Flare Fight by John Gordon
Hello everyone! John, author of our Shangri LA supplement, was inspired by our Kickstarter and wrote this short piece set in the Wreck age universe. I really enjoyed it and hope you do as well!
Leenard ducked down in his seat as the car received a fresh spray of small arms fire despite Rani’s best attempts to drive evasively. The bullets’ impacts reminded Leenard of the pneumatic blasts his bolt gun would make when he was putting down cattle back on his family’s ranch, only in a much more rapid, teeth clenching succession. He could almost smell the cow shit from his boyhood and the blood. Slaughtering made a lot of people go weak kneed, but not Leenard. Even as a boy he had a stomach for the grisliest aspects of skinning and butchering an animal, and that fortitude carried him far in his current line of work. Leenard pushed away thoughts of his old life before he actually got homesick and instead focused on the firefight erupting around him.
The salvaged Big Push-era ground car Leenard was traveling in had recently received an overhaul with plates of steel grafted to the exterior while ballistic fiber was placed along the interior sections of the car’s frame to absorb incoming bullets. The trunk’s modified rear storage compartment extended into the rear passenger area, completely overtaking the right portion of rear passenger section and allowing only three riders in the vehicle. A gunner’s cupola with a mounted light machinegun ‘borrowed’ from an ARHK patrol was also placed on the roof and completely sealed, preventing projectiles from injuring the gunner. Li Wei was the crew’s gunner, a small-statured man and a mescaline addict who Leeward could see had pissed his pants. Whether in excitement or fear, Leeward wasn’t certain but he scrunched over as far away from Li Wei’s soaked scavs as he could get in the cramped sedan. All the while Li Wei unleashed a torrent of automatic fire at their pursers—Drifters who Leeward and the rest of Rani’s crew had recently ambushed.
This raid against a Drifter tribe known as Handova’s Horde had officially gone side-ways despite starting so well. The large tribe had a fierce reputation, but also produced some exquisitely-sized human specimens. Numerous hunting teams under the thrall of a Stitcher whom Rani and her crew served, had descended upon the Horde to grab some of the biggest and choicest members of the tribe. Rani’s patron was an artist with flesh, and liked to create weapons out of muscle and sinew. The Horde specimens would make wonderful canvases upon which Rani’s patron could work, but only if the bodies were delivered intact.
Leenard, Rani and Le Wei were one of the teams that descended upon the Horde’s camp, which was spread over multiple kilometers of grassland along the Too Son trail. Leeward and company bagged an impressive number of the luddites carrying off three of the bastards alive, and dragging two more back for parts. Leeward was certain the other teams had done just as well but when they had finished bundling and storing their cargo in the sedan’s refrigerated trunk it became clear that Leeward’s team was the exception and not the rule.
The hunting teams communicated over short-wave CB radio patched in to their vehicles. Leenard was the first in to the car, and began receiving reports of retreat from all but two other teams. As teams made contact Leenard pieced together the events of the last half hour. Handova’s Horde outright killed one team, and brutalized three others, the survivors of which were hauling ass to one of the fall back points near the Picacho Ruins.
Rani had the car running at top speed in moments, and soon the crew was tearing along the remnants of I-10 on their way to Picacho Ruins. Less than a quarter hour from their destination Rani spotted one of the other hunting teams being chased by a compliment of Horde bikers. Li Wei hollered an incoherent battle cry as Rani closed distance with the bikers.
Li Wei’s contribution to the chase erupted in a steady staccato of heavy fire which echoed throughout the car’s confined interior. Leenard watched through the slits in the armored windshield as Li Wei’s rounds tore up the road in a line which eventually intersected with the rear-most Horde rider. Rounds impacted along the bike’s rear fender, sparking as they tore through the thin aluminum before stitching along the back of the rider. Small eruptions of blood and tissue briefly obscured the rider’s ungainly collapse which caused both rider and bike to tumble and cartwheel across the highway. Rani, swerved out of the bike’s path as the majority of the rider was thrown in the opposite direction off the road and out of Leenard’s view.
In impressive coordination two of the four remaining Horde bikers fell back from the lead car, their tires squealing as they braked hard before turning with the momentum of their bikes and looping around and to the side of the sedan. Le Wei tried shooting at one of the bikers, but their erratic maneuver and the speed Rani was traveling made his shot miss wide. Leenard, sitting behind Rani, saw the left-most biker turn and spray a submachine gun at the driver’s compartment. Sparks rattled off the car as the welded plates held and stopped the small caliber rounds. This all brought Leenard back to the farm, and then up against Li Wei’s pissy pants.
Reaching for his own weapon, an heirloom revolver stolen from his mother, Leenard slid back one of the firing slits near where a window once belonged and discharged all six chambers towards the biker. Unexpectedly one of the rounds found its mark and caught the rider in the right elbow. The round shattered bone and exited down the forearm, leaving the limb a ruined dangling piece of meat. The rider dropped his gun in order to maintain control of his bike, which somehow stayed upright and on the road. Rani swerved the sedan into the wounded biker, clipping the motorcycle along the right tailpipe. The force of the impact sent the bike careening across the front of the car, throwing the rider over the hood as the bike smashed along the front grill and bumper before being crushed under the weight of the four-wheeled vehicle. The bike’s structure unfortunately smashed against the left front wheel, shredding the tire and snapping the control arm sending the car lurching violently to one side.
Rani fought to keep the vehicle upright while the sedan violently barreled off the highway and onto the shoulder’s rocky expanse, before zigzagging roughly over the broken terrain of the wastes. Leenard was amazed they hadn’t rolled; though Li Wei had been knocked unconscious by the violent thrashing he took standing in the cupola. His harness was the only thing that kept him from being a soggy crumpled mess on Leenard’s lap. Leenard had some bruising but was otherwise okay. Rani, though, had her radius bone sticking out cleanly from her skin.
“Get him down and get on that gun,” Rani’s order was seething with pain. She was reaching for the first aid kit in the glove box while Leenard went to work releasing Li Wei from his harness. Leenard wasn’t too careful about how he deposited Li Wei who collapsed into the backseat with barely a grunt.
Leenard strapped the harness over his torso before peering out the vision slit. In the distance Leenard could just barely see the lead hunter’s car as it flew down I-10 still pursued by two Horde bikers. He squeezed the machine gun’s trigger, sending rounds after the bikers in frustration though none hit. It was then that his cupola was hit with something to the right that shattered like glass against the armored blister. A thick liquid quickly washed over his view slit the color of really dark urine. Leenard quickly spun the turret to his right and there he saw the last Horde biker unmoving a mere dozen meters away. His bike was idling between his legs, and he stood with an ugly smirk on his face leveling a crossbow that looked cobbled together from scrap metal and animal parts. The bolt on that crossbow caused Leenard’s sphincter to clench tipped as it was with a lit road flare.
Time slowed as Leenard saw the bolt release. He screamed and depressed the trigger of the machine gun whiles the cupola, and in short order the car, were engulfed in flame.