Wood Horns and Hose Nipple and the rest of the merry band wined us (well not literally since there was no wine) and dined us with what tasted like fermented lemonade which was awesome and an array of food that was not very awesome. Amongst said food were such diverse elements as some kind of cheese that neither of us touched because the stink could wake the dead and then send the risen zombies right back to hell, a bean-based flapjack that was only mildly disgusting, a dandelion salad with something like tomato paste that was palatable, and a pemmican type blob that was pretty okay. All of it tasted a lot better after a couple cracked mud cups of hard lemonade. Except the cheese, don’t ever touch that cheese.
While we were chewing the fat with the future (present) freaks of the day, I asked them, being a fuel depot and all, where the fuel came from and they said that a truck comes by every few weeks. When I asked more questions about the truck and the supply chain in general, they got skittish so I dropped it. I need to take a class on wasteland economics to figure it all out.
In the end for the buggy-steam roller-crane trade, we got two bikes, a couple big sacks of some kind of grain (can we eat it raw? how do you make grain into something you can eat?) a bunch of pony jerky (sad), all the jugs of grey water we could carry, a sack of random bullets, a new pair of binoculars, and some other odds and ends like a crowbarish weapon-tool and a silver crucifix with a lady being tortured to death on it instead of Jesus. But wait there’s more! They also had an item saved for a special trade. They reverently brought forth through the trade hole a silver canister about the size of a can of shaving cream. It was perfectly smooth and cool to the touch with no marks of any kind on the outside. They laid it before us like it was the Twelve Monograms Fabergé egg that had the Molitor Stradivarius inside as a prize.
“What is it?” I asked attractively.
The lead trader frowned and pointed at me. And then when I didn’t get it, they pointed harder at me and then at Martialla some.
“What, I don’t understand, it’s me? What are you trying to saying?”
They got all excited and said, that yes, it was “like me”. I picked it up and examined it but if it was anything other than a piece of very boring metal art (postmodern they call it) from our time, I couldn’t figure it out. I looked over at Martialla and she just shrugged.
“Looks like something you’d be trying to find in Resident Evil.”
I snorted “Did you listen to Mila Jovovich’s album? What a piece of shit. And yet she still got cast as Alice instead of me. She can barely act.”
Martialla snickered “Leeloo Dallas Multipass.”
“Shut up Martialla.”
I politely but unenthusiastically thanked them for the giant silver bullet or whatever it was and they seemed vaguely disappointed by my lack of delight. I think they were expecting me to do something with it, but I had no idea what that would be. After looking at me exuberantly for a while, they wandered back into their junk-fort shuffling and kicking at the ground like kids who got told no ice cream on the way home.
In order to get their new death machine inside, they had to open up one whole side of their fort like it was a Barbie Dream house. Even with the side removed, they had to hack part of the roof (or whatever) off so they could drive it in. It was as unimpressive on the inside as you might expect, a bunch of piles of junk/trade goods and a cluster of yurts made out of other junk. I saw a couple empty cages, I wonder if they’re for people or animals. One of the yurts was twice as big as the others, which is where the leader lives I assume, but I bet you anything that it’s no nicer inside – it’s just bigger to remind everyone who’s in charge. Martialla and I watched them struggling and basically rebuilding their whole fort just to get the thing inside and agreed that it looked like a lot of work.
Martialla looked over at me as we loitered on our new bikes looking totally cool and badass “Do you still feel like you’re dying?”
I shook my head “No, now I just feel like I fell down seventeen flights of stairs and at the bottom was an ornery mule that kicked me.”
She tapped the side of her nose “Nanobots.”
I held up my fist “One of these days Martialla, bang, zoom, straight to the moon. I suppose we should sleep out here tonight? Just being close to this fort should give us some kind of protection right? From critters and so forth.”
“Maybe, but on the other hand you don’t build a fort because there aren’t marauders around. What was that your grandma always used to say?”
“Never fall in love because love leads to children and children are a curse?”
“No, the other thing.”
“I wouldn’t give your troubles to a monkey on a rock?”
“That’s the one.”