That movie got really screwed up in editing (Ela movie reviews)

I went to see “A Kiss Too Long” with high anticipation, having been promised by the New Yorker that it was a “delicate masterpiece of voluptuous physical grace and refined libertinage.”  My standards of voluptuous physical grace, not to mention libertinage, must be more demanding than the New Yorker’s.  Boring is the word I would use to describe “A Kiss Too Long”.  

The story, such as it is, has been lifted from every other romance novel ever written.  A young lass named Benevolence (Ela Patrick) is taken by her faithful old servant to visit her rich aunt, the Countess de Mornay.  That should be a tip-off: Countesses are never up to any good. 

Benevolence is something of a country rube to begin with; doesn’t wash her ankles and that sort of thing.  Thankfully her aunt’s devoted household staff, consisting entirely of bosomy young maids, civilize her in no time at all.  Dressed in regal finery and trained overnight in court manners, the innocent young Benevolence sallies out into the great amoral world of seduction and intrigue.  If this begins to read as if it were copied off the back of a paperback novel, perhaps it was. 

Benevolence’s aunt and uncle run a wide-open household, in which everyone is dashing in and out of bedroom doors like an episode of Big Brother.  The maids keep the kitchen hopping.  A series of strapping young lads, each more dashing than the last, do their best to deflower Benevolence, but alas, none of them ever quite succeed. 

And that, so help me, is all.  The film may appeal to empty-headed would-be sophisticates who want to attend a pretty movie that doesn’t make them think, or make them sad, or anything feel anything. “A Kiss Too Long” offers nothing more.  It is not a work of art, or even a work of grace, or even more than fitfully amusing.  Even the engaging performances of Morgan Michelle and Andrew Piccoli (as the aunt and uncle) and the genuine beauty of Ela Patrick fail to save it.  Of course, a movie doesn’t have to be serious to be good.  But “A Kiss Too Long” wins the 1998 strawberry parfait award for floating off your fork before you can get your mouth open. 

Two Stars  

It wasn’t exactly as if I’d seen “Another Day of Freedom” before, but there was some sort of haunting memory that seemed buried just beneath the surface of this movie’s very predictable plot. 

The plot itself was as follows: fancy society lady is forced by circumstances to hitch cross-country in the cab of an eighteen-wheeler, driven by a rough-hewn, hard-drinking son of a gun.  They begin the movie at each other’s throats, but after a fair amount of fighting they learn to respect one another and then, after the lady learns to drive the truck, even to love each other. 

This all seemed vaguely familiar, and then, of course, I thought of “The African Queen.”  It’s the same movie, with a few adjustments.  There’s a truck instead of a leaky old steamboat, there’s a driver instead of a pilot, and the lady is no lady.  Not the way she’s played by Ela Patrick. 

Patrick literally screams and runs her way through this movie.  She chases the truck driver (played by William Peterson) from one end of the continent to the other, sometimes literally hanging on to the sides of the truck by her fingernails. 

That makes “Another Day of Freedom” sound like more fun than it is.  It has its good moments, I liked the brassy self-confidence in the scene where Patrick, totally bedraggled, walks into a Kansas City clothing store and immediately gets on first-name terms with the clerks.  I liked Peterson’s understated performance as Charlie Kelly, a tough guy who is up to his ears in hock and basically wants only to be left alone by women, all women, every woman, please. 

But the narrative strategy of “Another Day of Freedom” is to repeat the same scenes over and over again, in the hope that if they’ve worked once, who knows?  Maybe they’ll work again. 

“The African Queen” really developed the relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn; we could understand and treasure the steps by which they came to be friends and finally lovers.  But “Another Day of Freedom” just exploits the relationship, giving us two wacky characters and letting them into the ring with each other. 

