IV. Blood on the Bike
Two Mad Dogs and a Pack of Bikers Rain Blood All Over Town...
There was something about his eyes as the life slipped away from them. Like a never-ending sheen in the cobalt night, even as the electric skyscrapers towered over him. With a wave of her gloved hand, Lita closed his eyes forever.
“Time for your pyre, friend,” she muttered. With a flick of her thumb, she struck the match. The flames roared up the trail of oil leading to the black bike, and the young red wolf that was propped up against it. It all went up in seconds.
Lita jogged back to the Red Devil, the Bug idling softly in the fire’s light. When the twenty-something dark gray climbed in, she wrapped her arms around Ash tightly. The white wolf couldn’t get a hold of herself if she put a handle on her head. Chuck, for all his size and strength, gently pulled her into the backseat, taking over the consoling. The black prizefighter looked up to Lita through the rear-view.
“Fifth kid they took.”
Lita looked right back at him through the mirror. “And it’s gonna be their last. Let’s get you guys back home. Leo’s boys outta be in town soon.”
Chuck nodded as Lita put the car in gear and opened him up gently.
The fifth. The gang had gone through at least five youths in five days. Every young biker was seemingly up for grabs, but neither the street fighters nor Lita herself could stomach the sight of anyone that young getting it in the head for the crime of rocking a hog on the wrong street.
Once she had dropped them off at their pad in the Eastern District, she kicked things up a notch to make her meeting with the next batch of soldiers from the Force. She didn’t thrill in the drive as she once had, especially with the heap of things on her plate.
When she reached the rendezvous point, she was met with the sight of bikers, a decent sized pack too. She wanted to plow right through them on site before she recognized the face. It was her man for the mission. She kicked the brakes and called out.
The soldier waved and rolled up to the Bug.
Martin Archer Douglas was Lita’s kind of biker. A tough sonofabitch, but one playing for the team, and it looked like he had brought quite the company.
“What’s shakin’ ‘round here?” he asked.
“I dunno,” Lita teased, “Aren’t you out here to make sure I don’t have a screw loose?”
“If that was the point, I wouldn’t be heading this shindig, would I Pal?”
The two chuckled among themselves before Lita got down to brass tacks.
“I’ll take you down the street, the cams haven’t been replaced yet. I’ll take you on the whole route as I remember, right up to 607. From there, you got questions? Hit me. Otherwise, we’ll knock out a proper report at my pad, knock back a couple of shots, and send y’all back to the Principal’s office.”
“And MAD Dog?”
Lita took a deep breath. “We got trouble on two wheels running ‘round the joint. Nixed five already. I know one head I want over the mantel. Keep your boys in line and make sure if we gotta throw down, we get the bastard.”
With a stone faced nod, the gray wolf whistled for his men, all ten bikers following the Red Devil to their first destination.
The scorched marks where electric eyes once sat on the facades of the buildings left Martin particularly puzzled. Lita brought her caravan to a stop before chatting with him about it.
“She never healed those. Man, I don’t know why. Whatever we did musta hurt something fierce.”
“Well, this is one point in your favor,” he said, “That nanotech woulda kicked in the second you laid into ‘em. And it’s been what, two weeks?”
“Yeah, that shit ain’t smelling right Pal, not the way Ace rolls. And you said the dome was just dead ahead.”
With a second nod, she pulled forward, bikes in tow, and stopped exactly where the metal wall stood.
“No traces here though,” Martin observed.
“Well when I’m told you have a dimension alternator, it’s not a gateway into the 4th, and I triple checked we didn’t have some monster mescaline before going out, I’m not sure traces are to be left at all.
“Except for that,” the gray soldier noted, pointing towards the distant wreck of Station 607.
“That was the nexus from what I understood. Where they kept all the computers and shit to keep the thing afloat.”
“And went through an entire subsection of the City, to reach a building down the block?”
“Why does this bitch always make the most mental shit happen here?”
Lita shrugged, “Talk to me when you’ve been on the Earth 200 years.”
Martin went to talk, but could only come up chuckling. “Alright, you win Pal. Wanna check the wreckage?”
“HELL NAW!” she barked.
“Those HOV-CRAFT can turn over on a dime Man, and even if she hasn’t touched this block, I don’t wanna know if they come back from the grave.”
