Epic fight music

Once the hooting and hollering of the assembled horde reached a fever pitch it seemed like it was time to go.  Martialla and I sat across from one another perched in J-Lo’s empty window holes and looked at each other.  Why didn’t we just get in the car and look at each other?  It is a little dark in there but mostly because it was cooler.  Actually that’s a lie, the real reason is that it seemed like once we were inside that it was really happening.  You know what I mean?  I tapped on the roof a couple of times and she did the same like that was a thing we did. 

I glanced at all the dust being kicked up by the mile long demolition derby about to unfold “Too bad we don’t have a tape deck, some tunes would be nice.”

Martialla nodded “Ride of the Valkyries or Eye of the Tiger, something like that?”

I rolled my eyes “You are such a hack Martialla, next you’re going to be suggesting Fortunate Son.”

She looked hurt “I thought you liked Credence.”

“I do, everyone loves CCR, but that song lost its luster in this context after playing over a scene of chopper in Vietnam after the fiftieth time.”

Martialla glanced out at the field as the sound of chattering automatic weapon fire and the screeching of metal on metal was growing into a roar “I suppose we should go.”

I took a look as well, although there wasn’t much you could see with all the grit in the air “Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to go into battle with Fantasy playing in our heads.  Did you know that was the first song to debut at number by a female artist?  And that was nineteen ninety five.  It took that long Mar, think about all the great female singers throughout history and not until the end of the century did a woman debut at number one.”

“Well that was over a hundred years ago Ela, it was a different time.  Do you think Mariah Carey really knows how to rollerblade?”

I snorted “Hell no, I’m sure they had her trussed up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to keep her upright.  She carries fifty percent of her weight in her boobs, I’m surprised she can even stand up, there’s no way she can operate on wheels.”

“Unlike us.”

“Unlike us.”

We slide inside, put the armor in place, and strapped in.  I asked Martialla if she was good but the battle had grown so loud that I don’t know if she could hear me.  Either way she gave me a thumbs up, clutching the nanocanister to her breast like a mother chimp with a baby.  The idea was that we would drive along the road (flanking Martialla insisted on calling it) and then turn towards the fighting and try to ram the Invincible vehicles from the side.  Since J-Lo has no weapons and she’s great off-road this seemed like the way to go. 

Of course there were Invincible vehicles on the road coming at us head-on the entire idea was rendered moot immediately. 

The first thing coming at us looked like the front of a semi (the tractor I guess it’s called, but to me and everyone else a tractor is a farm machine) cut in half horizontally with a little platform on the back that had a rocket launcher.  The mutant on the back fired off the rocket, seemingly engulfing him/herself in flames in the process, and the projectile whirled around like a bottle rocket.  It was spinning so crazily and randomly that I figured there was no chance it would hit us but it did.  Direct hit from something that seemed to have the flight path of a drunken one winged grasshopper.  How is that possible?  J-Lo jumped up in the air but it was just like hitting a speed bump.  I have no idea what she’s made of but it seems to be pretty closed to being indestructible.  Or invincible if you prefer. 

The visibility out J-Los driving slit isn’t great so I couldn’t tell where it was coming from but I could hear bullets clattering off the front armor.  You cannot imagine how loud that is from the inside.  It’s like putting a bunch of batteries in a blender and then putting your ear where the top thing goes before you turn it on.  What is that top thin on a blender called?  It must have a name.  Some shrapel ricocheted through the vision-hole and hit me right in the earlobe.  I wonder if that would count for a purple heart back in the day.  No more earlobe for a bit.

Even in a nigh-indestructible car a head on collision seems like a bad idea so I cut to the right and whipped back over immediately for a sideswipe (a rake actually, but I’m not going to go over that again, except I just did I suppose).  I guess there must have been enough clearance for J-Lo to get underneath them like a cougar flipping over a porcupine because the next thing I see is wheels going over the vision slit and we were rocked like a VW Bug being crushed by a monster truck. 

