Last meets up with your crue in the morning and so does Marigold and three waifs with hungry eyes and blistered lips. The ground crunches underfoot and the sun's just peeking over the horizon when you hit the road. Last rides beside you, and her band mixes in with your larger gang. Counting Last, they number seven, but one of them can barely ride. She's got a busted shoulder and is riding with one hand, meaning she can't turn for spit. Dokken could run that bike and let the girl be his second. Do you suggest that?
Marigold asks if she can ride second. She'll ride with Whitesnake if you decline, but she hopes you don't decline. Do you let her ride with you?
When you're about fifteen minutes away from turning off the highway to go up to The Irons, you see three cars blocking the road. There are ten bikes, and behind the cars is a big van with a fuggin' turret on top. Looks like a roadblock. They're fuzzy shapes this far away, but they see you. You can drive around them to get past to Bordertown. But there's no way to get a bike up to The Irons except this way.
What do you do?
I see one of Last's band struggling to get settled on her bike, knowing that wont work on the road, especially if we run into any trouble, I ask if Last wants me to have Dokken drive her bike or me ask. If she would prefer she could ride second with one of the girls she knows better but she cant be behind the bars. (I don't take no for an answer.)
When Marigold approaches me, I smile, "I would like that, Hop on" I enjoy the feel of someone on the bike with me once again, its been years since Vixen rode with us.
I let off of the throttle and slow to a stop well while the roadblock is far off. I see as my crue close ranks Last on my right and 'Sis on my left. "Blazes, I can't tell who it is but that is some serious fugging firepower they have on that van. Option is to ride around for a bit, maybe draw those bikes away, then double back, or we head in and see if we can talk our way in. Neither option is my preference to be honest," I look to each of them. Some of them anxious, some apprehensive, many of Last's band do not know me, and that type of thing can be deadly in the field. "We will ride in calm and see what they are wanting. We all know they probably want blood or jingle or both. Be ready for it to come to blood, if that is what they choose then we will spill some of theirs. We will make them suffer for trying this with us."
"This life has humped us but we will not take that any more. We will not allow others to tell us what we deserve in life. We are the Mother Fugging Crue! "
I rev my bike, "Everyone spread out, and keep it calm for now.". I begin to lead the ride towards the roadblock to see what their demands are. I hope I wasn't leading us to our death.
Last tells "broken shoulder girl", who's named Brace Win, to ride second behind Dokken. Despite being a dink most of the time, he does not wear a cocky grin as he mounts her ride, and even chats with her beforehand. Of course, Sis is glaring at him the whole time, but hey, maybe he's learning?
The bit about being the crue gets some whoops, all of them yell with you, throwing weapons over their heads and screaming to the world. Even Marigold gets wrapped up in it. Last doesn't throw horns or anything, but she meets eyes with her band and there's a quiet affirmation for this plan. When you rev your bike, twenty plus rev along with you. It's a fuggin' roar.
All of you ride up, steady and ready. The ride's tense, but Last and Sis are beside you. You get close enough to make out who they are. They're Ziggy's gang.
When you're a quarter mile away, a lone biker hops on a weeny dirt bike and scoots his way out to you. You recognize the fella, his name's Preen. Looks like it's a parley.
What do you do?
What happened to Vixen?
Vixen, her memory surprised me. I remember riding as my second seat for a few years. She was sweet but a stubborn person. After she grew comfortable as my girl and me as her boy, she started to object to my orders. I don't mind my crue voicing their opinions, in fact it is something I value, it shows me they don't mindlessly follow me. I consider the objections and have even change my decision when they had a point, but when I make the final decision they follow it. Vixen wouldn't back down if I didn't go with her alternate path. She challenged me one too many times. She was cast out. I had to do it or I didn't deserve to be Alpha. I had to show my crue they were all equals, I had no favorites. I hated that day.
As Preen rides up on his bike I look to 'Sis, "Keep your head on a swivel and eyes alert. We cant trust them. The first sign of trouble have the crue spread out to make it more work for that turret to target us. You know the crue's skill set. " Turning to Last, "I would like you up there but they might get the wrong idea with 2-on-1 and think we are gonna hump the whole thing. Plus you know your girls better and can help 'Sis with pointing out where they are strongest. To be clear, 'Sis is still in charge of battle tactics if I am gone."