Martin inched his blood-red bike forward. “Let me peak a little, you’ve got some hot shit on your hands after all.”
She didn’t even have the chance to answer before the Indian roared on ahead. With a heavy sigh, Lita waved the unit on and opened the Red Devil up.
“Let’s keep ‘em in line, Little Man.”
Soon enough, the group were there at the scene, the station still as bombed out as before. Charred rubble, scorched metal, all the fixings of a burnt-out building.
As the team had begun rummaging through the wreck, Martin had questions.
“Where are the ‘banks?”
Lita stood puzzled. “The hell you mean?”
“We ain’t finding anything. No reel-to-reels, no chips, nothing. It’s just linoleum, wood, and your, eh, friends.”
Lita leaped out of the Bug and dove head first into the rubble. With flailing legs, and fistfuls of concrete in each hand, she bore a hole through the rubble, only to find…nothing. It really wasn’t there.
“Think there might be any data logs on the HOV-CRAFT?” Martin ventured.
Lita hocked and spat at the metallic devils before replying. “It’s a slim chance, she erased all traces of base when that big ball o’ white hit us. Y’all saw Nic’s blank pics, right?”
The gray soldier nodded before looking to the silver beasts. “Slim but our only. Start prying boys!”
The unit whipped out their pocket welding torches and got straight to work. But as the quiet hums sliced through the autocops’ shells, a rumbling cut through the blue of the evening. At first there was one, but soon the rumbling grew in both volume and quantity. It could’ve been ten, maybe fifteen at the most. And however many it was, they moved fast.
When Lita’s ears perked up, she shot a look Martin’s way, who looked right back at her. With a nod between them, he called the men off, all ten bikers mounting their rides. Lita swung herself through the Red Devil’s window and into the driver’s seat. She wrapped her left hand on the wheel and the right hand on top of the gearshift. She could feel the sweat seeping from the pads of her paws. She started to rev the Red Devil up, the claws sinking into suede as she slammed the gas down over and over.
“Off our turf!” barked the gray at the head of the pack. In fact, the entire gang were grays. Only thing that made this guy special was the eyepatch over his left eye. God did she want that eyepatch under her wheels.
“No dice jagoff!” Martin growled in kind. “We got business here!”
“Peddling radium, are we? Getting a little action?”
Martin and Lita exchanged cockeyed glances before looking back to the gang, the bikers’ revs growing ever louder.
“Try again you goddamned deadweights!” he roared. “Seeing about fixing a certain something in Empire Square!”
The gang stirred up a racket that could bring down half the Tower Network of the city. Lita responded with a roar of her own.
“Fine then,” she sneered, “LET’S TALK YOUR LINGO FUCKFACE! THIS ONE’S FOR THE BLOOD DRIVE!”
She could practically feel the crushed head under her claws as she pinned the throttle down and blew past Martin’s crew. He and the unit followed suit as she raced headlong into the rumble.
The gang of grays were armed to the teeth, and weren’t ready to back down for a second. The leader reared up on his bike’s back wheels and lead the charge, a chain whipping about his head as he readied to strike the Red Devil.
When Bug and bike met, sparks flew in every direction. The chain scraped the hood with a shriek as Lita kept him rolling. The leader managed to swing out of his path, the dogs behind him getting a rude awakening at 150 miles an hour. Blood and oil flew into the air as bone and metal were crushed under wheel. Lita was loving every second of it.
Martin wasn’t that far off. He and his Garand were divorcing ride from rider at a swift clip. The purple laser-fire went right for the head and never strayed a millimeter off target. Backed by crack shots from the Resistance, the gang seemed licked.
Until backup arrived.
They were grays as well, but built like the biggest brick shithouses on the block. Broad shoulders, wrapped in leather, astride chopped hogs with tires thick as the road. And they came to kill.
Two of Martin’s unit got a single shot in the throat, Lita quick to put herself between the Resistance’s team and the gang, swinging the back of the Bug into the second wave and wiping out four in one fell swoop. She leaned on the gas as she barreled over them, tires smoking and screaming madly.
The madness didn’t seem to end for Lita and Martin. For every biker they did away with, five would take their place. And for every pool of blood on the concrete, another bike would come careening in to avenge the fallen gangsters. It was when Martin had lost another two that he sent the rest of the unit away.
“I ain’t losing no more men to this, Lita,” he said over radio. “If we’re gonna lick these bastards, it’s you and me, no more.”
