(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
Standing on the nose of her helicopter, Momma Marauder sips at her martini and watches her execution squad line up the prisoners. She whistles to stop her men from stripping the engineers of their tools, which are worn on belts and harnesses. Her attention falls on one woman, who has a tape measure in place of a belt buckle. The hunter sneers at the prisoner’s lack of style, comparing it to her own pink and white camouflage clothing. Getting bored with the speedy preparations, the Momma Marauder looks around at the windmills that have been built within the circular field. All of them are turning, which confuses her because she has already smashed the collection of generators in the middle of the energy farm. Frustrated by the way the wind whips her brown hair into her face, the hook-nosed woman ties the tresses back and holds out her glass for a refill. Seeing that they are ready for the execution, she slams the drink back and struggles to swallow an olive. Whirling around, she casually spits out the toothpick and glares at the helicopter pilot, who averts his gaze.
“All of you have been deemed traitors to our great country and terrorists against the forces of nature,” Momma Marauder declares, facing her prisoners and soldiers. She pauses when a metallic glint in the distance catches her eyes, but immediately gets bored with the idea of investigating. “Every creation that you have made is a dangerous and horrible . . . thing for the environment. Those dams you use to get power? They take the electricity from fish and whales, who need it to keep their brains and hearts going. All of those nuclear plants that you closed and safely sealed? How do we even know you didn’t leave secret back doors that you use to take the radiation for yourselves? Now, I know all of you are confused because you’re in charge of these ugly things. Windmills are evil! They steal the air that we breathe and kill trillions of birds every hour. There is a feather right there to prove my point. Not to mention I saw three of you have inhalers for asthma. Don’t you realize that you wouldn’t have asthma if the windmills weren’t stealing all of the air? You are killing the planet and I’ve been told to stop you. Prepare for the execution. Nobody shoots until I say the word. Ready! Aim! F-”
A faint gunshot is heard before one of the soldiers is knocked back with a bleeding hole in his head. The others are about to run away when Momma Marauder fires her pistol into the air, the bullet bouncing off the rotor above her head. Hearing a groan to her left, she glances over to see that the man in charge of her martinis is lying dead from a bullet to the chest. Confused by the unexpected death, she scratches her head with the pistol before shrugging and signaling for her men to get back in position.
“Ready! Aim! Fi-”
The soldier in the middle grunts and goes down in the mud.
“Ready! Aim! F-”
Gurgling from shots to the throat, two more executioners fall down dead.
“Ready . . . Aim . . . Fir-”
Another of her men is killed by the hidden sniper, which causes the remaining soldiers to break ranks and retreat. The engineers remain on their knees, but they chuckle at the way their captors try to run in a serpentine pattern. Angry and confused, Momma Marauder stomps her foot and bends down to pick up her own rifle. She pauses at the sight of a grinning man sitting in the pilot’s seat of the helicopter, the former occupant’s twitching feet up on the dashboard. It takes the hunter a moment to recognize Lloyd, which she decides is because his hair is shorter than she expected. Slowly drawing her pistol, Momma Marauder flashes a friendly smile until the serial killer starts the engine. She looks up to see the rotors starting to move, the deadly blades only inches above her even if she stands. Glancing in every direction in the hopes of finding help, the woman spots a blue jeep heading toward the area and hitting any of her men that get in its way.
“Get out of this helicopter right now!” Momma Marauder demands, aiming her gun at Lloyd. When the man flashes his butt at her, the hunter fires and curses at the bulletproof glass in her way. “This is not funny! You are in my property, which is against the laws that Johnathan Custer promised to uphold. I’m well within my rights to go over there and shoot you. Now, get out of there and stop being rude. Fine, I’ll be right there. You’re going to regret messing with Momma Ma-”
Forgetting about the spinning rotors, the hunter leaps off the helicopter and is immediately decapitated. Her body lands on its feet and remains standing for an instant before crumpling while her head sails over the clearing. After turning off the engine, Lloyd cautiously gets out of the helicopter and holds up his arms like he scored a touchdown. He scowls at how the engineers and Cassidy ignore his celebration, their focus more on getting out of the handcuffs. The serial killer takes a seat next to his latest kill and reaches into her pocket to pull out a lighter, which is engraved with a roaring grizzly bear.
“What is it with these people and predators?” Lloyd asks while he checks for more loot. All he finds is a black comb and three sticks of gum, each one a different flavor. “So, can anybody explain what’s going on? Our vengeance map has the entire state of West Virginia circled. I really hope it wasn’t all because of this woman. Hey, does this mean she counts as a helicopter mom?”
“I’m taking back my apology for ruining your hair,” Cassidy states as she frees the last of the engineers. Going back to the jeep, she leans through the window to get her sniper rifle and goes about cleaning the weapon. “We’re trying to make up for lost time, people, so I’d like a quick explanation. Introductions aren’t necessary since my friend and I are only here to break stuff, kill bad guys, and then move on. Quite frankly, I’m getting sick of dealing with enemies that are loud, egotistical, and dumber than a bullet casing. So, why are agents of Johnathan Custer targeting engineers in West Virginia?”