When I came around I saw the half-semi (quarteri?) standing up on its nose like a seal balancing a ball.  It was  as if it had been dropped from a crane.  I saw a couple people struggling to crawl out and I floored it at them like a dirty redneck splattering a family of raccoons crossing a gravel road.  Chunks of what used to be people flew in through the slits like we were at the front row of a Gallagher concert.  Which we were not.

Splash one bandit I guess.  That’s what they say in the war plane fighter movies right?

Something slammed into us from behind but by the time I could swing around I didn’t see anything.  Could have been someone on our own side for all I know since we weren’t even facing the right away anymore.  Although how could there be a right way?  All I could see of the battle looked like a prison riot, how could you even tell who was on your side? 

Coming around again back the right away and continuing up the road some Invincible bikes scattered like frightened birds ahead of us.  One of the crazy fuckers jumped onto J-Lo.  I know this because his arm came through the vision-hole with a knife like that guy who was stabbing women through the windows of their apartments.  What did they call that guy?  The papers gave him a name.  I didn’t get a chance to learn this guy’s name because Martialla reared back and stomped on his wrist and made his arm bend the wrong way and then I threw him free with a hard swerve.  A couple of his fingers ripped off his hand as he was hurled and landed in my lap.  I’ll think of a joke for that later.  Something dirty.

Off the side of the road I saw one of those stupid Invincible log cabin machines just sitting there and I decided it was time to get in the fight.  I took a gentle left and hit it in the side.  The damn thing split in half like the boat in Man with the Golden Gun.  It would be crazy to say that it was like driving through tissue paper but it was easier than it seems like it should be to literally drive through another vehicle.  Maybe the front part attaches to the stupid wood part with duct tape.  It was ridiculously easy to destroy. 

Splash two. 

I started off after one of the Invincible observation vehicles were the bumpy-head people sit and watch (although this time they were shooting a SAW like mad, I saw bullet casings flying off like candy in an explosion at a piñata factory) but I was intercepted by a thing that looked like the Munster’s car with three Mad Max spinning engine things on the front.  The Munsters cut in front and fired a thing at us that looked like a bunch of harpoon guns from a whaling ship banked together like a missile carrier. 

That hit sent us spinning like an old Mo-Town singer when they take their hat off during the chorus.  By the time I got my bearings the Munsters had reloaded and were lining up another shot.  We spun around each other three times like two drunks both trying to grab each other’s ass for a conga line before I slammed on the breaks and whipped the wheel around to plow into them like a butt-first torpedo.

Martialla shot through the hole and peppered the driver in the chest while their gunner launched the harpoons.  The impact felt worse than any of the crashes we’ve been in.  I swear it knocked J-Lo back ten feet.  How can those things have more force behind them than actual rockets?  One guy was trying to re-load harpoons while another tried to drag the dead driver out of the seat while a third jumped off and hoofed it.  I guess he was the smart one because I backed up and bifurcated the Munster-mobile like a fruit stand in an action movie car chase. 

Splash three.

Next thing I know one of the log-cabin mobiles slammed into us.  I don’t know if it was an intention ram or if it was just a crash in the chaos.  What I do know is that J-Lo slide inside them like a very sensual leg into a silk stocking – only with way more splintering wood and scraps of metal and screaming and blood flying everywhere.  Suddenly we were in the pitch dark.  I drive to reverse out of the wreckage but the tires spun uselessly like we were on ice.  Martialla waved for me to stop and then injected herself with some red nanos – right in the chest like a psycho.  She could have at least done it into the arm or the thigh for my benefit. 

She unstrapped herself, took down the armor panel on her side and spun to the side to kick her legs out the window into the shell of the other car around us.  Since she wasn’t anchored in any way she flew back into me like that time my dad put me in the pack of the old pick-up with a washing machine and told me to old onto it while we drove out to the junkpile.  I elbowed her in the back of head.

“Jesus, watch it, you’re fucking crushing me!”  She slithered partway out the window between the two cars like a sliver between your fingernail and skin, and I saw her grabbing the J-Lo’s edge for support “Hey, don’t bend her frame!”

