Tom Clancy presents

It took some work to get the steamroller-crane-buggy fired up.  You see these days, cars (or whatever) don’t have keys, they have a startup sequence like an airplane (that’s a thing with planes right?).  To get these monstrosities rolling, you have to tiggle the right toggles and swatch the right switches and cobb the right knobs and so forth.  Martialla thinks that they’re designed that way intentionally to prevent theft (like the one we’re committing) but I’m sure instead this is just what happens when you have junk mobiles knocked together by post-apocalyptic screwheads one at a time instead of having thousands of the same vehicles rolling off an assembly line.

Once we finally did get the thing moving, we immediately smashed into and through and over the rusted truck corpse because maneuvering it is like trying to steer a dead hippo down a river solely with body English.  I suppose that’s why it’s got that sheepsfoot roller thing on the front.  If I were building a conveyance, I would just build it so the damn thing could turn rather than putting an apparatus on front to crush everything in the way so you wouldn’t need to turn.  But what do I know about being a junk mechanic?  Nothing, that’s what.   

It took both of us to pilot the damn thing because the controls were down so low that you couldn’t see out the front driving hole while you were working them.  We switched off being the spotter and the driver because it turns out it’s really unnerving to “drive” when you can’t see where you’re going and you need a break after a bit.  The previous owner, you know the one Martialla murdered for probably no reason, was a good foot shorter than either of us.  How the hell did he drive this trash heap with this set up?  Martialla was crouched down below manning the controls while I sat up on the hood window trying to keep us going the right way.  And also wondering which the right way was.  And also drinking more than my fair share of the water we found. And by found I mean looted.

Martialla grumbled up at me “Why would someone even build something like this?” 

“Maybe it’s for the gladiator arena.” 

She growled at my back “We’re not going to find any car battle arenas Ela, it makes no sense for them to waste resources like that.” 

I leaned back and peered at her upside down “Have you see anything here that made sense?” 

She shoved at me “Get back up there!” 

I did, immediately regretting it as my core muscles turned to lightning, lightning that was on fire “Why?  You can’t fucking turn this thing fast enough to avoid any obstacles anyway, so what difference does it make?” 

“You can at least keep us from driving into the river!  This shitbucket was obviously built for combat but the sides are completely open to enemy fire.  It’s like . . . it’s like . . . well it’s like something.” 

“Well said.”  I glanced back at her by turning my head instead of lying back so the pain was only excruciating instead of agonizing “Remember that time I was driving and I went down that hill into that rice field where the Invincible were slaughtering all those mole people?” 

She made a half snort sound “Uh, yeah, I remember that time you almost got us killed.  It was last week.” 

“Oh pish, it was at least ten days ago.  And, in all fairness to me, we almost get killed every day now, so did I really do anything wrong?  Point being, after I endangered our lives on a whim, you asked me to check in with you before I endangered our lives again.  And I agreed to that request as it seemed reasonable.  Can I ask you to extend me the same courtesy before you straight up murder people without provocation?” 

She stood up, unfolding slowly and with a lot of grimacing like an elderly woman “You want me to check with you before I shoot someone?  You know that makes no sense right?  In those situations, I have to act in the moment.  That’s insane Ela, even for you.” 

“I’m not saying that if we’re in a firefight that you have to send me a written memo before you fire back, I’m just saying that when we’re talking to someone . . .” 

She sat back down and grabbed the controls like she was pretending they were my throat “He made a move on us Ela, what did you want me to do, wait until he bashed your pretty little head in before I did something?’ 

“He was taking a piss Martialla, he had his dick in his hand, what was he going to do?  Flick pee on us?” 

“He had a weapon in his other hand Ela, you saw it!” 

“You mean that sex toy looking thing that was probably about as dangerous as a rolled-up newspaper?” 

I could hear the flint in her voice “He was a threat, Ela.” 

“Was he though?”  When she didn’t answer, I let out a little sigh “Look, all I’m saying is that in a situation like that where there’s no immediate threat of violence, a clear and present danger as it were, how about you give me a chance to talk?  Maybe we could have made a bargain with him.” 

“I’m your bodyguard, right?  Let me do my job.  You don’t have to like how it’s done, you can just be alive to bitch and moan at me about it.” 

“Which you know I will.”

She nodded “Which I know you will.” She thought for a moment “Did you get fired from Clear and Present Danger or was that me?”

I snorted “First one and then the other.”