I look to both one more time, then to Preen Harley help us! And I throw the bike into gear and throttle up for the approach, unsure what's about to happen. Trying to get a read on everyone involved.
(Rolled: 2d6+0. Rolls: 6, 6. Total: 12) roll +sharp
Last nods agreement to the orders, but she's probably not happy about not going to the meet and then taking orders from Sis. She doesn't argue, but you have the feeling she'll bring it up later.
If there is a later, of course.
Sis grunts and nods, hops off her bike to walk through the crue and get the word down. Who's disappointed that you rely on Sis in your absence? You ride forward, Marigold's hands on your hips. She knows better than to distract you from this, but you better bet she's watching Preen as he rides up. He glances at Marigold, who is wearing a short skirt and a tank top, showing off her tats and lots of skin. She's making herself a nice distraction for you.
Oh, the scene is charged, for sure! Since you aren't talking to Preen yet, Read a Sitch works best here. Ask your many, many questions.
Where’s my best escape route?
Who’s in control here?
Which enemy is most vulnerable to me?
Best escape route is to turn around, man. But since you're looking for a way in, I'll give you that, too. You spot those bikes, and there's nobody on them. In fact, you see that this roadblock is making their numbers look bigger than they actually are. You could charge ahead, then skirt around them, race up to The Irons and then try to hold it.
Ziggy's in control. She has the high point, superior weaponry, and she's dug in. Your gang, unruly as they are, will probably break and run if you lose too many.
Preen's most vulnerable right now. If things go pear-shaped, he's stuck out in the middle of nowhere and dead meat.
Inwardly I sigh at the talk me and Last will have when this is all over. I hope she can understand why I made that choice.
I am also confident that Sis will take care of things, and she will make sure everyone has a task and follows through. I know that JB Jovi wishes I would pick him, but Sis has a better mind for it, and she has been doing it longer.
But now is not the time to worry about it, enough blaze to deal with at the moment.
I smile as I see Preen eye Marigold, 'Good job 'Gold keep him off balance.'
I nod seriously as Preen puffs up.
"Blaze, Preen I can see Ziggy's got a lot of guns and a lot of bikes, but she ain't got enough people out there to operate everything. Now I am fugging sure she can spill some blood of my crue, but I have a helluva lot of crue with me today, possibly more if I am correct. Now I don't want any trouble, the crue and I are just moving to another area to pick up a few gigs, like we do. BUT if we were looking to play chicken, I'm certain you would be the first to bleed." I lean back up against Marigold, to steady her if I need to throttle up quickly. My right hand resting on my machete. I have found out through the years that the sight of a large machete tends to make people more nervous than a gun.
I smile at Preen, I let him wonder what I am up to, "What kind of toll are we talking about?"
"One barter to head up to The Irons." He glances back at your crue, then to you, "I'm sure Esco will reimburse you for it."
Wow I expected some cost but one barter! We could just rush them but we could lose some needlessly. Too much of that has happened recently. I need to avoid this this time.
"Blaze! We are going to be mobile as we do gigs for people. One barter is gonna have to grant passage by this roadblock multiple times. Aint it? " I begin reaching in to my jacket, carefuly and bring out a small pouch that holds my last barter. I shake it a bit to let its sound ring out. "Let's say passage multiple times for the full month. Deal?" I shake the bag again.
Do you lead your gang into The Irons?
Who among the gang will grouse the most about paying a toll to avoid a fight?
I eye Preen for a while, 'He agreed to that too quickly. Either he is going to betray us or I should have pushed for more.' I underhand toss the bag to Preen. "Deal! I will get my crue together and we will drive through in a few minutes." I stare at him a moment longer then ride back to the group.
As I approach, I wait 'till everyone is close enough to hear me. "We have safe passage for the month. At least that is the fugging deal. Be ready just in case they try to double cross us. Let's ride through!" I look at Dokken knowing he is likely the one to cause a problem if any do. I know he would only be able to view this as a sign of weakness and not the best strategy for the situation.