There is also a bit of a problem with the movie’s subplots.  Since movie stories are arbitrary anyway, couldn’t they have found a better reason for Patrick and Peterson to make their cross-country journey? This movie is too busy with supporting details.  Patrick’s husband is trying to knock her off so he won’t have to pay alimony.  Peterson’s behind on his truck payments, and his truck might be immediately repossessed.  Peterson agrees to sell information on Patrick to the private eyes hired by her husband. Meanwhile, a guy is on Peterson’s trail to repossess the truck.  And so on. The movie even stoops to a crash scene that makes absolutely no sense in terms of what’s happening at the time in the movie. 

All of these things and more are wrong with “Another Day of Freedom” and yet I was able to watch it more or less painlessly, maybe because of the presence of Patrick.   They’ve all exploited her rambunctious carnality, but none of her films have really explored the possibilities of the characters she could play.  Too bad.  She has everything she needs to make this movie memorable except for dialogue and situations and a thought-through character. 

Two Stars 

So there she is, miles from any road, cut off from civilization in a Antebellum mansion with bad wiring, an innocent baby upstairs, the telephone out of service, the rescue party up to its hubcaps in mud, and a homicidal sex maniac nibbling on her earlobe.  This girl has problems. 

Her name is Amanda and she is the baby-sitter.  She babysits in such out-of-the-way places that her father must have to deliver her in a jeep.  And not even a gardener to hear a scream. 

Too bad, because Amanda is a crackerjack screamer.  She keeps thinking she sees a sinister face through the windowpanes.  It has wide eyes and a humorless grin.  It rattles locks and taps its fingernails on the glass.  Who could it be?  Surely it couldn’t be Brian, Helen’s former husband, who was locked up in a mental prison after trying to strangle Helen and kill the baby?  Surely not.  Because Brian is safely locked up.  That’s why Helen is out on a date tonight with her new fiancé and needs a babysitter in the first place.  

Well, we have been down this lonely, twisting road before. We have felt the creepers brush against our face, and we have heard the sound of panting in the forest, and we have heard the twigs snap and the pebbles rattle.  We don’t have to be a Vegas bookmaker to give 10-to-1 odds that Brian is moping around somewhere out there in the night. 

Look at it this way.  If the homicidal Brian weren’t out there in the night, what could the movie be about?  Amanda would be left looking like a fool.  The police sergeant would be left holding the phone and repeating “Hello? Hello? Who’s there?” for no purpose at all.  

The deep south is a long way ahead of the rest of the nation at this business of things out there in the night.  Our houses in are smaller and less complicated.  Sinister noises in the night turn out to be malfunctioning automatic garage-door openers.  But old south mansions have dozens of windows, countless creaks and not a door that doesn’t groan.  And the trees are planted close to the house on purpose, so that their branches can scratch against the eaves. 

They are also ahead of us in the babysitter department.  Amanda is played by Ela Fitzpatrick, who wears a cashmere sweater that is unbuttoned, by actual count, five times during the movie.  Because Ela Fitzpatrick is awfully good at playing the threatened, innocent, beautiful victim, and because Damien Chapa makes a suitable maniacal and homicidal killer, “Night” is a passably good thriller. 

Two stars 

J-Lo Origins : Project Satan

The collapse of the United States of America was followed by the formation of more than a dozen short lived successor states, including the unfortunately named Coalition of Midwestern Americans.  For the entirety of its twelve year history the Coalition was engaged in active war with the Russo-American Mercantile, a conflict which ended at mutual collapse of both nations. 

A secret inherited by the Coalition at the dissolution of the USA was silksteel alloys – so named because until their invention spider silk had the highest tensile strength of any terrestrial substance known to science.  Silksteel was the product of attempts by the United States to meet the demands for new materials that were flexible and strong enough to withstand the incredible stresses of the robotic factories.  The creation of silksteel relied on reactions involving metal borides. 

One of the first (and ultimately one of only) military projects undertaken by the Coalition was research dedicated to discovering the chemical composition of silksteel for use in vehicle anti-ballistic armor plating.  The exact stoichiometry of silksteel alloys remained the subject of debate through the end of the Coalition. 

