The wind whipped through the dusty settlement, whipping up sand and casting it down the empty streets. It settled in drifts in doorways, on steps, against the orange-blossomed hulks of old, rusty cars and the worn tarmac of the old roads. It found no eyes to sting with its radioactive grit. Even the rad-scorpions weren’t out today. Angel’s Spring was shut up, locked and closed for business. The only people anywhere in the town were the sulking and reluctant guards, up on the towers and they were wearing goggles.
The relative silence of the desert town was abruptly broken by the clarion blast of an airhorn from the old rink. In its wake came the deafening roar of an excited crowd. The cars around the rink weren’t the same rusting hulks. These would run though they didn’t look the kind to run away, rather they looked like the sort of cars that would start a fight. Armoured and spiked, horribly be-weaponed. These were fighting vehicles, the kind that could make it across the atomic wasteland safely to find this place.
What could draw them here? So far from home and safety.
A painted sign, hanging loosely over the door, rattled in the dry wind and hollered its silent proclamation to the world:
“National League Roller Brawl – Semi Final – TODAY!”
Inside the rink was almost pristine, though the animal skulls nailed to the walls made it look a little ‘different’. The banked walls of wood and metal were battered into shape. They still formed a perfect circuit, a smooth oval battleground for the war to come.
The two teams were lining up for the final period, battered, bruised and bloodied, nearly at the end of the match. Hel’s Belles represented Angel’s Spring, the home-town advantage. A tough bunch of women, padded and armoured, gloved and face-painted. Torn fishnets and ripped white shirts, bronze and gold pads and helmets. Five of them slid out onto the rink and took their place to ear-bleeding roar of the crowd. Hellen strapped the jammer helmet over her leonine mane of blonde hair, jerking the strap tight and nodding to the rest of the girls as they took their place.
Angelicar was a squat, brutal, tank of a woman. Big bosomed and thick thighed, gap-toothed and freckled. She took her place in line, smacking her fists together and nodding back.
Swish was a pretty one, built like a pin-up, curves in all the right places, a favourite with the fans. She was fast, slippery and somehow never seemed to catch one in the face.
Spike seemed taller than the other girls, but that was just her custom boots. She stood on tiptoe like a ballet dancer, poised perfectly on only four wheels,l but at her heel a vicious metal spike protruded, a weapon and a brake, thirsting to draw more blood.
Wheely was a fighter. Scarred from a life in the wasteland and still half wild with it. She cut her hair with a knife and refused to cover her slashed eye with a patch. She’d been as beautiful as Swish, once, but not any more. Whipcord thin and more scar and gristle than skin and flesh.
The rest of the team watched intently from the sidelines. Pincushion, Biter, Farm, Donna, Becca, teeth gritted, fists pumping the air to cheer them on. It all came down to this last jam and there weren’t that many points in it between Hel’s Belles and their dangerous opposition, the Manhatin’ Project.
Out of Science City, snooty and superior, the Project weren’t the most physical of opponents, but those strange blade-skates they wore made them fast and manoeuvrable and they always had one trick or another up their sleeve. They were fragile though, soft, pampered. Several of them were already out with injuries and they could only just scrape up a full team for this final outing. All or nothing.
The Belle’s slammed their helmets together, face to face, breathing each other’s breath, glossed lips almost touching, eyes flickering back and forth between each other as Hellen set out the plan. “We get out there and we beat them down hard. We’re a little ahead on points and that’s all we need to do to get this shit secured. Got it?”
“Got it!” They slammed helmets again and took up position. Hellen checked the formation and then twisted her head to look across to the Project. There was a lot of hand-waving going on over there but also a lot of nodding. They seemed to have a plan of their own and it probably wasn’t getting their skulls crushed. Now it was down to skill. Skill and luck.
The air horn screamed again and was almost instantly drowned out by the cacophony of the crowd. The whole rink shook, physically, with the sound and the stamping of feet against the floor. Both teams leapt to life like mirrors of each other, wheels biting into the track and shoving them forward at speed.
Hellen pounded way with her feet, swinging her arms back and fort as she powered away, ahead of the girls, leaving them behind, strung out to block Project from coming through. They were already closing the gap, their jammer behind a phalanx of lab-coated rollergirls, skimming forward on their blades with ease and speed.
