The GB-7 hover stagecoach stopped right in front of Jim and Maenad. Its engine hummed quietly as it displaced all the dirt on the ground around its parameter. Golden tassels covered the windows all around the top of the wooden structure. Armed soldiers walked up to the doors and opened them quickly. Large wooden stairs appeared from the darkness of the air-conditioned cab and flopped out like a giants tongue; the strong odder of cherry blossom perfume hit Maenad square in the face as he squinted at the figures inside. The rich governors of the lands up north always rolled up in style; it didn’t matter what the occasion was. They were all bureaucrats in the end and just couldn’t leave their guilty comforts back in the cities were they belonged. They could be going to their own execution and still want to look good.
“Well, here you are! You look just as I had left you back in the prison, dirty and forlorn as-ever… I don’t pity you one bit!” examined Governor Smash from inside the carriage. His tone sounded almost jocular. He seemed to be in a good mood.
“Here I am,” repeated Maenad as he watched the Governor of Wichita come to the threshold of the carriage and take in a valium of dry air. The chubby man emerged slowly and squinted his eyes at the bright dystopian landscape before him. He stretched his thick limbs toward the bright blue firmament and listened as each bone in his back popped with protest. He let out a big sigh of relief as his muscles relaxed and fell back into place. Today had ended on an extremely good note; Maenad had been an answer to his political prayers.
To Maenad, Governor Smash looked like an old desert shaman. The fat man must have thought himself a God the way he reached out to the sky in satisfaction. Heck, a foolish man probably would have believed that the governor could have pulled the rain down from its hiding place above. William T. Smash was just one of those low life politicians that knew how to make and entrance, no matter where he was on the planet. Smash’s penetrating eyes looked out over the smoldering wreckage in the background with childish delight. It was like a dream come true for him. It seemed that the impossible had been made possible with a little bit of brain power. The legendary Bullet Train was out of commission forever; Maenad had done it just like he had promised he would. Smash was satisfied with what had taken place here.
“It seems you boys were hard at work while I was gone attending to my political duties.” He smiled real big and clasped his hands together tightly; he started rubbing them back and forth like a greed old miser, “this coming election is going to be the start of something new, I plain to make some big changes up north in Balballing City. You could even go so far as to say I am starting my redecorating procedures for the future,” he waved his hand to the side as if pushing the thought away. Smash knew the dirty old outlaw wouldn’t care anyway about his political philandering, “I won’t bore you boys with the details of my business; let’s just say that this Bullet Train going down wasn’t my only big investment for the quarterlies. There are far better things to discover then gold and train wrecks up north.” His eyes shifted around the countryside smugly “where’s the rest of the gang I sent you with? They hiding somewhere?”
“There all dead.” said Maenad with the same flatness as before.
Smash’s eyebrow rose slightly as he put his hands on his hips. He thought to himself, Frank was right about one thing; it truly was a suicide mission, “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that news. Heck, I thought you all dead when I witness this here Bullet Train tarring through the valley from the horizon on the yonder, but I guess you proved me wrong. It is hard for someone to prove me wrong in this economy and you went and did it!” He laughed and pointed pompously to the outlaw on the ground before him, “The great Maenad proved me wrong, boys!” He was getting sarcastic now as he took a few steps forward on the Tarmac. His fancy shoes kicked up the dust and dirt.
Maenad didn’t know if he was drunk or stupid, but the governor was acting strange.
“This lump of underprivileged dirt was right. He could do it!”
The soldiers around the carriage were quiet. They knew better than to laugh.
“Father, I want to see the damaged Bullet Train,” came a softer, feminine voice from behind. It sounded almost uninterested in what was happening at the moment between Smash and Maenad, “You promised me that I could see the train when we arrived.”