Coalition strategists felt that the production of armored fast attack vehicles was of critical importance to survival in the new world.  The theory held that due to the economic potential of world powers having been largely shattered, traditional combat doctrines had been rendered irrelevant.  The presumption was that the coming conflicts would have to be fought principally, if not entirely, with weapons and tactics fifty years out of date at the time of the disaster. 

The claim was that the nation state that was able to effectively martial its limited pool of existing resources to create an effective fighting force for a new style of “old” warfare would rise to dominance.  The adaptation of existing technology for the new environment would be the key.

Given the absence of once abundant robotics, guidance systems, satellite networks, air power, and effective long range communication, along with the prohibitive expense of artillery and other munitions in the new world, the Coalition leadership envisioned an army of low-cost, low-maintenance, easy to transport, wheeled vehicles that would be based on the same hull style.  The weaponry designed for these vehicles was planned to be shorter range in return for more penetrating power that would favor close range engagements.  This fleet of vehicles would rely on mobility to make this strategy combat doctrine. 

How did this proposed theory result in a 1000 horsepower 50 lb-ft torque Hellephant-V8 powered Charger widebody immune to small arms fire and light anti-tank weapons? 

Several teams were given the charge of operationalizing the use of silksteel armor in a Coalition combat vehicle.  None would succeed, but the group “humorously” self-named Project Satan would deliver into the world six nigh-invulnerable muscle cars that were used for stress testing and proof of concept. 

After the fall of the Coalition three of the six skilsteel cars were destroyed by weapons powerful enough to bypass their armor.  One was driven into a swamp in Alabama where it remains to this day, much to the delight of an ornery snapping turtle that makes it a home.  The other two were used by a succession of incrementally more primitive raiders and post-apocalyptic psychopaths as any such things as States and Coalitions and militaries and governments faded into a dream.  Once the gasoline reserves were gone they were both abandoned in favor of new vehicles made from the bones of the old that had the advantage of being able use the fuel available. 

The two remaining coalition test vehicles were never scrapped out to become new apocalypse-mobiles because their engines were useless in the new world and being made out of super-dense silksteel meant they were immune to the crowbars and crude cutting tools of the new breed of engineers. 

The vehicle now known as “J-Lo” sat untouched in what was once called the Black Rock Desert for decades before a mechanic known as Crazy Mel decided to convert it to run on bio-fuel used by contemporary vehicles.  Why do they call him Crazy Mel?  Because he does things like converting old super armored muscle cars to run on bio-fuel instead of using his god given talents to make proper junkmobiles and scrapcycles.  Also because he wanders the wastelands instead of staying put where people can find him and pay him dead lizards to do mechanic stuff.

After the conversion was completed Mel apocalypsed the vehicle up a bit with some skulls and other ornamentation, added some removable armor plates in place of windows and windshields and then rolled into the Road Hog swap meeting hoping to score big.  Like those of many a high school senior on prom night his hopes were never to come to fruition. 

No one wanted to trade much for the thing.  Sure it was fast but it had no weapons.  Where’s the harpoon gun?  Or the bank of crude rockets?  There wasn’t even so much as a blunderbuss bolted onto the thing.  And would it kill you top put a big ram-prow on the front?  Come on man!  And Mel told them it was tough, but they didn’t care to find out because it didn’t LOOK tough.  A few metal skulls weren’t going to fool them.  Where were the spikes?  Where was the rack for dead body display? 

In the end a dejected Crazy Mel traded the mean machine for a butter churn and the covers of a couple of anime DVD cases.  You know the ones I mean.  The man who picked up the car, Lagos, then turned around and pawned it off on a couple of rubes named Ela and Martialla for a rat-king’s ransom of tools and fuel and scrap. 

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.”

Going forward all battles will be named after Rage Against the Machine songs

Aside from the CHiPs, who have a few working radios, I haven’t seen any communication in the future more sophisticated than someone tearing ass around on a machine and shouting news at people.  There are no telephones, no telegrams, no newspapers, television, not even two cans on a string, no nothing.  So given this fact how is it that by the time we got back to Paradise people were already gathering in response to the Invincible invasion? 