Martialla managed to swing-kick off enough of the wrecked Invici-car to get around the back and pull J-Lo free.  Since the armor was down on her side I saw a spike-buggy thing coming at us and shouted a warning at her.  She jumped out of the way and the spike-buggy slammed into J-Lo’s side with several spikes coming free and flying in the “open” window and hitting me in in both elbows.  One on the outside and the other going across to hit me on the inside of the other.  You ever have a rusty spike driven through your elbow?  It fucking hurts. 

While I fumbled for the nanoinjector with my suddenly bloody hands Martialla grabbed the side of the buggy and flipped it over like an angry toddler with a toy truck.  The driver tried to crawl out and she stomped on his melon, which crushed under her boot far more easily than an actual melon would have.  I’ve seen a lot of twisted stuff lately but that’s really going to stick with me.  That guy’s skull cracked like it was an egg, barely any resistance.  Those red nanos are no joke.

I finally managed to shakily inject myself with some blue nanos as I watched Martialla yank an axle (something long anyway) off the bottom of the overturned buggy and leap onto the wreckage of the first machine where she used it like she was spear-fishing to pin another Invincible car to the ground like that one kid in class did to bugs. 

The blue nanos are weird, they immediately make you feel high off your ass but they also make you feel like you’re not really in control of your limbs for a moment.  I should have just waited for them to do their thing but it felt important in that moment to try and drag the spike out of my arm even though I had the coordination of a drunk teenager playing pin the tail on the donkey. 

I shouted out the window at Martialla “Get back in here!”

She jumped back down by the window and I handed her the injector on account of the bloody bullet-hole in her side and she helped herself to some blues well “I don’t think I need to.”

“Why not?”

She looked right and left “I think we won.”

To the victor go the spoilt potatoes

Martialla harped on me for using too more nanos before I knew if I needed them.  I told her that we didn’t even know how many we had.  She said “exactly my point”.  Her hand wasn’t just bloody, in falling  down the tower she had ripped off her thumb and the tip of her finger next to it.  She also managed to get hit in the face by a ricochet like an idiot.  So she got a shot of the sweet blue stuff as well.  When Paul eventually came out of the woods drenched in blood he was doubled over and limping badly.  His fire pole slide down the tower had ripped up his quads and his hammies and his calves and whatever else leg muscles you have.  I saw that happen to a stuntman once on a jump/tear away awning bit.  I don’t think the stunt even went wrong, I think it was not a well-designed stunt.   

We (well Martialla did since he still can’t look at me directly ) asked Paulie boy if he had any nanos inside him since he’s from the future-past.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  When we explained a little he didn’t seem to know what a robot was.  What was going on Twenty Thirty-Four?  All he seems to remember about the “before time” is candy and Hostess fruit pies and Pop Tarts and cartoons.  And maybe that he had parents of some kinds.  I wonder if he wasn’t sixteen when he got frozen like he says but instead six years old.

Even though she had just been scolding me about wasting them Martialla injected Paul with some blue nanos as well.  Whenever we use them for a while you can see blue lines glowing under our skin like we have circuits under the skin, Martialla says we look like the people in Tron but I wouldn’t know because I’m not a dork.  Nothing like that happened with Paul.  I assume that means they don’t work on him but we’ll know for sure if he’s still limping around in a few days.   

I’ve been wondering about Paul.  He’s walking gingerly but he is walking around on two busted wheels.   He’s sturdier than he should be I feel.  I remember coming home drunk late one night and watching a show on the Discovery channel about how extinct human-like hominids were a more robust than modern humans.  As in they could get trampled by a wooly thoctar and just walk it off.  It wasn’t fun, they weren’t happy about being trampled, but they would live.  Paul seems like that.  Maybe in his time genetic engineering was a thing and he’s not like us physically.  It’s frustrating that he can’t remember and/or is too traumatized to tell us about his life and what was going on then.  I wish he’d quit being a mentally damaged baby.   

