(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
Tents and trailers fill the inside of the large arena, the colorful structures surrounded by a beaten up racetrack. Most of the rebels are in the stands, leaving the children and a handful of hard-working adults below where there is protection from the heat. With no roof above their heads, those standing beneath the blazing sun are covered in sunburns that cause them to move stiffly. Bellowing drink vendors wander through the crowd, their product kept in canisters that are strapped to their backs. A blast of lukewarm water is fired out of their pressurized sprayers, the impact leaving the patron gasping for air while handing over the agreed upon payment. Only those at the very top of the headquarters are armed, but they pay more attention to what is going on inside. A single lookout with binoculars and five telescopes stands on top of the box seat area, the diligent old man doing his best to check every direction. Knowing that there is a major blindside on the far side of the arena, the rebels have sent up a maze of mines and bear traps that is surrounded by signs that suggest going to one of the other entrances.
Taking up the rear of the convoy, Lloyd strongly considers continuing on his way and leaving the rebels behind. The only reason he decides against moving is that Cassidy will not stop talking about the brownies. Constantly moving around the jeep, she has boundless energy and a positive attitude that amused the serial killer for the first ten minutes. After that, the young woman’s hyperactivity and the way she devoured his brownie has left Lloyd very worried. His mouth goes dry every time she wanders over to her arsenal and pulls out a gun to clean while singing old pop songs. The way she bobs her head and dances in place while working with the unloaded weapons causes her partner to shift uncomfortably in his seat. Even when Cassidy moves on to something else, Lloyd keeps an eye on her in case she tries to climb on top of the jeep again. By the time he pulls into the arena and parks on the speedway, he is a bundle of strained nerves and in desperate need of a drink.
“We should get that recipe,” Cassidy declares as she straps knives and handguns to her body. The mercenary tries to go out the window, but keeps getting her weapons stuck on the frame. “I guess I can go au natural since these are good people. That and they seem far too stupid to figure out which way to hold a gun. Oh, do you think they have novelty horns or flashy rims to put on the jeep? I hope not because that would be fucking stupid. Hey, I can’t get the door open. What’s wrong with the door? I want to open the door.”
“It’s called child safety locks,” Lloyd says as he comes around to let her out. He tries not to laugh at the sight of her wriggling out of the window, her arms stretching for the ground. “People are supposed to be calmer or not change much when high. What are the chances you’d be the type to become hyper? Valerio and Hurrica promised a tour of their operation, which could be a problem. Don’t want you wandering off and doing who the hell knows. Geez, I thought you were bad on tequila.”
“Wait!” the mercenary shouts, startling the rebels that are approaching them. She clambers back into the jeep and quickly returns with a leash. “You can put this around my neck and I won’t get lost. Problem solved.”
“Oh, I can hear the female audience getting their torches lit already.”
“It isn’t like I’d be on all fours or-”
“Yup, this is karma. Why do we have this anyway?”
“Just in case.”
“In case of what?”
“Never know when you’ll adopt a dog.”
“That response was a lot cleaner than I expected and I thank you for that.”
Waving to Valerio and Hurrica, the pair walk toward a large garage that is on the northern side of the arena. Cassidy happily skips ahead of Lloyd, the excited mercenary doing random handstands and cartwheels. Even if she falls on her back, she hops back to her feet and continues until coming to their hosts. She ignores Hurrica’s angry scowl and gives the woman hug before leaping up and doing the same to Valerio with her legs. By the time Lloyd catches up, the rebel leaders are amusingly flustered and struggling to get free of Cassidy. With the help of a man in sunglasses and a leather jacket, the serial killer pries his partner off and gives her a laser pointer to play with. When one of the rebels tries to offer more brownies, he covers the mercenary’s eyes and waves the confused woman away.
“Guess she’s one of those types,” Valerio chuckles while waving a hand at the man in a leather jacket. He clears his throat to get the rebel to look up from a clipboard, the papers written in a confusing code. “This is Jimbo and he’s our top spy. All of our intelligence comes through him. I don’t know where we would be without him. To be fair, there isn’t much out there, but the little we do get is thanks to this man. We all him Jimbo the Spook for fun. He’s going to join us for the inspection tour.”
“Well, boredom does love company,” Lloyd replies with a smirk. He quickly catches Cassidy by the collar, stopping her from chasing the red dot. “Lead the way and we’ll give advice where we can. Just ignore any antics from my friend here. The stress and frustration of our adventure may have finally caught up with her.”
“Oh my god, is this how your mind works all the time?” Cassidy blurts out, grabbing Lloyd by the face. She puts her eye against his ear as if she can see his brain, only letting go when she hears her own stun gun crackle. “Yeah, you might want to hold onto that until I calm down. Best to take my handguns, knife, and the flashbang grenade I put under my shirt. The pin is starting to tickle. Must be so much fun to be this fresh of inhibitions.”
“It is and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t steal my shtick,” the serial killer says while taking her weapons. Taking a bag from Valerio, he stuffs the gear inside and slings it over his shoulder, which nearly hits Jimbo in the face. “Sorry about that. Almost didn’t see you there, Mr. Spook. Is there a Mrs. Spook?”