Brace Win smirks at that, but Last makes a low whistle, and the broken-shoulder girl shrinks down a little.
'Why did you have to do it, Dokken?', I think as he throws my words back in my face. 'Now I have to prove a point, sorry my friend,' I start walking to him. "Dokken? There is more to this than you know..., I swing to punch him in the jaw. I can explain the rest later, but for now I need to teach respect.
Dokken doesn't flinch when you move up on him. It's like Brace Win gives him an excuse to be stupidly courageous or something. He takes the shot, but it knocks him off the damn bike. He lands on the dirt-covered road, kicking up dust, then stands up quick. You have to beat the snot out of him, Motley. He gets up three fuggin' times before he finally stays down.
"Stay down, you idiot!" Twisted Sis calls angrily, frustrated that Dokken keeps pushing it. You know her well enough to hear the slight hitch of concern in her voice. She's angry at him, not you.
When he stays down, you see his bloody face, and he spits a tooth. Your knuckles are raw and bleeding, Motley. When you look back at Marigold, she's barely able to keep the shock off her face.
You've got them all in line now, Motley. You can ride in now. Anything to say to the crue, or did you just say enough?
I stand beside Dokken a bit, and look over my crue. I hate having to prove Alpha like this. It is almost I am like all our former parents and some of them weren't worth the exhaust from our pipes. I scan the faces watching and begin saying what needs to be said. "I don't want anyone faulting Dokken for the words he said. He had a point. I had to teach only because of his timing and lack of respect. I agree with him in one sense, I want to fugging fight. BUT the timing is off. We go in now, it will backfire. Many or all of us would die over a fight that is nothing but blaze. So for now, we ride in with our heads high not in shame.. We let Ziggy think we have been calmed for now. Then when the timing is synced up we let loose. "
I squat down to Dokken to make sure only he and maybe Brace Win can hear. "You had a good point brother, but you delivered it the wrong way." I stand again and hold out my hand to help him up. I truly hope he sees my intent to this and this helps to smooth some of the hard feelings.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
That dealt with, I walk over to my bike again, purposefully NOT wiping off my bloody knuckles. They will remind me of the cost of leading this group. I nod to 'Sis & Last, "Lets get the hell out of here."
I look up to meet 'Gold's eyes, not to apologize for what was done, but to see if my words gave her some understanding of my reasoning. I get on and rev the engine once and start to ride towards the blockade, a somber expression on my face and sadness in my eyes but I hold my head high for we are the mother fugging crue.
Marigold's face softens when you come closer and she looks down at your knuckles. The left corner of her mouth twitches like she wants to put a bandage on them or something, but she glances to see Whitesnake watching and doesn't. She looks more sad for you than afraid.
As you and your crue start to head up towards The Irons, you look back and see a vehicle riding up. It must've arrived while you were doing your beatdown. It's the swagman, Chaz's vehicle. Except you don't see Chaz. That's Gigg behind the wheel.
What do you do?
As you ride up the dirt-covered road towards The Irons, you see a bunch of cowboys have set up a roadblock, with a big turret and trucks. They're blocking what looks like Motley and his crue, but mixed in you see a few Amazons, too. The bikers are slowly riding towards the blockade, but it doesn't look like a fight's coming.
Why does Last like you, Gigg? What have you done for her in the past?
What do you do?
I am so focused on the road and recent events that the swagman's approach surprises me. 'Blaze, get your head in the game, Motley.' comes the internal rebuke. I let off my throttle and hold my fist in the air to signal a stop. I am surprised to see Gigg behind the wheel instead of Chaz. I didn't see him as the type of guy to let another drive the swagman. Somethings gotta be up.
I sit there my engine in idle as I wait for the vehicle to catch up. "Gigg, Where'd Chaz go? That Sun-of-a-Chum would never leave his baby to another on purpose."
I kill swagman's motor, and swing out of the roller, hockey stick and big-ass monkey wrench in hand. I've got Chaz' machine pistol tucked into my pants out of sight.