We assumed that since we had come under attack that meant that the assault on Wyo was fucked.  I guess that’s self-centered.  Which is on brand for me I admit, but still.  While we were injecting each other like NFL players before the big game we fretfully grabbed our binoculars, expecting to see that “our” forces had driven into a trap and were being ripped apart.  Instead we saw that things were proceeding fine.  The Invincible trucks had moved out to form a makeshift wall in front of the city but it didn’t make much of a difference.  The city (or town, whatever) had no other defenses in place so it was a whirling demolition derby of a battle anyway and our side had more vehicles.   

I bet a real army with that kind of numerical advantage could have taken the town without suffering a lot of casualties but since it was a bunch of violent yahoos on rocket-sleds instead the battle was more tit for tat.  More of them died than “us” but if there had been such a thing as training or tactics or coordination I bet the ratio could have been far more slanted in our favor.  This must be what war was like in the Stone Age, the plan is “hey go over there” and then it’s everyone for themselves in what my dad would have called a donnybrook.  Which is probably racist but he didn’t mean it like that. 

I watched the battle for a while and then helped Martialla gather up all the rifles and other gear from the fallen.  Her gun fever took over and she spent the rest of the time up there fiddling at them.  I wasn’t really listening but she was saying something about how they were muzzle-loaders and that’s why they were never firing shots in quick succession.  She was pretty taken with them for some reason.  I don’t know why you’d be so over the moon about guns that look modern but function like crappy muskets old time, meaning slow.

Once it seemed like the fighting was over and the looting was in full swing Martialla and I (and Paul) headed down to check it out.  Some people were whooping and hollering and shaking their crude weapons in triumph.  The smarter ones were getting down to the serious business to stealing everything.  Everyone was pleased with the outcome but if you break down the numbers I’m not sure it accomplished much, if anything.  Two of the trucks had been filled with skinny weird potatoes that look like dicks, one had weapons and ammo, and the other miscellaneous parts and a couple bikes.  That’s all good but we lost eighteen vehicles in the attack and only captured three combat machines.  With that and the trucks is that a net gain?  I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as people are happy and spread the word that attacking the Invincible is fun and easy.   

I assumed that everyone in the town would be dead after the battle, actually I hadn’t thought about it at all but if you had asked me I would have assumed that, instead there were a bunch of Wyo people standing around waiting to see what horrible fate would befall them.  And everyone was looking to me like I was going to know what to do with them.   

I picked out the tallest of the bunch, she may have been as much as five three, assuming she was the leader.  She said her name was Nemecrie.  I had a tough time understanding her futurespeak but I gathered that until the earthquake opened up a path to the valley the Invincible didn’t come around much on account of some other group – the people with the facepaint and headbands – but once the valley was accessible the Invincible started coming in numbers so the facepaint people left them to die.  So they made a deal with the Invincible.  Which was working out pretty well for them until we showed up.   

I think she’s smarter than your average future mutant, likely because of her great height, because she was laying it on thick that given the situation they had no choice but to sign on with the Invincible and that if our beef was with them we were jerks for attacking Wyo and hurting innocent people.  She may actually have something of a point, but they weren’t hostages to the Invincible.  They signed on with what they thought was the winning side and it didn’t work out for them.  Sucks but that’s life.   

I told her that we had just come to steal all their stuff and we had no designs on raping them to death or whatever normally happens after battles now, they could stay or go or do whatever they wanted.  She pointed out that since we were stealing all their stuff they’d die if they stayed.  I told her we could drop them off at Bosstown if they wanted, as I understand they’re always looking for mudders.   

Harder Better Faster Stronger 

Putting Martialla on the “bed” seemed like an even worse option than leaving her in the dirt and filth on the ground in terms of cleanliness.  I found a tarp, brought it into the room where she lay, and rolled her over onto it.  She made a chirping noise as I did it.  Like a noise you might expect from a tiny baby kitten.  I saw that the burns across the left side of her upper body stopped in a stark line across her chest, neck and face.  And then I saw why, she had shielded herself with her arm, which was horrifically scorched.   

