I thought the Raiders of the Lost Plains would be fighting tooth and nail over the privilege of who got to ride in the Invincible truck with me but instead they preferred to stay in their rickety harpoon go-carts. There’s no accounting for taste. Actually now that I think about it there totally is, that’s a stupid expression. People don’t like the taste of cigarette ashes so we don’t put them in our food, taste accounted for.
The only one of their band who was willing to ride with us was a stooped old man (maybe, age and gender are both hard to tell in general here and specifically this these folk) bundled up in even more wooly robes than usual. He was just a mound of woolly robe with a face peeking out really. I think it was the same one who told me about how I could join the tribe in the first place. There may have been several smaller people hiding in there as well for all I know.
He sat up front with me and I had Dirt Tooth in the back seat with a knife ready in case this was an elaborate assassination plot, Grease Gut I banished to riding in the truck-bed because his leaking bowel stinks to high heaven in close quarters.
“What is the deal with those robes?” I asked the furry mound next to me, which may have been empty for all I know, the old fella having slipped out while I wasn’t looking and left it standing up behind on its own Loony Toons style. “It’s like a hundred and twenty degrees, aren’t you hot?”
After a moment the fur-mummy moaned out some words “Our robes honor our ancestors.”
“What did they do to deserve being honored?”
“They created us” was his answer. While I was rolling my eyes he continued “At all times we all carry three relics that connect us to the past and the hardships that our ancestors endured to bring us here to this time, in this place.”
I grinned “Hey, that must be why you guys like me so much eh? I’m a relic from the past myself. Am I going to get my own robes and relics and stuff now that I’m an honored member of the group?”
The fur-mound ponderously turned towards me and a single eye regarded me for a moment before slowly turning back “No.”
I chuckled “I’ll try not to take that personally. Where do your vehicles come from? Where do you get fuel? From what I’ve seen you don’t have any industry and you aren’t interested in trading with anyone. Do you sustain yourself just with raiding? That doesn’t seem economically feasible. How did you get started raiding without vehicles to raid with to begin? It’s a chicken and egg situation right? You know what I mean?”
“No, I do not understand most of what you say. And you say a lot.”
I laughed again “I like you old man, you’re a straight shooter, which is funny because normally I don’t like that at all, my standard is to like pretty pretty lie. What’s our history? Tell me about these ancestors of ours. Now that I’m one of you give me the lowdown on my new heritage. Lay some elder knowledge on me.”
“I don’t think he understands you” said DT after a while.
But Dirt Tooth was wrong about that. The old fella was just gearing himself up to tell us a tale dating back to 1884. He claims that his people had a vast kingdom in Rozen (Arizona?) where they raised beasts of the land under the rule of their king Baconrind. They fought many wars against New Zealand (no clue) and sent an army across the Sea of Dust to conquer more lands (expansion of business?).
After years of their ancestral home being poisoned by industrial waste, decomposed particulate, carbonized cinders, rivers of turgid sludge, and acidic precipitation dropped from opaque and leaden clouds of smog, they had no choice but to turn their beasts loose in the wastes and metamorph from ranchers into hunters.
At first this made no sense to me (assuming any of it is true) but I guess he was saying that when the world existed they were raising and selling cattle and afterward climate change or the bombs or whatever they transformed themselves into faux-Native American plainspeople following their herds. Followed them all the way to wherever the hell we are because I know we aren’t anywhere near Arizona.
He says that after they became nomads giant silver cities sprang up like boils on a butt and his people helped to break them open and murder the corrupt jerks inside. Which I guess lines up with what Paul said about his sister and what we saw at Cheyenne maybe. I’m not sure how some dune buggies and harpoons would help you attack a sci-fi future city full of killbots but the old man said they had more powerful weapons back then.
I was about to thank him for his history lesson when his robe opened up (not like that) and his wizened hand extended to show me what I assume is one of his other relics – a short, handled tool with a wide round blade on the end. It was in shockingly good condition and it was emblazed with a logo and the words – United Cattle Company.
“Whoa” I exclaimed “do you guys have hovercrafts hidden away? Because I say this to you this grandpa, those things are smooooth ride I tell you what.”