Shana slowed her pace as the Viathan Warrior drew level with her. Red sand billowed up from the trucks enormous wheels and clung to her sweat-slicked skin.
`We`re going after The Turpins`. Angela Dike gestured to Norm to slow down so she could speak. `Gonna show them you can`t chase down a runner with rockets and expect to live.`
Shana squinted back towards the wirelink gates in the Somerset fence. `You reckon the boss needs me, Angela? I`ve only run a couple of clicks. Wanted to do at least five before dark.`
`Nah, I reckon were good. The Turpins are just punks anyway. Should be a walk in the park. We`ve even got the med team along for the ride. Boss reckons they could use the target practice.`
Shana laughed. `Last time I saw Sawbones at the targets, he blew out half the windows in Jake`s. The tight-fisted old git nearly had a coronary.`
`I heard that,` came Sawbones` disembodied voice from deep inside the lorry.
`Good. You were meant to.` Shana waved at Angela. `Happy hunting.`
`Thanks.` Angela lifted the heavy steel baffle in place over the window and the Viathan rejoined the Vanguard convoy as it vanished into the wasteland.
* * *
Enrique Ockendo manoeuvred his Landrunner through the ochre hills. Here, as the sand dunes around Somerset gave way to the rocky desert, farmers scratched out an existence growing pumpkins irrigated with water piped in from the Elmsfield lakes.
Enrique whistled a tune as he spun the wheel. He relished taking point. Velocet, his beloved Landrunner, could take whatever the punks could throw at her. He enjoyed seeing the fear in their eyes as he punched in towards them, flame belching from the vents in the front grille. If they didn`t surrender, they rarely survived the impact from his reinforced steel bumper. And that was just the way Enrique liked it.
Beside him, Little Ken Cedeno pointed. `What`s that?`
A low cloud of red dust was visible peeking over the top of a low hill.
`Ten bucks says it`s the Turpins,` grinned Enrique. `Call it in.`
Cedeno picked up the radio transmitter. `We got `em , Boss. Jes` round this corner. We`s gonna peek around and see what we`ve got.`
Enrique floored the gas. `Come on, boys. I`ve got ten bucks on you.` The heavy Landrunner bounced across the sand. The roar of the v8 echoed down the valley.
Eight cars, flying the Turpins` colours, alright. But they weren`t fleeing.
`Boss, we`s in trouble. They`re coming right for us.`
* * *
`Repeat!` called Earl.
He heard the panic in Cedeno`s voice. `They`re coming right for us! Maybe 60 metres away. We`re so screwed.`
`Now listen kid. We`ll be fine, you hear me? Tell Enrique to circle round to protect the Viathan. We`ll perch on that hill and cover you.`
There was a pause. `Enrique says he can take em head on,` said Ken.
`Negative,` said Earl. `Get back and protect the Viathan.`
Earl didn`t wait for an answer. He clicked channels.
`No time to set up. Spin the Viathan, mortar where you can, but you`re gonna get up and close and personal pretty damn soon.`
`Makes a nice change,` said Norm.
Earl clicked the radio off. `Park us on that there hill, Joseph,` he said to the driver, a 19 year old novice on his first run. `We`re gonna have to keep the Turpins off their backs.`
`Roger that,` said Joseph and gunned the engine.
* * *
Angela flinched as machine gun rounds from an Eliminator rattled off the Viathan`s armour.
`Can`t you something about that Elim,` she shouted.
`Working on it,` called Sawbones. He triggered his rocket launcher. `Damn.` The Elim rocked from the near miss and a deluge of sandy gravel clattered against the armour.
Ffa-dum. Ffa-dum. The rear mortars belched flame and two projectiles arced into the sky.