Once I had her on the tarp I was able to pull her into the main room.  As I was dragging her someone came over – I don’t know if it was a trader or a Paradiser or who they were.  I shot them until I ran out of bullets.  I didn’t even think about it.  I just did it.  I can’t say why really.  I guess I was trying to help Martialla and I thought that someone walking nearby might interfere with that.  That’s where my mind was I suppose.  Or maybe I was just sad and had a gun in my hand.  I heard Martialla gurgling something and I stopped pulling to kneel down and put my ear by her mouth.  Her one open eye seemed wildly distended and distorted next to the other one which was sealed shut by blood and pus and mucus.   

I eventually figured out that she was saying that I should have saved a bullet for her.   

I ranted and raved about how she wasn’t going to die like someone in a bad medical drama on network television.  I told her that she couldn’t die.  I ordered her, as her employer, not to die.  I begged, I prayed (as covered before) I screamed myself hoarse.  At one point in a fit of rage I hammered on her chest, which is a great way to help a critically injured person.  I felt like she had betrayed me by getting herself killed.   

Illogically I thought if there future (present) people fight and kill each other all the time shouldn’t they be familiar with wounds and know how to patch them up?  Maybe they don’t have doctor doctors but shouldn’t they have someone with laudanum and a saw that can stitch someone back together?  But that’s now how that works.  The Mongols were great at making people dead, they turned entire cities into piles of bones, that didn’t make them good at fixing people.  Martialla went through a phase where she talkedabout the Mongols.  It was fucking annoying.  Did you know that their combat doctrine made infantry nearly obsolete for a time?  I do.   

Occasionally people came to try and talk to me.  I guess because I instigated this takeover they thought that I was in charge of something.  If I had any ammo on me I would have shot them, as I did not have any such ammo I just screamed at them to leave me alone.  They seemed confused by my concern for my friend.  I can only imagine that death is so commonplace for them that they don’t make a big deal out of it.  Oh, my best friend died, oh well back to eating dirt and rubbing mud on my face.  I hate everyone in this time.  They should all die and Martialla should be alive.   

In her moments of lucidity Martialla told me to put her out of her misery.   

I told her no.   

Eventually she told me if I wasn’t going to end her suffering there was only one other thing to do.  I thought she meant that I should kill us both.  She didn’t.  She told me it was time to try the canister and see what it does.  Impossible.  What could it do?  But when you have no hope you’ll try just about anything.  My first thought was that I hadn’t left her side in I don’t know how long.  Days it felt like.  And my next thought was that if I did leave her just for a minute to grab my backpack she’d die.  Like me being there was the only thing keeping her alive.  I was plotting out how far away I remembered the bus-truck being and wondering if they moved it since I got off and estimated how fast I could run there and get back.  Can you outrun death?  How fast do you need to move to do it?

But the pack was on my back.  Because it’s a backpack.  I clearly remember taking it off and setting it down in the wheel well of the bus when the fight started.  I remember the feeling if it against my knee as I was leaning forward and shooting out the window.  I must have thrown it back over my shoulder when I went looking for Martialla.  I don’t remember doing that but it seems like a smart thing to do.  Someone could have grabbed all my stuff otherwise.   

When I pulled it out and set it down by Martialla immediately her shoulder and upper body started glowing, traced through with tiny blue lines under the skin.  They were concentrated all around her terrible wounds, radiating out like a spider-web.  Honestly before I don’t know if I believed in nanobots or not, I just said that I didn’t to needle Martialla.  In that moment I hoped against hope that she was right.  I imagined swarms of tiny robots inside her working feverishly and desperately to try and knit her back together and all they needed were some reinforcements.   

The canister whirled open like before and I put the injector gun into a slot that filled with blue paste.  I didn’t stop to think about it because if I did I’m sure I wouldn’t have done it.  Logically you can’t inject some unknown blue liquid into someone and not kill them.  But I didn’t stop to think about it, I just did it.  I figured if it was going work I should put the nanos right where they needed to be, I jammed the gun right into her burned shoulder.  I didn’t push a button or anything, there wasn’t one, I just saw the reservoir empty and the blue light started shining through her skin so brightly that it hurt my eyes to look down at her.   

