As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Stepping out of the trees, Cassidy and Luca stop to have a drink of water and get a good look at Devils Tower. The butte appears more intimidating than it did from the train, but the two women know they cannot turn back. Vultures circle high above the peak, which the pair hope is easier to reach than they expect. Putting on gloves and tightening their boot laces, they each try to figure out the safest route by locating the largest of the vertical columns that seem to jut out of the imposing stone. Keeping an eye out for snakes, they sprint towards an alcove that will give them a quick and easier start. Their breathing is steadied and they crack their knuckles before coming to a skidding stop at the entrance. To their surprise, a ladder has been bolted to the wall and leads to a wooden walkway, which has been painted to blend into the surrounding stone. If not for a chipmunk sitting on the edge of the path, the two women would have missed it and gone through with a climb that neither one is confident about.
“The rumors must be right about a clan living on the mountain,” Luca says as she hoists herself onto the splintery planks. She scowls at the narrowness of the walkway and how the detailed paintjob makes her fear that there is nothing below her feet. “Before we get too high, are you sure this is worth the effort? I know Katie ordered both of us to retrieve Lloyd, but he could already be dead. You saw the body parts and blood outside his window.”
“Nobody is stopping you from staying behind,” Cassidy replies as she spins to check their flank. She stops at the sight of a snake near her head, but the startled reptile swiftly slithers back into its nest. “Those remains came from one of the kidnappers. Probably killed by Lloyd and torn apart by the local scavengers. After we came through Wyoming the first time, I did a little research on cannibals in case we returned. Most of the clans don’t eat people raw like they want us to think. That myth stops people from attempting rescue missions like we’re doing now. In reality, they prefer to season and cook their food. Some even fatten their victims up over the course of a month. Considering these human munchers went to a lot of trouble to grab Lloyd, I think something else is going on.”
“None of that sounds encouraging,” the bounty hunter mumbles while using her rifle as a walking stick. Her caution pays off when the weapon pushes down a painted plank of wood and reveals that the walkway abruptly ends. “These bastards are pretty cunning. Although, there’s something about this tactic that’s oddly familiar. Looks like we go up since there are handholds screwed into the stone. Might go to another walkway.”
Cassidy gets closer and reaches out to push on the camouflaged plastic, the oddly shaped piece reminding her of an artificial climbing wall. “Give me a minute to look around with the binoculars. I’m trusting Lloyd to stall until we get there, which means we don’t have to go rushing into a trap or dead end. There’s something up there that looks like wood. Not a bad tactic. You have a series of curving walkways that cut off and force an intruder to remain in the open. Seems like a lot of work for cannibals. You have the longer range weapon and I have the binoculars, so let me get past you.”
“This walkway is too narrow for that.”
“It isn’t that bad, so press against the wall.”
“And let you cop a feel below the waist?”
“I’d rather saw my fingers off with a potato peeler.”
“Touch me the wrong way and I’ll toss you from the mountain.”
With a sigh, Cassidy waits for Luca to give her some space, but she knows it is not enough to avoid contact. Getting on her hands and knees, the mercenary slides over the edge of the walkway and grips the edge with all of her strength. The sense of nothing beneath her feet gives her a brief sense of lightheadedness and she fears that a bout of vertigo is about to strike. After taking a few calming breaths, she carefully pulls herself along the short distance to the space in front of the handholds. Cassidy is tempted to look down and see how far they have come, but the creaking of the wooden boards makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Hauling herself back to solid ground, she picks a few splinters out of her gloves in an attempt to act casual.
A cool wind whips around Devils Tower as the women climb the wall in silence. Locating each handhold is a nerve-wracking experience, which is made worse when they begin finding brightly colored pieces of plastic. It is the third one of these suspicious chunks that nearly kills the pair, the object having only been glued onto the mountain instead of bolted down. When it gives way beneath Cassidy’s weight, she works off instinct and attempts to drop back to the safer area. Having forgotten that Luca is right behind her, she lands butt first onto the other woman’s face. The impact is not enough to dislodge the stronger climber, but it leaves the mercenary toppling backwards where she will be too far away to get even a fingertip back on the mountain. She is saved by the bounty hunter catching her ankle and twisting around to get her within reach of one of the lower handholds.