Governor Smash rolled his eyes and looked down at the ground, “well I’m not stopping you from leaving the confines of the hover stagecoach am I sweetheart. You can get out and look whenever you are good and ready.” He turned and looked as his spoiled daughter emerged from the darkness of the hover cab. She climbed down the thick wooden stairs as gracefully as she could muster, being careful the whole time not to trip over her opal incrusted dress boots. She was holding on to her white tasseled umbrella as she looked out over the Desert Tarmac in wonder. There was a strange asymmetrical beauty about the Tarmac landscape; all the unadorned colors seemed to blind together like bark on a tree. The whole carriage ride into the dead lands had taken her breath away. She had never been this far away from Wichita City before; everything seem so adventurous and dangerous this far out.
The only down side to the journey was the dreaded atmosphere; her beautiful complexion was taking quite a beating being this far from home. Up north, her skin was as smooth and soft as silk, and her eyes more contemplative then a lions. Here it’s so hot your skin cracks on the slightest breeze, and your eye’s squint from the reflection of the iron sediment. Up north, she breathed in the air smoothly and without pain. Here the air seemed to chock you every chance it got, it was wretched to say in the least. She was quite convinced that the devil himself had made this horrible place. She cringed slightly as the smell of burning petroleum hit her sense like a burn holiday roast. She couldn’t see why her daddy was so interested in all this train wreck business. It was both ugly and smelly.
“Daddy, why are we here?” she gazed over to her father and studied his posture, “I thought Jesse was going to take care of all this nonsense for us? We could have vacationed out here, but in a nicer place, a place with more moisture in the air perhaps.” She cleared her throat as delicately as possible and continued “We could have stayed at home and gone to the theater. I man most certain that some of my thespian friends will be playing tonight.” She paused and thought for a minute, “how I love the theater.”
Smash groaned inside at all the ridiculous questions; he hadn’t even wanted his daughter to come on the trip in the first place, but he was a sucker to her prodding. She had complained none stop before they left that she never got to see the world outside of Wichita City. Smash agree that she could come so long as she followed orders and remained as close to Jesse as possible. Whatever little Christina wanted, she got; no exceptions, “Now my little Wichita Peach, can’t you see that I am taking care of business here with the dirty gentleman on the ground? Wait in the carriage and I’ll let you see everything later, okay? Don’t make me regret my decision to bring you?” He turned back to Maenad.
“I am not your peach any more, father. I am old enough now to make my own choices without a man looking over my shoulder!” she protested sternly so that everyone could hear. “I know my rights as part of the upper crust. I am a grown woman now with prospects and I want to see the wreckage for myself; I want to see the outside world for myself,” she lowered her voice a bit and put on an edge. “I would also like to see the indigenous people of this land. I hear they can be pretty uncultivated, and I dear say, wild at times!” She shot a glance at Jim who was standing by Maenad and smiled slightly. The boy had a nice figure, and she wanted him to know that she was interested. Flirting was an art, and it had to be done carefully. The dirty desert boy reminded Christina of the wild men in her romance novels at home.
Jim caught the expression from Christina and nearly fell over. He tried to smile back playfully but his head was throbbing like a strobe light from the fatigue of the train wreck. He wasn’t in his right mind as of the moment; maybe he had imagined the whole thing. He finally came to the conclusion that I would be best not to say anything.
“Okay, whatever you say Christina. Until you find the right man to put up with your nonsense, I own you. Now get back in the carriage” Smashed waved his big meaty hand at her as if to dismiss. He just wanted to get back to business and stop talking about the useless thing of life. His will to power was way more important than his daughter’s petty wants.
“No,” resounded Christina.
Smash gritted his teeth. He felt like shooting her, “Fine, just don’t go wondering off into the desert. The last thing I need is a ransom on my hands for you.”
“I promise I won’t wonder off, father, and I plan to find a man soon.” Christina winked slightly at Jim and flipped her dark brown hair over her shoulders. She had never seen a desert wretch so handsome before in her life. Jim was just like all thoughts tough cowboys that she read about in the papers, heck, he even looked like the ones in the comic books. “Who knows what kind of wild men are out there waiting to scoop a delicate little flower like me up… and take me away into the sun set.” She paused, and pursed her lips as if to blow Jim a kiss, but then retreated slightly from the motion. She had always wanted a wild man to take care of her.