Her body went rigid like a corpse and then started convulsing.  It was like her knees and elbows were locked tight but she was trying to flail wildly at the shoulder and hips.  I did my best to hold her down but it was like trying to pin down a rabid hyena.  The pressure she was putting on me as I tried to bend her limbs back was so intense that I thought my bones were going to snap.  Blue lines started glowing in my hands and arms like it was some kind of bioluminescent communication between bacteria in our bodies.  Were they screaming for help or just saying hello?  I can’t imagine that I feel asleep.  I must have passed out.  Or maybe Martialla knocked me unconscious with her out of control limbs. 

I just know that I came around I was splayed on top of her like she was a ‘67 Shelby Mustang and I was a calendar girl getting paid twenty bucks.  Her voice was clear but weak. 

“Can you get off me please?” 

I rolled back and looked her over, she looked a little better maybe, but still on the edge of death.  I saw her see me seeing her and she flickered her eyes down towards her mangled leg.  It looked much better but that wasn’t really saying much, it had progressed from looking like the end of a New Year’s party horn to more like a human leg stump.  She saw me see that and the look on my face and she told me to look closer.  I scooted around and forced myself to peer at the fleshy bloody mass.  It did look less ragged I guess.  Even as disgusting as it was there was something in the middle that made me look closer. 

“What the fuck is that?  Looks like a micro penis.” 

She smiled in a grotesque Joker grin “It’s a new toe, my foot is growing back.” 

She wiggled it at me and I shrieked like a nineteen fifties housewife being confronted by a mouse or a spider or a communist.  I followed this by immediately by jumping up and skidding away like the selfsame mouse narrowly avoiding getting its neck broken by a snap trap. 

Sock it to me

I suppose we passed out.  Sugar crash, adrenaline crash, pain crash (note to self, Pain Crash good band name yes/no?) exhaustion, whatever you want to attribute it to, we went down.  Maybe we were laughing so hard that we didn’t get enough oxygen to our brains.  Doesn’t matter why we passed out in the end.  Sometimes I think the same about waking up.   

It rained at some point and that didn’t even rouse us.   It rains all the damn time here and yet half the places we go are just dust and rocks.  Explain that.   Nutrient-deficient, acidic soils?   Fine, you win this round Mr. Explainseverything.  The rain didn’t wake up the guy we stabbed to death either but at least that makes sense, you don’t wake up when you’re dead.  Usually.  Just enough rain fell to make me wake up damp and uncomfortable, not enough to wash off the blood.  I never knew how sticky blood was until I came to the future present.  It seems like it should run off you like water but it’s more like simple syrup.   

It’s so rare that I wake up before Martialla I thought that she might be dead.  When I slithered over to shake her, I saw that she had one of her many knives clenched in her fist like a fat kid with a lollipop.  It wasn’t a very shiny knife but I was able to see my reflection in it anyway.  Lines.  Radiating out from my eyes.  Coming out from my mouth like demented cat whiskers.  I was repulsed and obsessed at the same time.  Who was that hideous old witch?  Did Ela die a hundred years ago and this beast took her place?  Is that what happened?  Ela never looked like this, not even after doing shots and chain smoking all night, Ela is pretty.  Oh, so very pretty.  Everyone said so.   

I stared at that reflection until the sun came up enough to obliterate it with bright light.  I wanted to peel off my wet stinking socks but I couldn’t reach my arms out that far with a probably dislocated shoulder and I couldn’t curl my legs up that far with a probably whatever happens to knees knee.  I hocked up and spat a sticky mass of something grey but somehow that action didn’t make my socks come off.   

I thought it might be easier to grab Martialla’s knife and cut them off my feet but the problem there is that there are no more socks.  If I destroy these ones, grey and filthy and dingy and wet as they were, that’s it.  No more socks for me.  What am I going to do, steal Martialla’s socks?  What good would that do me?  She has feet like Wylie Coyote.  I’d have to wear them like stockings and here I am without a garter belt.  Lesson learned, always carry an emergency garter belt in your purse in case of apocalypse.   

