Chapter 100: The Brutal Wastelands
The blood-red light of the setting sun painted the roiling sea of sand. Out in the wastelands even dusk was swelteringly hot.
The sound of old engines rumbling was an analog of the anxiety and restlessness within the hearts of modern man. It was a world of blood and fire, cruelty and madness around every corner. In this moment that madness was a group of more than ten vehicles tearing across the sands, in a deadly game of chase.
Wasteland vehicles were cobbled together from whatever excavators could find. It didn’t matter whether it was the right part, whether it was attractive, or whether it was convenient. All that mattered was that the machine ran.
The truck Cloudhawk pilfered had a chassis of crude metal, and its body was composed of light but sturdy bones from unidentified wasteland behemoths welded together with slabs of steel. It looked like some nightmare creature made of bones slithering over the dunes. Its cab was a mess of circuitry and pipes and there was no windshield to speak of. Stinging sand was constantly pelting Cloudhawk’s face.
He didn’t know what any of the instruments meant on the dashboard in front of him. All he knew – all he needed to know – was how to turn the damn thing on and keep it moving!
One of the soldiers with him shouted over the din of the engine. “They’re catching up!”
The truck didn’t have a rear view mirror so Cloudhawk didn’t know what was going on behind them. But he did have ears, and the sound of screaming engines were getting closer. Frantically he began to pull on levers and twist knobs interspersed through the mess of wires, hoping something would help.
The truck shook violently and smoke began to belch out of the exhaust pipes. The wheels kicked into high gear, kicking up a winding cloud of yellow sand behind them.
The whooping yells of the sweepers chased them from behind.
Regardless of their boost in speed the other cars were closing the distance. Figures popped out of the cars bearing spears and hooks, every one of them glaring at the truck with demented and twisted features. They looked like madmen, ready to give their lives for glory.
But they weren’t insane. It was the wastelands that were insane. It was a whole crazy world they lived in!
One of the buggies, refitted to be spiked like a hedgehog, pulled up behind them. The driver flipped a lever and bolts fired out of his car that buried themselves in Cloudhawk’s bone truck like nails. Chains attached to the bolts tightened and the metal of both vehicles groaned in protest.
Suddenly the truck jerked and its speed cut. The inertia almost sent Cloudhawk hurdling through the missing windshield but he grabbed whatever he could, managing to steady himself before being flung from the vehicle. The barbed bolts from the spiked buggy were deeply imbedded in Cloudhawk’s truck and were slowing them down.
A sweeper popped out from within the hedgehog’s cab with a large javelin in hand. He heaved it at the bone truck. Instead of a metal head the javelin was affixed with a wrapped bottle, filled with rat’s blood, oil and other combustible materials.
A ball of fire swallowed the rear of the truck. Cloudhawk could feel it shake and start to break apart. At least one of their tires were blown!
The sweepers pulled out a second javelin and reeled back for another toss. Cloudhawk grit his teeth and yanked the wheel, sending them peeling off in another direction. The sudden force flipped the hedgehog off balance and flung it to the side still connected by chains. It shattered like a house of building blocks, sending debris in all directions. The sweeper who had a javelin leveled at them had half of his body decimated, crushed by the impact. A series of beautiful, eye-stabbing explosions followed as his and all the rest of their javelins detonated.
Cloudhawk fought to get the truck back under control. The remains of the hedgehog buggy rolled along behind him, on fire and flinging burning slag every which way. Cloudhawk didn’t have time to catch his breath, for just then two agile lizards and their riders pulled up on either side.
One of them chucked a bottle into the cab.
Roooar! Everything was engulfed in fire!
Luckily the invisibility cloak Cloudhawk wore wasn’t flammable, otherwise the fires would have turned him medium-rare. Unfortunately the Greenland survivors weren’t as lucky. One of them found himself in the middle of a lake of fire and, screaming, flung himself out of the truck to escape the flames. He tumbled through the air like a burning moth, hit the sand and began to roll. The sweeper vehicles coming up from behind ruthlessly ran him over half a dozen times.
The lizards themselves were equipped with small flamethrowers that constantly emitted fire, which their rider used to light the bombs. Their riders pulled out a second set of fire grenades from their pockets and prepared to light them.
Roaring in anger Cloudhawk gripped the steering wheel with his burned hands and pull it to the side. His hefty truck slammed into the lizard on his left, knocking both beast and rider over and crushing them beneath the truck’s wheels. It was difficult to tell from the smear of red behind them which parts were human and which were beast.
The sweeper’s bomb lit all the explosive material he’d kept in his pockets, turning his corpse into a pillar of flame. Sand kicked up from the explosion rattled against the left side of the bone truck and the blast set almost half of it on fire. Another firebomb struck them from the right side, causing even more damage.