Lita clutched the CB in her gloved mitts and said with a smile: “You’re on.”
To cover the retreat, out came Lita’s Dragunov, lighting into every dome she could get in her sights. Driving was a bit of a hassle, her left knee steering and her right foot planted on the gas. But it was doing the trick as she wasted wave after wave. Only to take a lamppost to the bull bar.
The momentum threw her head against the butt of the gun, and onto the steering wheel. Martin couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he kept fending off the gray hordes.
Lita swung the rifle back into its rack before whipping out her Wildey and pulling away from the light. When she brought the Red Devil into place and pounced on the throttle, something caught the corner of her eye. Something long, slender, and silver, with a streak of black up its center.
Autocops. A whole squad of them.
Lita looked to the pandemonium and shouted at the top of her lungs.
To her surprise, everyone stopped on a dime.
“THE FUZZ ARE COMING!”
Vacant stares were traded between the warring sides, like a giant pause button was pressed. Then came time to press play.
“For fuck’s sake,” Lita sighed. “WE GONNA FRY SOME FUCKING BACON OR WHAT?”
After a collective blink, her pirate rival made the call.
“Well boys, looks like pork’s on the menu tonight.”
In no time at all, twenty wolves who were at once slaughtering and being slaughtered were sent raging forward towards the fleet of HOV-CRAFTs. Martin and Lita sat back for a minute. And only a minute.
“Wanna call the Boys back?” Lita asked.
Martin went to radio, but stopped himself. “Four dead’s too many for this hound.”
The pang of guilt sat with Lita for while, but Martin didn’t let her stew.
“We ain’t honoring them by sitting on our asses Bitch, get moving!”
She nodded and floored the Red Devil without hesitation, Martin roaring up alongside her as they raced to the second rumble of the evening.
The gang were wailing away on the autocops, but the autocops were just as easily sending bikers left and right out into alleyways, whipping the leather-clad rag dolls around with a single blast. Martin’s Garand was giving every hover engine the best work-over he could, but even he was having trouble getting the best angle on them. That was when the idea hit her.
“Maybe these aren’t pigs,” she chuckled, “Maybe we got some cows to tip.”
Down the accelerator went, the Bug roaring and hurtling ahead of Martin, blowing by the hordes of spiked mohawks and well-worn leather jackets. Faster and faster the Red Devil sped, Lita’s crimson eyes afire as she shifted furiously. With a final crush of the gas, the Bug hurled itself under the nose of the autocop and kicked onto his back wheels, flipping the mechanical law machine up on its tail, in turn sending every HOV-CRAFT behind it into the exact same position.
“Good boy,” she growled to the Bug, revving him up, “Thank God for the hive-mind, huh?” She swung her head out the car’s window, and with a cock of her Wildey shouted, “COME AND GET IT BOYS!”
It was like the greatest game of target practice they’d ever had, pumping every hover engine with electric lead until, at last, they detonated, and the autocop fleet went up in a wall of blue flames. The gang, Martin, and Lita all went roaring away from the blast.
Having retreated to their original battlefield, Martin and Lita decided it was finally time to talk with the crew.
“HEY, BAZOOKA JOE, COME DOWN TO THE CENTER!” Martin barked. He dismounted, and sat his Garand on the seat. Lita joined him, flashing her handguns before leaving them in the Red Devil and stepping out. Sure enough, from out of the remaining horde came her cat with the eyepatch. He rocked a leather vest, bare-chested. He was also tall. Really, really tall.
“Name’s Malten. Mack Malten.” His voice was built like a tank.
“Well, dig this Mack,” Lita started. “I want to hear straight from the horses’ mouth: you killed the five down on Bleaker?”
There was a blank stare from the towering gray.
Lita returned the empty gaze. “Haven’t killed five teens down East?”
“Not a single dead kid under the age of 20?”
Mack gave pause before shaking his head. “Nope, not a one.”
Martin looked to Lita, absolutely baffled. “So four of my men die because you think we’re honing in on your turf and you aren’t even the crew who snuffed out what she’s pissed about?”
Mack looked the maddened gray in his eyes. “You also happened to kill…shit, Benny count the bodies!”
They never saw Benny, but they heard him alright.
“TWENTY-THREE!” came the shriek.