I don't really know most of these cowboys, but Chaz told me about them once when we saw them riding out of The Depot. He knew that my momma died when I was still a young sprout, and said a lot these cowboys didn't have mommas or pops either and maybe I should think about riding with 'em.
Besides Cinch, Last is one of the few girls that visits the junkyard. She's come by a few times looking for scrap and salvage to fix up her bike. I've helped pick out a part or two, and some metal plate, and maybe some other bike pieces. I raise my hockey stick a little in her direction as I walk by. She's pretty in the junkyard.
As I approach this gang's Pop, I breathe out, "Chaz is dead. Shot in the chest from some sniping rascal while we was rhymin and stealin. I planted him myself yesterday." Walking past Motley, I point to Preen with my stick, "Is that there Ziggy's cowboy? Looks like it." As I walk toward Ziggy's man, I spin the wrench in my hand like that drummer did with his stick in that Def Leppard vid I saw once in that dance hall at The Depot. Choking up on the handle and tightening my grip, and looking scary as fuck*, I make a beeline for Ziggy's cowboy.
'Chaz dead! That is a fugging shame' is the only thought that goes through my head. That is when Gigg walks by with murder in his eyes. "Oh Blaze! Gigg, what's up man? This is fugging crazy? What is Ziggy and hers to you?"
I'm not even looking at Preen, ignoring him as I trek towards The Irons, and my intent is to just walk by Preen unless he stops me.
Not even looking back at Motley, "Esco is my friend."
"Crue, form around Gigg. We ride through now.", I ride up beside Gigg, making sure he has a protective wall of bikes around him. I keep an eye on Ziggy's gang ready to put respond to anyone who gives Gigg a problem.
I turn and look at Motley and with a whisper growl, "I'm not afraid of that turret. I'll take care it if your gang can clean up the rest of these rascals"
"Gigg I don't doubt you, but this aint the place. There might be a better time to throw down with these punks. We need to play this smart not crazy." I don't know if he sees the fear in my eyes, maybe less fear and more concern for how badly this could go. Plus I just had to teach Dokken a lessen and I would look the Chum if we decided to fight now...based on the words of Gigg, someone I barely know. No we cant start this, not right now. I look around then back to Gigg, hoping he will back down.
"Don't do it for me, do it for Esco. Esco would't you planted like Chaz would he?"
Preen, who can see you, Gigg, hear your angry words, he knows he'll be the first to go. He'd cower, but what would the others do?
Hearing Last speak up stops me in my tracks, and I turn and look first to her and then turn to Motley and say, "So, you're the Pops here, huh? Fine. I'll keep it shady and just walk on through." I take a quick glance Preen's way, and say, "I ain't worried about that fraidy cat. But the others... they might get all rascally and if they do..." I draw the blade of my hockey stick across the bottom of my chin.
I ain't good at countin' but it sure looks like Ziggy's cowboys are outnumbered, and they got the look that says they really hope this all stays shady. Still, they got no place to run, and just about everyone will fight like the blazes to save their skins.
I nod and then slowly move forward. "Gigg, do you want a ride through or do you want to walk it?"
"I'll walk it."
Preen seems tempted, for a moment, to press the issue about the toll. He could ask Gigg to pay it, but since he's now traveling with you, Motley, and also a big monster of a man, Preen lets it slide. He hops on his dirt bike and the engine whines as he rides back to the roadblock. Moments later, the trucks and bikes all move to either side of the road, and the guy in the football helmet up on the turret watches carefully without aiming as you all ride or walk up the road to the entrance of the mine.
At first I'm at a complete loss on how to respond to Last. No one has ever said anything like that to me before. No one has said sorry about anything that's ever happened. Even Chaz never said sorry about what happened to my momma.
My body is really sore from the tumble in the cab of the bus yesterday, and maybe something's even broken, but the butt-end of the hockey stick helps with the walking. I tear away from staring down every one of Ziggy's cowboys we pass, and I look over at Last with my wrench resting on top of my other shoulder.
"I-I didn't know he was my friend really until this morning. I-I couldn't sleep last night. He only came around when he had a gig he needed me for. You know, muscle, like he would say. But... that was more'n most. I guess we helped each other out, which is about the best you can hope for."
