Tanktown is actually called Nowar. It’s close enough to the river to engage in trade but far enough back that they can blow you up with their tank before you can swarm them with an amphibious frogman attack.
Like a third of the towns we’ve come across at the end of the world Nowar looks like was a rest stop/gas station from our time turned into a place where people live. I suppose was the world was first Mad Maxified the smart idea was to rush to control gas stations and refineries and by the time fossil fuels were replaced by putrid fermented goose blubber initial land-rish spots were already the places where everyone lived.
The military vehicles Old Lady Ela was bragging about aren’t functional, they’re broken down and have been turned into a wall around the place along with the addition of ninety-nine billon sandbags and a bunch of barbed wire. The sand I get, but where did the bags come from?
The good news is that the only war machine that does look like it still works is the one we want, the infamous tank. We watched its turret slowly turret-ing around like it was an all seeing eye looking for troublemakers. The tank was tucked into a big mound of earth and framed with planks like it was plugging up the entrance to a mine.
“Looks like a T Seventy-Two” Lucien remarked, peering through our precious binoculars “Were those still in operation at the turn of the millennium?”
Martialla nodded like a dope even though he wasn’t looking at her because he was using binoculars “Yep, Sri Lankan civil war, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgian civil war, Tajikistan civil war, Persian Gulf, Sierra Leon, breakup of Yugoslavia, Algeria, Rwanda, Chechnya.”
Lucien put down the binoculars and looked glum “So it wasn’t all sunshine and roses after the Soviet Union collapsed, peace and sunshine and happiness like they said? That’s disappointing but not surprising. Why is a Russian tank in Idaho?”
I held up a hand to Martialla “Don’t even start with that.”
She grinned in my face and pointed to part of the vehicle wall “Those are Gaz Sixty-Sixes, the main cargo hauler for motorized infantry of the Russian Army.” She shifted her boney pointing finger “And that is what’s left of a BRDM Two, a Russian scout car.” She jerked her chin like a crazed chimp at another hunk of metal “And what language is that sign in?”
“Several” I grumbled at her as she laughed. “There’s Japanese mixed in there too, are you going to claim that in the last century or however long we were frozen that Russia and Japan both invaded the US?”
She grunted like a longshoreman “Why would Japan need to invade the United States? After they bought all the car companies they probably just bought Montana too.”
“Calm down Hunt Stevenson, this isn’t the nineteen eighties.”
Lucien looked at me quizzically “Who’s Hunt Stevenson? A character from a movie or a singer?”
I glared at Martialla as she laughed like a wild burro “Why is everyone dunking on me today?”
We entered the Tanktown marketplace and said “Take us to your leader” which surprisingly was all it took. One of the flabby skinsacks guarding the place with a musket gave us the cold eye and told us there was “no war” (GET IT?) there but they didn’t even take our weapons.
Said leader is a woman who looks somewhat First Nationy but has more of a multi-racial mystery vibe like Solidad O’Brien. Aside from a stupidly placed braid hanging down the front of her face she could have been a person from our time. She looked like she had been keeping it tight once upon a time but she was now a little paunchy, probably because she was down to one leg. Or one shin anyway, not sure how much you have to have to count as a leg.
She was friendly and more than a little drunk and I think she wanted to have sex with me – all points in her favor. The only mark against her is that she didn’t offer us whatever she was drinking. Smelled like fruity wine. I explained to her about the Invincible and all that and how we needed to borrow her tank to attack their secret base. She wasn’t into it at first, saying again in a mixture of futurespeak and Spanish and several other languages they they’re neutral, hence the no war thing.
I convinced her that that option was no longer on the table, that Duke and his murder hobos weren’t interesting in neutrality from anyone, they were here bend on conquering the entire region and one tank wasn’t going to stop them. I explained to her that planes beat tanks like rock smashes scissors. And even if they didn’t have planes the Invincible have enough men that they couldn’t tank-murder them all anyway. It was time to take a stand.
The good news is that she eventually agreed with my assessment. The bad news is that she told me a secret. The tank doesn’t work anymore, hasn’t for years. It’s just there to scare people.