The sun kissed the horizon and the moment that baleful yellow circle hit the edge of the world Hel strode out of the wrecked bus they’d been sheltering in and sat her ass down on the baking tarmac. She shucked off her shoes and took her boots from around her neck, fastening them in place tight and neat, yanking the laces until the boots were like a second skin. She flipped up, onto her feet, skating a lazy half circle and pirouetting to a stop, facing the others as they crawled out of the shade and began lacing up and strapping in themselves.
“Biter, you sure you’re going to be OK?” Hel shaded her eyes against the fading sun and watched the girl hobble out of the shelter.
“It’ll be slow going cap, but I reckon I can just about make it back before morning.”
Hel nodded and swung her lttle backpack over her shoulder. They’d gathered everything they could, all the water, all gear. Now they just had to make time as best as they could. She slapped her helmet over her head and drew the chin-strap tight. “Skirmish line formation, stay out of the dust as best you can. You see trouble, you shout out. You get a problem. You shout out. Need a break, shout out. We need to get there fast, but we do need to get there. Ready?”
She slid like a pat of butter on a hot pan to where the girls were huddled and they all linked arms. “Let’s do this.” They banged helmets, bumped fists and spread out in a staggered line, legs pumping, arms swinging as they swept out onto the broad flat road like a flock of crows taking flight, arms flinging side to side like the beating of wings.
They left the wreck behind and in the last dying embers of the sun and the first light of stars and moon they swept along the road in perfect time, keeping pace with Helen at the lead.
They passed wreck after wreck, the skeletal remains of long dead cars and trucks in faded livery from before the war, before the bombs. They’d have been stripped of anything useful long ago so they just swept, flowed, like water around the moonlit scrap and on into the night.
They were tough, strong, practically lived on their skates, this was nothing, they could keep this pace up forever and whenever the road dipped they’d drift, coast, rest until it flattened out and they began to slow.
Donna lost a wheel a few hours in and they took the chance for a break while they set about changing it. Spare wheels they had, spare boots… not so much. They took a rest, massaging muscles, rubbing away the aches, downing a little water, there was still a long ways to go before morning.
“Hey, Wheels, you know the wasteland. Could you scout ahead a little? See if we have any surprises waiting” Hel frowned under the ridge of her helmet and looked up into the band of stars across the sky. “We have to go fast, but I’d like to be fast and safe.”
Wheely just gave her a nod and tightened her laces and chin strap, tightening her belt and checking the draw on the wicked bowie-knife she kept there when they weren’t playing. “On it Hel.”
It was like she transformed then, became something of shadow. Even the hiss of her wheels on the old road seemed to get quieter and then she was away, skimming at speed, seeming to flow like ink into the night and disappear.
Hel watched her go until she vanished and then took off her boots. Stepping off the side of the road into the sandy embrace of the desert dust, wrinkling her toes in its forgiving surface. She wandered, letting the minutes tick by. Careful not to go too far from the road, glancing back to be sure she could still see the girls, their silhouettes against the blue-black sky. They seemed to be joking, laughing again, pissed as they were death wasn’t going to make that much of a dent, it was too familiar.
There was a dip here, a faint light from inside it. Helen peered over the edge into the half formed crater. There was a car here, mostly intact, spotted with corrosion, half in, half out of the ground. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light she realised there was a glow inside. Two… no three grinning skeletons inside the car, three abreast on the ancient leather and glowing an unnatural green.
“Boss,” Wheely’s voice pratically jumped her out of her skin. How long had she been standing and starting? “Glowers, don’t want to get too close. I found something though. Something interesting.”
They went back to the others and Wheely spelled it out. The assholes who had attacked them where a mile, perhaps a mile and a half up the road at some little shack. Some hard bitten road stop that had weathered the war and the bomb. Their cars were parked up there and they seemed to be having a rare old time inside the place.
“We can scoot right past them, they’ll never even notice us so long as we’re careful, or…” Wheely trailed off, pushing her tongue into her cheek and glancing around the others.
