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Posts Tagged ‘Roller Derby’

Rink Rash-colourAfter the a-bombs dropped at the end of WWII the world was shattered. A rock-and-roll post-apocalypse emerges from the glowing ashes and with it a new sport, a violent version of roller derby. Across the radioactive desert lies The Kingdom of Vegas and the Roller Ball final. Hel’s Belles are on their way to the final but someone wants to stop them…

A post-apocalyptic short story in the style of the, rather coy, pulp ‘lezploitation’ magazines.

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Coming soon to iBookstore etc.

Also available with my other pulps in a BUNDLE.

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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.”

FIN 

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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!”

“We’ll skate.”

“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.

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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.

Trouble.

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.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…”

The world rolled with a deafening slap and blossomed into fire.

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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.

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