Jim didn’t know what was going on.
“I suppose I owe you something now, huh?” stated Smash as he looked back over to Maenad with contempt; he was trying hard to ignore Christina. The damn girl was making it almost impossible to conduct business.
Maenad was quiet.
“I suppose you want your freedom and gold, huh?”
Maenad didn’t move; primarily because it hurt to move at the moment. His body felt like it would fall apart at the slightest breeze, “You can keep all the gold for yourself Smash. I don’t want it; I just want my freedom. I want to see an old friend in Wichita.”
Smash laughed at this ridiculous statement. It was pretty rear to see an outlaw give up money so easily. There was always a catch with these guys, always, “Damn right I am going to keep it, boy. That was my plan from the beginning. I planned to keep it all for the campaign I am about to run on the northern colonies. I just needed a crazy fool like yourself to do it for me, someone that was expendable and experienced. It’s a good thing we pulled you out of prison when we did. My adviser called me a fool for coming up with the whole thing but I guess he was wrong.” Smash turned and looked at the stagecoach behind him. There was a dark, ominous figure standing outside of it now. He was dressed in formfitting cowboy clothes and had his arms crossed over his chest. The man looked challengingly at Maenad.
“Isn’t that right, Jesse?” asked Smash.
Jesse nodded his head slightly and then continued to chew on the tooth pick in his mouth. Smash chuckled under his breath. Jesse was a man of very little words.
“You’ll have to excuse him, Maenad. He gets a little strange around another outlaw like yourself. He feels a little challenged by your presence; and rightfully so. He’s heard of your greatness and glory around the Tarmac… why, he was begging me to let him kill you on the way here. To let me give you guys a little duel or something along thoughts lines.” Smash pulled out a white handkerchief and dabbed his forehead slightly. The heat of the day was radiating from off the ground like a frying pan, “I think it’s ridiculous how you outlaws just kill each other so senselessly, fallowing all these weird rules and procedures in your code of conduct. I say if you’re going to kill someone just do it and get it over with.”
Maenad eyeballed the dark man standing by the stagecoach. He had heard of Jesse Franklin on multiple occasions around the desert. He was one of the few outlaws that actually held employment with a high Governor of the land. Usually outlaws like Jesse Franklin wound up killing their employer after a year or so for greedy purposes. It was strange to see that this had never happened. He was Smashes personal bodyguard for life.
“Daddy, can I have this one as a boyfriend? I am most certain that he is a proletarian by birth and is subject under aristocratic rule of the northern colonies. Just looked at the way he stands and most importantly smells.” She smiled slightly and took a step backwards from Jim to look at her father, “and if he isn’t under aristocratic rule, he will be when we get back to Wichita City. We can brand him up there can’t we?”
Governor Smash looked over to his little girl with utter amazement. She was out here in the middle of nowhere and still she managed to surprise him with her requests. Christina was hovering around Jim, touching the boys dirty clothing and feeling his muscular arms. Here we go, thought Smash with a grimace. She’s at it again.
“You want that scrawny little thing?”
“Yes, he’s got sexy eyes,” stated Christina firmly. When it came to getting what she wanted she was not afraid to be blunt and to the point with her father, “and he help bring down Governor Whitecliff’s Bullet Train like you wanted. I think he might be someone well qualified for my hand in marriage, don’t you think?”
Jim felt the blood rush to his cheeks. He didn’t know what to say.
“You just had a boyfriend, didn’t you Christina?”
“Yes, and you shot him dead before I could introduce him to all my friends! I had even planed a party for everyone and you went and did it anyway; regardless of my feelings. If mommy were still alive she would have a few words to say to you. I had to tell my friends that he ran away on business; they didn’t believe me either, I could tell!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. Her dad had always been over protective of her when it came to strange men, “Just like all the other boys that didn’t make the grade in your eyes! You put them through the worst tasks, daddy, the worst tasks. I want one that will last the testing, I want this one!”
