Water was a hard thing to come by out in the desert, unless you were rich or lucky. Angel’s Spring, as the name suggested, had more water than a lot of places but it was still a resource you had to watch. Not for the team going to the final though. That warranted a special reward.
The room was filled with steam, great hot clouds of it turning the Rink showers into an interior rainforest. It was so hot, so wet, it was hard to breathe. Wide eyed, coach Flint stood at one end of the big room full of showers, licking his lips at the sight of so much bare, wet flesh moving around.
“So you beat the Project, big damn whoop!” Flint growled in his cactus-gargling voice, somehow cutting over the hiss of the sluicing water. “Don’t get cocky, you can’t afford to slip when you go up against the Vegas Showgirls…” he trailed off, losing track of his thoughts as Swish plucked her panties off the bench in her toes and kicked them into the air, catching them with a twirl.
“Don’t worry Flint, we’ve got the goods to beat ’em, see?” Farmstarter yanked open her towel and gave the grizzled old dude a faceful of jiggling titties.
Becca laughed and slipped in front of her, twitching the angel-devil tattoos on her ass as she slipped her arms around Farmer’s neck, giving her a big, deep, kiss on the lips. “Leave the poor ol’ guy alone lover!”
The poor man almost whimpered as their curvaceous lines pressed together, then he screwed his eyes shut and stepped past them, throwing back his head as he continued his harrangue.
“You got sloppy and you got lucky!” ‘Sloppy’ got another bout of giggling from Becca and Farmer. He ignored them. “They play or practice every damn day. They’ve got tricks you’ve never heard of and they’re all lookers. Not that you’re not, but it’s going to mean the crowd is behind them. You won’t have the home-field advantage.”
Hellen stepped out from under the shower head, water droplets slaloming down her dangerous rink-hardened curves. She wrapped a towel around her hair with practised ease and perched up on tiptoe, twisting around to look behind her, rubbing her hand on a patch of red rink-burn on her ass. “We know Flint. We’ll play it tight.”
He handed her another towel and she wrapped it around her body, hiding the flaming hearts tattooed on her breasts. “No show-boating Hel, you hear me? Be more careful, you could have smashed your hand with that stunt.”
Hellen raised her fist and looked at the cuts from Nicola’s teeth. She thought she’d busted a knuckle, but she’d put up with it. She’d survive.
“Won the game coach.”
“Yeah, but next time?” He frowned. “Right, I’m gonna go, uh, think and prep some game plans. Enjoy the shower girls. You earned it. Two days and we’re on the road!”
The squat little man sidled out of the showers, hunched over like he was carrying a load, grizzling to himself as Becca and Farmer blew kisses to him from lipstick-smeared faces.
Hellen looked over the team and bent down to pick up her shorts with a smile. They could win, they could really, truly, win.
Two days and a lot of hard celebration later. It was going to be at least a couple of days to get to Vegas and they had to make Fort Holly by tonight. That made for an early start when many of the girls were still sporting hangovers and bruises – not all of them from the match.
The sun wasn’t even up when they gathered, huddled and shuddering with the horizon lighting up with a slow, persistent glow. Touring was always a scary time, even when you were travelling by air, let alone on the roads. Rollerbrawl teams got a certain amount of leeway, but bandits could often let their greed overcome their respect and the different factions in the American wasteland would take anything they thought could give them an advantage over others.
Hellen had been laying off the celebrations, she’d been practising and tending to her painful hand. She shook it out now and the joints crackled, snapping into place. It was just about better. Good enough to take down the Showgirls, that was for certain.
Flint waved the bus on and the monstrous-looking Leyland Tiger rumbled forward, the side door flying open with a kick from the driver. It was a strange looking thing, raised up high on off-road tyres that had seen better days. Armour plating bolted and welded on along with a roll cage and extra fenders, festooned with spike. Stuck into the top was a drum like turret with a .50 browning stuck out at a crazy angle. The bus came to a rumbling halt by the team and the guy on the turret, teeth browned by tobacco, threw them a wink and a wave.