I kicked at Martialla to wake her finally (or see if she was alive) “Hey, what happened to my purse?”  She about stabbed me with her fist-knife so I kicked at her again “Hey, watch it, it’s me!” 

“Me who?”  Martialla’s voice was so ragged that she sounded like a different person.  Her eyes were crusted shut so firmly she had to pry them apart with her fingers, nearly stabbing herself in the face with the knife still clenched in her man-hand at first attempt.   

I snatched the blade away from her “Jesus, give me that before you put your eye out.” 

She rolled over and slowly levered herself up to hands and knees, blinking blearily at the dead man, at whom she grunted “So that did happen, I thought that was a dream.  Did anyone come looking for him?” 

“We’re still alive so I guess not.” 

“Weren’t you keeping watch?” 

A noise came out of my throat that sounded like a cricket in a food processor – I guess that’s what it sounds like when a laugh is trapped in your esophagus by a mucus plug.  We scuttled over to the corpse and painfully started stripping it to see if he had anything other than lice and a bad smell on him.  Aside from the requisite Mad Max knife, he had a wooden thing (canteen?  bottle?) filled with water which we drank too fast, and a flask made of resin filled with blue-sugar booze that we also drank too fast.  In his god damn boot, not even on the side but in the bottom, he had a wrapped-up leaf full of something that looked like tobacco leaves and tasted like varnish.  Even as hungry as I was, it took a while to force that down my gullet.  I should have saved some of the water to wash it down with.  I was considering standing up as Martialla was fiddling with the gun she found at the security station. 

“Is that thing going to work?” 

“I don’t know, I seem to have misplaced my firearms cleaning kit.  You left your purse in the car.” 

I frowned “Bullshit, that was a two-thousand-dollar Balencaiga bag, I wouldn’t have left it in the car.” 

“You did though, I remember scolding you about leaving it , what if someone breaks into the car and steals it I said, your wallet is in there I said, you said you weren’t bringing it in because you didn’t want to get a chemical smell on it.  It cost two thousand dollars you said.”  She aimed her gun and pulled the trigger but nothing happened “Well, it’s pretty heavy, I can at least throw it at someone.  How do you feel?” 

“Bad.  I feel bad.” 

She waggled her eyebrows at me “Yes, but not as bad as you should feel, all things considered hmm?  And why do you think that might be?” 

I rolled my eyes “If you say anything about nanorobots, I will kick you in the cervix.” 

She affected a Brooklyn accent “If you kick me in the ovaries in your dreams you better wake up and apologize.” 

I turn away from her in shame “That is the worse Harvey Keitel impression I have ever heard.  It’s too bad the world blew up, I heard there was an all-female reboot of Reservoir Dogs in the works.  I would have made a great Mrs. Pink.” 

“Wasn’t Mrs. Pink the name of your character in that softcore porn you did?” 

“The Girl in Room Two Oh Eight is not softcore porn!  It’s an action-adventure comedy!  There’s less nudity per minute in Two Oh Eight than there is in To the Limit!  Are you saying that To the Limit is softcore porn, Martialla?  Martialla, is that what you’re saying?” 

Down in a hole and I don’t know if I can be saved

Did you ever see that movie the Longest Yard?  Me neither.  Burt Reynolds?  Give me a break.  I assume that the producers of that movie were referring to some kind of metaphorical long yard for the characters with that title.  Perhaps their longest yard is illiteracy.  Or a lack of self-confidence.  Or a stupid mustache.  The longest yard in that movie is probably not a literal yard of ground covered with barbed wire and broken glass and acids and hornets and used syringes.  

Martialla and I crawled a lot more than a yard, but it was still the longest X amount of distance I have ever covered.  My left leg hurt too badly to stand up and my left arm hurt too badly to use for crawling so I slumped on Martialla and scrabbled along beside her like a sidecar as best I could as she scuttled along.  With seven limbs on the ground we still could have been run circles around by a three-legged dog.  