The spy spits at Lloyd’s feet before offering his arm to Hurrica and letting her lead the way into the garage. Catching Cassidy’s wrist, the serial killer stops her from punching Jimbo in the back of the head. She sighs and takes Valerio by the hand as they walk, the two men nearly crashing to the ground when she tries to swing like a toddler with her parents. Freeing himself from his partner, Lloyd leaves her to torture the rebel leader while he prepares to fake being useful. He gets as far as the door before Cassidy darts around him and barges into the garage, her fingers in the shape of guns. After making tiny pew-pew noises at Hurrica and Jimbo, the mercenary hangs her head and wanders back to Lloyd. He cannot stop himself from laughing at the mischievous grin hidden beneath her dangling hair and he is sure his response will encourage her to act up again.
Taking his attention off the mercenary, Lloyd notices that there is a yellow line going down the middle of the large room. Signs warning the workers not to cross with permission are dangling from the ceiling, which has two big holes that are dripping water. To their right is a crew working among a series of tables, the flat surfaces covered in maps and schematics that are routinely blown to the floor by large fans on the back wall. Shelving units have been attached to dollies, allowing people to move them to wherever they are working. Each one is filled with tools and electronics that one normally finds in a garage, which makes Lloyd wonder what they are working on. Looking to his left, he has no doubt that the crew with the heavy machinery and chemistry lab are designing explosives. Half of them are dressed in thick suits like one would wear on a bomb squad while the rest are in shorts and t-shirts. There is an air of tension in the garage, but it is unclear if it is caused by feuding between the groups or the fear of a barrel of chemicals killing everyone before they can escape.
“The side with the plans and tools is mine,” Valerio explains while staying on his side of the garage. Catching a schematic that is blown off the table, he hands it to Jimbo and points at the handwritten notes. “As you can see, we’ve been putting your information to good use. All of these plans have been copied and worked on to find the weak points. Once we’re ready to mobilize, we can sabotage all of Johnathan Custer’s equipment and bases. All my side is missing is the manpower and enough tools for everyone.”
“That’s why my crew is going to get the job done,” Hurrica interrupts, waving her hand at the bomb-makers. Walking to a crate, she pulls out a glob of black clay that makes her fingers tingle. “We haven’t mastered the formula Jimbo gave us yet, but it’s only a matter of time before we have napalm, thermite, C-4, and other explosives. Our chemical suppliers recently raised their prices to livestock instead of prepared meats, so we’re moving a bit slower than usual. Hard to find cows and sheep without running into a Guardian. Anyway, my plan is smarter because it kills some of Johnathan Custer’s people and it’s harder to repair a device that’s been blown up than one that is merely sabotaged.”
“Is this where you make the brownies?” Cassidy asks, wandering over to the crate. She is about to reach in when Hurrica smacks her upside the head and shoves her back to Lloyd. “I only ask because that looks and smells like chocolate. Not really sure what you were going for, but that’s not explosive at all. Maybe you could burn it and hope the fumes are poisonous. Even from here, I can tell that your collection of detonators is old and broken. Those two are dripping fluid for some reason. Also, those dead man switches are backwards. Far too easy to accidentally let go of them.”
Lloyd hears Valerio chuckling, so he cracks his knuckles and takes a plan off the table. “I wouldn’t be too happy since your plan has problems too. If the other schematics are like this one then your information might be older than the guy we barbequed in New Mexico. Trust me when I say that’s bad. By the way, I see three sets of notes here and they contradict each other. Are you going to have agreed upon plans among your saboteurs or does every person get to do things their own way?”
“Well, I hadn’t really thought about that,” Valerio admits, scratching his head. Heading to a blackboard, he stares at the fifteen names and how none of them have listed a completed schematic. “Autonomy would be best. I think that’s the word I’m looking for. I need a brownie to clear my head. Anybody else want one?”
“Give me a half,” Hurrica replies, sniffing at the explosive clay. She drops it back into the crate and grabs a bottle of sanitizer to clean her hands. “I have a feeling our supplier gave Jimbo some bad chemicals. Should have known something was wrong when they came in glass jars and squeeze bottles. Are there any other problems that we should know about?”
Cassidy raises her hand and bounces on her toes as she points out, “Most of the heavy machinery is on the verge of breaking.”
“I think these plans are of a rice cooker,” Lloyd announces from a table.
“That man is eating a sandwich over the chemicals and I saw a tomato fall in.”
“Are all of these wire cutters supposed to be seventy-five percent rust?”
“She’s wearing lubricated condoms on her hands.”
“There’s a dog over there eating what I thought was glue sticks.”
“Don’t forget the guy spying for Johnathan Custer.”
“Oh yeah, can’t forget him.”
Before their hosts can react, Cassidy and Lloyd rush for Jimbo, who leaps way and bolts out the door. Hoping to blend into the crowd the spy sheds his leather jacket, which has a bronze star on the back. Not wearing anything underneath, the man’s large tattoo of Johnathan Custer’s face is visible for all to see. Pictures of Grymer are on one arm while one of Elaine wearing a cloud is on the other, which cause the rebels to point and laugh. He shoves people out of his way and punches one woman who attempts to ask him where he is going. Jimbo stops for a moment when he hears a whoop of delight far behind him and turns to see Cassidy charging after him. Gulping down the lump in his throat, the spy plunges further into the crowd in the hopes of escaping with his next report.
“You better not pay us in brownies,” Lloyd says to Hurrica and Valerio before sprinting to catch up to his partner.