After the break we have the first single from the new album Freaking Digging Machine

A mysterious hole in the ground containing a large slab of metal in it was intriguing enough that we stuck around Wyo despite the fact that it could have just been a big piece of an old sign for the world’s largest rocking chair.  We lost even more people to the monotony of excavation.  I suppose that’s the drawback of enticing people to fight for you purely on the basis of fun and profit – once there’s no longer any fun or profit to be had how are you going to keep them down on the farm? 

Once we had done enough digging that it clear that we had no interest in killing Sordee the rest of his facepaint 127 people crept into town in small groups.  All in all those small groups ended up being more than a hundred people with more than two dozen fighting vehicles.  Ten of these vehicles were heavily armed and armored, which is a lot of heavy armed and armored vehicles by the standards of the day. 

Martialla pointed out unhelpfully that if they had participated in the defense of Wyo they could have shifted the balance against us.  When I told her to stop being a nervous Nelly she pointed out even more negatively that if they wanted to they could probably recapture the town/slaughter us right now since most of our horde had left.   

She’s a real buzzkill that one.   

While our people weren’t super pumped about digging for days the 127ers approached the task with something bordering on religious fervor.  They dug into the ground like it owed them money or slept with their spouse or both.  Someone on our side did bring in a six-wheeled segmented machine with a digging blade/drill/saw/arm on the front.  Where the hell did that come from?  Was that with us the entire time and I never noticed it?  Why would someone have that?  Did they just build it right there?  Wherever it came from it was helpful. 

Even with a freaky digging machine (note to self-Freaky Digging Machine would be a good album name) the work was mostly people hauling buckets of dirt and breaking their backs like in a movie where they dig up an old Egyptian tomb that unleashes a horrible monster or a curse.  Or a monster’s curse.  Or a cursed monster.  People in movies really shouldn’t be digging up old tombs.  Of course that would be a pretty boring movie if they didn’t.

While the excavation was going on some of the people that weren’t interested in digging but hadn’t left yet took what salvage was left from the battle and hammered together some more vehicles.  These future mutants don’t look like much but I’m impressed by their ingenuity.  Maybe that’s the blessing of junk-mobiles, they’re low tech enough that they’re kind of modular?  One gets smashed to bits and you just add those bits to something else. 

While we were digging some of the Wyomins that headed for the hills came back to town.  I don’t know if they were expecting us to have left so they could go back to their homes or if they wanted those battlefield scraps but they looked disappointed either way.  Some of them talked to the 127s and eventually they came into town and jointed the fun.  Most of them anyway, some of them went back into the mountains.  To die I assume.   

On the third day we found an edge to the metal and when we dug down alongside that we uncovered a door and what was left of a twisted catwalk and/or ladder.  At this point Martialla once again brought up that what she’d really like to have is some ground penetrating radar.  I hate when she does that.  I’d like to have an ice cream sundae and a beer that isn’t made from squashed armadillo testicles but it aint going to happen.  There’s no use in pining after the impossible.   

They turned the digging machine on the door but it didn’t do shit other than permanently damage the hearing of everyone in a fifty-foot radius with the sound of screeching metal.  Our most powerful explosives (which Martialla said weren’t very powerful but what the hell does she know about it?) didn’t crack it open either.  Additional digging uncovered some massive slabs of concrete, and I mean massive.  Like Hoover Dam massive.  I wonder if that thing is still around.  I can’t remember if they said that the Hoover Dam would last forever or if it would fall apart in like a week without maintenance.  It was one of the two.   

A guy with giant hands and spindly chicken legs told us that based on what he was seeing it would take weeks or months to dig up the whole thing.  He speculated that this was an underground complex that had been buried and then the earth shifted and part of it had been broken open.  He suggested that if we did some directional boring (which sound boring!) in a spot where he claimed he could tell there was a fissure that might get us some answers faster.  Seemed as good an idea as anything.  I admit that at that time I was losing enthusiasm for the project, I probably would have agreed to almost anything.  Almost.   

The man with the plan and the giant hands was right.  They carved out a reverse step pyramid into the ground to the south and they dug into a collapsed section of concrete, torn asunder by the mighty power of the earth rolling over like a lazy cat on a couch.  At this point the digging became even more slow and boring, painstaking I suppose you’d call it.  Which is a strange word.  Seems like it should mean that you’re betting an amount of pain.  Language is a funny.   

Now then, once they started pulling out debris and bodies it became a lot more interesting.  At first it was some big twisted sheets of metal.  And a bunch of smaller chunks mixed in with the dirt and concrete.  Then came the arm.  Aside from being dark blue, almost purple, it was a perfectly  preserved arm.  Actually preserved isn’t even the right word, it looked like it was still alive.  When you touched it, which I did, it felt like touching, you know, an arm attached to a person.  I’m not expert on wounds by any means but the ragged end didn’t look like anything I had ever seen.  The arm had been ripped off and there was stuff dangling but it didn’t seem like it was damaged if that makes sense.  It was as if a super realistic dummy had been made and then you tore its arm off.  

Clearing out more rubble revealed pieces of what looked like giant metal coffins along with a staggering array of pieces of human bodies.  It was simultaneously less and more horrible because they were toy-like and bloodless.  It seemed like you could just stick them back together like some kind of demented puzzle.  But you couldn’t.  Because by all accounts they were actual body parts.   

Eventually came to what looked like a piece of a roof that had been twisted down like a pipe cleaner and after digging underneath that and clearing away more dirt (and other stuff) we were inside a what used to be a room.  Scattered through the dirt (and other stuff) were more intact pieces of the metal coffins, enough that you could decipher their original size and shape.  They were as large as a small car and each one appeared to contain just one body.  By the flickering light of a lantern filled with glowing bug-guts I looked over at Martialla.   

