“Describe him,” Ryan demanded
The one-eyed man’s heart was pounding in his chest. It was impossible. This could not be happening.
The brothers exchanged a glance. “The Trader? Hell, I dunno,” Sparrow said. “Never saw the guy. He was always inside a big-ass tank, stays behind a blister of the mil glass.”
“How many wags?” J.B. pressed him. “Describe them!”
Sparrow scrunched his face. “Well, there were three, one big wag and two others, each plated with metal and covered with blasters. Big stuff. Baron Gaza was scared to death of the guy. Hell, who wouldn’t be with all his weapons?”
“More,” Ryan said through clenched teeth.
Fumbling for a reply, Jed scratched his head. “Well, I heard Kate call the big truck War Wag One. That help any?”
The universe seemed to go still at those simple words, as if it were breaking apart and rejoining in a new pattern, reorganizing itself on a most basic of levels.
“He made it,” Ryan said quietly. “trader’s alive!”
#63 in the Deathlands series
As muted thunder rolled across the grassy field, a group of people burst from the bushes, running for their lives.
Many carried bundles of possessions, but most had already thrown away the packs for greater speed. Death was coming fast, and every second counted. Their convoy had been ambushed at a water hole, and most of the mercies hired to guard them from coldhearts were aced already. Now there was nothing else to do but run.
“The Devils are here!” a burly man shouted, pulling a rusty blaster from within his ragged shirt and thumbing back the hammer. “Head for the trees!”
Some of the fleeing people did as ordered. Others ran mindlessly across the open, ground. A few fell weeping to the ground in surrender. Only two others pulled weapons and turned to face the onrushing enemy. The man held a homemade scattergun, the woman a crude crossbow built from car parts. As the man cocked back both of the hammers on the shotgun, the woman pulled a razor-tipped arrow from the quiver on her back and nocked it.
“Aim for the front,” the first man commanded, licking dry lips. “With luck the rest will be close behind and they’ll crash into the one we ace.”
“We ain’t gonna ace nobody,” the woman growled. “Nothing can stop the Devils.”
Constantly wiping his sweaty hands on his trousers, the man with the shotgun said nothing and tried to control his breathing.
High above the screaming people, sheet lightning crashed among the purple and orange clouds, while black velocity streamers sliced through the sky like the slashes of a knife. Suddenly from out of nowhere, an arc of fire streaked across the polluted atmosphere as another predark satellite descended too low and was caught by the gravity to be disintegrated in a fiery reentry.
On the ground, a wave of black-and-silver motorcycles bounded into view from over a ground-swell, the riders carrying nets and clubs to take their prey alive. Each rider had a human skull, painted red, attached to the yoke of the handlebars. Some had a tuft of hair still in place, but most were missing teeth, or entire jaws, the grisly remains of their victims saved as trophies to adorn their machines. The Blue Devils, coldhearts of the Panhandle.
“Ace ’em!” the leader of the convoy shouted, then fired his blaster twice at the oncoming motorcycles.
A spray of sparks leaped from the handlebars of the lead Harley as a slug ricocheted off the chromed steel. The bikers paid no attention to the incoming lead and spread out after the sprinting people.
Tracking her target, the woman released the arrow, which hit a bald biker in the leg. The man cursed as his machine swerved, then the rest of the gang were among the defenders, the heavy nets filling the air.
A spread of net caught a woman, dragging her to the ground, and as she tried to rise another rider slammed her with his club, knocking her unconscious. Rising from the thick grass, an older man shoved a wooden spear into the spokes of a passing Harley, but missed completely. However, the attack was noticed and the lead coldheart sharply changed direction and revved the bike’s big engine. The front of the vehicle raised off the ground to then slam down on the attacker, crushing his chest with the horrible sound of splintering bones.