“So we got 32 dead hounds between us. And I’m sure the four who did your guys in is among the dead.” Mack said calmly.
“Actually!” answered Benny. Without missing a beat, Mack whipped around, gun drawn, and blew the cat’s head open.
“And if ANY of you have a lick of honor,” Mack finished, “Put yours to the temple, or I’ll fix it for ya.”
After a breath of silence, another round went off among the gang, followed by the slump of the body.
“Well, now we’re even,” the biker continued, “Whaddya want us to do?”
“Give us a sec,” excused Lita as she pulled Martin aside. Both wolves’ eyes were fit to fly out of their sockets.
“You’ve really done it this time!” he tersely whispered. “Fucking nuttiest bunch I ever met in my damn life.”
Lita looked back to him like she was on a speed trip. “Man, if I fucking knew this shit would go down like this, I would’ve kicked you in the nuts to get you away from 607.”
“In your fucking town,” MAD Dog went off, “Only shit this fucktacularly fruity could go down! Dimension alternators, incompetent policecraft, getting into the dumbest fucking war since 1812, and I had to lose four men over it!”
Her backhand finally snapped him out of it.
“Bro, I didn’t want this shit happening either,” she pleaded. “But look at me. We got two problems to solve. Your mission and those kids out there. Your mission is finding something, anything to prove that what happened to Nic and I wasn’t a fever dream, and mine’s to get this prowling prick off the streets. I had to burn five kids bodies ‘cuz we can’t bury no one out here. You lost four good soldiers. And we just wasted a shit-ton of these guys. Everyone’s fucking dying man. How ‘bout we fix that right here, right now?”
At last, Martin saw sense. He turned to look at Mack. He extended his gloved hand. “How about a truce with some conditions?”
The biker shook it firmly. “What you have in mind?”
“Some of your boys help the rest of my unit and I scavenge 607. And some go with Lita here to try and nab her killer.”
Mack looked back to the men behind him. “How many of yas is backup?”
Ten wolves raised their hands, Mack acknowledging them with a nod.
“Right, piss off then and thanks for the help. The rest of you get split 50/50.”
And just like that, Martin rode off with a pack of bikers at his back, and a lot of explaining to do to his troop. The plan was to rendezvous back at their entrance point with the findings of the survey, and hopefully the head of their killer.
Lita brought the gang to what she called “the east side of the bad side of the wrong side.” In short, home sweet home for Mack and his boys.
“Did a little arithmetic,” she said, “And figured he’s liable to strike anywhere in this particular corner of the district. That alley right there was where I took care of last night’s body.”
“Mean fucker chasing kids,” Mack spat. “Hope I get my hands on him and ring his neck out of orbit.”
“Can I squish his head when you’re done?” she asked playfully.
The gray biker chuckled. “If I didn’t have a bird to go home to, I’d grab your number right here and now.”
“Well lucky for you,” she smiled, “I’ve got a man myself.”
Mack crossed his arms in playful indignance. “Lucky bastard he must be. Getting a bitch like you’s the crown jewel of the whole game, init?”
Lita smirked. “Well, he’s outta town most days, but every day we’re together, it’s paradise.” She kicked her paws up on the wheel as they waited. She took to polishing her guns in the meantime. When she got to the barrel of the Wildey, Mack couldn’t hold it in.
“Don’t know which hot rod to be jealous of!” he guffawed. The brazenness of it all sent Lita into a fit of laughter.
“Hey, you ain’t bad for a hog-rider.” she teased. “Hol’ up, looks like patrol’s back around.”
A member of the gang, a 30-something on the edge of 17, was the bait for the evening. He was in a bandanna cap like Mack’s, and had taken to casually riding the beat. Waiting for something, anything to jump out at him. And from every corner, the eyes of the gang watched and waited too.
Yet among the crowd, a pair of cold white eyes stood out. Just the eyes. It was almost formless. In a way, Lita and Mack sensed it was. The bait had rolled just in front of it when the eyes started moving. Closer and closer the static whites floated until, in a single swift move, lunged at the biker, sending him tumbling onto the road. And when the blood started flying, so did Lita, Mack, and the whole gang.
The muscle bum-rushed the floating eyes, grabbing at the shoulders, back, and legs of the invisible force. And after plenty of roughing up, finally revealed that the invisibility was indeed artifice. But the wolf behind it wasn’t. He was a tan wolf, shagged and haggard for any age, let alone the 20-something they could see him for.