As we pass, I stop and look up at the cowboy manning the turret and point the wrench at him and shout, "IF ANYONE STEALS CHAZ' ROLLER OR HIS OCTANE, YOU DIE!"
I resume my walk and say to Last, "He must've had lots of friends cuz everybody seems to know him. But I don't even know where his shade was and if he had any teeters or sprouts. He never talked about it." I let all that trail off before something excitedly occurs to me, "Next time you come by the yard, I'll show you where I planted him. You're supposed to bring flowers, you know."
Gigg, a couple of Ziggy's people flinch when you bellow at them. Why is Ziggy's gang so skittish around you?
"It was a secret mission. Don't tell any of them about the bus. None of them."
Ziggy's gang is more than skittish, they are freaked out. Like they are seeing a ghost. Because Gigg was supposed to have been killed yesterday...
The Fat Man has long known exactly who Gigg is, and uses him from time-to-time when the delicacy of the results is not a requirement. Gigg isn't the most diplomatic or smartest or delicate of instruments. But Gigg gets jobs done that most anyone else couldn't and there's usually a lot of collateral damage. The bluntest of all instruments. And that's the rep Gigg has around The Depot and in the strategy rooms of the Fat Man. It's partly the reason he's allowed to be the "caretaker" of the junkyard.
And so, when Ziggy was planning her move on The Irons, she had the bright idea to sucker Gigg into the job (via Chaz). Figuring with Gigg in on the deal, the Bus would become a statement piece on her commitment to extreme measures. The plan was for her gang to move in and eliminate the "raiders", Chaz and Gigg being merely patsies and pawns in her bigger game. Except a lot of her plan went south, including eliminating the loose end Gigg. So, when Gigg drove up in swagman, Ziggy's gang basically wet themselves. They assume incorrectly that Gigg knows about Ziggy's treachery -- that's why he's here, right? But he doesn't. That bit of truth died with Chaz in the passenger seat of a buggy in the middle of the Big Scorch. Maybe somewhere deep down Pops has an inkling of what went down yesterday, but Gigg is the consummate blunt instrument.
The offer of the canteen by Last halts me in mid-step. I'm not having rememberin' flashes of anyone offering me their water. Ever. Nobody turns down water in the DVFP. I quickly pull up my mask* and a pool of sweat waterfalls out and onto the sand at my feet. I take a gulp from the canteen and then pour a little over my sweltering face, another quick drink, and then hand the canteen back to Last. "Thanks." Sliding the mask back into place, I turn to resume my walk up to The Irons, "If it's all the same, I'd rather not talk about Chaz anymore."
*triggers the move The Unexpected for everyone witnessing it, and additionally potentially triggering Unmasked (Grotesque) for Motley
Motley, does this trigger Unmasked for you? Do you look over?
Gigg, you are focused on the water, which is pure and even a little bit cool, epsecially compared to the outside. Not sure if you notice that both Last and Twisted Sis's mouths open slightly. Sis looks away immediately, but Last keeps looking, but she's making herself look.
I lean forward after Marigold's comment, my head buzzing with scenarios. 'Son-of-a-Chum. ' I don't really know for sure. I don't think he would do that but a lot of road rage happens out here sometimes. I catch my eye drifting towards Gigg, then shake my head, No I can't start thinking like that. Besides he is still calling it Chaz's car not his.
I ride quiet through Ziggy's roadblock, keeping an eye on all the group eager to draw iron and start the bloodbath. I whisper a few words of encouragement to my own crue to stay cool.
I listen to the conversation Last has with Gigg but am too focused on the tenseness of the moment to respond. 'Shades, that woman is playing it cool even in this environment. Holding on a chat in the midst of a killing zone.'
I glance again over at Gigg and Last in my scan of Ziggy's people. I see Gigg...without his mask... 'Harley bless it! What the hell happened to that man? It can't be natural?'. He covers his face once again and I avert my eyes so as to not stare. I face forward, forgetting to keep an eye out for Ziggy's people. That blaze is messed up. I shake my head a little and try to steady my hands on the throttle. I stare at the road moving beneath my wheels, the rocks moving by as we progress through the dangerous area.
