(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
“Still not talking to me?”
“You hit me in the head with a porcelain soap dish.”
“You threw a used loofah in my face.”
“Only because you sprayed me with cologne.”
“That was deodorant.”
“Explains the burning eyes.”
Having crossed into New Mexico, Cassidy and Lloyd do their best to stay off the main roads, but the terrain is rockier than before. Giving up on hiding, they settle for driving casually along the highways. Hoping they resemble a pair of harmless wanderers, they relax and keep watch for enemies. Testing out the radio, Cassidy only finds static and one station where a woman complains about her husband. Hoping to catch enemy chatter, she continues flipping through until Lloyd yawns and casually turns on the CD-player with his foot. The serial killer smiles and moves his arms to the beat, the rest of his body stuck in place because of the tight seatbelt. Not in the mood to argue, Cassidy settles back and shifts in an attempt to get the knots out of her stiffening muscles.
The tires screech as the jeep swerves to avoid hitting a dark-skinned girl who runs out into the road. Her clothes are torn and there is a look of terror on her face, which is covered in patches of dirt. Patches of hair are missing, but the exposed scalp is smooth, as if the tresses were carefully shaved off. A tattered piece of cloth is around her neck, the back swooping down as if it once covered her head. Cassidy uses the mirrors to watch the girl continue into the brush, followed a minute later by three pickup trucks full of armed men and women. Each of the pursuers has a yellow armband that matches the flags on the rooftops, all of them showing a crude drawing of either a wolf or a rabbit.
“Are we going to help her?” Lloyd asks as the jeep stops. Loading his paintball gun, he looks back and wonders why they are staying still. “Why aren’t you racing off to help her like we always do? I mean, this is a young woman getting hunted. She might have information on our enemies too. This isn’t the time to grind your teeth and look conflicted. Is there something you aren’t telling me?”
“Sorry, I was just thinking about where we are,” Cassidy softly replies, snapping out of her trance. Turning the jeep around, she looks for signs of the trucks and starts on a route to intercept them. “New Mexico is in the Theist War, but it also has a civil war. One could even say a three-sided one. You have the Jihadists who are very violent, the Almudafie who are Muslims taking up arms against them, and the Silmi who are pacifists. That last group is fine because they never cause any trouble and the second one is friendly as long as you don’t pick a fight. It’s that first one that made me pause. You never know what you’re getting into, so I hesitated. I shouldn’t have because it’s a girl who needs help. If anything one of those attackers might know something because they don’t look like locals.”
“You lost me at the faction thing. All I see is someone who needs help,” the serial killer admits as he starts to unhook his seatbelt. He looks up to see that they are on a collision course with the rear truck, which they are steadily gaining on. “Uh, I get the feeling that you’re angry about something. No reason to be upset. I’m sure you didn’t mean to sound like that or pass judgement. You made up for it by coming back and it wasn’t like there was much of a delay anyway. Oh, this is going to be messy.”
“Why do you think I kept the battering ram on my baby?” Cassidy asks with a widening smirk. Spotting her friend’s look of doubt in his reflection, she coughs and adjusts to come at the rear truck from the side. “Okay, I didn’t want to leave it behind. Took a lot of trading to get this thing and I’m not dropping it anywhere that I can’t get it back from. Still, I might as well use it while I have it. Hold on tight and keep your head down. I want my baby to do as much as she can before we have to jump out.”
Lloyd does as he is asked, but holds up a hand mirror to watch what is going on outside. The people in the rear truck do not notice the danger until one of them turns and spots the jeep only a few yards away. The man pounds on the cab while the others in the bed fire their weapons, most of the bullets missing due to the shooters’ panic. With an echoing crash that the other vehicles ignore, the jeep collides with its target and sends the enemies in the back toppling out. Many of them are crushed by the rolling truck and the woman in the passenger seat is flung, her body landing with a solid crunch. The driver is ejected a second later, but his leg gets stuck in the window and he is trapped while the vehicle finishes rolling over the rocky ground. Patting Lloyd on the shoulder, Cassidy gets to the machineguns while he takes the wheel. She puts a few bullets into everyone who moves and one body that she thinks is breathing before whistling for her companion to go after the others.
With a shared curse, they realize that their enemies have stopped and gathered around the cowering girl. Noticing the gap between the trucks, Lloyd aims the jeep for it and taps a random beat on the steering wheel. He pushes the gas pedal down as hard as he can while Cassidy scrambles into her seat. The serial killer licks his lips as the battering ram knocks the other vehicles onto their sides and startles their enemies. At the least moment, Lloyd veers to the side to avoid the girl and plows through part of the circle. He chuckles at how some of the screams sound like they come from the engine block, but he knows it is probably someone that is mangled and stuck on the undercarriage. Spinning the jeep around to get one of the bodies off the windshield, he uses the wipers in the hope of cleaning the glass.