Angela counted under her breath. `1 2 3 Impact!`
`Woo-hoo!.Totalled a Blaster.` The ballistics team, Randy and Thunderbird, high-fived. `First mortar killed the roof. Second detonated inside. Ain`t gonna be pretty hosing it down later.`
`Good shooting,` said Angela. `Now kill something else!`
`Ain`t got no targets,` said Randy. `All too close to Earl.`
`Line `em up anyway. You can shoot it when he moves off that stupid hill.`
* * *
`We got two Scorpions incoming. Joseph, swing the nose around.`
The engine screamed. Scree and stones spewed down the hill and pattered onto the roadway.
`Can`t do it, Boss.`
`Whaddya mean? Swing us round now, goddammit, or those Scorps will get free shots at us.`
`We`re stuck. I ain`t got no traction.`
Joseph`s words were lost in multiple explosions as four warheads detonated in the space of a single second.
* * *
`Crap! Earl`s in trouble.`
Angela picked up the radio. `Enrique, can you get to him?`
`Negative. We`re busy, and my flamer won`t reach him anyways.`
She looked at Norm. He shook his head.
`You`re crazy, Angela. We cant mix it up in no furball. Ain`t no way.`
`And if we don`t, Earl`s history. History cos we were too chicken to help him. What`s it going to be, Norm?`
Angela held the silence for several long seconds. A rocket impacted on the ground ahead, showering the Viathan`s front grille with debris.
`Alright, alright, goddammit. But on your head be it.`
`That`s fine with me.` She raised her voice. `Brace yourself back there. We`re going in.`
* * *
`We`re gonna die,` sobbed Joseph.
`No, we ain`t,` said Earl. `When they hit us again we`ll trigger all our front weapons. The recoil`ll kick us back over the hill. You ready for that?`
`I said, are you ready for that?` barked Earl.
`Yes, sir!` said Joseph. His knuckles turned white on the wheel as he waited for the volley.
* * *
Forty feet of searing napalm engulfed the Elim. The driver veered right, straight into the path of the Viathan.
Norm gripped the wheel as the heavy truck bucked its way across the remains of the car.
`They ain`t getting up from that,` he remarked. He shifted a quid of tobacco from cheek to the other. `Who next?`
`Just punch it,` said Angela. `Earl`s still in trouble.`
* * *
Rockets detonated. The big Apache rocked. Earl pressed his firing stud and emptied volley after volley of gatling rounds across the empty valley. The recoil kicked the nose of the Apache into the air and the rear wheels bit into the hillside.
`It`s working,` said Joseph as the engine whined.
`Great, now get some fresh armour between us and them rockets.`
The Apache slid down the hill. Joseph wrenched the wheel to the right and turned to bring the front guns to bear.
Another rocket volley hit them on the turn and the Apache flipped and rolled.
* * *
`What the hell was that?` shouted Angela.
`Rear armour breach! Mortars gone, Randy`s out cold,` called Sawbones. `Thunderbird`s bleeding like a stuck pig. I`m on it.`
`This is going to get messy,` said Angela.
`Hang on,` said Norm. `We`re going after those Scorps.`
He punched the gas.
* * *
`You OK?` asked Earl.
`I guess,` said Joseph.
`We`re on our wheels, let`s move.` Blood streamed down his left arm and he ignored it.
`Angela, who we still got in the fight?`
`Two Scorps, that rocket pickup. Enrique`s engaging a couple of Desert Flames. How are you guys doing?`
`Left armour breach. Car cannon gone. Still got the heavy gatling, and Joseph is doing just great.` His voice was drowned out in the buzzcutter roar of the gatling. `... about you?`
`Rear amour out and the mortars are totalled. We`re on our way to get the Scorps.`
The Viathan thundered across the valley floor. It shrugged off the pickup`s attack and zeroed in on the Scorpions. Angela triggered the flamer. The two cars split either side. Norm yanked the wheel and hit one head on. The entire front crumpled and the steering column shot backwards through the driver`s ribcage.
The other Scorp spun. Its nose pointed straight at the gaping hole Earl`s Apache. The Viathan opened up with everything it had - rockets, machine guns, flame - and the Scorp died. But not before its last two rockets streaked out across the desert.
`Got ya!` said Enrique. The second Flame died and he let his situational awareness flow out into the battlefield.