Are there trained message birds that I don’t know about somehow?  Are the many horrid smells that they emit some kind of pheromone communication like with bugs?  Martialla’s take on how the word is spread was as obtuse as it was stupid –  

“Pimps don’t need to be told to hang around the bus station.” 

I suppose she means that once world got out about our great victory at Wyo people had already started rallying to my banner.  That better be what she means anyway, otherwise I’ll have to have a cross word with her and I can have the quite the sharp tongue when I’ve a mind to do so.  Some of the people that came were Northerners who had already felt the sting of the Invincible and wanted revenge.  Some of them were Southern mercenaries looking for a good score.  The Road Hogs turned up to join their Roadrunner pals to save face/look tough/keep their protection racket going.   

A lot of people showed up for a reason I hadn’t even thought about.  Salvage.  The second best way to get a vehicle is to murder the people that have it and take it away from them.  But the best way to get a vehicle is to find one where the murdering was already done by someone else and just grab it.  I should know that since Martialla and I have done both a time or two. 

Plenty of people showed up on foot with nothing much but a spear or a club hoping to sign on with an existing crew.  It’s a win-win, the established raiders get cannon fodder and replacements, and the newcomers, if they survive, either get invited to join or get a share of whatever wrecked vehicles and equipment they can claim after the fighting is done.  It’s the wastelands equivalent of playing the Powerball, only the odds are better and you might die.   So like the Running Man maybe.  I was supposed to be in that movie you know, but I Jesse “the Body” Ventura muscled me out.  Roided out freak.

Lucien, Martialla, and Lloyd Hud,  the blue mechanic we pulled out of the hole, took command of the small fleet of gasoline powered vehicles at Paradise, making sure they were all in good condition and distributed appropriately to our most loyal murder hobos.  Membership has its privileges.  It’s apparently considered quite an honor to be assigned to one of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles even though there is no ammo for their guns.  Gunmetal City did send a small group of people with some weapons and ammo to pass out as well, they said they should be able to start making some rounds for the HMMWVs, assuming that they and we survive the battle.   

I think Lloyd’s head almost exploded when he checked out J-Lo and some of the other vehicles from the future.  I know that he’s happy to be working on the other vehicles even though to him they’re also from the future.  This faux time travel stuff gets confusing.  We’re in twenty ninety-whatever with a guy from nineteen eighty-two working on vehicles from some time in the early two thousands.  At least he has a task to focus on, the other Smurfs are pretty much in shock still.  They kind of just sit around and stare.  Maybe they should start a weekly group therapy session with Paul, the psycho killer from Twenty Thirty-Four who treats a stack of old nudie mags like the One Ring itself.   

It’s hard to get a good headcount because what we have is less a military force and more of an anarchic murder circus but I think we have more than twice the force we had when we attacked Wyo.  Is that going to be enough?  Oh, short answer, “yes” with an “if.” Long answer, “no” with a “but.”  Martialla and I, along with Paul and Lucien (who puked his guts out the first time, I guess being chemically inert in a box for a hundred years causes motion sickness) have taken up the plane to scout the Invincible horde a couple of times.  They have us outnumbered but not by a ton.  Overall Lucien and Martialla rate their vehicles to be better than ours as well.  And as Martialla said –  

“Battles are won with courage, tactics, and numbers – mostly just numbers though.” 

So since the numbers are against us what do we have?  We can choose the time and place of our attack.  They call that situation control apparently and it’s important.  By going on the attack we can force enemy reaction, thus denying their ability to act.  Kind of sounds like bullshit to me, I’d rather be the side with more people but as Martialla pointed out it doesn’t matter now because my plan was to entice the Invincible to attack and now they are – I didn’t allow for any other possibility.  I must admit at this juncture that military planning may not be my strong suit.   

Martialla and Lucien have been bickering like an old married couple about another advantage we may or may not have – information.  Martialla maintains that since we have the plane we know the forces the Invincible have but they don’t know what we have on our side.  Lucien insists that they probably have spies all over the place telling them exactly the number and make up of our forces.  Given the way I started out this entry I agree with him – somehow word gets out to people about what’s going on.  Not to mention I don’t know why Martialla is so hung up on it anyway since we’re committed to the battle at this point. 