Gigg, Last takes back the canteen, puts it on her bike. She glances back at the few gang members behind her, checking on them. There are much less of her gang than you saw before. Maybe half, but I know you're not much for counting.
Motley, you notice that Twisted Sis saw, too, and it freaked her right the hell out. She's not running away, but she's shaken. You rarely see her shaken. The emotion on her face is pity and horror.
Ahead is the mouth of the cave. You pass by the skeleton shanties, the half-standing buildings that mark what was once where miners lived. Now, everyone lives in the mine, where the sun doesn't burns everyone to a crisp. You can sense the growing excitement of the cool air and, of course, Diamond, running through the crue.
Motley, where does the crue stay when they come here?
Gigg, what about you?
Motley, your HX goes to +3 with Gigg.
Most of the time when I come to The Irons, I'm bringing some scavenge to try and sell in the tunnel market, and having only the minimal of lifestyle needs, that's where I also camp out.
Oh 'Sis. Shake it off. I almost guide my bike over to her to say something comforting, but she is not one to respond to comfort in that fashion. I take a deep breath, steady myself, and begin thinking of the words I am going to say when we get to our next stop.
I join in the excitement at seeing caves of The Irons, "Alright everyone go grab a place to set up at Esco's. I'll be down to make an agreement. Whitesnake, Europe you two got the short straw. You're on first watch for the bikes."
I lean back towards Marigold, "Will I see you tonight or do you have things to take care of?"
After I am done I go over to Dokken, "Dokken, take the night off and heal up brother ok." I hold my hand out and wait for him to take it.
" 'Sis you come with me while I take with Esco, it wont take long and you can party with the rest.", I know I have to talk with Esco since I am low on Barter. Often I can get by with doing a gig in place of paying. Especially since I had to pay a barter to get here. Well see if my luck turns out better than it has been the past few days.
As we near the cave entrance, I help Last and her crew get their bikes situated, "I have to go see a man about a Ziggy, but later tonight if you are around at Esco's I got some extra jingle and I could buy all ya'll a round or two."
Before she can decline, I turn quickly and limp my sore body into The Irons to go find find Esco.
Dokken does take your hand. He's still sore about getting beat down, but he's not going to make a thing of it here and now. Whitesnake and Europe snarl about getting bike watch, but Tesla and Rose glare at them and they STFU.
You leave Last and her band and move ahead of the group. Always on your own, right? Except not completely alone, thanks to Pops.
You head down the shaft, the lot of you. Pass by miners and merchants and beggars, too. Half the crue is singing some "whoring song" and talking about what girl or guy they fancy, what they're gonna do when they get to Diamond.
When you come into Diamond, the place looks larger somehow. Less people than normal, and the floor has fewer rugs on it, looks recently scrubbed clean.
What do you do?
"Sure, Marigold, take care of the girls when you're done I'll see you."
I begin to walk towards Esco's to see what kind of arrangement can be made. If we cant come to agreement then I will have to find an empty tunnel for now till I can get some barter from a gig or two. All kinds of trouble brewing.
I reflect on the heat behind Dokken's eyes. It could be a problem later, I need to keep an eye out for him. I will give him some time to calm down, show him it wasn't personal, and maybe it will settle on its own. I know it won't but I am trying to stay positive. With how things are going, I gotta focus on the positive.
'Did I see Gigg come down here as well?' I wonder as I make my way towards Esco.
Esco's gal is running interference for him. Typical. It's his M.O., whatever M.O. means. It's the thing he does with his people. I'm not the kind of guy that sits around and drinks in a bar, so he'll have to do better than that. Plus, if he knew why I was here, I think that would grab his attention.
I approach Esco's handler, "I'm here to see the Man about Ziggy. Tell 'im Gigg is here to lend a hand with his problem, and if he's interested come find me in the tunnel market." I nod and leave Diamond and head to the market area.
As the crue settles into bar stools and takes tables, spreading out in the bar, you see "The Man" come into the bar.
Please go here.