`Earl, you hear me? Earl?`
Enrique threw Velocet into a tight turn and headed back into the fray.
* * *
The shout sent a jolt of fear through Angela. The heavy flamer was still half fuelled. Clouds of black smoke billowed through the Viathan and sent a plume rising fifty feet into the sky.
`Damn pickup musta got lucky in the back,` said Norm.
A scream of pain cut through the air.
`Sawbones! How bad is it?`
Angela turned in her seat. The entire cargo bay of the Viathan was a mass of flame. The scent of roasted meat filled her nostrils and she fought down the bile that surged into her mouth.
`We gotta bail, Norm.`
`Can`t. Got a pickup on our tail.`
* * *
Little Ken gasped.
`Holy crap! The Viathan`s an inferno.`
`Concentrate, kid,` said Enrique. `Just that pickup left and then we`re clear.`
The pickup sent another rocket into the inferno, and another. Enrique saw a person, clothes and hair aflame, leap from the truck and roll on the sand.
Enrique flinched as the Viathan disappeared. In its place, a roiling, tumbling cloud of flame and destruction. A dark shape flew overhead with an eerie whine.
`What the..` said Little Ken. `I think the Viathan just exploded.`
`No crap, son. Now where the hell is that pickup.`
`It`s gone. The explosion must have flung it a coupla hundred metres. We`ve won.`
* * *
Enrique stood on the scorched sand. Earl dead. Angela dead. Sawbones, Thunderbird, Randy. Eight Vanguards gone. The pirates lost more, but that kind of score didn`t help.
`Over here,` called Little Ken. `I think he`s alive.`
Enrique raced to the ruined Apache. Joseph hung in his harness. Crimson blood soaked his coveralls and he was covered in foul-smelling viscera.
`Christ, is that all his?` asked Enrique.
`No. I think it`s Earl`s. Was Earl`s, that is.`
`You`re alright, son. We won. The Vanguards won,` said Enrique.
But at what a cost.
Requiescat in Pace
Robert `Earl` Hickey
`The Hon.` Marcus Tremaine
Norman `Troll` Washington
`Randy` Randall Powell
Thomas `Thunderbird` Tracy
Clayton `Sawbones` Burgess
`Doctor` Jose Lankford
Angeline `Ain`t No` Dike
Based on a true story
With apologies to goatstarer and Ivan Kerensky, whose substantial contribution was ignored for the sake of brevity.
Butterfly Kisses is nimble and quick enough to escape when needed and capable of nuzzling up close to side armor of any vehicle and chewing through in just a few rounds. The double firing gatling gun ensures that even inexperienced gunners will keep the heat on pirates or traders alike!
Word of warning: the Windsor chassis, while incredibly nimble, tends to spin out when over-steered. It also does not handle jumps and bumps well at all. Better suited for dogfighting that cross-country travel.
Gatling Gun F
Gatling Gun F
Crew: Driver, Gunner
Cargo: 2 passengers, or 1 passenger and up to 5 reloads.
Armor: F23, B20, L21, R21, T7, U7
Weight: 4,239 lbs
Combat rating: 120 est
Source: simonmaxhill of Drive Backwards BFFs
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Stephanie Jackson of The Zeroes And Ones died at Lost Oasis.
Stephanie Smith of The Zeroes And Ones died at Lost Oasis.
Kevin Hernandez of DeathFromAbove died at Blown With the Wind.
Timothy `Mac-10` Ingram of DeathFromAbove died at Blown With the Wind.
Katherin `The Fixer` Brooks of Mandelbots died at Interstate Mythos.
`Diamond` Danny Sarabia of SD Rollers died at Road to Gateway Truck Stop.
Hubert `Mr. Bombastic` McKinney of SD Rollers died at Road to Gateway Truck Stop.
Kevin Ruff of MADHAT died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 3.
Ashley `Gotta Buck` Washington of The Cosmic Kids died at Blown With the Wind.
