Deathlands Book 64 Bloodfire
“Dark night, there’s a land tank over there!”
“Alone?” Ryan demanded pointedly.
“No, wait, there’s two of ’em! Big as anything I’ve ever seen. Some smaller wags, too. Couldn’t get a good look.”
“Is the war wag an APC?” Krysty asked, squinting to try to see past the conflagration.
“Converted trucks,” J.B. said, lowering the longeyes. “Machine gun blasters, rocket pods on the roof, and what sure as shit looks like a radar dish.”
“Just sitting there, or is it turning?” Ryan asked.
“That means it’s probably working,” Ryan muttered, a hard smile crossing his face. “That’s gotta be Trader.”
“Indeed, logic dictates it to be so,” Doc rumbled, and then added, “How can we assist him in this internecine battle?”
“Their fight is about as civil as a jihad, ya old coot,” Mildred shot back. “This unknown Trader may be somebody we can trust, or not. But we know for a fact that Gaza is a mad dog and the sooner he’s wearing grass for a hat the better.”
#64 in the Deathlands series
On through the night they rode, seven people on six horses, the unshod hooves of the animals pounding against the hard packed sand of the desert.
Streaks of light were starting to brighten the overcast sky as dawn slowly came to the Deathlands. Thunder rumbled in the distance, lightning flashing bright as a gigavolt of electricity slashed into the planet like fire trying to cauterize an open wound.
Suddenly, a ravine yawned wide in the ground before the companions, the edges sparkling with a residue of salt that infused the entire landscape from the crashing ocean tidal wave caused by the nukecaust so very long ago. Digging in their heels, the companions urged the animals to go faster and jumped the pit, landing hard. The horse with two riders went to its knees for a moment, then, struggling erect once more, it continued after the others.
The seven friends were red-eyed and hunched over, exhausted from the race for survival. The bridles of the horses were sopping wet with saliva and flecked with foam. The humans and horses were all drenched in sweat, the chill of the night slowly passing as the fiery sun exploded over the horizon, bathing the world in its fire.
Moving to the steady motion of the powerful stallion he rode, Ryan Cawdor fought his exhaustion and tried to stay in control of the beast. Tiny particles of sand and salt hit his scarred face like invisible sleet, getting underneath the leather patch that covered the ravaged hole of his left eye. His clothes were stiff with dried sweat and caked with blood, thankfully none of it his. Escaping from Rockpoint had been a nightmare of snipers on the walls and savage cougars running wild in the streets. The weapons he had stolen from the local baron’s secret arsenal were long gone, and now Ryan carried only his personal blasters, a 9 mm SIG-Sauer at his hip, and a bolt-action Steyr SSG-70 longblaster strapped across his back. The blasters had been with him a long time, and in his expert hands usually proved more than deadly enough for anything the Deathlands could throw his way. Not everything, but most.
Following a swell in the sandy ground, the group of people slowed as the horses galloped up the sloping side of a large sand dune. As the panting animals crested the top, Ryan saw that the dune stretched hundreds of feet and offered the friends a good panoramic view of the desert in every direction. Perfect. If that damn APC came their way again, its headlights would give away its approach in plenty of time for them to ride off again.
“Give them a rest!” Ryan shouted, his voice a throaty growl from thirst and exhaustion. “We stop for five!”
Pulling back on the reins, the companions allowed their mounts to slow to a canter, then walked them to an easy stop. As the dawn steadily grew brighter in the east, the others could now see that the dune was covered with green plants of some kind. Hungrily, the horses sniffed at the vegetation, then snorted and turned away in disgust. The reek of salt from the mutant weeds was strong enough for the humans to detect. The plants were as inedible as the sand itself.
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