“Well this is about the damnedest funerary practice that I’ve ever seen.  Is this a modern mummification deal?  Are we going to find traps and a big room filled with gold donkeys?” 

Martialla shook her head “This isn’t burial.  Well, it is because they’re literally buried, but they’re not dead.  Or they weren’t rather.  Not when they went under.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

She pointed to the wall where you could just barely make out, in large block letters with a red and white background written in both English and French “Bio-Stasis 7”. 

Joey Indiana and the Stuff from the Bible

Martialla and I (and Paul) did pick through Wyo while the majority of our “army”, excepting our core cadre and some other hopeful lingerers, headed back west to spread the tales of their victory and enjoy their ill-gotten gains.  We didn’t find anything that explained why they were there.  Martialla thought maybe they went into the mountains to forage for food, but why wouldn’t they just live in the mountains then?  Why would they form a community at all?   

As Martialla and I were picking through people’s shanties and tents (not that there was much to pick) one of the Prairie Dogs (or whichever animal gang they were from) started hooting and hollering that there were people coming, and indeed there were.  Three ragged looking people in the brown shirts, red headbands, and stupid facepaint of the folks we had fought up in the hills.  They had their hands, not up exactly, but out in the universal gesture for “please god don’t shoot us we don’t really want to be here”.   

Since I had just survived one assassination attempt I had them thoroughly searched (and I mean thoroughly you catch my drift) and stayed well out of knife range just in case.  I wonder how long that level of caution will stick with me.  A couple weeks maybe.  The designated speaker said that her name was Bjorn Borg or Kolnjorn Hejne or some other Ikea sounding words.   

Here’s the deal with these future people, they are technically speaking English (mostly there’s some other stuff in there too) like they’re using the same words, but they’re not using them the way you expect and they’re talking really fast like they have marbles in their mouths.  It reminds me of Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein, you can more or less make out their meaning but you can’t really understand it.  Does that make sense?   

Anyway, the three Facepaint people pulled up their rags like the world’s worst strip tease and showed me that they all had the number 127 burned/carved into their ribs.  They seemed to expect that this would mean something to me.  I nodded sagely and told them to continue with their mostly incoherent mumbling. 

The gist of it was that their leader wanted to speak with me but sent them in first to make sure we weren’t going to attack them.  I assured them that everything was totally cool and their leader could come on out to chat.  There was then an interminable amount of time trying to set up the meeting and where it would be and so forth, made more painful by the fact that half the time I couldn’t make out what the hell they were saying.   

Eventually I says to them I says “Look, your dude wants to talk to me right?  So have him come here tonight.  You can see how many people are still here, if that scares him then don’t come, I’m tired of talking about this.” 

A few more folks drifted away during the day when it became clear that there was nothing more for them to kill or loot and nothing was on fire to entertain them, but there were still a couple hundred people clumped around Wyo when the leader of the Facepaint brigade came to town.  At first I thought it was a woman riding a mountain goat coming our way (which would have been cool) but instead it was just a very slight man with delicate facial features that had on giant furry leggings that included the goat-head right over his junk.  Since its one hundred and nine degrees his lower body has to be cooked like a Christmas goose under that shit.   

Sordee (as I think his name is) came alone, I assume because he didn’t want any of his people to die if we turned on them – which is dam high standard of wastelands leadership.  I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s weird that I can usually understands the leaders here better but I realized in that moment that what’s happening is that by the time I get to talk to someone in charge I’ve already spoken to an underling, so it’s not that they speak “better” it’s just that I’ve already started to pick up on their accent or whatever you want to call it.   

He showed me the ‘127’ etched into his ribs.  Then he pulled from a crude knap-satchel a ragged piece of cloth that had a patch on it, red and gold with a sun and a horse on it that said underneath 127th Armored Cavalry Group.  Then he said, clearly and perfectly understandably “The vigil has been kept.”  I had no idea what to do at this point so I just nodded and he got up and went into a shed-hole and grabbed a shovel and started digging.  Martialla waved over some more people to start helping him dig with whatever implements they could find.   

Martialla looked over at me with an actual legitimate grin “This is exciting, maybe we’ll find the Well of Souls like Indiana Jones.” 

I frowned “Well of Souls?  So these Indiana Jones movies you claim are so popular are supernatural horror stuff?” 

She frowned back at me “No . . . well, I mean yes . . . kinda.  At the end the power of god does melt a bunch of Nazis.” 

I snorted “Yeah, sounds like a great movie.” 

She stomped petulantly like a little kid “It is!  Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered one of the greatest films ever made!  The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry last year for its historical, cultural and/or aesthetic contributions to society.  And I know you’ve heard of it!” 

“Raiders of the Lost Ark?  I thought you said it was called Indiana Jones, get your story straight.” 

Watching people dig isn’t all that interesting so I admit that I nodded off.  It was well after sun-up when Martialla woke me up and took me to a huge square (more of a rhombus really) they had dug away down a good four feet to reveal a big slab of metal like the side of a silo.  Sordee sat on the side the edge with his feet dangling, one hundred percent grimy with dirt sticking to the sweat on his body, his hands ripped to shreds and beaming a smile like a new father posing for a picture by his exhausted unsmiling wife in the maternity ward.  I hopped/slid down into the hole, my feet hitting the metal with a happy “ping” noise, and hunched down to take a look at the uncovered metal. 

“Huh, well I’ll be.”