A young man steps away from the other engineers, his eyes focused more on the sniper rifle than Cassidy. “From what that woman was ranting about, they hate the wind farms and dams that have been set up across the country. As you know, these installations are what we use to create the batteries that allow people like you to function. I’ve heard Mr. Custer is obsessed with money and wants to return to the older economic system. That could include reviving the old industries, which our advancements would be competition for. Eliminating the people who built the windmills and dams is an effective way of crippling them.”
“Some of his men have reopened the coal mines too,” another engineer explains, her attention more on the helicopter. Running her hands along the vehicle, she talks in a soft voice that is always on the verge of vanishing. “Reopened might be the wrong word since we never officially closed them. They became too dangerous to work in and there was little call for coal due to the success of the batteries. We still needed some for products that weren’t being snuck into the country or looted from fallen cities. So, drones have been used to get what’s needed instead of risking people. Now, the two warlords in charge are forcing slaves to go underground without doing any repairs on the mines.”
“The miners must be happy about that,” Lloyd mentions, joining his friend at the jeep. He takes out their map and hands it to the nearest engineer. “Then again, you said slaves. I would have thought people around here’d be happy for the return. Isn’t this one of those industries that have generations of families working in it?”
“Yes, but everything changed after the collapse,” a man with a mohawk says. Looking at the map, he points at a spot and leaves a smudge over the area. “Once things went south, we came here to help them survive. The miners helped us build the windmills in return for us teaching them how to use the drones and maintain this equipment. Many of them joined our construction caravans to fix the roads and bridges in the area. In fact, we’ve found training people who have lost their careers for new paths is fairly easy. Everyone wants to survive and the collapse has created some opportunities that didn’t exist before. Mostly because everything is done for supplies instead of money. Those who are running the mine and forcing the locals into working there don’t understand that.”
Lloyd takes the map back and smiles before grabbing Cassidy by the wrist, the mercenary easily freeing her arm. He tries to subtly signal for her to follow him to the back of the jeep, but she nods to her sniper rifle. The weapon is in pieces, only two of which she has managed to clean to near perfection. Before the partners can argue, one of the engineers approaches and casually picks up a part of the gun. The old man removes a spring, which causes Cassidy to gasp and reach for her pistol. She stops when the stranger replaces the damaged piece and starts whistling while he works. Another engineer joins the man, but her interest is in the jeep instead of the weapon. Together, they move the sniper rifle to a clean blanket that a third has placed on the ground, allowing the new worker to open the hood.
“Say thank you in a minute,” Lloyd whispers, dragging his wide-eyed partner away. He makes sure they are still in sight of the jeep, but keeps himself between Cassidy and the curious engineers. “First, you were saying that your baby could use a tune up after all the potholes and dirt roads we ran into since Colorado. Second, I’m really getting tired of having to free a bunch of people. All of this could have been solved if we simply put a bullet in Custer’s head. To be clear, I’m not sure which one I’m talking about. By the way, don’t you think it’s odd that there’s been no attempt at avenging the sons or anybody that we’ve killed? It’s like none of these people are even aware of the death and destruction we’re causing.”
“The thought crossed my mind, but I’m hoping Ben had a good reason for this,” Cassidy says, her eyes locked on the engineers. Her heart leaps into her throat when a spark plug is removed from the jeep, but she relaxes when a new one is put in. “I don’t think it would be too hard to sneak into an operating coal mine. Has to be plenty of people around, so we can just walk up to these warlords and kill them. Although, I’m seeing that we will again have a problem finding an escape route. This journey is proving that the two of us are terrible assassins. I like setting traps and being sneaky, but there’s just not enough of a payoff for my creative juices to get flowing. Is it wrong that I want to have fun with this one?”
“No, but I can’t see how a coal mine could be fun.”
“What if we find a way to sneak in and go the sabotage route?”
“Sure. Although, we’d be in trouble if any of the miners were hurt.”
“Good point. Well, I’ll keep thinking about a way to sneak in and make a mess.”
“Excuse me. I have a suggestion,” an approaching engineer says, the man holding a funnel to his ear. Giving the map back to Lloyd, he searches his pockets for a wrinkled flyer that is barely legible. “The warlords are looking for agents to help them push their agenda. It’s all about disinformation and they feel it will be easier to do now that there’s no public-school system. All you have to do is feign ignorance and come up with ridiculous theories that appeal to what they want others to believe. How good are you two at lying and making up stores while sounding confident?”
Lloyd pulls a card out of his pocket and hands it to the engineer, who is unable to read through a hardened smear of jelly. “Bullshitting is one of our specialties. Right after killing, murdering, wanton destruction, wonton destruction, pottery, car chases, explosions, gunfights, debauchery, the geography game, balloon animals, fisticuffs, paper ma-”
Elbowing her partner in the stomach, Cassidy smiles and confidently declares, “We’ll be perfectly fine. Just point us in the right direction. Also, is there a place nearby with a department store or bazaar? We need to do some clothes shopping.”