Our plan is for said battle is going to take place north of old I Eighty in what I think used to be the Tahoe National Forest but now is a field of nothing.  Since our vehicles are lighter hopefully maximizing speed potential will give us an advantage.  I think that’s what I heard someone say anyway.   

In the history books it shall be known as the Battle of Los Angeles.  I know we’re closer to what used to be San Francisco but I like the sound of BOLA better.   

Baby you’re not that kind

I thought that the 127 brand people might gaze longingly in awe at our new blue friends, but they don’t seem that interested in them.  I don’t get it, if my lineage had guarded a hole in the ground for five generations I’d have a little more of a reaction to the people that came out of it.  Even if that reaction was “I spent my life guarding this dumb hole and it’s just some blue people?”  I suppose it’s my mistake for thinking that people who would guard a hole for a century think logically about anything. 

Lucien is fine, or at least is acting like he’s fine soldier style, but the other Chemical Brothers (and Sisters) are not as happy about the fate that has befallen them.  Possibly because they’re all civilians.  Although I would like to point out that I am also a civilian and I didn’t even know this was possible to boot and you don’t hear me complaining about being in the post-apocalypse all the time like a baby.

It was funny, in a mean malicious way, to watch Lucien’s “squad” first be mad about their blue skin and then watch their faces as they slowly realized that they have much, much, much bigger problems than bring turned into giant Smurfs.  A couple of them cried when they came out of the hole and saw the new world that awaited them.  One guy is a physicist, another said he’s an anthropologist, one is a mechanic, two said they work in “communications” which I assume means telemarketing, and two are truck drivers.     

“Where are the ladies?” I asked Lucien “How were you going to repopulate the nuclear wasteland world with all dudes?” 

He was eyeballing the various future scum milling around “I don’t know what the plan was, but I’m pretty sure whatever happened to us didn’t go according to that plan.” 

Most of the facility where they had been stored was wrecked and/or unreachable but we were able to access the main garage.  Said garage had a bank of fuel pumps that allegedly are connected to a five-thousand-gallon underground storage tank.  Nothing came out of it when we tried it but since the specs say it was rated to last twenty years that’s not unexpected.   

What were we trying to fuel up?  The garage was home to three Series IIA long-wheelbase Land Rovers that aside from having no tires or fuel to run on were in fine condition (as far as we could tell anyway).   Same goes for the six Armstrong-CCM Motorcycles.  There was also a thing that Lucien called a fire support vehicle but looked like a tank to me, not a real tank but like a weird tank that your brother got for his GI Joes for getting an A in math.  Whatever it was it had some remnants tires left on it and maybe could have moved if there was any fuel for it.  What it did have was a big old gun, which got people excited enough to drag it out of the ground.  By hand.  You know how much work it is to pull a tank out of a hole with cables and winches?  I do now.  Glad I didn’t have to do any of it. 

The only other thing we found of value (unless you value clipboards and dry inkless pens) was a stack of paperback novels.  Lucien said that if we did some more excavation we might find more, in particular he was eager to see if we could get into the repair facilities, the armory, and/or the security stations.  It definitively seemed worthwhile since everyone wanted to stay to loot everything they could anyway – and I mean everything, our people were excited just for the scrap metal.  However that plan was scuttled when it was reported that the Invincible were coming.  Like a lot of them.   

“Your plan worked” Martialla said to me as we were bugging out of Wyo. 

Before we scooted off we covered back up the ground we had excavated as best we could.  It’s going to be obvious that we were digging around but hopefully the Invincible will be too preoccupied coming to kill us all to worry about digging it all back up.  That would be just my luck, I find a cache of Cold War era military equipment and the Invincible grab it all up and use it against me in the coming war. 

