as she looked down at the track marks crawling up her arms. "Then I'm in. For now."
"Tickets please," a wiry man with a thin mustache intoned.
Eeena Merquise, a hood pulled low over her face, looked sideways at her similarly garbed companion as she produced a pair of tickets.
The conductor ran the cards through his datapad and handed them back to the couple. "Thank-you," he said with noticeable indifference. When he reached the back of the car, he checked a late-arriving passenger's ticket.
"Thank-you, Mr. Icaro. Please enjoy your ride."
To Be Continued...
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 11||November, 1999|
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