Smash was going to protest but he stopped himself as Christina’s words sank deep into his mind. He looked over to Jim and studied the boy carefully, thousands of thoughts filled his brain as he weight the outcome of what this could mean for him. He had to know if Jim had help bring down the train. He had to know “did you help bring down this train?”
Jim could feel the blood rush out of his appendages as the questions was directed to him. Only his uncle Frank real got to talk to Governor Smash this personally, “yes sir, I helped bring it down!”
“So you actually got onto this train and survived the storm and the crash?”
Jim looked behind him at the wreckage, “Yes sir, I did”
Smash looked over to Maenad for confirmation, “is this true outlaw, did the boy help you bring down the train?”
Maenad looked at the Governor of Wichita questioningly; he could see a hidden motive burning brightly in his dark eyes, “yes, it’s true, Jim did most of it.”
Smash started to laugh. He turned to Jesse and smiled devilishly, “I think we found a really good candidate for my daughters hand in marriage, don’t you think.”
Jesse smiled slightly and studied the boy.
“Does this mean I can keep him,” asked Christina.
“Okay, okay, okay.” Governor Smash signaled for some soldiers to take Jim and put him in one of the storage units in the back. He was feeling really good about this particular deal, plus it would get his daughter off his back for a while. When they got back to the city they would start the test on the boy to see if he were even someone of interest, “I suppose he did survive the Train wreck, but if he tries to put the moves on you before the wedding or the testing is done then it’s over for him! You hear me young lady?”
“Yes, Daddy,” Christina seemed pleased.
“What?!” Jim was shocked at the whole conversation that had just taken place. It was as thought he had no say in the matter what-so-ever. He could barley react before he was seized by three armed soldiers from behind. They began to haul him away to the storage bin by force. Jim had heard about forced weddings before out on the Tarmac by rich dignitaries, but he never thought it would happen to him. It usually only happened to peasant woman that caught the eyes of the rich governors up north. That law didn’t apply out here; did it?
“Maenad, do something!” yelled Jim as he struggled to get free.
Maenad remained seated on the rough ground; his sight was turning black and white with every breath he took. Blood was still running from his wounds as he watched them take Jim away. There was really nothing he could do about the situation. He was too weak and tired to stop anyone.
“There’s nothing I can do, kid!” He looked over to Smash. “You know the laws.”
“It’s okay, I am sure Jim and my daughter will have a happy life together and all that jazz. He’ll pose as a good man servant at social events if nothing else,” said Smash incredulously. He knew that Jim wouldn’t survive long back at the mansion if he were lying about bring the Bullet Train down. The other boy’s that had gone through the tests never survived the winter season. It took a really tough person to get into Smash’s family circle, a really tough person. His daughter was a very compulsive person; but who knows, it could be love this time. Maybe the boy will survive the testing.
Christina squealed with delight, “Finally, a real man!”
“Maenad, help me!” yelled Jim as he disappeared in to the crowd of soldiers.
“And what are you going to do with me?” asked Maenad.
Governor Smash smiled real big. His white teeth almost seemed fake in the sunlight.
“I plan to put you right back in Wichita jail where I found you. Once you are fully recovered, and all that jazz, I plan to send Jesse here to the prison to finish you off like outlaws do. Apparently there are rules to follow with all this garbage about outlaws killing one another. He wants you at your prime before he kills you,” Smash chuckled with amusement, “heck, by then I might have two outlaws to finish you off in jail. I was always told by me father to keep my assets close. You Maenad have served your purpose.”
Maenad didn’t move; he was no one’s property.
Smash signaled for the soldier’s to come take Maenad away.