“Or what?” Hel’s brow knitted as she listened and tracked Wheely’s gaze around the others, both of them stopped looking when it came to Farmstarter.
“Or…” Wheely continued, “we get ourselves a little revenge, and their cars, and we roll up in style, rested and ready to jam.”
“Kill ’em. You know that’s my vote,” Farmer hissed. “I owe them for Becca.”
“We all owe them for Flint,” Hel growled and looking into the eyes of the other girls one at a time and seeing the same determined look they got before a game.
“Ain’t gonna be easy,” Wheely rocked back on her heels and slid in a slow circle as she thought. “All we really have going for us is surprise.”
“It’ll do. We sweep in fast, we take out the guard and we draw them out onto the flat-top where we’ve got the speed. We use the dark and we cut them down one at a time. We’ve got spikes, knives, speed and we know how to knock someone down. So let’s do it.”
They shared a nod, one team, one mind. Then took a moment to hug, to kiss, to embrace each other. Hel and Wheely locked hands together and squeezed. “I swear Wheels, we live through this, I’m kissing the prettiest girl I see in Vegas.”
“Well, it ain’t gonna be me. Let’s go, leave the guard to me.”
The Belles swept out again onto the road, silent as the grave, skimming over the road hunched low and quiet. Helen could barely see Wheels skimming on ahead, but just for a moment she saw her silhouette with the knife in her fist, ready to cut.
Paula’s Pit, that’s what the old sign said. It wasn’t lit up of course. No power to run the generator at the moment. Still, it was shelter and a meal. That must have been why they’d stopped here. A rest and something to fill their bellies after a hard day of murder and match fixing.
Wheely’s eyes narrowed and focussed in, hawk like, on the cherry glow of a cigarette out by the cars on the little lot Paula let her patrons park on. She tightened her grip on her knife and gave a push, picking up speed down the gentle slope as she swept in hard, fast, towards the man in the fedora. He could afford tobacco, he wasn’t cheap, but he’d die cheap. She felt a knot in her belly drawing tight, match excitement, to kill for a thrill.
He never heard her coming. There was a rush of air and a cut, a slash behind his knees. He went down with his strings cut, too surprised even to scream. Wheely swept around, back, jumped and straddled his tangled body, the big bad knife stabbing down into the Mafia goon’s chest, right below his sternum.
“Scream,” she said.
“Jesus… was that her or him?” Swish started at the sound of the scream, hissing out the words. Hel pressed her finger to rosebud lips and silenced her.
“Doesn’t matter sugar, let’s go.”
They spread out across the road and swept down, slow and steady, waiting for the goons to come out. Come out they did. There was a flash of light from the doorway of Paula’s and the goons came spilling out onto the street. The first one caught a blade in his throat, flung from Wheely before she turned, whooping like an Apache and skating away as fast as she could.
They flowed out, after her, looking the wrong way, reaching for guns in their ill-fitting suits but that was all the girls needed.
An angry scream was stillborn in Helen’s throat, unsaid until they were in amongst them, sweeping through and past, knocking the burly men off their feet. Helen thrust her head forward, hard, striking like a battering ram with her helmet, smashing into a big man’s back so hard she must have ruptured his kidneys or broken his back.
Angelicar didn’t play it careful. Her heavy-set form leapt up off the asphalt and she wrapped her muscled legs and arms around her man, crushing him, stealing his breath, biting and tearing and clawing at his face and neck as he dropped, one joint at a time, to the ground.
Swish had hung back, afraid, her man had turned, pistol out, firing madly, wildly. Every shot a strobe of light showing the strange and frantic melee all around. Donna was knocked off her feet by a stray round. A neat hole in the front of her helmet, an untidy one at the back. Her body skated on by itself down the road a ways and lunged off the side, into the dirt.