It didn’t take long before the dim light coming through the buggy-hole crevasse behind us was far enough away that it did absolutely nothing and we were skidding along in the pitch dark.  We didn’t even think about it, we just started crawling down a dark tunnel that we had no reason to believe led anywhere.  I wonder what we would have done if we weren’t both likely suffering from concussions.  Waited until we thought the Invincible were gone and then tried to climb out the hole we fell through?  Probably.

Every now and then I felt a little patch of carpet under my hand.  Mostly I felt some kind of vinyl flooring tile which was jumbled up and cracked and ripped my skin open like paper cuts every two “steps”.  Sometimes I felt mud, which was a nice change of pace because it was soft and was probably only giving me gangrene.  Sometimes I felt rocks.  The hallway or tunnel or whatever you want to call it was wide enough that you could stretch out your arms (not that I could) and not touch the sides from the middle but I still felt claustrophobic like I was wedged in a Shawshank shitpipe.  The dark does funny things to your perception of space.  

We crawled for ten minutes before we saw another light.  Which doesn’t seem like a long time but I challenge you to crawl on any surface for ten minutes.  Even on nice soft carpet.  I double dog dare you.  Just try it.  Adults aren’t meant to be crawling around.  While we were being ripped to shreds, I had this image pop into my head of a stripper crawling “sexily” along a strip club stage and then it extends out for miles and miles and she has to keep crawling and there are men lined up all along the entire thing throwing money at her and hooting while her hands and knees are sliced to bloody ribbons and she’s leaving a streaky red trail of blood with bits of flesh behind her.

We reached the light, which was coming from a large round area that reminded me of a car showroom without any cars.  The ceiling was ripped open to the outside/above and so much debris and junk had washed in that there was a ring-shaped hill in the middle that was close to five feet high on the edges.  An Invincible biker had driven right into the hole and smashed himself to bits against the far wall.  I could see how that could happen.  Even though the hole is a good fifteen feet in diameter, it’s grown up with weeds all around the edge so you wouldn’t see it until the last minute.  It’s like how people used to fall in old wells all the time.  Remember that from the eighties?  People fell in wells every week in the eighties.

The biker had a ceramic canteen on him that was shattered by his death plummet, but the bottom part still had some water in it and we drank it like we were dying of thirst, which we probably were.  He also had an ugly pipe gun that Martialla took and two smaller ceramic things like test tubes with a blue liquid in them.  The bike looked like it might be functional but what were we going to do?  Ride it around through pitch dark tunnels filled with debris?  We sat against the wall on either side of the dead man and looked up at the clear not-blue sky through the hole.  There didn’t seem to be any sounds of fighting from above anymore.  

I looked over at the dead guy, knowing Martialla was on the other side of his head “Well.  That didn’t pan out.”

“No, I shouldn’t say so.”

“Are we fucked?”

“Fucked proper you mean?  Probably.  But here’s something I’ve been thinking about.  You can’t cryogenically freeze someone without killing them because the cell membranes . . .”

I groaned “Jesus, here we go with the cell membranes again.  Can’t I die without listening to you winge on about cell membranes?”

“That remains to be seen.  What I’m saying is that before they put us in those tubes, they injected us with something.  What if that something was nano-robots?  That would explain how we could survive being frozen without the rupturing of the membranes, they did rupture but the nanos would repair us as quickly as they did so, allowing us to live in stasis.”

I laughed “Nano-robots?  Where do you get this science fiction shit?  There aren’t even robot robots let alone microscopic robots that live inside you.”

“Maybe these Applied Cryogenics scientists invented them as part of their process and nobody knew yet because they hadn’t gone public.  That would explain why we’re still alive with poison air and all the other stuff going on.  It would probably also explain why you’re so sick to your stomach all the time.”

“I’m sick to my stomach because we’re literally eating rotten garbage and drinking dirty water every god damn day.  What does this have to do with anything?”

“Well, if there are nanos inside us they might be able to repair our injuries, and that’s the only way we’re going to survive.  So that’s the one way that we might not be fucked.”

I thought for a moment “They did inject us with something.  Don’t robots, even little ones, need a power source?  What would these nanobots run off?”

“Uh, kinetic energy?”

“So we’re fucked.”

“I mean . . . probably yeah.