Helen blinked and stared up into the clear blue sky. Faint clouds drifted vast blue deep of the air. Cotton candy tufts, pale white, dotted randomly from one horizon to the other. Why wasn’t she dead? She sat up, slowly, carefully, checking everything was intact and where it should be. Pieces of bus lay near her, still slightly aflame. She stood, slowly, carefully, swaying, ears ringing slightly. The weight of her boots around her neck seeming so much heavier than they had before.
“Hel, over here!” Wheely’s drawl, reduced to a hiss.
Helen blinked again, swayed drunkenly and span around, seeing her eyes, big and white, surrounded by soot, in the ditch at the side of the road. She shook her head to try and get her senses back and with the new clarity that came slowly wandered over to where the others were huddled. “They’re gone Wheels, they didn’t stay.”
“They could still be out there!” Wheely and the others were huddled together in the ditch, a press of bodies, frightened and angry. “I don’t think they were here to kill us.”
“They did a damn good job of it for not wanting to,” Angelicar’s growl was dangerous and feral. Hel had seen her like this only one time before, and that hadn’t ended well for the guy who’d pissed her off. “Becca’s dead, burned to a crisp in the cab with Flint. Pins caught some shrapnel and bled out while you were unconcious. We thought you’d bought it too.”
Helen shook her head and sat on the side of the dusty road, pushing a battered hub-cap to the side, dangling her legs down into the gully. “Everyone else is alright?”
“Sorry boss…” she looked. Biter was down, torn strips of t-shirt around a vicious gash in her thigh, deep in the meat. She was stripped down to her bra and bloodied rags from her shirt were scattered around her, though the bleeding finally seemed to be stopping.
“Not your fault honey-pie,” Hel stroked her hand through Biter’s hair and gave her a soft kiss on one bloodied temple. “Head count then. Me, Angel, Swish, Spike, Wheely, Farm and Donna. We lost Pins and Becca and Biter’s down. We still have our A-Team at least.”
Farm glowered at Helen, leaning over Biter to get in her face. “You still care about the goddamn game? Pincushion is dead. Becca’s dead you heartless bitch!” Farm’s voice broke when she mentioned Becca, tears had tracked through the soot on her face and smeared her makeup, striping her cheeks like a zebra. If she hadn’t been distraught it might have looked funny.
“Don’t you see?” Helen frowned but spoke softly, eyes flicking from girl to girl and saw they didn’t. Maybe the smack on her head had knocked something into place, but it hadn’t for them. “They weren’t here to kill us, they were just here to stop us from getting to Vegas. Bandits would have finished us off and stolen everything. Mutants would have eaten us. Who other than a militia or a Mafia group is going to get hold of a damn bazooka in the first place?”
“Why though?” Spike was trembling with fury as she said it, like a greyhound waiting for the off. “Vegas makes a ton off the bets around the final. The King loves his sports and so do the people.”
“Then someone, someone big and powerful and rich has bet that we’re going to lose and when we don’t turn up, they get their money, because we forfeit,” Helen spelled it out, calm and clear, head turning from girl to girl, letting steel enter her voice. “I say we don’t forfeit.”
“Are you insane?” Farmstarter was staring at Helen now, goggle eyed and grieving. “We’re not even halfway there!”
“The sun’s going to roast us alive!”
“We’ll skate once the sun sets.”
“We’ll never get there in time!”
“Bull. We can skate faster than the bus could ever go.”
“We don’t have a full team!”
“We only need five.”
“What about Biter? We can’t just leave her.” Their faces were close together now, nose to nose, both angry, both upset. They turned as one towards the injured girl.
“Ah… I can probably get home. The bleeding’s stopped. I just can’t play.” She shifted up, carefully, gingerly, up onto her feet. “See?”
Hel and Farmer turned back to each other, nose to nose.
“I still say no,” Farmer twisted her head to the side and spat into the desert dust.
“I say we don’t let these bastards win. I say we skate all the way to Vegas and kick the Showgirls in the ass. I say the girls don’t die in vain. I say we get the closest thing to revenge that we can. We play and we win. You think Becca would want to just roll over and let them win?”
“She… used to let me win,” Farmstarter’s shoulders shook and she seemed to fall in on herself. Hel grabbed her and held her up, crushing her close in her arms, cheek to cheek, bosom to bosom as the shakes and strangled sobs burst out and then came back, slowly, under control.
“Alright Helen, we do it your way.”
Hel gave her another firm squeeze and then turned back to the rest of the girls. “Alright ladies, here’s the plan. We get what we can from what’s left of the bus, make a shelter and hide from the sun. Biter stays here, heals up, maybe we can stitch her up. The moment the sun hits the horizon, we get our skates on and we go hell for leather to Vegas.” She turned and looked over the team one more time. “You with me?”
“HEL, YEAH!” The girls bumped heads and scrambled to work.
They were a team.