As we bugged I reflected on the fact that we showed up with a bunch of people, then those people slowly drifted away while we dorked around, and then by the time we left bewteen the 127s and the Wyomins joining up with us we had swelled our numbers up again.  This must be what it was like for barbarian warlords in the olden times, your retinue fluctuates are you wandering around sacking cities and terrorizing the countryside.  We bugged out all the way to Crow before we tuckered out of bugging.  Sometimes I forget how small of an area we’ve actually been operating in before now.

Martialla and I splurged (to the extent that word means anything in this world) in Crow and got ourselves and actual room with an actual bed with actual sheets to stay the night in.  And before we went to this room we had an actual shower with actual soap.  The soap was probably made from rendered human flesh but I don’t even care at this point.   

I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  As I was belting out Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (yes I know it’s a duet, that’s how good I am) I got to wondering why you sound better singing in the shower.  Part of it is probably the freedom that comes from singing naked.  Makes you feel powerful.  You can’t generally do that on stage.  Generally.  Part of it is probably the shower itself.  It’s like a little sound booth.  I’m no sound engineer, but I think that the walls of the shower absorb little to no sound, which gives you good power and resonance.  I have a great ear for these things and I feel like somehow it evens out the pitch as well.  Which is not an issue for me because I’m not pitchy but still.

I feel like four pounds of gunk slithered off me while I was in there.  I think I saw the slime form a face and look up at me forlornly before getting sucked town the drain.  So long Slime Ela, see you in hell!  As I was getting dressed I had to take a moment to lament the shabby condition of the clothes that I had arrived here in the future with.  At some point they’re going to rot off me and I’m going to have to wear the crap everyone else around here wears – furs and bones and leather.  Ugh.

And then while we were in the room they brought us actual food that I recognized – strawberries!  The first bite was like a ton of flavor bricks smashing me in the face with endorphins.  By old world standards they were small and not very sweet strawberries but in that moment they were better than most of the sex I’ve had in my life combined.  And that’s including the times when it was just me.  While I was debating eating the strawberry stumps I noticed that Martialla was perusing at the April Nineteen Seventy-Nine Playboy. 

“What are you doing?” 

Martialla dipped the magazine down to glance at me “Reading a feature on twenty-five years of rock and roll.” 

“So according to Hugh Hefner rock and roll was invented in fifty-four?” 

“Apparently so, I imagine it’s pretty hard to nail down the date a kind of music was invented.  Didn’t you meet Hugh Hefner?” 

My face soured “Yeah, I met him, ass-hole.” 

“Are you saying that because he offered you the centerfold or because he didn’t?” 


Project Dragon Teeth would be a cool name for something like this

Say what you will about Applied Cryogenics West, and I certainly will be giving them a poor review if I have the opportunity, at least that place looked like the kind of place where you expect mad science to happen.  There were all manner of tubes and wires and blinking lights and computers by the boatload at Applied Cryogenics West.  If you didn’t know that cryogenics was impossible (yes I still maintain that despite being living proof to the contrary) you’d see all the fancy looking equipment there and think “sure, you could freeze someone here and bring them back to life”. 

The underground bunker of Joint Canadian–U.S. Military Group, what’s left of it anyway, doesn’t inspire any such confidence.  It’s just a bunch of big rooms full of giant metal coffins.  Equipment Technical Sergeant Major Lucien Basilières says that’s because the facility itself was intended for storage only, the process that put them into bio-stasis was performed elsewhere and they were carted in like logs.

He didn’t know the specifics of what has been done to them but he knew that it was akin to a medically induced coma and the eggheads in charge of the projected created a lot of desiccated corpses before they got it right.  Lucien says that he was revived twice before, once after a few minutes in stasis and once after three months being under.  He couldn’t explain why their skin had been turned bluer than the bluest Smurf that ever Smurfed.  That never happened in any of the tests. 

The initial recruiting for the project had been conducted under the guise of a developing a way to keep people alive for deep space exploration and colonization, and that may have been a secondary goal as well, but the primary purpose was based on the idea of creating literal sleeper cells that could wait out nuclear winter and radiation and all that in the event of a nuclear exchange to then emerge from the ground like locusts to swarm across the land.  He said that it had something to do with broken-backed war theory but I don’t know what that means.   