Ronald Wilkins of tennis died at Under a Bloody Red Sky.
Gregory `Rough` Justice of Vault Dwellers died at Lost Oasis.
Kenneth Huntley of dark nights died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Mack `Daddy` Tucker of Gearjammers died at Road to Gateway Truck Stop.
Timothy Niehaus of Eye of the Storm died at Once Upon a Town.
Paul `Psych` Ruffin of The Vanguards died at Gates of Somerset.
Marc `Le` Smith of The Vanguards died at Gates of Somerset.
Emanuel Gray of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Scattered Grounds.
Britney `Spears` Miles of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Highway to Hell.
Barbra `Bob` Blodgett of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Highway to Hell.
Lenora Hedrick of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Highway to Hell.
Jose `Tommie` Boyd of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Once Upon a Town.
Robert `Vickers` Walker of Edgyledgywedgebarge died at Lost Oasis.
`Crazy` Jack Lopez of The Panthers died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 2.
`The Real` John Wayne of Cap distributor died at Serpentine Road.
Raymond Alderson of Burnt Tree Security died at Road to Somerset.
Linda `M107` Ralph of Edgyledgywedgebarge died at Lost Oasis.
Karen McNamara of Edgyledgywedgebarge died at Lost Oasis.
Edwin `Fishskins` Gill of SD Rollers died at Highway to Hell.
Justina Friedman of Mandelbots died at Road to Elmsfield.
Cristina Arnold of Mandelbots died at Road to Elmsfield.
Eli Hammer of Mandelbots died at Road to Elmsfield.
Jacob Leblanc of Mandelbots died at Road to Elmsfield.
Leonard Jimenez of Battalion de San Patricio died at Somerset Dirt Racing Track.
Scott Buss of Geriatric Anarchists died at Interstate Mythos.
Abraham Lincoln of Cap distributor died at Forever Yellow Skies.
John `Hammer` Sullivan of River Bandits died at Gates of Elmsfield.
Matthew `Cha-Cha` Chacon of SD Rollers died at Sandy.
`Jumpin`` Jack Stansell of Death Storm Militia died at Somerset Arena.
Mark `Small` McGowan of Last True Heros died at Somerset Rally Circuit.
Charles `Smash Me Up` Hayashi of Riotous Assembly died at Gates of Badlands Truckstop.
Elise Moroney of Duck Manglers died at Road to Somerset.
Katherine Stewart of Initial Drift died at Somerset Rally Circuit.
Todd York of Geriatric Anarchists died at Scattered Hills.
Alvin `Stardust` Daughtry of Vault Dwellers died at Under a Bloody Red Sky.
William Bourg of Road Lords died at Road to Elmsfield.
Hazel Gearheart of Forever Earth died at Road to Elmsfield.
Leroy Jenkins of Eye of the Storm died at Gates of Somerset.
Jimmy Taylor of Blacktop Bandits died at Somerset Arena.
Dennis Olivier of The 4saken died at Road to Somerset.
John `D.` Gore of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Elmsfield.
`Sir` Christopher Gidley of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Elmsfield.
Andrew Cole of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Elmsfield.
Ida `Witch-Doctor` Savage of Geriatric Anarchists died at Gates of Elmsfield.
Patricia Brooks of The Vanguards died at Somerset Arena.
Howard `Beanpole` Spencer of The Vanguards died at Somerset Arena.
Anthony Kahn of Geriatric Anarchists died at Road to Somerset.
Gillian `Banzai` Fine of Geriatric Anarchists died at Road to Somerset.
Daniel `Scraps` Sigler of Geriatric Anarchists died at Road to Somerset.
Simon `Dr. Evil` Dupree of Geriatric Anarchists died at Road to Somerset.
Jason `Could be` Sharper of Vault Dwellers died at Gates of Somerset.
Christel Jacobs of Eye of the Storm died at Gates of Somerset.
Javier Mobley of Initial Drift died at Scattered Hills.
Nova `Ex` Press of Advanced Race Labs died at Somerset Arena.