“Alright ladies, saddle up!” Flint shouted, spitting his toothpick to the dirt. He moved to the back and hustled everyone on board with shoves and smacks to the tush.
Hellen clambered up first, skates hanging around her neck, bag over her shoulder. The driver seemed nervous, a fixed grin on his face. He didn’t even glance at her chest. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by a bus full of wheeled Valkyries though? She didn’t think too much of it and pushed on past. Ah, that was it, she could feel his eyes on her from behind, he was just shy, how precious.
One by one they filed on, bags and boots, skates and pads, Bettie Page bangs and dead man’s curves, piling into their seats, lighting up smokes and chattering excitedly. Flint was on last, running a hand back through his hair he grasped hold of the pole at the front of the bus and gripped it tight, white knuckled. “Get yourselves settled girls and try to get as much rest as you can. It’s a long and bumpy road ahead and you need to be in top shape when we get there. You get me?”
A ragged cheer went up from the girls and a choking rumble started up from the engine of the bus. It lurched and pulled out onto the dusty road, picking up speed as it went. Flint nearly fell, swinging from the poll, bombarded with empty cigarette packets and flung stones. Always having to play dad to a gang of sapphic warriors, sometimes Hellen pitied him, but the old fool seemed to enjoy it.
The sun rose over the horizon, inch by agonising inch, red, then yellow, then white. The bus was an oven as the sun climbed in the sky higher and higher. Everyone was sweating but the spirits of the girls were still high. Flint was enduring the constant taunting and tossed detritus with stoic calm, even when Wheely bounced a too-tough piece of jerky off his head with such spectacular aplomb that the whole bus burst into spontaneous applause.
Becca and Farmer were spending the whole trip necking it seemed. Hellen smiled and shook her head, if they kept up the heavy petting they’d have no damn energy left for the competition. That was a concern, but so was the potential distraction to the driver who kept checking his mirror, distracted from peering through the armoured slit in the windshield.
“What the hell?” Donna slammed her hands against the window and half stood out of her seat. “The goddamn gunner just jumped off?”
“What?” Came from at least three directions at once and in that same moment there was a loud ‘clunk’ and the driver’s door opened. They watched in disbelief as he hurled himself from the bus, flying off into the dusty drifts at the side of the road.
The bus lurched left and right without a driver, swinging wildly over the road. Flint dove forward and grasped tight hold of the wheel but it was too late. The speeding bus ploughed into the dune drifts and bit into the ground, sliding and twisting onto its side, throwing everyone into a pile on the right hand side of the bus. Sparks flew up as it slid along the road and ground to a noisy halt, smoking and steaming.
Hellen was dizzy, the interior lights were off and lancing sunlight came through the gaps in the armour, haphazard in beams like heat-rays with dancing motes of dust drifting in their glow in the sudden silence.
“Ladies! Grab your gear and get out, now!” Hellen shouted, clambering out of her seat and smashing her motorcycle boots against the rear door, hammering hard until she felt it start to give. “Becca, go check on Flint!”
Hellen kept smashing at the door, with her feet and Angelicar clambered up next to her, giving it some extra beef to shift it. Finally, it started to give way. Damn thing should have been able to open, this must have been a trap.
Becca wailed from the other end of the bus as the girls scrambled for the exits. “He’s dead Hel! He’s dead! He’s caught under the wheel, I can’t get him out!”
Hellen ducked down again for a quick look, Becca’s cheeks were streaked with tear-tracked war paint and she was tugging uselessly at Flint’s crumpled body. The Coach had fought for them to the last. They probably owed him their lives already.
“Leave him Bec, get back here and get out!”
Angelicar roared and shoved, thrusting the door open and scrambling out onto the side of the bus. Hellen hauled herself up with her arms, as though she were vaulting, swinging her legs through like a gymnast and dropping down to the asphalt in a crouch.
There was a squeal of tyres ahead and her head darted up. A pair of cars, armoured and brutal, swinging to a halt ahead of them.
No. More than trouble. The soft-top on the Caddy wrenched back and a man in a fedora stood tall, hoisting a bazooka up onto his shoulder.
The world rolled with a deafening slap and blossomed into fire.