Depp knocked his bow and fired out an arrow that pierced the fire-thrower in the chest. Like a puppet with its strings cut the lifeless body of the sweeper was knocked off the lizard. It hit the ground some distance away with a sickening crunch.
“Kill them! For the master!”
The sweepers were incensed, caught in an insane bloodthirst that was hard to imagine. They continued to chase after the flaming bone truck, getting close enough to fire off more chain bolts. Like a brutal version of tug-of-war the two sides heaved against one another.
Depp kicked open the truck’s ruined door and leaned out, firing his bow toward the cars behind. His arrow hit a tire and the car careened out of control. It flipped on its side and rolled into another car. The chains that affixed them to the truck dragged the cars along behind, but while it destroyed those vehicles its drag allowed the rest to get closer.
The flail-wielding sweeper chief came bounding up beside them on his lizard. When Depp spotted him he let loose with another arrow, but it was not aimed at the portly killer. Instead the arrow ripped through his lizard mount’s head.
The chief was skilled, and as his steed was cut down from beneath him he lunged forward. He grabbed the truck and scrambled on top in a fluid motion. In less than a second, flail waving, he charged at the driver’s seat with a deafening roar.
The chief’s spiked ball and chain whistled over Cloudhawk’s head, barely scraping his scalp before getting buried in the mismatched instrument panel in front of him. Immediately sparks filled the cab.
Cloudhawk dragged the remaining Greenland warrior into the driver’s seat. He grabbed the flail’s chain and as the chief yanked it back he pulled Cloudhawk onto the truck’s top with it. The young warrior released the chain in midair, pulled his revolver from his waist and fired.
The sweeper wasn’t slow, but at close range the shots still struck his chest. But his armor was hefty, and the small caliber bullets didn’t pack enough punch to cause damage.
Grinning hideously the sweeper brought his flail back around. Cloudhawk met it with his exorcist rod.
The two of them fought as the truck rumbled along below them. Though the sweeper chief’s flail was a nasty weapon, he couldn’t get good momentum with the ground below him in constant motion. Cloudhawk juked and dodged, finally getting a clear shot off into the sweeper’s helmet. The impact forced the chief backward, and that’s when Cloudhawk’s exorcist rod jabbed forward.
Armor and flesh split as the staff’s sharp end found its target!
A power like being struck with a sledgehammer flung the chief from the top of the truck. Not a moment later bullets and arrows started whizzing by Cloudhawk’s head. He couldn’t linger out here in the open, but as he was preparing to swing back into the car two explosive javelin’s struck. One of them hit the fuel tank.
Cloudhawk felt weightless. The javelin had pierced the truck’s fuel tank and ignited the gas inside. A massive blast rose from below them and the back half of the truck was pitched up several feet, sending debris everywhere.
The sudden force of the explosion kicked the truck up as well as all the cars connected to it, flipping them all. They tumbled over the dunes like so many discarded toys, leaving explosions and twisted metal in their wake. Sand and smoke filled the air like a rain from hell.
Peace settled after the chaotic scene.
Survivors were unlikely in a catastrophic suicide attack like this, but Cloudhawk had been thrown from the wreckage. He immediately poured his energy into his cloak to try and break his fall, but even striking soft sand at this speed would be deadly.
It all happened fast as a thunderclap.
It felt like Cloudhawk was struck in the head. The whole world spun out of control as he was flung through the air. He was rotating so fast the centrifugal force felt like it was scrambling his innards.
Then, just as he was about to hit the ground –
-Everything went black. It was like he cut through reality to enter a dream.
Cloudhawk felt himself float in the air, flying though he had no wings. Space around him felt thick like mud and lifted him up. As he floated along he could feel himself striking countless small things, things he could neither see nor touch.
Eventually a burning sensation crept up all throughout his body, painful enough that it brought Cloudhawk back from the brief coma he’d been in. With great effort he struggled onto his feet and surveyed the scene. Wreckage, stretching every which way; bits of lizard, car, human… sand and blood, fire and iron, complete devastation!
To Cloudhawk it felt like every bone in his body had shattered, however luckily the fact was he hadn’t been badly wounded. That certainly wasn’t the case for the bone and metal truck he’d tried to steal, which could hardly be called slag at this point. He didn’t know whether Depp or the other Greenland soldier were still alive.
But the fight wasn’t over! Sweepers kept coming.
The one leading them was blurry through the sand and smoke, but his weapon was unmistakable. The scythe’s blade glimmered from the fires of the wreckage, like the eyes of death peering through the darkness. It marched his way promising a bloody end.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Finally hit chapter 100 with GFC!