“I think that you’ll find that in a year’s time all of Wichita City will be mine. I can’t wait to see Governor Whitecliff’s face when I get back from this trip… heck I can’t wait to see his face at the hanging when I become supreme Governor of the land.” Smash could hear the snap of the old Governor’s neck now as he swayed back and forth on the gallows just outside the Wichita City prison yard. The people of Wichita would call him a God!
Four solders approached and dropped a case of shiny gold in front of Smash. The heavy coins chimed softly as he ran his fat hands over each piece on the service. It was like the singing of the angels to his weary ears. Each piece would buy him his future.
“It’s all there and accounted for, sir,” said the solder. “We are unloading it now”
“Good,” smiled Smash wickedly, “Good.”
Maenad came to his feet and put his hands behind his back as the soldiers readied him for transport. He had been arrested before, he knew the drill, and it wasn’t uncommon for the rich to take advantage of the outlaws of the desert. At least he would go back to jail freed of all charges of murder and conspiracy on the northern colonies. At least he wouldn’t die in front of the firing squad like all the other wretches that ever stole from anyone important. Maenad knew that Governor Smash would keep him alive for Jesse to finish off.
“It’s bad form to break your promise to an outlaw, Smash. You’re going to regret doing this to me,” said Maenad coldly, “you promised me freedom in exchange for the Bullet Train. I gave you what you wanted.”
Smash looked up from the gold.
“Was that a threat?!”
“No, Smash. It was a promise.”
“Listen here boy” barked Smash angrily, “I could do one of three things to you right now. I could have Jesse here shoot you in the face for insubordination. I could leave you out here to die under the blistering hot sun, or I could throw you back where you belong… in jail awaiting a sentence of death you disserve! People are going to want to know what happened to this beloved Bullet Train. People are going to want justice, and they find it in your conviction. It was you that brought down his train and it’s you that will get punished for it.” he pointed at him sharply and barked even louder, “what I am doing right now to you is mercy, and you should thank me for it. I didn’t have to give you the recovery time. Heck, I don’t have to give you anything!”
Maenad disappeared into the crowd of soldiers.
“He’s a dangerous man Smash,” whispered Jesse from behind. His voice was almost raspy as he spoke the words, “Every promise Maenad has made about vengeance he has kept, although, I think he’ll fail to deliver on this one. I have studied everything there is to know about him, everything. I can’t wait to kill him when the time comes.” He spat out his tooth pick and watched the dirt at his feet, “I think I’ll do a far better job than Jessica could have ever done to him. I’ll cut him to ribbons and bleed him dry!”
“You have better be right about this duel thing, Jesse, because when he gets better he is going to be pissed off.” said Smash darkly, “you’ve seen what he can do when he’s pissed off, just look at the train. It’s near impossible to catch a desert outlaw as valuable as Maenad is. I might still need him too, just in case anything happens to you Jesse. I could always just take him up to the mountains and show him the rocks.” He eyeballed the dark outlaw standing behind him with contempt. Smash could tell that Jesse was a little jealous of Maenad’s abilities, “just remember you can be replaced just as easily as that.”
A slight burning pain shot through Jesse’s arms and entered his brain. Thoughts about obedience flooded his subconscious all at once; he tried to resist the dark feeling welling up inside of him but it was too much to handle. He tried to push it back and somehow regain his freedom from the tragedy of his life. He couldn’t control the chemicals surging through his body. He looked down at the palms of his hands with regret and shame. Blood was now dripping from the scares he had received as a young child. He pulled away from the group and tried to control his thoughts and feelings. Images of his passed began to appear around him like phantoms in the night telling him to do nothing but obey and conform to Smash’s will. Each one held him bound to the man he hated the most, to the man that had lied to him. He felt like screaming at them all to go away. He felt like telling them to leave him alone!
“Daddy, I don’t like that Maenad man” said Christina, “can’t you just kill him?”
Smash walked over to his carriage door and let out a big valium of hot air. He was already getting sick of his daughters voice. It had been a mistake to bring her.
“No, I can’t just kill him.”
“Why, not Daddy.”
“Get in the carriage and shut up!”