I took the road more traveled, etc.

Captain Boat Captain had told us to follow the river south if we wanted to find my doppelganger but when I spotted a road that seemed like a good way to go to me.  Who wouldn’t want to drive on a road instead of getting slammed in the ass by a hard car seat all damn day?  Martialla and Lucien both as it turns out. 

They both said the same thing – if there’s a road someone is maintaining it.  That means it belongs to someone.  That argument held no water to me because people capable of maintaining roads are exactly the kind of people we’re looking for.  If anything what they said was a point in favor of following the road.  So really this is their fault if you think about it.

Did you know that a squad equipped with a power auger and demolition charges can make a twelve foot deep three thousand square foot wide tank trap in just twelve hours?  I do know that now because Lucien said it like a million times after I had already driven into the giant hole-trap.  If he’s such a great combat engineer why didn’t notice it before and warn me?  Huh?  Answer me that Papa Smurf. 

I mean give me a friggin’ break here, I’m trying to drive looking through a slot narrower than Tera Patrick’s business, how the hell am I supposed to notice a covered pit with a two degree field of vision?  Huh?  How?  Have you ever driven into a twelve foot deep drop?  I mean it was sloped but it was a steep slope.  I’m pretty sure I broke my collarbone.  Which I noticed when I stopped being unconscious from my head whipping forward and suddenly stopping when the car slammed into the dirt. 

Martialla managed to slam her face into her own knees and turn her orbital bones to dust based on what I saw.  I’m shocked that one of her eyeballs was hanging out stupid head like a yo-yo.  The good news is that neither of us had injuries that weren’t anything that a good shot of blue nanos couldn’t take care of.  The bad news is that our nanocanister went dark after that.  I’m pretty sure it’s empty.  We never even got a chance to figure out what all the different colors did. 

Just about the time we were healed enough to wonder why the hell Paul, Lucien & the Jesus Sisters weren’t rigging up a chain and pulley system to haul us out of there we heard voices that were not the voices of Paul, Lucien & the Jesus Sisters.  Voices saying things like “move and we’ll kill you!”  Martialla and I were ready to spring out of the hole and shoot our way out of that scrape Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral style when fuckers gassed us. 

They didn’t even have the decency to throw gas grenades, a guy appeared up at the edge of the hole with a thing like a leaf blower that spewed green smoke at us like he was spraying for silverfish.  Martialla gathered herself to jump and instead she collapsed coughing and clutching at her eyes.  I was able to make the jump because I am a superior athlete and probably also because I’m so tall that I was above the gas line more than she was.  I mean it didn’t do any good because I also instantly collapsed to the ground choking and crying because the gas stuck to me like Jon Lovitz at a cocktail party but the point is I made it. 

As a reward I got to be kicked a couple times before I heard one of the gasholes say “Stop, stop, look who that is!”

It was a good five minutes of lying there coughing uncontrollably until I could even listen to them debating why “I” was there and what they should do about it.  It was another ten minutes before I could open my eyes and my vision was clear enough to see that a group of people had Lucien and Shwyrm on their knees with crappy musket-shotgun-files pointed at them.  The other sister whose name I could never get right was dead and Paul lay next to her looking like he had been beaten severely. 

“Get my friend out of there before she suffocates” I managed to croak at them. 

The “they” in this case were people that looked a lot like the riverfolk but they were all wearing similar cruddy looking overalls with an orange patch on the chest.  A couple of them had goofy looking railroad conductor hats on them with the same orange patch.  It was just a rectangle but it was more of a symbol than I’ve seen from anyone other than the Invincible. 

Leaf blower guy put on a creepy mask that looked like it was made of ratskin and did go into the death cloud to drag Martialla out.  She was hacking so badly I thought her diaphragm was going to blow out the bellybutton.  A man in one of the stupid hats and a woman with a cloth over her face like an old timey bandit were both looking at each other uncertainly like when the second unit director and the first unit director of photography end up on set together and neither one knows who’s higher in rank. 

I managed to stop spitting and dry heaving long enough to say “What the hell is wrong with you people?!  Don’t you know who I am?!”

“You need to come with us” Hatman said at the same time Bandit-woman unlimbered her musket-rifle-shotgun and said “You’re under arrest for the crime of unlicensed trading.”  Then they both looked at each other with “what?” expressions on their faces. 

I crawled to my feet and several people started paying more attention once they saw how tall and mighty I am compared to them “We aren’t trading anything, what are you talking about?”

“You are conducting an illegal salvage operation in this area!” Bandita yelled at me, making her mask flap up like a doggie-door. 

I shook my head “Salvage?  We were just driving on a road.”

Bandita started to say something else but Hatman put a hand on her shoulder and said instead “You need to come with us now.”

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