Phillip `Gonzo` Gonzales of The 4saken died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Stephen `Radar` Wallace of The 4saken died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Amalia Sprayberry of Edgyledgywedgebarge died at Blown With the Wind.
Barry Stange of Duck Manglers died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 3.
`Dick` Will Pierce of Cap distributor died at Gates of Elmsfield.
Margaret Hays of Eye of the Storm died at Under a Bloody Red Sky.
Dudley Campbell of Blacktop Bandits died at Somerset Rally Circuit.
`BIG` Dick Wacker of ADVANCED RADICAL LUNATICS died at Road to Elmsfield.
Laura `STANKASS` Koch of ADVANCED RADICAL LUNATICS died at Road to Elmsfield.
Tina `THE TERROR` Vazquez of ADVANCED RADICAL LUNATICS died at Road to Elmsfield.
Jon `SKULLDRINKER` Glass of ADVANCED RADICAL LUNATICS died at Road to Elmsfield.
Antonio `Hatchetface` Brown of The Forsaken died at Once Upon a Town.
Barry Camacho of VINDICATORS died at Sandy.
`Kino` Pete Trew of Produce_Vendors died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 3.
Angelica Pritchard of R.Inc. died at Scattered Grounds.
Tabatha Tanaka of R.Inc. died at Scattered Grounds.
Thomas Waddle of MADHAT died at Gates of Elmsfield.
Gavin Hayes of MADHAT died at Gates of Somerset.
Mark Pablo of VINDICATORS died at Gates of Somerset.
Ashley `The Bitch` Gallagher of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Somerset.
James `Shucka` Ruckman of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Somerset.
`Sir` Willie Cromwell of The Cosmic Kids died at Road to Somerset.
Frank `Friendly Fire` Barnett of Eye of the Storm died at Pathway to Darkness.
Scott Graybill of The Vanguards died at Road to Somerset.
`Nurse` Tina Campbell of The Vanguards died at Lost Oasis.
`Dame` Laura Davila of Lattes Raiders died at Gates of Badlands Truckstop.
`Kid Dynamite` David Taylor of DeathFromAbove died at Gates of Somerset.
William `Hulk` Brown of GovermantResistance died at Gates of Somerset.
Kathy `Tower` Ivory of Edgerunners died at Sandy.
Robert Cooper of Death Storm Militia died at Lost Oasis.
John `Dennis` Waterman of Ricky Ranjits Raiders died at Burning Skies.
`I` Wilbur Rea of Cap distributor died at Road to Somerset.
`Special Agent` Ronald Spruill of -^-HellRazors-^- died at Road to Elmsfield.
Lara Croft of -^-HellRazors-^- died at Road to Elmsfield.
`Downtown` Deb Simons of Geriatric Anarchists died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 3.
Melanie `Gunny` Carlberg of Les Louves Grises died at Lost Trail: Overland.
Gordon Pye of Les Louves Grises died at Lost Trail: Overland.
Kurtis `Alien` Nation of Special Circumstances died at Blown With the Wind.
`Loopy` John Lopez of The Vanguards died at Road to Somerset.
`Long` John Wills of The Vanguards died at Road to Somerset.
Louie O`Keefe of Evan Courier Service died at Somerset`s Junkyard, Race Track 3.
Richard Laskey of The Panthers died at Road to Somerset.
Anthony `Mister` Crowley of The 4saken died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Kacie Borland of The 4saken died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Joseph `Cajun Joe` Bender of The 4saken died at Forever Yellow Skies.
Donald Mraz of The Panthers died at Road to Elmsfield.
Diane `Lucky` Harrison of Mans Laughter died at Somerset Rally Circuit.
The current leaders of Evan`s major leagues are as follows:
Evan Race Ladder - Advanced Race Labs
There is currently one minor league in progress also:
Northern Paintball League - ADVANCED RADICAL LUNATICS
We`re paying tribute to the legendary Carlene 'Well' Nickell, a renowned large guns specialist from Riotous Assembly.