This all happened in nineteen eighty-two by the way.  Did I not mention that yet?  In two thousand and one when Martialla and I were put on ice these people were already turned into living (sort of) corpses and stashed underground and had been there for nineteen years.   

I accept that the government keeps things secret from us, that’s just good sense.  Putting the plans for manufacturing nerve gas in the public library isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons, I don’t care what people say about freedom of information.  That having been said, seriously, what the fuck? 

Nanorobotics and cryogenics existed in Two Thousand One.  And now I find out that some kind of chemical cocktail was mixed up that could put people in suspended animation when Olivia Newton-John had a number one hit?  What’s next?  The moon landing actually happened in in thirties? A robotic Abraham Lincoln advises the president in a secret room in the White House?  Cars that run on water?   

I never paid attention to conspiracy theorist for one simple reason – no one can keep a secret.  But human beings were chemically rendered inert and put into the ground for storage when an Officer and A Gentleman was in movie theaters so what the hell am I supposed to think now?  But what really pisses me off is how nonchalant Martialla is about these stunning revelations.  When I was expressing to her my dismay her response was –  

“Maybe we went through a wormhole.  Maybe this isn’t even reality.” 

“Be serious or shut up Martialla!” 

She saluted me sharply “Shutting up sir.  Actually, shut up rescinded, here’s the deal Ela, you can’t understand it?  Neither can I.  It doesn’t matter that we understand it.  What matters is they’re here, we’re here, however they did it they did it.  It’s fun to assume the world works in a way that makes sense, but I when a fact slaps you on the fanny you just need to accept it.  You’ll drive yourself crazy otherwise.” 

I shook my head in disbelief “You would be the world’s worst scientist Mar.” 

“Good thing I’m not a scientist then aye?” I glared at her “Shutting up unrescinded.”   

So setting aside the how for a moment, what the hell happened?  How did these people end up here?  I think I would remember a nuclear war happening.  Did they just forget them?  Was it a scam?  Did they tell them it was another test and instead they were going to leave them there?  I could see the US government doing that, but Canada?  They’re too nice for that kind of shit right? 

Lucien has no answers.  All he knows is that he reported to the hospital where they were conducting tests as usual and then he “woke up” to Martialla and I bickering while we tried to read the fine print in the Human Revival Initiation Sequence Manual after we dumped a bag of slime on him and injected him with some other junk.  He’s taken it surprisingly well, but then waking up to my smiling face is a lot better than what we got.  Plus he was at least partially familiarized with the possibility of this happening to him. 

Another thing he’s surprisingly sanguine about is the fact that almost everyone else in the facility is dead.  There were twenty chambers each with forty-four people in them a piece.  As far as we can tell half of the rooms were completed crushed by the earthquake or whatever happened.  Out of the other half most of the dormancy chambers – the steel coffins – had been punctured.  Lucien didn’t have the details behind it but he knew that meant they couldn’t be revived.  We tried anyway because there was plenty of revivification slime but whoever told Lucien that was right.   

Out of the eighteen chambers that were intact only seven of the people inside of them were successfully revived.  Why didn’t it work with the other eleven of them?  Who flipping knows?  Lucien says that he was told that theoretically it should be possible to keep someone in stasis indefinitely and bring them back but they had only ever tested it up to nine months.  It’s a hell of a jump to one hundred and fifteen years.  Science ain’t an exact science you know.   It’s a good thing that they don’t have to fight the Ruskis because I don’t think the eight of them would be enough.  Apologies to Dick Van Patten.   

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.” 

Let me knife you a question

About half the Wyomins left of their own accord went up into the mountains to try make it on their own.  A couple asked for a lift to Crow, a couple managed to integrate themselves into one of the bands on our side, and the rest resigned themselves to a life of mudding in Bosstown.   

