“Shit” I said passing the binoculars back to Martialla.
“That about sums it up” she glumly replied.
“I was expecting something more like the other secret bases” I flicked my hand irritably “not that.”
Martialla shook her head, her dumb stringy hair flapping about uselessly like the wings of a constipated ostrich “Those weren’t secret bases Ela, that was a waterwheel in a river and a couple of tents where some planes landed” she pointed emphatically “that is a secret base.”
“Shit” I said again.
Aside from having very little in the way of food or water and therefore almost dying on the march, having no vehicle turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Invincible truck patrols kicked up huge plumes of grey dust that we could spot from miles away. If they came anywhere near us all we had to do was lay down in the ash, we were so covered in it that we couldn’t not blend in even if we wanted not to. Er, you know what I mean. Early on we kicked around some idea of trying to attack and steal one of the trucks but it became obvious that we were safer for hoofing it.
Even if the patrols had been looking for anyone stupid enough to approach on foot, which they weren’t according to Martialla, they never could have found us. It would have been like trying to find a fish made of water in a river. It was a shitty way to spend a couple of days but that turns out to have been the easy part.
The compound didn’t have a wall or a fence or anything like that, but what they did have were four towers each manned by a duo with a machinegun. A real one. Sometimes I call weapons machineguns and Martialla bitches me out because they’re something else but this time she didn’t. Which I gather is a very bad sign. [Martialla’s note, they were actually autocannons, I didn’t say anything this time because usually when Ela makes that mistake the truth is something less dangerous not more]
“So what? That’s the factory that’s been supplying the Invincible?” I asked dubiously.
Martialla thought and thought and then thought some more “I think that building on the other side is a machine shop, but this isn’t a manufacturing facility. I don’t know what it is. But all that shit we said about the other places that was wrong, they’re right about this place. It’s in the middle of fucking nowhere, there’s no reason to have this here unless they didn’t want anyone to know about it. The only thing I can think of is that they found something underground with a lot of military material, like where we found Lucien, and they built this here topside to protect it.”
“But that makes no sense.”
“But that makes no sense” she affirmed “because they would have just taken everything out of an underground facility, there would be no reason to hang around. Not to mention their equipment isn’t old, it’s new.”
“So what it is?”
She shrugged helplessly “I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough, we won’t survive the trip back without supplies. Whatever it is we go down there regardless. Possible even irregardless.”
We snake slithered our way through the ash back to where the rest of the Dirty Dozen Minus Four were waiting for us in the cover of another heap of ash and some dead trees that fell into a pile. I didn’t bother to stand up, I just rolled into a sitting position and without thinking about it uselessly tried to dust my hands off.
“It’s bad” Martialla told them.
I dropped her a sassy look “How about we try the old honeytrap?”
“What’s that?” one of the Jesus twins asked, so covered in ash I couldn’t tell which one, at the same time Throat Punch asked “What’s honey?”
I struck my best cover girl pose “A honeytrap is where you go up to the facility all sexy like and entice the guards into some sexy times and then WHAM you stab them in the eye.” I peered at the group closer “Some of you are women right? Which of you are women? Hold your hand up if you’re female.” Throat Punch was the only one who raised a hand “Really? You?”
Throat-Punch giggled, which made some kind of brown goo ooze out of her/his festering head wound “Har, har, I tell joke.”
“Good one” chuckled Dirt Tooth.
“Seriously? None of you are women? You’re all men?” They looked around at each other like they had no idea what I was talking about. “Look, everyone drop your drawers right now, I want to know what the hell is going on here!”
Martialla waved an insultingly dismissive hand at me “This is not a productive area of discussion. This isn’t a movie Ela, you can’t walk out of a fifty-mile field of volcanic ash with a little titty dance and distract guards. They’ll shoot anything they see soon as they see it. No one is supposed to be out here, that’s the whole reason they’re here, and if anyone else is out there they’re people they want to shoot.”
“You keep saying this isn’t a movie but how can you be sure?”
She snorted “Because movies aren’t seven thousand hours long and boring as hell.” She continued before I thought think of a good long-winded director to burn in regards to that remark “The only way I see us having any chance of making it up there is if . . .”
“How about if we stir up a giant ash cloud and run in under the cover of that?” Dirt Tooth asked.
“How would we do that?”
“With that” Asmuda was pointing to the sky.