“Damn, got to get me some of those,” Hellen closed her eyes and put her head down low, thighs and calves on fire as she put every sinew, every muscle, every bit of energy she had into speed. She roared around the rink, wheels grinding as she slid out to the edge, powering back to the inside line, using the slope for that extra little bit of speed.
She was coming around as fast as she ever had now, the faces of the crowd blurring into a single streak, a single animal shout. Ahead of her, the Project girls tangled with the Belles, throwing themselves into them with reckless abandon that didn’t seem to make any sense. They couldn’t beat them pound for pound but they weren’t trying to. They threw themselves into the Belles and wrapped themselves around them, bringing them down into a tangled pile of arms, legs and wheels. Angelicar slid on with one of the clinging Project girls on her back, hands over her eyes. She span around and around, trying to shake her off, flying off the circuit, over the boundary and into the air, head over heels she smashed into the unfortunate crowd to a roar of delight. A greaser’s fine pompadour and film-star features crushed flat under Angelicar’s ample hips.
The Project jammer, Nicola Tesla, leapt over the tangle of bodies, barely, landing awkwardly on her skates, windmilling arms and sprawling legs as she struggled to keep her balance and managed, against the odds to straighten herself out. She twisted her head back and gave Hellen a supercilious little wave and stuck out her tongue. There was a sudden, explosive ‘whoosh’ and three feet of flame shot out the back of her skates, sending her hurtling around at blinding speed, her coat flapping behind her like a superhero’s cape, cast off to fly through the air behind her.
They were a couple of points ahead now. The plan had failed. Nicola was coming around the track like a bullet and that would put them way too far ahead for the points to be clawed back. Hellen twisted to the side and slid to a halt next to the tangle of wrestling, fighting bodies. Wheely was straddling one poor girl and punching her repeatedly in the face. Bloodied glasses came spinning out of the scrum as Hellen stopped, crunching the lenses under her brake.
There was only one way to stop this and only a split-second to make the decision. Hellen finished her twist and rocked up on her toe-brakes, digging into the floor beneath her and setting her body ready, tensed. Coiling up like a compressed spring.
Nicola came hurtling around at jet speed, smoke trailing behind her, eyes watering as she struggled to stay on the track. She could barely see but all she had to do was pass the mob one last time and the game would belong to the Project. It was an all or nothing move.
Hellen wasn’t having it. Not today.
She licked her lips and narrowed her eyes, watching the oncoming Project girl with the intensity of a marine sniper. At the last possible moment she uncoiled, leaping up and forward a single step, lashing out with her fist in a long, straight punch at the rolling rocket girl.
The crowd went silent as steely fist met a brittle jaw that snapped like matchwood. Time seemed to slow down as the shockwave of the impact travelled through Hellen’s body, bones jarred, a ripple through her flesh that made her breasts and ass quiver and drove her back a metre along the track. She carved two line lines of burned rubber into the track before she came to a halt. Nicola fared worse, smacked in the face her arms and legs flew out in front of her and the jets kept firing, flipping her into the air in a flaring lopp to crash down with an eye-watering smack, face first into the deck.
Hellen grunted and grabbed her arm, crunching her shoulder back into its socket from the dislocation of the impact. Gingerly, she picked the teeth out of her gloves. Her whole right side was numb but there was still one more thing she had to do. Grunting at the pain from the bruised bones she picked her way slow and careful amongst the wrestling and kicking bodies. Spike was choking one black-eyed girl with her own bra and the Science City team was all but wiped out. One trembling, gloved hand reached out with broken fingers to try and grab Hellen’s foot but Swish clamped one poor girl’s face between her thighs and leaned over, biting the reaching fingers with a feral snarl that tore through the leather.
Hellen tottered over the mob on her toes, hopping over the tangle. The score ticked over. Behind her the flaring rocket-skates finally gave out with a sputtering hiss. It was obvious Nicola wasn’t getting up again. Blood trickled down the slope of the track and puddled against the inside of the rink, trickling from Nicola’s ruined face. The refs looked to each other and there seemed to be an accord. That was it. The horn sounded and the match was over. Ignominiously, but it was over and the Belles had won.
The crowd went crazy, nuts. The cheep piss-swill they sold in the bar went splashing into the air as everyone hurled their cups up to the sky. Better that than their stomachs. Hellen roared with victory, throwing up her aching arms, victory signs from each to the stands as the Belles echoed her cry with a whooping, amazon call of their own.
They were going to the final.
They were going to the Kingdom of Vegas.