Nemecrie was one of the contingent that she wanted to go to Crow, I was halfway considering asking her to join us since she seemed to know what was up but my enthusiasm for that project was dampened when she tried to stab me.  Martialla and I (and Paul) were sitting by J-Lo enjoying the bounty of our victory – cooking up some mashed dick-potato soup and enjoying the lights in the sky – when Nemecrie approached us with a ceramic jug of a wine-like liquid that was horrid but pretty good by the standards of the day.  She joined us for a bit and we chatted and drank and then when she was passing me the jug she lunged at me with a blade.   

I flopped back and she took a strip out of my jacket instead of my flesh.  Martialla tackled her and she had a brief moment to rant about how the Invincible were unbeatable (or invincible if you will) and that Duke Eagle was going to make me his personal slave and so on and so forth before Paul hobbled over and twisted her head like a soda bottle cap.  I guess she was a little more of a partisan for the Invincible than she let on before.

I nudged her dead body with my foot “You know if there’s one good thing about the world of tomorrow . . .” 

Martialla interrupted “Which there isn’t.” 

I nodded “Which there isn’t, but if there was it would be that there doesn’t seem to be a glass ceiling anymore.  Possibly because it’s kind of hard to tell a lot of time what gender people even are.” 

Martialla picked up the jug carefully to avoid spilling any more precious horrible wine “Here’s to you Emmeline Pankhurst, we did it!  Sort of.  And all it took was the total collapse and destruction of all society everywhere. 

“Good work bodyguarding guys” I said as I examined the hole in my jacket. 

Paul’s head snapped around and he stared me with strange wet eyes.  I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me and bite my jugular vein or if he was pleased or what was going on behind those crazy eyes.  After holding my gaze for a moment he kind of bobbed his head like an ostrich and then set about dragging the corpse away so it wouldn’t disturb our great feast.  Martialla sat back down and continuing stirring her punch bowl of potato moosh bisque.   

She glanced at his figure retreating into the shadows “I don’t think Paul’s gotten much positive reinforcement in his life so far.” 

I shook my head “I’d be locking my door with that guy around if I had a door.” 

Martialla shook her head absently “He’s harmless, well not harmless he’s killed tons of people, but you know what I mean.” 

“I have no idea what you mean.  So, why do you think this place is here?  Everywhere we’ve been there’s usually there’s some resource like mud or grass or stinking dead fish or some reason why people would want to live there.  I don’t see crops or anything, and it definitely isn’t a trade town so what’s the appea; of this place, why was anyone here?” 

She thought for a moment “That’s actually a good point.” 

“What do you mean actually?” 

Martialla made a vague conciliatory gesture “I just mean that . . . you know . . . usually you don’t . . . you know . . . uh, anyway maybe we should take a closer look around in the morning.  I’m sure they looted this place good but they may not have noticed some things that might be interesting to us.” 

“Speaking of, when the looting stage of the battle began I’m surprised that our side didn’t start fighting amongst themselves.” 

Martialla snorted “What makes you think that they didn’t?  Not all our casualties came during the fighting.  Not even most of them maybe.” 

“Wonderful.  Well, at least we got this campaign off on the right foot with a victory, that’s what matters right?  Good for morale and so forth.” 

“And what’s the next stage in the campaign fearless leader?”  

“We saw a couple Invincible towns or strongholds or whatever when we were scouting right?” 

Martialla raised an eyebrow “Stay on the attack?  Could be a good idea.  I think the general military opinion is that of offense over defense.” 

“Is that why the Lakers never play any defense?”

“Derek Fisher is a solid defender, and Shaq lead the leagues in blocks!”

I snorted “Blocking shots is not defense, you play defense with your feet not your hands.”

Martialla snorted right back “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I nodded my head “True.  My original thinking was that if we provoked the Invincible they’d mobilize more strongly against us and then we could use that to rally people to our cause, but I think now that if we’re going to keep this rabble together we need to stay on the move.  Like a shark we have to keep swimming or we’ll die.” 

“Except the nurse shark.  And the sand tiger.” 

“Shut up Martialla.” 

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.