“I still can’t get that squished bug off of there,” he angrily mutters while Cassidy gets out and draws her pistols. He cracks his weapon and aims his paintball gun, his eyes searching for a way to sneak up on their enemies. “I hate fighting in open land like this. There’s nowhere to hide unless you do this at night. Why couldn’t these bastards have crossed our path after sundown? I mean, try to work me, people! Might not be a ninja, but my people have a grand tradition of operating in darkness.”
“Are you hitting anything?” Cassidy asks before ducking out and putting a bullet in a woman’s head. She watches two riflemen fall to their knees and tear at their eyes, a third promptly falling with foam spewing from his mouth. “For a man who doesn’t like killing with guns, your aim is almost as good as mine. I’ll make this up to you, Lloyd. First chance that we get to be stealthy, you take the lead. You can have me sit back or watch you with my sniper rifle as backup.”
The serial killer hits a woman in the nose with a paintball full of bleach, but a bullet hits her in the chest a second later. “Those scenes never go in my favor! Still, I’ll take you up on the offer because I’m getting antsy. Seeing some red around the edges and I wouldn’t be surprised if my eyes are getting black. Wait, I’m thinking of something else. Ever notice how black eyes are always used for evil or uncontrollable power? I need to get contacts like that to mess with people I don’t like. What do you think these people want?”
“Obviously, they want the girl,” the mercenary answers as she sprints and dives behind a rock. Rolling back the way she came, she hits two more enemies in the stomach before leaping back to the jeep. “They have a cage on the front truck, which means they want her alive. I hope it stays that way for the entire fight. At least she’s staying down. We have seven more to go and they’re getting behind their vehicles. This is going to become a rather extended firefight if we don’t act now. Do you have any ideas?”
“Find a chest high wall.”
“Your chest or mine?”
“I’m going to pass on that opening.”
Revving the jeep’s engine, Lloyd signals Cassidy to get back in her seat, but quickly gives her the wheel. As bullets ping off the armor, he puts on some gloves and searches for the stolen katana. Waving for his companion to start driving, he takes a position in the back and opens a slot that is big enough for the blade to pass through. He runs one of his poisonous paintballs along the weapon to coat the edge while being careful not to get any on his pants. As they pass by the first truck, Lloyd pushes out the katana and slashes two of their enemies. The others quickly get out of range of the weapon while their injured companions fall to the ground writhing in pain. Not expecting them to hide so soon, the serial killer gets to the opposite door and leaps out of the jeep. He barely hears Cassidy yelling at him as he hits the ground and rolls, a pointy rock cutting his knee.
“Just keep circling, kid. For all they know, I fell out and died,” Lloyd whispers while he lays in the bushes. He keeps his eyes open and watches as one of the gunmen steps out to check, but the jeep immediately slams into the man. “Okay, this is definitely not a smart plan. I’m really thinking I made a mistake here. Honestly, I don’t even know what I was thinking. Spur of the moment stupidity. Even protagonists suffer from that at times. Why should fictional bastards like me have to be perfect while real ones get to fuck up all the time?”
The instant the four gunmen have their backs to him, Lloyd gets to his feet and charges without making a noise. He reaches the trucks just as Cassidy stops at the front to protect the girl from danger, but his enemies have no time to pull the trigger. The katana breaks halfway through the head of the first man, leaving Lloyd with only an inch of blade to work with. Grabbing a woman by the wrist, he pulls her forward and spins around to stab her in the back of the neck. He ducks before he gets shot and crawls under the truck to come out the other side. Trying to figure out a way to kill with the broken sword, he smiles at the sight of a large hunting knife left on the grass. With his enemies still firing at the wrong side of the trucks, Lloyd takes his time taking off his gloves and claiming the new weapon. Spinning it in his hand, he pretends to sneeze to get his targets to turn around. He darts in and delivers a quick stab to the first man’s throat, the body falling to knock the rising rifle back down. Hopping onto the hood, the serial killer jams the knife into the top of the final enemy’s head and twists it like doorknob.
“I know you’re going to be angry at me, but that was kind of cool,” Lloyd declares as he climbs over the trucks. He is knocked down when Cassidy throws a bag of cleaning supplies at him. “What is this for? I saved the day and got my murder lust satisfied. Means you have at least two days before I bug you again.”
“You dripped poison on my baby’s floor,” Cassidy casually says while walking around the jeep. She stops to pick a finger out of the rear wheel well, the digit having a ring that she pockets for later. “If I have to clean her when I spill gunpowder then you do the same when your fluids make a mess. Oh, that came out so wrong. I’ll settle for you cleaning the infected area and getting all of this blood and meat off my baby. Looks like our damsel passed out, so I’ll get on top of the truck with the binoculars to stand watch. Make sure to check the undercarriage. Think I see a head down there. Nobody ever said our lives were glamorous, huh?”
“You said head.”
“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd.”