That was enough to settle Swish, she hissed like some demon cat, fresh out of the pit and bore him down, clawing with those nails she was so proud of, tearing the asshole’s face to ribbons by inches, blood and eye juices making a bright red varnish she’d never match again.
Spike and Farmstarter moved as one, a double drop kick to two men side by side. Spike’s steel heels punctured her man’s chest like two crossbow bolts and she ended up anchored to him, stuck, skates rammed deep. Farmer’s leap took her at groin height and maybe forty miles an hour. If he lived, that man was never having children and his scream was so high the coyotes for miles around howled in sympathy.
They were all down and Helen let out that rebel yell that she’d been holding back. They all yelled, arms in the air as Wheely swept back to meet them. The bastards were down, the cars were theirs.
Angelicar hauled Swish off the bloody mess that had once been a man and held her close. They’d lost someone but they’d lost a lot of people now. It was over. They’d get to Vegas and they’d win. That would be the revenge.
The door of Paula’s swung open again, light flooded out and transfixed them all on the spot, staring like rabbits into the glow. The shape of a man with a hat, a pistol rising. Farmer shoved Helen out of the way as the gun spoke, a physical sound that span the skater over and around with a fist-sized hole through her breast.
Helen bared her teeth and stared down the barrel of the gun, arms swinging, legs pushing in slow motion as she strove to get on him faster than he could pull the trigger a second time.
There was no chance.
Then a miracle. He didn’t fire. There was a second, deafening bang and Helen closed her eyes expecting to be hit. She wasn’t, she was only spattered with blood as the man’s chest came apart from behind. She skidded to a sudden, surprised halt, eyes adjusted to the light now.
There was a big woman in a flower print dress, behind the man’s body now. A smoking hog-leg in her sausage fingers. She raised it up, offering peace. “I don’t want no trouble girls. I gots me some money ridin’ on ya an’ I jus’ want ya ta git where you’re goin’ y’all.”
Helen and Paula (she presumed) shared a look and a nod and then Paula fished a hook out of her apron. Stabbing it into the fellow’s chest and dragging his body – thump, thump, thump – up the steps and into the diner, out of sight again with the swing of a door.
In Vegas the rollerdrome was hushed. The showgirls had made their grand entrance and every seat in the house was full. Bright lights and rock and roll, no expense spared. It was a glittering event such as hadn’t been seen since before the war. Now the crowd was getting impatient, stamping on the floor so hard the whole place seemed to be bouncing. The King had let anyone in for the final, under a flag of truce.
The Six-Strings and the Motorboys hated each other, but they’d put it aside for a match. The Royal Guard was keeping a close eye on the mutants and everyone was nervously watching the black-clad emissaries from Luftstadt. If there was no match, there was going to be trouble. The Showgirls would win, but it would be by default. No way to win a championship.
Trick Tease, captain of the Showgirls slid like oil up to the referee, whipping around in a flash of skirts and glitter. “They’re late. You going to call it hon or what?” She blew a bubble of gum in the man’s face and sucked it back, smiling and chewing.
The ref turned to the other stripe-shirts in the centre ring and they shared a shrug. He moved over to the mic and took a deep breath, ready to shout out the default and likely spark a riot. That’s when the Belles rolled in.
Bloodied, torn, bruised and battle hardened the remaining girls brought a hush to the rollerdrome, everyone still as Helen rolled up to an abrupt stop in front of the ref. “We’re here.”
“You good to play?” The ref looked her up and down, sceptically, taking in the cuts and bruises, the bloodstains and the dark rings around her eyes.
Hel reached out and grabbed tease by the arm, yanking her in and sweeping her back. She kissed her, hard, lips locked, dipping her down, fingers biting firm enough into the blond girl’s ass to leave five little bruises. Breasts jostling for position as she clove the Showgirl to her. Then she let her go. Tease fell with a bump onto the ring, bouncing her perfect little tuchus off the boards.
Hel wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and blew a bubble of pink gum, letting it pop and sucking it back.
“Good to win. Let’s jam.”
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