Knowing that Cassidy is not strong enough to save Luca from falling, the pair are forced to move slower. The decoys still detach beneath the brown-haired woman’s powerful grip, but she is always ready for the trap. She freezes whenever the plastic piece gives and gently pulls it away before tossing it far over her shoulder. Having to stretch further for the more stable handholds, their arms and fingers begin to ache from the strain. By the time they reach another walkway, the pair are gritting their teeth and having trouble breathing. They exhaustingly crawl onto solid ground and remain there while they try to recover. It takes several minutes for them to gather enough energy to stand, but they decide to rest a little longer and have some water before continuing the climb.
“Thanks for the save. I’ll take the lead now,” Cassidy says while walking around the other woman. Catching a small growl, the mercenary takes a few more steps away before pulling out a granola bar. “You didn’t have a problem touching me when my life was in danger. Yet, now you’re here acting like I’m planning on riding you into the sunset with a strap-on. What the fuck is your problem with people like me?”
“Look, I don’t like you enough to go into my reasoning, especially since we’re standing on the side of a mountain,” Luca responds without hesitation. Craning her neck, she tries to estimate how much further they have to go, but it comes off as stalling for time. “If it helps, I don’t hate you. Just doesn’t make sense why you would want to pursue a relationship like that. It isn’t like you’ll get a baby out of it. What’s the end game for that kind of stuff?”
“Human contact, feeling loved for who you are, connecting with another person, and some great orgasms,” the mercenary cautiously replies. Wanting to ignore the suspicion in the back of her mind, she focuses on leading the way along the path. “It really isn’t any different than any other relationship. You still laugh, cry, and do all the other couple stuff. Sex is the only thing that really changes since the parts match up differently. As far as the baby thing, why would you want to bring a kid into this world? It’s a fucking nightmarish Hellscape. That’s just my opinion though. If you’re the type who wants to raise a child and protect them with the hope that the world improves when they’re older then more power to you. Who am I to judge?”
“But doesn’t the country and all of the cultures here need new generations to survive?” the bounty hunter innocently asks.
Before Luca can continue talking, a lithe form in orange pants drops onto the walkway behind her. She is not aware of the cannibal’s presence until shatters a wooden baseball bat over her head. Rubbing at the sore spot, the bounty hunter turns around to glare at the wild-haired woman, who is staring at the destroyed weapon. Grabbing her attacker by the face, Luca slams her into the wall and hurls her off the mountain. A cackling laugh and shouts of exhilaration erupt from the plummeting figure until she disappears into the trees. The pair can barely see the body fall out of the branches and bounce against the ground.
“What the fuck are you made out of it?” Cassidy asks after a minute of silence. She stares at her companion’s head, which is marked by a red splotch of blood from the impact. “You didn’t even stumble from that. Are you some kind of android or alien? Dammit, now I sound like Lloyd. Seriously though, how did that not hurt you?”
“It did, but I’m used to shrugging off shots like that,” Luca admits with a chuckle. Taking another look at the cannibal, she shivers at the cackle that is still echoing in her ears. “It was like she was on a roller coaster and having fun. Which clan are we dealing with here? That look on your face tells me that you have an idea.”
“I don’t, but I wish we had her to interrogate,” the mercenary replies as she draws a knife from her belt. Spotting a shadow, she ducks a pool cue and spins in order to slam the weapon into the side of another cannibal. “You’re going to bleed out unless I give you the bandages in my backpack. Tell me who we’re dealing with and why you wanted my friend. Do it by the time I count to ten and you’ll have a chance to survive.”
“Always wanted to fly,” the man says before sticking out his tongue. He leaps off the walkway and spreads his arms out like they are wings. “I wish I could whistle, so I can only say tweet tweet. Have fun at the top, bitches!”
Luca cannot avert her gaze from the scene even when the cannibal splatters against a boulder on the ground. “Was he really flapping his arms at the end? That’s so bizarre. Like something out of a cartoon.”
“Orange pants . . . insanity . . . cartoons . . . Oh, fucking hell!” Cassidy shouts as she hurries along the walkway.