When Lita looked on him, she stood disgusted with the wretch, yet pleased with the gang.
“You must be one of the Blade’s disciples?” she asked.
The crazed hound could only cackle at the thought. “He was quick with his augs, wasn’t he?”
“Not quick enough.” she grinned deviously. “Wanna take him for a spin, Mack?”
The towering gray gladly picked him up from his pack by the shoulders.
“I hear you’s been killing nippers on wheels out here.” he said coldly, “That true?”
“It’s called getting some kicks. Ain’t no one would miss them—ACK!”
True to his word, Mack threw both hands on the killer’s neck and started ringing the life out of him. It was like an old Indian rug burn, handcrafted for the trachea. And boy could this dog squeeze! Two big burly biker mitts just rolling the neck around like a pound of sausage. Once Mack had reached a point of contentment, he dropped him on the road.
“All yours,” he saluted, carefully pinning him down with the thick rear wheels of his bike.
Lita hopped back behind the wheel of the Red Devil and started revving him up. Each press of the pedal brought out every claw, the anticipation bringing every drop of blood to a red-hot boil. She was gonna enjoy this one.
She shifted her Bug into gear and pounced on the gas, the car lurching forward with screeching tires as he careened closer and closer to the monster on the road. But in an instant, she slammed both feet on the brake and clutch, the Bug skidding and sliding to a stop, just an inch from his head.
“Going soft Li?” Mack teased.
Lita smiled. “Not at all. Just savoring it.”
She looked down at the Killer one last time. His snout was bloodied from the tackling, and his eyes bloodshot from the long nights of prowling and slaughtering. Almost as if she just realized what she was about to do, she looked back to the footwell, her right paw resting on the throttle. She knuckled the suede before looking back to the head, and without a second thought, slammed her foot down.
Lita stopped when she knew the Bug’s back tires were over his caved-in head. She looked over to Mack with a cruel gleam in her eye.
“I take heads, you take tails?”
She was shot the strangest look before the biker nodded, and the duo proceeded to burnout on the body until they were satisfied with the job. All that remained was its torso. No one bothered to drop a match on it.
When she brought the rest of the biker crew to meet up with Martin and his team, the first thing he said, to no one in particular, “This has got to be the sickest bitch I’ve ever met in my life.”
“Lil’ ol’ me?” she innocently asked, eyelashes aflutter.
“Killer caught?” Martin pressed.
“Caught, cooked, dead as a doornail.” Mack replied.
Martin nodded contently. “And the good news for Little Miss Batshit over there is that she isn’t as much of a headcase as we thought.”
The gray soldier produced a single reel of non-magnetic electrotape.
“Her fail-safe failed.” he beamed. “Prelim scans show we’ve got at least encrypted docs and some maintenance schedules. And if a rod from God doesn’t strike us (knock on your wood furnishings), full readout will be done on Base.”
He slid the reel into his satchel and shook hands with Lita and Mack before mounting his Indian bike and waving his company on.
“Hang loose Pal,” he grinned, “And uh…sorry ‘bout the mess…will have a lot of talking things over with the Big Guy.”
With that, the unit mounted and hightailed it into the dark blue mist of the City once more. As the biker gang reconvened, Mack hopped off his bike and leaned up against the Red Devil.
“Want to talk serious business.” he starts.
Lita was curious. “What’s on your mind?”
“Alliances, networking.” It wasn’t normal gang talk the way he told it. “That shit by 607 was a crock if I ever saw one. And that’s on me. And I know we all got what we needed done, but I want to promise you…anytime, any place…”
He dug into his pocket, whipped out a pen and paper and scribbled out a number. “You need more muscle, we’ll be there.”
She took the paper with a smile, and dug deep into her glove box.
She slipped two joints in her mouth and struck a match on the claw of her thumb. Lighting both, she handed the other to Mack, who took the sweetest drag of his life off of it.
“You a real one.”
“Realest bitch on the block.” she giggled.
With two joints and a dead killer between them, Haven’s lone crusader against electric tyranny was about to grow an unstoppable force of freedom fighters. It’d take time, it’d take convincing, and it’d take blood, but with tough troops like Mack Malten’s gang at her back, it looked like the start of a beautiful, grungy empire for justice. Now to make it take hold.
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